Day 54 Corbin Kentucky to Morristown Tennessee
Looking towards Morristown from Cinch Mountain
With 4000 feet of climbing - the last few days have had about 3000 feet each - in 90 F temps with high humidity, this was the hottest day of this tour. I covered a bit over 90 miles, got caught by a storm while riding in heavy traffic through an area of road construction, met the folks from the tandem group again, got a ride through the Cumberland Tunnel, and generally had a pretty good time.
Leaving Corbin - I ate breakfast at that McDs
The initial shoulder
A good gone bad shoulder
Good shoulders from here on
I was worried about the shoulders on US 25e in Kentucky. They weren't good for the first 14 miles, but after KY 229 comes into 25e, the shoulders were pretty good until the construction area in Tennessee and traffic was light enough that I didn't have too many problems when I did need to ride in the lane.
I used some of my supplies to do a light breakfast in my room, then, after doing my net stuff, rode out of Corbin on KY 312, stopping at McDs for a second light breakfast. I also stopped and replenished my supplies. Then, in Barbourville, I stopped at Subway for an early lunch. Coming into Pineville some fifteen miles later, I was looking for a good place to stop and get some cola to go with the second half of my sub. I saw a likely place and saw a tandem leaning against the store. I stopped to eat and visit.
It turned out to be the same tandem crew I visited with yesterday. They had ridden to Berea, which is about 16 miles north of Mount Vernon, last night and had ridden 25 south to 25e today. They were stopping in Middlesboro, just before the Cumberland Tunnel. The route they took , through Paint Lick, is about twenty miles longer than the route I took, but probably has less climbing and certainly has less truck traffic. The fellow running the tour had planned to route through Hazard today (I think that is the Bike '76 route), but decided that the group wasn't up to it, and changed the route to go through the Cumberland Tunnel. The folks I visited with didn't know what their route would be tomorrow, but knew they were going into Virginia.
The Cumberland Tunnel Entrance
After they left, I had my second sub and rode on to Middeboro. On the way, I was passed by another tandem, the one with the yuppie looking folks. They didn't slow down to visit <grin>. In Middleboro, I stopped at another Subway to freshen up and snack, then headed up toward the tunnel. When I got to the entrance, I discovered that, as expected, bikes were prohibited. So I took the lane for prohibited stuff. It led to an area right by the tunnel entrance where escort vehicles were parked. I stopped and looked around, and, within a few minutes, a truck drove up and a very nice lady named Pat helped me load my bike onto the truck and drove to the Tennessee border. Great service!
Pat heading back in the escort truck
Tennessee welcome sign and great shoulder
I thought all my shoulder problems were over when I got to Tennessee, but that turned out not to be true. Things were great for the first dozen miles. Well actually it was damned hilly, but the riding conditions were good. I must have climbed 1000 feet in those twelve miles. Then, on the last major hill before Tazwell, it started sprinkling as I neared the top. At the top, as the left hand lane of the expressway shut down because of construction, it was raining. Going down the other side and up the next hill into town, it was raining hard, traffic was heavy in both directions and there were only two lanes with no shoulder because of the construction. Lots of vehicles passed me, but it was a bad situation. There was a gutter and a curb that kept me in the lane till near the top of that hill. At that point there was a driveway opening and I got out of the lane to let some wider vehicles pass. Then I had a hard time getting back into the traffic. The car that I got in front of almost got rear ended (great screeching of tires and sliding of the car behind) when they slowed for me. I rode on up the hill in the ever heavier rain, looking for shelter. I couldn't get across the other lane because of the heavy traffic and there was no way to get off on my side. Finally a bit of shoulder opened up and then there was a motel that I pulled into.
I waited out the storm - it got so intense that my bike and I were getting wet again even under the shelter at the motel - and then, while it was still raining, but only lightly, rode on another mile to a restaurant where I had a meal. Finally, about an hour after it started, I rode on in very light rain. The road was now a narrow two lane road with no shoulder and heavy traffic including a lot of big trucks. This was one of those bad situations where you just keep on because you have no other alternative. Fortunately, things got better a few miles south when a narrow shoulder appeared and, a few miles later, got wider.
US 25e just south of Tazwell
Much better riding conditions ten miles later
But then there is this big hill
A few miles after the Grainger county line, US 25e returns to being an expressway and stays that way till south of I-40. Now the problem, other than heat and humidty, was this big hill. It just kept climbing, feeling much more like a mountain pass than a hill. I think it was about 1000 feet of vertical, with a grade from 3 to 6%. When I started climbing it, I was thinking about putting my vest on because I was cool. Half an hour later my shirt was saturated with sweat and I still had long way to climb. The weather had cleared and it was quite pretty up there, and I enjoyed the climb except for the effects of the high humidity.
The view looking north near the top of Cinch Mountain
Not surprisingly, there is a great downhill on the other side of that hill. Then there is twelve miles of reasonably gentle riding to Morristown.
Heading down to Bean Station
And finally, riding south to Morristown
I was very tired when I got to the motels (Days Inn and Super 8) near Morristown. I checked in at the Super 8, but I should have stayed at the Days Inn. My room is the worst I've seen at a Super 8, the phone system doesn't support modems even though the phone has a data jack, and my next door neighbors are a bunch of guys getting drunk and talking loudly. So it goes. I should be home tomorrow.