Tour of Honor Ride 6

Sorry for taking so long to get this ride posted. Being a three day ride and not taking notes as well as I should, this took rattling my brain a bit more than usual. Next year, I will take the ride a bit slower and write a note at each site about the trip from the last site and my personal impressions of the current site.

I had planned to take a trip last week, but life got in the way. As I prepared for this ride, Hurricane Florence was about to attack the east coast, and I noticed some unsettled weather along the gulf. I already had completed Alabama and Georgia, so I needed to do some serious planning, with backup plans that could be very flexible.

I wanted to complete at least one state on this trip. I already had visited two Tour of Honor sites in Mississippi, so that was an option, but the rain in southern Mississippi looked like I would get wet on whatever route I planned there. Rain pattern gave impression it was going to move north. I didn’t want to spent too much time due north or head west, as I might have to cross the rain at some point.

I had only two sites in Tennessee, the remaining ones were on opposite ends of the state. But one of the sites was at the far north eat corner and there was the potential that Hurricane Florence might cause that to get messy. Two lane mountain roads in rains from the outskirts of a hurricane? Not my idea of an enjoyable ride.

I check the maps. Looks like Kentucky might be an option. I could head toward one side of Kentucky then work my way to the opposite side. Doing that, I might be able to pick up a few, or even all, of the remaining in Tennessee. That would require three LONG days on the bike. Mileage isn’t the issue, having to find the site then working the logistics of photo and submission quickly would be an issue that would slow me down.

I worked up two routes, one starting from the east side, the other starting from the west side. I realized that one of my cousins was a few miles off the route (ok, about 50 miles or so, but within reason for a comfy bed and home cooked meal). I contacted them and discussed the options. Letting them know that I might not make the final options until the night before I left.

I spent the next day watching the track of Hurricane Florence and contacting friends near each of the sites I wanted to visit. Late on Tuesday, I made the decision on the route and notified my cousin. And I even had an extra option if I stayed a second night with my cousin.

Packed up and left early on Wednesday. Turned the GPS on and set it to start on the west side of Kentucky, but I was going to visit a few sites in Tennessee just in case I was able to complete the visits on the east side.

My dad was born in Paris. Paris, TN that is. He spent his first few years of childhood in Union City, TN, which isn’t too far away. I had friends in the DC area that were also from Paris, TN, but I had never passed through Paris. As I approached the city limits, I started seeing tourist type signs. A miniature Eiffel Tower, in the north west corner of Tennessee? Come on! I follow the GPS and see that the memorial in in the corner of the Court House yard. A little before noon, parking is scarce. I park so I can get a view of the memorial, though it is on the back side of the memorial.

I was now headed out of town to my next stop, Dover, Tennessee. Country roads, fresh air, beautiful scenery. I ride into Dover, keeping an eye for the memorial on both the GPS and for the actual memorial. I need to start looking over the Tour of Honor pictures for each memorial the evening before my ride so I can know what I am looking to find. More on that later. Like many of the town in Tennessee once you get away from the few big cities, Dover is a quiet little town. People all wave at you, doesn’t matter that they have no idea who you are. And they stop to talk. They like people that visit, maybe it gives them a chance to tell their old stories to a person who have never heard them before, maybe they haven’t seen someone that just gets on the motorcycle and takes off for a few days without a care in the world, giving them a chance to share travel experiences. Either way, I like hearing them too.

The memorial in Dover is also in front of the Court House. No parking spots in front of the memorial. Not that they were all used, there were not any parking spots in front of the memorial! It is marked with a yellow curb, so it is a no parking area. Not perfectly level, but close enough that I can quickly stop to get the required picture. I spend a couple of minutes reading the memorial. As I start to load back up, a local gentleman was leaving the Court House and stopped to talk. He asks what I was doing on the bike and taking the pictures. I explain the Tour of Honor ride and memorials. I explain why I enjoy doing it. He tells me about his time on in the service, not something that he talks about much to people since few would understand. He must feel that I understand, or at least sympathetic to him. Then he tells about his time riding motorcycles. How he misses it, but poor health has taken that away from him. He had though about three wheels, but he didn’t have the strength for that anymore either. We end our conversation and I ask about a good place for lunch. He points across the street and says it is the best place in town, but I better hurry before the lunch crowd gets there. I cross the street and enjoy lunch. Sure enough, a few minutes after I get my lunch, the Court House is letting for a break and several jurors from a local trial file in. I finish my lunch to let them have another table, and to get me back on the road.

Short ride and I am in Clarksville, TN. I came here to visit a “Doughboy” which was in front of the Veteran’s Home. I pulled into the parking lot and saw the statue right outside the front door. Some guys were doing the lawn work and I tried to park to get a picture without being in their way, or having them in the picture. I got the picture and a lady approached me. As usual, a quick explanation of the Tour of Honor and the “Doughboy” pictures. She explained that she was visiting her dad and grandfather who lived there. Her husband and son both served, and they both rode bikes. (Maybe an additional pair for next year’s Tour of Honor?) She then asked about that statue. I explained it was a World War One soldier, known as a “Doughboy.” She mentioned that several of the people she talked with at the home didn’t even know what it was. We talked for about 30 minutes and we both realized we needed to get going. She took my picture with the statue, bike, and my rally flag.

It wasn’t too long of a trip to get to Hopkinsville, KY. This was just north of Fort Campbell, KY. I have had friends who lived there, but this was actually my first pass through the area. The memorial took a bit of quick thinking to pull into the parking lot, but I managed.

As a side note, check Operation Tank Full of Love. This is a charity which supports our military by providing them with gas for their vehicle. This charity is the brain-child of a couple of friends of mine, Debbie and Eric Horner.

Back on the road to Paducah. I have been to Paducah a few times, but last time was probably over 30 years ago. A lot of things have changed. My mom would come here for a Quilting Show which is held annually. I am not a quilter, so I have managed to miss the show. I plan to hit the cemetery for a “Doughboy”, then a quick jaunt to the memorial. Biggest excitement was getting turned around in the cemetery and having troubles getting out. GPS didn’t realize the there are fences that block roads around a cemetery. I finally got back on the road and a quick trip a few blocks away to the memorial in Paducah.

I finished up the first day with a a quick run to Evansville, IN. I spent the night with a cousin who I haven’t really spent time with in way too long. Nice evening, bottle of wine, grilled chicken, great conversation.

Day two started with the extension of the previous night’s conversations. Girls from the south will NOT let you leave on an empty stomach. Thanks Joyce!

I took off for a local “Doughboy.” Address programmed in the GPS and a way I go. Note to self, ALWAYS read the description before heading out. I got to the American Legion mid-morning. Parked and walked around the area trying to find the statue. No luck. I check in the woods around the building, again, no luck. I finally decided to check the description. Ah, that was my problem, the status is INSIDE the building and only accessible when the American Legion is open. Guess I will hope this is on the list for next year.

So, strike one, but I am on the road. I head to Huntingburg, IN. Knowing that my goal was to get across Kentucky and maybe even into Tennessee for the night, I kept a close watch on the time. Heading into Huntingburg, the GPS kept telling me about 12:30pm. Not really a big issue, except that the clock kept bouncing from Central Time to Eastern Time and I had a hard time trying to determine when I would get there. I managed find it and realize that it was in Eastern time (or was it Central without Daylight Savings Time?). Either way, got the picture and I was back on the road.

Mostly interstate from here to Frankfort, which is the state capitol. I must admit, when I rode into Frankfort, I was expecting more. It was much smaller and less congested than I had expected. Nothing like the other state capitols that I have visited through my life. The memorial here was on a hill. I had a nice view of the town as I was approaching the memorial. As I was getting the picture, a few other trucks pulled up and a few people began walking around. This was a neat memorial with a sundial. I got my picture and headed out so as to not disturb the others.

Back on the interstate and I was headed toward Winchester. This was mostly interstate and a quick detour had me at the doughboy in Winchester. Driving through Winchester was fun. If you consider one way streets and people vying for parking around the Court House as fun! I managed to find a spot to park and get the picture.

I left Winchester and again was back on the interstate. This time headed to West Liberty. Though the trip to Winchester was less than an hour, the trip from Winchester to West Liberty was just over an hour. As I pulled into town, I knew the doughboy would be on my right, so I pay close attention. Right there it was! I was at the red light, no traffic, so a quick “right on red,” then a U-turn (on solid pavement), and I was able to get a good spot to park. Picture was from the side, since parking in the front was not available, the side view had to do. (NOTE: Several tries to upload the picture to the website has proven fruitless. I hope to eventually get it uploaded to share.)

The clouds were starting to build off in the distance ahead of me, but I knew I needed to get to Paintsville. I pushed on and found the memorial. I parked across from a ocal pizza place, which only reminded me of how tired and hungry I was at the time. Still dry, I needed to stop for the night.

I pulled out my trusty cell phone, pulled up my hotel app, and found a hotel nearby. I made my reservation and I was off. I rounded the first turn in town only to find construction and that the road from Paintsville to the next town was closed. No “detour” signs to give me advice, GPS wouldn’t budge. I had two choices, see if the road really was closed which meant risking a U-Turn on what be less than desirable road conditions; or try my luck on another road, hoping that the GPS would eventually “recalculate” a new route. Being a guy, I decided to try my luck. About a mile up the road, it turned to gravel, then the road ended. OK, my worse dream is doing a U-turn in gravel, damp gravel creating a nightmare. I made the U-turn and only had option B, so off I went. I meandered through town, past a High School whose football team was just ending practice. It seemed like everyone on the team drove a pickup, open exhaust must have been part of the package too. I was about a block from the hotel when the rain hit. I pulled into the hotel and was ready to call it a night. No places to eat within walking distance, most back in Paintsville. I enjoyed dining at the vending machine.

Morning of day three. The hotel had a hot full breakfast, I knew my tummy would be full to start the day. I don’t sleep well when I travel, something about missing my own bed. But I had been so tired the previous night that I slept through the night. I got loaded and a few people asked why/where I was headed. Always a good chance to share the Tour of Honor. Weather-wise, it was cloudy but it looked like the rain might hold off until I could get past these clouds. It was a short ride to Pikeville. I got there before the town was about to come to life. A few people walking on the streets, but parking was not a problem. Driving past the memorial WAS a problem. I have a bad tendency to just put in the location without always reading the full description of the memorial. I drove past it since I saw another memorial up the street, but the GPS said I was at the wrong place. I kept looking and finally pulled out the phone, I pulled up the site description on-line and saw my target. I rode around the streets so I could get the approach I needed for a good picture and parked in front of it. Around the corner was another doughboy. Quick find, pictures taken, and I was rolling again.

I have only been above rain clouds when on a plane. The ride to Hazard proved that I could experience that sensation without getting on a plane, and it was really net to be up close and personal! Sunshine on me, but the people in the valley were getting rain. I could hear the thunder from the clouds below me. Luckily, I did not see lightning. I think that would have scared me since lightning doesn’t care about hitting a wet or dry area.

Approaching Hazard, KY, I recalled one of the shows when I was younger about the Duke family. Spending time with my grandparents in rural/farmland Tennessee, I knew that people couldn’t be that naive and backwards. But I didn’t want to take any chances. I was still early enough that there wasn’t much traffic in the town. This allowed me to find a prime parking spot right in front of the memorial. The description mentioned that this might require two photos, but I was able to get it with just one. Yeah me!

Once I got the picture, I checked my route to Manchester. Sitting there, I watched people filling in and out of the courthouse. I know people stash or hide their cigarettes in odd places, but I saw the most unique hiding place. A couple was leaving the courthouse and he appeared to ask the girl for a cigarette. Her being of a buxom build, I expected her to reach between the “girls.” To my surprise, she lifted her skirt, searched for a few seconds and produced a cigarette, not a whole pack, just ONE cigarette for the guy. The first thought that crossed my mind was to yell “Don’t take it! You don’t know what else she has hidden in there!” Being from out of town, I decided to show a bit more decorum and kept my comments to myself. (Note: Those that know me well, know that keeping my comments to myself took a LOT of self-control!)

I knew I had to get rolling, and SOON!

Approaching Manchester was fairly relaxing.I turn on the road toward the memorial and head uphill. I see the memorial, but “No Parking” signs on the street abound. A welcomed site was the parking lot to the side of the memorial. Seemed that Lady Luck was being nice to me this day with the ride above the rain was not the only act of kindness she had in store for me. At the end of the parking lot, I was able to ride right into the small memorial park. Since was was designed as a walking and sitting area, I walked the bike in and out. I was able to get a really nice picture in Manchester. In the last couple of days, I have managed to visit all seven Tour of Honor memorials in Kentucky. From one end of the state to the other, with a few doughboys along the way.

I relaxed for a minute to look at my route options. I see my chance at my first K9 memorial in Pineville. I plan out the route and head south. I am ready to get home, so my plan was to use the fastest route home while avoiding interstates. I enjoyed the route to Pineville with no traffic. I pulled into town about lunch time and saw the K9 memorial. I was able to park close enough for a good picture. A few people just walk past, oblivious to me there. Picture taken and ready to head home.

As I was heading south, my route had me going right through Tazewell, TN. There was a memorial that I planned to visit, but had decided to save for another route. But it is only a block away. I made the turn on the one way street and took the quick detour. I knew that the few minutes stopped here could be easily made up on over the next few hours. I pull up and spot the memorial a couple of blocks away. Not much business on this street, so parking was a cinch! I called the bride to tell her I had decided to stop here after all but that I should still be home for supper. Picture taken and I am rolling again.

I have a route once I get near Knoxville that the bike almost becomes self-driving. It knows its way home. GPS constantly reminding me that it is “recalculating” while I still manage to cut time off the home ETA. I pull into the garage to be welcomed with a loving bride who has a warm supper and cold beverage waiting. She monitored my progress on the SPOT GPS. As the kick stand hits the ground, I decide I can wait to unload.

11 Tour of Honor sites, 5 Doughboy statues, and 1 K9 Memorial. Not a bad ride, but I am glad to be home.

As I visit more sites, I have learned that sites on the outskirts of town are best to visit during the weekday. Smaller town you might be able to visit during the middle of the week. While sites in downtown of busier towns and cities are best to visit on weekends. And large cities are best to visit very early on a Saturday or Sunday, unless there are special events planned in the area.

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