On the Natchez Trace
In the morning, the Rumble Sisters hold their member meeting. It's held like a town hall meeting, with the usual attagirls and gripes, but this is the first-ever RSBS gathering and the turnout has been quite impressive, and it's pretty cool to have so many sisters sitting in one room, talking about the club. Della at one point stands up to say something and she starts, "For those who don't know me, I'm MagentaMomma from Oregon..." and everyone starts applauding, 'cause she's like totally our long-distance touring HERO. That woman rides like nobody's business. Also, Worm gets all choked up when she reports on the fundraising efforts for Kathleen, who was badly injured in an accident earlier this year. And of course we all start crying too, because it is just amazing how these women responded in a moment of crisis, and then we all start laughing at ourselves, a bunch of tough biker chicks sitting here sniffling. It's really an awesome group.
After the meeting, it's riding time. Today is on-your-own day (as opposed to yesterday, with the organized jelly bean ride) and I think I want to run down the Natchez Trace. Everyone is standing outside chatting in little clumps, figuring out who wants to ride where. Eventually there's a small group who's settled on a Natchez route: me, Bryna, Della and Tam (RedFox). A little more farting around, and we saddle up and take off.
What a strange, ecclectic little bunch of riders we are! Here's Della on her massive Gold Wing 1800. Tam rides a large touring BMW (sorry, I don't know Beemer models.) Then me on my little 600cc VLX. Then, just to prove we MEAN it when we say, "it's not what you ride, it's that you ride," here's Bryna on a 400cc Burgman scooter. Boy, that little machine keeps up with the big boys just fine. It's really a great solution for people who have trouble with a clutch. I think Bryna has some post-surgical hand strength issues, or something like that, and she was just thrilled to death where she discovered the "megascooters" that can do highway speeds and have automatic transmissions. It's kinda fun to watch her ride the thing. The mechanics of steering are the same for her, of course, but the drive train is set up different from a chain-driven or belt-driven standard motorcycle & the rear of the scoot lifts up under acceleration, and lowers when she rolls off the throttle ... it's just a little different, that's all. She will NEVER scrape pegs on the Burgie. Nothing on that bike will touch pavement, it all sits up high.
Della, on the other hand, regularly scrapes on her 'Wing. She does it on purpose, and if you think she doesn't know exactly what she's doing, she'll invite you on to the back of her bike, and then make left- and right-hand corners, scraaaaaaping the pegs the whole way, until you wimper for mercy. (We saw her do this in the hotel parking lot with Air, and had a good time laughing at it.) On our way to the Trace, I am behind Della in line, and we're making lefts and rights through some small Tennessee town, and the first time I hear this gawdawful noise of Della dragging bike parts on the pavement, I am so startled that I almost drop my bike. She knows exactly how far she can lean, and has magnificent control of that machine.
We make about a 200-mile loop around Tennessee, heading south for a ways on the Natchez Trace. It's green, a controlled highway with no commercial development, and has a speed limit that's STRICTLY enforced. Big wide sweeper turns. Nice riding. Very parklike, though I don't believe this road is part of the Nat'l Park Service. At one point, we see a police cruiser pulled off into a wide meadow on the opposite side of the road, his lights flashing. The law enforcement officer is out of the vehicle and on foot, standing next to a guy who is holding a motorcycle helmet. They are talking and looking around. There is no motorcycle anywhere in sight. Where did it go? Did he crash and it went down an embankment or something? Did the rider have to dump it for a deer? It was a strange little mystery we could not solve as we zoomed past them at 50 mph. The next rest stop, we take a little break to water up (it is very hot and humid) and sit around and talk some more. It's sorta funny ... both Della and Tam are taller than I am (which is mildly unusual in itself, I am on the fairly tall side but they are both over 6 feet) while Bryna is sufficiently vertically challenged that she is known in our online forum as "the Short One." So there is the requisite joking around about the land of giants, and Munchkins, and whatever. Eventually we head east off the Trace (on the same road I travelled after visiting Shiloh, Hwy 64) then north again back to Murfreesboro, stopping for lunch near Pulaski. We get back to the Doubletree around the middle of the afternoon.
Late afternoon, and Jo and I decide to do a run to the Wal-Mart down the street. RSBS is collecting canned goods for a local food bank, but most travellers have donated cash ... seriously, you want me to cart bulky items from California? Nah, better to buy it here. So we gather some money from a few folks & head off to see how much food our funds will purchase, and whether or not we can fit it into our saddlebags. (Jo also needs to purchase a new digital compact camera, since her old one has died.) We manage to buy a surprising amount of food & set ourselves to the impossible puzzle of how to get it back to the hotel half a mile away. Seriously, we bought way too much and it's never going to fit. It takes a lot of arranging and rearranging ... "No, dude, put the big can of peaches on this side, then you can get the tomato sauce in here" ... and we manage to get everything zipped up, strapped down, or otherwise secured without a dangerous balancing act. I tell Jo to follow me, I'm going to find a road back to the hotel that doesn't go through this particularly dangerous intersection where a bunch of people have already had near misses. Then I promptly lose her in the parking lot. (We're both riding weird with our loaded-down bikes, the balance is strange enough to make me very paranoid. Plus, the sun set while we were in Wal-Mart, and it's fully dark now.) In my mirrors I spot the single headlamp of a motorcycle following me, and turn left down a service road that takes me past the Wal-Mart automotive center, through what appears to be a deserted alleyway, and all the way behind the hotel, thus avoiding the intersection I've grown to hate. The bike behind me now passes me, and it's some rangy-looking dude with a fender bunny on the back, and they give me a strange look as they zip past. Oops. Guess that wasn't Jo back there. I hang a U-turn, go back and look for her, can't spot her anywhere, and give up, figuring she can find her own way back perfectly fine. Sure enough, she's in the hotel's pull-in area unloading cans when I pull up, and starts teasing me about getting lost on the way back from Wal-Mart. (This is because I was telling her I never get lost. I always know where I am or can find a road that gets me where I'm going; it's my special mutant skill.) I try to 'splain that I found the super-secret back way in, but give up, because she's having too much fun thinking I got lost. Ha.
Dinner. Drinks. More kareoke. I sing two perfectly wretched songs, best forgotten now ... sometimes what you think will be a good song turns out horrible, and not in a so-bad-it's-funny-and-therefore-a-little-good kind of horrible. But I cover myself in drunken kareoke glory with a slightly in-tune rendition of "Like A Virgin" which features the DJ guy holding up signs behind my head, saying things like "Will Sing For Sex." I don't know what he's doing back there but I know everyone is laughing their heads off. So of course I ham it up even more. ;) (But the Crotch-Grabbing Award still goes to BudGirl. Heh.) Jo, using her brand-new digital camera, captures a thirty-second video of the spectacle. Then she promptly deletes it, because she hasn't yet figured out how to use all the camera's features. For this, I shall be eternally grateful.
Tomorrow we leave the gathering, and we'll scatter our separate ways. I plan to head over to the Tail Of The Dragon with a small group, but I'm using the word "plan" in only the loosest sense. We'll keep on figuring out everything as it comes along.
Next: Day Eight