Day 1
October 14th, 2002
Prattville, Alabama

I fired the ST up at 6:40am, and pulled out of my driveway, looking for high adventure in the Mid West.
I used caution, funneling across the dirt and sand that seems to accumulate like lost snow at the intersection of 31N and 6th street.  In 25 years it has never caused me a problem.  I guess familiarity breeds caution.

The sun was yet to clear the horizon, but I could see skies were blue in the pre dawn light.  Temps were seasonable for this time of  year.  I only had a sweatshirt under the Roadcrafter, and my hands were decked out in unlined leather gloves.

I took 31N to I-65 north and took off to Birmingham.  I had really been looking forward to this trip, and was glad to be finally underway.

I breezed through Autauga, Chilton, and Shelby counties.  This highway is like an old friend.  It lets me think about the ride ahead, and what's to come.

I got mired in the morning commute in Birmingham, just north of Alabaster.  It normally takes 20 minutes or so to ride from here to the downtown exits, but today it will take almost an hour.  

I was stuck in a constant stop and go parade.

The sun was bright when I broke free of Birmingham and homed in on my first exit.  

North of Birmingham the temp grew noticeably cooler.  What the hell?  My hands were starting to get cold in the unlined gloves.

I rode a delightfully uneventful 150 miles before deciding to take a butt break at a gas mart in Priceville.  I bought a Moon Pie and Mountain Dew and propped up against the outside wall in the sun.

A Golden Flake delivery truck pulled in making the morning rounds.  As he loaded product on his hand truck, I thought about the millions who will be going about their daily tasks today, this scene is being played out all over the country at this very moment, my encounter with this individual but one of the many cogs in this vast network of everyday toils that make this country work.

I kept riding north to SR 20, where I exited to began the ride into Tennessee.

I passed by the Natchez Trace.  I had forgotten it slices across the northwest corner of Alabama.

I cross into Tennessee by mid morning, and the sky is beginning to grow cloudy.

In Tennessee SR 20 changes to SR 69.  A nice, scenic road through the countryside.  This state has the smoothest roads in the land, and 69 is no exception.  I'm lost in thought as I glide among the rolling hills and pastures.

About 20 miles south of Savannah, I went by a clump of houses at a crossroads.  The home on the north side had recently been "rolled".  Streams of white toilet paper flapped in the wind.  Every pine tree had at least 5-6 tails hanging down.  Whoever pranked this house did a helluva job I thought to myself, as I rode by.

I tried to take a picture, but my Pentax is acting funny.  I will have to stop later to buy a disposable camera.  I don't know what's wrong with it.

Savannah is a busy little town in the foothills.  I prodded among the cages till I found a KFC near the center of town.  I ordered the buffet.  

The weather was still getting cooler, so I swapped to lined gloves after lunch.

I followed US 64 west out of Savannah.  

I stopped for gas at a Exxon station in Adamsville, but passed on the Buford Pusser (from the movie Walking Tall) museum.

I turned north on US 45 and set my sights on Missouri.  The day is progressing well, and I'm enjoying the ride.
On through Jackson I go, seeing several signs for the Casey James Railroad Visitor Center.  I skipped that tour also.

I went under the I-40 overpass and take US 412 north.  I ride through a number of Tennessee towns, all wrapped in their local teams football season.  Schools having a good season proudly pronounce the teams next game on the school's signs, if you see a blank sign, or one espousing a upcoming dance, you can assume things are not so good.

Things change as I ride west out of Dyersburg.  I see less and less homes and businesses.  The rolling hills have given way to the vast flood plains of the great Mississippi.  No need to build homes in this lowland, when the Great River floods (and it will) it takes no prisoners. 

I cross the Mississippi at 2:09pm into Missouri.  The wind begins to toss and turn me. 

In south Missouri cotton is king.  Far more so, then anything I've ever seen in Alabama.  Field after field are latched onto I-155.  The crop here seems to be much better then Alabama's.  The plants are thick with the white stuff.  It is picking season, and cotton gins are busy in the fields, getting the fluffy balls in.

I took a break in Caruthersville, not far from the casino boat.  A few motels stand alone out here in the cotton fields, catering to those who need a gambling fix.

I remember passing through Hayti, a small town isolated among the miles of cotton.  A sad place. The faces of the few people I saw, looked tired and depressed.  How hot this place must be in summer, because there are few trees to shelter the homes and people from a relentless south Missouri sun, that must beat down on them for long hours.

Both road shoulders are littered with cotton balls, they are blown from the many trucks that use this road on the way to the mills.

I found the Wal Mart in Kennet, and ducked in for a throw away camera, red twizzlers, and batteries.  The place was busy, and it took awhile to check out.

At Kennet I turn north on SR 53 and close in on my final destination for the day- Wappapello State Park.
I didn't have to stop for supper, I packed raviolli and Brunswick Stew for supper supplies the next 2 nights.
 The weather is cool and sunny now, and I overtook a pick up truck with a man and boy wrapped in blankets riding in the back.  The boy looked about 4 years old, and reminded me of Howdy Doody.

I ran SR 53 to Poplar Bluff where I went to US 60 west.  The signs were not well placed, and I got balled up, but managed to correct things before I went too far out of the way.

In Poplar Bluff, I spotted a burned out Western Sizzlin Steakhouse building.  It looked to be at least a 2 alarmer.  The sign out front read, "We'll be back".
​The burned out steakhouse
I was at a red light next to a black car in the turn lane, the lady driver was on the phone, and I snickered as she sat through the green turn signal.  Luckily, no one was behind her.

I turned off 60 onto route W.  In Missouri many roads have letters.  Why, I don't know.  I think it means they are county roads.  Anyway, W was a great ride into the park.  I heeled the ST over in the many curves leading to it.  The sun was waning, and the shadows combined with my dark Oakleys, made it hard to see in places.  I was cautious.  A nice ride to end the day.

I'm in the Ozark foothills, and the landscape reminds me very much of Arkansas.

I was quite impressed when I entered the park.  It was clean, well kept and secure.  A sign reads to pick a spot out, and someone would come for my 8 bucks.

I picked a site on a rise overlooking the lake.  It will be quiet and dark here.  There are only a few RVs, and one other tent in the big park, just like I like it.

About the time I finished pitching my tent, the host rode over in a golf cart and gathered my 8 bucks.

"gonna be cool tonight"

"oh yeah, how cool?"

"low 30s"

"Damn that ain't cool, THATS cold"

With the sun going down behind the lake, I heated up my can of Chef Boyardee.  It was starting to get cold, so I put on my sweat clothes.

I watched the sun slip down behind the trees as I ate supper.  Just goes to show the best things in life are the simple things, and the best part?  It doesn't cost a lot of money.  You just have to know where to look.
​I enjoyed this view while I ate supper.  Wappapello State Park.
I rode 549 miles today.

When I finished eating, I strolled over to the bath house for a shower.  Plenty of hot water, but the building was a little chilly.  Oh well, it only cost 8 bucks, what can a long rider expect?

It was after 9pm (free minutes) so I called home, and then my son.

I was cold, so gathered my stuff and got in my tent.  I zipped up in my bag, and tried to watch tv but failed to get a signal.  Damn, this ain't Uganda, where's a signal? I can see right now, the next thing on my list is a portable DVD player.  Write this down, by my next tour, I WILL have something to watch no matter where I am.

My sleeping bag is rated to 30, and a few minutes after zipping in I was warm as toast.

I could feel the temp steadily dropping by the time I drifted off to sleep about 11pm.  It was a good first day.  Tomorrow, I head for the cornfields and solitude of Iowa.  I have a lot on my mind, and I'm looking forward to the time alone.