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Horner travels across Tennessee by bicycle

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By Charlotte Underwood

When faced with mid-life, some men buy fancy sports cars, while others dye their hair or don toupees.

Not Bill Horner.

Instead he climbed onto his Diamondback Crestview bicycle and pedaled across Tennessee.

He began the journey last September, embarking from the North Carolina border in a drizzling rain.

“This endeavor is my hurdle over the midlife crisis, an attempt to ward off old age for at least a couple more months,” said Horner, at the beginning of his journey. He is now nearly finished with only around 85 miles to go before he reaches Memphis and the Mississippi River.

Not a native of Tennessee, Horner has lived in and out of the state since the age of nine. He originally came from the flat lands of Florida. Horner has been the pastor at First Baptist Church in LaFollette for the past year and a half.

With his journey nearly complete, Horner said he has seen many things while traveling across Tennessee on U.S Highway 70 on his bicycle. His duties as a pastor prevented him from riding straight through and he has instead been riding across the state in sections. Because he hasn’t been able to do the journey all at once, traveling it in stages has allowed him to see Tennessee in different seasons.

“A car is too fast and walking too slow, but a bicycle is just right. It allows the traveler to smell the wood of the sawmills, see the wild turkeys, visit many towns Tennesseans have only heard of, and encounter a local culture which is invisible to the motorists zipping down the interstate,” he said.

“Just outside of Dandridge, the state’s second oldest city, a large brown bull barred my way on the shoulder of the highway. He looked like he meant business so I gave him a wide berth,” said Horner. He also visited such places as an old tollhouse and stagecoach inn near Sparta. He also visited the town of Liberty, which boasted a caricature of a mule painted on a rock bluff by a local resident from the early 1900’s.

“And in Lebanon, I pedaled past an honest-to-goodness statue of liberty, complete with electric torch, on its own island in a front yard pond,” Horner said.

The nearly 575-mile trip has taken him through places that he hadn’t seen since he was seven-years-old, according to Horner.

“A few weeks ago, I passed by Waverly and met a cousin that I had never met before, he took me around to see my great grandfather’s grave,” said Horner.

“I’ve just been amazed at the depth of memories that had lain dormant and have come up,” said Horner.

He said it has amazed him that at the age of 55, he has been able to make the trip at all.

After recently finishing the Nashville section, Horner is making plans to pedal the last 85-mile leg of the journey sometime in June. He has a friend from Houston who is going to travel to Tennessee to finish the journey with him.

He has ridden in the heat and the cold, the sun, rain and even light snow since last September. Horner said he’s not riding to raise awareness or money for some worthy cause and he’s not out to set any records.

“I’m just riding for the pure pleasure of it, enjoying what the Lord has given us richly to enjoy; the privilege of living in Tennessee,” Horner said.

“I’ve seen a lot of little interesting things that add up to a slice of Tennessee, one piece at a time,” Horner said.