When your friends/sponsors, who plan amazing bike-packing trips as a job, offer to throw you a team training camp for the weekend, you don't ask a whole lot of questions before agreeing to it.
About two months ago, Toecutters came to us about having our training camp in Nashville, Tennessee. They promised a weekend filled with miles of plush roads with minimal traffic, a tour of the finest honkey tonks, the finest foods, and topping it all off with a gravel ride.
All we needed to do was show up with our bikes.
Friday evening, we packed up our cars and headed north. We arrived to our AirBNB right outside of downtown Nashville around midnight, exchanged greetings with our North Carolina teammate, Nina, and went off to claim our beds for the weekend. Our adventures started early the next morning!
On Saturday, we started our morning with a trip to Loveless Cafe for breakfast, about 20 minutes from downtown but close to the start of our ride. You can tell basically everything you need to know about the place from their sign. They pride themselves on being a down home country restaurant, with walls lined with all the famous country music stars who have dined there. We were greeted with a pile of fresh biscuits and various homemade preserves which were, to say the least, amazing! We all ordered something different for our main entrees and there wasn't a single complaint to be had. Portions were just right to fuel our 70 mile day without feeling like we were overstuffed.
Once breakfast was over, we piled back into the car and headed for Natchez Trail.
Upon entering Natchez Trail area, we were greeted by a HUGE sign stating that a 40mph speed limit was strictly enforced and bikes have the right to use the full lane - HEAVEN!
And heaven it was indeed. We were met with rolling hills, views for days, and fast flats. Being from Atlanta, it was also amazing to be on a road that it wasn't necessary to call "GLASS!" "HOLE!" "PERSON!" every couple of feet. We quickly got into our rhythm and cranked out the ride at an impressive rate.
Tocutters provided us with a SAG vehicle, which was a welcomed treat. Chris, SAG extraordinaire, somehow knew exactly where to position the car to wait for us and appear right as the first "man, I could really use a snack" thought popped into our heads.
With about 15 miles left, we stopped at one of the numerous bathroom/water stops along the way to get our final refill of water. We had turned around a bit before our 35 mile mark due to storm clouds getting darker and darker on the horizon in front of us. Turns out, as we turned around, the storm clouds followed. We hesitated momentarily as we watched the lightning and rain in the distance, but decided to hammer through.
Of course, we got rained on for the last 15 miles of our ride. At this point of a 100 degree day, it was honestly a bit welcomed.
Chris circled back and forth on the road around us to make sure everyone was good and had everything we needed. Heads down, we finished right as the rain did also.
We gathered in the trailhead parking lot, enjoyed some post-ride beers (the Toecutters dudes truly think of everything), and began reminiscing on what an amazing route that was.
We eventually pulled ourselves off the ground and headed back to the AirBNB to clean up for dinner and a night out on the town.
As we are strong believers in "work hard, play hard" , we allowed ourselves only a few hours of recovery and showering before hopping back up to head to dinner at Avo and exploring Broadway for the night.
Avo is a full vegan restaurant on the west end of Nashville. Their space is beautiful and their food is plentiful. Same as with breakfast, we all ordered something different and the meal was filled with "oh my god you have to try this!" plate sharing.
After getting our fill of vegan cuisine, we headed down to Broadway. Now, I know that Broadway ain't all Nashville has to offer but when you're a tourist for an evening, it's a good way to get the "full Nashville experience" shotgunned into ya.
Neon signs as far as the eye can see, country music coming from every open window, and more matching Bachelorette party tshirts than I ever imagined possible.
The bar I was most excited for was Paradise Park. It was a recommendation from our teammate, Becky, who unfortunately couldn't make this trip. It's decorated as a trailer park, full with astroturf flooring, yawn chairs, and a band playing in the back of a truck. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
As expected, this is about the time the evening got a bit blurry. Nashville's policy of cheap beer had us all dancing, singing all the songs we knew (or pretended to know), and eventually making it back to the AirBNB.
Unfortunately, our Sunday gravel ride ended up not happening. After a teammate getting hurt in an unfortunate dancing accident, the hangovers being just a bit too present, and the threat of rain being a good enough of an excuse for us, we opted to head back home after enjoying a breakfast at Biscuit Love.
If you're interested in learning more about Toecutters' upcoming rides/events, you can check em out on their website, Facebook, or Instagram. We are planning to do more rides and clinics in collaboration with them so keep your eyes peeled!