It’s hard to appreciate how flat the state of Florida is until you take your bike off the sand bar that is the Sunshine State. No lie, I’ve been on rides in Florida where the only hills you encounter are highway overpasses and roadkill. I’m writing you this evening from Millersville, Tennessee, north of Nashville, a part of the state known as “hill country.”
Yes, I brought my bike. Yes, my legs hurt.
My wife’s childhood farm is here, her mother still lives on it, at least what’s left after the federal government decided that Interstate 65 needed to run right through the middle of it. The property is bordered by Slater’s Creek on the east and barreling semi’s headed to Louisville on the west. Now, you might think that a town named Millersville, with a creek, must have had an old mill where farmers brought their grains to be idyllically ground into flour on the side of the old mill stream. Nope; Millersville was named after a revenue agent killed in the line of duty after the federal government decided it needed to collect taxes from independent business men who happened to make a little corn whiskey.
These hills have secrets.
And let me tell you, there aren’t a lot of old guys riding around these parts with Italian team riding jerseys, leather gloves, prescription goggles and clip in shoes. At least I didn’t see any. Adults riding kids’ bikes down the hills to buy cigs and beer? Yeah, there were those. Road bikes? No. I did see plenty of car-crushed snakes, soon to be car-crushed turtles, uncrushable feral cats and dirt roads that lead uphill to who knows where, it is strongly suggested that you don’t trespass and find out. Especially if you are a federal revenuer.
So aside from mowing a big field and walking around in the creek, I did get to ride my bike. The good news? Unlike Florida, it was only wicked hot here, not “Damn I’m gonna die out here hot.” So I had that going for me, which was nice. Hills on my single speed are a matter of attacking, there is no shifter to down shift, no spinning, no saving your effort. And, for the most part, I was okay with that, getting stronger each of the three days, remembering that riding a bike is the same as it was when I was a kid. You stand up a little, you push hard, and you suck it up.
I sucked it up pretty good until I headed for the aptly named town of Ridgetop. Holy crap. 1.1 miles of a 260 foot climb, the road carved through the stone that makes the aforementioned ridge. I stood up, I pushed hard and then Florida boy here stopped to find his breath. (It was there somewhere a minute ago.) Pedaled more, my legs saying “We got this,” my lungs saying… well nothing, they weren’t cooperating, they sure weren’t leading the charge. If you could call what I was doing charging. My Garmin said I was going 4.5 MPH: which you may not have known, is fast enough to keep a bike balanced and sort of upright. I was sauntering, lollygagging, moseying… perhaps even meandering…
I was not charging.
I survived and let me tell you, the road to Ridgetop was a LOT more fun on the way down, I looked down and Garmin said I was going 38, not the fastest I’ve ever gone downhill, but the fastest I’ve ever gone in Tennessee. Charging at 38 is more fun than sauntering, lollygagging etc…
On October 1st and 2nd the Jack and Back, an MS Association sponsored charity ride goes from Nashville to Lynchburg to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. Lem Motlow (Jack’s founder), to our knowledge, paid his federal taxes and never shot a revenue agent and they are inviting we road bike types down for the day. The late Revenue Agent Miller probably would have liked him. It’s 75 miles down on Saturday, you tour the distillery, spend the night, and ride back to Nashville on Sunday.
I’m in. Let me know if you want to come saunter along with me.