The Herald April 28,
Biker heads west
Rusty Forrest left April 14 on a cross
country bike ride to Salt Lake City, Utah. Here is
his first report from the road.
Day 1/April 14/109 miles from Rock Hill to
Lake Lure, N.C.
The usual pre-launch jitters were strangely absent
from this morning's departure. I can only attribute
it to the fact that I was fully prepared and quite
tired of waiting.
When I took a rest stop at a gas station in Sharon, I
was accosted by a Herald reader who recognized me and
wished me luck. I am always thrilled to talk with a
reader, and this feeling pumped me up for the rest of
Riding through Sharon and Hickory Grove, I was
reminded how beautiful that area is. I spooked two
deer right beside the road, and they white-tailed it
into the woods.
I cruised past Gaffney's famous peach-shaped water
tower and into the hills, finishing up at a motel
facing Lake Lure. I don't feel like I had ridden 109
Assessment: The Adrenalin is flowing.
Day 2, April 15
69 miles from Lake Lure to Cashiers, N.C.
Early rain showers encouraged a late start for a full
day of climbing on Highway 64.
At several rest stops along the way, people wanted to
talk at great length about my trip. Most of the
mountain folk are very aloof, while others are
extremely talkative and cordial.
Some of the locals in Cashiers gave me the scoop on a
sneaky way to get from Cashiers to Franklin without
using U.S. 64. I'll take their advice.
Assessment: I'm tired from all the climbing, but it's
a "good tired."
Day 3, April 16
77 miles from Cashiers
to Murphy, N.C.
This ride was a
bonafide killer. The back way to Franklin was
strenuous but scenic. West of Franklin, U.S. 64
grew into an awesome series of climbs.
The first hill of note
was a three-mile 8 percent grade with two sandpits
to catch run away trailer trucks. After that it was
a grind from one "steep hill" sign to the next,
broken by brief but wild 45 mph descents.
Just when I was ready
to wave the white flag, I dropped out of the Smokies
and ached through the foothills to Murphy. On the
difficulty scale, this ride was 10, and the complete
lack of facilities during the hardest part made me
thankful for the food and water I had on board.
don't try this particular day's ride at home.
Day 4, April 17
99.5 miles from
Murphy, N.C., to Spring City, Tenn.
Did I say the
mountains were behind me? I turned right off of
U.S. 64 and rode straight into the Appalachian
Ridge. The climbs were stiff, but I made it through
in a couple of hours.
Somewhere near Tellico
Plains, Tenn., I asked a man at a gas station for a
map, and got a speech about how times are changing
in America. Maps used to be free, he said, and he
refused to charge customers for something as trivial
as a road map.
I later found
everything I needed at the Madisonville Chamber of
Commerce, along with some great words of
encouragement from the lady who worked there. The
maps and the conversation were absolutely free of
charge. America is doing OK after all.
I was pleased with
this day's mileage after a struggling start. Still,
there are more hills on the horizon.
minute now, I expect to wake up and be in the midst
of a hard day at work.
Day 5, April 18
54 miles from Spring
City to Sparta, Tenn.
A junior league
mountain range west of Spring City soaked up most of
the morning. When the switchback climbs ended, I
was exposed to a howling headwind.
Everyone who lives on
U.S. 70 has those wind-activated yard ornaments like
flying geese and little guys in boats jerking on a
big fish. One even depicted Snoopy flying his
Sopwith Camel with scarf attached.
Snoopy was flying the
same way I was riding, and his propeller was
roaring. Averaging less than 10 mph, six hours of
this abuse was all I could stand.
have a beginning and and end, but wind is
disgusting. For a bicyclist, a headwind is nature's
form of terrorism.
Day 6, April 19
87.6 miles from Sparta
to Franklin, Tenn.
A gray morning offered
me a great tailwind for some quick early miles.
Highway 96 from Liberty to Murfreesboro was the best
bike riding road I have ever seen. It was extra
wide and lightly traveled, and the hills were
From Murfreesboro to
Franklin, the hills became more radical and the wind
was turning to head. After yesterday's experience
with the wind, I wasn't interested in pushing it
Horses outnumber the
cows in this area. Near Franklin, I spied a genuine
Tennessee Walker strutting his stuff with a buggy
driver in tow.
sure is big when you do it lengthwise on a bicycle.