Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Motorcycle Ride to Adams TN, Dinner, and an Encounter with the Bell Witch

Terri and I love this ride to Adams, Tennessee, 11 miles from our driveway.  Over the past 20 years we have driven it many times, but only recently have we started to do it together on motorcycles.   Adam’s a small crossroads town on Highway 41 one of the original highways in the old US Highway System.   This American Road runs from Chicago to Miami.  We have driven it from Nashville to Chicago and mostly it is still a lazy 2 lane paved country road hearken to the bygone era of motorized travel.  Adams is a great example of what can be found on US 41. 

For us it is one of the 3 major arteries from Clarksville to Nashville. TN-Highway 76 then US Highway 41 is a road that we take to Nashville when we are either in no hurry or when Interstate 24 is a parking lot, for one reason or another. 

Today it just the 11 miles of twisting roads on TN Highway 76 that leads us to Adams.   We have just had a high pressure system move in the area, the air is crisp and cool.   A big change from the rain and high humidity of the last week; it is a joy to be on a motorcycle this evening.   As we take in the turns we can smell fresh cut grass and the smell of wildflowers in the air.    Adams is a sleepy farm town home to an annual thresher show.

We arrive at Moss’s Coach House Restaurant.  This place is in the Adams Community Center a old new deal school.  It is actually in the old cafeteria and a good old fashion southern Meat and 3 place.   Since its Friday we get the catfish special of course.  $6.55 a plate with a piece of pie, the bill comes in at $18.76, not bad. We decide that this is our Friday night regular dinner.  You can hardly make it at the house for this much. 

Once done with dinner, I take a walk out in front of the school/restaurant and see the Bell Witch historical marker.   I keep forgetting this place is actually here;   popularized by books and movies the Bell Witch is famous worldwide.  With that being said my camera actually starts to take pictures in black and white.    How this happened I don’t know, but it seems like the Bell Witch is at it again.    So I pay homage to the Bell Witch and my Camera starts taking pictures in color again.  It is pure magic.

Unlike Andrew Jackson carriage wheels that the Bell Witch locked up we make it home without incident.  We leave the Bell Witch in Adams to haunt another day.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

6 State in 4 Days, a 800 Mile Motorcycle Ride: Day #4 Muscle Shoals Alabama to Sweet Home Clarksville Tennessee

What a great day to start riding.  It is Day #4 on our motorcycle adventure and we will be home today.   It is the first morning of the trip that there is no threat of rain.   The one good thing about summer thunderstorms they don't last long the rain is on the off, but today there are sunny skies with scattered clouds.  We eat breakfast at the hotel and then get on the road.  We want to know where this Muscle Shoals Sound came from, more importantly how it made America a better place. 

Since the tour at the Fame Recording Studios Tour doesn't start until 10am.  We ride over to the Muscle Shoals Recording Studio on Jackson Street.  Actually a recording studio started by members of the Swappers, who were studio musicians for Rick Hall at FAME Studio. He is credited for making the Muscle Shoals Sound a powerful force in the music industry.    For the full story I recommend the movie, “Muscle Shoals".   

The muscle shoals recording Studio saw its greatest in influence during the late 60’s and 70’s, with big names like the Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Cher, and Lynyrd Skynyrd recording big hits.     It is still an active recording studio at a different location producing the likes of The Black Keys.   This studio leaned more toward the popular rock of the time.  We just ride past stop on a side street to snap a few pictures. 

After the doing this we are off to FAME Studios may be 2 miles away.  FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios is where it all started.   This area of Northern Alabama referred to down south as the Shoals.  It has a magical aspect about it.   There is a synergy in the area that was created by the interracial collaboration that took place in the midst of dyeing segregation.   Muscle Shoals does feel like a special place, a river community where all things seemed to have merged into one.
The Tour is one of the highlights of the trip.  Fame still an active recording studio has a group that shows up for a recording session at the same time as our tour.  We talk in the lobby waiting for our tour and there session to start.   As they proceed to Studio B we end our tour in our Tour in Studio A.  The tour included the organ that was used in Aretha Franklin's hits and a piano that Alicia Keys used in her sessions at FAME.    They have the microphone where Wilson Pickett belted out “Mustang Sally”.   Of course there is the story of how it all started, which was a song by Arthur Alexander; “You Better Move On”.  Once this song was covered by the Rolling Stones in England, becoming a big hit; the word was out about Muscle Shoals.   There was no stopping this place.
 Once the tour was over with it was time to get back to Tennessee.    We head out of Muscle Shoals on Highway 43 north.   We cross the Tennessee River and ride through Florence.   We stop to eat Chinese for lunch and Terri looks thru a quilt shop that is right down the street.   Within an hour we are back on the road and head north into Tennessee.  Once in Tennessee we are in familiar territory.  We ride in the rolling Tennessee countryside once in Columbia we take Highway 7 to Dickson.   From Dickson it is a hop, skip and a jump to our driveway in Clarksville.

 It was a great trip, but like so many we discover even more place that we want to ride.  We have to get back to the Deep South sooner than later, but for now it is good to be home.

Friday, June 6, 2014

6 States in 4 days, a 800 mile Motorcycle Ride: Day # 3 Helena Arkansas to Muscle Shoals Alabama

 After a good night sleep in Helena Arkansas we checked the weather and had to changes plans.   We originally were going to spend the day riding the blues trail, go to Lakeport Plantation, and visit the Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center.    Well with a hurricane like low pushing storms through the area for most of the week, with no plans of letting up, we are going to save this ride for another day.

We are now on a mission to get to Muscle Shoals and out of this weather.   Muscle Shoals the Helen Keller sites and the home of the Muscle Shoals Sound, we are on the way.   We jump on US Highway 49 with a gray sky and a wet road.  At least there is no rain, it is a short trip to the Mississippi River.  As we ride across the mighty Mississippi flows below us, deep and wide like and untamed tiger headed to the Gulf. The barges and river boats look small in the river below.   We continue to on Highway 49 until we cross Highway 61.  It then turns into scenic Mississippi Highway 310.

As we continue towards Oxford MS through the Delta we are riding through freshly planted Cotton and Rice fields.   The berms in the field the that hold the water over the rice look like a long black snakes that twitch in the glimmer of the broken sunlight.   In the Delta the land is flat; the dirt is black and fertile.   As we ride, we can see the Mississippi Hill country approaching, like a blanket it comforts us after leaving the Delta.  The twisting roads give us solace as we leave the delta behind.
Once reaching the Hill country we join up with Highway 278, its straight shot to Tupelo.  4 lanes of open road goodness, we now are averaging 70 miles an hours.   As we ride we are bathed in Southern Sunshine, for the first time in 2 days we are actually warm when we ride.  We stop in Tupelo for lunch at the Steeles Dive right before we hit the Natchez Trace.   Steels Dive what a great find for lunch they had a catfish buffet for lunch that hit the spot; a southern Meat and 2 sides delight.

After Lunch I put Helen Keller birthplace and childhood home into the GPS we will be there in 1 hour and 30 minutes.   We turn onto the Natchez Trace, we run into a small thunderstorm on the way having to stop and wait for the storm to pass.   We reach the US highway 72 that takes us the Muscle Shoals tri-city area.   We pull in to the Helen Keller house called Ivy Green at 3pm; the house closes at 4PM.

We are on the last tour of the day and it feels abbreviated but it does give us a good view of what happened there.  The well and pump is there where Helen Keller first learn to communicate by feel.  The cabin still stands where she was born.  Ivy Green used to be a 640 acre plantation that now consists of 17 acres of gardens and the plantation house itself.  Helen Keller’s father a civil war captain was instrumental in getting her the help she needed and the education she deserved.   It is a fabulous American Story.

After touring the grounds we head to the local Harley Shop so I can get a couple of T-Shirts and off to the hotel for the night.  As we turn down US Highway 43 we pass Fame Recording Studios our destination tomorrow.  Tomorrow we will see where this Muscle Shoals sound actually comes from.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

6 States in 4 days a 800 mile Motorcycle Ride: Day #2 Piggott Arkansas to Helena Arkansas

Rose Dale Farm B&B
After a long ride from Clarksville Tennessee and through the bootheel of Missouri we arrive in Piggott Arkansas.   Piggott a town of 3000 people has a Motel and a Bed and Breakfast.  We stayed at the B&B Rose Dale Farms on the edge of town.    The owners of the house used to take Hemingway hunting and fishing when he was in town.  Pointed out to us were the water rings on the furniture where they drank bourbon afterwards.

Strawberries Bq
After getting settled into the house we got a recommendation on a place to eat.  Strawberries a barbeque place across the state line in Holcomb Missouri.   It was about 8 miles away so we jump on the bikes and we were there in no time.   The Barbeque was good but not best I ever had.  Rating number 3 on the rib meter, probably the 3rd best pork ribs that I ever had.  So pretty darn good!

There was a threat of rain was in the air so we went straight back to the house we had rented.  We slept well even as waves of summer thunderstorms came through the area.   Cleaning the water off the bikes in the morning was no joy but we had to get to the Pfeiffer house when it opened at 9AM

Hemingway's Barn Studio
My main goal riding here was to see the Ernest Hemingway sites.  Pauline Pfeiffer, Ernest wife of 12 years family home is located here.  After his marriage to Pauline, he considered the Pfeiffer’s his primary extended family; calling Pauline’s Mom Mother Pfeiffer.   A barn studio is located here where he written Farewell to Arms. 

Although the story about Hemingway was interesting enough; it is the relatively unknown Pfeiffer Story that outshines it.   I think everyone has heard of Pfeiffer Pharmaceuticals.   You know that candy coating on Bubble gum and most pills?  Answer that question and you can get an idea on how rich the Pfeiffer’s were.   After they acquired all this wealth Pauline’s Father decided to move the family from St. Louis to Piggott,  back to a farm, a life he knew as a child.  Even though it was a 67,000 acre farm run by 127 tenant families.   In comparison the Farm was a form of retirement from the Pharmaceutical business.  

Pfeiffer House
It was a great tour of the House and the barn.   We being the only people on the tour got the royal treatment and the tour stretch to 2 hours.  I started looking at my watch because I knew we would be fighting the weather all the way south to Helena Arkansas.  It rain a couple of times during the tour.   

Once the tour was over and we got on our way it was past 11am.  We had some time to make up so we decided to ride to south on Arkansas Highway 1 about 30 miles then eat in Paragould Arkansas.  We stopped at a Mexican Restaurant there, like the suburban decay that blights most cities in America, Paragould and then Jonesboro is no different, for about 30 minute’s there was mile after mile of gas stations, restaurants and hotels.  
Once in the country, the ride was though miles of farm fields and along Crowley’s Ridge.   A geographical oddity on the delta plain, Crowley’s Ridge runs through eastern Arkansas from North to south.  It cuts the Mississippi Delta farm country in half, starting in Missouri and ending in Helena Arkansas.  Although we endured two waves of heaving thunderstorms we were able to wait them out in a hotel lobby.   Parked under the lobby covered entrance we decided to get a cup of coffee at the hotel restaurant next store.  

Once the rain past we made the remaining part of the trip to the Best Western in Helena for the evening in a flash getting to Helena around 5pm.   Once there we got a recommendation for dinner we ate in West Helena at The Bistro for steak and chicken.   Well it’s back to the Hotel to get some rest, it’s a big day tomorrow; 250 miles to Muscle Shoals, the Helen Keller sites and Fame Studios.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

6 States in 4 days a 800 mile Motorcycle Ride: Day #1 Clarksville, Tennessee to Piggott, Arkansas

Terri has been riding motorcycles now for a year now and it was time to take our first long ride together.   With her job completed for summer break, we decided to take off for a 6 State ride through the great south.

We left on a warm late spring morning in Clarksville Tennessee.  Our goal was to spend our first night in Piggott, Arkansas, a short 239 miles away.  Our ride started on US Highway 79 once getting across the Tennessee River, we turned north on TN-119 towards Murray Kentucky.    After crossing the Kentucky state line the road changed to KY-121.  Geographically Kentucky is much like Tennessee with the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau in the east that gives way to rolling farmlands in the mid state and west. 

Once getting to Murray we stop for lunch and then take highway 94 across the bottom of Kentucky.  This is a great ride over straight country roads where you can average 55-60 miles an hour.   It is a great day partly sunny with the temperature in the low 80’s.  It is a perfect day for riding.

Once getting to Hickman, Kentucky on the Mississippi River we ride to the ferry terminal that is on the south side of town.  Once arriving there we read the sign and push the call button to let the ferry operator know that we're ready to be picked up.   The ferry stop/terminal is nothing more than a boat ramp where the road ends in the water.   The terminal sits in a channel off the main Mississippi river channel so we can't see the ferry terminal on the west side of the river,  but it does feel like the ferry just left here.  It is a 45-minute turnaround and time to wait. 
As we wait to cross other cars show up, one couple on their way back from Florida is getting ready to retire and try’s to sell me his junkyard that he runs in Illinois.  They seem to be a nice couple but I really don't want to own a junk yard.   After deciding not to have a second career in used car parts, a hand from God above makes the Ferry appear from around the corner.

There are only 2 cars coming from the west after they drive off we load the ferry.   The fair is $5 per bike to cross, J.D. taking the fairs sees the airborne patch on my vest and says;” hey man I was an Airborne Ranger with a tour in Iraq and Afghanistan”.   We spend the 25-minute ferry ride swapping airborne jump and Afghanistan stories.  He tells me that his job is temporary and that he is waiting for a position to open up on the Dyersburg Fire department.   We tell each other it is always good to meet a fellow paratrooper.  I think to myself it is always good to meet a member of the current greatest generation. 

When we unload the ferry we are in Missouri, we are in a geographical gray area between north, south, and west.   It is definitely Mississippi delta farm country, except this is the bootheel of Missouri.  Getting to highway 62 proves to be a challenge of the mind.   Like a dummy, I don’t follow a turn that my GPS recommends.  Thinking that it can't be right,  it’s in the opposite direction.  So instead of going through New Madrid like planned, we end up taking Highway 61 across the boot heel.  Although we got the same results it was not like we planned; oh well a hiccup. 

We eventually join up with Highway 62 in the boot heel and make it to Arkansas. We stop for the night in Piggott, Arkansas with plans to tour the Pfeiffer Hemingway House in the morning.  It is good to get the motorcycle boots off.