The Great Summer Trip – Life’s Easier With Cash

By the time I left the Castalian Springs Bull Cinch Museum and Breakfast Nook, the sun was well over the horizon, the temperatures were starting to warm, and Sophie was thrumming along with a contented tone that made me feel good all over.  It was only about 6:30 am local time, so very few people were even awake.  It’s strange to have been riding for several hours already and realize that most people aren’t even out of bed yet.

I continued southbound on US-231 to Lebanon, and then grabbed US-70 to the south and east.  It was a beautiful stretch of flowing two-lane road that weaved its way through fields of freshly cut and bailed hay.  As I rounded one bend in the road, the sunlight coming over the foothills cast some long, beautiful shadows from the hay bales.  I nudged Sophie onto the shoulder of the road for a picture while a car coming from the other direction slowed to make sure that I wasn’t broken down.  I gave them the OK sign, and they smiled and waved as they continued on their way.

“Long Shadows of Sunrise” by Shawn Kitchen. Too bad I didn’t have a better camera.

I rolled down the road with the continued verses of the hymn from earlier that morning:

“Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not
As thou hast been, thou forever will be.
Great is thy faithfulness
Great is thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed, thy hand hath provided
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me”

I thought to myself, “There’s something so beautifully appropriate about that hymn right now.”  In this modern culture that we live in, everyone is obsessed with the pursuit of more… more money, more stuff, bigger and better everything.  Why drive an old car when you can finance a new one?  Why live in a modest house when a bank will loan you money to buy a bigger, flashier one?  Why be content with an old CRT standard-definition television when there are so many bigger, fancier hi-def ones available at such competitive prices?  And yet there I was – riding a nearly 30-year old motorcycle, a sleeping bag on the rear seat wrapped in two trash bags, a tent in the trunk, and with most of my riding gear having been donated to me over the years.  Do I wish that I had the money for a Gold Wing or an ST1300 (both “proper” touring bikes)?  Sure.  But do I need them?  No.  God blessed me with a 30-year old bike that I could afford to pay cash for, which I’ve learned to repair on my own, and which has held up just fine for me for a number of years now.  I don’t have all of the things that I want in life, but God truly has provided for all of my needs, and even some of my wants.  It’s so easy to forget these things – I’m as guilty as anyone.  We’d do well to learn how to be content.

Those thoughts ran through my mind for a number of miles while I felt the briskness of the morning air, smelled the dew evaporating off the grass, and watched the world wake from its slumber.  “These are good days to be alive”, I thought to myself.  “If nothing else, this trip has been worth it just to have met John H. Whittenberger, Bobby Robinson, my bull cinch waitress, and see this sunrise.”

A little while later, I started seeing signs for the next town.  I knew that one way or another, I’d have to find a good welcome sign so I could get a picture.  Sure enough, I didn’t even have to go looking.  There it was, right on my route…

How can you resist stopping for a picture at a town like this?

 

Go ahead and say it with me.  You know you want to.

 

 

Fortunately, the closest I got to an angry Spartan was the guy at the Shell station who spilled his coffee on his lap.  Thankfully, I was about 30 feet away when I saw him do it, so I didn’t get the blame.

From Sparta I took TN-111 to Spencer and then Hwy. 30 to the east.  The first 10 miles or so heading out of Spencer were a surprising delight; full of sweeping bends, almost no traffic to speak of, and fairly well-kept roads.  The only holdup was a pair of lumbering his-and-her Harleys (quiet ones, to my surprise), but they saw me coming and kindly moved out of the way.  It just goes to show that there are at least two Harley-Davidson owners in the U.S. who aren’t completely obsessed with loud pipes saving lives.  I’m guessing there are more, but unfortunately I’ve not ridden with them yet.

By the time I got to Pikeville, TN the sun was high in the late morning sky and things were warming quickly.  I rode by the Sequatchie Valley Church of Christ and saw that their sign said “Everyone Welcome”, so I parked Sophie by the grass while I de-layered and stretched my legs for a bit.

 

Sequatchie Valley Church of Christ, Pikeville, TN. A beautiful little country church if there ever was one.

The road heading out of the valley was a great series of switchbacks that allowed you to look back over the valley.  If there were a place that I could have stopped and taken a picture, I would have.  Even the police smiled waved at me as I rode by… how cool is that?  (And yes, I was following the speed limit.)

The only fly in the ointment by this point in the trip was when I stopped for gas near Dayton, TN.  Up to this point I had been keeping my travel funds in my Paypal account and using my Paypal debit card for fuel.  However, since the Paypal security people had seen a number of transactions outside of my home area, they decided to place a freeze on my card.  I spent an hour going back and forth with Paypal and their contracted security services trying to “prove” to them that I wasn’t a thief.  At one point, I had even said to them, “If I were a thief who had stolen this card, wouldn’t it make more sense for me to try to get all the money out of it at one time, rather than steal $12.00 at a time across the last 600 miles?”  I even had one of the security people look up this website to demonstrate to them that I was, in fact, just a guy on vacation and not the head of some underground criminal empire trying to defraud the world twelve bucks at a time.

Thankfully, it had occurred to me before I left home to withdraw a couple hundred dollars to keep on me, for just such an emergency.  The moral of the story is this:  Life on the road is easier when you carry cash.  You never know when a minimum wage security flunky at the bank will put a lock-down on your travel plans.

Eventually, I was back on the road.  US-74 through Nantahala National Forest was teeming with weekend whitewater rafters yearning to display their courage.  As for me, I was stuck behind a Winnebago and a guy on a VFR800 who never went faster than 5 mph under the speed limit.  When I finally got the chance to pass them, I thought for sure that the guy on the VFR would give chase, but he didn’t.  I was surprised.  He had one of the gorgeous red ones with the factory saddlebags, which is one of my favorite motorcycles.

I followed the roads that meandered through Nantahala and Chattahoochee National Forest, picking off the occasional luxo-barge along the way.  Sophie was in her element – medium-speed roads that flowed along in a graceful rhythm, rather than the hyperactive left-right-left-right twisties that sportbike guys crave.  That’s probably why I didn’t see very many of them.  I prefer it a little more solitary; nothing ruins a good ride like having too many people present.

By mid-afternoon I was thinking to myself, “I could really go for a burger, some fries, and a shake.”  Two miles later, I got my wish.

Ask and ye shall receive

I sat down in the shade with a lovely couple from Michigan (!) who had a King Charles Spaniel named Casey (“Casey” = KC = King Charles).  We shared travel stories while I fed Casey french fries under the table.  While Casey’s mother went in to use the bathroom, I fed Casey the last bite of my hamburger.  She wagged her tail like I was a long lost friend.  Always be nice to dogs.

By this point in the trip, I realized that I was exactly 110 miles away from Dad’s shop, and I had exactly 1 hour and 45 minutes to get there before it closed.  I fired up Sophie, put the spurs to her, and continued east towards Greenville, SC.  I called Dad along the way to let him know that I was still moving in his direction, and he told me that he and his co-workers had been watching my live map all day, and were betting amongst themselves on whether or not I’d make it in time.

I’ll have you know that I got there two minutes before they locked up.  I won’t say how fast I was going in the last 30 miles, but I will tell you that it was extralegal.  I don’t like being late.

Dad and I rode back to his house with me standing on the foot pegs for half of the trip.  My rear end felt like it was glowing in the dark from the heat and mileage of the day.  When we pulled in the driveway, Mom was waiting right there to hug me when I got off the bike.

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like Mom and Dad’s

Mom couldn’t wait to show me their newest addition to the house – a swimming pool.  I was in my swim trunks almost faster than she could ask me.  I spent the rest of the evening floating in cooling waters with Mom and Dad and reminiscing on the last couple of days.

 

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