The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Friday, October 4, 2013

Trans-American Trail

The Trans-American Trail is a motorcycle route that runs from Tellico Plains in eastern Tennessee all the way across the United States to the Pacific Ocean at Oregon.  In theory, it follows fire trails and gravel roads as it winds its way across the country. In reality, much of it in Tennessee is paved over. You can read about it at

Larry Hudson and I decided to ride the Tennessee portion of the trail during the first week of October. Larry is from Olney, Illinois. Olney is a town just north of Mt. Carmel. the town where I live. Larry was on his KLR 650 and I rode my little Yamaha WR250R.

We left Illinois on a rainy Sunday morning, and rode all the way down to Bowling Green, Kentucky, in a continual mist peppered with ocassional sprinkles.

We arrived in Tellico Plains the next evening and met up with my friend, Rick Pease, who lives up in the mountains just south of town.

This is Larry and Rick at Rick's house in Tellico Plains. Thanks Rick for allowing us to stay at your bachelor pad overnight. You were a great host.

Once the Trans-American Trail leaves Tellico Plains, it immediately starts up gravel roads.  Those roads were not very hard to ride, but it was very difficult for us to follow the route. Thankfully, we had it well marked on a roll chart which I kept attached to the handle bars of my bike. 

It was beautiful up in the Appalachian hills around Tellico Plains.  We passed a lot of campgrounds and lakes hidden away in the mountains.

Unfortunately, much of the Trans-America Trail in Tennessee is paved over. It is still beautiful though, and lots of fun to ride. It twists and turns every half mile or so. Route finding is really a challenge.

Even on the paved portions it was still absolutely a feast for the eyes. There was something to see at every curve: deer, wild turkeys, groundhogs, and houses with people on their porches and in their yards, watching us with great curiosity as we motored past. Appalachia has really changed. Not long ago the homes would have had granny smoking her pipe on a beaten up couch out in the front yard. Once in a while you can still see some of those old houses.

The farther west we went in Tennessee, the more gravel roads we ran into. We seldom saw a car. We  started to run into a lot of water crossings. This is one of the smaller ones.

I especially liked the river crossings we found in the deep woods in western Tennessee. When I rode across this one I kept thinking that I was glad both the air breather and the exhaust are up above the engine on these bikes.

By this time I was riding alone. Larry had to be back in Illinois.  I sure did miss his company.

Can you see the road on the other side of the creek in that last picture. This was certainly a pretty part of the trail. It was just before crossing over into Mississippi.

The Tennessee River is close to the Tennessee/Mississippi border. I don't think I will be riding my bike through it. Gotta find a bridge.

Once in Mississippi, the first thing on the agenda is to change over the roll chart that gives us directions on when and where to turn. Route finding is a challenge. Thank goodness for the roll charts, and also for the GPS, because every once in a while the roads were closed. When that happened, I had to look at the coordinates on the chart and put them into my GPS to a way around where we could get back on the trail again.

The Mississippi portion of the Trans-American Trail goes across the hill country in Northern Mississippi.  Part of the trail up there is through sand.

There were a lot of very wet places. These were miles from any place where a man could get help. I was sure glad that I didn't have any trouble.

There was a lot of poverty in that area. I could not believe how some of the people were living up in those hills. If I had problems, I think I would have been pretty nervous about asking for help.

I didn't stop to get any pictures of them or of their houses/trailers. I wish I had, but I think stopping would get a man shot (or at least attacked by the dogs that each of those places had lounging around in the trash-filled yards).

 By that time storms starting rolling in from out of the west. Tornados, lightning and thunderstorms were predicted. If it started to rain, those dirt roads would have become impossible quagmires. Time to head home.

I rode north along the Natchez Trace Parkway, just just zipping along and making great time as I outran the slow-moving storm system.  I had to keep a constant eye out for deer though -- wouldn't want to hit one of them at 60 miles per hour.

The Natchez Trace Parkway, in case you don't know, is hundreds of miles long. It is a long national park, and no commercial vehicles are allowed on it. It is absolutely beautiful. It passes caves and springs and Indian mounds, and dozens of wild turkeys standing along the road and watching the sparse traffic go by.

From where I stopped, the Trans-American Trail goes through the Ozark Mountains in Northern Arkansas. That should be pretty, but it is for another day.

More later.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Riding in Bavaria

Good evening from rainy Bavaria.

I told you in my last blog about leaving Salzberg, Austria, and riding over the high pass through the Tyrol Alps on my way back to Italy. I decided to go on into Slovenia since I was right next door to it anyway. You will remember that it was a communist country, a part of Yugoslavia, just 25 years ago or so.  I expected it to be run down with old cars on the streets and no food on the store shelves.  It was not that way at all. People were hard at work; stores were packed with customers; factories were humming.  However, it is very, very boring. Most of it is flat and hot. The north is green and wooded and hilly though. I like the north.

I am sorry, but I did not take a single picture of Slovenia. There just was nothing to see. I am glad I made the trip, but I would not recommend going there on vacation. I can report, though, that the prices are very cheap.

I did have an interesting place to camp in the wooded north of Slovenia. It was the way I think camping should be -- in the woods with nobody around. There was only me and a young couple down the way in another tent. It wasn't all that great, though, because the shower was outside from a garden hose.  Brrr!

I rode across the mountains of south Austria and back to Salzberg.

And from Salzburg I rode the 10 miles or so to Bavaria. I wanted to go to Hitler's home at Obersalzberg by Berchtesgaden. He lived there for many years, but it is all gone now. The American's blew it all up. The only thing left is the bunkers under the ground.

This is a machine gun nest guarding the entry into the bunkers. The machine gun is gone now, obviously. But look at the little window on the right. That is what the gunner was to shoot through.

And this is what he saw. He was to shoot any enemy coming down those steps.  When I looked through this window I said to myself, "I know this already". This is from the WWII game Call of Duty that my buddy Chuck go me started playing.

The museum where Hitler's house once stood was very interesting.  The people back then were in love with him, at least at the start.  They would even pick up and save the gravel he walked on. They came by the hundreds each day hoping to see him.  I guess he was quite the charismatic guy. Too bad his policies were so misguided and evil.

This was his view of Berchtesgaden.

And way up above him, high on the mountain, they built him the famous "Eagle's Nest" as a present.

He only went there a couple of times. I think he didn't much like heights.

Time to camp for the night. And, as seems to be the pattern over the last two weeks, it started pouring rain about 6:00.

Are you familiar with the churches in Bavaria (and Eastern Europe). The steeple has an "onion dome" on it.

They are often very ornate inside. It is called the Rococo style.

The last king of Bavaria was Ludwig II. There is a lot to learn about that guy. He certainly led a privileged life. I wanted to go see one of his three castles, Herrenchiemsee. He built it in the middle of Chiemsee Lake.

Ho hum. Another ferry ride. I thought I was all done with them.  Odysseus has to stay behind this time.

Dandy little shack isn't it? Perfect for a weekend get-away.

No pictures allowed inside. They will break your arm!

Ha. I know how to get one off the internet.

                                File:Spiegelgalerie Herrenchiemsee.jpg

Another castle Ludwig built was Neuschwanstein.  He used to look at that mountain top from his family home when he was just a kid and dream of building a little place of his own up there.  Here it is. I took this picture from the terrace of his daddy's house where Ludwig grew up.

I have been in Neuschwanstein before so I didn't much want to see it again. Good thing. Look at this line. And this was just the line to get in line. It was 3:00 in the afternoon. No way was I getting tickets for today.

I did want to see the family home though. I hear it is much nicer inside than Neuschwanstein.  For one thing, it was an actual home. Neuschwanstein is mostly just a set for an opera.

It is August and all Europe is on vacation. I guess that explains the long lines. It also explains why campgrounds are suddenly so packed. I had to go to three of them last night before I found one that had the tiny bit of room my tent requires. And, of course, it rained again. That is okay because I stay dry, but I sure hate spending an hour in the morning drying my tent's rainfly.

I drove across the top of Lake Constance today, and by chance found the town where they built and housed the big zeppelins back in the day. It was a nice museum, but it did not lend itself too well for pictures.  I did take a picture of the lounge on the ship. Amazing.

Here is one of the engines that pushed the zeppelin along at about 70 miles an hour. That was a lot faster than an ocean liner could do. Sixteen cylinders. Wow!

So much for old things. How about a new thing? Do you suppose this two seater is the wave of the future?

As you can tell, I have fewer motorcycle pictures. The scenery has not been all that interesting, and the roads are pretty straight. In fact, I have been buzzing along at 70 miles an hour on the autobahns. That sounds fast, until another motorcycle or car goes shooting buy at well over 100 miles an hour.  Zoooooom!

I am almost back at my starting point in Heidelberg. Only about 50 miles to go. So, this will probably be my last blog because I fly home in just a few more days. I am anxious to see my family and to take care of things back home.

I hope to start on the Trans-America Trail sometime in the Autumn and will probably blog about that. I will come back to Heidelberg to start another trip next Spring.

I hope you will drop back by then. Thanks for coming along with me by reading my blog.


Thursday, August 1, 2013


I left the River Rhine on Sunday and rode east around the southern side of Lake Constance. It is pretty there, but I was glad it was a Sunday, otherwise I think the traffic through large cities would have been terrible.

 I wanted to ride into Innsbruck, which I did, and look around some. It is a nice town, but towns are towns, so I will not bore you with pictures of it.

I was even more interested in going to Salzburg. In case you don't know, Salzburg is one of the most interesting and beautiful cities on Earth.  I spent several days there just exploring and being a tourist like thousands of other who flood into town each day. I don't think you would be very interested in the pictures I took of churches, cemeteries, castles, stores and streets. Two things are the main draw there: Mozart, their favorite son, and The Sound of Music which was filmed there. You will remember that it is the story of the Trapp family, and at the end of the movie they flee to Switzerland. The movie gives the impression that Switzerland is just over the mountain. That is not true at all.  It is a long way from Salzburg to Switzerland (At least two days of hard riding for me on Odysseus.)

Here is something you might be interested in. Look at this campground. My tent is the one on the left, closest to the camera.  I met some very nice people here, but can you imagine camping so close together. Nobody in the United States would want to do that.

After playing tourist, I was more than ready to get away from people creations and back up to God's creations.  I had some great passes through the Austrian (Tyrolean) Alps picked out to ride.

Austria charges to ride its passes. About 23 Euros for a motorcycle, depending on the pass. I did not mind paying though. The roads are great, and someone has to pay the fees to keep them maintained: might as well be the people who ride them. I looked at it like paying the fee to ride through a National Park back home.

The mountains are like a wall, and the only way through is up and over.

The road starts climbing, and just keeps going up and up. It is cool (and a little chilly as well).I had a good picnic lunch here -- fruit salad and salami.

Quite a view looking back at the road I came up.  Some people will go to any heights to find a good picnic site.

There are some nice lakes up there. There were even people swimming. Brrrrr!

Mo-o--o-o-ve over people. I was here first.

Lady --You udderly fascinate me. Can you tell me how I can get some nifty tattoos like yours?

Quit horsing around cow. Can't you see the motorcycles are riding here?

I think I have been riding around by myself too long when I start telling such bad jokes.

Except for cows, horses and sheep, the wildlife is pretty well gone from these mountains.  Pity.

It sure is pretty up there though.

Hundreds of motorcycle riders up there, and most were Harleys. I asked the motorcycle riders, and they said that BMW motorcycles are far more popular in Europe. I sure could not tell it. I did see some VStroms like mine as well, but they are not nearly as common.

The views just kept getting better.

These pictures are actually from several rides I did through the Austrian Alps. There are a lot of glaciers in the southern Alps as well.

I was riding along in a valley between the mountains when this helicopter landed on the road. It stopped all the traffic.

He had flown in to pick up a member of this family who had suffered a heart attack.

Motorcycle riders always skip to the front of the line (I guess car drivers don't mind -- I think I would.)

I have not seen a machine like this in years. The guy said he got it from California. I found out it has three times the power mine has. He said it handles the mountain roads really well, but it looks unstable as can be to me.

Bye helicopter. I hope your passenger is okay.

All of this riding has left me down in Southern Austria. I am not sure where I will go from here. There is still a lot of Austria to see, but I am thinking of going down to Serbia. It is just over the next range of mountains, the Dolomites, and is not far away. I guess I will decide in the morning at breakfast.

I have nine days before I need to be back in Heidelberg to get my bike ready for storage. I fly home in 12 more days..

More later,