August 2006 - The Ride to The Trace

After making several overnight and three day week-end trips we wanted to try our first long trip. In the months leading up to the trip we decided we wanted to run The Trace.

The idea was to leave in the afternoon once I left work, and make a bee line trip across I-40 from our central North Carolina home to the western North Carolina mountains before dark. We would spend the night on the edge of the North Carolina and Tennesee state line so that we'd have a good start on our trip.

From there we would head for Nashville and the start of The Trace. We'd get there when we got there.

Once on The Trace we promised ourselves not to get in a hurry and just be real tourist. Take our time, take lots of pictures and enjoy ourselves. After reaching the end of the parkway having seen what we wanted to see, we would take a look at how much time and available funds we had and then decide what to do. We had a rough idea of how we might head back north and east, but we'd play it by ear.

The trip was a real memory maker. We enjoyed ourselves, and had fun, safe trip, what more could we ask for?
The Nomad, in full touring mode, loaded for bear. It never complained or hiccuped the entire trip.

First morning out.
The eastern enterance to the Cherohala Skyway near Robbinsville, North Carolina.
"We're heading that-a-way."
Taking in the sites along the way.
We had heard about a side road off the Cherohala Skyway that led beside a river and up to a waterfall. Seeing what we thought was it, we turned and started up this rough little small paved road beside this. "Must be it." we thought and headed down it.
We found this rock at a wide spot on the road leading to the falls. Julie decided she wanted to go out and sit down on it for bit.
"I can do this all by myself. I don't need your help."
"I made it!"
"I think I'll just wait right here for you to come and get me."
The Bald River Falls, located near the end of the Cherohala Skyway outside of Telico Plains, Tennessee.
We made it! Entering the Natchez Trace outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Our destination, Natchez Mississippi, 445 miles south.
A small waterfall at a pull off near the Trace in Tennessee.
The first of many small graveyards where fallen civil war soldiers were buried where they fell.

We had decided we would spend the better part of a day around Tupelo, Mississippi. Julie wanted to see Elvis' birthplace and I wanted to see a civil war battlefield.

Fair enough.

We started with Elvis.
A monument to a young Elvis
Julie at the home where Elvis was born.

Photos weren't allowed inside the museum so these are all we have of it.
Outside of Tupelo, Mississippi.

There was a driving tour on the road leading up to this, the site of the main battle. Along the way were pull offs with markers that marked a time line of the battle noting points at which smaller battles, troop movements and placements leading up to the main battle.

As you might imagine the Trace has several points of interest relating to the War Between the States all along its route and we stopped at most of them. Both of us finding them interesting and informative.

Because of this we have began looking for other civil and revolutionary war historical parks and memorials that we can ride to on day and week-end trips.
A civil war cannon marks the spot where a southern gun crew led by a 17 year old confederate solider held the southern lines and helped to turn back the Yankee oppressors. *eg*
Somber reminder of war.

A home and farm that has been located in the same spot beside the Old Trace sense prior to the Civil War.
Ancient Indian burial mounds in Mississippi.

Just north of Natchez, Mississippi a section of the original Old Trace is preserved and marked.
Standing in the Old Trace.
This was a bed and breakfast Natchez Trace style in the 1800's. It marked the end of a typical first days travel for those leaving Natchez for Nashville. It was about a 20 mile journey for them, a short ride out for some lunch for us.

I tell people that one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me happened at a Sonic restaurant in Natchez, Mississippi at lunch one day.

We rode to the end of the Trace and found a place to top of with fuel and then a bite to eat at the drive in next door. We parked in a space and with maps in hand walked over to a picnic table set up by the front door to the kitchen.

After ordering lunch we spread open the maps and looked the situation over. We were in southern Mississippi eating chilli dogs on a beautiful summer day. We had several days left before having to return, money in our pocket and a great riding motorcycle with a full tank of fuel.

Where do we want to go now?

When I'm sitting in the recliner at my son's house and I'm telling my grand youngin's stories about the good ol' days, this will be one of my favorite one's.

Ultimately we decided to haul the mail over to Mobile, Alabama and spend the whole day visiting some spots we thought would be fun and interesting. Even going the long way we made it to Mobile just after dark after riding 430 or so miles, part of it in the rain.

It was a hurried ride on the back roads of southern Mississippi and into Alabama. After eating supper we did some laundry and turned in for the night. We were in full tourist mode tomorrow.
Starring down the bow of the U.S.S. Alabama in Mobile Bay, Alabama. Those are some BIG guns!

As we had done before, Julie and I each picked a point of interest we wanted so see and split the day seeing them. I picked the U.S.S. Alabama Memorial, Julie decided on Bellingrath Gardens.

I had visited here many (many) years ago, but really wanted to see it again. My darling bride graciously sucked it up and spent part of a day tramping around and inside of both the Battleship Alabama and the WWII diesel Submarine U.S.S. Drum.

She's such a trooper.
20 mm anti-aircraft gun battery.
Manning the firing position.
Overview of hurricane damaged aircraft at Mobile Bay. Most were inside a hanger that was badly damaged as well, but managed to at least protect them from any more damage.
Storm damaged P-51 Mustang. *whimper*

Sick bird.
As we were leaving the battleship we met an older gentleman that told us he had been a sailor on the Alabama during WWII.

He told us about an accident in which he had been involved in during battle operations. A miscue in communications led to the firing of one of the ships med sized amored gun turrets firing directly into the side of the turret beside it.

Standing at the base of the gangway leading off the ship he used his walking cane and pointed at the gun position that took the point blank hit. He told us that he had been stationed in the turret, but deep inside it, down in the lower part of the ship. He and a few others managed to escape, the rest in the upper levels of the position perished.

He told us how the fires burned uncontrolably for a while and that the intense heat made the metal of the wreckage and surrounding area of the hull glow bright red. When darkenss came the glow was still so bright it could easily seen by enemy aircraft and vessels. Using tarpoleans and what ever else they could find they built a make shift cover trying to conceal themselves as much as possible.

We spoke a little more and then some people walked up and asked if he was ready to go. I thanked him for sharing his memories with us and then shook his hand, thanking him for his service to our country. He smiled and walked away.

It's a sad story about a dark time in someones life, but a special part of history. I can't tell you how honored I feel that he shared it with us.

Remembering him, I share it with you.
In the afternoon we visited the Bellingrath Home & Gardens. The beautiful home and gardens of the Bellingrath family that was given to the state as a historical place.

Julie and I split the day between the U.S.S. Alabama Memorial and Bellingrath Gardens, each of us choosing what we wanted to see. I think I got the better end of the deal because Bellingrath's is one of the neatest places I've ever been. But a battleship is more of a guy thing I guess...

Julie at Bellingrath Gardens.
Inside the gardens.
Steps leading to the waterfront and docks.
Butterflies on the Butterfly Bush.
The rose garden was spectacular.
Julie and I behind the Bellingrath home.

An amazingly beautiful place.

Sunset at Bellingrath Gardens.

We didn't take any more photo's after this the rest of the way home for some reason. We spent the night not far up the road that night having spent the biggest part of the day in and around Mobile.

The next day we rode to Thomaston, Georgia and stopped for the day. We went to supper with my aunt's Mary Jo and sister Jane, Mary Jo's daughter Kim and her daughter Ashley. We all had a wonderful visit and then called it a night.

From Thomaston we headed up the back roads of Georgia and into South Carolina. It was a lazy ride that took us through the piney woods and sand country, across a dam and by a resivoir and into the town of Greenwood, South Carolina for the night. Enjoying a good meal and a couple of cold ones at a sports bar, then playing a game of pool before calling it a night.

We made it home the next day. While it was good to be home, and we were both worn out from having been gone for so long, it was also kind of sad to see the adventure come to an end.

The trip ended up being just shy of 2,400 miles and we had been gone eight days. Not Ironbutt time, but that hadn't been the point. We were tourist. Touring on our tourer.

It was great!

I wouldn't mind riding the Trace again but I think this time I'd want to do it going the other direction this time, just, because... I don't think Julie would mind, but it isn't high on her priority list.

There other rides to go on.