I always enjoy a good motorcycle trip out to Tennessee…
Now getting to Tennessee from central North Carolina is just a long boring straight ride down I-40. There is always the option to take back roads, but when you are trying to run 500 miles in a day, sometimes you just have to suck it up and spend eight hours staring at the back of 18-wheelers and dodging mini-vans. These are the times when having rear suspension and a windshield don’t seem quite as lame, and I remember why I never quite get around to chopping my old ’64.
My destination was Lebanon, TN, which you normally wouldn’t visit for any reason, but for the next three days was the host city for the Music City AMCA Road Run. As is typical for a road run, the hotel parking lot was filled with leaky old motorcycles and riders in similar shape both hoping that they would make it through the week without breaking any parts. After I unloaded my gear, I rode over to the Expo Center to check in and attend the opening banquet. While the organizers talked about routes, safety and important details of the event, I gave my full attention to trying to down as much food as possible at the buffet. I admit that I’ve gotten pretty lazy about learning even the most general details of the route for any event, preferring to ride behind someone who actually paid attention during the meeting. Once the dinner was over, the crowd dispersed for the usual parking lot drinking and a bit of wrenching to prep for the next day’s ride.
On day one we headed east to the Center Hill Dam in Liberty, TN. I don’t quite understand what the fascination with dams is, I mean really it is just a big cement wall, but who doesn’t enjoy seeing how man has triumphed over millions of gallons of water... Plus there was free lunch at the dam, so you know I wasn’t going to pass that up. The ride out to the dam and back was exactly what I came for, filled with rolling hills and green pastures. While a lot of riders prefer the challenge of more technical mountain roads, I enjoy being able to look around at the country I’m traveling through and not just flogging my bike from turn to turn.
On the second day we headed northeast through some more mountainous country to Red Boiling Springs. As you would expect, somewhere near town there are some actual red sulphur springs rumored to cure everything from diabetes to gonorrhea. Public Service Announcement: No matter what that girl at the bar tells you, you cannot cure gonorrhea with mineral water. Red Boiling Springs is also home to Cyclemo’s Speed Shop where Mike Silvio builds those flatheads and knuckleheads that are always dominating the Race of Gentleman. I got to stop in and visit with Mike for a few minutes while we were trying to round up parts for a VL that decided not to start after lunch, but we didn’t have a lot of time to spare as we were headed to Nashville for the night.
Riding into Nashville was an interesting experience. You know how you get used to the sound of your exhaust droning in your ears after a long ride and when you finally cut off the bike it’s almost like you could hear a pin drop? Well, in downtown Nashville, it’s the complete opposite when you kill the bike - the noise only gets louder. Every single bar on the main strip had at least one live band if not two or three creating a maelstrom of sound that just thudded into your chest and was only broken up by the screams of passing bachelorette parties. The only refuge was to go inside a bar, where the music filtered down to just one band. I have to admit that the talent playing in these bars was amazing. If only they would have put their skills to playing something besides country music… Even though I had to hear over and over again about how it was raining when their mom got out of prison and how their dog got ran over by a pickup truck, it was a great time.
On the last day of the run we rode out to the little town of Granville, TN just off the Cumberland River. Like a lot of the small towns in America, Granville was on the decline, so the residents got together and turned the town into a museum of sorts as a way to bring in tourists. Now you’ve probably never heard of anyone who was from Granville, but that didn’t stop the residents from setting up exhibits that portray their relatives as if they were well known historical figures. In one building you could check out several cars owned by a local doctor and then go next door see uniforms that great uncle Billy wore in WWII. Complete with a general store, the town was an interesting place to spend a couple hours wandering around.
Up until this point, things had been going very well for me and my bike, mechanically speaking. No issues on the ride out or on the run. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when my engine started revving up and the bike started dropping speed as I made my way back from Granville. A little roadside diagnosis led to the discovery that I had stripped the front pulley on my belt drive. Not a good situation considering I was planning on riding 500 miles home the next day. As I was cursing my bad luck with my bike loaded onto the chase truck, the driver mentioned he had a pulley just like that on a shovelhead he was building. Twenty minutes later we pulled into his shop, swapped his pulley onto my bike and were back to town in time for the closing banquet. As Uncle Kevin says, “The road provides…”
I have to say that this was one of the best road runs I have ever attended which is due to the fact that the Music City AMCA chapter did a phenomenal job organizing the event. First of all, the routes they picked were great. Scenic and not overly complicated with arrows painted on the roads for every turn. As I mentioned, I did not pay a lick of attention during the riders’ meetings, so having big white arrows telling me where to go came in handy. They also had free lunch for us everyday of the event which along with a cold Pepsi is the best way to keep me happy. Add to that a bunch of great people and plenty of old motorcycles and you’ve got one hell of an event.
I’ve said it before, but these road runs are really the best part of being in the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. Check their website for this year’s list of runs and go ahead and register for one near you. It’s always a great time.
Panhead Jim / @panhead_jim