After riding on the Natchez Trace for the last couple days and not having to deal with an abundance of restless drivers on their cell phones, it was a little rough returning back to the real world (real road?).
It only took one or two distracted Nashvillian drivers to make me realize that this was going to be the first major city we have been to that I can safely say is bike un-friendly. I guess we can’t win them all…
As we rode into the city, we passed by all the well-to-do mansions. They were pretty stunning, like mini-plantations. Lots of trees, lots of grass. (Sorry, no pictures)
We stayed with Leigh Ann, a nurse who specializes in labor and deliveries during the nightshift, who greeted us with her very well behaved rescue dog, Penny Lane. After visiting with her four laying hens and drinking a Yazoo brew, we headed down to the Pharmacy for burgers and more beer, where we also enjoyed fabulously brewed Root Beer – yumm.
Next morning, we went to Marche for a delicious breakfast. Turns out, Leigh Ann has wonderful taste in restaurants – everywhere we went was also recommended to us by other locals and all turned out to be pretty tasty.
After buying way too many delicious snacks that wemisssomuch from Trader Joes, we took Penny Lane to the dog park and watched her hump a giant white pyrenees, shamelessly cock-blocking the pyrenees’s attempts to tussle with an arthritic husky. We then enjoyed sandwiches and couscous at Silly Goose, with ice cream from Jeni’s for dessert (I had a scoop of whiskey and a scoop of almond brittle).
That night, we met Ben’s cousin Hannah and her husband for 2 for 1 beers at a local bar. Originally from San Francisco, the two musicians followed their booking agent to Nashville, where they both now work in education in between gigs.
One of those highly recommended locations was the Pancake Pantry, a famous Pancake shop in downtown with over 20 different types of pancakes. I couldn’t help but try the blintzes, crepes filled with cottage cheese and topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar, which ended up being a little too sweet for lunch. Ben got southwestern corn pancakes that were extremely delicious and slightly more appropriate for the time of day.
After spending an hour or two at various book and record stores, we met up with Leigh Ann at Yazoo Brewery, where we were greeted by two bartenders who kindly told us, “Wednesday is growlers only.” Uhh…you’re going to waste x amount of hours pay to staff two people and only fill up growlers when there are people willing to spend much more than what a growler is worth on much less beer right there, right now? Seems kind of silly to me. Luckily, Leigh Ann’s charm got us some tasters, and although we still had to walk out with a growler, we tried about a quarter of a growler between us for free. Score! Yazoo was also the first brewery we went to on our USA beer tour, a guide gifted to us by Trevor and Ashley.
That night we went to Robert’s to listen to some good ol’ honky tonk on Broadway, where they advertised for burgers, beer, booze and boots. The entertainers that night, who only played covers, much to the pleasure of all the dancing older ladies, were quite the amalgamation of styles. The guitarist, who played some pretty sweet riffs, dude, was wearing bell bottoms, a suede blazer, and was rocking a shaggy hair-do reminiscent of That 70′s Show. The drummer was looking pretty suave in his paperboy cap and sunglasses, looking like he just got back from a poetry jam. The acoustic guitarist looked like nothing in particular and was arguably stylishly ignorant. The slap standup bassist/singer was the only one who looked the part, looking all country in his cowboy shirt and boots. Nonetheless, we enjoyed their cheesy yet familiar show while munching on the poorman’s meal (bologna sandwich, chips, and PBR) and the stimulus package (hot dog, chips, and MHL).
Eastern Tennessee has been one of the prettier rides we’ve been through, at least in my opinion. Something about the rolling hills, cloud-filled skies, run down houses and farms, and rippling fields reminds me of that traditional old-American lifestyle I used to fantasize about as a kid.
Our first day back on the saddle, we went down Big Hill Road, and man, they nailed it. I might be under exaggerating by calling it a 12% grade, after stopping halfway up from sheer exhaustion, I could not get back on my bike, despite my many attempts. It was the steepest hill I have ever had the pleasure to walk up.
That night we stayed at Cedars of Lebanon State Park. I woke up at 2 in the morning to, “SO TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT, WHAT YOU REALLY REALLY WANT, ILL TELL YOU WHAT I WANT, WHAT I REALLY REALLY WANT…” Thats Spice Girls for those of you who weren’t fans…and listened to at least 7 horrible and unbearably loud songs, seriously debating to myself whether or not I was going to go throw a rock through their car window, before the culprit decided it was time to go to bed. And guess what song was stuck in my head the entirety of the next day………
Later on that next day, probably with the words “if you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends” running through my head, we both slammed on our brakes after seeing a sign saying the one word we had both been hoping see during our time in Tennessee: distillery. We had stumbled across the only organic Moonshine distillery in existence, Short Mountain. After taking the tour and finding out they till and harvest their fields and corn with the help of two mules, we were eager to try the 105 proof thimble-sized tasters. The flavor was good but wow, I couldn’t even finish what little I had been given.
We very soberly mounted our bicycles and headed to Rock Island State Park for a much more peaceful night. However, our neighbors did bring a giant 10 person tent with two rooms to accommodate the two of them plus their dog, a radio, two coolers, two very bright spotlights, and much, much, more. It’s crazy that people even bother going camping when they just bring everything with them anyways…it would be much more easier to just camp in your own backyard…
Next day, we passed through Fall Creek Falls State Park, where we enjoyed some spectacular waterfalls.
To get to Asheville, we needed to cross the Great Smokey Mountains, aka climb for days. We decided to take the Cherohala Skyway, a 33 mile climb with 5300 feet in elevation gain, simply for bragging rights – and man, we earned it.
To lessen the pain we were bound to endure, we rode 11 miles into the climb and camped at Indian Boundary where we discovered a beautiful lake and daunting clouds. Once again, rain was in our future. However, thunderstorms at the top of a mountain are not the same as thunderstorms at the bottom of one.
Ben is much braver than I am, as usual.
We woke up nice and early the next morning and hit the road, with every intention of beating the weather.
In the 3 hours it took us to climb those remaining 22 miles, we saw about a total of 10 other vehicles (cars/motorcycles), and fortunately, no rain.
There were a lot of centipedes on the road. I’m pretty sure I ran over a few :/
Goodbye Tennessee, Hello North Carolina.
Any idea what these are?
If you guessed, “platforms for flying squirrels to safely cross the road,” then congratulations, you’re crazy.
But seriously, how do the flying squirrels know these are for them? Flying Squirrel Road Crossing School?
As usual, the view from the top makes every bead of sweat worthwhile
After enjoying the 20 mile downhill, we met up with Abbey and Joe, who were in the area for a Southern wedding, for lunch on what ended up being the Appalachian Trail. Seeing friends from home was very rejuvenating…
Ended our long and magnificent day in Bryson City, with our wonderful hosts, Raquel and Jack.
On our way to Asheville, once again, under threat of rain and thunder. 20 miles out of our destination, it begins to rain. We deem the road unsafe for travel and call Barney, an old family friend, to come pick us up while we wait it out in a diner that has no name.
Barney, an Anteater, was an old college friend of my fathers. Growing up, we used to go camping with Barney and Lee and a few other young couples and their children. The last time I saw the two of them, I was 3 or 4, and Barney could very easily carry me on his shoulders.
While those days are long gone, the fond memories and embarrassing pictures remain. Luckily, I was able to learn a few embarrassing things about my own parents.
Our first full day in Asheville, we enjoyed a breakfast of fresh baked baguettes, courtesy of Barney. We ate 3 loaves. Mmmmm
After a day of wandering around the city and eating tacos, Ben and I scraped up some potato leek soup, which accompanied the remainder of Barney’s baguettes quite nicely.
Next day, after some more wandering, we found ourselves in Thirsty Monk, a brewpub where were able to taste some local beers.
We took good tasting notes, a crucial part of any tasting experience.
That night, we met up with Barney and Lee at Jack of the Woods, where we listened to bluegrass and ate fried pickles – a delicious new discovery.
Next day, we were off, after a prolonged hunt for hammocks, clif bars, and gas. Sorry Barney, the “Twin Lament” and Camp Elkmont will have to wait…
A ridiculously tall bike for a ridiculously tall guy.
Thank you Barney and Lee for putting us up. It was wonderful getting a chance to redefine all those foggy memories. I’m looking forward to staying in touch!