Well, ever since that weekend, I've been playing with the roads in mapping software, researching some local centuries, and trying to figure out a permanent in the area. Last weekend, after the Tennessee State Time Trial in Rutledge, I drove some of the roads to check them out.
Finally, after much research, this is what I have come up with:
Here's the way it looks from the side:
From here, it looks a little spikey on a bicycle. But it did not really feel that way this past Saturday, when Jeff Bauer and I test-rode it.
I'm going to call it the Honest Abe 200K. Someone from Kentucky once told me that Abe Lincoln was actually born in Kentucky, but got out to Illinois as soon as he could. In the same way, this route dips into Kentucky, and then almost immediately retreats (although back into Tennessee).
I'm also calling it Honest Abe because it goes through Moss, TN, which is the home of Honest Abe Log Homes, Inc.
You may have seen their billboards, and I'm sure that you've seen their log homes. The factory -- much of which you can see on the route -- looks like a pretty slick operation. It also smells like fresh-cut lumber, which is nice.
Along with the factory, the route has a lot of history. For one thing, it goes through historic Red Boiling Springs. In late 19th and early 20th century, this was a very popular spot for people to come to "take the waters" of the mineral springs. Now, you go past the town's sad overgrown pool ...
... and the slightly less sad Donoho Hotel.
The town looks almost happy at Armour's Red Boiling Springs Hotel.
It might be fun to pack up the tandem and come stay here for a weekend of riding with RandoGirl. Armour's supposedly also has a very nice restaurant, although Jeff and I were not dressed for that.
One of the last controls on the route is Granville, which is also rich in Tennessee history.
About the same time that people were going to Red Boiling Springs for the mineral waters, riverboats were frequenting Granville, picking up produce from the local farms for shipment to the big cities. The town is still very picturesque, with the Cumberland River on one side and a lake fed by Martin Creek on the other. Jeff and I had ice cream at the T.B. Sutton General Store in Granville.
This is a neat store with a fountain and grill at the back. They also have music in the evenings. Unfortunately, the town has nothing that is open late, so I'm going to have to use the post office as the control. A rider will need to bring a stamped post card.
More than the "tourist sights," however, it's the roads themselves that determine the quality of any bicycling route. Honest Abe has great roads. For example, here's Hwy 135, just after the descent down from Dodson Branch.
You're on this road for almost 17 miles before you get to Gainesboro, TN, and then you're on it for another seven past that. We had a few more cars in Gainesboro itself -- particularly on the first two miles leaving town (you go past the high school, and this time of year there's lot of athletic teams starting practice on Saturdays). On the 10-mile stretch above, heading in to Gainesboro, we were passed by just one car.
Even better: It's shady, with a river running next to it for most of this. And the river is running north -- the same way you're going -- so you're slowly going downhill.
Almost as shady, and perhaps even more empty, were TN-56 and then TN-151, which we took from Gainesboro up to Red Boiling Springs.
Again, nice and flat, with hills keeping the sun off of you. On the other side of the road we mostly saw corn fields and cattle.
The roads in Kentucky -- or the little bit of them that we were on -- were pretty much the same.
TN-52 heading towards Celina caught a little more sun and a few more cars. TN-53 back from Celina was also a little sunny and hilly, but a little less busy. The cars didn't really matter, though, since it is a nice wide road with the Cumberland River on the right.
Jeff enjoyed it.
Although this route did not have incredible food like you get at Marcy Jo's or Henpeck (from the new Cathey's Creek Permanent and Dog Meat permanents), it does have enough stores that you can get ice and cold drinks when you need them. The Dodson Branch market has sandwiches and hot biscuits for breakfast, and there are plenty of stores in Gainesboro (which is good, since you go through there twice). The Citgo and Marathon stores have long hours, and there's also a Foodtown.
A whole town made of food. Nom, nom, nom ....
Gamaliel has three stores, but in the grand Bible Belt tradition only one of them is open on Sunday. I applaud Bill Martin for thinking of those randonneurs who may have to work on Saturday.
Like Gamaliel, Celina is an open control, so you just need to get your card signed and a receipt from any business in town. Celina is bigger than Gamaliel, though, and the suggested stores are the Shell convenience store or Dairy Queen on TN-52. If you're already thirsty, on your way into town there is Jack's ...
... and the Shack ...
(Radio Shack, if you can't tell. This is good in case you need a battery for your bike computer -- or a small motor for the seat tube.)
Jeff and I stopped at the Dairy Queen in Celina and had more ice cream. Thanks to the cooler weather and gentle roads, we were over 80 miles in (out of the 127 miles for the total route) at about 11 am when we got there.
Leaving the Dairy Queen, we filled our bottles and Camelbacks with ice, and thus did not need to stop in Gainesboro. Unfortunately, there's a long tough climb up TN-53 to get out of Gainesboro, and I got a piece of wire in my back tire. It started to go flat on the descent, so we had to stop and change it. By the time we finished, we were feeling hot, and we were almost tempted to stop at this place a little ways down the road.
The sign out front says, "Clippers -- Food, Hair, & Fun." I'm not sure if it's a short-order grill and hair salon or what, but we decided to skip it this time. In the future, folks riding this on a hot day may want to check it out, though ... particularly if you didn't top off your fluids and ice in Gainesboro (you can't get ice in Granville).
Another thing that this ride has is pretty scenery. Here's a creek that was just over the Kentucky state line.
Further down that valley was another pretty spot.
Riding along TN-52, halfway between Celina and Gainesboro, Jeff saw some young raccoons by the road.
They seemed old enough to fend for themselves, but were pretty tame. Jeff was almost able to give them some water.
Finally, this route has some good physical challenges. There are a couple of good long climbs, and lots of county lines to sprint. One of the reasons that I put the Gamaliel control in was to have the route cross into Kentucky. State line sprints are always fun.
I let Max Watzz out on a climb just over a mile from this line. Since Jeff was taking it easy (he's riding Quadzilla this weekend), I was able to drop him enough that I didn't have to sprint for the line.
Excellent roads, great views, plenty of ice cream, and lots of challenges. This could be my new favorite permanent.