My First Trail of Tears Ride - 2007

 

Trail of Tears Riders

trail of tears group

Cliff, BamBam, Beak, Elaine, Kojak

My First Trail Of Tears Ride - 2007

 

trail of tears rideIn October, 1994, the first Trail Of Tears Ride took place with eight bikes starting at Ross Landing in Chattanooga, TN and ending with around 100 bikes.  This ride was to bring awareness to Hwy 72 and to recognize it and mark it as a historic place.  This is part of the route used to move Native American Indians to Oklahoma, thanks to The Indian Removal Act of 1830.  It stands as a sad reminder of a tragic chapter in American history. I won’t go into the history here, but when you have a minute, follow the link below to look at the website containing all the information regarding the ride.

   http//www.trailoftears-remembrance.org


Let me share some of the impressions and experiences that I gained from participating in this ride.

trail of tearsBeak, Bam Bam and I left my house Friday morning, September 14, 2007.  None of us had done this ride before and were very excited about being a part of such a HUGE ride.  Last year there were over 150,000 bikes that started in Chattanooga, TN.  I don’t know how many finished in Waterloo, AL.  There were also several hundred that continued on to Oklahoma.  Anyway, we headed up to Blairsville, GA for lunch and the rain started.  After lunch it was looking REALLY dark to the west where we were heading, toward Murphy, NC.  As we made our way along Hwy 64 west of Murphy, through the pouring rain, it started to hail.  By this time we could hardly see, but there was no place to pull off so we just took our time and continued west, toward Chattanooga.  Finally arrived and the sun greeted us as we pulled into the hotel parking lot.  After changing cloths, resting our tushes and grabbing some dinner at a local diner, we headed downtown to check out the events happening down there.  Eric Bibb was down there singin’ the blues and what a job he did.  It was great.  Back to the hotel and to bed around midnight.

trail of tearsSaturday morning, the alarm clock woke us up at 4:30 so we could get loaded back up and head toward downtown again to the staging area.  We stopped by IHOP for breakfast and was joined by Cliff, a friend that wasn’t able to make the ride over on Friday with us.  After some much needed coffee and food, we headed downtown.

trail of tearsWe arrived at the staging area at 6:30 and was greeted by Kojak, another friend that was not able to ride over on Friday.  We were almost at the end of the first group of riders.  Kojak and I walked at least thirty minutes up to the beginning of the first group of bikes.  This line was two and three bikes across, and there was no more than six inches between tires.  It was mind boggling.  The bikes kept coming until we took off at 8:00.  I have never in my life imagined so many bikes on one ride.  I tried to take pics, but after seeing tens of thousands of bikes, they all start to look alike.

 

TRAIL OF TEARS The ride itself was amazing!  We went through some very beautiful country but every now and then it dawned on me that the occasion we were commemorating was not beautiful at all.  At one time this route was a living nightmare and I just wanted to remember that and somehow pass on my regret to the spirits that were indeed with us that day.  The route is also very important to the people that live in that area and they lined the highways and roads to greet and cheer on the THOUSANDS of bikes that were there to help bring awareness to the Trail.  I was honored to be a part of that ride.

trail of tearsWe made a stop in Madison, AL for food, fuel, rest and fellowship.  When we pulled into the shopping center parking lot it was already FULL of bikes and more kept pouring in, even as we left an hour later.  We made it to McFarland Park in Florence, AL around 3:00 and it was a sea of bikes.  I still can’t fathom the number that was there.  We hung around the Park enjoying the Pow Wow, the sights and smells from the food cooking for a couple hours, then headed toward Athens, AL and another hotel.  After such a long day and an amazing 200+ mile ride, we were beat.  Kojak’s mom lived a few miles from the hotel, so he went to spend the night with her.  Beak, Bam Bam and Cliff went next door to Applebee’s for beer and football, I opted for a good, hot shower and bed.  I didn’t hear them when they came “home”.

 

trail of tears                trail of tears

Sunday morning came early, but not as early as Saturday.  Kojak made it back to have breakfast with us and get ready to ride back to GA.  The day started off with a very nice surprise.  SANTA was having breakfast when I walked in!  Yep!  I was like a kid at Christmas and just HAD to talk to him.  He had been on the ride the previous day as well, so we had a lot to talk about.  Finally, we got on the road and headed east toward home.  We took the scenic route back (Kojak missed the road I had mapped out) but it was well worth the extra couple hours it added to the ride.  It was absolutely breathtaking!  I now have to plan a weekend over in that part of Alabama and do some exploring.  Got home around 7:30 Sunday night, dog tired but I wouldn’t change a thing.
 

trail of tears

On the website, under Trail History, there is a statement that I will try to carry with me for the rest of my life: “Let us learn from this mistake, accept each other as we are, and walk together in peace.”  That is what I’m taking from this ride and hopefully the impact it made on me will not fade from my memory.

Elaine Morris
Dacula, GA
September, 2007

Photos courtesy of Elaine and Kojak