Sunday, September 4, 2016

135: Sweet home Alabama

We are taking the path of least resistance around these blasted hills in Tennessee, which means we are actually headed into Alabama for a bit in order to move further west and pick up the Natchez Trace Parkway near Collinwood, Tennessee. I did not realize we had stopped so close to the border last night, but this morning we were not yet five miles into the ride before we hit the state line.
Watch out for Smoky waiting just over the state line!

However, just before hitting the line, I glanced across the road (a divided highway at that point) and saw a police car aimed in our direction. This was on a slight rise in the road, which means the cars coming toward us were descending. Just at the top, past the trees that hid the cop car, was the "Welcome to Tennessee" sign, and a 55 MPH sign. I guess some folks get a warmer welcome than they were looking for!

Our route today followed road signs commemorating the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of the Native Americans who resided in the southeastern portion of the continent. In particular, the phrase originated from a description of the removal of the Cherokee Nation in 1838. Once again, we have been reminded of our nation's harsh and tragic treatment of the Native Americans who were forced to vacate their homelands to make way for white settlement. It has been a recurring theme in our travels around the country.

The landscape was not so hilly as we have endured the past couple of days. At one point, that "ribbon of highway" launched an impromptu chorus of "This land is your land."
Nice to have flat roads for a change!

In addition to the new state, we passed another milestone (actually, this was yesterday, but I forgot to mention it):  the first armadillo on the road. I was a bit surprised when I glanced down and recognized that long tail and the armored plates on the side of the road. And today! Yikes!  There were so many of the poor creatures scattered on the road and shoulder. I thought that maybe they got smacked so often because they are slow, but Wikipedia says they actually can move pretty quickly. However, they supposedly jump straight up if they are startled, and that reaction is apparently what leads to their demise as they hit the undersides of the cars. Alas, a characteristic that would normally confuse or distract a predator has terrible consequences for the little guys when their adversary is an automobile.

One of my friends asked if we were seeing any leaves turning yet. Yes, we are! I suspect that this is mostly the result of dry weather stressing the trees, but here in Alabama, and also in Tennessee, we have begun to see some of the trees starting to show a bit of yellow, gold and brown. The sumac on the Cumberland Plateau (at about 2000 feet) was going bright crimson. So fall is on the way, for sure.
Fall color is creeping into the landscape

We experienced some real Southern hospitality this morning when we stopped for our second breakfast at the Liberty Restaurant in Scottsboro, Alabama.

The proprietor, Barry, came by our table to visit and ask about our trip, and later our waitress told us that he had taken care of our tab!  So a big Thank You goes out to Barry for his generosity and kindness!  Scottsboro is also the place where unclaimed luggage goes to be sorted and eventually sold. I think if you are looking for a suitcase, this is the place to be.
Southern breakfast - waffles, eggs, grits and country ham
Your lost luggage ended up here

Speaking of kindness, I have to mention the drivers here in the south, particularly Tennessee. I have been impressed by their civility and patience. We are riding some back country roads, and many of them are winding lanes with climbs and blind corners - lots of "double yellow" stuff. Almost without exception, the drivers come up behind us, slow down, and wait until it's clear to pass. None of this zooming by stuff that we have gotten in some other states. In fact, many of them hang back and wait for us to wave them around, and then they raise their hands in greeting as they go by. It is a pleasure to share the road with them! I confess I am not expecting to be treated as well when we get to Texas. My experiences riding there some years back were not that great. 

We passed two churches today that made me smile. Not because of the clever slogan on the marquee (although I have seen some good ones lately) but because the pastors' names were so fun.  I don't remember their actual names, but each one was also identified by a nickname, in quotes: "Peach" and "Tater." Honest!  I guess there are some nicknames you just cannot shake, even if you grow up to be a minister.

Place names in the south are pretty fun, also. We have passed Goose Gap and Salty Bottom, and who can forget Soddy Daisy? Even if it's pretty normal, you never know if you heard it right. While we were having a bite at the hotel this morning, I was chatting with another guest who raised her head and said, "what is the name of this place?"  I told her it was "Kimball," and then I had to laugh because she said she had told her friends it was "Campbell" and no one could find it. It is the case that sometimes I have a bit of trouble also with the accents of the locals. Kimball/Campbell - not all that different, really - it's easy to see how you could get confused. And then there's LaFayette. Not Lah-fay-YETT, as you may expect, but La-FAY-et. 

We are having some trouble with flats again. This is such a pain, because Roger has to take the packs off in order to change the tube. The first was a pinch flat when we hit a rock. The following day, we flatted again, and discovered that the patch had not sealed properly. And then today, another pinch flat. We are currently riding the Continental Gator Skins and they just are not as sturdy as the Schwalbes.  However, the Schwalbes are hard to find. 'Tis a quandry.
The only youth on a bike we have seen

On the road today, we visited a bit with David in Woodville, where we stopped for a drink. He said he ends up riding alone because the other kids were "too lazy" to get out and ride with him. And I also enjoyed visiting with Cz (pronounced "Cuz") who said he does some clean up work at the convenience store, and while he's not on duty, he sits and visits with friends outside. He said they wore out the prior bench after 25 years, and had to build a new one!
Cz and his bench

The day's report:  Kimball to Huntsville, 69.6 miles/6580 to date

Our route today


  1. I just love hearing about the people you meet.

    1. It's really the thing that differentiates one day from the next, since the landscape doesn't tend to change that quickly while you're rolling on a bike!


I'd love to hear from you, but want to know who you are. If you are not registered to comment, please include your email in your comment so I can respond directly to you.