This Day Went to Eleven

As a recumbent rider, I am a novelty. It would be fair to say that 50% of the people that see me watch me pass with gape-mouthed shock. People in cars often slow down. Sometimes they stop, right in the middle of the highway. I always wave at people who take an especially great interest. Sometimes they wave back. A lot of times they just keep staring, all googly-eyed, like they're watching a zebra go by.

Recumbents do that. I learned long ago you have to ride them with the mindset of an ambassador. I was riding near Franklin, Tennessee in preparation for my Mississippi ride when a car overtook me, moving real slow. The passenger was half hanging out the window and yelling something at me. Assuming it was just some hair-brained hick, I reflexively gave him the finger. "No!" the guy yelled, "I was just saying I love your bike." Oops.

That's not to say there aren't any hair-brained hicks out there. I ran across one today on highway 61 north of Harriman, Tennessee. This was a crappy road if ever there was one — two lanes, no shoulder, and heavy traffic. Everyone drove as if they had never seen a bicycle before: super fast and with no more allowance for me than was necessary to avoid denting their precious cars.

Just about the time I had grown completely tired of this, I noticed a pickup truck in my rearview mirror that was cutting it closer than most. You can tell when someone is about to buzz you, and this guy clearly intended to do just that. I squeezed over as far as I was able, and as he rocketed past me, his passenger leaned out and yelled, "Get off the road, Goddamn it!"

Love that.

It wasn't all hammer and tongs today, though. Much of the riding was beautiful. I rode ten or twelve miles through a quiet forest with a rocky river to one side, crossing narrow vertiginous bridges and passing under towering railroad trestles. I rode along a narrow valley with long boas of cloud resting on the mountain tops to either side. I saw a skinny colt nuzzling its mother. I saw a turtle. And a lizard.

The beauty I'm glad for. And I'm glad my bike didn't give me any trouble today, because it was a tough ride without any added challenges. It was long, for one thing — 80 miles (see below for a revision of yesterday's mileage). And it rained most of the day. And the terrain was hilly and even mountainous. My knees are giving me hell for it. Thank God tomorrow is a short day.

I stopped for lunch at the Unicorn Cafe in Lake City. This was a treat. The place was full of what I assume are regular clientele, and they pulled me directly into their conversation, which was folksy and pretty smart. They told me that as of Thursday, Lake City is no longer Lake City. It's now Rocky Top. It seems that the owner of the Rocky Top convenience store chain wants to build a theme park, but he wanted the town where he built it to change their name. Which is exactly what Lake City did. My new companions didn't think too highly of this.

Apparently it's all the talk in this corner of Tennessee. No sooner did I arrive at my camp site tonight — Indian Mountain State Park in Jellico — when a group of neighboring campers struck up a conversation about, what else? — Lake City vis-a-vis Rocky Top.

So I feel like I learned something today.

80 miles

P.S.: It seems my odometer is overcounting the mileage. It claims I went 92 miles. I'll trust Google's judgement on this matter, and revise yesterday's figure to 73 miles accordingly.