Day 1: Thursday & The Challenge Ride
For this year’s Tennessee Tandem Rally (TTR), Debbie and I decided to take off an extra day so we could participate in the “social” version of the Thursday Challenge Ride. Our plan was to drive up early on Thursday morning and meet the other riders at the Fort Loudoun State Park. The Thursday Challenge ride would head out to Tellico Plains and then up the Cherohala Skyway for as many miles and as many feet of elevation as each team could stand. The “social” version would vector off the Skyway up River Road along the Tellico River to the Bald River Falls and then head back down the mountain to the Tellico Kats Deli for lunch with the “challenge” riders.
Our original plan also had us taking only our Calfee tandem and leaving our triplet at home as we were pretty sure all of the guest stokers had rides for the weekend. However, late on Wednesday we received a call from our friends James & Brenda in Murfreesboro, TN, who let us know we’d most likely have a triplet opportunity on Thursday due to a slight change in our host’s plans. Instead of riding with our friend Lisa on Thursday, the new plan called for them to stoke their green Co-Motion PeriScope Trident with our rally host, Tim, at the helm. We were enlisted to bring along our triplet so we could team up with Lisa: woohoo! Just love riding triplets with our friends!!!
With the new plan in hand, we packed the truck with both our Calfee tandem and the Pearl on Wednesday evening and left the house around 5:30am on Thursday morning for the relatively easy 2.5-hour drive up to Fort Loudoun.
We arrived at about 8:35am and shortly after getting the triplet down from the truck we saw a few other familiar faces begin to arrive: Scott & Marie from PA, Eric, Linda & our guest stoker Lisa along with Christen & her daughter Audrey, Tom & Donna from Ohio, Bob & Patti also from Ohio, James, Brenda & Tim, and the list went on. We had a pretty good size group forming, about 13 tandem / triplet / quad teams all told!
I had Lisa’s riding position set-up information on hand from our first triplet outing on our triplet while we were at GTR so it was pretty easy to get the bike dialed back in ahead of time for today’s ride. Once Lisa arrived and was geared-up to ride, all we needed was a quick fit check ride to verify that she was good-to-go.
With all of the greetings and introductions made, Tim held a short riders meeting and we were off…
Well, until the first hill leaving the park at which point I had a minor shifting issue that required a manual chain extraction from the rear wheel and an adjustment to the rear derailleur. [Note: The latter turned out to be a derailleur hanger issue that I still need to address.]
With our chain back on, we quickly caught up to the group and headed on down the road en masse. Tim “Turbo” with James & Brenda stoking set out on their Co-Motion PeriScope at a pretty healthy pace that the entire group matched on the flats and descents. However, on the hills the big blue Co-Motion quad with Eric, Linda, Audrey and Christen aboard just couldn’t match the tempo. So, we opted to drop off the back and ride with the quad so they wouldn’t feel compelled to chase all day without a draft. Of course, as is often what happens when faster riders initially gap slightly slower riders in a large group, we ended up riding about 500 yards behind our friends at the exact same pace for about 12 miles, through the first store stop in Tellico Plains.
At the first store the ‘A Teams’ headed out for the Cherohala Skyway while we waited for Tim, James & Brenda to return from the Tellico Plains hardware store. As for why they had to go to a hardware store, during the store stop James broke a seat post binder bolt on the PeriScope Trident broke during an attempted adjustment: not a good thing. Once we were back together we began our climb up the lower part of the Cherohala Skyway to River Road. I gotta tell ya, the ride up River Road had to be one of the top 5 best rides we’ve ever enjoyed… perhaps even more than Little River Road near Cades Cove given the very low traffic.
We finally made it to Bald River Falls where we met back up with a couple Harley riders from Florida whom we’d first encountered down on the Cherohala Skyway at a scenic pull-out stop. After taking the prerequisite photos our group was persuaded to continue the climb up River Road towards some camp ground and then the state line… noting the advertised distances were always far less than the actual miles and elevation gained!! Tom & Donna and the triplet with Tim, James & Brenda eventually dropped us like a hot potato, but we found them a short time later when Tom came to the “State Line 4 Miles” sign as we all hit the 40-mile mark on our 50-mile ride. Yeah, we all suck at math. Clearly, we had another 40-miles to go to get back to the starting point and any additional mileage towards North Carolina would be doubled. But, it was a great day for a long bike ride so not a big deal in the grand schemem of things.
The ride back down River Road was awesome… other than the one blind corner where a pick-up and small convertible decided to take their 1/2 of the road out of the middle and nearly took out Tom & Donna and the three of us on our triplet since we were right on their rear wheel. That was a bit unnerving so we backed-off as Tim Turbo & the green PeriScope took the lead and upped the tempo with Tom & Donna on their rear wheel. They gapped up by a good bit, but as we got back onto the Cherohala Skyway we picked up a couple of single bikes wearing a familiar kit from the Dancing Bear Lodge. They stayed on our wheel for several miles until we reached Kats Deli and told them we were pulling off. As they came along side we realized it was our friend and the managing partner of the Dancing Bear, Matt Alexander and a friend who’d been on our wheel: small world.
Lunch at the Kats Deli was OK, not great. Good food, but it took a long time for some of our friends to get their meals and the meals were not inexpensive. I’m guessing “location – location – location” played to their favor since they were probably the nicest place to eat along the Skyway. I had to make some adjustments to the rear disc which had started to drag a bit and I noticed our rear derailleur was still acting a bit flakey: just part of the breaking-in process. We had a great time on the deck at Kats and spent the better part of an hour sharing stories of the day’s adventures.
The ride back to the Fort Loudoun State Park was nice and we once again played quad escort for most of the ride, jumping off with Scott & Marie about 5 miles from the end. It was a tough day, but a great day none-the-less, especially since we had the opportunity to ride the triplet: lovin’ the triplet!!!
After the ride we headed on to the Hilton to check-in, unpack and get cleaned up before heading over to Club Fred for the evening with the rest of the Thursday riders. The bill of fare at Club Fred was burgers and dogs out on the deck around the pool and we had a blast. Tom & I ended up splitting a six-pack of Bud Light Platinum’s that I brought along and we were apparently having a great time solving all of the world’s problems.
What a great start to an awesome weekend!!