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Wandering Biker

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost…

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Thu
1
Oct '09

Pigeon Forge, TN to Muscle Shoals, AL via Red Clay State Historic Park, TN and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, GA and Russell Cave National Monument, AL – 351 miles

When I turned on the Weather Channel this morning it said that the temp was 45F. Brrr. Felt like it too.

The computer said to go directly north and get on the interstate going south. That seemed a little silly to me, so I took US 321 S directly to I-75. I’m sure the computer’s route was shorter as I followed a long, slow  line of cars out of Pigeon Forge until US 321 became four lanes. I ran through some patchy fog along the way and the humidity made it feel just that much colder.

My first stop for the day is Red Clay State Historical Site, TN just north of the Georgia border. This was the site of the capitol of the Cherokee people after the state of Georgia made it illegal for them to assemble. There were 11 tribal councils held here from 1832 to 1838, when the Cherokee were forcibly removed to Oklahoma. For many this site was the beginning of the Trail of Tears. I learned that at the time of their removal the Cherokee published a newspaper for their people in both Cherokee and English.

My next stop was the Chickamauga battlefield of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Georgia. This 5500 acre site was one of the major battles of the Civil war. There are more than 600 stone monuments at the site and there is a seven mile auto tour of the battlefield. I took a few pictures at the visitor center.

For my next stop of the day I had to pop back up into Tennessee, get on the Interstate for a few miles and then drop back down into Alabama. The National Park Service maps for Russel Cave National Monument show a northern “back” route to the park and since I was coming from the north I decided to go that way.

After getting directions from a postal carrier I found myself going down a very narrow and steep…well “road” would be giving it too much credit. It was mostly one lane wide and sometimes paved and sometimes not. About half way down the mountain I thought it started looking way too much like a scene from the movie Deliverence. Luckily the directions I got were good and I eventually ended up at the national monument. According to the park literature Russel Cave was inhabited by early North Americans from 6500 BC to 1650 AD.

I left via the “front” entrance and spent the rest of the day riding across Alabama on US 72. The section through Huntsville, AL was especially slow with lots of traffic and traffic lights. I was planning on spending the night in Florence, AL but when I got there I discovered there was bass fishing tournament in progress. I managed to find a room across the river in Muscle Shoals and had some BBQ for dinner.

My back, neck and arms are sore, probably from guiding my heavy and overloaded bike down the “road” to Russel Cave.

National Parks Tour progress so far – 38 sites, 18 states.

Wed
30
Sep '09

Yadkinville, NC to Pigeon Forge, TN via Kings Mountain National Military Park and Cowpens National Battlefield and Cherokee National Museum and Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 312 miles

Today is the day that I head back to Durango after a great visit with my friends and family in North Carolina. My friends’ in Yadkinville both have to leave before I am ready, so I pack up and lock up their house hoping I haven’t forgotten anything.

My first stop today was going to be Cowpens National Battlefield, but I saw signs for Kings Mountain National Military Park nearby and realized it would not be very far out of the way. The battle of Kings Mountain was a key military victory against the British in the Revolutionary War.

I always seem to see something unique when I travel in South Carolina and today is no exception. When I first saw this vehicle in the parking lot I thought this gentleman had just built a motorcycle trailer with car parts. When I took this picture of it I realized he had built a trike using the front of a motorcycle and the rear from car parts.

I continued on and got a stamp at the Cowpens National Battlefield. This was another major battle in the American Revolutionary War. There are walking and driving tours of the battlefield as well as a restored home from the era.

After leaving Cowpens National Battlefield it took me what seemed like forever to get to my next stop at Cherokee National Museum in Cherokee, NC. This was compounded by my decision to take secondary roads rather than the interstates. The roads I took were absolutely beautiful, but they were costly time-wise. The stamp I got there is for the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail which commemorates a sad chapter in US history that saw the forced removal of the Cherokee people from their native lands.

Cherokee, NC is at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I get a National Park Tour stamp for the park at the Oconoluftee visitor center and another Trail of Tears stamp at the Sugarlands visitor center in Tennessee.

It is after 5:00PM when I get out of the park and ride through Gatlinburg, TN looking for a place to stay. It seems like Gatlinburg is pretty full this evening so I continue on to Pigeon Forge where there are plenty of rooms and great room rates.

National Parks Tour progress so far – 35 sites, 16 states.

Tue
29
Sep '09

Yadkinville, NC to Yadkinville, NC via Winston-Salem, NC and W. Kerr Scott Reservoir and The Blue Ridge Parkway – 338 miles

I have two goals for today. The first is to get a new rear tire mounted on my motorcycle. I ordered it by phone with Honda of Winston-Salem last week and they said they should have it in by today. The second goal is to get a bunch of stamps for my National Parks Tour.

I call Honda of Winston-Salem a little after 9:00 and inquire if my tire has arrived. The parts girl says it does not show up as being in on her computer but that they are still going through the deliveries, it is probably here and she will call me when it is in. I decide I need to get my day going and ride down to the dealership. When I get there the service manager tells me to bring the bike on in. I go to the parts counter and the parts guy finds the tire and brings it to the service manager. An hour later I am ready to leave.

If there are any Honda motorcycle dealers reading this they should strive to do what this dealership does. First, they gave me a discount when I purchased the tire from them. Second, they charge a flat rate for changing a tire, even though with my bike it is necessary to lube the rear splines with a special lubricant. And finally, they do tire changes immediately on a first come,first serve basis. This is great customer service and I really appreciate it.

After I got my new tire I headed out to collect National Park Tour stamps.

My first stop was the W. Kerr Scott Reservoir near Wilkesboro, NC to pick up an Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail stamp. The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail is a work in progress and the stamps are available at diverse locations, such as this reservoir built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

I continue west and head south on the Blue Ridge Parkway when I get to it. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a motor road that extends from Waynesboro, VA to Cherokee, NC. It is slow-paced and commercial traffic is prohibited. It was very cold and windy when I got up to the parkway and I stopped at the first scenic overlook to put the insulated liner in my riding jacket.

I can pick up National Park Tour stamps at multiple locations on the Parkway and there are seven of them between Boone, NC and Asheville, NC. I get them at Cone Memorial Park, Linn Cove Viaduct, Linville Falls, the Museum of N.C. Minerals, Craggy Gardens, the Folk Art Center, and the Destination Center.

I also stopped and took a few pics along the way.

I was going to spend this evening visiting a friend in Asheville, but she called last night to say she had the flu, so when I finish I get off the parkway near Asheville and head back to my friends’ house in Yadkinville as quickly as possible so that I don’t miss dinner.

Woohoo! Eight stamps today.

National Parks Tour progress so far – 30 sites, 14 states.

Fri
25
Sep '09

Davis, NC to Yadkinville, NC via Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, NC – 293 miles

While I was getting ready to get on the motorcycle at 10:00 this morning I could not believe how hot and muggy it was. I was sweating profusely and had to wear my riding suit as I do not have any place to store it on the motorcycle. It only got a little better after I was on the road. I had to make stops for gas and lunch before it finally got cloudy and cooled down near Raleigh.

There was only one place to get a Nationla Parks Tour stamp near my route from my Dad’s house to my friend’s house in Yadkinville, NC. It was raining lightly in Greensboro when I got off the interstate and made my way to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. This was a site of a large and hotly contested Revolutionary War battle. There is a driving tour of the battlefield starting at the visitor center.

Got to my friends’ house about 4:30 in a light drizzle and made it up their very steep partially paved driveway covered with leaves and pine needles. It is going to be pretty interesting going back down.

National Parks Tour progress so far – 22 sites, 14 states.

Thu
24
Sep '09

Davis, NC to Davis, NC via Cape Lookout National Seashore – 31 miles

Today I made a quick trip from my parent’s house to get a National Parks Tour stamp from Cape Lookout National Seashore and then visit the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center where my Dad is doing some volunteer work today.

National Parks Tour progress so far – 21 sites, 14 states.

Tue
22
Sep '09

Frederick, MD to Davis, NC via Harpers Ferry NHP, WV and Cedar Creek Battlefield, VA and Shenandoah National Park, VA and Cedar Creek Battlefield, VA and Belle Grove Plantation House, VA and Chancellorsville Battlefield, VA and Petersburg National Battlefield, VA – 527 miles

I have a long way to go today and I want to get as many National Park Tour stamps as I can on the way, so I’m feeling a little time pressure.

My first stop today is Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in West Virginia. It only about twenty minutes from Frederick, MD so I get there a little after opening. Harpers Ferry is a “quaint, historic community, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers”.

My next stop is Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park in Virginia. It is an incredibly slow ride down US 11 to the Cedar Creek Battlefield. I used to live near here and I had forgotten how slowly the residents of the Shenandoah Valley drive. Maddening. When I get to the Cedar Creek Battlefield visitor center I find a sign in the window saying they will be back at 10:00. Uggh. It is only 9:30 so I decide to continue on and maybe come back later as my next stop is close by.

I continue on to the Shenandoah National Park entrance station in Front Royal, VA. It is another incredibly slow drive from the interstate through Front Royal to the entrance station. The visitor center is five miles up the Skyline Drive at the Dickey Ridge visitor center.

On the way out of the park I decide to go back to the Cedar Creek battlefield. I take another route back to the battlefield and pass the entrance to Belle Grove on the way. The battlefield is open when I get there and I get my stamp. The stamp reads “Cedar Creek and Belle Grove” and I ask if there is a stamp at Belle Grove as well. Since it is considered one National Historic Park I don’t think getting a stamp at both locations will count, but I get it anyway. The rules are kind of vague.

From here I got back on the interstate, past Front Royal and continued on to the visitor center at the Battle of Chancellorsville, which is part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields National Military Park. There were four major battles of the Civil War fought here resulting in 15,000 men killed and 85,000 men wounded.

I continue heading south past Richmond to get a stamp at the Petersburg National Battlefield near Petersburg, VA. This was the site of the longest siege in American warfare, lasting 292 days, leading to the fall of Richmond and the confederate surrender.

I’m through collecting stamps for the day and continue south and then east to my parent’s home on the North Carolina coast in Davis, NC.

National Park Tour progress so far – 20 sites, 13 states.

Mon
21
Sep '09

Chillicothe, OH to Frederick, MD via Fort Necessity NB and Antietam NB – 433 miles

It rained overnight in Chillicothe and of course it started to sprinkle just as I got the bike loaded and checked out of the motel. I ran through patches of fairly light rain until I got to Pennsylvania with a bit of heavier showers west of Wheeling, WV.

My first stop was Fort Necessity National Battlefield near Farmington, PA. Fort Necessity was established by the young George Washington to counter the nearby French Fort Duqesne. An attack by Washington’s troops on some French soldiers resulted in the death of the French commander and started the French and Indian Wars. Washington also had to surrender to the French counterattack on Fort Necessity. Doh!

My second stop of the day was at Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, MD. The battle at Antietam was one of the early Civil War battles and resulted in the 23,000 dead, wounded or missing soldiers and it only lasted 12 hours! There are orientation talks from an observation deck on top of the visitor center as well as a driving tour of the battlefield.

By the time I finished at Antietam it was too late in the day to visit any more sites so I got a room in Frederick, MD.

If you’ve been reading my previous posts you’ll notice that my National Park Tour stats have changed. I went back and counted and realized I made an error.

National Park Tour progress so far – 15 sites, 11 states.

Sun
20
Sep '09

Elizabethtown, KY to Chillicothe, OH via Lincoln Birthplace Memorial NHP and Hopewell Culture NHP – 288 miles

Got a late start today as I changed time zones again yesterday and was pretty beat after yesterday’s ride. It had rained overnight so I turned on the weather channel and it showed a line of thunderstorms had moved through from south to north.

As I was loading my bags on the motorcycle I noticed I was starting to have an ocular migraine. These aren’t normally painful for me but it does affect my vision for a while. After I got the bags loaded and checked out of the motel I went next door to Waffle House to get some food in my stomach and let the migraine subside.

I had just gotten the bike started when it started to rain again. The motel owner was outside and we both just shook our heads. It was fairly heavy but let up a few miles down the road.

My first stop was the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial NHP in Lincoln City, KY. I watched the video in the visitor center and took a few pics.

The 56 steps of the memorial represent the 56 years in Lincoln’s life. Inside the memorial is a replica of the cabin Lincoln was born in. They ask that you not take flash photos in the memorial.

After the Lincoln Birthplace NHP I headed north back through Elizabethtown and got on I-65. Just south of Louisville, KY I ran into the back side of the storms that had gone through Elizabethtown overnight. As I got on the bypass around town the rain got heavier and heavier. As the weatherman had put it this morning….it was “torrential”. I was staying fairly dry with my new rain jacket and my riding pants were staying dry behind the fairing. That all changed when traffic slowed to get on I-71 and the rain could now fall vertically on my legs. It took about 30 seconds before I felt the water getting through. I guess I DO need rain pants as well as a rain jacket.

After about 40 miles of heavy rain I punched through to the other side and the rain subsided. I grabbed lunch just north of Cincinnati and continued on to the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. I got my stamp and watched the video. The video basically said that they really know very little about the people that built the mounds here, but they are very old.

I was still pretty soggy and I needed to wash clothes, so I got a motel room, changed into dry clothes and did the laundry.

National Park Tour progress so far – 13 sites, 9 states.

Sat
19
Sep '09

Marshall, MO to Elizabethtown, KY via Lewis and Clark State Memorial, IL, Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site and Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial – 547 miles

Wow….what a day!

Found out last night that the visitor center of the park I was near does not open until 10:00AM. To wait and get the National Park Tour stamp from there would have meant missing my Indiana stamp until tomorrow, so I got up and left first thing in the morning.

The first couple of hours on I-70 were riding directly into the sun. Even with my sunglasses it was too bright and I’m glad I have the flip down sun visor in my helmet. It works well enough but gives the world a kind of strange “other worldly” blurry view. I was really glad when the sun got high enough that I could flip it back up.

My first stop was the Lewis and Clark State Memorial in Hartford, IL. I’m not sure why you can get a national trail stamp at a state memorial park, but you can. Some of the towns nearby are mentioned in some John Hartford songs so I had his songs playing in my head for a while.

I decided to forgo stopping at Gateway Arch in St. Louis for stamps as I was unsure of the parking security, so I went to the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site instead. This site is mostly dedicated to Grant’s personal life.

The ride around St. Louis to the Grant Historic Site and back out of town was pretty terrifying. I had several close calls with cars changing lanes into me and two close encounters with large (as in 6ftx4ft) pieces of cardboard. I got to exercise my middle finger a few times and felt lucky to escape town unscathed.

From St. Louis it was a long ride on I-64 across Illinois and half of Indiana to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana. Once again I got worried that I was going to miss closing time because of a time zone change but was relieved after stopping to check that this one little piece of Indiana is still in the Central Time Zone. The interpretive film was pretty interesting and was narrated by Leonard Nimoy.

After the Lincoln Boyhood Memorial I headed south towards Owensboro, KY. When I saw these cooling towers I though I might be looking at a nuclear power plant so I stopped to take a picture.

I guess they don’t usually have piles of coal laying around a nuclear power plant so I was probably wrong.

When I got to Owensboro I checked the map and saw it was only another hour and a half to Elizabethtown, KY and close to my first stop tomorrow. It also puts me in the Eastern Time Zone.

National Park Tour progress so far – 11 sites, 7 states.

Fri
18
Sep '09

Concordia, KS to Marshall, MO via Homestead NM of America, Western Historic Trails Center and Harry S. Truman NHS – 464 miles

Woohoo! Got up early and added three National Park Tour sites in three different states today.

It was about an hour and a half from Concordia, KS to my first stamp at the Homestead National Monument of America which celebrates the Homestead Act of 1862 and the men and women who homesteaded. The guide told me that this is the only national monument that is dedicated to a piece of legislation.

From there I headed up through Lincoln and Omaha, NE to Council Bluffs, IA to visit the Western Trails Historic Center. This site is the center for four different national historic trails (California NHT, Lewis and Clark NHT, Mormon Pioneer NHT and Oregon NHT).

After that it was a slog down the interstates to the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site in Independence, MO which obviously is a memorial to the 33rd president of the US.

I was making such good time today I thought I might be able to get a fourth stamp but calculated that I would arrive about 10 minutes past closing. I got a motel room close by in Marshall, MO so that I can be there first thing in the morning.

National Park Tour progress so far – 8 sites, 5 states.