History Lesson and a Bicycling Lesson

Pickwick Landing State Park in Counce, TN is the perfect jumping off spot for exploration of Shiloh National Battlefield, site of one of the early big, strategic battles of the Civil War.   Pickwick is an older State Park, with odd campsites – most are not remotely level.20140424_070727 All have electric and water, but the water is all on the wrong side for an RV or trailer. Bathroom facilities are clean, but old.  The humidity level in the bathroom is killer!  Eh, so what?

We decide to spend our first whole day in the area at Shiloh.  John maps out a bike route for the 18 mile ride to the Battlefield.  Part of the road will be on a busy State Highway, filled with logging trucks (cyclist’s worst enemy) delivering huge loads of pine to the PCA plant along the way.  But, we thought we would only be on this stretch of road for a mile or so.  HA!  The road he had mapped out didn’t exist.  We were trapped on the Logging Expressway for about 6 miles.  What a horror.  The biggest laugh is that there is a big sign (familiar to all of you) along the roadside proclaiming Bicycle Route.  That sign should have said Cyclist/Organ Donor Route.  The road itself was the minimum width for a State Highway, with about a one foot, crumbling shoulder.  Most of the pavement along the shoulder was non-existent.  The lumber trucks roar past, not giving an inch of pavement, with bark, dust, and whatnot flying off the back. It was a nightmare. There are NO good roads in this area for cyclists. Not an extra inch of pavement exists for safety.

Shiloh was somber and informative, as well as very beautiful.  20140424_13530320140424_13240520140424_132242The Union Army originally hoped for a quick victory in April 1862, paving the way for a collapse of the Confederate Army.  But, an unexpected attack by General Johnston (killed at Shiloh – to date, still the highest ranking US Military Officer killed in battle) drove the Union troops back on Day 1. The tables were turned on Day 2, pushing back the Southerners, who retreated on Day 3, setting the stage for three more years of battle.  The film at the Visitor Center was amazing – personal stories of soldiers on each side, and graphic depictions of the strategy/tactics made the Battlefield site much easier to understand.  With our maps in hand, we cycled along the route, stopping at each of the points, set in chronological order. 20140424_134609 John’s great-great-great-grandfather fought at Shiloh as part of the 15th Michigan Infantry, and we saw many markers of their participation in this great battle.

The cemeteries always hold great interest for me.20140424_12531220140424_125337 This was no exception.  Sobering in the size – so many markers with numbers, yet no names.  The hardships of the Civil War are so difficult to comprehend.20140424_125759 The logistics of thousands of dead soldiers, and many, many more thousands wounded are staggering to comprehend. 20140424_130137 Memorials on the Battlefield site are abundant – many are elaborate. 20140424_141809 One of the memorials that I found particularly moving was the one dedicated to the Confederate Army. 20140424_13415120140424_134303 One side (the right) shows heads in profile held high – signifying the high spirits and hopes of the soldiers entering into the battle.  The left side has the same profiled heads bowed in defeat.  My photos don’t do justice to this memorial – it’s quite striking.

We arrived back at camp exhausted from cycling 50 miles in (mostly) awful road conditions.  Had enough time to cook a quick dinner, and bundle Jezzy into her Thundershirt before the storms rattled with windows most of the night.  When they stopped, the coyotes began.  There must be a dozen of them, and it’s amazing to hear the range of calls and sounds they make.

Thursday was camp day.  We’ve been living the high life, and not working too hard to keep our gear looking sharp.  So, we spent the day washing the truck, and meticulously scrubbing bugs from 10 states off the grille, and doing the same for the Fireball.  We’ve washed both along the way, but this was the first time we actually detailed all the tiny parts.  Windows are shined, floor mats cleaned, and all the mystery wings and legs are cleaned off the headlights.  Not a fun day, but we’re very happy to have spent the time doing it.  The inside of the Fireball got tended to as well, and it’s now ready for the BRR!

Spent the rest of the day exploring the park on foot with Jezzy, then cycling to the dam/locks to check things out. 20140425_162415We did find the dock to nowhere.20140425_152801 No big discoveries, except for the gigantic wisteria growing near the entrance.20140425_165747 It’s wrapped around a tree, and has flowers extending 30 feet into the air.  Never have I seen one so big.  20140425_165801

Saturday morning, we head off to Cloudland Canyon SP in Georgia.  Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?




13 thoughts on “History Lesson and a Bicycling Lesson

  1. Oh Lord…you cycled those roads!!! Your post on Counce, Pickwick, and Shiloh much more exciting! We wished we had our bikes at the battlefield and wondered if anyone from family in iL and In fought there. We heard them coyotes too…


    • Cycling at the Battlefield was the way to go. We (kind of) wished that we had driven there, then cycled, tho. Got the Shiloh idea from your blog – we were headed in that direction and had a few open days to fill. Thanks for that suggestion.


      • We haven’t made it yet, but it is definitely on our list. Reading about the climb getting into the park is part of the reason we are dragging our feet. :)

        Another Georgia State Park that looks beautiful in pictures is Vogel. We will probably get up there sometime this summer.


  2. Judy, Have ever gone to Gettysburg? Your account of Shiloh remind me of the somber, but beautiful battlefield there with its multitudes of memorials Mindboggling to say the least.


    • John has been to Gettysburg, but I have not. Watched the movie, and we have a friend who was a Union soldier extra in it. That’s as close as I have come. John said it is 10x Shiloh. Understandably so.


  3. Beautiful pictures again. Talking about the logging trucks makes me feel like a wimp! I stopped riding my bike to work because of the school buses (worse drivers EVER). Anxious to see you all soon.


  4. The roads in that part of the country are not even big enough for cars, I can’t imagine trying to share them with logging trucks while on a bike!

    Thank you for the history lesson and the reminders about the Civil War and the toll that it took on this country. I’ve visited a few of the battle sites, and it is always a moving experience.


    • Visiting any of these sites, I hope, will always make me stop to consider how lucky I am. Someday, i still hope to visit the memorial at Normandy. My dad was a part of the landing there, but he would never speak of it. We all need to understand these things.

      Thanks, as always for your comments, Jerry.


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