WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Finishers Wander 6 - Athens, Tennessee
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 21:09:56 -0700

    Three days later ...

    Ah, adversity, the driving force of adventure, comprised of the twins of purpose and promise, to tempt and to torment. After three days of good but stationary times in Branson, I wanted to be moving again. The weather in Jackson called for possible heavy rain next day, so I waited until morning and looking out the window decided not to play adversity's game. I would stay in the motel an extra day. Adversity won, however. The NEXT morning I looked out my window and saw what can only be called a "Tennessee spring". [Photo out motel window] I now have the honor of having been in Jackson during the latest recorded snowfall, and the deepest snowfall in April - 3.5 inches ... so I stayed another day. So much for moving. But at least Bubba's Bagels next door had the right attitude - when life gives you lemons, make ... well, see the photo. [Photo of Bubba's]
    What seemed like forever later, the world turns and comes up with sunshine. But as I pull out of the valley from Jackson, there is yet much snow unmelted in the shadows, and some unmelted in my psyche. I feel a chill all day, like age not wanting to let go of youth. The roads are good, the traffic is light, the dogs are laying in the sun - I have to shake it off and go. I feel I have to make myself learn to ride again.
    But some skills never leave. One such is to act without thinking. On a motorcycle, if you have to take time to think, you may not have time at all. The scrap junk, open top 18 wheeler came around the downhill curve a little too fast. Without thinking, I saw the load leaning a little more than the trailer. Without calculating, I envisioned the trajectory that top piece would take if he hit the brakes and it slid into the airstream (all those years of zen racquetball helped envision the bounce). Without waiting, I put myself somewhere else. Brakes, whoosh, clang. It all really happened before I could think about it. And the truck never stopped.
    About an hour later I was thinking. Thinking that being last in line in a slow group of traffic on a two lane road is not good. Not because it is boring and frustrating, which it is, but because the end of the line is the beginning of the passing zone for the bored and frustrated drivers in the other lane. Whether it was prescience or awareness, it was a call to action. I ratcheted up the aggressiveness and forced a pass so I was no longer last. The car now behind me dropped back a little, and on the very first blind uphill curve, some hot shot in the other lane thinking he had a clear opening barreled out from third position behind a truck. How he missed that car I'll never know. It is definitely time to take a break.
    I'm guessing I must be close to the Great Smoky Mountains, because I have already found the great smoky restaurants. Oh how you miss something when you are used to it not being there (if that makes any sense). All work places in California, including restaurants and bars, are no smoking allowed. Restaurants here may have no smoking sections, but not one has a no smoke section. If smokers could smell anything they'd be amazed how much it stinks.
    Ok, I'm back in the zone now. Despite the minor excitement earlier, the day is going smoothly. The air is finally warming, and being on a motorcycle, I can feel the differences as I rise a hill or corner in a shadow. The hills in central Tennessee are smaller than I expected. The same longitude in central Kentucky is much more rugged. This east-west road crosses most of the state and there is hardly a ridge anywhere. But then I noticed I crossed the Tennessee River at the beginning of the day and again at the end of the day, so I may not have been one with geography today.
    Route 30 is a wonderfully scenic road though country and towns. The dogwood are happily in bloom and you can almost see the new leaves straining to become forest canopy. Route 30 has a sad history, though. It is The Trail of Tears road. It has taken me a long time to get here from "Indian Territory", and I am traveling in some comfort. The 'great relocation' was not one of the better moments in our nation's history. Speaking of history -
    It just happened that I pulled over to stretch my legs and refold my map right in front of the courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee. I had forgotten all about it, but the plaque said here stood the Scopes Trial in 1925, when charges were brought for teaching evolution counter to the law. Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan battled, truth lost, the law won. Hard to believe that only 80 years ago faith based initiative was allowed to modify the law and facts did not matter, that those who stood for what they believed was the truth were prosecuted for it, and that the government would label scientific thought as tyranny. So unlike today ... or at least it will be as soon as we get rid of the current administration.
    Slower wandering delivers great mileage, 211 miles before my reserve came on, or a little over 48 mpg. And I've "finished" another aspect in this wander. I must be living the good life Loretta Lynn sang about, because now I've been to Paris, Rome, and Athens. Paris Texas, Rome Georgia, and Athens Tennessee.

292 miles
Jackson US412 TN99 Unionville Rd US41A Deason Rd US231 TN82 TN64 US41
Noah-Gnat Hill-Pocahontas-Shelbyville Rd TN55 US70S TN30 Athens
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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