Archive for May, 2013

A Visit To Mom’s!

May 22, 2013

My second tour of the roadways via bicycle was a trip to Mom’s about five years ago.  It was all pretty good up till the last four days on the road.  I’ll explain to you in depth in the following paragraphs.  However, I did make it back to Columbia, South Carolina.  Not necessarily in the best of conditions though.

I don’t remember specifics, but it started out shortly after I quit working at Sam’s Club.  I rolled out on my $1400 Gary Fisher Dual Sport 129 (http://www.vintage-trek.com/Trek-Fisher-Klein…/2004specmanualFisher.pdf‎)  with my B.O.B. Yak trailer (http://www.bobgear.com/bike-trailers/yak) fully loaded.  Yes, I did say trailer.  This may have been my second tour but I had to try something different for toting my stuff around other than panniers.

This time my route was totally different that before.  It was more mountainous as well.  My first leg took me from Columbia, SC to somewhere just north and west of Laurens, SC in the very first day.  My second day saw me almost out of South Carolina when I stopped on the northwestern side of Spartanburg, SC.  Next stop was somewhere in the vicinity of Cherokee, NC.

From Cherokee, NC, I got the fun of attempting the last of the Great Smoky Mountains on my journey into Knoxville, TN.  From that point on it was almost totally due northwest through the rest of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.  My course was pretty much following Interstate 75 via the side roads.  U.S. 25 was maintained till I hit Ohio.  From that point on it was following U.S. 27 from Cincinnati, OH to Fort Wayne, IN.

Now let me digress just a bit here as I forgot to mention that I did get a ride from some very kind folks while in the Smoky Mountains.  I was looking at several miles of two percent grade and fairly hot temps.  Not to mention I had failed to fill up water and was still about four miles from the nearest source of it.  I was exhausted and parched when these kind folks gave me a lift from some point just inside the North Carolina border and gave me a lift with their pickup truck to Knoxville, TN proper.  To this day I thank those folks and pray for them.  They saved me a nasty climb that I just wasn’t ready for.  Since then I’ve learned a different route altogether.

Getting back to where I left off.  From Fort Wayne, IN I took the county roads starting with the 3 moving to the 9 up through Kendallville, La Grange,and Howe in Indiana.  Once inside the Michigan border just north of Howe the 9 turns into M-66 and into Sturgis, MI.  From that point on it was relatively easy to get to my mother’s home in Centreville, MI.

All in all, it took me only ten days with numerous stops along the way.  Again, I don’t remember all my stops.  However, I do remember stopping at my sisters home in Covington, KY.  I was treated to a nice dinner with her and my brother-in-law as well as my nephew.  That is the night I remember being asked to try calamari.  I love seafood however, I draw the line at something that resembles rubber.  I declined the fried calamari my sister had even just for a taste.

My ride back was a similar route after spending a month or so at my mom’s home.  The only real differences were the weather, slight variation on route, and one very bad time before leaving Athen’s, GA.  Other than that, I made it back to Columbia in a little longer than it took me to get up to Michigan.  Along the way, I learned a very valuable lesson as well.  It’s one lesson I keep at the forefront of my mind while bicycling to this day.

The weather when I left my mom’s house was tolerable.  As I rode, it became increasingly worse as the day wore on.  Traveling back through Indiana and Ohio was more hell than was Kentucky and Tennessee.  I was fighting a constant fifteen mile per hour cross wind as well as temperatures dropping down into the lower thirties.  Thankfully I was prepared for the temperatures to the point of being sweating like a pig when I did stop.  Alas, this also led to some very intolerable times when I stopped without having some form of shelter.  Hypothermia could have been a real issue.  Of course riding in those conditions as well as sleeting snow drags hard on energy levels and makes the muscles groan even more when pulling around one hundred pounds behind a bicycle that is carrying your body weight (mine at the time was around 210 pounds).  Here is where I can honestly say training and preparation is a must.  That and a little motivation.

My only variance of routing on the way back was while I was in Tennessee.  Instead of turning back toward the Smoky Mountains at Knoxville, I rode on toward Cleveland, TN.  At that point, I changed over from U.S. 11 from Knoxville to U.S.64/U.S.74 through to the U.S.129 and into Gainsville, GA and then to Athens, GA.  There I remember is where I stopped for a cup of coffee at a local Waffle House on the east side of town as I was leaving via U.S.78.

It was when I took my coffee break that valuable lesson was learned.  ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS LOCK YOUR BICYCLE AND POSSESSIONS UP WHEN STOPPING SOMEWHERE!  EVEN IF YOU CAN PLAINLY SEE THE BIKE AND POSSESSIONS LOCK YOUR STUFF UP! I made the fatal mistake of forgetting to lock my bicycle and trailer up while stopped at the Waffle House in Athens, GA.  It was on the wrong side of town in what would be classified as the slums (crack alley).  Not only was my bicycle stolen but all my possessions that I wasn’t carrying with me into the Waffle House.  Yes, I did report it to the police.  Four hours later, there was still no site of it.  I decided it was time to push on for Columbia.

From Athens, GA to Columbia, I walked.  Three days worth along with three rides (two of which were by county law officers to the county border).  That equated to roughly one hundred fifty miles.  As I walked, I kept kicking my own ego for not locking the bicycle up.  I felt lower than whale dung in the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

When I finally made Columbia, I was exhausted, hungry (I’d not eaten much in those three days), and homeless yet again.  However, I did make it by sheer will power.  After five years of seeing that day happen repeatedly in memory, I still lock the bicycle I have now up no matter if I leave it for more than just a few minutes.  Lesson learned even though I’m still homeless.

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