The last two years John and I have gone somewhere in the midwest to meet up with the Rounders. Just in case there is a sixth reader to this site that I am unaware of, the Rounders is a group of year-round riding motorcycling enthusiasts. We are drawn together by our desire to ride our bikes all winter, all summer, all the time, safety permitting. It's a fantastic group of people, and we have an "annual meeting" someplace different each year. You can read about the first year's trip to Escanaba, MI here, and last year's trip to Boardman, OH here.

This year we met in Warsaw, IN. How it was chosen is a story I won't bore you with. Below are the highlights that we captured on camera...

Day 1: Austin, TX to Jackson, MS

We rode Capital to Capital on Day 1. It was really nice riding on back roads all through Texas, Louisiana, and into Mississippi. (click the map for a bigger one.)

We met this dog on a gas stop in Louisiana (State Motto: " We shoot and mount anything that moves, and not necessarily in that order.")

I didn't take another photo until we were about to cross the Mighty Mississippi headed into Natchez.

We stopped for some pulled pork barbecue in Natchez.

Here's the owner guy whipping up our sandwiches.

Mine. It was really good. (I added sauce after the photo...)

John with his. This style of photo has become a trademark of our ride reports.

There was an overlook behind the restaurant. There is the bridge we rode over.

This is one hell of a river.

In Natchez we picked up the Natchez Trace Parkway. It looks like this for about, oh, 450 miles or so. It's amazing. No cars, no towns, nothing. Just a ribbon of perfect asphalt nestled into the forests of Mississippi and Tennessee. It's a national park of some sort... from their web site, here is what is was:


"The heaviest use of the Old Trace was from 1800 to about 1825 by men, known as "Kaintucks," who floated down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and returned north on foot. But the stories of the Old Trace reach far beyond the early 1800s. They include Mound Builders, Natchez, Choctaw, and Chickasaw Indians, preachers, bandits, slaves, soldiers, settlers, and even Meriwether Lewis."

and here is what it is now:

"The 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway commemorates an ancient trail that connected southern portions of the Mississippi River, through Alabama, to salt licks in today's central Tennessee. Today, visitors can experience this National Scenic Byway and All-American Road through driving, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping."

We saw a group of cyclists along the way. It seems like it'd be a wonderful road to bicycle on - safe and scenic for hundreds of miles.

There's John up ahead.

We stopped to add some warm clothes as it was getting dark. We were parked near this swamp so I went and snapped some photos of it.

Down we go to the boardwalk.

The swamp was neat.

Day 2: Jackson, MS to Cave City, KY

Day 2 was one of the best days riding I've had. We rode the Natchez Trace all the way to Nashville, then got on the interstate to Cave City, KY, home of Mammoth Cave. (click the map for a larger map)

We kept seeing these banks along the way. The Fifth Third Bank. When we saw this one, I could not recall seeing the first four, nor any of the various First Banks or Second Banks. Frankly, I was confused as hell about this bank's name. It made me wonder, if this is how they count banks, how the hell do they count your MONEY? If you withdraw $40 from the ATM, does your statement show that you removed your first and second twenties? Your fourth ten? Your eighth fifth?

We had breakfast in Rib Alley in a little town called Kosciusko. And of course like all small towns, these breakfast places are the real seat of power. While we were there a Lion's Club meeting was wrapping up, and in the back all the local cops were eating breakfast.

Or maybe it was the Rotary Club? Check this out - this place is the official meeting place for all the Motherhood and Apple Pie-type organizations of a small community.

They have little patches for all the programs and events they are involved in.

This is something the Exchange Club does. I couldn't find anything specific on the web for it, but that doesn't surprise me. I suppose there is a bit of a generational gap with the members of these clubs - older folks who aren't super computer savvy. I wonder if these groups will cease to exist over the next generation? Maybe not, maybe they are important in small towns, and living in Austin I don't see the need to even know that they exist.

This one is funny. It looks like something from the Daily Show. Seeing this stuff puts me in conflict. On one hand, I am very cynical and deeply suspicious of authority and these kinds of organizations. On the other hand, it tugs at my sense of patriotism and love for (most of) America and what it means to be American. So on one hand I think, "Hey it's cool for kids to wave flags" and part of me thinks, "Jesus, the kid looks like a drugged pig!"

John was very happy to get his biscuits with...

Two kinds of gravy. The white gravy is the normal biscuit gravy found in the south. The red stuff was some local thing. It was kinda weird, more like a marinade than a biscuit topping.

Later in the day we got gas at a place that still had the old-timey rolling numbers! There was also a PAY PHONE at this gas station, but I didn't take a picture of it. Major time warp.

Here's where we are...

What's John looking at?

A really neat bridge!


"The Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge is the nation's first segmentally constructed concrete arch bridge. Spanning 502 m (1,648 feet), the double arch structure offers motorists a view from 47m (155 feet) above the valley floor and is one of the final links in the Natchez Trace Parkway project. The bridge's arches are designed to support the deck without evenly spaced spandrel columns, resulting in a picturesque, unencumbered appearance."

John noticed that the bridge has no expansion joints out in the middle of it - it's continuous.

You can get right underneath it. It's neat. I thought, "This would be a great place to sit and drink beers in high school."

The expansion joints were at the ends, where it meets solid land. The whole span was resting on these giant sliders. You know those things you can buy to put under your furniture to make it easier to slide around on wood floors? Same idea.

Amazing - look at the MIRROR FINISH that they put on the bottom surface to reduce friction! That's polished stainless steel. You are looking at the reflection of the cylindrical pad the shiny metal thing sits on. They cut a groove in it so it only slides along the axis of the bridge. These things are like telescope mirrors.

Ah yes, the youth of the town DO hang out here and party. Look, graffiti!

But wait, what the heck kind of graffiti is THIS?

What, the local christian kids group is hanging out down here?

Holy shit. This is GIRL graffiti! Look at the hand writing! Some wholesome Tennessee girls are sneaking down here, probably without boys, (Adam couldn't make it!) and are drinking grape soda and writing polite graffiti.

Wow. I'm used to the people who write graffiti being a little more Nihilist! "God is dead," makes sense. Praise Jesus? Does anyone think Jesus wants kids scrawling graffiti under bridges? I looked and couldn't find "John 3:16" written anywhere...


Ok one last look at the bridge to wash the sadness of Christian chick graffiti out of your mind.

We saw this dude cruising along. It looks like a gypsy moth caterpillar, and it triggered one of several very vivid memories I have from 6th grade. I'm going to subject you to it now.

In 6th grade my teacher was named Mr. Solan. I sat in the back of the room with my friends Doug Ciocca (who I haven't spoken to since 6th grade but google tells me is a financial planner in Kansas City.) and Lou Lanza. (I don't know what happened to Lou, but I doubt he is the famous jazz singer or the guy that opened the restaurant in Manhattan.) I'm confident that neither one of them remembers me in the least, but I was new in that school, and they turned out to be cool. Anyway, we sat in the back of Mr. Solan's class and were usually scared shitless of the guy. He was tall and thin and old and had a booming voice. He also had a penchant for giving lectures that were most likely not part of the official 6th grade curriculum, and he did this with tremendous passion. At some point our town was being devoured by Gypsy Moth caterpillars. They are voracious beasts that strip trees bare.

Mr. Solan decided to mobilize our class of thirty eleven-year-olds to reverse this tragedy. He towered in front of us in the front of the room and boomed, "Crush every caterpillar you see! Do you know WHY?" We had no idea, we were all thinking of whether to get an ice cream bar or a Nutty Buddy after lunch and praying he wouldn't call on us by name. He paused and said, "Every one of those caterpillars lays 10,000 eggs! And each one of those eggs becomes a caterpillar that eats MORE TREE LEAVES!" We were paying attention now, these were big numbers, and he was getting really worked up. "And those 10,000 caterpillars each have 10,000 MORE EGGS!" I was pretty sure we weren't supposed to learn about geometric series until later grades, but me, Doug, and Lou just sat in the back hoping not to get called on. "That means that if you step on just one caterpillar, you will kill ONE HUNDRED MILLION caterpillars!"

I was stunned. What was this newfound power I had? I could kill 100,000,000 caterpillars MYSELF? When you're an eleven year old boy this elicits only one thought from you - "I think I want the Nutty Buddy."

Just kidding. The effect it had on me was enormous - I was on a mission to kill as many of those caterpillars as I could. I'm confident that I presented BILLIONS of them from invading my town. And every time I have seen a caterpillar like this, for the past 24 years, I think of Mr. Solan's lecture.

He gave other good ones, but I'll save them for the future. I should write an essay on the experiences because they are still very vivid in my mind.

Back to the ride report...

We got to a hotel in Cave City, KY. This was the door lock. Look at this - they spelled "Locks" "Lox." What, are these made from freakin' salmon?! No! This is something that I really despise, all these puns and poorly spelled words that business use. In college I had another professor that used to rant against this - John Morreall. (I've been fortunate enough to have many good teachers in my life that left a lasting impression on me.) Dr. Morreall is an expert on humor, and one of the classes i took from him (i took three all told) was the Philosophy of Good and Bad Taste. Our text was called "The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste." (I still have it on the shelf here.) The basic premise was that taste was not subjective, but instead absolute. Bad taste was easily identified and classified. And America was the world's leading producer of the stuff in the form of Americana. Dr. Morreall used to ruthlessly mock businesses that used the letter "N" in place of the word "and." We are all familiar with Linens-N-Things. He would rail against this, and when he pronounced it, he would say the N with such force, with such emphasis, leaning forward, baring his teeth, and lathering it with bile usually associated for societies worst crimes like raping children or voting for George Bush. He'd say, "linens" like a normal person, but when he got to the N he'd just lean in and draw it out. "NNNNNNNNN!!!!!!" then say things like a normal person. Arts-NNNNNNN!-Crafts! Quilts-NNNNNNNN!-Sewing Supplies. Pets-NNNNNNNN!-Grooming.

And that shit is everywhere. Look around you - retail is probably the biggest threat the english language has ever faced.

I agree with him strongly, and I still do that, and still think of him often. He is a special guy.

And does it stop with the lock, no! Look at the "Kee-Card!" I looked down at the card and I expected a representative of the lock company to materialize wearing a pair of plaid pants, slap me on the back and guffaw, "Get it?!"

Day 2 ended and we slept well.

Day 3: Cave City, KY to Warsaw, IN

So here we are at the motel packing up in the morning. if you look closely you can see that there is something in the window in the room next to ours...

What. The. Hell.

On the way to the cave, we had to ride through one of those annoying touristy areas where they have lots of putt-putt courses and go-kart tracks. When I was a little kid, I always wanted to stop, but my parents would never let me. Well, it's a good thing we never came to Mammoth Cave when I was little. You see, I was a dinosaur MANIAC when I was little. So if I had seen this lifesize triceratops on the side of the road, and my Dad kept driving I'd probably have pulled the door handle and dove out of the car.

How cool is that?! It was at an attraciton called "Dinosaur World" which no doubt sucked, but I'm sure kids nag parents until they let them go see it. Roadside attractions like this are probably the leading cause of family problems in the US.

John is probably the best travel partner ever. We had ~300 miles to ride this day, but he was cool with swinging by Mammoth Cave National Park to see how it was. Recall that we visited Carlsbad Caverns on an earlier trip, and I was curious to see how Mammoth and Carlsbad compared to each other. As an American, I am incapable of appreciating things on a stand-alone basis. I need to compare them so I know which one is the BEST. And when I know, I then need to devote 75% of my time bitching about the lesser item, and only 25% being positive about the good one, or simply the fact that both things are really cool. (Of course this can only be done while shopping at a mall, running up crushing credit card debt.)

Besides, you, my readership of perhaps 6 people need to have these things sorted out for you.

Mammoth Cave is known as the world's longest cave. It's 300 miles or something like that of underground tunnels. I think Carlsbad claims to be the largest cave. This distinction is lost on most of us "surface" people, but not on the rangers.

There is our guide.

If i had to imagine a National Park Ranger, this is what I'd picture. He was a fun guide too. This is where he was telling us about how strenuous the tour was, how weak people, old people, young people, people scared of heights, and claustrophobic people should go get a refund and forget about it. (Check out the cool kid in the background.)

Down we go!

This was one of the first big rooms. In here they were mining nitrates to use to make gunpowder. I think DuPont was involved with this.

They have a nice walkway in this part of the cave. It's pretty large.

It's hard to tell in this photo, but this is about a 50 foot drop.

It got kind of cramped in certain parts.

This was cool - kind of an underground waterfall. It was just trickling when we were there, but they say that when it rains more water comes down from the sinkhole up above.

You climb this big tower on the way out.

And that's it, we're done. It wasn't as good as Carlsbad, not by a long shot. If you're going to die soon, and you only have time to go to one or the other, go to Carlsbad.

So we were under there, and there were two guides. The lead guide, with the beard, was the real deal. The back up ranger guy was not as enthusiastic about the whole thing. He walked at the back of the group and was more like a security guard. Near the end of the tour John and I were walking with him in an effort to stay as far back from the group and to be away from the freakin' crying/babbling CHILDREN that people brought down there, and I asked him how it was all formed and why it was shaped the way it was. He didn't know. I'll let that sink in a bit. I then posited that the sedimentary limestone layers seem like they would be formed as the result of being at the bottom of an ocean, and that the thickness of each layer was perhaps caused by how long that particular layer was under water, and then the water would recede for a couple hundred thousand years, and the top layer would get hardened by the sun or wind or whatever, then the water would come back and deposit more sediment for 50,000 years or whatever. The longer the water covered it, the thicker the layer. The guy says, "That seems to make sense." Hello? I was afraid to even put forth a theory because I couldn't really remember how these rocks are formed, and I worried the Ranger would do a Geological Smack-Down on me.

As we walked out we saw this...

and it turns out my theory was correct. I probably learned it in Earth Science in 9th grade and dredged it out of my subconscious. We probably covered it in the unit on "Rocks-NNNNNN!-Stuff."

All that walking around made us hungry, and we needed to hit the road so we decided to eat at the park. One of the very cool things about the fact that we deprive our National Park System of adequate funding is that they are incapable of remodeling their restaurants. So when you go there, it's like going back in time to the 1950s.

Crushed ice. Ahhhhhh. If I ran the world this stuff would be required in every restaurant.

I got a cheeseburger with unmelted cheese.

John got a bowl of pinto beans and a salad. Healthful!

We then hauled ass to the hotel in Warsaw, met the rounders around 9pm, and had a bunch of beers in the bar.

Days 4-6 Are all sort of jammed in here...and I'm getting tired so I'll blast through it pretty quickly.

Here are some rounders hanging around kicking tired and telling racing stories.

This is cliff, the guy who started all this. His wife drive down to meet up with us in her car, so they were driving it to go to the Amish town north of here. We razzed him for using a car at a motorcycle rally. This is a good indication of what a badass gang we are - we razz each other occasionally.

We ended up with a pretty spacious room.

It had this tub in one corner (of the room, not the bathroom.)

And over in the other corner a fireplace and a TV.

Pretty big. I like big hotel rooms.

Cliff came by to say hello and try out the tub. I love this photo. It makes me want to take out a personal ad, and use this as a photo, and see what kind of people reply.

That afternoon we walked down to the little community of Winona Lake. There were all these perfect little houses there.

Each of them housed a person who was some sort of craftsman or artist. It was contrived, but still very nice.

Check out these neat flower boxes.


They built condos in a touristy area, in between the park and the lake. Smart. Friendly!

On the way back to the hotel we walked along the railroad tracks.

This is 100 pound track? 100 ton? I forget. John knew what the markings meant. I'll ask him and update this.

Sawyer Brown played at the hotel that night. (I still have no idea who the hell they are, or he is, or whatever.)

We had about 35 people at dinner Saturday night. People from Canada, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, DC.

To the rounders! Yeah!

This couple is a good story. We were off in one end of the restaurant, making noise and screwing around. Around us were a few tables of "normal" people just trying to enjoy their dinner. We saw these two, and I decided to embarrass them. Something was going on, and then I got everyone's attention and when it was quiet asked this guy if they were on their first date. He sheepishly said yes, and we all roared and cheered. It embarrassed the hell out of them. As compensation John and I paid for their dinner so they would at least have to say, "It was a bunch of motorcycling nut jobs, but at least they bought our dinner. Freaks."

Awards were given. Here the club is being presented with a deed to a small piece of land purchased in Hell, MI. It's a square inch or something like that.

I won a stuffed bear...

Day 5: Warsaw, IN to Sikeston, MO

The goal of Day 5 was to get close to the Ozark Mountains so we could goof around them on Day 6, then spend Day 7 making our way home at a leisurely pace through Texas. It didn't all turn out quite like that...

I didn't really care for the stuffed bear. In fact, I pretty much hated him. So I decided to mount him on the windscreen and let him get blasted with bugs. I was hoping for several hours of riding in the rain too, so he would turn black. I'm sure lots of you are saying, "Awwww," and all that but I just think 99% of plush toys are dull.

I only made it one gas stop, and I'd had it with the bear. I didn't like him, and I didn't feel too good about abusing him. I also felt like a douche bag for having a bear on my windscreen. So I left him at the gas station. So long, bear!

We had an incredible lunch here at this place. I wish I could remember what town it was. I was able to forgive the "Bacon NNNNNNN! Eggs" on their sign.

We then pointed west and headed for the Mississippi.

There's John up ahead.

There's me.

We were headed for a neat bridge and a gorgeous sunset.

Sorry it's blurry. The light was low.

We stopped along the Mississippi to see about staying in this town...

Cape Girardeau. There wasn't much that seemed good so we headed to Sikeston. Before we left...

We went down to the edge of the water to take some photos. This is looking back at the bridge leading to the town. Notice the huge flood wall on the right.

And the huge door they close when the water rises.

It all looked nice and peaceful this night.

We went on to Sikeston and got some sleep. We woke up on Day 6 and headed West. We were given a couple of route suggestions from one of the rounders and were anxious to try out the roads. I'm not exactly sure what route we ended up taking, so what you see below is just a SWAG.

We took almost no photos. The roads up in the part of AR we were in were really really nice. Good pavement and almost no other cars. lots of up and down, lots of great turns. We're definitely headed back up there at some point.

We stopped at a truck stop in Hope, AR around 9PM. I took a few photos of the bike in weird light.

John took a catnap.

I was anxious to be back in Austin. John was not. So we split up. I rode the remaining 400 miles back to Austin. It turned out to be a long ride - we had already ridden for about 12 hours that day. I got home around 6:30am. (tried to sleep, couldn't, so I just went in to work.) John went to Dallas, visited some friends, and then took a very leisurely pace home down the west side of I-35. Maybe 281, I'm not sure.

That's it, thanks for looking!