|Fourth Quarter 2015||Louisiana MSTA Newsletter||Bob Chappuis, Editor|
|WELCOME NEW MEMBER CHARLES BOYLAND of Destrehan!|
Our chapter still is without a state director but despite no formal club activities it has been a fairly active fourth quarter for our little group. Tony and Kevin have organized a couple of trips to Tennessee and North Carolina as well as a few breakfast meets and lunch rides. I don't have any details on the early October middle Tennessee trip but I was involved in the late october trip to NC and will include a little write-up. Most recently Tony led some of us on a nice route through the Felicianas that included about 15 miles of gravel. The Concours 14 did not care for it but the Adventure boys were kind enough to wait for me. Rod Fors and Bill and Linda Martin both made it to the Texas Hill Country Ride in Kerrville Texas put on by Vince and Mayda Wells. Rod said they got a good bit of rain on Saturday but still got in some good riding.
Personally I've been wearing out some rubber just riding around the West Florida Republic enjoying the mostly great weather and taking "the long way" on my commutes. Total mileage for 2015 just under 28,000.
Louisiana MSTA members Tony Crowell and Kevin Yeats began planning an October trip to the Tail of the Dragon area in September. Frank Lamothe and Texas member Chris Laderer were also on board. I initially ruled it out since it was the weekend following my annual trip to Wichita, KS for my granddaughter's birthday party. Then the obvious hit me. This was a good opportunity for a real road trip and visit my dear friends Chuck and Frances. I met the Headricks at the first STAR in 1983 and we have been friends ever since. I had visited them many times at their home in Florida back when the Daytona 200 was one of the major motorcycle races of the year but had not seen them lately. Recently they built a summer place in Murphy, NC and had invited me to come up for a visit. This was the perfect time. Overnight bike trips are great, long weekend trips are better and a full week is better still. But when I start that second week on the road I really get a special feeling. It's like this is the new normal, maybe I could do this forever... That's what Sport Touring is all about!
My second granddaughter Loralai would turn three in October. I've been making the 750/800 mile trip to Wichita since my first granddaughter Gabrielle's first birthday in July 2008. What better excuse for a road trip!
The morning of Thursday, October 15 I crossed the Mississippi on the John James Audubon Bridge. I turned northwest from LA 10 onto LA 1 and followed it to Marksville where I continued northwest on LA 107 to Pineville. Then it was US 71 all the way to Coushatta. To get around Shreveport and into Texas I used I-49 and I-20, exiting the superslab at Wascom. I traveled East Texas back roads to Mt. Pleasant where I picked up US 271 for my final leg to Paris, TX, my day 1 destination. Paris is almost exactly half way between home and Wichita and has a nice economical Quality Inn with an all you can eat catfish place just across the road.
Friday morning I headed north on US 271 to Antlers, OK then north and west on OK 3 to Ada. Then due north on US 377 through Byng, Bowlegs, Seminole and Prague. I get a kick out of some of these names! US 177, Pawnee and Ponca City. Roads in Oklahoma and Kansas are mostly East/West or North/South and STRAIGHT. Ya get desperate for something to entertain your idle mind.
After a lot of straight miles due north I turned west at Augusta, KS onto US 400 which goes right through Wichita and on which my Super 8 home for the next three nights was located. I had a great weekend spending quality time with the kids and grandkids before heading east on Monday morning.
What a luxury to have time to kill. Usually we are trying to figure out how to get somewhere far away in a limited amount of time. The opposite was the case on this trip. I had four days to kill before I was due to meet up with the Usual Suspects in Bryson City, NC on Friday. Missouri and Kentucky were in my path. Kentucky means Bourbon. During both STARs in Lexington we had toured distilleries, Woodford Reserve on 2005 and Buffalo Trace in 2013. I booked a room in Bardstown and bought a tour ticket online for an hour tour and tasting session at the Bourbon Heritage Center, located in Bardstown at the Heaven Hill barrelling, aging and bottling facility. But that was 790 miles away so Monday's stop for the night would be in Missouri.
West Plains Missouri to be exact. I'd be passing through some great riding country well known to the MSTA and the annual Bull Shoals rally. I headed east on US 400 to the Kansas/Missouri line near Joplin. Then it was MO 96 and 14 through Carthage, Clever, Nixa and Ozark. Then Sparta, home of the Sparta High Trojans. Whaat? Google offers no clear explanation for this bit of weirdness but word on the street has it that it was the cheerleaders who found "Trojans" a more appropraite name for their boys than Spartans. lol.
East of Sparta the terrain became hilly and the road twisty and I was digging it. I crossed Mark Twain National Forest before turning South on US 63 and into West Plains, a 351 mile day. I ate at a Chinese buffet next to the motel.
Tuesday's ride to Bardstown was the longest of the trip, 438 miles and it started off a little rocky. I typically fill up with fuel at ride's end close to the motel so I can start the next day with a full tank. Monday night I had planned to ride to the store after checking in to replenish supplies and then fuel up. But as I rode in I had noticed a supply store walking distance from the motel so I ended up parking the bike with an empty tank. In the morning I figured I would get gas on the way out of town. Nope, nothing on the East side of town. I ended up doubling back 10 miles for fuel, not the best way to start the longest day.
Eventually I was travelling East on US 160, the same 160 we enjoy so much at the BS Rally.Hilly, nice sweepers and well maintained. I crossed another piece of Mark Twain National Forest; 160 turned to 60 at Loma Linda and I crossed the Mississippi and the Ohio in quick succession and into Kentucky. I got on I-24 at Paducah and then Wendell Ford Western Kentucky Parkway to Elizabethtown. Martha Layne Collins Bluegrass Parkway took me the rest of the way to Bardstown. I checked into the Comfort Inn about 4:30 in the afternoon after about 9 hours on the road. I had a great Mexican meal and margherita at El Camino Real, just behind the motel.
The Bourbon Heritage Center was just a couple miles away on the south side of town and didn't open until 10:00. I arrived a little early and waited outside with a few other tourists. Once inside we were treated to a beautiful museum and gift shop and were soon introduced to our friendly and informative tour guide. Our tour was delayed a few minutes due to some cleanup required as a result of an incident that had occurred the day before. A motorist had run off the curving road that runs beside the Center and plowed his car into the closest rick house( where they age the bourbon). We would recieve a special bonus later to make up for the delay.
Our guide led us across the road to the rick house and gave us a brief tour inside and explanation of the aging process and history of the Heaven Hill company. He claimed the rick house we were in plus the many others on the property constituted the largest holding of bourbon whiskey in the world. He aslo said that Heaven Hill is the only remaining family-owned distillery in Kentucky and the largest family-owned producer and marketer of distilled spirits in the United States. In 1996, the distillery was destroyed by a fire which consumed 90,000 barrels of flammable bourbon. The company survived by using excess pruduction capacity generously provided by neigboring distilleries until it was able the by the Bernheim facility in Louisiville.
After the rickhouse tour we returned to the Bourbon Heritage Center for our tasting session. While I had enjoyed a quick taste at the conclusion of previous distillery tours at Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve, this tasting session went way beyond those. The tasting room is an opulent round room built in the shape of a huge bourbon barrel. Tasters are seated at a round table with coaster sized lights built into a glass bar to show off the rich color of the bourbon. Our guide carefully educated us on the proper way to taste bourbon before we sampled four slections of Heaven Hill product. In turn we tasted Elijah Craig Small Batch, John E. Fitzgerald Larceny, and Bernheim Original Wheated Bourbon, all excellent bourbons, retailing in the $20-$30 range. Our bonus taste blew them all away however. This was Heaven Hill Select Stock, a barrel proof Bourbon available only at the Heritage Center. This edition was bottled at 130 proof and priced at $150 a bottle! Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed my tour and tasting session at the Bourbon Heritage Center.
After the tour my destination for the night was Chuck and Frances's place in Murphy, NC about 300 miles south, south east of Bardstown, not a long ride but I was making a late start at nearly noon. I enjoyed some great roads along the way, particularly KY49/527 straight from the the Heritage Center. I rode through Campbellsville and Burkesville and then crossed into Tennessee on US 127. I rode through Pall Mall, TN, home of WWI hero Sgt. York. South of Crossville TN, I got on TN 68 and followed this scenic and curvy road all the way to Cherokee National Forest and Tellico Plains. I then crossed into Nantahala National Forest and North Carolina on NC 294.
Chuck and Frances's summer place is just off US 64. I arrived about 4:30 in the afternoon. I had not seen them in a while and it was great to sit and get caught up and take a tour of their place. That evening Chuck grilled some delicious steaks. The next day Chuck led me on a loop of great roads including the Cherohala Skyway, NC 28 and US 74, stopping for a nice lunch at the River's End Restauarnt overlooking the Nantahala Gorge. I enjoyed a terrific Cuban sandwhich while watching canoists and kayakers paddle by. Later that evening we drove into Murphy for a great meal at Shoebooties Restaurant where I had a delicious pecan crusted trout dinner.
I enjoyed my stay with Chuck and Frances, their hospitality was wonderful. I had my own little bedroom and bathroom in their delightful little cabin nestled in the heart of one of the greatest riding areas in the USA! Friday morning it was time to head over to Bryson, NC to join the home gang. But that was only 70 miles away by the direct route. No point arriving before check-in time, guess I'll have to find some less direct route to Bryson City. What a hassle, LOL. Actually I had sat down with Chuck the night before to plan my route and with his help came up with a great one. I headed up to Murphy and then to Beaver Dam Rd. north and then west through the Nantahala National Forest, then Hiwassee Dam Access Rd. Then it was NC 68 again back to Tellico Plains where I continued north on NC 360 to Vonore then east on 72 to US 129, aka Tail of the Dragon. The commercial photographers were staked out in several of the good curves and they got some good shots as I rode alone without distraction, dragging the pegs a few times. At The Crossroads of Time, now known as the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort I turned onto NC 28 and headed east to Bryson City and found the Rosewood Inn. The Inn proved to be a little on the run-down side but the Indian family that runs it seemed to be trying their best to make a go off it. The location was great, the rooms were clean and the price was right. I shared a two bedroom suite with Chris Laderer who rode in from Houston, Kevin Yeats and Tony Crowell had a double room and Frank Lamothe had a room to himself.
I was the first to arrive but soon the rest of the gang rolled in. After we unpacked we hung out in the parking lot checking out each others bikes. Later we walked a few blocks to a restauarant and had a nice meal.
Kevin and Tony had planned a ride for Saturday and we headed out around 8:15 after a leisurely breakfast at another nice restaurant in town. All but Frank who was off to ride with an old friend in Murphy. The first leg of the route was a backtrack of my ride in on 28 and 129 to where it intersects the Foothills Parkway, which we rode up to US 321. Then NC 337 into Great Smoky Mountains National Park headed for Cades Code and Nightmarish Traffic. When Kevin had mentioned he intended to go to Cades Cove I warned him about the Nightmarish Traffic but he scoffed. I was the first to abandon course and turn back after traveling 87 meters in 17 minutes. I felt a tiny bit bad about leaving the group after coming so far to ride with 'em but I'm older than those other guys, not as much time left for wasting in traffic jams.
It turns out everyone but leader Tony turned back as well and as I got away from the maddening crowd (sic) and pulled into a gas station to fire off a text message I heard a horn and Kevin and Chris go by. I put the phone away and caught up with them. We made a quick plan to return to the Head of the Dragon via the Foothills Parkway and eat lunch at the Dragon Pitt BBQ then ride the Cherohala Skyway. The BBQ at the Dragon Pitt was fine and the outdoor eating place was very nice with a view of bikes constantly rolling by.
Traffic was heavier on the Cherohala Sykway this afternoon than the previous morning and our group got stretched out. Chris Laderer and I stopped a few times at the scenic overlooks to take pictures. Eventually everyone returned safe and sound to the Rosewood Inn, despite a close encounter with and unhappy Black Bear. Another great day of riding some of the best roads in the country, 255 miles in 8.5 hours. Topped off by another nice group meal in downtown Bryson City.
The group, less Frank headed home on Sunday, a 350 mile leg to Trussville, AL just north of Birmingham. Frank stayed in NC for more visiting/riding with his friend. Our route was of course full of great curves. Back to Tellico Plains via the Skyway then south on TN 68 and GA 5. Next it wa GA 2 over Fort Mountain's great twisties.Crossing into Alabama Kevin redeemed himself (partially) by routing us through Little River Canyon National Preserve. A great little road (AL 176) and canyon scenery none of us were aware of in northeast Alabama. We rode I-59 for the last leg to Trussville.
On Monday morning our weather luck ran out. A large weather system was moving toward us from the general area of our destination and there was no way to avoid it. Except wait until Tuesday which Tino actually did! Kevin took a direct I-59 route to his home near New Orleans. Chris and I exited I-59 south of Meridian and took back roads through Mississippi. As we veered west we actually rode into a hole in the v-shaped rain system and we soon saw blue skies and eventually had to stop to remove rain gear. We split up near Clinton, LA as Chris turned south to Baton Rouge to visit his brother and I continued west to St. Francisville. My miles for the day 388, for the trip 3170. And what a great trip it was! Sport touring is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, old and new.
A last minute change of dates to June 26 through June 30. Stacie and I are registered.
Eldon Rix asked me to post these MSTA "Just For Fun Events"
That will do it for 2015! It has been a great year! I enjoyed riding with all of you this year and look forward to to seeing you in 2016. MERRY CHRISTMAS and a Prosperous and Safe NEW YEAR to all of you. KEEP IN TOUCH!
and Ride Safe,