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Memphis to Cincinnati


Nice to be on the road again. My plan is to start in Memphis and ride eastwards for eight days. This is the sixth week in a piecewise ride across the USA, where the fifth week finished last fall in Memphis and prior weeks took me from San Jose to Reno to Salt Lake City to Fort Collins to Wichita to Memphis.

I packed last minute from my checklist and even had one or two things to buy along the way. Nice thing about cycle touring in populated areas is one isn't far from stores to get missing things or post offices to send something home.

I rented a minivan and drove to Denver Airport after work. Boxed my bike at the airport. It was a smaller 50 passenger plane, so we walked onto tarmac and climbed on. As I boarded, I asked baggage handlers "Is there a bike on this plane?" They nodded yes, so nice to know.

As we got off the plane, I struck up conversation with two others. They were from Southern CA and going to Memphis for a big Triathalon. Two of them, plus another triathalete meant there were actually 4 bikes on this plane. Hmm, perhaps not as reassuring, as the other three bikes came out first in hard cases. A while later, my bicycle finally came in the box. I cycled to airport hotel for a rest.

May 22nd, Milan, 100 miles

This morning I was on the road by six AM. It was ~70s and humid. Forecast high was near 90, warmer than average but not exteme.

Airport Parkway is an urban expressway. Not bad at 6am, but geared for lots of car traffic and with moderate amount of debris in the shoulder. I quickly cycled through some more urban parts, along Parkway Avenue and at mile 8 to Jackson Avenue and outbound. A short bit of almost freeway crossing I-40 and then three lanes wide. Got a quick bite to eat at mile 14.

Shortly thereafter TN narrowed to one lane with no shoulder. Fortunately traffic was well behaved, the road was flat and I had a light tailwind. Made good time and at 22 miles got a 2ft shoulder that helped a lot. Fields had cotton, corn and other crops.

At 28 miles stopped in a mart for bite to eat. They asked me if I was in the triathalon. Nope. Apparently a big event (tomorrow) and some of the route goes through this area. Crossing Tipton Co at 32 miles the shoulder became 6ft wide. Mostly rural along the road, but a surprising number of churches, each with a large letter sign with witty saying.

Very gradual ups and downs but mostly flat. At mile 49 was end of TN 14. Here TN 54 was under construction with rough road surface. Fortunately this ended five miles later. Stopped briefly in Brownsville with its old square and then northbound to Bells for lunch at a little burger place. Looked like much of the rest of Main Street was closed. By now, US 70A/US 79 was back to no shoulder. I was impressed with how polite traffic would wait to pass, even the large trucks.

These towns each proudly proclaim their accomplishments with signs... football champs 25+ years ago and the like. Humboldt proclaimed a Strawberry festival, where strawberries were first grown in TN. Gibson claimed, "geographic center of West Tennessee", which seems a bit contrived to me. Milan had the most signs. In addition to being football champs in 1977, the Miss America of 1987 and two presidents of University of Tennessee came from here.

When I came to Milan, it was enough riding for the day and I expected next motels 20 miles further. Found a nice place and relaxed for the afternoon.

100 miles today.

May 23rd, Paris, 42 miles

Unexpected breakdown today brings me to small town of Paris. The morning started well enough 85% humidity and 72 degrees as the sun was coming up. Narrow road with gentle hills but made good time. After six miles US 70A split from US 79 at Atwood. The highway is also "Main Street" in most these small towns. Signs indicate that permits are required to attach driveways to the road, but appears these permits aren't too hard to get.

At 20 miles stopped in McKenzie for breakfast. From here the road became wide with two lanes each way and wide shoulders. Still not a lot of traffic. Wider highway meant fewer trees and it was getting warm.

At 37 miles stopped in Paris for a cold drink and rest. As I was leaving, my right pedal felt like it was sliding around. Hmm. I got off a bit down the road. The toe clip was slightly loose, so I tightened it. Seemed to help, but then still felt squishy. Got off again. Uh, oh. The threads where pedal goes into the crank appear to be getting stripped. Not long before expect the pedal to fall out.

I survey my options. I'm about 62 miles from Clarksville, next town I expect to have a bike shop. I don't expect pedal to last that far, and going with one pedal on these hills would be tough. Jackson is about 50 miles the other way.

Looking at yellow pages, see car rental in town, but closed on Sundays. So, I ride back to a motel. Plan is to try renting a van tomorrow and see if I can find a bike shop to fix the crank. Otherwise looks like it will be a quiet easy Sunday.

42 miles today.

May 24th, Dover, 31 miles

Cranks and pedals replaced and I'm rolling once again. I cycled over and made sure I was first at the door when Jim Mahon Ford opened and U-Save-Rental opened. Their small van was out, so I ended up driving a 15 passenger van.

Drove back via Milan (pronounced like "Mile-an", not like city in Italy) so I got to see the route again. The directions to Bicycle City were clear and I was there about 9:30am. After all the looseness of the pedal, it now would only twist and not thread or unthread. They ended up replacing both cranks and pedals and also front derailer cable. All appears to be well.

Drove back to Paris and returned the van. It was a little past 1pm when I arrived. Paris is a nice little town, but I was happy to cycle away.

Some gently rolling hills. Broad four lanes with a good shoulder. It was hot but nice to be rolling again. Came past Paris Landing at 19 miles. Here the hills became a little bigger, and four lanes became two. Was a good place to stop at Dover. Apparently the road and shoulder narrow not too far from here, so want to ride the in early morning.

31 miles today and 109 miles of driving.

May 25th, Bowling Green, 102 miles

Made it to Kentucky! This makes 48 US states so far with Indiana and West Virginia missing. Unfortunately with pedal delay, I think I'll have to pick between them and leave the other for another trip.

I was on the road before 6, trying to beat both the heat and the traffic. I did better with the heat. It was cool and overcast and even had a brief shower at 5 miles. Just enough of a teaser to get on my rain jacket before stopping. Afternoon got hot again, but was also a good excuse to stop mid afternoon.

Busy traffic starting out. At 3 miles passed small downtown to Dover and crossed Barkley Lake. The wide shoulder disappeared at 5 miles but still a rough beat up shoulder until mile 13. It came back at 18 miles and disappeared later. Moderately heavy traffic, but not as bad as I had anticipated. Some gentle hills.

I passed south of Fort Campbell, nearby churches proclaimed thanks for the troops. At 28 miles I came to sprawling outskirts of Clarksville. This town doesn't look like much city planning was done. At 33 miles stopped for breakfast at intersection of 79 and 41.

Busy road leading from Clarksville to I-24 and quieter after that. Road had a good shoulder last five miles of TN. Reached the KY border at mile 46. Just after the border was store selling lottery tickets and tobacco.

From here 79 had gentle ups and downs as it went through farming areas with wheat, corn and other crops. Made good time and came into Russelville for lunch. Some narrow roads through Russelville and then wide four lane out of town.

It was hot, but gentle grades and light tailwinds helped make good progress. Small Shaker village at South Union and then reached outskirts of Bowling Green at 92 miles. Passed WKU with their "hilltopper" stadium and through old part of town. Decided it was enough for the day so found place on far side of town.

Visited the nearby National Corvette Museum. This car was introduced in 1953 and has gone through half a dozen model changes. For last 20+ years they have been manufactured in Bowling Green.

102 miles today.

May 26th, Hodgenville, 64 miles

A shorter ride today as storms came through. Weather forecast was 70% showers, perhaps severe. Missed most of that in my ride.

Left at 5:30am and back on 31W. Four lanes for four miles before narrowing to two lane highway. Lots of traffic inbound to Bowling Green, not much outbound. It quickly became countryside with rolling hills. At 15 miles a brief stop at a mart before crossing under I-65 at 21 miles. This area is near Mammoth Cave National Park. Tourist places and signs in the area.

I stopped for breakfast in Cave City as it started raining. Lightly at first and then heavy. I called Avis and switched my rental car from Charleston to Cincinnati ... rather make it a slightly shorter ride this week. West Virginia will have to wait until a next trip. As I was contemplating a motel nearby the downpour let up.

Cycled on KY 70 over to 31E. Locals indicated this was better road than 31W. Nice country scenery with small towns along the way. The hills became a bit steeper with a good sized hill at 50 miles. At 57 miles came to boundary of the Eastern Time Zone.

At 64 miles came past Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site. It started raining again. There was motel just past the park, so decided to stop early for the day. In afternoon I went to the park. A good sized downpour came through, knocking out power for a while and darkening the skies.

Abraham Lincoln was born on the farm across the way in 1809. He lived there until 1811 when moved 10 miles away. In 1816 moved to Indiana and 1830 to Illinois. Lincolns cabin was 18x16 (a little bigger than the motel room). There is a smaller replica inside a large stone memorial building. Nice to walk around the grounds.

After coming back from the park, the storm passed and sun even came out. Cycled into town for dinner. Storm appears to have knocked out two payphones I tried to send pocketmail.

In the evening stuck up conversation with others around the motel about best routes into Louisville. One gentleman asked me for a favor, "Do you drive?", "I'm an alcoholic, can you drive me ten miles down the road to a bar?" Somehow this didn't seem like a good idea.

67 miles today.

May 27th, Clarksville, 67 miles

49 down and 1 to go. Made it to Indiana today after crossing metropolitan Louisville (pronounced LOO-EE-VILLE, though I don't know how they name Lewis and Clark).

Last night some more heavy storms came through, but nothing falling when I left. Took a bit of a zig zag route into the city starting with 61 to Elizabethtown (also named E-town by locals). Nice wide four lane highway with shoulders. Once I reached E-town, I tried to follow signs for 61. This brought be back northeast on 61/62. Stopped for breakfast at mile 15 and then cross 65 and on country roads. Some gentle hills with a steep hill into Boston.

Passed a bourbon distillery on my way back northwest along the railroad tracks. Crossed I-65 for third time and into Lebanon Junction. Here 61 headed northbound and became Preston Highway. Slowly got busier as I neared Shepherdsville at mile 44. Some general hills. At mile 48 I noticed a broken spoke. Not to worry much as yellow pages showed a bike shop along the route.

At mile 49 became four lane road, with intermittent shoulders. First came past some broader stip malls. At mile 55 stopped at bike shop where spoke was quickly replaced and I was on my way again.

Road became busier into Louisville (16th largest metro area). Occasional shoulders though I was also surprised to find rumble strips on those narrow shoulders. At lunch stop at mile 58 and last few miles past airport and into heart of the city.

I decided to walk the bridge across US 31. Ohio river had lots of muddy brown debris. Wonder how normal this is. Sun was coming out and was getting warm. Found a hotel just on other side of the bridge. Nice to have finally bicycled in Indiana. West Virginia will have to wait for another trip.

67 miles today.

May 28th, Warsaw, 77 miles

Storms passed through the area last night. TV had reports of high winds and even a tornado. I didn't see much out of the ordinary in cycling through the area.

Left early from Clarksville. City streets and then onto a road that became IN 62. A small shoulder but also not too much traffic. An industrial area with Indiana Ammunition plant that appears to be shutdown. At 14 miles passed through Charleston where the road split and became two lanes.

A few hills and then flat on plateau going into New Washington at mile 25. Countryside with corn and other crops. Fields looked damp, apparently up to five inches of rain in last few days. Quick riding into Hanover at mile 40. A small college here and late breakfast.

From Hanover I cycled downhill and through old town of Madison. I followed signs of 421 across the Ohio River to Milton at mile 47 and back into Kentucky. From here I followed the road along the river.

Carrollton was a busy little town with old center and sprawling areas. After this multiple industrial sites. A power plant, dow corning, a steel plant, a wallboard plant and others. I assume the river is used for transport here.

At Markland was a set of locks and another road across the river. A short while later came to Warsaw and a place to stop for the day.

77 miles today.

May 29th, Cincinnati, 33 miles

A short ride today ending at the Cincinnati airport. Since yesterday I've been seeing more cicadia bugs. Apparently a large infestation on a 17 year cycle.

First five miles from Warsaw were flat and along the river. After this some more hills to go over. Overcast skies kept it all cool. At 15 miles, Beaverlick and after this more suburban houses. Stopped briefly at 22 miles and then more urban. Turned left onto 236 and followed signs to the airport.

I bought a box already at Cincinnati airport and then found rental van and drove to Columbus for trip back scheduled for Sunday.

Overall a good ride of a little more than five hundred miles. I added two states to my cycling list and have one left. Now time to figure out the next segment to ride.

33 miles today.