After an inspiring kick-off to National Bike Month with the first Tennessee Bike Summit, Jenny P and I had it in our heads to ride in the 8th annual Tour de Nash.
Drive to Nashville, bring/borrow bikes, ride an easy 20 or so miles, call it a day. Easy enough, right?
Well, sort of. A few lessons we learned…
1. Nashville has hills.
Surprising, right? Friday evening as we discussed our expectations for the ride, we concluded that Nashville had to be relatively flat. Ish. Well, it’s not. While ridges, mountains and hills in Chattanooga are indeed more numerous and easy to find, Nashville has its share of somewhat hilly terrain. Also, a very steep walking bridge that ironically was closed for a car show on Saturday.
2. Nashville has developed cycling infrastructure.
…including the (eventual) introduction of a really sweet Nashville Groove map that displays cycling infrastructure. I was lucky enough to grab a sample copy at the TN Bike Summit, and we used it all weekend. Bike routes were well marked where we traveled, and some of the route markers even had PANDAS!!!! We also used some unique bike racks.
(You’ll notice Jenny P and I are quickly developing great panda skills, thanks in part to the cushy bike lanes and greenways. Also, she’s become a Nutcase!)
We rode the 32 mile route Saturday morning, which took us on the Music City Bikeway, on various greenways and other bike routes. One section of the bikeway took us on Charlotte for quite some time, which was somewhat unpleasant, a slow climb, and at a point of the ride that I wanted a beer.
Badly. Which brings me to my next point…
3. The force is strong with the Tennessee Bikey Family.
And it’s ever expanding! Jenny and I got to meet Trisha (of Let’s Go Ride a Bike fame) for beers after the ride. We talked bikes, the South, infrastructure, changes in our respective cool cities and the perceived increase in cyclists. She took us to Halcyon, a bike shop in 12 South, where I bought the Brooks saddle I’ve been lusting after that may or may not have come with a complimentary shot of brown liquor.
Then skies opened up, and JP and I embraced the big fat raindrops as we pedaled toward a nap and a shower. I promptly faceplanted on our hosts’ hammock and listened to the thunder
I MUST MENTION, too, all the fabulous bikey family I met at the Summit—Pat, who’s fotos of TdN can be found here; Dorothy and Francie, who played a big role in pulling off this year’s event; Austin of Green Fleet, who gave a guided tour of E. Nash and let us test ride a super fun single speed; I think the list goes on.
It’s reassuring to meet more folks in the Tennessee Bikey community who are as equally persistent in the push for better infrastructure and in advocating for cyclists’ rights.
4. But there is still much work to be done!
After a weekend of pedaling, we loaded up in Jenny’s car and headed back down I-24 to home sweet home. JP and I both very much detest driving; I don’t drive, for many reasons, and she does but doesn’t enjoy it for long boring stretches of interstate, especially.
This has swirled into conversations about connecting the dots for bikey vacations—how can we get to Nashville/Knoxville/ATL/(XXX Southeastern city) without a car and WITH our bikes? Exploring a city by bike or on foot really is one of the most engaging ways to see new things. How do we make that more accessible, and a more simple decision?
In our own cities, how do we make cycling more accessible for visitors and residents alike? What aspects of Chattanooga attract the types of people who seek active transportation? What parts of cities do I like that encourage LIVING by bike?
So many ideas, questions and positive energy remains with me from the weekend. THANK YOU, Nashville and bikey folks, for showing us such great hospitality and letting me cruise in your cushy bike lanes this weekend. And watch out—we’ll be back, with a stronger showing of Chattanoogans! (Hint: More beer will be involved. No, not my style at all!)