2019 Tour of Honor – Ride 14 (Day ride to Georgia)

It seems that last minute changes of plan are becoming a habit. I had a ride planned to visit Arkansas that would take two or three days, getting plenty of miles to have 6,000 miles before the service appointment on Wednesday. Ride would have put me a few hundred over the 6,000 mile mark, but that would be ok.

Last night, I packed the bike without the dog noticing. If he sees me packing, he gets in the way and mopes around the house. Only one night doesn’t require a lot of stuff, toiletry kit, change of clothes, and laptop. That will all fit in the BMW’s smaller bags. I have everything on the bike and ready to go.

The plan was to leave either before 4:00am or after 7:300am, this is to avoid Memphis traffic as I pass through. As I waited, something didn’t feel right. Can’t say what, but something was bothering me. I mention that maybe just a day ride would be in order. I look over some options, but none west toward Arkansas seem to be viable. Then I remember about a change in the Georgia sites.

Long story short, GA3 (Forsyth) was changed to GA3 (Woodstock) a few days after the rally started. The phone app had the site in Forsyth, as did the first download of locations, which I was using for my planning. After visiting Forsyth, I was informed that I picked the wrong site. A few short e-mails back and forth, I was given credit for visiting GA3. Having visited the other 6 sites in Georgia, I did earn credit for completing the state of Georgia. I promised that I would return to Georgia and visit the site which I missed. (Refer to Ride 9 for details of the other sites in Georgia)

A quick look and I learn that Woodstock is about 200 miles from home. I have taken many of day rides of 400, 500, and even 600 miles. This would be between 450 and 500 miles given that I will not be riding in a straight line. I map out a couple of routes, all avoiding the interstate. I send a text to John in Altanta and asked if he and his wife would like to meet in Woodstock for lunch. A few texts back and forth, ends with “we’ll see what we can do.”

I remove the saddlebags from the BMW since I will be home tonight, load my required accoutrerments into the tank bag and I head out. 75 degrees and it is a little brisk as I ride through the neighborhood. I cross the river and top off the tank. The clerk makes a comment that it is a great day to ride and asked where I am headed. “Lunch near Atlanta, then back home tonight.” Her shocked look left me with a smile. I mount my trusty steed and I am on my way.

A left onto AL157, speeds up to 65mph right away. I part ways with the GPS when it tells me to take the left split toward Decatur, I opt for the right split and head toward Moulton. Before getting to Moulton, I see that there is road construction on the other lanes. I make a mental note so as to NOT come back this way. I have alternates.

After Moulton, the GPS has finished “recalculating: so I decide to change course again. I hang a right on AL-36 and head through Danville and Hartselle. The GPS knows that I am avoiding interstate, so it doesn’t suggest I hop on I-65 and it keeps me on AL-36. As I approach AL-67, I notice that the GPS is wanting me to make that right turn. I know where you are leading me, and it is sort of the direction I want to go, and I haven’t been this way in a long time. I make the right turn onto AL-67. Slow winding curves, a few hills, beautiful farm land, and the occasional skunk that didn’t make it across the road dot the scenery and heighten my senses. I make the right onto US-231, I spot a line of 18-wheelers ahead of me. They are all making the left onto US278, the same turn I need to make. Knowing that I have a mile or two to get past them before the road narrows, I don’t panic much. I make the turn and zoom past all but two of the trucks before the road narrows.

It is a slow go up the next hill, but a truck lane is ahead and I wait patiently for the trucks to take the right lane. The lead truck does, but the truck behind wants to race him up the hill. I zip into the right lane to pass one truck, then back to the left for the second truck. Open roads ahead. I soon head into Gadsden. I seldom come into Gadsden from this direction and trust the GPS to get me around town. It opts for a route through Rainbow City that I don’t remember riding. Light traffic for late morning, but not bad. I realize that my trip into Woodstock will be in Eastern time zone, I had lunch panned based on Central time zone. I send John a quick message letting him know it would be closer to 1:30-2:00 instead of 12:30-1:00 for lunch.

I am soon back on US-278. I enjoy the small towns that I pass, watching life in small towns is one of the major things I enjoy about riding the motorcycle on trips. I follow US-278 until I get to Dallas, GA, then make a right on GA-120 around Marietta, GA. The “Low Fuel” light comes on so I stop to fill up. That few minutes in the gas station adds almost 30 minutes to my travel time. As I start rolling again, I see why. It seems that all the lights are now synchronized to only let a few vehicles through at a time. The temperatures are reaching 100 degrees, and I am at a standstill. I soon make the turn onto Canton Rd and make it into Woodstock about 1:45. I quickly find the memorial. I park, take a few pictures, walk around some more, then look for a place to eat. I am getting hangry! I check my phone for any responses from John. Nothing. I’ll go eat alone.

I spot a few places in the neighborhood center a block away, so I make a short ride there. First place has two signs, one says OPEN, the other (smaller sign) says CLOSED. Lights are on, people are inside, I try my luck. I walk in , find a table and start to take off my jacket. “Sorry, but we are closed.” I put my jacket back on and suggest that they turn off the other “OPEN” sign. “Everyone knows we closed at 2:00!” I leave.

I walk across the street to my second attempt. I look over the menu on the door and quickly abandon that option. I don’t mind paying good prices for good food, but $9.00 for a side salad or fries and $27 for a burger are not in my budget. I don’t care how excellent they taste Besides, I am not in a mood for a burger.

Third attempt turns out to be a burger place, beef burger, chicken burger, turkey burger. And the buns are huge. Trying to cut back on carbs, these buns will really set me back. Nothing besides burgers and fries on the menu. And I am still not in a mood for a burger.

I walk into Pure Taqueria. Quiet place, hostess has a huge smile, and I get a table where I can spread my stuff out. I order a glass of water before even seeing the menu. I knew I should have taken Spanish at some point in my life. I politely ask my waiter if I can just get a salad, with maybe some steak or beef. He gladly obliges me and brings me a salad. It cost a bit more than I had hoped to spend for lunch, but it was fantastic. I make a call home to check on things and discuss my route home. I will try to avoid as much of the route coming as I can to go home.

I leave Woodstock and make the turn onto GA-92. I know that both Rome, GA and Mentone, AL are north of the route that I took to get to Woodstock and visiting those towns will put me a route to avoid roads ridden to get here. Soon I find myself on US-411. Though it is currently heading west, I know it will take turn to the south and cross paths with US-278 in Gadsden. In Leesburg, AL, I take the turn onto AL-68. I eventually meet up with US-431 in Guntersville. GPS says to turn left, but I take the turn to the right. I cross the Tennessee River and speeds jump to 65mph. I enjoy the break from the slower speeds and the chance to get past some slower cars. GPS constantly is telling me to turn at various places, then “recalculating” appears. I know where I am and how to get home, but I do like the GPS giving me an estimated time to get home.

I continue on US-431 until I get to New Hope, AL. I make the left turn onto Old US-431 then make the curve onto Hobbs Island Road. This is a stretch where I actually did the test ride on the BMW. Sun is shining directly into my face, at least I am going against most of the traffic leaving Huntsville. Hobbs Island Road ends at US-231. The GPS tells me to make the right turn, but I have other thoughts and turn left. (If you haven’t figured out by now, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t follow directions very well.) GPS offers a few suggestions, followed by the obligatory “recalculating” until I turn onto AL-36. I know the roads I like from here, even if the GPS doesn’t agree with me. I stay on AL-36 through Danville, making the right turn only AL-157 and heading to Moulton. As I reach Moulton, the “Low Fuel” light comes on. I could make it home, but it would really be close. I decide to stop for gas at Wally-World.

As I stop the bike, the phone rings. I put it on speaker since the headset isn’t working right. The bride asks about supper and what time she can expect me. She reminds me of the left over steak, that works! As for the time, GPS says 7:45pm.

Gassed up and I turn back onto AL-157. AS I leave Moulton, I remember the road construction. Not a problem, I love AL-33 and the ride to Courtland. As I near Courtland, I take the turn to go through the old part of town. I pass a place where we enjoyed eating that had a WWII theme. It has since been sold and the theme is gone. I pull up to AL-20 and wait for the light. One thing to remember, many motorcycle are not picked up by the road sensors. I wait for 5 minutes at the red light. The traffic coming toward me gets a green light a couple of times, but I get left out. I see that there is no traffic coming, so I cross AL-20 and take off on CR-150. This leads through farms, straight, flat roads, but highly monitored by local Constables and Highway Patrol since the speed limit is a nice low 45mph. Ahead I see the remnants of the paper plant. Last trip through here there were some of the major buildings still up, but I had heard almost all were taken down a few weeks ago. I see that only the skeleton of two buildings are left. I zip on past as the sun starts to set. I make my turn onto CR-314. A few miles takes me to the left turn onto AL-101 then a right onto AL-184.

I almost wish that there was a place to stop to take a picture of this sunset. Rays of red, orange, and yellow break up the evening blue sky. A couple of clouds have joined it to add some shadows, but these aren’t rain clouds, just pretty wispy clouds that add dimension to the scene. WOW, this is beautiful.

Soon, the sun has passed the horizon and I appreciate my adventure lights. Boy are they bright, even on low! I keep watch for deer in the farmland as I approach Muscle Shoals. I make the right only Wilson Dam Road and will soon be pulling into the driveway.

I hit the drive at 7:45pm as my bride is coming out to water the plants. She opens the french doors for me to pull the bike into the garage. 493 miles, not bad for one day. The memorial visit doesn’t give me any extra points, but it does give me personal satisfaction knowing that I really did visit all the official sites in Georgia.