A Day Of Answers

January 29, 2011

After I had my right knee replaced on December 9, 2010 I have more questions than I have answers about riding again. I have been through serious orthopedic procedures before which had put my riding in doubt, but nothing quite like this. Riding any distances at all requires the ability to bend the knee, support the weight of the bike, mount and dismount, and get the bike up on the center stand - all which put stress and strain on the knees. I have pushed myself as hard as I can in physical therapy but I still do not know the answers yet. Up to this point I have been able to get my right leg over the saddle but it is not comfortable at all. Friday was my last day of 'official' physical therapy so from here on it is up to me at home. This Saturday has all the makings of a beautiful day and my 'chore list' is very short. I am up early and figure I'd better wake up the 'ST' girls and let them run. This keeps the batteries charged up and the fluids working and is just good for my morale. But I need to know a little bit more than that this morning. I keep the seats off the bikes when they are parked so hungry mice don't chew up the wiring. But I figure since I have the time, I can at least put a seat on SweetTreat, the first one near the garage door, and see how mount and dismount is working. It is much improved over my early attempts of a few weeks ago, which really encourages me. Just sitting on SweetTreat does not feel to bad at all. What if I kick her off the center stand? Well, I do and holding her up is not problem - a second answer. And since I already have her off the stand, why not just take her for a little spin down the driveway and back? When I pull her back into the garage with no drama, it's time to see if I can dismount and swing her up on the center stand. The center stand business causes a little twinge, but it is manageable. So I have most of my answers, except how well will the knee work after sitting a while. Well, I say to myself -

"I reckon there ain't no time like the present to find out."

One of my favorite quotes is from Stonewall Jackson -

"When your duty is clear, do not consult your fears."

My duty is quite clear at this point and I've got a plan. So I go back into the house and fix me a scrumptious breakfast of leftover rib eye steak, eggs, biscuits and homemade peach preserves - to give me the strength to do what needs to be done. With enough vittles in my belly to carry me for several days, I get my go rags on, kiss my wife goodbye and tell her -

'Sweetie, I believe I'm gonna go for a little ride."

As she always does she says -

"I'll be praying for you. Be careful."

Since it's still a little cool, suiting up takes a little bit of time, and the extra pounds I've gained since the surgery ain't helping the cause one bit. SweetTreat needs feeding, so the first stop is the local Shell station. I manage a dismount and center stand swing with no trouble. She gets her fill and then we're off like a dirty shirt.


One of the joys of riding in my area is that I can just pick my route and adjust it as I go along. I figure I'll take the shortcut through Newsom Station to get to the Trace. This area was one of the hardest hit in the Nashville flood since it is right along the Harpeth River, the biggest source of flooding.

There's a little one lane underpass that I am always watchful, cause you never know if someone from the other way is gonna come whizzing through there like their britches are on fire. Fortunately, a car whizzes through just before I get there and it's clear for my passage.

  Not knowing how well the knee will do after bending for a while, my logical route is take my old friend, the Natchez Trace. There will be little traffic, no stop signs, and plenty of safe places to pull off and rest and turn around if I need to. Some folks call the Trace boring, I just call it peaceful. And if you know where the rangers are usually lurking, it can a lot more than a boring ride.
  There's still some snow in the shadows, but I pretty much have it all to myself. It gives me a chance to crank the wick up a bit and see how cornering affects the knee. By the time I get to the Leiper's Fork junction, I think I'm gonna be alright. I'm having a little trouble working the back brake, but that's probably not a bad thing. So I figure I'll just get off here and see what I can get into. Maybe I'll do fifty miles or so and pack it in for the day. Or then again, may be not...
  Out of Leiper's Fork there are really pretty roads and twists and turns. I always figure this landowner probably has more invested in his fences that I do in my whole house. But it's a mighty fine piece of pavement to check out your cornering techniques.
As I'm rolling along I figure what would a day like this be without a run over Sugar Ridge Road. It's another mighty fine piece of asphaltic pleasure that twists and turns and then drops off into Spring Hill.

Spring Hill comes and goes and next I'm heading up another favorite called Pull Tight Hill. The name, so I've been told, comes from the tale that wagoneers tightened up their teams closer to the wagon before they tried to get up this incline. Or at least that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

  Up on top, you get a great view down the valley, which is so typical of many places in Middle Tennessee.
  From Pull Tight, I make my way down through Chapel Hill, to check out another road I need refreshing on. Then a quick run down one of favorites, Verona Road, which drops me into my hometown, Lewisburg. I usually run down Spring Place Road where my maternal grandparents had a farm, but I need to check another road today for a future trip. So I head down Yell Road til I come to an old road that I know well - Bivins Road. This is where my maternal grandmother was raised, my great grandfather had his farm, and my three great uncles had their farms. And by the way, their last name was Bivins, just in case you were wondering. I spent many happy summers in these valleys, riding my bicycle up and down the creek gravel roads. Now they are chip and seal, which makes it a little easier to traverse on my ST1100. When I get to a special bend in the road, I stop for a picture of the log cabin where my grandmother was born. It's had a lot added to it since then, but the original structure still stands. Right in this bend in the creek, my great grand daddy grew some of the best watermelons this hungry youngin ever took a mouthful of. And the old spring house on the creek, long since fallen it, kept 'em nice and cold for future eating.
  Thankfully, the loop I pick is completely paved, but just a little too rough to take folks on. It's steep and narrow so I'll just keep it in my heart and to myself. I pop out on top of Yell Hill, and decide it's about time for a break. I've got a hundred miles already and I'm just a little dry. I figure I'd better head back toward the Holler so I make a quick stop just outside of town. Highway 431 will head me back toward Nashville, and I've got a lot of routing options off of it if I still feel froggy.
  The knee is doing fine though I do find myself dragging my right foot in tight corners. It tends to want to hang down so I've got to work on that. As I head up 431 and still doing fine, I figure I'll just take one of my favorite roads back across toward the Trace - highway 247. It's a real dandy and seldom is seen any local constabulary or traffic on it.
  It pops right out on highway 50, just east of the Trace. From the highway 50 intersection on the Trace and northward are the best riding parts of the Trace. It's a little under 50 miles and I could probably ride it in my sleep. Outside of some bicyclists, I have it pretty much to myself. Except, of course for one park ranger who I hear before I see him. Ah, the wonders of modern electronics to prevent revenue enhancement ...  
  It's good ride back to the Holler and a beautiful day. I just set the cruise on and roll on up to the north terminus.  

When I pull SweetTreat back into the garage, we've done just a shade over two hundred miles. Not bad for my first time out and the best part is with little drama at all. The knee rather likes it when I use the Highway Wings so that's a good thing. I've still got to work more on my flexibility, but that will come as more of the swelling goes away and I keep up my home therapy. It feels great to be in the saddle again and to have some real answers about where I am physically. I know I'm not ready for a cross country trip, but that will come in time. Answers - I like them a lot better than the questions.