Monday, October 1, 2012

Training for the Tour

First, my apologies. I know that I started the year promising to blog more regularly, but last week was crazy. It was frustrating because I had some interesting things to write about, too, but no time. Mostly, it was work, but it's also been moving-back-to-Tennessee stuff. Again, I'm sorry.

Second, a story.

There is a horizon coming up ... a period wherein I may be able to jam in a quick one-week tour. It's during a transition, and it's at a time when the weather may still be good enough for a tour.

However, as I began to plan for that tour, it struck me that I have no idea how far I can go on a daily basis here. I mean, right now I'm riding pretty well, so that I haven't had any trouble doing 200K rides and still feeling fresh enough to ride the next day, but that's on the Lynskey ... without the extra 50 pounds of gear and clothes that you need if you're touring and camping.

In Florida, I was targeting 70 miles a day or so on my bike camping trips. But that was flat, and while that makes it easier in some ways (like you don't have to work as hard to get that extra 50 pounds up a hill), it makes it harder in others (like you don't get out of the saddle as much).

So, I began to plan my tour with days between 50 and 70 miles, but also decided that I needed a little weekend warm-up tour to see how the bike handled on tough climbs. I was also curious how the bike would feel on descents, since that much gear can sometimes set up shimmies on a long downhill. Another reason for the tour was to test everything out one more time and see if I'd thought through all of the issues.

And then, of course, there was the opportunity for food, such as getting a breakfast at Marcy Jo's and lunch at the Mount Pleasant Grille.

I rolled out about 7 am, heading first down to Einstein Brothers in Franklin for a quick cup of coffee and a bagel. In hobbit language, this is called First Breakfast. Then, I got back on quieter roads south, climbing Cool Springs Road on the way.

Now, those of you familiar with this nasty little knob are probably wondering, "Why would you take an 80-pound bicycle over that?" Because it was there, of course! Or, maybe, because I wanted to see how the bike would handle when I'm in the granny gear, chugging along at 4 mph.

The answer: Just fine.

The weather was excellent, with the temperature just warm enough that I didn't need anything extra and a light breeze out of the north pushing me along. It was still overcast as I passed through Bethesda and down Comstock Road.

I was roughly following the Cathey's Creek permanent route at this point, taking Reynolds Road over towards Moses Road. The pavement may not be great here, but the scenery is spectacular and the few cars that you meet generally wave hello.

It was after 9 am when I reached Lewisburg Pike, so I stopped at Marcy Jo's for second breakfast.

As usual, it was busy, so I hung out on the front porch for about 20 minutes waiting with a bunch of other folks. They all had questions about where I was heading, what all the stuff on my bike was for, and why on Earth I was doing this. One fellow had a lot of advice, too, such as that I should ride facing traffic because it made it easier for me to see cars. I started to explain elastic vs. inelastic collisions, but we were both saved by the waitress when she came out to tell me that my table was ready.

After a short stack of pancakes with sausage (and with an extra cinnamon roll to go), I got back on Lewisburg Pike. I missed the turn (again) on to Cedar Creek, and had to backtrack a bit. I love this road, because it has one of those classic spots at the edge of Marshall and Maury Counties:

When the Founding Fathers decided to use this creek as the border, they obviously didn't consider that neither county would be willing to even put in a culvert there.

Fortunately, a road where you have to drive over a creek is a road that doesn't get a lot of cars. Eventually, I was crossing over I-65 on the quietest bridge around.

The first five miles of this are fairly flat, but eventually you turn on Bryant Road. This has a one-lane bridge, followed by a nice 15% hill for about a quarter of a mile. Again, the bike was good at about 4 mph, and I was soon back on another beautiful calm road.

I needed a break, so I stopped at the Glendale Market. This is another control on the Cathey's Creek route, and is funky. In most ways, it just seems like a little corner market; in other ways -- such as the bench out front -- there are touches of whimsy.

After a cream soda and a bag of chips, I was ready to go. The roads got hillier and hillier as I continued west, and eventually I rolled into downtown Mount Pleasant.

Sure, it looks abandoned, but they say it's on the cusp of a renaissance. Of course, when the whole world was on the cusp of the Renaissance about 600 years ago, we called it The Dark Ages.

And just as Europe had monks hidden away keeping knowledge alive, Mount Pleasant has the Mount Pleasant Grille. They may not keep knowledge alive, but they make a fine hamburger. Make sure that you get a box of rocks, too ... you'll know when you try them.

Leaving town, I took a detour north for a couple of miles to a grocery store to get something to cook for dinner. Then, I got back on the Cathey's Creek route, eventually climbing over another long ridge.

The descent on the other side was long and fun, and gave me a chance to see how well the bike handled some speed under load. I was feeling pretty good about the bike and my setup as I came into beautiful downtown Hampshire ... another town on the cusp of a renaissance.

I could have just stayed on flat Hwy 412 to my campground, but it was busy. So, I climbed up Old State Hwy 99 / Ridgetop Road (even though the sign says Maclarren Road) to punish my legs a little more. This also gave me a chance to go by the Ridgetop Bed and Breakfast -- which has been renamed the Natchez Hills Bed and Breakfast -- and Amber Falls Winery.

After wearing out my brake pads a bit on the steep descent back down to Hwy 412, I continued west a couple of miles to Fall Hollow Campground. As I got there, I was struck by the noise of what seemed like thousands of screaming pre-adolescent boys, with a huge mob of Cub Scouts and Webelos taking part in some kind of scrum in the main field. In a move that was remarkably intelligent for me, I continued on towards the creek, where I could pitch my tent in relative solitude.

Yes, that's my bike in its Snuggie. Although there was plenty of light, my camera decided to flash. This is another great thing about those Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires: Reflective sidewalls. The reflective tape on one of my Arkel panniers is the bright thing in the tent.

The campground was very nice, even with the kids. When they quieted down, I realized that there was only about 50 of them. One of the Scout Masters later told me that the campground owners only charge the scouts and parents one dollar a night, and I thought that I was getting by pretty cheap at just $5 a night!

The facilities were also great. I was not only able to get a shower, but I had the sink all to myself for long enough that I could wash out my day's biking clothes and hang them up.

Of course, they weren't dry the next day, but this was a test run trip. It was good to know that my laundry system is functional.

As I said, I was the only one camping in this rear area, at the edge of a bend of Swan Creek. The ridge just beyond was beautiful, with the trees just starting to turn.

The creek is pretty slow-moving here, so there were a few more bugs around. Later that night, when the kids went to bed, I was able to hear the water flowing when I was lying in my tent. The moon was full, and it made for a nice easy walk -- which I needed, since hearing the water made me want to go pee.

Before the kids quieted down for the night, however, I was able to cook my can of soup and lay in the tent for a while eating chips and reading. This is because my tent was here ...

And you can just see the closest campers here ...

Yes, the nearest tent is that kind of white thing just to the right of the tree in the middle of the picture. If that makes me antisocial, so be it.

In tomorrow's blog, I'll tell you about the trip back home.


  1. Some towns have combined shower/laundromat facilities; good for lunch break an nap....especially on a cold or rainy day.

    1. Thanks, John. A dryer would have been handy.

  2. Wow! This is so exciting. I just enjoy.

  3. sure beats Livingston Road. I hope you enjoy the road back home!