Just as promised, motorcyclist Jackie Battles rolled into Winchester on Monday, on the first part of his whirlwind trip across the country to visit all the other 23 towns in the United States named Winchester.
Looking tired but in good spirits, the Winchester, Va., resident stopped by the Herald-Chronicle’s news office Tuesday afternoon to provide readers with an update about how his trip to the nation’s many Winchesters was going.
From an initial appearance, he looked a little wobbly and tousled-headed, fingers occasionally reaming out his ears in a vain attempt to clear out the constant motorcycle roar in his head.
Already he has checked several “Winchesters” off his list since starting out seven days earlier, on June 30.
Some of those Winchesters were located in the northeastern states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
“I get off and walk for a while when I get tired of riding — it’s not so bad,” said Battles of the demanding time schedule which is pressing him to complete the 11,000 mile trip in just three weeks.
His excursion is planned to the last detail with stops only for gas, sleeping and eating and checking in occasionally with media that may have caught wind of his odd undertaking. He has stopped at a motel just one night in the past week, camping out other nights. So far, he is happy to report that he’s right on schedule with all his stops.
“I’m right down to the minute where I’m supposed to be,” Battles said. “Some folks say I ride too much and don’t stop and talk enough, though. I gained an hour coming into another time zone today, so I’m doing real good.”
He had a few comments about the Winchester courthouse, which brought back recollections from his child-hood.
“When I went through Winchester, Tenn., I saw what once was in every city, the courthouse square,” Battles said. “That brought back memories of when I was a kid, except our courthouse lawn had a “no walking on the grass” sign.”
After our Winchester, and a short rest, he roared on another 589 miles to Winchester, Miss., where he spent Monday night camping.
“I’m off to see the ghosts of Mississippi’s past in their Winchester next,” he said, jokingly as he left the Herald Chronicle’s news offi ce.
On Thursday morning he checked in to report the latest results of his rip-roaring adventures. And, while he says he hasn’t yet seen Elvis nor run across Mr. Hoffa, he did see some sites worth noting along the way to Mississippi, including a space ship, in Huntsville Ala. Upon finally arriving in Winchester, Miss., Monday evening, he was a bit disappointed.
He found out that Mississippi’s Winchester had a huge cemetery, but little else.
“That town had more dead people in it than live one,” Battles said.
Arkansas’ Winchester was fairly typical as he describes.
“It was rural farming community town, mobile home and mosquitoes — lots of mosquitoes. When I got off the bike, they [mosquitoes] welcomed me to Arkansas right away. I’m not saying they are big, but two of them got into a fi ght over who was going to eat me. I snuck away while they were arguing amongst themselves.”
Battles took a quick side trip to see kinfolk in Wynne, Ark.
“The first thing my sister-inlaw said was, “Welcome to Wynne-Chester” I told her my name was not Chester,” he said.
As of Thursday morning he has traveled about 3,500 miles and has visited eight Winchesters. Monday was an 824-mile day and Tuesday, he clocked 450 miles.
“Wednesday was the longest ride — about 900 miles. I did not camp out. I wasn’t sure “I had the energy to lift the aluminum tent pole.”
Battles was motivated on Wednesday mostly by his stomach. He explained.
“I drove hard all day Wednesday so I could have a rib eye steak in Winchester, Texas and at Murphy’s steak house,” he said. “The locals told Battles it was the hometown of Dan Rather. They say that in this city of 50 people, you often need to make a reservation to eat. I arrived at 8:30 at night and there was plenty of room then.”
Battles said seeing some-thing that he is certain will be found in no less than 25 places (Battles discovered he miscounted and there are actually 25 Winchesters in the United States)
“Every town, whether the little hamlet of Winchester, NH or the thriving Winchester of Maine, has a unique temperament or disposition of its own,” he said. “Connecticut was actually a town within a city, or was it a city with a town?”
He also discovered not all towns are politically correct.
“New Hampshire was not politically correct because when I arrived, the church bells were playing Christian music all over the town, which consisted of a very large court house, filling station; church and I think an old motel,” Battles said.
Maine’s Winchester was interesting.
“Winchester, Maine was built a couple of hundred years ago and has a stream right smack-dab in the middle of town,” Battles said. “The lady I spoke with, Abby, said it overflowed about once every fi ve years and flooded downtown.”
Battles met the mayor of Winchester Ark., General Alexander.
“While talking to him, the sheriff of Desha County, Ark., Jin Schneider) called me,” he said. “The sheriff is an old time friend.
“Alexander took the phone and told the sheriff he had arrested me and if he wanted to have lunch he would have to bring lots of money to get me out of jail,” Battles said. “I don’t think Winchester Arkansas, population 191, even has a jail, actually.”
Battles said he is prepared for everything, carrying along his rain gear as well as a heated vest and gloves for when he gets in the northwest in higher altitude where it occasionally snows in summertime. After traveling on his Yamaha Stratoliner for the past 15 summers, he has gained much experience and wisdom.
His expedition wasn’t intended to be a casual, sightseeing trip. Instead, it appears to be something he simply feels compelled to do. Possibly it’s a kind of retreat for this Baptist preacher, alone on the highways of life, observing people all over the U.S.
“I like seeing all the little differences in people — we’re all so different,” Battles said. “It’s funny… you’ll hear people say that people are the same everywhere, but that’s not true.”
On Thursday morning Battles was heading out for Arizona, to see how much of the 1,151 miles of that leg of the journey he can make.
Battles wanted to mention one thing that has drawn a lot of attention along the way.
“The little car that I am pulling has generated a ton of interest,” Battles said. “Every place I stop someone wants to know what it is. I bet I have told a hundred people all the little details of taking a kiddy ride apart and making the trailer.
“One fellow wanted to know how fast it would run (there is no motor and the wheel are fi berglass) I told him I had it up to 90. He never caught on.”
Battles said the GPS on his phone is not always truthful and gives him “disinformation.”
“I went to where it said Winchester, Okla. was located and ended up on a gravel road in the middle of nothing,” he said. “I made a U turn and found a guy who told me I was right in the middle of Winchester,” he said. “When organized the town was intended to be a big community, but when the horse track that was supposed to go in did not materialize, Winchester kind of went south.
“They have grave roads, no city water, sewer or police. It did have a city hall but not much living there anymore.”
As for his favorite Winchester, thus far, he says, “My Winchester — the one I left. There’s no place like home, it’s true.”
Battles allowed time Mon-day for a quick photo before roaring out of Franklin County’s Winchester, toward Winchester, Miss. with a promise to update readers when his mission is completed.
He has many more miles to go, but is enjoying his interesting journey and is looking forward to the contentment of returning to his own Winches-ter.
His trip agenda includes (besides our Winchester and Mississippi’s) those in the states of: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.