Le Tour 2017 Page 2
Day 24 / August 27: Princeton, KY > Franklin, KY / 90 miles, 5 hours, 15 minutes; 2,800 feet of climbing: Today was the shortest day of the 2017 CC Tour and there were no complaints from the three remaining contenders as we have now slogged over 3,000 miles in a little over three weeks. The roads today were smooth with wide shoulders and car traffic was light as we slashed our way across south-central Kentucky, angling for northern Tennessee, whose border we’ll cross early in the day on the morrow. Despite the storms hammering the Gulf Shores to our south, and smaller pluvial skirmishes to our north and east, we’ve managed to find a calm portal of magnificent blue skies and crisp, cool temps. Though it does heat up by mid-afternoon, the morning hours are even a bit brisk. Today, there were no major obstacles to climb, it was a day for the sprinters on flat to slightly rolling terrain, so we set the speed dial on “cruise” and rode at a talking tempo. We told funny stories of past crimes, which more than likely included a few of you, but which cannot be repeated in this highbrow, literary narrative. Let’s just say the following names were mentioned in connection with certain minor crimes: Rocco, Country Club Mike, Rainman, Madsmith and Bam Bam Cornett, followed by great roars of laughter at your expense. I have found that making fun of others is a fantastic way to while away the time, and Fatso, to our surprise, is a natural born raconteur. Naturally, I wasn’t included in any of the stories of past misdeeds since I am as innocent as the morning dew.
During one stint in the day we unexpectedly spotted a sharp-pointed, stone obelisk soaring hundreds of feet above the trees and into the stratosphere. “What the hale?” we all said. Several miles later we pulled down a side road to this strange looking obelisk and discovered we’d stumbled upon the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site and the memorial was a monument to the past President of the Confederacy. Wikipedia states, “The monument is a 351-foot obelisk constructed on a foundation of solid Kentucky limestone” constructed between 1917-24. While viewing the site we saw a horse-pulled buggy filled with a family of Mennonites go clopping by. I surreptitiously waived at the young girls in the back of the buggy and they smiled and waved back. Leaving the site on Jefferson Davis Road I noted Confederate flags flying from many of the front porches. Regardless of how one feels about such monuments they are part of the tapestry of our history. Good luck tearing that sucker down.
A few miles later at a store stop we were joined at an outside picnic table by a fine looking fellow smoking a cigarette with a tattoo on his neck and spaces between his teeth. He inquired about our general plans and we conversated with him briefly. He was nice enough, and in my line of work, I’m accustomed to interacting with bankers and beggars and everything in between. Shortly after, another fellow, a friend of his walked up. His eyes were glassy and he asked how much our bikes were worth. Fearing an ambush down the road, I told him about two dollars. He asked me if I was about 62 years old and I laughed and told him I was double-nickels. He said, “Well, you sure don’t look 62—I been in the pen four times and I can tell things about people.” I told him that was a mighty fine compliment and it sure made me proud, and then I excused myself. Such was the clientele at this fine establishment. I then realized I’d left my camera in the bathroom and I hustled back in, but just like that, it was gone, vanished, and it wasn’t turned in. I fell down on the ground and balled like a baby—my days as the Official Photographer for Le Tour were over. The last 20 miles we had a beautiful tailwind, allowing me both to pull and sulk at the same time. I’ll get over it. A cold beer will help. From the road.
Day 25 / August 28: Franklin, KY > Cookville, TN / 95 miles, 5 hours, 30 minutes; 5,000 feet of climbing: Paraphrasing Seinfeld’s funny little fat man George Castanza, the skies were angry today, my friends—the rain pummeled and pounded us from the first pedal stroke to the last.* Yes, the blue sky window we’d been riding in abruptly slammed shut on your three heroes, soaking us to the core and forcing us to hunker down and get downright jiggy with it on today’s blue collar work day. When we headed out into the maelstrom this morning it was a deluge, a literal cataract pouring down from the heavens, but just as I was about to start crying yet again, Crumley bolted out of the parking lot of our fine, pay-by-the-hour establishment and raged down the road like he loved the rain. The roads we pedaled on today twisted, turned, dipped, dived, bent, undulated and rolled all day long. There was only one straight 15 mile stretch and the rest of the time we rode beside meandering rivers, including the wide flowing, slow-moving, incredibly beautiful Cumberland River, which we’d crossed in Kentucky two days ago. We cycled through gorges and beside sheer rock face cliffs so close to us I could reach out and touch the walls. We saw blue herons, circling hawks and running deer. We rode on the Avery Trace and climbed up tough, obstinate hills and dropped down into dark, forested hollers. The forests, in places, crowded the blacktop. And through it all, even though we were soaked to the core, we were warm, so we were happy. Coming into Crossville, we rode by Tennessee Tech and saw dozens of students running here and there with umbrellas in hand wondering what in tarnation these three wet, dirty fools were up to. Today, despite the rain, was a superb day of cycling, but we were damn glad to see the Red Roof Inn come into view. We’re getting close, so keep the home fires burning. From the road.
*Credit to Crumley for the Castanza reference.
Day 26 / August 29: Cookeville, TN > Athens, TN / 95 miles, 5 hours, 45 minutes; 4,600 feet of climbing: The blue skies returned today as we skated down and across Tennessee and into the familiar home waters of the Eastern Time Zone on a lumpy, backroads route that could not have been more satisfying to three weary road warriors. I’ve mentioned it before, but not knowing exactly what’s around the next bend, even after over three weeks of ultra-long distance pedal-stomping, often allows me to stumble upon unexpected sites and scenes that still amaze and fill me with wonderment. When we rolled out of Cookeville this morning we immediately climbed a small mountain—a zinger of a stinger—that took us up to a plateau where the road again twisted and turned in heavily forested, shaded roads. We’ve been very lucky with the temps the past few days and once again it was a sunny but cool morning. At one point in the day, we rolled around a bend and suddenly we were overlooking a lush green valley, and then we dropped about 1,000 feet into Lake City, Tennessee. At the top we could see about 10-15 miles ahead, and at the bottom we stopped and ate the best turkey and cheese on white bread sandwiches at a mom and pop country store. Fatso and I agreed the sandwiches were the best roadside victuals we had eaten on the entire 2017 CC Trek, but Lefty only snarled and turned up his nose when we mentioned homemade mayo. I reminded Lefty not to cast stones, especially while he was stuffing a fried corn dog on a stick down his pie-hole. We rolled into Athens, Tennessee enjoying every ray of sunshine we could soak up since it’s probably our last because something wicked this way comes—the rains from the Gulf should catch us tomorrow. But tomorrow and Thursday are super short 65-mile days before arriving at Lake Burton, taking a day off, and then rolling down to A Town. We can’t wait to be home.
Heard outside my hotel door tonight while tossing off this hastily written entry: “I ain’t working no f----- more until I get my f----- paycheck. F--- that sh--!” I may not have mentioned that the motels we stay in are for sleeping only and aren’t necessarily the finer 4-star establishments that Fatty and Lefty are used to. Welcome to my world, fellas. From the road.
Day 27 / August 30: Athens, TN > Murphy, NC / 65 miles, 4 hours; 5.000 feet of climbing: Although today was the shortest day of the 2017 CC Tour, it certainly wasn’t the easiest as we climbed 5,000 feet in 65 short miles—it was yet again another blue-collar work day where we had no choice but to put our shoulders to the wheel and push like mules chained to a millstone. The short, steep hills on today’s route came early and often as we exited the rural byways of Tennessee and charged into the bosky mountains of North Carolina. And because we were met by a fellow coconspirator in two-wheeled adventures who lives just outside of Murphy, my old time buddy from way-back-when Farmer G (Greg Schisla), we were guided onto some of the sweetest, smoothest backroads in the area, though they did bite. Last eve before my nightly leg massage and full body rubdown from Fatso, I reluctantly laid out all my rain gear—the forecast was gloomy and predicted we might be swimming to Murphy. Imagine my surprise this morning when I woke and flung open the curtains and the roads were still bone dry. A quick check of Doppler radar showed a giant green amoeba-shaped cell speeding towards Murphy from the Gulf. We were traveling to Murphy from the north—it was a race against time, a classic battle of Good vs. Evil, though which was which and who was whom is debatable. We rolled up our raingear and stuffed it into our jersey pockets and headed out in the sunshine directly towards a purplish, bruised sky. We rode to Tellico Plains, the halfway point, on twisting roads that never see the sun—the branches of the large overhanging trees completely blanketed the blacktop with shade and created a trellis archway through which we rode. We climbed out of Tellico and met Farmer G on the road and he and Lefty pulled Fatso and me all the way to Murphy beneath cloudy skies like we were rock stars cruising in a limousine.
By the time the rains came in the afternoon I was lying on my stomach in my unswanky motel room with a tiny towelette covering my buxomly buttcheeks while Fatso kneaded my thighs, back and shoulders like dough with his manly knuckles. I’ll tell you what, brothers and sisters, that man is a magician with his hands and the fact that he provides this service on a daily basis for free, gratis, just goes to show he’s one helluva fine fella, and I regret the previous comments I made about him—I take it all back. Tomorrow we’ll be in the Peach State at Lake Burton with my family, and then it’s radar lock on the hometown holler. From the road.
Day 28-29 / August 31-Sept. 1: Murphy, NC: Brothers and Sisters, the Gulf storms rolled through with a vengeance on Thursday, and along with it, booming thunder and crashing lighting, making those of us who are faint of heart quiver and shake. Though that hardass Fatso tried to convince Lefty and I to ride the 50 miles to Lake Burton, we both climbed in the RV, cracked open an orange Gatorade, put our four feet up, and said, “We ain’t gonna go.” After we were both called the most horrible of profanities and insulted abusively, he also reluctantly relented and unstrapped his unlaced his shoes and climbed on board. So now, we are at Burton enjoying two days with family and friends, including my childhood buddy Greg Rocco Morocco who rode this same CC route with me in 1988, before heading down the road to Athens town on Saturday and completing this quixotic, cross country trek in 30 days (28 riding days). One last journal entry will be coming after the last stage, and then my brothers and sisters, I will leave you in peace. You may miss me. From the road. Cowboy David Blalock, Banker Bishop (Jeff), The Raging Beard (Micah Morlock) and Irish Roadkill (Michael Sencenbaugh), met up with us at the halfway point and pulled us in, and muchos gracias to all of them
Day 30 / Sept. 2: Lake Burton, GA > Athens GA! / 85 miles, 4 hours, 45 minutes; 3,800 feet of climbing: The skies cleared to bright blue, the sun shined big and yellow, and temps stayed cool on a made-for-order day on the last stage of the 2017 CC Trek as Fatso, Lefty and I trekked to Athens on a route that included a lot more downhill than up. What made a sweet ride even sweeter was the fact that other cycling friends, other brothers of the blacktop, met us and rode into Athens with us—Muchas gracias to Cowboy David Blalock, Banker Bishop (Jeff,),the Indy Baker (Thom Leonard), the Raging Beard (Micah Morlock) and the Kwanza Kid (Michael Sencenbaugh) for leading us home.
This was an epic event for all three of us and thanks for putting up with my sometimes-off-the-wall daily-log ramblings as we rode cross the country—it may have been a way to try and stay sane in a world that had been pushed off kilter. It was such an epic physical and mental undertaking that it will take a little time for it to soak in (and for my body to figure out what the hale just hit it). We haven’t stop or slowed down or diverged from the Frank’s (demanding) itinerary one single day, until 2 days ago when rain and thunder forced us to take a vehicle 50 miles to Lake Burton instead of riding. We had one day planned off at Lake Burton after that. Other than this, we never deviated, so we haven’t even had a chance to stop and think about what we’ve done. But right now, even before I star cogitating on such a mind-blowing one-month period in my life that I will never forget, I would like to thank (drumroll):
My wife Gay and my three girls (Kara, Ceci and Jamee) for letting me ride Le Tour and encouraging me to do so---I couldn’t have do it without that. This was a huge step for me personally.
Kaie O’shea for being there everyday for us rain or shine with a smile on her face.
My soul brothers of the road: Crumley and Erik for the whole epic ride. Wow, I’m already very proud of what we’ve done. And special thanks to Erik for always taking care of my flats, I couldn’t have crossed without your help. And big shout out to Crumley for being thick-skinned and bearing the brunt of my jokes.
Rainman (Pat Raines) for the first 9 incredible days out west in the mountains. We rode some monster days, including the longest stage at 170 miles. Thanks for nursing me through the high mountain stages and towing me in before the time cut on several of the epic stages.
Jervey for meeting us and on the road on Day 1 starting in Eugene and leading us over Mckenzie Pass, and for the road side drinks when we were dying of thirst once we were over the top of the pass. And Jervey and Jeremy Watkins and his wife for taking us to the brewery in Redmond on the second night of Le Tour—it was one of the best evenings of the entire trek.
Brother Kinger (Paul King) for meeting us on the way to Breckenridge and leading us in to town. And for pointing us to the best pizzeria in town. And for the beers. Breck, too, is a chart-topper as one of the top stops of the 2017 Tour.
Farmer G (Greg Schisla) for meeting us outside Tellico Plains and leading us on some of the sweetest backroads of Le Tour when we rode into North Carolina and on into Murphy. And for the good times we had in Murphy later that eve at Shoebooties—best pasta of the entire Tour.
Rocco (Greg Morocco), the person I’d ridden cross country with in 1998, for joining us to celebrate at Burton. Greg and I still look back on our 1988 trip as one of the more epic events of our lives.
To All who have read my 2017 journal and given me encouragement in some form or fashion—I didn’t realize how much it would help. Some nights, especially after multiple long, hard days, writing this daily log was the last thing I wanted to do. There were nights when I was kicking myself for even having started it, but once started, I had to finish, so I charged forward, some eves hastily typing out reports, hitting the “send” button, and hoping the next morning I hadn’t offended anyone too terribly.
Home at Last! From the holler. The End
Total Miles: 3,375
Total Days: 28 ride days / 2 days off (Day 28-29)
Avg. Miles per Day: 120.5
Total Feet climbed: 122,800 feet
Longest ride: 170 miles (Day 9 / 8-12: Ennis, MT > Signal Mtn, WY / 10 hours; 7,200 feet)
Most climbing: 8,300 feet (Day 21 / 8-24: Marschfield > Ellington, MO / 135 miles, 8 hrs,15 min
Shortest Day: 65 miles (Day 27 / August 30: Athens, TN > Murphy, NC / 5.000 feet of climbing:
Number of 100 mile days: 22
Number of 130 mile plus days: 11