Day 23, May 22nd – Santeetlah Creek to Reliance, TN
Following a good nights sleep along the river I packed up, made breakfast, and had a conversation with Bill about my travels for the day and he recommended a few places in Tellico Plains. The ride started out pretty mellow with small climbs along the river on the gravel service road. Then things started getting steep.
After the hard mornings climb, I opted to remain on the unpaved road for the downhill ride (There was an option to get on the Cherohala Skyway once up top). I was soon cruising down the rough roads, racing the rushing water in the adjacent river. This continued for about 5 miles and then started to level out but still remained a decent for another 10 miles along the river. It was a beautiful ride. I’m sure the Cherohala Skyway is great too, but since I was already up on the Blue Ridge Parkway I’m glad I took the traffic free backroads.
The river had loads of waterfalls which grew to impressive sizes toward the foot of the mountain as more and more streams joined together. The end of the service road joined with the skyway which I rode 5 miles into Tellico Plains. It seemed most things in town were closed so I grabbed a Subway sandwich and a couple groceries and was on my way again. I soon found myself out of service again and winding through foothills and eventually what I would classify as potential moonshiner territory. It was getting late and I was struggling to find suitable camping spots. Nearing 8 o’clock I passed a ranch and someone outside waved as I passed. I waved and as I passed over the hill I thought I’d double back and ask about camping spots (maybe I’d get a place in the yard). Well by the time I got back the man I waved at was back in his home. I did see that the was a fly and tackle shop that was “motorcycle friendly” according to a small sign at the turn off. I decided to check it out. Well apparently this was the turn off to Reliance, TN which is what I had seen earlier on the map. Reliance downtown is basically the bait and tackle shop and it just so happens that they have camping out back.
The store was closed but the owner was still inside having a beer with some locals. He offered me a spot for $10 which I was happy to take for a shower and a nice place to put up a tent. My camp neighbors were Kayakers from Georgia that came up for the week to ride the river when they open the dam nearby. I hung out with them for a bit around the campfire and a couple of free beers. They offered me a trainer kayak if I wanted to stay and hang out but the dam was going to open for a couple days so I politely declined. It would have been awesome I’m sure.
Acts of Kindness: 1 – Free beer from my Kayaker neighbors at camp
Day 24, May 23th – Reliance, TN to Chattanooga
I had a homemade breakfast burrito and coffee at the fly and tackle corner gas station for $4 (with tip!) and chatted with the owners dad about a 2 week trip he had done across Florida by foot. He had an argument with a friend about what would be the fastest way for the previous settlers to warn of an attack… by foot or by river. They both took a friend and went by foot or canoe and lived purely off the land eating frogs and some sort of common ground squirrel. He won by foot in the end. He was a survivalist trainer for the army so this is something he did well. He made me feel like quite the sissy with my stove, coffee, and goodies! He was really excited about my trip though and wanted me to let him know when I get out west.
I rode from Reliance toward Ocoee, leaving the mountains behind. In Ocoee, I stopped to send out a few host stay requests in Chattanooga since the hostel which I tried calling the other night was full for the weekend. I didn’t have much hopes since it was memorial day weekend and very last minute. As a backup option I found a cheap hotel about 4 miles from downtown that I figured I could treat myself to for a day or two to rest up. I was about 10 miles out from Ocoee when Chuck from Warmshowers.org gave me a call. He was excited I had contacted him and said I was free to stay with his family. I got an address from him and headed to his place. The roads on todays ride were nothing to write home about. Lots of traffic and not the greatest shoulders.
I got to Chuck’s home and was welcomed in by his family. I got a shower in and some of their friends came over. They put together a great dinner and I had a fun time socializing with everyone. Beautiful home and family. They were very generous. Chuck and I have had lots of good conversations on touring. He is leaving for an 11 month tour on June 10th and he is taking the bike I almost bought. His setup is super light and I love the look! I’m feeling like I should be throwing out half of my panniers!
Acts of Kindness: 1 – Chuck invited me into his home after a last minute couch surf request!
Day 25, May 24th – Chattanooga (Rest Day)
Today Chuck got his last frame bag in the mail and so he got to fully load up his bike for the first and we went for a spin into Chattanooga. About 3 miles in I got my second flat of the trip. A pretty big nail punctured my tube and managed to put several holes in my tube. Unfortunately I left my spares at Chuck’s house! We gave patching it a shot but we were short on patches and couldn’t seal all the holes. Patty, Chuck’s wife came to the rescue and drove to meet us with my tubes from the house. We continued to the riverfront and after a good tour Chuck left me at the coffee shop, Stone Cup, to update the blog do some work on the computer. After a couple coffees I continued to take a look around town. I check out Brewhaus just down the street and after chatting with a Chattanooga local (name is escaping my memory) for a bit and enjoying a pretzel I headed downtown to take a look at the hostel.
The hostel (The Crash Pad) was very cool. A group of climbers helped start it and it seems they do a good job helping visitors go do any outdoor adventures they might want to do. There is a lot of good mountain biking and rock climbing in the Chattanooga area. Next door to the hostel is the Flying Squirrel, which is a bar and restaurant that was created by the hostel owners as well. It was all very cool construction and good atmosphere. I sat next to Andrew who recently moved to Chattanooga. We had some good conversations about entrepreneurship in the area.
Acts of Kindness: 5 – Chuck gave me a tour; Patty brought me my spare tubes; Dinner and breakfast at Chuck’s; Free beer at Brewhaus; Free beer from Andrew at Flying Squirrel… Thanks Andrew!
Day 26, May 25th – Chattanooga to Tracy City
Got a late start from Chuck’s place after a good breakfast, finishing some laundry, enjoying extra helpings of coffee, and tuning the bike up on Chuck’s repair stand. Chuck also helped me straighten out my route out of town.
Luckily I gained an hour when I crossed into a new time zone today (back in central time!!). Today’s ride had two climbs: one up Signal Mountain and the other up the plateau on the other side of Signal Mountain. I rode through a very small town, Sequatchie, before the plateau climb. I stopped at the gas station and a few of the locals wished me luck on the climb up Sequatchie Mountain Road (I had a hard time with accents here). I needed it! I was in my lowest gear and standing half the time on the way up! Things flattened out on the way to Tracy City. I was feeling drained from the heat. When I rolled into Tracy City I didn’t have a camping place completely worked out. I talked to the owner, Bill, of the restaurant “The Gizzard” while stopped at the stop sign across the street from the restaurant. It was the first open place in town I had seen. I came in and had some grub. He gave me some pork rinds to try… I’ve never had them before. Not something I’d normally try, but he said he makes them and I’ll usually give anything a try. Interesting – I don’t think they’ll make my favorite list, but not bad.
Bill and his wife chatted with me for a bit. They recommended a campsite just down the road which is along the Fiery Gizzard Trail, which his restaurant was name after. I hike a half mile trail with my bike to the old CCC camp and set up. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to find a suitable place to hang my food in the dark… about 50 attempts later and my own throwing stick ricocheting into my face I finally got it up and crashed for the evening.
Acts of Kindness: 5 – Chuck and his family were very generous… I had breakfast, did laundry, tuned up the bike with Chuck’s stand and rags, Chuck loaded me up with snacks for the road; Bill at “The Gizzard” recommended a camping place and gave me some complimentary pork rinds.
TOTAL miles: 1223 – Over 1000 officially!