Bicycling Recently…

Summer is steaming up here as July closes in, mosquitos rule the days and fireflies light up the nights. We have been busy working through some summer goals, goals such wills and POA’s, grandchild sitting, doing “legwork” for a late summer backpack and spending more time on bicycles. John’s retirement has supplied the opportunity to get out during the week but some days it is a real challenge to overcome the heat. I struggle with heat and humidity; I get that from my mother, I guess. She suffered through summer’s relentless temperatures for most of her life until one summer she realized she was cold. She stayed that way through her last years, “broken thermostat” she called it. But I am off topic.

This week I jumped at the opportunity to bicycle with a friend, a mother of two pre-teens daughters who found a hole in her schedule or at least made one to go bicycling with me. Jenny is a lovely, talented woman who co-chaired a committee with me six or more years ago. She stays incredibly busy homeschooling her daughters and spends summers running them from camp to swimming to friends’ houses to family. Jenny also loves to bicycle. While I can’t (won’t due to lack of skill and balance) indulge in her newish love of mountain biking, she is willing to indulge me by riding the local greenways. Jenny and I don’t get together nearly often enough but when we do, we immediately fall back into comfortable conversation.

Jenny and me on the bridge over US 129. The bridge is part of the Alcoa-Maryville greenway system. We have started calling this our annual bicycle ride because the last one we did was exactly one year ago to the day (not planned that way). I think I need to buy a new jersey; I have been wearing this one for years, including every picture I am in below.

John and I are also out on the local greenways, at least once a week. He has a route he likes to ride which includes a couple of pretty steep hills. While he is a climber, I am not. I tend to fall back and mutter under my breath. Luckily the gearing on my sassy Liv bike allows me to climb without walking but it is not without a lot of effort. I am counting on that getting easier as the summer goes on. Several of our friends’ ride e-bikes now but we (I-John is having no problem) want to hold on to the workout and calorie burn that riding a regular bike provides for as long as possible.

“Under the Sea” mural on one of our greenway rides.

A week or so ago, on a Tuesday, our regular hiking day, we went bicycling. Only one person in our hiking group was available and he is a bigger bicyclist than John so switching activities was great with him. His wife, who does not hike with us but is an e-bike rider, jumped at the chance to go. Neither Steve or Karen had bicycled our destination route, River Road just outside Tellico Plains, TN and the road was one they wanted to bike.

Tellico Plains is a small country town, (population 860) that sits near the boundry of the southern section of the Cherokee National Forest. The town is notable for its proximity to four things:

-Trout fishing, Wildlife Fisheries stocked once a week

-Cherohala Skyway, a scenic 43-mile national byway, popular with cars, motorcycles and bicycles,

-Hiking in the Cherokee National Forest

-Bald River Falls, an amazing roadside waterfall, located about 10 miles out of town.

Bald River Falls is located on our ride route, a two-lane paved road that splits off the Cherohala Skyway, about 5 miles out of Tellico Plains. While weekend traffic can be heavy (fishermen, hikers and campers with campers), weekday traffic is light, and the road is a favorite of regional bicyclists. River Road is particularly nice because you do the work up front, climb 1100′ over the first 13 miles and coast, with pedaling, on the way back. John and I bike this road several times a year.

Karen, Steve and John looking at the falls. This is the big attraction and as far as most cars travel on River Road.
Bald River Falls. Not many waterfalls that one can drive to. A number of cascades are located above the falls and are visible from a trail that runs on the left side of this photo.
Here we go, another 7 miles uphill before we reach our turnaround point at Green Cove community, a mountain fishing village of cabins and trailers. River Road continues on beyond Green Cove another 5 or so miles to the TN-NC state line.

I should add here that I bicycled the first 6 miles with Karen. She is a steady pedaller, never out of breath. At first, I did well, fresh legs and excited about the adventure but just before the falls, I started gasping for air as my heart rate climbed to uncomfortable levels. Yeah, I forgot she was on an electric bike. E-bikers don’t get out of breath, and I was bicycling at a pace that was beyond my capability. I dropped back, way back. I made it to Green Cove though and had a blast coasting-pedaling back to the car. Next time I will remember my limits :-).

After the ride, we met at Tellico Plains Bakery for wood-fired pizza and sandwiches. This local bakery is regionally known for breads and sweet treats and is a lunch-stop for many who pass through.

The inside of Tellico Plains Bakery. What you don’t see is that all of the tables in the room where we are sitting are full and there is an order line along the window behind the woman with white hair (who is looking at the sweets behind the glass counter).

A couple of days after we rode Tellico Plains River Road, we loaded our bicycles, took Katie to daycare and drove to Abingdon to bicycle on the VA Creeper Trail. This is another ride we do every year or so and I have included a link to a post from May 2021 with some Abingdon details. We chose not to stay overnight this trip.

These days we rarely ride the entire Creeper Trail. The section from Whitetop to Damascus is incredibly busy, especially during the summer months. Shuttle services transport riders and bikes to the top of Whitetop Mountain and bicyclists ride the 17 miles back to Damascus. The ride is great fun! Mostly downhill, the ride requires little effort by the bicyclist. The problem is that many of the riders are not regular bicyclists, and their bike handling skills can lead to some interesting and sometimes dangerous situations for themselves and others. Locals call it “a suicide ride.” On this trip we decided to ride from Damascus to Abingdon and back which allowed us to do the work first (600′ elevation climb over 16 miles) and a semi-coast/pedal ride back.

Damascus Town Park was our starting point, great parking, picnic tables and steps (or a couple of pedal pumps) to the Creeper Trail and/or to the Appalachian Trail which passes through downtown Damascus on its way North from GA (or South if you started hiking in Maine). Local traffic is very courteous to riders and hikers.

Unloading in Damascus Town Park

We immediately noticed an unusual number of sticks and green leaves on the Creeper Trail. As we dodged small limbs, John kept mumbling about a storm. A mile or so in we came across this downed tree, further evidence that a storm had indeed recently passed through.

Glad we were paying attention. The log blended into the trail from a distance.
A ride on the Abingdon/Damascus section of the trail usually requires a number of stops to open and close gates on working farms. We were surprised to discover that all gates with the exception of the one above and two small gates near a barn had been removed.
This is the beginning of my favorite bridge (trestle bridge #13)
Must have been pretty spectacular to ride across this river by train. That red dot is John.
This is the farm where the final two, small gates are located.
We stopped at a city park just before reaching Abingdon to have a snack and drink. Then it was time to head back to the car.

We had packed a picnic of sorts to eat before heading back to Knoxville. Of all the painted tables John could have picked in the park, this one made me the grumpiest last week. A new picnic tablecloth is in the works!

We need a new picnic table cover!

That’s our bicycling recently. We have a few more interesting places to bike on the calendar and several summer hikes!

This entry was posted in Abingdon, Bicycling, Cherokee National Forest, Friends, Outside, Summer, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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