I wish I’d taken some photos along the way, but I’ll just have to go with whatever words I can muster for this tale.
Early 1-JUN-2006, and by early I mean 0400hrs, I woke up to sign out on leave and head to Louisville, KY for the wedding of two of my friends (fellow soldiers I served with in Iraq.) A number of people had cautioned me about a front of nasty weather moving towards both Chattanooga, TN and Louisville, KY – so I set out expecting to get wet at some point.
The first 4 hours of my trip were rather uneventful, I rode up I-185 to La Grange, GA and got on US27 headed north to Chattanooga, TN. About 3/4mi south of Georgia Highlands College, a local police officer passed in the southbound lane. When I checked my mirrors, he was turning around.
I pulled into the college parking lot, fetched my license, registration, and insurance, and waited for the inevitable “Do you know why I pulled you over son?” I knew, I was travelling in excess of the posted speed limit. Sometimes honesty is the best policy (and having an active military ID never seems to hurt). The officer asked where I was headed with luggage strapped onto a sportbike, so I told him I was en route to a wedding in Louisville. His response was to hand me back my DL and papers, and tell me to ride safe and take breaks every hour or so. Never mentioned keeping my speed down though (fwiw, he claimed to have tagged me at 69 in a 55 – my GPS begs to differ, but I shall say no more).
As I rolled by the Chattanooga City Limits sign, I felt the temperature drop a good 10 degrees. Looking up confirmed what I had felt to be true. Big, angry, ready to pop clouds moving my way, and moving fast. Chattanooga was a planned stopping point anyway, so I found a Hardee’s and ate chow. Surprisingly enough, it didn’t rain on me in Chattanooga. However, a quick glance at weather.com told me riding up shoulder free highways might not be the best idea. I altered my route for something less fun and got on I-24 towards Nashville where I’d catch I-65 into Louisville.
Roughly 50 miles south of Nashville, the clouds let loose. Lucky for me I was nearing an exit with a covered gas station. I pulled off, along with a couple on a GL1800 (Florida plates), and waited 10 minutes for the first-rain oil slick to wash off – and of course to put my rain gear on. Most of you know this, but it is ridiculously hot in full rain gear – especially when it’s still 80F outside. For a good 40 minutes, I rode I-24 in the rain. It really wasn’t bad at all, and I was surprised at how well the Pilot Powers handled a loaded down bike in the rain.
Nothing worth talking about happened from then on into Louisville. I found the hotel my friends were staying in and got the “cheapest room you have available” – happened to be the presidential suite, and was large enough for 5 or 6 adults. Too bad I was alone. Having just gone 538mi, according to my GPS, I passed out moments after I got out of the shower. The following day was the wedding, and if you check my Flickr in the next few days, the photos I took will be there.
3-JUN-2006, the bride’s little sister came knockin’ on my door at 0545hrs. Were she not quite attractive, and pretty fun to hang out with, I might have been less than cheerful upon opening the door. I needed to get up anyway, as I had a ride to Pine Bluff, AR ahead of me. She offered a massage, which I gladly accepted, and that was that. Any more, and the bride might well have killed me upon my return to FBGA.
To go on a gear/gadget aside for a bit – I love my GPSmap 60Cx. I plot a rough (and I do mean rough) route with the included Mapsource waypoints manager deal – and tell it to navigate. I automagically calculates something including the roads I wanted, but with a little more sanity to it. If I blow through an exit, and show no signs of slowing down – it recalculates the route again, to get me where I’m going. I’m quite interested in how it’ll do once I get City Navigator or something with more detail in the maps.
Anyway, I headed towards Paducah at around 0845 on the 3rd. It was a bit chilly out, but I made good time. I did run out of road once, and end up nearly riding right into a lake. Some locals pointed me in the right direction, and I made it to West Kentucky Parkway, which I rode for about 120mi before breaking south into Tennesse. Along the way I saw hundreds (literally) of bikers. Many, many hours later, I made it to Union City, TN – and noticed my chain was getting all kinds of dirty. Slack was fine, but man oh man was it covered in gunk. I made a mental note to pick up chain lube at the first cycle store I could find.
Just outside Memphis, TN I rolled past a Suzuki dealer and picked up some chain lube and pressed on towards Pine Bluff. Still nothing spectacularly wonderful or noteworthy happened along this bit. I did ride past some of the worst smelling farm land I’ve ever encountered in Arkansas. I’ve also fairly well convinced myself that the entire eastern half of Arkansas is “the hood.”
My parents made it to Pine Bluff a good hour before I did, so they were there to help me unload the SV and get ready to crash for the night. After a long hot shower, and two big slices of pizza – I called it a night. The morning would see the three of us riding back into Katy, TX. I had planned to include plenty of twisty, but at this point, over 1000 miles into a trip on my 2005 SV650S – I was ready to be home, and not have to ride for a while. I plotted the course for US79 south through Louisiana, down into Texas, and then US59 into Houston, the 610 Loop to I-10 and that on home.
Dad offered to let me ride his Goldwing from Pine Bluff, right off the get go, but I declined. About 150 miles later, I took him up on the offer – after we killed a few hours at Isle of Capri Casino at my Mom’s wishes. From Isle of Capri to Tenaha, TX – I was on the GL1800 with my Mom on the back, and my Dad was on my SV650S. We both needed gas in Tenaha, and I’m pretty sure we were both ready to take our own bikes back. I was burning up in my full leathers on the Goldwing, and my Dad didn’t look too comfortable on the SV. I’ll definitely have to get me one of them there touring bikes one day.
A few hundred miles later, after a total of 473 miles, we pulled into the driveway here in Katy, TX. Dad made another offer – in the form of a cold beer, this time I accepted the first offer.