You Can’t See This Stuff From a Car

The hotel clerk in Rogersville gave us a 30% discount on our very fine room. Another kindness in honor of the Ride for Human Rights.

We rolled SW along U.S. 11W. Our first roadside encounter was with a gentleman we offered to help; he was leaning out of his stopped truck, hanging on the door. Turns out he was trying to find the lit cigarette he had dropped in the cab. Jeffrey made sure he had water aboard and wished him luck.

Just beyond the truck, these three big birds flapped into a tree. Vultures?

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The NE Tennessee countryside is beautiful.

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Welcome to Bean Station, TN.

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On the outskirts of Rutledge, seat of Grainger County, we stopped for ice cream. Here’s what $1.85 buys in rural Tennessee. Take THAT, New York!

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We had a nice chat with Brian, who arrived in this fine truck with tool box.

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Brian had friendly questions about the Lightning and about the Ride. Jeffrey offered the blog address; Brian took it and asked if there is a way to donate through the blog. (There is!) Another good soul wishing the best to strangers from far away.

Jeffrey, whose clients hail from over 100 countries and who is interested in how immigrants end up in obscure places, thought the cook might be from Afghanistan or Iran. He asked the cashier – who said she didn’t know, that she never thought to ask. That suggests that she doesn’t care where he’s from – in the context of the Ride and the politics surrounding immigration issues, a hopeful sign.

In downtown Rutledge, we passed the county building. A man was praying aloud to Jesus from a podium on the building’s steps. The man concluded by saying he had received letters from Iowa and California criticizing him, and that it was none of the outsiders’ business. Then the crowd of about 30 people broke up, some of them being wheeled to a nursing home van that brought them for the occasion.

Jeffrey asked one of the crowd to explain. Meet Charles Hickson.

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Mr. Hickson said the ruckus is about Grainger County’s Day of Prayer, which was today. He said he worries that 5 years from now, kids will go to jail for praying to Jesus. He recalled that when he was a kid, he’d walk to school and to see friends through fields and woods, and it was common to hear someone praying along the way. Now, he said, outsiders don’t want his community to pray.

Jeffrey said gently that maybe the outsiders take issue not with prayer, but (rightly or wrongly) with government involvement in it. And government prayer doesn’t mean a better country; remember, school prayer was legal in the era of slavery and segregation. Maybe, said Jeffrey, we need to remember that real prayers are said in one’s own heart. Maybe the way to respond to this outside criticism is to leave government out of it and go on praying in our homes, our churches, and within ourselves.

Mr. Hickson liked that idea. He wished us blessings on the road.

Here’s a bit of whimsy we passed near Blaine: a stable decorated to look like an Old West main street! Note the horse and burro.

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Does “Biker’s” (or Bikers, where we went to school) include bicyclists? No matter. I’m sure we’d be welcome.

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Most of our route through Tennessee has been on bike lanes. But it’s not all easy riding. Cracks and potholes, narrow stretches, places where the lane disappears (often on bridges), keep us on high alert. A significant problem is gravel that is dragged onto the bike lane from driveways and road intersections. Gravel can cause a skid. This photo was taken on a several mile stretch of gravel that looked like it was spilled from trucks. It was a bit like biking on marbles. Slow and scary.

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We’ll end today with a bit of local color. Come back tomorrow for more catfish, chick livers and sweet fries!

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