The Ride Report – Vicksburg Battlefield. 03/28/15

Written from my personal perspective. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

My first “group” ride. Rescheduled from the previous week due to weather, the attendance took a sharp drop. 4 riders on 3 bikes set forth from the north gate of Stennis Space Center. MS (SSC) at 8:38am on 03/28/15.

The planned ride was:
I-59 to Lumberton
US13 (Lumberton) to Monticello
US27 to Vicksburg

Optional Battlefield Tour.

Individual ride home via preferred route.

That was the plan.

Now Reality.
I had packed the night before. Rain gear. Save a Ride Bag. Camera. Ram Mount for my Garmin GPS. Extra quart of oil and funnel. Chain was lubed. Oil was topped off. All systems checked. I was fairly confident, though wrong, that we were to go Kicks Stands Up at 0800. Used to driving through the site, now I had to go the long way round since my resignation from the DoD. Coming off of Texas Flat Road, I had 2 minutes to join the group for KSU. I rolled back on the throttle.

It’s like flying. Low level flying. The engine roars. The scenery sweeps by. It was a cold morning, and passing 95mph I was extra thankful for my cold weather gear. The brushguards kept the bulk of the wind off my hands, so I had foregone the snowmobile gloves, but still worn my heavy winter gloves. Xelement Leather jacket with insulated liner, heavy Xelement boots, FLY Racing pants over my jeans, a burberry scarf and my Hawk hi-viz yellow modular helmet, completed the ensemble.

… at 0800 I see the gate come into view and… no one there.

Well fuck.

Checking through my emails, I was early. A pleasant change.

“Mac” and his lady friend “Huey” (that’s what it sounded like, though I doubt she was named after the Bell UH-1), roared up on a Harley, ’05 Heritage Classic, around 0815. No windshield. With the temperatures in the 50’s, Mac was already cold and dreading the long hours in the saddle. I could empathize, with my ride to Tullahoma in October 2012 on a Ninja 250 being my first introduction to long distance riding.

“Chief” showed up last on his ’05 Aero Shadow VT750. Chief organized the event, so he’s in charge. It’s a command sponsored event, so we’re going to do this the Navy way. Close staggered formation. While waiting for our last rider, who was a no-show, we went over hand signals and where we would stop for gas.

Now, formation riding is not something I’ve ever done before. But I’m aware of it.

Staggered formation riding. Provided by the folks at Eagles Nest Harley Davidson

Chief would be our ride leader. He had been riding since 2005. He’d started in Italy, then Hawaii, then San Diego. We heard several tales of using ball bearings to ward off aggressive drivers.

Not an endorsement

Mac, with Huey, rode in second position and I brought up the rear. Mac was the newest rider and had never done a formation ride before. It showed. He was using a very wide & deep positional bubble. It did make things interesting. By the end of the day, he had improved tremendously in formation riding, but right now, I was making a lot of adjustments.

We turned off I-59 at exit 41, Lumberton and headed W on US13. Now, after coming off the interstate, we were still accustomed to moving fairly quickly. Just at the limits to greater metropolitan Lumberton (/sarcasm), there is a train track crossing. It looks flat as you’re coming at it from the east, but it’s a lie. It’s 2 parallel track lines and there is a drop down between them. I watched Chief hit it hard and get bounced fairly well. 2 seconds later I hit it. My skid plate hit the pavement as the front forks compressed on the 2 track. Later, I visually confirmed that it hit deep on the right back corner of the skid plate.

That shook me out of my calm. Afterwards, I started hearing some interesting metallic grinding everytime I went through 5500 rpm in 1-4 gears. I’m going to get that checked.

After Mac mis-shifted and stalled out his engine during a turn, I ended up in second position. This turned into a bit of a relief. I was able to move up into the tandem position and hold it easily. Looking at my GPS, I saw that we were coming up on US49 at Mendenhall. We stopped to refuel. I had to kick my kickstand down. That hit on the skidplate had definitely shifted things.

Chief had not seen the turn to US27 and we were now 20 miles past our turnoff. Mac was one cold man. He and Huey split a large cup of hot chocolate to warm themselves up. It didn’t feel like the weather had warmed much. Chief and I discussed the alternate route. Instead of backtracking, we took US49 to Jackson, and then kicked over to Vicksburg on I-20W.

We arrived in Vicksburg only 8 minutes behind our projected arrival.

Turning into the Vicksburg National Military Park, I saw the notice that firearms were prohibited on the site.

http://www.nps.gov/vick/learn/management/firearms-in-the-park.htm

http://www.nps.gov/vick/learn/management/upload/Fire-Arms-MS.pdf

Upon further research, the policy is that firearms are prohibited in the National Park Service facilities/buildings. Had I been carrying, I could have left the .40 in the hard cases on my bike. It does not appear that the 2013 MS Open Carry Law House Bill 02 has been taken into account yet. 97-37-1 Section 1.4

(4)  For the  purposes of this section, “concealed” means hidden or obscured from common observation and shall not include any weapon listed in subsection (1) of this section, including, but not limited to, a loaded or unloaded pistol carried upon the person in a sheath, belt holster or shoulder holster that is wholly or partially visible, or carried upon the person in a scabbard or case for carrying the weapon that is wholly or partially visible.

I need to do more research for future rides.

Vicksburg National Military Park

This park is perfect for motorcyclists. There is a perimeter Tour Road that takes you to all of the sites. There are numerous pull over areas to allow for temporary parking and picture taking. I enjoyed my time at the park completely.

I was using a polarized filter on my lens. I’m going to see if I can clean up some of these images in post.

A very late lunch was had at Monsour’s at the Biscuit Company, which overlooks the Yazoo river just before it dumps into the mighty Mississippi. A historical fact: What is now the Yazoo going by the Monsour’s, was, in 1863, the course of the mighty Mississippi. There it was, that Chief said those same words I had uttered, lo these 16 long years ago. “What’s a Po-Boy?” For those who don’t know, it’s the Southern equivalent to a Hero, a Grinder, a Hoagie or a Submarine sandwich. Served on a large French baguette with a crispy crust and a fluffy center. The shrimp po-boy was delicious and Chief was mighty happy with the open faced roast beef po-boy. There were no words from Huey as she destroyed the burger. Our waitress, Felicia, was very convincing on the desserts… but alas, none of us succumbed. I think we were all looking at the clock and thinking about the long ride home.

Being the one with the Garmin, I led the way out of Vicksburg and back out onto I-20. We had agreed to stop for gas again once we’d slipped over onto I-55. We didn’t have to stick together, but we did. I was glad for the company.

There was ongoing road construction in the Jackson area. It got particularly ugly just after we came down from the interchange onto I-55. It was tight quarters, no shoulder, and everyone was moving quickly. A large red truck, possibly a Dodge (rearview mirror viewing), cut across 3 lanes of traffic and slid between Mac and Chief before disappearing up an off-ramp. The whole ride had felt pretty good, until we were hemmed in by traffic and that little sphincter-tightening event. To you Sir, in the Red Truck on I-55 on 03/28/15… you are an asshole.

We discussed the Red Truck at our gas stop. It was a hairy moment. A long and great ride could have gone wrong so very quickly. Not through a fault of our own, or something we could have avoided, but by the poor judgement of others. Weaponizing the bikes seemed like a valid option. Several mentions of paint guns and ball bearings were made. By Chief. I was definitely seeing his point. We said our goodbyes at the pumps and proceeded on. We didn’t expect to stop again.

Just north of Independence, Louisiana, Chief (in the lead) dramatically slowed down. I was in 3rd position and had to quickly brake to avoid a collision. I saw him reach over on the front left of his bike. He was switching to his reserve fuel line.

After a little over 100 miles, Chief was on his reserve. We took the first exit, though there was no “Gas” signs to be seen, but there was a sign for a Hospital. Pulling over on the ramp, Chief hopped off and immediately went to searching for a gas station on his phone, all the while cursing under his breath. I found an Exxon 2 miles away on my Garmin NUVI (a true touch screen from the days of old. I can operate it with my gloves on). We took off with renewed confidence that gas was to be had. Chief pulled over at the first Mom N’ Pop convenience store pump (Best Stop) he could find. Mac and I continued on to a brand new Quick Way, just a little further into town.

side note, the Quick Way is at the corner of 40 and W. Railroad Ave, not where G Maps currently has it. It is a brand new facility.

We picked up Chief on our way back to I-55, fully fueled and ready to go.

Tired and worn out, at night… is no way to run into Covington interstate traffic. The traffic coming in from the Causeway is what finally broke our formation. It was dark and it was getting crowded. Chief had primarily kept us in the right lane and was running a conservative (in my mind) speed. At highway speed, my Garmin speed agrees fairly well when I’m in my truck. On the bike, it’s a completely different story. The speedometer will read 85, and the Garmin will say 78. The speed tends to line up quite well around 50mph, but north of that mark, the variation seems to grow. I lend greater credence to the Garmin.

With causeway traffic pouring in, I changed into the left lane and rolled back hard. The V-strom responded well, and I leapt ahead, passing Mac and Chief in the night. I gave a final wave, and took off. Once I got into clear air, I was surprised to see Mac had followed me out and was behind me, back in the tandem formation position at my 5 o’clock. Together, we rode those last miles home as the chill of the night set in.

That night, I lay in the hottub and let the water blast my back. On Monday I will see about that grinding sound at 5500rpm with my guys at Coast Cycle World. It may just be a harmonics issue (fingers crossed). But if not, there is a lovely 1984 Honda GL1200LLTD at Coast Cycle for $3,500.

Chief, Mac and Huey… keep the rubber side down. 13.5 hours in the saddle. Solid ride.

-MW

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