Editorial Note: This article first appeared in September 2013
S – Sparks
A – Adel
N – Nashville
D – Dasher
O – Omega
L – Lenox
L – Lake Park
A – Alapaha
R – Remerton
M – Morven
C – Cecil
I was looking for AMA clubs in the area and came across the Sandollar M/C. Not necessarily close by, but what a deal, they have a Grand Tour that’s open to anyone. All I have to do is visit towns that will spell out their club’s name. I can do that. And maybe if I can find towns close enough I can try an extended ride with the ’77 Sportster. Do I dare? Not so long ago, on one ride the air cleaner and the turn signal fell off. On another, the rear fender dropped to the tire after all the bolts left me, deciding they couldn’t take anymore shaking. But I think I have enough loctite and nylon nuts now to give it a shot.
The weekend finally came after days of searching for cities in an ever tightening circle, and arranging and rearranging the order for the most efficient route. Well look at that, it’s looking like we’ll be blessed with a little more rain. Oh well, another week of sloughing through the 9 to 5. Finally, the rain chance drops below the half way mark for a Saturday morning departure.
I’m up before the sun and rolling the bike out to the road. I had replaced the straight pipes with some vintage 2-1 stock pipes shortly after I got the bike. But still, it’s a Harley, and my daughter and her sleeping friend are enjoying a teenage snooze in the room right beside the garage.
A few kicks and the adventure begins. First stop, fuel the machine and fuel the rider. This special event constitutes a biscuit loaded with all the stuff I shouldn’t eat if I’m going to live for tomorrow. But it’s not tomorrow, it’s today.
To Morven, Georgia and beyond! Or maybe not. Everything was running smooth until ten minutes out on the open road when there’s a little stutter. Especially on the rises. Like it’s running out of gas, but I just filled it.?. I’m starting to weigh my options: Do I turn back and abort the mission? Do I turn back and resort to the trusty Yamaha? Do I hope for the best, that it’s a touch of bad gas? Do I throw caution to the wind and rest my fate to my cell phone and AMA roadside assis- Oh... The choke is still half out from when I tried every combination I could think of to get it started again, back at the restaurant; kicking the bejesus out of the old ironhead. I push the cable back in, and once again, it’s a beautiful day.
M’s now in the bag and off to O-town, Omega. Not alpha and omega, but O-mee-ga. A Northern friend had pointed out to me that we have a way with words around here.
After another gas stop, it’s time to look at my Google Maps print out, again. I’ve never taken these back roads to Lenox before. Doing good, though. Go to the end of the road and take a right. Then, follow that road for 3.2 miles. Oh-oh, what my printout neglected to note was that one mile down the road, the blacktop runs out! I’m a street rider, and not too sure about this. Fortunately though, the rain had packed down the sandy spots and it’d stopped long enough ago to harden the muddy spots. So, I trail blazed on, telling myself to remember what I’ve read: ride loose, weight the pegs, and keep the COG low. Easy does it at first, but after awhile with every successful maneuver through the minor shifts of the tires, I envision myself sliding around the corners like Chris Carr or Springteen. Oh yeah, maybe I can go into the next one a little more hot? Lucky for me the dirt track came to an end before my imagination caused my end.
So, a left here, and a slight right… and then a left? I don’t want to stop again to pull out the directions. I’m sure it’s a left. So, the landscape rolls on. Past the corn ready to harvest, past the early blooming cotton, past the low ground cover peanuts, past that rock in the road… Wait a minute, that rock has legs! Best wishes to you, Mr Tortoise. I hope you make it.
Five miles go by. Something’s wrong. I pull over and drag out my directions. Sure enough, this isn’t Old Union Rd anymore.
I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque!
Time to swallow a little of my pride and turn around. Excuse me again, Mr Tortoise.
Not long after, Lenox is captured and on to Alapaha. I’m enjoying the blue highways with no real hurry to get there. Good thing because the 4 speed Sportster is geared more for the Carter era of 55 mph. It’ll surely go much faster, however today I think I’ll keep my fillings intact.
With the machine in its sweet spot, the towns beginning to check off the list: Nashville, Sparks, Adel, Cecil. Coming down the back stretch on my oval course. It’s been a long morning, but only three towns to go.
Remerton, Dasher. Time for gas, again. You can only get so far on the 2 gallons the peanut tank holds. The engine’s still warm. One kick should do it… I said, one kick should do it… one kick… one kick should do it… Crap. Now it’s probably in some sort of flooded stage that I’ve never figured out how to get out of. 50 kicks later, I’m off toward the eleventh and final photo.
Lake Park, and there’s the city hall. I’ll just back it up to the door. They’re closed for the day. No harm done, and nobody will mind if I keep the engine running. Nobody but the Chief of Police! Actually, he was a nice guy and we chatted for a bit. Motorcycles have a way of being a catalyst for striking up conversations. We talked a little more of this and that, and “have a good day.”
20 minutes later I rolled back up the driveway, weary but triumphant. The old Sporty made it around the block, and my task was completed. Hmmm... Looks like we’re going to be blessed with a little more rain.
- Tim M.
Note: Tim completed his International Grand Tour in August 2013.