Tennessee

Tips for Lone Motorcyclists

1 Dec 2012

Tips for Lone Motorcyclists:

1. Do not park your motorcycle anywhere near the edge of a cliff thinking ‘what a great photo it will make’, because the ground may be uneven, the skid plate may hit an unusually high kurb, the bike may fall sideways, and you might get thrown over the beautiful cliff trying to save your bike.  Then you might fall 25 feet (7.6m) onto the rocks below and fracture 9 ribs, 3 lower back vertebrae, break your right hand (twice) and dislocate or break several fingers.  If you’re really unlucky, one of your lungs may partially deflate due to the blunt trauma, and a pneumothorax is not a great companion at the best of times.

DOH !!!

DOH !!!

If you are even more stupid enough to do this on the road to Bald River Falls, TN, off season (in the middle of nowhere), it might take over 1 hour for a car to pass by and notice your bike laying at the top of the cliff (undamaged), and the crumpled heap you have made at the bottom emitting a strange gurgling sound.  The good news is from there it’s only another 3 hours to the nearest hospital over bumpy mountain roads to RV with the air ambulance.

Well, at least after 4 days in hospital I can now laugh at myself (almost without crying), but it is certainly not an experience that should be repeated by anybody.  I would like to thank my Fairy Godmother for catching me (once again) at the bottom, and the guy who’s looking after my bike for me… (thanks Robert!)
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Knoxville, TN

1-13 Dec 2012 – 2 weeks (unplanned) in Knoxville

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Christmas Tree in the Wintery Wonderland that is Knoxville

Anyone who’s ever been to Knoxville, TN, will probably either have friends, relatives or work there, because there’s not much else to entice the casual tourist.  Unless he accidentally falls down a cliff, breaks various parts of his body, and ends up getting med-evac’d there in a helicopter from 60 miles away.  Like myself, for example.  However, after 2 weeks spent going back and forth to the hospital to see if my lung had decided to fully re-inflate, Knoxville and myself became the best of friends, and we still occasionally write to each other now; although I would need a very good reason to go back within the next 200 years, despite how nice their Market Square Christmas Tree looked.

14 Dec – The University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville

Chris (fresh from X-Ray):  “Morning Doctor.  So, has my lung decided to fully re-inflate yet so I can perhaps fly home to the UK for Christmas dinner?”

Doctor:  “No.  And remember you can’t fly for 2 weeks once it has fully re-inflated”

Chris:  “Bugger!”

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Nashville

15 Dec 12

So, with my lung still stubbornly harbouring a pneumothorax (meaning no flying), and my right hand unable to operate a front brake lever (meaning no motorcycling), my only option was to jump into a hire car and make my Great Escape from Knoxville after 2 weeks of captivity!  And where else should I run to but the seat of American Country Music itself – NASHVILLE!

The Lights of Broadway

The Lights of Broadway

What can you say about Nashville that hasn’t already been said in a million wrist-slashing, bourbon guzzling country and western songs?  Except, ‘it’s not what I expected’.  Music is, and has been, a very important part of my life ever since I remember playing the ‘saucepan drums’ to Tony Christie & ‘Is This the Way to Amarillo’ as a toddler.  Although I didn’t progress much further on the saucepans, I did learn to play the violin, and later the guitar, the latter I still try to play occasionally (when my host of broken fingers let me).

Having been to Vegas a few years ago I immediately understood how Nashville received its endearing nickname ‘Nash Vegas’.  Downtown (Broadway) is a strip of multi-coloured florescent strip lights as far as the eye can see, although nothing like on the huge scale of Vegas.  Each set of lights denotes a music bar where all day, everyday (while I was there at least), live music blasts out the open doors & windows onto the streets, enticing the window shoppers inside (or not).

NASHVILLE!

NASHVILLE!

While I love any (well, most) kinds of live music, once you’ve heard one country & western (C&W) band knocking out all the classic C&W songs, you’ve pretty much heard them all (well, OK – I may not be the World’s greatest C&W fan…).  The good thing is for lone travelers such as moi, all the bars are very easy to walk into and enjoy the music on your own, negating the need to pretend to look content reading your tourist guide book, or play with your iPhone.  Indeed, copious amounts of drunk, flirty & flaunty middle-aged women made this even easier; or that may have just been when I was there.

An added bonus was the unexpected opportunity to visit the Parthenon, which I had missed when I was in Athens due to being to hung over after my friend’s wedding.  Those Greeks did get around, although not quite sure why they chose Nashville; perhaps Knoxville was overbooked?

The Parthenon on Holiday in Nashville

The Parthenon on Holiday in Nashville

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Memphis

17 Dec – Walking in Memphis ‘Music City’

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Bring on the Blues! Downtown Beale Street

As I was walking in Memphis, walking with my broken ribs 10 feet off of Beale, I didn’t see the ghost of Elvis; instead I saw the man himself serving 3 dollar pints in ‘The Flying Saucer’.  And he knows his beer too.

Beale Street is on a smaller scale to Nashville’s Broadway, but equally as fun, substituting C&W for Blues, which suits my personal taste much better.  Everybody was friendly, even the beggars hustling outside the bars, and for a moment I joined them when someone offered me a dollar as I procrastinated outside one bar in my ripped biker’s jeans, old beanie, a few days’ growth and my right hand bandaged up in dirty bandages looking like a Confederate prisoner of war (I really should get them replaced).

 

Graceland

Before Elvis there was nothing… (J Lennon).  And he was right.

A trip to Memphis would not be complete without paying my respects to ‘The King’ at Graceland.  Now in the middle of a hullabaloo of tourist coaches, Elvis motels, gift shops and fast food outlets, Graceland still stands majestically up on Elvis Hill in relative peace and harmony.

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Having previously heard stories of untasteful, garish décor, I was pleasantly surprised and happy to tour an incredibly well kept, beautiful and nostalgic Graceland, and I could almost see ‘The King’ sitting down at the kitchen table with a cup of PG Tips (or American equivalent) after a hard day’s night (yes, I know that’s The Beatles).  Much smaller than I imagined, Graceland is still an amazing home and well worth a trip to visit.

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Elvis’ Lounge & Xmas Tree

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Elvis liked watching 3 TV shows at once!

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Elvis’ Pink Cadillac (a gift to his mum Gladys)

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Thank you very much! A-ha

IMG_5005I also recommend the Sun Studio tour, where Elvis first walked in, in 1953, and later cut his first hit record ‘That’s Alright Mama’.  To think he was weeks away from giving up his Rock’n’Roll dreams and becoming an electrician.  Good job my electrician didn’t do the same or I’d have never got my fuse box fixed.

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Went for my first (gentle) jog since the accident – bouncing around with mending ribs may or may not be good for them (I’ll have to check).  In any case, I have a lot of work to do!

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Happy Christmas 2012 !

A further check-up on 21 Dec revealed my lung still under-inflated, which meant only one thing: unable to fly home for Christmas to gorge on endless meals of roast turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets etc. etc. (my favourite all-time dinner).

Instead I decided to treat myself, retire to great Smokey Mountains and hibernate in a romantic log cabin for one.  And I must say, I had a wonderful time – hot tub and all – just me, my guitar, local moonshine and a partially deflated lung.

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I did actually have 2 kind offers from friends in The States (thanks Jill and Jessie) to pick me up and spend Christmas with them, but being a traditionally family affair I didn’t want to intrude, and anyway, with Skype nowadays one is seldom alone anywhere.  The good thing is Skype can be turned off, unlike some of your relatives if you’re not 4,000 miles away from them.

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Gatlinburg

Needing to stock up on moonshine for my Christmas Vacation, I saddled up my mule and ventured into Gatlinburg on good intel, a Smoky Mountain resort on the N Carolina border.  Sure enough, I found copious amounts of good moonshine (well, as good as moonshine can be) and bought their entire stock.  Ole Smoky Distillery is the first Federally Licensed Distillery in East Tennessee and makes fine moonshine from boot polish and formaldehyde (only joking!  They use the finest ingredients so you don’t go blind).  Actually, after free samples of all their moonshine flavours I can honestly say it’s pretty good stuff.  At least after the first bottle.

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My Moonshine Tasting Sampler – “Tastes good and good for ya!”

Gatlinburg is one of those rare US cities that actually has lots of character and could just as easily be situated in the European Alps.  Needless to say, I really liked it, and I think it liked me.  At least it didn’t throw me off any cliffs.

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Happy Christmas Gatlinburg!

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New Year’s Eve 2012/13 – Forth Worth, Texas

Unlike Christmas, I did not relish the thought of celebrating NYE 2013 alone, no matter how much I like my own company.  I also had a repaired lung to celebrate.  Yes, finally on 28 Dec the doctor told me my lung had reattached itself to my chest and I would be free to fly in 2 weeks.  So, into my trusty Nissan Altima I jumped and sped off to Dallas, Texas, where I had an appointment with 2 good friends I’d met in Thailand (men, not Ladyboys) and a bottle of vodka.

NYE, Dallas

Yuck – tequila! It obviously makes you think looking like a peacock is cool.

The sights of Fort Worth were mine to behold, although most of them were inside various bars drinking champagne and tequila, which suited me just fine.  And a jolly good time was had by all (thanks Marcus and Jason!).  However, I am never drinking tequila again.  Or champagne.

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Jan 2013 – Recovery in Sri Lanka

I decided to fly to Sri Lanka for January for 3 reasons:

1) Let my bones heal in a warm climate

2) Let my hangover heal

3) Earn some money at the same time

Yes, I am lucky to be able to pick up work as a contractor in the shipping industry now and again, which helps pay for all the important things:  beer, wine and other alcohol – ha ha.  And petrol (gas to our American friends).  Oh, and food & accommodation I suppose.

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Rejoining the Tiger! Feb 2013

Once my right hand had recovered suitably to pull a front brake lever, one question that I had to address was ‘how was I going to get back to my bike?’  The nearest airport was Knoxville but the Tiger was 1 hour south in Tellico Plains – with no train, bus or car rental in sight.  Unlike mother Blighty, the US has not yet invented useful public transport, and the only options available to me were walk or hitch-hike.

 

With nothing to lose, I placed a message on the ‘Horizons Unlimited’ forum (website for traveling motorcyclists) and, to my amazement, a few hours later I had 2 very generous replies from good Samaritans offering to collect me from the airport and drive me down to my bike (thanks so much Gabe and Russ!).

 

As Gabe lived closet to Knoxville (I didn’t want to put anyone out too much), I accepted his kind offer, which also included dinner, a bed for the night and breakfast.  I’d heard of this ‘Southern Hospitality’ thing, but I wasn’t expecting quite that much!  As expected, Gabe was a top bloke and he has a house in the UK to stay should he ever decide to visit when I’m there.

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My Friendly Neighbourhood Good Samaritan, Gabe after giving me a lift to Tellico Plains

 

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Trans-America Trail (Tennessee Section)

I must admit I was a little timid when I first sat on the Tiger again, fully loaded with panniers, dry bag and duffle full of ‘essentials’.  She felt big and heavy, and I felt I didn’t fancy falling down anymore cliffs.  Luckily, I soon shook off those pansy feelings before anyone noticed and sped off down the road to start the off-road Trans-America Trail – YEEEE HAWWW!!!

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Fully loaded and ready to Rock’n’Roll! (I hope!)

However, I could have chosen a better time of year for this (as kindly pointed out by several other ‘Horizons Unlimited‘ users), as copious amounts of rain made it 1) Cold. 2) Wet. 3) Very difficult to cross the overflowing rivers covering the many fords along the route.  But in fact, these challenges were just what I needed to regain my confidence, and I completed the 400 mile Tennessee section without falling off at all, which my ribs were very pleased about.  And of course, the scenery was fantastic!

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Some muddy sections made it interesting!

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Some of the river crossings were a little tricky…

After covering 200 miles in 8 hours the first day (5 hours of which was in heavy rain), I pulled into Lynchburg, home of Tennessee’s finest sippin’ whiskey, Jack Daniels.  And boy, did I need a sip!  Well actually, I needed several sips to dry my bones (due to my leaking trousers), but the distillery had just closed.  DOH!

Worse than this, the weird local inhabitants of Moore County had also decided to make the county ‘dry’, which meant I had bugger all chance of drying wet bones.  No wonder dem’ folks make moonshine!  Good job I had my trusty hip flask…

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Some of the rivers had flooded into lakes, which started to grow a bit thin after getting my feet soaked once…

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Oh good! Another river crossing! There were probably about a dozen in total

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The stock Battlewing tires (air down) handled the dirt surprisingly well (to my delight!), although my heavy load did not help in some tight spots

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Finished ! (well, almost)

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