Wednesday, December 30, 2015

10 Days in the United Arab Emirates

These are my thoughts on spending 10 days in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  It was the first time I had taken a trip this long and never ran across another American. In 10 days of no Americanism, getting a different perspective on the world was refreshing.  Sort of a vacation from hubris. 

Seeing the largest building in the world and riding an ultra-modern public transportation system in the world's most modern city was amazing; these are no longer in America.  We have fallen behind the rest of the world in many different ways. 

All people are basically the same; we all want the same things in life, to love and be loved.  That our children have a better life in security, free from turmoil and worry.  Whether it be the Arab Sheikh I met at the Sheraton Bar in Dubai or the laundry turn-in worker in Afghanistan whom I'd discovered never seen an aspirin.

I met the coolest people on this trip.  The Fabric buyer from Canada, The Arab Beer distributor, told me about his trip to the Budweiser Headquarters in St. Louis.  The Dutch couple stopped for a couple days to shop in Dubai before heading to South Africa on Holiday.  A group of Harley Riders in the western desert at their club convention.  They could have been bikers you'd meet at Sturgis, except they were Arabs and Muslims.  The Arab Sheikh from Saudi Arabia came to Dubai while his wife and Daughter were visiting his son, who was attending the University of Southern California.  I will remember his stories of him hunting with his $400K Falcon in Pakistan for the rest of my life.  He was getting ready to tear up the town Vegas Style with his boys.  

People are People wherever you go.  They're proud and like to boast about their things, the accomplishments of their children.  We all share the same humanity regardless of religion.   It is an amazing world that we live in.

After spending 5 days in Dubai, we rented a car and drove through the eastern desert to the Indian Ocean.  Our hotel was full of Russian, none that spoke English.  But they were fun to be with; you never saw whiter people in the desert.  This was a great eye-opening trip.   I recommend this trip to any American wishing to see a completely different part of the world.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Trip to the Old Homestead

Here we are sitting in the Seatac Airport waiting to fly home to Nashville. I just visited the Sub Pop store at the airport and I'm listening to Teen Spirit on my headphones my trip is complete.  Sub Pop the Record Label responsible for the Seattle Grunge revolution.  And Teen Spirt we all know what that started.

I had reservations traveling back to Washington State my childhood home.  I had said I never planned to go back after my father died and we spread his ashes over Deception Pass near my home town of Oak Harbor Washington.   I was completely done with this place been here done that got the T-shirt. But since my son and his family now live in Everett, I now have a new reason to visit the Pacific Northwest.

My idyllic childhood and adolescence would be hard to duplicate anywhere else.  Filled with cars, girls, partying, snow skis,  and of course fishing.  Both commercial and sport; Salmon and Trout.  Sometimes a single fish; sometimes a boatload or hundreds of fish; on occasion thousands of fish.

The saying is true one can never go home again.  Home isn't really a place but more of a place in time.  One can never travel back home and expect it to be the same, but sometimes it can be even better than it was before.  It was great to see our grandson a new generation and all the hope and promise that lies inside him.  

So next summer I plan to return again and do it right.  Do it even better on motorcycles and in the light of maturity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Fast Ride Home: From Eastern Tennessee through Kentucky and the Cumberland Gap

Probably the best-kept secret in the world of road building is the Kentucky Parkway System.  This series of freeways are some of the best built and least congested roads that I have ridden.   Living 6 miles from the Kentucky border in Tennessee I have had the chance to travel these great roads

After a long day of riding country roads in Eastern Tennessee on The Tennessee Lost Highways, we decide to head home through the Cumberland Gap.  In Tazewell Tennessee, we turn onto US Highway 25E to make a run to the Kentucky border and the Gap.   As you approach the gap, you notice the hazardous cargo warning signs for the tunnel that takes you through the mountain into Kentucky and to the town of Middleboro.

On US 25E the wall of Mountains comes at you fast.  Then before you know it, you are in them with the echo of your bike filling the tunnel.  On the other side is Middleboro once leaving the Tunnel the road follows the mountainous river valley.  Its long sweeping fast turns that make it a joy to ride.  We join another group of bikers as we make our way to Corbin Kentucky.  In the group running 75-80 the towns of Pineville, Flat Lick and Bourbonville melt away under the rubber of our two wheels. The rush is incredible.

Once in Corbin we lose the group and connect with I75 for a short run to London Kentucky.  There we jump on Kentucky Highway 80, that takes us to Somerset and the Cumberland Parkway.  The Cumberland Parkway is a long lonely road.  It is as good as any freeway enabling us to run 80-85 all the way to Bowling Green.

As the sunsets, we stop at a Wendy's for a quick dinner.  Then the final push back to Clarksville ending over 12 hours on Motorcycles and fantastic ride through Tennessee and Kentucky.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Riding Tennessee Counties: A Small Sample of the Best Motorcycle Roads in Tennessee

Here is a collection of roads that I have ridden as part of the Harley-Davidson Directors Challenge. The challenge was to ride as many Tennessee Counties as possible.  I have completed all 95 Tennessee Counties throughout the last, spring, summer, and fall. Here is a small sample of the best roads between the Mississippi River and Chattanooga.  These roads are a must to achieve Motorcycle Nirvana in Tennessee.

Tennessee Highway 56 and 85: From Red Boiling Springs to Carthage

Red Boiling Springs is in the heart of the Cumberland Plateau foothills you would be hard pressed to find better motorcycle roads anywhere in the nation.  These winding roads alternate between farmland, hills, and rivers. Strap it on because you are going to feel these corners.  We had just stayed the night in The Armour's Hotel a hotel from days long past.  When Red Boiling Spring was a vacation mecca for Nashville due to the soothing waters of the natural springs. Red Boiling Red Springs had everything; over 22
Hotels, a gambling hall, even a house of ill repute called nickel hill. Hum, I wonder what cost a nickel?   The hotel had incredible rooms and common areas.   We leave Red Boiling Springs on Highway 56 headed towards Gainesboro.  After crossing the Cumberland River we jump on Highway 85 and head to Carthage.   We eventually make it back to Clarksville, after a great ride through the heartland of Tennessee.

US Highway 64:  From Bolivar to Pulaski

Another ride in West Tennessee.  This is civil war country with the Battle of Shiloh happening close by.  We start out in Bolivar after a night in Magnolia Manner.  A Bed and Breakfast where Grant and Sherman actually planned the battle of Shiloh.  If you are into history you need to stay here.  It was interesting hearing the owner Tom Cox tell stories about the house.  This ride was all on Highway 64 through some of the best country west Tennessee has to offer.   We make it to Adamsville in no time, the famous home of Buford Pusser, giving us the famed Walking Talk story.   It is a short ride after that to Pulaski and the turn northward towards Clarksville for the completion of another great ride through the State of Tennessee.

Tennessee Highway 82 and 50:  From Shelbyville to Fayetteville via Lynchburg

The Tennessee Whiskey Trail we leave Shelbyville in the heart of lower middle Tennessee on Highway 82 this road dives south into the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau.  The rolling hills and shaded roadways deliver a great riding experience.   Well, you know Lynchburg world famous for Jack Daniels Whiskey.  I have been here many of time, and the downtown has completed it's tourist catering transformation.   The downtown is within walking distance of the distillery and if you haven't you should take the tour.   We have lunch at the Iron Kettle a great cafe on the town square. Then we are off to Fayetteville a great little town on the Alabama Boarder across from Huntsville, Alabama.

Alternate US Highway 41 and Interstate 24: From Winchester to Jasper  

We head out of Winchester to climb the Plataea on US Highway 41.  We ride a series of switchback road to a climb on to the elevated plain that runs through middle and eastern Tennessee.  The Plateau contains the soul of Tennessee locked into a different time it has really yet to be discovered.   It has some of the best motorcycle roads in the state.  Once on the Plateau, we reach Monteagle.  Normally I don't like riding on the interstate, but the stretch of I 24 between Monteagle and the Jasper exit is breathtaking.  Here the interstate cuts through the Plateau that descends down its eastern slope into the Sequatchie River Valley. There are some great views of the valley below.  Once off the interstate, we make the short ride on Tennessee 28 to Jasper.

US Highway 127 From Dunlap to Chattanooga 

I have ridden this road to Chattanooga from Dunlap many times, and it never disappoints.  When you leave Dunlap on US Highway 127, you climb up and over Signal Mountain.   The winding road up the mountain gives you spectacular views of the Sequatchie Valley below. it is about a 15-minute ride to the town of Signal Mountain.  After passing through the town, you descend into the Tennessee River valley near North Chattanooga.  You will pass the famous Flying Saucer House that was recently sold at auction.  The views from this road are fabulous.  I love Chattanooga it is a great place with so much to do and see.

Tennessee Highway 27, 108 and 56: From Chattanooga to McMinnville

Heading home to Clarksville we decide to take a new road that cuts a different path through the Cumberland Plateau.   Highway 27 runs along the north bank of the Tennessee River then makes a climb up Signal Mountain at what the locals call Suck Creek a local swim hole.  We then drop into the Sequatchie Valley.  There we join 108 for the climb up Plateau on the way to Altamont the county seat of Grundy County.   This is near the  South Cumberland State Park  which has some of the best scenic beauty in the state of Tennessee.  At Altamont we catch Tennessee Highway 56, passing through Beersheba Springs near the Savage Gulf Natural Area it is an incredible descent off of the Plateau into the Collins River Valley.   The road is incredible all the way to McMinnville, a river valley surrounded the Plateau bluffs.   This is a great route through plateau country.

These are some of the greatest roads in Tennessee, but there are many more.  So get out there and ride them.  You won't be sorry.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Riding Tennessee: Clarksville to Lafayettte

This is from a collections of rides that we made to ride to every   County Seat and courthouse in Tennessee.

This ride through North Middle Tennessee will not disappoint.  The rolling hills on the approach to the Cumberland Plateau are spectacular.  We leave Clarksville ride the 20 miles to Springfield Tennessee where we catch Highway 25 for the ride to Gallatin.

We have lunch in the Sumner County Square at across from the Courthouse.  In the courthouse square with a plaque that is dedicated to the first Tennessee blacks to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War  It was a nice surprise to find a genuine Cajun restaurant called Crescent City Po Boys.   This place is worth a trip all by itself. After some gumbo and an Oyster Po Boy it was time to ride.  Leaving Gallatin we continue on Tennessee Highway 25.  Past Hartsville then turn north on Tennessee Highway 10.

This incredible road that leads to Lafayette though the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau. It is hard to put into word motorcycle riding on and around the Cumberland Plateau.  It is one of the many reason I live in Tennessee.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halifax and the Titanic

"O Canada!  Our home and native land!"; I love the Canadian National  Anthem.  When I listen to at hockey games, I have always felt amazement for this country called Canada.  Although I have visited Canada many times, this is our first trip to the eastern Atlantic of this great country.

For our second stop in our ocean cruise of eastern Canada, we stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia or Latin for New Scotland.  Halifax is a big city of 400,000 with almost half the population of Nova Scotia.   It is a surprising that you do not hear more about this dynamic harbor city on the North Atlantic.

First, we wandered to the Atlantic Maritime Museum which is famous for its Titanic Exhibit.  This museum that explains the maritime revolution from sailing ships to modern ocean-going vessels. Halifax played a major role in the recovery efforts during the Titanic sinking 1912.  On display are various artifacts from the ship that were recovered from the debris field.  The city also contains burial grounds of the 2nd and 3rd class passengers bodies that were recovered and then buried in the city.  Along the Waterfront is the building that housed the sound stage for the movie The Titanic.

A major exhibit at the Maritime Museum was on the Halifax explosion which destroyed the city in 1917.  It was at the time a major worldwide news event that reshaped the City of Halifax.  On the morning of 6 December 1917. SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship fully loaded with wartime explosives, collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in the Narrows, a strait connecting the upper Halifax Harbor to Bedford Basin.  The blast was the largest known conventional explosion at the time.  The explosion vaporized the water in the harbor causing a mini tsunami with new seawater rushing into the harbor to replace it.  It immediately killed close to 2500 people rendering another 31,000 homeless.  Every building within a half a mile was destroyed.

Next, we walked to the Citadel also called Fort George which is the old British garrison fort that dominates the high ground above the city.  We watched the changing of the guard before we were off to the Halifax Public Gardens.  An old British Victorian Garden that still in mid-October was full of flowers

From the Cruise ship terminal the waterfront walk gives you a great feel for the city and the Fort George.  You could spend a whole day here at the shops and restaurants. We went to lunch at Murphy's Cable Wharf on the waterfront, it had some great seafood.  This whole city has an unbelievable seafaring feel to it, more so than any other bay town that I have been to.

Throughout our tour of Halifax, the presence of the Canadian Royal Navy was felt.  They are the largest employer in Halifax and the Navy yard dominates the northern part of the harbor.   There are several memorials to Canadian Royal Navy sailors on the waterfront.  Halifax what a great city.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Day In St John New Brunswick

The first thing the tour guide said was this is a Canadian Loyalist City.  Loyal to the Crown of the England.   It seems after the American Revolutionary War 70,000 Tory Americans came to St. John to remain in the British Empire.  They wanted you to be aware of this fact.
 Geographically the city sits on the Fundy Bay at the mouth of the St John river which flows upstream when the tide rises.  The 28-foot tidal rise is one the largest in the world.

The third stop on our Cruise Adventure is a great experience.  My favorite part of the tour is the downtown City Market built in 1876, oldest city market in North America, with an original ship's hull roof design.   A city is once known for its wooden ship building industry with 42 shipyards which collapsed when ships started to be made out of steal.

St John is also home to the Red Rose Tea and Mouse Head Beer both world Famous.  St John is largely a company town built by the multi-billionaire Irving Family who established the Paper Industry and the Oil Refining Industry in St. John.  2 out of the 3 jobs in this city work for this family.

St John is often called the Canadian Irish City when over 150,000 Irish trying to escape the Potato Famine in England immigrated into the City in the 1830's.  Partridge Island was used as a quarantine station just offshore from Saint John.

Before heading back to we had lunch at Billy's Seafood in the old city market the seafood chowder was outstanding.  Well, it is back to the ship and a day at sea before we arrive in Newfoundland at Halifax.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Portland Maine a Walk Up to a Signal Station

Well we left Boston on Sunday for a 7 day cruise to Maine and Canada.  It is our first cruise so I’m still undecided on how much I like this.  I’m used to making my own decisions when traveling, not being locked into any set schedule. 

So far so good! Our first stop was Portland Maine.  It was neat to wake up the next morning and be in a completely different state and city.  After a good breakfast we headed out to see the city, which was in easy walking distance.

Like most cities the downtown has made a tremendous come back, with plenty of shopping and restaurants in Portland.   We first walk up to the Portland Observatory which is the only free standing naval signal station left in the United States.  It looks like a lighthouse but it is not.  Its mission is to communicate with vessels off shore.  This was the method used before radio communications, with flags and Morris Code.

For lunch it was Lobster Rolls and fresh steamers at a great local hole in the wall called J Oysters.  It is why I wanted to Visit Maine for the great seafood.  So after a bowl of Haddock Chowder we were ready to head to the old port part of the city and then back to the ship.

As the ship pull out of Portland harbor it felt good to have been here.  Well off to Bar Harbor, but first our formal dinner. 


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Riding Tennessee Counties: A Place Stuck in Time Alternate US 70: Milan to Waverly

This is a collection of roads that I have ridden throughout Tennessee.  Here is a small sample of the best roads between the Mississippi River and Bristol.  These roads are a must to achieve Motorcycle nirvana in Tennessee.

This road takes you to a different time.    Bypassed by the major interstates it seems time has stopped in these towns.  Leaving Milan which is known for its Army Ammunition Plant we turn onto Alternate US Highway 70 we follow a winding road to Huntington Tennessee the County seat of Carol County.  With a population of 3,900 it is your above average Tennessee small town,  We stop for lunch and I ask the waitress, what is Huntingdon famous for?  Her answer was the Mustangs the High School Football team.  A 1A football program that has won a championship or two in the past.   With a standard southern downtown, with a picturesque Courthouse, town square, and standard old time movie theater Huntington is a symbol of the past.

We continue our ride to Camden where we cross the Tennessee River which is flowing into Kentucky Lake.  After crossing to river we arrive in Waverly another small southern Tennessee Town. We then turn north onto Tennessee 13 for the final push home to Clarksville.