Dale Does Dixie – A Southern Adventure

I recently returned from an adventure into America. Five intrepid adventurers on four motorcycles, traveled from the big city to the rural south and we learned a lot along the way.

The purpose of the trip was to motorcycle down the Natchez Trace, a 444 mile National Park byway through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. The Trace has been in use since the 1600’s when it was an Indian trail. Then it was used by rafters who floated their goods down the Mississippi to Natchez. They sold their goods and their rafts and walked home on the Trace. It went from a trail to a road before the Civil War, and in 1930 it was built as a scenic byway. 

The Trace is the perfect road for bikes because there are no stoplights, no potholes, no commercial traffic, and a speed limit of 50 mph. It is basically a well maintained road through the woods. The only problem with riding the Trace was that we had to first ride 600 miles to get to it.

We left Chicago and headed south along backroads and saw nothing but soybeans and corn for miles and miles. That’s it, just soy beans and corn, which sounds like a rural AM radio team. “Hey, it’s Soybeans and Corn in the mornin’”. Eventually we came to the town of Casey, Illinois, the home of really big stuff. 

Casey prides itself on having the world’s largest rocking chair, the largest pencil, the largest mailbox, the largest wind chime, and loads of other really big stuff. I had no problem sitting in the world’s largest bird cage but was told to keep out of the world’s largest wooden shoes. The Guinness World Record giants are the work of Jim Bolin, a Casey native who apparently had too much time on his hands. What I found most interesting is that the giant objects all had relevant Bible verses written on them. For instance, the world’s largest yardstick bore the inscription, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:2. I was so impressed that I put a Biblical verse on my motorcycle. It read, “Thou shalt not steal” Exodus 20:15. 

The next day we rode through the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois and stopped by the Garden of the Gods. It is an impressive rock canyon that was once under water, thus the rocks have unusually and stunning designs. From there we rode to Metropolis, which we all know is the home of Superman. 

In the comic books, Metropolis was the fictional setting for the man of steel, but the Illinois city of Metropolis had the name long before the comics and decided to cash in on it. So they have a giant statue of Superman who looks like he would be right at home in Casey. Right next to the statue is the gift shop filled with more Superman paraphernalia that one could ever use. I liked the bag of stones that were spray painted green and being sold as Kryptonite. I guess P.T. Barnum was right.

It was time to leave Illinois.


Across the Ohio River from Metropolis is Paducah, Kentucky. This is where I first started to notice confederate flags flying from pick up trucks. We zipped through Kentucky and spent the Night in Nashville, Tennessee, but we were too tired to enjoy it.

The next morning, we finally got to  the Natchez Trace. No more soybeans and corn, we were looking at fields of cotton that looked like giant popcorn blossoms. I think this was the first place Eli Whitney distilled cotton to make cotton gin.

By lunch time, we were in Alabama and had lunch in Muscle Shoals at a little cafe right off the Trace. It was a place visited by the locals who seemed to come in two sizes. The “big boys” averaged 300 pounds, wore overalls, and sported Z.Z. Top beards. The other type weighed about 100 pounds, wore t-shirts, and cooked meth. They all spoke a language that was very similar to English and stared at us like we were from the government.

We departed Alabama and plunged right into Mississippi. This is where I started to hear banjo music The major Mississippi tourist attraction is in Tupelo. It’s Elvis Presley’s birthplace. A large museum / gift shop abuts the modest three room house in which Elvis was born. If you want to take a look inside, it’s a $19 ticket, or $6.33 per room. 

Next to the house was the outhouse Elvis used. Many ElvisHeads were gathered around the one hole when I said, “Isn’t it ironic that he also died on the toilet?” Nobody laughed. Nobody laughed in the gift shop either when I asked if they had any Elvis pill boxes.

We also visited the hardware store in Tupelo where Elvis’ mom bought him his first guitar. There is even a mark on the floor where Elvis stood when he was handed the instrument. I was underwhelmed at the sight.

After spending the night in Tupelo, I couldn’t wait to get back on the road so we headed down the Trace to the cypress swamp. The swamp had a boardwalk over it and signs warning to watch for alligators. Good thing I was wearing the alligator repellant they sold me at the gift shop because we didn’t see any. But as we left the swamp, a gator was spotted in the water along the side of the road. He knew to keep his distance.

Once we got to Natchez, we wanted to see the infamous area called Under the Hill. In the days of the rafters, the Under the Hill area was the notorious gathering place for hookers, thugs, and gamblers. My kind of town

Since we decided to visit the Under The Hill Saloon, the oldest bar in Mississippi, we took a cab. I tried Uber but they don’t exist down there. Our cabbie was named John, and he owned Rock N Roll Cabs. John was in his 70’s and ran his business from the seven cell phones he carried. When he temporarily lost one, he used another to call the number so we could find it. John drove slowly, which was good because he refused to wear a seatbelt which made the seatbelt alarm constantly ringing. John also ignored many traffic signals because he was answering one of his phones, by saying “Rock N Roll.” After hearing him answer the phone like that 15 or 16 times, we adopted it as our adventure catch phrase.

Miraculously, John got us to the bar and back home again and our visit to Mississippi was officially over. The next day we crossed the river into Louisiana.


I have visited Dixie many times and I have always been a fan of their cups, but I have only been to the larger cities that I flew into. Louisiana was my first eye opening exposure to the rural south. By now, the accent had gotten so thick that you need an English/Southern dictionary. This, when accented with a Louisiana/Cajun touch, makes the locals sound to me like they are speaking Klingon.

The main mode of transportation down here is the pick-em-up truck Not a Tesla in sight. The average home has 3.5 pick-em-up trucks parked in the front yard. One works, one doesn’t, one is just for parts, and the rusted out shell of the last one is sometimes used as a planter. In addition to the trucks, you will also see old laundry appliances, refrigerators, tires (pronounced “tars”) and a mattress or two in the yard. Yard art takes on a whole different meaning down here.

Many of the houses looked badly in need of repair to the point that the TV show “Fix This House” has never been here. Too much of a challenge. And even though the roof of the house may sag, it still supports three to four satellite dishes.

Outside of acquiring indoor plumbing and libraries in this part of Louisiana, the biggest problem is kudzu. Kudzu is an invasive vine that was illegally imported from Japan. ICE officers should be deporting it. This stuff grows fast in warm climates and surrounds and smothers anything it comes across. Kudzu vines cover entire trees, killing them. Kudzu will climb on fences, houses, and eventually the vehicles in the front yard. 

After a short romp through Louisiana, we entered Arkansas, the birthplace of President Bill Clinton. Bill was born in Hope, Arkansas, but we didn’t go there. We had already seen Elvis’ outhouse and didn’t need to see another. We also bypassed Little Rock, home of the Clinton Presidential Library. It’s the only presidential library to have books with centerfolds. I also found it interesting that the state motto of Arkansas, which is printed on their license plates is “The Natural State”, just like Bill Clinton liked his women.

Once in Arkansas, I began to notice more and more churches to the point that every town had a church on every block. No synagogs or mosques, but lots of churches. And outside every church was a sign, the illuminated kind with movable letters. And every sign had a different weekly saying. Some of my favorites were; “Need a lifeguard? Ours walks on water”, “Just love everyone. I’ll sort them out later. -God; and “Now serving pumpkin spice communion.”

Our terminus point for the day was Hot Springs, Arkansas, where Central Ave. is Bath House Row and is lined with houses offering baths in the regenerative hot springs water. I did not check out any of the houses so I don’t know if the baths are self serve or if someone else washed you. Either way I hope they change the water between customers.

One surplus that Arkansas has is snakes. These slithering demons are everywhere, even in the middle of the road, where we turned more than one of them into a snakeskin belt.

Continuing in Arkansas, we ascended Magazine Mountain, the highest point in the state. I don’t know how it got its name because when we got to the top, there was nothing to read. There was no Life, People, or Time. Plus, the mountain was completely fogged in on the day we visited. We saw nothing but fog for thousands of miles, but it was nice “natural” fog.

At the bottom of the mountain, we ran into a large group of bikers at a gas station. They were on their way to Fayetteville for a huge biker rally of up to 500,000 bikes. It’s called Bikes, Blues, and BBQ, and definitely sounds like an event t-shirt I have to buy on the internet so I can tell people I was there.

The next day was all about the riding through beautiful Arkansas roads, then a foray into Missouri, past the St. Louis arch, back across the Mississippi and into our home state of Illinois, where the state motto is, “We got a tax for that.”


Upon entering Illinois, we visited one of the highlights of the trip for me. The Cahokia Mounds  are giant prehistoric earthworks built by native Americans from 800 to 1100 AD. It took 300 years to build Monk’s Mound, one basket of dirt at a time. It stands over 100 feet tall and it is estimated that it took 15 million baskets of dirt to accomplish the build. No body knows for sure why the natives built these mounds but think the larger ones were built for ceremonial purposes. I think they built the mounds because they didn’t have amusement parks back then. A 100 foot mound makes for a good slide using a cafeteria tray for a sled, and if it snows, they had birch bark toboggans.

Rain accompanied us along old Rt. 66  but that just made the nostalgia seem more real. Route 66 was the only convenient way to travel from Chicago to California in the 50’s and 60’s. They even made a TV show about it. A lot of it has changed over the years but not the Palm Cafe in Atlanta, Illinois. It’s right on Rt. 66 and when you walk in, you walk into the 1950’s. The counter is original, the furniture is original, but the food is fresh and quite tasty.

Across the street from the restaurant was a giant statue of PaulBunyan. I don’t  know if Paul was ever in Atlanta, but the original statue featured him holding an ax. City officials felt that was too threatening so they replaced the ax with a giant hot dog, and if a giant hot dog isn’t threatening, I don’t know what is. I think they should put the ax back in his hand, seat him in the giant chair from Casey, and put it on top of Monks Mound. Now you have a sight to see.

The total math on this trip was 5 friends x 9 days, to the power of 2,400 miles equals a fantastic experience. Thanks for coming along. Rock N Roll!

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It is time for someone to speak up on behalf of meat. Lately, meat has been given a bad rap and is considered the cause of everything from global warming to impending doom. Apparently animals such as cows, tend to fart, as do we all, but their tooters are toxic to the ozone. The only solution for this problem that has been given so far is to get rid of the cows. This is not only stupid and ridiculous, but inhumane as well. Let me explain.

Cows have been around for a very long time and have provided us with the essentials of life. From cows we obtain milk, which can be turned into butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and milkshakes. From cows we also obtain leather, which can be turned into shoes, belts, purses, briefcases, and certain kinky restraints. And if that wasn’t enough, cows give us meat which can be turned into hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and t-bones. Cows give us a lot, but now we are supposed to turn our backs on them. I call this a moo-ving violation.

To replace the cows, we’re supposed to turn to substitutes for the items they give us. Things like, almond milk, soy cheese, and sherbet. The anti-cow lobby is trying to get us to eat things like tofu, and fake hamburgers, and wear shoes made of plastic. What has this nation become? 

Even Burger King, the bastion of meat consumption, is selling the “Impossible Burger” made out of vegetables and lego bricks. None of these faux beef byproducts is going to solve the problem, which as we pointed out earlier is cow gas. We need to find a way to contain and use bovine butt blasts, and I have several ideas.

First, has anybody considered giving them Gas-X? It works for Uncle Barney at the bratwurst festival and, if made in bovine strength, it could stop cow farts dead in their stalls. If that doesn’t work I propose a methane collection system. I don’t have the details worked out yet but I envision some sort of balloon device attached to the cow’s exhaust. At the end of each day the balloons would be collected and the gas stored in big tanks to be used as fuel.

The third possibility is the insertion of a miniature pilot light into the cow’s tunnel of darkness and whenever gas comes out, the pilot light would ignite it and turn it into a harmless fireball. The gas burn-off system has been used by manufacturing plants for years to get rid of the toxic gasses they emit, and if it’s good enough for big business, it should be good enough to save my hamburger.

I urge meat haters everywhere to continue eating their tofu-soy-quinoa wraps, but leave the cows alone. They jumped over the moon before we did and don’t deserve to be banished from the earth for having intestinal issues. We need the cows, and the cows need us. And the same goes for bacon.

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Stop Calling Me!

In the president’s State of the Union address, he talked about the problems with drugs, and AIDS, and cancer, but failed to mention the biggest bugaboo in America today, telemarketers!

I get at least 5 calls every day from telemarketers, and they annoy me. Thanks to caller ID, I can pretty much tell if the call is a scam or not. Calls listed as coming from The Philippines, for instance, are probably not those of people I know. Once I am comfortable with expecting the caller on the other end of the line to be a telemarketer, the fun begins.

If I don’t recognize the number, I don’t answer the phone by saying “Hello” I answer it by saying, “Did you get rid of the body?” Sometimes I deepen my voice to sound older and I answer the phone, “Bobby? This is grandpa and here’s that pin number you wanted. Get a pencil.” If the scammer actually says something like, “Go ahead grandpa” you have two options. You can hang up, or you can give out an endless number of 30 or 40 digits until they hang up. Either way, you win.

When you get a live person the phone you can really have fun. Yesterday I got a call and answered the phone by saying, “You’re on the air, go ahead.” The pitchman then started his live spiel but I interrupted him by saying, “You know you’re on the air don’t you?” His response, “Radio? I’m on the radio?” Then called out to his fellow telemarketers in the room, “I’m on the radio.”

He started giving his pitch to a “radio” audience and it was quite fun. At the end I told him, “Thanks for being on the show, and we have a little something for you. Just hang on while our producer gets your name and address.” Then I press “hold” followed by hanging up.

Sometimes you get a recording that becomes a real person if you start talking to it. The message is a recording but if you start accusing it of being a recording, a real person will come on the line. When you will hear a human voice say, “No, I’m a real person.” you know that the fish has taken the bait and you can reel it in or just play with it for a while.

If pulling pranks on pests is a new concept to you, here are some lines to get you started. Answer the telemarketers calls with…

Can you guys get blood out of a carpet?

District 4, Officer Friendly speaking.

You’re the 14th caller. What’s your guess for $1,000?

Call one more time and I’m gonna shoot the dog.

Let me leave you with this tip for dealing with telemarketers. If you know a foreign language, use it when you answer the phone. 

German, French, and Klingon work best.

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Welcome To Curd-Ville

I visited Wisconsin last week and had a delightful experience. The weather for America’s Dairyland was predicted to be 80 degrees and sunny, so I hopped on my motorcycle and set out for the the north woods, about 500 miles away.

Wisconsin is a beautiful state to ride in because you never know what you’ll find around the next corner. Cheese curds are made with a combination of curds and whey, just like Little Miss Muffet used to enjoy. Then, they put them in a machine and knock the whey out of them so all you have left is the curd. It’s a chunky little thing and I figured, “How bad could it be?” 

Cheese curds are not a silent food. They squeak when you eat them. It sounds like you’re eating a mouse. To wash down your curds, you order a beer, and when you combine the squeak of the cheese with the noise provided by the beer you have the makings for a Wisconsin One Man Band.

The goal on this trip was not to chow down on curds, but to have dinner at a remote restaurant in Manitowish Waters. The Little Bohemia Inn was built in 1929 as a restaurant and vacation lodge. In 1934, their most famous patron paid a visit.

John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and the rest of the gang were looking for a place to catch a little R&R. Robbing banks and going on the lam can really take it out of a gangster and the boys just wanted to rest up. They booked rooms at the lodge through a mutual acquaintance of the owner, but at check in, the owner’s wife recognized Dillinger and freaked out. After a couple of days, she called the FBI and informed them of the location of Public Enemy #1. 

The FBI decided to raid the lodge and finally nab Dillinger. They rode up the narrow drive when another car approached for the other direction. The feds blasted away at it and shot three people who just had dinner. 

The shots alerted Dillinger and the gang, and a massive gunfight ensued. Sin


ce the thought never occurred to the FBI to surround the building, the gang escaped out the back and eluded capture once again.

Today, the lodge is only open as a restaurant, but they preserved Dillinger’s room along with the bullet holes in the walls and windows. It was also featured in the 2009 Johnny Depp film, ”Public Enemy”

On my way back to Chicago, I passed by one of only four unique places on the planet. In the small town of Poniatowski, sits the center of the northern hemisphere and the western hemisphere. It is know as a 45-90 mark, being 45 degrees latitude from the north pole and the equator, and 90 degrees longitude from Greenwich to the International Date Line. The other three 45-90 spots are in China, the Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean so I figured I had better stop to see this one.

I walked down a path through a soybean field to a large orientation marker at the exact spot. I stood on that spot and waited for a divine message from the universe. I waited and waited and then it came to me. I felt my life change. I had a craving for cheese curds.

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Mice are cute little creatures when they come in the form of Mickey, Minnie, or Mighty, but in reality, they are disgusting germ carrying rodents that occasionally find a way into
your house. Whether you live in an urban, suburban, or rural setting, you will eventually get mice in your abode. And if you get two mice, you will soon have 100, and the only way to stop them is by extermination. Usually, you can rid yourself of mice by setting traps and generally, one or two traps are sufficient to take care of any mouse problem unless my wife sees one.

She was in the kitchen the other night when she espied a furry pest scurrying across the floor. The mouse disappeared down the basement steps but it was clear that war had been declared. I told her it was her fault for not letting me have a pet boa constrictor. You could just put the boa in the kitchen at night and your mouse problem would be gone by morning. She wasn’t listening to me and went to the hardware store to stock up on weapons.

When I was young, I heard the axiom, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” I never did this because the mousetrap I used seemed to function well, and quite honestly, I don’t want a beaten path full of strangers showing up at my door. But this sage advice was heard by many others and those people have come up with numerous ways to catch mice. My wife bought them all.

In addition to the traditional spring traps that catch mice and break fingers, she got little mouse houses that the mice enter, expecting a meal, and wind up getting sealed inside. She also returned with glue boards which are very sticky surfaces that mice walk onto and can’t get off. And we got some new and improved snap trap that doesn’t require any mouse touching for disposal. 

She then set her traps in any place a mouse might go. Many were set in the basement and on every step leading to the kitchen. She also placed them all over the kitchen in case the vermin made it up the stairs. Then she turned out the lights and waited. 

The next day she had a mouse in the mouse house trap, but the trap was gone. This is just great and I’m sure we’ll find him just like we find the one egg nobody can find at Easter. It will make itself known.

The next day she caught two that didn’t get away, and two more in the garage on day three. Since then, not a mouse has been sighted and not a trap has been tripped, but the traps remain in place, all over, just in case.

Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night in need of a beverage or a quick nibble. Sure you have. And since you know your way to the kitchen, there’s no need for lights. You open the fridge door, pour yourself a glass of juice, close the door, and step back, onto a glue board! You half hop, half hobble back to the bedroom, spilling your juice along the way. The words that followed were not fun words, but then there is no f-u-n in mouse. 

Most of the traps have been removed but the war is not over, and at least I’m eligible for the Purple Foot award.

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