I woke up in Elkhart KS for the second time in my life, this time with a purpose. I jumped up and opened the motel room door to see if the café was open this morning. YES!! The neon sign was lit up and cars were parked out front. I quickly got dressed and headed across the street, grabbed a table and waited anxiously to be waited on. Maria’s “daughter in law” came out of the kitchen and greeted me with a big smile and a hot cup of coffee. It soon became apparent that she was waiting the tables this morning and Maria was nowhere to be seen. I was a little sad momentarily, but soon realized It was for nothing and just sat and enjoyed my delicious breakfast. I wished the beautiful young lady a happy holiday and headed back to the motel to pack up and head east.
To be honest with you, the next couple days are pretty much a blur and not very exciting. It took two days to push my way through Oklahoma and the absolutely brutal wind condition there. I got as far as a beautiful little camp ground north of Bartlesville OK on Labor Day and found I was the only person in the tent camping area, or so I thought. Later that night after dinner and lights out, a huge crashing noise woke me from a dead sleep. I was pretty startled and grabbed my flashlight, pointed it outside the tent and hoped it wasn’t a bear. Across the camp, the ladies’ bathroom door was open and it appeared the 50 gallon trash can was turned over and garbage was everywhere. Still not sure what did this, I was hesitant to come out of the tent. Then I saw to little eyes in the dark about ground level. Raccoons. I jumped out of the tent, yelled at them and walked over to the restrooms. They must have “teamed up” to push open the door as it’s on a pretty heavy spring. Then they pulled over the garbage can and dug through it looking for food scrapes. These little guys were pretty slick and it was confirmed the next morning by the Ranger, that they pull off this caper nearly every night. I slept good the rest of the night and it was a beautiful clear morning when I pulled out of camp.
When I finally arrived on the Missouri border, it was almost a cause for celebration! The winds died down and the rolling hills of the Ozarks came into view. I plotted a course that would take me on the north side of the lakes and along some pretty scenic and twisty roads. I originally hoped to get to Nashville, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. So I targeted a small little motel/restaurant I found online and plugged it on to the Garmin. I arrived right at dusk, doing another 300+ mile day. The 10 room motel was pretty neat and clean, with the entire inside of the rooms made with knotty pine wood. The restaurant/bar served up and wonderfully delicious cheeseburger and onion rings for $5! A couple cold Corona’s and I was ready for sleep.
Wednesday’s destination was my good friend Danita’s place, south of Nashville. As I made my way through the Mississippi river delta area, the GPS had taken me on a route along the levees. I knew there was a river bridge north in Cairo Illinois and one south, crossing into TN. All of a sudden, I turn a corner thinking I’m going to see a bridge, only to find the road drove STRAIGHT into the river!!! WTF??? I looked around and there was pole with a sign reading “Tootie’s Ferry, push button to call”. Well alrighty then, so I pushed the button and waited. A few minutes later a guy in a jeep rolled up and asked “did ya push the button”? Of course I did, silly local guy. What do I look like? Someone who has no clue that there’s really a ferry here?? Yup. Just then we see the ferry coming from the other bank, chugging against the strong current to get to our side. He swings the huge ferry around and plants the tail dead straight with the road and drops the gate. We drive up and he comes out of the wheel house to collect the $5 fee. Pretty cool. We seem to glide pretty fast with the current heading to the east shore and get there in just a few minutes. I mount up as he drops the gate, wave and give him the thumbs up. The remaining ride through western TN was uneventful and I arrived at Danita’s in time for us to go grab dinner and come back for some glasses of wine and time to catch up on what’s going on in our lives. It was great seeing her again and we promised to get together more often considering we’re only 4 hours apart.
I left the Nashville area and hit the Natchez Trace trail parkway to look around Nashville to bypass the morning traffic. What I didn’t know is the road is a “limited access” road and there’s no way to link up to the roads I’m needing to hit. So I back track about 15 miles and get back on course. It’s too bad, because this road is pretty cool. Tree lined, curvy in a park like setting, it reminds me of the Blueridge Parkway in TN-NC-VA. It’s now only FOUR MORE HOURS and I’m back at my truck and trailer in Tellico Plains TN. The minutes seemed like hours and every noise from the bike was getting louder and more prevalent. At one point in Athens TN, I got caught in a little traffic and the bike started overheating. I thought “COME ON KATIE...ONLY 30 MORE MILES!!!! PLEEEEEEAAAASSSSSEEE!!!!” As I rolled into camp at Wayne’s Cherohala Mountain Trails Campground, I’m pretty sure he heard me yell from inside the building. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to roll up next to my trailer. Finally, the adventure comes to an end. I sat down with a cold drink and filled Wayne in on the events from the last several weeks since leaving his place. I grabbed a nice shower, ate my late camp meal (Louisiana Red Beans and Rice!) and got a great night’s sleep. Tomorrow I head for Florida to be reunited with my beloved sidekick and companion, Rocky. It’ll be good to see him and hang out with my friends for a few days. It’s been quite a trip and I’m ready to get back to the normalcy of life… until the next trip, that is!