Day 1
June 11th, 2002
Prattville, Alabama

Sleep was hard to come by as I tossed and turned the night away.  I was giddy with excitement, and was up at 5 am making last minute checks.

I kissed my wife good bye, and said I would see her in San Francisco.  As is the custom, the good bye was short.  I hate long good byes.

I eased out of my still sleeping neighborhood at 6am, and rode to the Exxon station on Memorial Drive and topped off the tank.

It was warm and humid, a typical June morning in Alabama.

I went to I-65 north to begin this 8,000 mile trek.  The first few miles of a long tour can be overwhelming.  I think about the places I will see, people I will meet, and the miles ahead.  How will this trip change me?  What lessons will I bring home with me?  I thought all about those thing as I rode along this familiar highway.
Traffic is light.  What few cars I see, are south bound.

I put the ST on 85 and take off to Birmingham.

My goal for the day is a motorcycle only campground called "The Ironhorse Stable."  It is located in the Ozark Mountains, near a town called Eureka Springs.

I did a poor job loading my bike today, my left mirror is partially obscured.  I will just have to deal with it, noway am I unloading the bike to fix it.

Before I know it, I am in the South Birmingham suburbs.  The morning commute is building, and I see a guy in a Volvo shaving.  And they want to out law cell phones? 

A squid with a backpack jets by me at 100+.  He is wearing shorts and a t shirt, and darts in and out of lanes with total disregard for his safety.

Out of Birmingham I take US 78 to Memphis.  I am at 100 miles, the time I usually break, but I skip it and keep riding.  One of the advantages of riding solo, you set the schedule.

The towns along 78 take speed limits seriously, as evidenced by the cruiser in Carbon Hill, hiding behind a hedge.  I wave at him as I ride by.

The weather grows hotter, and I have the Roadcrafter vented out to the max.

After 130 miles my butt is stiff and I take a break near Winfield.  I go in the store and buy a Moon Pie and Coke.  Moon Pies will be a rare commodity where I am going, so I take advantage of the situation.

I don't plan on stopping again till I am west of Memphis.

In Mississippi, 78 turns into a 4 lane interstate like highway.  Traffic is moving along at 85, and I join in.
My fuel light comes on just east of the city but I ignore it and push on.

I cross the Mississippi River, but don't feel like I am in the West.  The river is wide and busy in Memphis.
I begin looking for a exit with gas and food, so I can combine the 2, for a efficient use of time.

I get lucky and find a Exxon station with a cafe across the street.  I filled the ST, then coasted across the street for a burger.  I don't remember the name of the place but the food was good.  A nearby trucker asks, "Going west?"  "Yes I am."  Well good luck, lots of construction."

It is getting hotter and more muggy by the hour.  I guess the temp to be 93 with like humidity.  I can't wait to get in the mountains out west, and cool off.

Back on the road I encounter the first construction zone.  I creep along at the posted 45.  Traffic is down to 1 lane, and no one dares go any faster.  Speeding tickets are double in such zones.  I know I ain't brave enough to test it.

A car 5 spaces ahead of me starts to overheat.  Hey! don't die now and block the ONLY lane!  The driver manages to get around the cones and to the side, sparing us that misfortune.

It was a long, hot ride into Little Rock.  I thought I would NEVER get there.  I battled 2 more long construction zones.  Both were hot and tedious.

I pulled off at the Conway exit for Mountain Dew.  I was hot and thirsty, and it felt good going down.  I sat in the AC store and people watched.  The store had a annoying bell thing that went off EVERYTIME someone came in or out.  I wondered how the clerks kept their sanity, after listening to that noise all day.

Finally, I reached SR 7 North, and exited.  I was glad to be off I-40.

The route soon takes me to the hills and I begin to carve the ST around the twisties.  The ride reminds me very much of the East Tennessee rides I have been on.  The road is smooth and the scenery is good.  The Ozarks don't have the elevation of the Smokies, but good riding none the less.
​..And they weren't fibbing.  SR 7
I follow SR 7 to the second Jasper of the day, where I turn west onto SR 74.  It is late afternoon now, and I am meeting a lot of coming home from work traffic.

The Ozarks are green and lush, been getting lots of rain here I see.  The road keeps me on my toes, as I go up and down the mountains.  My loaded ST feels awkward, but I am making the best of it. 

Rounding a long left hander, I meet a south bound Harley rider leaning to his right.  I can tell he is busy and can't wave, when all of a sudden I see him lift his left foot to acknowledge me.  A great gesture, and I wave back.
The hills and curves begin to tire me, so I take another break in Boxley.  I bought fancy water and take it outside to sit under a tree.

I am surprised the hills are so steep.  I come into a hard right hander at the bottom of a hill and have to jam the breaks.

​The rolling hills of the Ozarks
SR 21 takes me to my goal, and I soon find myself arriving at the Iron Horse.  The place looks rustic, and is also home to a campground.  Gold Wings and Harleys are scattered around the parking lot.  The motel carries a Western theme.  The Iron Horse also sports a nice cafe and deck.  If you are ever in the area, check it out.

My ST causes a stir when I pull in, and when I come out of the office several brothers are quizzing me.  "Where ya from? Where ya goin?" 

The campground is behind the motel and I ride to the rear to find a spot.  I would be the only camper on this night.  Cost me 9 bucks.

As I am unloading my bike, Mike Boston finds me, a Pacific Coast rider from KC.  After I set up camp, Mike and I went to the deck to hang out with the other riders.  Mike tells me he use to ride a ST, but sold it for what he thought he wanted-a cruiser kind of bike.  He said cruising only lasted a few months, and he wanted his ST back.  He was unable to find one, but did locate a great deal on his PC.

​Mike Boston of Kansas City with his Pacific Coast
Mike said he was just going to cruise the Ozarks for a day or 2 then head back to KC.

I usually cook when I camp out, but today I did not feel like shopping for food, so will eat out.  I invite Mike to ride into town with me for supper, but he declines.

I am in the mood for pizza and ride back into town to find the Pizza Hut I saw on the way in.

Night was coming on as I rode into town.  Finding the Pizza Hut, I have a personal pan Pepperoni.

After supper, I rode back to the Iron Horse and spend more time on the deck kicking tires with the other riders.
I rode 676 miles today.  It was a tough ride till I got to the Ozarks. 

I sat at my table and made a few journal notes.  Tomorrow, I leave the green rolling hills of the Southeast, to begin a 3 day ride across the Great Plains

The first day is in the book, and I went to bed looking forward to day 2.