2022 Tour of Honor – Alabama

April 2, 2022

I conduct ham radio testing on the first Saturday of each month. This takes up a few hours that particular morning. I can usually get everything done, back home, and paperwork submitted by noon.

I take a quick look to see who has earned the trophies for Alabama. Hmm, I only see one person having earned a trophy. They award first, second, and third to the person/groups which are among the first three to complete a state. I have dreamed of earning one, but it seems that it is always just out of my grasp. Maybe this year will be my year.

I already had a couple of possible routes. With the exception of one or two sites, the others could be visited in a straight line. One exception happens to be in a line from our house to the southern most sites. I talk it over with the bride and she agrees that I need to be rolling.

Just before 1pm, she opens the garage door and I head out on the Harley Pan America. My plan is to spend the night in Mobile, AL. The memorial in Mobile is only available between 8am and 5pm. It would be pushing to get there by 5pm today, and I would like to spend a little more time at the USS Alabama Memorial Park. Mobile is a straight shot down US43 from Muscle Shoals.

The one site that is not in a straight line with the others is in Linden. Linden happens to be on US43, a little past halfway to Mobile. I plan to avoid interstates until I get to Mobile, then I will hop on the interstate to get around to the other side of town.

The GPS is loaded with the route, but I just follow the path that I know. I almost forgot that I had intended to stop in Linden. I managed to make the turn at the last second. I open the Tour of Honor app on the phone and see the memorial. It is Saturday, there are no other cars around the Courthouse. I park in front of the memorial and was ready to get the picture.

I didn’t pay attention to how to use the app when it was available for testing before the year started. I panicked, then realized what I needed to do. Unlike the last few years, the app does not take the picture. I got to use the camera app on the phone to get the required picture. Then, in the app, I pick the picture from the folder that I want to use. One reason I like this is that I can quickly find my Tour of Honor pictures when I want to look at them later.

Picture taken, saved on the phone, uploaded into the app, and submitted. Rather easy.

The ride along US43 is very pleasant. As I near Mobile, I get on I-65 to I-10, and pull into the hotel shortly after 7:30pm. A familiar hotel where I have stayed on most of my visits. I walk over to the Mexican restaurant nearby. I take a table outside, ordered a large margarita and a salad.

I took a little time to review the route for tomorrow. Got it uploaded into the GPS and was ready for bed.

April 3

Sunday morning, I do my Bible reading to start the day. I send Tim a text to ask where would be a good place for us to meet for supper. I tell him that I am planning to stay at a hotel in Gadsden. He says he knows of a great bed and breakfast which will also have supper for me. He sends me his address and tells me that he and Pam expect me to stay with them. Not being one to turn down a free meal and a friendly home to sleep, I accept their offer. I give him the link to be able to track my progress. I tell him my estimated ETA based on my schedule, I will confirm the arrival time as I get closer.

The farthest south area in Alabama is on Dauphine Island. That is also where one of the Tour of Honor sites is located. The main road to get there is at one exit on the interstate from my hotel. I will follow that road from the interstate to the memorial, then back to the interstate to head to the USS Alabama Memorial Park, where my next stop will be.

Early Sunday morning, the roads are empty. I see a bridge up ahead, and the winds start to pick up. I don’t see much of a barrier on the side of the bridge. I have to stay calm. I don’t like heights. As I get closer, the bridge isn’t as high as I had thought, but the winds are still fun to fight.

I cross into Dauphine Island. I see a few boats ready to go fishing. People are starting to gather along a local pier to fish in the bay. A parking lot has a sign for a bike show. Police are ready for the crowds. I keep the speed at the limit and find the memorial at the Town Hall. I park in the handicap parking, a policeman is across the street.

I quickly get the picture and head out. The GPS had other ideas about the route, but I followed the main roads instead of going through the neighborhoods.

This was the first overnight trip on the Pan America. It handles differently than the BMW-GS, which is normal. All bikes handle differently. This weekend is my chance to get familiar with the Pan America. We have named the Pan America Dirt Glyde, the tag is DRTGLYD.

Part way back to Mobile, the bike needs gas. I miss the side street and pull onto what I think is another entrance. It happens to be the sidewalk. It was too late to avoid hitting the curb. The bike jumps up the curb, then back down the other side without a problem. I was impressed, the bike handled the rough terrain with ease. I gas up, talk with a few of the local people who want to talk about the bike.

Back on the road toward Mobile. I get to the interstate and follow it to the tunnel which leads to the USS Alabama. I pull into the entrance. Today is the boat show. I am there early, the crowds haven’t arrived yet. I pull over to the various memorials.

I find the Tour of Honor main memorial. Behind it is a 9-11 memorial. A short walk away is a Huey and a K-9 memorial. I decide to go into the museum. There is another Huey, Army-1, a Huey that was used to transport one of the Presidents in the past. I spent about an hour walking around looking through the museum. In hind-sight, I realized that I walked past another 9-11 memorial which I could have submitted. I get plenty of pictures, load into the app, and submit them.

Next stop is Andalusia. I ride through downtown Mobile to make my way to I-65. North on I-65 to Evergreen. From Evergreen, west to Andalusia. I came to Andalusia two years ago. As I neared the site, as I was riding through the neighborhoods, I realized that the GPS was going to send me through the park. I make a turn and get to the parking lot. This was the same memorial from two years ago. on that visit, the GPS had lead me through the park and onto the walking path. I got a better picture on the last visit since I parked the bike directly in front of the memorial.

It is shortly after noon when I leave Andalusia. I head out on the backroads toward Montgomery. I could have gotten back on I-65, but I enjoy the backroads much more. My next stop is Talladega. There are several memorials in Talladega. I haven’t checked to see exactly where I am headed, but I will trust the GPS.

While I am taking the picture at Talladega another bike pulls up. He is over at another side of the corner taking his pictures. I walk over to meet him. I hand him a poker chip and a business card. He tells me that he was told that he might see me if he heads to get a trophy in Alabama. I ask which way he is heading. He is heading to Gadsden for the night. Once he gets checked into his hotel, he will make the ride to Fort Payne to finish Alabama and try to get the third place trophy (by now, the first two places have had already been earned by others).

He shakes my hand, jumps on his bike and rides off. I decide that I would rather enjoy the ride than to rush to try and get to the last two sites before him. I expect he will be taking the faster, but longer route. I opt for the slower two-lane roads.

I send a quick text to Tim to let him know that I was in Talladega and that I would be stopping in Gadsden before heading to his house. I gave him a time estimate then started rolling

AL-77 has become a familiar route, almost like an old friend. I enjoy the meandering ride on the country roads. Traffic picks up as I get closer to Gadsden. In Gadsden, the GPS has me winding through neighborhoods and business areas. Being Sunday, there is no traffic near the county courthouse. I park near the memorial and get a few pictures. I walk and look over the memorial. This is the first time I have seen this site and it looks to be a newer memorial.

I mount the bike and take off to Tim and Pam’s house.

Pam is out doing some last minute grocery shopping when I pull into the driveway. I know I am at Tim’s when I see his Pan America and Pam’s Can-Am under the carport. And their dogs are ready to greet me.

A pleasant evening and catching up with old friends. Hard to beat.

April 4

As soon as my head hit the bed, I was out! I had turned the lights off in the room, you would know you were in the country. No sounds of sirens, loud music, or any traffic; no street lights or any sort of light pollution. It was dark and quiet. Add the big bed with all the feather comforters I felt like I was back at Mama Neill’s.

I woke this morning very refreshed. I made my way to the kitchen and Pam offered me coffee. She was going to use a K-cup of Starbucks, I asked her to not be offended but I had some K-cups of Black Rifle Coffee. She was fine, knowing about Black Rifle Coffee.

Tim heated biscuits and some sausage, it was very good. Over breakfast, we all talked about them doing a “carb cleaning.” They are trying to get rid of all the carbohydrates that they have so they won’t be tempted to break the Keto diet they are starting.

I got my patch for the HOG chapter Points of Interest (POI) ride for 2022. I still had one more site to visit to make seven, but that was planned for the ride home.

They started getting ready to work. Tim works from home full time, though he does have to visit sites from time to time. Pam works from home almost every other week, this is her week to work from home. Pam sets up in the bedroom, Tim has a dedicated office in another building. He has two computers set up, each with multiple monitors, and he has a big screen TV on one wall.

I got things loaded up and said my goodbyes. It was a very pleasant evening, great night’s sleep, and refreshing breakfast with coffee.

As I started to leave, my low fuel light came on. I knew that there was a gas station just a few blocks away, so I wasn’t concerned. I gassed up and was ready to roll!

The closest I came to interstate was when I rode under I-59 and I-65. The mix of roads were about 50/50 2-lane vs. 4-lane. Slow sweeping curves, a few twisties, but the views were wonderful. I sang for a while. The most apropos song was How Great Thou Art.

I pulled into Fort Payne and followed the directions to the location from the Tour of Honor for the last site I needed to visit. Based on the background in the picture, I had found the spot, but the memorial I was searching was not to be found. There were a few others, but not that one. Since this was in front of the courthouse, I asked a deputy was leaving. He didn’t recognize the picture. As we talked, another deputy came out and said that the memorial I was looking for was at the VFW. The deputy gave me directions.

I arrived at the VFW, but didn’t see the memorial. Since the VFW was at the fairgrounds, I walked around a bit. I found that the VFW was not at the location where I was sent, but a few blocks away at the other side of the fairgrounds. I found this by walking all over the fairgrounds. I got the bike and headed over to the VFW and the memorial.

As I was leaving, I thought I was leaving via an exit from the parking lot. It was too late when I realized that I was leaving via the sidewalk and over the curb. A nice little drop-off, but by me staying calm, the bike handled it without a problem.

I rode over to the memorial and got the picture I needed. I stayed there a few minutes while I sent a note with my submission. This confirmed to me that the state sponsor had not visited the site. I will send him a note offering to help in verify the sites for next year. I will promise that since I will have privileged information, I will not attempt a trophy.

The ride home was partially on familiar roads, but the whole ride was so peaceful. Only bit of traffic was coming through Cullman, and that was only a couple of blocks. Even Moulton was light on traffic.

I gassed up and pulled into the garage at 2:30. About an hour later than I had planned last night, but given that I left a few minutes later than expected and I walked looking for the memorial in Fort Payne, I think I made pretty good time.

It was a great ride, but I am glad to be home.