Knowing the condition of the roads leaving the housing development, we were eager to get moving. We mostly pushed our bikes over the loose, rocky gravel, up and down the steep hills, back the way we’d come. It took a long time.
Our host had suggested that the roads in the area often don’t match up with google directions, but was unable to elaborate. We weren’t interested in following the route from the previous evening back to a main road (too far out of our way, adding miles that simply weren’t easy), so we decided to take our chances. For the most part, we were content enough. There were still some steep roads, but the downhills often worked in our favor. Unfortunately, though, many of the roads were not paved, and that slowed us down. We got turned around a few times when directions didn’t quite work out, but with the river to the west, we didn’t get terribly lost.
The back roads dumped us out into a barely-there little town called Danville. Since we didn’t have much of a breakfast, we were eager for food. Though there wasn’t much in town, we did happen upon the Southernaire Motel and Restaurant along the road to the ferry. The restaurant was fairly special, catering to locals and travelers, including a group of Harley riders sporting hand guns who arrived shortly after we did. You may get an idea from the decor.
Refreshed from the nourishment, we rode back to the river at the ferry landing, where we waited in line. Since it was Memorial Day weekend, the passengers included local traffic, a couple who’d driven up in their car from Memphis, and a group of teens/young adults on a varied collection of ATVs.
One of the reasons we’d picked the route we’d picked leaving Nashville is that on google, it appeared as if a rail trail called the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Trail / Seaboard System Railroad Trail ran from the ferry landing on the far side of the river all the way into Paris, TN, in a direct (and flat) line. However, our warmshowers host in Paris had made sure to mention that the trail “wasn’t really useable” and had suggested we be prepared with alternate routes. We decided to explore the trail anyway. Though it appears to start quite near the ferry landing, google suggested we get on the trail where it crossed Bass Bay Road. Sure enough, when we got there and used the odometer to measure the distance we needed to go, the trail did exist. It crossed the road near there, though it was not obvious and wasn’t marked either. As we were crossing an inlet of the river–the trail did have a bridge with no guard rails–we were passed by the group of ATV riders from the ferry, who must have been locals and aware of how to access the trail nearer the ferry. The trail was also not in good shape. Within yards of riding, we had started hitting puddles, some of which covered the trail all the way across.
Worse, they were filled with stagnant, muddy water. This might have been fun on an ATV or even a mountain bike (not loaded with all your possessions), but it wasn’t fun for us.
Worse, if we dismounted to walk our bikes (trying to keep our feet from getting wet by stepping along grassy areas at the edge of the trail), great clouds of mosquitoes gathered, and pursued us relentlessly, trying to get in as many bites as possible. After doing this a handful of times, we decided to get back on the main road, even though there were no shoulders. While traffic was fairly slow because of the holiday, there was still an outsized number of pickup trucks hauling boats, which made rode sharing more complicated and less comfortable. We stopped for a snack in Big Sandy, where Elizabeth ate a great snack combo of beef jerky and Oreos.
We did talk to someone who was surprised to see us there, since they had also seen us riding earlier on the other side of the river. We also tried to sort out what if any differences there might be between taking 69A N (actual road) and 69 S (which is how google labeled it), which was slightly confusing. I don’t remember much else about the ride being eventful. Lots of trucks pulling boats. Hills. Signs marking “bike routes” that had small shoulders which were devoted to rumble strips. Oh yeah, it was also hot and humid. We made it to Paris and found our host, who was about our age and had been WWOOFing and is very into organic farming. His mom was also great–friendly and generous, and they had a small terrier. We really enjoyed them. With the heat, small dinner the previous night, small breakfast, and several days of hard riding (with no rest days since our day off in Jefferson City), Elizabeth seemed to be exhibiting symptoms of heat exhaustion. She drank her last PediaLyte over ice, and consequently was able to eat some of the dinner that our hosts had prepared for us. Our host was impressed that we’d found the railroad trail, and seemed interested in exploring it in the future. If anyone from the area around Paris, Springville, or Big Sandy, or anyone from Tennessee parks and recreation or a national rails-to-trail conservancy is interested in working on a public improvement project, revitalizing, marking, and maintaining the trail would be a great asset to the area, and it could definitely turn into something great for locals who like to run, walk their dogs, or take a nice bike ride. And with the ferry, it probably could also be a draw for cycle tourists. The grading is done, so it would need just a little more work to make the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Trail / Seaboard System Railroad Trail / Southern Railroad Trail to be the resource it could be.