“Best laid plans of mice and men…” Daily adjustments starting on the first day. (Wednesday, July 17th)
Planned day one was to head almost due east, up around Chattanooga, and end the day in Maggie Valley, NC. The plan was to visit a few Huey/Cobra helicopters and visit Cherokee (NC2). Weather looked sketchy, but I thought I could handle it.
I had loaded, unloaded, reloaded, adjusted load, and readjusted again. Finally found a balance that I liked. Everything was loaded, had the route loaded into the GPS. I even had set the ride mode on “RAIN” for my start on Wednesday morning.
Plan was to leave about 8:00am. This would put me passing through Huntsville just after the end of their morning traffic. However, heavy thunderstorms were moving through when I was ready to leave. I don’t like riding in rain, but will do it. I DON’T ride in lightning! These storms had the skies lit, pretty light show. Not leaving yet. I wait.
About 9:00am the storms have moved out and the skies look like they might be clear enough to ride. About 9:30am I leave my favorite Circle K. Luann asks where I am headed and when I will be back. I tell her about my plans, gas up, and mount the BMW GS. Roads show that there has been rain, but not too slick or overly wet. I take off.
Plan is to ride AL20 to Decatur, hope on I565, then US72 on to Chattanooga. I make the turn onto AL20 from Wilson Dam Road and can see that the skies are dark in front of me. The various weather reports indicated that this storm should dry up about the time it got to Huntsville. If I time this right, it will be gone as I get to Huntsville.
I didn’t time it right. As I neared Town Creek, I had caught up with the trailing edge of the storm. what started as a light sprinkle quickly changed to a full rain. Raining, but not bad enough to worry about. I am wearing good rain gear, so I am dry. About the time I get to Courtland, it is raining harder with darker skies, but I can keep going. I get to Hillsboro and have caught up with the lightning. Rain is REAL hard, seems that I may not have tied my right boot tight enough and my right foot is wet. I also left the top vent on the helmet open, this is the first time I have had rain come in that vent. Now I have water dripping on my nose. I close the vent, the the pads are soaked and continue to drip. When lightning hits with the thunder almost instantly, I pull over. I check the radar and see that this front has grown and I will be fighting this all day: thunder, lightning, strong winds, heavy rain, and all the joys that go with that. I call home and announce that I am aborting the trip for today.
Ride to Salisbury, second attempt (Thursday, July 18th)
Since I have to make the trip to Salisbury in one day instead of two, I have to make some serious changes. First change is that I will have to scrap several sites that I wanted to visit, including NC2 (Cherokee). Second change is the route Instead of back roads, I will have to spend a lot of time on the interstate. Third change is that instead of “Love Bug” (the BMW-GS), I will have to take “Scooter” (the Harley).
I plan to leave by 4am. Routing indicates that I will have an 11 or 12 hour ride, add in the hour change from Central Time to Eastern Time, it will be be like 12 or 13 hours according to the clock. I had already repacked everything and loaded on the bike when I got home yesterday. I set the alarm for 3am to get myself ready and do a last minute check. I hear rain. Not again! If all else fails, I will have to take the truck, scrap all the site visits, and plan another trip to North Carolina just for a Tour of Honor Ride. I check the radar and the weather isn’t nearly as bad as yesterday. This particular rain cloud should be gone shortly and I will be going around it on my route. I wait about an hour to keep a watch to see that the track is doing what is predicted.
I get to Circle K and gas up then set the SPOT tracker. I make all my notes in my notebook and am ready to hit the road. The roads are wet, but the skies are dry. I take my usual route from Florence toward Nashville which takes me through St. Florian, a left on US43, then I make the turn on I-65. Now to get some higher speed riding. Jut as I think I will set the cruise, I hit morning traffic heading to Nashville. I only have a few miles before I make the turn onto I-840, then the speed limit is 70mph.
I keep a watch on the GPS/radar and see that I managed to get between two storm clouds as I rode around Nashville. I-40 looks clear, both from heavy traffic and rain. I get through Knoxville with clear skies. GPS/radar shows that there is a storm forming north of I-40 near Asheville, but I might be able to miss it. As I approach Asheville, I stop for gas. Roads are wet, skies are dark to the north and south. I can hear thunder, but don’t see any lightning.
I get back on I-40 and the rain has found me. It hit too quickly for me to stop and put on rain gear if I hadn’t been wearing it all day. I am trying on the Klim gear that I got when I purchased the GS. The pants get REAL hot, so I have shorts on under them I zip the vents closed and keep going. The rain stops within a few minutes and I make it on into Salisbury without any more rain by about 5:00 pm (11 hour ride plus one hour time change)
During my planning for this trip, I had checked if there were any Masonic Lodges in Salisbury. There is a lodge about a mile away from the hotel, and they are meeting tonight! I change into jeans and polo, then make my way to the lodge. I enjoyed a great meal of a “Low Country Boil” (shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, and potatoes boiled in a huge pot, actually real huge pots!). To my surprise, they had a presentation on the H.L. Hundley, the first “submarine” to sink an enemy ship in war. Check it out, the history is fascinating.
I get back to the hotel and some routes for rides through the area to visit some Tour of Honor sites. While doing my planning, I get text message that my friend, Chris, will be on the second game, so I plan a ride before his first game.
Time to get some rest.
Tour of Honor Ride and Softball (Friday, July 19th)
I have until about 12:30 before Chris’ first game. I get up early and load today’s route into the GPS. I make a last minute check of the weather: should be clear skies and hot.
I make the quick turn and get on I-85. GPS says I should make it in about an hour and a half. It didn’t take into account the ride on Charlotte Motor Speedway, aka I-85 in Charlotte! I won’t mention how fast I was going, but I was doing well over the speed limit and had trucks riding close behind wanting me to speed up, I was in the right lane!
I made it to Ellenboro safely. I had checked out the photo of the site and was trying to figure it out. As I approached the site on the left, I realized why the picture was made the way it was. I pull into the driveway of a home across the road from NC-4. I pull out my rally flag and get a picture of the bike with the memorial in the background. I decide to get a closer look.
This memorial is on a small area of a farm. There are silhouettes to commemorate many of the wars In which the United Sates fought. There is a silhouette for the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War One, World War Two, Korea, Vietnam, and the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. There are flags for each of the branches of the military, as well as police and fire responders.
After my visit, as I am leaving, the owner/creator of the memorial pulled up. I had already started the bike and was back on the road when he flagged me down. We sat in the middle of the road or a few minutes talking. He was an Air Force Veteran and wanted to do something to commemorate military and first responders. Some of the Tour of Honor riders have spoken to him, but he knows there are many that he misses. I found that he owned the house across from the memorial where I had parked. He asked that I thank all other Tour of Honor riders for visiting his home-made memorial
I make the ride back to the softball tournament to learn that the first game had gone extra innings and the second game will start late I stay and watch three softball games which go until almost 10:30pm.
Another Tour of Honor Ride and Softball (Saturday, July 20th)
Chris’ first game isn’t until 1:30pm. I look over the memorials in the area and map out a plan. I get a quick breakfast and hit the road. Though I prefer to stay on back roads, today I need to use the interstate to put a lot of miles behind me
I spend about an hour on the interstate before I take the road to my first site, NC-5 (Liberty). Each of the state sites will have one memorial at an American Legion Post. Liberty, NC is the choice for North Carolina. I pull into the parking lot and get the picture of the Post with the armored personnel carrier. I mount the bike and head to my next stop.
Back roads! This I really like. I love the ride from Liberty to Roxbury. Slow and winding roads, I have light, fluffy clouds in the sky, temps aren’t too high either. Best I can say is that it is wonderful. I pull into Roxbury, get my picture, and ready to go again.
The roads to Danville are familiar. I have spent many miles on these roads. Roads through farms, over hills, past streams all with light traffic. It is a Saturday in the summer after all and people are out and about. I know US 360/US 58. US 58 from Rocky Mount, VA westward is known as “The Crooked Road.” It passes through some areas with Virginia’s musical history. We have traveled the entire route of The Crooked Road several times.
As I approach town I see that things have changed in this quaint little town. The Heartline Diner that had been in a tiny building downtown is now in a much bigger place on the outskirts of town. I wish that I had the time to stop for a bite to eat, this place it great.
The memorial at VA-2 (Danville) is just off the side of the highway just before I get to town. As I approach, I see a cemetery on the right. I pull in and see the memorial. I read the history of this memorial and soldier to whom it is dedicated. I also spot that another Tour of Honor Ride has been here since he left a poker chip. I regret that my poker chips arrived the day after I left on this trip. My break is over and I need to head back.
I take US360/US58 to US29 and head south. As I get to Greensboro, I see the signs for Guilford Courthouse NMP. I wasn’t sure if I would have the time to visit here, so I had not added it to the GPS route. I make the last minute decision to give it a try. I miss the turn with the exit sign but take the next exit which is less than a mile away. I back track through town and start hunting for signs. I finally see one and know I am on the right track. I have a momentary panic when I see the sign pointing one way, but there is a detour sign on the road. I opt to take the chance and follow the sign to the park. I pull into the park, get the picture, stamp my passport, and head back to Salisbury.
Leaving Greensboro the skies start to darken on either side. I pray that the narrow band of clear skies let me pass before the clouds close in. As the road winds to the left and right, I see the clouds closing in on the clearing and the roads are wet. Lightning and thunder give me concern. I get real uneasy when I watch lightning strike an overpass ahead of me. Just as I think I was going to stay dry, water is falling from the skies. This rain is short lived and I have made it through without getting too wet. The lightning and thunder are behind me, but the weather front is moving south toward Salisbury.
Since the skies are clear and I have a few more minutes before Chris’ game, I make the stop to capture a Huey at the VFW in Salisbury. As I am taking a few pictures, one of the members of the VFW comes out to chat. I notice a small memorial and comment that I have mixed emotions about the memorial. I like that it is there next to their honor wall, but disappointed that they have to have the statue chained and locked. He tells me that this isn’t the first statue that they had put here, they seem to “vanish” at times. We shake and say goodbye as I head to the ball park for the rest of the day.
I pull into the parking lot of the ball field as they announce a delay due to the coming storm. This happens to be the storm that I had ridden through only an hour earlier. I head back to the hotel since I know this will be longer than the required 30 minutes. I get a bite to eat at a restaurant next to the hotel. As I was enjoying my dessert, I get a call that the games will be starting back shortly. I finish my dessert and head back to the fields for the rest of the day.
Softball and Ride to Fayetteville, NC (Sunday, July 21st)
There are actually two tournaments at this complex. Each tournament will have two games today, the losers bracket game then the championship. Whoever wins the first games will eah have to play a second game against a team that is fresh. I bounce between the two fields while there games are going on. Chris is on one field, another friend is on the other field. I watch a few innings of Chris’ last game. I send him a note, knowing he won’t see them until after the game. I will be many miles down the road by the time the game ends.
Between innings, I catch Chris’ attention and wave goodbye. I head to my trusty bike and ready to hit the road. I call Glenda and Ken to let them know I am on the road heading their way. I should be there about 6:00. I have a few sites planned between Salisbury and Fayetteville, so the 120 miles will take about 3 hours.
I head east passing back through downtown Salisbury. I wave an honorary wave and wonder if I will be back here next year, I don’t know of any other friends that I need to visit at a Little League Regional Tournament. I do have several who I have promised to visit them when they do their Little League World Series Tournament.
Sunday afternoon in the summer, I would have expected a bit more traffic. The roads are desolate. I have enough fuel to get to Fayetteville, so I don’t mind the solitude. I wind through back roads in the Uwhame National Forest into Troy. I find the Doughboy standing proud right on the main road. Again, happy it is Sunday and there is no traffic. I park along the side of the road, take my pictures, and I am rolling again.
My relaxing slow speed is broken for about 5 miles as I ride on I-73 to the next exit. Back on the two lane roads. Riding through the southern pine of North Carolina, I enjoy the smells of the pines. I finally make a left onto US 1 and head north toward Pinebluff, NC. I had checked the site on Google maps since this appeared to be right on the side of the highway and saw that this is actually in the parking lot of the Pinebluff Fire Department. I keep a watch on the GPS and slow as I near the coordinates. I see the turn into the parking lot and find the memorial. I get my pictures, the last for the day.
I ride on into Fayetteville. The GPS has me turn onto a road that is a dead-end. I back track, make a few adjustments, and I find my way to Glenda and Ken’s house. Riding in Fayetteville brings back memories. I pull into their driveway, it was great to be greeted by old friends. I haven’t seen them in over 40 years. We go out to dinner then back to their house. We stay up half the night talking about old stunts we have pulled, friends we have known, friends we have lost, and what we have done with our lives this last 40 years.
Fayetteville, NC to Elizabeth City, NC (Monday, July 22nd)
Monday morning we are up and ready to go early. Glenda and Ken have to head to work, and I have places to go. We part with hugs and promises to not wait another 40 years to get together. Now that I am retired, I will have a harder time finding excuses to not visit.
I leave as they take off for work. I make my way through streets that become familiar, but the sites have changed. I make my way to Hay Street. When I lived here, Hay Street wasn’t a place respectable people would go. It was full of bars and “ladies of the evening.” I worked at J.C Penney’s that was on Hay Street. All signs of it are gone, as well as signs of the area I knew in the 1970’s. I find my way to the museum. There is a Huey and a K-9 memorial here. Problem! Museum is closed on Monday. I had not checked on the dates and times. I walk around the grounds and happen to find the K-9 memorial. I get a picture, call home, then ride around the corner to my next goal.
A couple of blocks away is the K-9 memorial at the Police Department. This place is much less exciting now than when I lived in Fayetteville. This isn’t the place we affectionately called “Fayette-Nam.” I park on the empty street in front of the memorial and get the pictures. I ride the street behind Hay Street where I would entire the back of J.C.Penney’s hoping to find something that was familiar. Nope, nothing.
I turn back onto Hay Street, then make a left onto Eastern Blvd. I make the turn to the Police Department Training Center. I find a place to park and take a quick look around. There was a sign at the gate stating that all visitors had to report to front desk. I walk into the main building and the desk officer and I chat for a few minutes. I explain my mission and get confirmation that the memorial I saw out front was the memorial I needed to visit. We chat about how things have changed since I lived here. I then ask if I can park my bike next to memorial to get some pictures. “Knock yourself out.” I thank him and head outside. I ride the bike up the ramp and sidewalk to park next to the memorial. I get some pictures and make my way back to Eastern Blvd and head toward Smithfield.
I leave Fayetteville and head north on I-95. Usually when I have been near I-95, I have done all I could to avoid it. This stretch isn’t too bad. I hop on I-95 and make the quick trip to Smithfield. I will be off the interstate for most of the ride the next few days. I pull up to the Doughboy, get my pictures, and ready to roll again.
I head toward Goldsboro on US-70. I have been on stretches of US-70 and many other US highways across the country. I think about one day just taking off and picking a few to ride across the country on them. Crossing east to west, south to north, west to east, and north to south. I have read about people crossing the country on US-50 from Maryland to California, might do that one day.
I pull into Goldsboro and find my friend the trusty Doughboy. Picture taken and I head north a few miles to Pikesville
Most of the K-9 memorials I have seen the past two years have been statues of various dogs. The memorial at the Fayetteville Police training Center was markers for various dogs and horses that have served in Fayetteville. The memorial in Pikesville is another that isn’t a K-9 statue. This is a wall with granite tablets which have been etched to honor K-9s and horses that have served. I take a few pictures and walk around to admire this memorial a little longer than many I visit. I load up and head back to the road.
Farm country, no traffic, temperature in upper 80’s, and I am on the bike. I ride various county roads, state roads, and a few miles on US-13. I approach Ayden. I pull into the parking lot of the park. I take a few minutes to enjoy a drink and relax on the bench. There are children on the nearby playground. Ah, the sounds of youth. The memorial in Ayden is similar to others that I have visited this year. It is a pair of boots, rifle stuck in the ground, and a helmet hanging on the rifle. At first these were just unique, then became commonplace, they now touch me. Why now? I don’t know, but they do. I get a lump in my throat thinking what it symbolizes. I take a few pictures, make a call home, and rest a little while longer. One more site today and I will call it a day.
No interstate from Ayden to Coinjack, and that doesn’t bother me a bit! The temperatures have started to go up into the mid 90’s. My Klim jacket has vents, they help, but I am still hot! The inside of my jacket is getting sweaty, and isn’t the most pleasant aroma I know (it stinks!). I stay on US-13 for a while, then switch to US-17 on into Elizabeth City. I pass where I am planning to stay tonight to check out the area. I pass through town and make my way to the beach. A right turn and I head to Coinjack. The GPS has been doing pretty well at keeping me on track. I see a sign for a park, but the GPS says to turn on the next street. I make the turn recommended by the GPS. Less than a quarter mile, I know I should have taken the previous turn. I find myself in someone’s gravel driveway when the GPS says “leave the road” and indicates I need to cross the fence to the park. I turn around and follow the signs to the park. I park the bike to try to get a good picture for the Tour of Honor. I walk around the park to admire the other memorials and get more pictures. I relax at the picnic table and make a phone call for tonight’s hotel reservation.
I make my way back to Elizabeth City and call it a night. I had seen a Masonic Lodge when I passed through earlier in the day. I check the dates that they have lodge and tonight isn’t my night to visit another lodge. I find a place to eat that isn’t too far away. Another quest I have is to find the best Gyro, this one is pretty good. Not the best, but among the best.
Tour of Honor to Charleston, SC (Tuesday, July 23rd)
I get up the this morning knowing that I don’t have many sites to visit, but I have a LONG way to go today with the threat of storms all day. I check the weather and it is raining just north and west of me. I will be heading south, the rain front seems to be from northeast to south west. As it moves, I should be able to stay dry all most of the day. A quick breakfast, load up, and I am ready to go.
The route today will have me on US-17 most of the time. I retrace a few miles from yesterday then continue on US-17 toward New Bern. There are a few patches were the road is wet, but I don’t see any rain. Past New Bern, I ride along side the Croatan National Forest on my left. I keep a watch on the skies, so far so good.
A potential stop was the Huey that is near the gate at Marine Corps Base New River. As I was checking the site in advance of the ride, it seemed that access was not as simple ass other military bases. A person would need a valid reason to get on base, taking a picture didn’t seem to be one of the reasons they would accept. I look to the left as I near the base to see if I can spot the Huey. I was hoping that I could, then I would park near the gate, get the picture, and keep going. As I pass, I know that no Huey here. I’ll have to pass on Jacksonville-Huey.
I continue south on US-17, still keeping an eye on the skies. Skies are clear, but it is getting hot. One of the few times I don’t like the “All the gear, all the time” (ATGATT). I am wet, but it isn’t from rain. As I start to get close to Topsail, the breeze off the ocean adds some cooling to the ride. Much like many coastal towns, there is only one way in and the same way out. I follow a few other cars that are heading to Topsail. Houses along the beach, some showing signs of past storms. others look like they have just been built, while other lots are vacant. As I make my way toward the memorial, cars and truck turn off ahead of me. I make the right turn toward the memorial. Not only is there a sign about the museum, but a banner welcoming Tour of Honor riders! I get some pictures, work the bike out of the gravel, and head back out the way I came in.
Back on US-17, I continue to Wilmington. I make the turn onto Business US-17. City traffic is pretty heavy, even in early afternoon. Some friends who live nearby had asked that I give them a call when I get close and they will try to join me to take some pictures. I make the call and they are busy with grand-kids, truly a higher priority! I find my way into the park and follow the road to the Gold Star Family memorial. The Gold Star Family memorial is dedicated to families who have lost a loved one in battle. As I park there is a van already parked there, he has set up to do a video documentary of the memorial. I talk with him for a while, even asking him about options for me to add a video camera or two to my tool box. I get my pictures and head to my next target, Charleston, SC.
I had been in Myrtle Beach a few weeks earlier and passed on the sites in Charleston do to heat and exhaustion. I didn’t realize how close I would actually be to a couple of the sites, or I may have tried to make the stops.
I see the sign for the Charles Pickney National Historic Site and make the turn. Evening traffic is starting to pick up. As I approach the site, I see the gate is closed across the entrance. There isn’t a place to make a U-turn, so I keep going. I make my way through a neighborhood and ride past the gate again. I see that it is closed on Tuesdays. Drats!
Back on US-17 and I head toward Mt. Pleasant. I follow the route in the GPS and find myself at the gate to Patriots Point. The USS-Yorktown is on display here. For a small fee, you can take a tour of it. It had gotten to afternoon traffic and I don’t have time to take the tour. I park near the Gold Star memorial with the USS-Yorktown in the background. I ride to the back of the Visitor Center and try to find a couple of helicopters. I see that they are inside the museum area and I am now in an area set aside for employees. I see one helicopter and get a picture, then head back out. My goal is to get to Hardeeville, SC for the night.
Afternoon traffic and the city planners have plotted to keep me closer to town for the night. It seems that every crossroad on US-17 has a stop light. In afternoon traffic that means that only a few vehicles can make each light. My left hand gets a real workout since I have to ride the clutch a lot, and I mean a LOT! After about 2 ours, I give in and pull into a hotel parking lot. I make the call home to let my bride know that I will be stopping here for the night. I make my reservation on-line, wait a few minutes, then go check in. I pull the bike under the canopy and head to the room. I see the skies have darkened during my stay in Charleston. I gt checked in just before the heavy rains start. If I had tried to make the ride to Hardeeville, I would have gotten very wet with rain. The rain brings thunder and lightning, not a ride I would have enjoyed. I call for delivery and plan my ride to tomorrow.
Ride to Warner Robins, GA (Wednesday, July 24th)
Today is just a simple ride to Warner Robins. No site visits, and I will be on interstate for a bit. As I leave the hotel, I only have a few lights before I hit open road. I might have tried to tackle the ride last night if I had gone another light or two. But I am glad that I stopped and rested last night, avoiding the storms.
I enjoy the ride to Savannah, GA on US-17, then hop on the interstate, I-16. I am not in a hurry, though I do need to stop by the Little League office before 3:00 pm. The ride on I-16 is nice an relaxing with little traffic. I turn off the interstate and make my way to GA-96. The fresh smell of the farmland is wonderful. Peach farms, pecan trees, and solar farms speckle the landscape. I make my way to the Little League Southeast Region office. I pick up volunteer credentials for my bride and myself, then head to the hotel. I find a good parking spot for the bike since it will be sitting for a few days, check in, and unload the bike. I call my bride and find she is about an hour away. I haven’t seen her for a week, a nice reunion is due.
Visit to Warner Robins Museum (Saturday, July 27th)
The last few days have been dedicated to helping at the softball tournament. Most of our meals have been from the concession stand, but we do make our way to Steak-n-Shake for burgers, a greek place, and steaks on night. Breakfast is usually at the hotel, but we do manage to venture out a few times.
Our friends from Wilmington drove down Friday. We went out for steaks Friday nights to catch up. We may have overstayed our welcome, but the waitress had lived in Northern Virginia for a few years and she joined in the conversation about the area that we had all left. Saturday morning we start our excursion at Nu-Way Wieners. Breakfast was better than at the hotel. We decide to go next door to Day-Lite Donuts for a breakfast “dessert.” We had tried the last two years to get here, but when they run out of donuts, they close for the day. Their pickings were getting slim, but we did have some donuts and fritters.
After a quick stop at Starbucks (Jim needed his “fix”), we head to Gottwalds, a used bookstore. We all find a couple of books, my bride has them order a few for her, then we are on to our next stop.
I didn’t know that Sue had grown up as a Military Brat herself. He dad had been an Air Force pilot. What I thought would be a quick stop turned into a half day visit. Jim and Sue, as well as my bride, were overwhelmed by the museum. There are planes outside, planes inside, other vehicles, and some historical displays all over the place. There are four buildings as part of the museum, as well as a youth camp in another building. During our visit, I get a picture of a couple of the Huey helicopters. One was a full helicopter on display, the other was just the cab where people could sit inside to experience the actual size of being in a Huey. Last year both of the helicopters counted for bonus points. Due to a change in the point system, all helicopters had to have the tail section and main rotor attached. The cab only display didn’t count this year, but I got the picture anyway. I will come back on Monday as we leave town to get a picture of the bike outside the museum.
We make our way to the softball fields and spend the rest of the day there. After a couple of games, we find a neat little Greek restaurant for supper.
Sunday morning, I make an early morning run to Day-Lite Donuts and Starbucks before Jim and Sue get up. I call them as I pull back into the hotel and they meet us in the breakfast area. the looks that people give us as we enjoy fresh, hot donuts and fritters, with fresh Starbucks to wash everything down. WOW! I was able to get some of the donuts that weren’t available yesterday.
Jim and Sue pack to head to Atlanta to visit family, my bride and I prepare to head back to the ball field. Another set of friends that we haven’t seen in many years who part from us with the promise to meet up again with a shorter time apart than the last separation.
Softball is Done, Ride to Auburn, AL (Monday, July 29th)
Last day of softball, a winner will be crowned today. We pack up and load everything in the car. I will ride the bike home and she will follow in the car. No need to try to cram everything on the bike. We pack so only things we will need for the night is in one bag, this will allow us to leave everything we don’t need in the car. We head out to the stadium, I make a side trip to the Museum of Aviation to get a picture of the bike outside the main building.
During the tournament, if I have not been working, I will get a copy of the line-up from Matt and I will keep score. I head to the press box to get a copy of the roster and Matt tells me that I am running the scoreboard today. Nice place to watch the game, but I have to stay even more focused to ensure that the scoreboard is up to date with the game status. It is a great game, and I only had one minor error when I didn’t check the inning.
We say our goodbyes to all our tournament friends. Most will be around for the next week for the baseball tournament. We can’t stay away for two weeks. There are only a few places that I wanted to visit today, one where I have already visited but want my bride to visit. Other than that, no other plans. We could make the entire trip home, but it would be late when we got home. Our plan is to take two days to get home.
With the exception of 3 miles on the interstate, the trip to Andersonville is on deserted two lane roads. It is less than an hour from Warner Robins to Andersonville. I lead the way with my wife behind. From the country road, we make the left turn into the park. We are immediately on a tree lined road where the branches cover the road. The temperature drops due to riding in the shade. We make our way to the Visitor Center. I have already visited here and note my observations on a previous page. One that is certain, it is hard to understand why anyone would treat another human as cruelly as they did. I did learn on this trip that not all of the cruelty was intentional. When the south could not feed their on soldiers and citizens, the prisoners of war wouldn’t get fed either.
The next stop is Plains, GA, the home of President Jimmy Carter. This is also a short trip, less than an hour. We make our way to the old high school which has been converted into the Visitors Center. I get a picture and my passport stamped, before looking for a place to eat. It is mid afternoon, so the lunch crowd is gone, but no supper crowd yet. We ask for suggestions for a place to eat. They give us a couple, but only one is within walking distance. We head to the Buffalo Cafe for a late lunch.
We check our timeline and decide to make the stop in Eufaula, AL. I had been through Eufaula when I did my ride of Alabama sites. I was in such a hurry, that is missed both a Dougboy and a Huey. Worst part is that the Doughboy is at the end of the block from the Eufaula memorial! I lead us to the Doughboy and park in front of him. I get my pictures while my bride parks across the street. We make plans for the night and decide head to Auburn for the night. We make reservations on-line and put the address in the GPS of the car and the bike. I tell my bride to head straight to the hotel, I will make the stop at the Huey along the way and meet her at the hotel.
I lead us to US-431. I see the Huey ahead and I move to the left lane to make the turn. I wave at my bride as she passes me. I pull up to the Huey. I read about the Huey and the work that was performed to get it here. As I start to leave, I see a veteran painting on a small tank. I go over to chat with him for a few minutes. I mount the bike and head to the hotel.
My bride and I have our GPS set for different settings. I don’t mind back roads what are a bit twisty, my bride like more major roads without getting on the interstate. Though I was stopped for about 15-20 minutes, I make it to the hotel a few minutes before she does. It has been a busy day with a late lunch, we just crash for the night.
Ride Home (Tuesday, July 30th)
Final day on the road. I have been gone for two weeks, my bride has been away from home for a week. We are ready to be home, but I am single-minded and want to visit a few more sites. We are close to Tuskegee, so we plan to visit the Tuskegee Airman memorial and the memorial a Tuskegee University.
I lead the way to the Tuskegee Airfield. GPS tries to lead me in via a service road that has a closed gate blocking the road. I opt for the turn into the parking lot about a quarter mile up the road. I get the required picture at the entrance sign and park the bike. The museum and airfield is down the hill from the parking lot. We take a walk and tour the area a bit. There are displays of airplanes from WWII and the hanger is set to resemble a WWII air base. We visit a couple of the buildings as well as the gift shop. I get my passport stamped and we make our way back to the parking lot.
The trip to Tuskegee University and the memorial there had a slight diversion. When I turned onto campus, I didn’t think that the memorial would be on campus and I had seen a National Park sign a block up the road. We make a u-turn to leave campus and head to the building with the sign. We walk in and learn that this building is only the area headquarters, the memorial is actually on the campus where the GPS had indicated. Since school is not in session yet, finding parking was easy. This was a neat place when I learned that George Washington Carver wasn’t only known for his peanut work, there was so much more. I get a few more pictures and have my passport stamped.
We leave Tuskegee and head up AL-49. I love this type of road, deserted, fairly straight, rolling hills, with a few twisties added to keep it fun. Oh, and you can twist the throttle a bit too! We make our way to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park. A short visit lead to an immense knowledge. This is the only National Park which is dedicated to the Creek Indian War. Pictures taken and passport stamped. Time for lunch.
Rarely do I talk bad about a place, but this one I think deserves it. We were told about a place called General’s Cafe. We headed north on AL-49 into New Site, then turned left on AL-22. About a mile outside of town, we see the cafe on the right. As I approach, the entrance doesn’t look very “motorcycle friendly” as it has large holes in the driveway and the parking area. I see a paved drive that leads to the other end of the parking lot and opt for that entrance. As I turn in, I realize that half of the driveway has vanished into a sink hole. I park the bike in the paved area of the lot, dealing with the steep slope of the lot. It is just after 1:00 pm, and the lunch crowd is leaving. We go in and the waitress leads up to the table in a corner. We get menus and sit back to watch the others in the restaurant.
Eventually the waitress comes back to get our drink order, diet coke and water. We ask a few questions about the menu and she leaves. another couple comes into the restaurant is is seated on the other side of the place. They get their drinks before we do. When the waitress returns with our drinks we place our order. It is now close to 1:30. We watch others come in, order, eat, pay and leave, we are still waiting on our lunch. A little after 2:00 pm, I catch the waitress’ attention to ask for more water. She takes my glass and away she goes. About 2:30, our lunch comes out I ask about my water. “Oh, I took your glass didn’t I?” I almost finish my lunch before I get another glass of water.
Overall, the food was okay. It didn’t make us sick, but based on the food alone I wouldn’t be back. Based on the service, it was AWFUL! We finally finished eating, got our bill, and could pay a little after 3:00 pm.
My next challenge was to get out of the parking lot. I couldn’t go back the way I came since the slope was so steep I couldn’t turn the bike around. This meant I had to go out through the pot holes. I tell my bride about a gas station up the road where I had stopped on my Alabama ride, she can either follow me to meet me there. I am glad she chose to follow me. As I start to leave, a car pulls into the lot and parks right in front of me. I have to now back the bike up the slope. As I start to go behind the car, they back up! Eventually this “dance” ends and I decide to take my chances on the pot holes. I dodge most of them as I finally get to the road.
The gas station has four pumps. I pull up to the open one and go in to pre-pay my gas. There are four or five people already in line, the girl at the register is trying t figure out how to ring up a sale. Her co-worker tells her to figure it out and decides to go on break. I go back outside and tell my bride we need to head up the road for gas. She takes off before I realize she has left. She calls to tell me she has pulled into a station about a half mile up the road. I pull in and we both go in to pre-pay for our gas. This is a grocery store that happens to have gas pumps. We both pump gas and head back in to get change and a receipt. The girl looks at us with a blank stare, she doesn’t understand that we are due change. We tell her how much change we are owed and ask for a receipt. The receipt simply shows that we got change. Frustrations abound.
We are about 200 miles from home. The car will have no problem making the trip without a stop, I will be close, but should make it. We follow AL-49 and make a left on AL-77. I enjoy the sweeping curves, long straights, rolling hills, and a chance to twist the throttle! Once we get to I-20, we hop on the interstate for a few miles and exit at US-231. From here, we can go on auto-pilot. We pass Shaw’s BBQ where we have stopped a few times.
Nature requires that we needed a potty break. We pull into a stop where we have passed many times. This has a gas station, small convenience store, and a restaurant. We decide to get some ice cream to tide us over until we get home. We then walk over to the restaurant side. The place is called “Wood Fire Grill.” The hostess talks with us for a bit and we get a menu to take home with us. This looks like a place where we can bring the HOG chapter, hmm.
Back on the road, US-231 to US-278, then the right on AL-157. Soon we are pulling into our driveway at home. It is good to be home. All I can think about is: Where and I going next?