When the announcement was made that a Cedar Bluff to downtown bicycle route had been signed and posted I was fired up.
I was determined to do it again. Actually again is a misnomer. The first time I attempted this feat, I quit on the way back at the Back Door Tavern. I had plotted a route along what I hoped to be the crest of the Deane Hill Ridge, ended up on Deane Hill Drive in excess of a mile (let's mildly classify this experience as stressful as fast as a fatass fifty year old can ride a bicycle while getting bird flipped and menaced by SUVs piloted by people on cellphones, as stressful can beI), made it to Market Square and back to the Back Door. This relatively easy because our green way system between those two points is, frankly, world class, but when I got to Carr Street and the thunderclouds were gathering and I thought of having to go through the same experience I had gone through earlier on Deane Hill Dr. only going uphill instead of downhill in the driving rain with lightning, I quit. I admit it, I quit. It was late afternoon and I was soaked in sweat and Barry was hosting a fundraiser for a friend of his going through a rocky spot, but he let me chain up my bicycle (bicycle ride ups aren't a huge source of revenue at Toddy's) and go inside to call my wife and drink a few cheap draughts. As I was drinking with the vice mayor and a locally prominent friend of his, I was explaining that I was trying to figure out how the homeless were supposed to commute in Knoxville. I expounded on the difficulties that I had faced that day and noted that quite often policy makers are out of touch with those they are trying to "help" and that I wanted to know first hand exactly what the commuting issue was about from west of Deane Hill (though not far west of Deane Hill) to downtown. I noted that what we were doing well, we did in such a grand manner that few ,if any, municipalities could keep pace with us and what we did poorly seemed to nullify all our accomplishments. I mentioned that we could start with widening a couple roads, buying some five gallon buckets of paint, putting up some signs, and using a little common sense to connect our greenways. I'd had this same conversation with Bob Becker, Finbarr Saunders, and Madeline Rogero (though to be fair to all, it is more of a rant by the time I get to the Goddamned five gallon bucket of paint part.) My wife came and got me, we loaded up my bike, and made it home in time to watch a king hell thunderstorm that coulda/shoulda ended my time on this orb had I challenged it.
The second time I attempted this grand journey, I enlisted my twelve year old son as a partner in crime. It was only fair, as it was , after all,it was he whom I was attempting to teach social responsibility. There was also quite a bit more research and some scouting trips involved. I learned about holes in fences, old paths through fields, shortcuts and easier ways both past and present, and I studied maps. Bearden Hill and Deane Hill are natural boundaries. One issue that becomes painfully obvious, very quickly, to anyone involving themselves in social issues out this way is that some people don't want these boundaries breached. That being said, we snaked our way along these tetonic mounds and learned their ins and outs, stopped by Harper's (I believe it was) on Northshore and Raven Records on the Pike and made it to lunch/dinner at Dead-End Bar B Q before heading home. My wife did not have to fetch us.
The journey to the Dead End was not the first my son and I had attempted. We had actually made it to the start of the Ten Mile Greenway via the Jean Teague Greenway and back home via Vanosdale vs. Winston. This is all important shit so I hope you're following these journeys on a map.
Before I start on the story of today's journey, I'm going to give some grades.
Common Sense- A+ If what I saw today is an indication of how every little thing is being handled in the city of Knoxville, we're in good shape. There is no way there was going to be the will to improve city services if we don't get people to use them. Signage and press releases are politics 101. Kudos for using resources at hand for improving city infrastructure in a cost effective manner.
Double checking Common sense from Downtown- C- (probably) A sign was either misplaced or stolen on West Hills Drive at the bottom of the hill. We climbed the hill and ran into another couple on Gainsborough just as tired and confused as we were. From there until we actually got on Baum Drive the bike route does not work. There are ways around this and they should be explored.
Foresight- A+ If the Hotel/Motel folks at Cedar Bluff will use this free activity to their own profit based benefit, and the businesses along the route actually look at what is going on here, then they will realize that that the infrastructure is here. Is a greenway sign to Harper's or Earth Traverse or River Sports or Savelli's worth $200.00 a month? What would it take for well developed informational signage to support the greenways? If the businesses that will ultimately benefit from the business can support the main corridors, then that frees up the city to use expansion capital to develop spurs offering more access to different neighborhoods thereby expanding the customer base.
Doing something with nothing- B+ Paint, signs and minor crosswalk repair. It really doesn't get much more cost effective than what Madeline has gotten done. (I don't mean to disparage anyone beneath her, but in reality, Haslam damn near dealt a death blow to greenways at this end of the county. Business happens by getting everyone out, not by shutting undesirables in.)
We left the house on our bicycles. There didn't seem to be much point in checking out how the greenways worked if one had to drive to a greenway. Besides, in order to sell the Dogwoods Arts Festival or virtually any tourist or business attraction in the future, if the greenways can't tie in, then what's the point? We connected Montvue to Winston to the Ten Mile Greenway and turned at Carmike Cinemas. In fairness, I should mention that my son is working on his bicycling merit badge and we left the house with the intension (and result) of getting in a twenty-five mile ride in. I should also note that our neighborhood was, by far, the toughest riding we encountered.
From Carmike to West Hills Drive(Road?) was uneventful. It was a dad working with and enjoying the presence of his son. Having been miserably lost in my life, it was a grand experience to teach detail as it relates to following signs. Unfortunately, there was a bad signage situation. As we started up the BIG hill on West Hills Drive I noticed an intersection that the signage appeared out of place(it was). Had our sign been properly placed, or not stolen as the case may be, we would have turned left and continued on a pleasant ride. As it was we climbed this tortuous hill and ended up with another couple demanding of a guy who just wanted to do yard work in peace just where in the hell we were. Once we figured out where Wesley was , I declared the whole incident the work of Republican vandals who were determined to see the Rogero administration fail. In retrospect, I'm not sure I was entirely correct, but I'm not sorry I took that position either.
Now I'm going to take a position. If this greenway and/or bike route is going to use the Wesley/Kingston Pike crossing as a real alternative then the city needs to acquire some right of way through the various businesses and churches that line this route. Lutherans tend to be reasonable people, talk to them. Restaurants want people to stop and eat, talk to them. If the businesses along the present route don't want to cooperate, fuck them. We're trying to build something great here and we'll go where businesses want to be a part of that. My son will never ride that part of the bike route, as it stands, again. There are alternate routes. Perhaps the city should explore them.
Once we got past Kingston Pike things began to fall in place. Baum Drive is dead on weekends, (and frankly a bike lane/wide sidewalk looks doable and relatively cheap), crosswalk at Northshore needs a cross button, paint for bike lanes back on Walden( as much for cars as bikes. There appears to be a lack of knowledge among auto drivers that this is also a bike route. It would be nice to see a funky neighborhood preserved instead of rolled over). And then the roll goes back by Bearden Elementary.
At that point, one begins to see the vision for Knoxville. Starting with the intramural fields, you can literally look into the future if you're willing to let your mind look beyond a construction site. Look to your left over the bridge and see an area of Sutherland serving bike riders with Earth Traverse, River Sports and Savelli's, as well as businesses that see the values of their location. The World's Fair Park spur takes folks right up to Market Square (done it many times. It's my wife's motivation for riding.) The south Knoxville waterfront gives cause for ponder (God, what a useless piece of property Baptist Hospital is unless you built some stands to watch river events from the bottom of the building on down to the waterfront. They could hold 15,000 spectators and we could host Bass Tournaments, rowing competitions, waterskiing events and anything else where we would be the only city that had the ability to offer fifteen thousand seats on the river.) HEY! That would be ........just us.
We finally made it home. 27.9 miles according to Bo's bike odometer. At twenty five he began serious lobbying to call someone to fetch us. We walked the final hill. He has talent. I learned to survive by not quitting. Today our father/son moment was about doing things my way. Thanks Madeline. Good Government is about doing the smart, cheap things and making good choices about the more expensive harder choices. Keep up the good work.
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