Saturday, September 22, 2007

Knoxville, TN to Home

The day started at 6:30am (can't seem to sleep late on the road). Got up, repacked all the (now dry) camping equipment, ate the continental breakfast, and checked out of the motel.

Decided to ride home via the Tail of the Dragon road, US 129 which I had seen in my routing to the motel last night. Set the GPS for Tail of the Dragon and started out.

It took a while to get to the 2 lane road that I knew as US 129, but after a good while, things started looking familiar. First, the big lakes, then the rise to the observation area overlooking the dam. While at the observation area talking to a couple of riders from Florida, they told me that the cops were hiding out on the road, so to take it slow.

I heeded their advice and, sure enough, there were 2 Highway Patrol cars stationed along the way. I couldn't decide if they were trying to catch folks or just trying to keep the speeds down. I kept mine down and got no attention from them.

Stopped at the store at the bottom of the run, bought a tee shirt for my grandson, and headed east towards Clayton.

In Maggie Valley, I was needing gas and getting a bit hungry. So, I stopped at the Grizzly Grill for a sandwich. I don't think they brought what I ordered (ordered a BBQ Beef sandwich, and what they brought looked and tasted like a roast beef sandwich). It was okay, but not what I wanted. Didn't question it because I wanted to keep on the move.

Got gas and started out for home, wondering if I could ride the entire 289 miles to Clayton without buying more gas.

The ride home was uneventful. I did not need gas; the light came on about 25 miles from home, well within the capability of the reserve (tank holds 7 gallons on the RT). The ride was hot and boring.

When I pulled in, the odometer on the GPS showed a total of 2,741 miles over the 7 days of the trip. Today's ride was about 400 miles (I lost count of exact miles on the last 2 days).

The trip was good. I learned that I love the RT. Super brakes. Great power. Cruise control is wonderful. Adjustable windshield is good. Adjustable suspension on the fly is great. Luggage cases (and liners) are great. But I need a good seat; the factory seat chews my butt and thighs after multiple days of long riding. Otherwise, the bike was great.

Missouri is a good place to ride; the roads through the Ozarks are fun. Not as good as those in NC/VA/TN, but good in their own respect. The state parks in Missouri are good and pretty as well. A good state to visit.

Glad I did the trip, but it's always good to come home to my own bed!

Lake Wappapello State Park to Knoxville, TN

Got an early start; up at 6:30am and on the road by 7:30. Decided to head southeast to cross the Mississippi on I-155, in the southeast corner of the state. Found breakfast at a small mom and pop cafe in Campbell, MO. It was good and filling.

Rode south on Hwy 53 to 412 and then to the Interstate. All uneventful.

Decided to try the secondary roads east, staying off the main roads. Good idea, poor execution. While the routing worked fine, after about 4 hours of riding as hard as was safe, I had covered only about 125 miles! Interesting, but much slower than I had imagined. While the speed limits were generally 55, at every town along the way (and there were many), the speed dropped to 45 about 3 miles out of town, and the last mile would be at 35. Through town itself, it was usually 25. And the reverse going out of town. Then just as I'd get back to speed (after following someone in a slow car or truck for several miles), the next town came up.

So, just south of Nashville, where Hwy 100 crosses the Natchez Trace road, I had lunch at Loveless Cafe/Motel. I had never heard of it, but it is a famous place with a rich history of feeding people coming up to Nashville from the south. Lots of bikers stop there.

Had meatloaf, creamed potatoes, and green beens, and it was average. Not great, not bad, but okay.

Decided then that if I was going to get home sometime Saturday, I needed to make some miles. Called to get a place to stay at a Quality Inn in Knoxville.

Jumped on the I-40 slab and rode into Knoxville. Using the GPS, I selected the only Quality Inn in Knoxville (didn't check addresses to see if the one I chose was the one I reserved--lesson to be learned here!). Rode to the Quality Inn, went in to get my room, and they did not have a reservation for me. I asked if there was more than one Quality Inn, and of course, there was another one about 15 miles away. DAMN!

Jumped on the bike, put the correct address into the GPS and took off again.

Backtracking where I had just come from, and tired and aggravated, I missed the correct exit at the next significant turn. There were 2 exits within about 100 yards of each other, and I took the first one instead of the second one. Fatigue!

So, now I was completely retracing about 10 miles of unnecessary roads from missing the exit I needed. So aggravated at myself...

Finally got going the correct way (which was straight through Knoxville to I-40 east of town), and suddenly about 5 cars in front of me, the traffic stopped. All the traffic on all 4 lanes! Police cars had the interstate blocked!

I was stopped just beside an exit and had to decide whether to wait for traffic to clear or whether to take the exit and reroute to the motel. I decided to take the exit.

It took a bit of trial and error, but I finally got an alternate route east on Hwy 70. Right through the University of Tennessee campus! Friday night at dinnertime it is very busy there. Hot. Crowded. But I got through the campus area finally.

The routing was working great, keeping me away from the interstate while working my way east, when, after one turn, the road I needed had a big detour sign. The bridge was out!! I was beginning to think it was not meant for me to get to the motel!

The GPS kept rerouting and finally I found the motel, with a room reserved for me. Actually, a very nice room beside the lobby with my bike 25 feet away in good sight.

Learned on tv later that somehow an 18 wheeler and a van had collided head-on and that is what had the interstate closed. It was still closed at 11:00pm (taking the exit was a good choice)!

Then it hit me that God had taken me the wrong way so I wouldn't be a part of the wreck... I don't know about things like this, but I do know that if I had put the correct address in the GPS, I would have been going through that area close to the time the wreck happened...

Got in the room, unpacked the camping gear that was wet from dew (so it would dry out), watched a little TV, drank a beer, and collapsed.

Right at 500 miles today.

Tomorrow, home....

Friday, September 21, 2007

Joplin to Wappapelo State Park

408 miles today, totaling 1814 for the trip.

It was an interesting day. Started out headed west on I-44 towards Oklahoma. Got to the last exit in Missouri, and saw a sign saying it was the last exit before a toll plaza. I avoid tolls because I just hate to pay, so I got off the interstate. I saw a small road on the GPS just off the exit that went into Oklahoma, then connected with another road that went into Kansas. Perfect!

However, as I went down the small road, it was apparent the road was little-used. The pavement was broken in many places, and gravel had replaced pavement in other places. About ¼ mile down the road, I could tell that it didn’t go as shown on the GPS. It appeared that a barricade had the road blocked. Closer to the barricade there was a big monument of stones just off the road. I rode around the monument and noted that it was something done by the youth works administration or something similar, but it didn’t say what it was about.

Closer to the monument, I could see some concrete surrounded by the barricade. So, I rode there and then saw that it was a marker to denote the exact spot where Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma meet! I think the other monument was likely an older version of the same spot, with newer technology replacing the older one. Quite a find, all by accident! Neat!!

So, I backtracked and went into Kansas a bit, just so I could say I rode in Kansas with honesty.

Then I started East, headed back towards home. What I discovered is that the roads in western Missouri run due north/south and east/west, in a grid with roads approximately 1 mile apart. I jigged east for a while, then north for a while, bypassing Joplin.

The riding was easy. Go straight and hold on. Ride as fast as you want—there was absolutely no traffic and maybe one house per mile. Sorta fun, even though not challenging.

After a while I started needing gas, so I started looking for it with the GPS. Found it after a while, and Casey’s General Stores sell premium 10 cents lower than regular gas ALL THE TIME!! Great!

Went north east towards a lake and state park. Had a little adventure getting there—he roads got smaller and smaller, finally with 1.2 miles of gravel that deadended running into a river. No barricade or sign or anything, just the road going into the river! So, I backtracked all the gravel roads back to “civilization” (paved roads) and found Lake Stockton. Pretty, but nothing really special.

Getting hungry, I found the Corner CafĂ© in Stockton and had lunch.. Good home cooking is what’s served there.

Then started heading east in a more serious manner. Roads got curvy, and found one highway that was great—Hwy 38 is perfect for my style of riding. No traffic, good road surface, lots of sweeping curves and changes in elevation. Great for cruising at 80 or so with some challenges. Wonderful road!

Finally, it got time to start thinking of lodging for the night. Called a couple of hotels in the Poplar Bluff area, but they were very expensive (more than I was willing to pay). So, I found Wappapello Lake State Park and a campsite there, right on the lake. A pretty place.

I set up camp and asked about a place to eat. The camp host recommended the “Corner Store” a few miles outside the park. So, I rode there and got a very good smoked turkey sandwich and Gatorade for dinner.

Brought the food back to the camp and ate it, looking at the sunset and the lake. Nice!

Then a shower and bed. I was in bed at 8:15pm!

Tomorrow-starting home seriously. Think I’ll try to get there by Saturday if possible.
More tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lakes of the Ozarks SP to Joplin, MO

The day started early; went to bed last night at 8:30pm (what's there to do in complete darkness?) and woke up at 6:30 this mornng. Got up and tore down the camp and packed it on the bike. Took about 45 minutes; I'm getting better with experience! The night was okay; the tent was on a slope, and each time I woke up during the night, I had slid to the end of the tent. Had to pull the sleeping bag up the hill again! Need level land next time.

Rode back to Rte. 66 and started looking for a place for breakfast. Couldn't find anyting for a long time, but found a local joint in Lebanon, MO. An omelette and home fries later, I took off again, following the old road.

About 20 miles later, I lost Rte. 66 for good. Following the old road is harder than it sounds. It's marked only in a few places--people steal the signs! I had several misstarts at each interchange with I-44, but it finally disappeared and I decided to ride on instead of spending a lot of time looking for it.

Got on I-44 and rode southwest through Sprinfield and on to Branson. Didn't spend much time in Branson. It was HOT and busy. What I did see was that Branson is much like Myrtle Beach, but located in a very hilly/mountaineous area. Big hotels. Huge theaters. Lots of restaurants. Heavy traffic. I saw enough pretty quickly.

Stopped at a convenience store and bought some beer to toast to Stacy. Found Boulevard Lunar Ale. Packed it in a case and headed to Table Rock State Park to drink one with Clay for Stacy.

Got to the park (very small), found a quiet picnic table overlooking the lake and called Clay. We chatted a few minutes while he got a beer, and then we toasted Stacy. Damn, I miss Stacy so much. He was a great guy that God called home much too early.

After the beer, headed through the Table Rock Lake area and then on to Joplin.

The roads were good; curvy with lots of ups and downs. Unfortunately, traffic was heavier than I wanted, so I couldn't ride hard. By the time traffic eased off, the roads got straight. Boringly straight! Miles and miles of straight roads through the country. Not horrible, but not great.

Got to Joplin and checked into the motel. Washed dirty clothes, rested, ate dinner at a local steakhouse beside the motel.

Called my son and learned some terrific news--they are expecting my second grandchild!!! I'm gonna be Gramps to two grandchildren! It's goning to be fun!

Tomorrow--I don't have a destination, but will head into Kansas, just to do it. Then northeast towards home.

About 300 miles today, totaling 1409 so far. Pic is from one of the old bridges on Rte. 66 over some river.

More later....

Rolla, MO to Lake of the Ozarks State Park

Well, today was a bit easy. Slept in a little later than usual, had breakfast, and packed the bike. First stop at the Totem Pole Trading Post, home of the oldest continually running store on old Rte 66. A block from the Motel! Needed gas, but all the pumps were “bagged”, indicating no gas.

Talked with the owner, a Mr. Jones, who indicated that he was recently out of the gas business and beginning to think about retirement. He had run the place for 44 years and his children have no interest in running it, so he’s thinking of selling everything but the name. Then open a small bait shop with that name and stop working 7 days a week. Sad, but those are the times.

Talked with him about old Rte. 66. He gave me some directions and advice, so I headed out for gas. Found it with no trouble up the street.

Then southwest on old 66. For the most part, it runs parallel to I-44, looking like a service road. One telltale sign is a distinctive curb, sloping up at a 30 or so degree angle, said to help keep the cars in the road.

I wanted to see Devils Elbow, a local attraction on the Big Piney river. At Devils Elbow, there’s an old steel bridge that’s now in service, but getting pretty ratty. On first attempt I missed the turn to go to the bridge. After a few miles of searching and backtracking, I found the turn to the OLD old Rte 66. Discovered that the road had been rerouted several times and the bridge was on the original route (since bypassed).

The bridge was pretty neat, and just as I had read on the Internet. I imagine it will be closed for the next generation.

Decided to have lunch at the Devils Elbow BBQ and Inn. Looked like an old beer joint, but decided to try it anyway. The owner and a couple workers were there, and very friendly, asking what I was riding and where I was coming from. Decided to have a beer and a BBQ sandwich. Both were good! Dangling from the ceiling in the bar area were braziers of all colors and styles. Some with names and dates written on them with magic markers. Also, lining the ceiling were dollar bills with people’s names on them. It was that type of place.

After lunch, I took a few pictures of the immediate area and headed on.

Decided to ride up to Lake of the Ozarks State Park, to see what it looked like and to maybe find a camping spot for the night.

Rode to the park, found a site, and set up camp early. It’s beautiful in the park. Big lake, lots of woods. Nice showers and toilets. Very nice!

After setting up camp, decided to cool off in the lake. Didn’t turn out just as I wanted, but it was not bad. The bottom was too full of rocks, so I waded knee deep, sat on a rock and splashed myself wet all over. Felt sooo good!

Then sat in my chair to dry off before going to dinner. Decided to ride into Osage Beach area for dinner (about 10 miles away). Once there, decided to ride to see the big dam that created the lakes. It was old, but does the job of holding the water back. Found Casablanca Bar on the main drag and had a good steak dinner and a beer.

Then back to the campground for a shower and change of clothes for tomorrow. Saw 16 deer on the way to the campsite! The place is running over with deer!

Rode appx 140 miles today but had a very good day.

Tomorrow, on south and west on Rte. 66 thru Springfield to Branson, where I will drink a beer with Stacy and Clay. Then on towards Joplin.

More tomorrow….

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mammoth Cave to Rolla, Missouri

A mixed day. It started with breaking up camp; tearing down the tent and packing it and its contents. Part of the floor of the tent was damp, but it got packed anyway. Hopefully it will not mildew before I open it to dry.

Rushed to take a shower, but found that it took tokens ($2 worth), and the store that sold them was not open. So, I didn't shower (phew!!). Wanted to do a cave tour, so went to get a ticket to go. Got it at 9:00am, and the tour started at 9:00, so I had to rush to catch the group (about 50 yards ahead). Caught them and all was well.

The History tour was a 2 hour tour that covered 2 miles and several hunderd stairs. The caves are awesome!! Tremendous in size (one room, the Rotunda, was as large as a gym. Learned that they have mapped 367 miles (yes, miles) of caves, and find another 5 miles a year. They have estimated that they have found and mapped about hald of them! Would like to see more on another adventure.

After the tour, I rode around the park to see what else was there. Since most of the attractions are underground (duh; caves), the ride was pretty but saw nothing but trees, turkeys, and deer. Did find a neat ferry over the Green River, a single vehicle, runs when needed, ferry. Decided not to do it because it covered only maybe 50 feet of water and since I've done the Elwell Ferry south of Fayetteville several times, I'd rather do it.

Had breakfast (2 large blueberry pancakes) at the coffee shop in the park. They were okay, but not great. Had lunch at the Green River Restaurant on the banks of the Green River on Hwy 70 about an hour from the park. Lunch was good. Had dinner at (yes) a chain. I was so tired, the bike was very low on fuel, and it was getting late, so the Shoneys next door to the motel was my dinner stop. It was etible, but that's about all I can say.

Got back to the motel at about 9:00pm, washed dirty clothes, repacked the tank bag (looks like a rat hole), SHOWERED (YEA), watched some tv, did a blog, and crahed. Slept well.

Did 405 miles, including two major river crossings. Total miles so far is 990.

Today (yes, I'm still a day late--it's Tuesday as I write this) I plan to find and ride segments of old Route 66. The motel I'm staying in (Quality Inn) is on a segment of it.

More later....

Monday, September 17, 2007

Clayton to Mammoth Cave National Park, Ky

Yep, that's right. Rode from Clayton to Mammoth Cave NP, 585 miles on Sunday, 9/15. A good ride--weather was close to perfect. Wore the bumblebee; decided that I'd wear it for the entire trip. Had hoped for cooler weather, but according to, it's going to be hot much of the week in Missouri. I'm so looking forward to cooler weather!

The ride was a mixture of slab and back roads. I had created a route on the computer and downloaded it to the GPS, but for some unknown reason, the route did not transfer correctly. Maybe the fact that the versions of maps on the computer and the GPS were different was the reason??? Anyway, I had to do it unplanned and it worked out okay.

Am going to try to not eat at chain restaurants on the trip. "Feasting on Asphalt" has me fired up to eat at small local eateries, so I plan to do that unless there's no option. Had lunch in Boone at a small fish restaurant. Very good! Great choice. Had dinner at the only place (non-chain) open in Cave City, Ky. Can't remember the name. It was fair... I was actually too tired and it was late, so I didn't care if it was good or not.

Got to MCNP just before dark. Rode to the campground (ranger station closed) and figured out how to get a site (claim one and fill out an envelope with cash to leave in the lockbox). Put up the tent (ground was hard as a rock (maybe it was rock!)) and I couldn't get the stakes very deep in the ground. Was afraid the tent would fall overnight, the stakes were so shallow.

At dark, the tent was up, the mat inside the tent, and the air mattress blown up. Got hot and sweaty.

Then rode into Cave City (about 10 miles away) for some grub. The ride was uneventful except for all the deer on the side of the road. They stayed put, so there was no problem.

Got back to the campsite and got ready for bed. At 9:30pm, I turned out the lights and crashed for the night.

Tomorrow-on to Missouri.