What a Spectacular Area to visit! What Delightful Weather we had! What Nice Roads & Routes we rode! What a Lovely Lodge we stayed-in! What a Friendly Staff to look after us at that lodge! What Delicious Lunch & Dinner we had at that lodge! What Great Friends we have to share all this with!
Of course, I’d be remiss if I did not extend a huge thank you to our friends Tim & Sharon Patterson (aka, Team Inseam) as well as new friend and Managing Partner of the Dancing Bear Lodge, Matt Alexander, who lured us to this special weekend for cyclists in their backyard.
I guess it’s fairly obvious we had a wonderful time, eh? I’m not quite sure why this particular weekend in Tennessee seemed so special and perhaps that’s because there were so many things that contributed to it. The weather may have been a big factor, in that this was perhaps the most comfortable weekend weather we’ve had since March or April. Overnight temperatures finally pushed below the high-70’s into the mid-50’s and were only tickling the high 70’s and low-80’s in the afternoon, instead of the mid to upper 90’s that have dogged-us all summer long. The skies were azure blue, the humidity was about perfect and the location — nestled in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains in Blount County Tennessee — just doesn’t get any better for cycling destinations.
Add to that a weekend stay in a warm and friendly lodge with a very attentive, multi-tasking staff who immediately and consistently recognize you by name and you just feel like you’re a very welcome and appreciated guest. More about the lodge as I go through our weekend, so on to the details.
Per the agenda we received well ahead of our weekend, the “casual Friday warm-up ride” was not scheduled to start at the Dancing Bear Lodge in Townsend, Tennessee until 3:00PM, so we were fortunate in that we wouldn’t need to leave our home near Atlanta, Georgia until around 10:30 am. This gave us plenty of time to sleep-in (7:00 am is sleeping in for moi) while still leaving enough time to put the tandem and “support equipment” in the truck, pack our cycling clothes, pack our street clothes and knock out a few other errands like picking up dry-cleaning, getting some cash, getting my truck washed (6 weeks of dry, dusty weather + one shower & sitting in the garage for another week untouched made it something of a mess) and then buying a new U.S. flag to replace the one that was done in a few nights earlier by high winds rounded out the morning.
We succeeded in pulling out the driveway around 10:30 AM as planned and had a mostly uneventful trip. I say mostly only because we decided to use our 90-minute buffer of extra time to explore a different route around Chattanooga, Tennessee that our Garmin GPS seemed to prefer. Well, we won’t do that again. It was 11-miles shorter and in GPS-land, about 4-minutes shorter than our usual I75 to I40 route through Chattanooga. Of course, that must have assumed the 20 or so stoplights we encountered would have been green: Ugg. Like I said, we won’t do that again. We also won’t do Checker’s chili-cheese dogs for lunch in the car again without a fork & knife. What a delicious, less than healthy mess that was: what were we thinking? Oh yeah, since we’re stuck in traffic and there’s a Checkers right there, let’s grab lunch and save some time.
Movin’ on… we arrived at the Dancing Bear a little before 2:00 PM and received the aforementioned warm greeting when we checked-in to the lodge. Our room was one of six on the second floor, accessible only via a central stair of the log construction lodge and I had our bags up and in our room mere moments after we checked-in. Our room was huge with a vaulted ceiling and filled with wooden log furnishings throughout: quite homey, thank you very much. WiFi service was excellent and effortless: just fire up the laptop and click yes to log-in to the lodge network. After checking Email, we got dressed in our cycling togs and headed down to get the bike ready for the afternoon ride.
As we readied ourselves for the ride we met a number of the other Friday riders and guests at the lodge, a couple of whom were recreational cyclists like ourselves along with quite a few local and not-so-local (Memphis, TN) club riders who looked like they’d be dropping us in short order, if they so desired. We were also joined by long-time and tandem-family members Roger & Eve, aka. Team Straussky, who also hail from the Atlanta area. Our ride leader was Matt Alexander, mentioned above, who also happens to be a pretty darn strong cyclist, hence the Bicycle Bash Weekend being hosted from the lodge. Despite our initial concerns about being dropped like hot potatoes, the group was very well-behaved on our 30-mile ride. We left and returned from the lodge along a familiar route that parallels the Little River between Townsend and Maryville, TN. However, this version of the ride took us away from the river and one point and into the foothills for some casual climbing: no going into oxygen debt this weekend. Sadly for one rider, a fairly fast downhill coupled with an errant turn by a lead rider caused him to over-apply his front brake at about the same time he hit a small pothole sending he and his bike end-over-end and giving us all a huge scare. Thankfully, he and his helmet were only scuffed-up by the event. His bike –– and all-carbon BMC machine with Zipp carbon wheels — was in good enough shape to get him back to the lodge, but upon closer inspection the next day was found to have a cracked rear Zipp rim. A couple riders — both physicians — opted to ride back to the lodge with our fallen friend to make sure he got there safely while the rest of us headed on to finish the original route.
Notwithstanding the shunt on the downhill, it was a grand ride during which our single-bike riding companions played nice and didn’t drop-us. We opted to finish the last few miles of the ride at a slightly more casual pace along Little River with our friends Roger & Eve vs. the usual time-trial finish that happens along Little River during the Tennessee Tandem Rally’s Friday ride, which was nice. Just a great day on the bike with perfect weather.
We returned to the lodge with enough time for clean-up and some fairly pricey Margaritas on the front porch during the scheduled 6:00 PM social mixer. We spent much of our time chatting with Roger & Eve up and until a little before 7:00 PM, at which point we needed to head to a local restaurant for dinner with Tim & Sharon. Roger & Eve carpooled with us to Aubrey’s where we had a very nice dinner while helping Tim and co-workers from Cycology Bicycles pay tribute to a friend who passed well before his time as well as celebrating their daughter Melissa’s receipt of her doctorate earlier that day down in Atlanta. It was a wonderful evening capped off with a Jagermeister toast to the memory of their friend.
We pretty much turned-in once we were back at the Lodge, noting that early to bed for me means way too early to rise.