Travel Misadventures

Since we traveled so much, how about the best (or worst) travel stories? I have some candidates: The trip to the indoor Winter Relays at VMI in 1964. The bus driver had just been married and was distracted and forgot to fill up the bus with diesel fuel while we were at the meet. We were coming back in a huge snowstorm on old route 11 in Virginia—and all of a sudden the driver noticed we were almost out of gas. He saw a state trooper and found out there was a gas station with diesel a couple miles ahead. We crept along, got within about 100 yards of the station and the bus stopped—out of gas. Coach Rohe didn’t hesitate—he said, “Wake up guys,” (most of whom were Sleeping—this was about 2:00 am); “We’re getting out to push the bus!” And we did and got it up to the pumps and got our gas. The Knoxville News-Sentinel did a story about that trip with a Bill Dyer cartoon of us pushing the bus.

Integration Stories

Steve Deaton on sticking together as a team, about 1968

​We were all a part of history then, and I think we had some idea of it then, but not the full impact of how historical it was. Audry [Hardy] and James [Craig] are two brave individuals (as well as being great runners and all around gentlemen and wonderful teammates!) And Coach Rohe was/is brave and future-thinking to have recruited them. And the rest of us, to a lesser extent! Does anyone remember the bus trip coming back from Florida one year? We stopped at a restaurant [in Georgia?] and upon entering, the hostess singled out Audry and James and said they had to go around to the back. Coach Rohe asked, “What? You mean they can’t go in the front door with the rest of our team?” “No,” was the reply. “That’s fine,” said Coach, “then none of us eat here.”

So we all walked out and climbed back in to the bus—and the one thing I am proudest of in my entire UT career—not a single man on our team complained about leaving that restaurant [even though we were hungry group]. And we had to drive a couple of hours more before we found a place to eat–remember, this was in the days before interstate highways and all the restaurants available on the interstates. As I have looked back on that episode, I have to chuckle when I think of how much money that dumb, restaurant lost by losing our business! We had about 45 guys–hungry guys on that Continental Trailways bus, and the weight men were known for their appetites—and so too were the distance runners. So, my hat is off to Coach Rohe, Audry and James for being so brave! And to all the rest of you for being such good teammates! I realize that some of you had already left UT by then, and others had not yet arrived, but we are all part of a shared, historic legacy, and I salute you all!

We stopped at a restaurant [in Georgia?] and upon entering, the hostess singled out Audry and James and said they had to go around to the back. Coach Rohe asked, “What? You mean they can’t go in the front door with the rest of our team?” “No,” was the reply. “That’s fine,” said Coach, “then none of us eat here.”

Cross Country Training at Spence’s Cabin

Nestled in the Elkmont area of the Great Smokies National Park is Spence’s cabin. It is situated right on the Little River and is one of a number of cabins in Elkmont that served as summer/weekend homes for people in Knoxville. The Spence family owned Spence’s Shoe Store on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville. Coach Rohe, with his usual powers of persuasion, convinced them to let us use the cabin for a week as a cross-country pre-season training camp. That was the week before the fall quarter began, so we didn’t have to worry about classes and could devote ourselves to putting in a lot of mileage before school started. On the way to the cabin we would stop at a grocery store in South Knoxville (or Sevierville) and stock up on a week’s supply of groceries.

In the mornings, Captain Dave Storey would lead us for an early morning run up the mountain trails—usually about 7 miles for the morning workout. After the run, we would often jump in the river for our bath; that river, which originates high in the mountains, was COLD. After the a.m. run we would eat breakfast. We rotated cooking and dishwashing duties. Then we’d rest up in anticipation of the afternoon workout, usually about 14 or 15 miles (for a total of 21-22 miles per day!) We slept well, except for one night:

The Spence family had warned us there were bears in the area and to make sure we didn’t leave any trash in or around the cabin. There was an extra refrigerator on the screened-in back porch that contained bacon. One night about 2am we heard a loud crash; Roy Hall woke up and said, “I think that’s a bear!” We got up, grabbed some flashlights, and sure enough, a large bear had crashed through the back screen door and had the extra refrigerator in a “bear hug.” Finally, with about 12 guys yelling and shining lights on him, he ambled off the porch and disappeared. We waited until he was gone before we ventured onto that porch. One time it rained there for about 3 days straight and soon all of our workout gear was soaking wet, including our shoes—having to put on wet clothes and shoes to go out on the next run was miserable.

“Follow-up to Spence’s Cabin: after the leases and “life rights” to the cabins expired in 1997, the National Park Service decided to let the cabins “return to nature” by slowly rotting. After much criticism (and much rotting), the Park Service decided to save at least one of the cabins and preserve it as a monument. Sure enough, they chose Spence’s Cabin, and within the last two years it has been restored for its “historical significance.” I like to think it’s a monument because our cross country team used it as a training camp in the mid-1960’s! I recommend a visit to Elkmont to see Spence’s cabin now—especially for the cross-country guys.