About A. Squeaky Wheel

A. Squeaky Wheel is a vintage bicycle enthusiast and freelance writer living in central Pennsylvania.

Day 58 – Cape Girardeau MO to Perryville MO

Our penultimate day.

It had rained the previous night, and more storms were forecast for the day. This made me very nervous. Our ride was not supposed to be as long as the previous day’s, but it was supposed to be hillier as we headed away from the Mississippi and further into Missouri.

Our googled directions had us heading through Jackson MO and then mostly north on minor roads that meandered through farmland and across streams, but overall ran roughly parallel to I-55.





As it turned out, some of these roads were paved, and some were definitely not, and they were softer and messier after the rain. This made our day longer and tougher than we anticipated. We just crawled along for miles and miles, and really only hit one stretch where we were able to maintain a good pace.


bicycles on overpass in Missouri

Eventually, a light precipitation started. The sky was looking pretty ominous, and we were getting pretty hungry. We stopped at a town called Oak Ridge, which was really just an intersection with a post office and a few buildings. The weather radio wasn’t indicating that there were any storm warnings, so we left our overhang and kept riding. There were no other towns on our route, but there was a butcher shop near the intersection of I-55 and state highway KK, so we decided to pull over there when the next band of ominous clouds approached. We fussed over where to put our bikes for a little while, and decided there wasn’t really an ideal place.

It did start to rain, so we bought some snacks. But the rain didn’t really stop while we were there. Since the precipitation was lighter, we decided to keep riding, and we also asked for an alternate route to avoid any more unpaved roads. One of the locals we asked happened to be a talker, and a talker who was involved in some multilevel marketing scheme to sell juices/energy drinks/diet shakes or something that he thought would help us lose weight and improve our performance. Elizabeth was quite upset by his presumption, but I’ve heard these pitches before for a variety of products. We did have a little trouble getting him to move on, even though he was in his car and we were obviously standing there in the rain. The worst conversations we’ve had on this trip were with people who opened the conversation by feigning interest in talking with us, and then used the opening as a foray to proselytize to us. Most of the time it was about religion and believing in Jesus (this had happened as recently as the previous day in Cairo), but a few times it was about unique opportunities to buy nutritional supplements. Leave me alone while I drink my Dr. Pepper!

Anyhow, the first section of our reroute was slightly uncomfortable, as it was steep and windy with no shoulders and a bit of traffic, but it was worth it to get on highway 61, which may have been slightly longer but was paved and had a shoulder.

We made good time through Old Appleton and Uniontown and arrived in Perryville in midafternoon. We hadn’t really figured out exactly where we’d stay. We rode past one cheap motel (which I didn’t even see) and found a second one, which looked even sketchier. Instead of continuing our search, we went back to the first, which was cheap, so we took a room.

We asked for advice on a place to eat, and the motel manager recommended the Park-Et Fine Foods, which was conveniently located next to the motel. So, we had a late lunch there. I wouldn’t say it was “fine” by any account, but it was decent and very affordably priced, and since there weren’t really vegetarian options, they made me an omelet from their breakfast menu.

We were safely inside for the afternoon showers. That evening, we spent a lot of time watching the weather channel. It was the afternoon that another tornado was bearing down on Moore Oklahoma and bearing down on Oklahoma City commuters caught in rush hour traffic on the interstates. The same line of storms also hit a St. Louis suburb to our north. We ate a light dinner and went back to the Park Et for dessert.

The worst of the weather didn’t hit Perryville until after midnight, but the deluge and thunder woke us up. The motel was not in the best shape. Our room had a significant gap–two inches or more–at the bottom of the door. The wind was blowing rain underneath the door and soaking the carpet in our room.

When we woke up in the morning, it was still pouring.


Day 57 – Columbus Belmont SP to Cape Girardeau, MO

This day was critical to us making our timeline. It was a long day–60 miles. It was a three state day, with miles in Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri. And we did our major river crossings as well. When we were still heading into Arkansas, we had planned to take the Hickman ferry across the Mississippi. But our reroute north to meet my car had up traveling up the east side of the Mississippi river valley, offering us additional places to cross. We left the park and headed north on rolling, scenic country roads. IMG_8453 SAM_0723

The roads became quite flat on the floodplains. It was quite gusty, and there was almost nothing to stop the wind. Fortunately, it came mostly from the side, and though it was difficult to keep straight at times, leaning against the gusts was much better than the times the wind was blowing from the north, which brought us to a crawl.


Google actually sent us on the levee roads for a number of miles. The roads were not trafficked (we saw one truck) and it was fun to be able to view the landscape from the top of the barrier. However, it was also a loose gravel surface, which slowed us down considerably. Iowa had just received tons of rain and we knew the water was still north of Saint Louis. And while midwest was due for more storms, we could see signs of previous flooding and places where the river was already high. IMG_8462 IMG_8464 SAM_0731

Riding north before crossing the river meant we had to also cross a major tributary–the Ohio River. We were able to take a minor highway, Great River Road, across the river. The bridge had a low speed limit, but it had a surprising amount of traffic. The shoulders were also kind of narrow. On a calm day, crossing would have been less stressful, but the wind was so strong, and large trucks weren’t slowing down enough to prevent us from getting hit with large drafts. I felt unsafe, but we didn’t have other options, so I put my head down and pedaled on. When I was about 2/3s of the way across, a particularly large gust combined with a draft ripped the visor off my helmet. Fortunately, a corner held on long enough and I reacted quick enough to catch it and hold it in my hand against the handle bars. Otherwise, it would have ended up in the river or in traffic.

After crossing the Ohio, it was just a short distance into Cairo, Illinois. I didn’t know what to expect from Cairo, since it looked sizable on a map. However, from our visits with locals, we’d gathered that there wasn’t a motel there. But once we rode into town, we understood why.

Cairo is kind of a tragic place–huge historical buildings abandoned or falling down. Empty, burned out lots in the heart of downtown. Wide streets with hardly and cars and hardly any people. Of all the desolate, isolated, and run-down places we saw on the trip, Cairo was by far the worst off. At its peak in 1920, it had 15,200 residents. It now has 2,800.

Cairo then:

Cairo now:

image by Kathy Weiser, April, 2010

Afterward, I looked up information about Cairo’s past. Early in its history, it was a major city–an important port where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet. Even though its location was highly fortunate, it was also unfortunate, as it is flat and prone to flooding. Though Cairo was a railroad hub as well, the railroads and the automobile made river commerce less important. When steamboats were replaced with barges and additional railroad bridges directed traffic further and further away from Cairo, the city fell on harder times. But the real nail in the coffin for Cairo was good old American racism.

Cairo is the Southern-most town in the north, and racial tensions were high there before and after the Civil War, as the town had an unusually sizable black population, while many of the white residents believed in segregation. The town was markedly violent during the early 20th century, with some notable lynchings and mob violence. It became violent again during the Civil Rights Era, as local African Americans demanded better treatment and were met with extreme retaliation by the local police. Almost all public and private offices employed only whites. City facilities were completely segregated, including public housing, local parks, and seating in the courthouse. The public pool was closed in 1963 to prevent it from being integrated. Despite more than fifteen years of effort and litigation, separate schools were kept until 1967.

One catalyzing event was the death of Robert Hunt, a 19-year-old black soldier home on leave, who was found hanged in the Cairo police station in 1967. The FBI did not investigate, as they thought it might inflame the situation, but there were riots anyway, and the perpetrators, if there were any, were never brought to justice. Instead, the riots brought intimidation, patrols, and violent reprisals by the “White Hats”, a local white vigilante group who wore white construction hats and were deputized by the sheriff. If you want to read more about this incident, here is a good summary.

The unrest continued from 1967 through 1970. The refusal of local whites to end segregation and treat black citizens with equality led to a boycott of local businesses by black citizens. Business owners chose to close up shop or go out of business rather than hire black workers. Most those who were able to afford to leave left–primarily well-off whites. By 1970 the population had dropped to a little over 6,000 people. This completely eroded what was left of the town’s economic foundation, and the boycott turned into a decade long affair, as the business owners who remained refused to concede. Only in 1980 was a black person elected to Cairo’s city government, and it was only after the United States Supreme Court ruled that the city was violating voting rights laws.

Today, the town is basically a ghost town, and the community that’s left faces a series of challenges–including poverty, crime, distrust of government and outsiders, inadequate education, lack of employment opportunities and rebuilding its tax base. Cairo school district has the highest percentage in Illinois of children in poverty, 60.6%, which ranks fifteenth highest in the United States.

All in all, it was an interesting place to ride through. We looked for a place to stop for lunch, but only saw about three options, so we chose Subway. After Cairo, we had a long but altogether unremarkable ride through Illinois. The only town of any note we passed through was Thebes, and there wasn’t much there, just a few blocks and a campground with trailers that looked precariously close to the river. If the weather forecast were more promising, we might have stopped. But it wasn’t promising, and we wanted to get across the river. The wind continued to blow strongly, and as we headed north, we noticed a dark storm heading our way, which fortunately passed to the north, as we headed west to cross the river at Cape Girardeau. SAM_0739

Cape Girardeau is where the Adventure Cycling Association’s route (that we had been on for a short time in Virginia) crosses the Mississippi, and we could see why. The crossing was still windy, but the bridge there is a modern bridge with ample shoulders, and it was scenic rather than stressful. It felt wonderful to have bicycled from the Atlantic coast all the way across the Mississippi! SAM_0744 IMG_8467

We had done our 60 miles and arrived in town, but we didn’t know where to stay, and it took us a little while to find the hotels on the far side of town, near the mall. We ended up finding a fairly reasonably price room at the Auburn Place, which had an indoor courtyard. We appreciated the tough brick exterior and a room on the interior, as weather looked like it might be severe that evening. We ate a nice dinner at Panera and slept soundly.

Day 53 – north of Waverly TN to Paris TN

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.

crappy TN gravel road hannah pushing bike up hill in TN

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.

rest stop near TN river tributary

switcing from gravel to paved in TN

hannah pushing bike up hill in TN gravel

hannah pedling in TN

Surly LHT in TN

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.

southernaire resort sign

liz with motorcycles

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.

waiting for the Houston ferry in TN

riding the ferry in TN

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.

off roading trail short cut

liz riding off road trail

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.

hannah pushing bike around muddy puddle

dirty legs

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.

afternoon snacks

muddy pake c'mute

liz riding in TN

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.

Day 50 – Carthaghe TN to Nashville TN

Even though no serious storms passed through, we were still glad to be inside for the night. A local the previous evening had recommended we camp under a bridge and hang out at the laundromat all night. Really, our cheap motel room in Carthage didn’t have much more to offer than the basics. Additionally, there was the view, which included a series of interesting cloud formations:

view from motel, Carthage TN


The other entertaining part was that there were tons of handwritten signs at the motel. The two older women who were running it looked like they’d never touched a computer. Even the channel guide for the TV was handwritten on a piece of paper. Some of the rules posted in the motel office included priceless advice like, if you forget your room key, don’t break the door handle to get back in your room. And don’t flush food and garbage down the toilet.

Anyhow, the bridge we normally would have taken out of town was under construction, so we backtracked a little and left the way we came in.

route 70 in Tennessee

The ride on 70W from Carthage to Lebanon wasn’t awesome. There were many places with narrow shoulders and heavier traffic, and many otherwise acceptable shoulders were partially dedicated to rumble strips.

We stopped for lunch in Lebanon TN, where there was a nice community park with a bike path running through it.


Lebanon TN

Lebanon TN

There was a police officer patrolling the park on bike, which we hadn’t really seen before, and we were even able to lend a tool to a local cyclist whose handlebars were loose.


After the park, we got back on 70W. Even though it was marked as a bike route, we rode on the sidewalks because the traffic was heavy and there was no suitable shoulder. But eventually, a shoulder reappeared, and by the time we reach Mt. Juliet, we had a very nice bike lane to ride in.

taking a break

actual bike lanes in Tennessee

There was a chance of thunderstorms, so we watched the sky all day. As we got nearer to Nashville, it seemed like it might rain. We actually got offered a ride and place to stay from two different locals on our way into town, which was a first for us!

Fortunately, it didn’t pour where we happened to be when we happened to be there. Instead, the sky cleared, and suddenly we could see the Nashville skyline.

approaching Nashville

Just as traffic began to get crazy, we saw a pedestrian bridge next to the traffic bridge–we had found the greenway where it crosses Stones Creek. However, it wasn’t well marked from the road, so we had to flag down a runner to tell us which way to go.

The greenway runs to downtown Nashville. Our Warm Showers hosts lived in east Nashville, not too far from the endpoint. And, even better, the greenway was a portioned of a well-marked bicycle route through the city, the Music City Bikeway, which runs in an east-west direction. Cyclists can bypass most of the bad traffic in Nashville by staying on it. It may not have been flat, but it was a welcome relief after 70W.


The multiuse trail also included this pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River.

Music City Bikeway in Nashville

The bridge took us to the Shelby Bottoms nature area, which was lovely to ride through.

Music City Bikeway in Nashville

We got a little turned around in Shelby Park, but we eventually found our way into east Nashville. We enjoyed riding through the area, which seemed to have great character and be undergoing an urban revitalization.

Our hosts were Alan and Michaela, who were great people. I am going to let Elizabeth write more about them and their cat.

Day 48 – Sparta TN to Cookeville TN

Because of the daily thunderstorms and the bike problems (flats, a weak chain link), we decided to do a reroute through Cookeville TN, since they had two bicycle shops.

The ride from Sparta to Cookeville was actually quite nice, since there is a direct four lane highway with ample shoulders between the two towns. The road still featured hills, but all the grades were manageable and we made great time.

Route 111 TN

TN country side

When we got into town, I took the “bicycle shops” phone book page Mary had ripped out for us into a gas station and asked for directions.

We also ate some delicious cookies that our host, Mary, had made just for us!

Mary's homemade energy cookie

The bicycle shop that seemed easiest to find was Cookeville Bicycles. It wasn’t hard to find, but overall, and despite a few bicycle route signs, Cookeville was one of the least bicycle friendly towns we’d been in on this trip–lots of busy roads with no shoulder.

Cookeville bicycles had a great selection of bicycles, parts, accessories, and clothing. The employees were able to assess and repair our bikes right then and there, which was a relief. I picked out a new chain and rear cassette and two cycling jerseys so that my lower back would stop getting sunburnt, and Elizabeth got new tires, for hers were beginning to dry rot. We split a set of tire liners (Stop Flats or Mr. Tuffy, I believe), to be inserted between the tube and tires on our rear wheels.

Cookeville Bicycles work shop

cookeville bike shop

Interestingly, the bike shop tech had the same problem with a spontaneously exploding tube that Elizabeth had when changing her flat in Oak Ridge. However, it was the front wheel this time. We’ve speculated/concluded that the way the stock rims on the Surly fit tires makes them more prone to tube pinching. And it was nice to know that if it was user error, it wasn’t just us being inexperienced.


Fortunately, none of our problems were as bad as this next bike, which another customer brought in while we were waiting:

mangled front wheel at Cookeville Bikes

We had a great time chatting with the store’s owner(?) or manager(?), who also gave us tips on where to head next for lunch. Here’s a picture that Cookville Bicycles took of us, once we were ready to go:

cookeville bicycles

Since we had missed lunch, eating was next on our agenda, so we headed to the downtown square area and got sandwiches. Then we went upstairs to Cookeville’s Outdoor Experience, a hiking/backpacking/caving/climbing/paddling and general outdoors store. While we were inside, the afternoon thunderstorm we were expecting approached–warnings were being issued for damaging winds and hail. The employees let us stash our bikes inside, which was a huge relief since we’d just had them overhauled.

So, we hung out inside and waited for the storm.


stormy sky heading our way

Cookeville TN

The storm did not severely hit Cookeville, but we were still glad to have been safe inside. While we were waiting, Elizabeth also got to practice a climbing technique–frog style ascending.

Outdoor Experience, Cookeville TN


After the skies cleared, we rode back to the other side of town and found a hotel room for the night, as we were tired from our previous day’s ride up the Cumberland plateau, still quite hungry, and unwilling to risk more storms. We went out for Italian food and hoped for better weather.

Day 46 – Oak Ridge TN to Harriman TN

This day did not go as expected. We were moving a bit slowly in the morning, and when Elizabeth went out to clean her bike off from the rain grime of the previous day, she discovered a flat rear tire on her bike. Up until this point, we’d not had any flats, but riding the dirty, narrow and wet shoulders on 25W into Oak Ridge (we believe) allowed Elizabeth to pick up some metal shavings which punctured the tubes and caused a slow leak.

changing  flat

So, Elizabeth changed the tire. According to Elizabeth, the only bonus of the rear flat was taking the time to clean her rear cassette while it was off the bike.

cleaned rear compenents

However, after she got the wheel back on and leaned the bike against a post–BANG! The tube exploded, bringing our hosts outside. The tire had to be removed, and I lent Elizabeth one of my tubes, since she hadn’t patched the first tube, and the second was split beyond repair.

As she worked on the second flat, I cleaned my chain and discovered a weak link which was pulling apart and could have caused the chain to snap while I was riding. I was really worried about continuing, but I was able to use a chain tool to at least put the thing back in line. Our hosts offered to drive us to a bike shop, but after searching online, no area shops were open on a Sunday, and we weren’t headed for any bike shops for at least three days. This news meant continuing anyway was probably the best option.

oak ridge bikeway

We had a nice 8 mile ride, when I saw an advancing line of clouds. The forecast hadn’t called for rain so early in the day, but these clouds looked serious. We posted a video of this storm earlier.

After waiting for the rain to subside, it was already afternoon, and we had only completed a very small segment of our planned ride. We knew this would make it difficult to reach our destination before dark, but we kept going.

riding in TN after a bad storm

Our “Da Brim” visors were definitely useful on these days.

da brim keeping rain off glasses

We rode past the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. We passed through some scenic areas. We crossed the Emory River. We also got a bit confused when some area roads were confusingly labeled. I eventually interrupted a family barbecue on a back porch to ask what road I was on.

Worse, the long ride of the previous day had really taken its toll on my energy levels, and I was dragging. By 4 pm, we had only made it to Harriman. We still hadn’t been able to get anyone from the KOA where we were headed on the phone. And we still had to ride 10 miles before ascending the Cumberland plateau and riding a good distance to the campground. Also, there was a good chance of storms still, and with the noontime storm, we were skittish about being caught on the long stretches of empty road or even about weathering a hail storm in a tent.

So, we stopped in Harriman and got a motel room. We also went out for dinner, since we were so hungry. It was the right decision. When we got back from dinner, I noticed that I also had a flat rear tire. I had either picked up a piece of the day before and it slowly ground through the rubber, or I picked it up on one particular stretch of nasty should during the day’s ride. In either case, we entertained other hotel guests by working on our bikes in front of our room.

hannah changing a flat

greasy fingers

Days 43 and 44 – Morristown TN to Jefferson City TN

When we woke up at Cherokee Park, we realized we didn’t really have any breakfast, so we abandoned our planned route and headed straight back to Morristown to look for food. We didn’t immediately find a promising breakfast spot, but we did find a grocery store, so that’s where we ate.

We had a short ride for the day, to Jefferson City, to visit a friend of mine from graduate school, so we continued on 11 and made it to town around lunch time. We didn’t immediately find the downtown area, and a girl at doughnut shop unhelpfully told us that the main highway was the center of town. My friend D had recommended a restaurant/coffee shop, and after using the wifi at McDonald’s to figure out I had the wrong street (should have been OLD Jefferson Highway), we rode across the college campus and found The Creek Cafe.

We parked our bikes next door in a building under renovation, and settled in for an afternoon of reading.

jefferson City bikes in doorframe


Once D got back into town, we headed over to her place and did some catching up (and laundry) before bed.

We took a rest day off in Jefferson City. In the morning, our box of summer gear arrived in the mail, so we repacked our bags with exciting new items, and stuffed our winter/cold spring gear in the boxes. D took us to the post office and to the grocery store–yay for errands!

In the evening, D and her husband took us into Knoxville. The revitalized downtown seemed quite fun, and we dined with our hosts at the Downtown Grill & Brewery.

knoxville downtown

It stormed while we were eating, and we were glad to have been inside. Once the skies cleared, we had desserts, and then headed back to Jefferson City for the night.

Day 41 – Warrior’s Path SP to Church Hill, TN

Fortunately we had a relatively short day of riding after Elizabeth’s night of raccoon patrol.

Once we got packed up, we had a short (though hilly) ride into Kingsport, TN. Our plan was to spend a good portion of the day in town, enjoying being in a town. For us, this included eating.

bagel exchange in Kingsport

Then, after the Bagel Exchange closed, we spent some time in the park next to the library.

Surly LHT Kingsport VA

A local had told us that our planned route out of town was a busy four lane highway and suggested an alternate route along Netherland Inn Road, a scenic two lane road. We probably would have been better off on 11W, since Netherland Inn Road was highly trafficked during rush hour, and the road had no shoulder. It was actually kind of stressful. We stopped near the final bridge to wait until traffic slowed.

We waited until after 6 pm, when it was somewhat more calm, though still busy. Then we returned to highway 11, which we’ve been riding or paralleling since our descent from Massanutten Mountain. On this section of 11W, the shoulders are ample with a designated bike lane.

11W bike lane

After that, we only had about 10 miles to ride to a relatively cheap motel in Church Hill. We arrived, got a room, and went out for Mexican food.

mexican food

Since entering Tennessee, we’ve noticed that all beverages are served in large cups. Here is a picture of a small large cup.

Giant drinks

Day 39 – Atkins VA to Abingdon VA

We were so glad to get out of the terrible motel in Atkins and get back on the road.

leaving Atkins

It was yet another day of discouraging headwinds, but we were able to make steady progress on route 11 as it ran next to the interstate.

During a snack break in Marion VA, we met a British cyclist who had been on the TransAmerica Trail. He had started in Yorktown and made it across the Blue Ridge, but he had been completely demotivated by the 3 days of rain, which he had encountered alone while scaling the ridge line. He wasn’t inexperienced–he’d done the Pacific Rim Trail–but the terrain, weather, and isolation had taken its toll, and he had decided to fly back to England instead of continuing. I felt bad for him, but I also know that I have felt the same way at moments on the trip. I sobbed on some of the hills on the third rainy day. There was nothing fun or enjoyable for me about riding under those circumstances, but it was somehow more bearable when I knew there were others in it with me.

In comparison, pushing your bike uphill into a headwind on a sunny day isn’t so bad.

Hannah pushing bike on VA route 11

We rolled into Abingdon without a good idea of where we’d stay. We did stop into Highlands Ski and Outdoor Center, who recommended a few cheap motels and a restaurant, Bella’s Pizza.

So, we headed to another motel for the night.

This motel was probably the nicest we’ve been in, and it was actually about the same price as the horrible motel in Aktins. We were thrilled. And ate Italian food.

good hotel room in abingdon

Day 36 – Blacksburg VA to Radford VA

We started the day with the best of intentions. However, the rain and ride had really worn us out, so we slept in. Then, we did some much needed bike maintenance, including intensive cleaning and lubing of the chains after the rain (Don had a nice porch/bike workroom).

We also spread everything out to dry in the sun. It was sunny! And there was a dog to pet.

dog and bags out to dry

me petting dog

Elizabeth also had a headache and spent quite a bit of time laying in the grass being miserable while everything dried out. Before we knew it, it was noon.

Don offered to drive us to downtown Blacksburg, and Cassie joined Elizabeth and I at Gillie’s, a great little restaurant with many vegetarian dishes on the menu.

In the previous post Elizabeth mentioned Bike the US for MS, the organization that Don and Cassie run. They plan and organize cross-country bicycling trips–like what Elizabeth and I are doing, but in groups and organized, and they’ll even carry your stuff in a van–in order to raise money for research and treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. MS is an autoimmune disease where your body attacks the covering of your nerves, affecting both the brain and nervous system.

Don’s mom has MS, and the organization is an outgrowth of a trip he took in 2007 to raise money for MS. We also have a good friend who has MS (and also likes bikes) and were very interested in learning more about the organization. They joined as WarmShowers hosts because Don will actually be home this summer instead of riding or leading a route, but they were busy planning, since the first of their groups are scheduled to depart on May 28. If you’d like to donate money for MS through their organization, there’s an easy way to contribute on the left menu of their website, and I’m sure they’d welcome additional sponsorships if you’ve got something else to contribute.

bike ms car

So, after eating delicious food downtown with Cassie, we stopped at the bike shop, where we bought new brake pads and got advice for removing the metal splinters that had become embedded in ours during the rain.

Then, we went to the library, where Elizabeth sprawled in the grass once more, hoping her headache would abate. Sometime very late in the afternoon, she decided she felt good enough to ride, so we called our next host to let him know we were on our way but would be late. To our surprise, Mick offered to pick us up by the mall in Christiansburg, shortening our planned ride for the day to only about 8 miles along the Huckleberry Trail, which connects the two towns.

Since it really was a beautiful day (after all the rain), I was glad for the chance to ride. Still, my knee and Elizabeth’s headache meant we were both sort of relieved that we weren’t going to be plodding along until dark. Here are two photos of me on the Huckleberry Trail:

huckleberry trail

sunbeams huckleberry

Our hosts for the evening, Mick and Lee, lived on Claytor Lake. We got there just before dusk, and had time to go down to the lake and check it out.

leaves near Claytor Lake

at Claytor Lake

Claytor Lake

Mick and Lee were both professors (now retired, I believe) with specialties in recreation/leisure/parks/tourism, and so we had a lot to talk about with our mutual interest in travel, biking, and the outdoors. Mick has done several bike tours and distance rides. They also had a beautiful and beautifully decorated house!

deck at Mick and Lee's

They were super great hosts, and we very much enjoyed staying with them.