In Search of Autumn – Smith County, Tennessee

In Search of Autumn – Smith County, Tennessee

Thursday, October 13, – Friday, October 15, 2016

I woke up early, feeling good and recovered from the flights on the first morning. When I entered the dining room before 6 a.m., Solo was nowhere near convinced that I had slept enough and so he send me back to bed. I will rarely refuse to get another hour or two of sleep when I can. So I did not argue with him and retreated to my cozy bed. When I finally got up around 07:30 a.m., still early for me, Solo told me that he had looked inside my room to make sure that I was sleeping. It still being early in the morning so I am still able to enjoy part of Solo’s morning routine. He usually gets up with the sun and then enjoys some coffee while reading his newspapers until it is time two hours or so later in the day to make breakfast. It makes for a slow awakening without burning daylight, which I enjoy a lot. I have failed to implement that into my routines back in Norway. On a typical workday, it would not work out for me. There is no chance in the world I would be able to get up at 4 a.m. only to have the two hours to wake up like this. However, for my Sundays, I have found something that works well, even though I will then sleep longer than 6 a.m.
However, here, visiting my friend, I refuse to stay in bed for too long. Adventures are out there waiting for me. I will have the possibility to cycle, explore and take photographs. Staying in bed for too long would only be a waste of precious time.

Bike rebuilding

The rebuild and improvement of my bike took longer than we had expected. Just when we thought we were close to the end of it, it turned out that we could not get the brakes to work. So instead of starting my second day in Tennessee with a bike ride, we are going to a cycling shop in nearby Cookeville. Now we should be able to fix the remaining problems. However, while nearby in Europe means something like no more than 20 minutes away, here it takes half a day only to get there and back again. Instead of finishing my bike in one day we are spending two. There are enough days of my vacation left for this not to matter.

First bike ride to Salt Lick Creek Park

Now, on my third morning in Smith County, we are getting ready for the first bike ride of this vacation. Solo wants us to ride to Salt Lick Creek Park. A campground that closed for the season but we still can enter it on our bikes. On the way back I will get to know what he calls Killer Hill, a steep and long climb with a fast decent. However, first, we have to get there to go back again. Our first attempt in getting to Salt Lick Park is a failure. When I try shifting into the big ring, the chain rides on top of it. It happens multiple times too. So we return home, two miles before reaching the Park, to fix the issue. It takes some time before we are at the point where we finally can both get back on our bikes and ride to Salt Lick Park. The road toward the park is a small country road with little car traffic and some rolling hills to pass until it meets the highway. We only have a very short ride on the Highway, before turning onto a smaller street that takes us to the park. As expected we find the park’s gate closed, but we can get through below it, pushing our bikes along.

Salt Lick Park is located at the Cordell Hull Lake, which belongs to the Cumberland River System. Small, one-way streets lead through it, wide enough to take one camper at a time. However, now those streets are empty. We have the park to ourselves. The colors have not yet turned to full fall foliage, but lying on a bench for some rest I spot a photo up a tree into the sky.

What a beautiful day. So far the fall had been much warmer than it should have been, dryer too. I do not find the fall colors, which I have come for, but this bike ride is a success. I enjoy the time we spend in the park; it is quiet out here. I do not hear any traffic or other people, and I do not miss it either. It is just Solo and me, our bikes and the wind in the leaves of the trees.

Returning home is not an easy task

Almost too soon we are back on our bikes leaving the campground behind us. We are not taking the same route that took us here. Instead, we follow the highway for a while before we will turn back onto one of the smaller streets. All of a sudden I lose Solo out of my sight. He was in front of me a minute earlier, but after a van had passed us, he is gone. So I push on, alone on the Highway. Starting to wonder if I am still on the road I am supposed to take. Did Solo speed up that much in such a short time that I would lose him out of sight? When the Highway’s shoulder comes to an end, I am certain that I have missed the turn. So what to do now? Of course, I could turn back and try to find that road. However, what if I could not find it this time either? Would I be able to locate the street we came on? The one thing I am certain of is that if I follow the Highway long enough, I will find Solo’s farm again. At least with some help from my GPS, I should be able to find back home. So I push on. I had forgotten about the rather long and steep hill on the Highway as well. Some cars pass by me while I climb it, but no one ever comes close. After all, it is Saturday, so there are not too many people out here. If this had been a weekday, I would possibly have turned back in an attempt to find the smaller street.

Searching for Lille Ulven

Meanwhile Solo finds out that I am no longer behind him. So he turns back in trying to find me. Upon getting back to the highway, he realizes that I have not found the road which he turned into. Wondering if I have taken the second small street that goes off of this one on instead. When he cannot find me, he starts racing the way up toward Killer Hill. He even speeds up Killer Hill and is racing back to his farm.

On top of that steep Highway hill, I find a little sideway, wide enough for me to turn into and have a short break before going on. It is only down the hill, and I will be back home. That is if I go slow down this hill and don’t miss the intersection. On the downhill, I hang onto my brakes. I would have to add an extra mile or two if I cannot turn toward Solo’s farm.
When I make it to the farm, there is no Solo. I was sure he would be here before me. I park my bike at the bike shed and instead enjoy a rest on his porch’s swing. There is no point in trying to go after him now. We would only miss each other again. I do not want to turn this into an endless search-loop, he will get here. Five minutes later Solo arrives too, sweat through from racing the streets. He says he was eager to get back home, wanting to get into his car and start a search and rescue operation. It is not necessary now. I made my way back, though not quite as planned. We can laugh about it now, but the truth is we need a way to communicate better on the road. Neither of us can whistle loud, and if this happens to us when we are both in unfamiliar surroundings, it will not be fun for either of us. However, for today everything is fine.

It is time to get cleaned up for dinner. Solo is taking me out to the Bulls and Thistle, a great pub with delicious food in Gainesboro. We are going by car, so no more excuses for losing my way today.

After dinner, on the way back home, Solo shows me where I should have turned. I had not even seen it or recognized it as a street. Next time I will. It is the only street nearby with an election campaign poster; I can remember that. Instead of going on the Highway back home, he decides to show me Killer Hill. Of course from the car window hills rarely look as steep as they are. However, it gives me an idea what to expect when we, at some point, try out Killer Hill and the way to Salt Lick Park again. Not today, though, it is time to go home and rest after a day that was more adventurous than we would have expected.

If you liked this post, you might also like the other stories from my Scandinavian Adventure:

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