2020 Tour of Honor – North Mississippi Ride

We had our blood work done first thing this morning. No coffee, no cereal, nothing before the blood work. As we left the clinic, MaryJo said, “Let’s stop by Yummies.” She picked up a bag of donut holes, some small cupcakes, and a dozen donuts. We had coffee and I had three donuts! I have put back on the weight that I lost the other night while being sick.

Weather looks good and I went for a ride. Plan was to visit a few Tour of Honor sites. My original schedule had me leaving at 9:00am, but with the donuts, it was closer to 10:00am before I took off. Gassed up the bike at the Circle K and was off on my adventure.

I knew where the GPS was going to send me, but I wanted to be contrary, as Mawmaw would say. I stayed on Cox Creek instead of turning on Helton. The GPS made the quick adjustment, I deviated again to turn left instead of right at AL20. Then I turned onto Gunwaleford Rd. I enjoy that stretch of road; I can go a little fast if I want. I turn onto the Natchez Trace Parkway, then onto US72 toward Mississippi.

This was the quickest I have been through Corinth during the day. There were a lot of trucks as usual, and a lot of cars, but not as many cars as usual. Traffic flowed very well. I pulled into Walnut and headed to the park with the Huey on display. I have visited this Huey the previous two years of the Tour of Honor. The first year, the kids on recess were filling up the far end of the parking lot. The second year (last year), I helped a guy catch his dog which had gotten out of the yard and was chasing kids in the parking lot. Today, a few people were walking the track around the park, but mostly just me. I got the usual picture of the Huey and headed off for my next stop.

All the years I lived in Memphis, I never went to Tunica. When I lived in Memphis, Tunica had just started a riverboat casino. Now, Tunica has several casinos. I avoided the casino area and made my way to the Veteran’s Memorial. In the center is a statue of three soldiers from Vietnam, with markers from other conflicts in which the US has fought. I parked at the side of the park to get a picture of the bike with the memorial in the background. I thought about riding up to it, but didn’t think people would appreciate it. Then I saw that I could get close on the side.

Mississippi is a great place to test the comfort of your vehicle. State roads are not the best. I felt every bump in the road, and they weren’t little bumps! Pot holes, buckled areas, “tar snakes,” and general lack of maintenance were common. I found the standing on the pegs of the bike saved my butt the abuse of the bouncing, but my calves could only take it so long themselves.

I hate crossing bridges on the motorcycle. So many have grates as you reach the top, especially if it is a draw bridge. As I approached the Mississippi River bridge into Helena, Arkansas, I had butterflies. I think that the bridge is part of Arkansas, though it did have marks where it was to be repaired, if was still better than the roads in Mississippi leading to the bridge. I rode through Helena and found the Doughboy in the center of the intersection near the police station. No traffic, I parked the bike against the base of the statue, got the picture, and took off. The GPS suggested I go through a park. Seemed like a good idea. One thing I need to remember, a paved bike path is considered a motorcycle route by the GPS. I decide that the BICYCLE path was not meant for MOTORCYCLES, so I continue through the park, only to find the road ends at the river. Quick U-turn and I head back out the same route I had entered.

GPS wants me to take the interstate. I don’t want to take the interstate. I have an idea how to get to Tupelo, so I take a State Road (remember my comment above about the maintenance…). This isn’t as bad as the road leading to Helena, but still could use some “love.” I keep a watch on the GPS and see that it is planning for me to turn onto I-55. Nope, I make the turn onto US51 which runs parallel for a while, until I get to US278. I wish that I had paid more attention to the map, I would have liked to have enjoyed more of the two-lane roads, even with the bumps. US278 is almost an interstate, divided four-lane, high speeds, plenty of truck traffic, and exits like an interstate. It does have some side roads that don’t have ramps, but they don’t appear to have much traffic.

I ride through Tupelo and turn onto US45 to get to the north side of town, then continue east a couple of blocks to Veterans Drive. I visited this site last year. I was not able to get out and walk around the memorial. This particular memorial is a ¾ replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. For “just” slabs of granite with names carved into it, it is emotional. When I worked in DC, I would walk around the Vietnam Memorial. I knew a few names. One had been a friend of my parents when we lived in New Jersey. He had gone to Vietnam; we went to Arizona. Another name I knew was the brother of a classmate. I remember when Mark was out of school for a few days in 9th grade. I admire the memorial from a distance and get a picture.

I check my fuel tank and know that I am going to be close to empty when I get home. I decide to alter the route again and ride the Natchez Trace Parkway home. I set the cruise on 52mph, the speed limit is 50mph. Not trying to take the faster route, I might be able to make it all the way home without a stop. I keep a watch on the miles to empty and the miles to home. The computer says I will run out of gas 10 miles from home when I exit the Trace and pull into the gas station nearby on US72. I have a 5.3 gallon tank and get about 45-50mpg. I have 20 miles to empty when I fill up. I put in 4.8 gallons. I could have made it. Since I have a full tank, I don’t have to baby the throttle on my return trip on Gunwaleford Rd. Not that I was going too fast, but I wasn’t taking my time.

I pulled into the drive about 7:05. MaryJo opened the doors and asked if I was ready for supper.