September 28, 2003 GMT
Day 25

Sikeston, Missouri, to Nashville, Tennessee

235 miles

6252 Total Miles

All good things must pass. But not without a fight.

Although Day 25 marks the end of this wonderful journey, we decided that the adventure wouldn't end until we reached Nashville.

As the day began we faced a big decision. Do we make an out-of-the-way trip to the BMW Motorcycle dealer in Cape Girardeau and buy a new tire for Bill's bike or do we take a big chance and drive on to Nashville? We drove on to Nashville. After all, this is an adventure.

So we packed up our bikes for the last time and drove away from the last motel. In a way, we were limping our way back. Bill rode gingerly on his gimpy tire while Bo's bike began its third day of leaking oil. By this time in the trip, Bo's right motorcycle boot was totally covered in motor oil, which made it a rather slippery perch with which to support a 550 pound bike at traffic stops.

Bill packs his bike for the last time.

We rode into Missouri's Mississippi River delta country - flat farmland planted in soybean and bordered by levees. The farms are dotted with neat little houses. Several are accompanied by smaller dwellings that house the hired hands. Other than the mini-plantation setup on some farms, it reminded us somewhat of our drive through Kansas. The presence of abundant water was also a major difference.

Speaking of water, we soon approached the Mighty Mississippi itself. At Dorena, Missouri, we boarded the Dolores II, a ferry that crossed the river into Kentucky.

Before boarding the ferry, we spent several minutes discussing farming with Wendell Choate, a 1941 graduate of Vanderbilt who planted 500 acres of sweet corn this year. Needless to say, we offered Mr. Choate little new information about farming. He grew up in the area, went to Vanderbilt and graduated with a degree in Business Administration. He then returned home to farm. His choices in life would be a bit unusual today. Not many people return to the rural life after they leave. He appeared to be a happy man who is satisfied with his life.

Bill explains the finer points of farming to Mr. Choate

The ferry ride across the Mississippi was fun and as close to a Huck Finn episode as either of us would ever experience.

The Dolores II

We were in Kentucky for only a few minutes when we approached a sign that read "Welcome to Tennessee."

After 25 days, we were back, almost home.

We took Highway 22 in Union City and drove to Huntington. From Huntington, we took Highway 70 to Camden, Bo's hometown. In Camden, we stopped to see Bo's mom, Rose Johnson. She deserves special mention. Bo wrote her an email after the miserable day in the rain and snow in Colorado and asked her to pray to St. Jude for better weather. Over the years, her children and grandchildren ask her for this special help whenever something important is hanging in the balance. Her intervention successfully saw Bo's sister through her first court date as a fledgling attorney. Let it be known that Bo and Bill drove in only good weather after that email was sent. Today her help was more basic; plenty of hugs, fresh coffee and a danish.

Mrs. Johnson is glad her baby boy is home safe.

We left Camden and stayed on Highway 70. We grew quiet as Nashville grew closer. Our thoughts were of home. Would the dogs great us with abandon or would they bark at the strangers walking through the front door? Would our families let us assume our usual roles as authoritarian paterfamilias (what a joke) or relegate to a secondary role? What about work? Has everyone figured out that we're not as irreplaceable as we would like to believe?

Ninety miles later, we reached Nashville. And just like that, this once in a lifetime adventure was over.

We traveled for 25 days and drove 6252 miles. Of these 6252 miles, only 175 were spent droning down the interstate. The remainder were spent on small roads and in small towns. We traveled through 11 states and hundreds of towns and villages. We met countless people, and not one of them was obnoxious. We hope the people who met us can say the same thing. We saw the beauty of this country and its people up close and in a very personal way.

We began this journal by inviting you to follow the meanderings of two 50 year old men out for a lark in honor of their mid-life crisis. We hope we've entertained you and provided at least a vicarious experience that has brightened your days.

As this comes to an end, we want everyone to know that we deeply appreciate being allowed to do this very special thing. We say "allowed" because that's the way it is. We couldn't have done this without a lot of support from our families and the people we have the pleasure of working with. While we've reveled in living a life that totally revolves around ourselves, they were in Nashville, feeding the dogs, meeting with clients, going to school, cooking meals, treating patients, going to the laundry, doing our work for us, picking up the kids, et cetera, et cetera.

Thank you.

We'll miss the road but it is truly a joy to be back home, where we belong.

Posted by Bill Thompson at September 28, 2003 02:30 AM GMT

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