Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Riding the Red River Gorge: The Dragon Returns


The State of Appalachia, as some people call it, is an area that encompasses West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, and East Tennessee.  This place is a motorcycle mecca.   There are more killer Motorcycle roads than a person could ride in a lifetime.  On this trip, we explore eastern-central Kentucky.  The Red River Gorge area.  We make our basecamp at 4 Guys RV Park where we have trailered the bikes. 

On our first full day in the area, we ride the Eye of the Dragon that wraps around the Gorge, mostly comprised of Kentucky SR 715. There is a neat one-lane tunnel that you use to get to the gorge area.  This road is filled with twists and turns, ascents and descents.  It is a very technical ride.  We stop at an old homestead during the ride, and  I say to myself, "I bet they wish they had motorcycles back in the day." 

After the Gorge, we ride down to Jackson to Ride the Red.  Highway 15 is a fast four-lane road with sweeping turns and fast straightaways.  In Jackson, we have a great lunch at Sazon Mexican Restaurant.  After lunch, we ride State Road 52 over to Beattyville.  Then back home to base camp.  A fantastic first day, with the second half filled with many twisties and fast sweeping turns.   

We ride the Beattyville loop and part of the River Dragon on our second full day. Great lunch at the Bob Cat Dinner, named after the Beattyville High School Mascot. It is a great burger and shakes place. Today was a repeat of day 1, with lots of technical roads.

On day 3, we decided to do something different and took a short ride to Natural Bridges State Park. Then took the sky lift (ski chair lift) to the top of the ridge where the Natural Bridge is located. These natural bridges are located all over the Cumberland Plateau and the Appalachian Mountains. This is the largest one we have ever seen. Neat rock passage to the bottom of the bridge.

It was our final day of riding.  The best day yet, we rode KY HWY 28, The River Dragon, down to Hazard.  Then KY HWY 30, The Hornets Nest, back to the Mountain Parkway. Again, these are excellent technical motorcycle roads with no traffic and some views that take your breath away.  On the way, we stop at the Log Cabin Cathedral, a large church built like a log cabin. Pretty impressive.

In Hazard, we had some, so, so barbecue.  It was not bad, but not great.  I'm a BBQ snob, with the ultimate standard of Jack's BBQ in Nashville. However, we have had BBQ in Texas that was just as good, and South Carolina BBQ is to die for, but in many ways, it is not authentic BBQ except for the pulled pork.

While in Kentucky, you will see this God Awful blue everywhere, it's the University of Kentucky colors, and the whole state has adopted it, sad to say. It's all good, though. It was a great week of riding its always sad when you have to leave, but it's another adventure under our belt and a great taste of the State of Appalachia.

Some Motorcycle Rides in Appalachia

Monday, November 29, 2021

Motorcycle Rallies: Why I Don't Participate

My take on the major motorcycle rallies Sturgis, Laconia, and Daytona.  Those who attend these rallies enjoy them; some go every year.  It's a hobby that really has nothing to do with riding a motorcycle.  Sure the bike plays an important part, but it really isn't the main reason why people go to Sturgis.  It is, for the most part, a big street party.   I started riding motorcycles when I was 10 years old first dirt bikes, then metric street bikes.  When I was younger, I used to say I'd never own a Harley.  There are better-performing motorcycles, no doubt. What those bikes are not is a piece of America.   

The Harley Davidson really is an American Flag on 2 wheels.  Eventually, I gave into the lore of the Harley Davidson motorcycle.  I've ridden these big V twin bikes across the United States a couple of times. You can't beat the comfort.  The deep-throated roar of that big V Twin is intoxicating.  There is a cultural connection you don't get with other motorcycles.  The dealerships are like clubhouses.   A place where everyone knows your name.   I have been to Sturgis it wasn't during a Rally.  I stopped primarily out of curiosity.  I understand why people would like to attend, but it's only a small part of the motorcycle world.  

Me personally, I don't like crowds. I've always been kind of a loner most of my life. So part of the reason I ride is to get away from everything and everyone.  It is the most incredible feeling in the world being on a motorcycle alone in the middle of Kansas on US Highway 36.  It's just you, the bike and blooming sunflower fields as far as the eye can see.  The motorcycle world is a diverse place. Everyone rides for their own reasons.  If you don't ride, you will never understand. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Eggplant: A Trip Back to the Middle East

Growing up, we never had Eggplant.  Never really knew what it was. So when I saw it in the grocery store, produce section.  I said to myself, what the heck is that.  

My thoughts on Eggplant are this, it's an acquired taste.  I never had tasted Eggplant until I was in my 30's. Then, at a street cafe in Tel Aviv, Israel, they brought me an appetizer plate that included Baba Ganoush. Which is nothing more than Hummus with Eggplant instead of chickpeas.  

Eggplant is a staple in Greece, the middle east, and India.  In Germany, Greek restaurants are just like Mexican Restaurants; they are everywhere, and so are Moussaka and Eggplant.  I ordered Moussaka a few times, which is an upside-down greek casserole made with Eggplant.  It was delicious; my first thoughts were, man, look at what I have been missing. 

This was when I developed a taste for this exotic vegetable.  I have made Moussaka and eggplant lasagna.  Eggplant brings back memories of travel throughout the Middle East. There was that Eggplant salad on the hotel buffet in Kuwait City. In Afghanistan, our Indians that I worked with used it in many dishes.

This summer, we had a friend bring us over 10 eggplants.   When she brought these over, my first reaction was, what the heck am I going to do with all this Egg Plant.  Well, I wanted to let you know I figured it out. I'm going to use 3 small ones to make Baba Ganoush.  Baba is nothing more than Hummus made with Eggplant instead of chickpeas. So tomorrow it's eggplant lasagna.  I made two; one went into the freezer. 


Friday, August 27, 2021

Linden Tennessee : The Commodore Hotel and Tennessee Highway 99 to 99 Curves

We are on our way to Linden, Tennessee, to stay at the Commodore Hotel and Cafe, an iconic downtown hotel that has been refurbished.  It’s about halfway to Memphis in the west part of middle  Tennessee.  It’s our last weekend before the school year, so we decided to make the most of it.  It's been a while since I've ridden these motorcycle roads. Unfortunately, I'm soon to find out I haven't ridden all of them.

Our first stop for lunch is a favorite.  Pinewood Kitchen is a farm-to-table operation located south of Dickson on the Pinewood Farm itself.  They have a great variety of farm-fresh and vegan options. If you're into that sort of thing.  What I can say is that they have some great food.

It is a great road from Clarksville to Linden.  Lots of green scenery and twisting roads.  We are in the Tennessee River Country.  This is where the Duck and Buffalo Rivers join together to finish their journey to the Tennessee River just west of Linden.   There is this especially tight hairpin curve with steep banks before you get to Centerville on highway 48.  This will put your heart into your throat.  Linden is about another hour of great motorcycles roads away.

We arrived in Linden and the Commodore Hotel and Cafe about in the late afternoon.  Staying in this hotel is like stepping back into time. You feel like you should be wearing a 1930's pinstripe suit, Original Gangster Style.  The hotel sits on the main street right across from the County Court House. We had dinner in the hotel restaurants after a walk around the town.  

During check-in, we were given a list of Motorcycle roads in the area; one of the maps caught my eye.  It was a map called 99 to 99.  Tennessee Highway 99 is supposed to have 99 curves. So on our way home, we took a little detour to ride this road.  It was a road that follows the Buffalo River and crosses 2 River Ridges from the Buffalo to the Duck River valleys.  It's full of curves and changes in elevation.  All I can say is ride this road.  Also, the hotel has a canoeing and kayak operation on the Buffalo River and offers day trips from the hotel to do those activities. 

I thought I had ridden all the great roads in Tennessee; obviously, I was wrong about that.  My guess is there are many more hidden gems out there that I need to saddle up for. 


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Maysville Kentucky : A Motorcycle Ride Interrupted

Any day upright on two wheels is a good day.  Our ride from Clarksville, Tennessee, to Maysville, Kentucky, was full of twisting roads and canyons with rivers.  This ride was special.  Majestic horse farm after horse farm.  We get to Maysville and check into the French Quarter Inn.  For dinner, we walk through the town to Caproni's on the river.  

"Caproni's has been a Maysville dining tradition since the 1930s as a sandwich shop for railroad workers.  But in 1945,  Leo Caproni, along with his brother Alfred and sister-in-law Lea Caproni, purchased and operated the restaurant for many years.  Located beside the Amtrak railroad station and along CSX tracks, overlooking the Ohio River, at the base of what is now Rosemary Clooney Street.  A fast freight and passenger train roars by within feet of diners."  

At dinner we learned that Maysville was the hometown of Rosemary Clooney.  George Clooney was her Nephew. Rose is a famous singer and actress in her own right whose work spanned 3 decades.  Her most famous role was in a White Christmas with Bing Crosby.  But you still hear her songs in commercials and in the media today. 

We found out that the Clooney house was a museum in Augusta, Kentucky, in Rosemary's old house.  So, of course, after breakfast at the Delite Cafe, we have to make the 20-mile trek up the Ohio River to Augusta.  

What a treasure.  I’m a big movie buff, so all this stuff is fascinating to me.  George, to me, was just getting into the family business.  His mother and father still live here.  George has recently purchased a home here in his ancestral homeland.  Mainly to visit his mother and father.  The town seems to have a habit of guarding their privacy which is a great thing. 

The house was spectacular, with costumes from her movies and singing career.  Although she is not of our generation, she still is recognizable reinventing herself in the 1970s.  I was surprised to learn that Goerge Gershwin was from the same street.  It is no coincidence that a culture like this doesn’t happen by accident. 

This is a great example of how interconnected we are.  How family and contacts can evolve.  The funny thing is I had completely forgotten about her.  In the 1950’s she starred in a movie with Bob Hope, a comedy “Here Come the Girls.” After the movie, Rosemary and Bob became lifelong friends.  I remember her singing on the Bob Hope Specials, which I tried not to miss as a kid and teenager.  I was strange like that. 


After this, we ride a short loop in Ohio.  The weather is not cooperating with us today.  We dodge a few thundershowers in the hills above the Ohio River.  To me, this is the good stuff of traveling.  Special tidbits of things you’d never thought to expect.  Things that you remember for the rest of your life.  Maysville is a fantastic town a great destination,  Tomorrow we plan to ride some new roads in east Kentucky. 

Well, we ran into a little trouble.  Not going to make the Underground Railroad museum. Terri picked up a nail in her rear tire.  After getting a tow truck, we are at the Harley dealer now in Lexington, getting her rear tire replaced.   Because of the changing weather conditions, we decide to cut our trip short and head home.  The ride home was a dance with the weather. 

There is nothing like riding a big V-Twin into a thunderstorm.  You smell and see the rain way before you feel it on you.  The clouds form before you in a marvelous dance.  Sometimes the rain starts slowly; other times, it's like hitting a wall of water.  In the southern heat, it is refreshing, like jumping into a swimming pool.  A relief from the thick soupy warm air flowing around you before the storm.  

Riding in weather like this is a chess match with nature.  With live radar, you can plan your route around the storms.  Ultimately nature ends up winning.  Even with the weather, it was a good ride.  We went to some new places and took some roads we never had ridden before.   We did finally make it home.  

It was a good trip; we had planned to be gone longer, but the weather threw us a curveball.  There are a lot of roads to ride in east Kentucky; we just scratched the surface.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

In the Heart of Vermont: Rockledge Farms Woodworking

We broke camp early this morning in West Point, and we made it to our destination here in Vermont. Another great Harvest Host Location. A farm with a furniture workshop. Once we see the sign for Rockledge Farm Woodworks, we turn down a dirt road about 300 feet down is the farm on the left. We stop on the side of the road and walk up to the building. A man cutting grass on the side of the building gets off his mower and says, welcome to the farm. Scott pointed to a mowed driveway through a hayfield. He said go get set up and settled. I told him we'd be over to the shop afterward.

We drive the path to the back of the field that backs up to a mountain stream. It is an idyllic situation like being in a painting of the Vermont countryside. The RV parked in a small mowed area of a clear running stream. The one thing I've noticed about Harvest Host property owners they know the beauty that they own. They feel blessed by it and want to share it. Some actually feel an obligation to do it.

I'd like to say a little bit about this Farm which has been in Scott's family since the 1930s. His wife and Scott moved back home temporarily to take care of his mother in the last years of her life. They had every intention of picking back up their professional careers but ended up staying 30 years. I told him I can understand how this place can grab ahold of him. Today they had their grandchildren on site. Their son is part of their furniture business. Scott’s wife from Beaumont, Texas, brother-in-law went to school with Janice Joplin, which I found interesting. It is a very small world we live in.

After setting up, we make our way over to the shop. Which is in an old barn next to their Victorian house. He apologizes for the state of the shop, which only has a few pieces since most of the furniture has sold. Also, most of their work here is custom orders. Scott The furniture is crafted from trees that are cut on the farm. The Vermont north woods contain a good variety. We buy a bread knife that measures the slice of bread and a french rolling pin.

Afterward, we make the walk back to the RV. We have dinner outside next to the stream, saying to ourselves what a great experience this has been. Tomorrow walks in Killington and then off to New Hampshire. This has been a special part of the trip.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Nashville Farmers Market a Motorcycle Ride

This is our Sunday go-to ride during the summer.  Highway 12 from Clarksville to the Nashville Farmers Market.  It’s about 50 miles, and it’s perfect for a morning ride.  It's one of those southern
summer days hot, humid; on a motorcycle, you feel it, and it feels good.  

From Clarksville, it's map of the earth to Ashland City, a Mayberry type of town.  From Clarksville, it’s a two-lane twisting affair starting the drop into the Nashville basin.  After Ashland City, it opens up to a 4 lane ride along the river with large meandering high-speed turns.  It has great views of the rivers and hollers that feed into it. 

Once in the city, Highway 12 ends with a right turn on US Highway 41A.  After cresting the next hill, the Nashville skyline smacks you in the face with one of those views of the city.  From here, it’s a short ride through the heat Island that is Nashville. In and out of the clouds make for a great ride. 

The farmers market is in Centennial Park that includes the capital building.  The area is called German Town and, like a lot of Nashville, is a hotbed of development.  

Once here, we walk through the vegetable stands and eat lunch in the Air-Conditioned Food Court.  This court has it all, BBQ, Jamaican, Indian, Cajun, we settle on Greek.  You need to go there hungry and don’t expect to see McDonald's. 

It’s a fun experience even with the tourist here.  While in line paying for our purple cauliflower, we met a couple from Arvada, Colorado.  They were leaving here and flying home.  They said a lot of nice things about the city.  

After lunch, we rode home; there seemed to be much less traffic, always a plus on a Motorcycle.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Harvest Host : The Bent Limb Farm

We are members of Harvest Host.  A unique RV membership program where you have access to over 1800 different businesses allows you to stay on their property for a nominal purchase of their product.  Locations include establishments such as farms, wineries, breweries, museums, restaurants, attractions, and more.  

Today we are staying at the Bent Limb Farm.  Tucked into the western hills of Pennsylvania, it is mainly an alpaca fiber farm, but they have so much more.  They also raise free-range hogs, chickens, ducks, and rabbits.  They have an on-site shop that sells all of the above.  Best of all, they are some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet.

Once here, you have a free run of the farm.  We parked our RV right in between a hogpen and a field that contained the alpacas.  Harvest Host is such a great program.  You meet a lot of good people and lots of new experiences.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Lake Chitoc State Park: E-Biking Mississippi River Levee's

We are headed out on our deep south tour. One thing I have always want to do is ride bikes on the Mississippi River Levees. Doing this with our new Ebikes is going to make it a lot more exciting. Most of the Mississippi has a levee system that keeps the low land next to the river from flooding every year. We stop at Lake Chitoc State Park, in Arkansas which sits on the largest Oxbow lake in North America.

Riding these levees is fun and flat. I definitely have to get my bike behind back; it seems it's been a while since I been in a bicycle saddle for this long. We are on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi. Before flood control; the construction of the levees and drainage canals, the delta farmland would flood every year. Mostly becoming part of the river.

It was a short ride outside the State Park to get to the Levee. The levee road goes for miles with beautiful views of the river and the low land farms. We ride 20 miles south one day and then 20 miles north the next. The levee cuts through farmlands, forests, and river swamps. It has its own biodiversity of plants and animals, it is a very unique experience.

The river is alive, changing the landscape daily. Lake Village, the current county seat, was eventually moved there in 1857. The county seat was moved several times because the river claimed the other towns. If you look at the state line between Mississippi and Arkansas, you can see how much the river has changed even since the states were created. Oxbow lakes are formed when a large river, in this case, the Mississippi, changes course. They do this by cutting through a river bend and rejoining the river farther downstream. The man-made levee system now keeps this from happening.

The state park we are in has an old steamboat boiler. Navigation on the river took a lot of skill, as Mark Twain noted in “Life on the Mississippi.” Riverboat Captains trained for years, learning every part of the river before they were allowed to captain their own boats. When the river was wild and untamed.

We ended up staying here three nights, enjoying the evening sunset on Lake Chitoc. We'll have to make it back here. There is lots more levee to ride, but now it's off to Vicksburg and Natchez with a step back into time.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Selma a Place of Civil Rights History

If you're following on Facebook, you probably figured out we were in Selma, Alabama, on our way to South Carolina. The pictures are undeniable. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is a civil rights icon. Completely by coincidence, we were here on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, 7 March.

In 1965, 56 years to the day, a nonviolent voter registration protest was met by police in riot gear refusing to let them cross the Edmund Pettus bridge. They were savagely beaten. We have all seen pictures and videos. I grew up watching the civil rights movement unfold on television, from the relative safety of Whidbey Island, Washington. I remember at 9 or 10 years old thinking, why can't these people just get along, not completely understanding the situation.

It was a powerful thing to see what people had to go through to gain the vote. They were often killed trying to exercise their right to vote, which many people just take for granted.
It is a reminder that these new voter suppression measures are coming from the same place. We always must be on guard for this type of oppression in whatever form it takes.

From here, we are off to Hunter Islands and a few days at the beach with the grandkids.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Hunting Island State Park Campground and Lighthouse

I love Campgrounds on the beach.  A few days at the beach always get me reinvigorated.  We linked up with Ryan and his family on the beach in South Carolina. Going to spend a few days here before heading home. These few days are all about the grandkids Ethan and Emma. They sure love the beach, swimming, and flying kites.

Hunting Island State Park is one of those idyllic places on the South Carolina coast, with white sand, water, and palm trees. The added bonus was the lighthouse. Just north of Savannah, it sits on a barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean. Hunting Island has yet to be caught up in the wave of people moving to the shore. The state park sits in a rural setting. You get the feeling days long passed.

The Hunting Island Lighthouse is part of the state park. It is the only publically assessable lighthouse in South Carolina. The 136-foot walk-up is strenuous on a metal circular staircase. Once at the top, the views of the coast are magnificent.

I always enjoy our time at the beach and the memories that are made. I can't wait to get back.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Natchez Trace National Parkway: A Drive into the Deep South

This is my favorite drive into the deep south.  A road that has been used before America was a nation. It will take you to what the south is all about.  Cotton fields, the smell of fresh pine trees, plantations, and most importantly, the roots of all American Music.   It takes you to the bad things to the slavery, Jim Crow, and the Tenant Farming system that was a product of those things.  It peels back the dichotomy that is America like sudden summer rain. 
This drive takes you through Tornado Alley.  In some areas, you can see the effects where it looks like the Hand of God that has struck down the trees in some areas.  The Natchez Trace National Parkway is a lonely road; it's no traffic, and a 50 MPH speed limit makes it a relaxing drive.  There still is a lot of things to see a short drive off the Parkway.  On a recent trip, we visited BB King's birthplace and Museum.  

Although it originally started as a Bison migration trail.  The Natchez Trace became an important part of commerce before the start of Railroad travel.  Farmers in the Mississippi and Ohio River Valley would build flat bottom float boats to bring their cash crops downriver to Natchez.   They would then abandon their boats and walk back home. Once in Nashville, they would find their way home by different means.

There are 3 campgrounds on the Parkway that can be used for free.  The parkway runs from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi; like a dagger, it cuts deep into the heart of the south.  It is a spiritual journey that will soothe your soul.