Happy 4th of July, all! Similar to most of my posts, this one is late. This is attributed to long days and lack of cell phone service, which is a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing when one wants to disconnect, a curse when you cannot pull up a weather report or map as Tropical Storm Cindy stalks your every move. More on this below.
Day 27: June 20, Nashville to Clarksville (46 miles)
Leave my dear friend, Garland, at about 10:30 am, a few hours later than I had planned, as I found the use of availabile amenities too difficult to give up only to hit the road early and be done for the day by noon. With goodbyes relayed, I begin pedaling down the street and immediately believe my bags were poorly packed and the weight is improperly distributed between front panniers. I must have gained some serious weight with various foods picked up the day before as the bike seems considerably heavier than the previous month. Two miles in, I realize that the two week break was enough time for my body to forget what touring was like. Balancing the bike omce again became comfortable and no shifts in pannier bag contents would be necessary.
The sun was out and the day warm. Exactly what one would expect for late June in Tennessee. The streets through North Nashville were quiet and pleasant. This continued for a majority of the day’s ride. The first hour or ten miles of the morning made me think the hiatus was too much time off. But, as most days begin, the first hour is always the hardest and I felt more like my normal self as I turn onto Route 41A. 41A would make up a majority of the route to Clarksville, my destination for the evening. The road had an adequate shoulder that seemingly shrank and eventually disappeared on my way into town. There was however a section where roadwork was underway and it provided an entire lane, with some debris to ride by my lonesome. At one point a newly paved lane is the open space in front of me. It is so new, in fact, that the stream roller is on surface 50 yards ahead of me.
The bike slows as the street surface seems sticky. I can see some of the loose rock stick to the sides of the tire. Not wanting to sink into the surface, I hope off the bike and head to the concrete curb. The curb has an area for water runoff which is where I led my bike as I tiptoed on the same narrow path. I contemplate various bad ideas to get back to the shoulder-less lane of traffic the steam roller slowly approached. The gestures the driver made did not provide clarity as to where I should go. Eventually it became apparent that it was ok for me to ride on this new surface. I happily hopped back on knowing I, nor my bike, would become part of the northbound lane of 41A.
As the construction ended, the route turned into a town road. The speed limit declines and the homes became larger. I soon make my last turn into a neighborhood and find the WarmShowers house for the night. I pull in and lean my bike against a wall along the driveway. My host informs me that he was out on a ride himself, but his wife and daughter were there to greet me and direct me to my accommodations for the night. Elizabeth answers the door and points me to the carriage house that was at my disposal. The carriage house is a beautiful apartment above a two car garage, fully equipped with a mini kitchen, air conditioning, internet, library, bedroom and full bath. Laundry was available below in the garage. I settle in and relax until Lawson came home from his ride.
Lawson happily greets me and invites me to a grilled dinner that was to take place shortly. He invites me in for a few appetizers prior to dinner being served. At this point I was am able to meet his wife, Beth, snack on hummus and cheese as we began to get to know each other. The family is a group of wonderful and well traveled people, certainly very easy to gain report. Lawson tells me about his family’s history in the area, the history of Clarksville, his love for cycling and touring experience in the early 70s. Certainly seems like my trip may have been a bit more comfortable, with the advances in equipment and availability of cell phones to provide additional support. The idea of two friends heading out on the road with just maps and a sense of adventure seem quite noble. I quickly remember that even with my newer bike and cellphone, that this trip is not exactly a cake walk.
Lawson and I discuss potential routes towards Kansas City. It turns out the original route that I wanted to take may not be the safest, as I would be on southern Illinois roads with no shoulders and a high volume of truck traffic. There was also a small detail that the route would take me through Fort Campbell, a massive military base that would likely reject my idea of passing through the grounds and turn me back. Therefore the route is altered to go through Land Between the Lakes (LBTL) and eastern Kentucky into Illinois, via ferry into Cave-In-Rock, IL. I take some notes before bed and am asleep almost immediately.
Day 28: June 21, Clarksville to LBTL (59 miles)
I wake up early and pack my gear. I head to the main house for coffee, breakfast and additional route planning. Lawson and I eat together before he has to take off for a morning meeting. He gives me some pointers about places to stay before I get into the campsite for the evening. The heat is similar to the day before as I head out in the morning. I check my odometer and realize that I will hit my first 1,000 miles before leaving town! I ponder exactly where it will happen and if there will be much of a photo op. Sadly it occurs about a tenth of a mile from Austin Peay State University. There is just enough of an obstruction so that I cannot get any of the beautiful campus buildings in. Oh well.
As I near Route78, my main road for the day, I realize the morning rush hour has not let up and in fact, there is heavy truck traffic. I duck into a neighborhood that follows the same general direction. This detour provides quiet streets and allows one to bypass the busiest part of town. Once outside of town, 78 becomes a four lane highway with divided median and large shoulders, just as Lawson described. Interestingly enough, this route follows the south end of Fort Campbell’s property line for the next 15 or so miles. I get a chance to peer into the mystical forest that holds training grounds for all conditions that may be seen by our military men and women. The mind races as to what secrets lie just beyond the tree line. I stop for a snack and drinks at JT’s Baitshop. I find the decor amusing.
I soon arrive in Dover for lunch and history. I charge my phone and eat as the sun beats down on the pavement. After a burger, many sweet tea refills and a strawberry shake, the body is satiated and cooled. I pedal towards the local battlefield and take a quick ride through the park. After reading few signs, I decide that I should make the most of the remaining daylight and head towards a grocery store outside of the Trace taking one through the LBTL I stock up on provisions at the Piggly Wiggly and head north. The south information center provides a detailed map where I plan to stay and the mileage to get there. The terrain becomes hillier than central Tennessee to which I had become accustomed. Not a huge deal, but my legs did begin to feel tried.
Shortly thereafter I make the turn off the main road to find my campsite. There are more miles than I expect and the hills are pretty steep. Late in the day and early in the first week back, my legs are making it apparent that I had lost some strength over my time off. I arrive at Wrangler’s Camp at 6:30 pm. The office had just closed so I will have to wait till morning to pay. I find a campsite close to the entrance, put up my tent and shower. A tuna fish dinner follows. I attempt to gain cell phone service by wandering the grounds at recommended hot spot areas. No signal is sound, but a beautiful sunset introduces me to night.
Day 29: Wrangler’s to Cave-in-Rock (76 miles)
I awake early to some light rain. It is my understanding that rain wasn’t supposed to happen until Saturday. After packing and paying it is brought to my attention that Tropical Storm Cindy is on pace to dampen my day and remaining week. I wait a few minutes for a heavy downpour to pass as I put on a rain jacket. After 20 minutes of riding I decide the heat of wearing the jacket is not worth the light rain it is protecting me from. I remove the jacket and get back to the main road.
Just before 9 AM, I stop at the central visitors center for more information. It is not yet open, but a woman arriving at the same time tells me I have till noon to miss considerable rain. Back on the bike I kick it into high gear to take on the 20+ miles to my lunch spot for the day, a place called Patti’s Settlement which is known for their pork chop.
With no rain or wind I make great time. After each climb comes a long decline that allows me to pick up speed for decent stretches. I make one last stop at the northern visitors center for more details about the storm, directions to the restaurant and directions to the ferry in Kentucky. By 11:30 AM, the bike is locked up underneath an awning at the restaurant and I am seated. I order drinks and my meal, a quaint two inch pork chop that is allegedly over a pound of meat. I quickly change into dry clothes in the restroom as the meal is prepared.
What is served to me is massive. The flavor is on point. As a pork chop enthusiast, I can honestly say this is one of the best pork chops I’ve ever had. This is the only meal that has left me full after riding for part of the day. The piece of pie may not have been needed, but was necessary at the time. It helps pass time as the skies opened up from the tropical storm. Should one find themself in Grand River, KY, Patti’s is a must!
Before I take off for an afternoon ride of 40 plus miles, I talk to Adair about weather and potential routes. Since the cell phone service is still spotty, she reads various weather reports for potential destinations. After leaving Grand Rivers the roads are quiet and country side even more quiet. Wildlife of all forms are dodged on the road, mainly deer, bees and horse flies. I find that one must exceed 10 mph or the flies will attack you. This is not ideal when climbing steep grades. I also find that towns along River Road do not have any services. Only large towns will have gas stations, restrooms or places to refill water bottles. My route will not take me past any of these towns.
After making a wrong turn and having a stand off with a husky on a country road, I enter the town of Joy. Not much joy on my part as I must decide to backtrack past the dog or take some unknown roads and unknown mileage as I am mappless and serviceless. A truck passes me then pulls into a driveway down the road. I ask the man for water and advice. James, a life long resident of Joy, tells me the best bet is to backtrack. After a few minutes he offers to throw my gear into the back of his truck and take me part of the way to the to the day’s destination. On the way, James provides some details of the areas history, local fishing, his life growing up in town and his desire to one day drive Route 66 across the country.
After a full day of work, James takes the time to give me a ride. He decides with the great turn in weather and short amount of time to drive, that he will drive me to the ferry. There are no complaints from my end as I had already had 70 or so miles under my belt. Being seated in his truck was a comfortable break from the saddle.
Without warning we are at the Ohio River for the ferry. I load my bike as the ferry makes its way towards us. James and I finish our chat and say our goodbyes. The half hour or so James took from his day made a world of difference in mine. I get to the otherside to find that Rose’s, the only restaurant in town is open for 30 more minutes. Had James not provided transport, I would have missed a warm dinner and potentially crossing the river that evening. I eat, charge devices, confirm cell service still does not exist then ride towards a camp site. I put up my tent in darkness, swat mosquitos then take an extremely long shower. The woman at the campsite who logged me into the site indicated that heavy rain would arrive early morning and through the afternoon. After a few hours I fell asleep pondering my morning. Would I be forced by a tropical storm to remain in my tent all morning or brave the weather, break down camp, head back to Rose’s for food then ride on unknown miles to my next stop? Also the threat of racoons finding my leftover pizza had made it hard to settle down. After a month of being on the road, the noises of a forest are still extremely foreign to a person accustomed to city noises of cars, sirens and helicopters.