Rode 12 miles in an hour, into Red Clay. The trip is complete. Much more to come…

(Rode an additional 5 miles back to get the car, and 10 miles in a loop through Chickamauga National Park.)

Rode 54 miles in 4:45 in the saddle. Began up on the plateau, riding through fields of tomatoes, egg plants, pumpkins, and more. Raced down highway 30 and to Blythe Ferry Road. Onward to highway 60, along the TN River, through the residential neighborhoods, to Ooltewah. We camped at Skull Island; a wonderful camp.

Up to deep, cold fog. Riding through the empty downtown, where the traffic lights blinked, but there were no cars to stop. Winded our way to Highway 8, toward Fall Creek Falls State Park, Pikeville, and Dayton. We are entering the foothills of the Smokey Mountains, and in the Gap region. 2 mile climbs, and huge drops. (High speed was 47.1 mph today. I was hoping my brakes would hold.) The morning was cold. Wore my balaclava, down vest, polypro, and full raingear. The road had a good shoulder, and was not heavily traveled by cars nor trucks – at least today. We rode on a brand new section of four lane – our part was not open to cars, so we had two of the oncoming lanes all to ourselves. Felt RICH. Rode into Fall Creek Falls, had lunch at The Way Inn. And, then rode into the park, under sunshine, but cooler temps. Had a HUGE race into Pikeville, and enjoyed the historic downtown. Looked like Mayberry RFD. Last night in a wonderful Mexican restaurant, and then a deep sleep. We are 52 miles from our destination. We rode 49 miles in 4:55. Lots of slow climbs and some walking – pushing the bikes up hill.

Rode 47 miles in 4:30. Began in the cool morning air, and rode the back roads toward McMinnville. Stopped for late lunch in Woodbury, at Joe’s and got hugs from the Pie Lady. Then, a cold ride into McMinnville. Daniel tightened all the spokes on his bike, lubed his chain, and balanced out the wheel on his new 36 spoke wheel. We adjusted his front derailer, and futsed with the cable. Expected to be a cold night tonight.

It’s so refreshing to learn and experience the difference between a trip and an adventure. This journey on the trail has been a great adventure- one that has challenged and stretched me in a myriad of ways.
One turning point was after several days of semi primitive camping the first week, the guys headed down a long gravel road on their bikes in a huge national forest as the sun was setting. I was following them in our support vehicle. While it was rapidly getting dark, the guys decided this was a perfect spot right in the middle of nowhere and proceeded to pitch our tents. I am not sure if it was total fatigue, unfamiliarity with my surroundings, a prediction of more rain in the night or something else, but tears started welling up in my eyes. As I began to quietly cry, fears creeped into my head of all the what ifs and I was not sure if I would start to panic. Both the guys saw what was happening. They were awesome as they gently assessed the situation, explained all the protocol if someone were to come down this abandoned road , and then even offered to drive me a good 40 minutes away to find some motel to stay in and be dry and secure.
I believe it was at that moment it struck me that all those Cherokee women and children( and perhaps even some men) probably had very similar fears many years ago. However, some major differences are that they had no support vehicle, no nice tents and rain cover, and NO option to go to a motel. I was saddened to realize the enormity of not having a Plan B and how overwhelming that must have been. I believe just knowing I truly did have a choice and several options calmed my spirit giving me courage to face my fears ,wipe my tears and stay!
It’s amazing that the same is true in many difficult or fearful situations in life we encounter. Most of what we fret or worry about never even happens. Someone once gave me a wooden coin with Faith written in one side and Fear on the other. It was a reminder that if you have one its hard to have the other and most of the time we have a choice!
I finally came to realize a few years ago that I had a choice even amidst tears and fears to get out of an unhealthy abusive relationship,to choose not to enable my child’s addiction even if it means having no contact with him presently, to also handling and overcoming some other hard situations that enslaved me emotionally .
My heart grieves for those who have no choice. I cannot fathom what week after week , month after month, and for some year after year must be like. Those people have a lasting and perhaps unseen trail of tears that cannot be wiped away and fears that cannot be calmed with a few facts and gentle words. May I always remember that moment in the forest when I chose bravely to stay, wipe my tears,and face my fears but to always have tender compassion and mercy on those with no plan B!

20121009-084619.jpg

Many times we are forced to leave our families and our roots because of Civil Wars. These wars can be the battles that raged between the Union and Confederacy, and they can be the wars that are waged in our own families, marriages, and communities.

Often times, these Civil Wars are not civil at all, but result in deep, and seemingly permanent scars. These Civil Wars change us, and change those around us.

This book is not about the Civil War of 1865. But, our ride did inspire us to reflect upon the damage done when neighbor turns against neighbor, husband against wife, and child against family… These Civil Wars certainly create a river of tears… upon which many more are carried.

We’ll publish an ebook about this trip, probably around December 1st. The story will have three threads:
1) The story of the Cherokee Removal (Trail of Tears.)
2) The maps and details of the route that we took.
3) The stories of our own Trails of Tears – that grief we feel when we are forcibly removed from our “place” in the world, and must move ahead with our lives.

It is our hope that the ebook can support others in finding their resilience and voice and moving “onward” through the “whirled” that we live in, and seek occasional shelter from.

I met Brittany Lehmann today again, for the first time. She is the 26 year old ball of fire daughter of my friend Daniel. I met her when I visited them back when he was attending Seminary in Louisville in 1991. Do the math… that was 21 years ago… I remember their small apartment, I remember their toys, I remember the view out their window onto a lawn where they could play. I remember talking with Daniel and Terry about life and its living, and sharing our dreams of our tomorrows. Life doesn’t have to work out the way we wanted it to, or like we thought it would. But, at 51 years old, we all know that life DOES work out, as it does. And, we’ll never know if the life we thought we were planning would have worked out any better than the life we are living… What we need to remember is that life is good, right now… right here… And, we all have to wonder and be ready, for whatever lies around the bend. The only prayer that i have ever prayed in my life, other than prayers of gratefulness is “Thy Will be done, and God, please give me the strength to deal with Thy Will.” And, so far, that prayer has ALWAYS been answered.

Outside of Cedars of the Lebanon State Park, we pulled over at a small gas stop for some calories. In the wind I caught a familiar scent of “good food.” A food truck was parked and serving home cooked food. I was transported from Middle Tennessee to rides that I have taken through Mexico. I ordered my meal, with a grande vaso de Horchata, and talked with the folks in Spanish. The food was hot, plenty, and delicious, and the “feelings” of memories (not the memories themselves) flooded through me. Yes, we are all connected. And, the more we are travelers, rather than tourists, the more connected we become.

An afternoon start – 1:30 pm. We spent the morning organizing our gear, getting Daniel set up with his rig. (Daniel has joined the trip again, and Steve is headed back to Reno.) This is Daniel’s backyard – literally. He has been riding these roads for the past 20 years, so he guided us on a safe exit out of town, where we literally had NO traffic for hours on end. We rode 46 miles to Daniel’s daughter’s place, where I had expected to set up camp in the barn. But, instead, we got an apartment all to ourselves. We rode through Cedars of Lebanon State Park, around through the rural hills of Middle Tennessee. The last 5 miles of a gradual descent, into a flat valley, with a setting sun to the west, making the grass and crops glow like they had been sprayed with melted gold, with a smooth road surface, no traffic, and a temp that was just cool enough to make you pedal a bit harder! What an evening. 46 miles – 3:50 saddle time.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.