I had everything planned to get up on Tuesday and head north to Kentucky. I was going to visit Cincinnati since there were several Doughboys and other memorials in the area with a Tour of Honor site in Covington. Then I would ride through the rest of Kentucky. The plan was to take three days and be home mid-afternoon on Thursday. I have EVERYTHING planned. Everything except thunderstorms, tornadoes, and possible flooding.
Monday night I took a last minute check of the weather. Chances of storms had increased and it looking like I might get wet. By Tuesday morning, the forecast had turned ominous. Heavy thunderstorms would be waiting on my just as I got to the Kentucky line. I started looking for other options. Arkansas was going to be the staging point for the storms, so that was out. Louisiana didn’t look much better. Florida would take a almost a day just to get there and I had a deadline to be back by Thursday. I already have dates planned to visit Georgia. Then I notice that South Carolina would be doable.
I get out my mapping software plot out a few options. I like to plan each day, but I didn’t know how far I could get on each day, so I left the route as one big ride. I load the route into both the Garmin as well as the Harley GPS.
I usually leave about 7:00am to get an early start. Having to do the entire route at the last minute, it is after 8:00am before I start rolling.
Birmingham is a mess with the interstate junction being redone in downtown and I don’t really want to spend anymore time than necessary on interstates. I take off on my usual exit route. with takes about 30 minutes longer, but has me on the interstate almost at the Alabama/Georgia line. I should be able to get through Atlanta during lunch when the traffic is lighter. WRONG! As I crossed into Georgia, the time zone changed and it was about 1:00pm. Traffic came to a stop. It inched along for a while, pick up speed then slow again. This was the pattern until I crossed into South Carolina and exited the interstate.
It was after 3:00 when I pulled up to SC1 in Anderson. Parking was easy enough, there was even reserved parking for people visiting the memorial! I got the picture of the bike with the memorial in the background, then walked to get a closer view of the memorial. I am trying to spend more time at each memorial and not just get the picture and head to the next stop. I got a picture of the WWII and Navy section since my grandfather had been in the Navy during WWII.
A short ride across town to visit the doughboy. I pull into the parking lot of the American Legion and park behind the statue. A few pictures and I am on my way again.
I head out of town and catch I-85, then slow to a crawl. Traffic! Construction! Traffic is at a crawl until I exit the interstate in Greenville. I wind my way through town to the library complex. No attendant at the booth as I pull in, but check the rate just in case. I find a quick parking spot and GPS points that the statue is “somewhere” nearby. I head over to the library. I ask at the desk about a doughboy statue or a WWI memorial. The clerk says that he thinks there is one at the Furman University’s Upcountry History Museum which is next door. I make my way next door and ask at the desk about a dougboy. Before I can explain as I usually do, a docent comes around the corner and says “I’ll show you, follow me!” He leads me upstairs and tells me that the statue had been in storage and was on temporary loan from the main university. He offers to take my picture which I gladly hand him my camera. He suggests that I stand on the left side of the statue. I notice that the statue had been damaged and was missing the left arm. He takes a few pictures for me. I ask about another doughboy that is on the campus. He looks puzzled and says that he thought the school only had the one that they share with the museum. He does admit that he could be wrong. I head out and see that there is now an attendant at the booth. I check the cost and make sure I have it readily available. I pull up hand her the payment and head to the next spot on the GPS.
I catch a little afternoon traffic, nothing like the traffic in DC so it is just a little slower that I had expected. I follow the directions on the GPS onto campus. Harley wants me to turn left when I get to roundabouts, Garmin says to go right. I opt to follow the Garmin, which coincides with the road signs. I see the destination on the screens, while continuing to hear “recalculating” from the Harley. I find the doughboy, park, and get a few pictures. I check the time and the ETA for the next site to decide how far I want to go tonight. Next stop, Gaffney, SC.
The ride through town is fairly relaxing, traffic has started to die down for the evening, and it is only 4:30pm. I hit the interstate and immediately see the “Road Work Ahead” signs, then the traffic slows. The 50 miles should take me about an hour. It takes me almost an hour and a half. Dodging trucks, potholes, and other “holes” on the road. Speed up, slow down, stop, repeat. Left arm is getting sore from constantly working the clutch. I eventually pull into the recreation center in Gaffney. At first sight, it looks to be deserted because of the run-down condition of the building. I admire the memorial and notice that people are going into the building, then I hear music over the speakers from the recreation center. I take a few pictures around the memorial and the required photos for the Tour of Honor.
I look around and see that there is a Huey behind the fence at the end of the parking lot. I move the bike so I can take a few pictures. This one will require a couple of pictures since I can’t get close enough to get a good picture with both the bike and the helicopter. Pictures done. Where do I go next? It is getting late, I am tired. I check for local hotels and see one nearby. I make a quick reservation on-line and head out.
I get checked into the hotel. There is a grocery store across the street, but it closes in just a few minutes. I call home to see how things are going there as well to let my bride know where I am and that I am doing fine. We talk and she tells me there is a bar and grill around up the road, less than a mile. Too far to walk, but I am hungry. I hop back on the bike and take off. Nice salad and cold water for supper gave me enough energy to ride back to the hotel. As I pull back into the lot, I see a pair of older Harleys parked near my room. I park next to them, which also happens to be right outside my room. As I hop off, the owners walk out. We spend a while talking about bikes. They had planned to ride home to Wilmington that day, but were just too tired and needed to stop for the night. They offer me a drink and I respectfully decline and head to my room. I have planned to make it to the next Tour of Honor site for the night, but that is about 2 1/2 hours farther down the road. With the construction, traffic, and heat, I couldn’t make it.
It isn’t too late, but I am pretty exhausted. Since the initial route was a single file, I decide to review and plan the days in separate files. Since I have to be home by a certain time on day 3, I know I need to finish all of South Carolina on day 2 and try to get to Augusta or somewhere else in Georgia.
I enjoy a quick and light breakfast before heading out. I load the routes for the day into both the Garmin and the Harley. I hit the road, turn onto the ramp of the interstate and start to accelerate only to round the curve and see traffic at a complete stop! NOW the Garmin says that there is traffic on the route. I plot an alternate route starting at the next available exit. I pick some back roads and try to make up lost time, but even the back roads have “Road Work Ahead” signs everywhere. My 2 1/2 hour ride turns into almost a 3-hour ride. I get to as businesses are opening at 9:00am.
I had read about the memorial in Bishopville. It is dedicated to Felix Anthony “Doc” Blanchard who was the only Heisman Trophy winner who was born in South Carolina. He played for West Point in 1944-1946. The memorial has three statues, a young boy, a football player, and a pilot. I’ll not go into details about the memorial since it can be found on tourofhonor.com. I take my pictures and head to my next stop, Myrtle Beach.
Planning shows that Myrtle Beach is about two hours away. Again, I find construction waiting for me. Once I exit the interstate, my plans to pick up speed are again thwarted as construction is also on the back roads. I get to Myrtle Beach at lunch. an hour later than planned. The next “memorial” is actually a cafe/grill in a small shopping center. I circle the lot and see Veterans Cafe and Grill. I pull around to the front to get the picture. I see the “No Parking” signs and move to a parking spot. I decide to go inside and look around a bit. Being lunch time, I could use a bite to eat and a cold drink.
I look over the menu and see a unique salad, the “Philly Cheese-steak Salad.” I love a good Philly cheese-steak sandwich, but have been trying to cut back on my carbs by reducing bread. I decide to give this a try. I get out my laptop and review my options. The heat and traffic have taken a toll on me, the lack of proper planning didn’t help me either. I decide to cut my losses. I’ll skip the Gold Star Memorial in Charleston and the Tour of Honor sites in Port Royal, SC and Tybee Island, GA. I plan to be in Savannah, GA in a week, so I can visit Port Royal and Tybee Island while in Savannah. I have given up on trying to plan the time to the routes due to the traffic and construction. I am tired of interstate and set my sites on Denmark, SC. I adjust the GPS to avoid interstate, thinking that I could enjoy some peaceful backroads.
My thoughts were wrong! I follow US-17 south for two hours in bumper to bumper traffic for no apparent reason. Just LOTS of traffic. I see an interstate ahead, readjust the preferences on both GPS units and turn onto the interstate. As I get up to speed, I see “Thank you for visiting Charleston.” I had removed the Gold Star memorial from my list because I thought I would be avoiding Charleston. Again, my lack of planning has bitten me. I pick up speed until my exit for Denmark. These back roads are nice and quiet. I pull into Denmark and find the memorial “Vikings of Denmark.” Neat story, again, refer to tourofhonor.com. Pictures taken and I hit the road.
The GPS is taking me on backroads. I am enjoying some solitude and the lack of construction. That is until I get to the interstate. The memorial is only a couple of miles right off the road I am riding, just across the interstate. Problem? The overpass is closed. Actually, it is GONE! The entire bridge is being rebuilt. If I could go north on the interstate, the next exit is only a mile or two up the road and fairly close to the memorial in Gaston. Nope, to get on the interstate going north would require me to be on the other side of the bridge. My only option is to go south. 20 miles and 30 minutes later, I pull into the parking lot beside the memorial in Gaston. I set the GPS to point home. I know I will have to stop for the night along the way. I leave Gaston about 5:30pm.
Eighty miles and three hours later, I pull into the Georgia Welcome Center. After the “End Road Work” sign is the “Welcome to Georgia” sign. Tired, hot, and sore, I sit down to review my options for the night. I find a hotel on-line that is at the next exit. I make my reservation and set my sights for Augusta. 15 minutes later, I am in my room with the A/C blowing as cold as it will go. I get a drink from the vending machine and relax for the night. I plan to avoid Atlanta at all costs and find a route where I can avoid interstate AND Atlanta to get home.
I make a quick run through the breakfast area. I am ready to get home. Juice, coffee, and yogurt, and I hit the road. I have to cover over 400 miles and be home by 4:00pm. I will have an hour time change when I cross from Eastern to Central time. I hope to have light traffic and no construction.
I leave Augusta about 6:30am. I expect about 9 hours on the road. accounting for the time change, I should be home by 2:30pm. I enjoy quiet riding through beautiful areas in northwest Georgia. I pass Dawsonville, home of NASCAR driver Bill Elliot (aka “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville”). I pass through Rome. Soon I see the “Welcome to Alabama” sign. Along the way, I had passed a couple of signs telling the distance to Atlanta. First sign listed 60 miles, next sign an hour later listed 75 miles. I laughed, thinking that it took me an hour to get 15 miles farther from Atlanta.
I am soon in Gadsden and turning onto familiar roads. I am staying on track with my estimated travel time. I should be home by 2:30pm. Time to eat, relax, and change before I go out. US-278 leads me to Cullman, I make the right turn onto AL-157. Once past Cullman, I set the cruise at 70 and relax.
My bride has been watching my SPOT to keep track of my progress. At 2:15 I pull into the driveway as she was opening the door for me. It sure is good to be home.
Planning is critical. Not just a quick plan, but when you have a goal, be sure to have a plan! Some things that I could have done better:
- I rushed doing the initial plan for South Carolina. If I had taken the time to review all sites, I could have had a more efficient route through South Carolina
- Better planning with back-up plans. I would have noticed that I was near enough to Charleston that I could have visited the Gold-Star memorial as well as a National Park site that was a block off my route.
- If I had looked at the sites in Georgia, I would have noticed that I would have been close enough to two Tour of Honor sites and a couple of other bonus sites.
- For my route home from Augusta, I was less than 10 miles from a college friend whom I needed to visit. It might have only been a quick visit for lunch, but the time would have been great.
Overall, I visited:
- 6 Tour of Honor sites
- 3 Doughboys
- 1,500 miles of highway
Most importantly, I made it home safe.