Day One: No Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy

I said farewell to Chattanooga at about 8 this morning. The route out of town was supposed to take me along the Chattanooga Riverwalk, but something went wrong and I wound up just suffering through a pretty ugly state highway. The roads were, at least, relatively flat; the weather was agreeable; the miles clicked by with clockwork regularity.

Dayton sprang up on the horizon at a little after noon. Dayton was the site of the Scopes Monkey Trial, so I was hoping for lots of monkey-themed silliness. But Thomas Friedman is right: the world is flat. And homogeneous. And somewhat boring. Dayton probably has a cute downtown area with a couple nice monuments, but outside this core, it's just a blob of Anytown, USA just like, well, every town in the USA. Except maybe Helen, Georgia, which is an acid trip in town form.

Just outside Spring City, the wheels came off. Or went flat, to be precise. The rear one. It was a slow leak, so after pumping it up, I pedaled the last couple miles into town. At a gas station I pulled everything off the bike, removed the tube, installed a new one, and, as I was loading back up, discovered I'd installed the wrong one. My front tire, you see, is considerably narrower than the rear one. It's a long and boring story.

So, cooking there in the blazing sun, I pulled the tube back out, and began to install another. This one turned out to have a Schraeder valve instead of Presta, meaning it didn't fit my rim. Turns out this was the same tube that brought about an unceremonious end to my last big bike trip. Kudos to me for keeping it around.

I installed my last backup tube, breaking a tire lever this time. Tire levers are all crap. Anyway, as I was inflating the tube, I happened to notice a small cut in the tire. At full pressure the tube was starting to poke through. No good. For a moment, I began to panic. In the space of a half hour I went from well-prepared and supplied to being down to my last tube and with a potentially catestrophic flaw in my bike.

Of course, I wouldn't be writing now if I spent the evening dealing with a catastrophe. I dropped the pressure from 100 psi to 60 and rode on, picking up some duct tape and shoe goo from a hardware store I passed. Within an hour I reached Rockwood, where I booked a room in what may well be the worst motel I've ever seen.

And that's where I am now. Tonight I'll patch the tire the best I can, order a new tire and another spare tube to a town up ahead, and try to get a good night's sleep. I'm completely cooked.

81 miles.