Last night was spent in Wytheville VA and Monday will be pretty much a "get me as close to home as possible" day, just cranking out the miles.
I got on the road about 1/2 hour earlier than I thought...which is a good thing...and I'll gain an hour as I cross into Central Timezone today, so I'm feeling optimistic about how far I can get today, Monday. Today is my birthday, too! I can think of better ways to spend it, but I can also think of worse ways.
Things were going well today so, when I neared Chattanooga, I got a wild hair and decided to exit and head the short distance south to Chickamauga National Battlefield park to get a stamp. While this trip has resulted in collecting many new-to-me stamps (most of the stamps so far this trip have been new-to-me), this would be one I'd visited before. Even so....once again....I missed the turn into the visitor center. It didn't look right, turning into a driveway in front of yellow bricked columned plantation-style house. I didn't remember this. But as soon as I rode a few more feet I recognized the visitor center behind that building. Another U-turn.
But once I got that sorted out, I parked and went inside to get a stamp. Did I mention that today is my birthday?? Well, I now qualify for the senior park pass - a one-time $10 charge for the pass. So I thought I'd buy that pass today, since my regular pass had expired back in March. At $80 per year fee, I opted not to renew, to pay cash if necessary to enter some parks, until I could get my senior pass. But...the volunteer manning the desk said that I'd have to wait for a regular park ranger to return from his lunch break. I wanted to keep moving so opted not to wait.
It was officially now blistering hot. My predetermined destination for the night was somewhere around Meridien or Jackson MS, and I'd play it by ear as I got through Alabama and over the state line into MS.
By Meridien I was pretty much ready to get off the bike, take a shower, and go get some real food for dinner. Besides the later stops each night on this trip, regular meals have been few and far between as well. A Hampton Inn got my business this night and there was an Applebee's within walking distance. Steak and Shrimp combo for dinner, a Samuel Adams Summer brew to wash it down, and a "Triple Chocolate Threat" for dessert.
There was some sort of state track meet going on in town and the hotel marquee welcomed the attendees. As I returned to the hotel after dinner I spotted a few lanky young men heading out into that mid-90's heat, i-pods in hand, for a run. I confess it did make me feel a bit guilty, since I'd not run since leaving Cortland NY nearly a week ago.
Tuesday morning and nowhere to go but straight home. When I stopped for gas in Jackson MS, an overland trucker stopped by to chat a bit, asking me where I was headed. He advised me of all the construction spots on my route and suggested I avoid Baton Rouge. I was seeing traffic delay warnings on my GPS for that area, so I figured he knew what he was talking about. I had considered going through Natchez anyway, and his information just confirmed it for me.
As I was riding along on US-84 totally unimpeded by traffic or other delays, I remembered that there was a national park in Natchez, easily accessed right off of 84. It was a quick and painless stop and netted 3 national park stamps. Once over the Mississippi River, I knew I was nearly home.
US-165 south out of Alexandria LA connects to I-10 just east of Lake Charles and now I'm just a tank of gas away from pulling into my own driveway. I'll be home just at 5:00 PM and just ahead of the rush hour traffic. Home to cat, piles of mail, and a broken air conditioner. Looking on the bright side of the broken A/C is that I've just stepped off of a motorcycle, having ridden in 98-degree heat the last two days, so it wasn't as much of a shock as it would have been had I just stepped out of an air-conditioned car into a boiling hot house. But needless to say, I quickly put a phone call in to Houston Air to schedule a repair call and then peeled off the riding gear, took a refreshing shower and cranked all the ceiling fans up to high speed.
Home at last!
Total miles: 5,002
National Park Tour stats: (start date: 13 June 2010)