Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Fallback Tour

As regular readers of this blog may recall, back in the spring I announced my Big Event for 2012. The plan was to take three weeks and ride from Vancouver, BC, down to San Francisco, CA, camping most nights along the way. Towards that end, I had The Bike Route down in Naples, FL, convert my single-speed Salsa Casseroll to a mega-geared, fat-tired touring rig, which I then tested with a few long two-day trips in the area.

Well, life is what happens when you're making other plans, and life intervened. We decided to move back to Nashville -- a change regarding which I am very, very happy, by the way -- and build a house. I'm pleased about the house thing, too, but it meant that me disappearing for a month was just not gonna happen.

So, I postponed the trip. Not cancelled, by the way ... just postponed for a year. Some other things about the trip may change -- like it may only be two weeks of riding and not three, and I may have to fly there and back rather than take the train -- but one way or another I am biking the northwest coast of the United States come Autumn of 2013.


Anyway, a few weeks ago I told RandoGirl that I still needed some kind of tour this year. After getting the bike built up and training for it, it would just be a complete waste if I didn't go off into the wilderness for at least five or six days of riding, camping, and eating at every restaurant that I passed.

She agreed. Actually, she said something like, "You had me at 'You won't have to put up with me farting in my sleep for a week.'"

So, here's the plan ...

Day One

This coming Monday, I will leave our humble abode and bike very early into the city to catch the 7:45 am Music City Star train. This will drop me in Lebanon, TN, about 8:40, whereupon I will head east to Carthage and then Chestnut Mound, where I will get off Hwy 70 and roll down to Granville. This lovely little town is on two of my old permanents and the old 400K that I designed, and I know that I can stop there for ice cream.

From Granville, I'll continue backtracking my permanent route to Gainesboro for a late lunch, and then climb up onto the plateau via TN-85. At Hilham, TN, I turn left and go into Standing Stone State Park, where I will camp for the night. All told, it should be around 70 miles and 5500' of climbing.

Day Two

Tuesday is a little easier, with 66 miles and over 5000' of climbing. It's mostly rolling as I head east to Livingston, where I'll get another breakfast and fill my bottles. Then, it's mostly 111 north through Byrdstown, cut over on some quieter roads, then on into Kentucky and US 127.

About 40 miles in, I'll get to Albany, KY, and stop for a late lunch. I should probably also get groceries here, since I'll be on US-127 for over 20 miles before I get to Lake Cumberland State Park. I'll camp here tonight, but may treat myself to dinner at the restaurant.

Day Three

Today is an easier day, with just over 50 miles and 3500' of climbing. My plan is to eat something in the park, then get back out and continue north on US-127 to Jamestown, KY. I'll grab another breakfast there and fill my bottles, then take KY-619 north into Russell Springs, KY. I'll fill bottles there and head east on KY-80, which parallels the Cumberland Parkway.

When 80 drops down south, I'll get off and take a few back roads to the south side of Somerset, KY. Tonight, it's the plush comfort of a Knights Inn, and hopefully a chance to wash some clothes.

Day Four

Since I had a hotel last night, I won't have to pack the tent and everything and can get an early start. That's good, because today is almost 90 miles with 8000' of climbing.

From the hotel, go south on US-127, cross the river on KY-90, and then follow 790 to Gregory. State Hwy 776 is a little shorter from there to Hwy 92, near Monticello. At that point, I'll either do an out-and-back few miles into Monticello and get food and drink, or I'll turn east towards the Daniel Boone National Forest. From what I can see online, there are no stores for the next 30 miles.

After taking on more fuel when I cross US-127 here, I'll continue on quiet 92 all the way through the park to Williamsburg, which is on I-75. A little over 10 miles south on 25W takes me back into Tennessee at the town of Jellico, home of Indian Mountain State Park. The town is right next to the park, and has plenty of amenities, so I won't have to tote much stuff.

(If I'm getting worn out at this point and am willing to get on US-127 -- which has a wide shoulder, but it has a rumble-strip -- for 30 miles, I may shorten this day to 62 miles and 5800' by doing this route:

Day Five

Friday is the last long hard day, with over 75 miles and 7000' of climbing. It starts with a few more miles on US-25, before I get on meandering TN-90. It meanders so much that it goes back into Kentucky, where it becomes State Hwy 74. This is also where it begins to tilt upward -- never too steeply, fortunately -- for five miles.

Just shy of Kentucky Ridge State Forest, the road begins heading down into the Cumberland Gap. It generally trends downhill for the next 10 miles into Middlesboro, where I'll get on busy 25E and probably have to walk my bike through the tunnel there. Just for fun, I'll head north a bit on the other side just to get bragging rights for crossing into Virginia, then retrace my route and suffer through about 30 miles more or less on the shoulder of US-25. There's one more four-mile climb, which I plan to do on old Hwy 25, and then it's mostly downhill to Bean Station, TN. There's a Budget Inn there, and it will be needed.

Day Six

It's Saturday, and the last day of my trip. I'll start early -- before US-25 gets busy -- and get on Old Kentucky Road when I get over the lake. After a bit of US-11, I jump on Stagecoach Road to Bull's Gap, then Rocky Hill, Marvin, and Gilbreath to get me under I-81.

A couple of twists and turns will take me to the Blue Springs Parkway, which runs almost in to downtown Greeneville. Since it's only 38 miles and about 2500' of climbing, I should be able to get a late breakfast or early lunch.

RandoGirl is driving out on Saturday, and we will go visit the RandoDaughter in the afternoon. (She goes to college near there, which was why the route went this way.) If the weather is good Sunday, maybe we will go for another bike ride before we drive back to Nashville.

I plan to blog as best I can during the week, since I am bringing my little netbook computer. If you see me out there, wave ... and maybe offer a ride in the back of your pickup truck on some of the nastier climbs.


  1. I look forward to hear how you get through Cumberland Gap Tunnel.

    Another option: I asked a park ranger about the hiking trail which follows the path of the old highway. (You can see the old road in the USGS Topo maps on your Day 5 ridewithgps.) We are allowed to walk our bikes on the trail, but can't ride them on it. It looks about 1 mi long.


    1. I was planning either 1) ride through like it was okay (e.g., better to beg forgiveness than ask permission), or 2) walk it through, since there seems to be a walkway along the side, which is probably for maintenance. I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers.

      Fortunately (or not) the point is moot, since I had to cut the trip short. It would've been nice to just touch the corner of Virginia, however.