Tullahoma, TN (6/9)
Another long ride… nearly the third century in four days! The miles weren’t so much the challenge of this day as much as the elevation. The unfortunate part is we knew it was coming too. The evening before and all throughout the day, people would stop us and say “Wait, you aren’t going over Mount Eagle, are you?” We were headed straight for it. The anticipation was crazy… and it didn’t help that we had 50 miles or so to go before we even got to it. During that time, however, we did have a bit of fun. We crossed two state lines (Georgie and Alabama), found a turtle and ran from a bunch of dogs- except the one nice one that we ended up playing with- and browsed through a fireworks/convenience store/souvenir shop all in one.
Finally getting to Mount Eagle was a relief, but also one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to undertake. (I know I keep saying that about different things on this trip, but I am literally pushing my limits more and more as time passes.) I don’t remember how many miles exactly it was from bottom to top, but I’m guessing about 4-5, and the grade was INCREDIBLE… 25% was the highest one of my teammates got on his bike computer. For those of you who have trouble visualizing that, it wouldn’t be physically possible for most of us to do anything steeper than that. Written on this hill, our drivers had chalked four words that really struck a chord with all of us: “Nothing compares to chemo.” Reading this was like getting a new pair of legs. It was a simple reminder of why we were there, and immediately removed any temptation of giving up from our minds. We took it in strides, and everyone made it to the top. Let me tell you, the feeling of being on top of that mountain was like nothing in the world. To look down at the hills behind us and be able to say “Damn, I just did that” was beyond words…. gives new meaning to that “top of the world” feeling.
Little did I know, there was a huge surprise waiting for me at the top of Mount Eagle. One of the girls I went abroad with, Luca, always raved about how beautiful her university, Sewanee “The University of the South” was. Well, I honestly didn’t even remember that it was even in Tennessee, nevermind know that it is on top of Mount Eagle. When I started seeing signs for Sewanee I literally got so excited, and fortunately for me, we ended up biking straight through it! Luca had already left since graduation, but it was really cool to get to see a place I had heard so much about. What was even better is I ended up meeting two separate people who knew her. The first was a woman we passed while she was loading her bicycle onto the back of her car. She stopped us to say hello and it turns out she was a professor who had had Luca in class! Kind of puts that 7 degrees of separation thing into perspective that I would meet a stranger I have someone in common with on top of a mountain in Tennessee. The second was a couple who was eating at this awesome cafe/bar called Shenanigans closer to Sewanee’s campus. They were truly lovely people, who spent a solid hour talking to us and learning about our journey and personal stories. They shared a bit of their own story with us and how cancer has affected their own family. Their genuine appreciation for what we are doing was obvious and incredibly touching. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, but it’s moments like this that this trip is all about. Every time I’m on my bike I do my best to push myself- to step up the pace, to fight up a hill- but the 4K is about much more than reaching 4,000 miles. It’s about the journey- the stopping and talking to strangers; experiencing and inspiring.
Mileage – 93.78; Ascent – 4,547 ft.