Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 37 – Milan, TN to Hohenwald, TN (20ish miles)

Friday, May 7, 2010

People in West Tennessee really love their Strawberry Festival. And I am pretty sure that is an understatement.
Our entire team participated in the West Tennessee Strawberry Festival Grand Parade this morning (or, if pronounced by the people around here, the “Straw-burry Festival”). We were staying in Milan, TN overnight so we biked the 14ish short miles back to Humbolt, TN for the parade. The day was incredibly hot and humid and the winds were super strong (gusts up to 25mph!), so we were already sweating profusely by the time we arrived at the parade. We got lined up in our parade position and had some time to further decorate our van and our bikes (and ourselves). I’m pretty sure we looked incredibly idiotic. But we had a great time.
Luckily, we were in the parade right behind a float that was blaring music, so we were able to dance through the streets as the parade progressed. Some of us attempted to actually ride our bike in the parade, but we were moving so slowly that it made the task nearly impossible. The parade route itself probably wasn’t much longer than two miles or so. But those two miles were completely lined with people, at least 3-4 deep on both sides. It was crazy. And there seemed to be a Strawberry Queen/Princess from every single po-dunk little town around western Tennessee. We even had our own Strawberry/R4WH King and Queen – Justin and Maggie. Fun times for all.
After we finished our route in the parade, we wandered around the area a little. Unfortunately, although it is the Strawberry Festival, there are very little real, edible strawberries around. I was quite disappointed. I had imaged strawberry everything – strawberry shortcake, strawberry smoothies, strawberry jam, and (what I was most excited about) strawberry pie. But, alas, this was not the case. There were abundant strawberry “trinkets,” but not many delicious strawberry creations. I guess the reason for this is that, back during the depression, this area of Tennessee was one of the top producers of strawberries in the country. There was a large railroad that ran through the area, delivering the strawberries to Chicago, and from there, to everywhere else. However, after the implementation of minimum wages, the farmers in the area could no longer afford to maintain and produce the strawberries, so the crop effectively disappeared from the area. Sad. But they still love the Strawberry Festival in West Tennessee and they still celebrate it every single year (with much hoopla and excitement).

After wandering around and eating fair food in the massive heat, all but four of us decided that we were going to rack our bikes for the rest of the day. We were in no mood to attempt to bike during the hottest time of the day. We all hopped in to the van and were driven to our final destination for the day. We were originally supposed to be traveling to McEwyn, Tennessee; however, with the flooding around the area, the schools were closed and we were not able to get a hold of anyone at the school the day before. Luckily, our wonderful hosts in Hohenwald, Tennessee helped us to find a place to stay that wasn’t too far out of the way. Thank goodness, or we would have ended up in flooded country with nowhere to stay. We are staying in Hohenwald, Tennessee. When I first heard the name, I thought it was called “hole-in-the-wall.” This might be fitting for the town. It’s pretty darn small.

All of us were pretty exhausted from the heat today, the past few tough days of riding, and the sheer excitement of the West Tennessee Strawberry Festival. Everyone passed out before 10:00. We are party animals.

End of the thirty-seventh day. And it was festive.

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