WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wanderlust 2000.10 - Paris, Tennessee
Date: Sun, 09 Apr 2000 22:52:08 -0700

    Athens, Rome, and Paris.
    There is an old country song that sings of the differences between the lives of the upper class and the common folk, and the duet promises to take each other to the above named exotic locations. But they turn out to be Athens, Texas; Rome, Georgia; and Paris, Tennessee. Now that I've seen Pair-ree, I'd say it's pretty darn exotic compared to another town I passed through today: Fifty-Six, Arkansas (coincidentally, population 156). How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, indeed.
    A couple miles outside of Paris is the Roadkill Taxidermy shop. One wonders why. Perhaps it is easier to stack flat trophies. At the edge of town is the Hungry Wolf BBQ shack. Now serving: goat. Umm, let's move on.

    Voni mastered the ceremonies masterfully at Branson. Everything but doors were given away as door prizes. Awards for every unimaginable achievement were handed to winners who negotiated their positions - Voni explained that facts didn't matter, it was what you believed that counted. She is a true believer. She is also a true champion, for which she received a standing O and a one-of-a-kind red (of course) sweatshirt proclaiming her 500K sMiles completed.
    (I did get the award for having traveled furthest from reality. :)

    There was one other "special" award, but you'll have to ask Chip about that.

    Those hardy souls who started their return trip at oh-dark-thirty were surprised to find the pre-sunrise temperature at pre-freezing. 28 degrees is a record for the area, but riders are riders and are not deterred by lack of warmth. After all, that's why god made Gerbing, and Widder, and ... electric clothing. By the time I packed at 8:30, three quarters of the bikes were gone.
    It may just be that we are shy individualists, or it may be that we haven't refined our social skills, but I notice that among our crowd hardly anyone ever says "good bye". Some simply mount up and ride away. Some will go as far as saying "See you later" or "See you on the road". Having met for no apparent reason other than to be together, we are reluctant to break the bond and fully expect the magic harmonics of our convergence to last. I did my part, too, in this communal waiting for Godot. After chatting with a group, rather than saying good bye, I said with a smile "I think I'll go for a ride."

    Heading south out of Missouri toward my next destination of West Virginia, which is east (can you believe I was an Edelweiss tour guide for a year?), I planned to tour the Ozarks along the way. Somebody told me to take AR14, but that somebody forgot to tell me that all the mountains are huddled in the western quarter of the state and about as soon as you turn east on 14 - which is where it starts - the mountains go flat. Oh well. The ride is the reason.
    And the scenery wasn't bad. I saw a wild turkey just like the bird on the bottle casually cross the road. The wild ones may be scrawny compared to the Mae West dimensions of farmed warblers, but this dude was big enough to be a road hazard. In another observation, the Arkansas border must also be the Red Bud / Dogwood line, like the Mason-Dixon. Here the woods were vibrant with white veils scattered like bursts of confetti sprinkled across the hills.

    There are how many roads out of Branson? 15? 20? and within a few miles the junctions to other roads multiply to what 50? 100? So with all those roads, why when I walk into the building at a gas stop 100 miles from Branson do I encounter - - - Chip Robie. What deity of good fortune did I neglect to give homage?
    Actually, the Chipster isn't half as rampant in person as he is in persona. As I went past to the restroom, I thought I heard him terrorizing a couple of blue hairs telling them something about him being a Ukranian Cosmonaut (in his red aerostich) surveying  the area for manned landings. His maniacal smile had them convinced.
    Perhaps Mountain View, Arkansas is the right place, though, considering the comment I got in the restroom. First, for those of the gender persuasion who do not have the occasion to practice urinal use, I should explain it is not a time for practitioners unknown to one another to (as Miss Manners might say if she were aware of the protocol) exchange pleasantries of conversation. Though you may only be a number of inches apart, it is socially understood that a wall exists. Just stare at the grout.
    Well, as I was staring grout, the gentlemen one over said "So, you finally found someplace in Mountain View where people know what they're doing." Huh? Whatever was in his mind, I chose not to disturb his, uh, grasp of the situation.
    Instead I went Ridin With Robie. Chip, who has recently written fanciful about K12 being a Claytooine Star Wars ship, deftly backed his bike, the Millennium Rooster (red beak), out of its space without using his reverse gravity assist. Then he thrust his bike, the Millennium Robin (red breasted), into what passes for a traffic jam at the one light in town, causing a pickup to heel-to for me and what could I do but follow. His bike, the Millennium Clapper Rail (red tail) automatically increased its radio volume as its speed increased, and I had to drop back a good quarter mile before he stopped sounding like a two wheel boombox. The passing sight and sound of his bike, the Millennium Tern (nope, orange, not red tern, uh, turn signals), caused cows to turn their heads. And one young girl beside the family car in a church driveway watched him pass and then rubbed her eyes. Yes, riding behind Chip was like sailing in the serene surface space behind a supertanker that cuts the waves with its prop wash - except his was a wake of disbelief. Surprise, folks, he's a good rider.

    We go our separate ways at Marked Tree, Arkansas. Once more across the big river, and I begin the climb to what the east has to offer for mountains. Tennessee quickly changes from river farms to forested hills, to rugged outcroppings.
    There are two greens in the fields now. Spring is advancing its hold. The lighter color is how a photosynthesis complexion would blush in embarrassment - a gentle green risen from the earth. It is the color of new grass and young opportunistic vegetation racing for the sun - claim the space first, we'll color it in later. The other color is the mature development of well rooted growth. It has found its place and it won't be crowded out. The fields of rye grass already define the hue: verdant.

400 miles
Branson US65 AR14 I55 I155/US51 TN89 TN54 Paris
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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