Harry had been wanting to go to the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tn, for a long time. So, a few years ago, a group of ten or more had everything arranged to ride up on an overnight trip, but a hurricane blew through and the ride was canceled.
Undaunted, Harry persisted and this August a plan came together.
As the departure date approached, we had 3 riders, Harry, Ben and I and on the day before, we picked up another rider, Fain.
But, again, as fate had it, a tropical depression was moving onshore in the Gulf and during the entire weekend trip, a 70% chance of rain was forecast for the whole trip area. We all agreed, what’s a little rain? That’s what rain suits were for.
Harry couldn’t get off work until noon on Friday, so I left Albany, Ga to join the others at Micky “D’s” in Dawson, Ga at 2 PM. Thunderstorms had already inundated the area and where Harry lived, it was pouring, so he showed up in rain gear. We headed out toward Columbus in the light showers of a dissipating thunderstorm and stopped at Cussetta, where Harry took his rain suit off. We never bothered with any rain suits for the rest of the trip. We proceeded to Columbus and onto the Interstate. Just past LaGrange, we got off the Interstate and proceeded up Highway 27. Highway 27 has been recently rebuilt into a 4-lane and is one of the riding secrets of Georgia with little traffic. Stopping at a BP station for a break and some gas, the pumps weren’t working properly and the gas was coming out in a trickle. (I guess BP plugged up the hole too well.) We continued on that highway all the way to Rome, where we stopped to access the situation. Up ahead on the bypass it was dark with a lot of lightening and we paused to sit it out. When we left Rome, we thought the storms were over, but ran into heavy rain just before LaFayette, Ga., where we spent the night. We were soaked, because none of us took the time to put on our rain suits. I spent most of the early morning drying out my boots using the motel’s hair dryer.
Saturday morning, it was overcast and any rain was North of Monteagle, Tn. The sun started to shine as we passed the Chattanooga Choo Choo. After riding through Chattanooga, we took Suck Creek Rd. and State Rd. 41 up the mountain roads to Whitwell, Jasper, Tracy City, Monteagle, then 41A to Cowan, Winchester, Rte 50 into Lynchburg. The distillery was just past town and had special motorcycle parking. We had to be careful getting off the highway because the road had pea gravel up to the paved motorcycle parking. Bikes don’t travel too well on pea gravel.
Ben was the only one that had been to the distillery before, but that was a long time ago and he didn’t remember the main building, which appeared fairly new. Inside the building, were distilling examples and stories, as well as a statue of “Jack”, much taller than his height of 5 feet. We were able to get on tour #1 which started out on a bus up to the area were the sugar maple was stacked and then burned for the charcoal filtering. In the old preserved office building, the tour guide pointed to the safe that killed Jack. Jack was always forgetting the combination and after numerous tries, with his size 4 foot, he kicked the safe and messed up his toe. Later gangrene set in and the toe was removed, but it was too late. The gangrene had gone farther and Jack died in 1911. Prior to his death, he turned over the distillery to his bookkeeper, Lem Motlow. The distillery is currently owned by a liquor conglomerate, Brown-Foreman. The tour then took us though the rest of the distillery, which ended up back at the main building, where lemonade was served and pictures taken. While there are no samples given since Tennessee has been a dry county since 1909, 86 years later, since 1995, commemorative bottles of Jack are allowed to be sold.
We left the distillery and rode into Lynchburg, where there was Harley boutique shop and numerous stores selling Jack Daniels and #7 paraphernalia. One store had a Heritage Softail with #7 motif on the 2nd floor, as well as a pool table and many other “Jack” items.
Leaving Lynchburg, we decided to retrace our route back to Monteagle and then got on Interstate 24 to Chattanooga, turned off onto 27 North to Watts Bar Dam and the lake. We passed by the nuclear cooling towers at the Watts Bar Plant.
Harry had invited us to meet with his daughter, son and friends at the lake, where we had some nice thick steaks for dinner. Late that evening, we proceeded to Athens, Tn and spent the night at the house of Harry’s son. Throughout our ride on Saturday, although we saw dark clouds and rain in the distance, we were able to avoid any rain and it turned out to be a beautiful and satisfying ride.
Early the next morning, we left after breakfast at Micky “D’s” in Athens and took 441 to Cartersville, Ga to the Harley shop, which had not opened yet. The rest of the ride took us through Atlanta on I-75 all the way home without any problems or rain. At Cartersville, Fain’s wife had called and said a “monsoon” was forecast in the Albany, Ga. area around 3 PM. We rolled into Cordele around that time and there were very few clouds and the sun was shining brightly, so we stopped at the Cracker Barrel to eat. As we crossed the county line into Albany, Ga., the clouds were dark over the city area and I tried to avoid the storm by going around it, but only 1 mile from home, it dumped on me. The trip was 912 miles and it was a heck of a note to get soaked this close to home, but considering the forecast, you couldn’t have asked for a better ride.