Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gilt Edge to LaGrange 208k Permanent - Memphis, Tennessee (Graceland)

 Looking at a second successive weekend of potentially dangerous thunderstorms for Arkansas and Missouri I began searching for a region with reasonable weather and RUSA permanents.  All information pointed to Memphis, two-hundred miles to the southeast, with a dry forecast, and predicted temperatures from 60F to 80F.  A 208k permanent was available.  The route owner, Alan, very kindly accommodated my last minute request for a 7am start on Saturday.

I would leave my motel on my Jamis fixed-gear at 6:30am for the one-mile ride to the start.  I was contentedly topped up with oatmeal, waffles, and coffee from the breakfast buffet.  The Kwik-Stop convenience store served as the start/finish control.  After documenting my start I took to the roads at 7am sharp.  Despite having reviewed the course on Google Maps within the first few miles things starting going wrong.  There was a road closure, which I rode through, after which the street markings became confusing. At about 4 miles I was sure I went off route.  After backtracking 1.5 miles I concluded that I was initially headed correctly.  Three bonus miles were added in the fiasco.  The remainder of the distance to the first control in Gilt Edge was mostly flat, aided by a light tail-wind, and passed without incident.  I arrived at the cafe, which specialized in barbecue ribs.  Given it was shortly after 9am, and I adhere to a vegetarian diet, I limited my purchase to a coffee.  I was quickly underway to the next control in Mason.
The Gilt Edge Cafe in Gilt Edge, TN
 Some light rolling terrain on Tennessee 54 was enjoyed along the way.  This section was easy to navigate being almost entirely on state highways.  I relaxed and worked the moderate rollers which were well suited to my gearing and riding style.  The day had warmed into the seventies.  I was soaking up sunshine in a short sleeve jersey, sans arm warmers.  The wind, which was still beneficial, had picked up some.  The wind profile was my one weather concern.  Blowing from the southwest it was predicted to be 19 mph sustained by afternoon.  In just a few miles my direction of travel would be to the southeast and continue in that direction for about 45 miles.  No doubt this would be a factor.  But, for now everything was quite pleasant.  The small town of Covington at mile 42 marked the change in direction to the south.  Due south for a few miles than veering off to the southeast on highway 59.  My perceived effort increases only marginally.  I adjusted to the new work load and quickly relaxed into a nice rhythm.  From my perspective the town of Mason consisted of one intersection with two gas station convenience stores.  At the Tiger Mart I refilled my water and documented my passage.  With minimal delay I departed for the next control in La Grange.  I couldn't prevent the ZZ Top song of the same name from playing in my head ("HOW HOW HOW")!
Tired of pedaling?  Hire the Hillbilly Limozene!
  Leaving the little town on quiet rural roads which are mostly flat.  The wind hampers my progress, but not significantly so.  The next ten miles is a quiet traffic free setting.  After which the route uses lightly traveled state roads (TN 222, TN 59, TN 76) to the town of Somerville.  There was much difficulty navigating through the town.  I was supposed to take the TN 76, although there was no road leaving the town marked as such.  It took me some time, and another bonus mile, to discover that South Main Street was the road I needed to follow.  I was then instructed to turn onto La Grange Road for almost 15 miles ("HOW HOW HOW").  This was another great road with rolling hills, none gaining more than about 75 feet of elevation, perfect for a fixed gear.  I make good time to the tiny town and find the information control, an historical marker, at the intersection of TN 57.  With the question answered on the brevet card I then follow the TN 57 for 9 miles to the next control in Moscow.  The ZZ Top tune playing in my head was replaced by the Beatles "Back in the USSR."
Not as tasty as advertised

Nyet!  I must be lost again!
 The terrain on the 57 was more lightly rolling.  Heading due west into the southwest wind was not too hampering.  I covered the nine miles efficiently arriving in the town of Moscow ("dont know how lucky you are boy...back in the USSR").  I refill water and document my passage at the small gas station market.  I am on the road in about 10 minutes.  In less than a half mile the TN 57 is left in favor of more rural roads.  There are 31 miles left to cover.  I long ago abandoned any though of a fast time.  I lost a lot of time with navigation problems.  I had expected a tail wind assist over this last section.  The reality was more of a cross wind coming from the west across my left side.  The terrain remained predominantly flat as I approached the city of Memphis.  I was riding through the suburbs on nice roads with pleasant surroundings.  The cue sheet was spot on for this final leg.  It was smooth sailing to the Kwik Stop where I began my day over 10 hours earlier.  After documenting my finish I would ride the one mile back to my hotel.  There was a Panera Bread in the area I planned to visit.

 Initially, I had thought of riding a second 200k permanent on Sunday starting in Knoxville, TN, ninety miles to the east.  I gave up on the idea in favor of visiting the home and burial place of Elvis Presley, the undisputed King of Rock and Roll.  On Sunday  at 10:00am a shuttle bus drove me and dozens of other tourists through the front gates of Graceland.  For the next hour and a half I toured the large home and massive grounds where the King resided until his death in 1977.  While I was never an Elvis fanatic his music and movies surely had some influence on me during my teen years in the 60's.  I learned a lot more about him and his lifestyle on that tour.  It was well worth the time.
 I ended my visit to Memphis, and Graceland, by standing aboard the Lisa Marie, which was the private plane, a Convair 880, which flew Elvis to his concert dates world wide.  The decor, which dated back to the 70's, would be considered gaudy by today's standards.  I really liked it.
The Elvis Car Museum

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