|Wisconsin Highway 169 in Iron County|
Trail of Tears
It’s Monday and since earlier in the year I have been posting a story about a trip I’ve taken in hopes of leading the reader to this place through my words. Today I want to fill in the blanks around my latest motorcycle trip. After all, I was gone fifteen days and the Trail of Tears ride was only three days of it.
I left on the Thursday over a week before the scheduled ride in Chattanooga, TN. I loaded my motorcycle’s saddlebags for two weeks plus on the road. Mrs. Spadoman left as well in the trusty Ford Focus,(40 mpg), and we rendezvoused in Saint Paul, MN, 200 miles from home at the youngest daughter’s place.
Daughter Jayne gets a visit every so often from Mom and Dad and this was a good time to get together with her since the friend I was going to ride with down to Chattanooga lives in Saint Paul and I had to go there to start my journey. Besides, I needed to do a little shopping anyway for some items I wanted for my trip. Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the Twin Cities offered more choices than the small townish Ashland, Wisconsin where I live.
Thursday night had Barb, Jayne and I out to dinner and a good visit. Friday had me shopping around the Cities and hanging out at the old J&S Coffee Shop and visiting with old friends. Friday evening, we gathered with my traveling companion and made final preparation for the actual motorcycle trip.
We were to leave on Monday, a full 6 days before we needed to be there. We would take scenic routes for the most part and stay off the super slab Interstate highways. Since Steve runs a business, we would delay leaving until he got some work done he had to do before he left his business in the capable hands of employees for the next two weeks.
But that Saturday and Sunday before we left, I went to Hastings, MN and attended the 8th Annual Veterans Honoring Pow Wow which is held at the Minnesota Veterans Home. I have attended almost all eight years. The weather this year was a little damp and cool. People come to this event in small numbers. It has not turned in to a gala affair. But it has all the parts and pieces that make it a real Pow Wow. Drum groups with singers, dancers in regalia, raffles, laughter, tears and fry bread.
At this particular Pow Wow, the flags of deceased Veterans are brought in and run up the eight flagpoles that are placed around the arena. The name of the Veteran is read aloud as their coffin flag is raised and flown for the day. Fellow Veterans in attendance are in charge of raising the flags for the families that brought them. I had the honor of attending one of the flagpoles and helped a brother raise a flag of a Marine who died in Vietnam. There were flags this year from Gulf War Veterans, WW2, Korea and Vietnam.
The Pow Wow starts with a Grand Entry. Eagle Staffs are carried into the arena and followed by the American and other flags, then the outfitted dancers, all the while the great drum beating and men singing words and vocables in Dakota language. I am moved every time I take a place in this celebration. This year, I was asked to carry in an Eagle staff representing a children's group from the Prairie island Dakota people. It was my first such honor. I felt very proud to be considered trustworthy to do such a chore by the family that cares for the staff when it is not in use. I held my head up proudly and with great honor.
|Raising the flag of a deceased Veteran at the Hastings, Minnesota Pow Wow, Sept. 2005|
The weekend went by, mostly spending time at the Pow Wow. Then Monday morning, I packed the finishing touches on my already loaded motorcycle and waited for my friend to be ready to leave. We headed down the road at around 11:00AM. It was 52 degrees and a light mist followed us for most of the day as we rode South from Saint Paul into Iowa. Actual hard rain here and there and some blue sky between the heavy clouds also appearing in places.
We stopped for gas around every 150 miles or so. Steve would pay to fill up both bikes one time, then I’d take a turn. We rode down to the bottom of Iowa and into the town of Keokuk and got a motel for the night. We dried out anything we had that was wet and lounged around after we ate dinner.
Tuesday morning sent us South for more scenic beauty along the Mississippi River and into Hannibal, MO. We found a coffee shop and stopped in. My Grandfather on my Mother’s side settled in Hannibal when he came here from Italy at the turn of the twentieth century. I engaged a local in conversation. I was advised to come back to Hannibal at some point and search the county records for information about my ancestors there.
We kept up our pace in hopes of driving out of the blustery misting and rain and cooler than normal temps by heading straight South. We skirted St. Louis and continued down on US Highway 61. As we stopped for gas and breaks, my partners motorcycle seemed to be laboring to get started again. We stopped in Cape Girardeau, MO at a Harley Davidson dealer. It was late in the afternoon.
The dealer checked things out and the prognosis was a bad starter. They did not have one in stock but they worked diligently and found us a shop that had one and would install it the next morning if we were there when they opened. It was around 250 miles away in Jackson Tennessee. It was already getting on towards evening and we didn’t plan on traveling that way, but our choices were made for us in the face of the bad starter situation.
We had planned on going to the River and crossing at a ferry crossing at Dorena, MO. I had heard about the Dorena/Hickman ferry from other rider friends of mine who had taken it earlier this Summer. It was out of the question now. We didn’t want the bike to be trying to start and failing as we got off the ferry boat in Hickman, Kentucky. We went straight to Jackson and arrived a little after dark on Tuesday night.
The next morning was great. I called an old friend I knew in Memphis. I have been e-mailing and talking on the phone to this person over the past few years. I served with him in Vietnam in 1969. His name is Larry and I haven’t seen him in 37 years. I called him and he decided to drive the 90 miles from Memphis to Jackson and get together for breakfast as we waited to get my friend’s motorcycle repaired.
It worked out fine. I got to see an old friend. My partner got his bike repaired and we were back on the road by noon on Wednesday. I told Steve in the motel that a friend was going to meet us for breakfast. Steve asked me how I knew this guy. I told him it was a guy I served in Vietnam with. Steve then asked when was the last time I saw him. When I told him I hadn’t seen him in 37 years his jaw dropped out of site. He seemed more nervous than I was.
The visit was short and sweet. We talked about the people we both knew and any contact that we have had with them. We skirted talk about the war tragedies themselves. We did put our two-cents worth about the current political situation. And although he tends to lean right I and tend to lean left, we came away agreeing that we gotta get rid of the incumbents. It was good visit. It gave me peace in my mind all through the day riding through the hills of Tennessee towards Chattanooga on two-lane highways.
We stopped at a small grocerette along the highway for a cold drink. The sun had been shining and the weather was warming up nicely. The old store was still there with the signage, but when we went inside there was an elderly couple standing behind a counter and a sign that told us about Margo's Fried Pies
We both had one. They were great. Margo made the pie crust dough from scratch. She’d spread the filling, peach apple or chocolate, onto the dough, then put another piece over the top and seal the edges. She fired them in an old electric Sunbeam frying pan from the 1950’s. It came out like a quesadilla, flat kind of, and fried until cooked and tender but not crispy.
Margo and husband were old timers and enjoyed visiting with the people on the road that stopped in. They told us of their 100 acre farm where they live. Margo also put by jars of lime pickles. We bought one of these and stopped down the road at a small creek and made a pot of coffee and ate the whole jar. These were good too.
We pulled into Chattanooga around 5:00PM. We had a reservation at a campground at the base of Lookout Mountain. We rented one of those camper cabins. A small cabin with mattresses on bunk beds. We rolled out our sleeping bags and had a place for the three nights we would be in Chattanooga before we left on the big ride on Saturday.
By this time, a bad tooth had me in a lot of pain. I had been dealing with it the whole way so far and thought I could endure with Tylenol and Advil. After a sleepless night, I awoke and found directions to a VA clinic. I went in first thing in the morning and asked for dental care for my painful tooth. The VA is my HMO insurance as I am a disabled Veteran. They put me in a chair and said that since I had no appointment I’d have to wait until someone could see me.
I was there a total of four hours. I left with a numb mouth from novacaine, a hole in my tooth where the abscess had been drained, a bottle of antibiotics and a bottle of pain pills. I waited until I got back to the campsite and started taking the pills. I crashed and slept on and off for the next day and a half waiting for the pain to go away. It finally did by Friday afternoon and I got ready for the motorcycle ride for the Trail of Tears.
All our plans to ride the area and the Smoky Mountains were crushed as I had to recoup from the toothache. But I was out of pain and ready to ride Saturday morning. It was a great ride as I previously described in another post. Suffice it to say that I think I’ll try and do it again next September.
After the ride over Saturday, Sunday and Monday, I found myself in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Tuesday morning and sitting with my motorcycle at the service entrance to the Route 66 Harley Davidson dealer there. I had sheared off a bolt on my exhaust manifold and needed repairs to continue my ride towards home. They got my bike into the shop as they do often for travelers that are in need of repairs.
Steve had come with me the 40 miles from Okmulgee, the end of the Trail of Tears ride, to Tulsa. He waited around for me for a while. Another friend from the Twin Cities came up and they both left for Minnesota. I was at the Tulsa dealer until around 4:00PM when I finally got my fully repaired bike out of the shop.
|My old 2004 Dyna Super Glide Sport in 2006|
I headed down the road along I-44 towards Joplin, MO. I spent the night there and rode through some beautiful Missouri countryside along US 54 to Jefferson City, then North on US 63 towards Iowa, Minnesota and into Wisconsin going home. US 63 ends at Lake Superior at US Hwy 2, just a few miles from my house in Ashland.
I did spend the night in Ottumwa, Iowa. That’s the town Radar of MASH fame was from if you remember your trivia lessons well. The weather was cool again as I headed North. But the rain had held off for the time being. Thursday morning, I left early and pulled into Ashland around 4:00PM. I was chilled pretty good as I had been sitting in a 75 mile per hour wind since 7:15AM. That 75 MPH wind created by the speed of my trusty Dyna Glide. I did have another small problem on Wednesday. It was in the afternoon. I had to use a restroom drastically. I pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot and parked the bike. That’s one thing the Mac and Don’s is good for, a bathroom. When I got out and back to my bike, I had a very low, almost completely flat tire on the rear.
I didn’t get excited and through a short series of a visit to a NAPA auto parts store and some information from a clerk there, and a couple of phone calls, a local cycle repair guy named Bunch had me back on the road in an hour and a half and only charged me $25.00. I gave Mr. Bunch $40.00 and thanked him. I headed out back towards the North and home.
Life on the road with your motorcycle. What a concept. You experience the land you travel through. The total environment. There is no such thing as ‘bad’ weather unless it’s extreme like a tornado or something of that magnitude. Cold and rain put you in one frame of mind and warm and sunny in another, but I can’t find anything “bad” about either. Of course I was prepared with proper gear for the conditions and that helps with the phycological aspect of the affair.
All in all it was a wonderful journey. I had been looking forward to it for months. Now that it’s over and the weather is cooling off, riding season might be coming to a quick end up here in the Northland. It was a great way to end the motorcycle season, a ride like that was.
I have other plans now. Got to spend some time with the family. This winter I’ll head down to New Mexico with the Harley on the trailer and do some riding down there. For now, the machine sits covered in front of the West side Workshop here in Ashland, Wisconsin.
This was written in Fall of 2005. Since then, much has changed. The Trail of Tears organizers have gone into a feud and now there are two rides with competing organizations. I don’t have any desire to return to do this ride. HERE and HERE are the links for the two rides. Both mention their differences. What do you think?
I sold my Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide and bought a 2008 Triumph Tiger. A much superior motorcycle on all levels except the mystique.
|Grandson DJ and I on the Triumph Tiger, 2009 photo|
I’ll be leaving soon on a Fall journey. I’ll be headed to New Mexico. More on this in a couple of days.
In the meantime, may peace find your heart today and for the rest of your life.