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Old 09-30-2006, 04:59 PM   #1
selkins OP
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Brer Rabbit and the Three Lessons



的知 afraid of Americans
I知 afraid of the world
I知 afraid I can稚 help it
I知 afraid I can稚

David Bowie

Circumstance gave me the opportunity and the inspiration to do a serious ride, a three-week jaunt that would take me around the center of the country. Most of the ride would be alone, with a week in the middle riding with a friend. Months of planning and thought went into preparation very little of that to any set itinerary. Rather I spent too much time and too much money setting up my gear. Nevertheless, when it was all done I needed something more, something that would turn this from pure voyeurism into a ride that help me to engage and to learn.

So, I decided that I would ask people I met two questions the same of each person.

1)Tell me a bit about what痴 going on in the country.
2)Tell me a bit about what痴 going on with you.

And so, my fellow ADVRiders, I present you with my results. Text, pictures, audio and video to engage the senses and stimulate the mind. I hope you enjoy and I welcome your feedback. The ride ended late on September 29, and this will take some time, so I hope you値l bear with me as I do this in installments.

Day 1 September 9

典akin that ride to nowhere
We値l take that ride.
-David Byrne

A cool, gray day and I started with a two-hour 80 mph zip to LaCrosse, Wisconsin from homebase in Minneapolis as the weather became increasingly grey and dark. No rain but for the last 45 minutes the moisture was thick enough to bead up and run down my visor in streams. I was thrilled to be on my way, but a bit jittery as well. As my fingers numbed in the chill I warmed myself with thoughts of the south.

I met Rokklym in LaCrosse and the moisture receded as he led me down dirt and gravel roads on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River. I had decided that my first few days I would let the Mississippi be my guide, wandering back and forth along its banks. Rokklym was great, showing me roads I would never have found and giving me the opportunity to get a feel for my burdened bike off-road.

We wound up in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin for lunch at a sports bar crowded with fans of both Iowa and Wisconsin, lustily cheering their respective football teams in front of opposing televisions, the bar a sea of black & gold / red & white.

Time for Rokklym to head home and me to navigate an uncertain path southward. Warmer now, I followed the river road through farm fields and bluffs on the east side to East Dubuque, Galena, Savanna and finally over the river to Clinton, Iowa. Rain is looking to follow me for a day or two, it seems, so I get a cheap motel room and have a beer & burger dinner at a bar, Graffitti. Early on recorded music from the jukebox competes with a group of guys in the corner, jamming country tunes on their guitars. Later I get serenaded with karaoke and alternately propositioned and insulted by a woman who is missing a front tooth. But to get a burger, fries and two beers for just $6.75, I値l withstand another chorus from 舛ountry Boy Can Survive.

My daughter, learning I'lll be on the road for three weeks!

The bike, packed and ready to roll! The farkles? CeeBailey x-large windscreen, Marsee 15L tankbag, Motofizz lg tailbag, Corbin seat, Airhawk, Kaoko Throttle control. I'll give impressions of the various farkles and other gear at the end of the report if folks would like to hear.

Rokklym showing me a good time in Iowa:

Hey, Rokklym! Thanks for showing me around!

Welcome to corn country.

Day 2 September 10

鄭ll the people like us are We,
And every one else is They.
-Rudyard Kipling

I start off the day determined to do my first interview, settling on my imperfect questions before I pack up for the day. After an uneventful ride skirting the Quad Cities I find my first subject near a riverboat casino in Burlington. Elsa (follow the link to hear the interview) and a friend were working to clean up from a town festival in a large parking lot near the riverboat casino. Her friend was scandalized that Elsa was so frank with me Midwesterners aren稚 known for being straightforward speaking to a stranger, and recorded no less! Her friend literally ran away. Mostly it felt good to me people, it seemed, wouldn稚 be offended at my asking them to talk to a recorder. In fact, Elsa seemed to like it.

A day riding on every surface as I continue down the west side of the river road from Burlington. On gravel roads in Iowa I see a bald eagle playing dodge with a handful of crows over the road, and a hawk carrying off a snake in its beak.

I cross over into Missouri, where I encounter my first other F650GS one with the Touratech fuel tanks. Just a wave and passing by, anyone know who it was?

A detour forces me on a highway, which I follow into Hannibal to pay homage to Sam Clemens. The usual tourist billboards and sites of questionable literary connection, but downtown a 150 foot long street sports a number of small, wood buildings where Sam spent his childhood. Packaged as it is I still can稚 contain a little shiver. The River, just over a road and a small dike flowed on through the hills around Hannibal, just as it did in Sam痴 time even if so much else has changed.

A bit down the street I run into Dallas. A gentle man with his longtime girlfriend with him. Asking why they hadn稚 married, they both blush and stumble over their words. They hold hands. He travels the country, working as a construction supervisor for affordable housing projects. He admired my bike, saying he was more a Harley-man if he could afford one.

Let me be clear: Forest Service direction signs are for shit. Having left Hannibal I made good time down to St. Louis, thinking I壇 find a camping spot at a park across the river in southern Illinois. Having made it over the bridge and as far as Chester, it starts to get dark as I plunge into the Shawnee National Forest. My paltry headlight barely cuts on this cloudy night. At one point I follow a campground sign toward the river, driving down dirt for some miles before dead-ending into a large, dimly lit industrial plant of some sort, an eerie clanging and hissing but no people in evidence, and no camping. Heading back up the dirt road I take a random right hand turn and wind up in a small town, but I知 disoriented and distrustful and everything has a suspicious feel to it so I backtrack to the main road.

At this point I should say, I don稚 use a GPS in fact I知 loathe to use maps unless really necessary. Also, I don稚 carry a cellphone, radar detector, satellite radio, PDA, or laptop. I limit myself to an iPod, which I知 resigned to as a way to entertain myself during stretches of the road that don稚 otherwise keep my attention. I can稚 tell you how much grief I get over this. The cellphone in particularbut I値l let that dog lie for now.

I manage to get back to the main road and next I know I知 just across the bridge from Cape Girardeau, Missouri where I reluctantly sign myself in to another motel. A malt shop down the road serves for dinner. The teenagers out front giggle at my ATGATT.

Elsa in Burlington

Wildflower goodness off the side of the road in Iowa (pardon the focus, it was a new camera, I promise the pictures get better over time):

Sam Clemens (aka Mark Twain) boyhood home in Hannibal MO. His father was justice of the peace in his office across the road, and the girl who inspired Becky Thatcher lived next door to the office.

Dallas and his girlfriend. Good people.

Mississippi River view outside of Hannibal. Can you picture Tom & Huck down there?

Rain threatens later between Hannibal and St. Louis:

Abandoned house in a farm field. Tricky mud getting out to it, so dammit, appreciate this pic!

I would have stopped, but as a native Texan I'm allergic to Missouri (cough, cough) barbeque. Notice the motorcycle parking only signs

滴ow do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways. - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO

selkins screwed with this post 09-30-2006 at 08:18 PM
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Old 09-30-2006, 05:09 PM   #2
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"Brer Rabbit came prancing along until he saw the Tar-Baby and then he sat back on his hind legs like he was astonished. The Tar-Baby just sat there, she did, and Brer Fox, he lay low."

I'll be Brer Fox!
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Old 09-30-2006, 05:11 PM   #3
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And Ha!

I beat Gadget Boy to the second post!!!

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Old 09-30-2006, 05:12 PM   #4
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Good start

Bring it on!!
X the DY.

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Old 09-30-2006, 05:13 PM   #5
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I like it.
"Did you hit him? You shoulda hit him, right in the throat. How dare he. Next time someone expresses concern for my well-being while i'm sprawled out in a public place, i'm gonna pull out their tongue and use it to paint my boat, and then i'm coming for their family."--SinFrenas

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Old 09-30-2006, 05:19 PM   #6
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Gear...or what is a farkle

Hunting is a delivery system for "gear", including camo and guns

Adv riding is a delivery system for "gear", including body armor and all-weather technology...

I'd recommend that everyone subscribe to this thread...I saw one week of Scott's interviews, and he got some amazing people in that period of time. This will be a very good report.

Life is a participatory sport - say YES and let the adventure begin.
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Old 09-30-2006, 06:08 PM   #7
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Very nice indeed!
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Old 09-30-2006, 07:24 PM   #8
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Day 3 - September 11

"I will amuse myself with terror."
- RJD2

Waking up I was sucked into the news channels' fetish with the 9/11 anniversary. One channel simply replayed their coverage of the entire morning, minute by minute. They called it 'living history', but there was nothing new or evolving in the five-year-old freeze frame, just a fixation on horror.

This morning I picked up a new friend on the journey. Jake joined me as I was crossing the Mississippi River back to southern Illinois, caught, as he was, on my front brake fluid reservoir. We'll see how long he decides to hang around - in the meantime, company is always welcome.

I decided that I had officially crossed into the South yesterday at the Missouri border. At the gas station there the attendant called me 'honey'. The rest of the country can learn from the easy affection of the South.

Before leaving Cape Girardeau this morning I had an interview with a woman named Rachel. An Israeli/American, she had interesting thoughts on 9/11 (warning: this is a long interview, most of the other's don't exceed 2 minutes). She had been chatting with friends as I pulled up asking for a good place for breakfast. 'Here!' they chimed together. Good coffee, but the omelette was lacking - flat, lifeless and served on a styrofoam plate.

What followed was a long day of riding, much of it with little sense of where I was. Illinois quickly gave way to Kentucky, where I got pleasantly twisted and turned on back country roads through forest and farmfields. Finally, crossing into Tennessee I found myself on a highway that said it was going 'south', but in 50 miles I swear it never deviated from east. Eventually, I jumped on another 'south' road that actually seemed to go in the general direction, and after a few hours found myself in northern Mississippi and headed toward Oxford.

Oxford! Who needs the English version, where here we have the hometown of William Faulkner, who based his books almost entirely on a fictionalized version of Lafayette County. A town square with three bookstores has to be good! But it was late, and the nearest campsite was 15 miles north of town near a reservoir, and by the time it was set up I was ready for camp food and an early night. Set in pin oak woods on rolling terrain, my tent site is hard gravel and awful for tent stakes.

The campground is abandoned but for me, and the peace and quiet is a gentle contrast to the rush and noise of riding all day. I'm looking forward to reading and an early night.

Cape Girardeau downtown theater:

Rachel after her interview at the coffee shop:

9/11 street chalk in Cape G

Welcome aboard, Jake!

I would KILL for a name like this, "That's MISTER Street Preacher to you!":

Railroad trestle and tree in Kentucky:

Deboe's Cafe, Kentucky

Nice, twisty road through the woods. Midway through this stretch a hawk swooped down across the road at eye level right about 30' in front of me.

Evening campsite outside of Oxford

Day 4 - September 12

全kin me, Brer Fox, sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 壮natch out my eyeballs, t誕r out my years by de roots, en cut off my legs, sezee, 礎ut do please, Brer Fox, don稚 ffing me in dat brier-patch, sezee.
- Joel Chandler Harris, aka Uncle Remus

I spent the previous two nights in motels in part to avoid the threat of rain, but my first night out is when it actually materializes. The rain continues most of the night but lets up in the morning. I wake up and pack my wet gear, a hummingbird buzzing by my bike, wondering perhaps where to test this big red flower.

Oxford proves as appealing as any college town. The Bottletree Bakery, half a block from the central square, has a great feel, strong coffee, and tasty food. Funky music, a young clientele, original art on the walls. A long counter to sit at and pleasing wood cabinetry on the other side. Fresh bread on the shelves in front and an antique black cooler filled with sodas. Then, an old upright piano and clanging kitchen noise from the back. I interview Britney, a young woman in school at Ole Miss and working at Bottletree.

From Oxford down to meet the Natchez Trace. On the way, I stop to take a picture of the proverbial 'fork in the road', and who do you imagine I would meet? No other than Brer Rabbit. Fallen on hard times next to the road I offer a partnership of sorts - a traveling trio - bee, bunny and biker. Brer Rabbit, ever in search of adventure, takes up the deal and finds his seat.

Off we go.

The first 50 miles of the Trace, where I picked it up near Hwy 82, is doused in a warm rain. I don't bother with the raingear, the wet is refreshing in the warm air. In total, the Trace is a nearly 450 mile long parkway, from Nashville TN to Natchez MS. Originally a Native American hunting and trade route, European settlers used it to move goods back and forth between the western frontier town of Nashville to Natchez, low down on the Mississippi River. The Trace was made obsolete by the paddleboats that enabled easy upriver travel, but it's route is closely followed by this two-lane parkway that goes most of its distance with very few intersections and many miles of woods and pastures. It's a relaxing and pleasant ride. I spot my second F650GS of the trip on the Trace.

Jake abandoned Brer Rabbit and me along the Trace, but we wish him well.

Remember how I said it's a new camera? Well, here's proof. I didn't realize the flippin' thing can take video till I struggled ineffectively to take a picture on the fly. So, check out this...ummm...interesting video.

Sure enough, by the time I've reached Natchez it's sunny and warm, in the mid-80s. After cruising the town's antebellum architecture I settle in for a plate of BBQ at the Pig Out Inn. After dinner I meet Mac. A handyman and outgoing guy, when he finds out I work for the Sierra Club, Mac proclaims "There's no bigger tree-hugger than me!" He lives on 14 acres near the coastline in Mississippi (not so near to get hard hit by the hurricanes). "Every year I get people coming up to my door, telling me how much they'll pay me for my trees. 'I'm not that hungry yet!' I tell em!"

He used to be a motorcycle rider "But I'm too conservative for any more of that!" he laughs. Mac laughs a lot, and it's a warm and inviting laugh. He offers me a bed anytime I'm in his neck of the woods.

After lunch it's time to head southeast of town where I see a national forest and campgrounds on my poorly copied map. Sure enough, the exit I'm looking for doesn't appear, so I take a likely left hand turn and head into Homochitto National Forest.

It's dusk already, and no campground signage is visible. I take a couple of random turns, heading east and south and wind up on a dirt road. Then, three guys piled together on an ATV. I wave them over.

"Hey guys, y'all know of a campground around here."

They look at each other for a moment and the driver abruptly turns back, "Sure! About 2-3 miles further down this here road. Can't miss it." The others look silently on as I thank them and continue on.

Two Another random turn or two. It's near dark now and I have visions of being stalked by the extras from Deliverance, when my eye catches an opening in the woods to my right. Backing up and there, on a brown metal stake about three feet high and 2 inches wide, a small tent symbol. I enter into the break in the trees and find a single primitive campsite 50' back. Set up the tent in the dark and read for an hour in the still, humid air before falling asleep stripped down on top of my bare sleeping pad.

Warm brioche...yuuummmmm!

Britney, in front of Bottletree Bakery

Oxford MS bookstore

A wise person once said, 'When you see a fork in the road, take it.'

Who's this?!?!

Why, it's Brer Rabbit! A little scuffed, but I see a smile on that face!

Brer Rabbit and Jake are jazzed to ride!

An important warning sign!

King Cotton

A stormy horizon

Rainy day on the Natchez Trace

But soon enough, the glorious sun!

I call this 'Self-Portrait: Through the Helmet-glass'

BBQ at the Pig Out Inn, Natchez. I'd say this was good BBQ, but I'd change my tune after what my tastebuds encountered a few days later...stay tuned

I met Mac at the Pig Out Inn. "I've got two kids, and I taught them to work hard and be honest. I figure I done right."

I also met Roy in Natchez, who came in from Houston on his Goldwing. Recently retired "I get out and ride whenever the wife will let me!"

Looking for a campsite:

Still's getting dark, hence the blurry image!

滴ow do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways. - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO

selkins screwed with this post 10-01-2006 at 10:18 AM
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Old 09-30-2006, 08:17 PM   #9
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Man you should have checked the "Tent Space" thread. You were just a few miles from me, I'm just south of the HNF. You could have crashed here, washed clothes, etc.
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Old 09-30-2006, 08:26 PM   #10
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Hey Scott, I've been waiting to see this report, keep up the great work!!!

It was nice meeting you and riding with ya for a little while, Glad you made it back safely.
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:20 PM   #11
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Looks like you're really enjoying the journey and meeting a few folks along the way. Thanks for sharing your ride and the photos. I'm looking forward to reading about the rest of your ride.
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Old 10-01-2006, 09:11 AM   #12
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New Orleans

Day 5 September 13

的 hear hurricanes ablowin.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.
-Creedence Clearwater Revival

I知 up at dawn and re-learning the pleasure of listening as the forest wakes up. Different bird songs ebb and flow. Shuffling of small mammals in the ground cover. A squirrel scolding. Woodpeckers thumping. The frog and insect drone serves as the harmony. I let the sun rise a bit and finish drying out my tent before packing up.

Today I値l go into New Orleans. I had been debating whether or not to go there for weeks intrigued to see what痴 become of this city, but fearing a voyeur痴 sentiment. But I知 drawn in. My last visit, some 18 months before the hurricane, is weighing heavily on me.

But first to get there. Heading generally east and north on forest roads I find my way to a recognizable road and head toward McComb, Mississippi.

What the hell has happened to small town breakfast joints? Scanning small towns along my path and spending a fruitless half-hour in and around McComb, I come up empty handed. I resign myself to McDonalds. Sure enough, the old-timers are gathered here for the cheap coffee and rubber pancakes.

Then on to the Interstate to blast into New Orleans. Having flown in in the past, I didn稚 realize that the Interstates cross over miles and miles of pilings above the bayou heading into the city. Without modern transportation, New Orleans would be an incredibly isolated city.

Shortly before leaving I had booked a room near Bourbon Street, in case I decided to visit. For $65 dollars I get a luxurious room in a friendly hotel (St. Louis Hotel) in the heart of the French Quarter. But I知 far too interested in exploring the city to linger long, so after a quick shower I get on the bike and head for the Ninth Ward. Like most white tourists, I haven稚 been there before and wind up just skirting the edges I later learn that I致e missed the worst of it. But what I see is enough to get a sense of the massive scope of loss. Block after block of abandoned homes thousands and thousands. One in five homes have a FEMA trailer in front, symbolizing at least temporary return. One in a hundred homes have had any visible work done to rehabilitate. Otherwise, it痴 like a ghost town. Pitted roads, overgrown yards, derelict homes with arcane symbols spray-painted on their walls and doors. It goes on for miles in every direction.

From there I traveled to the Garden District. I had heard that it had been relatively undamaged, and indeed there was very little difference to its feel than there had been. I wind up at a coffee shop on Magazine Street, to grab some joe and write down some notes.

at this point I should make a point clear to you. I don稚 know shit about riding motorcycles. This is my first motorcycle. I bought it last November, and living in the Frozen North, it languished in my garage until late March before I started riding. I took the MSF course and got my license in late April, and before this trip I logged a total of about 5,000 miles.

This point is important because a day or two prior to this I had noticed a clacking/clanking noise from my bike, particularly at low speeds. The hotel phonebook revealed no dealer in town, but I planned to leave New Orleans the next morning and arrive in Austin Texas by Friday, where I suspected there would be a dealer. So, I asked a woman next to me if I could check the internet on her laptop to look up the Austin dealer. She obliged, asked a few questions, and I would up doing an interview with Leslie, who told me about a brass band concert happening that evening across town as I was leaving.

So, after grabbing a beer and burger dinner down the street and doing a bit more exploring, I headed for the Sound Caf on Chartres Street.

When you travel with others, you can稚 help but attune yourself to them filtering your experience and narrowing your range of focus. Traveling alone forces you to look outwards, and this provides a tremendous opportunity for discovery. For me, New Orleans epitomized that positive elements of solo travel.

I arrived at the Sound Caf about 7:30pm and found myself in a 祖rowd of about a dozen people listening to the energetic and infectious sound of a nine-piece New Orleans brass band. Over the next two hours the place literally filled up with about 35 people. I had a smile plastered on my face.

Leslie showed up with some friends Tulane professors, business owners and others. And as the evening flowed on I met and interviewed Jacques Morial a charismatic and controversial member of one of New Orleans foremost families (who was predictably guarded in his answers), and enjoyed conversation and a late meal with fascinating people. I learned more about what was happening in New Orleans that evening that I致e gleaned from a year of news reports.

When I told these folks that my original plan for the evening had been to cruise Bourbon Street they scoffed at the idea. I had to agree - this was an altogether more rewarding experience.

The evening ended and I went back to the hotel. But I went to sleep with an invitation for breakfast and the tempting idea of lingering in New Orleans.

Morning Glory

Dead End - Finding my way out of Homochitto N.F.

Liberty, Mississippi

A peculiar church in Mississippi

Bayou home, Louisiana

View from my hotel room, New Orleans

Images from the Ninth Ward


Burger and beer at the Bulldog

Brass band at Sound Cafe

The trombone player was a showman

Jacques Morial

Bourbon Street around midnight - seedy and sparse

滴ow do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways. - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO
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Old 10-01-2006, 09:29 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by selkins

Burger and beer at the Bulldog

I'll take two of those.

All Around a very nice trip. Seems like you met a lot of good people.
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Old 10-01-2006, 09:43 AM   #14
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Thanks for the nice feedback folks. Just so y'all know, the scenery picks up dramatically from this point on. I generally found the Mississippi River part of my trip was more about closer views of structures, while the western part was much more about landscapes and vistas.

Also, I do hope y'all check out the interviews. Some interesting insights from the different folks I met, who came from a real variety of backgrounds. For instance, everyone in and around New Orleans spoke predominately about the hurricane and its impacts. Those folks live with the ongoing reality every single day - it has an persistant relevancy that just doesn't exist elsewhere in the country. No one else I interviewed anywhere in the country made even passing reference to Katrina and her impacts.

I mentioned this in a friend in Colorado and she commented that she felt a lot of sympathy with the victims, and understood that it needed ongoing attention. And yet, she admitted with chagrin, she was growing bored with the issue and what media space it still attracts.

My one regret about New Orleans is that I didn't interview any of the people I saw in the Ninth Ward. Frankly, though, that had way too much the feel of voyeurism of other peoples' misfortune. But, I did interview a few folks who were more heavily and personally impacted by the hurricane than Leslie or Jacques (though I don't mean to minimize the traumatic impact it had on the two of them). They come up in the next couple of days.
滴ow do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It's simple. I drink the blood of young runaways. - Shatner

Mid-America -- Ozarks (Darkrider) -- Lake Superior Circle Tour -- NW US -- Labrador -- Big Bend (Darkrider) -- Yukon/Dempster Hwy -- WTX/NNM/SCO

selkins screwed with this post 10-01-2006 at 11:48 AM
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Old 10-01-2006, 03:21 PM   #15
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He's lying!!!!! There's absolutely no scenery to speak of in the rest of Scott's ride like this are just crap...filler...


Life is a participatory sport - say YES and let the adventure begin.
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