I got my email from the Tour of Honor scorers that my ride on 4-2-2019 met the requirements for the Tour of Honor SaddleSore Extreme. Excited would be an understatement!
During that ride, I had to make a few last minute adjustments. I also realized that there was another picture for AL7 that would have been better. So, I don’t have anything planned, my bride is heading out early to take her aunt to Mass then they were going to run errands, why not take a ride? Besides, I need to get my 25,000 service done before I leave to go to the HOG Rally in Louisiana, and I am just a few miles short of the 25,000 mile mark.
Unlike the first ride of the year, I spend a little more time planning this ride. And it was going to be only 500 miles instead of 1,000 miles like Tuesday’s ride. I will leave when light and should get home while it is still light. Weather should be overcast, but I don’t expect any rain. I keep the rainsuit in the bike “just in case.”
I get ready and head out just before 8:00am. My bride helps open the garage doors for the bike to leave and she locks up behind me as she heads out on her day of activities.
I am going to give the park in Florence a second try. Last time I was there after 6:00am, but they still weren’t open yet. Florence’s Veterns Park is only a few minutes from the house. I get there and see that the gates are open. The is a Police Officer sitting at the entrance. He waves and I wave back. The Cobra helicopter is just inside the park on the left, past an Air Force jet (sorry, I don’t know what type of jet). I pull into the driveway and get a good picture. I look around a bit as the police officer drives past. I load everything back up and head to Anniston.
I have been through Anniston many times. I have seen the pictures of the Doughboy statue in Anniston, but never slowed down enough to look for it. Today I have the GPS coordinates in BOTH GPS units, the Harley and the Garmin. The Harley says the entire route will take an hour longer than the Garmin predicts.
I am keeping a watch on the skies. There isn’t supposed to be rain, but the clouds are much darker than I like. A few times I can see the sun trying to break through the clouds, but not enough to relieve my concerns about rain. This route is so familiar. I take 157 to 278, 278 to 431, then follow 431 through Gadsden and into Anniston. Light traffic on the roads, most people are doing the speed limit. Those that aren’t usually turn off the road shortly. I ride past the turn where I visited the Gadsden memorial. I ride on to Anniston. The Doughboy is in the median of US-431 in Anniston. I keep a watch on the traffic and the GPS. I find the Doughboy and quickly try to devise an action plan. I move into the left turn lane past the memorial. The light changes a few times without giving me a turn light. I decide to push the bike back to the start of the turn lane. I keep the bike against the curb and out of the flow of traffic. I put the flag on the front of the bike and manage to get a couple of good pictures. I load everything back up and ready to head to Wedowee.
Wedowee was a place I have scrapped on my SaddleSore ride on Tuesday. Wedowee is on US-431. If I had been able to find this place on Tuesday, I wouldn’t have been so frustrated. I enjoy the ride down US-431 through part of the Talledega National Forest. Pleasant country roads lead into Wedowee. Checking the GPS and I see that the Doughboy is in the median in front of courthouse. I get lucky since there is an area where I can park to get a picture. But I am parked behind the memorial. Okay, I put the flag on the bike and take my picture with the bike in the background instead of my usual method with the bike in the foreground of the picture. As long as the flag, bike, and memorial are in the picture, all is good. I take a few pictures to give myself a chance to pick a good one.
I make the turn around the square and head out of town on AL-98. It is only about 10 miles to Lineville. There is a Huey helicopter in the park that I want to photograph. As I ride into town, I see AL-9. Bad memories keep coming back about AL-9 from Tuesday’s ride. It is daylight and I have my Garmin programmed, I am good! I pull into the park and see a family walking around the memorials, the plane, the tank, and the helicopter. I park to get a good angle for a photo. I put the flag on the bike and get the picture that I want.
I leave the park and pull into a gas station nearby. I fill the tank and and get me a snack and drink. I don’t need to keep track of my time, so I enjoy a nice long rest. Sun has finally started to break through the clouds. I change my heavy gloves for the lighter pair.
I follow AL-9 to Wetumpka. I didn’t get a good picture there the other day and wanted to get a better one. AL-9 ends at US-231, just outside of Wetumpka. I turn left onto US-231, then right onto Company Street into Wetumpka. Even in the daylight, the roads and the GPS don’t want to play nice together. I know where I need to go, so I will just follow my instincts. I make a few turns to adjust to one-way streets, make the left turn onto Main Street, then the left onto Commerce Street. I find a spot to park the bike directly in front of the memorial. I get a better picture and ready to hit the road.
I circle the block, turn onto AL-14, and cross the bridge into the other side of Wetumpka. As I cross the bridge, I remember why the town’s name kept ringing a bell. A few months ago, a tornado had touched down in Wetumpka. The church that took the brunt of the hit looked like someone had just bulldozed one side of the building. The other part looked fine, including the lawn. But the part that got hit, even the lawn looked like a tiller had been used in the lawn. A few house were blocked off due to risk of structural damage.
I follow AL-14 toward Montgomery and I-65. The only other site I wanted to visit on this ride was in Tuscaloosa. I think about scrapping that site and just take a quick ride home on I-65. As I turn onto the ramp for I-65, I see that the interstate is stopped. I decide to go ahead and take the ride through Tuscaloosa since it should only add a few minutes to my route. I zip-zag through Prattville and the merge onto US-82. US-82 is fairly new, the Harley GPS doesn’t have the new road in the maps, the Garmin does. Divided 4 lane road and I enjoy the faster ride. The Huey in Tuscaloosa is at one of the malls near University of Alabama. I just have to follow US-82 until I get to that mall. As I get into Tuscaloosa, I hit traffic. There is construction going on and one of the lanes is closed ahead. Between dodging the pot-holes, the drivers jockeying for a better lane, and drivers paying more attention to their phones than the road, it is slow going through town. I see the Huey about a block away. I turn into the parking lot of the mall and find a nice spot to park. I relax for a couple of minutes before getting back into traffic.
Once back on US-82/McFarland Road, my next turn will be onto US-43. I’ll follow that the rest of the way home. A few nice little towns that require me to slow down, otherwise I get to enjoy between 55 and 65 mph the rest of the way home. I gas up the bike just outside Tuscaloosa. No need to stop until I pull into our driveway.
As I make the turn onto our street, I see that doors to the garage opening. My bride knows the sound of the Harley and opens the door so I can just pull right on in. She has baked salmon and salad waiting on me. It was a good day.