Day 9
April 8th, 2004
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Don't ask why I have so much trouble with East coast time.  For most of the trip I've been confused, first the time zone change, then daylight savings time.  Between the two I had no real idea what time it was.  My watch is 2 hours fast? Two hours slow?  What time did you say it was?  Be there at 9? Your time or my time?  Now throw in the fact parts of east Tennessee are on central time and you can get real messed up.  My cell phone became my watch, but that joker was changing times so fast it made me clueless.

According to my phone, I was loaded up and pulling out a few minutes after 7, but I didn't know what time zone it was referring to.

An Exxon was right next door so I went over and topped off the tank.  The morning was cloudy, but warm.  Weather radar had rain in the Atlanta area with sprinkles near Chattanooga.

I took 321 back into Gatlinburg to hook up with SR 73, one of my favorite roads.  I needed a early start to jump the RVs and to get through Gatlinburg before traffic builds.  The city is small with not much room, and it doesn't take much for strangling traffic to shut it down.  Don't EVER try to get in here from the Cherokee side during leaf season, a friend last year told me the traffic backed up over the hills for 17 miles, and it took him 3 hours to get across.

No such problem today, I was through the village and on my way home in no time.

I've always loved 73 into and out of Gatlinburg.  The surface is good and the curves spaced just right.  For the first time this tour I picked the pace up and carved the 13 with a purpose.  She handles very well, even loaded, and once you settle in on a line it will stay firm.  There was no traffic to speak off, and the riding was good.  The roadway keeps you guessing, several times the 13 confronted long sweepers, but before we could settle in, we suddenly found ourselves in tight switchbacks.  The 13 makes me a better rider than I really am, something the 1100 couldn't do.  On the ST you HAVE to be a good rider to lean it, the 13 is little more forgiving.
​Run wide here, and you become wallpaper.  SR 73
I was probably riding a little too fast for this deer haven of a road, but the shoulders were good and visibility back into the tree line was deep.

I went past the Foothills Parkway and thought about jumping over to the Gap, but I'll save that for next fall when I'm with the brothers.  

The miles went by too quickly and soon I was out of the hills heading to I-75.  I was sad.  When I came through Townsend a deputy had a guy pulled over, writing a ticket.  

Although not for sure, I think SR 73 and US 321 are one and the same out of Gatlingburg.  My map only shows it as 321 but signs in the city note it as SR 73.  Out of the hills the route becomes US 321, and takes you all the way to I-75.

Approaching the Maryville City Limits I saw a SUV enter a intersection far ahead of me.  The highway was a busy 4 lane filled with commuters, but something told me to keep an eye on the SUV.  It was too far, and I was too slow for it be a threat, but the guys in the cages around me were not as perceptive.  They kept right on booking down the road.  The closer our clump of traffic came to the intersection, the more erratic the SUV became.  I backed off and let the cars around me proceed, I KNEW she was going to pull out, and I could tell the driver was about to totally misjudged the speed of our approach.  
​"Approaching the Maryville City Limits I saw a SUV enter a intersection far ahead of me.'
Sure enough she went, and a pick up truck nailed it, clipping the front end, 2 other cars in the group were caught in it and were banged around also.  It was like bump cars.  I saw the whole thing from a safe distance at 10 mph.  I sifted my way through the wreckage and debris and set the stand in a nearby driveway to see if anybody was hurt.

Everyone was ok.

The driver was a young girl.  In her inexperience she only judged the speed of the nearest car, and failed to notice that the pick up was approaching at a higher rate of speed, even though it was behind the car.

I waited around for the cops and gave a statement as to what I saw. "How'd you stay outta all this?" The officer asked.  " Good motorcyclists have a vision very few car drivers have, I knew it was going to happen before it happened."

The delay cost me about 15 minutes.

The ride into Maryville was trying.  Red lights and direction changes.  I made it through and on to Lenoir City where I sadly picked up I-75.  The fun was over, I was back on the interstate, but at least I was south of Knoxville.  I did a head check to the left and brought the screen up in anticipation of 85 mph.  I settled in quickly and set my sights on Athens and a butt break there.

Traffic moved along at speed limit +10.  Some hardy souls went beyond on that, but I wasn't brave enough.  A trooper was writing a guy up in the northbound lane, and the southbound traffic never tapped a brake.

I noticed with the screen up high, over 85 mph, the 13 has just a little wobble sometimes.  Nothing to be alarmed about, but there.  It never bothered me, and unless it was a headwind, not enough to notice.  Anytime you have a screen up that high it is not going to be very slick in the wind.  Riders have to realize that.  I could trim the screen down a little and it would go away, but I liked the quiet, so left the screen up almost full.  I suspect much of the high speed wobble complained about last year at 120+ mph, came with the screen in the high position.   You can also feel wobble in truck turbulence, with the screen high.  Again, nothing to be concerned about, just know what it is when you feel it.

The Athens exit came up and I peeled off for a break.  Again the same store as last summer.  I bought a Mountain Dew and propped up.  The clouds looked dark to the south and I called Debbie for a weather report.  "Not raining here, warm and sunny."   

I threw my waste in the trash, and got ready for Chattanooga.  

Construction on the north side of Chattanooga is still going on.  What else is new.  I first came through here 3 years ago, and the area is still tore up. 

Downtown came and went, but I failed to get a good view at Lookout Mountain.  Too fast to take my eyes away from the road.  I siphoned off to I-59 and cut across the North Georgia corner.  Rain drops began to hit the 13's screen, first a few, than a few more.  By the time I was in Alabama, I was in a steady rain.  With the screen high, very little water made it to me. 
I took the Fort Payne exit and started looking for a place to eat.  I saw the Waffle House, but wanted something better.  I chose Ryan's, and the buffet.  The buffet was good, but I don't think I got my moneys worth.

It stopped raining while I was eating and the sun broke out.  I left Ryan's and topped off the tank at a Chevron station.  Now I don't have to worry about gas anymore.

Today is a good ride so when I reached Gadsden I left 59 to come home on familiar back roads.  I skipped going to my sisters house, and went to Rainbow City to pick up SR 77.  Before the interstate was completed in the 80s through Birmingham, this was the route to use to see my sister.  Been on it a hundred times, but lately only when I feel nostalgic.

SR 77 takes me across the Coosa River and past the small humped hills that represent the southern most reaches of the Appalachians.   I study the highway and try to picture what the area looked liked 30 years ago, when I came here for the fist time on my Honda 350 Four.  I take a good look at each house, and judge by the architecture what year it was constructed.  "Nope it wasn't here in 1973, that looks like 80s styling.  That wood frame was definitely here back then, built in a 50s ranch style."  And so on it went.
​These humpbacks are the southern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains
SR 77,  near Southside, Alabama.

The Honda car plant was definitely not in Lincoln in the 70s.  It arrived in the 90s and turned the tiny crossroads into a growing town.  New roads, stores, and schools have popped out of nowhere.   

I took a short ride on I-20 to Pell City, bypassing the city on local roads that are not on any map.  Short cuts I learned from 30 years of riding to see my sister.

On the south side of town I picked up US 231.  Over the years this road has grown busier and busier.  Because it transports traffic to various lake areas, I don't even think about coming this way on the weekends.

Years ago, I remember riding by the closed down motel and truck stop called Happy Jacks, about 15 miles south of Pell City on 231.  The Happy Jacks sign stood for the longest, but I guess it finally fell down about 10 years ago. The place was closed in 1973 and still closed today, although a few buildings have been pushed down.  The truck stop is still up, but I don't know for how much longer.  A few units of the motel are still standing, but grass and trees lay claim to most of it.  In the days before interstates, US 231 was a vital connector for South and North Alabama.  I'm sure these truck stop/motel things were common all along the route.  I imagine in the 50s, there was not much between the major cities of Alabama, and it was common even on 231 to have long periods when a car did not go by.
​All that is left of the once proud "Happy Jacks" Truck 
Stop and Motel.

One of my greatest dreams is to somehow be teleported with my 1300 back to 1956 so I can tour the America of that period.  Just give me one month, all I ask.

I resisted the urge to take SR 25 and do some leaning.  I've already done that today, so instead I stopped at Richey's BBQ for a peach turnover.  Here I am 60 miles from home, and taking a break, how many would do that at the end of long tour I ask myself.  Probably not many, because only a special few have such a unique mindset. 

Yes, it has been a long tour, been away 9 days, but I'm not quite ready to give it up.  Instead, I took a table out on the deck, read the paper, and munched on a delicious pie, in the warmth of a glowing southern sun.   I will worry about home when I get there, and not a minute before. 

I spoke to a few friends on the phone and called my son.  I told him not to call his mother, I wanted to surprise her by coming straight to her office when I entered Prattville.

Sixty miles, just 1 hour more and this ride will be in the books.  I spent that time reflecting on the tour just completed.  It was a great ride, and I was glad to see my native south, as it was meant to be seen.  I can cross this tour from my to do list.
Past the towns of Harpersville and Wilsonville I went.  Intimately familiar places.  I shoveled over to SR 145 and took aim on I-65, 30 miles ahead in Clanton.  It is the middle of a work day, not much traffic was about.

One of the straightest sections of road in Alabama was coming up.  A crest to crest run of 3 miles.  Only a few driveways to worry about and no crossing roads.  Good place to top end a bike.  When I reach it, I was slow to get started because of a few cars, but I cleared them and got ready.

I brought the screen full down and tucked behind it.  Quickly I was on 125 and moving up the scale fast, when I met a north bound LEO of some kind.  He was hidden behind a van.  It was some kind of SUV with a light bar.  I shot by him at 130.  I was going too fast to take my eyes off the road, so I slowed to look in the mirrors. 

Nothing.  He knew it was hopeless to get turned around and try for me.  I did what I wanted, so kept cool the rest of the way.  

I also knew he had a radio and there was a good chance he contacted a buddy to head this way.  I kept it at 65, and my hunch proved to be right, when I met another north bound deputy about 10 miles later, to HIS surprise I was only doing 60.

I was still feeling like a fugitive, when the ramps of I-65 came into view and I dropped down to start the last 30 miles home.   I put the screen at chest level and enjoyed the warm air and wind.  The time went by quickly.  I took the 179 exit for US 31 north, and a few miles later peeled off for the short cut to downtown Prattville.

At 3:05 pm I pulled to the windows of my wife's office and she came out to greet me.  It was a good reunion.  She said to go home and she would see me at 5, but don't make a mess. 

Shortly thereafter, I pulled the 1300 in the garage next to the still fuming 1100.  I could sense the 1300 snickering at the trusty but senior stable mate.   I put the stand down after 398 miles for the day, and 2,790 for the trip.

The 1300 was great, a remarkable touring bike that can zip interstates and lean in the mountains at will.  Well thought out (mostly) and very smooth.

I took my bicycle for a 6 mile ride that afternoon.  I missed riding it.

I washed and waxed the 1300 the next day, it did not burn any oil on the trip.

Quite pleased with this tour.  I accomplished everything I wanted.  My goals were to see the south, and prepare myself physically and mentally for the long west coast tour in 7 weeks.  I think I did that.

Let me know what you like or dislike about this tour, and about the site in general and the direction it is going.  Thanks-  firfytr@aol.com