Little has changed since World War One, when America’s Socialist Party described the military draft as despotism in its worst form… a monstrous wrong against humanity in the interest of Wall Street's chosen few…
No different from the village idiots of a century ago, the BUSH LIED–KIDS DIED-NO BLOOD FOR OIL-WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER crowd can be divided into two groups: The cynical folks who know better and the uninformed that don’t. And while both groups eschew critical thinking as racist or primitive, I will render the Iraqi War into this little story:
There was once a sheriff who patrolled a small town. One day, he responded to numerous reports of a disturbance. He met Mrs. Iraq who was married to the neighborhood bully, Saddam. Mrs. Iraq told the sheriff that she overheard her husband brag about dangerous weapons and threatening others in the neighborhood. She also said that he supported thugs who hurt others in the neighborhood. Mrs. Iraq said she feared her husband, for he had murdered and tortured many of their neighbors, friends, and sometimes his own family members.
The sheriff conducted follow-up investigations and determined that Saddam was convicted of burglary, theft, rape, mayhem, vandalism, and other crimes in 1992 and was still on parole. The Parole Board had ordered Saddam to obey all laws, and not store weapons or threaten neighbors. The Board also ordered Saddam to submit to searches upon demand by local inspectors.
The sheriff returned to the neighborhood and met dozens of neighbors including Mr. France, Ms. Italy, Mr. Israel, Madam Russia, Miss China, and Herr Germany. During his interviews, each corroborated Mrs. Iraq’s story, describing Saddam’s threats, weapons, and support of local thugs. Based upon these reports, the sheriff developed probable cause to arrest Saddam for violating his conditions of parole.
When the sheriff drove to Saddam’s home, he suddenly heard gunshots fired from Saddam’s home in his direction. The sheriff jumped behind a stone wall where he found other local authorities and parole agents. When he asked what they’re doing behind the wall, they described the game of hide the button: When they tried to conduct searches and asked to search a toolbox, they were told to come back the next day. When they returned, they found nothing in the toolbox. When they asked to see the storage shed in the backyard, Saddam told them that they could tomorrow... and so on. This went on for twelve years. Given that no one on the Parole Board ever did anything about his lack of cooperation, Saddam started shooting at them.
When the sheriff asked why they hadn’t arrested Saddam, they said that the Parole Board demanded patience and had ordered them to cooperate with Saddam - who dictated when and where searches would be convenient for him to comply.
Questioning this logic, the sheriff investigated further and discovered that Saddam regularly sent free gasoline coupons to Parole Board members and their families.
Based upon all he had heard, the sheriff now had probable cause to believe that Saddam was in violation of his conditions of parole and decided to arrest him - despite the Board’s opposition.
This decision made things difficult for the sheriff, for he could obey the Parole Board’s orders at the expense of his community, or defy the Parole Board and alienate relationships he had enjoyed for decades. Taking the town bully into custody was also dangerous and unpopular, but he knew what he had to do.
The sheriff assembled his posse and asked Saddam to surrender peacefully. Saddam replied that he would kill anyone who tried to arrest him. This alone violated his conditions of parole.
To avoid bloodshed and buy time to gather his posse, the sheriff gave Saddam six days to think about it. Almost immediately, he saw large boxes being tossed over the fence into Mr. Syria’s backyard. When he knocked on the front door and asked about the boxes, Mr. Syria said he knew nothing about them and that, without a warrant, the sheriff would have to leave. Not wanting to make the complicated situation worse, the sheriff left.
When six days had passed, the sheriff broke down the door. After several hours of fighting and searches, the sheriff took Saddam into custody. The sheriff didn’t find any WMDs during the first searches, although a stash was later found.
As the sheriff tried to help Mrs. Iraq fix her broken home, trespassers began showing up to vandalize the home and attack members of the household and posse. Some were hurt and killed, but reinforcements defended the home. As the fighting continued, the sheriff saw that the trespassers were jumping over the walls from Mr. Syria and Mr. Iran’s rear yards. A few were captured who said they were trying to protect Mrs. Iraq from the sheriff posse. Mrs. Iraq told the sheriff that she didn’t like the trespassers and wanted them kept off her property.
To be certain that Mrs. Iraq’s wishes reflected those throughout the Iraq household, the sheriff gathered her family into the living room for a vote. Mrs. Iraq voted with her family for the sheriff to stay until her home was repaired - and until she could protect her home and family from the trespassers who still hopped over her neighbors’ walls.
When the sheriff exited the home, he found many friends of Saddam and the Parole Board waiting for him outside. When the sheriff said he was still looking for WMDs but hadn’t found any yet, they said he lied and had no right to invade Saddam’s home. When the sheriff mentioned the boxes tossed into Mr. Syria’s yard, they demanded proof they knew he couldn’t compel and claimed he made up a story to steal Saddam’s property.
The town gossips soon arrived. The Ahmanson and Sulzberger families had never liked the sheriff, for he’d issued speeding tickets to them and their rich friends and treated them just like ordinary people. That the sheriff had disrespected their close friends on the Parole Board prompted them to misrepresent the sheriff’s actions and intent. Disregarding the sheriff’s probable cause, they used the missing WMDs as evidence that the sheriff had deliberately lied and misled the whole town. Although most people saw the gossipers for what they were, those who relied on the gossip soon showed up to berate the sheriff. When the sheriff replied with stories of success, the gossipers rarely reported it – prompting the most passionate to protest and perpetuate the gossip. And instead of accurately reporting progress, the gossipers focused on the protesters as well as the injured and dead as proof of the sheriff’s folly.
The gossip was hurtful and the sheriff lost friendships, but the faith of his posse and the gratitude expressed by Mrs. Iraq and her family more than compensated for the contempt shown by the corrupt Parole Board, the gossip, and the protesters.
Epilogue: Myths Dispelled
When we allow bullies to victimize our neighbors, the bully eventually knocks on our own doors. By defending our neighbors, we defend ourselves. For a safe neighborhood to exist, each of us must care for our neighbors.
Preemptive Strikes vs. Reactive Strikes
When Saddam’s regime refused to comply with the UN orders, UN members had probable cause to believe that Saddam was in violation of the orders and subject to a response by member nations. Had UN member nations not developed twelve years of probable cause, our response might have been preemptive. The fact that UN member nations did nothing but issue repeated orders makes our invasion a reaction to Iraq’s misconduct and not preemptive. And like any police action, the level of force used to gain compliance depends not upon coalition conduct , but of Iraqi resistance. Had Iraq not resisted, force would have been unnecessary.
No Blood for Oil
If the United States’ objective was to steal oil, the US would’ve flattened the Middle East decades ago and replaced mosques with gas stations, amusement parks, slot machines and churches.
America Hates Islam
If given the chance, it’s clear that Al Qaeda would use nuclear weapons to enforce their version of Islam against anyone who does not embrace the Wahabi Islam sect. If America hated Islam, Mecca would’ve been converted into a pig farm decades ago.
My Gripe with Moderate Muslims
While some Muslims have indoctrinated others to hate non-Wahabis, I wonder why the larger Muslim community hasn’t declared a fatwa against the minority of Muslims who want us dead. When guests in my home act inappropriately, I expel them. Americans of Muslim faith should form long lines to volunteer for service to defend America. Those who do not should be interred until they voluntarily leave.
Saddam Isn’t the Only Bad Guy…
This argument is right up there with everybody else is speeding, why get me? It insinuates that because there are so many dangerous dictators, we shouldn’t hold any of them accountable. With so much crime, why pursue criminals?
While it’s true that Saddam isn’t the planet’s only dictator, his profile and ability to corrupt UN officials: His refusal to abide by UN orders after invading another country, and his funding and support of third-party terrorist groups earned him a high profile. No competent neighbor or street cop would ignore Saddam. Our enforcement of UN orders not only encourages others to stand up to dangerous third-world dictators, but it sends the message that world leaders can be held responsible for their behavior.
What if Iraqis Vote for Fundamentalism
Americans have the same right. While this is a risk of all democracies, it’s unlikely that Americans or Iraqis will do this anytime soon. Many Muslims loathe and fear the theocracies and monarchies they endure. The introduction of Democracy in Iraq gives hope to millions of their neighbors – just as it did to reform the fanatical rulers of Japan and Germany after WWII.
We’ve Bungled Everything in Iraq
We’ve bungled every war Americans ever fought. Had our failures, fear of mistakes and incompetence precluded war, America would be just another divided third-world nation. Had we feared the mistakes of war, we never would’ve confronted the Confederacy, the Kaiser, the Emperor, the Fuhrer, or the Soviets. When Democrats and the media created sufficient fear, we gave up on Vietnam.
What differentiates patriots from dictators and other self-absorbed people is faith – a spirit that prompts good people to give to something greater than themselves. Dictators and theocrats rely not on faith, but on fear and intimidation to control their people. The only thing that frightens free people is the loss of liberty: And until all Americans understand that our liberty is now at stake, some will continue to abuse their rights and the rights of others.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Little has changed since World War One, when America’s Socialist Party described the military draft as despotism in its worst form… a monstrous wrong against humanity in the interest of Wall Street's chosen few…
Saturday, August 27, 2005
A week after Bill Clinton perjured himself at his federal deposition, I was subpoenaed to testify about a multi-car collision I’d investigated in LA. The crash had resulted in minor damage and injuries, and several lawyers representing the parties and insurance companies had come to question me under oath.
Before the hearing began, I overheard the lawyers joke about Clinton’s breathtaking skill as a pathological liar. After all, one said, it was only about sex and the President should’ve never been bothered by such questions. I kept quiet.
When we were finally seated, the court reporter raised her right hand and asked me if I affirmed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I replied that I would – as long as no one asked me about sex.
In apoplectic unison, these once-jovial trial lawyers threatened me with everything from contempt to perjury unless I changed my smug attitude. They apparently thought I wasn’t taking their two-bit deposition seriously enough. After a short recess, these now stern-faced ambulance-chasers returned to their seats and I testified as required by law – without parsing the definition of the word, is.
Had I ever behaved like Bill Clinton or his defenders, my career wouldn’t have lasted one year. As members of the executive branch, cops and presidents are sworn to protect and defend the United States. As much as THE LEFT hated Richard Nixon, Republicans never insulted themselves by trying to rationalize someone's felony. And unlike Bill Clinton and his enablers, Richard Nixon had the grace to resign.
Posted by ex-Hollywood Liberal at 3:13 PM
Thursday, August 25, 2005
If you can imagine Ken Lay hiring Arthur Anderson to investigate the Enron debacle, you will understand the role played by Warren Christopher to investigate the LAPD in 1991…
If not for gall, LA politicians wouldn’t have any character. I’m talking about the recent appointment of LA’s newest batch of police commissioners who have a “tough job” ahead of them (Daily News, Aug. 22, 2005 p1).
Tough job indeed: Thirty years ago, we were told the LAPD was infested with racists who prowled our streets targeting, maiming, and killing blacks throughout LA. To rid the LAPD of these vermin, Mayor Bradley transferred LAPD’s right to hire and fire to civilians at LA’s Personnel Department. Despite the changes, a handful of violent, intoxicated, and unhealthy suspects died while violently resisting arrest from 1975-1982. In response, the Police Commission ordered police to stop wrestling with suspects and instead, ordered officers to beat suspects into submission with metal pipes – regardless of whether the intoxicated suspects felt pain or not. And when injuries endured by cops and suspects skyrocketed and culminated in the Rodney King beating in 1991, Mayor Bradley hired personal attorney and friend, Warren Christopher to investigate the LAPD.
What folks don’t know, and the press never says, is that lawyers work for their clients. Facing corruption charges of his own, Tom Bradley blamed the LAPD for policies his own Police Commission imposed and a Ventura County jury affirmed. As Bradley’s personal friend and attorney, Warren Christopher obliged.
The fact that the Christopher Commission Report has never been admitted as evidence or accepted by anyone other than politicians speaks volumes for its profound lack of credibility. The hundred-plus attorneys, including recently appointed attorney Andrea Ordin, convinced voters to remove civil service protections from senior LAPD management. And today, even after turning the LAPD into the mayor’s personal lapdog, judges, politicians, and fake activists insult LA residents by saying that 23 years of reforms have done nothing to fix the “institutional racism” they claim still exists despite decades of their own reforms.
There’s no real outrage, of course. The Personnel Department still hires incompetent cops who are sued by trial lawyers who extort millions of taxpayer dollars before funneling kickbacks to LA’s liberal re-election campaigns - including prosecutors who are supposed to defend taxpayers from lawsuits. LA’s pseudo-activists are either too stupid to know better or too cynical to give up their Arafatian power. Either way, LA’s disenchanted remain the ultimate chumps, alienated by the only people who care – the patrol officers of the LAPD.
Riddled with corruption that plagued LA seventy years ago, the LAPD no longer has the civil service protections necessary to keep LA corruption in check. And as long as the Ahmanson Family holds onto the Los Angeles Times, residents will remain clueless.
Yes, the Police Commission has a tough job ahead of them. They face the Herculean task of sleeping with themselves and keeping straight faces every Tuesday morning. CB
Posted by ex-Hollywood Liberal at 11:11 AM
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Patriots and traitors have been part of the American landscape throughout our history. While one-third of Americans supported our long war for independence (1775-1783), the other two-thirds resisted our efforts, collaborated with the enemy, or opted out. As our soldiers endured unimaginable hardships and repeated defeats by the British, they also faced domestic ridicule and treachery from the anti-war factions and a hostile press. If not for the courage and tenacity of those patriots, human history would be far different than it is today.
Our patriotic minority has grown since then. But while a minority of American families still risk their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to support and defend the United States against our enemies, America’s gaggle of communists, socialists, propagandists and traitors continue to harass and ridicule our patriots and collaborate with the enemy. And if calling themselves patriots isn’t bad enough, these sociopaths use the First Amendment to attack the volunteers who defend it.
This isn’t the first time. During World War I, Charles Schenck and members of the Socialist Party distributed 15,000 leaflets to draftees telling them not to appear for military service. The leaflets declared that the draft was despotism in its worst form, and a monstrous wrong against humanity in the interest of Wall Street's chosen few. It also warned that if draftees did not assert themselves, they were degrading rights that are the solemn duty of all citizens and residents of the United States to retain.
Schenck and the other traitors were convicted of conspiracy and espionage. In its affirming opinion, the US Supreme Court ruled that the leaflets would have been within their constitutional rights…But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done… free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic… (or) protect a man from… uttering words that may have all the effect of force. When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.
One of the most vital components of an effective fighting force is morale – a spiritual determination that motivates soldiers to achieve their mission. When morale suffers, military effectiveness can degrade to the point where disgruntled troops become liabilities as dangerous as soldiers who murder their comrades. Our Vietnam experience illustrates what happens to troops when the silent majority of good people allow sociopaths and the propagandist media to undermine our national security.
While I’m not condoning round-ups of protesters or the closure of media outlets, I want Americans to recognize these sociopaths for what they are – traitors as un-American as the Nazis, socialists, and communists who our patriots helped more than a billion people escape from.
Using logic as perverted as Schenck’s, THE LEFT employs tactics no different from those used by drug addicts, criminals and sexual predators to recruit the vulnerable and weak to parrot their propaganda. THE LEFT exploited Cindy Sheehan as easily as a neglected child who finds a grown-up who likes her. If that wasn’t bad enough, they coerced Cindy into perverting the patriotism of her son and other fallen soldiers. And while I don’t doubt Cindy’s diminished capacity, if THE LEFT’s actions result directly or indirectly in the injury or death of a single soldier, this traitorous propaganda becomes criminal.
On a positive note, the patriots who created, defended, and sacrificed for America since 1775 have always prevailed over our enemies both foreign and domestic. As coercion is the engine of THE LEFT, courage is the engine of patriots. As long as our patriots stand firm and resolute in this fight, America will remain a stabilizing force for freedom and peace at home and abroad.
In the meantime, let’s not forget the difference between America’s patriots and traitors. CB
Posted by ex-Hollywood Liberal at 2:05 PM
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Steering clear of most major cities and interstates for empty two-lane roads , we traveled across the Southwest and southern states to the East Coast – north through upstate New York to Montreal and along the coastlines of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland...
Of my happiest memories, few compare with the peace and excitement of road travel. Before my first baby teeth appeared, my parents loaded me (and later my siblings) into our Oldsmobile for the three-day summer drive along Route 66 to Dad’s hometown of Bryan, Ohio. We were usually out the door by 3:00 or 4 AM to beat the traffic, the Mojave Desert temperatures, and long uphill stretches that taxed the radiator. Dad took these photos while driving through Colorado - water bags on the front bumper.
The summers spent in Ohio were magical, and I spent the long sticky days visiting with Grandma Lucille, Uncle Norm, Aunt Barbara and cousins. Although the attic was the hottest room in Grandma’s home on Allen Street, my siblings usually fought with me for the cramped upstairs rooms. I spent many hours fishing with Dad and Uncle Norm, and we kids usually played outside until ten o’clock, when the twilight finally disappeared or we tired of catching frogs and lightening bugs. Summer storms were also a favorite (lightening is rare in LA) and I watched the storms from Grandma’s front porch. Ohio was where I first rode a motorcycle (1972 with my sister on Uncle Norman’s scooter). As wonderful as our Ohio visits were, it was the three-day drive to-and-from Ohio that excited me most.
Much has changed since President Eisenhower’s Highway Act drew America’s drivers toward multi-lane interstates, and while the advantages of speed and good roads are undeniable I still prefer two-lane roads over interstate highways. For me, the destination is not where we’re going, but being on the road. Once seated on my Goldwing (I call her Betsy), I’m there. Betsy has no roof or windows to keep out the rain, humidity, or hot sun, and bugs sometimes miss the windshield and smack into my face instead. I'm still amazed by the force of a butterfly when it smacks my face at 70 MPH.
The air is different too. Unfiltered by air-conditioning, motorcyclists know exactly where the edge of a cold front begins and ends. Kaleidoscopic smells change with the passing fields of flowers, freshly mowed hay, corn, road kill, cattle ranges, dairy farms, and forests after a summer storm. The endless scenic variations make driving a psychedelic experience that awakens all senses.
There are dangers, and one doesn’t ordinarily plan a 15,000 mile trip without careful consideration. As a professional rider who's investigated hundreds of collisions, I’m aware of how quickly the unexpected can degrade into a life-altering event. Thoughtful riders don’t survive without constant analysis of roadway and environmental conditions; nor are they distracted by cell phones, passengers, alcohol, or short skirts the way ordinary drivers are. My focus isn’t a burden, for it forces me to disconnect from other non-essential thoughts the same way I do when piloting aircraft or scuba diving. My focus frees the rest of my mind to experience and enjoy the moment.
Except for a few hundred necessary miles of interstate, most of our ride was spent on two-lane roads. We tracked through the South - north along the eastern seaboard to Delaware and upstate New York and Montreal - east through Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, circling the provinces along their coastlines before returning to New England and back through the South. For me, the ride was much bigger than anything I can write, and I've documented these notes largely for myself. I hope that readers will excuse me if they find passages or photographs tedious. CB
Sunday, June 12, 2005 (Silver City, New Mexico) – This is the first entry from our trip. We use Internet cafes and try to avoid interstates and large cities, so cafes don't come along very often. We're also in no rush, so I will upload photos and make entries when I can. We completed an 8000 mile trip in 1999, taking two lane roads to Mexico and following the border and Gulf Coast to Florida; then north along the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before following the Canadian border to Idaho and back home. Because there are so many highways, we hugged the northern routes along the southern states for this trip.
We left LA on Thursday, June 9th. The first hour was spent picking up cash at Carol's bank and driving away – before returning to retrieve her forgotten card. This was only the beginning of a trail of lost items along the way and I wasn’t sure we’d ever get out of LA. We jumped on the Santa Monica Freeway about 1 PM - before the evening rush-hour began. After a snack and date shakes at Hadley's, we continued east along the I-10 to Palm Springs where we picked up SR 62 through Yucca Valley past USMC Twentynine Palms. Despite the clues offered by the spinning wind generators in Banning Pass, we were surprised by the violent crosswinds as we turned north. I was relieved when the winds died down a few miles later as we passed Morongo Valley. From there, we picked up the old Route 66 through Amboy, Essex, and Goffs, where we rescued a turtle in the road, to Laughlin Nevada. We shared beers at the first bar we saw and Carol won our money back by playing video. We checked into our hotel and, as a nightcap, we shared more laughter with cosmopolitans while watching a lounge singer, who resembled William Shatner (not Captain Kirk, but the Priceline pitchman), as he crooned Neil Diamond hits. The only thing missing was Scotty yelling Cap'n, the audience can' take much more o' this.
Friday, June 10, 2005 - We left Laughlin and returned to Route 66 at Kingman, riding it through Peach Springs and Seligman to Ash Fork, where we picked up SR 89 through Prescott and Wickenburg to Phoenix. We had the highways mostly to ourselves and spent June 10/11 at the Royal Palms Resort & Spa. The price was right, but the hotel didin't mention the additional 20% service fee until we checked in. Our experience during our stay suggested that the impound existed not because of stingy guests, but because the employees didn't like the consequence of marginal service. One example came when the English muffins were served sans butter and jam because we hadn’t asked for it(!). The hotel explained that the impound is not for food services, but for the other service workers. If so, then the hotel misleads guests by quoting 80% of the actual cost to stay. It's not that I didn't like the price - only that it wasn't mentioned until we arrived. The pool area was also crowded, and if you didn’t get an umbrella early you were out of luck. The Arizona sun was unbearable for more than 20 minutes.
Saturday, June 11, 2005 (Phoenix AZ) - We spent a wonderful evening of laughter, politics, sushi, and mai tais with our friends, the Purkisses. Ed and I share a love of technology and politics, while Mary and Carol share the experience of having survived cancer. Spending time with them reminds us all how blessed we are, which turns each visit into a lively and heartfelt celebration. Our only complaint is that they live so far from us.
Sunday, June 12, 2005 (Phoenix, AZ) - We checked out of our hotel on after a very short (four-hour) brunch with friend Rosemarie Christofolo at T. Cooke’s. We then left for Apache country, traveling north along the SR 88 from Apache Junction to Payson, where we followed SR 60 to Showlow - where thousands of acres of blackened trees stand as a silent reminder for the fires that almost took the entire town in 2002. We spent the night there.
Monday, June 13, 2005 (Showlow, AZ) – After a breakfast of oatmeal, steak and eggs at Aunt Nancy's, we continued through the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest along US 60 to Eagar and picked up US 180 south to Silver City, where I'm scribbling these notes in an Internet Cafe on Broadway. Silver City seems to be quiet for a college town, but it is the summer and is probably noisier when school’s in session. The folks seem friendly. The cactus bloomed throughout New Mexico and we snapped these photos near Gila, NM.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005 (Silver City, NM) – We continued along US 180 south to Deming, where we picked up SR 26 north to Rincon and SR 185 to Las Cruces. Carol’s intercom mike was cutting out and we stopped by Las Cruces Motorsports for repairs. They didn’t have the parts, but their service manager made several calls before arranging for service and replacement parts in Amarillo, Texas.
Wet bandanas and tee-shirts cooled us as we followed US 70 northeast over the San Agustin Pass (5719 feet) to White Sands and Holloman Air Force Base, where stealth fighters practiced touch-and-goes above us. We stopped for gas at the Exxon in Alamogordo and I wiped the bugs off in the shade while Carol made some phone calls. After a few minutes, Mack rode up on his Harley to chat. I discovered that he was also a marine – a pilot who flew F-4s in Vietnam and now teaches high school physics. His tanned skin and white hair and beard made him look a little like Anthony Quinn. When I said I'd served in the 9th Marines, our conversation turned to politics and it was soon clear where he stood on a lot of subjects. Most marines who’ve served in hostile environments have a political clarity that nuanced moderates are too tortured to express. Neither of us was in a hurry and we chatted away until Carol caught up on her phone calls.
After saying goodbye to Mack, we rode through Ruidoso and miles of road construction to Hondo and Picacho as our first thunderstorms began to form ahead of us. The crosswinds slammed into our right side and we rode sideways through 25-40 MPH crosswinds, racing a thunderstorm to Roswell.
This was only the beginning of afternoon storms as the Gulf Coast endured an unseasonably early hurricane season. I was glad to have ten weeks, for riding through storms never appealed to me. Seemingly unaware of the dangers, Carol delighted in them. We spotted a Marriot and I pulled under the portico for cover. Seeing the two bedraggled riders approach, the receptionist eyed me warily and Carol sent me outside to get the bags. By the time I'd returned to the lobby, she'd smooth-talked Lupi into a suite at a better rate than the double I could've gotten on my own. Carol's a handy traveling companion. I buttoned Betsy as the first fat drops began to fall, and by the time we finished our dinner the storm had given way to a sky full of stars.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005 (Roswell, NM) – We continued along US 70 to Portales, where we stopped to browse the aisles at Sunland Peanuts. After trying out their peanut butter and chocolate peanut butter cups (healthier but not as tasty), we drove through Clovis and picked up US 60 to Amarillo. The purple thistles in bloom seemed to welcome our arrival. Crosswinds still banged us around and by late afternoon another line of thunderstorms formed along the horizon. We pulled into David Brown's Motorsports where Jimmy Jones quickly identified and replaced Carol’s faulty intercom cord. It was after 5 PM when we found Fernando’s Upholstery shop in the Yellow Pages. We called him as he was closing, but he said he’d wait for us. Our Kurykyn rack bag was new, but the Velcro straps were poorly stitched and had begun to unravel. We arrived within minutes and after a brief power outage, Armando made sure that the straps would last long after our trip ended. He told us that he was a transplant from Palm Springs who had moved to Amarillo with hopes of finding more work, but after his arrival that more work was to be had in California and was moving back to California with his wife and family. We thanked him, left a decent tip, and wished him and his family well.
Storms approached from the west and we pulled into the Marriott twenty minutes later. After we checked in and changed to shorts, we took a brief ride west and had dinner and returned to the hotel before the thunderstorms reached the city. We watched the rain and lightening from our window until we fell asleep.
Thursday, June 16, 2005 (Amarillo, Texas) – Fluffy clouds greeted us the next day as we followed US 287 to State 207 through the Palo Duro and Caprock Canyons to State Road (SR) 86 & 70 south to Matador. For those who think Texas is nothing more than a flat expanse of heat and dirt, these canyons offer more beauty than West Texas along the Rio Grande. Although a fraction of the size of Utah's Bryce or Zion, the wildflowers (close-up), purple sage, blooming cactus flowers, empty roads and fragrant fields of yellow flowers were among the best surprises of our trip so far. Traffic was almost non-existent and we stopped several times along the way under the trees to listen to the birds, cicadas, and rustling grasses. The colors and fragrance were remarkable. If you drive through Texas, these canyons are worth a visit.
From there, we picked up US 70 and followed it to Crowell, where we had hamburgers and tater tots at the drive-thru with the local codgers, while the friendly help treated us like celebrities. From there we finished the day’s ride through Vernon to Wichita Falls. Like Amarillo, another line of thunderstorms threatened us from the horizon but gave us enough time to drop off the laundry and enjoy shortcake and a banana split at Braum's Ice Cream on Kemp Blvd. As we were leaving, a grandmother and three kids stopped to watch us start up our motorcycle. I asked if anyone wanted a ride and spent the next 30 minutes giving each of them, including grandma, their first motorcycle rides. I think they were hooked! We returned to our hotel about 10 PM, just as a line of storms passed through.
Friday, June 17, 2005 (Wichita Falls, Texas) – We drove northeast along SR 79 into Oklahoma today and had a pretty good day – IF we leave out the part where Carol left her purse in a gas station restroom! I’d advised her repeatedly (weeks before our trip began) to put her purse and wallet inside a saddle bag until needed, but she insisted on keeping her bag over her shoulder throughout the trip. I feared the worse, for so far she’d lost cups, sunglasses, credit cards, and her cell phone several times. No matter how much I tried to convince her otherwise, she insisted on carrying it with her. She'd also picked up $400 cash that morning when we left Wichita Falls. Only after we drove to Ardmore (Oklahoma) for lunch did she realize she’d left her purse in the Conoco bathroom a mile away. As expected, the purse was lost, and it would take many hours, phone calls, and several months before we unraveled the problems the loss created. We cancelled our checking account as well, which left us with no cash to pay bills during our two-month trip. Wells Fargo is a Western US bank, so we couldn’t visit our bank until we returned home, leaving us to dance around creditors with several weeks of lame excuses.
I picked up another $500 from Bank of America (branches all over the US) and my American Excuse card was still good, so we had cash. How we would make auto-payments without being dinged for non-payment was the challenge. Carol also shared an account with the kids, who (at the time) were traveling in Europe. After an anxious hour, we learned (thankfully) that Carol’s loss had not affected our kids’ access to cash. After beating ourselves up over the events, we made a police report and left Ardmore behind us. The officer who took the report said that one of the local crank addicts probably picked up the wallet.
Having unnecessarily wasted much of the day with banks and police, we left Ardmore by mid-afternoon and, after driving another fifty miles and “expressing my feelings,” I felt much better. After another few hours, Carol told me how comfortable she felt without a wallet and purse over her shoulder! (AAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!)
We spent a tense night at the Holiday Motel in Hugo, OK. Although the ongoing renovations made the hotel awkwardly accessible, the family who owned and managed it was friendly and accommodating. We rode a little south of Hugo to Harley’s Restaurant where we medicated ourselves with beer, ribs, and pecan pie.
Saturday, June 18, 2005 (Hugo, Oklahoma) – We awoke feeling better, and after breakfast of what Carol called “the best oatmeal ever” (I had pancakes), we followed US 70 to Broken Bow and the Ouachita National Forest, where we picked up SR 259 north through Octavia and SR 63. Rand-McNally identifies SR 259 as a scenic drive. While several outlooks present expansive views of the forest and hills, the view along most of the road is largely confined to the tree line that borders the road. I’m not complaining nor advocate the removal of forest for wider views. I also accept that parkways are okay for more urban areas (like the Taconic State Parkway along the eastern New York State), but when surrounded by thousands of acres of scenery, it’s frustrating to view little more than the narrow road and trees that border it. In some ways, these parkways are rendered as monotonous as a Texas interstate. I was glad this one didn’t last too long, for the trees cleared as we followed SR 63 east into Arkansas, home of the William Jefferson Clinton Library, Trailer Park & Massage Parlor.
We stopped in Mena, where we picked up some berries, carrots, peanut butter, cottage cheese (our favorite comfort foods) and snacked under a large oak in front of a closed factory. After lunch, we continued along SR 8 through Arkadelphia and Warren, which looked abandoned for a Saturday night. We stopped once to help another turtle cross the road and swerved around a lucky armadillo. As cute as they are, southerners seem to hate the armor-plated animal for their destructive digging habits. One local admitted that he runs them over when he can, and the number of squashed road-kill throughout the east suggests that others felt the same way. As it got darker and foggier, I got turned around (no compass) and found myself in Banks (to the west) before finding a motel in Monticello. I’ll purchase a GPS for our next trip.
Sunday, June 19, 2005 (Monticello, Arkansas) – Another blue, clear, and temperate day greeted us this morning. We rode east to McGehee and turned south on US 65. Everything was closed for miles and we didn’t find breakfast until almost noon when we found a lone service station in Fairview and filled up on gas, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy. It was nice to be back in the south. We continued south along the Mississippi River through Fairview, Eudora, Tallulah (Louisiana) and across the bridge to Natchez, MS.
Downtown Natchez was all but abandoned, but the Eola Hotel was so comfortable and close to this historic town that we stayed an extra day to catch up on email and take in the sights. The Eola is a few blocks from the Mississippi, and after crisscrossing the historic empty downtown streets and populated low-income black neighborhood on the north side of town, we rode to the Magnolia Grill as the sun set over the Mississippi. After a dinner of Cajun shrimp and beer, we walked down the steep hill to the historic Natchez Pier, where the Isle of Capri riverboat casino is permanently moored.
Blue-gray air and hundreds of click-clanging slot machines greeted us as we entered the casino. The stained carpet and recirculating smoke only complimented the glistening patrons as they stared blankly at the clanging magenta, green, and orange machines. The inhabitants were both moving and unmoving, much the same way happy termites or maggots move. Strained stools creaked beneath beanbag chair-sized asses, making them look more like suppositories than chairs. Like termites, these misshapen inhabitants rarely slid far from their positions while sweaty hands blurred in the activity of lifted glasses, cranking levers, smoked cigarettes, and dripping sweat. We walked further, careful not to accidentally touch or brush against anything. I felt like I was watching one of those National Geographic specials where the tiny tube-camera slides through a tiny passage to reveal things you never saw and don’t really like to see. We left after a few minutes, thankful to inhale the warm Mississippi night air. When we returned to our hotel, we showered well before going to bed.
Monday, June 20 2005 (Natchez, Mississippi) - We escaped the mid-day heat into the Judge George W. Armstrong Public Library. Since leaving LA, we’ve enjoyed mostly effortless miles, averaging 250 miles a day (WHEN we aren’t visiting friends or reporting a lost purse) as we followed the fair-weathered skirts of Hurricane Arlene into the South. Unlike our 1999 motorcycle trip, we haven’t yet had to race many thunderstorms to our motels. We stayed on at the Eola Hotel to catch up on emails, this diary, rest, and visit some historic sites. We hadn’t had breakfast yet, as last night’s beer and shrimp still sated us.
Our visit to the Stratton Chapel Gallery was the highlight of our stay. Lining the walls inside the First Presbyterian Church on State Street are more than a hundred images and photographs of faces, places and events in the town from as early as the 1840s. Docent Gary Pool gave us an overview of the collection, and we spent several hours studying the remarkable clarity and quality of the prints. Beautiful young ladies in their southern finery and lace stared back as I studied the detail of their unadulterated features. We were captivated by the brothers, sisters, slaves, riverboats, and images from days more than a century old; for many of the streets and buildings depicted still stand even though the sounds, faces, commerce and characters who stare back have been long forgotten. This exhibit is as haunting as it is beautiful, and one that should not be missed.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005 (Natchez, Mississippi) – We backtracked across the Mississippi into Louisiana on this hazy morning. We’d been to New Orleans several times and, in 1999, had followed SR 82 and the Gulf Coast from Johnson’s Bayou on the west to US 90 and Pearlington on the east, but we knew nothing of the central state. Since we were as close as we were and had the time, we decided to make a wide circle around Alexandria, exploring the side roads and towns named Black Hawk, Bayou Current, Bayou Chicot, Pitkin, Bellwood, and Jena. We spent the night in Alexandria.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005 (Alexandria, Louisiana) – We checked out Downtown Alexandria before we left, impressed by their comprehensive genealogical library that contains Spanish and French records from the early 1600s. What excited me most was that our family patriarch had arrived as a teenager in New Orleans around 1640 from Battle, England. I may return to check out the library on my next trip. The skies remained hazy and too hot for rain. We were comfortable as long as our cruise-controlled air conditioning operates at a minimum 55 MPH. Gas mileage stayed close to 50 MPG – a remarkable number (to me) for a six-cylinder 1800cc engine – even if it is on a motorcycle.
We stopped for dinner at Kathy’s Kitchen near Winnfield, along the north side of US 84 toward Joyce. Carol and I chose the grilled shrimp special – twelve very fat and tender grilled shrimps and a salad bar. Unlike those all-you-can-eat specials where a fingernail-sized shrimp is deep fried in a pound of batter, we actually filled ourselves up on the shrimp. Their dessert menu was also impressive – a huge variety of cakes, pies, puddings and what not – all homemade by the family matriarch (Kathy’s mom). Most of the restaurants we’ve found in The South offer sugary or deep fried fare. If something is somewhat healthy, the local chefs usually find a way to hide a slice of bacon or fry it. I think the Honda’s gas mileage suffered as we returned to Natchez.
We spent our last night at the Ramada Inn, which overlooks the city and Mississippi River from what must’ve been a Southern gun emplacement during the Civil War. The Ramada was comfortable, had a better view than the Eola, and was about half the price.
Thursday, June 23, 2005 (Natchez, Mississippi) – After picking up our laundry and email, we followed US 61 north through Port Gibson and Le Tourneau to Vicksburg. It wasn’t a long drive, but Vicksburg’s historical significance demanded a visit. We spent the night at the La Quinta, another ordinary motel on what must’ve been a gun emplacement 150 years earlier. Like the Natchez Ramada Inn, La Quinta also commanded a spectacular view of the Mississippi.
Friday, June 24, 2005 (Vicksburg, Mississippi) – We woke up to another clear hot day. We rode in shorts and tee-shirts to breakfast before riding to the Vicksburg National Historical Park. Vicksburg had been where General Grant sealed the fate of the Confederate Army. Having spent a year in the 3rd Marine Division, I had an inkling of what months of forced marches and six weeks of siege in the hot summer topography meant. Americans on both sides demonstrated supreme patriotism, and the silent monuments that stand in the park today seemed an important but quaint token. I would’ve complained more about the heat, but didn’t - we were humbled to visit this solemn place.
We also walked through the USS Cairo, which was the first armored warship to be sunk by the world’s first “electrically detonated torpedo,” which are today called mines. The ship was recovered from the Yazoo River in 1964 and is now on display at the park. We left Vicksburg late, taking US 61 north through Valley Park, Onward, Tallula, Rolling Fork, and Yazoo City.
Many of the southern counties we'd ridden through surprised us by their demographics. Yazoo City, Natchez, Vicksburg, and parts of Jackson were burdened by what almost seemed like deliberate economic failure. Except for the homes and landscapes that bordered the inner cities, downtown often seemed populated by people paralyzed by an absence of education or incentive. The contrast between the rolling countryside, manicured lawns, steamy bayous, and the restless downtown was frustrating; and I could only guess that post-60s white flight had had something to do with the bars, mini-marts, and fast-food that residents relied on for economic progress – with all the promise of their deep-fried diet.
Obesity is remarkably apparent in The South. From our restaurant tables, we watched as obese husbands ushered 300-pound wives and triple-chinned children into these dietary penitentiaries, marveling at their apparent obliviousness. We wondered whether these people accepted cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, and a fifty-year life expectancy as ordinary. For local residents, escape seemed their only solution - one that relied on education and incentive, virtues as unexpected as physical fitness. I met one large man in a motel hot tub in Tupelo, who spoke of his heart attack and quadruple bypass like parents speak of the birth of a first child, or a Boy Scout brags of a broken arm. He described in detail his medications and doctor’s orders and still resembled Jabba the Hutt. His dialogue made me wonder whether his size and illnesses added meaning to his life, and whether being saved by others somehow made him feel loved.
He said his mother went to school with Elvis and that he’d grown up in Tupelo and knew the best restaurants throughout the South. When I told him of my taste for bread pudding, he gave detailed directions of half a dozen little-known eateries within 100 miles that offered the best puddings, pies, and desserts (he'd) ever eaten in (his) life. I took notes but avoided the temptation.
We took CR 433 south through Little Yazoo and Bentonia to US 69, which we took to Jackson. It was late and many of the hotels were already booked for a statewide athletic championship of some sort over the weekend. We were turned away from lobbies filled with excited teenagers and weary parents. We drove further south and finally found a room in Pearl.
Saturday, June 25, 2005 (Pearl, Mississippi) – We followed the Natchez Trace Parkway north from Jackson to Tupelo (pronounced by locals as “two-ploh”), a town that found itself on the map when the planet discovered Elvis. We saw white linen tables through the windows and parked at Woody’s Restaurant on Glouster. After a dinner of elk medallions, pasta, wine, and bread pudding, we spent the night at the Marriott.
Sunday, June 26, 2005 (Tupelo, Mississippi) – We toured the Elvis Presley Museum north of Main Street and took a picture on the porch swing of the house Elvis’ sharecropper-father built. Carol and I weren’t Elvis fans at all, but while waiting for the museum to open at 1:00 PM, we waited inside the air conditioned chapel while his gospel tunes played. The songs were beautiful. We bought one of his gospel CDs for the ride to Memphis, and Carol eventually ordered a complete set of his gospel recordings. Beyond the museum, there wasn’t much left to do in Tupelo except eat, sleep, or talk about Elvis. Almost everyone we met who lived there claimed to have either known him or someone who did.
We left for Memphis in a light rain, taking 150 miles of gentle side roads through Bethany, Dumas, and Ripley to I-240 that encircles the town. Once again, I was impressed by the Goldwing’s aerodynamics. Although it wouldn’t protect us from a downpour, the faring kept most of the water away from us and we arrived dry despite 150 miles of almost non-stop drizzle and rain. We checked into the Peabody Hotel where live ducks shared the lobby fountain with guests since the 1930s. We dined at the hotel restaurant and devoured another plate of steak, pasta, wine and three-berry cobbler before taking an evening walk along nearby Beale Street. After we listened to several street bands and located and shipped a velvet painting of Elvis to our friend Lorraine, there wasn’t much left to see.
For some reason the Civil Rights Museum was closed on Monday (June 27), so we spent a few hours at Graceland – something neither of us ever imagined we’d do. After picking up two forty-dollar tickets, we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of other tourists who waited with all the reverence of a Mecca pilgrimage. As we stood in line for the minibus to take us 200 feet across Elvis Presley Boulevard, grandparents quizzed children on Elvis trivia while I eavesdropped like an interloping heretic-nonbeliever.
Once again, I was amazed by the rippling tonnage that surrounded us in line. Lorraine, whose southern roots and lineage are above reproach, had explained that fat women were regarded as healthy eaters, which is a sign of virility in the South (yikes!). She explained that gluttonous women were assumed to enjoy sex with equal passion. Although this culturally convoluted logic was lost to me, I struggled to keep my imagination in check. After that, I averted my eyes from these tractor-sized women, only occasionally glancing at the husbands and children who orbited like moons nearby. Go figure...
We reached the front of the line after about thirty minutes, where a bored-looking employee in a wrinkled uniform took our official photo as we stood in front of a painting of the Graceland front gate - 200 feet from the REAL one across the street. We then boarded the bus for the two-minute 200-foot ride across the street. I took a bunch of photos there that can be scrolled from this photo. It’s an elegant home, preserved in the trappings of the 1960s - complete with tube television sets that play old network television programming. Elvis’ walls are surrounded with gold and platinum records, and it’s not hard to believe that he sold more than a billion records, worldwide. Despite our initial misgivings, we were glad to have toured Elvis’ homes and read his story. We left Graceland and completed the evening with salad, Grandma’s turkey loaf, and coconut cake at Isaac Hayes’ Restaurant.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005 (Memphis, Tennessee) – We picked up our laundry and Carol’s repaired boots. She'd tripped over a floor fan at an Alexandria gas station and had limped like a war hero ever since. Until Memphis, we couldn't find a boot repairman. One local explained that no one fixed boots in the South anymore because it was cheaper to buy new ones at the Wal-Mart.
We left Memphis, taking Poplar Street eastbound until it became SR 57 through Germantown and Eastview; eventually finding our way to the battlefields and plaques at the Shiloh National Military Park. From there, the road ascended from the flat terrain into the forested hills and we rode the windy two-lane road US 64/SR 13 through towns called Olivehill, Flatwood, and Linden, where we enjoyed iced tea, salad, and sandwiches for $12 (tip included) at Brad’s Dinner Bell. We arrived in Nashville at sunset as President Bush addressed America on the anniversary of Iraq’s new sovereignty. After we got our room at Loews Hotel, I jogged several laps around the Vanderbilt University track before cutting back through Centennial Park for a lap around the Parthenon. I returned to our hotel late and, after a cool shower, stopped by the FedEx/Kinkos down the street for email and this log. Carol was asleep when I returned.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005 (Nashville, Tennessee) – Twenty days into our road trip finds us in Nashville, where the hills, trees, streams, and good roads contrast with the flat bayous of Louisiana and Mississippi. The end of June delivered clear hot days as the Gulf Coast storms stayed mostly east of the Tennessee/Georgia/Carolina borders. We endured the heat and visited the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, where I photographed several dozen photos of lilies and local residents. As beautiful as the gardens were, the direct sun was hard to bear and we rode to the air conditioned Country Music Hall of Fame.
Being almost illiterate on all things country western, I was impressed by how much the music influenced our culture, and how our American culture influenced our music. The sun was lower when the museum closed, and we rode to Broadway, where live country music poured from bars crowded with cheery beer-drinking locals and tourists. We stayed to enjoy the music, lyrics, crowds, and beer.
Friday, July 1 2005 (Nashville, Tennessee) – We rode in clear and somewhat cooler weather through Smyrna along SR 96 to Liberty, where we picked up the US 70 again. We’d crossed this road several times since New Mexico and it’s become a sort of friend to us. In many ways, it’s as pretty as the old Route 66, with plenty of rural scenery without the desolation.
Nashville/Knoxville/Chattanooga commuters prefer the interstates, while US 70 ribbons and curves gently through lush green hills, farms, and post-stamp towns to SR 68 and Crossville. We caught some intermittent and sometimes heavy rain through Homestead and Grandview before descending into the verdant town of Spring City, Tennessee.
Weeks before our June departure, I’d mentioned my proposed trip to several friends, including Ken who retired with 25 years on the LAPD. We’d ridden Motors together at VTD throughout the 1990s. He’d retired in Tennessee and asked me to visit him in Spring City along the way. When I looked at the map to see if I’d pass anywhere close, I discovered that I’d already marked the town with yellow highlighter. I hadn’t been certain when or whether I’d stop, and neither of us made plans, but with a light rain falling and the July 4th weekend traffic starting to fill the highways, I left a message to see if his invitation was still open. After another heavy rain shower had passed, we continued along SR 68 to Sweetwater, where we headed north on US 11 to Farragut, where we found ourselves in the middle of holiday traffic in Marysville before finally stopping at a Knoxville, Marriott. Ken had left a message, and when I called back he opened his home and hospitality to us for the weekend. We gladly accepted and rode the windy roads SR 58 & SR 68 to his lakeshore home the next day.
Sunday, July 3, 2005 (Spring City, Tennessee) – Ken and Doreen met in their teens and live in a large home surrounded by several acres of shade trees and rolling lawns. Punctuated by flowers, kids, lightening bugs, cicadas, geese, ducks, and wonderful neighbors, Watts Bar Lake lies behind a large dam stocked with bass, bluegill, catfish, and other sports fish. I spent much of the weekend playing tag in the warm waters with Ken’s cousins and friends, unless the neighbors hosted fish fries or fireworks displays. The weekend reminded me of a dozen of my own past summers among friends and family. In the late afternoon, everyone jumped on his boat and we rode to the marina and Spiro's, where we feasted on more ribs, catfish, lamb, ham, chicken, and salads. After stuffing ourselves and boating back to the house, we walked to another one of many fireworks displays and parties hosted by neighbors over the weekend.
I wasn’t a complete freeloader, and spent the weekend updating Ken’s computer software and security, which had never been updated or scanned(!). I removed dozens of spyware programs and downloading two years of XP patches on his dial-up modem. It took a while, but after several days I was happy to present a clean bill of computer health to Ken – after giving him a well-deserved scolding.
Ken and Doreen are gracious hosts and we had a terrific time. Their idyllic home, surrounded by ducks, geese, and deer is a long way from the streets of LA, and they both deserve a long, healthy, and peaceful retirement.
Tuesday, July 5, 2005 (Spring City, Tennessee) – After giving Ken’s little cousin’s Laura, Megan, and Brad their promised motorcycle rides, Carol and I left under gray skies and intermittent showers. We returned to SR 68 east through Tellico Plains, Turtle Town, Duck Town, and Copperhill, before crossing into Georgia along SR 5 to Ellijay for burritos at El Rey, where we waited for the evening’s last cloudburst to clear. The owner’s daughter who served us asked about our trip and motorcycle, and I introduced her to Betsy when the rain stopped. We followed easy directions and arrived at Kathleen’s Atlanta home a little after 8 PM.
Wednesday, July 6, 2005 (Atlanta, Georgia) – Kathleen is another LA transplant who teaches yoga at her Monroe Street studio. I spent the morning uploading photos and this diary before spending the afternoon with Carol and Kathleen at Atlanta Botanical Garden. I’d never seen the variety of orchids and tropical plants and my digital camera ran out of frames and power before I could capture everything I wanted. Any of these downloaded photos (9098- 9134) make breathtaking desktops or screensaver photos. The garden also exhibited a few brightly colored Brazilian poison dart frogs. When we returned, Carol and Kathleen left for the yoga studio while I uploaded more photos on Kathleen’s VERY slow Mac and dial-up. Thunderstorms deluged Atlanta that night, and the girls spoke of local flooding and stalled cars when they returned later that evening.
Thursday, July 7, 2005 (Atlanta, Georgia) Drizzle greeted us but subsided before Carol and I left to meet another friend for lunch at Emeril's. Carol knew him professionally, and he spoke of life in Atlanta, his kids, and his approach to retirement. After lunch, I ran some errands with Kathleen before the girls left once again for more yoga. The skies had cleared by then, and I jogged around Freedom Park, showered, and spent the balance of the evening reading more on John Adams (McCullough).
Friday, July 8, 2005 (Atlanta, Georgia) – The three of us hiked Stone Mountain Park in the morning before returning to pack and resume our trip. We said goodbye to Kathleen and left for Dublin, taking more than an hour to escape Atlanta’s heavy traffic onto SR 212. After a dinner of ribs and steak in Stewart, Georgia, Carol and I got gas in Monticello. It was getting late and I wasn’t sure we’d make Dublin. When I asked a big police officer (former marine), he suggested Milledgeville, (Mill-edge-ville), where we found the Best Western by sunset.
Saturday, July 9, 2005 (Milledgeville, Georgia) - The birthplace of Oliver Hardy and Georgia’s fourth capitol city, Milledgeville is now a college and resort town. We were the only visitors as we walked around the steamy Lockerly Arboretum. The garden was large, but seemed to have suffered from some disrepair. We photographed a few local flowers and inhabitants before the mosquitoes clouded around us. An employee offered a can of bug dope, which we liberally sprayed on each other. We walked for more than an hour before Carol stopped to rest on the steps of the old mansion. From there, we returned to town for the bus tour and had lunch before taking another cool-off ride around the Lake Sinclair area.
Sunday, July 10, 2005 (Milledgeville, Georgia) – We were curious about home prices around the lake, so we met with a real estate agent who talked about the area and showed us a seven acre lakefront home. We decided to keep looking and thanked her for her time. Fluffy white clouds replaced the rain and we enjoyed a hot (but dry) ride along SR 212 through Toomsboro to US 441 and Dublin. Continuing along US 80, we rode through Swainsboro and Stateboro to Savannah, where we checked into the Gastonian.
After more than a century of post-cotton decline, municipal neglect, urban decay, and a Clint Eastwood movie called Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah has become a favored tourist attraction and recent real estate success story. After settling into our digs, Carol and I crisscrossed the streets until sunset, when we stopped at Kevin Barry's for corned beef and ale while overlooking the sunset and Savannah River.
Monday, July 11, 2005 (Savannah, Georgia) – Carol found a local tour guide and we spent two hours walking through the town and snapping more photos. We later drove to the coastal waters and Buena Vista Cemetery. Since leaving Tennessee, rain fell almost every day and we hung around Savannah through the 12th and 13th hoping it would pass. It didn’t.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 (Savannah, Georgia) – We spent the day riding around Beaufort, SC with two real estate agents. We’d asked about the beaches and wetlands and wanted to know more. As we traveled north with the agents, we spotted a fat waterspout over the Broad River. It was so large and close that we clearly made out the rotation of water and wind. We stopped with dozens of other drivers along the highway to watch, and I was frustrated that I’d left our camera in the hotel. It was a remarkable sight, and the first live tornado/spout Carol or I’d ever seen. It was breathtaking!
After that drama, we resumed the tour and decided that not only were the homes unreasonably overpriced, but the area was overbuilt and the midday traffic clogged the narrow roadways around town. By the time we returned to Savannah at 5 PM, we’d ruled out the area as a place to retire – deciding that Savannah was a nice place to visit. On Bob Dixon’s recommendation, we ate dinner at Saigon – a satisfying Vietnamese/Thai/Asian restaurant off Bull Street. Carol ordered the standard (but satisfying) Pad Thai while I inhaled the Shrimp Yellow Curry that sustained me when I worked in Phi Phi Island last year. The food was tasty and inexpensive, but the fried banana dessert delayed us long enough to get caught in another downpour. We waited out the storm in The Gastonian garage before making our way to the Planter’s Inn a few blocks away for the night. We couldn’t wait to leave Savannah the next day.
Friday, July 15 2005 (Savannah, Georgia) – It was a hot ride to Parris Island. Carol’s never seen the Marine Corps’ East Coast training facility, and we got on base to see some recruits and DIs at work. In usual form Carol focused on the PX, where she purchased several tee shirts and other knick-knacks. The stressed lady in Customer Service mailed the stuff home for us.
From there, we continued north along US 17 through Charleston, Georgetown, and Myrtle Beach, where the East Coast weekend traffic was getting worse and worse. By now, we couldn’t wait to escape the resort towns and the summer traffic. We continued north through Wilmington (NC) and hoped to motel in Jacksonville, but troop families and a karate convention had filled them before we arrived. We drove on and spent the night in Morehead City.
Saturday, July 16, 2005 (Morehead City, North Carolina) – We drove along US 70 to SR 12, where we caught the ferry to Ocracoke Island. The road through the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was reasonably free of traffic, but as we approached Nag's Head south of Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk, traffic clogged the single two-lane roads where planned communities had turned the island into another overpopulated suburb. Much had changed since the Wright Brothers conducted their first experiments 100 years before.
As for the weather, we’d endured Hurricane Dennis’ meteorological baggage since Tennessee; and although the heat melted us like Snickers bars to our Corbin seats, it was a joy to ride as far as we did. Thunderstorms chased us all day, but we avoided the worst of it. The traffic was what bothered us most. We spent the night at the Hampton Inn.
Sunday, July 17, 2005 (Nag’s Head, North Carolina) – After giving Betsy another sponge bath, we rode to Corolla (pronounced (có-ro-la) before escaping to the mainland. They say that developers build one beach house a day along the outer shores of Pamlico Sound while adding almost nothing to the roadway infrastructure. Many homes are three-story monstrosities packed side-by-side, with all the hominess of an overpriced trailer park. We couldn’t figure out why Carolina voters would let their politicians sell out to the developers. Except for a few hand made signs protesting the lack of funding for another bridge, few seemed to care. We couldn’t wait to escape the island and rode almost 350 rain-free miles, escaping on US 158/SR 168 to Chesapeake VA: Over 24 miles of bridges and tunnels along US 13/113 through Pocomoke City and Berlin (MD) and, finally (whew!) into Delaware.
The prettiest part of today’s ride began on SR 9, which we found south of Dover. The drive took us through about 30 miles of wildlife refuges and farmland. Like most tourists, our reliance on Rand McNally sometimes leads us to the unexpected, as did SR 9: Past several chemical plants and inner-city ghettos. Without any police in sight on this Sunday evening, addicts, prostitutes, and fencers were out in force, and I focused on the downtown skyline until we found ourselves in front of the Hotel du Pont.
Except for the bellman, downtown Wilmington looked like a ghost town. After we settled in our room and showered, we dined at the hotel restaurant on duck, fish, and wine. We topped it off with a dessert called Almond Joy. Like most days, our trip was full of surprises.
Monday, July 18, 2005 (Wilmington, Delaware) – Not wanting to explore the clogged Monday traffic that Wilmington, Philadelphia, and Trenton had in store for us, we headed straight for the I-95 north.
I missed splitting traffic. Even no-helmet states have outlawed lane-sharing and I didn’t want to invite the spit, cigarette butts, coffee, or suddenly opened doors that await riders who attempt to expedite their travel through hostile urban environments. You don’t have to ask a cop either – you either see other motorcyclists do it or you don't, and I hadn’t seen anyone do it since we left California. So there we were, sitting under the steamy Philadelphia sun waiting for traffic to move while ignoring the six-foot gaps that would’ve gotten us over the Delaware River faster than George Washington.
When we finally crossed the Delaware, we ditched the interstate for the tree-lined SR-29 that follows the river and farms to the northwest. After a breakfast of chili and salad near Washington's Crossing Park, we followed sparse traffic and light rain through Titusville and Byram to Frenchtown. From there, we picked up the CR-519 to CR-521 up to Port Jervis, where the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey intersect. After a wrong turn, we found the US-209 and followed the Basher Kill and Rondout rivers through towns called Cuddebackville, Wawarsing, and Kerhonkson to Hurley, where a torrential downpour waited for us to duck under the Mobil Station roof before dumping its load. We waited nearly an hour in the lightening and rain while the storm dumped several inches and flooded local roads. When it passed, we rode to Kingston (NY) and checked into the Best Western.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005 (Kingston, New York) – We rose early and took SR-28 through the Catskills, where an adult doe suddenly rushed across our path. Deer were a constant threat along the thousands of miles of wooded roads we followed, and I braked hard and braced as Carol's 70 MPH body collided with my decelerating 55 MPH body, banging our helmets together. Slowing in time to avoid disaster, we came close enough to hear the animal’s forced breath and clattering feet as she left the road and disappeared into the trees. I quietly thanked God and long hours of training for my ability to avoid the deer, for one more second or unpracticed braking could’ve ended in disaster.
We rode to Andes, where we stopped for brunch of oatmeal and blueberry pancakes. Carol played with a cat that she thought looked like our kitty, Franny. As we headed northwest through Delhi toward Oneonta, Carol snapped photos of the landscape and, somewhere along the way dropped her cell phone – her second significant loss of the trip. Although I thought it futile, we circled back 30 miles to check the road in case a miracle might occur. It did not. I was saddened to see her lose yet another thing that was important to her, for she’d lost many notes and observations compiled from our trip, not to mention contact information she might need while on the road. Hours passed before she finally accepted the loss.
We continued north along SR 28 to SR 80, through Fonda, where we picked up SR 30 and headed through the Adirondacks. Carol and I had heard stories of these mountains and resorts but had never ridden through them. And although we found beauty in the forest, flowers, streams, and lakes, the resorts seemed somehow worn out by the staccato of summers that had passed since the first station wagon trundled through. We rode nearly 400 miles that day, stopping finally in Plattsburgh and Lake Champlain, where we found another Best Western.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005 (Plattsburgh, New York) – After servicing the Goldwing and getting the clothes washed, we took I-87 north to Canada. Except for a few sprinkles, we’d left the monsoonal South behind and luxuriated in the comparative cool of the north. As we passed Montreal toward Quebec City, we were impressed by the well-paved, dry, and very comfortable roads. What surprised me most, however, was the aggressively fast pace of Highway 40 – especially between Montreal and Quebec. No one seemed to care about speed, and except when passing a few slower tourists, I stayed in the slow lane with my cruise control set at 85 MPH. We did see one police car, but he was busy handling a dispute that had nothing to do with traffic.
We rode into Quebec in the late afternoon and checked into the hotel Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which overlooks the Saint Lawrence, Place Royale, and La Citadelle. We took more photos and walked around a little, but the hoards of tourists, cars, horse-drawn carriages, and tour buses took much of the city’s charm with them (for us). To us, Quebec had all the charm of a theme park. We stopped for beer at a local pub and watched the tourists pass. Except for the tourists (like us), Quebec is a lovely city; the main streets and side-roads are full of color and dramatic views. We walked around our hotel awhile before calling it a night.
Thursday, July 21, 2005 (Quebec City, Quebec) – We left early in the day, eager to get the larger cities behind us. We’d missed the weekly ferry between Sept-lles to Henley Harbour (Labrador) by one day, so we decided to skip Labrador altogether and cross the St. Lawrence passage back to the southern peninsula, from Baie Comeau to Matane. Although the coast was scenic, Highway 138's mostly two-lane road is the main coastal trucking and vacation route. If I passed one string of cars and trucks, there was always one more ahead of us. After several hours, we arrived at the ferry port at Baie-Comeau and waited – hoping not to spend another night on the northern peninsula.
We called my daughter, Vanessa, who had just returned from Europe with Cliff, and she made reservations in Matane at the Riotel. A few hours later, we boarded the boat for the two hour ride to Matane. We couldn’t make heads or tails from the French menu and didn’t like what we got either; the brown gravy poured over Carol’s fries was too salty, and my chicken wings seemed to have been deep-fried several times that week. The passage took several hours and when we debarked, we found the motel with no trouble and went to bed.
Friday, July 22, 2005 (Matane, Quebec) – We awoke to beautiful weather on a much quieter coast. After breakfast at the hotel overlooking the Saint Lawrence Passage, the empty roads surprised us with some of the most pleasurable riding that motorcyclists can ever imagine. Highway 132 traces the coastline for about two hundred miles, and the flowers, green trees, blue sky and bluer ocean contrasted in ways that made the colors seem touched up and exaggerated. Wherever we stopped, we usually had enough time to step from the motorcycle, snap a photo, and ride away before another car passed. If someone did drive up, they often slowed and asked if we were okay. I’ve never ridden anywhere like this, and kept wondering whether the next turn would expose a congested parking lot of campers and trailers.
Instead of traffic, the coastline was interrupted only by tiny fishing villages called Sainte-Anne-des-Montes, Marsoui, L’Anse-Pleureuse, and Pointe-a-la-Frigate. Riders looking for a break will find all the fresh seafood they can eat wherever they stop. Towns grew a little as we neared Gaspe, but the road never disappointed us. We checked into another Riotel in Perce.
Saturday, July 23, 2005 (Perce, Quebec) - We started under blue skies and resumed this exquisite ride. By afternoon, a storm formed south of us and, while waiting for the squall to pass through New Richmond, we dined on lobster club sandwiches. We continued south to Dalhousie (New Brunswick), Bathurst, and Caraquet to Miramichi, where we spent the night.
Sunday, July 24, 2005 (Miramichi, New Brunswick) – The coastline and terrain is flatter and seems somewhat more populated than Quebec’s coast. After the weeks of heat and rain that marked our travels through the South, riding north has been a blessing of smooth and unclogged roads, cool breezes, and mostly rain-free riding. We rose late, and after several bowls of Raisin Bran (our favorite road breakfast), we returned to Highway 11 through Shediac to Highway 15, Amherst and New Glasgow, waving at Prince Edward Island as we passed.
Monday, July 25, 2005 (New Glasgow, Nova Scotia) – We followed the Highways 104/105 through Antigonish to Port Hawkesbury, where we picked up Highway 19 north. I'd been told to take the trail counter-clockwise and discovered two reasons; 1) Counterclockwise travel got the rider closer to the coastline and, 2) Signs around East Margaree, Margaree Valley and Southwest Margaree are missed easily and Rand McNally’s markings only confuse the rider. I finally located Margaree Harbor toward Cheticamp and the Cape Breton Highlands. The effort paid off with 200 miles of empty and smooth two-lane roads above the rocky coastline and through heavily-forested highlands. Like Quebec, to cruise along this paradise is a motorcyclist’s dream. All I can say is that if you love riding, the Cabot Trail is a must. (Scroll from this photo through 9592). As pretty and uninterrupted by traffic and tourists as Quebec's Highway 132, the trail takes you through a dozen fishing villages and turns that deliver unlimited visibility of rocky shorelines, ocean, and mountains. If you're a serious rider, have the time, and want to avoid Yosemite-esque traffic, there is no better place in the world for a summer ride.
We reached Englishtown by late afternoon and got in line for the ferry at Sydney Harbor. The ferry to Port Aux Basque was scheduled to leave after 10 PM, and as we sat in line we wondered whether we should ferry across overnight without a sleeper or wait for the next afternoon. We also had laundry, phone calls, banking, and other business to attend to and decided to wait until morning. We checked into the last room available at the Best Western in Sydney Harbor.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005 (Sydney Harbor, Nova Scotia) – The motel is a five minute walk to the port. The ferries usually require reservations, but our motorcycle doesn’t take much room (no trailer) and we never had a problem squeezing in. I parked the bike in the morning for the 3:30 PM ferry to Port aux Basques. Shops and services are all within walking distance around Sydney Harbor, and we were able to do the laundry, pack, load, and clean up the bike before lunch. We departed Sydney after 4 PM, and the long sunset and calm seas made the six-hour passage very restful. While I sat reading, Carol chatted with another passenger and discovered that the Holiday Inn she thought was at the Port Aux Basques WASN'T. This posed a problem because we also discovered hours before that numerous provincial celebrations and the oil boom had made hotel accommodations difficult to find throughout Newfoundland. We lucked out, however, and Carol made arrangements as we approached the Newfoundland port. Apparently what happened was that when Carol called the Holiday Inn call center, the third-world reservation clerk from somewhere in the Caribbean misunderstood the country, and reserved rooms for us in towns that rhymed with Port Aux Basques, Corner Brook, and St. Johns. We had no idea where Carol secured our reservations, but Newfoundland wasn’t it.
We drove off the ferry shortly after 10 PM and rode the short distance to Olef Meade's modest home, which sits adjacent to the port. The wife of a fisherman, Olef rents out her grown kid's upstairs bedroom to travelers like us, who need a place to stay for the night. The price was more than reasonable and we left after a generous breakfast and friendly conversation.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005 (Port Aux Basque, Newfoundland) – Before we left Olef Meade's home this morning, she'd said that the fog would likely lift as we passed the Twin Mountains. It did for a few minutes - only to be replaced by a steady rain that poured on us for much of the two-hour ride to Corner Brook. The good news was that our respite allowed us to visit an Internet café, upload photos from several days, and catch up on the diary.
Thursday, July 28, 2005 (Corner Brook, Newfoundland) – The rain broke and we rode 320 miles through Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park. The landscape and seascapes were made even more remarkable by the lack of traffic on mostly well-maintained two-lane roads. It would take several days to investigate every fishing village, but the park, roads, and scenery made this one of the most rewarding days of our vacation. We drove around Rocky Harbour through remarkable geology, bays, forests, mountains, seascapes, lighthouses, wetlands, and creatures great and small (scroll for more photos). We returned to Corner Brook for dinner and called it a night.
Friday, July 29, 2005 (Corner Brook, Newfoundland) -Yesterday’s perfect weather was replaced with a chilly gray overcast and drizzle for the six-hour ride to St. Johns. We stopped for breakfast at the By the Sea Café in King's Point, on the bay north of Springdale. Our waitress brought breakfasts of eggs, bacon, and home made bread. When we returned to the road, the weather deteriorated as we headed east. After visiting the Air Museum in Gander, a steady rain began to fall. Carol’s suit stayed dry, but mine leaked through my seat and, by 4 PM, the roadway filled with holiday (Reunion Day) and weekend traffic. It was a miserable ride, made bearable only by my heated grips and seat. I was soaked when we reached the Holiday Inn in St. Johns and couldn’t wait to shower and slip under some dry sheets. We went to bed early to get some sleep before our early wake-up call.
Saturday, July 30, 2005 (St. Johns, Newfoundland) – The phone startled us at 5 AM. We were at least 90 minutes away from the ferry at Argentia, and I’d gotten three different directions from three different people and wasn’t sure about any of them.
The downside of taking long rides in out-of-the-way places is that most locals translate directions by using landmarks rather than street names or highway designations. This is, in part, because signs have either never been installed or were never replaced after being knocked down. We left St. John’s at 6 AM in fog and drizzle, making our way back west along the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH). I spotted the sign through the fog and drizzle and followed Highway 101 south. The drizzle gave way to heavier rain, which we endured for the final 30 miles to Argentia. Once again, water poured through a still unidentified hole in my rain suit, soaking my jeans, boots, socks, and shirt. By the time we boarded the ferry, I faced the prospect of sitting in wet clothes for the 16 hour ferry trip back to Sydney. I was very unhappy. I credit Carol for taking care of me and managing my irritation while I sat in my chair reading and trying not to think about my wet clothes. By 10 AM, the fog and rain cleared and I set my boots and socks in the sunny breeze to dry. I also stood in the sunlight. By noon I had dried out enough to recover my composure and manners.
We spent the time reading – Carol, a Cromwell mystery she didn’t like, while I resumed David McCullough’s book on John Adams. It’s been a while since either of us took a long boat ride and marveled that we were only five hours away from the UK. Obviously, there isn’t much to get excited about on sixteen-hour ferry rides. We arrived after midnight in Sydney and were glad to have made motel reservations a week earlier. Our motel turned away other passengers and I suspect that some slept in their cars. We showered and went right to bed.
Sunday, July 31, 2005 (Baddeck, Nova Scotia) – We left our motel under clear skies and stopped in Bras D’Or for fried chicken and tee-shirts at the local Lick-A-Chick(!). Business was good. After breakfast, we followed Highway 105 back to Antigonish, where we picked up Highway 7, south.
This was another magical riding day. The blue sky, crisp air, greenery and frequent lakes and rivers made magic of our windy two-lane road. Like many of Quebec and Nova Scotia’s scenic coastal and side-roads, traffic was all but non-existent. This road took us to Nova Scotia’s southern coast, where we rode through villages named Ecum Secunt, Port Dufferin, and Owl’s Head Harbor. By mid-afternoon, we happened upon the Lobster Shack in Head of Jeddore where we stuffed ourselves. Carol feasted on lobster while I devoured the chunks of lobster, crab, and scallops that buried my seafood linguini. As wonderful as Gros Morne was, we were pleased to have left the rain and fog of Newfoundland behind us. We took our time enjoying these incredible meals at this peaceful and lovely place.
By the time we finished dinner it was getting late. We returned to Highway 101 and rode from Halifax to Digby, on the Bay of Funde. We found a quiet motel at the harbor and Carol made friends with a local shopkeeper. Everyone seemed to know everyone there, and the people were as friendly as we found them throughout Nova Scotia.
Monday, August 1, 2005 (Digby, Nova Scotia) – After a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and pancakes, Carol and I rode the ferry to St. John, New Brunswick. We learned that August 1st is a holiday throughout Canada; and while the ferry crew served all the passengers cake, no one seemed to know the significance of “Naval Day.” The water was also calm, so we didn’t tie down the motorcycle as we did to and from Newfoundland and Baie Comeau. A light drizzle greeted us when we arrived, and we found a motel close to the port. I checked the Yellow Pages and found a Honda service center down the street. Without thinking, I rode Betsy there before recalling that everything was closed for what was not called “Canada Day.” When Carol finished the laundry at the hotel, we walked across the street for some beer, steak, and fish and spent the balance of the evening channel surfing and reading.
Tuesday, August 2, 2005 (St. John, New Brunswick) – I dropped my bike off at 7 AM so that it would cool by 9 AM when the service center opened. Even so, it took another two hours to change fluids and check tire pressure. After getting a clean bill of health, we repacked Betsy and were soon on our way. We stopped in St. George for fish and chips (the special was awful). From there, we followed Highway 1 back to the US border checkpoint in Calais, Maine and followed the coastal road to Ellsworth. Heavy thunderstorms gathered to the south, and the US roads were getting crowded when we stopped in Kittery, Maine for more lobster at Warren's Lobster House. The rain soon fell and we rode through several muddy construction sites, coating Betsy with more muddy spray. After the remarkable coastal travel in Canada, the New England coast only depressed me and we detoured through Bangor, Augusta, and Lewiston on the I -95, spending the night at the Portland Harbor Hotel.
Wednesday, August 3, 2005 (Portland Maine) – After breakfast, Carol and I walked along the historic Commercial and Fore Streets before resuming our ride. The coastal two-lane road (US-1) was still packed and we returned to the I-95 to Boston – arriving in the late afternoon along with billions of Red Sox fans on their way to Fenway Stadium! The last 16 miles to the Charles Hotel in Cambridge was made worse than LA rush hour because I still couldn’t split traffic!
Thursday, August 4, 2005 (Cambridge, Mass) – This was another day of poor signage. I drove circles through Braintree and Quincy, before I found a tiny handwritten sign on a pole which read, Are you lost? Check inside and maybe we can help. A man inside the service station came out and, after explaining that the signs really were bad, gave me decent directions to the John Adams Park.
The weather was warm and clear, and we enjoyed being two of the three people in our group to tour our second president’s former homes. Until I’d read McCullough’s biography, I hadn’t known that if not for John Adams, the US might today be another Canada – or Ireland! I was deeply moved and privileged to stand in homes where President Adams was born, lived, worked, and died. Almost every page of his important and fascinating story offers relevant perspective on present day politics. It’s unfortunate that every American does not know all that John Adams did for our country – and for human history. If not for his diaries and letters to and from Abigail and other important Americans at that time, we would know much less about his sacrifice and patriotism that lead to the creation of these United States. If morons like Cindy Sheehan ever discovered what real patriotism is, she'd move into Ted Kaczynski’s old cabin to live on termites and berries.
From Quincy, we rode downtown to Boston, where several garages also refused to let us park. (Do I have REPUBLICAN painted on my forehead?) We eventually found a garage ($31) and had dinner ($106) at the Union Oyster House. I doubt I’ll return to Boston any time soon.
Friday, August 5, 2005 (Boston, Mass) – We evacuated ourselves from Boston, picking up Hwy 16 west through Milford to Uxbridge to SR 122/98 into Rhode Island. To avoid another congested New England city, we stayed north of Providence and followed SR 98 to US 44 into Putnam (Connecticut). After several hours, we finally found empty scenic roads along SR 169 north to North Woodstock before heading west along SR 190/197/20 and US 44.
We stopped in Stafford Springs for Italian subs and antipasto salad before continuing through Somersville and West Granby to Norfolk – where another black thunderstorm appeared suddenly. With only seconds to spare, I parked beneath an inn portico where we waited an hour for the storm to pass. Carol made friends with the owner, secured some sherry and purchased some black satin pajamas from the boutique inside. When the storm passed we continued along US 44 to New York’s Taconic Parkway on the advice of a friend. This was a bad move since US 44 was much prettier and we were soon disappointed to have left it. After dinner in Fishkill, we avoided thunderstorms by detouring along I-84 through Port Jervis to US 209. Once again, we found another open road that delivered us to another glorious, sunset ride – this time, along the Delaware River to East Stroudsburg, where we called it a night.
Saturday, August 6, 2005 (East Stroudsburg, Penn) – As US 209 led us through seemingly endless miles of struggling coal and steel mining towns, we couldn’t help but recognize how the stress of NAFTA and CAFTA had impacted these once vibrant communities. While I believe that both agreements are good for America’s overall economy, it’s hard not to feel the pain of thousands of families caught between the old economics and the new. This is where 20th Century America meets Thomas Friedman’s Flat World, and the effects these people now endure.
We stopped in Tamaqua and strolled along sidewalks in front of many closed businesses, where residents parked tables along both sides of the street for a sort of citywide flea market of homemade dolls, knitted blankets, medals, uniforms, knickknacks, and bric-a-brac. A building that once housed Tamaqua’s biggest bank was now an informal museum of the city’s past, complete with fading class photos from the local high school and military letters to parents of missing or dead WWII soldiers and sailors from the town. I felt awkward, like the anthropologist who arrives before the inhabitants have actually vanished. While the majority of Americans thrive in this new economy, one cannot help but feel sorry for those who don’t cope well with change.
We continued through Pottsville and other towns along the Mahantango Mountains to Millersburg, where the Catawissa River was too low for the ferry (opened in 1824) to cross. Instead, we took SR 147 south to the bridge at Benvenue and picked up SR 274 southwest along the Tuscarora Mountains – where the Amish and farms were no accident. We briefly caught the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Bedford and south along US 220 to George Washington’s headquarters at Cumberland (Maryland). After more than 400 miles, we spent the night in Frostburg.
Sunday, August 7, 2005 (Frostburg, MD) – Back on the bike by 8 AM, we rode along US 40 to US 219 south into West Virginia’s Monongahela Mountains – through the towns of Elkins and Mill Creek, where Thomas Friedman’s Flat Earth also meets the past. These thickly tree-covered mountain ranges were as pretty as any we’d seen on this trip. We stopped for lunch in Cherry Falls, where we chatted with Gerald Flare at Vickie’s Café over the pork chop and meat loaf specials. After finishing slices of fresh coconut and berry pies, we continued to Charleston and picked up US 119, which led us into Kentucky. After berry crepes at Bob Evan’s restaurant in Pikesville, we checked into the Comfort Suites in Prestonsburg. I caught up on email and these diary notes until 2 AM while the lobby television reported stories about Peter Jennings’s death.
Monday, August 8, 2005 (Prestonsburg, Kentucky) – We headed out in the warm overcast, backtracking south to SR 80 and Hazard, where Carol mailed some shopping and extra clothes. Dennis Fugate spotted me studying my map by Betsy and introduced himself. When I told him I was checking out the back roads, Fugate replied that he knew them all – even some Deliverance-type back roads. I expressed interest, and he gave me a route. After a short conversation about roads and real estate prices, Carol and I followed Fugate’s route to Hyden and US 421.
We regretted the route from the start, for we spent the next several hours stuck behind trucker traffic that blew mud and water all over us. Heading south to US 119 and west to Savoy, we caught I-75 south to escape the rain. When it cleared, we exited SR 63 in Tennessee and headed west along SR 52 through Alpine, Galina, Webbtown, and Oakgrove to Portland. The sun returned, the mud dried, and we made our way along CO 49/76, past Springfield and tobacco farmers to Clarksville. Once again, we were happy to leave the rain behind us.
Tuesday, August 9, 2005 (Clarksville, Tennessee) – We woke to clear skies and, after I dropped our laundry off with Buffy and left Carol at the Kinko/FedEx (email/phone calls), I washed yesterday’s mud from the Honda. I knew we hadn’t seen the last of summer’s monsoonal mess, but I somehow feel physically ill when I ride a muddy bike on a sunny day. A clean bike somehow runs better. Anyway, I returned to the laundry in time to chat with Buffy while she stacked and folded our stuff. She’s a cute gal – divorced mother of six kids who does custom airbrush and painting. I haven’t seen her art, but her personality and work ethic makes me think that anyone who hires her would get their money’s worth. A personality like hers is what makes 15,000 miles on a motorcycle worthwhile.
We left Clarksville late and headed west to the Trace Parkway and the Land Between the Lakes National Park. We had the road to ourselves but like other parkways, the trees prevented us from seeing much beyond the roadway. Like many roads we chose, this one was empty but for one other car. We stopped to pose with the contract buffalo before continuing on. After 40 miles, we left the park and followed US 641 south to SR 74 west before dropping back into Tennessee and US 155 over the Mississippi River into Missouri.
As much as we enjoyed leaving the rain behind in the east, the dead fields of corn showed the effects that the drought had throughout Missouri and Oklahoma. With monsoons drenching everything east and west of those states, it was hard to imagine that so much rain could avoid such a large part of Middle America. We followed US 55 north to SR 162/SR 53 to Poplar Bluff, where we checked into the Pear Tree Inn.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 (Poplar Bluff, Missouri) – We woke to a hot hazy day and followed US 160 through Alton to SR 19/9, into the Ozark National Forest. We traveled 170 miles of empty winding roads through thousands of acres of forested land before refueling at noon in Mountain View. We hadn’t eaten yet and both of us were hungry. We stopped at the Angler’s Resort, where Carol ordered the catfish sandwich and I pigged out on 18 inches of ribs. After refilling our bottles with ice water, we rode SR 14 back to Missouri through Ralph, Flippin, and Lead Hill. SR 86 took us took us past Branson and Neosho to US 60, which would take us across Oklahoma. Having put in another 400 mile day, we checked into the Phillips Hotel in Bartlesville and called it a night.
Thursday, August 11, 2005 (Bartlesville Oklahoma) – We headed west along the hot US 60, making good time through Ponce City and Woodward, where we ate breakfast at the Westside Restaurant. As flat as the landscape was, we passed many farms, ranches, and homes along the way. Traffic was again all but non-existent, and we left the panhandle into New Mexico by mid-afternoon, and soon spotted the distant horizon of thunderstorms and squalls. As we continued along US 64 through Clayton, we were greeted by “the wall” of cooler air that signaled our approach to home. We reached Raton and parked at the Best Western/Sands Hotel as more rain threatened. After we checked in, we had dinner at the Sands Restaurant; and despite appearances of the eatery and menu, the Italian fare was surprisingly good. I’d advise cannoli lovers to order no more than one at a time. The chef makes them big, rich, and fresh. Carol and I ordered two and left one untouched.
Friday, August 12, 2005 (Raton, New Mexico) – We’d originally planned to follow US 64 along the Colorado border to Arizona, but when we reached Taos in the steady mid-morning rain I knew that the ride would be more trouble than it was worth. I figured that if I dropped south to the lower altitudes, I’d not only have less rain but the warmer temperatures would make the rain less relevant. Drizzle turned to light rain as we ate breakfast in Santa Fe, and by the time we reached Albuquerque, my rain suit had leaked through my jeans again. To piss me off even more, the transition from I-25 to I-40 was under construction and, as I drove through the muddied highway, our bike was once again coated with a light mud spray from the traffic ahead of us. Carol and I talked it over and decided to make the final dash for home. I set the cruise control at 80 MPH and, except for gas stops and a Hopi necklace Carol found in Holbrook (AZ), we didn’t stop until we reached Barstow.
One of the most magical moments of our trip began south of Kingman as we approached the sunset and two wild thunderstorms that bracketed the sun. It was too hot in Needles for more than a sprinkle to hit the ground, but the electrical storms sustained themselves for almost two hours. As the sun slowly descended toward the horizon, the clouds parted and, for several minutes, the sun pushed between as if to peer onto the highway ahead - its orange rays piercing through the mountains to the desert floor. And while a long line of eastbound headlights stretched toward us, almost no traffic traveled with us westbound. Without a doubt, this was the most remarkable sunset we’d ever seen. I slowed to less than 50 MPH and turned on Elvis’ version of In the Garden:
I come to the garden alone/while the dew is still on the roses/and the voice I hear/falling on my ear/The Son of God discloses/and He walks with me and He talks with me/and He tells me I am His own/and the Joy we share/as we tarry there/none other has ever known…
I glanced regularly in my mirror to make sure other mesmerized drivers didn’t run us over. The sun, still draped by gray, black, and orange clouds sank slowly while lightening streaked and flashed with continuous and unimaginable designs all around us. We didn't have to miss any flashes either, for they sustained themselves long enough for us to turn our attention – giving us a good show before turning elsewhere to catch the next jagged display. We recorded this moments in our minds and hearts as the sun slowly dropped behind the curtains, until only the lightening remained. It was a remarkable show and we couldn’t have positioned ourselves better.
Once the storm passed behind us, quartering crosswinds tossed us around and we passed an overturned tractor trailer that eventually had 30 miles of weekend traffic parked behind it. We stopped around ten PM in Barstow for a club sandwich and fries before starting the final leg to Mojave and home. The air cooled and winds settled down for our 1 AM arrival in our driveway.
When we finally reached our driveway at home, we made a point to stand in our driveway and hold each other, thanking God for our safe return from this remarkable 15,000 road trip. After several minutes together in our arms and thoughts, I congratulated Carol - for this 1,100 mile leg from Raton NM to Hollywood CA made her an official Ironbutt rider.
We were home, at last.
Posted by ex-Hollywood Liberal at 10:00 PM