GRMA Day 2: Flat. Land.
Click here for the link to GPS Tracking Map. (Good for 7 days) Zoom in to see more specific locations. Click on any of the reference points for more information. Remember that the GPS only records where I was every 10 minutes; it may not follow roads exactly.
Today’s ride may have been exciting to soy bean farmers and rice growers, but for a motorcyclist whose adrenaline is pumped by twisties, blind curves, and roller coaster roads, today’s ride rated a 9. On a 100-point adrenaline-jockey scale. Of course I realize that not all roads can be the Tail of the Dragon, the Bear Tooth Highway, or the Icefields Parkway and I know that getting from point A (Maggie Valley) to point B (the Rocky Mountains) involves considerable stretches of flat land, so today I sat back, put on the cruise control, and looked for interesting sights along the way.
I had to ride on an interstate highway for about 40 miles (I-155), but that solved the problem of crossing the Mississippi River without going through Memphis, the other 330 miles involved motoring through farm country and small towns that hark back to earlier days. Rolling through the countryside meant rolling past dirt race tracks that roar Friday nights in the summer and small-town football fields that transform to Friday-night people magnets in rural America. And it meant stopping for morning coffee at the “Whistle Stop Cafe” where local decision-makers in over-alls and cowboy boots worked on international, national and local political issues without actually solving any of them. But not to worry, they’ll no doubt be back tomorrow morning and the mornings after that to continue to cuss and discuss.
And it meant taking time to walk around the courthouse square in Trenton, county seat of Gibson County Tennessee and home to about 4,200 mostly happy people and their somewhat successful efforts to keep a 19th century era downtown alive. I even applauded my congratulations as a bride in long dress and carrying flowers and her grinning groom pranced down the courthouse steps. And it meant continuing a journey along Tennessee’s oldest cross-state highway, which I picked up in Sparta about mid-way through yesterday’s ride. Known as the “Memphis to Bristol Highway” (or, I guess Bristol to Memphis depending on which way you’re going), Tennessee State Route 1 covers nearly 540 miles as it connects the southwest corner of the state to the northeast corner. As it turns out, the first half of today’s ride gave time to reflect on what makes small-town America special.
As flat as west Tennessee is, eastern Arkansas is even more billiard-table like. And the green felt has been replaced by acres and acres of rice. Arkansas, it turns out, produces more rice than any other state, accounting for nearly 50% of the U.S. harvest. Five additional states tally nearly all the rest.
Arkansas “cafes” presented a vexing problem as I searched almost in vain for lunch-time pie. The first three “cafes” had the temerity, the unmitigated gall to admit that they didn’t have any pie, offering instead such sorry replacements as cobbler or cake. “No thanks,” I said firmly. “My heart’s set on pie.” Finally at the fourth establishment bearing the surname “Cafe,” I finally located the elusive pie. That’s the good news. The bad news was that all they had was coconut cream, which I had yesterday. Fearing that was the best I would do in my Quixotic pie quest, I ordered a slice and some strong black coffee to wash it down. I hope this isn’t going to develop into a pattern. Man does not live by coconut cream alone.
I got to my motel in Conway a little early today because it was a short ride, and I used the extra time to solve yesterday’s picture enlargement problem. Well, not really solve it, but at least I think I have a work-around. It’s a good thing the City of Jacksonville let me practice HTML coding skills for 10 years, because the solution to the problem, at least for now, is to edit the HTML code for every picture I put in the blog. It’s not a big deal, but I’m going to continue to search for a less labor-intensive solution.
Tomorrow morning it’s back into the mountains as I head north through the Arkansas mountains and into the Missouri Ozarks before executing a left turn for a run into the flat lands of Kansas.
As always, thanks for following along. Hope you’re enjoying the ride as much as I am.