Day 3: Rape and Restoration

They go hand in hand, here in Southern Tennessee. the first is inflicted on the land, the other is bestowed on historic downtowns. Little do I know leaving Memphis in the madness of bypass and interstate rush hour traffic looking for the solitude on 64 heading for Winchester to catch the original Dixie Highway around the corner from triple Veteran Chuck Cotham’s house where I will be staying for the night to share a visit to Jack Daniel’s nearby.
But first for Dutch readers, a quick rundown of the abbreviations used in previous posts.
* HD: Harley Davidson, the most common species of motorcycles in this country. In Holland associated with Hell’s Angels and Lawyers. Here staple food.

* DH: Dixie Highway, the first North-South paved road from roughly Chicago to Miami.

* MS: Midnight Special, model of the Yamaha XS850 I am riding here (check the photo report on Route 66 on this website for the looks of her; she is a she.

* NRA: National Rifle Association, a powerful lobby organization which vehemently defends the constitutional right of every American to own a gun, rifle etc.
On the Interstate, thoughts go back to yesterday.

The wasted couple and their very sane 14 year old daughter. Things got ugly in the bar. Some of the step-mother’s clothes got off and back on. Shouts and threats as other guests had had it with the scene. Teethless security not doing anymore than talking to each other on intercoms. What they should have done is call a veterinarian. Shoot them down with a sedative syringe animal style. The husband would have required the same dose as an American bison.
The HD accident. The bike capsized and squeezed between car and its own trailer. Must have been bad. If the guy just wore a bandana, his mama only a sleeveless T-shirt and jeans like so many… A sizeable herd of his fellow HD’ers out for a day together stood like mourning elephants around a fallen companion. And I see cars coming out of gas stations onto the road in front of me countless times.
Turns out 64 is being transformed from a rustique rolling 2-lane road into a wide open 4-lane highway. Which means rape of the countryside. Over and over I come to stretches where massive old trees are cut and carelessly dumped into huge stacks set afire; they don’t even care to bring them to the sawmill so their wood will build a home for people after having served the birds and squirrels for dozens of years. The huge Caterpillar and Volvo monsters are eating hills and fields away. Fantastic wetlands with semi-tropical green is filled up. The road sign warns repeatedly that I must shut off my cell phone and two-way communication stuff as I am entering blasting zones. As if a call to or from Clary (my wife) would spark detonations galore. More asphalt for the cars that people here can’t afford to drive due to rising gas prices. Progress, as decided 10 years ago and nothing will stop bureaucracy upon 2nd thought.
Restoration is the other side of the coin, as schizophrenic contrast. Small town after small town is restoring its old downtown square into its old grandeur. What a difference with the likes I saw in Indiana and Kentucky (and along Route 66 for that matter) where the old buildings are left to look like the future Maya ruins. Not here in Tennessee, facades are fixed up, business move in, US histiry being honered as it deserves. ‘Visit historic Savannah’ etc the road sign says. Worthwhile. However, the Caterpillars and Volvo dinosaurs are clawing a by-pass around it.

A quiet day on the road? Not really. On the defense continuously.

- A road shoulder mower blasts all its grass onto the road, not a great idea. I move over to the other lans, no oncoming traffic. One huy decides to turn around without seeing me coming. At the last minute he leaves me half a lane to pass.

- Lots of ladies (sorry about that) doing unpredictable things women are (in)famous for. Hitting the brakes at 55 mph when her cell phone goes off and she has to go grab it from somewhere. Or finding out at 60 mph that she has reached her house and needs to brake hard for getting onto her driveway. Or the one who blocks the two lanes of the road to discover she has never learned how to back-up onto her driveway.

- There is a flaw in American road building; somehow the concrete and asphalt is poured by machines that are not matched to the road width – so a ‘vault’ sits right in the middle of a lane, crumbling, filled up here and there, always to be negotiated as riding on it will create unbalance and must be avoided.

- On top of the many hills, danger is always there, tire tracks from hard braking never fail to show up there; the reasons: local roads tend to be build on hill ridges, they cross the main roads precisely where free view is least; I always cut the gas.
The most narrow escape of the day is an accident. Speed is about 55 mph, the 2-lane road curves to the right, can’t see what is coming up, but oncoming cars flash their headlights. Right around the corner, emergency brake. Accident. Police car, two collision cars, blocking half of the lane. Lots of oncoming traffic. Now, braking hard in a turn makes a motorcycle want to get up and go straight. I manage to stop at close distance from the pick-up in front of me. Look in the mirror: bigger pick-up closing in fast. Can’t go anywhere. It stops just in time. If not, if the driver would have been involved in his cell phone talk or whatever, MS and myself would now have been reduced to just 2 dimensions.

MS, she likes its better each day. Speed limit is 65 on some 4-lane sections. She crawls up to 65, ‘give it to me’ is what I feel her telling me. Why not? At about 75 she goes into happy cat mode. The reward for doing well. And having a very regular period. Fill up very 100 – 110 miles. Always a consistent 2.8 gallons. Great girl. I’d ride her to the end of the world.
That end for today is here at Chuck’s place. A warm and hospital welcome.

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