Day 1: Clarksville to Jeff Busby, MS – Sunday, May 27th

Hat and Fappy 1 began for Mr. Mondary in Clarksville. Weather was a bit on the warm side Sunday morning—the day’s high was probably 95 or so. It was a quick trip down TN-48 to TN-47 to White Bluff where we met to load my bike and properly begin the trip with food.

The Supportive Wife Pre-Departure

A motorcycle man-venture must begin with food. Seeing as we were in White Bluff—it is required by the man code that we ate at Carl’s Perfect Pig. I was a bit concerned about the trip when we arrived at Carl’s. Their lack of carbonated, caffeinated beverages seemed like a bad omen, but fortunately the foreshadowing came to naught.

No Dr Pepper!!

We spent an hour and a half at Carl’s—subconsciously not wanting to leave air conditioning and relative “civilization” quite yet—but eventually, we were off.

As an aside – I’d never done anything like this before. I’ve trailered the bike and had a few good days of riding. I’ve camped a little bit. But I’ve never loaded up on a bike to go far away and camp and just see what happened. I was a little bit anxious and excited at the same time. This trip was definitely outside of my routine…and that’s probably what made it so good for me.

We made good time to the northern terminus of the trace (mm #444). Quick-ish fuel stop and obligatory photo at the park sign, and we were underway. Traffic was light for a holiday weekend, and the roads were in good shape. We enjoyed the first bridge and the relatively gentle, banked curves and hills. Tennessee really is a beautiful place.

Northern Terminus

We drove for about 35 miles to Jackson Falls for a quick stretch and bathroom break. Met a fun group of bikers there. We probably looked like aliens in head-to-toe gear. I think I remember one guy was riding without a shirt.

While Mondary was at the bathroom, I heard a sizzling sound coming off my bike. I knew my expansion tank might have a leak, but I couldn’t find it. When Mondary got back, he found what I missed—the clutch cable had come loose from the frame and was rubbing the tailpipe right as it came off the engine. The sizzling sound was the combination of rubber melting and cable lubricant boiling. Fortunately we had some Velcro tie-downs that solved the problem quickly. I was worried that my cable would seize up once everything cooled. (I don’t have very good luck with clutch cables. Ask sometime about the clutchless ride from Hohenwald to White Bluff…) Everything turned out to be fine.

As we gave Mondary’s bike a quick look, we found out I wasn’t the only one with a melting problem. One of his backpack straps had decided it wanted to sear its end. We’ll claim we did that on purpose to keep it from unraveling in the wind…

Tennessee / Alabama Line

We got back on the road and made it to the Alabama state line (MM 340). Things were really getting pretty toasty. Scenery had flattened out a bit. Gentle rolling hills, woods, and the like. We really appreciated the patches of road that ran through the forrest! Trees probably made a 10 degree difference.

Matt’s doctor had a very important suggestion. He said that every hour we rode at temperatures in excess of 85 degrees we should stop for ice cream. For our safety. It’d be bad to overheat, wouldn’t it?

In the name of temperature regulation, fuel needs, and butt relief, we stopped in Cherokee, AL (US-72). My range is in the neighborhood of 120-140 miles per tank. Whenever we stopped – it was usually for me.

MS State Line

Inside the lovely gas station, the attendant asked what we were doing and where we were going. When Matt pointed to the tents and said we were camping, she said, “On the ground? Don’t you know about snakes!?” We then were privileged to hear a nice lecture on all of the types of snakes she was convinced would kill us, and how she won’t leave her house at night since she moved to Alabama.

We got back on the road pretty quickly and made good time to the Mississippi state line (MM 310). Quick photo op, and then on the road towards Tupelo. Our goal for the day was to make it to Tupelo, but both of us were feeling pretty good so we decided to stop for dinner and see how much further we could make it. We took US-45 (~MM 270) and meandered, looking for a decent place to eat. The goal was to avoid chains—or at least food that we could get at home.

We ended up at a Cheesesteak place. Pretty good meal. Pretty good air conditioning – and it was time to get back on the road.

Cheese steak!

If we’d been smart, we would have fueled there. But we’re not smart…so we made it to Houston, MS for fuel. Not a great stop. The gas station was probably 5-7 minutes west of the Trace, and all of the pumps but one were closed. Bluntly – I’ve used the bathroom quicker than this station pumped fuel. It probably took 5 minutes for me to get 2.5 gallons.

The sun set during the Houston stop – so we made our way back to the trace and set our sites on Jeff Busby park near the Tombigbee National Forest. The campsite was around mm 197. The trace got dark – but there was no traffic, so it wasn’t bad. There was a fair bit of construction and grooved pavement. No problem for Matt’s bike, but my street bike doesn’t like the grooves.

Saw a little bit of wildlife—turkey, deer, and a bunch of bats flying overhead during this stretch of forest riding. Signs indicated damage from last April’s tornados. It was incredible to see literally miles of trees that were toothpicks—no branches, limbs, or leaves. I’m thankful it was such a desolate area, or there could have been much worse cost to human life.

Hammock - Night 1!

Got a little nervous when we made it to Busby. There was a park store or office that was boarded up. We were both afraid that the campground had closed…but that wasn’t the case. Only two other spots were taken. I set up my hammock and Matt unrolled his mat—pun, anyone? Nice restrooms, good, quiet, secluded campsite. We were treated to  one of the best nights of lightning bugs I’ve ever seen. Day 1 was an absolute success. Total mileage: 322 miles.