Bike Ride Around Tennessee 2005

(BRAT 2005)

Here is my account of our trip.  First is a table of the stats for each day followed by a link to the pictures I took and then a day by day log/journal.
04:55 14.8
03:29 13.5
08:30 14.8
04:30 13.8
04:12 16.0
07:09 16.5
57.2 1680
41.7 1133


Saturday 9/17:
Boarded airplane w/o problems.  Well at least little problems.  Tandem got stuck in baggage scanner but they eventually got it scanned and did not open the cases.  In Charlotte we had a hour and a half lay over.  Managed to find a BBQ place in the airport that wasn't too bad, esp because we were in the airport.  A bit of fun in Charlotte came later when a gate change and a hurry to catch the plane we managed to walk out the wrong gate and was in the process of boarding the plane.  The stuardess said my carry on would not fit and it would be stored in the cargo bay.  I asked where I would be able to pick it up and she said that when we got to Savanna GA that it would be waiting for me when I exit the plane.  "Wait..." I said...  "Savanna?  Isn't this plane going to Chattanooga?"  The stuardess said "No I don't think so.  Wait let me ask the pilot.  Nope we are going to Savanna."  Um. Well on that we immediatly left the plane and grabbed our carry ons and headed back to the gate!  That woulda been very bad if we had taken off.  The girl at the check in said she woulda caught the mistake... OK.

We finally made it to Chattanooga and got our bags.  At the baggage claim we met Park Ranger Alan who was to carry us to Harrison Bay Park.  Once at the park we put the bike together in one of the shelters/cabins and then took it for a test ride.  On a steep hill (>10%) we were struggling to climb and I decided to test the granny gear.  The chain did not shift properly and proceed to fall off.  We stalled and fell down.  I got a few road cherrys [ED: they hurt more now after the event then during the week] and Juliet got a few bruses.  After hurting our pride we messed around for a few miles more and then went back to camp.  We ran into Paul, Paul and Pam who were just getting in and I invited them to stay in our cabin.  The way I saw it there were 3 bunk beds in the cabin and it made no sense to pitch a tent and have to deal with tearing it down in the morning and trying to catch the boat that was leaving at 7:30AM sharp even if YOU were not on it!  Dinner was served on the Park Service and after there was a gathering where Ranger Danny, David of TDOT (Tenn Dept of Transportation), a guy who was telling us that some of the money we spent on the trip was going to help build the Cumberland Trail, a linear park (hiking only) that runs from the North border to the South border of Tenn near where we were biking.  Also Bubba of Bubba's Pampered Pedalers and Harold of "We Shine to Blind" or better known as the bike detailer gave their speals about pitching a tent for you or providing [ED: EXCELLENT] coffee for you each morning.  I had met Harold in the Sebring Bike Festival at the Kennelworth Lodge years ago and knew of his excellent bike cleaning service but did not know he traveled around to events this far North or that on these larger events he provided coffee, towel and smoothie services [ED I owe him $8 for loans on smoothies :) ]

After that we turned in and got some good sleep.  Later we found we were going to need it!

Sunday 9/18:
Woke up early and got dressed.  Went to get a cup of coffee from Harold coffee service... Most excellent columbian.  Juliet got a cup of the french roast. Still trying to wake up we hauled our bags down to the semi in the dark.  Now it seems we are getting behind and we need to hurry to get on the boat.  Not to fear it is just after 7AM.  We rode the bike around to the dock and started walking down to the boat.  The front lights gave it an eerie look nearly UFO in nature.  Just as we got to the boat we were told that no more bikes would fit on it. We must turn around and walk the bikes to a semi that will haul them to the start.  When we got to the trailer it seemed a long time waiting so I opened the trailer and started putting some bikes in along the walls until the cardboard showed.  Shortly after the rangers showed and I helped a bit longer and then headed to the boat.  We got on board and walked around.  A neat little river boat.  Well breakfast was suppose to be served so I went to check it out.  Small (frozen) bagles, not-nicely-cooked sausage links, some yogert and grapes and bannanas.  Hmmm... Not quite what I expected (where were the eggs)...

The trip on the boat was plesant enough and it allowed a bit of introductions and learning about the 280+ other riders we were riding with on this 7 day journey.  After a time however, I was getting jumpy and wanted to get to the bike and start riding.  At one point we passed through a lock at one of the famous TVA dams on the river and that was kinda neat.  But again once past that I could tell that several people were done with the boat trip and ready to ride.  OK.  Now we are at our destination and we park the boat near the Delta Queen (paddle boat that was hiding from the hurricane).  We headed out with several folk grabbing bikes that were on the boat and walked out.  We climbed up an embankment and at the top were the rest of the bikes carefully layed out on large cardboard sheets.  Very nice.  We found our bike and headed out on the road.

Getting out of town was a bit busy and I can see why taking the river boat to avoid the other side of town made some sense.  Once out and taking the left turn into the country the road got quieter and hilly.  We were near our first climb.  What a way to wake up the legs!  Today was to be only 60 miles but with 5000 feet of climbs (we took the long route).  We busted down a nice downhill bit and began pulling a few guys (tandems always get some flys enjoying riding beind the tandem "bus").  These guys were near us during the climb, one in front of us and one behind us.  We were climbing very well on this approx 6% grade.  Eventually we made it to the top and stopped at the rest stop.  There were quite a lot of others there and eventually two other tandems pulled up.  One was John and Carrol who we would talk with quite often during the trip.  The other was Mark and Jan. They looked like a FAST tandem team.  Juliet and I took off again and bombed down the hill and on the way...  Eventually we got to the next stop at a fire station.  This I believe was after the second big climb which for some reason felt less painful than the first one. I suspect it is that it was about the same grade and our legs knew what to expect.  We climbed both of today's "hills" in the middle ring and the 30T rear gear.  After the stop at the fire station we got back on the road and started churning our way to get to the finish of the ride in Dunlap's Coak Oven Park.  As we do this we pick up a few flys and some folks that pass-and-re-pass us as we go up and down the rollers along the way. Eventually we get to Dunlap and to Coke Oven Park to set up camp.  We pick a place to camp and I said "hi" to our neigbors... One named Jim who we rode in with.  After setting up camp and getting my massage from Glen the therapist following the caravan... We ate dinner, showered and then went to the Coke Oven Park Musem.  This place was quite interseting as it was an old coke foundary when companies like US STEEL were king.  It fell into disrepair and turned into a dump.  Fortunatly some locals including a previous mayor of Dunlap put effort in to clean the place and aquired the land.  If you saw the before pictures you would not believe that the place was a dump. It looks like any very nice forest park.  However you could walk around and see the old coke ovens and the machinery used to do this.  The musem was full of pictures and bits and pieces of the foundary.  A very nice bit of history in preservation for future generations.  Again it is time for bed.  My legs thank me that I got a massage but they are not happy knowing that the toughest climb is tomorrow.

Monday 9/19:
Being a short day we took our time packing.  I got the morning started with a cup of Columbian coffee from Harold's coffee service... Most excellent coffee..  Juliet got the French Roast.  That really woke her up!  OK off to breakfast.  This was breakfast bureto morning.  You got to make your own so I decided to just get a scoop of each of the "fixin's" and just kinda call it a scrambled omlet.  It ended up being eggs, ground sausage, mushrooms, cheeze and salsa.  I grabbed a cup of orange juice and one of milk and found a seat.  YUM!

Eventually we left to tear down camp.  And tear is the appropriate word.  Somehow I forgot my hammer and stake puller... So when I went to pull out the stakes I had to pull using the tent and I tore out a loop. YIKES!  Then I tried pulling out anotther stake and it broke! YEAOW!  OK so we will deal with that later.  Keep packing...  Eventually we got our stuff on the truck and then we fiddled around the park until Danny told us to VAMOS.  Apparently we were now the only ones left in the park.  So we left.

Shortly we caught who I thought were the stongest tandem team at this even, Mark and Jan.  They were taking it easy because it was a short day...  We pressed on turning North on Lower Valley road which was a nice quiet and fairly smooth road that had a few rollers along the way.  The weather was excellent and Juliet and I talked the whole way along this road.  When we got to Pikesville we stopped at a rest stop which was located at a school.  There was some mention the day before that there were to be a giving out of bicycle helmets to the children at this school which we missed by the time we got there.  Anyway we took a long break and talked to several folk.  In Pikeville we found an ATM to get some cash.  We took a peak around the town to see what there was and then we headed up the hill to Falls Creak Falls State Park.  What we didn't know, really, was that this hill was the toughest climb of the entire trip.  Two miles into the climb the grade changed from fairly tough switchbacks to a road that went straight up the ridge.  It had to be 12% grade!  A lot of folk were walking this section.  We stuck it out and at one point I tried to shift into the granny but hte tandem just baulked and made loud clicking sounds.  Knowing if the chain poped off that we would fall over, I decided to put it back to the middle ring.  I asked Juliet if she wanted to stop and have me force the bike to the granny gear but she had entered "determined to clib it" mode and said she would rather tought it out in the middle ring than stop.  We continued climbing this section and my arms began to ache from pulling on the handle bars.  But we climbed.  We didn't stop!  We made it!  Man was that tough.  I'm going to get the mechanic to look at this granny gear tonight!

After a few rollers along the ridge and a bit of a downhill we made it to the park.  The roads in the park were short and steep.  Our legs were still tired from the big climb and the bike decided to be kind to us and actually shifted into the granny this time!  We made it to the camp site and began to look for a place to pitch the tent.

To our surprise there were still some nice cabins in some shade and so we decided to grab a cabin instead of dealing with the tent.  The cabins also had power so we could charge up all of our gear (GPS, phones, camera)...  Nice!  The cabin was also next to a shower/bathroom so I jumped into the shower.  After that the "easy" day we thought we were going to have (Because it was only 42 miles) turned out to be a kicker... I had to take a nap before I got up and looked around the camp

After my nap I went exploring and found the free sodas and took a few.  When I got back to the camp I met our neighbors in the adjacent cabin... Jim and Scott.  They were also from Florida.. .Around Inverness.  Later that evening we went to dinner with them and a girl named Jackie who lived in north east Tenn.  After a LARGE and VERY GOOD meal at the park's restaurant (roast beef, chicken, beef ribs.. SUPER YUM and lots of good veggies and such).  we went back to camp and turned in early.  Tomorrow was the Century ride!

Tuesday 9/20: