2021 Tour of Honor – Alabama Ride


Initially, I had route planned to visit the remaining six of the seven sites in each of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. As the date and time neared for this ride to start, the weather looked like it wasn’t going to cooperate. Tornadoes headed along the entire route. I decided to break the ride into two parts, spending the Saturday at home.

So, the final plan for this ride was to visit five of the seven sites in Alabama over two days. First day will be a ride to Auburn, second day would complete the loop to head back home. The goal is to get home on Friday night before the storms hit.

Day 1 – April 22

Though I had packed last night, I packed more than I should have packed. I needed some things out of my bags to start my day, specifically some medications!

After breakfast, both ours and Blue’s, I got ready to head out. I try to set 8am as my start time each day on the road, though I seldom make it when leaving the house. I pulled out of the garage shortly after 8am and headed to the gas station. I gassed up the bike and reset the trip odometer, then headed out. I had the feeling I had forgotten something. Yep, I forgot to turn on the trackers! I got to the left turn light at Helton just as the turn light went yellow. I used that time to turn on Rever and the SpotX. Got the phone put away and the gloves back on just before the light turned green.

My goal was to see if I could follow the planned route without deviating. I crossed the river and made a deviation right away. Instead of headed to AL20 on Wilson Dam Road, I decided to take one of my favorite local backroads, even though I had gotten a speeding ticket on this route a few weeks ago, my first speeding ticket in close to 40 years! I turned onto River Rd, then headed toward Ford City. I made the turn onto CR150 and immediately started checking my speed. What would be the odds that the same officer would be on the road ahead? I wanted to see if I really could stay close to the speed limit. I made it to AL20 at North Courtland without a ticket, I didn’t see any police, but even if they had been there, I would not have gotten pulled over. I STAYED AT THE SPEED LIMIT!

I got back on the planned route and followed it most of the day. The few deviations were around parking lots or when I came to roads that were not roads that I should have ridden.

The first stop was Trussville. This was a memorial in the cemetery, and the cemetery was next to a funeral home. The area of the memorial had been dedicated to military. Some had granite etching of the person, I don’t know if they all died in action. The area had spaces for cremated remains as well as graves. I got a few pictures and went into the funeral home. I admitted that my entry into the funeral home was a potty break, but I did talk with them afterwards about the Tour of Honor. They are participants in the Wreaths Across America.

I rode through the suburbs of Birmingham. Mountain Brook, Leeds, and a few others. NICE places, reminded me of McLean. Big houses with gates driveways and brick fences. One difference was that they were in the woods, partially hidden. Driveways were very steep since the area was very hilly.

My next stop was west of Montgomery, in Clanton. The GPS location noted that it was across the street from where it actually is located. I walked around looking for it and then realized it was on the side of the street where I had parked. There were several memorials, and I eventually found the one that I needed.

I refueled as I was leaving Clanton. Outside of town, I noticed all the destruction before remembering that Clanton had been hit hard by recent tornadoes. Houses which looked fine until you saw the other side, which may either have the roof torn off or part of the house gone. A few spots had just the rubble of houses. One truck had a huge dent across the hood where a large tree had fallen on it.

Next stop was Wetumpka, a small town north east of Montgomery. A year ago, it had been devastated by a tornado. I had ridden through there shortly after they had gotten hit, the ride today was a lot different. I remember the church which had half of it totally blown away. Today it had a new fence and the building had been restored. I rode to the memorial next to the court house. The roads in this town are very hilly. I found a place to park, but the ground was not level. When I finally was able to get off the bike, it was almost perfectly vertical! I wasn’t able to get off by standing on the pegs, that would lower the bike frame and the bike would lean to the right (away from the kick stand). I added my poker chip to one which was already there, 717. I deviated from the GPS route because the road went up a steep hill, had a stop sign at the top of the hill, and I would have to make a sharp left turn up another hill. Nope, I will find another way around.

The back roads from Wetumpka to Auburn had so little traffic. But when there was traffic, it was logging trucks going 35 miles an hour! As I entered Auburn, a turn I needed to make was up a steep hill, off camber curve, in traffic. As I made the turn, I downshifted past second but didn’t get to first. I had almost stopped rolling before I could kick it into first gear. I made the turn, though a little nervous, I didn’t panic.

I found the K9 memorial at the Veterinary School at Auburn. The memorial in between two buildings, with trees and bushes surrounding it. Hard to get one picture with both the bike and the memorial. I took two pictures, and have already received notice that the site has been credited to me.

The hotel was only a couple of miles away, three turns and I was pulling into the parking lot. Nice hotel. Though the first room did not have a working AC, they switched me to the next room over. I had supper at a new Mexican place next to the hotel. It was rather good. I walked back to the hotel and am now about ready to crash.

Tomorrow, I will head to Tuskegee and Centreville, AL to visit those Tour of Honor sites. I will then head to the 9-11 memorial in Tuscaloosa. If it looks like the rains will hold off, I will head to Tupelo and Iuka before heading home. If the skies to the west don’t look good, I will just head home from Tuscaloosa.

Day 2 – April 23

Last night was a rarity. Though I didn’t get to sleep as early as I wanted, I slept very well. I woke up once about 1:30, but quickly went back to sleep. Woke up at 7am, showered, breakfast, and on the road by 8:30, about 30 minutes later than I had planned.

I rode back roads to Tuskegee. The GPS sent me through a neighborhood, then back to the main road, before sending me to the Veteran’s Center. I got my picture there and was back on the road.

The GPS wanted me to turn on a road, which was a farm road, through a pasture, and there is a closed gate. I decide to keep going straight. The GPS adds 30 minutes to my ETA to the next stop. I alter the directions to allow interstate, the GPS quickly takes away those 30 minutes. I more than make up the time once I get on the I-85. Speed limit is 70, you have to do 80 or more to keep from getting run over, and that is just the slow lane.

Once past Montgomery, I-85 ends and I continue straight instead of getting on I-65. I enjoy the not being on the interstate. The traffic there is more than I want to deal with. As I near Centerville, I see a lot of recovery activity going on. They are still cleaning up from the tornadoes that came through a few weeks ago. Damage here was even worse than what I had seen yesterday in Clanton. There, houses were damaged; here, the house were demolished. I could see a car was still under a pile a debris from a destroyed home. Trees were cut and lined along the road for someone to pick up.

I pulled into the parking lot at the courthouse in Centreville. A couple of memorials were there, so I checked the phone app to make sure I got the correct memorial. I noticed that there was also a 9-11 memorial inside the courthouse. I decided to try my luck. I spoke with the County Clerk, who let me in and escorted me to the flag honoring the victims of 9-11. We chatted a bit and she had been in Florence last week for a conference. They had stayed at the Marriott and eaten at 360, the restaurant that rotates above the river.

I headed on the Tuscaloosa. The roads were great, nothing more that I can say about them. Traffic picked up as I got closer to Tuscaloosa. I made my way to the Fire Academy and found the memorial; this had been the memorial my first year. There are several memorials, the specific one this year was the piece of iron from the wreckage of the Twin Towers. I spoke with a firefighter who was attending the academy, he was from Indianapolis.

I looked to the west and saw that the skies were darkening. I did a quick check of timing if I were to go to Tupelo or to head straight home. I checked the weather forecast and timing. I decided to just head home. I rode through Tuscaloosa, I made it through the traffic and was headed home on US43.

I made it home with a late lunch waiting for me. Overall, a very nice ride. Five Tour of honor sites (Centerville, Clanton, Trussville, Tuskegee, and Wetumpka), two 9/11 memorials (Centerville and Tuscaloosa), and one K-9 memorial (Auburn).

Weather forecast for tomorrow is still undecided. One forecast is two storm fronts, each lasting three to four hours, with about 8 hours between. Another forecast if much more devastating and lasting all day. I will just stay home and plan for my ride on Sunday.