Day 2: Sunday 4/27
I woke up and panicked that I'd overslept and missed the early start I so desperately needed, only to find out it wasn't even 4am yet. I put myself back to sleep, but had a repeat performance at 6. As much as I tried, I couldn't get back to sleep again so I started to (slowly) get my things together and get ready for the day.
I'm so used to sharing hotel rooms when I'm on a ride, I had rebelled by sprawling my things across the room. This solo thing is pretty cool! Nobody to have the "what time do you want to wake up/eat breakfast/get on the road" debate with. Nobody but me would get to make any decisions on this trip.
Well, except Mother Nature. She seems to make her own decisions and there's nothing anybody can do to stop her. She'd decided I would be getting wet today.
Much to my surprise though, the sun was trying to peek out from behind the clouds while I packed the bike. Spank was pleased.
We stayed up there on the second floor. The woman at the desk, a cruiser rider, said the bike would be fine and she'd watch it overnight. I wasn't worried about the bike as much as I was worried about my back - having to carry the pannier up and down the stairs was a chore.
I headed up Hwy 25 and it was a boring, wide, empty four lane snooze fest.
I could see the clouds looming, but I resisted pulling off the road to don the rain gear as long as I could. By the time I was doing the roadside dance, it was coming down pretty hard. Away went the camera...
Tiny little towns popped up all along the way. Every one of them seems to have a Main Street that once, back in its day, was a bustling meeting place for the locals.
As quickly as the rain had started, it stopped again. Off with the rain pants, out with the camera.
Welcome to Alabama! The sun was shining and there was almost no traffic on the backroads I'd picked. I pulled over and took this picture of Spank.
Then he took this one of me.
Stopped for lunch along th way. I prefer to stay away from fast food whenever possible, so finding Micki's Diner was a pleasant surprise.
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac n cheese, and cole slaw. A bottomless glass of sweet tea made it the perfect southern lunch.
I was mingled with the after-church crow and the locals could tell I wasn't from 'round these parts. A few of them stopped by my table to ask about "that big bike out there", where I was headed, and if I was riding there "all by myself". It sure makes people open their eyes wide when I tell them my eventual goal is to get to Maine. They ask me to repeat myself, as if they didn't hear it right the first time.
The GPS was telling me that at the rate I was going, finishing my planned route would put me in Chattanooga after 9. I told it to hush up and just get me there, and it corrected itself to say 5:30. That would get me into the campsite with enough daylight left to set up camp, make dinner, and get some writing done.
So I found the slab and made use of my throttle lock.
As boring a highways can be, Mother Nature once again decided to throw life at me. Curveball. I swung and fouled this one off. I saw the rain up ahead and ducked under the overpass to get my rain gear back on before getting drenched.
Within minutes it was pouring down again, and the passing trucks (polite as they were to move over a lane) were atomizing the rain as it collected on the roadway and sprayed it up at me beneath my roadway roof.
I decided I didn't want or need to be on the freeway. Chattanooga wasn't going anywhere, and with the weather potentially soggy I decided I'd once again be sleeping in a hotel bed. I wandered onto 111/US11 which followed the freeway just a few hundred yards to the side but a world apart in sights, sounds, and smells. At a gas station, I met a local officer who rides a Victory cruiser. When asked if 11 would take me to Chattanooga, his reply was, "It'll take you to Canada if you want to go".
Sorry boys, this one's ladies only!
Dusk now quickly approaching, I got back on the freeway. Sure enough, the rain came back with it.
As it started to get darker and the rain was falling more steadily, I realized I'd made the irreversible mistake of lifting my visor to scratch my nose in the rain. Seasoned riders know this is a sin - and one that only the sinner will be punished for.
Water ran down the inside of my visor, and although it didn't fog up visibility was hampered. I had been watching the road between droplets and didn't realize how quickly the state border was nearing. As I looked up and saw it from the left-center of four lanes, my heart sank. I need a picture of that sign. I'll have to turn around and go back...
But the next exit wasn't for four miles. I took it, went over the freeway, and re-entered the roadway in the opposite direction. I thought it would be funny to post a picture in the ride report of another Alabama sign - but missed that one too, confusing it for the exit sign for a tourist information area. Oh well, I'll just take the next exit and get my picture over on US11.
I was crawling along the slow-winding two lane road and motioned to the pickup behind me to pass as I creeped toward the narrow shoulder. He stayed back there, crowding me. I tried waving him past again, but he wouldn't budge. Just then the GA state line passed right by me. UGH! I pulled into the next gravel driveway so I could turn around, and discovered the reason the truck didn't want to pass me was because he was turning into a parking lot a few hundred yards up as well.
Back I go. At this point I hate Georgia. This freaking state is doing nothing for me but causing grief.
I get to it. I park. I hop off the bike for the picture.
The sign sucks.
They put a second sign a little ways up.
"Welcome. We're glad Georgia's on your mind"
I gave Georgia a piece of my mind for a few minutes in my helmet as I rode away.
I pulled into the nearest gas station to get my bearings, a hot cup of coffee, and a Room Saver - a free brochure full of coupons for travelers. The best part is that they give you a map of each metro area with dots for each hotel that has a coupon. Find a good deal, check out their offerings (wifi, continental breakfast, pool) and then find them on the map. I picked an easy $35/night outside of town and set sail.
I could have used a sailboat. It came down in buckets. Sheets. Bathtubs full of water. I was on a freeway in the dark with poor visibility, splashing from cars and trucks, grooved pavement, and huge interchanges as I approached, traversed, and escaped the "city" of Chattanooga averaging 38-42 mph. Mind you, the rest of the freeway was still doing 65 or better.
I gave the "Welcome to Tennessee" sign the finger as I passed it.
I got to the hotel, threw my stuff in the room, and walked next door to the Waffle House for some hot food. Bacon cures everything, right?
Oh - and it stopped raining just in time for me to walk there, eat, and walk back. Go figure. There was lightning and thunder most of the night but I never bothered to poke my head out the door to see if it was still raining.
Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee
And for those o you that haven't seen it, I can be tracked throughout the day here: [url]http://share.findmespot.com/shared/gogl.jsp?glId=0prkGaxNu7TZxuGCWefXtUfZjWkosk1cY[/url]