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


Rest Day Repairs (for bikes and bodies)

I suppose it’s ridiculous to assume you will ride a bicycle across the country and never have to do any maintenance or replace any parts…but one can hope.

We have taken the day off, after an exhausting first day ride, and are staying with Terry and Louise, who have been the most amazing hosts so far! They are also family and it was the best feeling to see them at the end of a long hard day. We’ve been eating delicious food and as soon as I finish this post I’ll be hoping into the hot tub with a cold glass of cider and looking forward to a dinner of homemade chili! What more can a bicycle traveler ask for? Um…probably no rain or wind but food and a hot bath are pretty awesome.

Aside from a day of eating and sleeping, we also took a trip into Westminster to visit a  local bike shop called “White’s Bicycles”.The service was extremely friendly and helpful and they were able to take a look at Hannah’s bike, make some adjustments and have it ready shortly after we finished having lunch. Aside from the great service there was also a wonderful collection of used bikes and vintage bikes which kept us pleasantly occupied while we waited.

Interior of Whites Bicycles

Interior of White’s Bicycles

We can only hope to run across other local bike shops as helpful and experienced as Whites and if every host family we stay with is half as wonderful as Terry and Louise have been, we’ll be set.