Tour of Honor Ride 7

With the Tour of Honor coming to a close in a couple of days, I REALLY wanted to finish Tennessee. Two Memorials, one of which had been almost a nemesis trying to visit.

Forecast kept changing, so wasn’t sure what I was going to get. But, I now had two reason to get out this last weekend in October. One was to finish Tennessee, the other was to break in the new bike. Long story short, we had been thinking about getting three wheels for a while. This year has led us to think about it a bit more seriously. We rode a couple. We even took one home, but had to take it back the next day due to several issues. So, we have added a Can-Am Spyder RT-Limited to the stable. Still going to keep the Harley, but now my bride will have one to ride too.

I was schedule to meet a couple of guys to let them into the lodge at 5:00am. I had packed most everything the previous night, but was running late since I had not tested the fit of all the bags. As I took off, I felt the phone vibrate so I knew I had a text message. I was only a minute late getting to the lodge and noticed the lights were already on. Seems that they had already gotten in and didn’t need me. They had sent a text message to let me know.

Not a problem, I have a couple of minutes to get used to the new GPS, check the weather, get the route in my head so I don’t have to constantly watch the GPS, and get myself ready.

Sprinkles in the forecast, off and one. Roads will be damp, and it is right at 50 degrees. I knew I could do it, so off I went.

First stop was Dickson, TN. I wasn’t going to push the bike since I was still trying to become familiar with it. It does handle differently than two wheels. GPS had me start on a familiar route, then took a turn I didn’t recognize. Time estimated was pretty much what I had planned, so I took the turn. Nice meandering roads, no traffic at 6:00am on a Saturday. I crossed under the Natchez Trace Parkway then through the valley below. I topped on hill and civilization was waiting for me. There was the interstate and all the little places that support interstate exits. Dickson was only a few miles up the road.

GPS was telling me to turn, but the road was not there. Recent construction had resulted in a complete redo of the road. I tested the new bike’s U-turn ability and headed toward the new road. GPS was going nuts with “recalculating” and “process to the nearest road.” I saw the Huey a block away, as well as the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars (VFW). It looked like they had planned an event that day since there were already cars in the lot. No problems finding a spot to get my picture of the Huey. Then off I went for Nashville.

I usually avoid interstate whenever possible, but this trip was more about a mission with a short time frame. A quick gas stop (and to put on the chaps) before hitting the interstate heading for Nashville. Rain had been through the area recently, so all the cars and trucks were throwing up rain spray. Keeping my distance until time to pass kept me a little drier. GPS led me right to the park. I circled through once and didn’t see any doughboys. There was a memorial at the point on the GPS, but it wasn’t the doughboy that I usually seen. I circle again, knowing that my time is limited. I decided to forego this one and head out. As I sat at the light, I looked at the memorial from a distance. It IS a doughboy, but not one standing as I usually see. I make the quick left turn back in to the park to get a couple of photos. Sun was coming up behind the memorial and I couldn’t park as close as I had wanted. Pictures taken, exit the park, and on to the next stop.

It was only a few blocks to the next doughboy. This one was a little different and I had set a personal goal to visit this one. Knowing it was in downtown Nashville, this was going to be a challenge. Note to self, big cities are best to visit early on a weekend. One-way streets proven no challenge for the Can-Am, but trying to find a place to park for this picture was going to be a challenge. There was a truck blocking the street, but it was a one-way coming towards me. This meant IF I could find the other end, I would still have an issue. And this street looked like it went around a government building, so the other end may have been restricted too. I make a quick U-turn and get as close to the corner as I can. I am starting to LOVE the reverse on this bike. I manage to park at an angle for a decent picture. Not what I would have wanted as the perfect picture, but good enough. Now back to the interstate.

As I get to the interstate, the sprinkling had changed to a misting rain. I traveled a section of I-40 that I hadn’t been on in a long time since I seldom travel through Nashville, we usually end up going around. I am still on schedule as I get closer to Livingston. It is a short back road ride from the interstate. As I get into town, there are signs that there will be road closures in downtown for their Fall Festival from noon until 4:00pm. It is about 11:00, so I know I will be pushing it as they may have already closed the streets. I got downtown and saw detour signs. As I circled closer and closer, I knew I would have to get past a barricade. I rounded one corner and saw a barricade that wasn’t blocking the entire road. There was a police car with lights on and vendors were using this to get to their booths on the town square. I decided that I would tell the police what I was doing and beg that they let me in for just a minute. As I pulled to the police car, it was empty. Well, I at least tried to get permission. I followed the vendors on made it to the corner near the memorial. The perfect spot for a picture would have meant driving up on the sidewalk. Not that I was against that, there were just too many people that might not appreciate it. I parked at the corner, walked to the memorial, got the picture there, got the picture of the bike, and I was ready to take off. Just then, I was asked about what I doing. I started to explain about the Tour of Honor when they asked about the bike. “Always seen one from a distance, never up close.” Giving a talk on the bike took up valuable time, but it had to be done. I threw in about the Tour of Honor and the mission. They all seemed interested, but I had to get rolling.

Next stop had seemed to become my personal nemesis. Several visits nearby, but I was either not on the bike, pushing for time, or weather wasn’t conducive for two wheels. I hit the interstate and headed to the northeast corner of Tennessee. A friend had told me about “The Snake.” Claims it is more challenging than the “Tail of the Dragon” by having sharper turns and being longer. I have driven the “Tail of the Dragon” a couple of times, and it wasn’t bad. I have ridden several roads in Virginia that you feel like you are doing nothing but U-turns for miles. However, most of these have been in warmer weather, with dry roads, and no wet leaves. As I made the turn onto US421, it was divided 4 lane. How bad could this be? Then a sign gave me my first warning, “Trucks: Last Turn Around 2 Miles Ahead”. Then the road became two lane. A final warning about truck turn around and a sign about switchbacks the next 4 miles. (Note: this wasn’t the only sign that warned of switchbacks. They were spaced about 4 miles apart, each warning of switchbacks for 4 miles, I think I passed 5 of them!)

As the switchbacks started, the wind picked up. Not strong winds, just enough to require extra caution. Then the rain picked up and the temperature started to drop. Finally, the leaves started to build on the road. 20 miles of this. I am on a new bike that I have not tested its limits. Yes, even with three wheels, it did get squirrely a few times. I pulled over 4 or 5 times to let people pass. Most were locals that knew the roads and enjoyed testing their limits. Not me, I had no problems letting them pass. The GPS kept adding time to reach the memorial, originally it was about 30 minutes away. It ended up being an hour. All of the sudden, the road leveled out and the was straight. My arms were sore from all the twists. Then I saw it, the sign “Welcome to Mountain City.” A welcomed sight for sure. The GPS indicated that I would have to “leave the road ahead.” I have learned to not panic when I see this since they GPS doesn’t know about parking lots and recreational fields. I saw the memorial. Sure enough, it was in the middle of the recreational fields. With the rain still falling, the fields were closed to baseball, football, soccer, and whatever else they had. But there was walking trail and a playground, so the parking lot was still open. I found a great place to park for a picture. I got the picture and I was ready to call it a day.

Mountain City, TN

Mountain City, TN

I still had 3 hours to my planned stop, and that was without the 3 additional stops I had planned. I pulled into Elizabethton to get something warm to drink and dry off. I looked over the planned route and decided to make a few adjustments. I must not have saved the site for the doughboy statue in Johnson City, so I decided to just save that one for another time. I thought that if I got a good night’s rest in Alcoa, I could double back and visit the sites in Knoxville the next morning. After weighing the options, I headed to Alcoa for the night.

I had enjoyed the hot-tub and pool before calling it a night. I watched the World Series for a bit and fell asleep in the bottom of the ninth, only to wake up from the excitement on the TV when the game ended. I was more tired that I had thought since I slept until almost 8:00am. A quick breakfast, reload the bike, and I was ready.

A short trip back to Knoxville with my first stop being at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center. I have not visited many of the K9 memorials this year, but enjoy them. I think all dog lovers would appreciate these memorials. Again, a weekend morning and the parking lot is almost empty. I pull into a spot near the memorial for the photo op.

A short ride away is a Doughboy statue that I had planned to visit. I made my way through downtown Knoxville, quaint bars cleaning from the night before, a lines of people waiting for their favorite coffee shops to open. A few blocks away, I was at the Doughboy. Street was partially blocked, but not a problem for motorcycles! I got my picture and was ready for one final stop before heading home.

Leaving my last Doughboy, I was struck by the number of homeless people. Some appeared to be single mothers with babies, other were people that appeared to have had a rough time in life. A couple had older style Army field jackets, worn from the stress of the years. One man on crutches, another in a wheelchair. Why can’t we do more for our own people? Many of these looked like veterans. There was even a medical clinic in the area. Even on a Sunday morning there was a line outside. Guess this was the perfect place for the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service. Too many people today don’t think about others. I doubt any of these people were just looking for a hand out, I expect that they wanted a chance to improve their life. Visiting the memorials has given me a renewed appreciation for those that serve others, whether military, first responders, or those that give others a helping hand up.

As I left Knoxville and the weather had finally started to warm up. The extra layer that I had added was starting to get a bit warm. I pondered stopping when I noticed clouds ahead. Oh boy, another day with rain! I braced for the rain that never came. A few sprinkles, but nothing to worry about. I had switched the GPS to avoid interstates. I knew the way home from here, and didn’t want to bother with interstates. I was still in the break-in period on the bike. Slow sweeping curves, long stretches through farmland, and even some winding tree canopied roads. Sun came back out and it looked like the rest of the ride home was going to be a breeze. I pulled into Soddy-Daisy for my last stop of the trip, and the last for the year (unless I get one last ride in before October 31, and today is the 29th). Quiet little town on the outskirts of Chattanooga. I got a picture of the Huey in the park, took off a layer of clothes, and headed for a gas stop to make it home.

I was soon on familiar roads. I had a hand man milk shake on my mind, so I headed toward Gruentli-Laager. I enjoy these roads, nothing overly challenging, but not boring! Leaving Soddy-Daisy, I was heading toward another road with lots of twisties. At first, I was disappointed that I was behind an 18-wheeler, but he managed to help me keep myself in check and not push the limits on a new bike. We eventually parted ways and the road became more scenic and less challenging. Fall color in Tennessee is nice, not as nice as the color along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but still nice. I pull into Gruentli-Laager only to find my “go to” place is closed. The place looked deserted, so I just headed on home. I was about 2 1/2 hours from home.

As I turned back onto TN108, the winds started to pick up. When I turned onto TN50, the winds were even stronger. When TN50 turned into US64, I was fighting the winds. My final stretch home was going to be another challenge. I passed flags that were wind blown to have them fully extended, not to waving in the wind, but standing fully out stretched. Rounding curves with the winds proved to be a challenge too, especially on a bike that I wasn’t fully familiar with yet. One stretch of US64 I tapped the brakes to knock off the cruise control and the bike seemed like it was ready to stop. Another stretch, the wind gusts were so strong that even with the cruise control on, the bike would slow 10 miles an hour.

The turn only TN11 was a welcomed sight. It was almost auto-pilot from here for me. The winds had started to ease up and the road more familiar. As I passed through St Florian, I knew I was home. I stopped to top off the tank a block from home just so I could check my mileage for the trip. I got home and my bride had pulled the car to one side of the driveway and the truck to the other side. I backed the bike up the drive and was greeted by my bride as I stepped off the bike.

I was off the bikes for a while this year. My first year riding the Tour of Honor and I think I did pretty well. A total of 59 sites, 32 Tour of Honor Memorials, 12 Doughboys, 13 Hueys, and 2 K9 Memorials. I managed to visit all Tour of Honor Memorials in 3 states (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee). I had planned a Tour of Honor Iron Butt ride to finish Mississippi, but with only three days left, not looking like it will happen. I am looking forward to next year, might even get my bride to join in too now that the Can-Am is broken in for her.

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