For the next 6 months, I’ve traded dodging shards of glass in the streets to dodging butterflies fluttering about. Instead of riding by homes, businesses, abandoned lots, liquor stores and churches, I have a river on one side of me, often a steep drop off to that river, and trees upon trees jutting out of mountain rocks all the way up to ridge tops. A vehicle may pass by me, usually a motorcycle. I get nervous going down hill around sharp corners, but then I think about busy intersections and buses.
My first full day living in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, I wake up, stretch with some yoga, eat a bowl of granola and spend way too long trying to figure out how to attach new bike accessories to an old rusty 70s Ross road bike. I realize I’m spending too much time trying to attach a water cage to my bike which was somehow made to not carry one (I made it work this morning though). I give up for the time being, I just want to ride. I leave the house that I’ll soon be sharing with anywhere up to 7 other researchers. For now I can leave bike tools and parts scattered about on the kitchen table.
I pull out of the Tellico Ranger Station area and head up 210, the river road. It’s pretty narrow, but paved. A truck passes by, up ahead I see a bike coasting down hill. I see lots of pink and black, the cyclist and I look up and give each other a quick nod. I wonder if she, too, is as excited as I am to see another female cyclist. Or maybe she was thinking about my lack of spandex. Here I am some dirty punk kid, wearing cut-off jean shorts (a cyclist’s nightmare) trudging up the road on a heavy (but sturdy) road bike, and there she was in full cycling gear and a fancy bike. She probably was also biking many more miles than I, this was just my test ride. I was too anxious to get out and ride rather than think about what I needed for a longer trip. I wore my jersey, mainly for it’s handy back pockets- a place for my water bottle and another pocket for the epi pen incase hornets hate bike riders.
This afternoon a guy that works out in the forest as well came by to introduce himself, he knows my boss, and she told him I’m really into riding bikes. He asked if that was the only bike I brought, and I laughed proclaiming that yes, unfortunately I haven’t been able to purchase my dream bike just yet. But he was helpful and told me of a nearby bike shop to check out. I should mention that nearby around these parts usually means within an hour. I told him to give me a little while so I can get used to these mountains and then I’ll ride with him. Honestly, I’m a bit too embarrassed because my muscles are a little confused by going uphill, but they actually did better than I thought. He told me to practice on the forest roads and soon I’d find myself going up the Cherohala Skyway. That’s the plan man! For now, it’s just me and my bike, Bob, enjoying the smells and the sounds of nature.
Ride safe out there,
p.s. I’ll also be blogging at BikesnBats if you are curious to hear more. Internet access is rare, but I’ll update when I can. Although I’m far away, I’ll still be helping out with Fender Bender and look forward to seeing everyone when I come back in June for the USSF.