Been meaning to post this up for some time but things just kept getting the way... so finally here is my Big Fat Ride to the Miss. River
Last spring I took two weeks off and finally did a ride to and over the Mississippi River. 3000 miles, (well actually 2986 but who's counting), 11 days, 10 states ( six of which I had not rode in as yet) and 1121 tunes.
While it may be hard to believe, but with somewhere between 250,000~500,000 miles of riding motorcycling since 1970 on the east coast I had never made it west of the Mississippi during all those years. So last year I decided it was high time I made it to and across the Great River at least once. Other than make it to the river, riding north along it to where the Ohio and Mississippi river converge the trip was pretty open.
Some of the highlights of the trip were riding the Blue Ridge Parkway, (always one of my favorite roads) I did the upper section of the Blue Ridge on the way out and the lower section on the way home. I also found one of the most technical roads I've ridden to date, 33 miles of RT 58 in South west Virginia. that winds around several mountains and gets up to 5000+ feet. Got in all of the Natches Trace Parkway, the lower section of the Great River Road along the Miss. River, (between Natches and Cairo Il.) crossed the river a total of 6 times, once by ferry, rode most of the Delta Blues Trail that starts and ends in Nashville, which was an added bonus as I had never heard of it till I started seeing the signs and I'm big Delta Blues fan. I also rode the Skyway in the Smokies and stayed over in the Smokies but missed visiting the Wheels Through Time museum.
Stayed in some wonderful towns including Franklin Tn just south of Nashville, discovered Clarksdale Miss. strictly by accident since I didn't make any solid plans other than to get to Natches and cross the River. Turns out its the birthplace of the Delta Blues and Ike Turner and where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the Devil and has a number of rockin blues clubs, including one co-owned by Morgan Freeman who hails from there. I also met a guy Named Bubba (at which point I KNEW I was in the Deep South) who owned the Lofts at Five and Dine where I stayed the night in what used to be the FW Woolworth building. Talk about a character in his own right. (would you believe his last name is O'Keefe?? Who knew the Irish invaded the south????)
Ate at the Ox Bow (also co-owned by Freeman) and had some of the best gumbo ever. The next morning Bubba invited to sit with a number of town business men who are working to re-vitalize the down town section that has fallen on hard times, as many of the small towns have on the east and south of the US. They were quite an animated group and I had a wonderful time chatting it up with them. If you ever get the the chance to go to Clarksdale, Ms. you'll hear some outstanding blues and eat some awesome southern food and the Lofts are a wonderful place to stay. A funny thing happened during the meal when one of the group informed me how people in small towns know pretty much everyone, to which I replied that I was well aware of that as my wife, Jeanne hails from a small town in central Virginia that no one's ever heard of. Well turned out the same individual upon hearing the name of town said “ I have some property right near there!”. In all the years I've known Jeanne he was the frist person I've met who know of it, and here I was sitting in central Mississippi some 800 miles from the place. Ha Ha!
On the way up the Mississippi River I stopped at Reelfoot Lake, which was formed in 1812 when there was a major earthquake and the southern section of the Miss. river actually flowed backwards for 4 days and filled the crevasse formed from the earthquake thus forming the lake. Had some great southern fried catfish at he in-house restaurant and lovely waterfront room. Another must return place. Also stopped at the small park in Cairo Il. where the Ohio and Miss. Rivers flow together which was in very sad condition and had been completely closed down for some time and visited a real working archaeological dig of a Native American village right after crossing the Ohio. Then it was east once again to the Skyway (oh and I had one of the best East Indian meals ever, in of all places Tupelo, go figure!). Just before getting the west entrance of the Skyway I encountered the only real rain of the whole trip, but it cleared out right before I did the skyway proper. Then it was on to stay in Maggie Valley before heading north to visit the mile high bridge at Grandfather Mountain which has a really cool series of switch backs heading to the top with pretty much shear drops off one side, not for the faint of heart!
The last night of the trip I found a wonderful secluded Inn right off the Parkway around MP 174 called the Woodberry Inn, run by a wonderful couple and had a nice long chat with them and a great room right on the pond and pretty much had the whole place to myself that evening, well me, the fish (that followed me as I walked around the pond), a lone duck (named Barney who had recently lost his mate and one eye and who was just recovering from a major case of the blues. Now how you tell a duck is sad is beyond me, but I have it on the best authority of the owners!) Oh and the frogs who sang me to sleep that might. Also had one of the best dinners, chicken with fried pineapple rings and in a lovely orange sauce plus a nice tossed salad all from local produce and farms, well 'cept for the pineapple, obviously! All for 10 clams and a nice local dark brew to wash it all down. This place goes on my must return list along with the Alpine Inn in Little Switzerland NC. for places to stay on the parkway. One thing that cracked me up was, as I was leaving I inquired after the duck that I noticed always swam in the same direction around the pond. Seems he was blind in one eye so always swam to keep his good eye outward. His name was Barney and it seems there had been a Betty but she had flown the coop a month or so ago. What cracked me up was when the young lady working the desk informed me that since Betty departure Barney had been very sad. My first thought was “how does tell if a duck is sad??” HaHa!
All in all a truly wonderful trip, the NT ran beautifully, it is just so effortless to ride and handles the road almost by itself, I just point it where I want to g and twist the throttle and she handles the rest. For the most part I had the roads I wanted to do pretty much all to myself as I did them mostly mid-week. And except for a mad dash across Tn on the way back east from Realfoot Lake to the Smokies stayed off the slab and just rode state highways so passed thru many small towns some very active and vibrant, others not so much so. On the Trace I wound up playing a game of hop-scotch with another rider the two days down the Natches Trace. We first met up at the northern end at one of the first stops I made and from there we kept running into each, either he would show up someplace I stopped or I would roll in right after him at some other point. Since we both stayed over in Tupelo the game picked up again the next day as well and we actually got together for dinner the second night when we reached Natches since we wound up staying in the same hotel!. Nice guy from Michigan also just out for a week or so riding with no real plans.
The route as captured by an app called MotionX on an Iphone.
First 5 days are here
last 6 days here
Rather than try to select a bunch of photos to paste in this thread I created three slide shows and put them on youtube on my Drfork channel and added titles, notations as needed to identify various areas as appropriate and some of my favorite music to each.