2019 Tour of Honor – Ride 7 (Jasper, TN)

Every get that itch to just finish something? You have done 90% (6 out of 7 in this case) and want to just get it done. No reason to do it other than to just get it done!

Well, over a couple of previous trips, I have managed to visit 6 of the 7 Tour of Honor sites in Tennessee. The one in Jasper has been just out of my reach on other trips. Even though the year is still young, Those other 6 sites seem lonely without the 7th. So, weather is nice and I need to check a route for the HOG chapter, I plan to make a loop to visit Jasper, TN.

I leave the house a little before 9:00am. I had wanted to leave closer to 8:00am to estimate the traffic on one part of the route around Huntsville, oh well. I am going to use just the Harley GPS today to see if my route planning software and method works a little better. I know that there will be a few edits because I had set the starting point as the dealership and I am going to start from home. “Recalculating” echos through the speakers before I get two blocks from home. I eventually make the turn onto AL157 in Muscle Shoals and the GPS gets quiet.

AL157 gives me a chance to get some calm 65mph riding for a while. As I approach Moulton, the speed limit drops. Once through Molton, I get a short chance at 65 before hearing “turn left ahead.” Perfect timing. I make the turn onto AL36. Mostly straight with a few soft curves, I head through Danville then Hartselle and on to US231 south of Huntsville. A quick ride north and I cross the Tennessee River before making the right turn onto Hobb Island Rd.

A bit more twisties are on tap now. The bike eats them up. I pass a barn that a friend had told me about. Seems he had been leading a couple of riders on a test ride past the barn. They stop to discuss the bikes and turn around back to the shop. The barn had collapsed during that short time and now had debris scattered across the road. They navigate around it and head back to the shop. The road has long since been cleared, but the barn is still a pile of debris mixed with part of the frame still waiting for the right time to fall. I cross US431 and ride into New Hope. A couple of years ago I led the HOG chapter on a ride through here and I missed a turn. It was a beautiful mistake as we looped back to the point of the missed turn and back on track. This trip I make the correct turn, and the GPS is keeping me on track! Soon I find myself turning onto US72. Other than a town or two, speed limit is 65 and the area is so calm and peaceful. Fresh smell of pollen fills the air.

A short ride on I-24 and I take the Jasper exit. About halfway on the trip so I fill up the gas tank. For some reason I had expected this to be a bit more commercial since it was just outside of Chattanooga. Thankfully I was wrong. Jasper is just a quiet little town in the shadow of a bigger city, not that Chattanooga is a huge city, it just has a couple of interstates that cross, merge, and mix around which I don’t really enjoy. I follow the GPS through Jasper to the memorial on my radar. Jasper (TN4) is one of the three markers that are on the side of the county courthouse. I am not in a hurry. I decide to check out the other memorials.

The memorial for the Tour of Honor is to honor those from Marion County who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I get a couple of pictures with both the phone app and the camera. I get closer and see that two sides have dedications. One side dedicated to Vietnam and the other side dedicated to Korea. My parents have friends who were lost in Vietnam and in Korea. This is more personal since I know people who were in both Vietnam and Korea. Though I may not remember how they were when they left, I see how they act now and can tell they changed.

I next move to look over the one on the right. This one lists those that lost their lives in World War I. I wonder what these men left behind. Did they have young wives and babies? Were they single men who wanted to support our country? Do they have descendants who know that their grandfathers/great-grandfathers are listed here? I doubt that their remains had been returned home, so this may be the only marker for these men. Were they factory workers? Were they farmers? Who were these men and who remains to tell their story?

I move to the marker on the left. This is dedicated to those who lost their lives in World War II. The names are listed. I think about my grandfather who was in WWII. He came home and I got to know him. He would have been 101 years old this year.

I head back to my trusty steed and mount up for a ride back home. A different route home is planned. I stop for a quick lunch before leaving town. I want to give a mention to Snack Shack. I walk in a few minutes after noon. They have a steady flow of business, but a few booths are open even though it is a small place. Trying to eat healthy, I get a chicken salad and a glass of water, then make my way to a booth. I pull out the phone to check on routing home while I wait. The salad is great. At first, I thought there was a lot of croutons and no chicken. As I start to remove what I thought was croutons, I realize that these are cubes of chicken that were fried. Unique approach that worked much better than I had expected. I enjoy my salad and listen to the small town conversations. “Did you hear about {insert scandal here}?” Peyton Place ain’t got nothing on a small town. Everyone knows what (and who) everyone else is doing. You can’t hide in a small town.

As I get ready to head back home, I laugh at how each small town is the same, but how they are all different. I look forward to traveling to small towns in the northeast and the midwest. I want to see if they are the same, and different too.

I head north on US41. Though the GPS wants me to take a few side roads, I stay on the road I want and still enjoy some nice twisties. If I were on a smaller or more nimble bike, or have a lot more time and not being on a “mission,” I might give these a try. Might be a non-Tour of Honor ride in the near future. US41 keeps providing me with great vistas as I travel up and over the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains. I didn’t have any real inclines or declines on the route to Jasper, but the northern route has the mountain twisties and views that I love. The places with the best views don’t have a place to park to take pictures, while the places to pull off and park don’t have the best views. Guess this is why I like to ride this type of route over and over.

I make the turn onto US64 and get a chance to open up the throttle a bit. Long straight stretches with lazy, higher speed curves. Cruise set on 65ish and take in the scenery. Only a few vehicles along this route, and divided four lane means that I can pass then without any problems, many times never turning off the cruise.

I always like to end my rides though some hills. I make the turn onto Minor Hill Rd and prepare for a little roller coaster before crossing back into Alabama. Minor Hill is a unique little town. According to records, Minor Hill is 1.6 square miles in area. That is very hard to understand since the town limits signs are 6 miles apart. The GPS marks the town limits with a different shade on the screen. It doesn’t vary much off the sides of the road until you get close to the school, then it is about a block or two wide. Of course, when within the town limits the speed limit is much slower. Not making any accusations, but it seems like a great place for a speed trap or two to keep the town revenue flowing.

The road levels and straightens as I cross into Alabama. A few miles and I make the right onto AL64. This stretch of road has become a familiar route home. “Old hat” so to speak. Being on a motorcycle, I have to fight the urge to take the road for granted as there is always someone who turns out and goes much slower than the posted speed or just stops for no apparent reason. The joys of southern farm communities. I cross US43 and turn onto CR47 which leads me back to my favorite gas station near the house. A quick fill up, turn off the “Spot,” turn off the headset, and make it home. My bride has been keeping a watch on my progress and has to garage doors open as I pull into the driveway.

A great day for a ride. No rain. Some fast roads. Some slow twisties. Quiet little towns. I put the bike away and my bride greats me with a kiss and a glass of scotch. I love her

After I had posted my ride notes and pictures on Facebook, a friend commented asking if anyone ever thanked me. I took a while thinking about the comment. Why would anyone thank ME? I haven’t done anything. I think of how I am humbled when I visit each site, whether it be a GoldStar Memorial, Tour of Honor memorial, Huey, K9, and especially a Doughboy. The history that I learn, the people that I get to talk with. I realize that this is actually my way of thanking those that gave so much FOR me, someone they are never knew. I hope I am worthy of their sacrifice.