Monthly Archives: April 2012

Tellico Plains/River Road ride

The original plan was to drive from Oak Ridge to Tellico Plains on  Saturday, ride River Road (which runs along the Tellico River up toward the North Carolina/Tennessee border) on Sunday, and have a day off work on Monday. However, looking at the weather forecast the week before, it looked like Saturday would wind up being the nicer day — about 10 degrees warmer and more pleasant. As it turned out, they were pretty much identical. The weather man was mistaken.

In any case, I took Friday off work rather than Monday and we drove down Friday, did the ride Saturday, and came home on Sunday (today!).

We stayed at The Lodge at Tellico, which turned out to be delightful. Our room (one quarter of a large cabin) had a porch overlooking a goldfish pond surrounded by trees and flowers. Water babbled from a higher pool to a lower one, providing a soothing “babbling brook” sound during our whole visit. Birds flitted through the trees and sang to us. We saw blue birds, a mated pair of cardinals, a robin. We watched the goldfish push a pond lily around their pool. We spent several hours in the rocking chairs on the porch.

The room was very comfortable, with a private bath, king bed, beautiful hard wood floor, and jacuzzi.

Saturday morning, we were up early to get a good parking place to launch our bike ride from. We drove from the hotel six miles or so to the beginning of River Road off the Cherohala Skyway. The Skyway is pretty heavily travelled — it’s a favorite of motorcycle riders — but River Road has much less traffic. We were started riding by a little before quarter to nine.

River Road is a fairly narrow road with no shoulder, but the traffic was light and slow enough that this didn’t pose a problem. When cars came along, I dropped back behind Karen and we rode single file until they were past. Most of the time we were able to ride abreast and talk.

River Road slopes gently up from the point where we began our ride as it follows the river toward the state line eighteen miles away (along the road — it’s probably much shorter as the crow flies since the river, and therefore the road, has lots of curves). We weren’t sure how much riding up the gentle  hill was going to tax us. As it turned out, it was more than expected.

By the time we reached Bald River Falls about six miles into the ride, we were both starting to get tired.

However, we also both needed a restroom. Thankfully, about a quarter mile past the falls, there was a parking lot/picnic area with pit toilets and bear-proof waste containers. We took a break, had a snack, caught our breath, and then coasted back to the car. Our total distance wound up being about 13 miles in just under two hours.

We plan to go back and do the rest of the distance to the North Carolina border, in stages if that’s what it takes.


Posted by on 2012/04/29 in Uncategorized


Silver Comet Ride (part 3)

Sunrise from our hotel window

Sunday morning, April 8, we checked out of the hotel, loaded our stuff in the truck (the bikes were already loaded), and after a quick stop at a nearby Starbucks, we drove to Coot’s Lake, our turn-around point from the previous day.

After leaving the truck, we had only gone a quarter of a mile when I decided I really needed the jacket I had left behind in the truck. Karen went on and I went back to get my jacket. It’s chillier moving at 10 miles an hour than it is sitting still.

When I caught back to up to Karen, she was stopped in the trail, watching a dog about 100 yards further down the trail run anxiously back and forth. I got in the lead and as I rode toward the dog, he took off down the trail away from us. He clearly didn’t want an encounter with us any more than we wanted one with him.

Rockmart is about 4.5 miles or so from Coot’s Lake. I took this picture of the trail bridge over the river there. If you zoom in, you may be able to read the sign on the side of the bridge. It says “Silver Comet Trail”.

The Silver Comet trail bridge in Rockmart.

We knew there was hilly terrain between Rockmart and Cedartown but we didn’t remember how soon after Rockmart it starts. Turns out it’s pretty immediately. We got to the other side of Rockmart and realized we had just struggled over two big hills, so we turned back and made our way back to the truck parked at Coot’s Lake.

Our total distance for Sunday was about 10 miles. It took about an hour and twenty minutes of pedal time, around two hours elapsed. Then we went to Sweet Tomatoes for lunch before trekking home.

I was surprised at how few other recumbents we saw on this trip. During past trips on the Silver Comet, we’ve seen lots of recumbents. This weekend, we only saw three.

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Posted by on 2012/04/10 in cycling


Silver Comet Ride (part 2)

If you paid attention last time, you’ll know that we started very close to mile marker 16 on the trail (15.96 to be exact). We headed west, so the mile marker numbers increased as we went. You can see an overview of the trail by clicking the link.

What follows are random pictures I took along the way, approximately in the order I took them.

We were already sitting down, so we didn't take advantage of this bench's invitation.

We did take advantage of the facilities here. This was the first place we noticed the "steeper going down" effect. The side trail down to the Chamber's parking lot seemed steep and long on the way down and we dreaded having to right back up. It seemed much easier and shorter than we expected on the way back.

A view of the trail

We stopped for a snack.

Based on all the trees down and cut on either side of the trail, we surmised that recent storms must have knocked down lots of trees, leaving the trail blocked at points. We were grateful the blockages were cleared by the time we were riding. It must've been a lot of work to clear the trail in some cases.

Brushy Mountain Tunnel

Brushy Mountain Tunnel is amazing. If you sing as you ride through, it amplifies your voice and makes it resonate. Wherever you are in the tunnel, if someone else is talking in the tunnel, you can hear them. On our return trip, I hummed a tri-et (there were three of us humming) with two other guys at the other end of the tunnel. As we passed them on our way out, I suggested we form a choir. They laughed.

My mileage at our turn around point.

We rode to Coot’s Lake, had some lunch there, then headed back toward the hotel. We had a nice conversation with a man and his daughter who were out riding the trail. They live near Hiram he said.


I wasn't sure why the trash can was tied to the tree, but I thought it was interesting enough to take a picture.

More evidence of serious weather passing through recently.

As we were riding back toward the truck, at one point, we heard a train that sounded very close by. We never saw it because the intervening trees were thick enough to block our view. So there are still rail lines near the Silver Comet rail-trail.

My mileage when we arrived back at our starting point.

After we drove back to the hotel, I unloaded my bike from the truck and went back out to ride some more, racking up about another 34 miles going to the beginning of the trail at Mavell Road in Atlanta and back.

We were at the end of the trail a few years ago and visited a Starbucks there. Sadly, the Starbucks is gone. It has been replaced by a bicycle shop, Smyrna Bicycles. To be clear, the Mavell Road trailhead is mile marker 0.0 on the trail. The shopping center where the Starbucks was (and the bike shop is now) is about a mile further along on a short trail called the Silver Comet Connector.

On the way back, at about mile 3.9, I heard goats bleating, then either someone shooting off firecrackers or firing a gun. I hope they weren’t shooting at the goats.

At the end of the day, my bike computer said my total pedal time was 6:58:41. We rode together from about 9:30 am to around 2:55 pm, then I went back out from about 3:40 to around 6:45. So the total elapsed time was about 8.5 hours.

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Posted by on 2012/04/10 in cycling


Silver Comet Ride

The Silver Comet was a passenger train that ran between Birmingham, Alabama, and New York City, passing through Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia. Its first run was in 1947 and its last in 1969.

In 1989, CSX abandoned the right of way between Alabama and Birmingham. Through the efforts of various government and civic entities, construction began on the trail in 1998 and was completed in 2008. So now it’s a wonderful place for long bike rides.

Packed and loaded and ready to go...

On April 6, 2012, we packed up our bikes and headed down to Atlanta to spend a weekend riding on the trail. (I know the picture looks like the photographer is listing a few sheets to port. Neither truck nor photographer were leaning. Rather, the photographer was not centered behind the truck but a bit to the left, so the perspective makes it appear that the truck is leaning. Sorry about that. Photography is not what I get paid for.)

We stayed at the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson in Hiram, Georgia. We’ve stayed there a number of times before and enjoyed our stay each time. One of the coolest things this hotel has to recommend it is that it’s less than a mile from three separate access points on the Silver Comet Trail (and as far as I know, it’s the ONLY hotel that is this close to the trail, so it’s the perfect place to stay on a bike trip to ride the trail). The Silver Comet crosses Weddington Road, the driveway of a business, and Coppermine Road. Here’s a map. I recommend Access Point 3 on Coppermine Road because there’s space to park a couple of vehicles beside the trail. Neither of the other two access points provide parking. On the other hand, you can ride from the hotel and not have a vehicle to park. In that case, use any of the access points you like.

Bright and early Saturday morning, it was COLD in Hiram, Georgia. We went to Starbucks and had some liquid reinforcement and watched the sun brighten the day. Apparently, we waited long enough because when we came back out, the temperature didn’t seem so bad.

We got everything together and drove over to the Coppermine Road access point, unloaded the bikes, checked tire pressure, attached my bags to the rear rack of my bike (Karen’s bag is semi-permanantly attached), and got ourselves ready to go. Just before we took off, I grabbed a picture of the marker at the intersection where we started.

The starting point

(Again, the photography leaves something to be desired. You can see the photographer’s shadow in the picture, for crying out loud! Isn’t that frowned upon in photography circles? Please pay no attention to the photographer’s shadow or the quality of this or any of the other pictures in this post.)

Well, I’m out of blogging time for today. We’ll continue the story in the next installment.

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Posted by on 2012/04/09 in cycling


Engine 2 interviewed Rich Roll

E2: How does someone start the path to wellness?

Rich: Don’t overthink it.  Just begin.

How does someone continue the path to wellness, or success? Don’t overthink it. Just take the next step, whatever that happens to be today.


It’s starts with a decision.  A willingness to change – not for others but for yourself.  Because optimum health (or success, or your dream life) isn’t for people who need it – it’s for people who want it.  Follow the decision by setting a long-term goal, and then identify interim “stepping stone” goals towards that end that are achievable.  Then execute this plan with consistent small “doable” actions taken on a daily basis.  Because small steps, over time, move mountains.

Rich, on mental attitude during long distance events:

They say that ultra-endurance sport is 90% mental.  And I believe it.

So I try focus on what is right in front of me to do and blocking out everything else – whether it’s getting to the next landmark, mile marker or even just making it to the next lamp-post as the fatigue becomes almost unbearable.

During training as I ramp up for an event, I will repeatedly log some very long sessions (130 mile rides, or 40-plus mile runs), which of course prepare my body for the vast race distances involved, but more importantly they train my mind to become comfortable with prolonged discomfort.

What I take from this is that getting through long distance events (like life!) is largely about being willing to tolerate the discomfort of effort, fatigue, and sometimes perhaps even failure. Clearly, training is needed to develop the physical stamina required and to figure out what works in terms of fueling the body along the way, but the most important aspect of training (90% according to Rich) is the psychological adjustment to the pain and becoming willing to live with it until the finish line approaches.

He also talks about the importance of cultivating a meditative practice.

Beyond the physical acclimations of training, a huge aspect of my regimen involves retooling my mind to turn off the chatter and anchor in the present moment and find power in the “now” (to coin an Eckhart Tolle phrase).

For me, the long sessions are like extended active meditations, periods in which I become so focused on rooting myself in the present moment that I lose thought altogether, and time literally begins to vanish, the hours passing like moments.

And when not training, I find a consistent active mediation practice absolutely essential.  As I have learned the hard way, the mind is not always your friend.  And in ultras, it can bury you, attacking you with fierce negative impulses.  So mastering the messages your brain sends you – rewiring it to reinforce positive outcomes rather than negative failure impulses – is a tool I cannot emphasize enough as a staple in my program.

The whole interview, carried out over four days, is very inspirational and well worth reading. Here’s the beginning.

And I’m looking forward to reading his book, Finding Ultra, when it becomes available May 22 of this year (2012).

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Posted by on 2012/04/07 in exercise, wellness


Sunday Bike Ride

This past Sunday, we went for another bike ride. This time we rode along Old Walland Highway from Townsend to Coulter Bridge and back. The road runs along Little River. We got started a little after 9:00 am when the fog was still heavy. By the time we’d been riding an hour, the fog had lifted and we had a beautiful day. This post will be mostly pictures showing things we saw along the way.

Little River from the bridge near Townsend

For example,

colorful pinwheel

This colorful pinwheel caught my eye so I shot a picture of it. It was spinning pretty fast when I took the picture but my camera did a pretty good job of stopping it.


We think this flower is a periwinkle, but we weren’t sure.

seasonal waterfall

We passed a couple of seasonal waterfalls. We’ve done this ride a number of times and usually this waterfall isn’t there. We’ve had a fair amount of rain this spring, so I think that’s where it’s coming from.

The one below actually runs under someone’s driveway!

seasonal waterfall 2

I thought the eight-sided house was pretty cool…

Did you know there’s a bathysphere in the Great Smoky Mountains? Here it is, right there in Townsend…

I was just going to ride on by without saying anything, but really! Calling me a “dip”. I was quite insulted. ;P It was April 1, after all.

We had a lovely day and we’re looking forward to our next ride already.

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Posted by on 2012/04/03 in cycling


Catching Up…

Our first official bike ride of the year took place on Sunday, January 15.

U Man Power Bike Shop

We bought Karen's new trike at the U Man Power Bike and Trike Shop

We rode the greenway trail around Townsend, TN, to test drive a new trike for Karen (a Terratrike Rover). The new trike has eight gears rather than three and goes up hills more easily than the old one did.

I didn’t have my computer with me, but we went about 9 miles since that’s the length of the Townsend trail.

The next one was on Sunday, March 24.

We actually went across this pedestrian bridge that crosses US 129, a four lane highway, to connect pieces of the Alcoa greenway.

We drove down to Alcoa, TN, and rode a piece of the greenway there.

Two days later, on Tuesday, March 26, I took a vacation day from work and we drove to Chattanooga.

Flat, quiet roads among the monuments and cannon provide a nice place to ride bikes.

We scouted the Chickamauga and Chattanooga park, which I had read is a good place for bike riding.

Then we rode the Riverwalk.

We had lunch at Gollywhoppers

And that catches up for the year.

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Posted by on 2012/04/01 in cycling