JOB 5:7 - "Yet men are born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upwards."
For Jeff and I, this was to be the trip to look forward to all season. Jeff took a week off of work, and I conveniently switched jobs at the same time, giving me a free week. It was time to hit the open road for our longest road trip to date. The plan was to shoot over to West Virginia, see as much of the Appalachians as we could, head down to Florida and see the Atlantic coast, then to the gulf coast, and then back up through the Ozarks.
We took off very early, as usual, to beat traffic around the city. We were into Indiana and flying down I-65 before 8:00 AM. A quick stop for breakfast and gas and we were back on our way. We made it to Louisville by 12:00 and now had the afternoon to enjoy the Kentucky countryside. The Kentucky countryside did not disappoint for scenery. We stopped at the overlook to the Kentucky capital building and continued east on Route 60. Route 60 was very nice at times, but was a little too close to civilization and traffic. There was a nice section through farmland that had a nerve-racking 3 foot stone wall about 10 feet off the side of the road. We eventually headed a little further south and found some lesser traveled roads. It was a nice first day of riding. We ended up in Nitro, WV that night at our customary Best Western, having ridden about 630 Miles.
So why the scripture quote? No, I am not a religious person at all. However, this night, I decided to open the bible to a random page and point to a random chapter. I pointed to JOB 5:7, which reads "Yet men are born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upwards." It was kinda erie to point directly to that one, but I didn't realize the significance until the next day.
Waking up somewhat early, we decided to jump on the Interstate and try to beat traffic around Charleston. The Interstate did not disappoint - being from Illinois where Interstates are long and straight, this one was a complete change. We soon found ourselves in 100 MPH sweepers. It was almost like an arcade game with the huge mountains cut-out to allow for the road to exist. It was a great morning ride down to Beckley, WV.
After a stop for breakfast in Beckley, we headed east on state route 3 into the heart of the mountains. This was a fantastic ride. From there, we started playing the "let's go this way" game. It was difficult to find a bad road in the area as we traversed West Virginia and Virginia. I was really starting to get comfortable on the CBR1000F. During the last trip, I was still a little apprehensive to whack the throttle WFO out of a corner. After all, this isn't a Seca II anymore. I was playing with corner exit speeds and having a blast.
Early afternoon that day, we found the Blue Ridge Parkway and began heading south through the best combination of road and scenery I had ever seen. We were passing by overlooks, only to find a more beautiful one around the next corner. We stopped quite a few times and enjoyed some fantastic lookouts.
Approaching Asheville, NC, we started to really pick up the pace. I was riding very well, as was Jeff. I was riding better than I ever had and was really enjoying the spirited pace. Then, Jeff began to pull away. I attempted for a few minutes to keep up with him, but then that little voice in my head told me not to be stupid. I agreed. I was already having a blast, was still getting familiar with my new ride, so I watched Jeff disappear. I came around a corner to see Jeff parked at the side of the road, so I pulled over. I've never seen Jeff in that state before. He was giddy as a school-boy. To quote him, "I had to get off the bike before I died." He had been flirting with the edge of disaster and loving it. It was one of those moments for him, having dragged -pegs all over the place, and having dragged right and left pegs on consecutive corners. There were the sparks flying upwards!! (see scripture quote above). Jeff enjoyed a second and third cigarette, not wanting to mount up again yet. It was a special place and a special time. I'm glad I was there to experience it.
No wanting to lead anymore, Jeff forced me to lead the rest of the day. We continued to Asheville, and then headed into Tennessee to set ourselves up for Smokey Mountain National Park the next morning. Back to the Interstate and back to the arcade game. This time though, it was dark, we could still see the huge mountains cut-out to allow for the road, and the semis were out in full force. It was a neat ride through the night to our stop at, yes, a Best Western.
Day three started out with more fantastic scenery, courtesy of Smokey Mountain National Park. There was a good amount of traffic, but the scenery (and bears) kept us interested. From there, we headed south towards Georgia, and enjoyed a few more hours of mountains and valleys. It was neat seeing the cloud cover in the next valley, and then experiencing it as we entered the very valley we were viewing. The break from the hot sun was nice.
The rest of the day was spend enjoying the Georgia and South Carolina countryside. It was a nice ride, and had we not just come from the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains, we might have enjoyed it more. The ride was nice, and we had some serious EST (extended saddle time).
We began seeing Road Construction signs, and immediately I started wondering how bad the traffic would be. Road construction in 2 miles, in 1 mile, 1500 feet. There was the road construction. Begin Road Construction was posted at one side of an intersection, and End Construction posted at the other end. Mind you, this was the intersection of state route X and County road Y, in the middle of nowhere. It was hillarious, and someone had a good time setting up the warning signs. We got a good laugh out of that one.
As we approached Savannah, GA, we began to smell the sea water. We rode down the coast as darkness fell and enjoyed a nice sunset over the ocean. During the ride down the coast, I noticed Jeff in my rear view mirror riding very close to me . I turned to see what he wanted (I thought he was trying to tell me something) , and he reached out, hit my shoulder and dashed off. Damn!! I'm it!!! I laughed for a good ten minutes over this one. Anything to keep a long ride interesting.
As we approached Jacksonville, Jeff blew the exit - as usual. Not having any idea where we were staying, we headed towards Fernandina Beach, just north of Jacksonville. We figured it would be a little touristy, and therefor would have an abundance of hotels. We were wrong, or we were looking in the wrong place. After riding around wondering if we were ever going to find a hotel, I turn off the main road to look at a map. It was fate that I accidentally pulled into the parking lot of a Shoney's restaurant - and hotel. Phew!!! We had a decent meal and a good night's sleep ½ block from the Atlantic coast.
After watching the weather channel the night before, we woke at 5:30 AM to watch the sunrise. It was spectacular. A nice cool breeze blowing off the Atlantic, we walked along the beach in separate directions looking for sea shells, and enjoying the morning air. Unfortunately, neither of us is very bright at that time of day. We left our shoes on the shoreline, but didn't take into account the rising tide. DOH!!! Wet shoes. Another good laugh was enjoyed.
From there, we hopped back on I-10 and headed west towards the gulf coast. SPEED RUN!!!! I-10 is pretty desolate, and at one point, the oncoming lanes were seperated by a forest. We were already cruising at about 85 or 90, so we just pulled back the throttle and the next thing I know I'm going 155 and leaving Jeff behind (the only time I can do that). After that, we needed gas, so we pulled into the next gas station only to see a state trooper sitting there. Heh heh heh, missed us.
We hit the gulf coast about mid afternoon and enjoyed a few hours of riding on State Route 98 along the coast. It reminded me of PCH, without the mountains to my right. It was a nice ride until we started hitting bigger towns, and traffic. After a few towns of heavy traffic, we jumped back on the Interstate and crossed the Alabama border. I started air-guitaring "Sweet Home Alabama" much to the amusement of the 2 college women in the white Toyota behind me. Time to road-flirt. I rode up next to them and shook my finger at them for laughing at me. They ate it up and began playing along. I believe it was when they started brushing their hair that I lost it and collapsed on my tank bag. Jeff pulled up next to me, and offered me a cigarette - which got another good laugh. We said our goodbyes to the women, pulled off the road into our customary Wal-Mart "stop and decide where the hell we're going" resting place, and decided to head for Biloxi, MS.
Biloxi was a really neat town, and much bigger than I expected. After checking into our Best Western for the night and fighting off the urge to get a tatoo (there was a parlor right across the street) we headed down the road to a seafood restaurant. We enjoyed a great meal of shrimp, stuffed crab, crab cakes, and for me, a much needed Sam Adams Lager.
Day five began with a run along the coast to the Louisiana border, where we jumped back on the Interstate to make it around New Orleans and Baton Rouge. After passing them up, we chose an exit, and began to enjoy the Louisiana countryside. It was a nice ride, and the scenery was much different this time. Cotton fields were all around us, and the snow white cotton plants seemed to go on for miles and miles.
After stopping for gas, we plotted a route back to the Mississippi border to ride north a while. Finding a road that crossed the Mississippi river was difficult, but we located one that appeared to have a bridge crossing it. We arrived at the road a few minutes after getting gas to find that there was no bridge, rather there was a ferry. Having just missed the ferry, we parked and waited. There was no other way to cross the river for over 50 miles. It was a neat and unexpected part of the journey.
Continuing through cotton country, we began encountering cotton snow. It was harvest time, and they don't pack the cotton particularly well on those trucks. We had fun playing "catch the cotton" for a while. It was getting time to pick a destination for the night. Looking at the map, I found the destination. Dumas, Arkansas. This was particularly amusing, as Jeff will often call someone a dumas instead of a dumb-ass. That had to be our destination. Look out for those "moving speed-bumps" (a.k.a. Aardvarks) Jeff reminded me as we headed towards Dumas. When we arrived, he told me that one had chased my bike for a few seconds, and he was able to avoid it. Once again, and coincidentally, a Best Western was located in Dumas. We checked in, got a restaurant recommendation from the clerk, and headed to a little steakhouse within walking distance from the hotel. Talk about a great steak!! It wasn't the leanest cut I've ever had, but the seasoning was unbelievably good. They certainly deserved all the ribbons that were hanging on the wall from the competitions that they had won.
We awoke in Dumas to find that a few critters had used our mounts as sleeping quarters the during the night. A grasshopper joined me for about ½ the trip to Hot Springs before jumping off to safety, and another made it all the way there with Jeff, enjoying the ride on his front brake reservoir.
After a quick breakfast at BK, and three sausage croissants for me (I had to put that in there - I was hungry), we headed up Route 7 towards Bull Shoals. The ride was fantastic, and for a while, I thought I was back in the Appalachians. The road and scenery were great, as were the names given to things. Nimrod Dam, and Booger Hollow gave me a good laugh. Let's see, Nimrod, Booger, Dumas
As we approached Bull Shoals, we hit a light rain. We jumped on State Route 5 and headed up towards Lake of the Ozarks, MO. Even with the rain, the ride was great. We were probably going too fast for conditions, but what else is new. We rode up route 5 and approached the town of Lebanon. "Hey, I think my cousin lives here," Jeff said. We pulled over, into a Wal-Mart parking lot of course, and called home to get her number, only to find that she lives in Lebanon, IL, not Lebanon, MO. Oops. Ok then, let's ride.
The rain started to pick up again, and as we approached Lake of the Ozarks, it was getting very difficult to see, and it was time to stop. No Vacancy. No Vacancy. No Vacancy. Uh oh, it's a Friday night. Not a good sign. We pulled into a Super-8 (the Best Western had no vacancy). "Do you have any rooms?" "yes, we have " "I don't care - I'll take it." At that point, I didn't care what it cost, what floor it was on, if it had 2 beds or one, etc. I got the key and we unloaded the bikes. Jeff asked me "how much is the room", "what floor", etc. "Don't know, don't care." Walking past the front desk on the way to the room, I asked the questions. "55 dollars" "2nd floor, and you guys got the last room by the way." I asked, "You don't happen to have a hot tub." She pointed her finger to a sign behind me, and it was like (Marv Albert) YES!!!!
After a good nights sleep and drying our boots on the air conditioner, we began the ride home. Going through St Louis, we both wanted to stop and see the arch. I had seen it a long long time ago, but I didn't remember it being that big.
We made it back to Illinois and started heading up I-55 towards Chicago - a truly boring ride. We got to Peoria, and I wanted to take some backroads home. Jeff was content sticking to the Interstate, so we went our separate ways for the last 3 hours home, and met back up at my place.
An uneventful last day. We both felt like we could ride forever. We were tired, but it was not painful at all. I think we both made a comment something like, "I guess California is possible, huh?"
This was truly a great trip. Jeff and I have such similar riding styles, where we didn't mind stopping about every ½ hour on the Blue Ridge, and we didn't mind running a tank empty in the middle of Georgia. We rode a lot - 4015 miles on my odometer in 7 days, but it didn't feel like a lot of riding. We got early starts, got in before 8:00 each night, and enjoyed good breakfasts, gas station lunches, and fine dinners.
As I write this some 7 months after we returned, the images and memories are still fresh in my head. Writing this, and trying to remember each day, sparked some other memories that I had since forgotten. We covered a lot of ground, saw everything that we had hoped to see, and found everything that we had hoped to find. Just typing this last paragraph, I'm back there on the Blue Ridge, in the middle of nowhere in Georgia or Mississippi, and in the Ozarks. I wish I could express in words the inner peace and tranquility that a trip like this brings. In this rush rush rush world that we live in, I sometimes forget how much else there is out there. A trip like this helps me realize how big the world is, and how much there is to see. We see so little of it during our everyday lives.
I cant wait to go searching again.
Here are some pictures from this trip