Joined: Jul 2007
Up early again, wanted to get the jump on the day, twelve hours of riding ahead in a push to get home by dinner. I had just brushed my teeth, then turned the bike around, when a middle aged couple walked by in the road, a little unusual at 6AM in a campground, I mostly see a senior citizen or two out for a stroll. What caught my eye on this zombie dude was the shoulder to elbow sleeve tattoo on his right arm, flowers, scrolls, elaborate as heck, and it read “DIANA RIP 97” in flowing script, lordy, a psycho stalker had pursued her beyond the grave, scheming in a probable chemical cocktail delusion, there couldn’t be another explanation. She might have had an unfortunate meeting with this creepster in real life if airfares had been lower from Rocky Top to the UK back then. I was tempted to get the camera out but, bottom line, I figured I’d see him again on America’s Most Wanted, that tattoo would be in HD, he had the look, a thin dime away from the big house. Good luck there buddy, you’ll meet some guys whose idea of cockfightin’ has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with chickens.
The Jetboil was lit, I needed my Italian press coffee, way better than coffee from those French gizmos, and instant coffee, ha, that was out of the question, no way.
My real preference was for either perc coffee or old time cowboy coffee, black as freakin’ coal, much grass, gimme another cup. Man, I’ve put away a tanker truck of that kind of coffee in some out of the way places, no room in the panniers this time. Still no Starbucks in my future, I’ve managed quite well so far.
The day was spectacular, sun, a light breeze rising on the lake, no motor noise this early, “slick cam” in the shallows as my home boys would say.
A light breakfast and I was packed up, bike loaded, ready for the road. I didn’t feel too bad about starting up the bike this early, the guy directly up the hill from my campsite had been chopping firewood since 6AM, damn, must have a least a cord by now, heck of a racket anyway, good luck with the neighbors, be ready for that fooyoo salute by way of a greeting…and don’t leave the axe where that hungover witch next door can get her hands on it.
Started a slow idle out of the place, little noise, uncomprehending stares from early rising adults sucking on that first cig, shy waves from the kids who had snuck out and away from parental control, and into a near impenetrable fog of bacon grease, it smelled like someone up top was cooking no less than a hundred pounds of bacon, maybe the whole damn pig. I wanted to track down that smell, put on a bib, invite myself for breakfast…there’s always room for bacon, a known fact, goes with everything, I coulda eaten up two pounds with my last remaining breakfast bar.
The road was calling, had to pass, took a few big sniffs just for the memory, turned out of the campground, ran past that now infamous kiosk, charged the stop sign at the bottom of the hill, nearly hitting three deer in the road. The shrill howl of the three to two high rev downshift had frozen them stiff legged on the center line, no apparent idea of what was coming at them. One jumped, then the other two, but it was very, very close. At the stop sign, bike all warmed up, me too, eyes wide open, big as freakin’ saucers.
A turn on 39 took me southeast, down the grade through the hairpins, no traffic, deer everywhere. I was about to take another of those defining turns, a transition from outbound to inbound, a passage to another dimension, inevitable. The turn east on 42 opened the door, the turn northeast on Big River sealed the deal, and I would be riding this direction for hours, transitioning to a big run of gravel soon.
Big River was meandering narrow pavement following the west side of this small valley, no traffic out here either, and I was rockin’ back and forth through the gears, on the brakes, off the brakes, dodging deer…and then the farm truck that suddenly skidded out into the road, driver not looking or caring. If I hadn’t already slowed down for the deer, I would have hit him, no doubt.
The small river running through the valley was not always visible, but when the bridge at Ramsey Gap came up, here’s my turn, and I was back on gravel.
Ramsey Gap started out of the valley in good shape, then turned to a challenging washed out mess, ridable but slow, deep ruts everywhere the road changed direction on the grades. I was picking my way through, threading the needle, bouncing along, sprinting when given a short opportunity. Passed a hubcap on the road, someone had come across in the family car, can’t be much left of it now.
The road turned into Archer Run, still climbing, but now a grader had been working the road ahead of me, loose, unconsolidated aggregate and fines 4” deep, no tracks of any kind, I was the first through, damn slow going on my loaded bike, get off this narrow road around here, you’re dead, it’s straight down hundreds of feet. The road is flat across the top of the mountain, smooth, and top dressed.
I was hoping the grader quit at the Hite Hollow intersection, nope, it was following my route, the grader had turned due north, churning up the surface. It was like riding a newly plowed field in places, although a few vehicles coming up from the southeast at 42 had started to pack it down.
Watch for packs of riders on those expensive mountain bikes on this road network if the surface is in good shape, more dangerous than deer, out of control on the steep downhills, using the whole road three or four abreast, and in your lane at blind curves and corners. I had seen them in the area, with one of the bicycle boys nearly hitting me head on while I was stopped in my lane.
I was chasing the grader up Hite Hollow, a reminder of chasing other graders on those northern gravel roads, visions from long past days. I should have turned on Cold Spring, heck with it, I had bacon on my mind. There was a bacon and egg biscuit waiting for me a little farther north, a corner block of the food pyramid in these parts, and I was on the gas, faster, if not smoother, then Rocky Spring and pavement. Whew, this was a push of gravel road for an old man, up and over the mountain, rough as heck, my riding friends would understand, unfazed by the challenge or danger, nobody else. It ain’t worth the effort to mention, would be lost in the static, “Say, dear fellow, I did order two olives with this martini”.
A few more turns on paved roads, farm country, poultry houses, and I was northwest on DeerfieldValley, soon up to the intersection with 250…and country store bacon, a destination in itself. No cuisine in these places, if ah remembered right, cuisine is supposed to be for folks who still had most of their own teeth. There was a statuesque young gal walking through the front door, I kinda thought I’d head over thataway, check out them bisquits.
(to be continued…)