Bike ride through Alabama (June 7-8)

Had a couple of reasons to get out on the bike. First, it has been a while since I really took a long ride. Yeah, I did ride it from Northern Virginia to Alabama over three days, but that was in November. It was cold and it was to move the bike, not just a ride to enjoy the scenery.

Second, I had a friend tell me about a geocache that was outside Ozark, Al, near Dothan. It was a rather rare cache, a Traveling Cache. This type of cache cannot be created anymore, but this one is grandfathered to be allowed. Corps of Discovery is the name if anyone really wants to check into it.

Well, I took off not too early on Tuesday morning. No interstates, but no gravel roads either. All I knew was that I was going to trust the GPS (not something I do blindly very often). She does have a knack for putting my into situations that are rather difficult at times. It wasn’t too hot, but way too warm for chaps. I always wear a jacket, but that is another story.

Just pleasant riding, not a lot of traffic. By the time lunch hit, I was outside Prattville, AL. Now, my last experience in Prattville was rather underwhelming, to say the least. At that time the “best” hotel in town was awful. Large chain hotel too, supposed to be upscale, but it was awful. I don’t remember the exact location, but when I got to where I thought it had been, only a parking lot remains.

But, I was hungry and really wanted to eat. I see a place at the last minute and whip into the parking lot next door. Not a lot of business in that lot, so I park there and walk next door. Place is Jim’s Restaurant. It had your standard southern flare for “meat and 3’s”. I opted for the fried chicken. In the south, fried chicken is special. And Jim’s didn’t let me down, more than I could eat and it was fantastic. I ate all my veggies, and waited a few minutes for lunch to settle a bit. Waitress asks about dessert. Before I can say “no thank you,” she starts with fresh peach cobbler. I don’t know what else they had, but I was sold! FANTASTIC!!!! With a little ice cream on it to give it just a hot and cold alternating sensation. Now I have to wait a little longer before hitting the road…

Back on the road, a quick trip to Ozark for the prize cache. Quick grab. Met the property owner that told me about his daughter and son-in-law that placed the cache on his property. Nice guy. Even gave me a story about his rare cactus. It blooms only once, and it does that at 100 years old. Now the blooming process takes a while, can take months And it was TALL! I noticed a chain (with a padlock) attached to the trunk of the plant and a nearby oak tree. I joked, asking if he was afraid someone would take the plant since he had it chained down. He explained that the chain was to keep the plant’s stalk off the power lines, which it seemed to have a propensity to gravitate toward. If the stalk got into the power lines, the power company would take care of it. Not what he was wanting to happen. He expects that the cactus will bloom in about a year.

Back on the road, too late to try to ride all the way back home that night. I stop to look over a map and other geocaches that I would like to tackle. Cache Across America-Alabama in near Talladega. About 4 hours north of where I was, but Auburn was about half-way. So, north to Auburn I head.

Now, for those that don’t realize how a state can divide itself, you must have never paid attention to the SEC (Southeast Conference). You have University of Alabama on one side, and Auburn on the other. Children have been written out of wills for going to the “wrong” school. I am not picking sides.

I check into the hotel just in time to watch the second game of the Women’s College World Series (ladies’ softball). Oklahoma and Auburn are playing. I had watched the first game the previous night and knew this was going to be exciting. Middle of the second, Oklahoma up 7-0, I thought I should just go get some supper. End of second, 7-4. Ok, maybe I will watch a bit longer. Long story short, I never made it out for supper. I was able to stay awake until the final hit (a grand slam that gave Auburn the 11-7 win to force a game three).

Next morning, I head up to Cheaha State Park for a cache or two. A walking ramp to allow everyone to go to see the view from the top got me within about 100 feet of the cache. For those that prefer walking in the woods, there is also a trail that sort of follows the ramp. I get to the end of the ramp, find a set of stairs to the trail, and head to make the quick find.

Hike back to the bike, a bit early to start thinking about lunch. I know that I want to head north west from this spot, but the GPS keeps wanting to send me back south east. I fight it and follow the signs to the town of Talladega. In retrospect, I wonder where it would have sent me, if the road would have been a bit better. I have no idea where I am, the lady in the box (the GPS) keeps telling me “recalculating.” I finally see a road that I know where it goes! North on Rt 231 I head. Eventually, I realize that in all the fussing with the GPS, road hazards, and other stuff, I had forgotten to stop for lunch. (Yeah, the old fat guy forgot to eat!)

Now, there is an advantage to eating after the lunch crowd, places aren’t as crowded! I find this little spot “Shaw’s BBQ.” Even about 1:30, a pretty decent crowd. I grab a quick brisket BBQ sandwich and enjoy the conversations around me. The place thins out and the owner comes over and asks if everything was ok. I said it was great. He asked what I would like for dessert. Again, before I can decline, he has already started telling me what they have today. Homemade Peach Fried Pie with ice cream. Hard to pass up, so I enjoyed the pie and conversation with the owner. We talked about the softball game the previous night. I learn that his daughter had played for Auburn a few years earlier.

I find it hard to express the excitement of listening to people tell me about themselves. I am an introvert and don’t go out of my way to meet people, usually. When on bike trip, it is hard to NOT talk with people. Be nice to them and they will open up and tell you some of the most fascinating stories. History of the area, the people they came from, sometimes they even share their dreams.

Back on the bike and it is still about 3-4 hours from home. Full belly, full tank of gas, and lots of routes to pick from to head home.

I made it home just in time for game three of the WCWS. I expect the conversation as Shaw’s won’t be a happy one on Thursday…

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