Monday, March 8, 2010

Southern Hospitality-Not Just a Catch Phrase!

The past couple of weeks have been pretty map-intense.  I have a few more days planned, but am a little stuck when looking further West than Oklahoma.  
In the last posting, I described our route down through Appalachia on the Blue Ride Parkway, into the Smokey Mountains.  Recently I've found some possible routes from there to Birmingham, Alabama, through Mississippi and up to Memphis, where we'll cross that big river.  

Here's what a route from the Smokies to Birmingham may look like:

In Birmingham, I plan to visit the Barber Motorsports Museum, which has a huge collection of vintage motorcycles. This stop seems appropriate since I am a vintage motorcycle lover and will be on a vintage motorcycle while in the neighborhood. We'll then visit the town of Birmingham, rich in history. 
From there, we'll cross West across Mississippi, through the delta, home of the blues. This is another sort of mecca for me, as I am a blues loving guitar player. Most of the great blues men from the 1920s to the 1960s hailed from this relatively small region. We'll be passing through BB King's hometown of Itta Bena, for example. 

We may even stay in this eccentric inn, which is no more than a collection of delta-style shacks, like the ones our blues heroes might have lived in before they gained hero status.  
Many of the towns in the delta claim have a blues history museum of some sort.  Many claim to be the birthplace or home of some great blues man.  Consequently, we'll have to limit our sight seeing in the delta, since I could accidently spend the whole trip here, seeking out these places.

Here is what a route across Mississippi to Memphis may look like:

Once again, I got many of these ideas from asking around on the adventure rider forums.  I simply put up a rough idea of where I want to go, and people responded with great first-hand knowledge of scenic routes and places to catch. I want to emphasize how friendly and hospitable the people from the south have been in helping with my trip planning.  I had nearly twenty replies to my last inquiry, asking about getting from Birmingham to Memphis.  Nearly all of these replies included an invitation to stay over for dinner or crash at their house, or to use their garage for maintenance/repairs, or to assist with mechanical troubles!  And all replies included great tips on good roads and interesting sites.  These people seemed genuinely friendly and eager to help us along.  Don't believe me?  Read my thread yourself! 

Now, getting across Arkansas is going to be tricky.  No, not because there are "dry" counties, but rather because the state contains the Ozarks, and judging by maps and pictures, it looks impossible to pick a route and stick to it.  Here is a route that was suggested to me.

Part 1:

View Arkansas Day 1 in a larger map

Part 2

View Arkansas Day 2 in a larger map
As you can see, there are many great looking roads going through the Ozark Mountains.  We will most likely make a route through here as we go, using the above maps as a guide only.  I know it will be too tempting to take scenic bypasses when coming through here, so I'm going to leave room for options.

After Arkansas, it's West through Oklahoma.  At the west-most point of Oklahoma is where I run into a brain cramp.  I just haven't figured out how to navigate New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah.   I do know that our next stop after these states will be the Sierra Nevada region.  Julianne and I also have a long list of towns and national parks we want to see here.  We may cross into the Rockies around Pueblo, CO, and make sort of a circle down into Arizona and back up through Utah, and west from there.  It's too soon to say.  I think we'll definitely try to pick a general direction through these areas, since it's such a big chunk of the country.  More on this later as I figure it out.

In other news, I got lots of parts recently for the bike and have been plugging away at it, replacing old crusty stuff that I don't trust.  Last weekend I put in brand new ignition coils, a points plate, spark plug wire and caps, and a new horn and fuse holder.  I also replaced various rubber seals and o-rings on the bike that were old and cracked.

This past weekend I began installing new bearings on the rear wheel, new chain and sprockets, and a new tire.  Of course, I screwed up one of the bearings, and put a puncture in the tube while installing the new tire.  So now I need another new tube and one wheel bearing for the rear wheel.  I'll also get a new front tire, as the one we currently have won't last another 1,000 miles.

And, a reminder to other motorcyclists, check the condition of your rear tire frequently, especially if you frequently ride double.  This thing was just plain dangerous:

Hopefully by the next posting I'll have these repairs completed so I can tackle the front of the bike, which is getting new brake lines, pads, fork seals, and a tire.  I also have to make the rack to hold our side cases.  I hope to get this stuff out of the way as soon as possible.  The weather in New Hampshire this weekend was amazing, and the roads were clear.  Having the Honda in so many pieces, un-ridable, on such a nice day, felt like getting caught with my pants down!  
So long 'til next time.  And remember, the weather's warming, so watch out for motorcycles!  
Jeremy B

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