Maryville to Cleveland to Dunlap

Day 18: The first of 7 days of riding in a row. We biked 71 miles from Maryville to Cleveland. It was a pretty average day. Coffee crew scored another DM-ed coffee/breakfast from a bakery called Sweet Celebrations. Even though the sign out front that said “WELCOME BIKERS” was meant for motorcyclists in town for an event, we took it to mean that we were welcome there.

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There was an older man eating breakfast at Sweet Celebrations at the same time we were there, and when he heard about our summer and why we’re doing this cross country trip, he handed a $100 bill to one of our riders, while casually saying “this is for your trip”. He then proceeded to pull out of the restaurant in an expensive convertible sports car. The generous donation made more sense to us at that point. Gerk said “I hope to one day make enough money to hand $100 bills to random people at bakeries.”

The coffee crew headed out, and I spent most of my time riding with Gerk, Sare-bear, Amelia, and Emerson. We passed through beautiful country fields that looked out onto the mountains in the distance. We sang songs and chants together and thoroughly enjoyed our morning. We all could feel that we had gotten stronger. Now, 70 miles seems pretty average to us. Quote of the Day, in regards to the slightly rolling hills we were up against: “Ain’t no thang but a thang.” In other words, we feel strong enough to conquer these hills and long rides with relative ease.

At lunch, we found out that Tyler had taken a pretty bad spill on his bike. He was all patched up with bandages and his wrist was hurting. When we got to the host site in Cleveland and was able to go to urgent care, he found out that he had 5 breaks in his wrist. This is quite unfortunate, as he was just out for 5 days with an infection. Tyler is an incredibly positive and happy person, so he was very optimistic about the situation and never complained.

We started playing a game called Assassin in the morning. The way the game works is like this: everyone draws a name and some action from a hat; then, you have to get the person whose name you drew to do that action and that’s how you “kill” them to get them out of the game. I drew Daniel’s name and had to get him to drink out of my Camelbak. I had no idea how I was going to pull this off, but before I could even attempt to do it, Amelia “killed” me by getting me to scratch her back… Which I think is sort of BS because it’s pretty common around here for people to give back rubs and massages (we’ve gotten extremely, EXTREMELY close for not having known each other more than a few weeks). Anyway, I’m going to try not to be bitter about it, but I’m pretty competitive so I’m bummed that I got killed off the first day of the game.

However, I did get to help someone kill someone else off… I’m kind of like the “walking dead” now. Olivia had to get Dietlinde to tighten her shoe for her. About 3 miles away from the host site in Cleveland, Olivia signaled us to turn right into a parking lot, and said something was wrong with her shoe. As Diet took the time to take a bathroom break, Olivia explained the situation to me and I told her I’d help her “kill” Diet. When she came back from the bathroom, I was kneeling on the ground, acting like I was putting in a full effort to tighten Olivia’s shoe. I said to Olivia “this guy at a bike shop told me that sometimes you need to stand up and have someone else tighten your shoes to get them fully adjusted.” Dietlinde bought into this and said “here, I can do this shoe”… And BAM. She was killed off by Olivia with some serious help by me.

Unfortunately, I got two flat tires on this ride. On the bright side, I changed both of them by myself!!! It feels good to be learning more about bikes.

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Not sure if you can tell from the photo, but there’s quite a bit of bike grease on my arms and legs.

When we got to the host site, we found out that Daniel had DM-ed 4 trays of spaghetti and salad for dinner from Olive Garden!!! What a champ. We weren’t sure if that would be enough spaghetti for us (we eat a LOT), so Sam made more spaghetti for the group, and ate some of it while cooking.

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It was an early night for most of us. Our nights have been ending earlier and earlier.

Day 19: Just when we thought we were out of the mountains, it turns out we’re not. But we reached a different time zone!!! So that was an exciting accomplishment!

Coffee crew got BIGGER this morning, and we went to a mom and pop coffee shop in downtown Cleveland, which is where Lee University is. It’s a very small but beautiful college!

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The owner of the shop gave us free chocolate chip cookies that were freshly baked!! He was a sweet old man with an almost-handlebar mustache, and he cheerfully came around to all of us with delicious cookies!

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We started heading out toward Dunlap, TN, about a 60 mile day. The rolling hills got rollier, and before we knew it, we were doing some serious climbing. When a bunch of us got to the bridge over the Tennessee River, we decided it would be a great photo opp…

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After lunch, we hit the real climb. We had another mountain to conquer. Knowing that we had already faced the worst of the worst mountain climbing, we went in with a positive attitude. I like that I’m now known as one of the strongest female riders, and my teammates are impressed with my hill/mountain climbing ability. Often, people initially underestimate me due to my size, and I love surprising them with what I’m capable of. I killed this mountain, sometimes cursing out loud at it during a few incredibly steep parts. I caught up to the group in front of me, who was taking a breather at the very top. My nickname on this trip is “Killa Kim”, and my consistency with dominating hard hill climbs continues to set this name in stone. I love it!

The ride down the mountain was really not all that great. In fact, it was pretty frightening. The hill was SO steep that if you released your brakes for a brief moment, you accelerated so quickly that panic set in for just a second. Not to mention the sharp turns and terrible road conditions that added to the fear factor. The Blue Ridge Parkway was awesome because it was an open road with smooth, wide turns and practically no bumps or potholes in the road. This was the exact opposite.

We’ve still been lucky enough to avoid a day full of rain. We continue to have bright, sunny days of riding *knock on wood*. The mountains of Tennessee are beautiful and I’m enjoying seeing a part of the country that I’ve never seen before.

We spent the night at the Tennessee National Guard Armory, which is quite the change up from the churches that normally host us.

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Unfortunately, Tyler had to leave our trip due to his injury. His parents picked him up from Dunlap today to bring him back home to Winston-Salem, NC. We were all really sad to see him go. It’s so unfair that someone so happy and positive can continue to face hardship during a summer that’s supposed to be full of fun. He was told by the Bike & Build office that he’ll be able to ride next summer without having to fundraise $4,500 all over again, so we were happy to hear that. We’ll miss you so much Tyler!! But you’ll have plenty of NC B&B family to train with when you’re preparing for next summer’s cross country adventure.

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The guy who has been helping us get settled in here at the armory has a son named Cameron, who is 9 years old and super talkative (with a very southern accent… seems to be the general trend) and full of personality. I’m going to make his quote my Quote of the Day. In reference to the mountain ridge that seems to be staring us down from the west: “Are y’all goin’ up that really, really steep hill tomorrow over that ridge?” In high school English classes, I learned that dialogue like this is an example of foreshadowing.

Third day of the seven day streak of riding days starts tomorrow! My butt is sore just thinking about it.

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