I’ve been post­ing a lot to face­book late­ly.  It’s easy.  And it has a way of draw­ing me back in despite cavok.com being my pre­ferred method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.  I have a post com­ing up about my time in Har­lan, Ken­tucky, and the time I spent with my good friend J.D. Napi­er there. I had the incred­i­ble for­tune to meet J.D. after get­ting myself com­plete­ly lost on my first trip to Har­lan.   More on that lat­er, but for now a quick shot of us togeth­er with the Giant Blacksmith’s Anvil J.D. has con­struct­ed right there on site.

J.D. Napier and Jordan with the world's biggest anvil?

J.D. Napi­er and Jor­dan with the world’s biggest anvil?

 

For now though, I’d like to record a few thoughts from today’s trip toward Chica­go while they’re still fresh in my mind.  Parts of this are pulled from a face­book post, and I’ve added a few things in too..

A chilly start in Harlan, KY

A chilly start in Har­lan, KY

Had an incred­i­ble day out on the move today. Leav­ing Har­lan this morn­ing, fog coat­ed the fall coloured for­est on Pine moun­tain, and filled the Hol­lows beneath. The air was frigid and numbed my face as it flowed over ThirstyGirl’s wind­shield. Rid­ing over the gen­tly curv­ing moun­tain roads, I expe­ri­enced a moment of pure joy that I’ve not felt in decades. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I yelled whoops of pure elate­ment in to my hel­met visor. I’d set a cam­era up on the motor­cy­cle fend­er to cap­ture that sec­tion of the ride, but it end­ed up not record­ing so you’ll have to take my word that it was one of the most incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful scenes I’ve encoun­tered in my life­time.

Martins Fork, Harlan KY in the early morning

Mar­tins Fork, Har­lan KY in the ear­ly morn­ing

Head­ed for Chica­go, I had the incred­i­ble for­tune to catch up with some incred­i­ble peo­ple. First a cof­fee and an ever so short vis­it with my good friend Jeff Ross in Bar­bourville.

Jordan and Jeff at The Ugly Mug

Jor­dan and Jeff at The Ugly Mug

And anoth­er stop for lunch with an awe­some dude, Chase Sat­ter­white in Lex­ing­ton. (Oops, we should have grabbed a pho­to too..) It was fan­tas­tic to catch up with both of you guys, and I appre­ci­ate your tak­ing the time out for a vis­it today. That was icing on the cake.

Bed­ded down in Lafayette, Indi­ana and man­aged to get the last room in the hotel.. The Pres­i­den­tial Suite. Oh yeaaahh… The only thing this room is miss­ing is a spe­cial some­one to share it with. Giv­en the epic nature of today’s trip, I’ll con­cede this isn’t a total neces­si­ty!

I feel as though I do lead a charmed life, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to tru­ly appre­ci­ate it. I’m filled with grat­i­tude for every­thing that I’ve expe­ri­enced today and lead­ing up to today.

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Okay,
I’m gonna try and to do some real­ly quick updates as I’m head­ing home.

25 May — breakfast. 

As I sit in a greasy spoon wait­ing on my omelette, an old timer sits across from me. He’s chat­ting with the staff about his daugh­ter going in in to hos­pice.

I’m reflect­ing on the con­ver­sa­tion we had as we both entered the restau­rant. About the weath­er. It’s bad here. I’d com­ment­ed how bru­tal it’d been for me over the last week or so. 

The hos­pice con­ver­sa­tion I’d over­head has just set this trip back in con­text. Every­thing I have expe­ri­enced to date has been a gift. All the wind and bugs and bit­ter­ly cold rain are my reward for expe­ri­ence gained and miles trav­eled.

This whole trip has been a gift of unbe­liev­able intri­ca­cy that I shall sure­ly be reap­ing the rewards from years to come. 

This will be ever present in my mind as I make the final por­tion of my jour­ney home. 

25 May

Head­ing in to Leth­bridge this after­noon, then back to Cal­gary. Should be home tonight. Left my Cana­di­an SIM card some­where along the trail so I may not have a phone for a bit once I cross the bor­der..

Thank­ful­ly today it’s sun­shiny and beau­ti­ful out.. Not at all like yes­ter­day:

Northern Montana Storms

24 May

Stopped in Buffalo,WY to throw my gear in a dry­er and have a quick feed after bare­ly 100­mi cov­ered in the rain. It’s snow­ing to the west, so jelly­stone is out for this trip. 700 mi to go. Gonna try and push home tonight if I can stay dry and warn enough..
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May 21:

Safe and sound some­where. Rus­sel? Sure, lets call it Rus­sel.
Wish you were here.
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May 20:

Safe and sound some­where south of St. Louis MO.. Great ride today with a bit of rain and some crazi­ness.. I total­ly over­shot High Knob Camp­ground which was my intend­ed stop for the evening.. :( Guess I’ll have to save my vis­it for the next trip.. :(

May 19:

Got to Nashville last night just in time to head out and grab a bite to eat.. Chang­ing things up from my last vis­it, I trust­ed in Trip Advi­sor to lead me to some­thing cool­er than the stan­dard Broad­way-Hon­key-Tonk-Tourist-Traps.. I end­ed up at the Back Alley Din­er for a bite to eat, and a few drinks and had a pret­ty great time hang­ing out with the likes of Chris & Chris­tel, Kevin & Kim, and Miss June, who under no cir­cum­stances should ever be called “Miss” June.. Man­aged to do a bit of a local pub-crawl with C&C and K&K to end up the night. — Fan­tas­tic!

I’m off into the coun­try and don’t expect to have much in the way of inter­net for the next few days, to don’t wor­ry about an update for a bit! :)

Oh, also, I’ve added a lit­tle adorn­ment to Thirsty­Girl. This real­ly ties the whole bike togeth­er.. ;)

Hula girl on an FJR 1300?  I say YES!

Thirsty­Girl and I took a break and head­ed for the coast. I had to see the ocean for at least a lit­tle bit… Our prox­im­i­ty to the oft-dis­cussed-in-motor­cy­cle-cir­cles “Tail of the Drag­on” ride on US 129 made it a log­i­cal start to the trip. The drag­on is well known around these parts, and is pop­u­lar with both auto and motor­cy­cling enthu­si­asts. There is much lore sur­round­ing the (report­ed) 318 curves on this 11 mile stretch of road, most of it sur­round­ing the num­ber of deaths this year (appar­ent­ly 8 already in 2012, but I don’t believe this to be accu­rate..).

See­ing this, I knew we were in for an incred­i­ble ride..

Road sign: Truck Advisory. US 129 South. Switchback curves ahead. Consider alternate routeRoad sign: Truck Advisory. Switchback curves ahead. Consider alternate route (US 129 South)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Edit:

I man­aged to get some video uploaded.. This is a fair­ly high-speed ver­sion of the footage I shot from the front of the bike.  It’s pret­ty shaky due to some vibra­tion prob­lems I hadn’t antic­i­pat­ed and the real­ly twisty-turny stuff starts about 2:40..  Don’t feel bad about fast-for­ward­ing.. Hope you enjoy..

If you can’t watch, or per­haps can’t wait ’till the end, this is what I found at the end of my ride up the hill: Ooops.

Busted!

Around the cor­ner from my impromp­tu stop was the Deal’s Gap store which is real­ly the tail of the tail of the drag­on, they’ve got a motel, gas sta­tion and a whole pile of sou­venirs and tchotchkes to prove  you’ve been there!

Beyond Deal’s gap, I took a break from US 129 and head­ed down High­way 82 along the spec­tac­u­lar­ly beau­ti­ful shores of Cheoah Lake. I can say with­out a doubt that this stretch of high­way was even more enjoy­able than the first sec­tion of the day. The curves were equal­ly hair-pinned and bendy, but the dri­ve was just a bit more relaxed with­out the onslaught of oncom­ing traf­fic wan­der­ing across into my lane..

At some point along its length, 28 joins up with High­way 107 and con­tin­ued to inspire awe (at least on my part)..   I shot this pho­to around 5:30 PM,  just over the South Car­oli­na bor­der.

Highway 28 and 107 in South Carolina: Road, motorcycle mirror and open road

High­way 28 and 107 in South Car­oli­na

It was get­ting near­ly time to shut down for the night, but I had a few more hours of road to get behind me to keep mov­ing east..   For some rea­son every turn I made to head in the right direc­tion head­ed me back toward Atlanta..   The most detailed Rand McNal­ly maps I could find failed to list the pletho­ra of actu­al high­ways that line this coun­try­side, sig­nif­i­cant­ly adding to the con­fus­ing nav­i­ga­tion sce­nario..  Oh, iPhone maps, yeah, they’re much more con­fus­ing. I digress, but it’s pos­si­ble you’ll hear a rant about them lat­er.

Fun­ny thing with North­ern Geor­gia, in stark con­trast to the beau­ti­ful lit­tle farms that line East Ten­nessee roads, the coun­try­side here was real­ly bar­ren.  Devoid of hous­es, farms, cities and real­ly any pop­u­la­tion at all.. I final­ly found my way to the small town of Lavo­nia GA and bed­ded down for the night.

The next day of trav­el took me through more of north­ern Geor­gia and South­west­ern South Car­oli­na.  (I know this gets con­fus­ing, have a look at the map and stick with me!). I took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to stop and take a walk through a Civ­il-War era Con­fed­er­ate ceme­tery in McCormick SC.  For those of you who haven’t had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to wan­der through old-coun­try grave­yards, I’d high­ly rec­om­mend the expe­ri­ence.   His­to­ry comes alive when you start see­ing cru­cial his­tor­i­cal dates etched in stone. The thing that struck me was how long peo­ple were liv­ing back in the late 17 and ear­ly 1800’s.. Sev­er­al of the stones I read were peo­ple that lived well into their 80’s and 90’s, and that’s through the US Civ­il War!  Who­ev­er says we’re liv­ing longer today might want to recheck their stats. ;)

Robert Bayless Dean, PVT CO E 13 BATT, SC Infantry, Confederate States Army, Apr 3, 1837, Feb 18, 1905

Robert Bay­less Dean, PVT CO E 13 BATT, SC Infantry, Con­fed­er­ate States Army, Apr 3, 1837, Feb 18, 1905

Lewis Bozeman, Died May 2, 1859, about 88 years old

Lewis Boze­man, Died May 2, 1859, about 88 years old

Elizabeth T. Dean, consort of, Thomas Dean, Born April 8th 1795, Died, October 10th, 1865, Aged 70 years, six months, and 2 days

Eliz­a­beth T. Dean, con­sort of, Thomas Dean, Born April 8th 1795, Died, Octo­ber 10th, 1865, Aged 70 years, six months, and 2 days

Confederate Cross

The whole after­noon took me through some pret­ty eco­nom­i­cal­ly depressed areas..  I saw very lit­tle in the way of indus­try, com­merce, or any oth­er viable form of income save a bit of farm­ing..

Building for Rent: Bracknell's - This BUILDING may FALL but the QUALITY of our MERCHANDISE - WILL NEVER -

Build­ing for Rent: Bracknell’s — This BUILDING may FALL but the QUALITY of our MERCHANDISEWILL NEVER -

Often, I’d come across vir­tu­al ghost towns that looked recent­ly-pros­per­ous. It was simul­ta­ne­ous­ly sur­re­al and sad­den­ing. Cross­ing the state line between South Car­oli­na and Augus­ta GA was per­haps the most stark con­trast between have and have-not..  After a half day of pass­ing run-down farms and desert­ed towns, the sub­urbs of Augus­ta were incred­i­bly posh and well devel­oped..

Augus­ta itself has seen bet­ter days..   Both of my cam­eras had giv­en up the ghost by the time I got there, but I man­aged to catch a few shots of the Augus­ta Pow­der Works build­ings where much of the Con­fed­er­ate gun­pow­der and muni­tions were made dur­ing the Civ­il War.  Much of the area around the pow­der works was incred­i­bly depressed and as I rode around I couldn’t help but think that it deserved much more explo­ration and time with a cam­era and an open ear.

ThirstyGirl at the Augusta Powder Works

Thirsty­Girl at the Augus­ta Pow­der Works (Now a cot­ton com­pa­ny)

Push­ing on, and after one more speed­ing tick­et (a lit­tle more than a hand-slap this time) I final­ly made it in to Savan­nah and got set­tled for a few days of wan­der­ing..  That, in the next post. This one is already get­ting toooo long. Read Part 2 here if you’d like to con­tin­ue!

 

– If you haven’t read it yet, you can click this link for part 1 of this post! –

Savan­nah Geor­gia turned out to be an incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful city to just walk around for  a few days (the old His­toric Dis­trict was at least!)..  Savan­nah res­i­dents seem to take great pride in the many treed squares and beau­ti­ful archi­tec­ture that fills the old dis­trict and they’re well worth an after­noon to wan­der through, or just to sit down and watch oth­ers do the same.  Those inter­est­ed in high-end antiques will delight in the pletho­ra of shops cater­ing to those with a pen­chant for ancient his­to­ry and/or mon­ey to burn.  Sad­ly, most of the books I found in the stores I vis­it­ed were writ­ten in Swedish or Ger­man lan­guage, nei­ther of which were par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful to me.

Savannah Harbour Diptych

Scat­tered about the same dis­trict are numer­ous build­ings belong­ing to the Savan­nah Col­lege of Art and Design (SCAD) an art school with a pret­ty great sto­ry. If you spend any amount of time in the area, you’ll undoubt­ed­ly come across the pletho­ra of art stu­dents going about their dai­ly lives.  Owing to the sheer num­ber of of art­sy-types, I couldn’t help the con­tin­u­ous loop of Lydia the Tat­tooed Lady play­ing in my head as I wan­dered about town. :)

The night-life in Savan­nah is plen­ti­ful and full of choice.  One of my favourites by far is the Bay Street Blues, a good, hon­est bar with freakin-fan­tas­tic music!

I’m told there was a lot of real­ly great food to eat in town, and I did man­age to have a few good meals but with the way my tim­ing worked out a few snacks seemed to do me well for most of my two days here..  Paula Dean’s restau­rant did come rec­om­mend­ed, and indeed it’s pop­u­lar (so pop­u­lar in fact that it spans three floors and sports a wait­ing list).  Ms. Dean is well known for her south­ern cook­ing, and indeed the buf­fet sup­per her estab­lish­ment served was pret­ty tasty, the ser­vice and din­ing expe­ri­ence left a lot to be desired.

I try to be as pos­i­tive as pos­si­ble on this site, but my next stop at Hilton Head Island was, well, fright­en­ing (in a chil­dren of the corn sor­ta way).  I will say, that on my way out to Hilton Head, I man­aged to find a farmer’s mar­ket and food-fair in the small town of Bluffton SC.  Also found here was the posh­est choco­late chip cook­ie I’ve ever eat­en.  I mean, seri­ous­ly, who puts whipped cream on a cook­ie? Idun­no, but every­body should!

Posh Cookie in Bluffton, SC

So, yeah, Hilton Head Island. One of the odd­est (and odd­ly uncom­fort­able) places I’ve vis­it­ed in a long time.  As I drove the long park­way out to the island, I passed per­fect­ly man­i­cured medi­ans that led me to believe I’d head­ed into sub­ur­ban hell.   This was only the begin­ning.  Hilton Head, it turns out, is FULL of time-share con­dos and plan­ta­tion resorts..  I stopped in to a “tourist infor­ma­tion” cen­ter look­ing for a bed and break­fast or hos­tel with no luck.  Turns out that it was actu­al­ly a time­share sales office. Ergh.. I have to be fair though, the gal there was nice enough to send me to one place that did have hotel rooms too, and gave me some rec­om­men­da­tions for food and drink that night. I was still pret­ty exhaust­ed from an epic night out in Savan­nah, and called it quits after search­ing in vain for a place to eat some­thing healthy.  In the process, I learned that the plan­ta­tions (there are many) on Hilton Head have all banned motor­cy­cles from the prop­er­ty.  All motor­cy­cles. Huh?  Must be that only bad peo­ple ride motor­cy­cles.. Or some­thing..

Look­ing for that meal, I only man­aged to find a bar that sold food.  As I wait­ed for my burg­er (the health­i­est thing I could find), I came to the hor­ri­ble real­iza­tion that I was in some real­ly awful ’80’s sum­mer-par­ty-movie..  Real­ly. Awful.   Though my hotel was peace­ful, I was hap­py to get out of there in the morn­ing..

Head­ing north again, toward North Car­oli­na, I hap­pened across Cry­ba­bies Tav­ern (as I was search­ing for food again) in Beau­fort, SC. (not to be con­fused with Beau­fort, NC… One is pro­nounced Be-U-fort, the oth­er BO-fort to mit­i­gate any chance of mis­tak­en iden­ti­ty.. )

Cry­ba­bies is pos­si­bly the BEST lit­tle dive-bar I’ve ever had the plea­sure of drink­ing in. The bar­tender was awe­some, and the patrons were just good, hon­est, unpre­ten­tious, and hos­pitable. This place is well worth stop­ping in if you ever hap­pen to find your­self in Beau­fort (SC). High­light? The base­ball bat behind the bar. Win!

Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SCThreat deterrence: Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SC

Interior photo: Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SC

I made my way up to Charleston North Car­oli­na, the site of the first shot in the US Civ­il War and home to the high­est den­si­ty of beau­ti­ful and fit peo­ple I’ve seen in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.  Yowza!   Take your ten, add about twelve and you’ve got your­self a good aver­age for Charleston.  In all seri­ous­ness, I did see an incred­i­bly high pro­por­tion of healthy-weight peo­ple here, in com­par­isoon to many of the oth­er places I’ve down in the US.  I’m not sure how the demo­graph­ics play in to this but suf­fice it to say, if you’re look­ing to find an active and fit pop­u­la­tion, this’d be a good place to start look­ing!

In Charleston, I stayed in a dorm room at the Not­so Hos­tel which turned out to be a refresh­ing change from the hotels I’d been stay­ing in.  I got a chance to min­gle with prop­er trav­el­ers and even some rel­a­tive locals dur­ing my two day stay.. The bagels and Nutel­la for break­fast were an unex­pect­ed bonus too!  All in all, def­i­nite­ly a worth­while place to stay.

With the onset of mug­gy, rainy weath­er a few days before, I’d been on the move to try and find nice weath­er. The prospects looked kin­da dim for find­ing sun any­where in North Car­oli­na, so I made the best of it and head­ed down to Fort Sumpter, the site of the events that real­ly kicked off the Civ­il War. It may not look like much now, but in its day, Sumpter’s walls were three sto­ries tall, and it boast­ed an officer’s quar­ters that were fit for a gen­tle­man, com­plete with mar­ble fire­places, canopy beds and par­quet floors.. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for the occu­pants, it was designed to with­stand attack from the ocean with 50′ mason­ry walls and posi­tions for some 130 guns most of which weren’t actu­al­ly installed yet. Oh, and the Con­fed­er­ate attack just hap­pened to come from the land-side.  It fell, and the war was on..

Fort Sumpter NC

Fort Sumpter NC

Undaunt­ed, but grow­ing weary of the poor, driz­zly weath­er envelop­ing the east coast, I made the deci­sion to head inland and get away from the rain.  I start­ed the five hour dri­ve in a down­pour and end­ed up in Asheville NC in near freez­ing tem­per­a­tures..  As I dragged my weary and weath­er-numb body into a restau­rant for a cup of cof­fee and a minute to regroup, a local cop men­tioned to me that it was sup­posed to snow that evening.   Crrrap!   I’m down here to avoid the snow, not find it!

Luck­i­ly, that pre­dic­tion turned out to be false, and I’d found one of my favourite hos­tels of all time, Sweet Peas.  If you’ve ever won­dered how to run a hos­tel right, this is the place to see. Upon check-in, you’re pro­vid­ed with a tow­el, face cloth, and a Sweet Peas stick­er.. Noth­ing like a lit­tle free adver­tis­ing!   The build­ing is super-clean, beau­ti­ful­ly designed, and well equipped.  I opt­ed for a pri­vate room because I had a whole pile of gear to sort out, but there are open four bed dorms and semi-pri­vate “pods” avail­able as well.  The beds were rea­son­ably com­fort­able and linens were pro­vid­ed on all beds–Nice!

Asheville itself is an incred­i­ble town (city?) full of ran­dom art at every turn and this alone puts me in a hap­py place.    Top that off with a daz­zling selec­tion of phe­nom­e­nal food, and a laid-back but super­cool nightlife, Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na and a con­cert hall that fea­tures the likes of (Cal­gary native) Leslie Feist  and you’ve got a hel­luf­va hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, and I can imag­ine, a pret­ty great place to go to school!

Chicken Lane artwork, Asheville, SC

Ashville, NC Back Alley

Creative Addressing: Asheville, NC

Piano Garden: Asheville, NC

And even a lit­tle left­over from our afraid-of-the-Rus­sians days..

Cold War Remenants: Asheville, NC

The trip back to Ten­nessee to meet Chris­tianne is next on my update list, and was rel­a­tive­ly unevent­ful except that one time I stood Thirsty­Girl on her back tyre try­ing to merge back onto the inter­state..

Ooops.

Your map for this side-trip:

View Larg­er Map

A friend of mine post­ed on her face­book page yes­ter­day:
Vot­ed, Tax­es in, Mom picked up at air­port … I play ‘Adult’ well.

Upon read­ing that, my first thought was.. “Oh, crap!  I’ve been gal­li­vant­i­ng long enough that I didn’t vote in the elec­tion, the accoun­tant had to remind me that my tax­es were due, and I’ve got a very impor­tant pas­sen­ger to pick up at the air­port today..   I real­ly hope I’m enough of an adult to get one out of three right.”

I’m unbe­liev­ably excit­ed (to say the least) about this trip to the air­port though, so we should be all good! I’ll be pick­ing up one incred­i­bly cool chi­ca who has tak­en a pret­ty big leap of faith and head­ed down here on a whim so we can see the Rolex Ken­tucky togeth­er..  You’ll see more of Chris­tianne over the next week as we explore Ken­tucky and the Smoky Moun­tains!

With that all said, she’ll be here in less than 12 hours and I still have much to do..  More updat­ing lat­er..

:)

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So some­where in the mid­dle of my last post, I actu­al­ly manged to sneak a trip in to see my bud­dy Abi in Lex­ing­ton KY which, as it turns out is only about three hours away from Knoxville..  I hopped on to Thirsty­Girl and head­ed across the state line to catch Abi for sup­per..  As it turns out, there’s a bit of a hilly/mountain range between the two cities and that’s always good for a lit­tle excite­ment when it comes to weath­er.   About half-way through the trip, and with the approach of some real­ly omi­nous look­ing clouds, I fig­ured it’d be time to suit up and get kin­da water­proofed, and it was good that I did..

I also took the lib­er­ty of affix­ing the go-pro to the front of the bike and attempt­ing to film what a ride in the rain looks like from a motorcyclist’s per­spec­tive.. And it’s mis­er­able. Par­tic­u­lar­ly when the four wheel­ers all get scared and decide to pull off the road. Any part of the road, the shoul­der, the ditch, the left lane..  Imag­ine being pelt­ed with rain and hail whilst those same four-wheel­ers tried to decide whether they want­ed to pull over or just dri­ve slow for twen­ty miles.. (The Nerve! Right?) Need­less to say, I had a few choice words for the bulk of those dri­vers ahead of me.. 

With hands black­ened from the dye in my sat­u­rat­ed rid­ing gloves, I arrived in to Lex­ing­ton just in time to get show­ered (warmed up) and head out for a bite to eat.. Abi and I met her bud­dy Chase at one of their local favourite restau­rants where I learned about a Ken­tucky favourite dish: The Hot Brown..   My first thought was that this thing was ‘heart attack on a plate.’  And it is, but I had to try it any­way..  Sev­er­al lay­ers of sliced meat lay atop a cou­ple of pieces of white bread, and are then smoth­ered in cheese, and melt­ed in the oven.  There is a veg­e­tar­i­an option, but real­ly, why would you try that? (Well, Abi did, but she lives there..)

Kentucky Hot Brown

After a good feed, a slice of pie, and a dri­ve out to Ver­sailles (Pro­nounced Ver-Sails by the locals) to see the cas­tle I turned in for the night..  The next day after a quick lunch and vis­it, I head­ed back for Knoxville and a good night’s sleep.  This was just a quick trip, so most­ly inter­state free­ways, but it was incred­i­bly pret­ty ter­ri­to­ry nonethe­less; unfor­tu­nate­ly, I was pret­ty tired from the pre­vi­ous day in the rain and had to pull over to take a quick nap.

Remind me some time to tell you about the fire engine and the ambu­lance show­ing up…

Knoxville to Lex­ing­ton Map:

View Larg­er Map

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So, a lit­tle re-cap-over-lap:   Upon Smoky Joe’s rec­om­men­da­tion, I’d trav­eled down in to the Shawnee Nation­al For­est to head up to High Knob to watch the sun­set.   As I cruised through the wind­ing for­est road, I was struck by the sheer beau­ty of the tree lined tar­mac. After hav­ing trav­eled through thou­sands of Kilo­me­ters of flat and rolling prairie, I’d arrived some­where famil­iar, serene and very at-home.

Pulling in to High Knob, which I’d thought was just a view­point, I real­ized it was actu­al­ly a camp­ground cater­ing to horse­back rid­ers, and sit­u­at­ed with prime access to some of the best horse­back rid­ing trails in all of Shawnee.  As I rolled through the grounds, I was imme­di­ate­ly impressed with the numer­ous themed out­build­ings that dot­ted the prop­er­ty and most­ly with the seren­i­ty of the whole place.  Save the inter­mit­tent whin­ny of the sta­bled hors­es, the camp­ground was silent..

It was an easy deci­sion to camp there for the night (after all, I’d hauled a tent down this far) but as I spoke with JoJo, the own­er of the camp, she offered a cou­ple of even bet­ter options.  At High Knob, in addi­tion to camp­ing, it is pos­si­ble to sleep in a com­mu­nal bunk house or even in a pri­vate cab­in.  I chose the bunk house (as it hap­pened I was the only occupant–it’s usu­al­ly used by hunters, and, well, this isn’t hunt­ing sea­son). The accom­mo­da­tion is rus­tic, but per­fect for my night’s stay and after mov­ing in I head­ed to the top of the hill to catch sun­set.

After a good night of sleep, and a rather late ten o’clock start, I wan­dered in to the gen­er­al store where I found JoJo mind­ing the shop..   Rather than just nip­ping in for a quick cof­fee and hit­ting the road, we end­ed up chat­ting for the bet­ter part of a cou­ple of hours..   After talk­ing busi­ness, mules vs. hors­es, cus­tomer ser­vice, trav­el and cul­ture among oth­er things, JoJo shared a bit more about the area, and the his­to­ry of High Knob camp­ground. I was thor­ough­ly impressed with her gen­uine con­cern for ‘her campers’  their hors­es, and the areas around High Knob.  Were I able to get here more read­i­ly, I’d seri­ous­ly con­sid­er get­ting myself on the wait­ing list for one of the few per­ma­nent camp spots that come avail­able each year.  Well, that and I don’t have hors­es..

Inci­den­tal­ly, accord­ing to JoJo, there are mule peo­ple and there are horse peo­ple (much like dog and cat peo­ple).  And, as it turns out, mules are actu­al­ly incred­i­bly intel­li­gent and have a high self preser­va­tion instinct (which is help­ful if you’re try­ing to ush­er the beast through ter­ri­to­ry that may not be best for the health of either of ya’s)..  The things you learn on the road! :)

Any­way, it’s tak­en ages to get this post up so I’ll fire a few pho­tos up and a quick video for your perusal! :)

High Knob Cemetery

Telegraph Office

High Knob Saloon

Fort Knob

High Knob Gun Shop

Used fairing-saver
Jay, you’re one of the few peo­ple that’ll appre­ci­ate the irony of this..  I man­aged to dump the bike while I was load­ing it..  Soft ground, the fair­ing-saver just dug in.. :)  Rook­ie mis­take.

JoJo sent me on my way with a can of her favourite Soda Pop (Red Fay­go), and a pack­age of mini-dough­nuts, and a direct order to vis­it the Rocks of the Gods a few miles away from the camp­ground. Which I did, and I’m pleased to have done.. It was real­ly spec­tac­u­lar scenery and I felt it fit­ting to drink my Fay­go right there with a toast to JoJo!  Thanks Lady! :)

Red Faygo

The ride to Nashville was pret­ty unevent­ful after all of this, but enjoy­able nonethe­less!

[PostE­d­it] Actu­al­ly one thing about the ride strikes me as note­wor­thy.. Some­how, the south­west­ern cor­ner of Ken­tucky smelled exact­ly like Grape Soda. I don’t know what it was that caused the deli­cious aro­ma, but I shall for­ev­er more asso­ciate Grape pop with Ken­tucky..

Your map Sirs and Madams:

View Larg­er Map

After a few great days with John and Kate, I hopped back on the bike to get mov­ing south again..  The weath­er has been incred­i­bly warm, and this after­noon when I left was no excep­tion. I did bun­dle up in my rid­ing jack­et but jeans would have to suf­fice..  By after­noon, I was down to rid­ing in a long sleeved shirt for com­fort alone.

Most of the day has been spent on the Inter­state, in part to con­serve time, and most­ly because it was head­ing in the direc­tion I want­ed to go. By the time I got past the city of Mt. Ver­non, I was start­ing to get a bit peck­ish, but also kin­da frus­trat­ed that I couldn’t find food oth­er than chain restau­rants and fran­chised rapid-meals..  Yuck.  I’d actu­al­ly resigned myself to skip­ping lunch entire­ly and find­ing a good sup­per once I’d found my way back to in to the small towns again.   Only, this was Sun­day, and East­er was com­ing, so very lit­tle in the way of non-essen­tial ser­vices (oth­er than gaso­line, cheap tobac­co and fire­works again) were even remote­ly close to open..

After stop­ping at an estate sale in hopes of find­ing some good antique books (no luck..), I head­ed down the 45 free­way in the hopes that I’d make it some­where with a bit of food by night­fall.

In a bit of a lull, I found myself fly­ing down a stretch of open high­way, sur­round­ed by trees on both sides when I passed a small BBQ sign on the side of the road.  I didn’t quite clue in to what I’d read until in the cor­ner of my eye I noticed the restau­rant on the side of the road, and across a gul­ley that I was rapid­ly pass­ing.   Once I’d near­ly flat-spot­ted my tires, I hauled Thirsty­Girl around and head­ed back for the dri­ve­way..

Big Daddy's Barbeque

As I pulled up and tried to park my bike on the grav­el road behind the smoke shack, I was imme­di­ate­ly impressed by the smok­ers and the build­ing itself. There isn’t much to it, and to call the place rus­tic would be kind, but it’s an hon­est, no-non­sense kin­da place and the smok­ers were hand built. To me, this is pure heav­en.

Big Daddy's Smokers

Inside the restau­rant was built like a place you’d want to hang out.. Signs and mem­o­ra­bil­ia cov­er the walls, a col­lec­tion of mod­el cars and var­i­ous relics make the whole place awe­some!

Smoky Joe - Big Daddy's Barbeque Depot

Smoky Joe him­self has build most of the build­ing you see behind him, and the lac­quered bar­top tables under his arm. He took the time to sit down and vis­it with me after mak­ing an incred­i­ble plate of ribs up for me.

To be clear, I was so excit­ed about the food that I’d already dug in before real­iz­ing I need­ed to take a pic­ture for you.  I was in such a hur­ry to get back to my meal that the pho­to I did take was kin­da half-heart­ed.. It doesn’t do this phe­nom­e­nal meal any jus­tice, but take my word for it–SO tasty! :)  This was only half of my rack of ribs, the pota­toes are hand cut and the cole slaw made from scratch. Again, good, hon­est, food.  I can­not stress enough, how much I val­ue good, real food.

Make sure if you’re in south­ern Illi­nois, that you make a point of stop­ping in to Big Daddy’s.  It’s just off the high­way so be care­ful not to miss it, but you’ll find Smoky Joe there on the week­ends for sure..

Big Daddy’s Barbeque Depot

One mile north of 141 on 45, Nor­ris City

Open: Wed. & Thur 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Fri. & Sat. 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Closed Sun­day, Mon­day & Tues­day

(but call first: 618÷962−3602 I think he may have changed the hours.  I can’t quite seem to find the card with them list­ed!)

Try the ribs, try the samich­es!

 

Half rack of ribs

Joe was a true char­ac­ter, and we man­aged to talk pol­i­tics, cul­ture and local his­to­ry all in my short time there..  I was look­ing for a good place to camp for the night and he sug­gest­ed head­ing up to High Knob Camp­ground in the Shawnee nation­al for­est to watch sun­set with the eagles.

Which I did..

And in [THIS] spot you may even see a video if you check back..  My lit­tle lap­top had a ter­ri­ble time doing any sort of work with HD video so if it ren­ders before Sun­set tomor­row, I’ll post a video of the sun­set from tonight.. ;)

Turns out, this is a fan­tas­tic lit­tle hide­away, espe­cial­ly for horse and mule rid­ers..  More on that tomor­row..

And your map:

View Larg­er Map

If you’ve already read yesterday’s post, you may want to go back and read it again, I’ve added a few pho­tos from the ride down. 

Today I spent the day in St. Louis with John and Kate to go take a ride up inside the arch.…

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You read that right: INSIDE!!! How cool is that? For all my life I’d thought the arch was made of sol­id con­crete. Turns out it’s made of stain­less steel (at least on the out­side).

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Inside the arch is actu­al­ly quite hol­low. Enough so that a sin­gle (very cramped) tram/elevator trav­els up and down inside each of the north and south legs. 

The four minute ride puts groups of 40 peo­ple (split up into pods of five) at the apex where small rec­tan­gu­lar por­tals pro­vide a view of down­town St. Louis and the Mis­sis­sip­pi riv­er.

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We had talked a about doing sushi for sup­per but end­ed up opt­ing instead to head direct­ly for a hon­est to good­ness fish fry-up being held at the church where John and Kate were mar­ried. Until now, I’d nev­er eat­en cat­fish I’d enjoyed; this stuff though was heav­en­ly!

Tomor­row, John­ny has promised that they’ll take me to Jim­my Johns for a sang­which that’ll change my life. 

So look­ing for­ward to that!

Hey all,
I've only got Internet on my phone tonight so this is just a quick update to let you know I've arrived at my destination in Missouri and will be sticking around here for a few days. Will do some updating and the rest of my emailing when I get the Internet sorted out. :)

Addendum: there was a lot of pretty country up in northern Missouri. Coupled with some of the recurring American roadside oddities that one encounters down here.

The one that gets me most is gas stations. Most of which you can buy beer and hard alcohol at, but some even carry fireworks too. I can't think of a better combination that booze, explosives and gasoline.

Like this one (note also, antiques and the really beautiful countryside)

I liked this ad in the window for Conoco gasoline:

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And I particularly liked the two toilet bathroom setup. Presumably 'his' and 'hers'??

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And your map for the day!


View USA - Day 5 on a larger map