Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Traversing The TAT (Trans-America Trail) Chapter 10

Riding the TAT we’d been in rural areas for quite some time.  But the deeper we ventured into Mississippi, we began to notice that we’d entered another level of rural and got the feeling that we had really passed into an era where time may have stopped for a while.

On the gravel, we found remnants of old farms and homesteads.  It was a little mesmerizing riding through this part of the country.  You could really get the feeling of old-time farming and people scratching a living from farmland carved from the thickly wooded earth.  Each farmer cutting down trees by hand and pulling the stumps with horses or oxen.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

Then suddenly, the farms disappeared.  Fields gave way to forests once again.  Forests partially relented and gave way to water.  We were in the true wetlands of Mississippi.  When I was a kid, we called these places swamps.  We weren’t in a swamp, we were in the true definitions of wetlands.  The swamps of my childhood were a smelly, litter infested, mud and still water mess.  These were different.

Green and brown never mixed in such symmetry.   The brown water was tinged with green and rolled lazily past the shores.  Trees sprouted from the depths of the water on roots that gave the trees a “standing on tip-toes” look.  The roots arched from the water forming a triangular base from which the tree trunk sprouted.  Although they provided a platform out of the water for the tree trunk, the moss-covered roots reached away from the base and dove into the water.  A clear sign that the tree needed water to survive.  These rounded tubular roots were a natural straw, feeding the ever-growing trees life-giving nutrients and fluids.    It was a great example of the circle that is life, be it human or otherwise.

We stopped to take a few pictures of this natural wonder and in the 30 minutes that we were taking pictures, not a single soul passed by.  We were enjoying our frozen moments, but we had to get moving in order to make it to the Arkansas border for the day.

Before we knew it, we had transitioned into back onto hard surfaced roads and farms once again began made began dotting the landscape.  Most were fairly large and crossing from one to the next took some time.  We had passed several and as we rounded a corner and headed down a straight stretch of road, we came across a somewhat immovable object.  There was a very large animal standing in the middle of the road.

Tracy had already ridden by the large animal but the rest of us were stuck behind.  Kim saw it before I did and said into her communicator, “Oh look, there’s a cow in the road.”   I paid more attention than I had been and sure enough, there was a very large animal standing in the middle of the road.  I muttered into my comm back to Kim, “Um Kim, that’s not a cow, it’s a bull.”  “Oh” was the somewhat unimpressed response.  But the bull wasn’t going anywhere fast and he was in a somewhat testy mood.  He stood his ground and stared directly at us.

Somewhat surreal, in a fenced field beside the road, a group of cows and calves stood at rapt attention watching and waiting to see what might happen.  While the cows watched from the side of the road, the bull watched us and we watched the bull.  We yelled at him and revved our engines, but still he remained unmoved.  Now we were stuck.  What could we do to get this bull’s attention and make him move?  After a lot of shouting and revving of engines, I decided that we had to do something different.  What could we do?  There was only one thing left to do.  I reached over to my handlebar and gave my NH approved street legal horn a blast.  Said horn was of the rubber bulb type normally associated with little children’s bicycles.

After about the 6th “honk”, the bull slowly walked to the side of the road and stared into the brush.  MaryLee took off in a flash and was past.  Kim and I revved our engines, I engaged the clutch and…  stalled my bike.  Great!  I immediately pushed the starter button and… silence.  My battery was now dead, it had given up but we hadn’t.  I kick started the bike furiously and it caught on the fifth or sixth kick and we were off.

With the bull facing to the right we rushed to the left side of the road and we were quickly past.  Not happy with trespass, the bull immediately turned left and started chasing us!  He followed for about 50 yards and then stopped.  But in the end, I guess he felt had to show his bull chivalry and put on a show for the cows who had been watching.

With the bull dispatched, the next item on the agenda was to try to find a replacement battery for my KTM.  I thought to myself, “Oh great, we’re out in the wilds of Mississippi.  Where are we going to find a motorcycle shop and better still, one that is familiar with KTMs.   As we trundled on, I resigned myself to kick starting my little KTM each time we stopped.

We hadn’t been back on the road for more than an hour when Kim called through the communicator, “Look on your left!”  I didn’t see anything and motored on.  She said “Turn around, there’s a KTM shop on the left!”  Amazed, I said, “What?  Did you say that there was a KTM shop?”  “Yes!” somewhat loudly she responded, “turn around we’re going to pull in.”

I made a very rapid U-turn and sure enough, it was a combination farm store and motorcycle shop, complete with KTMs!  I couldn’t believe our luck.  I walked to the back of the store to the parts counter and asked them if they had a battery for a KTM 250XCF-w.  Sure as heck, they did.  They also had oil, filters and other miscellaneous parts that would come in handy.  While I waited for the other parts I wanted, little did I know that Tracy had taken the battery, had it installed and I was ready to go.  Wow, he had done that in the stifling heat and had never said a word about it.  I was so grateful, I didn’t know what to say other than thank you.  True friends are amazing.  With a new battery in place, the bike fired right up and we were back on the road and hightailing it to our rest stop for the evening, a moored riverboat that was also a casino.  The best part, only about $40 a night.

As we motored on towards the casino, we decided that the heat was too much and we needed to stop get into some air conditioning and quench our thirsts.  We found a small roadside market and went inside.  There we met some of the nicest people.  One gentleman came over and sat down at our table and asked us where we were from.  We told him a little about our trip and he told us about himself, his family and his farm.  I was a great little chat, and I think he wanted to invite us over to his house for dinner, but just couldn’t get that part out.

It was just as well, as we’d walked into the market, there on the counter were two large gallon jars filled with picked pigs lips and pickled pigs feet.  Help yourself.  We just couldn’t bring ourselves to try that delicacy.  But others had enjoyed it because both jars were only partially filled.

Having had a nice chat and cooled of in the air conditioning, we walked outside once again into the thick and muggy air.  Kim was just finishing off her Coke when she decided that her “cool vest” had dried out.  These vests are made to cool by being immersed in water and then as you move through the air, the water evaporates and cools you.  “No worries”, I said, and quickly readied my hydration system to cool Kim off.  One of the nice things about my hydration system is that it keeps the water fairly cold, especially when it had been filled to the brim with ice cubes that morning.

Before she could say anything, I had the hydration system going and ice cold water was shooting out at her.  At first I don’t think she knew what to do.  Be angry or be happy that she was being sprayed with ice cold water.  Luckily for me, she liked it more than the initial shock and ultimately asked me to spray her all over.  But I must tell you, when the water first hit her, her expression was priceless.  Surprise, dread and relief all at the same. I was a wonderful sight and one that Tracy caught on film.  It is one of my keepsakes from the trip that she and I now both enjoy.

A couple of hours later, we were pulling into the parking lot with our dusty and dirty little machines.  We parked in front and went inside to the front desk outside of the casino.  After about 15 minutes, we had our rooms and headed to the bikes to get our gear.  We asked the doorman where we should put our bikes and he said, “Leave them right there, We’ll keep an eye on them for you.”  Wow, we’d never been treated like that and after gathering our gear to go to our rooms, we left the filthy bikes next to the sparkling clean limousines.    What a great scene!

Even better was our walk to our rooms.  To get there, we had to walk through the casino.  With people sitting at tables and at slots, we “moseyed” our way though.  Some people were dressed to the nines and we had our own attire.  Dusty riding pants and pressure suits were our wardrobe and they created a bit of a surreal picture.  I just had to stop to take a picture of Kim.  It came out wonderfully with Kim’s bright smile and dusty gear providing an amazing contrast to the well dressed people, flashing lights and ringing bells.

We’d had a long day, and it was time to turn in for a good nights rest.  For tomorrow, we would make our way into Arkansas and start another hot humid day on the TAT.

2 responses

  1. itsmewilly

    Oh,boy ! I so enjoyed your description of the wetlands, the bull interlude and you guys crossing that casino in your gear through all these fancy people (We had once a similar situation in a restaurant in Spain plus we wore military waterproof overalls and only when I took mine off did people realize I was a woman, a very uncommon situation for riders in the early 60s there). While reading your “report” I kept thinking THIS is the way to get to know these United States ! And your pictures, priceless ! Looking very much forward to the next segment…

    Like

    July 1, 2013 at 8:53 am

    • Thanks Willy for your very kind words. We’re glad you are enjoying our posts and we enjoy reading your comments. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave them.

      All the best,

      Mike and Kim

      Like

      July 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm

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