Monday, March 19, 2012

National Parks Tour - AR

Part of:  NPT - Southeastern States ride
SpotWalla Map
GPS Track (Garmin Connect)

This was the last leg on the Southeastern States ride.  Just two stops along the way, in Arkansas, before heading back home to near Wimberley, TX.  Again the weather was good but with a blowing south wind.  I stopped for another cup of coffee, sausage-egg-cheese-bisket, and fuel at a Pilot Travel center just over the mighty Mississippi river in AR.  Popped the passport stop way points into a route to home and got an arrival time of around 8pm.  So, off I rode to Little Rock.

The Little Rock Central HS NHS is a historical focal point for our civil rights.  On the morning of September 23, 1957 nine African-American teenagers stood up to an angry crowd protesting integration in front of Little Rock's Central High as they entered the school for the first time.   The very nice Visitor's Center is across the street somewhat from the HS.

Riding on to the Hot Springs NP and the last stop before heading south to home.  Water. That's what attracts people to Hot Springs.  People have used these hot springs for more than two hundred years to treat illnesses and to relax. Both rich and poor came for the baths, and a town built up around the Hot Springs Reservation to accommodate them. Together nicknamed "The American Spa," Hot Springs National Park today surrounds the north end of the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The ride home was against the wind.  Gusty and from the side it made riding more uncomfortable.  At times my helmet would be caught by a gust and flung from side to side.  My neck got a real workout for the next several hours.  A line of thunderstorms was building from Del Rio TX to Iowa.  Listening to Fox News on XM gave me a heads up about possible severe weather along my route.  I subscribe to XM radio weather service so I get Nexrad WX radar on my GPS.  It paints moving weather radar on the screen of the GPS.  You can zoom in and out to see where your planned route intersects the rain and severe weather.  Judging by the movement of the line of thunderstorms I projected I would make it home before hitting them.  I stopped in Bastrop TX to gas up and put on my rain jacket and switch to Gore-Tex gloves.  My boots and pants are Gore-Tex lined.  I arrived at home about 8:20 PM.  What a fun adventure.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

National Parks Tour - GA, AL, MS & TN

Part of:  NPT - Southeastern States ride
SpotWalla Map
GPS Track (Garmin Connect)

Got up at "O-dark-thirty" and know it was going to be a great day.  You see, I spent then night in a Holiday Inn Express.  My goal was knock out several passport stamp locations before arriving in Memphis TN.  A IBA comrade had invited me to stay at his place in Memphis.  I plugged all the stops into my Garmin zumo 665 and it showed a 18:30 arrival time.  With the route set I headed out. 

 Andersonville NHS was my first stop on this leg.  I had visited this important historical site in the 1970's when I lived in Columbus GA.  Since then the site had gotten a huge facelift owing to the establishment of the National POW Museum.  I was very impressive and very well maintained.  Of course, the absolutely perfect early morning spring day made the visit that much more rewarding. 
 The Tuskegee Airman NHS was next on the route.  It's always a thrill to be at the spot of such historical happenings.  Being a retired US Army soldier I feel a special affinity for the warrior class.  The National Park Service must be in the middle of upgrading the site.  I was disappointed at how run down it looked.  I hope the new film about these great American Fighting Men will boost interest and visitation. 
Heading over Mississippi and the Tupelo NHS on the Natchez Trace Parkway.  I had ridden the parkway once before on a trip to Milwaukee WI.  It is a scenic highway winding through the south.  So, a quick stop at the Visitor's Center to document the location allowed me to capture 4 stamps in my passport. 
 A short ride up the parkway took me to Brices Cross Roads NBS.  The Confederate victory at Brices Cross Roads was a significant victory for Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, but its long term effect on the war proved costly for the Confederates. Brices Cross Roads is an excellent example of winning the battle, but losing the war.
The Shiloh NMP was the last passport stop before the RON in Memphis.  The National Military Park is very well maintained with Civil War cannon lining the meandering park roads.  Being one of the bloodiest battles of the war Shiloh NMP memorializes the fallen in a way that gives ever lasting meaning to the battle.  Remember, to quote Plato, "Only the dead have seen the end of war." 

Memphis was a short 1.5 hour ride to arrive at the home of my rally mentor.  This comrade has encouraged me to participate more in the cerebral aspect of long distance endurance mororcycling, the themed rally.  I enjoy a delicious baked catfish meal, home made beer and some great company.  Thank you, Doctor H and J Esq, for your warm hospitality.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

National Parks Tour GA & SC

Part of:  NPT - Southeastern States ride 
SpotWalla Map
GPS Track (Garmin Connect)

The IBA "Pizza Party" is being held at lunch time north of Daytona Beach.  It is an annual after the IBA Annual Dinner tradition reserved for riders who have successfully completed the Iron Butt Rally.  I was invited, but decided to skip it to knock out three of the NPT passport locations.  If I went to the Pizza Party I couldn't make Fort Sumter in SC before the Visitor's Center would close.  I went to last year's Pizza Party having been invited while still a rookie selectee.  It was fun and I met many of the veterans of past IBRs.

So, after another hearty free breakfast at the Ramada Inn I headed for GA and two National Monuments.   Getting to Fort Frederica NM GA was real easy.  Getting to Fort Pulaski NM I had to ride through downtown Savannah....during Saint Patrick's Day!  There must have been a million people and 250,000 cars parked everywhere.  The police had all the streets blocked off and it was driving Greta Garmin crazy as she was trying to route me back into down town.  I just ignored her and did a big loop around the town center to get to the highway leading to Fort Pulaski.  Returning through the city center I again did a loop around the congestion and finally got out of town and back on the open highway.

The jot up to Charleston SC for the Fort Sumter NP Visitor's Center took me out on I-95.  Lots of northbound traffic from Daytona Bike Week.  About twice as many bikes on trailer as were being ridden.  Riding through Charleston was a breeze compared to Savannah and I went right to the Fort Sumter Visitor's Center.  The Fort is actually several miles away in the middle of the channel leading to Charleston harbour.  The ferry wasn't running but I tried to take a picture of the island anyway.

My next passport location was to head to Andersonville Civil War prison location south of Macon GA.  I wasn't going to make it in time on Saturday and planned on spending the night in Dublin GA.  About 40 miles east of Dublin there was a bad crash on I-16.  A thunderstorm had blown through about 1 hour earlier.  It must have contributed to the crash as the The interstate traffic was at a standstill, people out of their cars walking around.  I got stuck in it for about 30 minutes.  I fired up the GPS and saw a work-around so I cut over to the eastbound lanes and headed back about 5 miles to Metter, cut north then back west.  It was almost 9pm by the time I checked into the hotel.  All in all....a great day.

Friday, March 16, 2012

National Parks Tour - FL

Part of:  NPT - Southeastern States ride
SpotWalla Map
GPS Track (Garmin Connect) 

The day started at 5:30 am with a short meeting in the lobby of the hotel with the IBA photographer.  I and 5 others were to be props in a early morning photo shoot on the Old Dixie Highway.  Still dark we all headed south about 50 miles or so.  On "location", we rode back and forth on a scenic highway so the photographer could shoot us in the great morning light.  After the shoot was over I rode to the coast and took A1A north to Flagler Beach for a breakfast.  Stopped at a cafe with lots of motorcycles out front.  Daytona bike week was still in full swing and bikers were everywhere.

After a hearty breakfast and several cups of coffee I hit the three FL NPT locations before heading back to the IBA Dinner hotel in south Jacksonville.  The IBA annual dinner started about 5:30 and the place was packed.  Must have been 300 people attending this year's dinner.  The were some 75 new riders inducted into the Iron Butt Association having successfully completed the FL Mountain SaddleSore 1,000 mini rally the day before.  Great to see more riders getting bit by the LD bug.

Ft Mantanzas NM, FL
This was an interesting site.  Coastal Florida was a major field of conflict as European nations fought for control in the New World. As part of this struggle, Fort Matanzas guarded St. Augustine’s southern river approach. The colonial wars are over, but the monument is still protecting—not just the historic fort, but also the wild barrier island and the plants and animals who survive there amidst a sea of modern development.

 Castillo de San Marcos NM, FL
A monument not only of stone and mortar but of human determination and endurance, the Castillo de San Marcos symbolizes the clash between cultures which ultimately resulted in our uniquely unified nation.  Still resonant with the struggles of an earlier time, these original walls provide tangible evidence of America’s grim but remarkable history.
Ft Caroline NM, FL
Fort Caroline memorializes the short-lived French presence in sixteenth century Florida. Here you will find stories of exploration, survival, religious disputes, territorial battles, and first contact between American Indians and Europeans.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

National Parks Tour - LA

Part of:  NPT - Southeastern States ride
GPS Track (Garmin Connect)

Jean Lafitte NP, LA and Orleans Jazz NHS, LA

The ride from near Wimberley was great.  Excellent weather with clear skies and temperatures around 70F.  Traffic through Houston was light but I rode the HOV lanes anyway.  Motorcycling has its privileges.   Stopped for fuel and a cup of coffee in Orange TX.  Stopped again just before Baton Rouge for fuel and Taco Bell lunch about 1:30.  Headed into downtown New Orleans to the old French Quarter to get the passport stamps.  Had to park in the tourist lot then walk to the NP Visitor's Centers.  Mission complete.  Drove the short distance from near Jackson Square to the Canal Street Ferry to cross the mighty Mississippi.  I spent the night with an old family friend.  We drank a couple of beers and caught up on things.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

National Parks Tour - Southeastern States

I am attending the Iron Butt Association annual dinner in Jacksonville FL March 16.  What a great excuse to hit some of the states in the south for the National Parks Tour Master Traveler - Gold quest.  Listed below are the NPT passport stamp locations I want to visit on this trip. 

See the ride here: SpotWalla Map
GPS Track (Garmin Connect)

B - Jean Lafitte NP, LA    Blog Posting
C - New Orleans Jazz NHS, LA 
F - Ft Mantanzas NM, FL   Blog Posting
G - Castillo de San Marcos NM, FL  
H - Ft Caroline NM, FL   
I - Ft Frederica NM, GA   Blog Posting
J - Ft Pulaski NM, GA   
K - Ft Sumter NP, SC   
L - Andersonville NHS, GA   Blog Posting
M - Tuskegee Airman NHS, AL  
N - Horseshoe NMP, AL   Skipped this one
O - Tupelo NHS, MS   
P - Brice's Crossroads NBS, MS   
Q - Shiloh NMP, TN   
R - Little Rock High NHS, AR   Blog Posting
S - Hot Springs NP, AR   
Route plan and intended stops

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