The Dead Tate/Woodlands Tour

The Dead Tate/Woodland Tour


The Ride Goes On Forever

All Journeys Have a Secret Destinations of Which the Traveler is Unaware

Bobbe has been working on the family history for some time and had contacted some of our distant relatives back in Grainger County Tennessee, where our branch of the Tate family is from. In addition, when our cousin died we discovered that there were relatives through the Holiday line and possibly other Tates in Southern Illinois. So, we planned to swing by Galatia and Cornerville in Illinois and Rutledge in Tennessee to see what we could see and, along the way, visit anything interesting we ran across, and all in all, have our usual good ride.

 My being employed hampered us somewhat, but the snags were worked out and Bobbe flew into OKC. I had put a new rear tire on the bike, check the brakes, changed the oil and generally prepped it and it was ready to go. By now we are old hands at the packing thing, so that was handled in short order, and then bright and early on Saturday we loaded up and headed out to Soda Pops and a nice breakfast.

 Soda Pops is a fairly new restaurant on Highway 66. It specializes in (drum roll) soda pop. They have lord knows how many different flavors from all over the country. Some of the flavors are more than passing strange. They also serve a very good breakfast, gas and whatever else the traveler needs.

 The first stop was a short ride down the Mother Road in to Bristow. There is a Wake Island Memorial at a VFW in Bristow. Why a monument to a Pacific Island was put in Bristow was not explained, however, it is there. If you don’t know about Wake Island, you need to read up on it. It was not a good deal for our side.

 The second stop was Tahlequah, not on the Mother Road but it is the home of the Cherokee in Oklahoma. Interesting to note, in the sidewalk around the courthouse are stones inscribed with things relevant to the Cherokee past. In one of the first, it is noted that in 1538 (date possibly wrong) the Cherokees discovered De Soto and his men wandering around their land. This is in the SE USA, not Tahlequah. Also, according to a historical marker, the first phone call west of the Mississippi was placed from Tahlequah at a date I have forgotten. Also, there is a monument to Gen. Stand Waite who commanded a troop of Cherokee for the Confederates during the Civil (or not) War.

 We looked around a bit more and then headed north along the Illinois River, usually a very nice ride. We were heading to Joplin to see how things were coming along with the recovery from the tornado. It had been overcast all day and when we just into Missouri it started raining, and at times, it was fairly hard. But, rain is to be expected so it was into the gear and on down the road.

 Joplin is still a mess. An F5 tornado, and a wide one, swept through that town and pretty much wiped a large part of it off the map. For those of you who have not seen the results of one of these storms, it is hard to explain. There are not many structures that can stand up to an F5. One of the strangest things is to see where the destruction starts and stops. One house will be gone, wiped down to the foundation and the one right next to it, hardly touched. Joplin still has a long way to go, but they are rebuilding and I’ll bet they are putting in more storm shelters.

 By this time the rain had settled down to a steady soaking rain. Bobbe was getting cold so she got into the electric gear and got plugged in. We were on back roads, some very back, and other than the rain, it was a very nice ride. Southern Missouri has some very pretty country and real nice roads. The problem was that we were in a part of the country where the towns are usually small without a lot of motels.

 It was getting dark when we pulled into Ava and after that, according to the map, there was nothing for a long way. There is one motel in Ava, a Motel 8. They had room and we checked in. Restaurants were lacking but we could and did order a pizza. Also, there was no place to get a drink, but there was a liquor store. So I rode over and got us a bottle of wine with a twist off cap as we had neglected to pack a cork screw.

 The next morning, it was not raining, but it was overcast and supposed to rain later in the day. We were heading to a ferry across the Mississippi over in the SE corner of Missouri. As we rode along it would sprinkle from time to time, but nothing serious, then after a bit it started raining and we had to get into the full suit, then it stopped raining, and so on. It was not cold, and for me, the bigger problem was sweating under the suit. Along about Sikeston it was warm and dry enough to get out of all of the gear.

IMG_1990 There is a ferry which runs from Dorena Missouri to Hickman Kentucky. You pick it up off of Highway 102, which is a very rural highway. While riding down 102, more than once we were wondering if we were going the right way. On the other hand, for us, being lost is nothing unusual.

 It turned out we were on the right road and pulled in just as the ferry pulled out. As the ferry makes regular runs, that was not a problem. While we waited, we discover a couple of interesting things: one, some people spend their time along the river’s bank doing something, we knew not what.

On this crossing there was just a truck and us on the ferry. The charge for the bike was $5.00 and the truck $10. The deckhand on this ferry was a kid, less than 20 years old. He ask about were we were from and going to. In the exchange he told us that he knew four roads, work to home, to his grandmothers and a couple of others, all in the general area. Talk about sad.

 It was an interesting but uneventful trip across and into Hickman. Down the road a bit the threatened rain arrived and it was back into the gear. The rain was not heavy and somewhere in there we got lost and went down some interesting roads. Most of this land is river deposit and is very flat with lots of trees. We could not find a café and at one point ran a little low on gas. We eventually found some gas and stopped for a junk food meal in Wicklife but the ice cream was real good.

 We were originally going to ride to Galatia and look around and then ride on to St. Louis. However, it was getting late and looking like more rain. We elected to head to St. Louis and then hit Galatia on Monday. That said, and the junk food consumed, we loaded up and took the wrong road. But, only for a short while and then it was on the big road to St. Louis. And, we did hit the rain, but nothing too serious.

 Rare for us, we had a reservation in a hotel about two blocks from the St. Louis Arch, right next to the river. I have been to and through St. Louis many times and getting around can be a challenge. But  we found the hotel with little trouble and checked in. I was able to leave the bike by the hotel entrance where the door man could and did keep a close eye one it. The hotel had its own restaurant so we didn’t even have to leave for dinner, which was quite good.

 IMG_1995This was the view one block from the hotel. This is the original St. Louis Cathedral. It has been on this site for quite sometime and has been built, ignored, closed down and reopened and is still in business. It still needs a lot of work, but there it is. No prizes as to what that is in the background. But it does make a nice photo, too bad the sun was not out.

 After checking out the church we walked over to the Arch. For informational purposes, the Arch is part of the “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial” and is run by the National Park Service. When you walk up, all you see is the Arch and some very well kept lawns. Everything else is underground.

 Like most things these days you have to go through the metal detectors. I was aware of this and had left my pocket knife in the hotel but the zipper in my boots still set off the detector. We were there early on a rainy Monday so there were not many people there. When buying tickets, once again the Park Pass paid off. We didn’t get in free, but they knocked off good portion.

 The elevators to the top are inside the legs of the Arch and the ride up is not a straight line, also the cars are small. Each car carries five people without much elbow or head room. They have a car in the museum so you can try it on and see if you can do the trip. I had already decided I was going to do it, so we loaded up. It was not too bad, but I was glad to step out.

 It was sort of a strange deal at the top. I thought it would be larger. At least it looks larger from far away. The windows you can look out of are small, about 10”x24” or so. Anyway, it is a good view and unique.

 The trip down was no better or worse than the trip up. At the bottom we looked around a bit, caught the movie about building the Arch. The thing was built back in the early 60s and it was obviously before OSHA, but interesting.

 That done, we checked out of the hotel and loaded up. Cahokia Indian Mounds are only about 10 miles east of the Arch. The Mounds are all that is left of a city of at least 20,000 that was built and lived in a couple of 100 years either side of 1000 AD. The culture that built the Mounds spread all along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. There are contemporary sites in Oklahoma and other places. There is not much to look at today other than some mounds you can walk around and look at. However, they have a visitor’s center with extensive, interesting, and informative displays.

 When we came out, it was not actively raining, but it was very humid, overcast, clouds looking ominous, and a great day for a ride. We were heading for Galatia and Cornerville and cemeteries. We took the Interstate east and when we turned south it more or less cleared up, at least for a while.

 We made it to Galatia and while on the way to Tate’s Chapel there was a sign with an arrow and we turned down theSAM_0346 indicated gravel road. This was not a good road. We slowly proceeded ahead and encountered a very surprised fellow in a pick up who told us it was on about a quarter of a mile to the church. A little later we discovered that if we had followed the map we could have stayed on the blacktop.  So it goes.

 We found the church, Tate’s Chapel, and the associated cemetery. There were a whole bunch of tombstones with the name Tate on them. One of the more interesting was the one of the John Tates, he was born in 1735 and, according to his headstone he died in 1835. In that time frame to live to be 100 was very rare.

 However, this was not the cemetery we were looking for. We were looking for the one in a report done by the coal company when they leased the mineral rights. We had topographic maps but they did not show the cemetery. We rode up to Cornerville and started looking. It had been seriously raining and we are on the Honda which does not like mud. From what we could see at Cornerville, if we wanted to find the cemetery we would have to ride the gravel roads. Off we went with the idea that if it got too bad we would turn around. We never did find the place and we for sure rode down some roads we should not have, but we did not fall down, thankfully. If I come back again I will have the BMW on some knobbies or the truck.

 A coal company had leased the minerals for coal mining and we were wondering what was going on. We had seen a couple of roadside monuments and a union hall for coal miners, but no physical evidence of any mining. That is until we went back to Galatia and headed east. We passed under a conveyor and on both sides of the road were large piles of coal. However, this was, at the least, 4-5 miles from our property. That means there has to be some very long tunnels connected to that mine.

 At this time, we didn’t know for sure where we were heading for the night we were just hoping to come across a motel that would do. We came across a split in the road and took a wrong turn. It was a real nice ride down a fair road with little traffic with fields of growing crops on each site, but it was the wrong road.  Several times this trip we figured Canadians had been involved in putting up, or not, the road signs. Anyway, we finally found the Interstate and headed east, thinking we were right on the edge of Illinois when in fact we were not.

 Finally, it was getting dark and we followed a motel sign to what turned out to be a real nice motel, restaurant and bar pretty much sitting out of the middle of no where. They even let me pull the bike up under the roof to get it out of the rain. While doing this, I found out that all four headlights were out. For all four, two low beam and two high to go out at once was not a good thing. We were at the motel and not going any further and tomorrow we were going through Evansville. We would see if we could drop in on a Honda dealer and get it fixed. With nothing we could do about the bike we headed to the bar. The food was not bad, but the drinks were good. This put another good day’s travel in the books.

 The next morning dawned cool and not quite so overcast. We were headed for New Harmony Indiana, and it was a nice ride over to it. New Harmony was founded by a man who had an idea for a new religion. It had to do with separation of the sexes, totally, no fun, nothing but work and walking around a maze. Anyone surprised that didn’t work.

When it didn’t work he sold the whole town to another guy with some more strange ideas and so on until theSAM_0369 present. There are a bunch of old buildings, some that are in pretty good condition along with this meditation building (currently being renovated). There is nothing earthshaking going on there, but it is a pleasant place for a stop. Also, it has a website if you want more accurate data.

 From there, it was on to Evansville and checking out the lights. My thought was that, unless it was flat absolutely necessary, I was not pulling the Honda apart in a motel parking lot. We found a dealer in Newburg (suburb) who could fit us in after lunch. So, we also went to lunch and then handed it over. Two hours later we found out the trouble was water or corrosion, or both, in a switch. He hit it with some WD-40, put it back together and charged me $130.00. I can’t complain about that too much. They did two hours work on it, and I was surprised the hourly rate was only $60/hr. plus it worked, and I didn’t have to do it in a parking lot in the dark.

We finally left Evansville, got lost once, hit one detour and then made it across the Ohio. We were heading for Mammoth Cave, in my opinion one of the best caves there is. We stopped for gas and on checking the map were surprised in was less than 100 miles to the cave and with most of it on parkway, less than 1 ½ hours ride. I called and reserved a room in the Park Motel and away we went. The roads to the park were good, the traffic light and we made it in good order, checked in and it was time for dinner. The restaurant there is very good. We could not get a drink with dinner but we could get a glass of wine to take back to the room.

 The Mammoth Cave Park is much larger than just the cave. I don’t know how many acres it encompasses, but it is a bunch. The motel is away from anything in the middle of the park, no sounds or lights anywhere. By the time we were done with dinner it had started to rain, and it was very pleasant sitting on the balcony with the lights off listening to it rain sipping a little wine. Nice. Once again we had missed the rain, we actually finished the day in mostly sunshine. However, it made up for it that night as it rained heavily.

 The motel is only about 200’ from the visitor’s center which is where all of the cave tours begin. So we had time for a nice breakfast, with some very good biscuits and then strolled across the bridge in time for the tour. They have all sorts of cave tours, some more difficult than others. The different tours are listed on the National Park Service Website and they are pretty honest about what you will encounter. We picked out the one we wanted to do and after presenting the park pass off we went.

 I have been into Mammoth several times and think that it is one of the best caves. Mammoth is mainly a dry cave and stalactites, stalagmites, columns, dripstones and such are in short supply. One of the cave tours as does have all of that, but not on this tour we went on. We did go through some small places and I hit my head more than once. The stair climb out is an experience, lots of stairs and steep.

 Interesting note: There is an infestation going around bat circles called “white nose syndrome”. It is a type of fungus and causes the bats to not hibernate as they should and it eventually kills them. It started back east and is spreading. They think they have it at Mammoth but at the time we were there, they were not sure. In order to lessen the chance of spreading the fungus if you had any clothes or gear that had been in another cave you could not take that gear or clothing into Mammoth. Plus, when you came out you had to walk through two containers that have some sort of disinfectant in them. We need to take care of our bats. If you want to look up something interesting, check and see the amount of insects bats eat in comparison with birds. The birds don’t even come close to what bats eat.

When we were done with the cave we started on the way to Rutledge Tennessee and more dead ancestors. We had a very pleasant ride, mostly sunshine, pleasant temperature and good roads. Then, the clouds started lining up and we decided to call it a night in Caryville Tn. The first motel we tried was full, but the next one was not and we checked in. Bobbe had found a brochure about a State Park about a mile down the road with a BBQ Restaurant in it. We gave it a shot, and it turned out to be very good, we both rated it as one of the better meals of the trip. We couldn't offer an alcoholic toast to the day’s ride as we were in the strange area of dry and wet counties, but we did toast with good unsweetened ice tea. I thought Texas was the worst about that dry county thing: wrong.

 By the time we were done eating the rain had mostly stopped so we made it to the motel dry and settled in. Once again we had dodged the rain, but again, it poured during the night. The Honda was getting tired of spending wet nights alone outside. It is used to a dry garage alongside its stable mates.

 The next day dawned overcast, but not raining. Our first stop was the Museum of the Appalachia’s. I am not so sure this is an Official State Operation, but it was interesting.

SAM_0389This is me standing by a carved bust of Samuel Clemmons, AKA Mark Twain. They don’t claim that he was born near here, but that he was conceived here as he was born less than 9 months after his folks moved to Missouri. It sounds to me like they are a little hard up for claims to fame.

 The bust is in front of a meat trough, and there were a whole bunch of those things around everywhere. Before freezers if you wanted to keep more or less fresh meat around the first thing you needed was a large tree. You hollowed it out and then packed your meat in it with plenty of salt to preserve it. I guess it would be better than nothing, but not by much.

 There was a gift/antique shop/snack bar and several building around the site. The more interesting of the buildings SAM_0391had a little bit of everything relating to life in this area. In addition to this very interesting burl they had a display of musical instruments of all sorts. As one might think, most of the music was of the Country/Bluegrass type. Before we left I went back to the antique shop and bought a very nice wooden block plane for a very good price. Usually, I don’t do the antiques much, however, this one was in good shape and the price was right. It is in the garage now, sharpened up and has been used.

 It was not far to Rutledge and it was a very nice ride there. If you look at a topographic map of this area you will see ridges running roughly NESW with valleys in between. Every so often, usually through a gap, they will run a road connecting the valleys. Not a way to make time, but very interesting. Oh yea, also, they are not big on signs, we almost missed the road leading to Rutledge. Almost but not quite, we did have to make a U-turn, and finding the relatives house was not a problem. It was right next to the Burger King just like MapQuest said.

 What can you say about a lady who invites total strangers into her house and makes them feel right at home? That is just what she did. She and Bobbe went over family history and I mainly sat there nodding my head from time to time. We also went to the cemetery and saw a whole bunch of dead Tates from our branch of the family. After visiting the family it was back to the house and a nice lunch with some very good pie. Then, before we fell to sleep it was time to pack up and move on down the road.

 SAM_0409This is all that is left of Tate’s Spring Resort. According to the sign it is on the National Registry of Historic Places.  Google it and you can find out all sorts of interesting things. It is a natural springs and one of our relatives was trying to figure out how to make an honest dollar and came up with the idea of a resort. It turns out to have been a very good idea and in its day was quite the place with people coming from all over. But, like most everything else it’s time came and went and this is all that is left.

 Shortly after Tate’s Spring we turned north and headed through the Cumberland Gap of Daniel Boone fame, the famous “Wilderness Road”. It was a nice ride up and over a few ridges and through a tunnel. There were several cuts with very interesting geological features. It sprinkled on us a bit, but not enough to get into the full suits. When we came to Middleboro we selected a motel that turned out to be not one of the best, in addition, this was also in a dry county. Again, we just beat the rain, as we were settling in for the night some very heavy rain came down. The poor Honda was again left out in the cold and rain.

 The next day we were heading over towards Pikesville to see some of the mountain top removal mining activity. It was not actively raining, most of the time, but the roads were wet and there was a layer of coal dust on the roads. It pretty much coated the Honda, nothing to do with operations, but it made it look a mess. After some miles the “Continental Breakfast” we had at the motel was running a little thin so after some looking we found the Miner Diner’s cafe, which turned out to be one of several by that name. It seems that fried bologna sandwiches are quite the item in these parts so I tried one. Warmed bologna between two slices of bread leaves something to be desired.

 Overall, this area is a very pretty part of the country. Everything we could see was heavily wooded with little if any farm land. For the most part we were too early for the trees turning, a stray one every now and then but nothing serious.  While we were at the Miner Diner the folks had told us about a Mining Museum up the road near Pikesville. One part of it is that you get to go down into a for real coal mine. Not a working one, but a real one. It sounded interesting, so we pulled over. We did not get to go through the mine, but we did go through the museum part, and it was interesting. One of the more interesting parts of it was a display on Loretta Lynn. As you all should know, she was born in Butcher Hollow, just a little north of Pikesville, and grew up to be a “Coal Miner’s Daughter”.

 At the front of the Museum there was a bunch of large chunks of what looked like coal, either the chunks were fake or they had been painted with epoxy because when you touched them nothing came of on your hand. The thing about coal mining, any type of underground mining really, is that it is, was and always will be dangerous. A good portion of the displays and the various historical markers along the way all pointed out the various ways you could die while mining. I think that if I had been born anywhere around this area, I would have moved out of here and found some type of safer work, maybe working on a bomb squad or something similar.

 Down the road a bit we saw several instances of mountain top removal mining. The term pretty much means what it says. Essentially, they take the top off a mountain. They take the overburden and push it into a valley, take out the coal and then level it all up, plant grass on it and call it good. The folks mining the coal assure everyone that all is well and this is a good thing for all. Myself, I find that a large stretch, but that is the way they are doing things.

 We headed on east towards Williams W. Virginia and then headed south on a very nice road. At this point, it was sort of clearing, with a little sun from time to time. The towns we were going through did not look like they were doing all that well economically, there were a lot of boarded up business. Along about quitting and empty tank time we pulled into Welch. It is a little town stretched out down in the bottom of a valley. We were told there were three motels in town with the one out by the Walmart being the best bet as it had been recently remodeled. By this time we were used to the towns being strung out along the valley floor, but the Walmart being 5 miles out of town seemed a bit much. One look at the motel by the Walmart was all we needed to decide it was not going to work. So, it was back to town towards the Count Gulu Motel which we had been told was nice, but a little expensive.

The Count Gulu motel had one sign proclaiming it to be the best motel in Welch, which would not be all that difficult. We turned off the road and up a very steep drive, past a closed church which Bobbe had thought was the motel. Then we drove past a closed up State Building of some sorts and there was the motel, looking clean and cared for, but sort of strange as was the person running the thing.

 However, it was getting late and choices were slim and getting slimmer so we checked in. We were pleasantly surprised by the room. The decoration was a bit over the top, I did like the mirrored headboard and dresser fronts, and it was clean and plenty large.

 While we were gassing up we noticed that most of the town was vacant. When checking in we ask the desk clerk why. Well, it turns out that a few years ago they had a very serious flood which flooded most of the town. The town is down in the valley, remember. This was a 100 years flood and a big one. The very next year they had another 100 years flood and after that the town has not come back.

 As with the motel, the restaurant choices were limited to McDonald's out by Wal-Mart or another home owned drive in on the north side of town. We tried the home owned which got the job done and that was about it. After the problems with the dry counties, we had stopped by a liquor store in Pikesville and picked up a bottle of wine and so toasted another good day’s ride and settled into the Count Gulu Motel and again the Honda sat out in the rain.

 The next day was an interesting day. While checking the map, it seemed real simple, just pick up Highway 16 and follow it south. Well, not so much. Again, while not actively raining, for the most part, it was a more or less steady drizzle. The road was interesting and traffic light. We had been wondering if the mines operated on weekends, and we found out they do. I had mentioned earlier, the coal dust and water on the road, well, here it was in strength. At some point, we still are not for sure where, we lost Highway 16. The road we were on was narrow, lots of curves and up and downs and lots of coal dust.

Even though I was proceeding carefully and slowly while we were rounding one corner the front end slid out a bit. That is not supposed to happen and it for sure got our attention. We proceeded on even more slowly and carefully. Eventually we intersected Highway 16 and turned the right way. We stopped for a good breakfast and in the same town found a decent laundry.

 While eventually the weather mostly cleared up we spent the better part of the day lost. The roads were good and interesting, lots of scenery, curves, up and downs, interesting sites and it seemed, not a lot of forward progress. Eventually, it became obvious, that without a significant amount of backtracking we were not going to wind up where we thought we were going and since we didn’t have a good reason to go there to start with, we decided to go to Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg was Bobbe’s idea for the simple reason she had not been there. That was the same reason for Bar Harbor last year and that turned out well, so we headed that way. We called in a night in Newburg, and after some good Mexican food toasted another good day.

 The next morning it was clear and cool, made for riding, the only downside is we had to start without coffee. After a stop to fix that problem we easily made it to Gatlinburg which is on the edge of the Smokey Mountain National Park. We stopped and went through the visitor’s center, which was very interesting, and then rode through the park. And a very pretty park it is, with lots of mountains, well, at least Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina mountains. There were lots of trees, views, nice roads and not much traffic. The initial focus of all the getting lost the day before had been to ride some on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and when we cleared the Park, there was the entry to the Parkway. We rode on it for a few miles and then figured out that we were on the south end and there was no way to go except north so we turned around.

SAM_0429There is always something if you are looking, and here is an example of that. This is a hornet’s nest, and a live active one. I have seen these many times, but never one in a tree, being used, and full of hornets. We were on the parkway coming around a corner, and there it was. I turned the bike around and came back for a photo op.

 After getting off of the Parkway we rode down into Cherokee NC. This was the home of the Cherokees before the Trail Of Tears. I have to tell you, we did not stay long. That place gives new meaning to cheesy, fake, touristy, and about a dozen other terms.

 We were heading for Chattanooga. The sky was clear, temperature in the high 70s-low 80s, just right for riding. The road ran through some valleys with scenic views a little too much traffic, but, overall good. We pulled into a motel in the early afternoon in time to catch part of the early game, kick back and take it easy. I have to say, that at this point in the trip we were not covering a bunch of miles. I think so far, we had one 400 mile day, the rest less than that with a couple less than 200. As we had discovered before, where you are determines the mileage. Out west, 500 miles in not a long day but not so back east. Plus, we were here to see what could be seen, not log in the mileage.

 We were at Chattanooga to see the Civil War sites, primarily Lookout Mountain and Chickamauga. In checking the weather, they all had rain scheduled for most of the day, overall, not a good day for motorcycle sightseeing.

 First we went downtown to a visitor’s center to get some maps and info. We like riding bikes but there are times when a car is a better deal. This was one of those times, so we stopped off at Enterprise and drove off in a car with wipers and no leaking roof.

SAM_0436The first stop was Lookout Mountain. It is a small but well done park with an interesting visitor’s center. Once more the Park Pass paid for itself. If you walk down the walkway and you can see why it is called Lookout Mountain, you can see for miles. About the time we were wrapping up Lookout Mountain the rains came. This is not a problem in a car.

 Chickamauga is only a few miles, but it is in Georgia, and we arrived warm and dry. The visitor’s center is fairly new and done very well. The Park Service did an excellent job of telling the story of the battle and did a good job of telling of the aftermath of the war in general. Chickamauga was an especially bitter battle. Due to Chattanooga’s location as a rail and river hub both sides knew it was vital. Technically, the South won, but they still had to retreat. At that point, the North had won the war but it took another year and a half to end it. Chickamauga allowed the North to amass troops and supplies for Sherman’s March across Georgia, and like it or not the march did what it was supposed to do. At all of these sites there are signs all over the battlefield about what unit was where and what they did. As it was raining we did not do that, just sticking with the overview.

 We headed back to Chattanooga and were going to visit the Aquarium but after checking out what was involved we settled for an ice cream and then we took Bobbe back to the motel and I went back to turn in the car. It was still raining, but that turned out to not be bad as it washed off most of the coal dust slime from Kentucky and West Virginia. All in all it was an interesting and dry day and as it was Monday night, we settled in to watch the game.

The next morning was supposed to be clear, well, it wasn’t but it was not raining. We were heading for New Orleans to check out the 9th Ward which we had missed the last time we were there. We headed across Georgia, for just a little bit, and then at the Alabama line pulled into a stop to pick up a map or two. Shortly after that, we pulled off the interstate and then up a slight rise and with just a few feet of elevation it cleared, mostly.

 For the short term we were heading for Tuscaloosa to see how it was doing. It was also hit hard by a tornado last spring. A couple of days ago when we were in Virginia we were surprised to see obvious tornado damage along the road. Now, in Alabama several times we rode through areas that had been hit, and some pretty hard.

 IMG_2043We were headed toward Natural Bridge Alabama with is home of the largest Natural Bridge east of the Rockies. Along the way we came upon a sign directing us to a covered bridge and also a Civil War Museum. That sounded like something worth seeing, so off we went. After following some obviously homemade signs down some very back roads we saw the museum and decided not to visit it. First, it didn’t appear to be much more than a house and barn with a few old things hanging around, also it looked closed. It also put ideas of background banjo music in the back of my head. We left and found the covered bridge. It was not being used, and it is covered. It would be a good place for a picnic, and there were picnic tables down by the bridge.

 On down the road, and we eventually came to Natural Bridge, and the signs directed us to the site. The structures at the site have seen better days and the parking lot for sure was not crowded. We were directed to a gift shop where we could and did purchase tickets and were led to the site by the company dog, a short walk down the trail, and there it was. Sure enough, a natural bridge, just like it said. Think of Arches National Monument only on a much smaller scale. However, it did form the same way for the same reason.

 It was approaching noon as we swung south toward Tuscaloosa. We were headed for Dreamland BBQ which I had sampled on last year’s trip to Key West. We had to eat somewhere and that seemed like as good a place as any. We found it with little problem which sure surprised us, and the BBQ was good although different than what we get in Oklahoma. We headed south and west out of Tuscaloosa and did not see much tornado damage. It must have been in a different part of town and we decided not to run around looking.

Heading down the interstate towards Meridian there was a sign indicating a lock and dam and visitor’s center. It was early so we pulled off for a look see. It turned out to be 30 some miles away, but more or less in the direction we were going. It was a pleasant ride and good road and eventually we came to the site.

IMG_2045It was a very well landscaped area with what appeared to be a large older house which we later were told was not old but was built as a visitor’s center. There was also a stern wheeler snag boat on display. The dam and lock were part of the Tennessee Tombigbee (an Indian word by the way, not someone’s name) system by which you can ship goods from the Tennessee River to Mobile without going to the Mississippi. A snag boat was used to remove snags (trees and stuff) from the river as well as dredging when necessary. We couldn't tour the boat for some reason, but the visitor’s center was interesting.

We ask directions to Meridian before we left and with that, ventured down some nice back roads until we picked up the one leading into Meridian. It was getting a little late when we pulled in, but Meridian is on I-20 so getting room was not a problem. We stopped in a Holiday Inn and ended the day with a nice dinner and a toast to another good days ride.

Again, that night it rained, but by morning it was just wet and humid. As we headed south to New Orleans it cleared up and started getting warm and the land flattened out. With only a little problem we found the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway from Mandeville into New Orleans. In case you have not been there, that is a 22 mile bridge across Lake Pontchartrain. It is fun: you are totally out of site of land for a good bit of time. Also, it was getting warm in Mandeville and the sea breeze cooled us right down.

A couple of years ago we had wanted to see the 9th ward but didn’t get that done due to mechanical problems. So this time we did. We didn’t really know where it was but we had a vague idea. We headed east and just before we ran out of New Orleans we got off of the interstate and cruised through the area. We were in the right area that was apparent. There were a lot of vacant lots, a lot of houses that had been repaired and a lot of them that will not be repaired. Keep in mind that even before Katrina this was not a well kept area. Sometimes it was difficult to determine hurricane damage from neglect. We did get caught by a drawbridge. Over all, things seemed to be getting back to normal. This was not an affluent area, still is not and probably won’t be for the considerable future. Fixing up old structures is going on but I just can’t see someone coming up with the idea to build new houses and then rent them to people who can’t afford them.

 We were in the city, in traffic, out of the wind, and we were getting hot. When we took off our helmets, Bobbe’s hair was wet. As I am missing hair, my head was just wet. Bobbe does not do heat well and heat with high humidity was not the ticket. Me, I just sweat, and I was doing a good job. It was time to get into the wind and we did.

After a shot down the Interstate to get us out of town we checked the map and decided on spending the night in Baton Rouge and picked out some back roads to get us there. They grow a lot of sugar cane in that area. As we were pulling into the outskirts of Baton Rouge the clouds began to look nasty. So we climbed into most of the gear, got into a traffic jam and mainly sweated. It didn’t rain at that time and we made it to a motel right by a nice restaurant.

SAM_0455This little fellow was standing right outside. I don’t know for sure what he is, but the food was good and so we toasted another good day. Later, while we were safely in the motel we had all sorts of wild weather and again, the Honda was left outside in the rain.

Rivers move around. Sometimes one river will capture the flow of another. The Red River, of Oklahoma Texas fame used to flow into the Mississippi. No more, it was captured by the Atchafalaya River. The Atchafalaya liked that so much that it thought it would capture the Mississippi and was well on its way to doing so having captured about 30% of the Mississippi’s flow. About this time the good folks in charge decided the Mississippi being captured was not a good thing. Many less than ideal things would come to pass if that were allowed. One of which would be leaving Baton Rouge and New Orleans high and dry. Also, as with most rivers, the Mississippi is prone to flooding from time to time and most folk didn’t like that so much. So, to prevent the Atchafalaya from turning the Mississippi into a creek and to cut back on the flooding the Corp of Engineers did a little dirt work and installed a few things. One of these things is a series of gates that can (and this past spring did) turn a bunch of the Mississippi’s flow down the Atchafalaya. A canal was installed that lets you take a ship from the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya or the other way if that is what you want. Also, in normal times this dirt work keeps the Atchafalaya from taking any more than 30% of the Mississippi’s flow.

I wanted to see all of that, and I was hoping they would have a visitor’s center similar to the one on the Tombigbee. All of this is on the west side of the Mississippi and if you are on the west side you can’t get back to the east until Natchez.

The morning was clear, not hot, not cold, prime riding weather. The road up the west side was nice, not heavily traveled and scenic. Again, they grow a lot of sugar cane in this area. We stopped for fuel in a little store. Bobbe was very impressed with the cleanliness of the rest room, even the men’s restroom smelled of Lysol. But, we were also impressed with a homemade cookies they were selling. We got one, and it was very good, the size made it more a cake than a cookie. The edge taken off of our hunger, we headed north. For the most part the road ran along the Mississippi levee. It was a little rough in some places but overall, nice with very little traffic. We came to the flood control structures and had to be satisfied with just slowly driving by. There was one visitor’s center, but it was closed. All of the rest had fences around them with no trespassing signs. I was impressed with the structures but I would have liked to get a closer look.

Eventually we came into Ferriday. We were heading up to Shiloh so we turned east toward Natchez. At Natchez we picked up the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Natchez Trace is the remains of an old trail that people used to return north after they had come down the river for whatever reason. The Parkway is essentially a long narrow National Park. It runs from Natchez to Nashville. It carries very little traffic and is very scenic. It also has a 50 mph speed limit. However as there are no stoplights you can just set the cruise and still make good time. But, there are interesting stops along the way so you won’t make much time.

One thing that has not and will not change, people live and they die. As far as we know, we are not related to the SAM_0461folks on this headstone. We had pulled off at a stop to see the section of the actual Trace in the photos above. There was no mention of the graveyard, but as we walked to the Trace, there it was.

At the time the Trace was active this area was right on the borderline of the Choctaw land. Sort of like Oklahoma before the land runs. People, even travelers on the Trace had to eat, needed supplies and wanted a more or less clean place to sleep. So, enterprising people built stores, inns, etc, to cater to the travels, sort of like an early day Motel 6. That is why these people are buried in places like this.

Eventually, we got to Jackson and decided to get off the Trace and get moving toward Corinth, our destination for the night.  It turned out that Corinth was a little more than we wanted to ride so we called it a day in Tupelo, the birthplace, as everyone should know, of Elvis. We checked in to the motel and when ask about restaurants we were directed to a very nice Italian place about two blocks away. It was good and this was not a dry county so we toasted another day’s good ride.

The next morning bright and early we headed over to see what Tupelo had on Elvis. Several years ago my daughter Jessica and I had come through here and at that time if there was anything on Elvis they were not advertising it so I was interested to see what they had. And, here is one of what they had. This is a statue of Elvis with overalls and hisSAM_0472 guitar when he was (I think) 13. They also have the house his dad built and the church where he first started singing. They had a bunch of other stuff plus a gift shop that was not open yet. One thing we did discover, Elvis was a twin, the other died at birth. I am not, and I am fairly sure Bobbe is not classified as an Elvis expert, but neither of us had ever heard that before.

Questions about Elvis answered, we headed north to Shiloh. It was a pleasant ride from Corinth to Shiloh. We stopped at a few signs and went through the visitor’s center and watched the film. As with all of these battlefields I have seen, this one is well kept. There is also a National Cemetery at Shiloh and it is also well kept, and full.

SAM_0477Technically, Shiloh refers to a church that is not too far from the site, this is a recreation of the original.  The Cemetery is at what was called Shiloh landing which is where Grant’s headquarters were set up. Shiloh is the battle that made US Grant and eventually caused him to be put in charge of the whole show. He was coming off of taking two forts a little up the Tennessee River. He won those, Shiloh was the test. As with most things like that, he did the thinking and everyone else did the fighting and dying.

We were done with Shiloh and at 12:08 we headed the Honda toward Oklahoma. We rode through Memphis and decided that if we ran across Graceland we would go through it, but as we had seen Tupelo we were not going to chase it down, we didn’t see it. With the exception of a traffic jam on the Interstate and a building wind we had no problems with Memphis. Across the Mississippi for the last time we picked up Highway 16 (one of my favorites) and headed west. The wind was picking up and the temperature was hovering around 72 or so, not a real pleasant ride. They grow a bunch of rice around here and they were in the process of harvesting it. The trouble with Highway 16 is that decent motels are few and far between. We decided to call it a day in Heber Springs and checked into a decent motel, had a decent dinner and toasted another good day.

The last day of the trip dawned clear and cool but nothing serious. Highway 16 crosses all of northern Arkansas and as I said is one of my, and a whole bunch of other riders, favorite road. There are not too many straight stretches with all sorts of ups and downs. We saw motorcycles by the flock everywhere. We later found out that there had been a large rally in Fayetteville. We cut south on the “Pig Trail”, aka Highway 23 and were going to stop at one particular place but found it totally full of bikes. Too many for me, so we picked up I-40 and headed home.

There is not much to say about 200 miles down the interstate that I have covered many times. About all you can say is that we made good time and had no troubles. We pulled into the house about 4:00 and rolled the Honda into the garage so it could tell it’s stable mates what they had missed.

For use, this was a low mileage trip, just a little over 4500 miles. The purpose of our trips is not to run up the miles but to see what there is to see and have a good time, and that we did. We got rained on a few times and spent a few nights in less than spectacular motels but we didn’t get sick, had no mechanical problems worth mentioning and saw and did some very interesting things.

We are already at work planning the next ride.

The ride goes on forever