The planned date of departure, Tuesday, Oct 23rd, predictably arrived amidst a monsoon, breaking a summer long drought.
It had been raining steadily for several days and there were few signs of it letting up. Reluctantly, I decided to postpone my departure one more day, all the while keeping a keen eye on the weather channel.
My original plan was to take three “leisurely” days to make this trip, with a planned three or four day stop at my daughters home. I also had planned a much anticipated two-lane ride up the Illinois, Indiana and Ohio side of the Ohio River. Delaying my departure cut my trip time by one third, making it impossible to ride the river road, while visiting the National Parks I had planned.
Wednesday morning, Oct. 24th, I woke up at 4:30 am and checked the weather radar on both the TV and my laptop. Both confirmed light showers around the Paducah area, forty-eight degrees, with clearing skies to the east. On that somewhat optimistic note, I grabbed the last few items that were not already packed, kissed Carolyn goodbye, and headed out the door at 5 am.
So much for the weatherman!
My first stop came at 6:45 am in Beaver Dam, KY, after riding 120 miles in the dark, in a steady rain. I grabbed a cup of coffee and a breakfast biscuit and continued on to Louisville where the rain finally let up for a brief 30 minutes. After quickly negotiating the dry Waterson Expressway, I rode the now rain soaked I-71 northeast to downtown Cincinnati, OH where I found the first park on my list.
William Howard Taft National Historic Site
A memorial to the 27th President and 10th Chief Justice of The United States.
Earthen mounds of various shapes and enclosures, often built in geometric patterns, dot the landscape of this Ohio River Valley. These earthen structures were doubtless the work of many human hands. Evidence suggests that Hopewell earthworks were used for a variety of ceremonial and social activities between 200 BC to AD 500. Finally! Beautiful two-lane roads south from Chillicothe, OH to the Ohio River crossing at Maysville, KY. Southern Ohio was at peak fall color and a delight to see, even in the rain. It's a shame my snapshots rarely convey the real fall beauty.
From Maysville I rode south, eventually connecting with I-64 thirty miles east of Winchester, KY. It was on westward to Lexington, KY where, after riding 643 miles, I stopped for dinner at the Cracker Barrel and called it a day.
Thursday morning, after waiting for daylight forever, I left at 7:00 am in the dark with light rain, 47 degree temps and a 30 mile per hour wind. It didn't take long to ride the 85 miles south to the Kentucky entrance to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area at Stearns, KY. This park straddles the KY-TN line and has a visitor center in both states.
Big South Fork has some amazing mountain twisties (roads) within the park that rival anything found at Deals Gap. I found the Gorge especially challenging on very steep, wet-leaf strewn switch backs. Fortunately, due to the time of the year, I had the road to myself.
Encompassing 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area protects the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. The visitor center at Stearns, KY is located in an old train station.
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
After riding south through the park, another thirty miles, I left Big South Fork at Oneida, TN. I exited the west entrance and circled south, around the park, heading east toward I-75 once again.
Fall beauty at every turn!I continued following two lane mountain roads, crossing I-75, east to Cumberland Gap National Historic Park at Middlesboro, KY. I also rode through the Cumberland Gap Tunnel, which joins Kentucky and Tennessee at this point.
It was 76 miles of beautiful two-lane mountain roads, due east, to Greenville, TN, and my next park.The Andrew Johnson National Historic Site honors the life of the 17th President. Andrew Johnson's presidency, 1865-1869, illustrates the United States Constitution at work following President Lincoln's assassination and during attempts to reunify a nation torn by civil war. Andrew Johnson's original home.Andrew Johnson is buried in the family cemetery on top of a hill overlooking downtown Greenville, TN.
After visiting this park, I punched "Go to Keaton's Home" (our grandson) on my faithful Garmin and, 248 miles later, I arrived at my daughter's home in Murfreesboro, TN at 7:15 pm.
Another awesome day, riding 674 miles total. The mountains of eastern KY and eastern TN were nothing short of spectacular!
"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." ~ Vincent Van Gogh ~