11. Ups and Downs

That’s what the last four days have been – ups and downs and highs and lows – geographically, physically, and emotionally.

We left Asheville, NC, Tuesday morning in high spirits after a day off of our bikes.  Jens chose a nice 40-mile route for us. We enjoyed a beautiful ride along the French Broad River for most of the day. We even had a wide, smooth, well-maintained  bike path the first few miles out of Asheville – which has been a rare find so far on this journey.  We cruised downriver about 25 miles along the river to the  little town of Marshall (pop. 875), where we sat on a bench on Main Street and ate our lunch, watching the local senior citizens give unwelcome advice to a construction crew working on the grounds of the courthouse. 

After lunch, we paid for all the downhill we had enjoyed in the morning. The road veered abruptly and steeply uphill, away from the river. It was a sign of things to come for the last 15 miles.  Some of the climbs were too steep for me to ride,  including two miles of a brutal 8% grade, riding right into the hot sun.  So, my bike and I had a couple of nice uphill walks together. For long stretches, there was no shoulder on the road, which is stressful when vehicles pass us.  

Very tired from the climbs late in our day, we rode in to Hot Springs, NC, rejoined the French Broad, and found a nice campsite on its banks.  Unfortunately, we had to pay for two nights for a fairly hefty price, even though we only intended to stay one, but this campground was the only game in town.  We were disappointed to find out the price didn’t even include an admission to the hot springs, owned by the same company who owned the campgrounds.

We discovered about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning that our rain fly on our old tent was now simply an expensive water filter.  Even with just a light but constant shower, the water began dripping on our faces soon after the rain started. 

We soon moved all of our stuff  to a covered stage in the park and let everything dry out as best as it could while it was raining.  When the rain began to let up late in the morning, we packed up our wet gear and made our break to Newport, TN, a ride of 28 miles.  About ten miles into our ride, we crossed the state border into Tennessee. Yeah!!!

The rain petered out during the ride, but we felt pretty damp and chilled the entire ride.  We pulled into a KOA Campground in Newport, TN, grateful for a place to take a shower, pitch our tent in a dry spot, and dry out our gear and our bodies.  We soaked our rain fly with Kiwi Camp Dry.  We’ll give it one more chance.  If it does not do its job, the old tent will be left behind somewhere, and we will buy a new one.  At dinner at our campsite, we discovered that the drink we had bought for me at a grocery store as we neared the campground had bounced out of the pocket of one of Jens’s panniers somewhere before we got to the campground.  We  found the squished bottle the following morning on the road into the campground.

Yesterday, Thursday, we enjoyed riding through some beautiful Tennessee countryside on our way from Newport to Alcoa, TN.  Rolling hills, farms and ranches, big houses with acreage. We passed Bush’s Baked Beans’ huge processing plant in

Chestnut Hill.  There must have been 100 semi trailers waiting to be filled with cans of baked beans for shipment around the country.

Late in the ride, we encountered some really bad roads for bicycling too, though, which has been an almost daily occurrence. It gets frustrating.  Jens spends a lot of time trying to find safe routes for us to ride – I appreciate all the time he is taking to do that for us.  Second, the roads are often not very well marked, so we spend a lot of time double checking our routes on the phone to make sure we are going in the correct direction.  The roads as we get close to towns continue to be a problem – lots of traffic and no shoulders.  We spend a lot of time pulling over to let motorists pass – it makes for very slow going and very stressful riding.  (We only pedaled five of the eight hours we were on the road yesterday.)  The last miles of yesterday’s 56-miler were so dangerous and stressful that we had a serious discussion this morning about throwing in the towel on this adventure.

But we have decided to continue, at least for now.  We hope the rides will improve when we get to the Transamerica Bike Route – about 165 miles from now.  The Transamerica avoids urban areas, which have been the areas which have put us in the most peril.

Today, we decided to ride a short distance to the town of Lenoir City, TN.  Map My Ride showed this to be a 21.5 ride.  It turned out to be about 26. Not a big deal in a car; a very big deal on a bicycle.  We are frustrated with Map My Ride, Google Maps, and our Garmin, each of which has its own problems. 

After finding our way out of Alcoa, TN, on some bad roads for bikes, we got on the Lamar Alexander Parkway for a really nice ride into Lenoir City.  The shoulders on the parkway were about 10 feet wide.  We were able to ride without stopping for a while, and we showed that we can really cover some ground when we’re able to pedal for an hour or so without stopping.  We crossed the Tennessee River into Lenoir City, ate some lunch, did some laundry, and checked into a motel for a couple nights.  We’ll rest Saturday and start pedaling again Sunday.  The journey continues . . . . 

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Larry & Margie

    Yikes!! Well, like we said in post #10, you are doing an AMAZING job of including us in the ups and downs of your travels with your writing (both of you) and the great pictures.

  2. Jens and Shelly

    We appreciate your prayers and your support, Larry and Margie, (and the prayers and support of others)!

    1. Gerrie

      I haven’t written till today but I have been following your journey and praying!! Sending big encouraging hugs and asking God to bring some joy in your journey today.❤️🙂

  3. Brian Stine

    Sorry to hear about the ups and downs. I hope things get better over the next days, especially as you hit the Transamerica. It is quite an adventure you’re on and your posts let us all join you vicariously!

  4. Bob P.

    Love the camping pics along the lake. Open roads sound beautiful. City areas and climbs sound challenging but if anyone can handle the ups and downs it’s you too. Take care.

  5. Kathy

    Kim just sent us your link to follow. Darin and I think you two are awesome! What an adventure. Stay safe out there! Sending love from WA.

    1. Jens and Shelly

      Sorry Kathy we sent the link to Darin – we might have the wrong email address.

  6. Terra

    You two are amazing and so inspiring. Way to keep on pushing through even when times get tough. Safe journeys!

  7. Janne Helen

    So sorry to hear that you have had troubled times with rain, tent and roads. Hopefully it will be much better in the days to come 🤗
    Thank you so much for “including” me in your adventure!

  8. Linda

    Wow! I just read the whole blog today…incredible! You two are amazing. I’ll be keeping you both in my prayers. I hope things smooth out (figuratively, of course) and you’re able to keep going. You’ve already had an amazing adventure!

  9. Caryn Ledford

    I’m so enjoying following your adventure and learning about our country. I will be a little more diligent about praying for your safety!

  10. Gail

    “Mama said there would be days like this” What an adventure you are on! Praying for your safety and health as you pursue your goal. Maybe you can pick a promise of scripture each day to memorize and claim as you make your way through the ups and downs.

    Stay well friends 🙂

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