Tuesday, October 26, 2010

THE DOGS OF MADISON COUNTY AND OTHER MATTERS!

(Part II)

This is part II of two parts covering Zeke and the Wood-man’s ride on Saturday, October 23, 2010 from Waynesville, NC to Newport, TN.

To read Part I, CLICK HERE!

 

In Part I, the Wood-man and I had just competed our 20th mile of the trip and were sitting nicely amidst the colors of Betsy’s Gap. We were ready to mount up and head down…

The descent from Betsy’s Gap into Madison County is swift and steep with sharp curves being the primary feature of the high road. While there are certainly some high dollar homes near the Gap itself, the quick ride down the mountain gives you glimpses of Southern Appalachian history in both the homesteads, churches, and long closed general stores. Of course, it is hard to take all of this in AND keep your mind on the road in front of you!

First up on the descent was Luck, NC. A small community nestled on either side of NC 209. The good news is that Luck is just above Trust, NC. If you were riding the route in the opposite direction, one could take the position that “you can trust that you’ll come into luck if you just stay the course!” Either way, the ride down the mountain was a great coast with only light pedaling until we came into the Trust General Store area where Dogget Mountain Road intersects with NC 209.

From the Trust General Store website:

What’s In a Name?
In the latter part of the 19th century, under the Rural Free Delivery System, post offices were usually found in homes or stores. A network of “flag” post offices was established so the settlers could reach one easily by foot or by horseback. In those days, before the invention of zip codes., each of these locations was required to have a unique name to facilitate distribution of the mail by the local postmaster. Often the name of the family member or of a topographical feature was used. The P.D. Ebbs store at the junction of Friezeland Creek and Spring Creek Roads (now NC Highways 209 and 63) was officially designated as a mail distribution center in the early 1900’s. There are two versions of how the towns Trust and Luck got their names. A group of settlers choose a name for the new post office. A heated debate that followed was cut short when a dog belonging to Farmer Price wandered into the circle of community residents. The dog’s name was “Trust”. According to Pink Plemmons, founder of Luck, a letter was sent to the Post Master General pointing out the need for post offices in the area, saying the community put their “Trust and Luck” that they would get one. They were so named.

 

As the Wood-man and I passed this location, there was a crowd of people gathered on the bridge where Friezeland and Spring Creeks join. Multiple vehicles with flashing lights surrounded the onlookers as they peered over the edge. As we got closer to the bridge, I could hear hounds baying. Apparently, the bear hunters’ dogs had treed a bear within sight of the bridge.

The Wood-man and I made our way past the crowd and shortly left the closed in mountain valley walls behind. We rode out into the open valley that leads toward Hot Springs, NC.

The Wood-man pedals through Spring Creek

(The Wood-man pedaling into the head wind that made itself known!)

While this was the most level road we’d seen since leaving Waynesville, a headwind rushed us and made for some spirited pedaling. Along the way, we were treated to some of the old Burma Shave signs along the roadway.

A throwback to the past - Burma Shave signs!

(The Burma Shave signs can just be made out on the left…)

If political signs are any indication of the community’s energy, Spring Creek should be buzzing… The political signs, so much roadside litter to me, were abundant and everywhere.

Political Signs in Spring Creek, NC

(Has anyone ever researched if these things really sway voters?)

At the end of this valley, the road again narrows and we found ourselves riding along Spring Creek. In several places, the homes were connected to the main road only by a swinging or foot bridge. Churches were galore along this section of road, as were large boulders that the residents had incorporated into the buildings and landscaping. I’m sure this is a fisherman’s paradise!

Who Let the Hounds Loose?

Shortly after leaving the wide valley floor, we would have our first of three dog encounters of the day. I’ve only had one dog encounter all riding season but this day saw a 300% increase in dog/cycle interactions. The first dog was knee high to a butterfly but could move in a straight line much more effectively than the winged insect. We both saw the dog coming and realized it wasn’t restrained.We were able to pick up our speed and out distance it but, I was afraid that as it kept giving chase the car behind us might crunch it. Fortunately, I think we all survived the experience.

This leg of the ride saw us sharing the road with more automobiles and motorcycles than had been our experience thus far. This section of the road also had lots of sharp turns making it harder for the cars to get by us. It didn’t phase the motorcyclists. Everyone “played nice” and we gave “come around” or “hold back” hand signals when appropriate and most folks waved their thanks as they sped by. Just past the intersection to Max Patch, NC, we came to a climb. After having descended for almost another 15 miles and only pedaled into the headwind briefly, ,my legs moaned and groaned when the ascent began. Fortunately, the climb was neither long nor steep.

At this point, we had re-entered the Pisgah National Forest and were running along the bluff that overlooks Spring Creek.There are numerous pull-offs along this road for viewing the mountain scenery. There is also Rocky Bluff Campground. Within a few minutes, we were pedaling across Spring Creek and into Hot Springs proper. As we crossed the bridge into town, I noted that my odometer had just turned over on 40 miles. Hot Springs, being close to the Appalachian Trail, is populated with businesses serving hikers. More recently, it has also become a mecca of sorts for motorcyclists. The Wood-man and I seemed to be the only self-powered cyclists in view.

I enjoyed a particular pleasure in pulling up beside a Harley and the two riders in their black leathers as we dismounted at the Smoky Mountain Diner. I thought of the contrast with me in my spandex and bright colors and the leather enclosed riders. There’s been many a day when the Navigator and I were the leather clad Harley riders!

After a short break to fuel up (the Wood-man on the veggie plate and me on a small house salad), we headed back on the road. We laughed about the look on the waitress’s face when I tried to order a banana on the side to go with my salad. She wasn’t quite sure what to do with the order but was kind enough to inform me that the produce stand behind them sold bananas!

We quickly made a left hand turn onto NC 70 and the beginning of a 5 mile climb out of Hot Springs to the Tennessee State Line. Near the beginning of the climb is a marker indicating the site where German-American citizens were held during WWI. Shortly after passing a number of small businesses, several of which were geared to the motorcycle market, we had our second dog interaction.

This one came from our right along busy NC 70. The dog was a large breed, perhaps with some Labrador Retriever in the mix. Given that we were climbing, the dog had a distinct advantage in closing the gap. He had set his intersect path well! I yelled ahead to the Wood-man that the dog was coming and we both tried to pull away. The dog seemed satisfied that I was a good target and moved alongside of me to the point that I felt his whiskers on my right leg as I pedaled ahead. Fortunately, the chase was short-lived and he apparently didn’t need to bite me! Later, the Wood-man would tell me that, as he lowered his head to push ahead, he immediately saw a coiled snake directly in the path of his front wheel.

Within 2 miles, the third and final dog alert occurred. We didn’t even see this one until he was upon our wheels. He had gone into stealth mode and didn’t make a sound until he was right at our heels. This one was actually scarier than the first two because of his secret attack. We yelled at the dog and, fortunately, his owner was in the yard and called him back.

The Final Gap Achieved…

NC 70 out of Hot Springs is a nice wide road with a decent gutter. The sun was beginning to get low in the sky and we rode in and out of late afternoon shadow  experiencing both cooling and warming air as we made the final climb up to the Tennessee Line. The road becomes an almost immediate descent at the state line. A few folks were sitting around the bar on the state line enjoying the late afternoon.

The climb up out of Tennessee appeared to be quite a bit steeper than from the N.C. side. We passed two cyclists making their way out of Tennessee. A young man and young woman, were walking their touring bikes up the grade. They both had fully laden panniers and were carrying backpacks. We greeted them as we slid by and tried to be encouraging by letting them know they were near the top. We received a big grin in return and I recall being quite thankful for my light weight carbon fiber Fuji CCR3.

The road before us would soon take us across the French Broad River as it made its way out of N.C. into Tennessee. From there we were rolling on mostly flat river grade road as we made our way toward Newport. Closing in on mile 50 of the trip, the road meandered away from the river into a wider valley where an incomplete housing development existed. The sun was off to our left shining almost directly horizontal to the ground. In the dying light of the day, what appeared to be millions of Lady Bugs could be seen in flight.

We were in their flight pattern as they headed who knows where. I could see them landing on the Wood-man in front of me and hitching short rides on his legs and jersey. At least one of them had the misfortune of flying into my mouth. They are a bitter species…

The road ahead was flat punctuated by a few small rollers as we completed mile 60. Both the Wood-man and I were constantly looking for new positions on our saddles as the day’s ride was beginning to take its toll. We had recently spoken with the Navigator and Sherry Shazam about our meeting place as they travelled down I-40 from Haywood County to meet us. Finally, on the eastern end of Newport, I saw the welcome approach of our Ford Escape and we knew that relief was soon to be enjoyed.

The Wood-man and I pedaled on to a safe stopping place after we completed our 65th mile and gladly placed the bikes on the carrier happy to be sitting on the wider surfaces of the car seats. Our final destination of the evening was still to come.

Our plans called for supper at the Front Porch Restaurant in Cosby, TN. The Wood-man had already secured us a table so we made our way to this culinary fixture in Cosby. Arriving before our appointed time, we were warmly greeted by the owners and staff. After a quick clean-up and clothing change in the restaurant’s small restroom, we sat down to enjoy some “brown bagged” libations. Cosby doesn’t allow on-site alcohol sales so the patrons must pay a cover charge and bring in their own coolers containing beer and/or wine. Liquor is still off-limits.

It was interesting and a throwback to many years ago in my home county of Haywood to see diners entering the restaurant carrying coolers. It made the narrow building seemingly more narrow as the evening progressed and the night’s customers filled the place. Mercifully, it was a smoke-free environment although my hunch is that was not always the case.

Oct23_FrntP01_WoodSherr

(Wood-man and Sherry Shazam)

Oct23_FrntPr02_ZekeKat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Zeke and the Navigator at the Front Porch)

We enjoyed the tales of Lewis, the 85+ year old owner, when he shared with us his experiences of being a 17 year old young man enlisted in the Navy during WWII. Having been associated with the Honor Air Program for a few years now, I always try to engage WWII veterans in conversation when I have the chance. Lewis was an exceptional conversationalist as he shared with us the stories of his service near the end of the war and his return home.

This particular evening, the band was the Holloway Sisters out of Lenoir City, TN. An engaging group comprised of Mom (on the fiddle), Dad (on the banjo), Michelle (vocals/guitar) and Sondra (vocals and pretty much every stringed instrument) were obviously favorites of the crowd. The bluegrass/gospel songs were a great way to enjoy our meal.

The Holloway Sisters Band

(The Holloway Sisters on the small bandstand of the Front Porch)

Sondra and Michelle Holloway

(Sisters Sondra (l) and Michelle (r) entertained with great harmony and big smiles!)

Our day’s ride was now part of my cycling history: another goal accomplished for the season. Despite the weariness of my body, I was pleased to be headed home under the capable guidance of the Navigator, who abandoned her traditional seat for that of chauffer for the evening. In the end, it really was about the journey and not the final destination…

Until later,

Zeke

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