Today was the traditional Friday remote start that would take us out along Little River on Old Walland Highway between Maryville and Townsend, Tennessee and then up over the local ridges to the 18% and 20% climbs on the way to Metcalf Bottoms. More specifically, the ride would eventually take us up the very steep Lyons Spring Road before bringing us back into the Smokey Mountains National Park along Little River on Old State Highway 73 (aka., Little River Road).
The day started off pretty much as usual with breakfast at the Hilton, a chance to greet friends that included giving Chris (Crawdad) & Jana H. a hug and handshake while they were manning the registration desk. After making the short drive out to Heritage High School, getting the triplet read to go and Tim’s rider’s meeting we were off. Tim, James & Brenda headed to the front again and set a pretty healthy pace that split the pack early. We bridged up from two groups back and brought along a few other friends and then the ride tempo seemed to drop a few notches such that we were rolling along at about 18.5 mph vs. the usual 20 – 21 mph for the River Road ride. This allowed a lot of tandem teams to catch up and then stay with what was one of the larger groups we’ve had on the TTR Friday ride well into the 12-mile trip up to Townsend.
However, a minor tragedy struck about 8 miles into the ride when Crawdad & Jana’s front wheel overlapped and touched a rear wheel when the bike in front of them slowed, sending the left side of Crawdad’s face and head into the pavement, Jana to the pavement on her side, and then Tom & Judy from Nashville into and onto Crawdad & Jana. Amazingly, those were the only tandems that went down as others — including the quad sitting on Tom & Judy’s rear wheel — were able to scatter and dodge the downed tandems. Crawdad was in bad shape, but Michelle, Sara & Chris — who are medical professionals — all moved into action to stabilize Crawdad, tend to Jana and otherwise take care of our downed friends until the local first responders and ambulance arrived at the somewhat remote location.
After what seemed like an eternity they had Crawdad loaded in the ambulance and on the way to a nearby highway where the UT Life Flight helo would meet him and take him to the Neuro care unit at the UT Medical Center. It was touch and go for the first 24 hours, but by the end of the weekend Crawdad was out of the woods and by mid-week released and headed home. The incident was also captured by the local press in an article you can find HERE.
It’s sad but true that while we all enjoy cycling, we must all remain mindful that cycling is an activity that comes with risk… and every once in a while we bear witness to those risks when they materialize before our eyes. We’ve been to a lot of rallies over the past 15 years and this was about the sixth “serious” crash that has happened during those rallies. Be safe out there folks….
Getting back to our ride, with Crawdad — one of Tim’s best friends — down and out Tim needed to get back to his car along with several other teams who would be taking Jana to UT Medical Center and/or collecting tandems from the accident site. Therefore, we decided to head back to the start as well, given that James & Brenda would be switching over to their tandem and might otherwise end up riding alone… which is never fun at a big rally, never mind in the aftermath of a serious crash.
By the time we’d returned to Heritage High School, collected Brenda & James, and made our way back to the accident site we’d racked up about 24-miles and it was now a bit too late in the day to attempt the ride to Metcalf Bottoms as traffic would be an issue. So, we opted to see if we could find the quad and others along the route by heading into the Smokey Mountain National Park and “up” Old Highway 73 towards Cades Cove. We made a store stop before entering the park that lasted a bit longer than expected and by the time we hit Old Highway 73 we immediately ran into all of our friends. We turned around and headed BACK to the very same store we’d just left and spent another somewhat longish period of time hanging out and socializing with the various teams as they arrived from three different Friday routes. Of course what we found somewhat amusing is that the folks who rode to Metcalf Bottoms, the quad and our contingent were all showing about 35 miles on our odometers when we left the store for the final 14-mile leg of the Friday ride.
Clearly, Crawdad and Jana were on everyone’s minds throughout the rest of the day.
After finishing our ride with our reconstituted group of friends from the last store stop, we decided to head into Maryville for lunch at Tomato Head, one of our favorite places to eat in Maryville… just up the street from our favorite place to eat: Sullivans. I think we had a party of about 14 on 7 tables we pulled together and we had a great time but a very late lunch at about 2:30pm. Once we were back at the hotel we split our time between relaxing in our room before meeting friends for the trip over to Cycology Cycles for the dessert social at 7:00pm. We opted to skip dinner at the normal time for a late supper at Sullivans after the social.
The social itself was really a neat time. We filled Cycology & the Little River Trading Company where rally-goers were treated to 20% discounts & delicious cakes. I picked up three pair of gloves for Debbie, as she was sorely in need of new gloves. While I tried to resist the cakes, I finally gave-in to temptation and had a small piece of Key Lime Pie & a sliver of death by chocolate… neither of which I really needed. There was a lot of commerce going on during the social so some folks really made out like bandits as the shop “liquidated” a lot of merchandise for little or no margin. But, a lot of that stuff came from the clearance rack so that was a win-win for everyone, clearing out stuff that needed clearing out while giving the super-frugal shoppers a great deal.
We ended our evening with the aforementioned late supper at Sullivans. Debbie and I split a Caesar salad and the spicy Shrimp Charleston, while James had the Meatloaf and “fried corn on the cobb” (ewe!) and the gals split the seafood special over pasta (yum).
Again, another great day.