Jackie Battles of Winchester, Va., can now mark one off his bucket list.
He can brag that he has set foot in every one of the 23 other “Winchesters” in the United States, including the one in Tennessee.
Battles’ visit to Franklin County on July 7 included a brief stop in the The Herald Chronicle news office and a photo shoot in front of City Hall before he headed south for Winchester, Miss.
The Winchesters he visited included those in the states of: Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
A proud Battles said, ‘“Veni, Vidi, Vici’ or as Caesar would have said, if he were an English speaker, ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’
Now that he has wrapped it all up, he graciously provides an enlightening account of his three-week, 11,940-mile trip astride a motorcycle.
“Whew! I didn’t know having so much fun could nearly kill you,” he said. “Some roads were so straight you could see for nearly forever and some so crooked that the only time you really sat straight on the bike was in that left to right curve shift from one curve to the next.”
He describes his circle around the continental United States visiting a variety of Winchesters, one with no people — live ones anyway — and the plethora of sights he said could make a man blush with shame while others made him stand in awe. Battles will carry with him always the stunning sunsets in New Mexico and extraordinary sunrises in Arizona as well as the extreme things he experienced along the way.
“I threw a snowball in Lassen National Park and had my phone shut off from the heat in the Arizona desert,” Battles said.
One of the sights this Baptist preacher would rather forget included a huge “brothels” billboard just outside Las Vegas. Other sights took his breath away, including the Redwoods in California.
“They are so big that the word ‘enormous’ is too small a word to describe them,” Battles said.
He was also astonished by the massive Columbian Gorge in Oregon and waterfalls along America’s very fi rst scenic highway. But, it was not so much the towns themselves that stand out in his memory as it is the people in those towns, all of whom Battles claims give each town its own sort of personality. While on his stop in our Winchester, he proclaimed his favorite Winchester thus far on his first leg of the trip was his own hometown.
“I’ve met some of the best folks you will ever meet in America on this trip, especially Winchester, Ky.,” he said. “You know what really set those folks out for me? Prayer! Yep, they called a meeting of most of the town leaders for lunch to meet me, and right there in front of the whole world we had a real, genuine and honest prayer to the God of heaven. I could tell, this was not their first rodeo either — folks, that’s the kind of people you want to lead a country.”
Battles figures he made out very well on the trip as far as costs. He was able to camp out many nights, splurging on a room only when he was extremely fatigued or the weather was bad.
“The trip cost me four pair of sunglasses, one set of tires, lots of tanks of gas and some wear and tear on an already old body,” he calculates. “I nearly wore out one debit card, destroyed a set of 550 songs on my music box — the heat erased the entire memory — and went through about 100 bottles of water.”
The three weeks’ escape from his normal routine must have soon felt like he was in a time warp as he lost track of the days.
“Once I was asked when I was going to get home and I had to ask what day it was. Granted there were some long day, some 1,000 mile days, several 950 mile days and a whole slough full of 700-800 mile days — fact is, I think I averaged a little over 800 miles a day — but those days were the kind I enjoyed.”
Besides the wear and tear on his bike, Battles may have physically changed a bit.
“I got a nice tan a couple of times, after the first one peeled off,” he said. “I saw, heard and smelled things you don’t get while sitting in a recliner watching reruns of ‘Gunsmoke.’ I guess you have to say you will either like it or think the fellow who does such things is a nut.”
Battles says he has never been accused of being sane, and he isn’t worried about it.
The question most folks who keep up with him as he roared around is: Was it worth the time, trouble and expense?
He had no trouble answering that question, though it might be different for someone else.
“If you ever get to do such a thing, you will know the answer,” he says.
Battles offers a few tips for anyone thinking of giving it a try.
He says just start saving time off from work as well as soft-drink money, and it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a few sit-ups every day to prepare for such an excursion. One thing he can promise is that it won’t be a dull trip, if one knows where and how to look or look away.
“I have ridden the Pacific Highway, the Million Dollar Highway, the Alcan, Route 66, and the Loneliest Road in America, to name a few,” Battles said. “I have traveled oceanto-ocean and border-to-border, and I want you to know, we live in the greatest country in the world.
“But I will have to say that the greatest road, when you’ve been out for a while, is the road home.”
While readers would surely love to hear from Battles that Winchester, Tenn., is the prettiest, the nicest and friendliest of them all, it comes as no surprise that his favorite Winchester is his very own.
One can’t help but wonder what’s next for this free-spirited cyclist and what’s on his agenda for next year.
“I don’t know, but I am sure open to ideas — maybe around the world or to all those national parks — now, there’s an idea,” he said.
But, until then, it’s back to the recliner and reruns of Gunsmoke.