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Last October I needed to travel from Chattanooga (home) to Memphis for a conference. Having just bought the Vee, I decided to drive it there . . . and a little further after the conference.

Bon Voyage pic

Day 1. Chattanooga to Memphis via U.S. 72. Left a little later than I planned since I had no idea leaving the key in the ignition would drain a battery. Drove through my first thunderstorm at night on a pitch black road through rural N. Alabama and N. Mississippi. No pics of the lightning.

-- couple days in Memphis for the conference --

Gus' fried chicken is the bomb.

So are Rendezvous dry rubbed ribs.

And another fine eating establishment in Cooper-Young Memphis with Margaritas- Cafe Ole.

Back on the road after the conference I took U.S. 64 westward but got bored. I ended up taking a northwesterly tack toward Batesville, through Heber Springs and into the Ozark National Forest.

Here's a pic close to Hector, AR after coming out of the mountains.

From there I took the superslab I-40 over to Ozark, AR (first real experience opening the bike up to see what it would do) and got dinner at a second rate steakhouse. No free advertisement for that meal.

Next, back through the twisties North to Huntsville, AR and then West into Fayetteville, AR home of the Razorbacks. It was Friday night in a real nice college town. No pics. It was a real nice college town.

Back on the bike - getting late. West on U.S. 412 through another little sliver of national Forest. Found a place for "dispersed camping." Threat of overnight rain. Pitched the tent.

Morning after - first campsite.

Oh, the second day from hell. It starts raining as I cross into Oklahoma. Just a steady light drizzle. Stopped in Talequah, OK. Toured the Western Band of the Cherokee museum. Then the downpour came. Went down to Muscogee (I'm a Haggard fan). Then West on U.S. 62 south of Tulsa to OK 16 (due West). Then the rear flat tire just SW of Bristow, OK. Someone had a screw loose and lost it.

First plug fix.

With the plug seemingly holding (and it a late Saturday evening with no open tire shops anywhere) I moseyed on over to Guthrie, OK and then further West to Kingfisher, OK in search of a campsite. None to be found. Talked to a Sheriff's Deputy about anywhere I might throw down a sleeping bag. "We don't take kindly to vagrants," was the attitude I discerned. So I headed up U.S. 81 through Enid, OK and it was getting late. Turned down a dirt road. Cross some RR tracks. Decided to drive down the RR right of way a ways and found the only clump of trees in Western OK to hang my hammock.

Morning after the second campsite.

It turns out, I camped a stones throw from the Chisholm Trail. A little dogie may have wandered over to the ancestor of the tree I hung my hammock in for some shade. You can just make out a swale where millions of hooves beat down the earth behind the ugly brown Chisholm Trail sign.

Day three - Find a tire. West on U.S. 412 to Arnett, OK then South to Sayre, OK. Superslab I-40 West toward Amarillo. Lunched at a McDonalds and learned there was a neat canyon south of Amarillo. Got off the superslab in McLean, TX and headed toward Clarendon, TX. I had planned to try and pick my way on county road to Palo Duro Canyon but the plugged tire just wouldn't hold anymore. I abandoned the canyon idea and tried to make a beeline to Amarillo in hopes the dealer would open the next day (Monday) and have a tire. While installing my last plug, I snapped this pic near Claude, TX on U.S. 287.

I made it to Amarillo and stayed at a Motel 6 within walking distance on a Suzuki dealer. The next morning on the way out the door, I got a call from a fellow Stromtrooper with an old used tire that he didn't need. I kindly thanked him but headed to the dealer. But guess what - no new tire in stock. So I called back trailryder42 and met him at his place where we changed out the tire. Swell guy. Lifesaver. I hope to return the favor someday.

So about lunchtime on my third day from Memphis I headed West again on Route 66.

Stopping for lunch I noticed the wind had picked up. One guy in the diner asked me if I was riding in "this wind" and I thought it was an odd question. I had been to the panhandle before and the wind always blows. But nothing prepared for the next six hours.

A low pressure system (that a few days later back in Tennessee spawned a tornado) was building and I was blasted with sustained winds of 35-40 mph coming from about 10 o'clock. I had to ride in the oncoming lane of Route 66, canted over, so that when the 50-55 mph gusts hit I would have room to recover before I was blown off the right shoulder. I could get about 30-40 mph safely and did so the rest of the day. The wind never stopped.

Crossing over into NM, I headed NW to Logan where I ate Supper. It was a roadhouse looking place and was pretty darn good.

Steve Smith's Photos | Facebook

After the fill up, up to Mosquero on NM 39. In the high desert nightfall was approaching.

So was a dark cloud. It started to sprinkle. I didn't think I could hold it in the road with the wind if it got wet so I started looking for a place to throw down the tent. I was trying to make it to Kiowa National Grassland. I couldn't.

I passed a farmhouse and wondered if they'd mind if I pitched a tent in their yard. It was dark. I was dirty. On a motorcycle. In the middle of nowhere.

A woman answered the door. She was strangely not too shocked at the late visit. Her husband invited me in. They were real nice folks. I explained the flat and the wind and not being able to make good enough time to get to a campsite. They offered me dinner and let me sleep in their Winnebago. Awesome. Second stranger I met on the trip and both reaffirmed my faith in humanity.

Tuesday to Taos and beyond. I hit the road (up to U.S. 412 then up I-25 to U.S. 64) through Cimarron Canyon. Beautiful. Outside Angel Fire I caught a glimpse of snow in the distance. Aqua Fria peak outside Angel Fire, NM

I hit Taos about dinner time. Had a nice Chile Relleno plate.

Steve Smith's Photos | Facebook

Just West of Taos on U.S. 64 in the Carson National Forest in drove in snow for the first time.

But the roads were dry.

Further West on U.S. 64 the road leveled out a little and I could see larger peaks up to the North in Colorado. I had been warned that Western Colorado might get alot of snow so I stayed westward.

But the road was level headed West.

That night I made it through several indian reservations. They were quite different in character to the ones I knew back East. There is a little difference between the Navaho and the Cherokee. In fact, while gassing up in Chama, NM, a local asked me where I was headed and I said West. He looked up at the sun then back at me and said, "I think you'll make it." "Don't get caught after dark on the reservation." I didn't.

Finally after dark I pulled into Navaho Lake State Park. The next morning it was quite beautiful. I was tired of taking pics at that point though. I was cold, there was frost on my seat, and I couldn't wait to get the heated vest plugged in.

In Bloomfield I learned that Southern Colorado had been spared. No snow on U.S. 160. So I headed up U.S. 550 (that I want to ride from end to end one day) to U.S. 160 outside Durango. I missed my family. I turned East and headed toward home. I only took one more picture. Here it is. It looks down onto Pagosa Springs, CO. One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

So, a couple of mountain passes later, I made it passed the front range and to Walsenburg, CO for a shower, bed and good nights sleep. The next morning I rode across the flat expanse of East Colorado to Kim, CO and stopped for lunch. I was struck by the simple beauty of the small town and the rural, rustic quality of the folks I met in the only diner in that one horse town.

After a hamburger, I travelled on East from Kim, CO through the Comanche National Grassland. The birds on the side of the road would fly up and I feared I might hit one at 100 mph. I didn't.

I made it all the way across Kansas, through Dodge City, took U.S. 400 through Greensburg (the town flattened by a huge tornado and featured on t.v. about how it rebuilt). Ate a late dinner in Wichita (damned time zone changes). The road veered SE through Parsons and into Joplin, MO I skidded for another cheap motel (If you are still reading that was 642 miles and my longest day in the saddle).

For my longest day in the saddle, I finished up the trip on U.S. 60 through Springfield and an Eastward glide through the Mark Twain National Forest. I picked up a speeder doing anywhere from 90-110 the whole way through the broad sweeping turns of southern MO. It was a great deal of fun.

I headed down through the boothill and crossed the mighty Mississipp at Caruthersville, MO. U.S. 412 to Dyersburg, through Jackson, Linden, Hohenwald, Columbia, Shelbyville, Manchester, Monteagle, and to my bed at 4:00 A.M. That made for a 14 hour day. I was tired of riding.

Now I'm planning my summer trip - maybe Chattanooga to Montreal?
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