​​Day 8
​October 17th, 2016
Motel 6
​Poplar Bluff, Missouri

​I used a luggage cart to carry my gear downstairs to load the feejer.  Dawn was breaking when the owners of the 2 Harleys stepped out to pack up their bikes.  They were a married couple from Tennessee.  We chatted a few minutes, but I had to break it off to get on the road.  "Well ride safe, I gotta get going, I'm looking at a 500 mile day and I wouldd like get home by mid afternoon."  I sent Debbie a text-"On the way home."  It feels good on the last day of a long ride to just tab the "Home" icon.  Weather was warm for this time of year.

​Poplar Bluff was semi busy on this morning and it took short while to clear the city.  Injury lawyers seemed to own most of the billboards in Poplar Bluff, "Run over by a semi?  Call 1-800-injured."  I took SR 53 and went South, and left all that behind.  Slow moving cars choked down the lanes but I made short work of them on the lightining quick FJR. 

​SR 53 moved me south in a dusty looking morning sun.  I could tell by the landscape I was getting close to river, but I already knew I was.  Over the years I've become aware of the nuances certain areas of the country have, in this part of the USA it is delta.  Riding backroads tunes one in to such things.   The land is flat here, and open spaces are common.  Much along the banks of the Mississippi are flood plains, so houses and buildings are built with such in mind.

​"Gas still good, I'll stop when I get south of Memphis."  I'd been dreading the Memphis portion of the ride all evening and morning, by now I just wanted to get it over with so I didn't have to think about it anymore.  The Delta towns of Quith and Campbell boasted active football teams and seemed to have alot of support.  My guess the schools were bitter rivals, each are on 53 about 10 miles apart.  Geography always plays a important role in picking out your rival.

​The houses in the small delta towns were in full Halloween mode.  Scarecrows on porches, pumpkins on steps, and ghosts in trees were common.  The Eastern half of the country seems to celebrate Fall differently than the West.

​Near Kennet SR 53 intersects with SR 90.  I took 90 East to I-55 South.  This portion of Missouri touches 3 states; Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.  I flew through the Delta at 85 mph.  Bars were dropping off the gas gauge at a alarming rate and I revisited the notion of gassing south of Memphis.  "It would suck really bad to run out of gas on a Memphis freeway, when it goes to 1 bar I'll stop."  I've closed out several tours using this route. I didn't like coming home this way, but there are only so many ways to get home from this part of the country.  I could take the more southern route across Louisiana but that would mean I-20 or I-10, which is no better.  The only plus I don't have to deal with Memphis.

​The 85 mph cruising rapidly dwindled the FJR down to one 1 bar by the time I hit Marion.  I saw a sign for a Shell Station so took the exit.  Big mistake.  The store was not easy to get to.  I  had to go back under 55, deal with 3 traffic lights and a busy station.  "After I gas, I'll grab a snack."  Never got that far.  Gas pump reader did not like my Shell card.  I swiped but it never acknowledged it.  Frustrated, I left and got back on I-55, and within half mile gauge went from 1 bar, to one bar flashing.  I went to the gas info page and it noted I had 29 miles of gas in the tank.  It is has been my expeience that is way pessimistic.  I was pretty sure I had at least 50 miles to empty, so I decided to go through Memphis on reserve.

​I followed the GPS to 240, the lane assist again was of great help.  I hooked into I-240, and swung down south to Mississippi.  I was crossing the Great River,  when I peered over to the west bound bridge and could see blue lights.  "Uh oh this ain't good."  Sure enough, some kind of wreck and the back up was staggering.  On the East side of the river 240 takes you through the city, where the backup kept going.   It went for miles.  "Man I'm glad I'm not West bound."  On and on it went.  I feared it would cause problems on my side with folks trying to escape it.  It was busy but no backups occurred on the east bound lanes.

Folks, Memphis is just a bad place.  It looks like Mogadishu.  I-240 was littered with trash and abandoned cars as it split across slums and vacant buildings.  The zumo kept me updated on my exit, so I was able to remain in the left lane most of the ride.  My luck ran out one exit away from U,S. 78.  A 2 car wreck on the exit ramp put me in a 10 minute backup.  It was stop and go, stop and go for 2 miles and I was glad to clear it.  I took the U.S. 78 exit and went to surface streets.  By now the 1300 was begging for me to stop.  A Love's truck stop would suit all my needs so  I went there.  I took in 5.5 gallons of gas and parked the bike.  I was going inside for a snack but noted the time, about 10:45.  "Close enough for lunch," and the Chesterfried Chicken fingers looked good, so bought a 3 piece. 

I was siting in the Subway dining area when I noted a big truck driver guy on the phone in the booth next to me.  His bald, slick head glistened in the lights.  He was trying to book a load going north, but the job didn't pay enough, he thanked them for the offer but said he'd lose money on it.  He kept up the search while I ate.

​I called Debbie.  When asked about supper I asked for something home cooked.  While I enjoyed eating out, I wanted none of that tonight.  "OK I'll put beef tips and rice on."  "Sounds wonderful," I said.  I told her I'd be home around 4pm. 

It was time to get back in the mayhem of 78.  A large depot for truck containers can be found in this location, the kind they use to piggy back on ships and trains.  This container farm was huge.  "That's why so many trucks are here."  I don't remember it being here in 2014 when I came through.  Huge trucks bogged down all lanes, coming and going to the contrainer farm.  The roadway was a mess from the sheer number of trucks moving past here.  Potholes, ripples, and torn up curbs were everywhere.  The infrastructure was collasping and Memphis was too broke to fix it.

Eventually I cleared Memphis and was riding south on I-22.   After decades of talk and work, the interstate connector between Memphis and Birmingham was completed.  For years and years 78 was the highway between the cities.  It was a tedious and frustrating ride back then.

I left Memphis with a full gas tank, a full tank on the Honda from here gets me home, but probably not on the FJR, it carries one less gallon.  The RT can make it easily.  I set the cruise on the Feejer and and tried to relax, but my butt was already beginning to burn.

Trees were still full on green in this part of the country.  Fall was many weeks away, and the temp today would climb into  the mid 80s.  It was oven dry.  October is a dry month in Alabama but this is worst than normal.  I wasn't passed by a single car all the way to Tupelo.  I had the Klim riding gear vented out and summer gloves in the hot Alabama sun.

Into Alabama I went, butt burn and all.  "I'm gonna make it to Jasper and take a long break, and give my butt a rest."  This experience, of not being good in the saddle was something new to me.  I use to get a stiff butt now and then but never what I'm feeling now.  The surface of 22 is smooth and quiet and the 1300 gulped down miles at 80 mph.  I didn't go faster because the tolerance for troopers in Alabama is 10+.

A Shell station exit came into view and I took it.  I had half tank but didn't want to stop again.  "If I don't top off here I might have to in Birmingham and that would be a lot more trouble."  Exits in busy cities are not easy, with service lanes and traffic lights, but here in Jasper its off and right back on.  Just a stop sign.  I took in about 2.5 gallons and then went inside for a snack.  The con store had a booth for a long rider to sit and I took advantage of it.  I made a few Facebook posts and sent Debbie a text I was in Jasper and on schedule.  She knows Jasper, she spent a lot of time here as a child, with both sets of grandparents living here.

From Jasper home is 3 hours, maybe a little less, so I got back on the Yamaha to finish what had been a grand tour and ride.  I reflected back on the ride as I rode on to Birmingham.  I've probably made my last 3 week tour.  I was missing home and Debbie.  As we move into our "golden years" we don't like being apart for long stretches anymore.  We have our routine living in Eastwood community, and have a good life.  Two weeks?  Yes I can do that, but 3 would be a strecth, but who knows.  I no longer ride with the notion if I don't do it now I might not get to, because I can say I already have all that; many times over.  My plan now is to go back to places like Monument Valley and spend a little more time there,  No longer ride 6-700 mile days and just go with the flow.  If I don't make my goal today I'll do something different tomorrow.

I promised her I would spend this time taking her to some of the places I've been to.  Like the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, Yellowstone, Niagra Falls, or New England in Fall.  She doesn't care to ride so that will mean trips in our Altima.  We're going to start in December with a drive up to Gatlinburg and North Carolina, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I'll take her to the places in that area that I know well.  Like the Balsam Overlook on the Parkway, and lunch at the Jukebox Junction in Cruso.  I thought about all that as the FJR hummed to me, nothing speaks to me like riding, and I'll continue to ride long and far for the forseeable future.

I know the terrain in Birmingham and switched over to I-65, no need for a GPS, I shot through there at 80+.  No back ups to slow me.  Before I knew it I was in the south suburbs and in the home stretch.  My butt was killing me, but I pressed on.  I spent the last 65 miles at 85.  I was passing territory I was intimately familar with, so I had no need to sight see.  "Just ride Guy."

​A man in a GMC truck was in the left lane doing 65 mph talking on the phone.  He was oblivious to anything else.  He was the only thing that broke my momentum.

From the north I use to take the 186 exit home, but now living on the Eastside, I ride to the 179, avoiding the city altogether.  I left 65 and went up the exit ramp on the Eastside of Prattville, and from here my home is not 2 minutes away.  My butt was numb.  I turned into the entrance of Eastwood and after making one turn I could see the front porch of my house on the next street over.  A welcome sight.  As I turned on my block I could see my wife on the porching waiting for me,  she stood up and waved at me as I turned into my driveway after a 498 mile day.   The Si was in the garage so I left the FJR on driveway and met Debbie for a nice reunion.  Before leaving the saddle I said a prayer for my safe return. 

​Total miles for the tour came in at 3,866.  The FJR spent the night outside the garage for the first time ever.  It was dirty and I didn't feel like shuffling cars around to get inside.

Supper was on the stove and it smelled good.  It was still early afernoon, like I predicted it was 4pm.  I left my gear on the bike, "I'll get that tomorrow."  After relaxing on the porch, Debbie and I took a ride on the golf cart through our neighborhood.  Neighbors saw us and asked how my trip went.  "It was great."  "We saw you when you came in, I told my wife, "Guy's home."  And so I am.

Comments?  Drop me note.  And glad you made the ride with me.