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Northbound in Mid-October—Part Seven

Kentucky Hills and Breaking In the Tiger on Gravel

The following morning, I had a bit of a problem when I was changing my tank bag maps and discovered that the only one I did not have was of Kentucky, where I’d be after crossing the Ohio River in a short while. I’d have to give the GPS the honors of guiding me through.

Riding east along the river, I soon found the source of the hushed roar at a powerplant nearby, pumping out electrons for the Ohio River Basin. In just a few miles east, I crossed the Ohio on the William H. Harsha Bridge and found myself in Kentucky. I struck south through the hills toward the Tennessee line.

When I say, “…through the Kentucky hills,” I literally mean through them. A mountain wasn’t a barrier to Kentucky dynamite and most passes were a result of blasting a path through the granite heart of a ridge. Passing through some was like riding through a roofless tunnel, with stone walls towering overhead on both sides of the road. The further I got from the Ohio River the more the hills became gentler, and riding over them, instead, became the norm.

Riding Through the Kentucky Hills

Before I arrived at the Tennessee line, I passed through a little town named Snow. It occurred to me that I had traveled all the way to Wisconsin to see autumn, and then in Michigan I’d passed through Winter and of course Christmas, but it wasn’t until I had traveled all this way back south that I had finally, and ironically, found Snow!

In South Bend, I’d planned in advance and had contacted a fellow “inmate” from the forums’ “Tent Space Map” who was roughly halfway across Tennessee, at a place aptly named Crossville. The Tent Space Map was a map of fellow forum members who have offered a place to stay for fellow motorcycle travelers, be it a space to pitch a tent, a spare guest room, mechanical assistance, what have you. I am a host, as well as a traveler who often takes advantage of the list, and have found both experiences always to have been a pleasure. On the ride out from South Bend, I had received a reply and an invitation to set up my tent on Andy’s farm in Crossville. He had asked me if a quarter-mile of gravel driveway would be a problem for me. I’d replied, “No problem.” I was heading his way, secure in knowing I had a place for the night.

Tennessee was a roller coaster of green hills dotted with small farms. I rolled along pleasantly, only stopping for caffeine in the form of iced tea.

View of the Tennessee Countryside

This time, still with plenty of light, I found the gravel driveway and started down the long hill to Andy’s place. The gravel was large and loose and not at all the graded and compacted path I had expected. It was also narrow and crowned, with a small trench running along each side. I nervously made my way down, the front wheel wandering this way and that at its own volition, until deciding it wanted to go left more than right. I soon found myself riding in the trench on the left side of the track. I was going slowly, looking for a suitable place where I could get back up on the rounded grade, when I felt the heavily laden bike pitch to the right, and down we went. I pulled my foot out from underneath the Tiger and stood up unharmed, reaching down to hit the kill switch. There was no leaking gas—that was good.

I stepped back to take the obligatory photo to prove that the Tiger had finally been broken in properly, After all, the Tiger had been designed for off-pavement riding, and in that scenario, a drop is expected from time to time.

The Tiger Takes a Dirt Nap

I stepped back to the bike to assess the damage. Luckily, other than a scuffed right-hand guard and some chalky residue from the gravel coating the crash bars and soft panniers, all was intact and undamaged. Still, there was the problem of standing it back upright. I tried to lift it, but whether it was due to the weight of the luggage added to the heavy bike or my weakened wrist that was now filled with titanium after my deer encounter, I couldn’t budge it. I considered removing all the luggage, but wasn’t convinced that was the problem, rather thinking it was just due to my weakness. I texted Andy, telling him I was in his driveway and could use a hand.

Andy arrived in a side-by-side, and we removed the easily detached tank bag and pillion bag packed with all my camping gear to make lifting the Tiger a little less of a chore. Together, we managed to get the bike back upright and on its side stand and the gear in the back of his four by four.

I still had half of the driveway to go, so I climbed back on the bike, and without starting the engine, I paddle-rolled it with the clutch pulled in down the ditch, which in places got deep and narrow enough to threaten to catch my left foot peg. I avoided another disaster and eventually found a path back onto the road proper and rolled the rest of the way down to my camping spot.

While setting up, Andy and I chatted a bit about bikes and travel. I mentioned that I had intended to pitch camp and then return to the highway to pick up a sandwich and a beer for dinner to bring back to the tent, as I had only had breakfast many hours earlier, but after the recent mishap I’d skip it and avoid riding back up and down the drive. He said, “No problem; I’ll take you in the side by side.” Thankfully, I hopped in, and we took it on a tour across the edge of his 500-acres to a gas station convenience store nearby.

By the time we got back, the temperature was falling as quickly as the sun was setting. II thanked Andy for the spot to camp, for his help with the bike, and for the ride to the store, then he rode off to his house and wife down the hill, while I climbed into my sleeping bag for the night.

My Camp Site at Andy's


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