I ride from one friend’s house to another, seeing still another friend for lunch. Then I take a day off.
Before the Ride
It was a gorgeous day and not a humid as yesterday. With my hosts preoccupied with work and errands, I was able to shower and pack up quickly. Today’s destination was my friend Paulie’s place outside of Huntsville, Alabama. On the way, I would have to pass through (or around) Atlanta, where I have still more biker friends that I would usually visit. I’d made tentative arrangements to ride north of Atlanta to avoid the Metromess. My Atlanta friend, Len, looked at my prospective route and selected a lunch venue.
With the day basically planned, it was time to ride.
I started on SC 418 around the south side of the Spartanburg/Greenville metromess. This road was recommended by my host from last night and it did not disappoint. It had some curve and roll and did not have a ton of stoplights. I was able to get around the Spartanburg/Greenville area and onto I85 west pretty quickly.
I was only on I85 for about 25 miles, just crossing into George, after which I turned of on GA17 northwest towards Toccoa. Those of you who watched the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers may recognize that Toccoa is where the 101st Airborne had their training camp, and that their main exercise (and punishment) was to run up to the top of Currahee Mountain near the camp. While I did not visit the old camp site, I did see Currahee Mountain and I have no desire to run up it.
Leaving Toccoa, it didn’t take long to ride the easy miles west to Gainesville, GA. This was a larger community without a good bypass, so it involved a lot of stoplight-to-stoplight riding. The best part was riding by the Lake Lanier reservoir and seeing the palatial mansions lining the shore. Some of these places had boathouses that were larger than my home in Michigan.
West of Gainesville, the ride got a bit frustrating as both the number of stoplights and the traffic volumes increased dramatically. I had chosen this route thinking that it was far enough north of Atlanta that it would be rural and easy out-in-the-country riding.
I was sorely mistaken.
The ride to Cumming and on to lunch at Canton was a slog. The scenery wasn’t bad, plenty of forested areas and fields of crops, but the traffic density made passing futile. I was simply a slave to the slowest car in front of me. Ugh.
Luckily, I wasn’t too late for lunch at Len’s chosen venue: Marigold Villa in Canton, Georgia. It was easy to find in a converted industrial complex along the riverfront. Now it’s a bunch of shops and restaurants. Being a Wednesday just before 1pm, we almost had the restaurant to ourselves. We both ordered the Spicy Shrimp Risotto and it was fantastic. After gabbing for a good while, it was time for me to get down the road to Alabama.
West of Canton, the traffic density and stoplight frequency problems that I had earlier evaporated. The setting was more rural and definitely hillier. This was much more enjoyable. The only semi-metro area was a ride through Rome, GA, but that town had a bypass that skipped a lot of the stoplight hassles.
During a gas stop, I’d communicated my ETA to my host for this evening. I was going to be a little later than originally planned, but not horribly.
When I crossed the state border into Alabama, I noticed a smaller sign under the big Welcome to Alabama sign:
Entering Central Time Zone.
In making my ETA estimate, I’d completely forgotten about the time zone change en-route. Now, instead of a little late, I was going to be significantly early. In short, I needed to waste a fair amount of time.
The day had heated up into the upper 80ºs (F), and I needed to replenish my fluids and cool down a bit. I found a gas station with a convenience store and a shady parking stop. I picked up some Vitamin Water and a Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bar and bided my time consuming them in the shade.
Back on the road and nearing my destination, I passed by some large bodies of water around the down of Guntersville. In addition to the pleasure craft on the lakes, I also saw barges full of loads. This was surprising to me since I didn’t realize that this lake in northern Alabama would be navigable from the major rivers in the area.
Author note: My host would later point out that the lake I saw was a part of the lower Tennessee river and it was connected to the Mississippi via a few locks. In fact, the US Rocket and Space Center, which we would visit tomorrow, would ship Saturn V rocket sections downriver by barge.
After a last stop to top-off the gas, I navigate the well-pot-holed gravel road to Paulie and Charlotte’s home.
A Day Off
After lunch we visited the museum at the US Rocket and Space Center, where they had an excellent collection of artifacts from all eras of the NASA space programs. It was very cool for a aviation/space nut like me.
The next day, Paulie took a day off work to play tour guide for me. He took me on a thorough tour of the Redstone Arsenal at Huntsville, Alabama.
We took a lunch break at the Big Spring Cafe, where the burgers are renowned for being greasy… on purpose. They were rather tasty.
After the museum visit, it was back to the house for a home-cooked meal. Paulie whipped up homemade cornbread, two homemade pecan pies, and homemade home fries. These would accompany the monster pork chops and baked beans he prepared.
I ate way too much… and it was worth it.
It was a great day off after 1700+ miles of riding over the last several days.
Due to a snafu when my last ride’s track was interrupted by a rainstorm that appeared to cancel the recorded ride, I found that yesterday’s ride and today’s ride were combined into a single track. I’ll include it here for reference. I leave it up to you to realize that this entire ride was split over two days.
I ride over to southern Missouri to pay a short visit to my in-laws. Yes, going north into Missouri is not the direct route to the NMRA convention in the Dallas area, but nothing in this trip has been via a direct route.