New Orleans to Canada: Day 15 Tennessee to Louisiana

Steve Kinchen, Sr/ June 14, 2013/ BMW R1200RT, General Rants & Raves About Riding, New Orleans to Canada 2013, Touring/ 0 comments

Date: May 31th, 2013

Departure TIme: 7:30am

Arrival Time: 9:00pm

States Covered: Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana

Miles Covered: 739

The New Orleans riders made the call to attempt to ride the entirety of the remaining miles back home in one day, all agreeing that if we at any point felt that we were feeling overly fatigued or unable to safely continue on, that we would break for the day and finish up the following day.  Like a well oiled machine, our flock of motorized personal transports clicked off each mile with relative ease.  We were through Knoxville by 9:30am and well on our way through Chattanooga before the lunch rush was in full manifestation.

Fuel stops seemed like pit stops for the Indy 500… very little chit chat, each of us seemingly on a mission to fuel, make our restroom visits as brief as possible, and then line up at the gas stations exit ready to rejoin the wave of traffic awaiting us back on the superslab.  Our next target was Gadsden, AL as this would be the virtual midpoint from a milage standpoint.

We were in need of fuel, and a break from the frenetic pace of the interstate, so Matt took the first exit for Gadsden, which proved to yield gas, but nothing of any interest to us whatsoever from a culinary standpoint.  So the bikes had their thirst satiated and we chose to delay succumbing to our hunger pangs until we reached Birmingham.  Randall took point once we arrived in Birmingham as he seemed to be very familiar with the area.  He led us to a densely populated retail area that had numerous choices for us to select from.  Parking spaces seemed at a premium, and we found an area that had ample room for us to maneuver our trusty steel steeds into bay for our lunch break.  After we had all removed our gear and began to make our way towards the restaurant,  I noticed that the reason the area was so wide open was because it was reserved parking for Valet service.  We had a good laugh about it and, in an almost defiant way, dared “them” to come and tow our bikes.  We even joked about whose bike was the most likely to get snagged first…

Lunch was at a joint called “Cheesecake Factory”, not to be confused with the New Orleans version of it “Copelands Cheesecake Bistro” mind you.  Randall knew the place well and made several outstanding recommendations, and he decided on a Grilled Shrimp and Bacon Club.  I elected to follow what I thought was an experienced selection, only to later find out that he had never had it before and just wanted to try it… so much for a well selected favorite.  But ultimately, it was a terrific choice, and unlike the previous nights dinner where Trent proclaimed the meal as “total crap” to the waiter, we all enjoyed our selections.

The skies seemed to darken and we all began to wonder what our chances were for a rain free evening of riding we had in store.  The radar showed fairly consistent coverage along our route home, but the temperatures were so hot, that we decided to delay our rain preparations for as long as possible.  We were on our way, hoping for the best…

Badabump, Badabump, Badabump… the hypnotic repetition of the bikes tires pushing over the seams of the concrete sections of the interstate took on a rhythmic pulse that sometimes would be in perfect synchronization with the music that was pumping through my bluetooth headset, other times, it was at such rhythmic odds that it seemed like unintended counterpoint in the most free-form jazz one could possibly imagine.  No one song in particular comes to mind, but at 78mph, quite a few seemed to be perfectly timed. The one startling exception was when a “Juice-Box Hero’s” song unexpectedly came up on MY playlist…  What the Heck???  One of the challenges of having one global iTunes library to serve the entire family I suppose.

We reached Meridian, MS, and I believe that all of us could very well have called it a day… BUT… we were in Meridian, MS.  Too close to home to not press on and sleep in the comfort of our own beds.  Not another night in a hotel.  No… We would endure the bleary-eyed badabump of the superslab for the remainder of the trip.

I have been contemplating joining the “iron-butt” ASSociation…  In order to do so, one must ride 1000 miles in 24 hours, obeying all posted speed limits and there must be independent third-party verification of fuel stops and starting and ending odometer readings.  At 739 miles, we were nearly 3/4’s of the way done, and in only 12 hours.  Was anyone else up for the task…?  Nope.  So we will, perhaps, save that one for another time. (I can think of several interesting destinations that are just about 1000 miles away that would make for a great “long weekend” trip!)

Our last fuel stop was required due to the engineering weakness of the Harley’s lack of fuel economy… Just kidding… Not really… sorry Randall… Picayunne MS.  Just a few miles to go.  The sun was beginning to set as we crossed the twin spans between Slidell and New Orleans East.  Traffic was flowing smoothly, but the level of aggression of the drivers, general fatigue, and the heavy sustained crosswinds made the bridge crossing a heart-rate raising stretch of highway that once again gets you in touch with the risks of this activity.  On towards the high-rise and our riding group divided once again as I peeled off towards I-610 and my traveling compadres pressed on towards the Greater New Orleans Bridge for their final bridge crossing of their journey to the Westbank of Jefferson Parish.  I hit one last stretch of cruddy roads as I-610 merged back into I-10 as roadway resurfacing was underway…  Ain’t no groovy kind of love there, I assure you.

As I made what would be my final turn of my journey, I was delighted to see my oldest son Stevie outside with the gate already opened and ready to greet my return with a huge smile on his face to welcome me home.  As I pulled into my back yard and rode my RT up the ramp into my garage, my wife Gina, newborn daughter Melody Grace, and youngest son Orion were outside to take a photo of me as I covered the last few feet of my 5400 mile expedition.  Orion was filled with joy and showed it as he clapped and cheered my return. Nathaniel, my second born, was stationed inside the garage and had been watching me as I pulled into the rear yard and on up into the garage, snapping a few photos all the way as well.  I felt a bit like a celebrity walking the red carpet at their big premier.

I owe a great deal of gratitude to a lot of folks for their contribution to making this trip a reality for me: Firstly, the other riders for allowing me to tag along on their adventure.  My family for standing by me and supporting me as I prepared for the trip.  And my business partner for holding down the fort as they say in my absence.  I hope that another adventure such as this lies ahead in my future…


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