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Discussion Starter #1
Myself and a couple of guys I ride with are trying to make an annual bike trip in mid/late May. Last year, our trip took us to Birmingham for the Barber Motorsports Museum (AWESOME!), then to Pensacola, FL and along the gulf coast to Tallahassee, up through Thomasville, GA and into Athens, GA and finally back to East TN through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I failed to document last year's trip very well and didn't want to make the same mistake this year. I made several mistakes in planning the trip last year and learned from those mistakes to make this year's trip even better. The other two guys I ride with became friends/riding buddies through me. I suppose that is how I ended up being the one to plan the trips. For background, one of the guys is the pastor at the United Methodist church I attend and the other is a retired former coworker. The former coworker rides a Goldwing Trike and the pastor rides a Vstrom with side and top boxes. I ride a 2014 Wing. I fancy myself a bit of a storyteller, so I will apologize in advance for the length of my posts but hope you will find it an enjoyable read. I will create a separate post for each day and include some pictures, as I could not find the camera I wanted to take and only had my phone to take pictures with. Unfortunately, it was captive in my waterproof holder (secured by a zip tie, more on that later) and was not accessible. Thanks to Ronny (trike) for taking pictures and lending me his phone with which to take pictures for those that we have. I hope you enjoy.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Day 1 - East Tennessee to Bowling Green, KY

Since our trip would end on Memorial Day weekend, I thought it was only fitting that we start at Veteran's Overlook on the top of Clinch Mountain in Bean Station, TN. This is a roadside overlook on Hwy 25E that looks over Cherokee Lake and the area I have lived for most of my life. Since the other two guys are coming from different directions, it also provided a somewhat centralized meeting location that was also on our route. I had bought gremlin bells for the other two and had planned to present those to them at this spot, but in my excitement I forgot all about those and handed them out at the end of the day. Day 1 led us north up Hwy 25E to SR 3041 in Kentucky. From SR 3041, we picked up Hwy 25 (Cumberland Falls Pkwy) and rode to Hwy 90. Highway 90 is a very nice road that meanders through the southern Kentucky countryside and hills and past Cumberland Falls state park. All three of us own RVs and noted later that this looked like a great place for a camping vacation (I just hope you don't get stuck behind one of us :wink2:). From Hwy 90, we picked up Hwy 68 toward Bowling Green and then Hwy 31 into Bowling Green. Our lodging for the night was the Best Western and we had dinner at the Cracker Barrel next door. Of note, this particular restaurant was doing a pilot for a new menu item that we couldn't resist - fried pork chops! Ronny and I had them and they were delicious. Pastor Mike had the chicken livers and one of Ronny's pork chops. He agreed with our sentiments that they were very good and we all hope they make the cut and end up as a permanent fixture on the menu. No pictures of today but the weather was perfect! Oh, and yes, I did remember to give them the gremlin bells. Seems they don't much believe in the legend though, because as far as I know, neither one has been attached yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Day 2 - Corvette Museum and Lambert's

As I mentioned in the first post, we are trying to make this an annual trip and last year we visited the Barber Motorsports Museum. I thought it only fitting that we include a museum of some type on this trip as well, so we started off Day 2 with a visit to the National Corvette Museum. As most folks know, the Corvette museum had a cave in and part of the floor collapsed sending several very valuable and noteworthy Corvettes to their demise. While all of the museum was interesting, what I found most interesting were the cars that had been pulled from the hole and left untouched. It's difficult to imagine the destruction that was caused to these cars. It seemed like there were a couple that were no more than 2 feet tall. Some of the cars that had been excavated from the collapse had been restored and looked as though nothing had happened. They stood in stark contrast to those not as fortunate. The criteria used was that if more than 50% of the car would have to be replaced, the car would no longer be considered to be the same car that entered the hole. GM thought it better to display them in their current condition and I applaud the decision. Leaving the museum, our original route had us going through Hickman, KY and riding the Dorena-Hickman ferry across the Mississippi River. We were bummed to discover that the ferry was closed due to high water. Our route from Bowling Green took us along Hwy 68 and through the Land Between the Lakes national recreation area. Great scenery! We then picked up Hwy 80 to Hwy 121, then Hwy 51 across the Ohio River. Turning south on Hwy 62 led us across the Mississippi River at the confluence of the two great rivers. The confluence is also know as Fort Defiance (cival war strategic encampment) and is a city park. I have to admit it was pretty cool to be on a bridge over the Ohio and be able to see a bridge over the Mississippi. Not as cool as riding a ferry over the Mississippi, but seeing all of the water around us, we could certainly understand. Hwy 62 led us in to Sikeston, MO where Mike had received advice from another church member to have dinner at Lambert's. This was my first encounter with a Lambert's, Home of the Throwed Rolls. Very unique and very good, especially for a southern boy! The roll thing has waiters rolling huge pans of rolls fresh from the over down one of the aisles. Diners hold up their hands from anywhere they can see him and the waiter tosses a roll to that person. I caught mine! Highly recommend this place if you happen to find yourself near one. Spent the night at the Best Western in Sikeston.

 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Day 3 - Roller Coaster to Branson, MO

Riding Hwy 60 out of Sikeston, we put down some miles to get to Hwy 67, then the real road that was on today's agenda, Hwy 160. 160 runs across southern MO and I don't remember ever reading about it, but it was an awesome road. Huge elevation changes that lead down to small bridges over creeks. Most have flood guages at the bottom before you head straight back toward the sky. I can't say enough how much we enjoyed this road. At one point, we thought we were going to have to turn back because we ran up on a sign that said Road Closed Ahead. Fortunately, we kept going and found the road was not closed and barricades had been moved aside. There were several times when Mike, 50 ft behind me, would lose sight of me as I crested a hill. Fun, fun, fun! Anyway, from Hwy 160, we joined Hwy 76 to Branson, MO and checked in to our Best Western for the night. We stay at BW because 1) I am Diamond Select and 2)the RideRewards program. For the trip, we each ended up with two microfiber towels and a first aid kit courtesy of the RideRewards program.

I had not mentioned before, but I was unable to find my rain suit before leaving on this trip. My wife and I are fans of University of TN sports and have season football tickets. My wife, Kim, wears orange daily from the beginning of football season until the end without fail. Seriously, orange every day. Consequently, our house has a lot of orange. I have no idea what made me think it would be a good idea to buy an orange rain suit. Anyway, that's why I couldn't find it. I had removed it from the bike to wear to a football game and when it dried and I packed it in the bag, I didn't put it back in the bike. When I started looking for it, everything was orange! I have sort of an aversion to rain suits anyway. If I don't wear it, I'm wet with rain. If I do wear it, I'm wet with sweat. Rain smells better. So I really didn't sweat not having it with me; that is until I began watching the radar for Day 4. Since we had a little time to spare (thanks to my superior planning) we headed to Bass Pro Shops, aka the big boys toy store. I was able to find a set of Frogg Toggs to fit and also picked up some extra shirts (why not for $9.97?). Dinner was at the Farmhouse Restaurant and was rather unremarkable - standard tourist food. Worth noting that the BW in Branson is built into the side of a hill. Parking a motorcycle was a bit of a challenge.
 
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Highway 160

Glad you got to experience that! I think one of the reasons we hear very little about that highway would be highway 125 that junctions at Reuter and runs North. Highway 160 is a great road, but highway 125 is better! :thumbup:


I ride up as often as time will allow to experience 125! It is usually a 350-400 mile day of twisty roads, but it is well worth the trip!!
 
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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Day 4 - Meeting Monk and Dodging the Storm

As I was planning this trip, I reached out to @Monk for some advice on a good route to take from Branson to Hot Springs. I know, from reading his posts, that Monk is intimately familiar with pretty much all roads in the state of Arkansas. I was hoping that he would be willing to share some knowledge. And I was right. From Branson, we took I-65 south to SR 86 that goes by Big Cedar Lodge and rode it to SR 21.
From SR 21, we picked up SR 103. Not only did Monk give us a route that was enjoyable, but he joined up with us in Jasper and rode all the way to Honda of Russellville with us leading us down Hwy 7! Enjoyed meeting and riding with him and can only hope I didn't slow him down too much. I did grind off a little of my right highway peg trying to keep up once he took the lead though.:grin2: Honda of Russellville was on my list of places to visit because they are a Honda Powerhouse dealer and have special editions in their own color schemes so I've wanted to see those. You can buy a GW there in probably any color you want whether Honda offers it or not. They also offer some of the lowest prices in the nation on Goldwings. My Wing came from Southern Honda Powersports in Chattanooga, TN who is also a Powerhouse dealer and offers great pricing.

The roads through Arkansas were worth the trip and we finished out the day's ride watching the storm front to our west and hoping we would reach Hot Springs and our motel before the storm did. We didn't. 7 miles outside Hot Springs, we ran into a deluge and I was happy to be wearing the Frogg Toggs. Our BW for the night was right across the street from Oaklawn Racing and Casino Resort. We stayed out of the casino and dinner was at Rocky's Corner and was honestly some of the best pizza I have ever had. Highly recommend.
 
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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Day 5 - Boring Ride but worth it!

As we left out of Hot Springs, we took Hwy 270 to Pine Bluff and picked up Hwy 79 to Hwy 49 and back across Old Man River. One thing that had been consistent throughout the trip was the amount of water we had seen. All of the lakes, streams, creeks, tubs and bathroom sinks it seemed were full to running over. On the way out of Pine Bluff, this changed from looking like there was on overabundance of water to the appearance of drought conditions. Southeastern Arkansas and Western Mississippi is a lot of farmland; I mean a lot! It was boring to ride because the roads we had been on up until that point had some variables. Not all were curvy and cambered, but none were boring. Hwy 49 was straight, flat and long. But even boring roads lead to exciting places. We stayed on Hwy 49 to Clarksdale, MS. For those of you who don't know, Clarksdale is known as the birthplace of the Blues. It is home to the Devil's Crossroads (behind me in the photo linked below) where legend has it Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for becoming a talented blues musician. It is also the home town of blues legend Muddy Waters and actor Morgan Freeman is part owner of a restaurant there. We had a late lunch at Abe's BBQ located at the devil's crossroads. I had burnt ends (for those uninitiated - the end of the ribs that is closest to the heat) and they were very good. We left Clarksdale on Hwy 278 and rode to the BW in Tupelo, MS. Tupelo is where Elvis Presley was born and also happens to be on the Natchez Trace which would be our route for the next day.

 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Day 6 - King of Rock n Roll and the Trace

My youngest daughter is 26 years old and is a big Elvis fan thanks to my mother introducing her to his movies and music when she was very young. When she found out that we were going to be in Tupelo overnight, she said, "You know, if you happen upon a t-shirt that has 'Birthplace of Elvis' or something similar, I wouldn't be opposed to wearing it". Hold this thought. As we rolled in to the BW in Tupelo on Tuesday evening we met up with Billy from South Carolina, who was there on his Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. He was traveling with his wife and had just made the reverse trip that we had planned for Day 6. Billy came right over when we pulled up and was looking my bike over closely and asked how I liked it. He said that he had an older 1200 wing that he was working on restoring and had a few questions about Goldwings in general. I showed him around the bike and it's features, started it so he could hear the engine. He even sat on the bike to get a feel for it. He liked the Goldwing and creature comforts, but pretty sure he will keep his HD. It was also a very nice bike; a 2000 model with 69K on it. Billy said he had never had any trouble with it. He was really hoping his wife didn't see Ronny's trike :laugh:.
We all discussed the Natchez Trace and the ride they had that day and what to look forward to the next day. Billy and his wife were planning to ride the rest of the Trace down to it's end in Louisiana, then they were headed to Texas.

Mike met up with some friends of his that live in Tupelo and we all were talking outside with Billy after dinner and I mentioned that my daughter wanted a t-shirt and asked where I could find one. Mike's friend's wife told me about Tupelo Hardware. It is the store where Elvis got his first guitar and is still open and still sells guitars (cheap ones). I decided that I would get a picture of Elvis birth house for my daughter and buy her a t-shirt at the hardware store. With that in mind, we set out on the morning of Day 6 to find the birthplace of Elvis so I could get the picture (linked below), then to the hardware store (also linked below) to get her a shirt. I also bought a book and a harmonica for my grandson, the son of my oldest daughter.


The Natchez Trace was an awesome ride. Weather was warm and sunny but there was abundant shade on the road so we didn't get overheated. The road was in great shape and we didn't see any wildlife to speak of, except a huge dragonfly that landed on my arm and rode with me for a bit. Traffic in Nashville after we hit Old Hickory Blvd was terrible. It didn't help that we were there just before rush hour either. I've never been so happy to see an Interstate sign as I was to hit I-24 down to Murfreesboro to the next Best Western. Tennessee state track championships were in town, so motel was full. We got there early enough to get parking just outside our rooms, but didn't want to leave so walked next door to Cracker Barrel (again) for dinner.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Day 7 - Cherohala Skyway X 3, Smokies and Home

Leaving Murfreesboro, we cut cross country taking Hwy 70 to Hwy 8, then Hwy 111, Hwy 27, Hwy 30 and Hwy 39 to Tellico Plains and picked up the Cherohala Skyway. We stopped at Beach Burger at Tellico Beach and had lunch. Very good hamburger and fries. We also talked with a couple of guys on Aprilias that had driven in from Miami the night before and had not been to bed yet (Ah, to be young again). They were starting to feel it and were headed for their motel. Ronny and I have coms in our helmets, he has Ncom and I have Sena so we are able to communicate. For this reason, I lead and Ronny follows Mike. That way, the first and last bike can communicate and hopefully avoid any issues for the middle bike. With Ronny being on a trike, sometimes he isn't comfortable going around curves at the same pace as Mike and I. This shouldn't be an issue on the Cherohala since there are multiple pull-offs where we could pull off and wait for him. We pulled off at Turkey Creek pulloff and when Ronny caught up, I told him that if we were separated again we would wait for him at the top. The top of the Skyway is Hooper Bald Trail Head and the pulloff goes off the road and up a hill so you can't see the road from the pulloff. We pulled in and removed our helmets to enjoy the cooler weather at the top while we waited on Ronny. After sitting for a few minutes, we determined that Ronny had missed the cutoff and we left again thinking we would catch up with him. When we got to the end of the Skyway, we still had not caught up so we pulled off and began to worry that we had left too soon and Ronny might be at the top looking for us or worse, that he had broken down or had an accident. We decided that Mike should run back up the Skyway and look for him. I had been trying to call him on his cell, but service is spotty at best in the area so no luck there. Mike texted me when he got to the top and still had not found our friend. We decided to double back to make sure he wasn't broken down between the last place we saw him and the top and still no luck. When we got back to the start of the Skyway, I was finally able to reach him on his cell and he was in Seymour, TN - approximately 3 hrs ahead of us. He had not stopped at the top and kept going and actually went through the Tail of the Dragon back into Maryville, through Seymour and home. Funny thing is, the Dragon was not on my route because Ronny doesn't like it (something about the trike getting on two wheels). So Mike and I ran the Skyway for a third time, then proceeded through Bryson City, NC to Cherokee, NC and through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park into Cosby, TN and Newport, TN. We split up in Newport because Mike lives in Greeneville, TN and I live in Morristown, TN.

Total mileage for the trip wound up being just over 2,100 miles and the Wing averaged 44 mpg. We all had a great time and are already planning to get together and plan a fall trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.
 

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Northern Arkansas part of your route

I wanted to make sure you took credit for riding a couple of the better roads in Northern Arkansas. From Jasper we went over to highway 123 and rode up the switchbacks and down to the junction with highway 7. We stayed with 7 for about 3 miles then took the lower part of 123. Both great Ozark roads!:thumbup:


Also wanted to mention the big black bear on lower highway 123. It was the biggest bear I've ever seen in the Ozarks. It was kind of funny. He was sitting about 150 feet off the highway. He looked like he was checking the rolling buffet carts as we went by. Sure would of been nice to have a pic of that, but really didn't want to stop and help him with his buffet cart selection!! :wink2:
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Thanks Monk! I almost forgot about the bear. Believe it or not, I didn’t see it. I was leading at the time and was concentrating on the asphalt more than the scenery. I thought they might have just been teasing me for being dressed head to toe in black Frogg Toggs and riding a murdered out Wing, plus I’m a bear-sized guy...
 

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My family was in the Corvette museum about 3 months prior to the collapse. Wife didn’t believe me till i showed her the article and pictured.
Thanks for sharing your ride.
 
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