American Skid Marks
Setting out on a great American motorcycle roadtrip.

St. Louis to Land Between the Lakes

I rolled out of St. Louis and on into Illinois, following highway 3 South. This was my first border crossing that I wasn’t able to photograph for posterity. “The Man” frowns on stopping in the middle of a busy bridge to snap photos. Whatever, Man. After some suburbs of absolutely no interest whatsoever, highway 3 becomes green and pastoral very quickly; there is a great stretch that was reminiscent of the previous day’s ride through Missouri. Further south the trees give way to more fields and farmland.

Road Allong Highway 3

Green, Green Road

Do you know what this country produces by the metric fuckload? Corn. I somehow expected fields and fields of corn in Kansas, but in Missouri and especially Illinois, it would seem like they grow nothing but corn. Every once in a while I’d come across a field of some kind of crop other than corn. Guess what was still growing in little patches in that field? Chances are good, that if you’re eating processed food that was grown in these fields, it’s got corn in it. It’s no wonder that just about every state out here puts ethanol in their gas.

Cornfield

1.25 Metric Assloads Just in This Field!

Most of this day was thoroughly enjoyable, but the scenery doesn’t really change around here. Its just a consistent “nice”. Green patch of trees. Corn Field. Town. River Sighting. Corn Field.

Rail Bridge Over The Mississippi

Rail Bridge Over The Mississippi

There is a point outside of Cairo, IL where the Ohio River empties into the Mississippi. It’s here that the Mississippi truly becomes mighty. It’s called simply “The Convergence” and I’ve heard that it is an amazing sight. However, I think I might just rename this blog to “Sorry Rabbit, America Is Closed For The Season”. The convergence was closed for cleaning. Cleaning? Fuuuck! You have to close the whole fucking park in order to pick up some god damned garbage? Whoever made that decision sucks. I hope they end up waking up with some unsolicited genitals in their mouth.

I rode into Cairo dejected and wanting to just sit and bitch. Instead I found this great little coffee/art/chill/community center space. Seriously, this was a most unexpected and fantastic place. It was just what I needed to lift my spirits. They, host events, sell good cheap coffee, showcase local art, have live bands and provide a place for local kids to hang out. I ran into a couple guys from New Orleans there and got some great advice on where to go to hear live music. I felt better when I left, good enough to un-hope the whole “unsolicited genitals” thing …

Ace of Cups

Ace of Cups

Rather than ride straight into Kentucky, I chose to ride north east following the 37, 169 and the 45, crossing the border near Metropolis. This was supposed to be my stopping point today, but I decided to push down toward the Land Between The Lakes State Park. A fairly short ride on the I-24 turned out to be pretty bearable, but I still couldn’t wait to pull off onto 453 near Grand Rivers. The Land Between the Lakes is a beautiful spot. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this place surpassed my expectations.

Kentucky Welcome Sign

Kentucky Crossing

The 453 is a narrow feeling road that runs through the thick teaming woods. I had my first near collision with a dear here. A young buck was standing in my lane as I came around a bend, he startled and ran toward the left to get into the woods. Just as he crossed the center-line, a big red truck came into view in the opposite direction. It was the classic panicked deer response you always hear about. First he froze. Actually, what most people believe is a deer freezing with panic is actually a purposeful deliberative process on the part of the deer. Deer don’t actually “freeze”, they just stop to ponder the situation and make an informed decision. Unfortunately, while deer may be known for their depth of thought, the speed at which they cogitate leaves something to be desired. I suspect that the deer’s internal calculus went as follows, “Crap. Stop. Let’s figure this out. OK, there’s that quick little red thing that I was just running from. But now there is big mean looking red thing coming from the other direction. Hmmmm, I think I should run away from the big thing. OK, aaaaand GO!” The second I saw the deer freeze I rolled off the throttle a bit, knowing that a frozen deer isn’t really frozen, he’s just very, very slowly trying to decide what to do, and at any moment could finally arrive at his decision. Sure enough, he turned around and darted back into my lane as I closed on him; I slowed down even more and he scampered off the road and back into the woods on my side of the road. See, most deer strikes happen because the driver or rider hasn’t studied the psychology of the deer in as much depth as I.

Forest in the Land Between The Lakes

Forest in The Land Between The Lakes

I also saw wild turkeys for the first time. No really, they have these turkeys that wander by the side of the road out here. I tried to snap a photo, but they are skittish like deer and far, far more decisive. They promised me at the Kansas visitor’s center that I’d see lots of these things in Kansas, but it took all the way to Kentucky before I got my first sighting. I decided that I would celebrate by drinking a bottle of Wild Turkey later that night. The roads through the park are the most perfect I’ve ridden on this trip. The surface is smooth, the curves are consistent and the camber is sweet. However, the speed limit is very low (35 in the twisty north end of the park if I remember correctly) making it extremely easy to speed. There were points where I wanted to be going 90 through the curves in the north end of the park.

About half way through the park, you cross from Kentucky into Tennessee and the road straightens out.

Welcome to Tennessee Sign

Entering Tennessee

I made camp on the shore of one of the Tennessee River’s fingerling projections and set out to find some grub. On a recommendation from a local I ended up at Cindy’s Catfish Kitchen, where they serve a nightly buffet of deep fried catfish and hushpuppies amidst an assortment of other salad bar fare. This was my first taste of hushpuppies, which are little balls of cornmeal with onions and spices, cooked like falafel. Is it strange that I’ve eaten pounds and pounds of falafel, but never tasted hushpuppies before now? When I pointed at the big bin of hushpuppies and asked the guy in the kitchen what they were, he looked at me like I was fucking retarded. “Those are hushpuppies” is what he said blankly. “Those are hushpuppies, you moron, ” is what he thought. He’s clearly never had to explain to anyone what a hushpuppy is. In any case, I stuffed myself with catfish and hushpuppies until I could no longer button my riding pants.

As I was departing I asked the waitress where I could score some Wild Turkey. “I have celebrating to do, ” I explained. Now it was her turn to look at me like I was a retard as she explained to me what a “dry county” was. As morally important as it was to celebrate my first wild turkey sighting, 25 miles for a pint of whiskey was a bit more than I was willing to ride tonight.

There is a slow rain falling and the wind is coming up, the heat is abating a bit and hopefully I’ll sleep easy tonight. Tomorrow I ride the rest of the way to Nashville and my first couchsurf.

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One Response to “St. Louis to Land Between the Lakes”

  1. Funniest. Post. Yet. I love the way you write.
    Mew.


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