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October 17, 2010 / jslipschultz

Day 36 Sevierville TN to Asheville NC (10/17)

What a difference a day makes.  I can’t tell you how nervous I was this morning starting out with Bill, Austin, Joseph, and Karl.  Temps in the 30’s and some seriously thick fog kept it slow for the warm-up and then some.  As we started to crank it up, the legs responded.  And then, we stayed conservative knowing the big climbs were after lunch in Hot Springs NC.  Let’s just say, today and yesterday, night and day.  Phew.

The ride into Asheville was beautiful and the temps warmed up eventually.  Joseph had a huge event waiting for his arrival at the hotel for Big Brother/Big Sister.  Austin and I flanked either side of him as we proudly delivered him to the awaiting crowd.  It was very cool.  And his son goes to school in town so he was there to greet him, too.  Plus, Bill has a house here and his wife Susan was awaiting his arrival , too (which Austin and I got to see as we returned from the parking lot to the front door).  Two major homecomings of sorts.  Got me thinking all the more about hitting Charleston soon and having my family there to greet me!  Inching closer.

By the way, for those of you who thought I’d lose a ton of weight on this trip, you couldn’t be more wrong.  I have gained weight.  It will be tough to cut back from the thousands of calories we eat every day.  But if I don’t, I’ll be obese in about two months.  Haven’t cut back yet though–had a great dinner at Bistro 1896 with Bill, his wife Susan, William and Austin.  Highly recommend it.

Pics:  Bill provided pics of the Smoky Mountains from the top of climbs and the French Broad River.  We couldn’t find a border sign for Tennessee on the way in, so we got it on the way out.  And we thought there was just the one lame sign for NC, but another was around the corner.  Other pics are downtown Asheville (the bus is coffee/dessert shop).

tn1 nc2 nc1 top of Hot Springs climb smoky mtns frenchbroad coffee shopthesquare  downtown

By the numbers: 89.3 miles, 5,640 feet of climbing, 5:23:35 riding time, 16.6 mph avg.; Totals so far: 2,948.2 miles and 111,119 feet of climbing.

Next stop:  Spartanburg SC (last state line!), 78.3 miles away (a short ride!)

Helmet-cam:  Serious Fog This Morning; French Broad River; Water Break (Karl Got in Trouble)

Video Update:

October 16, 2010 / jslipschultz

Day 35: Crossville to Sevierville, TN

The last (and only) time I bonked was September of 2003.  For you non-cyclists, “bonking” might sound like something fun.  It’s not.  Bonking is a physical state where your body decides it is so unhappy it won’t operate at the same level at all.  Back in 2003, I was halfway through a charity ride of 62 miles and had to complete the second half at 12 mph.  A grueling ride in. 

Today was dangerously close to my second bonk experience.  Not sure if it was the 126 + 106 mile back-to-back days.  Not sure if it was pulling Austin and Bill for a lot of miles going into lunch.  Not sure if it’s simply Day 35.  Or the 36 degF start for the first 10 miles (you could literally see the breath of all the riders in our group as we headed out of Crossville).  I felt fine for most of the ride.  It included quite a bit of climbing, but Joseph, Austin, Bill and I weren’t working overly hard.  Around Mile 90 or so, we had more rollers to tackle and the Great Smoky Mountains came into view.  Although we steered clear of the national park for today, the last 16 miles tested my will to finish.  I was hurting.  Obviously, stopping was not an option.  Just have to grit your teeth and muscle through it.  Fortunately, the guys kept it easy going for the ride in.

Tonight, I couldn’t even finish my dinner.  Yikes.  Well, the key is to rest and recover and hit it again.  Joseph, Austin, and I were talking at breakfast today and shared we were “itching to finish.”  Yes, we want to enjoy every day and not skip through some of the best views of Fall in the country right now.  But, at the same time, we’ve been at this for quite a while and getting to the Atlantic is the paramount goal now.  We are so close.

Pics:  A quick water stop in Kingston; lunch (nap is a staged picture for my coach) at Fort Loudoun Dam

photo lunch

By the numbers:  106.2 miles, 16.8 mph, 6:21:26 riding time, 5,299 feet of climbing; Totals so far: 2,858.9 miles, 105,479

Next stop:  Asheville NC (another state line–the second to last), 88 miles away.

Helmet-cam: A peaceful, but COLD start riding behind Karl (who’s wearing two pairs of booties) Crossing the dam; Shadow puppets on the road; Live from the peleton 15 miles out

Recap video:

Bonus pic: The Power of the W lives!  #18 Badgers upset #1 Buckeyes 31 to 18!

Badgers win!

October 15, 2010 / jslipschultz

Day 34: Nashville to Crossville, TN (10/15)

When we left Nashville, I was certain I left my legs in The Hermitage Hotel.  Usually, I’m pretty careful to make sure I leave nothing behind, but somehow today…

We started out as a group and had Dave and Marquette with us this morning.  Slowly, the landscape changed from a busy city streets to the wide-open spaces of the country.  Fairly quickly.  After a while, Austin, Joseph and I took off and pushed along.  I was constantly wondering how I was to do 125 miles and 6,800+ feet of climbing with NO LEGS!  We had two lunch stops today and after the second one, I managed to get my act together.  Just in time for Austin’s FIRST FLAT OF THE RIDE.  This was actually funny for several reasons: 1)  Austin is so confident about riding on tubeless tires–never flats apparently…, 2) Joseph and I were commenting just this morning on who has had no flats and made a point to mention that Austin was the only one.  So we jinxed him.  3)  While waiting for the van to pull up, I had time to chase chickens around some little house on the side of the road.

It was a long day with about three tough climbs (long stretches of 5-8-10% grade) and some rollers towards the end, but we managed through it alright.  Fortunately, the wind was at our backs at critical times, and although cold at the start and finish, fair weather again prevails!  And Karl rode with us for the second half and gave me some nice tips on climbing.


bridge  truckstream house in Sparta Austins flat ticked off Austin

chicken chicken2 chicken3

By the numbers:  18.2 mph, 126.4 miles, 6,841 feet of climbing, 6:57:30 riding time; Totals so far: 2,752.7 miles, 100,180 feet of climbing

Next stop:  Sevierville TN, 107.6 miles away

Helmet-cam:  Countryside; Four of us; Racing along; One of our climbs; Crossing the bridge

Video recap:  Today’s video recap has mysteriously been swapped with a video of Tara and Marquette, our Trek Travel heroines.

October 14, 2010 / jslipschultz

Day 33: Rest Day in Nashville

Nashville is a fun little city.  Especially if you like country music.  It is also the state capital of Tennessee.  Today I got up when my body said it was time, instead of my iPhone.  Worked some after breakfast at the Capital Grill downstairs.

It was a beautiful afternoon to walk around the city (really about five square blocks of businesses/restaurants/tourist sites.  Much of the rest is government buildings and more business district.  The Titans play football across the river and the Predators play hockey right downtown.  Austin and I covered the immediate area and had lunch at Tootsie’s (a 50-year old establishment that has played host to several famous singers).  Maybe Jaclyn North will be famous some day.  She was pretty good, after all.


We’re not really up for cabbing it to the other sites (Grand Olde Opry)–I’ve been here before and have seen it.  We did peak into the Ryman Auditorium and were told to kindly leave.  I guess there was a paid program going on.  No biggie.  Just passing through.

We’re planning on a nice dinner tonight and perhaps revisit the honkytonks on Broadway.  Then back to the standard routine, including early-ish bedtime.


The Hermitage (the bathroom is semi-well known, restored to original art deco look)

front  lobby  Mens room1 Mens room2 herm sign


 downtown riverfront

The Capital

capital sign  capital

October 13, 2010 / jslipschultz

Day 32: Dover to Nashville, TN

What an interesting day.  We started out by fueling up at McD’s.  Austin, propelled by three hashbrowns, took off like a shot.  I chased him down and we road through the fog, damp, and cold (52 degF) out of Dover.  Lots of hills and 25 or so miles later, Joseph pulled in with us just in time to help with my first flat tire of the day.  He is pretty dang good at that.  But we didn’t find anything and the inner tube was leaking very slowly…I was uneasy about it, but we replaced the tube and pressed on towards lunch.  And again, flat a few miles later.  Turns out the tire had a small piece of mesh poking through the inside of the tire.  I’ve had this problem before with this brand of tire.  It is a Catch-22.  The mesh in the tire is great at preventing flats, as long as the mesh itself doesn’t cause a flat.  Fortunately, Joseph found the tiny metal tip protruding through.  Somehow, I reopened my tiny wound on my thumb tip and required a new bandage (for which I was teased, of course).  Luckily, Marquette was just pulling up with the van to provide a pump and some first-aid!  🙂

After lunch, we punched it a bit, uncertain about the forecast.  We had great weather all day, but the afternoon forecast called for showers.  We caught up with Bill and Dave and followed Dave to the city.  Lucky for us, as the route meandered through industrial parks, bike paths, side roads, you name it.  Anything to avoid the major feeders into the city.  We only had a few real city blocks of cycling to do (and that was enough for me–too much to keep track of while being safe).

The countryside was very nice today.  Very quiet roads.  Lots of cows (and dogs of course, but hardly any were loose).  And we got in before a drop of rain fell (still threatening as I write this).

Day 30 Update:  You can now go back and view videos of the Mississippi crossing and some local motorcycle gang members giving us suggestions on our route that day.

Pics and Videos:

lunch  Cumberland River along bike path 



By the numbers:  94.0 miles, 5:17:35 riding time, 17.8 mph avg, 4,259 feet of climbing; Totals so far: 2,626.3 miles and 93,339 feet of climbing.

Next stop:  Tomorrow is a rest day in Nashville!  Then, 125.2 miles to Crossville, TN

Helmet-cam footage: Foggy morning; Foggy morning 2; Fall colors; Getting close!

Video recap:

October 12, 2010 / jslipschultz

Day 31: Union City to Dover, TN

It was a somber start to the ride today.  Overcast skies and two riders bidding farewell at our launch.  Aside from Brian and Diana, the remaining group rode out together and remained in small sets within a mile or so of each other a lot of the day.  In the afternoon, Joseph, Austin, and I cranked it up just a little to make sure we beat any afternoon rain showers threatening during the day.  A few drops fell while we sipped our recovery drinks in the parking lot central to our fancy little cabins in at the Dover Inn Motel.

Lots a little rollers here and there, but the main highlight was crossing the Tennessee River.  We were “out in the country” for the whole ride.  We might have been passed by a handful of cars on some of the backroads we were on.  A quiet and uneventful ride today.  I guess wearing my raincoat for the first 20 miles scared off the rain clouds for a while (again!).  We are up to a total of 20 rain drops for the on-the-road portion of our trip, most of which were as we finished or just started out.  So lucky so far, weather-wise.  Not sure that luck will make it to the end.

Dover is located near The Land Between the Lakes (between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake).  A part of the world many of you probably didn’t know existed–like many of our stops.  I know our country is primarily made up of towns and cities just like the ones I’ve seen.  I have been to several during my railroad days.  But seeing it by bicycle has reaffirmed that there are many, many Americans, who are far removed from the bigger cities, who have a unique lifestyle that is far different from mine.

Pics:  Lunch in Puryear, TN.  The Jeff/Joseph cabin–note my country bumpkin laundry drying all over the porch.

Puryear TN lunch jj cabin view from porch

By the numbers:  77.9 miles, 4:45:03, 16.4 mph average, 2,621 feet; Totals so far: 2,532.3 miles, 89,080 feet

Helmet-cam:  Country roads rock!; Jibber-Jabbering in the Peleton; Crossing Kentucky Lake

Next stop:  Nashville TN (our last rest day follows), 94.2 miles away

Video update:

October 11, 2010 / jslipschultz

Day 30: Poplar Bluff MO to Union City TN

Today was to be a great, great day.  Flat roads.  Two state lines.  Crossing the Mighty Mississippi River on a ferry.  And it started out great.  Bill, Austin, Joseph and I were cooking along averaging 19-20 mph.  Then we reached the first van stop for water and Karl informed us there had been an accident within the other group.  As we learned later, William had touched the wheel of the rider in front of him and went down.  Dana ran into him (over him) and went down, too.  William ended up with a split lip and lots of road rash and some bruises (and a cracked helmet—-WEAR YOUR HELMET, CYCLISTS!).  Unfortunately, Dana ended up with a fractured elbow and will require surgery and a pin put in.  Her ride is over.  As well as her husband Brit’s.

Brit and Marquette rode to lunch while the other guides attended to Dana and William.  Dana told Brit to proceed as she didn’t know how serious it was.  We waited for them at the lunch spot to see what the plan would be. In an act of solidarity to Brit and Dana, the four of us road with Brit (and Marquette) the rest of the 43 miles to Union City where we found Dana and William at the hotel.

When riding in a peleton, these things happen.  You hope your reflexes can pull you through close calls.  But sometimes, there just isn’t enough time to maneuver around.  And keeping your concentration on the riders in front of you for 100 miles can be challenging.  Luck often has something to do with it.  Bad or good.  We will miss Brit and Dana dearly.  They had provided a great spark to our social dynamics.  They were always smiling and positive (as seen in yesterday’s video–now dubbed the Sports Illustrated Blog Curse).

The ride was somber today.  We enjoyed the terrain, the crossing of the River and state lines, but it wasn’t the same knowing Dana was not en route with us and taking dozens of great pictures.  She’s the strongest female rider in her age-group that I know, and as far as we’re concerned, she conquered the hardest parts of this ride and would have finished easily.  She proved she could do it, no doubt.

Pics and Videos:  Including a video of the Members of the Pharaoh Motorcycle Gang giving us directions to get to Charleston faster.

cotton sign ferry ferry button

Videos of us crossing the Mississippi:

More pics:

almost across  acrosssign KY side KY Hickman KY cake

By the numbers:  101.6 miles, 600 feet of climbing (ah, flat), 5:58:13, 17 mph average (19.2 before lunch, 14.9 after); Totals so far: 2,454.4 miles, 86,459 feet of climbing.

Helmet-cam footage:  Out in the Missouri cotton fields; Ferry Ride 1; Ferry Ride 2

Next stop: Dover TN, 72.8 miles away

Video recap:  None today.  Not much else to add to the above.