Day 1: Entering the South

The mighty iron twin bridges over the Ohio river near Evansville Indiana are the gateway to the South. I have found my lucky number US 41 (my life is dominated by that number). US 41 in Indiana isn’t quite DH there, later is will be. In Holland, however, in the spur of a song I decided to make a detour. ‘Nutbush City Limits’, Tina sings. It actually is on the Tennessee map. And close to Memphis, Graceland, Elvis. No more doubts. Gotto go there.
The road to Evansville says goodbye to the hills of Indiana and says hello to the flat corn plains. Curves become straights. The road is lined with fields of water that the soaked earth has to way of dealing with anymore. Vast yellow flower beds. And hillsides of junk cars, rusting, grown over etc. And I am not even talking about the personal junk yards that people seem to favor around their own houses over plants and grass.
A billboard with a baby’s face on it. ‘I am a child, not a choice’, the text says. ‘Adoption is an option’, the next one. ‘Abortion kills a baby every 24 seconds’. I near a few houses actually named Plainville. Not too much said. A few rusty medieval oil pumps keep nodding ‘yes, yes, yes.’ Perhaps people have forgotten about them. Riding through Plainville means riding straight through the middle of a cemetery, left and right, specks of plastic colored flowers go up the hills. Noisy trucks and cars pay no attention. ‘Tranquility Mausoleum’ the sign reads. ‘Fresh strawberries’ the next one. No thanks.

MS is sailing the strong side winds we are heading into. My body is tense, these first hours. Listening to MS droning on, shifting gears, the tunes so familiar from last year. But different. These deserted country roads, gravel and mud, cross-traffic. Organic unity with MS comes with hours and miles.
‘Historic Washington’, must pay a visit. Hometown of a very dear friend who later came to Bloomington, Copenhagen and Amsterdam where he now lives. Well, ‘historic’ is literally what it means. Shambles, a ruin, Main Street wouldn’t qualify for a spaghetti western. Third World in the world’s mightiest country, like so many, many of the old town Main Streets I am to pass through. ‘Grubb?’ says the friendly lady in the one place that serves coffee, a dollhouse kind of cafe. ‘My father bought a house Gene Grubb built out on 50, he was in building supplies wasn’t he?’ He was. ‘My parents still live in it’. ‘Serious as a heart attack, I am’. Small world, mission accomplished, Dave.

Surprising old US 41. Once the main N-S route, not anymore, interstates have marginalized these blue highways. This highway, now, is green, green and green. The houses along it are well-kept. Not what I expected: decay in the aftermath of civilization retreating. Not what happened to R66. Only the occasional patches of crumbling trailer homes where poor people seem to gather to survive together. Safety in numbers.
Killing the gas on MS lets a swallow and a squirrel keep their tails. Wind is getting stronger and stronger. Have to watch my sides. Trees, bridges, valleys, trucks, they all throw the lone rider off balance as they either block or free the winds. The straight line of riding is at least a foot wide, now. MS is a bit rough at certain combinations of RPM’s and gear. Have to find out what she likes and not likes this summer, play her moods and she responds. Loaded, she is generous with close 35-40 miles PG, premium she gets, V-power is I can find it. She loves it best. Gas prices: $4 dollars per gallon, talk of the day everywhere. No speak for a Dutchman who at home has to pay $10 per gallon. Let’s ride.

The South. American Legion. Veterans. Reserve. Flags. No country in the world shows so many abundant reminders of its belligerency. ‘Half my heart is in Iraq’ reads the sign on an old beat-up truck. The South, very small town, picturesque, commemorating on an historical marker the grand deeds of the 2 local partisan rangers disrupting the Union communications lines. Hotel near the Tennessee River. No beer (dry county), no computer, no Virgin (I am talking about my US telephone provider…).

I found what I came for.

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