Day 13: MS is in Heat on Her Way to Tourist Desolation Row

MS gets all her systems going immediately at the first touch of the starter button. A cool 70 F, morning mist, not yet 8.00 AM. Planning is about 400 miles on back-country 2-lane highways from Savannah Georgia to Knoxville Tennessee. My mind is a bit less worried about her starting moods later. She’ll teach me, though.
These vultures are getting on my nerves. At intermittent intervals large groups are having breakfast on the night road’s killing fields including deer and assorted other unidentified bloody remnants. And breakfast is served in my lane. Very light traffic, so the creatures think they own the road. Well, overrunning them with MS is no option, there are too many and they are too big. So: slow down I must, rev up the engine and they kind of stumble-fly away when I am real close. They haven’t thought about the idea of suicide vultures: one bringing the lone rider down at his/her own expense and the others having a great time. Local newspaper headline: “vultures devour foreigner on US 21″.

The north-eastern part of Georgia along the South Carolina border is very, very orderly. The roads well-kept, beautiful southern-style houses with columns and verandas, vast pine woods with agriculture thrown in. Fruit stands every so many miles – as are the yard & garage sales; must be Saturday.
“You’re from Indiana!?” Friendly person approaches at gas pump, bended forward with age. The usual exchange follows. Then: “We are 7th generations now, go back to the Revolution”. Asked about his European origin: “Well we really don’t know. You see in the Civil war so many courthouses got burned. We think France”. (Not surprising giving the many French town names in these regions.) “A cousin of mine”, he continues, “was in France once, she was in an area that looked like here. So I think it must be France”. Well, why not? “You sure picked some hot days” is his farewell.
Historic downtown Edgefield offers old-fashioned 19 century relief from the oppressive heat and humidity. I just keep wondering why people go to the uniform plastic chains when these great places are to be found.
Hot it is. It is as if MS and me are riding up against an enormous hair dryer set at full speed and at the highest temperature. MS doesn’t mind the heat at all. She is in it. She runs as never before – what a great feeling. I am sure she feels this is the beginning of the home stretch. She is taking over in the partnership, and I am glad to give in to her fast whims. The mountains come into view, hills become steeper, MS doesn’t notice it at all. She is going and going. I wonder who is riding whom?
And then, the blues is on. Getting gas before entering the Smoky Mountains. No way she wants to start. I have no words for the sounds she produces. Yesterday, it only drew looks. Now people come over to talk. “Push her” (HD riders). Or: “Sounds like the starter is slipping” (truck driver). I send her all the vibes I can mobilize and keep trying. Sometimes one cylinder seems to catch. At other times it is as if I am poking a metal stick in a big box of loose change. (TRIPLE OWNERS: ANY IDEA WHAT IS WRONG??). And then, the triple-god be praised, a sudden lion-like roar. And she idles as if nothing nerve-wrecking has happened. Of course: next gas station: repeat. Decision: once she goes, don’t shut her down. That is what I do at the incredible Smoky photo ops or when asking directions. And that is what I most certainly will do tomorrow, the last day of the trip. Start in the cool morning and not shut her down until I have arrived in Bloomington about 450 miles up the road.
The Smoky’s are true to their character. Just when I think I have circumnavigated a bad rain storm, I am proven wrong. Rain hits like bullets, I get soaked in one minute. Stopping for rain gear is a ridiculous option. Helmet screen and sunglasses fog up immediately, like riding in thick clouds. Roads look slippery. This idiot young motorcycle rider races by me, clad in only shorts and a T-shirt, no gloves or helmet. The low temperatures are a relief. The rain stops as soon as it started. The hot winds make the wet riding gear very effective body cooler.
The small, curvy mountain roads are great riding. I follow the in instructions of my special lessons from the Dutch motorcycle police. Ride both the left and the right curves from the outside-in. Most riders do the opposite – and the HD boys and girls are out in massive numbers, today. Riding the curves the wrong way (inside-out) gives a false sensation of safety, it is actually more dangerous. But is does take some practice and courage to ride the curves the right outside-in way. MS is OK with the right way. It is as if she got testeron somewhere in her gasoline, so easily we power upwards to over the 5.000 foot South Carolina – Tennessee state line.
There are few reasons these days to want to be an Indian (Native American, I know) in the US today. Seeing what goes on in Cherokee village in the reservation would any Indian in his/her sound mind bring to the conclusion “don’t want to be no Injun anymore”. Shameless commercial adaptation to the White Man’s capitalism, topped by the monstrous Casino building. The sign ‘Parking for the Elders only’ proves the point.
On the other side of the Smokey’s: Gatlinburg.

Platoons of HD riders make the place sound like a war zone with heavy artillery incoming. Are they roughing it out in tourist desolation row! All made in China, Disneyland looks like a real world compared to what has been brought together on this one street. The sidewalks are packed with strolling people; I am appalled at the collective obesity of men, women and children. If you still believe in hope for the USA, don’t go to Gatlinburg Tennessee!! I need a beer. Or more.
In defiance I am wearing my Heartbreak Hotel T-shirt from Graceland, purple with a big Elvis photo on it. It draws lots of stares, as if I have a D cup. A very pretty brunette of about 22 years of age pulls my arm “He sexy, how are you doing?” comes my way. I guess she is talking to Elvis.

My escape route is the Hard Rock Cafe. Deafening rock music is overruled by screams and screams from a group of twennies as if Elvis himself is present alive and well. One girl of the group has tied to her back an enormous orange penis + balls. I get it, so does everybody else. Great fun! But when the contraption is hung over the group’s dinner table for the entire cafe to be seen, objections from parents with children make it disappear under the table, sobering up the entourage.
Contrasts. The original 1802 first Cabin 30 feet from main street goes totally unnoticed at the expense of the kitsch and make-believe that most tourists seem to take for real and top-quality. And what is worse: genuinely enjoy!

God is also here. He has his own store. God’s World. It carries T-shirts, too. One shows the bare back of Jesus with horizontal, bloody lashes. The text: ‘Read between the lines’.
Next door is confederate hunter’s paradise. One T-shirt shows a most powerful buck looking around defiantly; a gun points at it from the woods. The text: “NRA, live free, hunt free”. How come these people always appear to have killing on their minds rather than protecting what God or evolution or whoever created?
Call to Clary in Bloomington Indiana. Says she: be prepared for very, very bad weather up here. Short of real tornados, hurricanes or interstates turned into rivers, MS and I will not be stopped.
That is, if MS desires to start first thing in the morning.

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