Day 14: You Were Great, Let’s Do it Again

MS gets turned on easily in the cool mountain morning. She shows no fear of flying the home stretch of 400 miles from 8.00 – 15.00 hours with only 3 quickie gas stops for her – idling the stops away – and a quart of Coke for myself. She gets turned off on her Bloomington home turf – where she restarts easily, of course…..
The evening before, 23.00 hours. Walking to my room over the vast inner courtyard of the downtown Gatlinburg hotel. Loud rhythmic rock music fills the air – must be heard by the many dozens and dozens of other guests. It spills from the speakers of a black, shiny Harley. Other guests don’t mind, many of them are HD, too. I walk by and get to talk. Two huge shirtless and hairy guys and the slender ‘bitch’ of one or both of them are downing beers in record speed. A gracious handshake from the lady “my step-father is from Holland”. It creates a bond and I am not mutilated right away – even when I tell them I am riding a Yamaha. The lady apparently is a technical expert: ‘All Yamaha’s have that starter problem, even the new ones”.

The guys turn out to be friendly Yogi Bears, except I don’t understand them – and not because of the blaring speakers. I must have come upon a new strain of English. ‘Hahluh’ I guess means Harley, guess is correct. They are from Nouws Curulainuh spending the weekend. And they offer to help me out the next morning with getting started. No need for that, it turns out. I do recruit a Texas cowboy, though, before taking to the road, to help me get MS on her center stand to check oil. Just a minor top-up. MS does her high-performance job without having to call on oil dope.
From the mountains to the hills. Lots of HD bikers on the road. MS has no issue riding with them, powering up the steep and long hills. On the contrary. The base drone of the engine is trance-like. A slight movement of the right wrist generates a strong pick-up or an easy slow-down. High-speed riding at 65-70, MS still does better than 35 miles to the gallon. A marvelous machine.
Three lanes of interstate traffic come to a quick halt. Must be an accident up the road. It is more than 90 F. Nothing moves. What are the various HD’s going to do? Some take to the right shoulder, which is probably highly illegal. No one tries to squeeze between the lines of cars – there is not room enough. Debate? What do I do? Nature forces me onto the right shoulder – thousands of big bugs are around me. More than 1 inch in size. Land on motorcycle and rider. Do they bite, do they sting? I have no idea what they are, but I am not staying. No cops.
Traffic starts to move a bit, I join two HD’s in the regular lanes. They are equipped with big antennas and communication equipment that could serve in a battle HQ in Iraq. One gestures for me to come ride by his side, we inch along. He shouts something about a burned car not too far away. Indeed.
Speed goes up again to around 70 mph. Panic hits. One of the bugs disappears into the right sleeve of my motorcycle jacket. I feel its cool wings slither up my bare arm. Follows a world record breaking high speed to 0 full stop on the interstate shoulder. Shake the bugger out. Not easy. No harm done.
Luck comes my way two-fold.
Itinerary option from Lexington Kentucky: Cincinnati Ohio – Columbus Indiana or Louisville Kentucky – Paoli Indiana? The latter I take, preferring the back roads of Indiana for the last 100 miles or so. Had I chosen otherwise: MS would have had to be rebuilt into a submarine. Rain and thunderstorms flooded towns and roads in a wide belt south of Indianapolis. Roads closed, bridges washed away.
Upon entering Indiana, the Indiana Hills Fairy shows up. She drives a red pick-up, the back of its bed down as if beckoning me to follow her on the roller coaster 2-lane road to Paoli. Pretty steep hills, sharp turns, both at the same time. Long blond hair and an elegant left arm dangle outside her car window. She knows this road! Fast we go, she serves as guiding pilot. Great riding, resembling 441 over Lookout Mountain between Cherokee and Gatlinburg.
No better end to this 3.800 miles (about 6.000 kilometers) Dixie Highway adventure.
All the way to Bloomington we go together.

On 4-lane 37 I pass her, acknowledging her guidance and company.

She remains in my rearview mirrors.

Then she is gone.

I am home.

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