Sunday, November 7, 2010

Falls Hollow and Day Three

     The best thing about the Falls Hollow Restaurant and RV Park for the cyclist is that it’s located almost directly under the Trace on a highway the Trace bridges over. The worst thing is that it’s called Falls Hollow which should have tipped me off that it’s in a hollow which must have seriously steep sides if there are falls there.

     The place advertised two “motel like” rooms one of which I’d booked, primarily because it was right on the Trace at a distance from Collinwood where I needed to stop before the 53 mile ride to Nashville.

     After finding the proprietor in his house behind the restaurant, he led me through the restaurant where people where prepping dinner to one of the aforementioned rooms.

     The room was a pretty sorry affair. The bed creaked. There was no table for playing solitaire, and although it had Dish T.V., the set was so old that the dish remote would not operate its volume. It was also so small and out of focus that I couldn’t read the score in the baseball game wearing reading glasses and from six inches away. It reminded me of spending the night at a poor relation’s house, e.g., it took a half hour for the bathtub to fill.

     I’d arrived at around four o’clock, and after two airline bottles of vodka was the first person in the restaurant for dinner. I had a ribeye and fries, which was O.K., and several cups of pretty good coffee. (I always order steak in a questionable restaurant—say I’m at the Holiday Inn and decide to eat in their restaurant—figuring they can’t screw that up too bad.)

     As I say the bed creaked, I couldn’t see the T.V., and the four cups of coffee were a mistake. I alternated playing solitaire on the bed with reading Made In America by Bill Bryson which I highly recommend. It’s about the development of peculiarly American English and it’s full of interesting trivia. Do you know why the South came to be called “Dixie”? I do. You could borrow my copy but I gave it away to a guy I met in a bar who I thought would like it.

     The Falls Hollow experience was at the other end of the spectrum from the endorphin euphoria I felt at Miss Monnetta’s. Despite repeated attempts I didn’t get to sleep until three A.M.

     Nevertheless I was up at 7:00 eating a good breakfast which the proprietor came over to make for me and was pedaling by 8:00. It had turned cold and there was frost on the ground, but Day Two it had taken me six hours to ride forty miles and I had 53 to cover on Day Three.

     The hill leading out of Falls Hollow was steep and continued upward past the falls to my right as far ahead as I could see. These falls were nothing like Niagara or even Amicalola. They were more of a long steep cascade.

     My knee hurt continuously for the rest of the trip. It took me thirty-five minutes of lowest gear pedaling to cover the first mile. I winced with every down pedal on the right. Cyclists use their strong side, their “right handed” side in my case, to do more of the work. I developed a mental count of “easy, left, easy, left,” trying to concentrate on doing the hard pushes with my left leg. I must have looked like Gunsmoke’s Chester riding a bicycle.

     I gave some brief thought to getting off and pushing, but that would cost me time and I needed to get to Nashville before it got dark and cold, but the bigger concern was that serious cyclist machismo says you don’t get off and push, i.e., I didn’t want another cyclist to see me pushing.

     Here’s a good place for an aside about other cyclists. I only encountered four other cyclists on the Trace. I’m pleased to say that none of them overtook me from behind. Three of the four were my age or older. One of them was an old guy on one of those bikes where you sit back in a “chair” and pedal out in front of you. He complained that he was having to ride into the wind. Although there was a brisk cold breeze on Day Two when I encountered him, I had little sympathy for the old fart because the wind was blowing from my left to right—which does make pedaling a little harder—and he was going down the incline I was steadily climbing.

     After a mile and a quarter of climbing out of Falls Hollow, I returned to the steady medium ascent of Day Two.

     Pictured here is another section of the Old Trace, unpaved, and it’s supposed to look much as it did when Colonel Jackson led his men down it to fight the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.

     This picture shows me as I looked bundled up for the cold of Day Three. It was taken by an old couple in an RV who told me that I’d be pretty soon reaching some long downhill. The headgear was fashioned by Yours Truly from a bicycle helmet and an old lady’s gardening hat which I cut the crown off of and attached the brim by cutting holes in it and passing the helmet straps through them.

     This was around noon and indeed that downhill was about twenty miles ahead. It came after a historical marker denoting the Tennessee Valley divide. At one time it had been the boundary between Tennessee and Indian lands to the south. What I discovered on my own about it is that it is a high ridge which separates where water flows south to the Tennessee River and where streams flow northward to the Cumberland.

     (The Tennessee River comes down out of the Appalachians, goes through Chattanooga, then down into north Alabama to get around the highland I was climbing before it turns north again and joins with the Ohio and on to the Mississippi).

     But before I was to reach the aforementioned divide, there came the episode of Fly which is a small settlement about a mile off the Trace where I intended to have some lunch and which was to become a fly in the ointment of this tale.

     A few miles from Fly my rear tire went flat. I stopped and pumped it up, hoping that it was a slow leak. In another mile it was flat again.

     I stopped at a bridge where I could sit on a concrete ledge while I patched the tube. Did you know that they now put a green oozy slime inside of bicycle tubes now so that you can see where a hole is? It was news to me.

    I’d come equipped for this contingency, but it was an aggravation that took about fifteen minutes. Although I could see some green stuff of the other side of the tube from the hole I was patching, I thought it came from the same hole.

      My patch job proved ineffective, and my tire soon went flat. Being only about a mile from the road to Fly, and being hungry and cranky, I decided to push the bike to Fly and eat something. After that I could see if I could fix the leak or else call Cynthia to pick me up there. I’m happy to report that no cyclists saw me pushing.

     The attempted tube repair and the two miles of pushing put me an hour-and-a-half behind schedule. It was 2:30 when I reached the Fly General Store.

     If you ever have the opportunity, by all means go to the Fly General Store. Like Collinwood, it is a vanishing fragment of Americana. It’s a small wooden building with gas pumps and a little bit of a lot of things inside. It’s like the country stores I frequented as a kid. While there I spoke with a pretty British woman who said the store was like one her grandmother had operated.

     They also had the best ham and American cheese on white bread sandwich which I’ve ever devoured, and an air pump which saved my arm some exertion.

     My cell phone wouldn’t get a signal, but a friendly customer whose would let me use hers, and I was able to leave a message on the cell of Cynthia who was en route to Nashville. The elderly and gracious Mr. Fly let me leave her the store’s land line number. (Fly is named not after the insect, nor because it is phat, but after the Fly family, whose French ancestor fought with LaFayette during the American Revolution and was given a large land grant in which is now Fly. Other than the store and a lumber yard, there are no other businesses in Fly.)

     After the sandwich, I took the tube off again and discovered that there were inexplicably (at least to me) four holes going all the way around the tube at the spot where I’d patched the first one. A much larger patch and Mr. Fly’s air did the trick.

     While I was patching the tire, Cynthia called and I told her she’d need to ride down the Trace when she got to Nashville and find me there or, worst case scenario, sitting outside the Fly General Store which closed at 5:00.

     It was four o’clock when I got back on the Trace and pedaled as fast as my knee would permit. It was indeed getting really cold and dark when she found me seventeen miles from Nashville.

     If you’re ever in Nashville and especially if you’re staying at the Vanderbilt Courtyard by Marriott, I recommend the Midtown Café, a wonderful upscale restaurant in what looks like a large old tool shed right across the street, a blessing to me since I could barely walk. Our waitress was a twenty year veteran who knew everything about the wares and was just plain fun. After martinis and a bottle of wine she insisted it was Tequila Time.

     There’s an eighty mile segment of the Trace from where I started this trip to Tupelo which I still haven’t ridden. I hope to do that this spring and then drive to Graceland.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Da,
    Glad you got the rest of it up. I really enjoyed it. Sounded like a great trip.

    One thing: You ought to repost the whole thing in order as one post.