Day 1
August 14th, 2002
Prattville, Alabama

I made last minute checks, then gathered my phone, and camera.  I always pack those items last, to keep them handy.  I kissed my wife good bye, and rolled the garage door up, exposing the ST to a partly cloudy, warm, muggy morning.  A typical August day appears to be in store.

I filled my tank at the Exxon station on Memorial Drive, and then took US 31 North.  I usually take I-65 North, but this time I skipped it, choosing instead to ride over the slab at Pine Level in lieu of taking the ramp.
I rode 31 north through familiar territory.  I meet south bound traffic heading to I-65 to make the 20 mile commute into Montgomery.  US 31 north of Prattville is rural and quiet, extending all the way to Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Ten miles north of Prattville, I passed by my Uncle Harvey's house.  My uncle died 2 weeks ago, and now he is with my aunt.  I don't know who, if any, are currently occupying his residence, as I ride by.

Near Clanton, I spot a old weathered barn with a "See Rock City", logo painted on the top.  Shrubs and trees make it difficult to see, but the white letters are still plainly there.  In the 50s and 60s these signs were everywhere in the south.  On barns, billboards, birdhouses and mailboxes.  A guy was constantly deluged and encouraged to stop by the famous tourist trap atop Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga.  There are very few left now, and seeing the old sign rekindles my inner fires to do just that.

​The barn near Clanton, Ala.  The words "See Rock City"
hidden, but still there.

 merge on to I-65 with intentions of checking out Rock City when I come through Chattanooga.
I get caught in the morning commute in Birmingham, but I avoid most of it by veering to I-459, which connects me to I-59.  

I take a more northeasterly tack now, and begin the trek to my ultimate destination.  Northern Nova Scotia, but lots to see and do before getting there.

The morning ride is pretty uneventful and I take my first break of the day at a gas mart in Rainesville.
I buy Mountain Dew and 3 Moon Pies, securing 2 extra against the time I will want one up north.  A farmer driving a old pick up pulls to the pump, and buys gas, he has on a plaid shirt and overalls, and on the way out asks-

"where ya goin?"

"Nova Scotia"

"where in Alabama is THAT?"

"its in CANADA"


As I was leaving the station parking lot, I noticed an OLD Suzuki something rusting in the front of a faded car repair shop across the street.  It sat among old tractors and Fords.

It was a short ride from there to the city of Chattanooga.  It is always busy here.  Three interstate highways crowd the city, all funneled between the Tennessee River and Lookout Mountain.  Its always a mess here, and today is no different.

I take the Lookout Mountain exit, and work my to the top.  I was last here in 1976.  I was on my honeymoon that day, and en route to Gatlingburg.

I ride the twisty, winding road to the summit.  Traffic is heavy, and serious leaning is out of the question.  I am surprised to see so many houses and communities up here.  I follow the direction to the attraction, and pull to the parking lot.
​On the way to the summit of Lookout Mountain.
The air feels much cooler as I go up.

The morning is hot and hazy, and the visibility is not all that good over the valley.

Soon the tacky tourist trap comes into view. The site contains stories of Mother Goose and affords great views of from Lookout Mountain.  Tourist are walking about, and delivery trucks are busy with their appointed rounds.  The buildings are stone, and a huge parking sits empty but for a few cars.  People don't have time for such out of the way places as this anymore.  The few I see milling about are probably like me, a baby boomer that once visited this spot as a youngster.  They are here to recapture images from long ago.
​The village at Rock City.  Lookout Mountain, Tenn.
Nothing looks very familiar.  It has just been too long.  I called my wife at work, and announce I'm at Rock City, and thinking about that cold December day when we were on our honeymoon. 

I skip going in and take my pics from the parking lot. 

I cautiously negotiate the steep downhills back, and gas up at a Exxon station at the foot of the mountain before returning to the interstates and I-75 North.

The first day of a long trip can be a mixed bag for me.  I'm happy to be out on the road again, but it usually means a 500 mile or better slab ride to get somewhere.  I love the back roads, and I can't wait to get to West Virginia and begin the real trip.

I-75.  Seems like I am always on this road.  I follow it out of the city, and make myself comfortable for the ride to Knoxville.

I'm cruising along at 80 when a Mercedes jets by me at 90 with Ohio plates.  Hooray!! A pigeon!  I give him a safe distance and fall in behind him.  We pass cars and trucks by the handfuls, and quickly put down 25 miles, when the inevitable happens.  A south bound THP cruiser running radar reverses his direction, and nabs the Benz.  My only concern he was going to get mixed up and give ME a ticket, but my ploy of letting someone else run interference worked again.

I wonder what made that joker think he could run through Tennessee at 90+ and NOT get a ticket?
Relieved at escaping a speeding receipt ( I had unbelievable good luck on this trip)  I celebrated by taking the well known Athens exit, and eating a Waffle House lunch of hamburger steak.  Waffle House is a hybrid.  Not fast food, but not home cooked either.  A good compromise if you ask me.

After lunch I ride into Knoxville, and at the bottom of a long hill, I see a LEO with a handheld radar unit shooting the 4 lanes of northbound traffic.  I see him before he sees me ( I was behind a van), and get on the brakes, slowing the ST down from 80 to 60 in the 55mph zone.

For some strange reason, I make a wrong turn and find myself northbound for Lexington, Kentucky.  I have been through here lots of times, so how did I manage to do that?  The construction (lots going in the city) changes something, but I'm not sure what it is.  

It is hot, and my new leather gloves look good and are very protective, but they don't let my hands breathe.  I am going to have to get the textile gloves out next time I stop.

In Knoxville I go to I-40.

I overtook a milk truck with a chrome trailer, and see my reflection as I ride past.  Almost as good as my shadow.

It seems like it takes a long time to get out of Tennessee, but I finally make Bristol, Virginia where I take a butt break with a Coke and chips.  I see a guy wandering the parking lot, and he reminds me of the guy who was down and out in Oregon.

I'm on I-81 now and truck traffic is horrendous.  I'm whipped and blown in all the turbulence.  Just get me to I-77 I think, so I can escape some of this melee.

I'm slowed, but not delayed by a construction zone.

It is late afternoon when I arrive at the I-77 interchange.  I take it, and start the trip into the Appalachians.  For the next few days I will be riding the back roads of this famous mountain range. 

The traffic immediately thins out, and the riding is good.  I-77 is smooth and twisty, reminding me of I-90 between the Montana and Idaho border.

The mountains are alive in lush green.  So green I feel like I could be Ireland.

Suddenly, a yellow GL 1800 and a Yamaha I don't know zips past me.  I fall in behind them.  The Yamaha is sporting a pair of aftermarket hard bags that are the biggest I've ever seen. 

We enter a long tunnel through a mountain and I picture a helicopter overhead watching us, and when we emerge out the other side it would look as if the mountain had  spit us out.

Damn, the new 1800 is a helluva a bike.  We rode briskly for 20 miles, it leaned and had lots of power, even on the long up hills I never noticed the rider dropping a gear.

I waved at them as they exited, and I continued north.

At last I reached SR 20 and exited.  From here to the Canadian border will be all back roads.  The highway is smooth and curvy.  I lean the ST, but keep my speed down. 
The landscape is mountain valleys and streams.  I noticed one thing about West Virginia.  They build house only a few feet off the road.  All a guy has to do for a breeze is open a bedroom window and let the traffic fan him as it goes by.  The state is so hilly, anything flat is a place to put a house.

It was a great, but all too short a ride to Pipestem State Park on SR 20.

I still hadn't bought anything for supper, assuming I could get something in the town of Pipestem.  I couldn't, and when I asked a local outside a gas station where the nearest store was, she sent me to Princeton, about 10 miles east.

It was late afternoon when I arrived in Princeton.  I picked my way through the small but busy city.  I rode past rows of wood frame houses with their windows open, curtains flapping in the mountain breeze.  How nice it must be to live in a place, where air conditioning is not a necessity.

I found a local chain grocery store.  This store is a throw back to the days when there was no mega store with delis, pharmacy, photos, banking, and anything else a guy might want.  Here is a store with just the stuff you need.  Heinz Ketchup, Chef Boy Ardee, Mountain Dews, Cokes, chips, a small meat market,  and canned goods.  I picked out a rib eye, and was checked out by a girl that is a prime example of why its against the law for cousins to marry.
I rode back to the campground, paid my 12 bucks, and went in to to find a nice spot for my tent.  The campground was quite busy, but I found a good spot under some trees.  It should be quiet and dark here I thought, and it was.

I finished the day with 614 miles.

It would have been nice to go for a run about now, but I am nursing tendonitis in my lower left leg. It has been plaguing me for 3 weeks, the result of too much treadmill running.  I finally gave up trying to run, hoping the 2 week rest while on this trip will cure things.

Pipestem is a nice park with good facilities.  I walked back to the office and in exchange for 75 cents picked a bag of ice.

I got out my grill, made a fire pit, and fired up my bag of one use charcoal.  That stuff really works, and soon my steak was sizzling on a nice fire.  This would be my first time to use my grill (Aerostich catalog) and I can report it works great.  With my grill I can cook out no matter where I may find myself. 

With my steak grilling I called home, Rob Hart, and a few others.  The only time I get lonely when riding solo is at night around the campground, so I use that time to chat with my friends and to report my whereabouts.
My rib eye was supported by baked beans with oatmeal cookies for desert.

My clean bed, warm shower, and rib eye came in for under 20 bucks.  A long rider can't beat that.

After supper I walked over and took a shower, charging up my phone while doing so.  A long rider has to be resourceful whenever possible.  My phone is a vital link to the outside world when I am on a trip.

​The essentials for camping.  TV, stereo, phone.
The night was really dark, and the air cool, so I slipped into my tent around 11pm.  I got out my color TV and had a good signal on Charleston station.  I watched the news, weather, and a Married with Children rerun.

I fell asleep about 12am looking forward to a great ride the next day in the West Virginia Mountains.