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This Is Beautiful Country

Written by Lee Wonnacott.

Hohenwald, TN (05/03/2008) - That big wide grin seems endless for the two of us. We left Cherokee in very chilly temps, heading up toward Sevier County, Tennessee and the road just didn't disappoint us. Everything seemed to be doing well, except that when Art hit the starter button on his Pacific Coast at the county courthouse - yup, it failed to turn over. My thoughts flashed back to four weeks ago and a very expensive few days we had with his Shadow.

I pushed him off and we found an Advance Auto Parts store just three blocks away. The battery was completely drained and a quick check of the electrical system pointed toward the regulator/rectifier. Damn! We grabbed a local phone book and started calling motorcycle shops. Luckily we found one on the third call that had the part, and it was just a 30 minute ride away via ST1300. By 2:30 PM we were back on the road, heading toward US-70 to catch several more memorials before daylight left us.

Ozone Falls, TN

US-70 is one of the longer two lane routes left from the old US Highway route system. It meanders from Wilmington, North Carolina all the way out to Globe, Arizona. In many places it is a four lane road and pretty tame, but mostly it is a 45 and 50 mph road clear of heavy trucks and not much traffic at all. We've seen some really pretty spots, one of them was a treat worth a half day visit - which we managed to squeeze into just an hour.

Find Ozone, Tennessee on your maps. There is a 110 foot high waterfall there only 200 yards from highway, we found out later that it was used as a backdrop location for filming of "The Jungle Book, Part 2."

Art pulled out the video camera and we did a little video segment from the top of the falls and then turned down another trail and trekked to the bottom of the falls. Down there we found spectacular views of the falling water and got a good appreciation of the stratified rock that makes up the geological history of central Tennessee. The water is cold, and it would be possible to swim in the pool, but don't try this without a large group present. The trail is treacherous and getting a litter bound accident patient up the hill is obviously going to take a long time, that is if they find you in time to help. Beautiful areas can be dangerous.

After a night of camping near Crossville we set out again on Friday and rain was the keyword all day long. We were watching the back side of a line of storms that had torn up Arkansas on Thursday night. At Franklin we patiently waited out thunderstorm cell at the local Sonic drive-in. When it moved off we found a westbound state highway and the plan was to move toward a state park near Dickson, Tennessee. Then one of those distractions came across our path that I didn't really plan for.

Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway is almost 500 miles of two lane highway leading from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville. It's like the Blue Ridge Parkway in concept, but without the really tall mountains. No commercial trucks, very little traffic and lots of long sweeping curves that are guaranteed to keep the rear tire of any motorcycle from squaring up. There was rain ahead, rain to the north, and the skies toward the route of the parkway was looked best. We turned left at the double arch bridge and took the southbound route.

That big grin gets bigger in a hurry here. We went FIVE miles before seeing any other traffic. It was as if the day, and the road, was made just for us. The roadway generally follows the old Natchez Trace, a wagon track through the wilderness, it was the superhighway of the 19th century that helped open the south to the pioneers of the era. All along the road there are scenic turnouts that allow visitors to glimpse what conditions travelers of two centuries ago endured. Frankly, I'd rather put up with the inconvenience of a dead battery than push and prod an ox pulling an old wagon down a path that is shared with bears, coyotes, snakes, and other denizens of the deep forest.

As dusk approached we found ourselves at mile marker 385 and the Meriwether Lewis burial place. The National Park campground there is small, only 32 spots. And, it's free. We seriously wanted to stay the night here and save a few dollars. But, as we rode into the campground area to select a spot for our little tent we took a good look at the skies. Both of us felt it might be a good idea to make the seven mile trip into Hohenwald first. We could get something for dinner and find a place to check weather before committing to a night in the woods without decent shelter. It turned out to be a great decision. The sprinkles that began to fall as we reached town quickly turned into a full fledged downpour, complete with high winds, thunder and lightning. But by that time we were checked into the only motel in town. The video on The Weather Channel confirm our good fortune. We had been lucky to avoid the worst weather all day long...and the storms through the night didn't bother us at all as were were tucked into nice dry beds.

Yes, the wide grins are still evident. Now we wander west into Arkansas for a couple of days. I will post photos of tornado damage by Tuesday.


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