Tennessee: West to East
We began the ride on Kimsey Mountain Hwy fed and happy. The road quickly turned into nothing more than a two-track with tall grass on the sides and middle of the gravel. Sunlight filtered through the leaves on mostly deciduous trees and wildflowers sneaked in and out of view as we rode. This is what I remembered most about riding in Maine and it took me back decades to doing just that. I found myself snapping the throttle wide open and backing off, bouncing and bucking like a zesty pony in the pasture. I was chuckling and giggling with a wide sunshine-eating grin plastered on my face. Like I was a kid again. I rode behind Ed, but sometimes I felt like he was just in my way (though I didn't let him know ), and like a teasing colt, I would rush ahead and fall back, repeatedly. The only way I know how I can skip down the road on a bike instead of my own two feet. The road widened and narrowed, sometimes getting a bit rough, more rough than most of the wide forest roads we rode with Jack. Occasional ruts and mud puddles, switchbacks, hairpin turns, ferns caressing your boots, and branches that slap your helmet. As we gained elevation, the tree population switched from predominantly deciduous to mostly pine and the sun was more hidden. Shadows blanketed the road and soon my riding matched the somber mood of deep mountain shadows. Rhododendrons became dense thickets with their thick large leaves, ferns and moss covered the roadside rocks and ledges. I slowed down, assumed a quiet respect and puttered through the Elders, listening for 'voices' of the past and present. Up on a ledge to the side was a sign for a cemetery. What I couldn't figure out was where the heck this 'cemetery' is or was. The ledge was at least 50 feet tall and topped with thick dense tree cover. On the other side of the road was another ledge the dropped below, again in thick dense pine and rhododendron growth. Was it just one grave? or several? Some time, I'd like to go back and explore.
The area of Frog Mountain intrigued me. It was this area, high atop the mountain and near a spring, that a group of Cherokee families hid from the soldiers to avoid the forced emigration to Indian Territory. They were so well hid that soldiers never found them. Long after the Trail of Tears, and politics settled down a bit, they began traveling down into nearby settlements to trade for provisions. Slowly and quietly they began to resettle themselves into these towns -Turtletown, Ducktown, Coker Creek, and others- blending into the communities. They chose to be 'white'. It was their only way to survive and avoid persecution. Years later, when it was okay to be Native American, and Cherokee, they became more active in communities, working and living alongside their neighbors; building schools, churches, stores and local government offices. Finally they were accepted for whom they were. Many are still there, in their descendants, in the names of the landmarks and towns, in the roads and buildings they helped build, and in the cemeteries where they finally rested. Somewhere -in that area, in North Carolina, in some small community- is my great-grandmother. Possibly laid to rest next to her German husband. I only hope that her life was full and finally happy. It was this trip that I commemorate to her. Her spirit seems to be there covering that entire area. We navigated my favorite Horseshoe Bend and soon descended back into civilization and Hwy 68. Riding north toward Tellico Plains area, this all now felt so familiar to me, as if it was at one-time my home. Maybe part of me does live there. I'll just have to go back and visit myself every other year. I rode up the hillside to our camp; tired, but satisfied. A day's worth of 112 miles total with 80 miles of that on back roads and gravel/dirt. It was a grand way to end a week-long visit there. I hated to leave, but the humidity and allergens made me glad I was going back to open land and sky with drier heat (but with the same allergies). I know I'll be back.
Labels: dirt, Texas