Friday, October 20, 2017

The Biggest Things in the World: A Ride through Southern Illinois

We learned about Casey Illinois one morning while watching CBS Sunday Morning.  They had a segment about the town and it's world record big items. It looked like a pretty neat place.

Oh, they have the biggest rocking chair and the biggest mailbox in the world.  I'm kind of a nerd when it comes to this stuff, so with a smile on my face, I say, "I have to see that sh!!". Casey is only 250 miles from Clarksville sounds like a great overnight motorcycle ride.

We leave on a warm fall day.  We take Interstate 24 up to Eddyville then US Highway 641 and Kentucky 91 through Marion to the Cave in the Rock Ferry on the Ohio River.  After the Ferry crossing, we ride through the Shawnee National forest and cross the devil's backbone on Illinois Highway 1.  The Devils Backbone is a ridge that was created by an earthquake in the early 1800's in Southern Illinois.

Riding in Southern Illinois is always a good experience, with its wide curving turns and it's hills with changing fall foliage make it a great ride.  After leaving the National Forest the terrain flattens out and the road straightens out.  Which makes it a short trip to Casey.

Casey is a typical small midwestern town that decided to have some Big Things in a Small Town.  Most of the big items are located on the main street.  You can actually see everything in under an hour.  The Biggest Rocking Chair and the Mail Box are among my favorites.  You must drive to the Golf course to see the worlds largest Golf Tee.

We stay the night in a local hotel that is by Interstate 70 and have a great meal at a Mexican Restaurant that is by the hotel.  It is nice to be able to walk to a place to eat from the hotel.  The next morning we're up bright and early for the return trip home.  The hotel breakfast bar had been overrun that morning so we decide to eat at Reflections Cafe downtown.  It's near the biggest mailbox in the world and we stopped there to drop some postcards off.

After Breakfast, we get back on the road, we take the same way home.  Once we get down to southern Illinois we decide to stop in Elizabethtown at the E-Town Restaurant which is actually a small barge on the Ohio River. You had a choice between actual Ohio River Catfish or Pond Raised Catfish.  The Ohio River Catfish is some of the best that I ever had.

After lunch, we catch the Ferry across to Kentucky and are home in a little more than an hour. It was good to get home and reflect on some of the biggest things in the world, that is in a nice small town.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Ride to Ownesboro: A City on the Right Path

We have lived here in Tennessee since 1991 and have always heard good things about Owensboro, Kentucky.  We saw that there was an Airshow on the Ohio River there, so we decided to do an overnight motorcycle trip.  It's part of my plan of trying to see and understand more of the diverse State of Kentucky.

I have always been fascinated with the cities and towns on the Ohio River.  Which is considered the unofficial border between North and South.  Part of the so-called Mason Dixon line which originates in Pennsylvania. The cultural divide is most evident in the way people talk, their accents.  The southern twang largely disappears when crossing the Ohio River.

Kentucky is unique in the fact that it lacks a single cultural identity.  It tends to draw its culture from its border states.   Which is part of the reason it was divided during the civil war.  It was neither purely Yankee or Confederate.

We leave on a warm fall day traveling on US Highway 79 through Russville Kentucky, which was the Confederate capital of Kentucky during the civil war.  There we join Highway 431 for a great ride through the western hills of Kentucky.  With lots of turns and fall scenery, the 107miles rolls under our wheels with hardly a notice.

We arrive in Owensboro with the sites and sounds of airplanes in the air.  It was great riding through the streets with those planes overhead.  We get to our hotel which is right on the river and finish watching the air show on the rear patio bar.  Later in the evening, we take a walk through downtown Owensboro.

The downtown seems to be alive with new shops and restaurants.   It reminds me of downtown Nashville in the early 90's it seems to be full of energy.  We decided to have dinner at the Famous Bistro.  It was a great dinner of upscale Greek food.  It was crowded this evening so we were offered seats at a counter overlooking the kitchen.   I had the stuffed veal parmesan, the best I have ever had.

Sitting at the counter was good chance to talk to some of the staff and hear how Owensboro was really starting to move forward.  We were told about the magnificent river walk which we took a stroll on after dinner. The Riverwalk was one of the best I have ever seen with an enormous playground.  It actually looked like something you would find in Europe  It was nice to see families and couples enjoying the cool fall evening along the river.

The next morning we are ready for our return trip back to Clarksville.  It was good to return home with a better understanding of Owensboro and the State of Kentucky.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Motorcycle Ride thru North Georgia: The Band of Brothers Trip

A ride to Toccoa Georgia was a trip the I have planned for a while.   Toccoa the birthplace of the 506th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) as highlighted in Steven Ambrose's book and miniseries The Band of Brothers.  It was great to share this trip with my son who is a historian in his own right, who works for the Chattanooga Library. Toccoa is located in the northeast Georgia Mountains near the South Carolina border.

The plan; ride to Chattanooga from Clarksville. Get up the next morning ride to Toccoa through the Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia Mountains.  Go to the 506th Infantry Regiment Museum in Toccoa then ride back to Chattanooga. Then ride back to Clarksville the next day. It all happens flawlessly.

What we didn't expect is the beauty of North Georgia with its magnificent Lakes and Mountains.  The Museum was exceptional and Toccoa was a classic small southern town.  Toccoa trained 18,000 Airborne Troops in the shadow of Mount Currahee.  It felt good to see that mountain, 3 miles up 3 miles down was the running chant.  We had lunch at the Exfactor Grill downtown before heading back to Chattanooga.  After eating some great southern food we're off.

On the trip back to Chattanooga one thing stuck in my mind.  Georgia Highway 52 through the Georgia Mountain is one of the best motorcycle roads I have ever been on. We rode this rode completely by mistake.  A road that we were on had an accident, so we had to reroute to Highway 52.  I'm sorry about the accident but I'm sure glad we were forced to ride this road.

So the next day I make the trek back to Clarksville from Chattanooga.  There was a total of 779 miles ridden in three days an incredible trip.  One that, I hope to repeat in the future.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Downpatrick and the St. Patrick Center: The Burial Site of St. Patrick

We Americans are all Irish one day a year.  St. Patrick’s Day for most American’s is an excuse to drink too much and to wear green.  The fact is that St. Patrick is a mystery to most Americans.  It isn’t taught in school or even a topic in an undergraduate course in college.  Even though western civilization, as we know it, was helped by this historically distant figure.   This is our objective while in Belfast to uncover this mystery, the main reason we ventured into Northern Ireland.

North Ireland had a strange tinge of tension in the air that we felt all over the city.  On the bus ride from Belfast to the town of Downpatrick, we talk to a young man that had been beaten up by two young English loyalists.  Although technically, the war is over between the Protestants and Catholics.  It was still playing itself out at the street gang level between factions of younger hoodlums.

Downpatrick about 50 kilometers south of Belfast can be reached by bus in about an hour and a half.   It is a very scenic Irishtown set in a backdrop of rolling green hills.  The St Patrick Center is a short two-block walk from the bus station.  We have an excellent lunch at an Irish Pub before touring the center, which sits at the base of the hill where there Church and gravesite are located.

In short, St Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and in the process of uniting the country.  Then, spread some of this civility to Europe by sending Irish scholars and priests to the continent.  The center provides a marvelous museum of Ireland and its progression. After touring the museum, we walked up the hill to view the Church and the gravesite.

Set beside a large cathedral lies St Patrick's grave and stone, although he is thought to be buried somewhere under the Church this gravesite is a beautiful symbolic representation.  After a tour through the Church, we head back to the bus station and the ride back to Belfast.