Day2 - Lenoir City to Cookeville TN
It took me a few minutes more riding time to make 94 miles today than it did to make 100 miles yesterday; about seven hours and 45 minutes. There were two factors that contributed: hills and weather. I climbed more today than yesterday and the weather (thunderstorms) was much worse. My legs got real workout as did my wet weather gear. Both held up pretty well under some surprisingly severe conditions.
I left Lenoir City about 8:30 in the morning, riding in going to work traffic for a mile or two till I got off of 321 and on to US 70. US 70 was quite rural and very nice riding as it climbed a long hill. I thought this hill was going to be typical for the ride, but I was wrong. Anyway it was nice riding with a good shoulder, light traffic, nice views, etc. Things deteriorated a bit as 70N neared Kingston and the traffic increased, but it was still nice riding.
I had only eaten a few fig bars for breakfast in Lenoir City, so I was looking for a better breakfast in Kingston. All I found on 70 were Pizza places; not my idea of breakfasts. I stopped where 70 runs alongside the Cinch River and enjoyed the view while I ate a powerbar and another fig bar. Then I rode on, somewhat to the dismay of an elderly lady who kept blowing her horn at me. Apparently she felt I should get out of the road (there was no shoulder) so she could go faster. I responded by getting firmly into the center of my lane. She beeped some more as she passed me in the other lane.
After 70 crosses the Cinch River, it becomes interstate like, but is still OK 'getting on down the road" riding. It started to rain a few miles into this section and I stopped at a small apartment complex to put rain covers (plastic bags I got at the grocery store) on my front bags and to don my rain cape. The rain stopped after half an hour or so and the ride to Rockwood was uneventful and even pretty in parts. I stopped for my first meal of the day at the Subway in Rockwood. Rockwood is not pretty, but there is this impressive ridge running just west of it. I found out how impressive it was when 70 left 27 and headed west again.
From that point to Crab Orchard Gap about eight miles later, 70 reminded me very much of some parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Most of that eight miles is spent climbing and some pretty long stretches of that climb have 5% or so grades. It was a good workout for my tired legs! It was also quite pretty.
Things are less pretty, but flatter, from Crab Orchard Gap to a few miles west of Monterey where 70N comes down off of the Cumberland Plateau. Shortly after Crab Orchard, I was riding in a heavy rain (it was flooding the road) for about five miles. Then things dried out and, as I rode into Crossville, I was almost dry again.
In Crossville I decided to get off 70 to look for a decent place to eat. I found one, Joanie's Diner, but not before another quick moving thunderstorm had drenched me as I rode north on 127. The meal was worth it - the best meal I've had on this tour - and, as I rode back toward 70, I met another bike tourist! He was riding from Gainesville FL to Lansing MI. He is the first adult bicyclist I've seen so far on this trip and it was neat that he was also on a solo, self contained, tour.
It was about 5 PM when I rode west from Crossville and I still had over 30 miles to go. Fortunately, the riding was pretty easy as I left 70 on 70N. 70N had a lousy shoulder and sometimes no shoulder at all, but drivers were considerate and traffic was light so the riding was easy. I did get rained on for ten minutes or so on this stretch, but it was no big deal. The countryside was pretty, it smelled of wild flowers and, as 70N neared Monterey, I rode past several resort areas. Where 70 N first crosses I-40, I stopped to get a TN map and some powerade. I washed down my second powerbar of the day with powerade before heading out on the last 15 miles of this days ride. It was a little after six PM when I saw a sign saying 14 miles to Cookeville.
There were massive storm both north and south of me as I rode 70N west. I was sprinkled on at first, but when 70N heads down off the plateau, I thought I had left those storms behind. I did leave behind a large dog who came out at me without barking just as 70N was starting down hill. I was able to quickly speed up to 25 mph because of he downhill and my adrenaline response, and I left him behind. He might be a threat to bicyclists going the other way.
It is a great four mile twisty down hill off the plateau. Then 70 runs through some very picturesque farms. Then it heads north to cross I-40 and continue into Cookeville. Those storms were still north on me and I ran smack into very heavy weather in the last few miles before Cookville. I could have avoided it: a very nice lady and her teenage daughter stopped to offer me a ride just before I hit it. I declined and proceed to get dumped on by mother nature. Heavy rain - a torrential downpour, high winds - so strong that they blew the water out of the pocket that always forms when rain collects in the front of my rain cape, and small hail which stung a bit. I'm rode into and in this mess thinking I would have been a lot smarter if I taken that ride! The hardest bout of rain only lasted for ten minutes and I rode into the outskirts of town in moderate rain. I stopped at the second motel I came to. It is called the Eastwood Inn and is similar to my motel in Lenoir City, but with a better phone system. The folks that own it let me try my modem to make sure it would work before I took a room. Since I was very wet, this was quite kind of them.
When I unpacked my front panniers at the motel, they were only slightly wet. Plastic grocery bags, properly mounted, worked much better as rain covers than the Nashbar rain covers I used on two earlier tours. Each of my rear panniers have all their contents in a single dry bag, but that doesn't work well for the kind of stuff I put in my front bags. I line my 'electronics' pannier with a modified trash compactor bag and I pack most stuff in my 'tools and supplies' in individual ziplock bags, but the older rain covers let in enough water to partially fill the panniers!