#76 Bramwell Train Depot

May 29, 2007
504 miles
When I turned on The Weather Channel this morning, they were still talking about the heavy storms in Central Texas and the big story was still the flash flooding in Comal County. This is where I just left -- New Braunfels in Comal County. According to the news, I must have had good timing in my route leaving Texas.
I left the motel in Bulls Gap, Tennessee at 9:15am and made it to the Virginia state line an hour later. In Abingdon, Virginia I turned east on a US highway and left I81 behind. After about 900 miles of freeway, I was ready to get off the super slab and take a slower pace to enjoy the country.
There's a VA Tour stop in Jewel Ridge -- I'll be looking for the local Baptist Church. I go about 60 miles on a state highway then start looking for the small road that will take me into Jewel Ridge.
Up this small road, I find Jewel Ridge. It's hard to see the elevation in this photo. But trust me this is the last little stretch of a road that switched back and forth as it climbed high to the ridge where the very small community of Jewel Ridge sits.
I am still sitting on the last turn coming into the community and balancing on a gravel incline on the side of a hill ... in a curve. Notice my hand holding the brake? And, trust me, both feet are firmly planted as I balance the bike while taking these photos.

I found the Post Office... but no Baptist Church.

I made it through all of Jewel Ridge and still no Baptist Church so I start expanding my search to the smaller roads in the area. Here's a shed with plenty of character, but still no Baptist Church.
Even though a local Appalachian mountain guy pointed me this way...he said there were several churches along this road...might find the one I'm looking for. I did find a handful of churches, but not the one I was looking to find.
...unless it's past this sign. I didn't take Fleeter any further. The state maintained roads were bad enough, I didn't want to chance it on a bike meant for smooth asphalt. I figured there was a good chance I'd have to turn around and come back the way I came. If/When that time came, it would make sense that the road would then be worse than the one we see here...even though this is the most level piece I've seen in the last 15 miles.
Notice GPS Jill is trying to tell me that this is a perfectly fine (at least paved) road all the way to the next highway-which is 5.4 miles away? (I have her programmed to keep me on paved roads.) Jill isn't perfect, but I still love her.
The very next road I tried, came to the same story at the end! I give up. The Baptist Church can just stay hid/lost for now! I've spent the last couple of hours roaming around these back roads of the Appalachian Mountains. I've seen some nice roads in the area, but I'm ready to keep moving along and see what I can find further down the road.
Back down from the mountains now, driving along US19, we see that Texas isn't the only State that promotes wild flowers.
Next goal is to find the NPS stamp in Bramwell, West Virginia. After riding about forty more miles up this valley, it's time to turn back into the mountains. This is one of those hidden gems that can easily be the highlight of any ride. Little did I know what I would find when I drove into town.
Bramwell, WV population: 426
Bramwell was built inside a bend of the Bluestone River. This gives reason to have plenty of bridges.
While exploring the small town, I ride up on this cool old bridge. It's my favorite.

This is the historic train depot where I found the "National Coal Heritage Area" stamp.
The depot has an small interpretive center well worth a few extra minutes.

Out behind the depot is a foot swing bridge. It really does "swing" when you walk across it!
While at the depot, several of the locals struck up conversation with me. We chatted for 30-40 minutes. Seems they found it interesting that I ride around on Fleeter by myself looking for interesting places. We all were glad I found Bramwell. Friendly people in Bramwell!
Even a local dog took interest. No barking, just watching.
A couple miles from Bramwell, is Pinnacle Rock State Park.
While taking photos of the Rock, I noticed a problem with a saddle bag.
I rolled Fleeter back into a shady corner of the parking lot, took my helmet and jacket off, then went go to work. After emptying the saddle bag and removing it, I saw just what the problem was -- one of the bolts had sheered off, leaving only one bolt holding the saddle bag stay to the fender.
I rigged up a temporary solution to hold it on until I could get home -- 325 miles away.
I was very tempted by the Tastee Treat, but resisted. Looks like it's going to be after 10:30pm when I get home as it is. I need to keep moving, so I took a quick shot while rolling by.
Some mountains are easier to tunnel through than go over.
Coming out the other side of the tunnel, the storm clouds were threatening enough that I pulled over and put on rain gear. The rain was heavy enough and lasted long enough that I was glad I opted for the rain gear, but nothing like what I'd seen the last couple of days.
I merged onto I81 and kept a steady pace until I exited I64, past Charlottesville, where I took the back roads the last 70 miles home -- arriving at 10:50pm.
Total trip on Fleeter: 1,635 miles (per GPS)

Stamps collected: 1

States fleetered in this trip: 8

#75 Grazing Goats on Holiday

May 28, 2007
526 miles
Monday was a great day for riding across Mississippi, Alabama, a corner of Georgia and into Tennessee. The trip was mostly nondescript except for the herd of goats grazing in the median of I20 in Brighton, Alabama (south of downtown Birmingham). Probably not the best place for goats to graze, especially during the last day of a holiday weekend. I stopped at the next exit and called it in to the local law enforcement dispatch office. I didn't even hesitate. I KNOW that herding goats along the roadway is within an officer's job description because I've had to herd stray goats along the roadway myself before! I've also rounded up stray emus! (For those of you that may not know, I used to work for Hays County Sheriff's Department in Texas.)
North of Birmingham, I saw a sign "to Clay" with an arrow to exit. It looks like a sign addressed to me, doesn't it? Let's go see. I was getting a bit bored of the super slab Interstate anyway so I took the exit.
My detour took me through the Clay-Chalkville area of Alabama.
After Clay, Alabama, I get a refreshing stretch of road. I enjoy it enough that I stay on it for about 17 miles through Springville on may way back to I20 -- the wide, straight slab full of traffic.
Oh well -- It's efficient at moving people along.
Monday, I made it as far as Bulls Gap, Tennessee where I stopped for the night after getting hit with a sudden HEAVY downpour. So sudden, I didn't even have time to get to the next exit to stop and put on rain gear. I was wearing mesh gear - I was drenched! So I took the next exit and checked into a Super 8 along I81 about 9pm -- 100 miles earlier than planned.
Tuesday, I intend on taking it a bit slower and stamp hunt on my last day before getting home.

There may be an old bridge or two waiting along my path...

Sniffing the flowers on the way home...

#74 Dodging Storms in Texas

May 27, 2007
536 miles

It stormed Saturday night and early Sunday morning. After consulting The Weather Channel and Weather.com right up to the last minute, I pick a time and route to best get me out of Texas. I decide to leave New Braunfels heading north on I35 to Round Rock, then turn northeast on US79 to Henderson. I20 will be just 35 miles up hwy 43 from Henderson, Texas.

This was the route that looked like I would have the best chance of dancing around - instead of through - the thunderstorms. The plan worked fairly well. The skies were threatening rain, but it was mostly empty threats. I had steady rain for a few miles north of Hearne and I thought I was home free, until...
A few miles south of Henderson I had a huge dark storm brewing and growing to my right. This is the one that got me. When it started...IT STARTED. Rain came down in buckets. I didn't have to strain to see the lightening through the darkness--and it was only about 5:30 in the afternoon! Of course with lightening comes thunder - it was louder than the XM radio piped into my helmet speakers. Then there was the gusts of wind. I was hunkered down trying to anticipate when to lean into the blast of wind trying to knock me off the road. Visibility was only about 3 seconds in front of me. It helped that there was a pickup in front of me that I could follow. They probably had windshield wipers...I didn't dare let go of the handlebar grips long enough to wipe my face shield!

The storm was intense, but it was short. By the time I found a place to pull over it was mostly behind me. Looking back at it in my mirror, it seems that I had only caught the edge of it. I continued though the light rain into Henderson without stopping. The roads were dry from Henderson to I20 and beyond. When I reached I20 the skies ahead were light and non-threatening. Now to put on some miles. With Texas and storms in my rearview mirror, I skip across Louisiana in no time.

I reached Vicksburg, Mississippi about 11pm. Fueled up, grabbed a quick bite to eat and checked into the Comfort Inn. I felt that I was close enough to the high pressure system hovering over Atlanta that I wouldn't wake to rain the next morning.

Watching The Weather Channel that evening, I see the rain is not showing any mercy to Central Texas. A spokesperson for the local sheriff's department (Comal County) was on all the news channels telling about rescuing people from the rising waters of the Comal River and those that were lost to the flash floods. I feel lucky to have made it through with barely a glitch.

Fleetering toward the High...

#73 Layton's High School Graduation

May 24, 2007

New Braunfels, Texas

My oldest nephew, Layton, graduated from New Braunfels High School. YEE-HAW!
And he has the paper with his name on it to PROVE IT!
After the ceremony, we had a celebratory supper at Texas Reds in San Marcos. This was the last picture of the night before the graduate goes his own way to party the night away and the rest of us go home.
Sterling, Layton, Bailey and my sister, Lorrie.
Mike was gettig the truck--it had started to pour down rain as we left the restaurant!
You notice that this Fleeter Log starts in Texas.
You may wonder how I got to Texas...because you haven't seen any photos of my trip down.
A very observant reader you are!
For the first time, Fleeter was trailered. I didn't have much of a choice.
I needed to take Fritz, the dog, with me and didn't feel right about taking him on Fleeter.
So we pack his bag and load up.

We all trailered down to Texas.

Fritz, the pickup, and trailer will stay in New Braunfels while I fleeter back to Virginia.
Thanks to my sister and her family for taking care of Fritz for the summer.
AND thanks to Shonah for "doggy sitting" for the dog sitter! Without y'all helping, I wouldn't be able to put the fleeter miles in like I hope to this summer!
So anybody that enjoys these logs, owes a thanks to Fritz's caretakers! And THANKS again from me!
The original plan was to leave Texas heading north to Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa.
Then turning east through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and on home to Virginia.
But the entire Midwest appears to have a slow moving front with severe thunderstorms...for the next WEEK! So reluctantly, I decide to save that trip for another day. After studying the weather channel, it seems that the driest route with the least lightening strikes will be across the Southeast. The trick will be to escape Texas and the worsening storms intensifying and growing...
Watching the weather channel in New Braunfels and looking for a way through the weather...