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May
31
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We have had a lovely kick back day wandering along the canal system in Bricktown which is the area our hotel is in. It is the old warehouse district which now has a baseball stadium and masses of hotel and apartment accommodation and eateries saloons and bars. We were the only ones out this morning as everyone was sleeping off whatever they had been up to last night and it was nice and peaceful. We headed into the theater to see 'San Andreas' and when we came out a lot of people had woken up and headed out so we got a quick bite for lunch and headed for the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the Memorial to the Oklahoma bombing in 2005. It was a very beautiful, peaceful and meaningful memorial as well as very confronting. Cannot believe it is the 20th anniversary of the bombing this year. From there we headed to the Oklahoma Museum of Art mainly to see a glass sculpture in the foyer by Dale Chihuly, it was huge and I suspect he is also the artist responsible for a piece we saw in Montreal a couple of years ago. We have kicked back in the hotel for a bit and will head out for dinner soon. The weather has been fine today, humid but rain free and apparently the record breaking rains through Texas and Oklahoma have moved further east and there are not as many tornado warnings about today so we will see what tomorrow brings. So different to what we have at home. We aren't in our room for long and the only channel we put the TV on is the weather channel so we can track what we are likely to encounter re topography and storm damage and upcoming weather. All part of taking care of the logistics of the trip.

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The start of the old warehouse area. There was a list of rules for the Coyote Ugly bar at the door. Ha ha, I remember the movie.

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And apparently Norm has a bar along the canal though he says no one would believe it's him because this guy doesn't wear a black leather cap ... no mention of the cigar. Hmm.

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A shot of the canal which meandered through a large area it was lovely and when the canal boat man is there, not when we were, you can go on a ride along the canal and hop on and off .


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One end of the canal complete with water pourers.

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And we discovered some lovely gardens complete with a conservatory and zebra striped butterflies which didn't stay still long enough for me to get a photo.

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And a very clever fountain. If I get Norm's video onto You Tube I'll put the link here at some time in the future.

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Devon Towers from the gardens. Devon is a power company and the building is quite a statement. That's the conservatory on the right.

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Some reflections on our way to the Memorial.

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Oklahoma City National Memorial to the 2005 Bombing. This is a view from above across the empty chairs which signify people killed and in the densities of how many at what level in the 9 story building which once stood. It was both beautiful and sobering but a fitting tribute. Glad we came.

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The reflection pool at the Memorial.

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And the Survivor Tree which was once in the car park of the building blown up and survived the blast in spite of looking like a burnt stick at the end of the blast. The stone wall around it says "The Spirit of this City and Nation will not be defeated; Our deeply rooted faith sustains us".

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And part of the glass sculpture in the foyer of the Oklahoma City Art Museum, couldn't fit it all in.


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May
30
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We headed off in doubtful weather which deteriorated to rain on and off so the waterproofs were on all day in spite of the humidity. It was nice to see sun this afternoon but by then I felt very cold. The ride was long but some delicious bike roads with lovely corners and camber. Shame it was so wet.  We found a quirky little town called Eureka Springs which was a bit like an upmarket / substantial version of Walhalla with a through road. We assume with the title it has to have been some sort of mining area and given the buildings (in the middle of nowhere supports that ... as well as the rail line into it) It was quirky and delightful but was wet and we had heaps of ground to cover so while I took a shot at the railway on the outskirts while we checked the GPS we didn't stop in the town. After that we saw prolific forest growth and farms with incredible growth as well as a lot of land which had been and continues to be inundated with flood waters. A Turnpike attendant told us the farmers wanted dry weather to get their hay cut but there was water everywhere after all the dumping of rain with the surrounding tornado and would be tornado weather there has been through Oklahoma over the last couple of weeks. We had seen many fields with very long grass which had been laid down with the rain. Doubt it will stand again but I hope it does.

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A shot of the Branson Scenic Railway Dining Train in the station due to depart tonight.

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The Eureka Springs Railway Historic Park. Looked pretty overgrown but we had to move to let a trolley car of people into the spot we had parked so who knows?

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We stopped in Muskogee to find a historic home and in theory found it ... or the ticket office / house which was closed even though in theory it was supposed to be open. Looked pretty ordinary so didn't waste a photo on it but instead took a couple of shots of some of the nice homes in the area and this is one of them.

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When we booked into our hotel after negotiating a detour just before our hotel we discovered there is a National College Softball championship happening across the street. This is the stadium when we booked in but has filled up since and they are playing. Apparently last night they had a fireworks display around 10.30 - 11pm but we plan to be sound asleep by then!

Last Two Night's Accommodation:

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Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing, 3 Branson Landing, Branson, MO 65616
Another lovely comfortable hotel. Spacious room and bathroom with separate bath and shower. Plenty of room to chill in lobby if you want to and a bar and grille on site. Breakfast provided ... at the Hilton hotel across the railway line?? A bit weird. No mention of that when we booked just that breakfast was available. In the centre of Branson Landing shopping and entertainment precinct. Undercover parking. As we discovered on our exit the old Branson is a mixed bag of fruit and we liked the Branson Landing side of things better.


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May
29
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We headed off in good time and it wasn't long before we were wet through. We had planned to kit up with the wet weather gear after we fueled up but were distracted with GPS issues and not far out the skies opened up. We stopped under the first overpass to kit up but were already wet through by then. Oh well, you get that sometimes ... and today we did. Not to worry, the traffic wasn't as hectic as the last time we were out so tolerable. We had planned to check out the Marvel Cave on our way in (Missouri is known as the Cave state with huge areas of limestone) but with the sky as black as it was we decided to head for the hotel and take our chances. Just as well. The skies opened up a few minutes before we got in and as it turned out we got in too late to get to the last tour of the cave. We then decided to go to the Dixie Stampede, a stage show of great country hits but that was sold out so instead we kicked back and wandered along the foot malls behind the hotel which were very nice and then had dinner at a nice Mexican Restaurant. The heavy rain has continued on and off with a tornado warning to our north west. Hoping for more comfortable traveling weather tomorrow.

By the way I forgot to let Jenny's children know that we saw Optimus Prime (of Transformers fame) as we were heading into St Louis the day before yesterday. He was at a truck sale yard doing some sort of promotion and he looked awesome. Sorry, we were going too fast to get a photo.

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A taste of Route 66 outside and below inside at Exit 161.

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Limestone country and the lush growth everywhere is not surprising, also the fact that Missouri is known as the Cave State.

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Once we were into Branson we headed out to the walking street at the back of the hotel. It was very nice and the boys did the husband waiting thing very well.

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A shot for the boys, a calendar in the 5 and dime store.

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And a quirky shooting gallery we found opposite our Mexican Restaurant. Reminiscent of the talking characters of the Cars movie.

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We walked down to the edge of the river and were intrigued by the mist rising off it after the rain.

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And then while we had dinner lights highlighted the fountain effect so looked good.

Bits and Bobs:

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A couple of interesting raffle prizes organised by BADD - Bikers Against Drunk Drivers, an organisation which was formed around 20 plus years ago and they have been raffling awesome machinery off for the last seven years to fund their charitable works. Well done guys. Their website link follows: http://baddcentral.com/

Last Two Night's Accommodation:

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St Louis Union Station Doubletree by Hilton, 1820 Market Street, 1 Union Station, St Louis, MO 63103
It's been a treat to stay here. The lobby and restaurant is within the beautiful old station building which is an architectural delight. Our room was one of a huge number spread out from the station along platforms where the trains used to reverse into the station to take on passengers. The whole complex is awesome. We were in a King Executive room with Concierge lounge access which was lovely with evening appetizers and a delicious breakfast included. Have just loved the enthusiasim and friendliness of the staff and fallen in love with the building which was just beautiful and being refurbished with great care and passion, In the starbucks cafe a natural spring drinking fountain has been uncovered and also a magnificent fireplace. I imagine there are many more treasures still to be found. This is part of a long term project where the shopping concourse will be extended down the platforms and trains will also return to take diners out and people to wineries as well as other destinations. Awesome. Well done!


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May
28
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We decided to sleep in this morning and didn't head down to breakfast until 8.30 ... I know not much of a sleep in but places to go and things to see. Tom and Karen Stein who we dined with last night had given us some tips on some of the great sights we could see so headed off down Market Street  to climb the famous St Louis Arch which is an architectural and engineering masterpiece and enjoyed all the lovely public buildings we encountered on the way. We bought our tickets at the Old Court House, did the Arch tour and saw the documentary of it being built which was incredible then headed for the Trolley Bus tour and were grateful to sit down for a bit as well as a chance to tour a lot of the town we wouldn't have otherwise seen and enjoyed traveling through. We waved out to Tom on our way past the Washington State University where he works. Currently planning the direction we need to head tomorrow to head down Route 66.


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The Old Court House where we bought our tickets which was a beautiful building still dressed up in bunting from the Memorial Weekend.

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And the Arch itself. We had a 4min. ride to the top and a view through the windows then a 3min. ride down before the documentary. The work being undertaken is to streamline visitor interaction and people and traffic flows as visitor numbers are larger than anticipated being between 5,600 - 5,800 a day through the summer.

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A view back over the town from the top of the Arch.

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A shot of the Arch behind the Old Court House.

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A shot in front of the Museum of Art in the Forest Garden park as the rain approached.

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And a mobile shot of the New Cathedral which is old but just not as old as the original.


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May
27
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We got away in good time today and looked like we would be seriously rained upon in a couple of spots but got in dry. Yay! We are in a very nice and quirky hotel tonight and also caught up with some USA travellers we met in 2013 for dinner so ran out of time to upload the blog before we headed out.

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Oh oh, can we make it out from under before it drops it's guts? Yes barely and not wet enough to worry about. YAY!!

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Coffee stop ay Whitehaven and this is their Welcome centre.

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Some great memories with these road signs.

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And Norm's GPS stopped working so 'my assignment if I chose to accept it was to lead us into St Louis' and I did quite well. You can see the famous arch to the right as well as some of the skyline.

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And almost there, even got the indicator on and yes we are staying in a train station, an awesome building and again the famous arch is visible in the distance.

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And the main lobby. Has a great bar and heaps of spots to sit and lean back and watch the light show on the ceiling. Okay there are more comfortable chairs in the lounge area beyond these ones.

Bits and Bobs:

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A couple of road signs for you. The first has been quite common in most states with similar wording meaning you slow down or pull over for all stopped vehicles on the side of the road.  It's also interesting to note that a lot of roadworks don't have reduced speed limits but have a sign which says speed panalties double in work zones and another, a reduced speed limit if workers present, and then there's the one below which really says to take things seriously. (Taken from a reasonable distance, sorry it's so fuzzy).

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Last Two Night's Accommodation:

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Renaissance Nashville Hotel, 611 Commerce Street, Nashville, TN 37203
The hotel has been a lovely experience. Lovely roomy space in the room, generous bathroom and gloriously comfortable bed. 22nd floor so a great view which was lovely as well. Restaurant and bar, a Starbucks with great cakes (Norm sampled them) and all the staff are friendly and helpful and pleased to be here. Nice mix. Well done Marriott.


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May
26
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Well we have enjoyed a kick back day in Nashville, dodging some sprinkles and missing a downpour. We've enjoyed the town / city, has a small town feel about it which is nice. To the photos.

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The Country Music Hall of Fame where our own Keith Urban is a member.

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The Nashville Symphony Orchestra building in the front centre with more of the skyline behind it. Must feel a bit like a poor relation with the whole town geared towards country music.

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We visited the Johnny Cash Museum which was a treat. It has only been here a couple of years and not large but comprehensive. This is a photo of the Highwaymen which I particularly enjoy but love all of Johnny Cash's songs as well. The Museum also had an area showcasing the Sun Record Company which was the start for many young stars so these next two shots are for you Tom Gardiner.

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We caught a bus down to the riverfront in front of the State Capitol Building to check out their Bicentennial Memorial to the history of Tennessee which was incredibly impressive with lovely reflection spots and an amphitheater including beautifully thoughtful memorials to both the Civil War and the World Wars. This is a memorial to the human cost of the Civil War.

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And this is a view in the rain towards the city from the end by the 1996 pillar which signified the 200th year. There was a pillar for every 10 years from when the state was proclaimed in 1796 on the right hand side and then a low wall with quotes and historical facts on the left. Very impressive and a tribute to the state. A not insignificant cost.

Bits and Bobs:

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A couple of bits of quirky for the day today above and below. These were a couple of the coffee brews at the Johnny Cash Museum being a bit of a play on words of a couple of Johnny Cash's songs.

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And above a pushbike rack at the Nashville Symphony Orchestra Building and below two others at the Nashville Farmers Market which ran along the other side of the street to the Bicentennial Memorial. The trees here were Tulip Poplars and the leaves of the trees had a most delicious peppermint fragrance. We have just missed the blossom, don't know what that looks like.

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May
25
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Well we had a pretty wet ride into Nashville today with the majority of the trip with heavy rain, lots of surface water, heavy traffic and road spray so we didn't get much of a chance to take in the countryside as we were super focused on the ride. We were happy to get into Nashville in good time. I also discovered why it is so much better to have plastic dollar notes as I'm currently drying out my wet paper notes.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on our trip so far today and had a bit of a laugh to myself thinking about the huge number of churches we had seen particularly in the south and imagining my dear old Dad commenting with "there sure seems to be a lot of God botherers down here" and I'd have to agree.

The rain cleared off just before we got in so we had a chance to have a wander down the street so I'll let the pictures tell the story.

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There was  a massive thunderstorm last night and we were amazed at the huge amount of water galloping down the street beside the hotel and when we got to the garage where the bikes were parked this is what we found.

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This is the view from our 22nd floor window.

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For anyone who knows anything about country music in the USA you know you've made it when you get to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. This is the Ryman Auditorium which was the original Grand Ole Opry. The new one is way out of the city.

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We headed down to check out Broadway and  the cafe on the left is Legends where many stars started off and they routinely come back to release new records there, including Keith Urban who regularly comes back unannounced to play there.

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There is live music everywhere in all the cafes restaurants and bars and it sounds great.

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Another shot of Broadway. The Paris looking tower is on the Bridgestone Auditorium.

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And this is 1st Avenue on the water which used to be warehouses and is now being reborn as cafes, restaurants, bars and breweries.

Bits and Bobs:

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Lots of great signs around. This one warning you off dancing on tables with spurs on. ...really!

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Springhill Suites by Marriott Memphis Downtown, 85 West Court Avenue, Memphis TN, 38103
Comfortable suite with included continental breakfast. Staff friendly and helpful. Parking a short distance away so crossed the fingers but they were okay. Phew! Pool looked good but wanted to have a tramp about before I got in and then there was a massive thunderstorm so put paid to that idea. Ah well, it will eventually happen.


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May
24
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The morning was a pleasant temperature to ride into Graceland and the traffic was remarkably quiet given the Memorial Day Weekend (to honour all who have and do serve in the military). We arrived at Graceland shortly after 10am but still had to wait until midday for a tour to the Mansion so visited a number of other sites and we enjoyed the experience. We were blown away to hear that Elvis's 70's comeback concert was viewed by over 1.5 billion people worldwide, even more than the landing on the moon! We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and hearing more of Elvis's generosity to his community near and far and had a real sense of sadness that his life ended way too soon. To say his legacy in employment opportunities in both Tupelo and  in Memphis is enormous would be an understatement. Again the pictures can tell the story.

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The entry from the car park to the Graceland machine.

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The Lisa Marie plane which was used for trips to concerts all over the country and private trips anywhere the family wanted to go.

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The front of the Graceland Mansion bought when Elvis was 27. His parents and grandmother also lived here with him.

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The lounge and through to the music room.

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And the dining room. The china on the table is the wedding china given to Elvis and Priscilla.

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And the road which not surprisingly Graceland is situated on ... Elvis Presley Boulevard.

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Approaching Downtown Memphis. Not far past here we turned the corner past Sun Records which was where Elvis started off and there was a line right up the street and a couple of coaches out in front.

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A Downtown Memphis view.

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Lots of horses and carriage rides available in Memphis and here's the 'horse rank' or whatever it's called.

Bits and Bobs:

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Liked this sign in Huey's Bar and Grill Downtown Memphis where we had a late lunch.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hilton Garden Inn Tupelo, 363E Main Street, Tupelo, MS, 38804
Very nice room and surroundings and a restaurant as well so we don't have to head out for dinner, yay! The day was big enough without having to do that as well. Impressed to see that their pool has a lift into the pool for wheelchair bound people.


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May
23
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We had a lot of ground to cover today and nearly all of it at an 80kmh speed limit so we had to stay focused and we virtually had the Trace to ourselves apart from a few bikes and a couple of cars in the morning and a lot more bikes and a few more cars in the afternoon so a bonus considering it is the Memorial Day long weekend and heaps of people moving about, just not on the Natchez Trace.

There were two things I would have liked to get a photo of and missed because there was nowhere safe to pull off the Trace to take it. The first was of some wildflowers which were a vibrant purple / deep pink and were stunning. The second was of tornado damage to the forest from a tornado in April 2011. It had just decimated the forest and we went from towering pines and luxuriant growth to low and stunted growth and a few sparse pines with great trunks sticking up above the green which had just been snapped off like matchsticks. Incredible power.

I'm going to be lazy tonight and include photos of descriptions of most of the photos since it gives the accurate details.

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The entry to the Natchez Trace and the story below.

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 The Mississippi College in Clinton and a proud description below for women.

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French Camp Visitor Centre cabin veranda where we checked out a working Sorghum Mill Press and some interesting machinery used in the process.

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Elvis Presley's birthplace in Tupelo along with a Visitors centre and Museum and a whole lot of other stuff as well. The description is below.

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Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hampton Inn & Suites Natchez, 627 South Canal Street, Natchez, MI, 39120
Another comfortable spot to spend the night. Assumed wrongly that because the hotel was adjacent to a convention centre it would also be close, as in walking distance to restaurants. Not so so we sampled some frozen pizza, pasta and lasagna which wasn't too bad.


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May
22
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We didn't think to take a photo with all the boys last night and headed down to catch them before they headed off to school this morning around 6.30am to see the school bus disappear so the outcome is below. It was a treat to catch up with them all and sorry Chris and Matt that we didn't get you in the frame. For all the family back in Australia they are all doing well and we got and gave heaps of hugs on our and your behalf.

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Nola, Kevin, Norm and below with Tamara and Nick.

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We had a leisurely morning before heading off to Natchez but even so feel a little weary tonight. Must be something to do with all those kms yesterday, a later night than we have been used to and an early morning.

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A very speccie house on the way to Kevin's.

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And Norm having some fun snapping pics on our way.

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Some beautiful homes in Natchez. This one is Dunleith Historic Inn built in 1856 and is a National Historic Landmark.

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And another. Twin Oaks built in 1852 and is on the National Register.  

Bits and Bobs:

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This is why the big ass American utes are called trucks. Have garage / barn will travel.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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The Grace Family B&B - 23338 Fairway Gardens Court, Springfield, LA 70462
Well the accommodation was superb and hugs and kisses laid on as well as endless catching up ... way beyond anything we have experienced ...nor are we likely to so I'll finish right there. A treat from start to finish!


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May
21
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We headed off early this morning so we could have as much time as possible with our nephew Kevin Grace and his boys, Nick, Chris and Matt it's been a treat to catch up with them and needless to say the boys are growing like crazy and Dad will be the shortest in no time flat. It was great also to get to give Tamara and Paul a hug as well. How blessed are we. It's been a treat to catch up with them all.

We had a lot of ground to cover today and spent a lot of time on the interstate riding through countryside and foliage which was very reminiscent of being on the Sunshine Coast on our way to Buderim. We peeled off the interstate at Kevin's suggestion to check out Biloxi on the Mississippi Gulf with the beach on our left and some great houses on the right. Biloxi was interesting, on the southern outskirts it seemed as if the town was being absorbed into an outbreak of casinos and yet there were lots of empty spaces where houses had obviously been and not surprisingly Kevin tells us these were properties destroyed by Cyclone Katrina in 2005 so what we saw were a collection of expensive holiday homes, suburban homes and grand houses of yesteryear.

We did 300km before our morning coffee and in that time the speed limit was 113kmh and we averaged 120kms and in that time we passed trucks, 1 old car leaning on a 45 degree angle to the right and another old bloke in a car even older than Norm and everything else passed us and I mean EVERYTHING ELSE passed us. Made us look decidedly sedentary. Been a good trip and we almost made it into Kevin's without getting wet but considering the rainfall they had had we got off lightly.

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Getting well down the track we came across a bridge over 10km long over a couple of rivers a number of tributaries and a whole lot of swamp land / mangrove areas. This is a shot as we approached an extra height area and below right at the hump. Not a lot of galvanizing here.

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Soon after I spotted Norm with the camera out at the back of an old truck and couldn't see the attraction .... until I pulled alongside it. To quote Norm "yeah well I've had to do that a couple of times". I cringe but I'm proud he is such a can do person.

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And The casino takeover continues and here is the Hard Rock Casino  .... not just a cafe.

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Lunch on Biloxi Beach at Shaggys .. I kid you not. Great meal and I loved the big ass carpark spaces and the name of the place across the road just cracked me up. This statement is evidently a compliment in local terms.

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And some of the more stately homes along the beach below.

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Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hampton Inn & Suites Atlanta Montgomery - Downtown, 100 Commerce Street, Montgomery, AL 36104
Getting familiar with the Hampton experience and happy to be so. Another lovely building. Staff friendly and helpful. Room comfortable and more spacious than last night. Included hot breakfast in the morning.
As we were heading back to our room after breakfast a guy at the desk said "are you guys riding the bikes out in the car park?" (pretty obvious in bike boots and leather vests) we said yes and the guy said "you have a $25.00 penalty" so I asked what for and was told "for having way more fun than me". We had a good laugh and conversation. Was fun.


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May
20
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We enjoyed our ride to Montgomery and again since we traveled through State Parks and Scenic Highways and country roads we had very little traffic and just enjoyed the experience. We traveled over the highest point in the state of Alabama in the Cheaha State Park and through lots of luxuriant rainforest type growth and pine forest as well as farming country. We have been spoiled having so much green around us and so little traffic and other people so good therapy for these two old battle weary bods.

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We headed for Heflin to get onto the Talladega National Forest Scenic Highway and we found the Cleburne County Courthouse which was beautifully maintained.

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We wound our way through the Talladega National Forest to the end of one road and headed down a country road (called just that) and very soon came upon this log truck. Norm was intrigued by the overhang .... clearly not in Australia.

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We went for a bit of a wander around downtown Montgomery when we got in and discovered we were in an area where the slave trade was centred and some of the signs around are really confronting. The area is in the process of refurbishment and has been for a number of years but there are many empty buildings. This is a shot to the Alabama State Capitol .... situated on  .... wait for it ... Goat Hill!! Loved it.

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And this is a shot of the Court Square Fountain (with the State Capitol to the right past the fountain 6 blocks away). Every building you can see around the square, and a number up the street in front are all empty.

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The Alley, a former Rail Station building where many restaurants are housed.

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And at the rear of the Alley to the left is the Mexican Restaurant where we plan to have dinner tonight.

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Murphy House built in 1851 by John H Murphy who among other things was a slave trader. The slave trade was a very lucrative business and the whole idea of it makes my skin crawl. The building was refurbished by the Water Works and Sanitary Sewer Board in 1970.

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And part of the refurbishment of the area is also our hotel which was refurbished in 2009 and has been beautifully done. This is the lobby.

Bits and Bobs:

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Morning coffee at McDonalds. Their latte is quite acceptable though we have a hard time convincing them we don't want any flavours added to it!

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As we drove through the Cheaha State Park we were stopped to wait for a pilot car to escort us through the roadworks. We hadn't met any cars before this and few afterwards. The speed limit was 72kmh and in spite of this we hurtled along at up to 80kmh to keep up to the car. Gotta love it.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hampton Inn & Suites Atlanta Downtown, 161 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30303
Another comfortable spot to drop and relax. Clean and lovely facilities with a complimentary continental breakfast. Parking beside hotel so handy. We even managed to find the weather channel #326!!! A smaller room than previously but beautifully appointed. The front entrance is closed off and you now enter from the car park so took that shot.

Complimentary Continental breakfast is an interesting exercise. We've found these vary from some juice cereal and pastries to scrambled egg, breakfast potatoes and sausage and or bacon as well as pancakes or waffles or egg and bacon or sausage and egg muffins. So far only found one with black tea so we carry our own. Have even found some reasonable coffee.


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May
19
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While we told you yesterday that it was official that we've ridden the Skyline Drive / Blue Ridge Parkway, (469miles / 750kms) in fact with all the other bits and pieces we actually rode 1,107kms ...just saying.

Now to today. We continued to ride through the Great Smoky Mountains with lots of signs pointing to emerald and ruby mines and boiled peanuts ... what?! The foliage was more of the same we have experienced over the ride through the Parkway with luxuriant foliage albeit with increasing numbers of pine trees as there had been yesterday. The growth largely looks to be temperate rain forest type growth and only thins out as the altitude increases. The morning started out warm and humid and ended hot and humid so we will be ditching the woolen long johns tomorrow. Got into Atlanta around 2pm and were glad to get off the motorway / freeway and into the city. The largest number of lanes heading in our direction on the way in was 10 but mostly 6 and all moving fast so an experience. The traffic here is fast but much more predictable than home, and prepared to give you a go, again better than home.  A shower was followed by a tramp around a bit of our area through the Centennial Olympic Park as we are staying in the area where a lot of accommodation for the Centennial Olympics was provided. So again, the pictures can tell the story.

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A big cheer to our Travel Queen Sue Ritter for her call to direct us to the Nantahala Gorge and Lake and onto Wayah Road which is a well known great motorcycle ride, the locals call it Thunder Road and it was an awesome ride. As we headed up the Gorge the water was apparently warmer than the surface temperature and mist was drifting up off the water.

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This is a shot across Nantahala Lake.

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And along Wayah Road where the water tumbled, galloped and roared beside us as we climbed. There were also small waterfalls. It was hard to focus on the road which was a wonderful twisty ride.

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A look at some of the Atlanta Skyline.

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And again. This is actually the Westin and the top is a revolving restaurant.

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And the Centennial Olympic Park.

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And a view to the city from the park.

Bits and Bobs:

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A bit of a surprise to find these big solar panels over a car park on our way back to our hotel from the park. Quirky and creative thinking.


Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hampton Inn Cherokee, 185 Tsalagi Road, Cherokee, NC, 28719
Another lovely comfortable spot to stay. Only downfall was the lack of restaurant so headed into town where there are supposed to be a lot of restaurants but blowed if we could find them other than the massive Casino and didn't want to go there. We finally found a family restaurant and had a quick dinner before heading back to the Inn. We were bushed so the bed was looking good and felt good as well. Photo is from their website, when Norm went out to take a photo last night there was an awesome thunderstorm happening so he decided not to go out and forgot to take it this morning.


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May
18
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Well it's official, we've ridden the Skyline Drive / Blue Ridge Parkway, all 469 miles / 750kms of it plus the odd diversion or two to cater for detours and to get to hotels and the like and it was awesome from start to finish.  Today was a big day with sunshine, rain, more rain, hail, more rain, sunshine, more rain and fog and what else .... oh yeah a cycle race in the heaviest of the rain which went for miles with over 100 riders to weave past. At least we had the right size vehicle to get safely past.  The rain meant we didn't have to consider a lot of photo shots since we were dripping wet and cameras were stowed away as well as big numbers of Overlooks (Scenic View sites) which were overgrown ... as it had been for 30 to 50 years. The Department of the Interior must need some more funding to do the physical work instead of just cranking out the printed matter to say what could be seen if you could only see it. Sounding a bit grumpy, sorry. We have enjoyed the peacefulness of the Parkway combined with the magnificent ever changing trees, foliage and views. No matter the weather or light, or lack thereof the new green of so many leaves was incredible and then when the sun came out the new green became lime green and the dappled shade was magnificent and changed the whole context. It was like seeing a beautiful building suddenly flood lit which totally changed the look of it. As well as the fragrances which followed us all day and were beautifully sweet. We discovered that the cream flowers in the photo yesterday were magnolias as we saw many trees of them today with half opened flowers as yesterday as well as fully open. As to the day I'll let the pictures tell the story below.

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The first Overlook we pulled into was the Grandview Overlook so I'll dedicate that to Grandma and Granddad Bransgrove (Normie's parents) their property was called 'Grandview' and now the sign off their home has been refurbished and Michael and Karen are the proud custodians of it.

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We called into the Moses H Cone Memorial Park which is a massive Manor House on 3,600 acres which was  deeded to the State in 1950. The ground floor is used as a raft centre but the exterior is sadly deteriorating. This is a side entrance.

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We headed off the road to have a look at the Linville Falls but not knowing how long our day was going to take we only walked as far as the Upper Falls Overlook. By the end of the day we were glad that's all the time we took.

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The Linn Cove Viaduct, very impressive.

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View from the Craggy Gardens Overlook and that big black cloud chased us for the rest of the day.

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Devils Courthouse on the left, we had ridden through a tunnel under this in fact we traveled through a huge number of tunnels today.

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We did a U Turn to park in front of the Parkway sign.

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And the final milepost. Yay, we did it!

Bits and Bobs:

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We pulled off the Parkway at Little Switzerland to find a coffee and stopped at 'Big Lynns Lodge' but unfortunately she didn't serve coffee just breakfast and dinner with accommodation but she did point us in the right direction. She kindly allowed me to take a photo of her sign which appealed to me. We ultimately had coffee and fueled up at Grassy Creek after passing an 'Inmate Working' sign with the inmates and police with rifles in view. A bit daunting but probably very efficient.

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Also at 'Big Lynns Lodge'.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Was the Best Western when we booked months ago but now the Quality Inn, Blue Ridge Plaza, 840 E King Street, Boone NC 28607
A lovely comfortable spot to retreat to last night. Room lovely, bathroom big enough to turn around in, everything nice and comfortable. Staff friendly and helpful and since it was raining when we arrived we asked if there was any undercover parking and were told to park under the front portico. By the time we went to dinner there were eight bikes in total parked there and there was still room to drive through. No restaurant but across the road from an awesome Mexican Restaurant.


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May
17
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So, back to the Blue Ridge Parkway and like yesterday the road was impressive in surface camber gradient and ride with the slight exception of surface (mainly in North Carolina) where there were a few (yes only a few) patches where the surface had a few challenges and that ultimately led to a couple of detours off the Parkway as a result .... see getting picky now. Like yesterday the ride was just beautiful and soul restoring and we both had a real sense of just breathing in deeply and relaxing. The view was one of luxuriant leafy green avenues almost covered in completely overhead and then breaking out into well grassed meadows as well as farmland. Where the Skyline Drive is all within the Shenandoah National Park the Blue Ridge Parkway has narrow strips of park only and most is within farms and road reserves so quite a contrast.

The abundance of grass meant we saw a number of deer and had a close encounter of the deer kind early in the day and still cant quite believe the logistics of it all. Norm was in the lead and rounding a right hand corner cut into the bank and there was a pick-up towing a van approaching from the opposite direction when a deer (apparently tearing along at  big speed) leapt down off the bank literally in front of Norm, hitting the road slightly to the left of him and kept right on going to the other side of the road avoiding both Norm and the pick-up! Neither Norm nor I suspect the pick-up driver had time for things to register let alone brake. Still shaking our heads. Very happy we weren't a second further along the road and on the deer side of things I'd say the deer should get a great big gnarly 'Fleet of Foot Award' in the deer hall of fame!

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And more positive news, photos. We hadn't long left Roanoke and came across this crossing of the Roanoke River. This is a power station (I think) not sure if operational or not at the base of a dam spillway.

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Walking back across the bridge to the parking lot there were massive trees growing from the rivers edge and still towering above us on the bridge and were deliciously fragrant. A shot of the flowers on the tree. No idea what they are.

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Next photo stop was a ride up the  Mt Roan loop road on Mount Roanoke. Glad it was one way. The lookout was awesome but the fog was so thick even though we could see out the camera wouldn't focus through the fog just on the fog so no shot there but this is an example of the foliage as we wound further up the mountain, It was much sparser than that on the majority of the Parkway.

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An example of a cabin which were once numerous along the Parkway. The sign is self explanatory.

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Love these cute bridges under the Parkway. Seem the same right through and saw a double one over the road and railway line in one spot.

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Coffee and a chat with the locals  at Tuggles Gap.

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Yes! We are in the land of the soaring eagles and here were two of four which were soaring out over the Fox Hollow Lookout. Does my soul good to see them. Reminiscent of what it is to ride the bike.

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The Mabry Mill built in 1910 and operated for 26 years, supposedly the most photographed site on the Parkway.

Bits and Bobs:

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A sobering reminder ... at a Picnic ground. Food for thought. Bear buffet?

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Our lunch spot was an interesting store and had pipe tobacco all over the place. These are bags of it at $14.00 a piece.

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Amongst the foliage over the last two days have been many rhodedenrom. Yesterday white, pink and purple, predominantly purple. Today white, pink, purple, yellow and orange, predominantly yellow and orange. Beautiful. These were in the car park at the Northwest Trading Post.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Days Inn Roanoke Civic Center, 601 Orange Avenue, Roanoke, Virginia 24016
Well last nights hotel was an exercise in what you get when you decide mainly on price. When we pulled up I said to Norm "Looks a bit scary" and he said "You see these places on the news channel on the TV". That said, it was old tired and rundown but a comfortable bed. Won't mention the bathroom ... but the water was hot. Broke out the old thongs rather than bare feet even though the carpet looked clean it was losing it's surface in patches.




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May
16
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Yep that really is the Shenandoah National Park entrance and the start of an awesome day. We left warm and uncomfortable humidity in Front Royal and climbed into deliciously cool fresh and fragrant mountains and so started an awesome experience as we explored the Blue Ridge Mountains. This was the second bonus of heading east. We had planned to do some 'leaf peeping' of the autumn colours along this route in 2013 but the day was rained and fogged out so had to take the route at the foot of the ridge.

The ride today was awesome. The road surface, camber and gradient excellent and the ride itself spectacularly beautiful. The foliage surrounding us changed from luxuriant and dense and leaves well developed with dense ferns and undergrowth to more sparsely treed with beginnings of leaf cover only as we climbed higher but without doubt it was all beautiful to be amongst and the views were incredible either across multiple ridges and mountains or what appeared to be from the sky down onto the valleys and plains below first on one side and then the other as we traversed the ridge. Hard to stay focused ... might be just as well we didn't get here in the fall, way too much to safely look at and I suspect a lot more to share the road with as well. The traffic increased as the day wore on but not enough to be a bother and with the speed limits (56kmh on Skyline Drive and 72kmh on the Blue Ridge Parkway) it could have been a bit frustrating. We enjoyed a bite for lunch at Loft Mountain Wayside then a hot chocolate at the Otters Peaks Lodge, both a welcome respite off the bikes as my knees were complaining from being bent up for as many hours as they were .... mind you the rest of the body was just singing with the ride!

Photos were a bit of a challenge. Early in the morning the fog on the land below hadn't lifted and there was a haze present most of the day and increased through the day and I didn't bring my camera which does a panoramic shot DOH! and without it any photos just don't do the views justice. Ah well. A collection below anyway.

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View from Jenkins Gap Overlook.

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Typical of so much of the roadway / vegetation we travelled through.

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A cute little tunnel.

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Dark Hollow Falls. It was a workout and a half to get there and back!

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A not so timid little deer early into the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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The Peaks of Otter (well one anyway) on Abbot Lake.


Bits and Bobs:

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An interesting way to view the countryside ..... well from the riders seat, not so much from the side cart I suspect. In the parking lot at the Loft Mountain Wayside car-park.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hampton Inn Front Royal, 9800 Winchester Road, Front Royal, VA 22630
Nice comfortable room and bed and included hot breakfast. Shame there is no restaurant on site, we really didn't feel up to heading out once we had gotten out of the shower. Nice and handy to the motorway so makes for a quick getaway when leaving.


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May
15
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Shame we didn't have time to check out Dublin or more of Columbus it looked good but we headed off around 8.30am so an improvement on after midday yesterday and just as well since we had a lot of ground to cover including wanting to visit the Flight 93 Memorial which was the main reason we were heading in this direction. We got in at 6.30pm so an improvement on 9.15pm last night especially considering we had lost an hour with a time change as well. We felt a bit like being home today as we had at least four seasons from clear and cool to rain to warm and humid to very warm.

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A fuel stop at St Clairsville found this massive public building (suspect a courthouse / municipal building) but a shame to see it deteriorating like a lot of the rest of the downtown area. Newer areas were in better condition but that may not last as the servo attendant told Norm the town was built on coal and people are being layed off as gas is taking over.

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Barely in the gate at the Memorial and already we can see development ahead of us.

We missed out on seeing the Memorial in 2013 owing to the Federal Government shutdown of National Parks and managed sites. Grrrr. Anyway, we found our visit very moving and we were glad we came to pay our respects to the heros of Flight 93 who were regular citizens who decided they were not going to allow terror to overtake their country and made a  heroic stand. Interesting to know that they had learn't of the devastation of the World Trade Towers and Pentagon by mobile phone calls and realised that their plane was heading for the White House. No mobiles allowed on Australian planes and yet even in 1998 when we first came to the USA you could make calls from plane installed phones.

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First pullover and already somber reflection.

A huge amount of work has been done since we looked out over the site in 2013 and the site already has many spots for quiet reflection and has a quiet respectful feel about it. We're glad we came. Have to confess that in spite of seeing some lovely sights after leaving there even if we had time available I doubt we would have stopped to take photos. There was a lot to process. If we had more time available the audio tour would have been good, as it was we listened to some that others were listening to which gave great context.

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A view from the Visitor Shelter at the Wall of Reflection back up towards the Visitor Education and Interpretive Centre under construction.

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And a listing of names of all the passengers and crew who perished on Flight 93. Through the gate at the end of the wall is a large rock which sits on the site where the plane came to rest. Very sobering indeed.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Crowne Plaza, 600 Metro Place North, Dublin, Ohio 43017
What a lovely spot to just drop after a huge day. Comfortable and spacious room, heaps of parking, restaurants with a kitchen open until 11pm and even better room service for these two weary campers. Cheerful and helpful and friendly staff. To top it off a beautiful hot shower and comfortable pillowtop mattress ahhh.


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May
14
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Down to the bike shop soon after opening and Eric pulled the fuel pump off my bike and got out the new one to discover that instead of being supplied with the pump and gasket as they are supposed to be it had arrived short the gasket. Doh!

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And here is my poor little bike in bits with the fuel tank sitting on the bench in front of it. But ... as luck would have it they were taking delivery of a new 950 this morning so they very kindly transferred the fuel pump and gasket from that onto mine and away we went so three cheers for the boys at DuPage Honda Yamaha. www.dupagemotorcycleswestchicago.com

We decided instead of doing two days riding in one to split it up given we were going to be getting on the road after midday and having cancelled last nights accommodation at Fort Wayne IN we also cancelled tonight's at Wheeling WV and instead booked at a hotel in Dublin OH on the outskirts of Columbus and believe me we are glad we did since we finally got into our hotel at 9.15pm tonight.

But to today. Once we were finally out of Chicago and surrounds we pulled off in Gary Indiana to get fuel and it was a sorry site with huge numbers of empty and decaying private homes and commercial apartments and factory and office sites and even into the town itself it looked very tired and in patches a little bit daunting. The two nice things were a good ol boy hanging out his pickup window at traffic lights wanting to know how old we were and how far we were going and he was impressed then told us his Dad had still be riding his bike at 80, Yay I thought. The reason we had such a long chat was that the local police were escorting heaps of students and families across the road for a graduation ceremony complete with cap and gowns so in spite of what we saw an element of hope.

From here we traveled through thousands of acres of picturesque farmland being prepared for the new corn crop. Just loved the many quaint farmhouses and hotch potch collections of silos and outbuildings as well as the ocassional delicious fragrance of something like a faint hint of jasmine. Seemed to be when there were low growing creamy green leaved bushes in the vicinity. No idea what they were. Then the closer we got to Dublin the more forest area we came across complete with signs for deer and some dead on the side of the road and others wandering along the fence, glad we got into suburbia before it was completely dark.


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Around 6pm we pulled off at an interchange to get a hot chocolate ... didn't have any so Norm got a 'kill a brown dog' coffee and I got a chocolate milkshake which was so thick I couldn't suck it through the straw so took the lid off and tipped it up and sucked it out of the cup as I walked around the shop to get my knees moving again.

Bits and Bobs:

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Check out the accessory Norm has added to our bikes, it's a camera holder so we can sit our cameras in them so we can grab them quickly even in gloves. He's used a couple of 'Bobber Daves Custom Cycles' stubby holders.www.bobberdavescustomcycles.com.au  I suspect Dave hadn't anticipated his stubby holders would be traveling the USA. Ha ha.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Holiday Inn, 150 S Gary Avenue, Carol Stream IL 60188
An adequete spot to stay. Getting a little tired but clean and comfortable. Indoor pool available but couldn't quite face it with how cold it was outside. Two restaurants on site and large conference areas. Staff very helpful and found a room for us well before midday.


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May
13
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For those paying attention you will notice we didn't clock up many kilometres today and we're not in Fort Wayne Indiana tonight where we are supposed to be. DOH! So for everyone who has asked over time what we would do if we had an unavoidable hold up on our trip see below.

After having a trouble free ride yesterday, this morning shortly after we headed off my bike started to make a whistling noise which quickly worsened  and we discovered the issue was with the fuel pump so we pulled into DuPage Honda and Yamaha and the decision was made it needed to be replaced. Unfortunately they didn't have a 950 in stock to swap one out of and we learnt there were only 3 in the country all in California. So bottom line plan it will be Fed Ex'd to the shop arriving hopefully before midday tomorrow and it will be replaced and then we will head to Wheeling West Virginia (a distance equivalent from Melbourne to Adelaide so a big day). We cancelled tonight's accommodation and booked into a Hotel not far from the bike shop. Fingers crossed it all comes together tomorrow and we are grateful we were close to the bike shop instead of in the middle of nowhere.

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Waiting for the bike shop to open at 10am.

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This spot probably looks familiar. We rode around looking at some very pretty areas revisiting Whealing for lunch which is where we used to get the train to from Chicago when we came to collect the bikes and then onto Geneva again for a coffee on our way back to our hotel closer to the bike shop.

 Bits and Bobs:

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And Norm spotted Mr Eggward (Humpty Dumpty) at Saint Mary's park on our way back to Saint Charles.

 Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hotel Baker, 100 West Main Street, Saint Charles IL 60174

Always lovely to stay here. Staff very friendly and helpful, deliciously comfortable bed, breakfast included and parking close by. Very quirky Art Deco design and decor and beautiful function rooms as well as a comfortable restaurant.


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May
12
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As you can see we've started our trip (barely) and at Hotel Baker in St Charles which is where we've finished the last two USA trips so it was nice to come to a familiar spot yesterday evening when we felt decidedly second hand. After a shower and walk we had a beautiful meal at the Italian Restaurant across the street then 11 hours sleep. Aaaaaahhhh! The bed as always was superbly comfortable and it's cozy and quiet. The weather is very grey and cold as it was yesterday, today being 13c but feels like 9c so pleased we brought sufficient bike gear to be warm on the bikes and also that we are heading slightly south as we head east tomorrow.

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Lucky to have this shot. I dropped my camera in the cab we took to collect the bikes today so called the cab company (Fox Cabs) and they dropped it off at the hotel. God bless them! This is a shot of the A380 we travelled in from Melbourne to Los Angeles. It was huge and when we landed it was escorted from the runway into where we unloaded by cars with flashing red lights at each wingtip I assume to show the pilots and others just how wide they are. In spite of the size the take off and landing seemed short and effortless. Amazing!

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The lobby of Hotel Baker, it is a great example of an Art Deco Hotel and quite a quirky place as well as jazz inspired. Our friends Neil and Marie would love the dining room complete with jazz background music.

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And a farewell to the boys at DuPage Honda Yamaha L - R Mike (business owner) Robert (Sales Manger) Nola and Norm. They have been a great support and a lot of fun and we can thoroughly recomend them. http://www.dupagemotorcyclewestchicago.com/

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One of the cute shops (we assume formerly a home) on 3rd Street Geneva.

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And a little further out a typical home in the township.

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And along Main Street.

Bits and Bobs:

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After having littlies staying with us for a bit over a year we are missing the kisses and cuddles but thought it was safer to try this than attach myself to an unknown child in the street. Pretty cold reception actually.


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