February 10, 2021

What had been planned as an Iron Butt ride quickly changed. The weather for the nearby area was going to be nice. Head south too far, and rain would take over. Head north to far, and snow/freezing rain was the forecast. Since this was a last minute ride, I hadn’t had a chance to plan out the ride and load into either of the GPS devices/apps that I usually rely upon. I pulled out a map of Alabama, plotted a route to where I wanted to go, then wrote the turns on a 3×5 card, which I placed in the map sleeve of my tank bag.

I decided this year to also participate in America’s Ultimate Long Distance Riders Challenge (AULDR). I have done a couple of rides in January and already gotten 12 points. I looked over the updated point categories and decided to tackle a couple more points for Alabama.

Having a large desk in a holding pattern in the garage, the first challenge of the day was getting the bike out. That wasn’t too bad, but I have to make a few trips to get my various accessories added. Weather was mid 60’s and clear skies at 9:30! I rode through the neighbor hood, then pulled into a parking lot outside my neighborhood to turn on all my tracking devices.

I have been using SpotX for a year, I had used the SPOT for a couple of years previously. A few months ago, I upgraded my service plan to allow tracking updates every 5 minutes instead of every 10 minutes. That might not see like a major difference, but it did prove to help on this trip.

Spotwalla has a new app for the Android phones, Bubbler. It works like the SPOT and SpotX for tracking, and links directly into Spotwalla. The new Spotwalla site will allow tracking for multiple devices on a trip. Since both the SpotX and Bubbler were set for 5 minutes updates, I might actually get the two trackers to be 2 1/2 minutes off from each other.

My third tracking is Rever. This app tracks the entire trip, them uploads it to their server once the trip is complete. I can also use Rever to plan a route and transfer to either of my GPS guidance apps.

As I left the parking lot, I noticed that my main GPS wasn’t working. Screen was black. I had noticed it was acting odd the previous night, but thought it was because I had stored it in the house and it needed to sync with the bike.

Most of the roads I had planned for today were roads I have ridden on previously. But, not all in this particular sequence. I headed west on Florence Blvd a little until I got to Helton Drive. I made the left and soon crossed the Tennessee River. I decided to make the left and travel along River Road. This has been one of my favorite roads when I just have an hour or two for a ride. Secluded enough that there isn’t much traffic, and pleasant scenery. A few zigs and zags led me to the right on County Road 150. other than a few long sweeping curves, it is very straight. I have seen several Highway Patrol on this road, so I kept the speed down to the speed limit.

I crossed US72 and rode into Courtland, then made the left to head over to AL33, where I made the right turn. Without the GPS to show me the map, this road was almost like a new experience. With the GPS map being displayed, I can see turns and elevation changes. Without the warning, I have to pay more attention. Riding slower also gives me a change to notice more of my surroundings.

As I neared Moulton, I crossed AL157 and heading into the town of Moulton. This is a quaint little town with some old buildings. Most people travel AL157 and miss the older part of town, which I enjoy more than riding past the Wal-Mart and fast food chains.

Past Moulton, I turned left onto AL36. At this intersection is a store which has Indian relics and trinkets. A few knives and arrowheads, as well as books on the area, can be found here. I continue on AL36, crossing AL157 again, riding through Danville and Hartselle, making my way to Lacey’s Springs.

A left on US231 until I cross the Tennessee River again, then a right on Hobbs Island Road. This is the road that David had led me on when I test rode the GS. I have travelled this road several time. Other than a few unexpected turns though New Hope, it is a easy route. I got to US72 and had a few miles on divided four-lanes until I got to Scottsboro.

Once in Scottsboro, I turned onto AL35 and headed to Fort Payne. I had ridden a few miles of this route coming back from a ride in Georgia, but quickly passed the turn to Mentone and was on a new route. The ride to Fort Payne was calm, a little traffic. The few steep inclines had a passing lane to get around slower vehicles.

Fort Payne likes to let people know that it is the home of Randy Owens and the other members of the band Alabama. The streets are named accordingly, with parks and buildings dedicated to the band and various members. A few souvenir stores, all claiming to be the the “official” fan club of Alabama, were scattered along the route.

A few miles outside of Fort Payne I found AL176, Little River Canyon Parkway. This road travels through the Little River National Preserve. I was behind a park ranger for a little bit before I realized this was part of the National Park Service.

My goal for this ride was to visit one of the sites from the 2019 Iron Butt Rally, the Mushroom Rock. This is a huge rock in the middle of the road. Instead of knocking the rock down, they built the road around it, one lane on one side, the other lane on the other side. I had thought that there would be a place where I could park, but there wasn’t. I pulled off the road onto the shoulder and got a picture.

I had turned off the engine, but left the ignition on. When I got back on and started the bike, the GPS started working. It defaulted to showing the topographic landscape, which I enjoyed on this road. I realized just how deep the drop-off was from the GPS since I couldn’t take my eyes off the road long enough to look over the edge.

AL176 had a lot of twists and turns, ups and downs. Speed limit was 35 and I think I stayed at or below that for almost off of the stretch through the preserve. Several areas to pull off, but they were gravel areas and not level, areas that would be challenging for most motorcyclists.

I followed AL176 until it ended, then continued straight onto County Road 3/Tabor Road. Along the way, I passed another rider on a GS. He had been stopped at a corner and was turning in the direction I was headed. He was behind me for a while, catching me when we stopped for a flagman in a construction area. He commented on my rear lights and asked about them since they were so bright. I told him, but couldn’t talk long since the flagman wanted us to start moving. I lost the rider as I continued along.

I followed Tabor Road until I got to Gadsden, AL. Then I was back on familiar roads. I topped off the gas and continued on. I staying on US278 until I got to Cullman. I was taking longer than I had expected, so I made the turn onto AL 157 instead of staying on US278.

Other bonus points for the AULDR are getting pictures of Rooster lawn art and water towers with either town names of a mural. Only one point for each category per state! Knowing I would need to get pictures of these, I started paying attention for them. After West Point, AL, there is a Dutch Bakery. Whether it is new, or I have never noticed it before, there are a couple of large metal roosters under the sign for the bakery. I pulled over to the side of the road and got a picture. Since the roosters weren’t right on the side of the road, the picture may not have been as good as I would have liked.

I started rolling again and soon saw a water tower in the distance. At first, it was hard to tell what was written on the side. As I got closer, I saw that it had the town/community name on it. I pulled over and got another picture!

Back on the road again, I was ready to be home. I got a call from Aaron that he was going to stop by the house. I said I should be there soon. As I got close to the house, I saw Patrick and flashed the lights at him. When I flash my lights, they will strobe three times. He thought it was the police pulling him over, so he pulled into my neighborhood. We talked for a few minutes while I turned off all my tracking devices.

I pulled into the drive and had just missed Aaron, but he had a good talk with MaryJo about his job. I was glad to be home and supper was waiting.

341 miles, 7 hours, and 3 AULDR points! Not bad for a last minute ride. Temperatures stayed in the upper 60’s and even got up to 75 at one point. No rain, only a few clouds. Wonderful ride.