Tour of Honor Ride 5

I haven’t been able to put the miles on the bike that I would have liked. As a refresher of the issues that have kept me off the bike: rotator cuff surgery which was more extensive than originally planned, which meant longer recuperation, caused a late start; sprained ankle; sprained it again; AND AGAIN; then gout set in the same foot kept me sidelined. It also kept me out of my Regional Baseball Tournament in Fort Myers.

FINALLY, foot seems better. I got a new pair of boots that have support higher on the ankle. I start planning a route for a multi-day ride. Bride had planned for a knitting retreat and it seemed like a good weekend.

Since this is the post about the Tour of Honor sites, I plan out my route to hit as many as possible.

The plan for day one was to go from home to Albany, GA. My youngest is working there on a project for work and this seemed like a great chance to spend time with him. Memorials that I must visit are Evergreen, AL, Elba, AL, and Donalsonville, GA. A few Huey helicopters and “Doughboy” memorials (WWI soldiers) along the way.

Day two’s plan was to go from Albany, GA to Maggie Valley, NC. The plan included visiting the remaining Tour Of Honor sites in Georgia, a few “Doughboys”, and maybe a Huey or two. If time permits, visit one or two sites in North Carolina and stop in at Wheels Through Time.

Day three’s plan was to go from Maggie Valley to Alcoa, TN. The plan was to get to Little Switzerland, NC up to Johnson City, TN and on through Sevierville, TN to visit various sites.

Day four’s plan was to just get home in time for the Little League World Series Championship game. Route planned was to either take my usual back roads or hop on the interstate to Chattanooga then US 72 to home.

To quote Robert Burns (translated into modern English), “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew.”

Knowing that I had an aggressive agenda for Thursday, I left a little earlier than originally scheduled. I made the first stop, Evergreen, AL just at lunch time. This was my second time here (read the experience in Tour of Honor Ride 2) so I knew exactly where I needed to go. I pulled into the lot, parked the bike, got the rally flag, and took a few pictures.

I double checked that I had my flag and head to Elba. I have a Huey helicopter that should be close to the main route in Sanford. I had decided that if it was a quick stop, I would stop for a picture. As I approached Sanford, I see signs for the airport. And a Huey helicopter supported in the air at the entrance. I was able to make the stop without taking much of the valuable time. Now on to Elba.

The notes from the various sites list that there is the Tour of Honor memorial as well as a Huey helicopter at the same location. As I ride approached Elba, AL, I see that the sites are on the other side of town. I kept a watch on the GPS in case the site isn’t readily noticeable. The site was easy to spot, the parking lot was smaller than I had expected for a “Veteran’s Park,” but that wasn’t a problem since I was the only one there. I managed to park at such an angle that I was able to get pictures of both the memorial and helicopter without having to move the bike!

I had planned a couple of Huey’s and a Doughboy along the route to Donalsonville, GA, which was my next “must visit” stop. Looking at the clock, I knew that I wouldn’t have much time to spare. If a Huey or Doughboy were right on my route and I could easily access, I would try. Otherwise, I needed to get to Donalsonville then to Albany, GA. I review the route and checked the effect of staying on US84 which would cause me to miss a few optional sites. I needed the extra time, so I chose to stay on US84.

As I got closer to Enterprise, the GPS indicates that there is a Huey in the park on my left. I make the quick left turn and take off through the park. The Huey was on the other side of the park, at the main entrance! I park, managed to get a picture, then hit the road again.

As I approached Daleville, AL, I know there is a Huey along the route. With traffic picking up, I wasn’t sure about trying to get to a site which required me crossing the road to get to the site then crossing the road again to get back on my route. I can see the Huey from a distance, but traffic kept me from making the stop. There are also several Huey helicopter on Fort Rucker, but that would take a lot of valuable time. I pass on them and head on to Donalsonville.

Dothan was fun. GPS shows my next waypoint as 5 miles ahead, but 20 minutes. As I got closer to Dothan, people started heading home from work. Traffic was so thick and few vehicles could get through each light, and they were spaced so there wasn’t much space between traffic lights. I decided to scrap the option of the Huey in the middle of Dothan and took the by-pass around Dothan. Instead of lights being about 0.1 miles apart as with the business route through town, the by-pass had the lights spaced about .25 miles apart. I was glad I had skipped the sites in Daleville/Fort Rucker. Eventually, I was past Dothan and into Georgia.

Between the time change and the extra time in Dothan, downtown Donalsonville was pretty deserted. The memorial was in front of the county courthouse. During the day, this might have been a challenge to find parking. No one is around, I parked close enough to get a good picture.

I know that my son wanted to go to happy hour with his co-workers. This meant that I needed to get there before to 6:30pm, but my route had me getting there closer to 7:00pm. I decided to scrap the site in Cairo, GA. This option gave me a few minutes to spare and I should get to his hotel by 6:20pm.

Deserted back roads give you a chance to make up a few minutes. Keeping the speed within 5mph of the limit, I was able to safely enjoy the scenery and had a few minutes to allow me to navigate through an unfamiliar town. Traffic wasn’t too bad. As I pulled into the hotel, I checked my phone to tell him I was there. Just as I started to send a text, he sent one to me asking “ETA?”. That was easy to give a reply, “ETA: NOW.”

He came out, helped me unload, then we took off to happy hour and supper. It was great to spend time with him. The boys and the grand-daughter are the few reasons I regret leaving Virginia once I retired.

Day One was in the books. I had managed to visit three Tour of Honor sites and three Huey helicopters in about 550 miles. I had completed Alabama by visiting all seven Tour of Honor sites in Alabama!

Day Two plans were to visit the remaining Tour of Honor sites in Georgia, maybe a Huey or two and a “Doughboy.” Original plans were to leave about 8:00ish, but my son had to catch a plane to leave back to the DC area, so we were up at 5:30am and I was loaded to hit the road by 6:30am. I wanted to get to Wheels Through Time by 4:00pm so I could visit there for a bit. As I looked over the route, I knew that would be a tight time schedule.

I adjusted my route to omit the first planned stop of a Huey and headed straight for Americus, Georgia. There was a Doughboy statute that I wanted to see. A quick fuel up as I left the hotel and off I went. Quiet trip that early in the morning and I was in Americus faster than I had expected. I saw the turn off to the Huey, but knew that it was 30 minutes away, which would add an hour to the trip.

As I pulled into Americus, I could see that the park with the Doughboy appeared to be in a quiet neighborhood. I pulled up and saw a statue, but wasn’t able to find a place to park quickly enough, so I made a loop in the neighborhood and got to a good spot for a picture. But something didn’t seem right about the statue. It wasn’t the normal Doughboy pose. I walked over to the statue and realized this one wasn’t the one I wanted. I looked around the park and saw that the one I wanted was at the other end, which I had passed by twice! I circled around the park again to get a picture. Checked that it really was the one I wanted and got the picture. The sun was just peeking through the trees to highlight the statue. A start of a new day and many more memorials.

The route to the next stop was just a few miles up the road. Only a few vehicles on the road. The sun was still trying to get high enough in the sky to fully brighten the day and burn off the light fog that remained from the previous night. I approached Andersonville Historic Site with the GPS wanting to play games. Remember, these GPS things don’t always know when roads are “One Way” or service roads. The first two roads into the park were either “Exit Only” or the service road. I watched as I passed the marker on the GPS. As I rounded the curve, there was the main entrance. A big sign greeted me that said the park opened at 8:00am. I glanced at the clock and was thankful that it was 8:05am. The staff had been punctual and the gates were open.

I have a habit when driving or riding through a memorial park/cemetery, especially if for veterans, that I go slow. Entering the park this morning I was greeted with a canopy of trees. Though the sun was still coming up, there was enough light to appreciate the early morning. Dew was still on the ground and a couple of deer were munching on grass as I passed. Andersonville Historic Site is a veterans cemetery, but also the site of a Civil War POW camp. Plenty of statues, markers, and signs to give a history of the area. There was an area where veterans who have recently passed will be placed, markers freshly installed. I also passed an area where the small grave markers were extremely close. These were to memorialize those that had been buried in trenches. It is hard to understand or believe that our ancestors would have done this to our fellow Americans. Whether from lack of caring, carrying out orders, or just being mean, how could they have done this? But remembering my visit to Nazi concentration camps when I was younger in Europe, some people can be heartless and some are just following orders.

I circled through the park and approached the memorial. Again, I am standing to the west as the sun comes up over the memorial in the east. A couple of tries and I have the picture. This memorial is large, but yet simple. It looks more like just a stage where ceremonies are held. Why this spot instead of one of the statues throughout the park? Maybe this was selected since it may be where funerals are held? I think this was to show the majesty of the simple form. Sometimes the simplest thing can spark deep emotions.

My next stop in Hawkinsville was to be a quick trip. Right off a side road, quick access from downtown, easy right? Think again! The trip to Hawkinsville was quick and easy, being on the road this early in the morning was rather therapeutic. Getting into town, I liked this quaint little town. Though this will be my third stop of the morning, the sleepy little town hasn’t woke up yet. This proves to be a saving grace as the GPS points me to go straight, but the barricades tell me to turn. I pass one set of barricades that state “Local Traffic Only,” only to find another barricade at the end of the street that blocks ALL traffic. I make the turn and scan for alternate routes. I pull onto the main road and make a quick left turn, only to be met with another set of barricades. Turns out that the bridge that goes beside the Veteran’s Park with the memorial is out. I can see that there is a spot I can get to for a picture next to the construction equipment. Since the workers haven’t arrived to start working, I make use of the few minutes they are late. Yet again, the sun is coming up behind the memorial. A quick photo, a U-turn, dodge the barricade, and I am back on the road.

Next stop is Elberton, GA. It took me a few hours from Hawkinsville to get to Elberton. I enjoyed passing areas that were familiar to me (Perry and Warner-Robins), a short trip on the interstate (every now and then you like to just open the throttle a little), and beautiful roads through Georgia farmland. As I approached from the south, the memorial is on the north side. I saw the memorial on my left, but was going to have to scout this out for parking. No parking except right on the side of the road. It was where it goes from two lane to four lane, but not fully a four lane area yet. I circled back so I could park on the side of the road where the memorial was located. As I was preparing everything for the picture I noticed that this had several markers. I got the required picture for the tour, put everything away (I didn’t want to lose my rally flag again), and walked through the small park. There were markers to honor the fallen of Elberton from each war starting with the Civil War. Most markers have the names of the soldier from that particular war. One marker listed the total number of the fallen and wounded in each war for both the US and for Elberton. However, there was one that touched me the most. Maybe because it was the most recent, maybe it was the picture, maybe it was the poem. Whatever it was, I had to stop a few extra minutes there.

I am a member of the Son’s of the American Revolution. This means that I have been able to trace an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War. I have an ancestor that fought in the Spanish American War. One of my great-great-grandfather’s fought the in the Civil War, after the war he became an itinerant preacher (I have some neat history on him, but this post is not about that). One of my great-grandfathers fought in World War I. My maternal grandfather was in the Navy in World War II. A couple of my uncles fought in Korea. My father was in Vietnam. My brother was in the Persian Gulf conflict. All of them fought for our country, all returned safely home. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a brother, son, or father to war. I hope that neither I nor my children, nor their children ever have to face that pain. For those that have had to deal with it, I express my sympathy.

I share this to share that the memorial that touched me had a scene on the back with a young boy holding a flag while standing looking at servicemen/women from the various branches. The shadow of the boy was a soldier. There was a poem engraved beside the boy. On the front were pictures of various servicemen, I assume local people.

Lest I forget, I did get a picture of the memorial site with the bike in the foreground.

I had spent more time than I had planned at this memorial, so a quick u-turn and I was back on the road. Next stop would finish the memorial sites in Georgia. I had started back into the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains. Nice twisties, beautiful vistas, usually light traffic. I noticed that I would be  passing through Helen, GA. Check the history of this little town if you haven’t yet. In Helen, there is a little German bakery which has some items that are not readily found throughout the US. I made a call home to see if there was anything that was needed. My bride loves the German coffee, so a quick stop was planned.

As I pulled into Helen, I realize that it is early afternoon, on a Friday, one of the last Fridays before the end of summer. The streets weren’t crowded, but there was more traffic than I had planned. I found the bakery and decided to not park in their lot. Sometimes you drive in the car and take for granted where you can park. Access to their lot wasn’t one of the most bike friendly lots I have found. I circled back and parked in the motorcycle parking across the street from the bakery and in front of Two Tire Tavern. I hopped off the bike, ran over to get the coffee, and started to take off again. Then I realized I hadn’t eaten since the light breakfast in the hotel about 6:00am, it was now about 2:00pm. I knew that my planned route was going to have to change for today. So I decided to take a break. I sat on the deck of Two Tire Tavern, ordered a Reuben and sweet tea. The couple next to me had their dog which either was startled by me sitting there or didn’t want me there. He barked a few seconds and moved away. At least until my food came! Then he wanted to be friends. Sorry puppy, I don’t share a Reuben or fries.

I enjoyed my break while looking over route changes. I knew that I wouldn’t get to Maggie Valley in time to visit Wheels Through Time. Hotels were a bit more expensive than I had planned. I looked at neighboring towns and decided that Hendersonville would be my stop. Hotels were a little cheaper than Maggie Valley, and there was a memorial there that I wanted to visit.

With route changes planned and programmed into the GPS, I was on the road again. The roads from Helen to Hiawassee are narrow in places and very twisty. Traffic can back up for miles behind one large truck that decided to try that road. Though there are areas for passing, only one or two vehicles will get around. However, the scenery is wonderful, the air is fresh, and the pavement is in great shape (i.e. no potholes, tar “snakes”, or other issues that bother bikers which cars and trucks take for granted).

When I had planned out the route on the GPS and the map, I saw that the memorial was behind a school which would be on my left. As I approached town. the GPS indicated that the memorial was on my right. As I got closer, within a quarter mile, I pulled into a parking lot to survey the area. When I parked on the far end of the lot, I realized that I was on the back side of the memorial. I walked around to the other side and found ready parking. Quick jaunt back to the bike and I was in the correct spot to get pictures. School had already ended for the day, so the parking lot was empty.

I sent my GPS to Hendersonville and I was on the road again. About an hour into the ride, I noticed that I was farther north than I had expected, I had passed Waynesville, which was closer to Maggie Valley than Hendersonville. I found a rest stop, pulled over and checked the route the GPS had planned for me. It was taking me to Asheville then to Hendersonville. Not the route that I had wanted and it would take me much longer than I had planned. It had been a long day. I realized that Canton, NC wasn’t too far ahead and had a couple of nice hotels. I made my reservation on-line and set my sites on Canton for the night.

I pulled into the hotel in Canton tired, with a sense of accomplishment. I started planning my route for day three. I hadn’t done any of the planning for day three, but I had brought the laptop and cables to program routes into the GPS. By the time I had reviewed the options, talked with my bride, reviewed the options again, I was too tired to go out to eat. A bottle of water for the evening was enough for me.

Day Two was in the books. Four Tour of Honor memorials and one Doughboy in about 500 miles, mostly back roads. The major accomplishment was with my visits to all seven Tour of Honor sites in Georgia, I had completed a second state, Georgia!

After bouncing various options for day three, I decided to not attempt as many miles and spend more time relaxing. Visiting Wheels Through Time was a major goal for the day. But I did want to visit a few other Tour of Honor Sites, as well as any Huey or Doughboy sites. The plan was to Head south from Canton to Columbus, NC to a Doughboy statue, back north to Hendersonville, then west through Waynesville to Maggie Valley, and finally cross back into Tennessee to Sevierville and end up south of Knoxville. At 3:00pm, a friend was going to be umpiring at the Little League World Series at the plate. I wanted to get settled in the hotel so I could watch him.

The trip from Canton to Columbus was mostly interstate, so it was a quick trip. The Doughboy statue was in front of town square, which was holding a Farmers’ Market. I pulled up and stopped in front of the statue, walked across the street, got the photo and was ready to roll.

A quick u-turn and I was heading back out the way I came in. As I started back on to the highway, a detour sent me back through town. The short detour sent me within a mile of where I had stopped for the Doughboy if I had continued straight. But, live and learn. Within a few minutes I was back on the main highway and turning into Hendersonville. The memorial site here is actually a painting on the side of a building. The history is that it was painted there after the terrorist attack on 9/11. A private parking lot, mostly empty on a Saturday morning which allowed a quick photo without anyone getting upset that I had used their parking spot.

I have spent a few rides in this part of North Carolina, and checked over the map. I expected that the GPS would try to send me back to Asheville via the interstate then down to Waynesville. I would rather ride through the Pisqah Forest. I left Hendersonville along US64 with the GPS constantly “recalculating.” I got into Brevard, US64 went left, I stayed straight on US278. Once through the intersection I saw a great little place we have stopped at several times before, Hawg Wild Barbeque. If you ever are in the neighborhood, it is worth the visit.

US278 twists and winds through the Blue Ridge, crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway, and brought me safely into Waynesville. Fair warning, I spoke with one of the locals and he also wondered what the city council had done with the funds to maintain the streets. Again, in a car you may not notice it as much, but a motorcycle does feel 3 or 4 inch potholes. I meandered through the streets until I got to the VFW. Here I found a Huey.

As I was parking, a gentleman in a pickup pulls up. He starts telling me the history of this particular Huey. It was unique to hear him start with current and work backwards on the history. He started by telling me about the sign that had been installed in the last few weeks giving information on Huey helicopters in Vietnam. He told how it had recently been repaired when someone (or someones) thought it needed to a more “realistic” look and shot holes in it. He goes on to tell that it was restored by a local mechanic who had been a Huey mechanic in Vietnam. He told of the agreement with the federal government that brought the pieces from Saulsbury, NC to Waynesville. I could see the tears in his eyes when he told of the Hueys in Vietnam. He ended by telling me that his unit in Vietnam had Casper the Ghost on the front, just like this one. His mind was not as sharp as it had been, so he had forgotten the tail number of the Huey in his unit in Vietnam, but liked to think that this was the one he rode in during Vietnam. He wouldn’t give me his name and left before I got a picture. But this was one of the best stops on my trip.

It was still early in the day, and a quick ride had me in Maggie Valley at Wheels Through Time. I visited with Cindy, got a few raffle tickets, then decided to spend just a few minutes in the museum. If you have never been to Wheels Through Time, and you enjoy antique motorcycles and cars, you need to visit! Most of the motorcycles will start. A few minutes turn into a couple of hours. Here is a picture of me with Dale in 2017.

I finally decided that I needed to leave. I still wanted to visit one more Tour of Honor Memorial before heading the Knoxville. I left Maggie Valley, filled up with gas (200 miles on 4.5 gallons isn’t bad), and was rolling again. I turned onto the Blue Ridge Parkway to bypass Cherokee. Beautiful mountain views on a Saturday doesn’t lend itself to making good time 100 miles in over 3 hours. No place to pass, so we all just went along for the ride. The GPS popped up that if I avoided downtown Gatlinburg, I would save 20 minutes. The bypass was only a mile or two longer than going through the town of Gatlinburg, but in tourist season, Gatlinburg can become a parking lot. I eventually get to four lane roads and managed to get past some of the slower vehicles. City hall in Sevierville is secluded mid-afternoon on a Saturday. Not much of a tourist spot, so there was plenty of parking. I parked and took the chance to relax for a few minutes after the slow ride. My body was sore and I was ready to call it a day. I got the picture and planned where to stop for the night.

I made my reservation for the night and headed over to Alcoa. Quickly checked into the hotel and turned on the TV. Seems that the local ABC station decided to play pre-season football instead of the Little League World Series. I couldn’t get it on the laptop either since ABC wasn’t on the TVtoGO. I tried to keep up with the game on GameChanger for a while, but eventually gave up. I looked over a few options for a route home and knew a couple pretty well. I had a back roads option that would take about 6 hours, and the interstate which would take about 4 1/2 hours. I decided to wait until the morning before making my final choice. I was beat and just collapsed on the bed.

Day Three was in the books. Two Tour of Honor sites, one Huey helicopter (with a history lesson), and one Doughboy statue. Let’s add in the visit to Wheels Through Time and the mountain roads. All in all, it was a good day with about 225 miles on the bike.

The clock went off at 6:30am on Sunday morning. This was the fourth day on the road. Through I loved the ride, I was ready to get home. Relaxed a bit, had breakfast, and loaded up. I would prefer whenever possible to avoid the interstate. I decided to set the destination in the GPS to “home” and “avoid interstate.” At 7:30am EDT, it said I should get home by 12:30pm CDT, plenty of time before the Little League Championship game. Off I went.

I don’t usually follow the GPS blindly, I usually have an idea about where I will turn and do tend to upset the little lady in the GPS who keeps telling me to “make a legal u-turn” and announces “recalculating” repeatedly. But I thought I would see where it would lead. First sign that I wasn’t going the usual route was the turn onto TN 68, then I was on US70. I know that US 70 goes to Memphis, but it also goes through Nashville. Nashville was farther north than I wanted to go. But, I decided to go along to see where it took me. The GPS took me through Crossville, then over to Sparta. Before I knew it, I saw the sign for Lynchburg. I knew I get to Lynchburg, I could go into autopilot from there. That was a route I took often. Sort of a Mecca for whiskey drinkers. I made a few turns that the GPS didn’t plan on, but those were roads I liked better. I pulled into the driveway at 12:15pm.

Home! Day Four was done. Just a pleasant ride of 275 miles.

Overall count for the whole ride:

  • Nine Tour of Honor sites
  • Four Huey helicopters
  • Two Doughboy statues
  • Completed two state (Alabama and Georgia)

Now that I am home, I am working on routes to finish Tennessee and Mississippi. Each will take a couple of days, but my bride said it was ok.

Stay tuned for Tour of Honor Ride 6

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