Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day Ride to Paducah

A recent Saturday in March brought sunshine and temps in the mid-seventies. A rare opportunity and one I decided not to squander. A quick operational check of the airhead and I was off for one of my favorite day-ride destinations, Paducah, Ky. Paducah has one of the fastest growing artist communities in the nation and, for a small town, much to do and see.

I four-laned it to Union City before hitting mostly back roads the rest of the way and made a short stop there to take a picture of the Goodyear Plant destined to close at the end of the year. It will be a devastating blow to the region and a familiar scenario faced by many areas around the country as jobs move overseas or simply disappear.

Above: Goodyear Plant in Union City, TN soon to close. Good paying jobs gone!

I arrived in Paducah and parked the RS near the old part of downtown. In the warmer months the streets are blocked to motor traffic on Saturday evenings and the townspeople host a street festival with carriage rides, music acts, and the occasional car show. It is really an amazing thing for such a small town with people everywhere milling about and taking advantage of all the restaurants and shops. During the festival one of the side streets is reserved for motorcycle parking and it is often full.

Above: Venerable RS!

Downtown has some beautiful old buildings, landscaping, and a sea-wall covered in murals. The locals have rightly preserved things and take pride in showing it off. I spent some time there walking around snapping pics or sitting and enjoying a coffee. The weather was absolutely perfect and the planets lined up as well.

Below: A series of shots from downtown Paducah.
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Above: Even the alleys are beautiful!

Above: I can just imagine this theater in it's day!

Above: The river was up a little...

Above: Murals along the sea-wall.

Continuing my ride I headed west on I-24 to Grand Rivers, Ky. I stopped at Four Rivers Harley Davidson on the way to take in some of the bikes and have some free popcorn. The dealership is always full of people and the parking lot has some interesting sights. Harley has their marketing down right!

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Above: Impressive Harley Dealer in Paducah.

Grand Rivers is a small tourist town that sits at the north end of "The Trace" that runs through the Land Between the Lakes Park in Kentucky and Tennessee. The town and park contain anything one could possibly want to do from mountain biking, horseback riding, boating, and hiking to just simply taking it easy. Patty’s Restaurant resides there and is one of the not to be missed attractions. I only stopped to take some pictures and then began my ride down through the Trace.

Above: Painted Lady in Grand Rivers.

Above: Is there anything more beautiful than sailboats?

Above: Buttercups along the Trace...

Above: ... and Bison

Above: The airhead along the Trace

The ride down the trace is laid back and beautiful. The speed limit is on the conservative side and you want to observe it anyway because of all the deer and turkey in the park. It’s not unusual to see some on the 40 plus mile ride.

Exiting the park I went a short way west before turning south down highway 232, one of the more fun roads in the area, and favored by the sport-bike locals. I then turned west again and lucked up on a ferry that crosses the Tennessee River and not only shortened my ride home but made it more interesting as well. I don’t like to pass up a ferry ride if I can include it on my route. The fare was seventy five cents!

Above: Looking west across the Tennessee River. Home is in that direction.

I arrived home a little after dark. A good ride and a good time all within easy riding distance of my West Tennessee location. Hope you will take advantage and enjoy as well.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Years Day and the Olde Bike Club

Above: Sidecar Cafe on Whitten Road in Mempho

The “New Year’s Day Ride” has become common but not unimportant to motorcycle enthusiasts everywhere. This blog and a thousand other outlets will herald the ride as a hopeful indication of good roads and quality mileage in the coming year. My own annual observance has found me in the company of some fine folk in the past. From a couple of close friends dicing the back roads of West Tennessee to the attendees at one of the larger cruiser crowd’s “Blue Ball Runs”. And, on a couple of occasions, I have ridden solo - myself with my thoughts in contemplation of things to come and the balm of the road.
Above: Parking out back...

Above:And, on the other side. Note the striking black RS...

Above: A new/old  classic...

Weather is a factor. Those in kinder climates may only face the question of rain while some in harsher conditions may not be able to overcome the logistics of getting a bike out after a six foot snowfall. There is a piece by Peter Egan wherein he mentions his garage door freezing shut for the duration of winter and, I remember riding one year in a freezing mist when ice formed on my face shield. The distance traveled is proportional to the conditions but, we try.

New Years Day, 2011 I’m on my way to Memphis to intercept the starting point of a polar bear run hosted by the Olde Bike Club of Memphis.  My distance from Memphis makes it prohibitive to attend many of the club’s events midweek (having previously attended only one breakfast ride – my introduction to the club) but I like to, on occasion, make myself a nuisance to unsuspecting groups of riders and this day is prime for party-crashing. Really, the club is an informal, unpretentious group of enthusiasts with a love for classic bikes. There are no dues or officers and you won’t find much on the web about them but, they are a great group and very welcoming of anyone with similar interests. A simple email list keeps them connected.

The temp was mid-30’s with a predicted high of 43º when I headed out. I plugged in the venerable Widder vest, the one with a controller the size of a chemistry textbook and the appearance of a piece of Flash Gordon memorabilia. It does the job in that, while not always keeping one toasty warm, it will ward off death by exposure – maybe. I got there late and after the main group had left, of course, finding some other late arrivals waiting on a couple even later than they. One gentleman was on a really clean 77 RS, another on a late model oihhead, and another on a KLR. I had previously concluded that one is not necessarily required to actually ride an old bike to identify with this club but can pass muster if one owns or, has an appreciation for said “old bikes”. The last of the stragglers showed up on beemers and we were off to intercept the larger group along the route by virtue of one of the gentlemen in possession of a map and a keen familiarity with Memphis driving habits. This is good because I know Memphis like I know women.

We arrived at an intersection along the route prepared to stop and wait on the main group when they came rolling through. A gentleman riding sweep with attached sidecar motioned us in front of him. We finished the route along some great twisty roads lined with some of the finest homes I've ever seen. Seems incredible that some of these roads would be in such close juxtaposition to the hustle of Memphis but that is one of the advantages to hooking up on a ride of this type. Those in the know can turn you on to something you might not have found on your own.
Above: Interior shot...

The ride concluded at the Sidecar Café on Whitten Road. This was my first experience with the establishment and it was all good. A parking lot full of bikes, well appointed bar, big-screen TVs, plenty of tables, good food; and nice-looking, efficient barmaids made for a great experience. I’m still not too familiar with the members so, spotting a table with three faces I thought I remembered from the breakfast ride, I horned in and introduced myself. I wasn’t about to do the seventy miles to Memphis, the ride, and home in the cold without someone able to testify I was there. They (apologizing - it will be sometime before I can remember all those names) again, were great, gracious people and we shared some stories and laughs for a while before I had to start back. They encouraged me to think about making the moonshine lunch run in April. While familiar with the run, I had never attended and committed to doing it this year. 
Above: Luck dinner special - Ham, greens, black-eyed peas, and Jalapeno cornbread. Starting the year out right!

Above: Some ADV inmates and occasional Olde Bike Club affiliates. Great folks. Author on far right.

Arriving home thoroughly chilled but satisfied from the ride I found Debbie (long suffering wife) in the process of preparing a pasta dish accompanied by a bottle of Merlot. She is good like that but - she wasn’t about to indulge me in watching the Three Stooges marathon on AMC, at least not in the same room with her. Maybe I could go to the garage, turn on the TV, plug in the Widder…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day Ride: Hwy's 89, 190 & 105

We all wish we had the wealth of Warren Buffet, the stamina of Lance Armstrong, and the leisure time of a hobo but, in the real world, work and family obligations limit us to a more realistic existence. That is, few of us can take off on that cross country motorcycle trip at the drop of a hat. Most of us manage a couple of extended trips a year with an occasional overnighter here and there if we are lucky. The “day ride” is the backbone of our riding experience. Out the driveway trips familiar and doable in a day consisting of way stops and destinations of favorite eateries, parks, or landmarks. It doesn’t matter if the trip is 50 miles or 500. I’ve several memorized rides of varying lengths and sometimes don’t know until I leave as to which one it will be; it just depends on conditions and my mood. And, I’m inclined to mix it up, constantly making up now loops out of existing ones. I bet you do the same.
Above: Start/Stop point in Trimble, TN.
In the interest of a West Tennessee focus this entry is to highlight a loop I often do that will be enjoyable for anyone in the area. You can start anywhere on the route but, for the sake of a start/stop point, I begin the route in Trimble, TN. Rural West Tennessee is hard to beat for pastoral settings and good roads in peaceful contrast to the Wal-marts, hamburger alleys, car lots, and yard sales one encounters in lockstep with areas of rising population. Approximately 120 miles depending on the riders inclination to hurry or "smell the roses."
Above: Just one of the many beautiful settings along the route.

Above: Temp on this morning traveling through Sharon, TN.

Be sure to stop at the China Grove Country Store. The establishment is run by members of the Mennonite faith and offers deli sandwiches to order and all kinds of hard to find goods. Take home a jar of Pickled Jalapeno Eggs. Just don’t expect to find them open on Sundays. Stop also at the store in Skullbone for some history and a postcard.
Above: China Grove Country Store near Rutherford, TN.

Above: The store in Skullbone, TN.

Above: Kountry Korner Restaurant/Convenience Store in Dresden, TN. Ordinarily not my kind of stop but, on this day, half-price sausage & biscuit after 11:00 AM and a bench out front.

Above: Some roadside trivia.

Above: Along the route near Christmasville.

Above: The tracks in Trimble, TN.

Check out the map for the aforementioned stops and a couple other points of interest.

View 105, 190, 89 in a larger map

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Parker's Store

Parker’s Store is one of those jewels of back road America not easily found. A mom & pop type of establishment disappearing fast from the rural landscape. In my youth stores like this were abundant. Stores with parking lots consisting of equal parts gravel and bottle cap, duo pumps out front, and next to the front door a Wonder Bread bench held down by some old timers.  Near extinction these. Better get it in now or forget it. Located near the little town of Lavinia in West Tennessee Parker's is a favorite Sunday morning haunt of mine and a few other riders that have discovered the store's charm. David Bullington, member of the BMW Riders Association of the Mid-South (RAMS) and a local, first pegged the store as a breakfast destination and starting point for Sunday rides. The area is crisscrossed with some of the best roads to be had in this part of the state. Rolling farmland and long sweeping curves start where the parking lot ends.

An overhang out front shelters the front door and two picnic tables where coffee is mixed with a little bench racing. A mule resides in the lot across the road and across the road ain’t far. On Sunday mornings you will find motorcycles parked around helter-skelter and patrons exchanging small talk with the now familiar riders. Inside a mix of grocery shelves juxtaposed with a few tables and chairs and a small kitchen surrounded by a counter where you retrieve your coffee and place your breakfast order. Just give the cute girl your name with the order and she’ll holler it out when it’s ready. None of the coffee cups match, the pancakes are bigger than the plate and - oh yeah, the sausage is homemade. Homemade sausage will have you slapping somebody’s momma if not your own.

This past Sunday it was 28 degrees when I left the house. I had put on all my gear including the ancient Widder vest and, with the exception of my hands, stayed very comfortable. The ride to Parker’s from my house is a little over 50 miles and I tend to stick to the back roads. Makes for a nice early morning ride. There were only a handful of riders there when I arrived. Not too many daring the cold on this morning. Breakfast was great and, by the time I was ready to leave, temperatures had warmed into the high 40’s. Trying a different way home I discovered a road I had previously ridden parts of but not it's entirety. It turned out to be great ride and I’ll be sure to highlight the road in a future posting. 

Try Parker’s some Sunday if you are in the area and want some good food and like minded riders for company. The coffee and breakfast are 8:00'ish and rides start about 9:00 or 9:30. Or, make your own ride. Myself, or any number of riders there can put you on to some excellent riding.

View Larger Map


Decimal:35.902, -88.575
GPS:N 35 54.142, W 88 34.481
Deg., Min., Sec.:N35 54 9, W88 34 29

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Talkin' Dirty II

The project evolves, surfeit with complications. Just trying to re-cover the seat involved the purchase of an electric stapler that did not work any better than my manual. The electric did allow me to waste staples at a much faster rate so, there must be a break-even point in there somewhere. I'm not sure what material KTM uses for their seat bases but I'm convinced it would make a suitable anti-missile shield in combat applications.

Any old bike and especially dirt-bikes require fixing things you had not counted on. Every bracket, screw, hanger, nut and bolt is guaranteed to need some degree of fabrication, replacement, or restoration that did not figure into the original calculations when you thought you were getting such a deal. Almost every project I've begun found me diligently keeping receipts to proudly justify the restoration and give record of the money saved. At least until I realized the project was no longer a bike but instead a life sucking money-pit with cosmetically, good-running, counterparts on the market easily purchased and enjoyed for much less coin. One 1986 Honda XR100R comes to mind. Worth approximately $600 I began conveniently losing the receipts at about the $700 mark. No sense in continuing to document my foolishness.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Talkin' Dirty

Sometimes one's past sneaks up and taps one on the shoulder. "Psssssssst, hey buddy. Why don'tcha buy a dirt bike and start riding again, huh. Maybe even do a hare scramble or two. You always liked ridin' in the woods. More racin' out there now than you can shake a stick at and 52 ain't that old. Yeah, wife'll understand."

I intone a reply in my usual sophisticated way, "Huh, whazzat?"

Which brings us to the new addition. A very tired 1996 KTM 360EXC bought for cheap but destined to not remain that way. Already the parts I've ordered total more than what I gave for the bike. I can only blame the situation on too many YouTube videos and a delusional self when it comes to my own physical abilities. I'll try to chronicle some of the rebuild here.

Like many riders my age, I had some Moto-X and cross-country experience from the 70's and 80's before moving to the street and sport-touring scene. I flirted briefly with the dirt scene again just a few years ago. That time it was also a KTM. A 250EXC in a box. I rebuilt the bike and headed fro the woods a few times and had fun but decided I no longer enjoyed just riding around on a few acres and soon sold the bike. Competition wasn't even considered. This time I'm excited about the prospect of racing once again. A little research revealed that there are many series out there offering both Hare Scrambles and Enduros and the super-senior class is very large and very competitive. This should prove interesting.