September 21 2009 by Jason Fogelson
The skies are threatening as we eat our breakfast in the solarium at the Best Western Villa Inn. Looks like this could be the day that we have to break out the rain gear.
As we saddle up on Melvis, a guy waves us down, running across the parking lot. I flip open my visor.
"Ya'all been in weather before? Because we're about to get some weather."
I thank the guy for his concern, and assure him that we've been in weather before. Because we have ridden through some real gully washers in our time, and we actually kind of enjoy it.
"Ride safe, now."
Looking at the sky, I figure that if we head out now, we can avoid the weather and stay dry. The front seems to be moving from north to south, and we're going east. So we ride off, knowing that our rain gear is easily accessible should we need it.
History is all around as we ride. In place and street names, we see reminders of David Crockett, Tennessee pioneer and statesman, revered throughout the state.
We ride toward living history in Lynchburg, a tiny town in the center of Moore County. Since 1866, the principal industry in Lynchburg has been the making of Tennessee Whiskey at the Jack Daniel's Distillery . They've been doing it there (with a short interruption for Prohibition) the same way Jack Daniel started, with the same water source and the same recipe for nearly a century and a half. Tours of the Distillery are free, and take about an hour. Our tour guide, Billy, is a squat man with a big grey beard spreading over the front of his overalls. He looks a little bit like a troll, and he's got a sharp sense of humor. He gives a great tour, rife with company history, lore and insight, along with a real passion for the product. There are no samples on this factory tour - good thing, too, because we've still got riding to do.
Before we ride away, we take a quick stroll through Historic Downtown Lynchburg, a quaint square of shops and restaurants adjacent to the Distillery. We stop for lunch at the BBQ Caboose , an unpretentious café on the square. We're pleasantly surprised by the delicious pulled pork sandwiches and crispy fries. It's hard to find bad barbeque in Tennessee, we're discovering.
Still ahead of the weather, we climb back on Melvis and push ahead toward Chattanooga. In the course of our ride along I-24, the road briefly dips into Alabama. Which reminds me, Tennessee is a remarkable place. It is bordered by no fewer than eight states: Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri and Virginia. It's amazing that Tennessee retains any identity of its own at all, but it does. The people of Tennessee are incredibly proud of their state, and with good reason. It is just beautiful.
We pull into our hotel for the evening, the Best Western Heritage Inn in Chattanooga. We have beaten the weather, just barely. The skies have darkened, and lightning strikes in the distance. We decide to forsake sightseeing in Chattanooga for a quiet night at the hotel. The hotel's attached City Cafe Diner offers a wide range of menu selections, and is open 24 hours, just the ticket for tired motorcyclists.
Next: Tennessee, Day Five: Chattanooga to Knoxville and Home Again