Day1 - Hot Springs NC to Lenoir City TN
I started my tour with a car ride to Hot Springs NC, about 35 miles west Asheville, because I was lazy and didn't want to climb the several thousand feet of hills between Asheville and Hot Springs. I also knew ( I thought!) that there were motels in Maryville TN, about 80 miles from Hot Springs, and I figured that 80 miles with three or four thousand feet of climbing was enough for the first day of this tour. As it turned out, I was wrong.
I rode west on US 25/ US 70 into darkening skies. I stopped at The Cliffhanger to take a photo of the French Broad river heading west from Hot Springs. This part of western North Carolina is quite beautiful!
The first leg of this ride, to Newport TN, followed the French Broad, although it often climbed far above the river. On this leg, I was rained on and run off the road. Neither of these events caused a serious problem, but it wasn't an auspicious beginning! The rain started about 40 minutes after I left Hot Springs, a few miles after I entered Tennessee. It rained on and off for most of the morning, but it was light enough that I didn't bother with rain gear. I did remove my camera from the handlebars (so no more road pictures on this day) and put rain covers on my front panniers. The riding was quite nice, even in the light rain. The stretch of road from Hot Springs to Del Rio isgreat - light traffic, nice pavement (no shoulder), great scenery, a bit of climbing and descending <grin>. I hit 38 mph on one of descents and spent a good bit of time in my granny gears on the climbs.
It was after a pretty good climb that I was run off the road. I had crested the ridge and was starting across the, fairly flat, top when I heard a big truck cresting the hill behind me. No big deal, there was a passing lane on the other side of the road and nobody coming the other way so the truck could easily pull around me. Fortunately I was watching the truck in my rear view mirror so I saw the idiot in the car behind the truck cross the double yellow line to illegally pass the truck and, in the process, prevent the truck from pulling out to avoid me! The truck beeped at me, but I was already looking for an escape route. I pulled into a gravel driveway and, with bit of a struggle, managed to slow down enough to let the truck and several cars pass before I got back on the road. The rest of the ride to Newport was uneventful, although the traffic in and near Newport was a pain. I stopped in Newport at a Subway for lunch. It required very aggressive bicycling just to get in and out of the restaurant because I had to cross four lanes of heavy traffic to do it. Lunch was good!
The second leg of todays ride was also about 20 miles long. After lunch I rode to Sevierville. A few miles west of Newport, 25 heads north west so I continued on 411, which goes all the way to Maryville, a town south of Knoxville and has light traffic. This is the case when 411 starts less than five miles west of Newport. Nice riding, if you don't mind lots of hill and light to moderate traffic including some big trucks. A bit tricky on some of the twisty bits, but the drivers were good and I had no problems. Before 411 reaches Sevierville it becomes four lanes and much busier, but it also gets a good shoulder. The hills are gentler and the riding is pretty good. I stopped for a snack at a service station a few miles before Sevierville and then rode through Sevierville itself (more heavy traffic and the shoulder goes away as you enter town - fortunately it comes back a you leave town) without stopping. Drivers were polite and I had no problems, but it wasn't fun. Riding west on 411 between Siverville and where 411 takes off on its own again was the least pleasant riding of the day. On this stretch 411 is combined with US 441 and seems to be a main arterial to Knoxville. Most of way has a good shoulder and traffic was never a treat to me, but it was noisy, smelly, not great riding. i was also getting tired and maybe a bit low on glycogen, so I wasn't enjoying myself. I stopped again, a few miles before this stretch ended to eat a honey bun and drink some coffee. That seemed to help my mood...
Once 411 heads south toward Maryville - this was about 63 miles into my days ride - it becomes narrow, hilly and curvy again. Nice riding if a bit tiring. There was quite a bit of traffic on this stretch, but the speed limits were low (35 or 45 mph) and drivers were polite. I stopped to photograph a Presbyterian church that was founded in the 1780s. I was tired and looking forward to stopping for the day in Maryville, but when I finally got downtown about 4:30, I discovered that I would have to go considerably out of my way to find a motel. I had considered going on instead of stopping in Maryville so that I could even out the first two days of this tour. I plan to stop in Cookeville tomorrow and it is 110 miles from Maryville. Lenoir City is 20 miles on from Maryville and the lady at the Maryville Chamber of Commerce said there were motels right on my route in Lenoir City. She also said 321, the road from Maryville to Lenoir City had a wide shoulder all the way and was popular with cyclists. I decided to go for it.
I ate a big supper at Shoneys in Maryville. They watered my bike which I left in the shrubbery right beside a window so I could watch it, and the punk kid that seated me obviously did not approve of my attire, but the food and coffee was good and plentiful. I left Maryville about 5:30 riding in interstate like conditions which were OK, if noisy. The lady was almost right about the shoulder - it was quite good for most of the way - and right about the popularity of the route for bicyclist. I didn't see any bicyclists, but did see both fresh and old bicyclist 'droppings' - banana peels. I also saw signs for a public park with camping near Friendship, a pretty area about half a dozen miles west of Maryville on 321.
I got to Lenoir city about 7 PM. Most of this segment was easy and fairly fast, even for an exhausted rider like me. I stopped at the first motel I came to, The Inn of Lenoir. It is cheap, friendly, and comfortable, but the phones have dials, not buttons. It doesn't have the weather channel and I don't think I'll try the phone system with my modem. This can wait till tomorrow to go out. It was a long day and I need to get to sleep.
100 miles with (I'm guessing since I didn't bring my Vertec) three or four thousand feet of climbing. Some very nice riding, the best bits were between Hot Springs and Del Rio and just north of Maryville, a lot of quite good riding, and only a little bad riding, mostly in the towns along the way.