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Corley biking across state
Bike across TN.jpg
McMinnville resident Mike Corley, front center, is among a group from Murfreesboro Bike Club riding from Bristol to Memphis. The bicyclists are scheduled to arrive in Memphis on Tuesday, June 2. They are pictured on Main Street McMinnville after stopping for lunch at Collins River BBQ on Thursday.

Forget about a Sunday afternoon bike ride. McMinnville resident Mike Corley is pedaling his bicycle across the entire state. 

Corley is part of a group from Murfreesboro Bike Club that’s in the middle of an 11-day adventure from Bristol to Memphis, a nearly 700-mile trek. The group made a stop in McMinnville to eat lunch at Collins River BBQ on Thursday on its way to Hillsboro to spend the night.

“I think we’ve already gotten through the hardest part of the trip,” said Corley, referring to the East Tennessee mountains. “We’ve gone down mostly back roads and even spent 10 or 11 miles on a gravel road. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a grown man walk his bike down a gravel hill before this trip.”

Taking the back roads is by design. The group wanted to avoid interstates and major highways whenever possible. But taking smaller roads has created challenges too.

“On one road we didn’t pass a single car for 33 miles so that tells you how remote it was there,” said Corley. “We’re not around a lot of businesses so that makes it tough in the mornings. We might have to bike 10 miles before we can find a place to get breakfast.”

The group has been averaging 6.5 to 8 hours of ride time a day. Wednesday was the most grueling day of the trip with 89 miles traveled.

“It takes a little bit of crazy to do something like this,” said Murfreesboro Bike Club president Sarah Lovett, who added the ride is just for fun. “We’re not raising awareness for anything.”

When not pedaling, the group has been camping very lightly. The cyclists are carrying all their gear with them so there’s no room for big, fluffy pillows – just the bare minimum. Any extra weight added to the bike is extra weight that has to be transported by leg power.

“It’s a fine line,” said Corley, who has been sleeping in a hammock with a thin space blanket as his only cover. “You want to pack as light as you can so we don’t carry any food with us. We have to stop every time we want to eat.”

Group members have been forced to use the drive-thru on their bikes at some restaurants because the dining room has been closed due to COVID-19. There have been a few rain storms along the way too, including rain while the group was traveling down Harrison Ferry Mountain on Thursday.

“We were going 39 mph down the mountain in the rain,” said Corley.