Day 1
June 6th, 2006
Prattville, Ala                                                            

Where does the time go?  I kept asking myself that as I made last minute checks of equipment.  It does not feel like a year has passed from my last west coast ride, but the calendar says otherwise.

By 6:30am the Honda ST 1300 was idling up and I pulled the garage door.  I told my wife good bye, and reminded her of a few things.  "Look I'll call ya in a couple of hours, if I forgot anything."  When I'm on the road I call her at almost every break.  I think we talk more when I'm on tour then at home.  Modern technology is wonderful.  

The RT would be sitting this one out.  The last 3 long rides I choose the BMW, but for this ride I wanted the Honda.  I could feel the ST popping at the RT, "nah nah nah na, I'm taking him to the Hotel California, while YOU sit in this garage for 3 weeks."

I dropped into gear, went up the driveway, and out to the street, to begin this long cross country ride.  I'm going to California the long way- by way of Montana and Washington.

The morning was typical Alabama for this time of year.  Warm, muggy, and partly cloudy.

Leaving my neighborhood, I went  to U.S. 31 for the short ride to I-65.  Today's ride is a repeat of 2002 and 2005's first day-a long slab ride to the Ozarks.  I really didn't want to do it this way, but there is  no other method to accomplish what I needed-a good start off point for the trip west.

I took a side track to ride by Mr. Powell's farm.  I like to check things before leaving out on a long tour.  The corn was planted, and the hay fields looked green.

I-65 was quiet when I came down the ramp, and both northbound lanes were empty, when I merged in.  The 1300 easily settled in on 85 mph and I was on the way north.  I'd really been looking forward to this tour and was happy to finally be on the road.  I was just back from West Virginia, but nothing feels like a cross country ride.

The 1300 hummed along, passing the occasional RV and 18 wheeler.  I had the screen in the medium position.  I like to feel the wind around me so I can experience moving through the environment, about the only time I cover myself with the screen is on a cold day, or the end of long 700+ mile ride.

I saw Pete Neal's (from the fire dept days) home on the banks of the Verbena exit.  His truck was still in the driveway, but if he's working today, it still isn't time for him to leave.   I had no idea which shift was on duty anyway.  I'd have to get out my PDA to find out.  I thought about my fire department days when I came by.  I was on shift with Pete at station 2 for 3 years.

Today would be a long ride, and I wasn't looking forward to it.  I'll be on the slab the first 500 miles, before leaving it for the last 100 or so to Eureka Springs.

The fruit stands were in full bloom when I came through Chilton County, the peach crop this year was a good one, and the vendors were just beginning to open up.

I flicked the PIAAs off on the interstate to conserve them.  I replaced the right just prior to leaving, the left was still going, but it was surely going to die somewhere between here and California.  I plan to order a new unit and have it shipped to Don's house to meet me on my arrival.  

Near Jemison I pulled abreast of a 18 wheeler and pointed down the road, then made a thumbs up gesture, asking if the roadway was clear up ahead.  The driver looked down at me and nodded.  I twisted the grip of the 1300 and went to 90 mph.

The 1300 made quick work of the ride to Birmingham and I rolled in about 30 minutes ahead of the morning commute.  I worked my way around the high strung commuters, almost half talking on the phone.  "Y'all get out of the way, you're goin to work and I'm on the road to high adventure, so I get priority," but no one was listening to my pleas.

This year I trimmed my load down even further, and the ST felt much better.  I left my heated gear at home, but did bring the insulated vest.  In June, there is no way I'm going to be riding all day in the cold.  Not even in the Rockies.  I've been over and back over them 6 times, and never needed heated gear.  Yes, it can be cool for a few miles early in the morning, but it's NOT going to be anything my insulated vest can't handle.  I am not going to lug heated vest and pants 8,000 miles on the outside chance I'm going to need it for 30 minutes of riding.
I also left behind the extra sweatshirt, one is enough.  I removed my Nikes, I'll let my running shoes pull double duty for casual wear.  I figured I cut down another 10 lbs this tour.  I'm surprising myself at just how little you actually need for a 3 week cross country ride.  If you find yourself in necessity for something, always a Wal Mart nearby.  I must have passed a thousand on this tour.  

On through Birmingham I zipped, sweeping over to I-59 and then U.S. 78 to Memphis.  The 30 miles of 78 to Jasper is not fun.  Red lights and urban sprawl about half the way.  It was growing hotter and more humid by the mile.

In Summiton a red sedan cut off a 18 wheel coal truck, forcing the driver to swerve left as I was approaching, I scrubbed off some speed and watched from a safe distance.

U.S. 78 whips around Jasper, and turns into a 4 lane divided highway to Mississippi.  The road is good and I picked up the pace.

I took my first break of the day at a Shell con store near Hamilton.  I look forward to my mid morning breaks.  I made my usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich, bought a diet Mountain Dew and sat on the curb.  I had just put down 160 miles and was well on the way to the Ozarks.

I called Debbie, my nephew, and checked email from my phone.

It was a good break, hung around too long, but whose counting.

U.S. 78 will one day become part of the new I-22 corridor connecting Memphis to Birmingham, and it can't come quick enough.  Mississippi has done its part-the highway is four lane, controlled access all the way to the Tennessee line.  Alabama is finished except for the 20 or so miles from Jasper to Birmingham, but Tennessee is lagging.

Of course I prefer back road riding, but I seldom do that on the first day of a long tour.  I've been on all the roads and towns in and near Alabama, nothing new for me to see, so I plan my escapes quickest route possible.
I had a hard time keeping the 1300 in check in Mississippi, the road is smooth, traffic nil, and the deep whine of the ST tempting.  I stayed around 80, and hoped any trooper that spotted me would not take me for being "only" 10 over.

In Holly Springs I gassed up at a Shell con store and lunched at a local place called Popeye's.  I like to eat in the 11am-11:30am window, to beat the crowds.  I had a grilled chicken sandwich.

An attractive lady with a sweet southern accent took my order. 

"Is that all hun?" 

"yeah baby, all for now." 

"So where ya goin?" 

"On my way to California the long way, wanna come?"
"And what? Leave ALL this?"  She said with a smile.

  "Yeah, just tell the boss, you're quittin, and outta here." 

"And you're gonna take care of me and show me the world?" 


"So what ya reckon YOUR wife is gonna say?  "I dunno."  The truck driver in the booth next to me thought that was funny, and laughed out loud then said.  "Well YOU just come with me sweetie, I don't care WHAT mine says."

The cafe had the worst diet coke ever.  They needed to check the pre mix.  I was back on the road 40 minutes later.

The thick lush green of the Mississippi timberland whizzed by as I sped west.  I was happy to be on the road, and looking forward to whatever adventure lies ahead. 

By 1pm I was on the approach to Memphis.  I'm sorry, but not a good place.  It just depresses me. 

Because I know how bad 78 in Tennessee is, I decided in my pre trip planning to take SR 302 to I-55 just south of the city, and stay in Mississippi.  The route would take me around the mess on 78.  It was a good plan on paper, but not any quicker.  The route  is bustling suburbs, and I-55 had a lot of construction going on, but it got me pass the slums of south Memphis.

I took I-55 through the city, and crossed the River about 1pm into the land of K TV and radio stations.  A lot of the exit ramps were under construction and it was hard to follow the route, but I made it.

The worst part of the ride was coming up, I knew that.  From here to the Ozarks is a long hot ride.  I-40 is ugly, but thankfully the construction is less frequent then years past.  

Thousands of trucks were on I-40 and the ST bucked in their turbulence.

I noticed the clock on the ST was 10 minutes fast.  What the hell?  I'd have to get out the manual to adjust it, because I forgot the procedure.  All I could remember you press and hold one of the buttons for a few seconds to move it to the proper mode.

Moving on west, I passed 2 GLs pulling trailers and riding 2 up.  I gave them a friendly wave when I came around.

About 30 miles east of Little Rock, I noticed east bound traffic coming at me with headlights on.  Not a good sign.  A few more miles I saw why- dark clouds were on the horizon.  I came into a rest area for a break, and to call Uncle Phil.  I ate a oatmeal cookie packed from home and a diet Coke, then punched Uncle Phil on the speed dial.

"Tell me what ya see on the radar for central Arkansas Uncle."   "Rain and more rain."  How far west is it?"  "All the way to Oklahoma." 


He told me the rain was moving Northeast, and I might get out of it if turned north.  I got out the atlas and checked routes.  It looked as if US 11 would work, but if the rain was moving northeast, it would surely find me eventually.  So I decided to stay on I-40.  With me moving west, and the storm east, I figured I could break out of it quicker.  

While sitting around, the 2 GLs pulled in.

Resigned to the fact I was going to get wet, I got back on the road.  A few miles later it started raining, and I brought the screen up.  Not a hard rain but steady one.  I turned the PIAAs on.

It was still raining when I came through Little Rock, I don't mind the rain so much, but the concentration of reading the road surface more intently wears on me.

The rain was still coming down when I exited Little Rock.  I passed 3 Harleys trying to wait out the rain under a overpass.

A school bus was pulling a RV along I-40 bogging down all kinds of traffic.  I wondered exactly what was on that jokers mind?  Where is he going in a school bus pulling a camper?  

The new Z6 tires on the ST felt extra good in the wet and I cruised at 70-75 mph on the wet road.  The road spray from the big trucks were annoying, but other than that not all that bad. 

I closed down on a pick up pulling a loaded down horse trailer, west of Conway.  The horse had one side, and the other half was slam full of stuff.  On the tool box in the bed ,a dog carrier was  strapped precariously.  I feared for the animals life, that it might shake loose.

At last the SR 7 exit appeared and I finally got to leave I-40, and turn north to the Ozarks, but not before topping off the tank at a con store. 
I left the con store on SR 7 in a drizzle rain that finally abated a few miles later.  The sun was breaking out, and the riding was good.

The Honda leaned the sweeping curves on 7 nicely.  The bike felt steady heeled over, and the slick shifting 1300 is much easier to keep in the power band then the RT.

Swooping through the hills I passed a closed down roadside cafe and store called "Booger Hollow."  It looked as if things had been shut down for several years.  I guess enough folks were just not interested enough in Booger.  They tried to make a mark by being different, but SR 7 is not Route 66.
Just another day at the Booger Hollow Trading Post
I took a few pics and moved on.
​I took a few pics and moved on.
  took a few pics and moved on.
The riding on SR 7 was good, but I left it for SR 16.  This route took me deeper into the hills.  Some of the curves were still wet from the recent rains so I kept my speed down.

Road surface varied, sometimes it was smooth, sometimes kind of choppy.

I've said it before, but the Ozarks have the same feel and look as East Tennessee, just not on the same scale.
After passing through Swain, I left 16 for SR 21 and it was more good riding.  Over the creeks and hills I rode north to US 62.  The curves were good, but not all that technical, and the green hills and valleys were much better than I-40.
​SR 21 winds deep in the Ozarks
I came out of the hills into Kingston.  A tiny cross roads hamlet with a antique store, post office, a few mercantile buildings and closed up gas station.  I thought the place interesting so stopped the 1300 for a few pics.

The old antique store had a wood screen door, with the colored imprint, "Colonial is good bread."  These screen doors once swung on every country store in the south, but now glossy modern con stores have all but eliminated the family owned. 
​ A piece of Americana.  I found a lot of it on this tour.
I completed the photo op and finished up the last 20 miles or so to Berryville, where I went to U.S. 62 West for the Iron Horse Motorcycle Campground.  I've stayed here on both  prior rides through here, and thought about changing up and trying the KOA down the road, but in the end I felt like I needed to support the motorcycle friendly establishment.

​Downtown Kingston, Arkansas
A friendly man took my 10 dollar fee and I went around back to find a campsite.  A group from the Yamaha Venture forum were on the scene.  A 03 ST 1300, and 1150 were camped in 2 nearby cabins.

The trail to the tent sites is kind of tricky on a 1300 but I managed it ok, and found my usual campsite finishing a 656 mile day.

I was setting up camp when I noticed one of the Venture guys was from Alabama.  I went over to speak to him after I finished.

He told me, "One of our guys was ass ended making a left hand turn yesterday.  He's ok, but his borrowed bike is totaled.  He's from Ontario.  We passed around the hat to fly him home, but the owner of the bike is on the way down to help."

"man that sucks, is the owner pissed?"

"not really, it wasn't our guys fault."

"dang they must be really good friends."

I'm a creature of habit, so like the last 2 trips through here I went to the Pizza Hut in Berryville for supper.  Those were good tours so I saw no need to do anything to the change good karma.

I called my son and wife while waiting for my food, and when I finished eating put notes in the Axim.  It was hard to concentrate because a nearby table of teenage girls talking and giggling and made it difficult.  It amazes me how they can carry on 3 or 4 conversations at one table.

After supper I went over to the nearby Wal Mart to pick up a small legal pad (I use it to make notes for the map pocket) and a bag of Reese pieces, and caramels.  I'm careful about what I eat, but what can I say I have sweet tooth.

Back at the campground I passed time talking with John Jarvis, the 1300 rider from West Virginia.  

It was getting dark so I put down the routes for the next days ride in my map sleeve.  I know its old fashioned, but I like the big picture it gives me.  If I was just concerned about getting there, I'd use a GPS, but I like looking at the map, and getting a feel for the territory I'll be riding in, and finding the good roads.  I don't trust a Garmin to do that for me.  He doesn't know if a road will make you lean, or what the towns look like along the way.  It is cold and scientific.  I can look at a good map and instantly know if a road is good, I seldom miss.
Sleep came pretty quick despite the noise on US 62, and I was looking forward to the next days ride through the Heartland.  I have a special affection for it.