Day 4: Confederates and Moonshiners

‘A man must be very sure of himself before he rides this one’, says a man I ask directions from at about 8 pm yesterday evening. He is not referring to a motorcycle I am riding but to something which I am sitting in and which makes him step back a little; we are in the bible belt. I am in an open, bright pink 70-ties VW convertible with shiny white upholstery in which in Amsterdam or San Francisco you would never ride alone for one minute.
We need directions to an unknown location where we are to meet with Rob van der Touw and his wife (Rob is a Dutch triple rider who lives about an hour from here). Turns out: we are heading up Tennessee 41, Rob is coming down on 31. Great. Ultimately we team up to find out that at our meeting point there is no place to eat and before we know the grocery shop where we decide to get a drink of sorts is closing up. (See Rob’s great reply to the Day 3 post.)
Breaking up, Chuck and I have to find food somewhere. Top down, Chuck goes for it, I lost track of time and miles but we race Porsche-style through the rural darkness to ultimately an oasis of light with an abundance of restaurants. And I mean racing. The beetle has no safety belts, is too light up front so that it seems to be in a constant wheelie mode, needs no slowing down in turns at 50 mph or so and Chuck is steering with his knees while trying to light his cigarette with both hands. From his many stories I know that he is also into high performance dirt track racing, so what me worry? By the time we are home just before midnight, the Beetle’s exhaust is glowing red. How come I feel I just came out of a Thelma and Louisa movie?
Hospitable is of course what I meant to write in the last line of Day 3. ‘Southern hospitality’ is what Chuck calls what in my book is listed as a royal VIP treatment. Chuck is in a continuous state of contagious chuckle, big smile, eyes sparkling; from early morning to late at night. If something doesn’t go right for a change, the word ‘oh crap’ is enough to again release his joie de vivre as the French would say. In the building where Chuck has his many motorized toys, a bit of concern is more common. The bottom-line each time is: ‘I have to make time to work on this one, and on that one, and on this here my favorite’ and so on. And all of that in uncopyable Southern speak I know from movies only. His house should have an historical marker. Built as it is from slave-made hand-made bricks, river clay dried in the sun. The fireplace features even the brick with the day’s production tally by the foreman carved into it.
Triple talk was the air constantly, today. I learn a lot. However, not what I try hardest for: simply getting MS on her center stand. My 140 pounds weight just are not enough help to get it done, Chuck tried hard to coach me, I failed. MS, for the first time in her life, finds out she has brothers and sisters. And I find out that all the very present loud noises coming from her interior that have been so unsettling to me all the time, are actually normal. The clonking, the rattling, That is all very reassuring for the rest of the trip. Also Chuck’s reassurance that I should set aside my petcock paranoia. And him telling me that I – without knowing it – actually carry an insurance against getting stranded in the middle of nowhere: are you an AMA member? Yes I am. Well than you have the right to one tow a year to the nearest Yamaha dealer. (AMA is an American motorcycle organization.) But I did hear his remark to Rob: ‘on a bike more than 25 years old, I wouldn’t do it’.
So, here I am with probably the best expert on triples, and each of his 5 triples needs treatment of some kind. Also the one we take out today to go and visit Jack Daniel’s distillery, about 25 miles from his house. Beautiful machine, about 5.000 original miles on it. Starts fine, takes off fine but by the time we are making miles on the curving and rolling Tennessee hills which Chuck knows as his hip pocket, black smoke is bulging from time to time from his left exhaust together with the shooting sounds from a busy practice field. With about 2,5 cylinders his triple arrives at the historic square of Lynchburg. ‘Oh crap.’ Lynchburg, where would it get its name from? The hanging capital of the Tennessee? The home of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey.
The commercial hype at Graceland. The laid-back slow atmosphere at JD’s. Contrast can’t be greater. A quiet weekday on the distillery. A few tour groups of just about 20 people or so. Men? No mostly women and under the constant interrogation from the guide (27 years on the job) most have to admit that they don’t drink whiskey. What do you drink. Beer, is the most common reply. Well, says the guide in his slow slur Tennesseeean: you look in the mirror and say ‘beer’; pause, we look at each other saying ‘beer’. Now say: ‘whiskeeey’. We all do. See? Two opposite smiley’s.
The tour is a pilgrimage for me. From my chair in my living room back home, I don’t have to get up. JD’s bottle always is within easy reach. The tour I don’t do on my knees, but a sense of devotion is unmistakably present. Two highlights. The fermentation takes place in enormous silos. The guide takes off the enormous lid of one of them, a bit wiggling it to get air flow out of it. Air? A close sniff through the nose followed by a swallow. The 140 proof entering the body is the forebode of a delirium tremens if repeated. This ‘air’ if bottled would be a salable product all by itself. The charcoal silos, maybe 20 feet tall, filled with fine maple charcoal. A few pipes are spanned over them. They drip clear white drops, the whiskey. How long it takes the drop to come out from underneath to be bottled? Then it is ready for bottling. Jack Daniel’s, a very well respected company, the main non-military employer around. Well, ‘between the lines’ we hear the real story. He had a hardware store on the square a few minutes away; didn’t make much money there. At night out in the woods, more money was to be made under the light of the moon. Moon shining continues above ground, now. End of the tour. We all need a drink. It sits there, ready for us: lemonade. Lynchburg and its distillery are in a dry county…..
Riding back through back roads: a Confederate outpost! Confederate flags flying, an old wooden structure hanging onto it self to remain upright. Hit the brakes, would it be safe to go there. I wonder. Without Chuck’s OK, I would not have dared. Walk up slowly. Two wild looking guys up there. Come on, have a beer , they shout. We climb up. Guns on the table. Who are they? Sons of the Confederate Veterans. We don’t qualify. Inside: racks of rifles, ‘we are from the Confederate cavalry’. They look like they just came out of the woods to discover that the civil war was over. On the alert, look-out they are. BANG goes a thunderous shot next to my ears, fire and black smoke, I hit heaven. But we bond. One of the wifes (not present) is Dutch. ‘Her name is Pijper’ he says. The X-rated translation of that name into English, I better leave for you to find out.
As a Tennessee Squire, knighted at JD by special recommendation from Chuck, I have Georgia on my mind for tomorrow.

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