Archive for category scenery

Lather and a camping trip

Lather was sixty years old today

And Lather came home from his cage.

He looked at me eyes wide and plainly said

Is it true I’m no longer middle aged?

And I should have told him “No, you’re not old.”

And I should have let him go on…smiling…babywide.

— Apologies to Grace Slick

So I am officially old now, and to console myself and demonstrate that 60 really is the new 59, I took the day off and rode.  I rolled up to Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The weather was perfect and traffic in this most-visited national park is still relatively moderate in early May.  The ride followed the Little River, which is a serious of cascades and pools carved into bedrock and boulder.  There were also cascades of penstemon and maiden hair fern, and the mountain laurel was just coming into bloom.  The odometer read 99 miles when I got home after about nine hours on the road, including a stop for pretty good burger at the Riverstone in Townsend on the return leg.

A couple of weeks later, a change of travel plans created an opportunity for a camping trip to Citico Creek.

So I loaded up the touring bike and headed out.  The plan was to follow  the proposed route of USBR-21 (with minor deviations) from Knoxville, south to Vonore.  There, my route takes a left off of USBR-21 (which is on the wide shoulder of US-411 at this point) and onto SR-360.  I went straight where 360 turns right, and it becomes Citico Road.  This road rolls eastward for a few miles before picking up Citico Creek, which it follows into the Cherokee National Forest. The pavement ends at about mile 70 on this route, measured from my house.  There are no major climbs, but it is all hilly, and there are some steep climbs.

Camping on the Citico Creek corridor is limited to areas specified by signs, and the two developed campgrounds have limited services.  Most notably, they do not have water, so a bike camper needs to be prepared to filter a lot of water.  If that does not sound appealing, Indian Boundary Campground is available further on down the road and up a significant climb. The bike camper can skip the Young Branch Horse Camp, where a premium is charged for the extra facilities to support horses.  But I find it worth the $6 per night at Jake Best (mile 75) for a table to sit at, and the pit toilet beats finding fresh spots in a field of TP flags.  I have been in this area on busy summer weekends when it was difficult to find a camping spot, so arrive early or visit at off-peak times if you want your choice of a spot.

The ride started with pleasant, cool temperatures, but there was some storm activity approaching and scattered showers during the day.  I was not feeling that great, and after about 50 miles, I considered the alternative of a shorter trip to Abrams Creek Campground on the southern edge of the Smokies Park.  I found a place where I had a connection on my cell phone (which was being charged by the dynohub).  I discovered that, as I feared, Abrams Creek would not open until the next weekend (Memorial Day).  So it was back to plan A.

The rest of the ride was slow but uneventful until it started raining lightly.  For the last fifteen miles or so, there was a light intermittent rain, necessitating bringing out the raincoat.  Being a wool guy, I was comfortable, even when a little soggy.

I set up camp mostly between showers.  A serious thunderstorm came through at about 4:00 AM.  I could feel a light mist through the rainfly of my MST Hubba tent at the peak of the storm, but I just got damp.

After the storm passed, the weather got very pleasant.  I spent most of day 2 hanging around camp, including a short ride to enjoy the scenery.  For the fluvial geomorpholy geeks out there, Citico Creek goes through the sequence of Rosgen A, B, and C classifications in about 10 miles.

Different route choices on the return trip on day 3 added close to 5 miles. The weather stayed pleasant but breezy.

I was remarkably slow on this trip.  In the past, I could figure on a net average speed of about 10 mph, including stops.  I was just over 8 mph on this trip.  The weight of all the food I could eat in three days might have been a factor. I was not in great shape, and of course I am now old. This was the first time I have traveled with front and rear panniers, and the wind was against me in both directions — the wet weather was coming from the south and southwest and the fair weather was from the north. The bike handled the weight and the distribution of the weight well; it felt solid with no handling quirks.

Wildflowers, wildlife (deer, turkeys, coyote) and great scenery made this a wonderful trip for a long weekend.


citico bike

On arrival at Jake Best Campground


Citico Creek


Small tributary




Galax (Galax urceolata)




Chainguards protect the chain from the elements, as well as protecting the rider from the chain.  I do not know why the software insists on turning this image upside down.


Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa) and Indian Pinks (Spigelia maralandica).  These are in my home garden, but I saw both on the trip.


Copper iris (Iris fulvens) and Christmas fern (Polystychum acrostichoides) also in my home garden. I have not seen these in the wild.






Leave a comment

A few photos

Cades Cove on a bike camping trip last fall; a back road on an early spring day; and a new frame for

, ,

Leave a comment

December in Knoxville

It has been cold, at least for Knoxville.  A little snow and a little ice has turned some recent mornings into a winter wonder-how-I’m-getting-to-work land. 

In addition to the cold rides to work in the morning, weekend rides have seen water bottles icing up.  None of this is a big deal farther north, but this is not something we are used to here.







The Fourth Annual Tour de Lights took place last night, and a good time was had by all.

More photos (some from me) and more details on the Bike Program blog.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Just some pictures

Just a few photos I have accumulated, mostly on bike rides…

Bella appears unimpressed with the refurbished Phil bottom bracket

 An old house and some barns…

This sign strikes me as rather odd.  I am still trying to figure out what constitutes an inappropriate truck and why they need their own route.

I rode up to Elkmont in the GSMNP a few weeks ago.  I saw this little installation in the Little River.  I don’t know if it was built by someone who was just messing around in the creek or if someone intended it to be Art.  Either way, it had on interesting cumulative aesthetic impact.  They are not quite as ephemeral as sand castles, but they will be gone the first time the water comes up.

The Early arrives home with new paint

Leave a comment

Back in the saddle again

My energy level returned to normal rather abruptly during week 7 after surgery, an encouraging sign.  This was also my first week back to work full time.

The surgeon said I could get back on the bike eight weeks after surgery.  On the eight-week anniversary (Wednesday april 14), I did a test ride after work.  I was slow but pain free, so I rode to work the next day, and did a grocery run to the coop on Saturday.  Things are getting back to normal.

My first longer ride was the next Sunday.  I took the Early out on the back roads to the south.  It was a fabulous spring day, all blue sky, gentle breezes, and April flowers.  The trees were the electric green of freshly-open leaves.   It was a day not to be missed.  I took off my arm warmers, but it was cool enough to leave the leg warmers on to keep my knees happy.  I did 26 pleasant miles at a blazing speed of 10.4 mph, with generous use of my gramps gears (including the lowest gear, 26×28 [25″]) on the climbs.

This last week, I rode to work every day.   My commute is only 6 miles round trip, but with miscellaneous errands and meetings (including a trip to the hospital for my weekly blood draw for the warfarin test), I ended up with about 50 miles of utility riding.  Along with a 33 mile ride today (another pleasant day, though windy), I am building up rapidly  to my pre-surgery mileage (I hope not too rapidly).  I am still slow, but it feels good, and I seem to be recovering well.

With the new heart-rate monitor, I am obsessing about my pulse.  I have kept track of my resting pulse over the years, but I have no baseline for my active heart rate.  I find it surprising how quickly it goes up, how high it goes,  and how slowly it goes back down.  My resting pulse has been high since surgery, but is getting back to normal (60).  Before surgery, it would return to 60 pretty quickly after mild to moderate activity, but that has not been the case recently.  Just this week, it seems to be recovering more quickly.

Barn off Tarklin

Kimberlin Heights barn

Rays Gap barn

Leave a comment

The Spring of my Discontent

This year, April really is the cruelest month.  The weather is great, early flowers are out, trees are budding, but I can’t ride.  It hurts to see other people on their bikes while I am confined to a car.   I am missing the unfolding of spring in the East Tennessee countryside.


The trilliums are thinking about flowering

It has been a little over 6 weeks since surgery, and according to my doctors, my sternum is not yet healed enough to trust with the vibrations, potholes, and other vicissitudes of riding.  I am not supposed to lift anything over about 10 lbs (though I have fudged on this a bit) or ride until eight weeks have elapsed.  I am counting the days and trying to satisfy myself with walks up the greenway toward Ijams.   (And BTW, I think this greenway, along with most in Knoxville, really suck for bike riding, but that is fodder for another post.) 

It's raining violets

I can see a lot of progress in my recovery.  I started putting in some time at work, about two hours a day, three weeks ago and my hours have gradually increased; next week, I should be back to full time.  My energy level varies day to day. On good days, I am pretty much back to normal, though I have not put two good days together yet.  On the not-so-good days, my energy level is low and I tire quickly (it is quite possible that the not-so-good days have something to do with overdoing on the good days).

Bloodroot might be past its peak

May apples are unfolding themselves

I am trying to walk on a regular basis to aid my recovery and with the goal of starting to build back up to reasonable condition.  I started training before the existence of heart rate monitors and watt meters, so I know my body’s responses to exercise through experience.  Because of this, and because I am basically a Luddite, I have stuck with the level-of-effort approach to training.  However, since the valve replacement, the old cues don’t work and I can’t figure out what is going on with my body, so I bought my first heart rate monitor.

Timex heart rate monitor

I don’t expect to use it long, so I bought a cheap one, a $50 Timex ordered from my local bike shop.  The unit consists of a wrist watch that looks like it might have come out of a gumball machine for a quarter, along with the sensor that wraps around the chest.  Though it looks and feels really cheap, it is actually reasonably comfortable.  The features are limited compared to the more expensive ones, but that is all I need, and so far, it has performed admirably.  My morning walk today lasted a little more than an hour.  I kept my pulse under 140, and averaged about 110.

, ,

Leave a comment

River Bluff Wildlife Area

Wife, brother (visiting from LA), and I got a tour of the western anchor of the proposed Urban Wilderness and Historic Corridor .  This parcel is now referred to as the River Bluff Wildlife Area, but most of us know it as the Rose Property. 

There has been a bunch of  new high-density development on top of this hill.  High density is good, usually, but this area is too steep for high density, too poorly served by roads, and too far from services.  It becomes high-density sprawl that requires car transportation, but the only access is by narrow, windy roads on the edge of a precipice, and through traffic bottlenecks.  If this kind of development were to occur on the Rose Property, it would wreck the existing view of the wooded river bluffs currently visible from UT and Downtown.

The good news is that Legacy Legacy Parks just closed on the property, and this area will become part of the Knoxville parks system.  The Legacy Parks Foundation welcomes contributions to support this and other purchases in the corridor.

We started up by the water tower that now dominates the skyline.   It is a symbol of bad planning, worse communication, and general ugliness.

There are woods, bluffs, and two ponds in the hinterland.

There is a little ice on the pond and at the outlet of the pond.

At the base of the river bluff  there is an old road. It’s perfect for a trail, with potential for connection to a riverside greenway system (should the rest of the system ever happen).

And from the top of the bluff, there are views down stream (waste water treatment plant and university on right, UT hospital on left)…

And up river, toward down town…


In spite of the ugliness in context, the water tower looked kind of cool on the way out…

And here are a couple more out-of-context pictures:

Small glade cress, House Mountain, December 28

Neyland Stadium struggles to rise from the fog

, , , ,