I got up this morning and headed south, over to Clarksdale, MS to the home of the Delta Blues Museum but since I was starving, I stopped at a small restaurant/blues club called The Depot. They had the best, hand made fried okra I’ve ever had. The sweet tea was just this side of syrup, and the burger was delicious.
Having gotten my hunger under control I went over to the museum, paid my money to get in, and wandered around. They’ve got some really good exhibits on the artists and the environment that shaped their music. It was truly educational and fun at the same time. If you’re in the area, you should definitely stop by. I brought home a shirt, a book on Robert Johnson, and a CD of his recordings.
After that I went back to the hotel and arrived just in time to avoid the downpour. It seems like every road trip ends up with me getting rained on. I had been planning to ride back to Clarksdale to go to a blues show, but with the weather being as nasty as it was, I didn’t want to ride 100 miles (round trip) in that kind of rain. So instead I went over to the casino and gambled for a little while. I didn’t strike it rich so I ate dinner and went to sleep.
The bike was all packed and ready to go but I couldn’t find my XM receiver so I stopped in town and picked up another one and got it activated before I hit the road. That was another minor annoyance that added some time onto the trip. In fact, I didn’t get out of Knoxville until almost noon.
Today was a straight shot over to Tunica, Mississippi, a small outpost of casinos and hotels just south of Memphis, TN. It started raining on the way south and the rest of the ride in was a little damp. I got checked in to the hotel and called it an early night.
This is the last day in Knoxville so I went over to Roaring Fork, one of the drives through the Smoky Mountains National Park for some more picture taking opportunities. I got to see a black bear and a cub near the beginning of the loop. The pictures of them aren’t that good because of the thick undergrowth messing with the autofocus, but it was still a treat. After that, it was slow going, winding through the park, stopping to take pictures where I saw something that looked good. I got a few good shots of some of the streams, but the locals say that the water levels are extremely low due to the drought.
After that I headed back to pack the bike up for the ride home.
Boomsday. Not much more to say. It’s the biggest Labor Day fireworks festival in the country. They closed down a bridge over the Tennessee River to launch the fireworks from and it really kicked ass. We managed to get a spot really close to the bridge and were treated to an awesome fireworks display.
Today was a down day, just hanging out and relaxing. I did head in to town to pick up some oil because the bike’s been eating a little more than I like. I’m also getting some valve clatter from the front cylinder which sounds like a lifter’s going out. Not good being this far from home. Right now it only does it when the engine’s cold. Once it’s gotten warmed up everything’s OK, so I’m going to watch it and stop if I have to.
Today was a play day, with my only plans being to ride Deal’s Gap and the Cherohala Skyway. I’ve ridden the dragon before, when I was out in 2005, and it was just as much fun as before. Despite the heavy police presence discussed everywhere, I only saw two cops. The first was writing a ticket at one of the turnouts at the start of the Tennessee side and the other was slowing everyone down and warning them about the semi he was leading through. I really wish that we could get the word out that the road’s no good for 18 wheelers, but I guess that’s just wishful thinking.
Stopped for lunch at Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort and picked up a book that has some nice routes throughout the southeast.
After lunch I headed deeper into North Carolina to pick up the Cherohala Skyway, which turned out to be one of the best routing decisions I made on this trip. It was absolutely beautiful, winding its way along the border with great views of the Smoky Mountains. It was a little on the rainy side so the mountains were a bit obscured but it still made for some great photography. I got a little wet riding through the sprinkles up there, and I had to keep the speed down because of the wet roads, but it was well worth the trip. Total riding time was around 6 hours to cover around 160 miles.
Leaving Jackson this morning on the way to Chattanooga, TN, I ran in to a spot of trouble. About 20 miles outside Meridian, MS the engine just died, like hitting the kill switch, at about 75 miles per hour. After about 5 minutes on the side of the road fiddling with every connection I could find it just cleared itself up and started. I rode cautiously the rest of the way in to Meridian and had it happen once more, but it was a momentary blip, just an off-on instead of staying off.
Pulled in to the dealer in Meridian and they had the bike on the lift in less than 10 minutes. The diagnosis was a bad circuit breaker on the ignition circuit. Since they didn’t have one in stock we swapped the one for the accessory circuit and I was back down the road.
I stopped for lunch in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and called ahead to the dealer in Birmingham. They happened to have one in stock and put it aside with my name on it. When I got there it was waiting for me and along with a shirt and a new rear turn signal bulb it went in the luggage to be worked on when I stopped.
Since I was making such good time, even with the problems, I called ahead and told the Knoxville crew that I’d be in late tonight. It didn’t seem to make much sense to pay for a hotel room in Chattanooga when I only had about 110 more miles to ride.
I arrived at around 9:30 PM a little tired but done with that leg of the trip.
Today was a pretty uneventful ride. I left Dallas at around 8:30 AM and headed around the city to I-20 eastbound, taking me through Louisiana, stopping for lunch just outside of Shreveport. After that I headed through Monroe to Vicksburg, MS and my stopping place for the night, Jackson, MS. The bike was running fine, no problems to report.