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Tornado Alley

Heber Springs, Arkansas (May 5, 2008) - We've been steadily picking off five to seven counties a day for the past three days. In fact, it's put me a bit behind in sorting out the photos and formatting up the memorial display pages.

The ride out of Tennessee was pretty uneventful. US-70 and TN-100 for most of the trip. TN-100 is a super road, but a bit boring. It's miles and miles of nice hills, but straight as an arrow till in connects with US-70 outside of Memphis. If you want to make time in southwest Tennessee and don't want to put up with the traffic on the Interstate then 100 is a great alternative.

This Is Beautiful Country

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.

-LW

The Ringer

Sapphire, NC (April 17, 2008) - I'm out on a short solo loop from Gold Hill through northern Georgia and southern Tennesse. The plan is to see how much better time a lone rider can make as opposed to two of us sharing the road. So far I find myself much more contemplative and focused on the task of documenting memorials. I'm also learning that it's pretty easy to walk away from the bike and follow a mountainside trail down to a waterfall or other natural attraction.

Just Call Me Ewell . . .

 

Lowndesville, SC (03/28/2008) -He's the unofficial historian of Lowndesville, South Carolina, a wide spot in the road at the north edge of Abbeville County, on SC-81. He's been here most of his 82 years, with the exception of the time he spent in the South Pacific during World War Two as a member of the US Army.

His childhood sweetheart has been his bride for 60 years and it's still a debate as to whom is the boss of the house, but there is no doubt at all who carries the wit and humor - Ewell Hanna is what most would call a character.

We met him while photographing the local war memorial. It's a small monument and lists many of those who served in uniform and most of those area natives who died serving the country in several wars. It stands proudly in front of the local community center, a building that during the 40 years after the Great Depression served as the town school. It's obvious the buildings' best days are well behind it, and the little town isn't the most properspous we have seen in our travels around America. In Ewell's words, "The place was nearly destroyed by a fire many years ago, and it has never recovered."

Although clouded by age and cataracts, Ewell's eyes twinkle as he reaches out with a firm handshake and hearty hello. This little town is his pride and joy, second only to his family. He immediately begins to regale my son and I with stories about the days when there were many grocery stores, five doctors, a large hotel, and a couple of banks. Most of the babies in the area were delivered at home with the assistance of a midwife, and making a living meant you tried your best to make the farm provide food for the family and a few extra dollars.

The banks failed during the depression, and the doctors left for greener pastures. But several of the buildings remain to remind all of the many residents of more prosperous days. Ewell invites me to walk across the street to view what remains of the bank. It hails from a time when brick vaults were adquate, but it was the reliablity of the bankers character that was most important.

I'm then escorted back across the street for an introduction to the local postmistress, Joy, whom I later learn is a niece to the elderly Ambassador for the village of Lowndesville. I suspect many of residents here are related to him in one way or another. I also suspect the few business owners along this small stretch of SC-81 are used to Ewell showing up at unexpected moments for an introduction to another new friend.

It's difficult to keep a schedule when in company of Ewell. He readily admits that he likes to talk with friends and that most strangers he meets become friends quickly. "I treat people like they treat me," says Ewell, "and I'll always be honest with you - but if you betray me you'll not be here much longer!"

I get a sense of old fashioned honor when talking with the elder. It's evident why so many of the locals smile when his name is mentioned. Thomas 'Squarehead' Nelson, who operates Dixie Wrecker Service, told us there isn't a native in three counties around that doesn't know Ewell. Nelson became part of our Lowndesville circle of friends when my son's motorcycle failed to start due to an electrical problem. Ewell called upon Nelson to come into town and help us out and, "treat them right . . ." It seems that any friend of Mr. Hanna is a friend to all in the area. That turns out to be a good thing for us. Squarehead comes over with his roll back wrecker and hauls the Honda away for a quick repair. We are surprised, and very pleased, when the bill comes and it's far less than we thought possible. Friendship is strong currency in this part of South Carolina.

When it came time to bid farewell to my new friend we exchanged a few confidences about life. Something that all Veterans seem to be able to do without much provocation. He gives me a bit of advice that I'm going to take to heart, "Live as long as you can, and don't give up till you got nothing better to do." Well said, Ewell, well said indeed.

 

Post Script: Ewell had nothing better to do on the 15th of July, 2011. You may find details HERE.

Wanderlust

Wanderlust Is An Essential Element of Adventure

Gold Hill, NC (03/17/2008) - My father was a wanderer, and he emulated his father. Grampa was the kind of guy that would drive his pickup truck hell bent for leather along any rural road or trail in order to reach the other end. His back road adventures scared my mother. I was only eight when he died, but I remember Mom would scowl at the old man as I clambered into the seat next to him, “BE CAREFUL, I want my boy back in one piece!” Gramps and I would both smile and wave as the grey Pontiac truck left the driveway. 

The next couple of hours were complete adventures for both of us. We would turn right and left onto gravel roads seemingly without reason – other than the road went somewhere nobody else went. If a bump lifted us from the seat or a quick dip in the road made our chins droop momentarily, so much the better. The thrill was always there, right ahead of us.

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