Clusters of daisies along the side of the road brush gently against my shin as a ride by; it feels like a sign, or even a benediction. The pastures are full of flowers – yellow buttercups, blue cornflowers, fuchsia clover. Field crops are greening in rows, the air is scented with freshly mown hay and honeysuckle. Swifts and swallows spiral in the air around the eaves of old barns. My mind is quiet, calm, even meditative as I listen to the soft whrrr of my wheels against the gentle curve of the road. I give thanks for the solitude, for the peacefulness of slow travel on my bicycle. The daisies have blessed me.
storm clouds and dandelions
There are some days where all you have to do is look up, and you know you are in for it.
I remind myself that the rain is a good thing, washing the pollen from the air, making spring things grow bright and beautiful – even as I stand beneath a storefront awning, trying to wait out another thunderstorm before riding home. Oh well.
Yesterday I had to be out in it; today I really didn’t need to be anywhere, but despite the rainy forecast, I wanted to take a quick ride to a nearby field I had passed yesterday. Red clover and wildflowers were out in abundance, my time was my own, and I wanted to play with my camera. But before I was even a mile down the road, the rain began to fall again.
No fields of red clover today … only a few dandelions in my yard. I’ll have to wait out the rain once again. Sigh.
trails and TNT
It’s been a while since we’ve done much mountain biking, but today we decided it was a good day for a change of pace from the road. We dusted off the knobby-tired bikes and headed down to the Enterprise South Nature Park in Chattanooga to explore some of the mountain bike trails.
But first, a little history…
In the early 1940’s the Army Corps of Engineers built the original facilities for the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant. The plant was originally built to support World War II military efforts, and operated as a TNT manufacturing facility through 1977 – producing up to 30 million pounds of TNT per month during peak production years in the 1960’s.
Within the past decade, the state of Tennessee and Hamilton County turned the site into a combination of industrial property and the 2800-acre Enterprise South Nature Park, which opened to the public in 2010. The Park is adjacent to the recently opened state-of-the-art Volkswagon manufacturing facility. Along with bringing several thousand jobs to the area, the VW plant has achieved the world’s first LEED-Platinum green building certification for an automotive plant, making them a great environmentally responsible partner for the public access parklands.
Within the 2800-acre Nature Park is an extensive multi-use trail system – from pedestrian hiking paths, to both paved bike routes and single-track mountain biking trails – in a wide range of difficulty levels. There are also plans to include equestrian trails into the mix.
One of the more fascinating things to see as you ride the trails are the collection of abandoned munitions “bunkers”, big caverns with concrete walls with huge steel doors, many of them built into hillsides. I think there are close to 100 of them, some locked and sealed, but we came across at least one that was open. A little creepy, in an interesting way. Mark’s theory is that most of the trail system evolved from the bunker access roads and pathways. Definitely possible.
We rode two of the intermediate/advanced mountain biking loops – the TNT Trail and the Log-Rhythm Trail – and Mark had some fun playing on the bridge course. The trails are wonderfully maintained, and even “enhanced” in places. There are a couple of log and bridge courses, along with a number of fun (engineered) “whoop-y” sections of the hillside trail (I am sure that is a technical mountain biking term). Enough rocks and climbing to make you work, and some great descents. Yeah, fun. And a nice reminder that mountain biking uses a very different skill set of increased agility, weight-shift and balance than road biking. Actually, it often reminds me of skiing, especially through the tighter turns in the trees.
We are definitely going to do this again… And if you are in the area, it is definitely a place worth visiting – biking, hiking or however you choose to explore.
Riding home, I stopped to poke around the local ball field up the road. Little League season is in full swing this time of year, but the park was empty and quiet when I arrived – an hour or so before the after-school practices would begin. One of these nights, I’m going to go to watch a game. It’s always entertaining to watch the really little kids play – cute, earnest, and usually with a sprinkling of comedy.
I let the Xtracycle steal second base… and I am wishing my beloved a very happy fifty-second birthday today, and many more wonderful miles ahead!
The name of game this week seems to be Beat the Rain. Today, I won … for a change.
Riding by the old cemetery, I stop to look. I love the quiet. Stillness is broken by a rumble of thunder, wind stirs the branches. A drop of rain.
Sometimes you just get caught in it. And despite the soaking, it is all ok.
rabbit, fox … and turtle
Some cyclists are fleet like rabbits, some quick or clever like foxes … as for me, I am more like a turtle. Usually getting waylaid on the side of the road with my camera, and having to be prodded to get moving. Eventually I manage to get where I am going.
Yesterday we decided to explore some new territory. I’ve had a local route book on my shelf for almost a year now – (Chattanooga area) Bicycling Routes by Elle Colquitt. It’s filled with nice maps, cue sheets, and route descriptions for some interesting-looking rides in the Chattanooga area and into north Georgia. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t made as much as much use of it as I should. I tend to be a creature of habit, and end up riding my favorite roads more often than exploring new ones. Like I said, I am a turtle.
While many of the routes would (realistically) necessitate driving to some not-so-nearby starting point, one of the routes begins almost out my front door. It’s called “Chasing Down the Rabbit and the Fox”, named for Rabbit Valley Road and Black Fox Road.
I am guessing that nearly half of the photos on this blog come from points along Rabbit Valley Road and White Oak Valley; they are the roads we tend to ride a lot. They are beautiful and bicycle friendly. I have established friendships with many cows along the way. But a good portion of the Black Fox Road side of the loop was new and un-ridden territory for us … so we decided to give it a go. And I am glad we did.
I would describe the route as very easy – a great leisurely Sunday ride for us turtle-types. Mostly gently rolling, good pavement, low traffic. The hillier parts are ones we are already familiar with, on the White Oak Valley side. One very short “whoop-y” little climb, but otherwise easy on the legs and lovely to the eye. We ran across several other small groups of cyclists along the way, which makes me believe it is a pretty popular route. And while I took some photos, I was focussed on taking in the new scenery and enjoying the ride. So much so that I didn’t pay enough attention to regularly sipping from my water bottles, and ended up with a post-ride sun/dehydration headache. Dumbness.
The first of April brings another #30daysofbiking to the table. I applaud several of my friends who are making a go of it again – Myrna, BlueAllez (aka FritterMan), and DIsabled Cyclist. While I really enjoyed my past experiences with both #30daysofbiking, and my subsequent #330daysofbiking, I have debated about committing to another. I may, I may not. We’ll see. At this point, I am not officially putting my name on the list, but may try and keep a Flickr set – one photo from each day. If I make it through to the end, I may write a post. Maybe.
Meanwhile, a tip of my cycling cap to my friends – and I wish you all many happy miles and adventures. For me, silly business as usual … and a few scenes from yesterday.
(Can you spy the cyclist?)