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My morning departure proceeded acceptably well, though yet again The Chief (tm) had far more trouble with the camp stove than in his debut. Once done with the tea and a Clif Bar -- and it says here that the “Chocolate Almond Fudge” and “Crunchy Peanut Butter” flavors are the best, a recent “$0.55-off” promotion having permitted rigorous flavor comparison -- my efforts towards embracing “Leave No Trace” principles had helped to merely generate a single tiny bag of trash over the course of three camp meals. I should also mention that the "Pak-Towl", a small, paper-thin (chamois-based?) drying apparatus has been coming up big for me here early, mainly because its drying-off capacity is far beyond what its size would suggest, and because it won't rot or become gamy if laid out flat inside of the trailer during the day's drive. Try that with your run-of-the-mill cotton job.

I had wanted a haircut even before I left SC, and thought that one fun way to meet locals would be to get haircuts in the towns I was visiting instead of using the clippers that I owned (not to mention having to carry them with me, and worrying about recharging). Before leaving Tellico Plains I stopped in on the local barber shop and had a five-minute cut and a twenty-minute conversation with the very kind proprietress, Revonda, whose deft efforts set me back a mere six dollars (clearly, we are not in the Northeast anymore). I also checked in with the bookstore owners who had helped me find my way during the previous visit, and they gave me some tips on how not to be looked upon suspiciously by Oregonians when entering that state from California.

Rather than head north (on a road I had been on already) simply to catch an interstate heading southwest, I figured I’d take some back roads first heading south, then west, and then pop back on the superslab closer to Chattanooga. These routes, while certainly not in the Dragon or Cherohala class, were nevertheless enjoyable -- a few farms here and there, a small creek, a railroad trestle -- and almost entirely traffic-free. They also provided the kind of amusement that only back-country traffic managers can produce, in which a warning sign reading “SLOW -- CONGESTED AREA” suddenly loomed at the crest of a small hill. Hmmm, wonder what’s just ahead?

On the downslope, there were three homes -- only two of which appeared inhabited -- over a stretch of about one hundred yards. 

Fortunately, I was unaffected by the congestion and continued with my journey. Though toting the extra weight of the trailer, the ST1100 was still able to power around members of the Anti-Destination League on the roads sweeping through the valleys of the Ocoee River, a scenic outdoor activity area in which one could find white water rafting and also some facilities constructed for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Eventually nearing the interstate in Cleveland, TN, I refuled at a gas station obviously intended as a tribute to an ‘80’s alternative band (if allowing for some minor spelling differences), took down some trail mix, and prepared for the drone ahead.

I had remembered that the ride in the Knoxville to Chattanooga direction was more annoying than it should have been, thanks to a confluence of issues such as road quality, signage, wind, and truck presence. This time through it wasn’t as bad as the last. The road cuts through the northeast corner of Georgia and then plunges into the Central Time Zone as it crosses into Alabama. I was surprised to see that the GPS did not automatically adjust its settings, whilst my cell phone had -- I think I would have had money on the opposite. At any rate, I steamed into the “Alabama Welcome Center”, and noting the local time once inside, I bellowed, “I am from the future -- all must fear me.” Sue, the pleasant young lady behind the counter, wasn’t buying it. Completely unruffled, she gave me some “Sweet Home Alabama” stickers to plaster onto the trailer and sent me on my way, which took me past Fort Payne with its dual history of being the “Official Sock Capital of the Worldand the hometown of the band Alabama.

Sue had also given me the advice to use the Birmingham Bypass, in case the rotten GPS might not have made that choice. Along the way to it there was a massive traffic jam on another road heading east, but none of it affected my travel. Nearing the area of my next stop, Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, AL, I was nervous because it is sometimes difficult to tell if the address one has is actually for the park, or merely just a mailing address, and I knew that the GPS listed hotels and motels, but not always campgrounds. My fear was unfounded, for not only were signs plentiful on the interstate and then the local roads, but even within the fairly large park you could not go a half-mile without seeing some sort of directions somewhere.

Utilizing such directions, and in search of ice, I pulled into the golf course parking lot and headed towards the “clubhouse/snack bar”. Being in a state park, it wasn’t necessarily that high-end, but knowing the conceit with which golfers like to conduct themselves in the presence of non-golfers, I enjoyed lumbering in there in jeans and big black riding boots and not giving a damn about whether I belonged there or not. A quick scan of the menu wasn’t looking too good, but when I axed the girl if she had ice and she said “yes”, she merely grabbed a big plastic shopping bag and began ladling cubes into it. More than enough for my needs, all for only a buck.

I checked in to the camp site and upgraded to a site with electric hookup, noting that it had been so convenient before to be able to recharge the laptop and the electric toothbrush within the tent! It was $7 extra for the hookup, as compared to normally only about a buck or two at the KOA’s. I was semi-annoyed that I was faced with the longest walk thus far between the parking area and the site itself, but it was downhill so not the end of the world, and tent setup was without incident. I definitely had some real pros around me, having erected veritable tent complexes and also taking full advantage of the hookups to power electric fans, bug zappers, stereos and even TV’s. Ah, the great outdoors!

Down to the nearby lake I headed and, while the water was a bit warm, the dip I took was still rewarding. Also, there were these small schools of fish, of which the biggest members might have been four or five inches long, and there could be no doubt that they had become conditioned to expect food when they saw humans. I walked slowly into the water to see if I could get closer without disturbing them, and instead they approached me. Although difficult to tell, in the pictures they are merely inches away from my legs, and I ask you to believe when I say they brushed into me (or attempted to take a nip) several times.

One of these days, I’ll get the camp stove started with a minimum of fuss and without getting fuel all over my hands. Or maybe I won’t, in which case this trip’ll call for more than two canisters of Handiwipes, the first having already been expended on soot removal duty. At any rate, although the tall trees and the “early” sunset (being rather far east within the new time zone) conspired to bring nightfall more quickly than I had expected, my dinner preparation was flawless and the chicken and rice entrée was very, very good. The tree cover was heavy but there was music coming from all around, and I wondered if the folks would be cool about things and throttle it down as it got later. Pros that they were, they did, and it was silent by about 10 PM.

Somewhere along the line, I finally had to replace the batteries in the digital camera, this after countless on/off cycles (extending and retracting the lens), always using the external viewfinder, and resolving and recording both audio and video for the Dragon ride. There is no doubt that this set of batteries lasted me the longest, and naturally they were my last handful of them. Now, folks, I am not telling you what to do with your hard-earned bread, but I gotta tell you I got incredible life out of these, and who would have guessed it: generic Ace brand alkalines! (Your mileage may vary.)

Knowing now that I’ve spent three of the last four days at campgrounds, you may legitimately be asking, “Say, The Chief (tm), has it been difficult to stay fresh and clean throughout?” And while a good question, the answer is "not really", because these places all have showers of some sort and because the typical routine has been to arrive, set up camp, dine, and then take a quick end-of-day shower once all the heavy lifting is over. In the morning, much the same: break down camp, pack the bike, set aside just my clothes for the day and take another quick one. I’m probably taking more showers than when I was living in Surfside. I’m probably taking more showers than Kendall, and even if I’m not, I know I smell better than him regardless.

Leave No Trace


Beds Are Burning

Sock Capital



Attack Fish

The Ringleader