Cruising in the Southeast for a week (or so)

2018 has been a crazy year for me and I did not get out on the road as much as I would have liked. I kept my plans loose for the summer as I did not know what curveballs would come my way and had no idea if I would need the time for something else. I had hoped to take a week and visit family in Oklahoma but as the summer went by I realized that was simply not going to be possible. Then September came and it was time to register for the Void Rally. I have started a few in Tennessee rather than PA and found getting away from I-95 and I-81 lead to a much more enjoyable rally. The problem is the Tennessee start is in the Nashville area which is 1,000 miles from home. While that is certainly a doable ride I only had 6 available vacation days left which meant I’d use 2 for the Void as it starts on a Friday and I would be unable to take a week long riding trip this year, something I certainly would miss.

So the solution was simple, take the week before the Void off and start my riding trip on Saturday Sept 29 and end it in the Nashville area on Thursday October 4th so I could start the rally on Friday October 5th. This was similar to what I did in 2017 except I was traveling for work rather than pleasure. There were some complications, namely I had to be sure I got my rally flag and other materials that came in the mail plus I would need to take time in the evenings to plan my route for the rally. So I registered for the Void with a TN start and booked the time off. Simple enough!

I started planning my trip and had a few ideas of where I wanted to go but nothing solid. I had resigned myself to simply getting some easy Tour of Honor sites this year and not making a push for a top ten spot due to my busy schedule. I took a trip up into New England over the Labor Day weekend and picked up 80% of the memorials in that region and several people commented that they were not used to seeing me with a number that was greater than ten. For Tour of Honor, the top ten finishers each year get the first ten numbers for the following year. Since I did not have time to ride much in 2017 other than the Iron Butt Rally I asked for my original number, 227. Well, that worm started growing in my head and I looked at the standings and realized I was not really that far out of the top ten, and that a good 5-6 day long push could put me there, provided that the other riders did not make a big push. That is a big “if” and one that I should know better than to assume, however nothing ventured nothing gained, so I planned out my riding trip to include as many Tour of Honor stops as possible which turned out to be in the area of 50 or so. Knowing that I’d have to plan for my rally I made sure that I had time for my planning in the evenings.

As the date approached I saw on Facebook that the BMW dealership where a friend of mine works and many of my long distance riding friends and acquaintances frequent was having an event on Friday and Saturday September 28-29. I really wanted to swing by but simply did not have the time as I would be going Northwest rather than south. I did a recount of my vacation time and realized I had one more day available, so I chose to leave a day earlier and head up to Port Clinton. This also allowed me to build more down time into my route and I actually was scheduled to finish the first part of the trip on Wednesday evening to be sure I was fully rested for the start of the Void on Friday. As the date got closer I decided that I’d meet a friend of mine for breakfast in the Reading PA area on the way up to the BMW dealer in Port Clinton. Why not, I was on vacation!

And it begins
The weather forecast was for some light rain in the morning and it did not disappoint. No matter, I was on vacation. It turned out to be a little lighter than forecast and I was able to ride out of it before I got to Reading. I was relatively on time which was a surprise to both of us and I had a great breakfast. From there I headed north towards Port Clinton and swung by the Harley Dealer in the area for an extra quart of oil since I forgot to bring any with me. I got to the BMW dealer and noticed there was no crowd. Odd I thought for an anniversary party, so I took a look at the event on Facebook and realized that it did not start until 3pm. OOPS! I went inside and said hello to my friend Bon who works there and we had a good laugh. He had a few customers to take care of so I walked around checking out the bikes and while I have interest in some there are none that really scream “buy me” The ones that whisper it are actually Triumphs, specifically the Bonneville and the Explorer. I told Bob I’d let him get back to work and he told me to hold on as he wanted to get a photo of me and my bike. With the aid of one of the other workers we took the photo and said our good byes. I noticed later that it was posted on Facebook so I made sure I was tagged in it and shared it. As expected it raised a few eyebrows from my Harley riding friends as well as some in the Long Distance riding community as they know I am a “Harley Guy”. That alone made the trip in the wrong direction worth it

From there I was headed south into Delaware and made my first stop in Lewes which was a Tour of Honor stop. There was also a historical marker there for a blizzard in 1888 as well as a small museum and lightship. I spent some time walking around and checking everything out before hopping on the bike and heading to the next stop in Ocean City MD

I’ve done the ride down to Ocean City many times as we vacation there almost every year. It’s an easy ride and once you cross into town you do need to watch your speed. Of course the Tour of Honor site was at the south end of town and I had to ride all the way through town but it normally goes fast. However, there was some event that brought out all these cars that are lowered to the point that if they run over an ant the bottom out and to welcome this group they had lowered the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 and brought in many more police. Had I known this I would have bypassed the town on US-113 as it would have been quicker, but instead I ended up in stop and go traffic for the last 20-30 blocks. I finally got to where the ToH memorial was and it was on the boardwalk. Fortunately there was parking nearby so I parked the bike and scurried up onto the boardwalk for my photo.

From there I simply continued down into Delmarva, stopping to check and see if the A-4 at the Accomack County airport had been painted yet (it hasn’t) and for a photo of my bike just before the Bridge Tunnel at the Chesapeake

I continued south to the ToH stop in Chesapeake VA which I got just before sunset and then traveled east for the memorial in Conway NC.

I stopped for the night in South Hill VA around 10:30 pm significantly behind schedule and went to bed. Miles for the day were about 570.

Saturday Sept 29

Saturday started off with snooze, snooze, snooze … until I was getting out of bed around 6 am when I had planned to get up at 5. Of course since breakfast was now open I had to get food so there was another 30 minutes gone. Finally got on road at 6:30 or so. Not bad considering I planned my days for 7am to 7 pm, but the problem is I was 1 1/2 hours behind from the prior day and had hoped to catch up. Good thing I have an extra day cushion in my plan.

From my hotel I went west along the VA NC border through Danville VA and Eden NC. Saw a few potential memorials for future Tour of Honor stops but one required driving up a steep driveway to be greeted by a parking area comprised of railroad ballast from the tracks right next to it. And it was loose. That’s a no go for me so it’s off the list before it was even on it. It’s a shame because it was a cool memorial.

However one did make the cut and it was added to the list for future consideration. Along the way I stopped at the Wilkes County Rest area for a break and noted that all the vending machines were behind gates, I guess they have a problem with them wandering off …

From there I went west on a mix of highways and smaller roads. Some great riding but had a fair amount of traffic. The worst was in Boone NC where I almost shut the bike off and coasted down a hill. Could not figure out the delay until I noticed it was noon and recalled there was a college in town. The sight of people cooking on grills in parking lots and smell of hotdogs confirmed it, football game! Actually I found out when I got home it was worse than a regular football game, it was the Homecoming Game. Got through that and made my way north into Kentucky and went through Pikeville and Paintsville before turning south. In Paintsville I stopped for the Tour of Honor memorial and also saw a WWI memorial that I thought was pretty cool

Next was the Tour of Honor memorial in Manchester KY which was in a small park. I took a few minutes there to check out the memorials

Since I am riding in the Void rally starting Friday I had decided I was stopping at 7pm to download files and plan a route. Sure enough, 7 pm came and there were no hotels close to where I was in Manchester KY and none close by on my route so I detoured 20 miles west to London KY. Checked in at 7:45, showered, ordered a pizza, and started planning my route. Said some choice words about our Rally Masters but have something workable that I can refine over the next few days.

However, the real kicker is I am now 7 hours behind where I wanted to be! Good thing I have that extra day!

Total miles ridden were about 580 bringing the trip total go 1150 or so.

Sunday Sept 30

Sunday my plan was to head generally southeast into South Carolina, turn west through Georgia and just into Alabama before stopping in western Georgia. The morning started off great with clear sunny weather. Saw signs for the Original KFC and Colonel Sanders Museum and just had to stop. Unfortunately at that hour it was closed however it was cool to look around. It is interesting to note that Colonel Sanders got his start with his own restaurant and spent several years perfecting his blend of spices. When plans were announced for a new Interstate that would bypass Corbin KY where his restaurant was he sold it and went on the road selling the spices

After 20 minutes or so I got back on the highway and a few miles down the road I hit heavy fog. After 20 minutes or so I had to pull over and put on my heated jacket liner. It was nice to find it still worked as I hadn’t used it in 6 or so months.

Passed thru the tunnel at Cumberland Gap and poof, sunshine! Had some great riding for a while but ran into rain around Asheville NC. Traffic on I-24 and I-26 was stop and go which was frustrating. Stopped at the Tour of Honor memorial in Tazewell TN for a quick stop. There were a few memorials there so I spent several minutes there and was back on my way in a few minutes

I continued on through Sevierville TN for the Tour of Honor memorial there and got a photo of Dolly

My route next took me to Newberry SC for another Tour of Honor stop. This one was also in a park and right next to it was the old Newberry Opera House

My next stop was in Elbert GA for, you guessed it, another Tour of Honor stop. This one was in a huge Veteran’s park which was dedicated in 1923 and there were some really cool memorials. And for my Seabee friends they also had a Seabee memorial

On the way out of town I passed an old Railroad Depot built in 1910

As I was headed towards my next stop I was headed down a back country road and passed a detour sign. I turned around and followed the detour the road deteriorated to a mixture of dirt, gravel, and the remains of asphalt, at 11pm which was fun, not!!

Made some descent time overall but decided to make it a long day to catch up from time lost in the previous days. My last stop for the night was a Tour of Honor stop in Tallapoosa GA. This looked like a cool park with a lot of memorials in it, however it was almost midnight and pitch black. I had to ride on a gravel road down a fairly steep hill and find the memorial which was an F-105 aircraft, you would think it easy to find as it is a fairly big plane for a fighter. However there were two of them, and neither looked like the sample photo I had. After doing some comparing I narrowed it down to one of the aircraft and then tried to figure out how to take the photo since it was so dark. I managed to get my bikes lights in just the correct spot to get the photo, and then took a photo of the other aircraft just in case I got the wrong one.

I decided to stop 10 miles down the road around midnight in Bremen GA and planned to grab something to eat from a gas station. Pulled in to the only one open and started filling up first. Midway through they turned out the lights so I had to use my flashlight to make sure I didn’t overflow the tanks. Found some pasta stuff in the hotel snacks to eat and went to sleep.

Total miles for the day were 690 and total for the trip were 1840

Monday, Oct 1

Monday, or I think it was Monday, started off fine. The plan for the day was to head southeast until I hit Florida and then turn west into Alabama, then turn north to Montgomery where I would spend the night. Slept in a bit since I got in late and had a 3 hour grind south and then east to Jasper FL. I had a Good mix of US routes and I-75 which has been the norm so far. One of my Tour of Honor stops was in Andersonville GA. For those that are not familiar with the importance of this location, Andersonville was the site of a Confederate Prisoner of War camp. Being a history buff this had been on my list of places to visit for years but on prior visits the national park had been closed. I rode into the park and found the memorial I was looking for and took my required photo, and then toured the site. The National Cemetery was full of memorials, some from the Civil War and some from other periods. I spent a good hour or so there and at the site of the actual POW camp. It’s hard to comprehend so much suffering occurred in that one location that is so peaceful now

This peaceful field was once part of the Andersonville prison yard, Not the portion of the stockade fence in the background

After an hour or so it was time for me to be on my way so I headed south to Jasper FL. Of course I missed my exit so I had to go 10 miles further south which would not be a problem except for the storm that was 8 miles south of me. I hit rain 2 miles before my exit, but once I got off and got a few miles north it was clear. I got into town and found the memorial I needed, however they wind was blowing fairly strong which made taking my photo difficult as my flag was blowing all over. And then as I was sending and posting it started raining.

It was the kind or rain with large drops. I got on my way and a few minutes later is was sunny again. The rest of the day went smoothly as I headed west and then turned north into Alabama making a few other Tour of Honor stops, with the last few being at night. As I approached Elba Alabama around 9pm I noticed a new section of road that swept to the right. At first I didn’t think much of it until I noticed I was close to my stop and my GPS showed I was off road and the memorial I was supposed to visit was to my left about a mile. I realized they must have built a bypass around town so I found a place to turn around and figured I’d look for the old road. Sure enough, I found the spot where they redirected the road and my GPS was happy again. I found the memorial and took my required photo and continued on

One more stop in Evergreen and I turned north to Montgomery. I had one memorial in the center of town which I decided to get before I stopped figuring traffic would be heavier in the morning. I stopped for the night at the downtown Hampton Inn which was great except there was no place to get food near the hotel after 10pm. I also didn’t think about the difficulties in staying at downtown hotels. They had a valet parking lot or you could park on the street. Unfortunately there was no parking anywhere near the hotel so I asked if I could park my bike in the valet area. They agreed and I found a corner that could not be used for a car so we were all happy. I’ve found that most hotel staff are very accommodating to riders. There was no food to be found in the area so I opted for something I could microwave. It was a cool old hotel.

Total miles for the day were 650 and total for the trip were about 2500

Tuesday, Oct 2

Tuesday’s leg started off great. Weather was nice and I slept in a little. Breakfast was mobbed with young girls from some type of meet, never heard what it was. Made it hard to get to the bacon but I shoved them aside knocking a few of the little ones down and got my portions. I had some yogurt too according to my notes

My route took me west through Alabama Mississippi, Louisiana, and up into Arkansas. I got to ride part of the Natchez Trace Parkway but it was short.

My first stop was at the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa AL and I spent a few minutes there checking the memorials out

After the fire college my next stop was in the very small town of Carbon Hill AL. I’ve always enjoyed small town America and how friendly everyone is. As I was getting ready to head out someone pulled up to chat and asked why I was there as she was part of the American Legion Post where the memorial was located. I explained why I was there and what Tour of Honor was about and she was excited to hear about it. She took my picture and promised to include my photo and a description of Tour of Honor in their next newsletter.

From there I headed west and stopped in Armory, Houston, and Carrolton MS for a few more memorials which were interesting before turning southwest for Bastrop Louisiana. I made a stop for something, not sure what it was and saw a post from my friend Ken “Rainman” Andrews that he was now headed south wherever he was. Within 5 minutes the sky went from clear blue to dark and I had rain. It seems he has the ability to affect weather in other places as well now! (Sorry Ken)

I had been passing cotton fields all day and wanted to get a photo of one with my bike however each time there was either someone behind me or there was no place to stop. I finally found a place in Jones LA so I made a quick stop.

It was getting late and starting to get dark so I made it a quick one and pushed on to my next stop in Bastrop LA. I got there just after it got dark and took my photo using the lights on my bike to light the memorial.

I was now headed north in the dark (remember how I said I was trying to have shorter days and a relaxed pace? Not this trip) to my last stop for the night in Rison AR. I’m not sure if I was a victim of Garmin being funny or if I missed a turn, however my GPS had me making a turn from US 63 onto what looked like a residential street. I shrugged it off and continued on, however I started getting that funny feeling when I sense the road will change. The houses started getting sparser and then I noticed something laying in the road with a dog walking around it sniffing. I thought that was odd and figured it was road kill and then hoped it was a dog! As I closed I realized the animal in the road was obviously a dog and when I got within 10 feet it lifted its head and twisted to stare at me as if it was asking why I woke it up. I could tell it was not in any distress but then thought if a dog would lay in the middle of the road then not much traffic must come this way. Sure enough, shortly thereafter the road turned to gravel and I had about 8 miles to go. At my reduced speed and increased concentration time seemed to pass more slowly. At one point I saw something scurry across the road and it stopped to look at me, it was an armadillo. Further down the road I saw a frog that was jumping along side of me, and it was jumping 4-5 feet in the air and travelling a good distance. I was an Arkansas Safari! At one point I decided to stop and stretch my legs because the gravel was loose and I was fighting the bike. When I stopped and walked away from my bike I saw nothing, it was pitch black. So black in fact that if I had turned my bike and GPS off I would have trouble finding it. I got back on the bike and took a quick picture of the road in front of me

After what seemed like forever I came to my turn and it was paved. A few miles away was the town of Rison and I got my picture and headed north to my final stop an hour later in
Conway AR at 11pm, just north of Little Rock. Total miles for the day were about 600 and for the trip to date were 3100.

Wednesday, Oct 3

Wednesday I started out later than planned as I was getting tired. That’s getting to be a recurring theme for this trip. As I was packing up the latch on my tourpak broke so I had to stop at an auto supply store in town and buy a ratchet strap to hold the lid down.

I rode north almost to the Missouri border stopping in Salem and then Greenbrier Arkansas. In Salem I sat on a bench relaxing for a few minutes and saw what looked like a tombstone on the roof of the building across the street from the courthouse.

Leaving Salem I saw a memorial so I stopped tio check it out and it was a linesman monument

I continued east to Corning AR and crossed into the southeastern corner of Missouri. I was in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere and stopped for a quick photo. My GPS said I was in Hornerville MO but I never saw more than a farm or two for a while

I passed back into Arkansas and made a stop in Blytheville and then continued to Paris and Dover Tennessee. As I took my photo in Dover a police car pulled up so I took off my helmet and the officer said he was looking for someone and I wasn’t who he was looking for so I wished him well and continued on my way. I Got into Nashville around 8:30, took a shower, printed my rallybook for the rally, and went to the bar for dinner and to finish my route and load my GPS’s. Total miles for the day were 670 and for the trip to date were 3770.

Thursday, Oct 4

Thursday was a down day. I went into my company’s office in Nashville to have breakfast with a coworker. I went back to my hotel for a quick nap and then went for lunch and to hang out with friends from home who happened to be staying in Nashville for a few days. At 5pm I headed to Columbia TN which was an hour away for a pre rally dinner with the other riders. When I parked I saw a building with a lot of old advertising “ghosts” and took a photo for my friend Rachael who is also into old advertising.

We had a great dinner and then it was back to the hotel to do some rally business and go over my route one more time. On my way back to the hotel I stopped for gas to check the receipt as I would need it in the morning for the start of the rally and found it was off an hour so I had to go to the next gas station. The time was correct and the town showed Columbia so all was good. Total miles for the day were about 50 bringing my total to 3820.

Friday & Saturday, Oct 5 & 6

Friday and Saturday, Oct 5 & 6, I was riding in the Void Rally which ends in Fredericksburg VA. Check my Void Rally report for how I did in the rally