Friends have heard me say that I don’t use GPS; I use MAPS. I just love a map, and my large print map of Tennessee has been the perfect guide on this trip.
I also like to stop and ask locals for directions and for tips on good places to get a meal. What I find interesting is that a lot people don’t know the general area in which they live. I guess some just aren’t lucky enough to be able to travel far from their own county and state roads.
Yesterday, after I was given incorrect directions to a post office in Cosby, TN, I stopped to talk with an elderly gentleman sitting outside a store in that tiny little town. After confirming that I’d been told wrong, we discussed whether I should back track or head on to the next town. He looked me in the eye and said “do you just want to get it done and get it off your mind?” Well, yes I did! So back track I did and was glad of it. It’s funny how we remember the smallest of exchanges with people. He was in the right place at the right time and essentially said “just do it; don’t sweat the small stuff”.
I got to chat briefly with another gentleman today. I’d guess he has easily seen his 80th year. He was chuckling at me because I was sitting at a stoplight in Etowah,TN taking a picture of the downtown buildings on Main Street (which reminded me a bit of Radford). From car to bike, across the lane of traffic, he told me how to correctly say Etowah and wished me well on my journey. I adore these brief connections with people along the way.
Which makes me think of another thing I’ve noticed about Tennessee. Everywhere I go, I see folks chatting in groups of 2. Outside stores, walking along roads, standing in parking lots, and even through the window of a tractor through to the window of a car alongside the highway. I know … you’re probably thinking “that’s really not so interesting, Laurie”, but it’s something I keep noticing. These look to be significant conversations between the people involved – on the sidewalk, in the field, along the road. Maybe it’s just me but I like that folks are stopping to chat and connect … and not a one on a cell phone.
Today was a wonderful day to be on the bike and Tennessee has beautiful roads to ride on. I took 411 to the Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park. Once there, I parked the bike, got down to the river to take pictures and promptly got wet up to my calves. Yep that’s me! See a body of water / get in it. But this time I did not PLAN to get wet. Thankfully, riding the bike serves as a great dryer for boots and jeans.
I highly recommend riding RT 68 to Rt 70 to Rt 96, part of the Tennessee Scenic Roadway system. I saw incredible scenery – mountains, rivers, lakes, rock outcroppings, a nuclear plant – yep, a nuclear plant. It was quite the surprise to ride up on that plant, out in the middle of what seemed like no where.
The ride through the Cumberland Mountain area was beautiful and fun – lots of twisty roads, up and down the mountains, with the road constantly changing from 2 lanes to 4.
Rather than waiting to get to Nashville, I stopped in at the Bumpus HD store in Murfresboro, TN. I’m so glad I did! Everyone there was great! They took the bike right in, found the problem (pinched fuses and a couple other things) and convinced me I needed a new tire (something I already knew). One of the employees (an older gentleman – hmmm – I see a pattern) said “if you were my girlfriend, I’d want you to have a new tire”. I almost laughed – I thought he was going to say if you were my daughter I’d want you to have a new tire!! Yes, it was an unexpected expense, but I feel better having the problems fixed. Phil really checked the bike well and came out and talked with me about all that he’d found and what needed to be done. The guys at that store could not have been more helpful and they were fun to hang out with, too. They even helped me figure out how to get into the city while avoiding rush hour traffic.
After dinner at a local sports pub (again, average food but the Molson Golden was ice cold and hit the spot), I rode on into Nashville. The view of the skyline from the highway has me excited and ready to explore!
While in Nashville, I am staying at the Skerritt/Bennett Center (details tomorrow). For $50 bucks, I get a bed and a bathroom – how great is that? The gothic style buildings are gorgeous and I’ve got the camera battery charging in anticipation of some early morning photography!
I rode 250 miles in this jam packed day! I am truly, happily exhausted!