It all started because I had a bent pole.
My bamboo pole had become bent from the severe winds pushing it at high speeds, and my wind sock was no longer very high. Drivers could not see me. I was becoming concerned.
At the end of the day today I came upon a nice garden center. I stopped in to see about a new pole.
I rode up, and approached a middle-aged woman washing a pumpkin. "I have a bent bamboo pole." She didn't look up from her pumpkin. "Excuse me, can you help me about my bent pole?" She looked up, and saw me and the goofy bike.
"What do you want me to do about it?"
"I was hoping you would sell me a new pole." I explained that I need the pole to hold up my wind sock so cars can see me in traffic. Once she decided I was not a crazy person, she was very nice. She only had short poles, but her husband found me a perfect long pole in the back.
I was near the end of the day on the west outskirts of Johnson City. There are no campgrounds nearby, so I was looking for a cheap motel near good food. Three miles ahead was the town of Jonesborough, which is the oldest town in Tennessee, and the first town founded in the United States outside the original 13 colonies.
I got a flyer on Jonesborough at the Visitor Information Center 20 miles back in Elizabethton. Jonesborough looked really cool, but on this flyer it was all bed and breakfasts talking about what world class inns they were, full of luxurious amenities. (Big bucks.) There was one historic hotel. I called them. $100/night special deal. I love historic hotels, but that's a bit much.
So I asked the nice couple at the garden center where the cheap motels were. They said there was one up the road that also had weekly rates and was popular with Mexicans and Iranians. They mentioned Jonesborough. I showed them my brochure, and said it looked pretty fancy. The garden center guy said all the ones in the brochure were very fancy, but there were other ones not in the brocure, and he would go make a call to his friends who have a B&B.
So here I am, in a room upstairs from the Cranberry Thistle, in historic Jonesborough.
I am in an informal B&B, or a B&B in progress or something. Anyway, it's quite a deal. There are two rooms and a semi-furnished living room upstairs from restaraunt. I'm on the road before they open tomorrow, so they gave me dinner, which was awesome. I had baked Ziti, and as the second entree, pinto beans and cornbread. I will be so ready to rack up miles tomorrow.
One of the other diners was a local newspaper columnist named James Brooks, of the Johnson City Press. He is a cyclist, and the waitress saw me reading his column in the paper, and she introduced us. I joined his table and spent the evening talking about bike riding. He used to own a bike shop, and had just gotten back into riding again after 20 years off. I showed him the T-Bone.
So I've had a great evening here in Jonesborough.
Today was a really fine day of riding, fabulous scenery, fair conditions. It was in the 50s most of the day, partly cloudy, with a stiff wind from the west. Most of the time I was in rugged mountains, so the wind was not a factor until I would come around a bend into the open and get blown off the road.
After some tasty ham biscuits at a gourmet ham store for breakfast, I left Boone on US 321. 321 more or less follows the Watuga River. The terrain is very rugged, and the river is usually at the bottom of a deep gorge, so you are going up and down across the side of the gorge the whole time. The leaves are at their peak, best fall foliage of the trip so far. Here is the view looking back into North Carolina at the Tennessee line.
Awhile later the Watuga is dammed to make a reservior. Here is a view overlooking the lake.
I did 40 miles of this stuff, which is strenuous, but beautiful. Then you get to the Tri-Cities, two of which are Elizabethton and Johnson City. They appear to be all strip malls, but I didn't get off the highway to explore. Maybe the other Tri-City is Hampton. I don't know. I had lunch at an Internet Cafe there, and checked my e-mail. Now all of a sudden, Internet access is everywhere.
I don't know what people do around here. I know the men work in trees, though.
Back in Boone, the big local industry is Christmas tree farms. Here, I have no idea. There is some tourism by Watuga Lake, and cabins for rent, but there appears to be no other local economy. What they do in Johnson City is a mystery. I'll have to investigate this. They can't all be selling stuff to each other in strip malls.
Here is the actual route travelled for today. One interesting thing, I've been down this road before, or some of it. When I rode from Baltimore to Savannah, GA to Cincinnati to West Point, NY a few years ago, I was on the same stretch of US 19E between Hampton and Elizabethton.