2020 Tour of Honor – Alabama and Mississippi, 4-Day Ride

Day 1 – May 11:

I could hardly sleep last night. I was so excited that I was heading out on this trip. I had a cup of coffee while I got the last few things loaded on the bike. On my next trip, I might try just using the waterproof bag for the tail rack. Not sure if it will hold as much as both saddle bags.

First stop today was Priceville, just outside of Decatur. This was a quick “two-fer” since there was also a Huey on display. As I pulled into the lot, I rode around the barrels. After the pictures, I left a poker chip at the memorial. As I left, I read the sign on the barrel. Seems that the park is closed, but people can use the walking trail and walk in the park, but can’t drive into the parking lot. Not sure about the logic, but there are a lot of things about the COVID19 that escapes logic.

Second stop was Gadsden. Another “two-fer.” I didn’t see the Huey in the phone app, but I did submit it with a note that I didn’t see it in the app. I walked around the memorial and got some pictures of the area. A girl was driving in the park also taking pictures. As I rode to the memorial, she was sitting in her car. I was a little embarrassed, it almost looked like she was changing clothes, then she drove off.

Next was the memorial at Leeds. I got some pictures of the various memorials, as well as the main picture I needed for submission.

On to Talladega. I’ll have to review the picture so I can remember it. I saw so many today. I will have to update this section when I get back home!

I then visited two sites from previous years, Lineville’s Huey and Wedowee’s Doughboy. At Lineville, the park was deserted, so I was able to get a good picture and walk around. A policeman slowed as he drove past, but didn’t stop. I also got a picture of a tank that was in the park.

At Wedowee’s Doughboy, I park against the curb to get a good picture of the bike with the doughboy. I didn’t realize how busy that intersection would be! I had the flashers on for the bike, but people were cutting the corner so close that two people clipped the curb! I got my pictures and hurried to leave. As I was getting back on the bike, a policeman stopped to ask if I was okay. I quickly explained what I was doing, and that I was leaving. He smiled and said to watch out for the “crazies.” I guess that so many people have been cooped up during this COVID19 that they have forgotten how to drive!

I make my way to a new K-9 memorial. The GPS tells me that I will have to “leave the road” at a certain spot. This usually means that there is a park and the GPS doesn’t know the entrance. As I approach, the location is a grassy field (with high grass!) in the middle of a mobile home park. Either there will be a K-9 memorial here in the future, or I got the wrong coordinates from someone.

I make my way to Tallassee. This is the only one that really required two pictures today. The memorial is surrounded by tall bushes and can’t be clearly seen from the parking lot. I park the bike, get a picture of the bike near the memorial, then head to get a good picture of the memorial.

I had planned to visit the K-9 at Auburn Vet Hospital, but was ready to call it a day. I rode to the hotel and got checked in. I rode to a few places to try to get something to eat. Second Taco Bell that would not work with a motorcycle. I HAD to be in a car. I could not ride the motorcycle through the drive-thru, nor would they let me walk through the drive thru. I saw Jim’N Nicks across the street and got a salad there. I talked with the kitchen manager for a bit while I waited on my order. I gave him a card with the website on it.

Day 2 – May 12:

I was a few minutes behind schedule when I got to the bike. I had wanted to be rolling by 8am, I started loading at 8:15. Then the GPS had not finished importing the route I had loaded last night. I thought that It did load, but I guess not. As it was getting close to 90%, I knew a bit about where I would be heading, so I started right away. Once it had finished, I tried to pull up the planned route. Nope, not there. Luckily, the sites were there. I entered most of the sites I wanted to visit and took off.

I filled up with gas north of Eufaula since the warning light had been on for too long. I had to go to a second gas station since the first didn’t have anything other than 87 octane. Once I gassed up, I finished entering the sites and re-ordering then.

First stop was the Huey in Eufaula. I got a few shots and got the visit submitted. Next was the Doughboy  off Main Street in Eufaula. I think I got a good picture and it was submitted.

I visited the Doughboy in Headland. I don’t remember visiting there last year, but I might have. I skipped the Huey in downtown Dothan and took the bypass around town. As I pulled into Daleville, I saw the Huey that I missed last year in front of the Visitor’s Center. I know there is a museum on Fort Rucker, but I didn’t have the time, nor did I want to go through the hassles of trying to get on post.

As I approached the Huey for Enterprise, I remembered it from last year. I had approached it from the other entrance into the park and wound around what seemed like forever. Today, I saw the Huey before I entered the park. I turned onto the side road, only to find out that it was the walking path. Oh well, not the first time I have ridden the GS on a walking path, and it won’t be the last.

The Andalusia-Sanford Airport has a Huey in front. I pulled into the parking lot while workers were moving pallets from the back into a truck. Temps had gotten warmer, so the UnderArmor thermal shirt was coming off! I got rolling again and quickly found the Tour of Honor memorial in Andalusia. Remember the comment about “it won’t be the last time I ride on a walking path?” GPS tells me to turn onto a small road, which turns out to be the walking path at the police station. I get a few pictures and head out before drawing attention.

I had thought about trying to visit Florida and getting one memorial there. I have not ridden a bike in Florida, so I need to do that soon. I decide to scrap that memorial until later in the year with Jeff and head to Mobile. The closer I got to Mobile, the stronger the winds got. As I pulled into the park, the wind was blowing so hard that the flags were straight and looked like they were on a sheet of plywood!

I found the Huey and the K-9 memorial. Trying to get the pictures with the wind blowing the rally flag was a challenge. The park closed at 4pm, and I was leaving as they were getting ready to close the gates. I took the picture of the jet at the entrance which was the final Tour of Honor site in Alabama. One state down!

I made a reservation on the west side of Mobile. I wanted to get farther along, but didn’t want to head to Biloxi which was another 45 minutes up the road. The wind was getting stronger and there was a huge cloud just offshore. Blue skies everywhere, but this one cloud almost looked green!

Day 3 – May 13:

I fell asleep early (about 10pm. I woke up with a text message at 6:00, but went back to sleep. I slept much later than expected. Got a late start, after 9:00 before I was rolling. My goal is always to be rolling by 8:00, earlier is better. With the delay, I did learn that the odd cloud from yesterday was actually a fire at a plant nearby that had been burning for a day or two. This morning as I was leaving, I didn’t see all the clouds/smoke, so I assume they got it under control.

My first stop was Ocean Springs. I found the Huey and got a couple of pictures. I started to take a picture from a distance of the main memorial, then realized that I was about to take a picture of the wrong memorial. I found the correct memorial, and noticed that I could ride to the other side of the park for better pictures. I got the required pictures. I then went to the large memorial. I took a video of it. There were pictures of men who died in Vietnam. There were some names without pictures. I did not see any notes about how the names were in that particular order.

I rode to Biloxi and found a great parking place to get pictures of the Gold Star memorial. There were a few other memorials that I also took pictures of.

Next stop was Camp Shelby outside Hattiesburg. The museum was closed, but I was able to get on post to photograph the Gold Star, Cobra, and Huey. While taking the picture of the Huey, I noticed that the sample/reference picture looked familiar. I included a comment when I submitted the picture. Once I got to the hotel, Eric (the scorer) told me that it was my picture from last year. They did edit the photo to remove the rally flag. He also told me to pay attention and I might find some other pictures in the app that are from the last two years. Now I have a challenge to recreate the pictures.

Leaving Camp Shelby, I saw a satellite dish on the north side of a building. The dish was facing due south, about three feet from the edge of the building. Basically, the satellite dish was facing into the side of the building. An old army building, appeared to be stucco. I can only imagine the reasoning, and wonder if it is functional.

After getting back on US49, I see a repair shop for large equipment and trucks. Steel building, but parts look like they were removed with a can-opener. A few miles up the road, I see the metal sheeting. It looked like someone had just crumpled it like a wad of paper. Debris was all over the side of the road. Trash from a house that was taken down was piled on the side of the road, with a man picking through to get useful pieces of plywood. Farther up the road was furniture piled up. I looked up and saw a recliner in a tree, not put there to use, it was upside down. I learned that a tornado had come through recently. I had also noticed that the median of the road and along the side of the road had trees removed, but not clean cuts. It was due to the tornado tearing down trees and crews were doing the cleanup.

I made my way to Natchez. I have never been here, though we have been wanting to visit here. I rode through town to the Tour of Honor memorial. As I rode through town there were so many old/historic homes for sale. One block in particular had a For Sale sign in every front yard, both sides of the street! I found the site, parked on the street at the bottom of the steps. I got everything positioned and walked across the street to get a picture. As I started to take the picture, some lady with two little kids walked up the steps. This blocked the sight of the memorial, so I waited. She took her sweet time meandering up the steps, weaving along the path, corralling the little urchins, lighting a cigarette, and FINALLY getting out of the way for me to get the picture. I was patient, didn’t make a comment to her, she wouldn’t have noticed anyway.

I left Natchez and found my way to the Natchez Trace. I had hoped to get at the starting point, but was at mile marker 10. I rode it all the way to I-20 in Clinton, MS, which is where I have landed for the night. I’ll get my Atlas Shrugged reading done then go to bed. I already have my route planned for tomorrow. I will get to downtown Jackson as early as possible, hopefully on the road by 6:30 or 7:00. Then head to Belzoni, MS, Kilmichael, MS, and home. I hope to get home by 3:00, staying ahead of the rain that is forecast for late tomorrow morning along my route.

Day 4 – May 14:

Like Sunday night, I had a hard time staying asleep due to the anticipation of coming home. I had set the clock for 6:00 so I could get on the road early. At 5:30, I got up and packed. Shortly after 6:00am, I was on the road.

My first stop for the day was at the American Legion Building. One of the Tour of Honor memorials was the WWI relief sculpture on the front of the building. It also counts as a Doughboy! One stop, two points. I pull to the side street and planned to get a distance photo with a close-up in another picture. The curvature of the street was not conducive to me putting the kickstand down. The bike wanted to lean the wrong way. Being about 6:30, and I was on the only one around, I rode up the sidewalk ramp and down the ramp to the front of the building. I got a great photo with the bike and the sculpture in the same photo.

My next stop was Belzoni. As I passed through some construction zones, one had an electronic sign that I should use “COUSHUN” in the area. This was Mississippi, so Alabama didn’t get the lowest score in spelling. As I approach Belzoni, the GPS points me to turn on another road. I make the turn and see that I am about the cross the Yazoo River, the GPS tells me to turn left. Problem is that the road is about 100 feet below the bridge. I do some country touring and finally get into Belzoni.

The memorial was a quick find once I got into downtown Belzoni. It is near the end of the road, which is a dead-end road. I park, set up the rally flag, then walk across the street. Someone must have started a calling tree and told everyone in town that someone wanted to take a picture. Suddenly, this intersection is full of cars in all direction! Of course, none can stop to leave clearance for me to take a picture. I wait about 10 minutes for traffic to disappear. I take a couple of pictures, like the memorial in Jackson, this one also counts as a Doughboy bonus point.

I now have about 2 hours of riding to my last stop of the day, Kilmichael. I spent the first 45 minutes on a wonderful back road. Straight as an arrow, but buckles every 50 to 100 feet. I finally turn onto the US82. No turns until I get to Kilmichael.

This memorial is in the Mississippi Veterans Cemetery. I visited here last year, so I know where to find the best spot for parking. I get my pictures, then enjoy the solitude. Though this is on a major highway, the only sound of the trucks is the hum as they passed. I stop in the office to visit with Lady Dix (yes, “Lady” is her given name). I thanked her for the memorial and that many people had commented on the location. I gave her a poker chip and told her that I was planning to bring my brother back in a few months.

I got back on the highway and had less than 30 miles to get onto Natchez Trace. I called MaryJo to let her know when I would be home.

It was great to pull into the drive and the doors open. I unloaded the bike, hooked up the head set to the charger, and headed for the shower. Good ride the last few days.

Total miles: 1428
Tour of Honor Memorials: 12, 2 states completed
Hueys/Cobras: 10
Doughboys: 5
Gold Star Family Memorials: 2
K-9 Memorials: 1