5/19/2007   Happy Anniversary!  Welcome to Mississippi and unpaved roads!

 Today is our wedding anniversary.  A year ago we spend this weekend at the Horizons Unlimited meeting in North Carolina – after which I finally agreed to participate in this motorcycle trip.  Now one year later we are actually on our way.  Amazing where life will take you when you let it! 

Darren used the bike2bike communication to warn me that a river crossing was ahead and that he had dropped his bike.  

He had chosen to cross the very shallow river without waiting for my assistance and found that the mossy surface of the rocks below were very slippery.  We slid the bike a bit further across the stream and pulled it upright.  Then I let Darren ride my bike across since his feet were flat on the ground and he would be able to hold the bike better if it started to slip over.  I followed him with my hands on the panniers to steady the bike.  We made it across without a problem. 

We decided to divert from the trail and attempt to make it to a Kawasaki dealer in Corinth, Mississippi for some new front brake pads for Darren’s bike.  When we pulled into Jim Bennett Kawasaki (1205 Hwy 72 E), the owner came out to meet us and was thrilled about what we were doing.  Although they were about to close for the day and they didn’t have any front brake pads in stock, they went out of their way to take them off a brand new bike and installed them on the spot.  Everyone was extremely helpful and we were very appreciative.    

5/20/2007  Painful lessons and deep river crossings…

Yesterday evening I began having a little trouble hearing Darren through the Bike2Bike communicators.  He could hear me, but I could not hear him.  He had to wait for me at every intersection. 

Most all the roads today were various forms of unpaved roads - dusty yellow dirt, gray gravel, packed red clay, small red pebbles, dried mud, etc. 

I learned a valuable lesson today – the hard way…I was descending down a hill at about 30 mph on a road of small red pebbles when I began to loose control of the bike.  As I tried to regain control, I used the front brake.  My bikes front wheel darted left and the bike tipped and slid to the side of the road.  It threw me to the ground on my right side.  Darren explained that I should have used mostly my back brake – or shifted to a lower gear to let the engine lower my speed.  It was the hardest and fastest fall I have had and it really knocked my confidence for a while.  Later in the day I came across 2 very similar situations – similar pebble surfaces on a hill.  On one of them I began to lose control again and carefully applied the back brake to regain control.  It worked and I felt myself regain a little bit of confidence.  I hope all my lessons are not this hard won!

We came across a very wide river.  It could almost be called a large pond or swamp.  Darren laughed as my eyes widened to the size of saucers.  Darren took a walk across and found that it came up to above his knees.  It was going to be especially challenging for my lowered bike. It did not take long at all for my bike to stall from water intake.  We each took a side and walked/ pulled it across.  The water was up to my thighs.  We repeated the process with Darren’s bike – it made it further across using the engine, but when it did stall, it was harder to push because of how much heavier it was (Darren’s carrying most of our weight).  Once on the other side, I crossed back over to retrieve our helmets and gloves.  This was a challenging river crossing and we were both due for a rest.  We stripped off our wet gear and hung out in the sun while we ate lunch. 


 We headed to a Wall Doxey  State Park in Mississippi to camp for the night.  As we pulled into the park, I stopped the engine at the entrance while Darren completed the registration paperwork.  When we tried to head off again, my bike would not start.  The Park Ranger stopped by and assisted as Darren push started it.  We found our camp spot and Darren tried to figure out the problem with the bike to no avail.  We decided to let it be for the night and deal with it in the morning.    

5/21/2007  After 7 days, thou shalt rest…

When I woke, my right shoulder and arm were very sore.  We decided to take a rest day.  Darren would ride the bike to a Kawasaki shop and see if they could diagnose the problem.  I helped him push start the bike to get going and spent a little time cleaning up around camp.  Darren returned very shortly and said that he tested it a few times on the road and it was working again!  So we decided not to worry about it.  

I still felt we needed a day off, so we agreed to take today as a lazy day.  We took a long walk along the hiking trails in the park and photographed turtles in the lake.  The park had very nice scenery, soda machines, a washer & dryer and cabins for those who want to stay somewhere with a real mattress!  Special thanks to Jeff Davis, the Park Ranger, for his hospitality, bike push and use of his wireless internet connection.  

Darren began working on my bike – trying to bend the front back into shape after my spills this week.  It took a while, but Darren got my bike bent back into shape.  We tried to work on the bike2bike communication with no success.  Darren will have to contact the manufacturer.  My arm is feeling a bit better and we will definitely hit the road again tomorrow. 

5/22/2007  Elvis and Hays Crossing

We decided to take some time off the trail to see Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, in Memphis.  We weren’t willing to pay to park or even enter the touristy Graceland, but Darren wanted to take some touristy photos of whatever we could see from the outside. 

Then we headed back the way we came to pick up the TAT again.  The ride was mostly paved roads through some rather depressing areas of Northern Mississippi.  We were going to head to another state park, but on the way we passed a sign for Hays Crossing recreation area indicating camping.  At the end of 5 miles of paved road was dirt road leading onto the beach of Sardis Lake.  We rode around the lake for a few minutes on the wide sanding beach, passing a family on 4-wheelers taking a dip in the water.  It was really great location!  We found the empty campground and set up.  The park ranger came by and confirmed that the camping in this spot was FREE!  The lake was the first of 4 created in Mississippi to control the flooding of the delta.  We were thrilled to find this spot and be able to enjoy it privately in our leisure.  As we at dinner, Darren jumped up abruptly and started clapping.  He had seen a raccoon come up and onto the picnic table to investigate our camp.  After we finished dinner, we sat quietly to see if more critters would visit us.  It did not take long.  Darren grabbed the camera and we watched as the raccoons explored our motorcycles – climbing up the tires, over the tank bag and onto the seat!  It was really amazing to watch and photograph. 

5/23/2007  Wednesday

We decided to hang out here for another day because it was such a nice spot.  Darren slept in and I went down to the shore to eat breakfast. 

Darren and I spent much of the day in our camp chairs listening to the radio on the beach.  It was a very hot day!  In the afternoon, Darren changed his rear tire and took a ride on the beach.  I stayed behind to photograph him and catch up on writing.  Darren returned from his ride to tell me that he had seen herds of deer grazing near the water.  We walked down to the beach together and took some hazy photos of deer in the distance.  As we ate dinner, a raccoon climbed up on the picnic table.  Darren stood up from his chair and the bandit grabbed our loaf of bread and ran for the trees!  It’s hard to be angry at such cute critters…

5/24/2007  Thursday

We left Sardis Lake and headed out across the Mississippi Delta.  The fields were monotonous and the roads (more paved than dirt) leading between them were not terribly exciting.  We finally came across the mighty Mississippi River on Hwy 49.  We crossed the wide river and saw the ‘Welcome to Arkansas’ sign.  We stopped at the Arkansas Welcome center and spoke with Pam.  The visitor center was the most well organized that Das or I had ever visited – tons of free information and very helpful.  They are also very motorcycle friendly – even producing a brochure aimed especially for bikers with good scenic road routes with twisties (very different from Georgia!).  It was very hot out and we decided to call it a short day.  We stayed at Storm Creek Lake in St. Francis National Forest – once again we were the only campers.  The landscape was also very different from Mississippi.  The trees were hardwoods and very tall.  I was excited because this is the first state that I have entered that I have never been to before.  Das came through Arkansas on the highways 7 years ago on his first trip across the States, but only toured the cities. 


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