First, a little background if you haven’t heard of it. The Tour of Honor is a ride challenge that starts April 1 and goes through October. On April 1, they release the various sites, usually 7 in each state, and the additional ride challenges. Check it out for yourself here.
The plan for my first ride was to visit three sites, Carbon Hill, AL, Amory, MS, and Houston, MS. I stopped by the dealership who had been holding the bike for a few months. Quick check of the bike, put my rally flag (this has my tour number), put the three locations in the GPS, gas up, and away I go.
Back roads, mostly two-lane, through north west Alabama is very relaxing on the weekday morning. Tree lined, hilly roads, light traffic, and mid 70’s. Smell of the forest, flowers, and a few skunks that didn’t make it across the road kept me aware of my natural surroundings.
I find the first site in Carbon Hill, AL easily, the VFW building. In the front parking lot is a tank and the memorial. I don’t see anyone else around, but there is another bike and a minivan in the lot. I park the bike, work to get the flag and bike arranged to get a picture of them at the memorial. After a few minutes dealing with the breeze, out comes the owner of the bike. We chat for a few minutes, I glace at his bike then realize who he is. There had been a story about a guy from Alaska that was doing the Tour of Honor. Someone had seen him in Florida a couple of weeks earlier. This was him! (I’ll not mention him by name, but he is a very interesting fellow.)
He talks about his travels so far, how he had purchased a new bike while his current one was in the shop, and the Hoka Hey bike ride every other year. Learn more about it at here.
We talk about our plans for the day. I tell him I am heading toward Mississippi, then back to Florence. He says he is headed to Tuscaloosa, then to finish visiting the remaining sites in Alabama. Tuscaloosa, hmm, I tell him I’ll follow him Tuscaloosa, then I’ll head back as I had planned.
We saddle up and take off heading south. Much the same types of roads I had started on that morning, then we hit roads I am familiar riding. We get to downtown Tuscaloosa, and ride to the Alabama State Fire Academy. The memorial isn’t as close to the parking as we had hoped. It was a little struggle getting pictures of the bikes and the memorial in the same picture. We took a few extras just in case we needed better verification that we were actually there. As we get ready to part, a gentleman from the academy comes out to his truck. He eagerly takes a few pictures for us together. Chuck and I shake hands then part ways. He needed more go juice, I needed to get moving!
To make up for the time on the detour, I jump on the interstate to get closer to Amory and the beautiful back roads in Mississippi. I get photos of the War Memorial in Amory, quick photo op at Houston, MS, then catch the Natchez Trace. I pull back into mom’s house just before it starts to get dark.
End of the day I was excited to have finally gotten a few points for four site visits. I send my photos to the scorer and a few days later I have points listed after my name! Out of over 700 riders on this challenge, I am in the top 75% (yeah, there are still a bunch of people that either haven’t made any site visits or haven’t had them posted yet). Now that my goal to get one site visit done is completed, my next goal is to visit 7 sites (this will make me an “official finisher”). I doubt I will get into the top 10%, and I know I won’t be one of the top 5 finishers, but this is a way to help me see more of the country.