Thursday

I ended up leaving Topsail Thursday after work. I beelined to the Townhouse to pick up the last batch of mail from the mailbox before the tenant arrives on Friday. After deliverying the mail to Holly's porch for continuing service on down to Michelle on Saturday (like pony express but with Japanese motorcycles and vans) I headed over to Russell's for Drambui and some chit chat.

Friday

We were up at 0700 and rolling by 0830. A trip to Rite Aid for a prescription pickup did not work out beacause the pharmacy window opened later than the rest of the store. So we headed on out of town west on I-40 and north on NC86 through Hillsborough. After a brief lunch at Wendy's somewhere in VA we approached Beckly WV from the south via I-77. We snuck off the interstate early and luckily avoided the toll booth lines. However there was no avoiding the thunderstorm clouds. We stopped off at a gas station where some bikers were donning their rain gear and quickly dressed in our Frogg Toggs. They were still trying to dress as we headed on down the road. Not sure what their difficulty was.

We arrived at the Hampton Inn in Beckley just after 2pm. After checking in we checked the wherabouts of the coal mine exhibit and headed back out. It was cool to see the restored buildings from actual mining towns and get a tour of the local mine. The tour guide said we went about 150 ft below the ground but the track seemed pretty level. Guess we went under a big hill. Check out the pictures of the mine in the slideshow along with the grasshopper from our first gas stop.

After the mine tour we settled in the lobby for some bourbon and snacks. Hamton provided the cookies and fresh popcorn, Russell provided the bourbon. We mosied across the parking lot to the Texas Steak House and Saloon for what turned out to be over an hour wait for our steaks after we were seated. But the food was great when it came and everyone was very apologetic, plying us with gigantic Hershey topped brownies and ice cream. They were as delicious as they were outrageous.

Tomorrow we venture up into Ohio. Looking forward to crossing the Ohio river again and seeing the huge snake shaped Indian mound near Chilicothe.

Saturday

We were up at 0700 and at breakfast by 0800. After a repast of Raisan bran and eggs we were on our way. We eschewed the interstate and instead followed hwys 3, 94, 60 paralleling I-77 north toward Ohio. The first 60 miles were awesome two-lane curvies. We waited on the bridge over the Ohio river since it was down to one lane. Most of the bridge was under plastic cover sealed like a tube and the exhaust fumes and heat were terrible. It had to be at least 120 degrees F on most of the bridge. I felt bad for the haggard workers who were taking a break to catch their breath. I guess with 10% unemployment it's good to have any job.

Around 12:30 we intercepted US hwy 50, the namesake for this outing and we blasted happily west along the pretty country highway. Our route had kept turning away from food and it was around 1pm when we finally came upon a Subway near Athens OH. We were glad to stop and rest while we noshed on our subs and chips and watched the local cruiser crowd parade by in their vests and helmet-law-hating slogan wear.

Back on the bikes we cruised on through Cilicothe, a pretty, charming little city on our way to Hillsboro and our waiting Days Inn. The desk manager recalled pleasant memories of riding a Vstrom like mine with her Ex as we checked in and we were off to our room. A quick check of the Serpent Mound on the iPad relayed that closing time was 5pm. Since it was almost 3:30 we mounted the bikes and headed south on hwy 73 to the mounds near Peebles OH, a 30 minute ride. The ride to the site was delightful on a rural two lane that was mostly fast and flowing but for sharp turns where the road navigated around the property lines of the farms skirting the blacktop.

The serpent mound site was equipped with a small tower on which you could survey the entire earthwork. The view was wonderful. After getting the gestalt of the place we descended from the tower and walked around the quarter mile long serpent effigy and admired the views of the surrounding landscape. The natives had built the mound at the rim of an 8.4 mile wide crater so the views were very nice.

It's dinner time now and after a refreshing cold Yeungling to sooth our parched throats and a relaxing nip of bourbon we are headed out to the local offerings to find sustenance. Check the slide show at the bottom of the page for a few phots from today.

We supped at A fine seafod food establishment operating under the nomeclature of Long John Silvers. I was able to eat a healthy grilled salmon entree with rice and green beans (280 cal) and add on a fried fish plank(260 cal) and a fried chicken plank(150 cal) with malt vinegar. It was superb, matey! We were lucky enough to capture a snapshot while placing our order. (ps: click the next button under the slide show to see more pics)

Sunday

We hit breakfast at 0800 and dined on Raisin Bran and peanut butter toast before heading back to the south to pick up hwy 50. We had found a cool private castle to visit using the Roadside America app Michelle had given me so we detoured north on Cincinnati's 275 loop to Chateau LaRoche. The small town of Loveland where the castle was built is very pretty. Our route took us through the central square where folks were walking, jogging and sitting at sidewalk tables at bistros. The last 200 yards to the castle were steeply sloped switchbacks reminding me of our run through Portugal a few years ago. The castle was not open for a visit so we took a few pictures and made our way back up the switchbacks and down 275 to hwy 50 again.

We headed west again charging through the old heart of dowtown Cincinnati in a spaghetti tangled route switching lanes and levels in the multiple stacks of elevated roads so many times I deserve a merit badge for not missing a turn. We popped out the west side following the Ohio river on the north bank. The homes on our right along the river were in very bad shape, fronted by crooked stoops and cracked stone fences surrounding lawns given over to weeds. The industral buildings hogging the bank of the river on our left did'nt look so good either. As we rode on the industrial facilities and tank farms on the north bank thinned out some and the homes began to look better, the weedy yards improved by mowing and the trim and siding on the houses more freshly painted.

We push out of Ohio and into Indiana through Dearborn and it's Seagrams distillery (since 1857!) and Aurora boasting the huge Aurora Casket Company before heading to Versailles (pronounced ver-sails like they say it in KY). We stopped to sample a local favorite in Versaille, Gold Star chili. I had the combo #3 composed of three short coney dogs with chili and a mountain of shredded cheese. They were delicious.

Coming out the west side of Versailles we passed through a neighborhood that had been ravaged by a tornado in the last two years or so. Some buildings had been left with large holes torn in the roofs and some properties sported new repairs of roofs and new porches. There were a few new mobile homes as well with some damaged units pushed back into the fields. That had to be terrifying.

We loped on down hwy 50 and caught IN 7 north to Columbus where we had heard there were a few interesting architectual works to see. What an incredible understatement. We ended up staying 4 hours and taking a bus tour to see it all. Churches, schools, banks, offices and more churches designed by a virtual who's who of modern architecture. I thought Russell was going to pass out. It seems the owners of the Cummins diesel engine enterprise established a fund to assist in paying the architectual fees for new buildings for organizations that agreed to use a world renown architect from their list. Lots of impressive buildings. After the bus tour we sat at a sidewalk eatery for beverages and appetizers to absorb all we had seen. I was reminded on our way out of town that things are tough all over by the abandonned buildings of failed businesses even in a community as building conscious as Columbus IN. It was a totally unexpected treat to see all that beauty.

Our last charge of the day was the 120 mile run southwest to Vincennes IN and our comfortable Holiday Inn Express. Between people driving 15 mph under the posted speed limit and people pulling into our lane I promoted IN drivers to the top of my bad driver list. But we arrived intact, very glad to be here.

There are Pics at the bottom! There are now folders for the pictures from each day. Click on the day at the bottom of the sildeshow gallery to see that day's pictures. Remember you can click the big picture and it will open in a new tab.

Monday

The breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express was a huge leap from the previous morning's Days Inn. We had folded cheese ommelettes with turkey sausage! Fruit and yogurt before heading out. First stop was Pollard's Motors, a small car lot plus various creations stationed about the sides and back of the property extending into the proprietor's resindential yard next door. A congenital jokester with a good sense of humor Pat Pollard seems to be a bit of a local celebrity building all manner of strange vehicle combinations and original one-off's for local parades and such. On hand were a crashed airplane nose down on the lawn, a combination tractor-model T, a vwi bug on 8ft high spindly legs. A literal " bumper crop" with chrome bumpers sprouting in the back yard, and too many more to mention. See the pics below.

Our Lady of the Snows Shrine caught me by surprise. I was following the Garmin to what I thoughtvwas the St Louis arch but we pulled up short in a surrounding town at a big church. Russell had built the shrine into the route. We walked inside the beautiful chapel and admired the whole facility. There was a stations of the cross circle drive depicting Jesus along his walk with the cross, a giant ampitheatre and a huge siver spire sculpture as well.

Back on the bikes we made a bee line for St Louis and threaded the traffic down to the riverfront Memorial park to the Arch. We parked in the garage which strangely required each bike in it's own slot. We slogged through airport-like security and purchased our tickets for the next tram to the top. We basically just walked right in snd waited 10 minutes for the next tram. Awesome. They packed us five to a tiny round pod (8 pods per tram) and we began our ascent to the top. The only view you get on the way up is of the emergency exit stairs, which began to loom in our minds later. The top is very cool, a 100 by 10 ft area that is pretty steeply sloped down from the middle with 20 or so windows lining each side.

after being assigned a car (pod) for our ride back down the north side by our garage the tram was taken out of service due to a faulty door on one pod. We had to exit the pods and move in our pod groups back to the south side. The center section was already full and we represented about another half of humanity so we had to squeeze our way over to get loaded. The ride down was blissfully uneventful and we snapped a few more pics and hit the road.

We mounted up and continued to Jefferson City. It was good to be off the road. We sauntered down to a nearby BBQ joint called Zesto. It was setup like fast food being served through a window into the dining room of pic nic tables. A bit odd format but the foodcwas great with a wonderful KC stylevsauce with a good pepper bite. Back at the hotel we headed down to rhe indoor pool and swam around a while, finishing up in the hot tub. There w only one functional jet but it still felt good.

Tuesday

We enjoyed another good, hot H Inn Express breakfast and hit the road around 0845 on, you guessed it, hwy 50 west. Before pulling out of the parking lot we pulled up today's route and located the Harley Davidson assembly plant, inserting it into the route. We figured we would arrive in KC before check-in time and saving the hotel for last would maximize our chance of getting into both the Harley factory and the Titanic exhibit. Worked like a charm. After three relatively uneventful and very pleasant hours of riding we pulled into the Harley lot.

Up near the front doors were two semi circular rings with Harleys parked about every six feet. Turned out to be employee parking, provided you ride the house brand. Wonder what the employee discount is? Hmmmm. We signed up for the next tour and hung out for 45 minutes eyeballing the V Rods in various stages of assembly in the lobby. They build the V Rod from the ground here, engine and all. There were other bikes to look at as well. The tour lasted almost an hour and walked us through varoius section of sheet metal pressing, assembly, and outside the paint room. It was fun. They use quite a bit of technology, I was impressed.

We beat feet over to a local BBQ joint for a fairly late quick lunch. After a quick meal of ribs and pulled pork (me) and pulled pork and turkey (Russell) we punched up the address to Union Station and fed it into the Garmin. After a quick run back across town we wound our way downtown and nabbed a parking spot in the front lot. Surprisingly the had a large metal box with slots for stuffing in your dollar bills for parking. Low-tech but effective.

We have no photos since photography is prohibited, but the exhibit is wonderful. There were thousands of articles on display and the various rooms we wound our way through were set up like ship rooms and corridors. The display of the bell rang at the sighting of the iceberg was chilling. There were example rooms for first class and third class and lots of dishes and other items from all the classes. Definitely worth a visit. One of the things that struck me the most was the scale of the titanic and the effort invested to build and outfit her so quickly. Like the efforts of WWII they seem to dwarf the things we do today with all our modern technology.

After checking into the hotel we walked across a nearby shopping center to a restaurant named Granite City. Good food, a fresh-brewed beer and great service. Very enjoyable. Next we walked to Cabela's... As the crow flies. We walked over parking lots, roads, medians, hedgerows, you name it. Cabela's is shockingly large. This one had two indoor aquariums set up like rivers and a giant mountain with goats and deer in taxidermy. There was a special room filled with stuffed animals from lions to wildebeast, two elephants, musk ox! Croccodiles, you name it. There was another separate exhibit billed as the largest mule deer exhibit in the world. I would estimate 100 yards by 30 yards. Huge room with natural looking hills and fences and every animal looked completely natural. Amazing. We did not buy anything but hung out over an hour just looking.

Wednesday

Direct riding day today. I awoke tired. Riding in the mid-nineties sunshine in black leather and black helmet have taken a toll. That and the walkathon to the mall for dinner and then to Cabela's last night. Russell wants to stay on Raleigh time so we arose at 0700 eastern, 0600 local. We rode some of the prettiest roads today with the nod going to 65 mph sweepers through the Mark Twain National Forest. There are some strange town names in MO. Today we rode through Peculiar and Tightwad.

After a quick lunch at Taco Bell we made it to our hotel at 1330 local time. I am enjoying reading the news and catching up on my food log with MyFitnessPal. Love that application. Planning to leave the bike parked for the day and relax. There is probably a pool visit in my future.

Thursday

Sweltering. And then some.

The first stop of the day was two miles away at the old brick opera house on the courthouse square. The courthouse building is in fact square. We walked all around the square and admired al the old buildings. One shop had a flier posted recruiting 100 clowns for the 4th of July parade. I was bathed in sweat from the thick leather pants and boots and the breeze felt great when we took off until my sweat dried, then I felt like chicken in a convection oven.

After one gas stop we rolled into Memphis and stopped at a subway about a half mile short of our second destination -- Graceland. The ride had been hot but mercifully low humidity. I was very dry. I tanked up on diet coke with my lunch and we head down Elvis Presley Blvd to the parking lot behind the museum complex across the street from the Graceland property. We paid our $10 parking fee and found a shady parking spot on the far side of the huge lot. Arriving at the attraction entrance we paid our $36 entrance fees and got in line for the bus ride across the street.

Our bus pulled up in front of a very nice house, they called it "the mansion". The house is pretty and very conservative looking. Very tasteful in size and construction. Elvis purchase the property in 1957 (at the age of 22) from a doctor who had built it years before. We were shepparded in the front door and around a velvet rope to see the living room, his parents bedroom, dining room, kitchen and large darkly decorated den with a bar. The upstairs is not on display, that was described as always a private place for the family and still off limits out of respect.

I was surprised by the stairs down to the basement that contained two really nice rooms, another den with a nice bar in one corner and a billiards room. Mirrors on ceilings and walls helped make the rooms seem open in spite of the low ceiling.

Shepparded back up to the main floor and out the back door we moved on through the covered car port to Vernon's (Elvis' father) office in the back yard. Also in the back yard is a racketball building that was half ball court and half lounge, with a nice big bar. Elvis had a lot of bars. The piano Elvis played the morning of the day he passed still sits in the lower level of the lounge. The racketball court has been converted to a 70's bonanza of awards and memorobilia from his success in that decade, including the suits he wore in his last tour performances. The collection is amazing. We also walked through a trophy room off the main house containing his gold records and clothing and posters from his many movies in the 60's. Amazing. I need to rewatch some of those old movies. The look really fun.

The collection of cars once owned by Elvis was cool too. Several Rolls Royces, mercedes, Stutzs, Lincolns and Cadillacs were on hand along with som motorcycles and various other motorized toys.

After visits to his two airplanes and a trip through a gallery of memorobilia from other stars affected by Elvis we pulled out of the parking lot and stopped at the first convenience store we saw. I chugged a litre of Gatorade G2 and we continued on. The triple digit temperature was taking its toll I have never felt heat like what was coming up off the pavement from I-240 and TN 385. It was very draining. We rolled on to US 72 and the heat abated a little as we moved out of Memphis. It continued to bake us though all the way to Corinth MS, our stop for tonight. As I write this I am digesting two mini Rubies and a plate of salad from the Ruby Tuesday in the hotel parking lot. Location, location, location.

Friday(2)

Friday was a good day. We made our way from Corinth toward TN and our stay on the Tenesee River. We blasted across the still hot country side enjoying the woodsy view. We came to a crossroads advertising the Jack Daniel's distillery a few miles away in Lynchburg, TN. We had all day so, what the heck. The tour was great, I recommend it. The distillery is located in a dry county and the distillery is only able to sell "commerative" bottles of Jack in the gift shop so the usual stuff has to be purchased elsewhere.

After the tour we headed on toward Chatagnooga. As we approached the Tenesee River bridge we were treated to a view of the Delta Queen Hotel, a river boat park at the shore of the river near the downtown bridge. After a few minutes of negotiating the dowtown area to find the route down to the riverfront park and Delat Queen entrance we dismounted and went aboard. The Queen was beautifully appointed and our tiny cabin was blissfully cooled. I changed out of my leathers and into cooler clothes and enjoyed a few cool spirits at the bar while Russell did some exploring, joining me at the bar later. When dinner time rolled around we dined downstairs in the richly decorated dining room. The food was okay, but dinner maxed out on ambiance. It was very enjoyable meal.

After dinner, when the sun sank beneath the horizon we ventured out to look around the river boat a bit more and then up the river bank into downtown. I was exhausted and the temparature was still 100F, so it was a short walk that reached as far as the now closed ice cream shop.

Saturday(2)

Saturday was to be a liesurely day. Our only planned stop was at the Tartan Museum, situated in downtown Franklin NC. Franklin boasted many more downtown museums and probably warrants another visit later. The museum is in the basement of a Tartan shop that sells ties, kilts and many other items made from tartan. The exhibits in the basement museum include a tartan loom and many hitorical artifacts and storyboards. I recommend a visit if you pass near the area.

We continued on our way toward Rutherfordton and our next lodging. We stopped twice to view beautiful waterfalls along the side of Hwy 64. The first was a long running fall off to the right side of the road. With little space to park on side of the road we pulled off carefully, and even more carefully back onto the road. Well worh it. Next up was NC's version of the oft used name Bridal Veil Falls. The overhang is huge and the falls pour over the ledge, falling in a spread pattern like rain. Gorgeous. We were there a while wating for the traffic to cycle through so we could get up close, under the falls.

Our destination for the night was the Firehouse Inn, a lovely bed and breakfast in downtown Rutherfordton. Like most fire departments it bordered on the "sketchy" side of town, but here sketchy mostly means impoverished and a high vacancy rate -- a sign of the prevailing economic times as much as geography. The Inn is really something. Our suite was huge, including several small rooms used for a closet, double sink room, separate shower and even the old safe that held the tax collections which were located at the fire hosue. The master bedroom I slept in was one the police chief's office and still has Police stenciled on the window of the door.

We walked up town a few blocks to the Legal Grounds coffe bar/bar/restaurant. A band was warming up as we enjoyed a drink and ordered our dinner. While we did not get to try their coffee I was impressed with the calzone. We headed out before the band got going and before the crowd thickened too much.

Sunday(2)

I awoke Sunday feeling great, ready to get home. I brushed my teeth in the double sink room while Russell showered. As I walked away from the sink and into the living room area I felt the muscles in my back tighten just like the cramps I often get in my legs. It was all I could do to make it to the bed and fall onto my back. Over the next hour I drank water, swallowed ibuprofen. Nothing seemed to help. I accompanied Russell up the the beautiful breakfast area but was unable to stay for the serving of breakfast around the table with the other guests, my back hurt to badly. With no other choice I loaded up my bags and crawled onto my bike. The day was a blur of pain and exhaustion. I got off the bike only once for lunch as an Arby's as we cruised the 350 miles back to Raleigh and then on to Topsail Island. When I arrived at home around 4:00PM I pulled int the driveway and just lay on the bike gas tank and waited for Michelle to come down and open the new bike garage doors for me. Sore, exhausted and dehydrated I rode the bike into the garage under the house and crawled slowly off. I made it upstairs and collapsed on the couch. That's pretty much where I stayed for the rest of the evening.

Epilog - Monday With no improvement in my back Monday morning, Michelle made an appointment for me at a local medical care office. She got me loaded in the car and drove me over. A muscle relaxer shot help tremendously in getting me back upright. The doctor followed up with prescriptions for Trammadol and more muscle relaxers. After a few days I was moving around pretty well again. I guess the triple digit heat and dehydration had been too much for me.

I'm already making plans for how to mitigate the dehydration next June. The show must go on. Time stops for no man. Life is short play hard. Yada, yada, yada.