When we woke up and broke camp, we decided to go check out the ‘old fort’ that the park was named after. We rode down about a mile and parked in the lot. As we’re walking up, Damon says that he could have sworn he read the ‘old fort’ was built by Indians thousands of years ago, but the building we see is made of rock and looks like it was built in the past few hundred years at least I’d say. Did Indians have mortar? I don’t think so, but I’m second guessing myself. I’m wondering if maybe he got his facts wrong, when I notice the building we’re looking at says visitor center on the side. Those tricksters. After some hasty sign reading, it appeared you had to do a 1.5 mile walk to see the actual ruins, but it sounded like it was just mounds aka piles of dirt. So I’m still wondering where this old stone fort is?? We decided maybe they just picked that name to sound catchy since ‘old piles of dirt state park’ didn’t sound like it would be a big draw for visitors.
Anyways, as we’re leaving, we both comment on the weather. Perfect blue skies, perfect temperature, it’s just a perfect day for riding. My spirits are much higher than yesterday ha. Somewhere in here, we start hitting some water crossings. See pictures below. The look innocent enough, but they have algae or something on them and they are SLICK, so dropping our bikes was common. A few times we just walked them across. One time Damon dropped his and bike kept running and did a donut which was impressive.
Anyways, so we’re driving down some road, and I’m finally leading after I patched together the micro USB charging port on my GPS phone with silicone sealant, when I see a motorcyclist ahead of us on what looks to be kind of an adventure bike. I kind of lose sight of him in a corner, then when I come around I realized he’s turning around in the road, so I wave as I drive by. I look down at my GPS and realize I’ve missed our turn, so I turn around too. I notice the other guy making the turn where I should have turned, and I think hmm I wonder if he’s doing the TAT too. We end up following him for several miles and he’s definitely doing the TAT, so he ends up waiting for us at a stop sign and we talk and found out his name was Gary and he was doing the TAT too. He decided to fall in behind us and ride with us, which was nice. We rode on a few more miles until we stopped for gas at Buckle Belt. This guy starts asking us about our bikes and what we’re doing, and it turns out he’s the owner of the gas station and diner there. He tells us about hitting a dog at night and wrecking his Harley, then takes us into his office and shows us the boot he was wearing and how the pavement wore right through it. Pretty crazy. We thought about staying for lunch to talk with him more, but it was barely 11 so we figured we needed to go a little further before our lunch break. I didn’t even catch his name, but he was a retired USMC vet and a Babson MBA alum, which was cool. Gary stayed with us as we set off down the road. We stopped a while later for gas, and tried to decide where we would stop for the night. The next segment was 130 miles long, and there didn’t appear to be any state or federal parks until the end near Savannah, TN. Given that it was past 4pm, we didn’t think we’d be able to make that before dark. So, we did a bunch of phone research, and I finally found that this Laurel Hill Wildlife Management Area had a lake with some camping there, about 30 miles into the trail. There was also a “Laurel Hill Trail and Campground” nearby, which appeared to be some kind of nearby privately owned place to ride horses. On the way, I notice there are just huge piles of turds all over the road in this one area. I’m thinking what is going on, is a fence down on one of these ranches and all the livestock got out or something? Well a few minutes later, I realize we’re in some kind of Amish area or something. Maybe they are Mennonites, or Quakers, I don’t know the difference. But they were sporting giant beards and horse drawn carriages and apparently selling handmade cedar furniture at their houses if the signs were true. They were very friendly and all of them waived back at me, which I obviously appreciated. Towards the end of our Amish tour, we did see this group of men with some kind of antique looking gas engine in a horse drawn trailer, and I start yelling at Damon on the headset “Whoa whoa whoa we’ve found some cheaters here!” I’m not really sure what the regulations are on that, maybe they can have pre WWII engines or something, I don’t know, but it looked weird. Anyways, back to finding a camping spot. So we went to the ‘trail and campground’ first, and it was a rundown house with like 20 RV hookups in the front yard. I was not impressed at all, and we couldn’t get anyone to answer the door anyways. So, we decided to try out the lake campground, which didn’t have a shower, but sounded fairly decent otherwise. We arrived at a pristine but small lake with hardly anyone there. The office was closed, and there were signs saying no camping unless you have permission, so we tried to call but realized we had no cell service, so we drove back up to the main road and called the number on the sign but no one answered. Well, I just left a message saying “hey I’m camping tonight hope that’s ok”, then we made our way back to the camping area. It was a little confusing, because there were signs saying all fisherman had to have a $5 day pass, and other signs saying all campers had to be fishermen, so we just took the high road and put $5 each in the slot. I figured since I stiffed the federal gov’t at the campground in the forest in Mississippi, it was the least I could do to help out the state of Tennessee. Gary stayed with us the whole way, and camped right with us as well. We’ll see how long he stays with us, but he’s easy to get along with and nice enough so I don’t mind having him.