Day 1 – May 20:
I got the bike loaded, a cup of coffee, bowl of cereal, and I was ready to roll!
I tried the video camera on the engine bar. When I got to an area I wanted to try it, I noticed that it had moved and was loose. I stopped and put the camera in the bag. I didn’t want to lose it.
Ride was wonderful. First stop was in Tuscaloosa at the Huey in the shopping center. I was taking the picture when a guy asked about the bike. We talked a bit, then the conversation turned to Tour of Honor. I gave him one of my cards and a poker chip. He said he might give it a try later this year or next year.
My next stop was at Carrollton, Alabama. I don’t remember visiting this site in previous years, and it was a nice statue on the side of the Court House, which was in the middle of the town square.
I made my way to Meridian, MS. I remember this one from last year. A Doughboy at the top of a memorial. I have pictures from last year, but got more this year. A couple of people commented on the bike and we talked about it.
My stop for the night was Mobile, AL. The ride was higher speed roads with little traffic. I had been afraid of storms which had been forecast for Mobile for today and tomorrow. I got a light rain about 20 miles out, then cloudy skies. As I was taking my bags into the hotel, the rains came, but only lasted a few minutes.
Day 2 – May 21:
I woke up and felt great. At first, I thought that I must have overslept. I looked at the clock and it was a little before 6:00am. I repacked my bags and got everything ready to load on the bike. Saddle bags were the first load. Got a honey bun and juice to go back to the room. I took some Tylenol to help with the potential soreness of the ride and I noticed that my foot was a little swollen this morning.
The low fuel warning wasn’t on, so I decided to put a few miles on the bike before gassing up. I got out of the Mobile area before I needed gas. I kept seeing dark skies, but I didn’t get wet.
The first stop was a long ride, over 100 miles on interstate. I knew where the Dougboy was since I had been there several times. I pulled in front of the museum and got a good picture to submit. I took a few extra ones with the camera and edit them as needed.
One exit up and I headed to the Maxwell Air Base for the K-9 Memorial. I pulled to the gate, showed my driver’s license and was politely asked if I had a valid military ID. I told the guard that I did not, he then explained the base is on lock-down and only military personnel was allowed on base. He watched as I made the U-Turn to leave.
I reset the GPS to get me home, while avoiding the interstate and tolls. I started north and was met with a toll-booth. I paid the toll and kept going. I soon realized that I was in Prattville. A great place to get a real breakfast. I make a turn off the planned route and pull into Jim’s Place. Biscuits and Gravy with a side of bacon. They have the best coffee I have ever had.
I add the Bessemer Doughboy to the route and follow the GPS. I took US31 north. I think every dump truck and yokel decided to take a drive today. 120 miles and 4 hours later, I get close to Birmingham. I know I am close to Bessemer, but I see an indicator on the GPS that there is a “saved favorite” nearby. This usually means that it is a Tour of Honor site. I check the GPS and realize that it is a K-9 Memorial in Helena, AL. I pull into the park and park the bike near the memorial for a picture. This wasn’t a planned stop, but I am glad that I made the stop.
I make the quick trip to Bessemer. I see the Doughboy in the middle of the park, not an easy one to get a picture with the bike. I find a parking spot where I can get the bike and the Doughboy in the same picture. Not the best angle, so I walk to the Doughboy to get a close-up of him. I get a few pictures and head back to the bike. I am putting everything away when the couple who had been parked next to me start talking to me. He asked if I got pictures of all the plaques. I admitted that I didn’t. He starts to tell me a bit of history.
He and his wife look to be in their late 60’s/early 70’s. When they were kids, they would play in the park and climb on the statue. Over the years, the statue began to show signs of wear. A few years ago, the statue was taken down, as was the base, to have them repaired. The original statue had a plaque on each of the four sides. One plaque was the dedication, one plaque listed the dead from WWI, one plaque listed the “colored” who had died in WWI, and the last plaque listed the “jews” who had died in WWI.
When the statue and base were reinstalled, the plaque listing the “jews” who had died was not re-installed. Due to the large Jewish population in Bessemer, people quietly were questioning. No official statement was ever made, almost like the plaque had never existed.
I went back to the statue and took pictures of all four sides. I had not looked on the side with the “colored” list on my first stop, but I got a picture this time.
As I get closer to home, the skies look darker. I wind through Bessemer and eventually get on US78 west, then turn onto AL5 when US78 merges with I-22. Mostly divided four-lane until Jasper. Once in Jasper, I make the turn and head toward Haleyville, Phil Campbell, Russellville, and on to home. The low fuel warning just came on, I’ll fill up tomorrow. MaryJo greets me with an open garage door and BBQ ribs.