Life’s a beach, but not after a hurricane. Our Atlantic beach trip quickly turned into a Tennessee camping tour after Irene scrubbed our plans along with most of the East Coast. It’s just as well, I suppose, since my memories of Tennessee involve blue highway “Trading Posts” stocked with rock candy, slingshots, and rubber tomahawks adorned with brightly dyed feathers. The memory banks are clearly past due for an update!
Home base for our Shamrock is Edgar Evins State Park, located on the shores of Center Hill Lake in central Tennessee. Although this is a budget tour, I haven’t made any formal projections for the cost. We’ll just do our best to keep costs down without resorting to foraging, and go over the numbers when we’re done. Our chariot is first-class all the way: a 2012 Honda Gold Wing on loan to RoadRUNNER, and I’m both excited and nervous at the prospect of piloting the large bike down an unknown mix of roads. I also wonder how my own bikes can ever compete after seeing my wife, Sharon, react to the Wing’s plush accommodations.
When we awaken on Tuesday, the splat of rain dripping onto our tent is quickly drowned out by raucous crows in the nearby trees. I peer out at the foggy campground. It’s nearly deserted now that the weekend is over. The Jetboil stove makes short work of heating water, and we’re soon enjoying both coffee and the warmth of our sleeping bags. Our second cups are joined by protein bars that serve as our “pre-breakfast.” We’ll stop for the real thing once on the road.
Knuckleheads And Rattlesnake Cake
We’re soon en route to Red Boiling Springs under leaden skies, with our heated grips and “bun warmers” cranked up to chase off the damp chill. Mileage is only around 150 for the day, but we plan on spending considerable time at our stops. Hopefully the skies will clear as predicted. A wrong but quickly realized right-hand turn onto Route 53 takes us past a sign advertising “Hair, Food, and Fun” at Clippers. I usually nix any combination of hair and food, but choices are limited so we give it a shot. A combination hair salon and restaurant seems strange, but I ask you, how many times have you been eating and thought, “Dang, I need a haircut!” Eureka! Joking aside, the food was good and the prices better. Just another case of “whatever works” in rural America.
Motorcycle & Gear
2012 Honda Gold Wing
Arriving at Cyclemos Motorcycle Museum around noon, we’re greeted by locked gates because the museum is closed the first part of the week. There’s no cell phone coverage, so I walk next door to Armour’s Hotel and call Mike Silvio, owner of the museum. He graciously opens up and gives us a private tour of the museum, where we view a stunning array of vintage bikes in painstakingly detailed settings complete with mannequins dressed in period clothing. The bikes aren’t just for show either, as Mike proves by firing up a 1936 Harley Knucklehead with two kicks. Mike’s passion for breathing life back into these old bikes is obvious, and Cyclemos is a worthy trip destination in and of itself.
A hop over the fence puts us back at Armour’s for a proper visit and a tour from innkeeper Dennis Emery. We learn the town was famous for its curative mineral waters in the early 1900s, and that the town’s wells produced five types of waters. “Black” water, with high sulfur content, is the type present at Armour’s, and Sharon can’t resist drinking some out of curiosity. After smelling the water, any afflictions of mine suddenly disappear, and I politely decline tasting it. (A wise choice, as Sharon re-lived the tasting process for several hours as the sulfur water percolated in her stomach.) Another of the hotel’s unique offerings, rattlesnake cake, passes both taste and olfactory tests with flying colors. The name comes from the blend of peppers sprinkled on the cake’s frosting, and I’ll take a bite from that snake anytime! Storm clouds gather again while en route back to Edgar Evins, forcing us to scamper into Cookeville for a dry dinner before returning to camp.
It Works for Bears Sometimes
Rain menaces our plans again in the morning, and I wonder if it will leave us alone if we play dead. On a positive note, the park’s unusual decklike camping platforms are ideal for the weather conditions, as rain simply runs through the cracks between the timbers. I brew coffee in the partially opened tent vestibule, and by the time we venture outside, the rain has slowed to a drizzle. Today’s route takes us through Cookeville shortly after leaving camp, and we have a leisurely breakfast there while we wait for the sky to stop leaking.