Day 47 Harriman, TN to Sparta, TN

In the morning we ate the included breakfast at our hotel and watched the weather. It looked to be less wet and less windy but there was a good bit of fog.

foggy ride in Harriman TN

We made good time riding along the valley but knew the flats were due to end as we approached the Cumberland Plateau. The ride up the plateau was not as bad as we thought it might be but I think this was because we are in better shape and more used to riding now. Had we had to do this long climb a month ago we would most likely have been pushing the bikes up part of it or taking frequent stops to rest. The overall grade was quite nice and there was a shoulder, although it was narrow in places and had a lot of debris from yesterday’s storms in it.

TN cumberland plateau

The climb was about 10 miles long and when we reached the top it certainly flattened out.

riding on rt 70 TN

There were plenty of places that were dealing with flooding from the storms but the weather was really clearing up to blue skies and sunshine. This photos is of a low lying area in Crab Orchard, TN that had a road going through it to cross under the rail road tracks.

flooding in crab orchard TN

That afternoon we passed through some small towns and noticed that all the buildings were made of a brightly colored stone. I assumed it was being quarried locally because when I say all the buildings were made from it, that’s exactly what I mean. Gas stations, houses, small businesses. The stone was beautiful in color and reminded me of the south west. I later asked a local about it and they said it was quarried in middle Tennessee by digging out under the large strata deposits and knocking huge layers of rock off from underneath. It resulted in large, thick slabs of rock that are perfect for building with. Here’s a picture of a building (maybe an old theater?) made from this rock.


The afternoon riding was relaxing but since we did a short day yesterday we were heading all the way to Sparta, TN today and there was still a long way to go at 3pm.

Riding to Sparta TN

The last 7 miles or riding included a massive downhill, within the plateau, that ended up being difficult because trying to ride downhill at 25 mph with controlled braking for a good 5 miles was hard work. Some of the roads we took were not in great shape and we had to be real careful to keep to slower speed that wouldn’t “unhorse” us as we traveled over cracked pavement.

At one point we realized we were on a road that had been closed due to construction of some sort. We decided to continue on and see if it was passable on a bike.

closed TN road machinery


As you can see it was just passable for a bike but not for a car.

At the bottom of the descent we found ourselves on the outskirts of Sparta and headed to the Walgreens where we were to meet our ride to our host for the night. We had contacted a warmshowers host in Sparta who was unable to house us for the night. However, he did have a friend who was able to host us. Her name is Mary and her friend Ben was able to pick us up with his truck in Sparta.

Mary and Ben were excellent hosts and we had a very enjoyable evening with them while relaxing on the back porch. Mary made an excellent dinner including a beautiful dessert that I snapped this shot of before I wolfed it down.

Mary's dessert


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