Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory......Georgia

Again, I can't reiterate enough the importance of planning and being prepared.  As I drove through Chattanooga to Georgia,  I used the my 'earlier than expected' arrival to preview the morning's route.  After driving only fifteen of the fifty miles, the numerous blind curves, blind hills and fast traffic convinced me I needed to find a different route; I decided to seek local help.  I pulled into a gas station at a four way stop and made my way to the entrance, atlas under my arm.

 As seems to be a common occurrence in these more country environs, a small group of men were sitting around door, Styrofoam cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, whiling the day away with friendly ribbing and laughter.  Now, I suppose one could look at this as running a gauntlet of sorts, but I figured if anyone knew the lay of the land around here, it would be found here.  Before I could even say 'hello',  one gentleman, upon seeing the map tucked under my arm, said,

  "Doesn't matter which way you go, you'll still be lost".

... my reputation must proceed me!   And so I meet my road hero, Charlie; he was a god-send.

I explained that I had planned to ride the road in front of the store, but felt it was too dangerous.  He said,

"There's always lots of them bicyclers out there riding.  There's a lot of traffic, but none of them have ever been kilt, that I ever heard of."

Then he looked at me and gave me the once over.  While taking a draw on his cigarette, he came to some conclusion because he looked up at me, slightly squinting one eye, and said,

"Now, if you want a really safe and beautiful bike ride, you need to go to the Chickamouga National Military Park.  It is closed to commercial traffic and there are miles and miles of roads to ride there going in and out of the woods and battlefields."

Giving me directions in a language that I understand, (drive until you get to the Walmart, then turn left.....), he sent me on my way, and I found it with ease, arriving about 6:15.  Spying some men geared up to ride, I approached them and asked them if they could suggest a route.  Instead, Larry said, "Come ride with us!"  My initial reaction was to say 'no'...I had saddle sores, was tired and needed to write my blog. But then I thought, "What the heck--that's what this trip is about!" and accepted his offer.

While I scurried and changed, I have a suspicion that they were wondering just what they had gotten themselves into.....could this woman even ride a bike?  I say this because when I opened the back of the KIA, they looked in, saw my bike and gears, started laughing and said

"As soon as I saw all that stuff,  I knew you knew what you were doing".  There was obvious relief in that laughter.

We set off on a brisk pace, sailing down wonderfully smooth roads, past monuments on manicured fields and through thick stands of hardwood trees, where the second largest battle of the Civil War had been fought.  Leaving the park, we began to climb, entering the surrounding farm land.  It was beautiful, but we were going at a pace the afforded little time to admire the surroundings.  Twenty miles into the ride, I began to feel the effects of riding fifty miles earlier in the day and not having eaten anything in the past 6 hours; I started to bonk.  The gents did slow the pace for me, which caused us to re-entered the park after sunset; it was dark, but enough daylight remained that we could make our way.

As we rode down through the park, lightening bugs played hide and seek, signaling to one another amongst the trees and on the battlefield.  Deer bounded across our paths in the dimming light, while the crickets and frogs sang a serenade.  As the mist rose from the ground, I could not help but to feel the presence of of those men who had lost their lives on the very ground through which I was riding. A heavy blanket of sadness hung in the air, cloaking the surroundings like the rising mist as the last of the daylight slipped away.  14,000 casualties........all here, on this land, under this moon.  There is no glory in that.

We pulled into the parking lot just as the final bit of daylight faded, and a ranger promptly appeared, asking us to leave.  I thanked Larry and Gary for sharing their ride with me.  Both in their 60's, they are relatively new to cycling, but very strong riders.  Gary told me his best time on the circuit we took tonight was a 19mph pace; we rode at 15.5....   They slowed their pace quite a bit for me, and I was grateful.

Tired and hungry, I found a hotel, ate and went to sleep after soaking and treating my saddle sores.  It was a good, but long day.

Monuments on one of the battle fields

One of many roads through the Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park

More battlefield

This looks very similar to the wooded conditions in which the men fought.

Flag at half mast

Larry and Gary lead the way


Check out that wonderful pavement.  (Gary)


Losing the sun as we re-enter the park

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to explore that area. I'm so
    Impressed with your blog. Keep them coming