Tom's Big Ride
Jim Christian and Dave Oswald provided an update on Tom's Big Ride

Day 14: Covington to Dyersburg, TN

     As we were checking out of our motel this morning we met Sam, a retired gentleman originally from Covington and now living in Kansas City, who was in town visiting his sisters. He noticed our bike jerseys and inquired about what we were doing, so we got to talking. After a bit he asked if we would object if he got his camera and took some pictures of us as we did our pre-ride preparations, and of course we didn’t object. As we were about to leave I gave him a bracelet and a card with the TBR contact information, and then asked him if he was a praying man. Sam said he was, and that he was on his way to church this morning and he was going to ask the pastor to pray for our safety.

Today, Sam and his entire home congregation prayed for Tom’s Big Ride.

If we were to graph today’s ride it would look like a bell curve…flat, elevated, and then flat again. We got on the road a little later than originally planned, but it was still early enough that the air actually felt cool as we pedaled past fields of row crops growing in relatively level fields. But eventually we started to climb…not severe climbs, 009but with each successive battle with gravity we gained a bit more elevation, and occasionally we would catch glimpses of valleys on one side of the road or the other as evidence that we were climbing. And what a sight those valleys were, with trees and other objects completely shrouded in kudzu, creating an almost other-worldly landscape. To say the sights were memorable just doesn’t do them justice.

Today’s ride was much like yesterday’s…or at least the elevated portion was. The roads were narrow, choppy, and twisting, with the turns at times somewhat challenging to locate and navigate. But what unusual, charming names they had! Like Lightfoot Luckett, or Hobe Webb, or Edith Nankipoo…I couldn’t help but ponder what008 kind of local legends these people were, and I would love to know their stories. Or Turkey Hill Road, or Cooper Creek, or Leighs Chapel Road…names that in their own right can conjure up a certain image of the area’s geography in your mind’s eye. But for the five of us fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience them firsthand today, the names will be linked to the beauty of this part of our great country in our memories forever.

At about the 35 mile mark or so, the road decided to have a little fun with us. We started down a long descent, each of us accelerating over what was probably a half-mile-you-better-occasionally-tap-on-your-brakes-lest-you-fly-off-the-road-drop before being spit out on the river bottom. The road was suddenly level, we could see the river levee close by on our left side, and we thought we had probably seen the last of elevation changes for the day. We came around a corner…and there it was…the biggest, longest hill by far that we had seen yet, and we had to climb it back up into the bluff area we had JUST left! A mile later at the top, we all paused for a breather, knowing that the hill we just climbed was simply a warm up for what lies ahead of us in Missouri and Iowa.

We eventually reached tiny Porter’s Gap, which is little more than a wide spot in the road, but this time it did 011denote the end of elevation for the day and we dropped once more to the river bottom. The road straightened and for the next 22 miles we were able to resume our normal paceline until we reached the end of our riding day. Water levels here are very high and for the first six miles we rode along a low levee road surrounded by flooded fields on both sides of the road, firsthand evidence of the abundance of rainfall to the north. The sight of irrigation rigs up to their wheels in water seemed just a bit odd.

We finished today’s ride of about 62 miles by 1:00 PM, and after our last stage today’s and yesterday’s distances seem almost like a warm up! However, tomorrow’s ride is almost 80 miles, so the extra time we were able to have today to rest will bode well for us at sunrise tomorrow.


Official statistics for the day:

Total distance: 62.2 miles

Average speed: 15.7 MPH

Total time on the saddle: 3:57:44

Total calories burned: 1,250