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Jerryís Boat Ride Across Lake Michigan

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 6/17/01 Sunday morning there are 10368.7 miles on the Valkyrie. Iíll soon put on more. I depart at 7:00 AM from my home in SW Austin with mixed emotions. On Hwy 290 about 4 miles from home the motorcycle started losing power. It did this the day before when I was riding back from lunch with Clayton. I did not know what caused it but suspected remaining water in the air filter as a result of cleaning it. I really did not believe that.01.jpg (758822 bytes) The bike eventually came to a complete stop. In about 30 seconds it started again with complete power. Then it lost power again in about 5 miles. I carefully tried various throttle settings and speeds. The ignition module receives a signal from a heat sensor to vary the timing. While I suspected this at first, the irregularity of  the carburetors indicated a gas problem. I returned home after 20 miles. I changed into lighter clothing and removed all luggage, side covers, seat and started to remove the gas tank. First I gave the gas hoses an inspection. There it was. The air intake hose was kinked with too sharp a turn.

There are 3 hoses going to the gas tank. One is for gas. One hooks to the #6 carburetor vacuum and it vacuums the gas tank. The last hose provides fresh air for the gas tank. The carburetor vacuum would put a strong vacuum on the tank since no fresh air was allowed through the kinked fresh air hose. With a strong vacuum the gas could not flow down into the carburetors. When I shut the engine off the vacuum would be filled by air going in the reverse direction in the #6 carburetor intake. We had a start stop start stop situation.

I rerouted and secured the air line. I secured another air line with a hose clamp. At about 9:00 AM I was back on the road again. The bike problem took its toll on me. I was worn out when I started the 2nd time. Austin was now bumper car traffic. After Bastrop Texas the pine trees created beautiful scenery. The ride was OK.

Hwy 10 started off OK but that ended with Houston. The fast center lane was open so I took it. The east side of town was even less fun. It was crowded and the roads were rough. Potholes kept me alert. A motorcycle can usually dodge potholes but one place was really bad with no way out and I could not stop in time. The bike did a little dance and the suspension performed better than I anticipated. From Houston to Beaumont was not fun. I visited a friend David just north of Beaumont in Lumberton Texas. We talked computers and then I headed back to Hwy 10.

Hwy 10 was crowded, hot and strenuous all the way to Lafayette Louisiana.  I called it quits after 433 miles. I need to do a little organizing and sorting but it is late.  The option of camping is out. Iím too dehydrated and need a motel since it is still very hot.

6/17/01

It is 3:15 AM CST. Iíve had my shower. I feel good and will ride while it is cool. The ride from Lafayette to New Orleans was with mixed emotions. Can I really do it? I arrived at the south end of the Lake Pontchartrain Bridge.

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I took the 29-mile long bridge to Hwy 12. The sun was just breaking over the horizon and the trip across the lake revived my spirits. Iím now back into the ride. Then it was east on 12 and north on Hwy 59. Hwy 59 from the southern part of Mississippi to Birmingham Alabama was a beautiful ride. There are tall trees on both sides of the road that keep the road shaded and cool. The ride was pleasant. As I crossed the Mississippi border there was a truck weight station. I pulled in and asked if they could weigh my motorcycle with me on it.

Front tire 400 pounds

Rear tire 680 pounds

Total 1080 pounds

I weigh about 225 pounds

I drove 466.8 miles today. More than 3 hours were driven before light appeared on the horizon.

04.jpg (2872 bytes) So Hwy 59 was pleasant all the way to Birmingham. Birmingham has held my curiosity for years. Did my anticipation bring out the best in these people or are they really nicer here. Everyone is very friendly. I took a ride though the southern part of town and then to Tannyhill Historical Park. The ride was pretty with unique houses and fertile countryside. The park was attractive. The main features were a place where people meet and socialize. Everything about the park promoted the congregation of people. I believe Birmingham really is a nice place.

05.jpg (21182 bytes)It is 7:48 PM CST. Iíll have about 257 miles to go tomorrow to reach Knoxville. Iíve reorganized everything and will retire soon. The main thing about today that pleases me is my adaptation to the trip. Since Lake Pontchartrain Bridge I have felt very good about everything. At 2:00 PM however the weather was hot and it was time to stop.  I met an older man and his grandson on a Gold Wing. I followed them for about 100 miles. I finally broke off since our eating schedules differed. I wish I had given him more time because he might not be aware of dehydration. Iíll watch for him in Knoxville. (I never saw him again).

06.jpg (21357 bytes)The drive through Mississippi and Alabama offered many smells. There was the smell of someone cooking breakfast on a wood burning stove. I wonder what kind of wood they were using. Most radio stations are country or religious. Many people have a strong southern accent. I love it. For hours I was singing the song by Leonard Skinner called Sweet Home Alabama.  The Birmingham water tastes like bottled water. A full breakfast for only $3.23 was very good. 07.jpg (18389 bytes)

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6/19/01 Tuesday

I arrived in Knoxville at 11:00 AM. The time was less than I anticipated. Am I getting used to travel? Light was barely breaking the horizon when I left Birmingham. It was a comfortable 75 degrees. Then the elevation went higher and it became slightly foggy. It was cooler but OK for my insulated coat. I had breakfast in a small town along the way and hospitality remained good. I got to Knoxville much sooner than anticipated. Right now Iím waiting for a washer and dryer to free up for my clothes. The hot weather requires more frequent clothing changes. There are only 2 washers and 2 dryers. The girl in front of me put her clothes in the last dryer about 3 minutes before my permanent press items were done washing. Then she did not put any money in the dryer. When my clothes were done she still had not returned. She also had the lower dryer and they were both stuffed so one cycle would not dry them. I put her clothes back in the washer and dried my clothes. This sure ainít Birmingham. When she returned I had nearly finished and I had plenty of time left on my dryer for her to use. She was not really concerned about money. She works at the motel and she used her key to open up the dryer coin box and use my quarters to activate the machine. I then went to Shoney's across the street for a good meal.

6/19/01 and Bob and his buddy Pat are not here yet.  Iíve been checking with Motel 6 registration often and if there is someone new working registration I make sure they are looking for Bob.  Since I arrived before Bob, I paid for his registration so I could get into the room and unload the bike. It is very hot and the traffic is terrible. I went to the Honda Hoot meeting location at Chilhowee Park as others did and it was not open for registration. It will open tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM. It was about 2:00 PM when I went. The 14 miles were very strenuous on Hwy 75/40. It was crowded but the traffic was moving. In evening rush hour traffic it will be a serious problem. Bob and Patrick will be in bad shape when they get here. From Noon to 5:00 PM is a bad time to ride.

Knoxville is growing rapidly. The congestion is like Austin Texas but the traffic is more regular. The people are more like-minded and watch out for each other.

A neighbor tells me of a good ride. From Knoxville take Hwy 75 south. Take Hwy 68 east to Telico Plains. Right on Hwy 129, left on 143 and right on Hwy 28 to Cherokee North Carolina. Cherokee is in the Cherokee Indian reservation.

6:00 PM and Bob is not here. I am now very worried. Did he have an accident? Is he road kill?

6/20/01. I check with registration again and Bob has not arrived. The stress is really building up. Bob is a very dependable person.  09.jpg (11008 bytes)I take the neighborís suggested trip to reach Cherokee. I headed south on Hwy 75, left on Hwy 68 and to Telico Plains. I eventually wound up in Cherokee North Carolina. The ride was very beautiful. I was hoping to see something of my Cherokee Indian heritage. Thousands of novelty shops are not what I had in mind.

091.jpg (48965 bytes)I eventually found the southern start of the Blue Ridge Parkway and was on my way. Before reaching the Blue Ridge Parkway I saw road construction at its best. It was the pros with the big equipment that moves small mountains out of the way.    

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The southern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway consists of the highest elevation and the sharpest turns. All roads are curves and many tunnels along the way.  There are also many pull offs with beautiful views. It takes many hours just to reach the 90 miles to Ashville, North Carolina.  All along the way I am asking about gas stations and other facilities. There is no good record of this information. From Ashville it is 40 miles north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6047 feet. I head in that direction. I still do not know where I will end up but there is a camping location about 48 miles from Ashville that can be the determination point.  

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After 30 miles from Asheville I am climbing to a little turn off called Craggy Gardens Visitors Center when it starts sprinkling. I look up and think nothing of it. I was riding along the edge of an overhanging cliff where I could have put on my rain gear. I didnít. Keep in mind Iím only a short distance on the eastern side of the mountain ridge. The thunderstorm on the other side could not be seen. It popped over the mountain ridge and dumped on me so fast I could not get dressed before getting wet. I tried to get dressed under a tree but it did not help. I was wet enough to reduce heat retention. I continued to ride in the rain. The raindrops were too big and were splashing inside my helmet and getting my glasses wet. It was hard to see. I drove to Craggy Dome where about 6 bikers were held up under the front overhang of a closed building. Another rider had come from the north and he was dazed from the long ride and 20 miles of rainy weather. He said it was 160 miles between gas stations. This would be the limit for a Valkyrie and would not allow for off road camping and site seeing.  None of the riders here were headed north so I felt alone as I started riding again.

Mount Mitchell State Park is where the highest point east of the Mississippi River is located. There is also a restaurant there.  It is 5 miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It will be another 15 miles to my planned campground and my cooking gear has not been tested. Setting up a tent in the rain is not appealing. Iím also very cold. By the time I reach the restaurant it is still raining and I am now at almost 6000 feet. I am very cold.

Let us back up a bit here. I learned from my Big Bend trip to eat and drink wisely. Did I do it? The morning of this day I start with a banana and one granola bar. Then for lunch I eat another banana and a granola bar. This type of food does not produce heat. Then I get caught at 6000 feet in a very cold rain and get wet. By the time I reached Mount Mitchell parking lot I was freezing. I ate the meat of a hamburger and drank 2 hot chocolates. I then told the waiter to just bring me a large container of hot water. I drank it down and started to warm up. I had about 20 more minutes before they closed. I asked the manager about facilities north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were none for a very long distance. My campsite was not an attractive idea. I decided to return to Ashville. So 40 miles back to Ashville and warm weather. The ride back was quite pleasant and I arrived at dusk. Motel 6 on Hwy 70 was a welcome site.

At the Motel 6 I gave the trip serious consideration.  Completing the Blue Ridge Parkway would be great but there were no escape routes and it would take 2 days to reach the other end.  Once I reached the other end there were no roads I was really interested in.  Washington DC was not appealing at this point. Missing Bob really created a lot of tension. Then we have hypothermia. In Washington DC there is absolutely no place to park. I would have to leave the motorcycle north of town and take a subway into the city. Where do I leave the bike? What about all my gear? I would have to rent a motel just to see the sites. At this point I cancelled Washington DC.  I lived in Washington DC for 2 months so I know what I would be up against. Naturally this would also cancel Niagara Falls but I never wanted to see it without Phyllis anyway.

The portion of Blue Ridge Parkway I traveled consists of the highest altitudes and the most curves and tunnels. The northern section had nothing greater to offer and was more of a challenge than I was ready for. During my time there a trail guide was lost and the chances of survival were not good. It is a rough area to be in if something goes wrong.

6/21/01 Thursday

I got up late and called to see if Bob was in Knoxville. They said ďhe is here and he left a key for youĒ.  I had breakfast for the first time in a Waffle House. The cook is right in front of you. He looked like a Cherokee Indian and he was really good at what he was doing.

15.jpg (28625 bytes)The remainder of my trip is still unknown but I did return to Knoxville. Bob and Pat were out so I toured Knoxville and got to know it better. The Wal-Mart in Knoxville is a Super Wal-Mart. It is the largest single store I have seen in my life.  The Old City area is like Austinís 6th Street. It was part of the Honda Hoot schedule. They invited about 10,000 bikes to park in an area that would hold about 200 bikes maximum. This is typical of the Honda Hoot.

 A motorcycle note.  At the Republic of Texas Rally most of the Harley motorcycles were from Texas. I wondered if the Honda Hoot would attract motorcycles from greater distances. The answer is no. Almost all license plates were from states that are closer to Knoxville than the distance Texas borders are from Austin.  There were only a few exceptions including me.  It also appears that all the new 1800 CC Gold Wings are yellow.  Iíll have to hand it to Harley where individuality still remains.

Later in the day I call to see if Bob and Pat are in our room. They are. Bob asks me a few questions and immediately I knew it is because of the motel that we did not meet on Tuesday. I was upset as I rode back to the motel. I arrived at 5:00 PM and we discussed the previous 2 day's events. If you recall, I arrived in Knoxville on Tuesday at 11:00 AM. Bob and Pat arrived on the same day at 4:00 PM. Even though I paid for Bobís reservation they sold him a different room on the other side of the complex. Bob was checking on me as often as I checked on him but we did not check at the same time. We missed each other and Motel 6 failed to match us up. We asked for each otherís name and they always told us we were not there. We agreed that if they refund two days we would drop the issue. Otherwise we go to the top. They gave us the two days.

I called the Badger Ferry on Lake Michigan to see if I could reschedule. No problem. At this point I will go to Michigan or Missouri. I hear there is a cold front moving in so I decide on Michigan. The cold front is appealing.

16.jpg (30733 bytes)Bob, Patrick and I have breakfast and head for the Honda Hoot early. Bob is interested in riding the demo bikes. He rode 3 motorcycles the day before. Today he wanted to ride the BMW. These demo rides go for about 20 miles. This is a pretty good deal if this is what you came to the Honda Hoot for. I considered buying a day pass the previous day but it would not allow me in on any of the events. It would only let me enter the vendor area. I told the cashier that I was very content with what I had and if I looked at the vendorís goods I would see something I could not live without and also could not afford. I would no longer be content. So I kept my money. I also did not like the idea of paying to go window shopping. In general, the Honda Hoot was a rip off and nobody I talked to planned on returning next year. Well I guess there is no use in trying to get them to publish my story. 17.jpg (24327 bytes)

At this point I departed on my own and headed for Michigan. I knew in advance I would be hitting the cold front in about one hour. I am still in the mountainous region when it hits. Out on open highways I can see it coming and am dressed for it. I ride through it with no problems. It will reach Knoxville in about 2 or 3 hours and Bob and Pat will be rained out. And this is the way it actually happened. Eventually it stops raining but it remains overcast for most of the journey through Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio. About 30 miles south of the Michigan border it clears up. Iíve had my eye on Van Buren State Park in Ohio. It turns out to be a good choice.  I finally test my camping gear and my cooking gear. This really puts me into the trip in a meaningful way. The tent is comfortable. The food is good. The Backpackerís Pantry food from Academy is great. The most important thing is that it makes you feel good and provides a lot of energy.  The American Camper Magic Heat can provide 6 hours of heat and will boil water rather quickly. I question why anyone would bother with a cumbersome gas-burning stove. The Magic Heat device is small, light and packs easily and safely.

18.jpg (18159 bytes)The ranger at Van Buren State Park spends his time with positive reinforcement. He announces over a loud speaker that there will be a film at 8:00 PM. It is a fun event and a good film on the use of energy.  There is a neighboring refugee community adjacent to the state park.  I call them refugees but they are really southerners that drive their trailer up north for the summer. They have a very good community. I thoroughly enjoyed the campout and am in high spirits.

The next morning I head north towards Detroit but take the western route around the city. Ohio has been a good experience. Michigan is not as nice. They have only a few restaurant chains along the highway. McDonalds seem to dominate. The first 2 were so dirty that I walked out. The 3rd was also dirty and I had to force the bad food down. While the food will keep you from starving to death it is certainly not nutritious and a very poor choice for anyone exerting a lot of energy.  Unfortunately there are few other choices.  Hwy 23 around Detroit is an old road and ready for repair. It is a bumpy ride to Flint Michigan. I turn right on Hwy 69 and go to Lapeer Michigan where I visit my cousin Norman and his wife Jo. I arrive there at 11:15 AM.

19.jpg (22650 bytes) Norman and Jo have a good life in Michigan. They are farmers and the ground is quite fertile up there. The growing season is very dependable. We have a good visit and I see a lot of their town and lifestyle. I last visited with Norman and Jo 49 years ago when I was 8 years old and stayed with them for a month in southern Missouri. They lived on a farm then and they put me to work right away. I remember feeding the ducks and they all started chasing me. It scared me. I was not afraid of one duck but 10 or 15 were too much and they could peck pretty hard. I made it back to the house safely and Norman explained to me that the ducks were after the feed that lodged in the cuffs of my pants.

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I take the scenic route across Michigan. I make a special attempt to pass through Grand Rapids Michigan. This is where I was born. I have not seen it since I was 3 months old. I tour the city and stop at a fire station and ask for directions to the old part of town. I asked if there are any hospitals at least 57 years old. St. Maryís is that old for sure and possibly one other. As I get on the highway ramp to leave the old center of town I spot St. Maryís on the left. Perhaps this is where I was born.

I take Hwy 37 north out of Grand Rapids, which is noted as the scenic route. I then turn left on Hwy 10 and head for Ludington. This is where the Badger Ferry departs.

The Valkyrie is performing very well. I have a 7-day supply of clothing, 4 days supply of food and 2 days supply of water. Things could not be any better.

Michigan in general is a disappointment and mostly because of poor places for tourists to eat. The roads are not very good. In Michigan the bikers would rate Hwy 37 as a #7 on a scale from #1 to #10. The #7 rating is mostly due to there being no snow on it. If it is also dry it becomes a #8. Riding along the shore of Lake Michigan on a clear warm day would be a #9. Donít tell the Michigan bikers this but their #7 would be about a #2 or #3 by the Austin Texas Hill Country standards.

After checking out the Badger Ferry I drove north to Ludington State Park and paid for a campsite. My tent is actually placed on the point furthest north on my trip. I tour the area and the town of Ludington. It is pretty and peaceful. Lake Michigan is beautiful and the shoreline has cliffs or hills that are much higher than I realized. The shore sand is fine, light colored and clean. The shoreline is almost identical to the Gulf of Mexico shoreline along Florida between Pensacola and Panama City. The only difference is this is fresh water and you can drink it.

It was 5:39 PM on 6/24/01 and my tent is set up. I cooked supper and organized everything before retiring. The next morning would be busy.

6/25/01 Monday

22.jpg (21776 bytes) My alarm is set for 5:20 AM EST. I awaken at 4:50 AM EST and start packing in the dark. Only a light glow is visible on the horizon. It is really 3:50 CST and I would be in Central Standard Time by midday. I had allowed 80 minutes to get to the ferry but now had 110 minutes. Any free time can be spent enjoying the area. I arrive at the Badger Ferry only 10 minutes early.  All motorcycles park in one little spot but we pay for the price of a large car.  We all tie our bikes down with ratcheting straps at 6:30 AM EST. We depart Ludington at 7:30 AM EST. This is fun. I spend the trip exploring as much of the boat as possible. I wore myself out climbing steps for 4 hours. It is a beautiful clear day and the view is spectacular. There are many nice people to visit with. The boat is traveling at about 20 mph and travel time should be 3 hours and 45 minutes. You can feel the engine slightly and slapping waves create a slight pulse through the ship during the first hour of the trip. Lake Michigan is 60 mile wide at this location and is 300 to 400 feet deep. There are shelves in the lake that are about 100 feet deep where fishermen hang out.

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You cannot come close to seeing both sides of Lake Michigan at the same time during the day. I am told that on a very clear night you can see lights on both sides at the same time from the upper decks of the Badger Ferry.

So far I have not seen another motorcycle camper. Surely others have done it. It takes a lot of careful planning.  

We should arrive in Manitowoc Wisconsin by 11:30 AM but we will then be in CST so I gain an hour and it will be 10:30 AM. Iíll need to make phone calls soon since the network was always busy in Michigan. In general, Michigan is behind most other states. Iím not impressed with it as a tourist state. It would probably be ideal as a place to live as Norman and Jo have an excellent environment.

What to do in Wisconsin. Aunt Maryís is a must stop but I need to replan at that point. The ferry arrives in Manitowoc Wisconsin at 11:00 AM. I think it took 3 hours to cross the lake, not counting loading time. The ride to Milwaukee was great. I pulled into town and asked about the Harley Davidson factory and museum. Several people were not familiar with it. The ride from Milwaukee to Kenosha Wisconsin was not good. The 40 minute ride took more than 2 hours. Road construction forced me off the main highway. Then it was suburban streets the remainder of the way. By the time I reached Aunt Maryís I was really tired. We talked; I rinsed off the bike and washed clothes.  Mary was fun to talk with and we covered a lot of ground. Then we had very good food.  My cousins showed up and Mary prepared an evening meal. I got to meet cousin Mikeís son who was staying with Mary. James eventually arrives and we have a good visit. I thought Mary said Mike would be here and not Steve. So when Steve arrives I call him Mike knowing all the time he is Steve. Steve is a good communicator and great to visit with. Then my cousin Shirley arrives with her husband. Then Lillian arrives. We all eat and then move to the living room. It is a great visit but I am very tired and have a hard time contributing to the conversation. After all leave I sleep very well. 

The next morning I visit with Mary during breakfast and make final plans for my trip.  I loaded the bike and departed at 8:30 AM. There were many options to consider at this point. There was the Harley factory in Milwaukee, which would be somewhat on the way to Minneapolis Minnesota. My greatest immediate interest was to take Steve up on his offer to visit his office and factory. I love industry and Steve is right in the middle of it. The greatest concern is to visit Wally and Denny in Minneapolis, which has been planned for a long time. The weather forecast was hot. I was concerned about how tired I got the preceding day. My kidneys were sore from processing very large quantities of water and Gatorade. I tried to maintain 2 parts water and 1 part Gatorade. It was obvious that if I made it to Minneapolis I would not be able to visit any scenic areas along the way. The road construction going that direction was also bad. The trip from Minneapolis to St. Louis was certainly a two-day trip. The overriding factor here was the question of my stamina.  I had little choice but to head for St. Louis where Diana and Roger could help me recover for a few days.  I took the toll way around Chicago and could not believe how well the traffic moved. I reached Hwy 55 in good time.  The ride down Hwy 55 was good but I was constantly reminded about my failure to visit Denny and Wally in Minneapolis. I was not interested in the geography of Minnesota but my friends from long ago meant a lot to me. This would be the greatest disappointment of my trip.

There were approximately 20% cumulous clouds and it dipped the temperature by 5 degrees. This helped. I used my windbreaker to hold in moisture.  I ate properly and continuously replenished fluids. Seven hours later I was at Dianaís house and could not believe the good time I made.

The trip down Hwy 55 had one small incident. I was driving in the fast lane and approaching a truck in the right lane. A car passed me on the right at high speeds just as I was nearing the truck. He pulled in front of me at the last second and then went around the truck. Another car behind this guy is attempting to do the same thing. There is not enough room for him to get between the truck and me. I give the bike a little gas so he wonít be tempted to try it. This kid has tunnel vision and all he sees is his buddy in front of him and the small amount of light between the truck and me. He goes for it and naturally he cannot push the truck out of the way. So he proceeds to run over me. I pull to the left shoulder and back off before he wipes me out.  I am very upset and cannot use the words here to describe how I feel.  I pull up behind the rear car and we are going 90 mph. I depress my horn button and hold it down for about 1 minute. I let up on the button to show him it is not stuck and I then hold it down again. The air horns are working at their best and the sound bouncing off his car is hurting my ears. I maintain a close distance but not too close in case he slams on his brakes. I then turn on my bright lights. After a short distance the right lane becomes clear. I move over into the right lane and abruptly move up beside the last car and give home a thorough inspection. My quick acceleration let him know he cannot possibly get away from me. At this point I am willing to take the bike up to 120 mph. They do not exceed 90 mph and I come to realize these teenage kids already have the pedal to the metal and the cars will not go any faster. I back off and get behind them again. After a few miles I have made my point and lose interest in them and I pull over into the right lane. Then they slow down. They continue to slow down. Now they are going 40 mph so I go around them. After I go around them they take the next exit and get off the highway. I realized at this point that they were never going to get off the highway as long as I was behind them. The highway was their only place of safety. If I followed them off the exit ramp I could get them at the first stop light with my ball and chain and all other forms of mass destruction a motorcycle rider is commonly known to carry.  I was quite content to know I made an impression and may save the life of another biker in the future by slowing these kids down.

In St. Louis, my sister Diana, Darrell and niece Carly were a lot of fun. After a fun visit and a tasty supper I went to brother Rogerís where I unpacked the bike and retired for the evening. 27.jpg (14495 bytes)

6/27/01 Wednesday

It is Wednesday morning and I feel bad about missing Denny and Wally. As I review the situation there was little choice. I have a history of pushing the limits of what I can do. Minneapolis would be a gamble.  Right now as I write, my lungs are congested and my right kidney is sore. Iíll take it easy today and drink a lot of water.

I would stay 3 full days in St. Louis and keep busy all the time. Ed has a motorcycle and I rode with him to his parents, Ralph and Ruthís farm to visit. We had a great time. Ralph and Ruth have more toys than anyone I know. Model T cars, tractors, horses and you name it. They really enjoy life. Riding and visiting with Ed was great.

I saw Bob on Friday and we rode bikes to lunch. We talked about our Knoxville meeting and covered a lot of territory in our conversation. We had a good visit again.

My health was back and I would head south Saturday morning.

6/30/01 Saturday

I left for southern Missouri. At Hwy 55 and Hwy 19 I call Joe Spoor and ask him about Hwy 19 and Hwy 63. He said Hwy 19 had curves and hills while Hwy 64 was straighter. Hwy 19 was for motorcycles and I took it. It is a beautiful road. From Hwy 44 to Eminence Missouri the road was mostly curvy. Between Eminence and Alton Missouri the road was up and down like a roller coaster. The visit with Joe in Alton Missouri was great. Joe has done a lot of motorcycle riding in the past. His wife Buster came home for lunch and a visit. After a good visit the rain came. Joe said his gravel road would handle the rain but I still did not like it. I took off for concrete pavement and Hwy 19.  My rain gear worked and I rode out the rain. A short distance put me in Thayer Missouri and then Mammoth Springs Arkansas.  I found Aunt Violetís house from memory. Dennis and Jean came over for supper. As usual Violet is a great cook. 

7/1/01 Sunday

28.jpg (24200 bytes)The visit was great. I slept well and had a large breakfast with Violet. Then I packed up and headed west from Thayer Missouri on Hwy 141. From Thayer at the junction of Hwy 63 and Hwy 141 it is 9.9 miles to Charlie Spoorís house. I had already visited with Joe, Lillian and Shirley and this is where they were raised. At 12.6 miles there is a little gravel road to the south called Howell SE 9290.  A small sign on a nearby telephone pole says Mint Springs Cemetery. I took the road and kept to the left at the ďYĒ. There were two turns and then a sharp left. After a few hundred feet there was a sharp right. I immediately crossed a creek bed and in another 30 feet there was a small road to the left that is hard to see.  At the end of that road is Mint Springs Cemetery. It is out in the middle of nowhere. The notes for this day have been written on my writing tablet as I set on the gravestone of my mother and father.

7/1/01 Sunday and I am now set up in Petite Jean State Park in central Arkansas taking notes. In Lanton Missouri I took a picture of Walter Spoor's house. This is where Norman Spoor was raised. Tommy Spoor, his younger brother, was also raised there and he caught me taking the picture of the house as he drove by in his truck. He asked if he could help me. I said of course you can, I am Jerry Spoor. He pulled in and asked if I was in a hurry. I said no so he told me to get into the truck. About 30 cows were missing and we went looking for them. We saw two before he had to go back and get a key to his neighborís property gate. I really wanted to see how he handled livestock in this type of situation but I had a schedule that would not allow much deviation. He dropped me off at the bike and I went south into Arkansas.  There was Hwy 7 and Hwy 9 that are  must see roads for a motorcycle. I was already on Hwy 9 and Hwy 7 would be a few hours longer. Hwy 9 proved to be quite a challenge. It was one turn after the other. It was at Mountain View Arkansas where the thunderstorm in front of me looked intimidating. I turned west on Hwy 66 and then south on Hwy 65. I caught a piece of the storm on both of those highways but surely far less than if I went straight through it.  It cleared up and I took Hwy 124, Hwy 92 and then Hwy 64 back to Hwy 9.  A short distance out of Morrilton Arkansas I came to Hwy 154 that took me to Petite Jean State park.  This is a pretty park with an interesting story behind the name.

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The Petite Jean State park story of adventure began with a young French nobleman named Chavet who lived in the period of the French exploration of the New World, and who was said to be a kinsman of the King of France. He asked the King for permission to explore a part of the Louisiana Territory, and for a grant to whatever part of it he might find to his liking. The King agreed to his request.

 Chavet was engaged to be married to a young girl in Paris who, when told of this plans, asked that they be married before he left France so that she might accompany him. Thinking of the hardship and danger that would probably be encountered, Chavet refused the girlís request and told her that on his return, if he found the country good they would be married and go to the New World to spend their lives. The girl, however, refused to accept his denial. She disguised herself as a boy and applied to the captain of Chavetís ship as a cabin boy, calling herself Jean.

The girl must have been incredibly clever in disguise, for it is said that not even Chavet recognized her or suspected that she was not a boy. The sailors called her Petite Jean.

The ocean was crossed in early spring; the vessel ascended the Mississippi, and then the Arkansas River to the foot of this Mountain, which must have looked to the voyagers as they approached it, like the prow of a great ship.

 The Indians who lived on the Mountain, seeing a ship for the first time, came down to the river and gave Chavet and his sailors a friendly and hospitable greeting. They invited the sailors to the top of the mountain. The invitation was accepted and Chavet and his men, including the cabin boy, found life with the Indians so pleasant that the entire summer was spent there.     

 

Petit Jean fished the streams and hunted the forests of the region with Chavet, the sailors and the Indians until fall approached, when Chavet began preparations for the voyage back to France. When the ship was ready, supplied with food from the forest and water from the springs of the Mountain, and everything needed for the trip, Chavet, his sailors and Petit Jean went aboard on the evening before the day set for the start down the river. Chavet told the Indians that he would return the next Year.

 That night, Petit Jean became ill with a malady that was strange to Chavet and his sailors. It was marked with fever, convulsions, delirium, and finally, coma. The condition of the patient was so grave at daylight that the departure was postponed. During her delirium and coma, Petit Jeanís identity was discovered.

32.jpg (20794 bytes) After two days, there was a lucid interval. The girl confessed her deception to Chavet and begged his forgiveness. She told him that she knew she could not live to reach France, and asked that she be carried back to the mountaintop to spend her last days.

 The Indians made a stretcher of deerskins and bore her up the trail near the point of the mountain to their camp on the brow overlooking the mountains and valley to the south. At sundown that day, she died.

 Many years later, a low mound of earth was found in a cove on the east point of the Mountain, with rocks that fitted so perfectly that they could not have been there by accident. It was agreed that the grave was very old. This is believed to be the grave of Petit Jean.

Legend has it that the spirit of Petit Jean hovers over the Mountain, giving it an air of strange enchantment.

33.jpg (32127 bytes)In the picture you can barely make out the flowers on the grave between the rocks. A picture cannot capture this view.

 I set up tent and unloaded the bike. After two showers I was cooled down. At one of the hiking trails I asked directions from a man who looked like President Clinton. He talked like President Clinton. He appeared 3 or 4 inches shorter than Clinton. I really donít know. Probably not him because the people around him did not appear to be security personnel. Another hiker suggests Nebo State Park, Mount Magazine State Park and Queen Wilhelmina State Park.

7/2/01

I awaken with the sounds of birds all around. A beautiful morning. I pack the tent and all items. The dinner I cooked the night before was great as I have plenty of energy. The bike is loaded and my neighbor brings me a cup of coffee. I tell him I never do caffeine but this is the end of my trip and Iíll make an exception. I love coffee. We visit and he tells me about his favorite places in Arkansas.  They are Buffalo Point on the Buffalo River and Devilís Den southwest of Fayetteville. I eat a breakfast bar and feel I can easily hold out until I hit Hwy 30.  I head back on Hwy 154 and then take Hwy 9 south. The story of Petite Jean adds to the mysticism of the area and the journey is pleasant. From Opello Arkansas Hwy 9 is much straighter. I take a shortcut on Hwy 298 for 14 miles and get a good taste of small curvy Arkansas roads. Four more miles on Hwy 5 and Iím at Hwy 30 in Benton Arkansas and a Waffle House restaurant that I like so well. A good breakfast and Iím off on Hwy 30 going towards Texarkana. I make excellent time.

 At Texarkana I would decide on the remaining roads and where to spend the night. Dallas was an option. Tyler Texas was also an option. Iíve already had plenty of curves and stop signs so I head for Dallas. I stop often for gas or a snack or water. Each time I totally soak my long sleeve shirt and put it back on while it is dripping with water. This really cools me down. Finally, Dallas Texas. I take the loop around town and the traffic is averaging about 85 mph. It was tense but it went well. Hwy 35 south was not too bad. Just north of Waco I take a 30-minute break. I have an ice cream cone and then explore a store for hand lotion. The pharmacist recommends Lubriderm. My hands were scorched and dry. The Lubriderm really worked to heal them and soften the skin.

 As I entered Georgetown the thunderstorm over Austin looked terrifying. I called Phyllis for a weather update and she said it was moving northwest and would pass over in about 2 hours. I tightened up the rain suit and rode on. Austin did not fail to live up to its reputation as the worst place to drive in the United States. Driving on wet streets really kept me alert. I went around on Mopac and people would drive until their rear bumper was 3 feet in 34.jpg (29820 bytes) front of my front wheel and then pull over in front of me. The mud from their wheels would splatter my motorcycle and create lovely patterns on the gas tank and fenders. I arrived home at 8:15 PM and put 559.7 miles on the bike in one day. This included the drive through Petite Jean State Park and the hill country of central Arkansas.

 My general opinion of Austin is good. Our hill country and weather makes for one of the best places in the world to drive a motorcycle. We also have a diverse population. I would go so far as to say we have many people who were rejected by other cities and states. It shows up on our highways. Other cities had a lot of traffic and they drove fast but they drove fast together.

 My complete trip was a success with no close calls other than nearly freezing to death on the Blue Ridge Parkway. After 4321.6 miles it comes to an end. I missed Washington DC and much of Dallas but the danger factor was too great. I regret missing Minneapolis Minnesota but I simply ran out of steam. I owe Wally and Denny.

 It is good to be home.

 Jerry

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