[Ken Kifer's Bike Pages]
ARTICLE: Journey to Pennsylvania, 1988
My bicycle camping trip through the Cumberland and Allegheny Mountains to Pittsburgh, across Pennsylvania to Philadelphia, down to Washington DC, and down the Blue Ridge Parkway to home.
Comments | SECTIONS: | The New World | Writing | Thoreau | Home | Bike Pages |
DIRECTORIES: | Lifestyle | Commuting | Touring | Health | Advocacy | Traffic | Skills | Humor |Survey | Links |

Journey to Pennsylvania, 1988

A rough map of the trip. This was my first long trip in 17 years, although I made shorter bicycle camping trips in 1974, 1986, and 1987. Probably for that reason, it was the most exciting trip (and the most stressful trip) of all the ones I have taken.  At the time I took the trip, I could hardly afford to do so, since I had earned less than $8,000 during the previous six months and had been unemployed for a long time prior to that. However, in another sense, I could not afford not to take the trip, as I needed a real psychological boost, which I always get from my bike trips.

A note about the use of time rather than mph on this trip: My cyclometer did not compute mph and also had to be manually started and stopped. Since I often forgot to do so, I estimated the missing time at the end of each day; therefore, a calculation of the miles per hour based on these figures would be misleading.

Day 1: When I stopped by the store today, everyone saw my touring bags, and they asked me where I was going. I really wanted to share my excitement, but since my cabin in the woods had been burglarized more than once, I didn't want my departure to be common knowledge, so I just told everyone I was going "across the river." Didn't say how far across did I? My mostly flat route took me past the base of wooded mountains, over a low pass, and across the Tennessee River. I followed the river and the mountain north until they both turned east, and then I turned north again at the first chance. While pedaling down the road, I heard the sound of a truck gearing down, so I looked for a wide spot, moved over, and signaled for him to pass. In Alabama, he would have blasted me on his horn. I soon turned onto a lightly-traveled road and much later found a place to camp that was down out of sight of the road along a small creek.

Scottsboro - Dunlap, Tennessee, 75 miles, 5 1/3 hrs., May 3. 

Puddles on the road.Day 2: Today was a tough day for two reasons: rain and hills. The back road I had chosen had many small, extremely steep hills, one right after another. However, the main highway was crowded and the weather was rainy, with several good downpours. When I stopped to dry my things in the laundromat, a woman asked me how us bike travelers managed to get a shower. Speaking as a veteran (my first out-of-state bicycle camping trip in 17 years), I said, "It's easy. I've had three so far today." That night, I climbed up onto the plateau, and camped in a very rocky, wooded spot. It's important, in placing the tent, to carefully set it to sleep between the rocks, as removing rocks creates holes that are more uncomfortable than the rocks.

Dunlap - Crab Orchard, 64 miles, 5 hrs., May 4. 

Day 3: Today, even though more downhill than up, was rough on me, and I stopped after just four hours of cycling. I guess I've been pushing too hard the last few days. Following the Tennessee Bike Route, I descended down off of the Cumberland Plateau at high speed with a tremendous view that I could barely take in. At the bottom of the mountain, the route became hilly, and I was passed on a hill by a man and woman on swift bikes, the latter looking back at me.

I camped next to the fence of the interstate at a site that other campers had used before.

Crab Orchard - Rockwood, 52 miles, 4 hrs., May 5. 

Day 4: For a while, the traffic just got worse as I neared and passed Knoxville. Then I was traveling along a pleasant creek in a narrow valley for miles. When I reached Washburn in the afternoon, everyone started waving at me, including: two women in different yards, one cutting grass; an old man going to the mailbox and an old woman driving by in her car; the police chief and deputy in their car; a coal truck driver and a lumber trucker driver in their vehicles; and all the crew of a lumber yard. It was an extra friendly wave too, a wave that said, "We're always happy to welcome cyclists." Which is exactly what the store owner said too.

As darkness approached, I couldn't find a place to camp. Then I crossed a narrow, wooded ridge. The sides were too steep, but at the top, there was a hiking trail. So I camped on the trail as my only choice, feeling a little guilty.

Rockwood - Stone Mountain, 81 miles, 6 1/6 hrs., May 6. 

Downsteam view at Mendota.Day 5: The roads were lightly traveled this morning as I cycled to Camelot, a failed enterprise turned into overgrown ruins. While there, a couple stopped their car and, as I described my trip to them, I noticed that her eyes were shining -- a moment that has charmed me ever since. It's nice to be a hero. I reached Kingsport over back roads, but then I ran into traffic, so I asked a police officer if the alleyway continued on through. He said to me, "You're in Tennessee, son. You can ride right down the main streets if you want to." Although he misunderstood my intent, I appreciated his attitude. That night the only camping spot I could find was on an abandoned RR line just about a bend in the stream.

Stone Mountain - Mendota, Virginia, 60 miles, 4 1/2 hrs., May 7. 

A hilltop near Ceres.Day 6: In the morning when I arose, three people were at the river fishing. I very quietly packed my gear and then I pushed the bike down to the creek. I thought I had been completely undetected until I noticed that only two people were there; the third was on top of the RR embankment. This section was very pretty, since I was following streams and had steep wooded hills on either side. At Saltville, the store owner wanted my picture. At Ceres, I found two Appalachian Trail backpackers to camp with in the shelter, and they told me about their adventures and problems.

Mendota - Ceres, 66 miles, 5 hrs., May 8. 

Day 7: For three hours, sipping soft drink to boost my speed and with a good tailwind, I averaged 16 mph. I hit very bad, high-speed truck traffic at Popular Hill. There was a great view where I crossed the New River. In the late afternoon, I kept climbing and climbing, with only farm land around. Towards evening, I knew I had to camp somewhere, and a family out walking suggested that I try the churchyard.

Ceres - Sinking Creek, 79 miles, 5 1/3 hrs., May 9. 

Day 8: In the morning, I reached a 2,700 ft. marker. When I stopped for pictures on the descent to Newcastle, I met some cyclists and their families with their bikes on their car roofs. I told them that I had been frustrated by the hills. They told me that they had come the way I would be traveling, and I would find the rest of the way flat and smooth. Following their careful directions, I found myself climbing once again until I reached 2,400 ft.! However, another motorist I asked along the way also told me that this route was flat with just one hill! Never trust a motorist about hills! Never consider someone with the bike on the roof a cyclist! That evening I rode into Clifton Forge, a railroad town, and camped near the park beyond.

Sinking Creek - Clifton Forge, 57 miles, 4 hrs. + 1 hr. walking, May 10. 

Douthat Park which I passed through in the morning.Day 9: In the morning, I crossed the highest climb yet. On the way up, I fortunately found a store to rest in and get something to eat. The manager treated me nonchalantly as if cyclists came by every day, which surprised me. So, when I left, I said, "Well, I better get up this hill." I heard him turn and say to someone else, "Hill! He calls this a hill!" Well, I got over it without any trouble, but a little walking, and every climb has been a hill ever since. As soon as I was over the top, it was a steep road down, and then a long slow grind up to Monterey, over half a mile high again. No trees had turned green yet, and I was told the snow melted just two weeks earlier. Past Monterey, I started looking for a place to camp, but I was near a tourist area, and "No trespassing" signs were everywhere. Finally, I noticed a ledge above the road that I thought would make a great spot, and by good luck, a side road climbed up to it. So by pushing my bike a little ways, I had a great camping spot. However, in fighting a fallen tree branch, I managed to break a spoke.

Clifton Forge - Franklin, West Virginia, 73 miles, 6 hrs., May 11. 

Day 10: When I got out my spare spokes and began to fix the wheel, I discovered that I have forgotten any spoke nipples and that the spoke had broken inside the nipple. I couldn't keep my wheel from rubbing very well, so I limped into Franklin, but I was unable to find nipples either there or in Petersburg, so I limped on. That evening, while climbing through a wooded area, I asked a man if I could camp in the adjacent woods. It was a mistake as his dog never did quit barking at me all night.

Franklin - Scheer, 49 miles, 3 1/3 hrs., May 12. 

Day 11: The next day, traveling through mountains, I ran into a lot of dump trucks. We got along very well; when they caught me on a climb, I would move way over, and they could never catch me on the descents. The drivers started waving to me as they passed. It was Friday the 13th, and I passed through Accident, Maryland. While I was going down a back street, an old woman, veiled and dressed entirely in black and walking a little dog crossed just in front of my path.

That evening I had an emotional moment as I crossed the state line into Pennsylvania, my birth state. As a boy, I had crossed many times, including at this very spot, but it had been 18 years since my last trip.

Scheer - Pennsylvania State line, 63 miles, 5 hrs. + 1 hr. walking, May 13. 

Old mile maker on 40.Day 12: All the way up, I had been trying to turn westward, but people always advised against it. Today, I got to pay the penalty: 71 miles of highway 40. Because of a narrow highway with no shoulders and a lot of traffic, I rode downhill and walked up (shoulders were added by my 1996 trip). This was the first national highway, starting in Washington DC and going through Washington, Pa. Along the way, I occasionally would discover some of the very old mile markers. I also passed Ft. Necessity, where Washington saved the survivors of Braddock's army. In Union, Pa., I finally found a bike shop and the spokes I needed to repair my wheel.

That evening, I reached Washington, where Aunt Betty and Uncle Harold expected me to keep up with them as I followed their car.

Pa. State line - Washington, 71 miles, 4 hrs. + 4 hrs. walking, May 14. 

My old home in Pittsburgh.Day 13: I spend six days with my aunt and uncle. They had kept me for a summer when I was three and my mother had had a major operation, so a lot of strong feelings existed between us. I did not realize that this was our last visit. They were my audience while I built new bike wheels (not realizing that the spokes were no good). One day, I rode into Pittsburgh to visit our old home, which had also belonged to my grandfather. On the way, I stopped and visited my parents' childhood homes too. My uncle and aunt "rescued" me in Mt. Lebanon when a storm blew through.

Washington - Pittsburgh - Mt. Lebanon, 45 miles, May 19. 

Day 14: Leaving Washington on rolling roads mainly, and one of the steepest downhills I've even seen, I crossed the Monongahela River at Monongahela. After crossing the Pennsylvania turnpike, I stopped at a church when my grandfather's grandfather's grandfather was buried. In Greensburg beyond, I had three separate amusing exchanges with people over directions. In each case, they concentrated on telling me what I would see if I went the wrong way. Then I started down a very nice road with little traffic. In Pennsylvania at that time, for land to be posted, the owner had to put a sign every x number of feet, so it was easy for me to spot unposted land and set up my tent.

Washington - Chestnut Ridge, 70 miles, 5 hrs., May 21. 

Day 15: I had been advised to follow first highway 30 then highway 31 eastward, but I found it to be a fairly busy and dangerous route. Often I was traveling on a broken shoulder while streams of trucks went by; it was not an enjoyable route. Nor was it an easy one. Part of the first day, which was pleasant, was getting to this route. But I had to walk the first hill on 30 due to streams of traffic and no shoulder. All I can remember of this day is vehicles passing, although the volume of traffic changed as did my surroundings. Near dusk, I saw some campers out in a field. I decided I better stop, so I went down to talk. The people told me they owned the property but were leaving, but they invited me to stay.

Chestnut Ridge - Everett, 78 miles, 5 2/3 hrs., May 22. 

The climb after McConnellsburg.Day 16: Moving eastward through Pennsylvania, I was crossing the Appalachian Mountains. On the previous day, I had crossed only the foothills and had squeezed along streams to miss other ridges; today I crossed three major ridges, two of them extensions of the Blue Ridge, one right after another. Before I neared the bottom of one mountain by McConnellsburg, I saw the climb for the next beginning. That evening, I stuffed myself full of food in a supermarket while a storm raged outside.

Moving on towards the mountain, I found the state park in darkness, everyone evidently supposed to find a site in the dark without a site map or help after leaving some money. Abandoning that task, I traveled up the road to a campground, where I was told it cost $13 to camp. Not having any money to waste, I went on a bit farther and found a beautiful site in the state forest.

Everett - Gettysburg, 60 miles, 4 1/2 hrs., May 23. 

Day 17: Today was a very flat day, so I had a welcome break. At Gettysburg, I visited the battlefield briefly and then washed my clothes. That was a lucky decision, as I met my first bike traveler there. From what he told me, I gathered that he was living on a bike. However, he did not want me to take his picture, saying I might post it in a hostel somewhere, and then it would cause trouble for him. He had the biggest stack of gear on his rear carrier that I've ever seen. I joined the Bikecentennial route at York. That night, I camped in a town park and watched a local ball game before going to bed.

Gettysburg - Manheim, 71 miles, 5+ hrs., May 24. 

Day 18: I really had trouble trying to follow the Bikecentennial route today. There were many roads and many turns, and the distances on the map did not agree with my speedometer. Then the route tended to wind back and forth across some steep hills when perfectly good roads traveled the same way with fewer hills. At one point where I missed my turn, I ended up on a nice straight highway, so I followed it on into Pheonixville. When I rejoined the route, I found it going through a dangerous area near Valley Forge. However, the Bikecentennial information about crossing the river and getting to the Philadelphia bike path were very helpful (now the bike path begins right across the river). The upper end of the bike path was excellent; the lower end was terrible; lots of crowded streets and then sidewalks crowded with people.

When I approached the Ben Franklin Bridge, I knew I was supposed to get onto a walkway; however, the one on my side was closed, and the great mass of traffic around me pushed me towards the bridge, so I decided to go with the flow. My speed as I approached the high point of the bridge was 27 mph; I figured that part was due to drafting and part was due to adrenaline. I spent the next few days with my sister Barbara and her family.

Manheim - Audubon, 130 miles, 9+ hours, May 25. 

Day 19: While in New Jersey, I pedaled to a bike shop but got lost on my way back and lost my map as well. I was greatly intimidated by the swarms of automobiles. I was also astonished at the cyclists, who would pass the cars queuing for the light and would plunge through a red light ignoring the traffic. Because of my worries, I got my brother-in-law Joe to drive me into Philadelphia to start the trip back. I made friends with some cyclists on the way out (I had been guided by other cyclists part of the way in), and it ended up being a pleasant trip. I took up the Bikecentennial trail again because I was curious and also because I had seen good camping areas, and I soon found a pleasant patch of woods to camp in.

Philadelphia - Pine Swamp Road, 49 miles, 4 hrs., May 29. 

Pennsylvania farms of this region.Day 20: Part of the time, I followed the Bikecentennial trail, and part of the time I shortcutted. In this area between Reading and York are many Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish, and Mennonites. There's a variation in the amount of modern devices they use. Some have cars, some have steel-wheeled tractors, and some use horses and buggies. Bicycles are very common too, and an acceptance of the bicycle that even most cyclists don't have. At one point, I found myself riding alongside and talking to a young man from this area, and he helped me understand the differences I was seeing better. That evening, I couldn't find a place to camp, so I just had to keep going. Finally, I found a very small woods with no "no trespassing" sign, so I camped there. In the morning after leaving, I looked back and saw a "Keep Out" sign facing the other way. However, I had done no harm.

Pine Swamp Road - Airville, 79 miles, 6 hrs., May 30. 

Day 21: Today, while still following the Bikecentennial route, I found myself back on busy highways for a while, heading down toward Baltimore. Then I was routed onto small roads wandering around the perimeter of the city. While I have pictures in my mind of various places that day, nothing of special interest has stuck in my mind.

Airville - Marriottsville, Maryland, 68 miles, 5 hrs., May 31. 

The Vietnam memorial.Day 22: The Bikecentennial route took me into Washington from the west, along the Rock Creek Bike Path. I visited with Abe, was greatly moved by the Vietnam Memorial, stopped by to see the President (he wasn't home), and looked up at a big needle. And then it was time to go. The Mt. Vernon bike path had some major design flaws, but its greatest problem was all the dog walkers. These people might not want us "blocking" "their" road, but they deliberately blocked the bike path and seemed to enjoy doing so. A cyclist saw me at a grocery store, so I ended up sleeping at his place.

Marriottsville - Alexandria, Virginia, 82 miles, 6 hrs., June 1. 

Day 23: Once leaving the Mt. Vernon bikeway (at Mt. Vernon, of course), I started running into bad traffic, in fact, the worst I've ever encountered anywhere, and this was the middle of the day! There was no sense of share-the-road either; these people weren't ugly, but they were making no attempt to be careful either. After spending a long time to go a short way, I ended up on a seldom-used road winding out through the sticks, and had no trouble from traffic again. Towards evening, I broke a spoke, which surprised me. I had respoked all my wheels. I replaced the spoke and then found a camping spot right next to the interstate.

Alexandria - Fredricksburg, 68 miles, 5 hrs., June 2. 

Day 24: In the morning my route led me through the battlefield and then on down toward Richmond on light roads in small woods on flattish ground. This was a pleasant day's ride, but nothing of special note happened. Towards evening, I had trouble finding a camping site because the fences came up to the road, but I finally found a place when I could sleep but which did not have enough room to pitch the tent.

Fredricksburg - Beaverdam, 72 miles, 4 1/2 hrs., June 3. 

Post cards at the Cookie Lady's home.Day 25: There were many minor roads, and I was confused about my route several times (I was now on the Bikecentennial 1776 route). However, I did not lose much time and found myself passing Monticello on the route. At this point, I met a cyclist who was riding the Bicentennial route a few miles at a time but driving to the trail with his bike. Charlottesville brought back memories of visiting my sister and her family there before they moved to New Jersey. I decided to try to make it to the mountains, but the road was very steep, and I worried about finding a camping place by dark. As I passed a house, I noticed a strange bicycle parked outside. I had discovered the home of the famous Cookie Lady. That night, I didn't sleep much because I was too busy reading. The house she let cyclists sleep in was filled with magazines about cycling, newspaper articles about cyclists crossing the continent, and postcards from thousands of cyclists.

Beaverdam - Afton, 89 miles, 61/2 hrs., June 4. 

View from the Blue Ridge.Day 26: In the morning, I climbed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Soon after entering the parkway, I was nearly hit by a motorist whipping into the scenic outlook. I watched him as he jumped out of the car, took a wild picture of the view, jumped back into the car, and took off. This first section of the parkway is at high elevations and surrounded by national forest, so it is very nice. There are some fantastic views as well as the unfamiliar grace of riding under a canopy of trees. Since I was in very good condition from my previous mountain areas, I did not find it challenging. Very nice was the fact that I met some friends of the Appalachian Trail hikers that I had met on the way up. I asked some of the people working at the park concessions about camping policy, and I was advised to get back far enough to be off of the parkway proper. That seemed logical to me; that's what the AT hikers were doing anyway. That evening, I got off from the parkway, found a grocery some distance away, and found a place to camp.

Afton - James River, 74 miles, 6 hrs., June 5. 

Day 27: The next section of the parkway began with a climb from the river at about 650 feet up to 3950 feet within ten miles of road. While making this climb, I noticed a kitty cat walking slowly across the road. As I approached the cat got bigger and showed absolutely no fear. Finally, I had to stop and wait for it to finish a slow saunter across the pavement. People have said that a Bob Cat is the size of a large house cat; I can assure you that this animal was as large as a medium-sized dog and afraid of nothing and no one. Later on, people would comment that the downhills must be nice on a bicycle but the uphills murder, and I always replied that the uphill allowed me to enjoy the woods and to see the animals, while I could never see anything racing downhill. I found more broken spokes, and I couldn't remove my freewheel, so I had to buy a large wrench in Vinton to carry with me.

James River - Vinton, 56 miles, 4 3/4 hrs., June 6. 

Day 28: I thought that I would make up for lost time today, but events proved otherwise. After fixing my wheel and climbing away from Roanoke, I stopped and cooked a big lunch at a rest stop. I hadn't covered nearly enough miles, but I was still feeling strong, and with a good meal inside me, I wouldn't need to cook at dinner time, so I could continue to ride later into the day. However, after some miles, I discovered two cyclists stopped at Smart View, and a local pickup driver trying to help them. It seems that they hadn't paid any attention to their wheels when they had begun their trip, and now they had a lot of broken spokes. He had fetched a wheel from his daughter's bike to help them. So, I found myself involved in trying to repair and retrue all those wheels. It turned out that the daughter's wheel's spokes were the wrong length, but that mine were just right, and I had just enough. I finished the last wheel just as it turned dark, and then I discovered that the boys had no lights. So we camped between some young trees just out of sight of the road. This was against parkway policy, but what could we do?

Vinton - Smart View, 44 miles, 4 hrs., June 7. 

Day 29: The idea occurred to me that I would have cycling companions for a while. It turned out that the two young cyclists were Mennonites, so that some of the things I said and did bothered them, and we also had other differences as well. I had much better equipment and bicycle, so I was prepared for camping and bad weather, while they had more money, so they could eat in restaurants or sleep in lodgings. In addition, I was determined to pedal the whole distance, and they saw no problem with catching rides. Under the circumstances, it's probably surprising that we stuck together at all; however, there was only one road, and we were traveling at about the same speed. In addition, they sometimes needed help which only I could provide. I no longer remember how we split up that first day, but I had the distinct impression that they wanted it that way. At any rate, that evening I was riding down the road when a pickup passed, and they were in the back waving at me.

Smart View - Roaring Gap, North Carolina, 78 miles, 6 1/2 hrs., June 8. 

Day 30: The next day, I encountered the same fellows very quickly. There had been some sort of change of heart, and they felt more comfortable with me, so we rode together for a ways. Unfortunately, the weather changed, and they found the spray from their tires was blinding them on the steep downhill grades. So, we stopped at some stores, and I left them and never saw them again. After I began riding again, I felt I might have made a mistake. I was getting wet in spite of my rainsuit, and the foggy weather increased the danger from automobiles. However, after a stop, the weather started to clear, and I was on my way again with less trouble. I had no problem reaching Boone that afternoon.

Roaring Gap - Boone, 60 miles, 5 hrs., June 9. 

The new Linn Cove Viaduct from the bottom.Day 31: The climb after leaving Boone was very nice, and I enjoyed walking around at the new Linn Cove Viaduct (to put the road in, the engineers built a long, winding bridge that follows the contours of the mountain). However, I also found a serious problem: I now had two broken spokes and no spokes left. Although I had wanted to visit Montreat or climb to the top of Mt. Mitchell, I realized that I would have to make the shortest trip I could to an Asheville bike shop. I thought about going back to Boone, but I really didn't know for sure if there was a bike shop there, and I hate to backtrack, so I decided to continue.

During the day, I revisited the last places reached on my 1971 trip. I was amazed at how strong I was; I was singing on the toughest climbs. That evening I took a picture of the silhouette of the Black Mountains (which include Mt. Mitchell) against the evening sky.

Boone - Big Laurel, 66 miles, 5 1/2 hrs., June 10. 

Day 32: In the morning, I completed the climb up the Black Mountains, and then I began the rapid trip to the bottom of the mountain and Asheville. This is a long fast, mostly downhill section with good views along the way. Since it was a Saturday, there was a stream of cyclists coming up. Fortunately, my tire was not rubbing at all, which would have been dangerous at my speeds. At the bike shop, I discovered that my problem had been inferior spokes. I purchased extra spokes (although nothing else broke, of course), replaced the spokes and retrued my wheel. I was becoming expert.

On the way out of town, I stopped at a supermarket where there were large BBQ chickens for $2.50. Having been on meager rations on the parkway and no meat, I decided to feast myself. That afternoon, I tried climbing all the way to Mt. Pisgah, but I was not able to do so, and I was forced to find a place to sleep along the road. I made sure I was out of sight, and I did not pitch a tent.

Big Laurel - Mt. Pisgah, 66 miles, 5 1/2 hrs., June 11. 

Looking back at the parkway.Day 33: I began the day feeling a little sick. At Mt. Pisgah, I heard an amusing tale about the man who had planned most of the trails in that area. He was camping in his tent when a bear stuck its face in the opening. To scare away the bear, he just shouted "BOO" as loud as he could. The bear ran away; unfortunately, the "boo" had scared the bear so badly that it had exhausted all of its breath into the tent. Unable to endure the stench, the trailmaker had to sleep outside for the rest of the night.

Later in the day, I started seeing spots in front of my eyes, and my stomach was also bothering me. Getting off the road, I threw up violently. I buried the mess and went on, having no more trouble. I decided that the greasy chicken had been too much for me.

Before I left the parkway at Sylvia, I encountered another touring cyclist, riding a mountainbike with big knobby tires. During our conversation, I pointed out that it would take less energy to climb if he had smaller tires. While we were speaking, some younger cyclists, dressed in full racing gear and riding ultra-lightweight machines, started passing us. He said, "See those fellows? I've been keeping up with them with no problem." While we were talking, a young woman ranger stopped and started to lecture us about camping on the parkway. However, as soon as he said he would be camping at Graveyard Fields -- a common camping area slightly off the parkway -- she was modified and left.

That night I camped only thirty feet from the highway in a little stream bed. A walker came by, and I could see him clearly, but he never saw me.

Mt. Pisgah - Tilley Creek, 63 miles, 5 hrs., June 12. 

Day 34: After leaving the parkway, I had started following the North Carolina bike route, and it had an odd way of getting through the Western part of the state, taking me south from Sylvia and then north to Franklin then almost due west to Andrews, then after passing through Marble, back along a road heading to highway 64 near Murphy. Most of this route was quite interesting and enjoyable, although the part between the Nantahalla Dam and Andrews was mostly on a new, wide boring two-lane road, and the road south out of Sylvia was a dangerous four-lane. It was not nearly as nice as old 19, however, that I traveled by bike in 1965 and 1971. After a really fun-filled downhill ride into Andrews, I traveled parallel to the new 19 to Marble and then beyond.

At that point, I could have easily proceeded into Murphy on back roads, but I chose to follow the bike route, which was a bad mistake. It was getting towards evening, and my map showed national forest, but there weren't even many trees. I thought about camping in a tree-filled meadow, but a nearby, vicious, barking dog dissuaded me. When I reached 64, I found the road suicidal, with a high cliff on one side, a drop-off on the other, unpaved shoulders, poor sight distances, heavy traffic, and gathering night, so I ended up walking. As I walked, I noticed cuts in the bluff. One of them was large enough to hide me and the bike and for me to sleep in a sitting up position.

Tilley Creek - Murphy, 74 miles, 5 hrs., June 13. 

Day 35: The next day was a traffic-filled day, all day long, as I was traveling along a four-lane. Fortunately, there was a paved shoulder. It's impossible to enjoy the ride when speeding cars and trucks just pass within inches, some of them passing much closer than they have any reason too. Along the beautiful Ocoee River, which has cut a steep winding gorge, the highway was expanded to the maximum width possible, adding additional danger. In addition, the weather became very hot after leaving Kentucky. However, I was able to find a nice camping spot in the Cleveland area. This was my fourth time to camp in this area, but I couldn't spot any of my previous camping sites.

Murphy - Cleveland, Tennessee, 72 miles, 5 hrs., June 14. 

The ferry at Bridgeport, Alabama.Day 36: Today was a pleasant ride. I rode into Chattanooga on highway 11, traveling through the Missionary Ridge tunnel. I took time to stop and read at the Chattanooga public library. It was another delight to take old 11 up around Lookout Mt. as I left town. The road taking me to South Pittsburg was less delightful as it was hillier than I would have expected. Before getting to that town, I took the road south that I had followed on the trip north; however, this time I used the ferry to cross the river to Bridgeport. When I reach my cabin in the woods that night, I was anxious to tell others about my trip, so I rode on into Scottsboro to the informal game club that I belonged to. However, my announcement that I had just finished my bike trip was treated with complete indifference. Nonetheless, that trip into town added another 28 miles for the day.

Cleveland - Scottsboro, Alabama, 94 miles, 6 3/4 hrs., June 15. 

This trip had been one of the greatest experiences in my life and had cost only $230 (about $6.40 a day or 9¢ a mile). Especially moving to me was meeting the AT hikers, returning to my home state and childhood home, spending time with my uncle and aunt, meeting with Amish and Mennonite people, visiting the capital, stopping with the Cookie Lady, traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, and returning to the spot where my 1971 trip had ended.

Someone told me, after I got back, that he could have made the whole trip in five days by car. No doubt that's true; the trip would have cost much, much more and would have been in no way as satisfying.

Comments | SECTIONS: | The New World | Writing | Thoreau | Home | Bike Pages |
DIRECTORIES: | Lifestyle | Commuting | Touring | Health | Advocacy | Traffic | Skills | Humor |Survey | Links |
TOURING ARTICLES: | Touring | Door to Door | Travel | Camping | Camping Gear | Bags | Tent | Laptop | NE Alabama | Gears |
TOURING ARTICLES: | Maps | Weather | Cooking | Tips | Tourtypes |
TOURING TRIPS: | Long Trips |Short Trips | Smokies | Canada | Spruce | Penna | Colorado | Seven States | New England | Ontario | Penna II | Plains | ENAT |
http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/touring/penn.htm | Copyright © 2000 Ken Kifer | Minor changes June 1999