The moment I realized our little plan of riding the Natchez Trace Parkway was actually going to pan out, I started reading everything I could to find out about this historical road. While I was in school, I was too interested in boys and parties to pay attention, but now that I'm older and wiser (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!) I've turned into a sponge that loves soaking up as much history and knowledge that I can. We decided to ride up to Nashville and begin our journey from the north end and make our way south to Natchez. We'd figure out how we want to go home later, since a lot would depend on how tired we felt and how much time we spent on the Trace.
We took off by mid afternoon Wednesday and headed up I-65 North. We prefer country roads to the interstate, but we wanted to make time and get to Nashville before dark so we decided to forgo any dallying and just get there. Still getting settled in for a nice 4 1/2 hour ride, I was going through things in my head like socks, undies, t-shirts... check. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste... check. Money, maps... check, check. Right about then... things got a little dicey.
Let me set the stage for you so you can understand the events as they unfolded. Harley and I were clipping along in our usual comfortable formation, keeping up a pretty good pace with several cages and 18 wheelers. While we were in the left passing lane going around one of these trucks, Harley was behind one semi, I'm behind Harley, and another semi was behind me. We are all passing semi number three. I was probably about a car length behind the truck we are passing when I noticed the lead truck tap his brakes. Harley moved over quickly to the left while pointing behind him with his right hand, as if to say, "get behind me". I noticed some pieces of tire rubber bouncing around on the pavement and realized instantly, the truck we were passing must be losing a tire. I ducked behind the fairing and windshield and moved over, easing off the throttle just a little, and glancing in my mirror at that big boy on my ass. At this moment, I was even with the back end of the trailer when I heard a loud boom and saw white smoke come billowing up from all his tires. Now I'm dodging giant size pieces of black rubber and squeezing my ass cheeks so hard, you couldn't have pulled me off that seat. That's when I saw the trailer slide over rather quickly and made rough contact with the right guard rail. Holy shit! Smoke, rubber and road grit were flying all around me, but in that instant I heard Harley throttle up loud and clear, and I just followed suit. As I gave it the gas, I looked in my mirror and saw that the trucker who was following me was doing his best to give me room, and the poor dude driving the disabled truck was doing all he could to get his rig stopped.
All this happened in a matter of seconds, but it felt like a slow motion nightmare. As we left this fiasco behind, we noticed that no other vehicles where coming up behind us and we wondered what else may have happened when things got jammed up. We pulled off at a rest area 5 miles up the road so we could gather our nerves and settle down from the adrenaline rush we were both experiencing. As we talked about it, Harley told me he saw something big laying in that right lane and that's what the 18 wheeler ran over. Whatever it was must have cut his brake lines, locking up his wheels and causing all hell to break loose. Harley thought the truck was starting to jack knife when he hit the guard rail and he was afraid it was going go flip over the side. That trucker did an excellent job controlling a terrible situation and if I ever find out who he is, I would give him a big hug! We were very fortunate. Things may have turned out very differently, and all this happened just 39 miles into our trip. Good grief! I had hoped this wasn't an omen for things to come.
We stopped in Franklin, TN around 8:00 p.m. without any further incidents and found us a nice room for the night. I was happy to be there. After a good nights rest, and a sweet dream or two, I knew we'd be ready to start our Natchez Trace adventure.
The morning brought cool temps in the high 60's, but the sun was shining bright. It was going to be a gorgeous day to ride! We departed Franklin around 8:00 a.m. and made our way to the entrance of the Trace. Our first indication of the beauty we were about to encounter came into view when we saw the Double Arch bridge on TN-96 in Birdsong Hollow. We passed right under it (see Monday's Pic Of The Week) and within 15 minutes, we had entered the Parkway and found ourselves riding across this impressive structure. The view up there was awesome!
Once we crossed the bridge, the wilderness lay before us as we ventured on. We took note very quickly that there were wild turkey everywhere. You could see them standing in the tall grass 30 feet or so off the road, sometimes on both sides. It was the coolest sight to glance over to take in some scenery and notice a dozen or so turkey at a time watching you go by. There's no good place to stop and take pictures except at the designated pull offs or historic sites, so I wondered if we would get an opportunity to capture any Kodak moments of our new found feathered friends.
Well, there's an old saying... "Be careful what you wish for..." and I realized very early that day, that riding on the Trace could get about as dicey as the interstate system. It seems one of these turkeys didn't like me riding on her road. There I was, leading and enjoying the scenery, taking in the blue sky and fresh air, when one of these wild turkeys on the left side of the road about 10 yards in front of me, started approaching precariously close. I watched to see what she was going to do and it appeared as though she wanted to hitch a ride. She was walking rather quickly toward my approaching Glide, with her head bobbing back and forth like it was going to help her move faster. I revved the throttle a couple times to make some noise . This usually scares the buzzards and crows away from the Road Kill Diner so I thought it would work the same way here. Wrong! She was only about 4 feet away on my left now and still in front of me when I realized the sound of my motor was not scaring her. What was I going to do! Should I swat at her and try to knock her down or put my leg out to kick her away? I moved over, but it seems she was targeting me and wanted a piece of me and my bike! In that instant I gave the throttle a hard twist to offset her judgment (and to escape my plight) when she suddenly flew up in a flurry of feathers right next to me. All I could think of was... she was going to shit all over me from fear in flight. You laugh about this, I'm sure, but I've seen it happen. Once last summer, we were revving up the throttles trying to scare a couple of Heron standing in a creek next to us. When they flew away, one of them shit a stream so long I thought he was on a leash. When I realized the turkey had left my side and returned to the safety of her tall grass, I looked down to check myself... no shit. This is a good thing. Harley pulled up along side of me and laughed, "You tryin' to catch our Thanksgiving dinner?"
At our next little pull off, he said my little close encounter of the fowl kind was pretty funny from his view. I'm sure it was, and we had a good laugh about it. I can imagine what my Kodak moment would have looked like with me crouching behind the windshield, hanging off the right side of my seat trying to avoid being pecked over or carried off by a wild turkey. Good grief. Again... was this an omen?
Well, I can answer that question. NO! The rest of the trip was wonderful and we had no more near mishaps. I still have all of my Trace adventure to unfold for you, but since these two crazy situations happened so early in the trip, I wanted to share these with you first, so I can focus on what a wonderful ride down the Trace we had.
Stay tuned... you won't be disappointed!
Author's note: Actually, my main reason for sharing these two incidents is to remind all my fellow riders out there to always stay on alert for problems. We used to think nothing of riding close to 18 wheelers, finding that sweet spot in their wind wake. Or playing chicken with the wildlife as a way to entertain ourselves while riding along the highways. You just never know when unforeseen problems are going to unfold, and it's in our best interest to be ready for them. I'm fortunate to have been reminded of this without having to pay a terrible price. With that said... ride on my brothers and sisters and keep the shiny side up!