2020 Tour of Honor – 46th for Rider 46

Bikedate: October 30, 2020, next to last day for 2020 Tour of Honor

This was the ride that almost wasn’t. So many last minute changes. Let me see if I can remember all the variations…

Version 1

Leave October 30 about 6am. If I were to take the interstate, I might be able to miss most of the Nashville morning traffic. Stop 1 would be either the Huey in Hopkinsville, or the KY2 in Bowling Green. (Hopkinsville looked to be at a very odd place in the middle of an interchange of two highways.) After Bowling Green, head to Owensboro for KY5. Ride to Indiana to visit Mt Vernon (IN6) and Magnet (IN4). Back into Kentucky for the Gold Star and Huey in Radcliff, before visiting Louisville (KY4) and staying the night there.

Day two would have me visiting Frankfort (KY4), Gold Star in Lexington, Argillite (KY1 and a Gold Star), running into the Huntington, WV area for WV3, a K-9 Memorial, and another Gold Star. Then finishing West Liberty (KY7) and Wendover (KY6). I would try to get as far as I could for the night, or ride on to get home REAL late.

Problem with that plan was that it would be a REAL long day unless I stopped somewhere after Wendover. Looking over the maps, nearest place would have put me into the Knoxville area, though it would have been after 6pm. Another 5 hours and I would be home before midnight. Of course, there were a few Dougboys along the way.

We thought about editing that to leave Thursday (October 29th) after mom’s doctor appointment and putting a few hours on the road. At least get to Bowling Green, maybe get to Owensboro)

Version 2

Almost like version 1, except in reverse order. Original plan was to get to Huntington, WV area for the night. It would be a long ride the next day, but doable. Still getting me in well after dark. But that would be Halloween. After dark… Halloween… Saturday night… Not a good idea trying to get around Nashville.

I thought about getting a jump start by riding to Knoxville on Thursday and adjusting where I stopped on Friday night. That put me near Lexington, KY. Home of University of Kentucky, and they had a home game on Saturday. Not many options in Frankfort (even though it is the state Capitol). This option seemed to be getting washed out.

Version 3

Maybe I scrap the Indiana and West Virginia sites. The Indiana sites were a little out of the way, but the ones in West Virginia were only a few miles (less than 50) out of the way and I really wanted to get as many Gold Star memorial visits as I could. I looked both version 1 and version 2 variations. Though there were right about 1,000 miles, and I could have done then as an Iron Butt ride, these weren’t looking good.

Version 4

How about I not worry about completing Kentucky and get those that would make an “easy” loop. I looked at visiting the Bowling Green, Owensboro, Louisville, and Frankfort Tour of Honor sites, add in a few Gold Star memorials, doughboys, K-9, and maybe a Huey along the way. I could stop in Louisville on Friday night and still be home before dark on Saturday. I could even visit the K-9 memorial at University of TN and the Huey in Alcoa (behind the Knoxville Airport)

Tropical Storm Zeta kept playing havoc on these options. Never mind that I had delayed in trying to get to Kentucky. Behind TS Zeta was a cold front. This meant that all the places I would be staying on Friday night would have me waking up Saturday to below freezing temps.

Version 5

Reduce those in Version 4 down to the minimum. Forget Doughboys, Hueys, and K-9 memorials. I could stay in Louisville until the temps got above 40 (hopefully by 9 or 10am). If it were later, ride to Frankfort and Lexington, then hit the interstate and head home.

This looked like the best option. I could back off at almost any point and head home. I shared the idea with my bride.

I would wait on Friday to see how the weather was cooperating. By 9am, I would make the go-no go decision. Once I got to Bowling Green, I would decide whether to head to Owensboro. Once at Owensboro, I could head to Louisville or head home. If I headed to Louisville for the night, I would list the stops in priority order and omit those that were lower priority as I delayed my start on Saturday.

Final version

I made the decision at 9am to head out. I was going to skip the Huey in Hopkinsville because of the uncertainty of accessibility. Being 9am, I could hit the interstate and get through Nashville after the morning rush and before people went out for lunch. I would have some truck traffic, but I can usually deal with that.

3 1/2 hours via interstate through Nashville, 4 1/2 hours going around Nashville. My bride suggested that the extra hour to avoid interstate and see the back roads was worth it. So I decided to take some back roads I have been using this year. Again, if I got to Bowling Green and felt good, I would continue on.

I programmed the route into the BMW phone app which includes a mapping program and links to the console, and the Garmin GPS. Both were set to the same destination and to avoid interstates. Pulling out of the driveway, they disagreed! Since I needed to gas up before taking off, I ignored their fighting and went to my normal gas station.

Gassed and ready to go, I knew that one wanted me to go up to Columbia then hit TN7, the other wanted me to take the Trace then hit TN7. I like the Trace, so I opted for that option. Once on the Trace, the clouds never cleared, though there was no rain, and the shadows kept the temperatures dropping. I had left the house at 49 degrees. It dropped to 42 along the Trace and never got back to 50 degrees until I got into Bowling Green.

Again, this was mostly familiar roads, until I got to Clarksville. The Doughboy that I visit each year in Clarksville in on the south west side of town, the side I usually enter Clarksville. I didn’t realize how busy Clarksville would be at lunch. I spent more time than I had expected getting through town, almost 30 minutes longer than expected. Once through Clarksville, I entered Kentucky farm land. Bluegrass and rolling hills were beautiful. Not a lot of traffic on the roads. I got into Bowling Green and was at the memorial fairly quickly.

The Low Fuel light came on and it was about 2pm. I checked the weather for Louisville and the planned wake-up temperature had lower that previously predicted. I had joked that it might be funny to only get 46 visits this year, especially since I am Rider number 46.

I have my 46 sites, I did visit Kentucky, and I got one last ride in before the end of the season. I called home to say I was coming home, I should be there about 6:30pm. A quick gas fill-up, maybe a quick food stop, so give me a little more time.

I gassed up and decided to get down the road a bit and find an out of the way place to sit for lunch. Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour and a half trying to get out of Bowling Green. I had decided to take another route home, just to add to the experience. I planned to head south on US231 until I was south of Nashville. I would get on US31A to Pulaski, then head home through Minor Hill. Seemed like a great plan.

As I made the turn onto US231 South. I had to option to go Business US231 or Bypass US 231. I chose Bypass US231. This turned out to be a mistake. It was only 10 miles, but took an hour! It seemed as if every school, stop light, store, and person learning to drive was on that particular route. It took a few lights to get around the guy that stopped at the green light, then waited until it turned yellow to go. Then a school zone where they would stop all traffic if they saw a vehicle in the back of the parking lot getting ready to leave, they would hold all traffic until that car cleared the intersection. A few cars would start going and we would start the whole process over again. What I expected to be a Bypass with few obstructions turned out to be the busiest road in the area. I wonder if the Business route might have been faster since everyone has abandoned the downtown area.

Once through town and on US231, I was behind a line of semi-trucks. They were moving at the speed limit, but the wind off them was buffeting, making it a challenge on the bike. I finally got a chance to make up a few minutes before getting to Murfreesboro. This became another long parking lot since everyone who works at the VA (Veterans Administration) on the north end of town lives in the south end of town. This was another extra 30 minutes added to my travel time.

Eventually, I was past traffic. The sun was getting lower in the sky and I knew I would be home well after dark. Once I made the turn onto US31A a little before 6pm, I knew I was only 2 hours from home, and I might be able to make up a little lost time. Though it was 2-lane roads, traffic was light. The few times I got behind someone slower, I could easily pass them or there was a truck lane where they could pull over to let me pass. 6:30pm and I was in Pulaski.

The road from Pulaski to Minor Hill is one I know well, but I have never ridden it at night. The Denali lights gave me a lot of extra light to see the road ahead and the woods on the sides. A few cars didn’t like the brightness of them, even on low setting. Sorry, but it is what it is.

My dash had given me warning that my cell phone battery was low. As I had left Bowling Green, I had turned off all the apps except the ability to call home. The indicator on the dash hadn’t turned to red yet, so I called home say I was about an hour from home.

The temperatures started dropping as the sun went down. I was at 43 degrees as I neared my favorite gas station. I gassed up and made the last mile home. My bride was waiting with the garage doors open for me.

I spent 10 hours, almost all in the saddle. About 420 miles on decent back roads. And Rider 46 visited 46 Tour of Honor sites this year.