Monday, November 8, 2010

Day Two

     I left about ten o’clock on Day Two, waiting for it to warm up some and figuring that would get me there in time for supper in Falls Hollow where I’d spend the night. I took two miniature Snicker bars from Miss Monneta’s jar for some lunch time energy.

     The ride on Day Two started out with some mild climbs and descents and I thought “Oh, this is much more interesting than the monotonous gradual ascent.” I would later come to yearn for that old monotony.

     I decided I’d learn to work the camera on my cell phone but the pictures I attempted didn’t show the scene I was aiming at. This picture depicts my discovery that up until this point I’d been holding the phone backward.

     A couple of observations about the Trace are worth mentioning here. Throughout my entire ride I saw six empty cigarette packages, five beer empties, two plastic soda bottles and a Reynolds aluminum foil box. That’s it, period. At no time did I see prisoners picking up garbage.

     Throughout the ride I saw only three instances of road kill: two small snakes and a frog, all near the side of the road. On the other hand, until the middle of day two, the only animals other than birds I saw were squirrels and one dog. I know there were at least deer there because I saw their droppings in the road and many tracks on the old unpaved Trace—more on that road later.

     Finally on the afternoon of Day Two I came silently upon a large doe, about forty feet off the road in the woods. She didn’t run—no hunting is allowed there—I just looked at her and she looked at me and that’s the way we wanted it to be. I called her Lola.

     I thought a lot about this absence of road kill. Much time for thinking is available on a three day ride through the backwoods. I attribute this lack of carnage to the low speed limit, the fact that the road is for sightseeing, which can’t be done very well at night, and the fact that most of the traffic is RV’s and campers pulled by retired people who don’t drive at night anyway.

     The picture of the goofy guy looking in the camera was taken on the “Old Trace.” The road I was cycling follows the “Old Trace” pretty closely, but better equipment was used to straighten curves, reduce inclines, and build bridges.

     My first successful shot is of a section of the Old Trace about two miles long. It’s roughly paved for one-way traffic so that motorists may briefly experience the old road.

     This shot is of a “scenic overlook” on the Old Trace. Not very impressive for a mountain boy but about as good as it gets in these parts.

     Meanwhile back on the ride, the uphills and downhills turned into a long steady medium uphill grade. I can now report that from Muscle Shoals, Alabama until about fifteen miles from the Trace’s end near Nashville, it is 90% uphill and after Collinwood the ascent is much steeper.

     Sometime around mid-afternoon, I started to suffer. The tendons covering my right knee, heretofore having been body parts whose existence I had little reason to consider, proclaimed themselves through steady aching. The little streams of Day One were not to be seen. Now when I saw water it was like this picture here. This one in the Little Buffalo river. I came to hate seeing streams like this, because although there was some coasting down to them, that didn’t compensate for the steep ascent to follow.

     Sometimes streams would follow the Trace for miles on end, but they always flowed in the opposite direction from which I pedaled.

     This is a picture of what the road always looked like in the direction I traveled. You see where the road disappears from sight and it looks as if it might level off there? Well, it doesn’t.

     Historical markers on the Trace are common and a big deal for the aging uphill cyclist, because other than the call of nature, there’s not much reason to get off the bike. You read them all. Some of them twice.

     About five miles from Falls Hollow I came to signs pointing up a paved road to the left telling me that 1.1 miles off the Trace is the burial site and memorial of Meriwether Lewis. Mr. Lewis, by all accounts a mentally unstable person, had after his famous exploration been appointed by a grateful President Jefferson as governor of the Louisiana Territory, and during that tenure had somehow managed, under mysterious circumstances, to get himself shot and killed at an inn formerly located here on the Trace.

     There are milepost markers every mile along the Trace. At this point they were getting farther and farther apart, and I would not have ridden another 2.2 miles if Meriwether were going to rise from the grave and explain how he got himself shot.

     The last mile and a half to Falls Hollow was a steep descent and while I was glad not to be pedaling for the nonce, I cursed what I knew would counterbalance it in the morning.

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