Waynesville, NC to Sweetwater, TN
I think I have met more Ohioans in Sweetwater, TN than I have in Ohio. It seems like everyone from southwest Ohio waits until they are retired and moves down to this slice of paradise in the foothills of the Smokies! Let me step back. Since my last blog we have ridden from Waynesville to Gatlinburg, TN (65 miles), then from Gatlinburg to Maryville (a 40 miles ride), took a day to build in 97 degree Farenheit weather and then headed to Sweetwater (only 35 miles). The rides have gotten significantly easier after Gatlinburg because we crested the western end of the Smokies and have been gliding down the foothills towards the Mississippi. The summer has also caught up with us and it has been in the upper nineties the last three days. But we are surviving.
The group itself has stayed fairly cohesive. I have been a little frustrated with the group leaders because the atmosphere is extremely campy. This means that the 1 AM curfew on build days has actually been enforced and we get chastised about little things – i.e. not talking to community members enough after building for 8 hours in sun – and it is starting to wear on me. I understand the point of the rules and regulations put in place, but they aren't really empowering people when they subject us to their version of what is “fun.” Nonetheless, I shall prevail.
Not to say all is poor. I love cycling. I love climbing mountains and I love going fast down hills. I also have some great friends and few enough responsibilities that I can’t complain too much. So I won’t. But I will give some highlights:
1. Passing into Tennessee: North Carolina and Tennessee but up to each other at the top of a mountain pass. My friend Colin and I climbed for forty miles at an excruciating 7 mph and reached the top around 1 PM. Although he beat me to the top, it was pretty cool that we were the first two people to reach Tennessee. We took pictures while holding our bikes over our head. I will place pictures on facebook soon and – if I can figure it out – I will plop them on here too.
2. Memorial Day in Gatlinburg: The descent into Gatlinburg was terrifying. Thousands of tourists are driving into or out of the area and being a biker was incredibly dangerous. This was exacerbated because it was memorial day weekend. The town itself was also really weird. The fact that the beautiful Smoky Mountains are bordered by such a filthy city is kind of depressing. We did get to camp out that night, which was pretty cool.
3. Maryville: We built for a day here and celebrated my Dutch friend’s (Olivier) 24th birthday. I had a lot of fun for many reasons: I got to sleep on a couch, I was awesome at pool, I got to put up two walls at the build site, and got to serve drinks at a community dinner hosted at the church (which is my next highlight). Together these things made Maryville a lot of fun. FYI: They pronounce it "Mur-ville." I have no idea why.
4. The Community Dinner at the Church in Maryville: we didn’t realize that when the Church of the New Providence let us sleep on their grounds we were going to be put to work. My job was to pour sweet tea and water and hand them out to folks. The fun part about the experience was not the work but rather the people. Let’s do a quick equation:
Free church dinner + middle of no where town in Tennessee = folks who can't afford food (the intended crowd), cheap people (we all know examples of these type of people), and the winkies (Just looking for a good time).
Now, I don’t want to sound judgmental about the people at this meal but I did accidentally confuse one lady at the meal solely on the concept of drink refills. The rule was one cup per person, but pitchers could refill indefinitely. She returned to my table with her individual cup five times to keep refilling it and distributing it to her family one by one in a matter of five minutes. Classic.
Well I am tired and we have 70 miles to ride tomorrow in 90+ heat again so I am signing off. I miss you all and hope you are enjoying summer! I know I am.
Live. Love. Ride.