Knoxville to Nashville by bike.
There is something to be said for impulse decisions and cross-state journey's by bike. The lack of planning made the journey slightly more interesting. I pieced together a map the night before, and made calls to as many people as I could to borrow a tent and Bob trailer. After gathering my gear, I jumped on the bike loaded with a 45# Bob trailer and headed to the bikeshop to meet Ryan, a young kid who reminded me of Alexander Supertramp.
Ryan: From a photo he had taken in Cosby, TN; he camped in this bus.
We left Harpers bikeshop by 5:30 Friday evening and worked our way out of Knoxville and into the wild of Tennessee-back-roads. Slight thundershowers pounded us on our way out of town, but only proved to be a foreshadowing for whats to come.
We stopped for pizza in Kingston, and it was dark by the time we finished dinner. So we grabbed a free hotel room; courtesy of my frequent travels.
Saturday morning we started early towards the plateau. I was prepared for the climb and surprised at how strong I felt towing the heavy load. Highway 70 was steep and wooded going up to the Cumberland Plateau. Grinding it out and enjoying the scenery, we made good time going up but got side-tracked trying to scout out an over-look on Mt. Rosevelt. We nabbed a partially tree covered view of the surrounding Crabtree Mountains.
Next stop: Ozone falls. 100 ft. waterfall.
On Haley Mountain, The Cumberland Plateau
Pressing on for a big day, I was eventually blasted by the sun; and later blasted by thunderstorms. 85 miles into the ride, we made it to a decision-making-point in the ride. We were near Ragland Bottoms, a camp-site on Center Hill Lake, where we had a BBQ restaurant and beer to-go; or keep going for more miles. After sitting under the shade tree for a few, I walked across and got a BBQ sandwich and a tall boy. The slow breeze was relaxing and we decided to ride back to the lake and check out the sites.
Ragland Bottoms was indeed a beautiful place to camp. The lake was inviting. I set up a tent, went swimming, got rained on, rode back to the BBQ market and got dinner, came back and put my i-pod on; and had a great dinner by the lake. What a great Saturday night. Ryan had gone into Smithville (8 miles up the road) and ate fast-food. I was happy with slow food and cheap beer.
Early Sunday morning I awoke to the loudest thunder, I have ever witnessed. The ground shook as the big-booms in the sky rattled consecutively for hours, followed by lightning burst. Rain beat down and blasted the tent. I shored up the rain fly waiting for daylight. I thought this might be the night I died. It felt like the shit had hit the fan and it was my time. 50 miles down the road it was hitting at my wifes parrents house, and I got a call at 5:15 from Erin checking on me. I felt an urgency to get on the road and make it to Nashville. So as the sun came up I was packing inside the tent. I couldn't get my riding partner behind the early departure time, so we waited out another round of storms. Finaly I said "I'm going to Smithville (8 hard miles away) for breakfast, meet me there. He grabbed his stuff and rode with me. We left in the pouring rain.
A few miles in, the rain quit but the sky was dark. We got to Smithville and the clouds cleared and the sky turned blueish. With the finish line in sight, we powered back to to the suburban Nashville town of Murfreesboro. 186 miles.
Ryan had come from Greensboro, NC through Boone, NC; Hot Springs, NC; Cosby, TN and Knoxville,TN. On his way to who-knows-where and eventually Bonaroo. A cross-country runner who had not previously done much biking, he's a cool kid with a strong spirit for adventure. He bought his road bike for $250 before his trip, and didn't even have a map. Meeting people along the way, he is riding the adventure of a lifetime. It was cool to be a part of.
Approaching dusk on the Tennessee River; Kingston, TN
View from overlook along Highway 70, descending from the Cumberland Plateau into Sparta.
I had made copies of 6 pages of the Tennessee Atlas and Gazetteer maps and taped them together. We were 3 pages along at this point.
Lascassas, next stop Murfreesboro
The final mileage: