12. Firsts

Shelly and I made good use of our day off this past Saturday, May 15, in Lenoir City, TN. We spent some time planning our next four rides and figuring where to stay overnights. That’s time consuming when we are trying to stay away from main highways and urban areas, and when there is no such thing as a “short” ten-mile detour to find accommodations. We also picked up a few sundries at the local Walmart, ate some good food, and spent some time relaxing poolside at the motel.

We left Lenoir City Sunday morning feeling rested, but also nervous about the roads ahead. We’d encountered so many bad stretches of bicycling that we were both still feeling a bit shell-shocked by some of the experiences we’d had, which were caused mostly by the behavior of just a few inconsiderate drivers.

We rode four days in a row: Lenoir City TN to Wartburg TN (43 mi); Wartburg to Jamestown TN (41 mi); Jamestown to Burkesville KY (46 mi); and finally Burkesville to Cave City KY (48 mi). We were blessed with good weather and mostly good roads. The terrain was challenging. The constant ups and downs of rolling hills, mixed with some extended climbs to get up and over the Cumberland Plateau, were exhausting. But of course, the downhills were a lot of fun and gobble up the miles.

I’ll remember these rides for several “firsts” in my life.

Outside of Wartburg, TN (pop. 1,045), Sunday night, we camped in Frozen Head State Park, named for a mountain in the park whose top is often shrouded in fog. It was marvelous. The park is nestled in a heavily forested cove. So beautiful and peaceful. The campground only had 20 sites, and they are spacious. We found a nice site right above the creek that flows through the park.

I got up at about 2:30 a.m. to go to the bathroom. It was a still, windless night. Absolutely quiet. I groggily crawled out of our tent, stood up, and could not believe my eyes. The floor of the forest was a parade of light. Tiny moving, glowing lights everywhere I looked. A sea of blinking little lights. Fireflies, I wondered? No, they weren’t flying. I had no idea what I was seeing (and too out-of-it to crawl around on the ground to find out.) I learned the next morning when we paid for our campsite at the visitors center that what I had seen were glow worms.

First time I’d ever seen glow worms.

Nature provided another first on our ride to Jamestown TN Monday. During a beautiful ride through the countryside, we stopped next to a small river. It was warm, so I decided to walk down to dip our bandanas in the cold water. On my way down, I scrambled underneath a bridge. All of a sudden, a flutter of about 50 of the biggest Monarch butterflies I have ever seen took off from their perches. I was instantly immersed in a cloud of huge butterflies. It was really something, just to stand there and watch them fly all around me. Another first – I’d never seen so many butterflies in one place before.

Monday night we stayed at the Mark Twain Inn in Jamestown TN (pop. 1,950). (Mark Twain’s parents lived in the area before they moved to Missouri, where Twain was born.) The Inn is located downtown at the intersection of two state highways that were formerly major north-south, east-west routes through Tennessee. The Inn is a converted bus station, and has 20 rooms up on its second floor, all sharing a common interior hallway. As I’d previously discussed with her when I made our reservation, I called the owner, Sharon, when we wheeled into town, and she drove over to the Inn to meet us. Sharon showed us to our $45 room (small and old, but clean and comfortable), informing us that we were the only guests that night. “You can keep your door open and run around naked all night. No one is gonna see ya!” After showing us around the place and giving us a little background on the Inn and on how she became the owner, she handed us keys, not only to our room, but also to the front and back doors. The Inn has no on site manager. As she handed us the keys to the castle and left to go home, Sharon told us, “Have a good time, and just make sure you lock the place up when you leave.”

First time Shelly and I had an entire inn to ourselves. (I have to admit it made me think of Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in “The Shining.” Here’s Johnny!)

After riding into the Central Time Zone Monday, we crossed from Tennessee into Kentucky on Tuesday at the unincorporated community of Static, which straddles the border of the two states. (Static was the name of a settler’s dog.) Another first for me: I’ve never visited Kentucky before.

We spent the night Tuesday at the Alpine Motel in Burkesville KY (pop. 1,790). It’s located on Hill Road. Not a good address for your accommodations when you are bicycling. At the end of our fairly strenuous 46-mile ride, we rode over the bridge into town, staring with despair at the top of the hill overlooking town, where our motel sat perched. The road up to the motel was so steep that we had to push our bikes the 3/4 miles up. The beautiful view from our balcony over town to the southeast from where we’d ridden more than made up for that climb.

Today we had a fantastic 48-miler from Burkesville to Cave City KY. We rode some absolutely gorgeous backroads through the Kentucky countryside.

Here in Cave City, we pick up the TransAmerica Bicycle Route, and ride it all the way to the Oregon Coast. No more figuring out where to ride every day, for now we have great maps courtesy of the Adventure Cycling Association, with turn-by-turn directions. No more wondering whether we have selected a bicycle-friendly route.

We both agree that the 704-mile JensAmerica Bicycle Route we followed here from Folly Beach SC was well-intentioned by its developer, usually quite beautiful and fun, but also included some of the worst, most dangerous bicycling we’ve ever done. We’re grateful to have survived it.

We’ll stay here in Cave City a couple of days before bicycling again Saturday. We’ll explore Mammoth Caves National Park tomorrow – another first for me.




This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Ralene

    Glad you made it to the Adventure Cycling route. You should have much better roads and less traffic. The people along it are used to seeing cyclists and you might see other cyclists to swap stories with. I am enjoying following your adventure through your posts.

  2. Larry & Margie

    Thank you, God, for their “safety, stamina, AND for pleasant surprises”!
    Sounds like we can breath a little easier for you now…may there be more and more pleasant surprises with firsts, seconds, and beyond.

  3. Bill

    I get tired just thinking about what you’re doing. I hope the toughest part is behind you. I’m really impressed with what you’re doing. You’re going to make it.
    I’ve been to Mammoth Cave several times. For many years a group of roofers would go golfing at Park Mammoth Resort around Easter, to get an early start on the golf season, because it’s still too cold in Michigan to golf.
    I’m praying for you guys everyday. Stay safe.


  4. Brian Stine

    The horse is saying, “What the heck are you doing? You’re working way too hard! But Hi, Nice to meet you!”

  5. Pam

    Wow! Feel like I’m right there with you two.

  6. Diane Schilling

    There is sometimes a benefit to having to get up in the middle of the night….also the best time to see the Northern Lights when in Alaska. Glow worms and a swarm of butterflies, so magical!

  7. Karen Perkins

    I hold my breath as I read through your adventures! This is fascinating!

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