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Welcome to the Hills of E. Tennessee and North Carolina

My latest trip…a ride to Tellico Plains, Thunder Mountain, and Deals Gap where the legendary Tail of the Dragon starts or ends…depending on your direction of travel.

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Met up with my riding buddy Tim at the Whistle Stop in Byhalia for breakfast and discussion over the route of travel. This country is all new to me so I will be following his lead. The route will be east to Chattanooga down Hwy 72.

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Highway 72 through Corinth with a quick stop for fuel and water. Traffic wasn’t too bad but I struggled with breaking my road rules. I only have three of them…no freeways, no chain restaurants, no chain coffee shops. While 72 isn’t considered a freeway…it has 4 lanes of traffic so it’s a freeway in my book.

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Who can go wrong eating at a place with this for a name. Lunch in Tuscumbia Alabama. The place was packed and lunch wasn’t fancy but it was filling and good. On to Chattanooga.

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A couple of hours out of Chattanooga we stopped at this country store for a break and some cool water. Spent about 15 minutes there visiting with folks, enjoying the break and drinking some coffee. A fresh pot was made for us…very nice.

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Our lodging for the night was a KOA campground cabin in Trenton Georgia. A nice place with a view of the mountain. After unloading we headed out for some food at Larry’s buffet (recommended by the locals). A large salad with some chicken tenders and extra cottage cheese hit the spot. Sleep is next on the agenda.

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On to Tellico Plains as soon as we have breakfast. Tim had been telling me that the Maple Street Biscuit Company had the best sausage gravy and biscuits he had ever eaten. Well…my standard breakfast when on the road is sausage gravy and biscuits with an egg on top and I consider myself an expert on the dish. I have had some exceptionally well made sausage gravy and biscuits so I was curious. He was right…this plate is currently tied for #1 in the biscuits and gravy category…the reason is the sausage they use has a bit of heat to it and the gravy has mushrooms. Excellent breakfast.

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Lindsey was the cashier when we ordered our food and I had told her how I rated gravy and biscuits in my travels. On a break she came by our table to see how their dish stacked up with others I have tasted. Great food and great people. Good luck to Lindsey as she pursues her education in Radiology. Now…on to Tellico Plains before the forecast rain hits.

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Tellico Plains just a couple of miles from the cabin we have reserved at Hunts Motorcycle Campground. Look at those mountains….the roads are calling.

Hunts Motorcycle Campground…a great place. The cabin with 2 beds for two nights cost me $115 with a military discount. Below the cabins there are bathrooms with showers, lots of hot water, a covered cooking/dining area and a place to wash dishes. Inside the cabins there are boot driers made from PVC pipe, coolers (she provides the ice), and towels. I recommend this place to other riders…it’s reasonable priced and just outside of Tellico Plains. We made it in just as the rain hit.

The Tellico River and views from the Cherohala Skyway. Great roads and great views. We were up in the clouds early but as they cleared the views became spectacular. Logging was so heavy in the early 1900s that many of the forested hills in the pictures were laid bare resulting in heavy erosion. The government purchased the land to ensure a supply a timber in the future. This, of course, caused issues and is an interesting read for anyone who likes history.

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Thunder Mountain General Store and Deli…my type of place. The owners, Ken and Melissa are great people, friendly, love their country and the military. Coffee is free for veterans and the food is good. My lunch was coffee and a fried bologna sandwich. Stop in if you are in the area and get to know them.

I made it to the Dragon…and no, I did not ride it. We visited with some old timers who suggested that we come back in the middle of the week to ride. That day there were already some riders who had gone down and more fast riders were doing their thing. Law enforcement was also there in unmarked vehicles handing out tickets. In the future I plan on spending some time exploring the area and riding the Dragon during the week.

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Back on the Cherohala. This sign is at the entrance to the skyway and you can see the warning. It is a high incident corridor and EMS is often more than 45 minutes away. Be careful and stay safe.

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Dinner in Tellico Plains. The brisket was not too bad. Tomorrow we head home with a 0700 wheels rolling start.

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Due to some vision issues, Tim elected to stay in Chattanooga and have his wife come and pick him up so I headed home. This rest stop was just outside of Slayden MS (I think). I was a bit tired by this time so this came in handy.

The total ride was 975 miles. We made it without getting wet and the temperatures were comfortable. Stay safe and stay tuned…until next time.

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Corinth Loop & RAMS Meeting

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At the end of last year I joined the local BMW Riders Association Mid-South (RAMS) and today was their monthly meeting in Holly Springs at the Southern Eatery. There was a group ride going out but Tim and I opted for our own ride. Our ride started at the Wolf River Cafe in Rossville Tennessee, then headed east to Corinth Mississippi for coffee, and we would work our way to Holly Springs for lunch and the meeting. The weather forecast was for possible showers with temps in the 60’s. A good day for a ride.

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Our bikes in front of the Wolf River Cafe. On most Saturday mornings there are a fair amount of riders that show up for breakfast followed by a ride and today was no exception. Tim and I sat outside with other riders and enjoyed a breakfast overflowing with good rider stories. Breakfast for me was biscuits and gravy with an egg on top and a small bowl of grits. Yes…it was very good. On to Corinth and AC’s coffee shop. Corinth Mississippi is roughly 90 minutes east and south of Rossville Tennessee.

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AC’s coffee shop is located at 415 N. Fillmore Street in Corinth. To date this coffee shop is the closest to a west coast coffee shop that I have found. The espresso shots in my Americano were excellent as was the atmosphere and service.

Corinth was a crossroads and a critical objective during the Civil War. On the 3rd and 4th of October in 1862, a major battle was fought here between 22,000 Confederate troops and 23,000 Union troops that resulted in a Union victory. Casualties numbered over 7,000. I’m looking forward to visiting Corinth again and learning more of the history of the engagement.

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On the way out of Corinth we were delayed at a railroad crossing. I scrambled to get the camera out for a picture and this was the result.

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That’s Tim in front of the Southern Eatery. We went inside for lunch and the meeting. They’re a bunch of nice folks. After lunch and the meeting we spent some time visiting as we stood around the bikes. I met another one of the riders who lives down my way and he offered to let me use his shop if I needed to change tires or do maintenance. He has a tire changer and is an experience BMW mechanic. Yup…a bunch of nice folks. The ride totaled a 187 miles…a good ride and no rain. Stay tuned…

 

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Circle to Somerville TN

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I met up with Tim Jones from the local BMW Riders Association Mid South (RAMS) who I met at the last meeting. Yes…I did join a riding group and they are a bunch of very nice people. He called me up this morning to see if I would be interested in riding today…you betchya. So with him in the lead we headed toward Somerville Tennessee via the back roads.

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I thought about titling this blog “Lost in Tennessee” but I really wasn’t lost. I was east of Collierville, southwest of Somerville, and north of the Mississippi border. “I’ve never been lost…just confused a time or two,” as stated by Jim Bridger, one of the great mountain men of our country.

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Great backroads…paved but many had no lane lines.

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Lunch was at the Hut in Somerville. A good, basic menu of burgers, sandwiches, barbecue, and drinks. Lunch for me was a BLT on Texas toast with onion rings. I asked the waitress if the onion rings were good and she stated, “Well, our customers say they are good.” Come to find out she had never had them…but she was right. They were very good and the bacon was done the way I like it. Very Tasty…

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A nice countryside with hidden lakes off the road and some very nice houses.

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The W.C. Crawford General Merchandise store in Williston Tennessee. This country store was the heart of Williston beginning in the 1850s and was operated by R.A. Gaither. In the 189os W.C. Crawford took over operation of the store. The store was run by Mr. Crawford and then his son, Knox Crawford until 1972. Bread was shipped from Memphis on Friday only to be sold by Mr. Crawford on Saturday. Mr. Crawford also butchered a beef on Friday to sell to his Saturday customers at 8 1/2 cents a pound. When automobiles came to be, gas was shipped from Memphis in drums to be sold. I love finding places like this and then researching the history.

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A stop at the Shell station in Piperton for a break that included something to drink and rider stories.

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At home as the sun sets. It was great to ride with Tim…we have similar riding styles and for that I am thankful. Temps were in the mid to high 50s, no wind, and clear weather. Total mileage was 120 miles. A great ride and my thanks to Tim. Stay tuned….

Photos were deleted in the previous blogs so please be patient as I replace the photos and get the blog back to normal. Thank You

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1st Ride 2017

For the past few weeks temperatures have been hovering below freezing and not good for riding. For the past two days temperatures have been at 70 but due to prior commitments I was unable to ride…so today with the temperatures hovering around 50 and an overcast sky, I decided to ride.img_1944

Heading west toward Hernando, the Delta, and Highway 61. The sky was overcast with haze on the horizon.

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Through the Delta heading toward Hwy. 61 (the Blues Highway). Yes…it is flat in the Delta. The route is down Hwy. 61 to Crenshaw Road then east through Crenshaw to Como, Mississippi.

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Crenshaw river and levee east of the town of Crenshaw.

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Along the highway in several spots there were lots of geese feeding in the fields. When cars passed the fields the gaggle (geese not flying) would not fly. When I went by on the bike the geese would launch and become a skein (a group of geese in flight). They were fun to watch because the turbulence caused by their wings affected the liftoff of the entire group.

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Crenshaw Mississippi…not much on main street. I tried to do some quick research on the history of Crenshaw and didn’t find much. There is a fair amount of history on the Crenshaw family whom I suspect the town is named after. Time to head toward home.

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Okay…I was intending on eating in Como but passed through it so fast that I didn’t see anyplace to eat. When I stopped at the Warsaw Grocery to get a bit to eat I didn’t realize that I was only 30 minutes from the house…but that was okay. I went inside and they had Grandpa’s Chilli on the menu so I ordered a bowl. Chili at a gas station…a gourmet meal when on a bike. The chili was excellent followed by the Almond Joy and coffee. After lunch I headed home…like I said…about 30 minutes away. All in all a good ride totaling 150 miles. Can’t wait to do it again.

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Black Friday Ride 2016

I don’t much care for shopping so the thought of spending the day shopping and fighting crowds for the sales just didn’t work for me. It seemed to be a good day for a ride.

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The plan was to meet Gary (Sharla’s brother) for breakfast at the Wolf River Cafe but they were closed. Perkins did a decent job as a substitute…not quite the “hole in the wall” places I like but it was open for business. Pickwick lake is about 2 hours east of Collierville Tennessee and my next destination.

 

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Pickwick dam and the lake. Sharla and her family spent a lot of time here when she was younger. The area has lots of marinas along with restaurants featuring catfish, campgrounds, and family cabins along the shore. Pickwick Lake was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority with the building of the Pickwick dam. With a surface area of over 43,000 acres the lake is a summer hotspot for boating, fishing, and camping. The lake is also the north area of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway providing a water route to the Gulf of Mexico.

My route takes me down route 25 toward Highway 72 where I would turn east to intersect the Natchez Trace.

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Looking north along the Natchez Trace. I highly recommend driving or motorcycling the Trace but before you do…read up on the history of the Trace. To ride it nowadays one would never consider the role the Natchez Trace played in our history or the struggle folks had when traveling this road. This stretch of the Trace is just over 60 miles north of Tupelo Mississippi.

 

Rock Creek along the Natchez Trace. Fording creeks, streams, and rivers along the Trace was a challenge requiring perseverance and often extra days to be successful.

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My route will take me off the Trace along Highway 30 toward Hobo Station, Booneville, and Ripley Mississippi.

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Hobo Station is not really a town but an intersection. The gable with Hobo Station in the first picture is from the building in the second picture. The road is Highway 4 and my route to Holly Springs through the town of Ripley.

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Many small towns in the area of the country have town squares with a courthouse or a park in the middle of the square. Ripley is no different.

It was an interesting and enjoyable ride. The roads around and heading west from the lake had more corners and were fun to ride. Temperatures were in the 50’s and the weather was good for a total of 315 miles. Stay tuned….

 

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Lost in Mississippi – Fall Ride

 

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My wife had plans for the day so I figured it would be a good chance for a ride. It’s been a while and I need to continue learning more of this area of the country. My intended route would take me through Hernando then south to Grenada followed by various county roads up through Gore Springs, Sarepto, Pinedale, Macedonia, Holly Springs, then home to Byhalia. That didn’t work out too well, hence the title “Lost in Mississippi”. While I wasn’t exactly lost (I did know I was in Mississippi east of Grenada), I did get confused.

 

Hernando Mississippi on the north-eastern side of the town square. Hernando is a neat little place  a history bathed in the blues and at least two restaurants that I can recommend. One is the Lady Bug Bakery that has excellent coffee, pastries, and what looked to be very good sandwiches. The other is the Underground Cafe. The food is well prepare, reasonably priced, and plenty to go around.

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Many signs announcing “the Mississippi Blues Trail” are located throughout the state. This one is on the outskirts of Hernando.

 

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Heading south on 51 I discovered a section of the road was closed due to bridge repair. The bridge went out last year during the rains and they are just now getting around to repairing it. Motoring back to Interstate 55 I headed south and jumped over to 51 at Coldwater. A swampy area along Highway 51 south of Goldwater.

Once in Grenada I completed what business I had there and then headed east on Highway 8 toward Gore Springs. This is where it got confusing. I missed my turn on highway 9 and ended up on county road 346 that turned to dirt (no worries), got smaller (minor concern), that seemed to going in the wrong direction (according to my compass). So I backtracked to Highway 8 and headed east.

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Lunch was in Derma Mississippi at Uncle Cool’s BBQ, The smell was incredible but I was disappointed that I didn’t have time to sample their ribs but there BBQ burger was exceptionally good. The folks working there were extremely nice. I spent several minutes visiting with Derrika (spelling?) about places to visit and wonders to see. You’re time will come. (I recommend stopping there is you get the chance.)

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It was after 2 when I left Uncle Cool’s heading north. I decided to forgo county roads and head up Highway 9 north, then 9 West through Oxford, finally Highway 7 to Holly Springs. The road south of Oxford…not many curves.

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Cotton harvest is in. Those brightly covered tubes are filled with cotton. I motored past many harvested fields of cotton on this trip. The ride lasted just over 7 hours and covered 250+ miles. Stay tuned….

 

 

 

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Northern Mississippi Hill Country Ride

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Earlier this week I decided to do some more exploring in the hill country of northern Mississippi. I headed south on 178 toward Holly Springs and Highway 4 to eventually head east. On the outskirts of Holly Springs, in the Holly Springs National Forest, is Chewalla Lake. Chewalla Lake is a 260 acre no wake lake with 19 sites for camping and Rvs. Charge for camping is $7 for non-electric and $20 for electric. Holly Springs is close and provides food, restaurants, and firewood for camping. It’s close and I do intend to do some fishing on the lake…maybe from my kayak.

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Lots of these little guys flying around. This one allowed me to take the picture before heading about his business. This is a Red Spotted Purple butterfly…I think.

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Heading east out of Ashland Mississippi. Temperatures are in the high 80s with thunderheads building to the south. Lots of woods and hills in this area with not too much traffic…of course it’s the middle of the week so that’s to be expected.

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At Faulkner Mississippi I headed north on 15 toward Tennessee highway 57. Weather is building to the south so it remains to be seen if I will get wet on this ride. No worries though…I do have the gear so I should stay dry. I’m used to riding without too much chance of getting wet…especially in the summer. Here it’s a bit different. This time of year one can expect a higher percentage of encountering thunder showers in the afternoon. They hit you and then their gone. Given enough time a rider can find shelter and wait out the majority of storms before continuing their ride.

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No rain yet…by turning west on 57 it appears that I skirted the showers…great. I have driven this road before and blogged the ride. In that blog I posted some pictures from LaGrange Tennessee so I didn’t expect to post any additional pictures. However when I passed this store I just had to turn around for a closer look. Under the porch there were wagons, old crosscut saws, old farm equipment, and lots of neat stuff. Too bad the store wasn’t open.

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This sign was located where I parked when investigating the store. For  you John Wayne experts this should ring a bell. In the 1959 movie The Horse Soldiers with John Wayne, William Holden, and Constance Towers, this is the historical town where Colonel Grierson (John Wayne) assembled his soldiers for the raid on Newton’s Ferry. In the movie the solders were talking about going to Memphis for the 4th of July celebration. Memphis is only about 55 miles away. It’s always kind of neat to find these historical references to different movies.

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End of the ride. An Amercano, a scone, and a good book at Square Beans Coffee in Collierville. The book is The Devil’s Backbone, a history of the Natchez Trace and jam packed with events and people that moved along the Trace. Today’s ride was 146 miles and took me through new areas of the state that are mentioned in the book. I will be doing additional rides as I continue to explore Mississippi and Tennessee so stay tuned…..

 

 

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Blues Highway and the Natchez Trace – Part 2

 

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I spent the night at the Days Inn in Natchez. Not fancy but adequate and last night they served a meal of red beans, rice, and cornbread which met my hunger needs in fine style. This morning after a breakfast of biscuits, gravy, and scrambled eggs, I packed the bike to begin my journey up the Natchez Trace.

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The Natchez Trace runs 444 miles through three states and is bathed in several millennia of history. The natural corridor that became the trace bisected the traditional lands of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Indian nations. In 1801 President Thomas Jefferson designated the Trace as a national postal route for delivery of mail between Nashville and Natchez.

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A portion of the old Trace that one can walk for about a mile. In many areas century old foot traffic on the Trace has resulted in cuts in the earth. While the Trace highway does not follow the exact original path, there are several places along the highway where one can view the original Trace.

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The Trace Highway today. Traveling the Trace in the late 1700s and 1800s was a truly dangerous undertaking. Many travelers, common working folk or those seeking land, would band together for safety during the journey. In the early 1800s “Kaintucks” from the Ohio river valley would float goods, cash crops, and materials down to Natchez or New Orleans for a quick sale and then walk or ride back their homes via the Trace.

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The Visitors Center in Clinton Mississippi. A great place staffed by Marsha and Linda who provided me with a wealth of information about the Trace. I left with maps, brochures, and pamphlets about the Trace and activities around the Clinton area and Natchez. They also suggest several things that Sharla would find interesting. Along with the information they provided I purchased a book titled “The Devils Backbone” about the Trace. A quick scan of the contents suggests that it will be a great read.

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One of the many rest stops along the Trace. I like the split rail fence.

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Sharla has told me of the extinction of the passenger pigeons. Migrating passenger pigeons were a relatively easy food source along the Natchez Trace. They would roost by the millions along their migratory routes from northern Canada to areas along the Carolinas, Florida, and the Gulf. Flocks of migrating pigeons have been estimated to be roughly 300 miles long and up to a mile wide.

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Bynum Mounds located two hours south of Tupelo. Indian mounds are evidence of a cultural society the inhabited the area 800+ years ago. There are several mound sites along the Natchez Trace and the Blues Highway. A Google search of the Indian Mounds of Mississippi results in several sites that provide a wealth of information.

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The Natchez Trace Visitor Center outside of Tupelo MS. A place well worth the stop. Inside there are several extensive history exhibits about the Trace along with artifacts and a very knowledgeable staff. After the purchase of a sticker for the bike and a new ball cap, so with the weather is threatening to rain I decided to head home…just over an hour away.

Mileage for day was just over 350 miles, the weather was great, and for me it was just enough to wet my appetite for more. The total trip was just over 750 miles and I will be back. Stay tuned….

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Blues Highway and the Natchez Trace

 

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One of the items on my bucket list is to drive the Blues Highway (Highway 61 for those who are not in the know) and spent a night listening to “raw blues” at true blues juke joint. Well today I made a major step in completing that item…I drove the highway. Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, and others mention Highway 61 in some of their songs. The above photo is the start of the Blues Highway just outside of Tunica Mississippi. I went inside and visited with the woman inside. When I mentioned wanting to go to a juke joint she recommended “Reds” in Clarksdale on a Friday or Saturday night. Okay….whose is going with me?

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The highway runs through the Mississippi Delta through corn, soy bean, and cotton fields. It is flat yet full of life. Not too much traffic except in small town along the route. I thought of the pros and cons as I drove the road so here’s my list…of course everything is subjective. Cons – flat (not the mountains I’m used to), hot (temps ranged from the low 80s to mid 90s), not a lot of curves. Pros – nice road (not rough and no tar snakes), lots of small towns to visit and explore, nice people, a variety of food (catfish, red beans and rice, barbecue in many varieties), and cheap gas (anywhere from 1.74 to 1.99 per gallon). Next stop Clarksdale where legend (at least one legend) says Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to play the guitar.

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A couple of the early blues artists had been trying to encourage Robert to switch to the harmonica but he would have nothing of it. Outside of Clarksdale, at the intersection of Highway 61 and Highway 49 Robert made his deal and we have his 29 songs. Next stop is Rosedale where legend has the other crossroad.

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The other crossroads is located in Rosedale Mississippi just south of Clarksdale at the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 8. I found the story of the other legend in the blog Vagabond.net. If you are interested just Google search “the other Robert Johnson crossroad”. Highway 1 runs along the Mississippi river and one thing I found interesting was that I could smell the river. Not a bad smell…just unique. I tried to picture what the area was like in the early 30s when blues got its start…difficult but not impossible because the evidence is still there if one takes the time to look. On to Vicksburg…

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The road really did not get into downtown Vicksburg but instead skirted just north of the town. A nice area with many more hills than I expected. Lots of history to explore in this area including the blues and the Civil War.

 

Just south of Vicksburg is the small community of Port Gibson. As one drives toward Port Gibson one can see this steeple before getting into town. The steeple and church building belong to the 1st Presbyterian Church. A key feature located at the top of the steeple is a hand painting toward heaven. The original hand was carved in the mid 1800s but the ravages of time took its toll. The present hand was commissioned and installed around 1901, removed in 1989 then repaired and replaced in 1990. This area is filled with many churches and history plaques, unfortunately I did not have the time to explore.

Todays ride was 352 miles and I realized that I’m not yet in shape for days like this…at least not ready to sit for long days. The solution…more riding and more breaks. Tomorrows ride will be north up the Natchez Trace toward Tupelo so stay tuned.

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1st Tennessee Ride

Welcome back and for those of you who are following this blog…the move is complete. Well mostly complete. We are currently staying with family in Collierville TN with the final move into our new place the middle of this month. Now that we are here it’s time to explore so I decided to ride east. My brother in law told me of an Amish bakery northeast of here called Backermann’s. Backermann’s is outside of Whiteville, northeast of Collierville, so I planned a route using country roads to reach the bakery.

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Every ride should start with coffee and some kind of breakfast. The town square of Collierville has a great coffee shop called Square Beans. The coffee is good and while the breakfast selections are somewhat limited, they are adequate. I spent about 40 minutes outside the coffee shop enjoying an Americano along with a breakfast biscuit.

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Heading east along Highway 57 toward Moscow and LaGrange through low rolling hills and trees that provided some nice scenery. Lots of green along with some beautiful horse ranches. My intended route is east along 57 to 18 then north toward Hickory Valley.

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Somerville Road heads west from Highway 18 just outside of Hickory Valley. A nice road that winds through the countryside. Lots of trees and farms along the way. My plan is to follow this road until I reach Whiteville/Newcastle road which leads to Whiteville. It didn’t quite work out that way. Somehow I missed the Whiteville/Newcastle road and ended up on Jernigan Drive which I followed to Somerville. From Sommerville I followed Highway 64 in search of Backermann’s.

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Backermann’s Country Store for lunch and to rehydrate. The temperature had been steadily climbing from the low 80s to 90 and up which required stopping about every 40 minutes to rehydrate. A nice bakery and a good place to stop for lunch. They have a pretty good deli selection along with daily specials. They also have bread and various other food items for purchase. A burger (the daily special for Friday), macaroni salad, and lots of sweet tea did the trick. After lunch I went out to relax on the rocking chairs in front of the store. While there I visited with a work crew up from Memphis. We talked motorcycle rides and places we have been. They passed on some nice rides in the area and down along the gulf that I should explore when I get the chance. Thanks guys…

Taking the Whiteville/Newcastle road to Sommerville road I motored back to Highway 18 to backtrack my route to Collierville.

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This mansion is located just west of LaGrange on Highway 57. Civil War actions are woven into the fabric of this area so to get a better grasp of the conflict I began listening to the History of the Civil War podcasts by Richard Youngdahl. The podcasts are very well done and are providing some useful information.

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I needed to rehydrate so I stopped at this store. Unfortunately it was closed but the building is kind of cool…a general store in a small town in the south. I am looking forward to exploring the area more and looking for small town with general stores. From here I headed west back to Collierville with a rehydration stop in Moscow.

The ride was 166 miles with temperatures ranging from 80 to 95. A great ride and I’m looking forward to more rides in Tennessee and Mississippi. Stay tuned….

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