The Tennessee Riverwalk parallels the Tennessee River as it winds it’s way East through the city and then turns North. As a cyclist, I anticipated enjoying this highlight of Chattanooga on a regular basis. After our move, we didn’t have the energy to explore it until a week after we’d settled in. But, I talked my husband into a short, exploratory ride late on a Sunday afternoon. We didn’t actually get started until close to sunset, so we knew we weren’t going to get far. However, we didn’t anticipate failing to find the route!
We crossed over the Walnut St Bridge and found an entry point, but it involved switch-back ramps that were not designed for bicycles. We ended up heading West instead of East, running into the end of the route after only a few minutes. Although the West route led us through the river park in front of the Chattanooga Aquarium, right on the waterfront with it’s spectacular fountains, it wasn’t much of a ride. We headed back East and searched for a route to the West. We ended up on a cliff in front of the Hunter Museum, precariously perched on the cliff high above the river. Fortunately, there were hand rails. Since the sun had set, we gave up, made our way back to the Bridge and headed home.
What do you do when you fail to find a highlight you’ve been looking forward to? Start up Google Earth. From the vantage point of a satellite, I spotted our mistake–in the Bluff View Art District (another must see spot in Chattanooga), the route East requires riding a short distance on the road to a bridge that crosses a highway and safely deposits riders on the route.
Pat (hubby) takes a trip back to Columbus the next day and I decide it’s a good time for me to check the accuracy of Google Earth that evening. After a long day at work, I have 1 hour between my last office-hours call and the start of my first late call (one of the joys of working with a global team is accommodating vast time differences). I hop on my bike and head out.
Sure enough, Google is right again. The river walk is easy to follow once I find the entry point. I can’t help but think about the San Antonio river walk in comparison. The key difference is that Chattanooga actually has a river. San Antonio created a man-made stream that is akin to the stream that flows through the Venetian casino in Vegas. It’s nice, but it’s not nature. In contrast, riding along the Tennessee River is a polite form of nature. The route is man-made concrete, wooden board-walks and bridges. The river has been dammed and the development is plentiful, but the park areas along the ride preserve natural wetlands and woods along the way as well. It’s like Disney meets the Everglades (minus the mangroves and alligators).
I push myself a bit climbing the hills. One of the climbs gets me out of breath. I push harder, feeling the burn as I stand to climb the steepest parts of the trail, daring myself not to sit until I’ve reached the top. I feel my calves flex, my heart accelerate, and my arms pull against the handle bars. The feeling of strength pushes me forward. I am sweating in the heat, but smiling as I top the final climb. It’s a short climb–easier than the climbs in and out of the river valleys in flat Columbus, even. The views of the river are what make me smile.
If I wanted to train for a race, this would not be the place for me. The slippery boardwalks and plentiful pedestrians make high-speeds dangerous. But I am not racing. I am enjoying. I finish my ride satisfied that this highlight will not disappoint.