DAY RIDE 2/7/2009

A Little Run On My Favorite Roads

February 7, 2009

One of the riding boards I visit often - - has some folks asking about a RTE (ride to eat) in the Tennessee area. Since I am old time local, I volunteer for the task. I guess I am picky, but I like to check things out before I recommend a bunch of folks showing up and following me around. The restaurant that I had recommended - Medley's Diner - had moved and changed names but it is supposed to be the same good folks. So with the weather turning really nice, it gives me a good excuse to go for a little run on some of my favorite roads - as if I need an excuse. I drop Andy Derryberry, a childhood friend that I started riding bicycles with, a e-mail and he is up for it. Also Bob from around Chattanooga (Ooltewah to be exact) plans on showing up. Figuring about about how long it would take, I give Andy and Bob a time and prepare for an early departure for me. As usual, my eyes pop open early so I get ready to roll. I have just put new tires and brake pads on SweetTreat so she gets the honors this early morning.

  I pull out at my planned time of 5:30 AM, knowing it will take 2 hours to hook up with Andy at the junction of 269 and 231 the way I'm headed, then about another hour to get to McMinnville. Ignoring my own advice, I decide I will make a little run down the Natchez Trace to 96 then cut across through Franklin. The Trace is a regular zoo of wildlife before sunup, but I need to go slow anyway with new tires installed. They always have 'tire snot' on them and are just that slick until they get a bit scrubbed in. When I get to the north terminus, I can just barely make out the park sign in the early morning light.
  Putting my eyeballs and senses on full alert, I carefully ride the Trace - keeping a close watch on the sides where the deer usually come running out. Fortunately, I have it all to myself as I poke along the lovely twists and turns. Soon I'm at the 96 turn off and come off the ridge down to the valley. Franklin looks like a ghost town at this time of the morning as I ease through and get onto Arno road. Pretty soon the sun starts to peak over the horizon in a fiery show of colors.

Arno road will drop me right onto 31A which will take me to Riggs Crossroads - the oldest road still in use in this part of the state. As I'm just whizzing along by myself, here comes one of Tennessee's finest - a state trooper. For this early on this road, that's a very unlikely sight but I've been a good citizen and easily scrub off the little excess speed I was doing. He keeps on cooking toward Nashville and for that I am thankful. As I work my way around the revenue generators in Eagleville, the sun shows it's lovely head above the tree line and I know it's going to be a great day for riding.


Traveling on the familiar back roads I've chosen for the day, I notice what appears to be some shiny stuff on the pavement. I figure it's just a little early morning dew, but the next curve teaches me something different. As I lean the SweetTreat over in a curve that's in the shade, the back wheel breaks loose and starts to slide right out from under me. I have one option - either stick out my foot or bust it right here in the middle of nowhere. It's a calculated risk, because you can easily break a foot or ankle doing this. But I figure if I go down, I'm gonna bust something anyway so down goes the foot. The slide stops and SweetTreat pops back up to attention. As I pry myself loose from the seat due to excessive pucker just created by the unpleasant situation, I breathe a sigh of relief and thank the Lord for once again sparing me from disaster. The only thing I can figure out is it must be unevaporated salt slurry left over from the last time they sprayed the roads. Whatever it is, it's slicker than snot on a doorknob so I kick back the throttle several notches. I reach Christiana where Andy is waiting on his new ride - a Suzuki V-Strom. This is the first time I've seen his new ride in the flesh - and it's a beauty.


Andy and I have put in a lot of miles between our bicycle riding as kids and motorcycles. I took him to get his first one - a Honda 550 - on the back of my new 73 Triumph Trident. I warn him about the slick stuff on the roads, return him his hat that's been in my garage since the last time we changed his tires on his old Virago. We mount up and we're off toward the big city of McMinnville. We take some back roads that should drop us in the middle of town and right past the cafe if my figuring is correct. And sure enough, the plan works as designed and we snag some parking spots near the door.


When we walk up to go in, I recognize some of the ladies that worked at the old place. I ask them -

"Still the same good stuff as the old place?"

"Yes, owned by the same people. And we have a little more room now" one of them tells me as she leads me and Andy inside.

We pick a booth (I've always liked booths better than tables for some reason) and I grab the lone menu. The lady that led us in takes our drink orders as we contemplate what sort of assault we will make on our arteries today. I go for my favorite - cheese and sausage omelet with gravy and biscuits and Andy picks eggs, taters, and sausage. I notice an older feller as he walks by slowly - he has a Korean Vet hat on. Once he takes a table, I walk back to him.

"Korea was a hard front to serve on. I appreciate your service to our country. I spent a couple of years in the Marines myself" I tell him.

A sad, serious look comes over his face.

"Yep, my duty in Korea was tag our boys' bodies and make sure that they got home for a decent funeral. Many times the Marines kept the gooks from killing us" he shares with me.

"Man, that must have been tough duty for a young feller" I tell him, just wondering how a man could have the strength to do that day after day.

"Well, I considered it an honor and privilege just as you did your service. I wanted to make sure that they got back home okay. And thank you for your service, too" he tells me.

I return to our booth and Andy and I talk about our upcoming Wild West Tour in August with my Scottish buddy Dave. It will be the ride of a lifetime with two of my favorite riding friends on the same trip. Soon our grub lands and as it has always been, it is good and plentiful. Our waitress keeps my tea glass full as Andy and I assault the platefuls in from of us. I notice a ST1300 zip by and figure it must be Bob, so I get up and go fetch him. He is able to park beside us and I help pull his ST1300 back up the slight incline into a parking place. I give him a hug, but I can't make the mental connection just yet. Once we get inside, I tell him -

"I know I know you, but where from? "

"Remember, we met down at the Stagecoach RTE" he reminds me, and then it all clicks into place.

"Well, my sometimers was kicking in and shame on me for not remembering you as much as we talked while we were down there" I apologize.

He looks at what Andy has and tells our waitress -

"I'll just take one of those!" and she gets his order in.

They turn it around pretty quickly, so he wades in as we finish up our feast. As he enjoys his meal, I explain to him -

"I reckon we can run 30 from here down to Pikeville, then we'll turn north and you probably want to turn south."

"Well I could ride with you but I need to be home before dark" he says.

"Well, you are more than welcome to come along, but we'll be headed in the opposite direction from where you need to be" I tell him.

Bob decides the original plan is probably the best, so we finish up out plates. Mine is so clean my mother would be proud of me. In the lull, I grab all the checks and head for the pay out. Andy and Bob both protest so I tell them -

"Y'all just cover the tip. This one's on me."

When we head back outside, I tell them -

"Let me check out the parking situation - I'll be right back."

I wander down Spring Street to the lot that our waitress told me about and see that we'll have plenty of space to park for the RTE..


When I get back, the Korean Vet has struck up a conversation with Bob, who is a retired military man. Their generations are bit closer than mine, so they hit it right up. There is a certain kinship that servicemen of all branches share and it's a good common ground.

  The road beckons us, and Bob decides he'll be tail gunner and follow me and Andy. Soon we are on one of my all time favorite roads - highway 30. It's a great run up the mountain to Spencer, where you pass right by the police station - very carefully, then some good riding up on the plateau. Just before we make the descent back down into Pikeville we get stuck behind some dawdling cars, so I pull off at a good parking spot with a great view of the Sequatchie Valley.

I figure there's no reason to ruin a good down hill run riding our brakes and we'll be parting company at the foot of the hills anyway.

"I reckon we'll say good-byes here, since we'll be splitting up at the foot of the hills. Reckon I'll see you in April" I tell Bob.

We wait for a clear path with no vehicles in sight, then we make our break for it.


This descent is one of my favorites with some good sweepers and pretty tight stuff mixed in. When we reach the bottom, we head north on 127 and Bob waves and honks as he turns south. Andy and I work our way toward Crossville and we're making pretty good time at it. In fact, a little too good time as a policeman coming from Crossville wags his finger at me. I figure I've been had, but he appears not to have been running any radar since Betty Boop was awful silent. I quickly scrub off my speed, fully expecting to see the blue light special coming after me. But I am joyfully disappointed as he seems to have more pressing matters elsewhere. We get to the outskirts of Crossville and I need some gas and a hydraulic break as well so we pull into a BP station with lots of pumps. The only problem is that most of the pump credit card readers are out of order. Andy and I both hunt around and finally find working pumps. We fill our bikes and empty our bodies, getting ready for the next section of delightful roads.


I tell Andy -

"We're gonna run 298 to 62, to Clarkrange, then up 127 to 85, then across to Carthage and slab it back. That should put you just east of 840 which gives you the cutoff to your house."

Andy tells me -

"That will work" and we're off.

Highway 85 is another one of my favorite roads as it has numerous elevation changes and sweepers as it runs up and down the plateau. But that same slick stuff I encountered early is still lurking in the shadows here, so we are especially careful. As we whiz along, I pass a beautiful shot down the valley from a spot I am familiar with. This time of year there are no leaves so you can see for quite a distance. After I get by, I decide I've got to go back for a shot, so I give Andy the hand signals for what I am doing. I carefully do a turnaround on the narrow, canted road and pull into the spot that I missed. It's right in the middle of a series of curves as the road clings to the mountainside.

  But the view is well worth it, and the shot is just the thing I am looking for. We can see the road as it cuts through the next valley, then disappears over the next ridge.  
  We make as good a time as we can, enjoying the dry sections of road and easing along the pavement that lies in the shadows. If it's shiny, it's salt slurry and it's slick so you just have to take it as it comes. Soon we reach one of my favorite parts of 85 - a series of switchbacks that challenge your ability to bend your bike around them. This section of road makes you wish your bike had a hinge in the middle. Not quite as challenging as the Alps hairpins, but they'll do nicely today. I usually am coming from the other direction, so doing them downhill has its own challenges.  

When we get into Livingston, it's a good place to take a break. There's still some more good parts of 85 to cover, and we have plenty of time. As we stretch our legs and other parts of our anatomy, I tell Andy -

"We should be able to take 85 right into Carthage, then head south to I40."

With the rest of our plan in place, we get back after it.


Well, the plan was a good one if my brain was working like it should. As we ease into Gainesboro, I make the same mistake that I usually make. 53 and 56 split and I take 56 which will take us into Cookeville, not Carthage. As soon as I did it, my 'mental' GPS alarm goes off. As soon as I can find a place to turn around - which happens to be the usual place I turn around when I do this and am not going to Cookeville - I pull off. I tell him -

"Well, this ain't the first time I've done this and this is usually where I turn around."

We both just laugh, as I recheck the map just to make sure my sometimers ain't fooling with me again. So we about-face to 53 and I look for the 85 junction. But it never shows itself as we move down highway 53 toward Chestnut Mound. I know exactly where this road comes out, so when we pass over the lake, I just shift my plan to take 70N into Carthage and the slab south. Someone asked me one time if I ever got lost in Tennessee. My answer was a simple one -

"I just keep riding til I come across a road that I know. Don't know if that qualifies as being lost or not."

Soon we arrive in Chestnut Mound and make the short run down 70N then over to I40. It's all slab pretty much for both of us from here, so I flip out the highway wings, set the cruise on, and we join the hustle and bustle back into Nashville. Andy splits at I840 to head to his house and I motor on through Nashville to the Holler. Once again, it's been a great day with great friends and the making of great memories. We both have ridden over 380 miles, but the more important thing is the time well spent with friends. As my Lord reminded a man once -

"...for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses."

It is not things that we will prize as this life slowly slips from our feeble grasp, but our friends - and there is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.