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Sep
09
Category: Travel to USA

The day was cooler than we have had since heading north and warmed slowly and was comfortable overall. We have continued riding through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia and a slight change in colour is becoming slightly more obvious and this afternoon leaf litter on the ground was getting evident and we were enjoying a confetti effect on the quieter roads. Lovely. We spent a good part of the day on Route 311 which was a treat. Lots of little settlements of varying size and stature. We even saw a small number of cattle grazing and one very small flock of sheep. Getting into more country where one’s efforts need to be self-sustaining I suspect. We were told if we went to White Sulphur Springs we would be able to find the boneyard for the ‘Barnyard Builders’ show. We found the town but not the timber but loved the roads.

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An unusual truck and axle configuration. No idea what it is or what it does.

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Morning coffee in Salem and we were impressed with the Roanoke College Buildings everywhere

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Great hills to climb up and down, yum.

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Lovely country view USA style.

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And another one.

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Paint Banks settlement had some lovely buildings and a quirky Swing Bridge café at the general store for lunch.

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Great barns still in use.

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Quirky bridge … and Norm in place obviously … wondered where he got to.

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Village of Bacya, all kinds of cute and quirky. Loved a roadside sign which said, ‘Drive like your Kids live here’.

And tonight, we are staying in the Barley Suite in the Millers House at the Inn at Gristmill Square. This is the restaurant where I plan to have a well-deserved drink very soon.


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Sep
08
Category: Travel to USA

he day started comfortably cool but warmed up rapidly though not as hot overall as yesterday. We travelled largely on country roads though a few were dual lane, even so we encountered very little traffic until we were on the Interstate and heading for Marion this afternoon. We loved travelling through the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina and then on into Virginia. Amazed at how much grass and farmland we have seen including hay bales in evidence and no cattle at all. Okay the countryside was predominantly forest but even so, it feels weird for us. At one stage we doubled back for a few kilometres not being able to find the connection to a town we were headed for but were rewarded with travelling along the Windy Gap Lane. What a treat! It was so pretty and at least as windy as the Dragon Tail yesterday just not for the same distance and there were heaps of little settlements barns and buildings …. Again, no cattle but saw one property with 3 donkeys so we suspect tree changer rather than long term local. Sort of confirms the feedlot beef theory except for big Texas country perhaps.

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This one’s for Norm. A bad ass ute he saw in the carpark with all sorts of things that wouldn’t be allowed at home.

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Some of many specie cars in the hotel carpark this morning. The owner of the Ford introduced himself as Joe Hatfield, the great grandson of William Anderson ‘Devil Anse’ Hatfield who was part of the original Hatfield & McCoy feud. He told me Kevin Costner played his Great Grandfather in the movie.

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And not to be outdone one of the theatre dinner options in Pigeon Forge is the feud itself.

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Beyond Lens, typical of some of the ‘out there’ family entertainment in town.

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Heading out of town Norm was impressed with this.

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The sign is self-explanatory, in the town where we stopped or a cold drink.

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A stretch of wildflowers sown along one of the dual lanes in the median strip.

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One of many barns, all timber in all sorts of condition.

Typical of the views on the Windy Gap Lane.

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A view from an Overlook in North Carolina. Was a specie bit of road, steep grades and 2 runaway truck runoffs. The first was in line with the road but the second headed off at such an angle if a runaway truck tried to get in it laying it on its ide would be inevitable. A bit weird.

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We’ve seen the start of some colour showing in trees and Norm returned from the Overlook with some evidence of it.

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We’re staying tonight in an Historic Hotel, the Francis Marion Hotel, a lovely old building in a quaint little town of approximately 6,000 people.


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Sep
07
Category: Travel to USA

Today we headed off with a plan to find a famous road / ride for motorcycles called the Dragon / Tail of the Dragon (US129) situated in North Carolina and Tennessee which has a staggering 380 curves in an 11mile stretch with 12% grades and 15 – 20mph corners. All kinds of awesome. Not surprisingly we found all the motorcycles we hadn’t seen since we got here and the road to and from it were also some of our favourites with sweeping corners, gentle grades and beautiful shaded green surrounds. Very reminiscent of our previous ride down the Skyline Drive / Ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were grateful for the shade as it was quite hot.

We were surprised to get into Pigeon Ford and find a massively bustling Gold Coast on Steroids! There are theme parks and musical and theatre options with meals all over the place, but I think we will opt for a quiet dinner in. Felt like it was a big day.

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As we headed off to find our road we rode alongside the Ocoee River and multiple dams and hydro facilities. Lots of white-water rafting opportunities and Zip lines available. This was an opportunity to get close enough for photos.  

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And again.

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Fuel stop and we discovered Doc from the Cars movie. Unfortunately to quote his owner and restorer “she just laid down on me”.

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We found green surrounds and shade nearly all day but had our hands full on the Dragon Tail, so this is a shot before we got there.

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The Tail of the Dragon.

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Some only of the 100 plus bikes parked up at the Den....and look at that a Triumph Rocket converted to a trike!

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The Tree of Shame commemorating silliness and tragedy.

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The Sculpted depiction of the Dragon.

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Signs to Motorcycle Heaven, well somewhere to stay and eat called the Den.

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One of the Dam walls from an Overlook (scenic outlook) as we start to descend.

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Some of the silliness in Pigeon Forge, King Kong.

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We are staying the night at the Music Road Resort, Pigeon Forge and as you see you don’t have to go to Cuba to see old cars. There were quite a few here.


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Sep
06
Category: Travel to USA

We have had a quiet day as well as exploring just a little. We were treated to a personal tour of the Chattanooga Station by Marvin a concierge who has worked here forever and was delighted to say he visited Sydney 2 years ago. The whole station and hotel are fascinating and so much of the city here has obviously been laid out around the many rail lines and associated infrastructure that came with that. Chattanooga has a population of approximately 175,00 compared to Bendigo approximately 140,000 and Birmingham yesterday of approximately 300,000.

We discovered the free electric shuttle literally outside the door of the hotel so that meant we got to explore much of the city highlights in comfort. The temperature is hot again today (in the 90’sF) but not as humid as it was further south thank heavens.

We plan to have dinner in the Brewhouse in the Terminal building beside out hotel. A very quirky shaped building as many are having been constructed around the railway transport hub. In the civil war the North tried on several occasions to take over the city so they would control the railway but didn’t manage to do so. Was no doubt a huge strategic advantage for the South although as history shows it wasn’t enough.

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The NEW station (1907) with12 platforms and 14 lines coming into it. The plans were on the wall of our room.

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This photo was in the lobby and shows the massive turntable complex used.

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Breakfast at the Frothy Monkey (& lunch) great use of some of the station space.

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Tennessee Aquarium.

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Statue beside the river commemorating the Cherokee Nation who lived in the area for 10,000 years before they were evicted reservations in Florida along what came to be called the ‘Trail of Tears’. Very sad.

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There is an Incline Railway from the base of Lookout Mountain which is steep and then the last part before the summit is a 72.7% incline so seriously steep. This is halfway up where the cars pass.

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Warehouse Row, once warehouses, now very specie department store.

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And some great silos, wouldn’t they look great painted up like they are at home!

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Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. The tag line is More than a Hotel and indeed it is. You can stay in a rail carriage or opt for the hotel rooms like we did and the gardens where the platforms and rail lines used to be are called the Glen Miller Gardens and are the location for concerts during the summer, Jazz I suspect.


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Sep
05
Category: Travel to USA

Well we started out trying to get onto country roads again but after several false starts and detours with closed exits for roadworks we headed out on the Interstate for a bit. We were amazed to see 2 separate wide loads in the city of Birmingham under Police Escort at 8.30am … wouldn’t happen at home but it was no great disruption so clearly the authorities don’t get as precious here … or they have a better appreciation that industry needs to be able to operate to enhance productivity.

We soon got onto country roads and had a lovely ride through lovely leafy glades and farmlands. It seems weird seeing lots of grass and yet not seeing cattle grazing!  We travelled through Anniston, Cedartown, Rome and Sommerville on the way into Chattanooga and what a treat it was to arrive at the hotel with the reception in the old Railway Station and several suites in old carriages as well as rooms behind where we are. There were originally 12 platforms here which must have been awesome. Thankfully a lot of the platforms have been preserved and courtyard gardens now replace some of the lines, but it still has great character.

Feeling for the people down the North and South Carolina coastline today with Hurricane Dorian impacting them with lots of wind rain and storm surges. Glad we rode down there last week and are the other side of the Appalachians this week so safely out of reach.

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On the Interstate.

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A water view, one of many.

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Great Patriotism in view everywhere we travel.

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Rome was a quirky place … note the serious rumble strip beside the fog line. They are gouged out of the surface and are all over the place and only vary in size between the states.

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Norm has a theory that the shortest possible measurable time is between when a red traffic light lights up and someone toots their horn, he has also stated that the next shortest possible time is between when a green light lights up and I shout ‘go go’. Not to be outdone today when a light turned green and I was beside him he shouted ‘go go’ at the top of his lungs and frightened the living crap out of me. I was compelled to overtake him at the first available opportunity and give him the finger… as one would expect.

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At the hotel, quite an entrance and thankfully in the shade … it was VERY hot.

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The dome within the entry.

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Registering.

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T

Looking from the foyer out to the courtyard between platforms.

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More of the courtyard.

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Chattanooga Station complete with steam train.

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And in the American brewed beer carriage doing the blog. Someone must support the local industry and we were happy to do it.


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Sep
04
Category: Travel to USA

We weren’t travelling anywhere today but had the bikes booked in for an oil change at 9am and used the opportunity to check out a little bit of Birmingham before the day got too hot.

The Birmingham area was founded on the basis that it had abundant supplies of coal iron ore and limestone so the right ingredients for making steel and forging (if you’ll pardon the pun) it’s future as a powerhouse of industry. The depression hit heavily but the need for WWII munitions and shipping saw the fortunes of industry revived again. We visited Vulcan Park and Museum which was interesting and covered the industrial history as well as the towns part in the fight for justice and equality, medical breakthroughs and advanced technology.

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Vulcan Park, and this is the statue of Vulcan.

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Birmingham from the lookout at Vulcan Park.

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The only remaining Pig Iron factory in town zoomed in from the lookout. Apparently the molten iron was poured into sand shells and the layout looked like piglets suckling a sow, hence the nick-name of ‘pig iron’ or so the story goes.

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A view out over the park, beautifully maintained.

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A work shot near the bike shop.

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And our hotel the Hilton Garden Inn, just across the road from a massive Children’s Hospital.


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Sep
03
Category: Travel to USA

We’ve had a hot day of riding today with temperatures near the 100F. Glad we got some directions from Kev’s friends of some country roads to use to avoid a lot of Interstates and the bonus this morning was that they were also nice and shaded. Lots of forests, logging and farming areas with hay, silage, sale yards, signs of bull sales …and no cattle in sight so is that because a. there are only hobby farmers properties next to the roads and therefore no cattle visible? I suspect not or b. the cattle activity here is in feedlots not close to the roads … more than likely I suspect. Have continued to see lots of eagles today, I think we’ve seen way more this trip than any other so not sure why that is since we have previously been in predominantly country areas, but we’re enjoying it anyway.

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Had to take a pic of the Ranger with the fire warning, reminded us of the Yogi Bear cartoons.

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Our very first drive in / ride in restaurant. 

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Gave Norm a chance to replace my headlight globe in the shade.

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Coffee spot ... we didn't see any flying pigs but soaked up the airconditioning in the 100F heat.

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The Smith County Court House and Veterans Memorial in Raleigh.

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Fuel stop and loved the No Solicitors sign … obviously means no Soliciting but it cracked me up.

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Saw many convoys of Electric Transmission line vehicles heading for the coast for post hurricane repair. This is a small one. Also saw semi-trailers full of electric transformers. Felt quite emotional seeing these guys heading to the turmoil. The hurricane stalled over the Bermuda Islands with the eye of the hurricane in place over land for 36 - 40 hours. Incredible! The hurricane is expected to skate up the east coast along the east side of Florida (all areas of the state are declared under a state of emergency)… we will see how things look tomorrow but no apparent danger to usaas we are well to the west of there and on the other side of the Applaachians.

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And the tag on the back of the cab took Norm’s fancy ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.


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Sep
02
Category: Travel to USA

Well we have had a couple of lovely days chilling (if you can do that in Hammond) with Kevin and Matt Grace, family and friends. It was great to catch up with Tamara and some of her rellies also. We enjoyed a ‘shrimp boil’ and we survived the spices though I nearly managed to choke after eating some onion … dumb move, should have realised onions are full of water, in this case very spicy water, sure cleaned the old sinuses out. The weather has been very hot and humid as it is in Darwin. We plan to head off around 7am in the morning to get north before it gets too hot. Likely come into some rain compliments of activity of Hurricane Dorian on the way. Have enjoyed a brief respite from the bikes, much napping and reading.

Man that onion was hot!!!

And that's what we're eating at the Shrimp Boil. The bits at the top are caulifolower which is added to the pot late to soak up the spices ... yeah well nice theory, the onion was $#^&**$@!

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And Norm decided to tackle the bikes for a bit of a clean before we take them to get an oil change ... but the humidity was so high the polish wouldn't dry to be polished off. Crazy.

And here are the Graces with us. Tamara, Kevin and Matt, Chris  being at the airforce base where he has started his career.


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Aug
31
Category: Travel to USA

With the long weekend drawing many tourists to the coast we decided instead of heading south east we would head west to avoid any queuing in traffic late in the heat of the day along the coast and struck out through Waynesboro before heading south. It was a lovely ride through country roads with very little traffic until we got onto the more major highways. The communities we travelled through overall appeared more affluent than a lot we had seen yesterday and as always the larger towns appeared to be in better shape than tiny rural communities.

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Cute little coffee spot, Grove Hill. Not much action in town as you can see.

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And this is the tail end of about 15 bikes in a group, one of only two groups we have seen. VERY few bikes to be seen anywhere and all these great roads. Go figure!

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Lovely country road ups and downs through the forest.

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The sign for Coffeeville (glad we had already had our coffee) the sign was the best thing about the town .. well at least what we could see from the road anyway.

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Yet another specie bridge.

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And yep I’m coming as well in the mirror.

 

And a sign at a fuel up stop. You may remember we had seen many signs at the likes of McDonald stores last trip of ‘no loitering past 20mins’. I have a theory about that, they had just started with the McCafé’s at that time here and there were a lot of senior citizen groups in evidence drinking coffee. Well, no signs like that anymore, and no soft seats, all hard plastic and air-conditioning that would freeze your bits off. Problem solved!


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Aug
30
Category: Travel to USA

Humid again and oh my God hot as well. I thought my head was going to explode! We pulled in to fuel up across the road from our hotel and I cooled down sufficiently to get to the hotel. Thought I was a bit of a sook and sometime later when I got my phone out of the pannier it was unbelievably hot so perhaps not.

We managed to take more of the country roads today and the roads themselves were lovely and windy and beautiful surface but the view between forest areas and fields was depressing in the smaller townships we travelled through. We travelled south of Montgomery through Greenville and then onto Evergreen. Like so many other rural areas we have seen both here and at home there is evidence of communities which are coming to grips with the reality that they are no longer sustainable with the corporatisation of agriculture and forestry, dwindling job numbers, alternative opportunities and family sized businesses being a casualty of the system. Reminiscent of the crofters moving off the land in Scotland, obviously different circumstances with landlords there but the result of empty deteriorating communities is the same. Sad.

Amid seemingly nowhere but at the crossroads of several roads way past lunchtime we came across a Buffet which was a bit quirky and doing a roaring trade. Have added a couple of pics.

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An example of some of the better real estate south of Montgomery.

 

A work shot … check out the sleeper cab!

 

Another work shot of a log truck around the Greenville area. They have a huge overhang.

 

 

Our lunch spot. The T Shirts worn by staff have a pic of an old couple on the back, he says "where do ya wann go for dinner" she says "It don't matter".

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And an interesting sign on the door.

 

A very sad sight in Greenville, one of many.

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Greenville theatre apparently still open … hope so.

 

We stayed at the Econo Lodge Inn & Suites.


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