​​​BamaRider



 Day 3
August 9th, 2017
Holiday Inn Express
Meridian, Mississippi




By 6:30am I was in the motel lobby dealing with a "continental breakfast."  That means cereal, cinnamon rolls, and microwave bacon strips.   Biscuits were offered, but too hard to eat.  The CB 1100 EX was loaded and ready to go, I just needed the time to see what the weather looked like.

The area was sprinkled with a few business guys, most looked to be in some kind of sales.  A man that worked for a company that sold elevator parts, had his laptop and phone out.

The weather was warm, humid, sticky, and saturated.  Weather app pointed to scattered rain north on 45 and a few near Decatur.  I didn't know if the rain was the spitting, or the more fluid light rain.  "I reckon I'll find out." was my thought.

I ate a couple of strips of bacon, and a stale bun.  


Holiday Inn Express about 6:45 am.  When the say continental breakfast, get ready.  I have no idea what "continental" means in this application.
At 7:30 am I was churning north on U.S. 45 and wouldn't you know it-  in a spitting rain.  The drops stung my face and I reluctantly pulled down the shield on the Shoei for protection.  Low flying fog shrouded the tops of the cell phone towers I passed (more than few) and I was glad they were not ontop of the roadbed.  Temps were in the high 70s.

Today I was repeating days 5 and 6 of 1973.

A man in shorts, no shoes, taking short strides, was walking in the north bound lane in the middle of nowhere, I wondered what his story was.  Water droplets blew off my faceshield when I turned for a longer look.

Lil Red has bright LED headlights, tailight, and signals, so I was confident I was visible in the fine mist.

The highway dipped and rolled through the Mississippi countryside, and the fog continued to drift among the tree tops.  I missed the entertainment of the Garmin GPS.  Instead had to pay much more attention to my surroundings, and keep a keen eye for route changes, though I had most of the route cemented in my head.

In Macon, old 45 went through the town, but I stayed on the new and skipped around to the east.  At SR 14 and U.S. 45 I was glad to see a Shell Station to satisfy the reserve light blinking on Lil Red's cockpit.  The computer said I was getting 44.8 mpg.  A few gallons less than normal, but the long high speed running had a price.  I bought the CB mostly because I loved the looks, and my plan was/is to just ride it around my home territory about 100 miles a setting, so this ride is a little out of his sweet spot, but he's doing well, and I enjoyed every minute of this little trek.

With a tank full of gas I moved east on SR 14 to head back into Alabama, about 20 miles away.  The highway and landscapes were frozen in time.  I'm sure most of what I witnessed here was present in 1973.  Mostly farms with many acres under plant.  Corn seemed to be the most popular.  Catfish ponds also were spread over the land.  The skies were still dark but no longer raining.

Back in 2007 I came this way on the way back from Texas.   It took me far out of the way, but I felt the need to.  Today this visit is part of the total agenda to repeat this ride that had such a profound affect on me.

Soon enough the state line markers lied ahead in the mist, I geared Lil Red down and parked him to capture this important photo.  In my eye it would be the most important of the trip.
Time.  It never stops.   Over the years the brush and trees along the fence line grew.   So slowly you would never notice in a weeks time, or even a month.  A  year?  Maybe.  As you can see here, the weeds along the 73 fence line had a few trees in the mix, and left alone for 44 years they grew to obscure the field in the background.  I took a walk to the fence line and the field of grass is now a cornfield.
In this pic you see the gate to the field, visible in the 1973 picture.  The pasture is now a cornfield.
The scene was silent.  A car came by every now and then in the 20 minutes I was there.  With my heart full, I threw my leg over the CB 1100 and hit the starter.  Lil Red's low, distinct grumble broke the quiet air.  In 1973 the CB 350 Four went on reserve quickly after I left the marker.  I distinctly recall I might run out of gas before finding something.  For this part of the country, the area is remote.  In Alabama you are NEVER more than 5 miles from a gas station, but here I hadn't seen any since I left Macon.

I went pass an old country church, and though I did not remember it, I was sure it was here in 1973, meaning the adjoing cemetery has a lot more occupants than it did back then.  The road had a few holes, and heaves but the compliant suspension of the CB worked fine.

A stop sign ahead came into view and I backed off the throttle and came coasting in to the intersection of SRs 32 and 17.  It was here I found a gas station to fill the 350 with 40 cent a gallon gas.  I was relieved when I found it.  After filling up the Honda I bought a coke and sat on the north side of the building on a milk crate.

I pulled into what was left of the building and shut the CB down.  "I drank that coke right there, and looked out over that field yonder." " I bet I struck a handsome figure back then haha."  For some reason that image stuck in my head.  My riding gear back then?  Puma sneakers, a football jersey thing, and jeans.  No gloves!  Nobody on the street wore gloves or any extra item for that matter.  


The old store at the junction of SR 32 and 17.  The island for the gas pumps still visible in the front.  I sat on a milk crate and drank a coke on the the long wall.
​Short video of the scene.
I l left the old store and headed north toward Carrollton on SR 17.  The day was still drab and gray and Lil Red rolled along at 65 mph.

IIn Aliceville, the American Army during WWII operated a large prison camp.  German prisoners were sent here to wait out the war, where they were well fed, given medical care, and housed.  They had it better than most German civilians back home.  They worked the nearby cotton fields and other crops.  I stopped to survey the area and wondered what the Aliceville population thought of having more Germans than residents in their village.  I'm sure they looked at as doing their part for the war effort.   My guess is the soldiers on garrison duty were smitten by the local young southern girls who lived in a town where most of the young men were away.  Some guys just born with all the luck I guess.

​When the war was over a few of the German soldiers asked if they could return to live after checking in back home.

The county seat of Pickens County is Carrollton, famous for its ghost in the courthouse window.  I came into the square and rode around to the northside, and parked Lil Red to get the obligatory picture.  I saw a cowered looking black lady going in the judical annex I was parked in front off.  I called out to her-

"M'am you live here?"

"Yes, and work in this buidling"

"So how many jokers in a day come in here and look at this?"

"About half a dozen"

"really?  

"shoot, sometimes in the Fall we have 10 or 15."

The county has one of those scenic view finders mounted in the sidewalk for the guys that just have to have a closer look. II skipped that part.  If you wish to learn the story of the ghost window google "Pickens County ghost window."
The ghost in the PIckens County Courthouse window.  Kind of hard to see, I had the Canon Powershot fully zoomed in.  I took this pic from across the street.
I looked for the window in 1973 but failed to find it.  I don't think they had it marked back then.

A few miles after leaving Carrollton I arrived in Reform.  I'd been on the road a few hours and was at 100 miles so it was time for a break.  There was no McDonalds but there was a Jack's, located on U.S. 82 a half mile east from where 17 intersects.  "This will have to do."  Outside a early text message, not spoken to Debbie this morning, so I needed to check in.

"No this is nothing like a cross country ride, much more low tempo.  Heck, from here I could be home in 3 hours or less if I wanted to."  U.S. 82 goes straight to Prattville, about 140 miles East.

"So where will you be tonight?"

"Gadsden"

"you gonna see your sister?"

"yeah thats the plan, and home early tomorrow afternoon"

"Ok"

I only had a Coke, anticipating lunch in Fayette, only 30 miles away.

After a long break, I rose from the booth with the Shoei in my hand, when a tight lipped, mostly gray man spoke to me.

"heading out?"

"yeah I need to get north"

"Thats a really nice bike you have, reminds me of back in the day, I'm riding a Harley now days, but I cut my 2 wheel teeth on a Honda."

"alot of guys did"

"you keep it safe"

"always"

SR 17 North of 82 was a nice ride through the Alabama countryside.  The state is even more green than usual, lit has been an extraordinary wet summer.  It has rained a couple inches a week at my house since early June.  A persistant weather pattern has been dropping water everywhere this year.  

The homes along 17 were simple.  They were quiet, lonely places from the outside, and I felt Lil Red and I were being treated to what Alabama is really like.  I've been so many miles, and  places since the day I last rode down this road.  I never thought I'd come close to doing all that I have.

A pulpwood truck, lumbering up a incline snapped me out of my trance a few miles later.  It was good while it lasted.

I made a wrong turn at the SRs 17 and 96 intersection, and found myself in the small town of Milport, a sedate looking place on this cloudy, damp day.  I rode down Main St, and found about as many closed as open shops.  I was sure they'd be signs pointing the way to Fayette.  I was right, but the sign I found was directing me to go back the way I came.  I complied and doubled back.

For some reason, Millport reminded me of the villages I passed through in Pennsylvania or Ohio.

SR 96 leading into Fayette was more excellent riding.  A few sweeping curves, but no leaning, road too damp.  All I knew about Fayette was the BBQ I ate at a shopping center somewhere in the small city.   It was called Bob Sykes.   I was not very optimistic I could find it.  I was sure it was no longer in business, but my hope was just to find the location.

I guided the CB over a few RR tracks, and past a row of auto shops and dealers.  It looked like it was going to pour rain at any minute.  A man selling fruits and vegetables under a row of trees near a playground looked old enough he might remember the Bob Sykes.  I came off the road to him.  

"Sir, do you recall a BBQ place called the Bob Sykes?  From a long time ago"

"I'm not from here."

It made for a short conversation, but a mile later my luck changed.  Soon as I saw it I knew it was the shopping center the Bob Sykes was located.  "This is it, I recall it all now."  All it took was a sample and the rest came easy.  "It was right here, this end of the shopping center."   The last thing to occupy the space seemed to be a sports grill place.  "This has to be it, it is right on my path, and the BBQ joint was easy to see, I would not have strayed off my route looking for a eating place."

The Canon recorded the accomplishment of finding the shopping center.  From there I doubled back to eat lunch at the Sonic.  Wasn't impressed with the few local places I saw.






The old shopping center in Fayette was easy to find.

Smiling, I climbed back on the Honda and rode north out of town on U.S. 43.  The next 40 miles into Double Springs I wasn't sure about.   My notes from that day didn't have any clarity on what route I took to the town, located a few miles from the Bankhead National Forest.   I narrowed to the one I thought most likely.  I was sure I rode through Winfield, not in my notes, but just someting I remember.  

By studying the 73 map, I was 65% sure I took U.S. 278 Double Springs.  

Soon after entering the area a light rain started to fall.  The unfaired CB offered no protection from the road spray of the passing trucks, forcing the Klim riding gear to earn its money.  I was thankful the temp was 80 degrees, the only thing that makes this kind of weather worse is cold.

Double Springs sets on the edge of the Bankhead National Forest, and I recalled it as a nice place.  My memory was correct.  The small city is home to large oak trees and well kept older homes.  I went to the Shell station on the corner to fill up.  The CB consistently gives 175 miles per tank before reserve starts to flash.  

With water dripping slowly from the store canopy I pumped my gas.  A man in Mercedes sport coupe was gassing beside me.  He peered between the pumps and said- "Thanks a nice bike."

"Thanks, I'm proud of it."

"you should be, its not everyday you see a bike like that"

I was surprised to see so many people that appreciate a classic design.

The towns of Double Springs and Moulton are connected by SR 33 via the heart of the Bankhead Forest.  I was positive that was my route.  My notes confirmed the route as did my memory, so the rest of today's route was solid.  The rain let up, and I even had a little sun, that lifted my spirits.

Lil Red is 6 speed with the final gear a nice overdrive.  With 6 speeds a gear indicator is downright essential.  I constantly looked to it for guidance.  A few times I forgot I had a 6th gear but noticed the indicator I could go up one more.

The Ranger station north of Double Springs popped up out of nowhere, "hey there's a ranger station, what better time to get my 10 dollar Senior lifetime pass now that I'm 62."  The guys on the ST forum had mentioned the price was going up to 80 end of August.  I tried the website but it was bogged down in traffic, but that would not be a problem at this lonely park HQ in a obscure national forest.  I pulled Lil Red up to the visitors parking and went in.  

"This where I come for the senior pass?"

"Yes sir, fill this out and I'll need you're ID," the lady said.

"So you don't believe I'm 62?"

She looked at me with a confused face, "well not that, I just needed your address."

I handed it over.  "Look here, I'm out of the hard copies, been a run on the passes, but this paperwork will get you in anyplace you need, I'll send the hard copy soon as I get them."

"That'll work."

It took a few minutes to do the paperwork.  I was still damp from the rain so didn't want to sit down on the cloth bound chairs.  When I left the office a warm sun was beating down.  Again it was terribly humid.

The ride through the national forest was a trip highlight.  Tall trees, and lush green on both sides of the highway.   SR 33 twisted through a few elevation changes and I leaned the CB at nice angles.  The CB final drive is chain so no shaft drive lash as I worked the gears in the curves.  As good as I am on shaft drive bikes (since 1978) I can never be perfect working the transmission.  Lil Red has the new power assisted Honda clutch, together with the traditional flawless Honda gear box, makes the CB 1100 EX one slick shifting bike.  The best I've ever seen.

Exiting the forest a long run out into Moulton is all that is left, ending at the courthouse.  In 1992 I had a baseball team in the state tournament here.  The only time I've been in Moulton since the summer of 73.  I picked up SR 24, a 4 lane road to Decatur.  The skies were growing dark again.  On the open road I brought the CB 1100 up to 75 mph and it felt good after all the 65 mph riding.

My task in Decatur was three fold.  Find the Holiday Inn I spent the night at, the Shoney's I ate supper that night, and the scene of a picture of nothing really.  I was riding out the next morning and had 1 picture left on the instamatic 110, and noticed a drug store in a shopping center and said, "now would be a good time to buy some new film."  So dove off in the shopping center.  On the way out of the store I took the last picture just to get rid of it, and load the new cartridge.

In 1992 my team was in a hotel right down the street from Holiday Inn.  It was located right on the end of downtown, but on this day I could not find it.  Decatur is a busy place downtown, and I was glad I was on a small, easy to ride bike, with no radiator baking my legs in the congested traffic.  I went all over looking for the motel but no go.  "They must have torn it down."  I saw many new buildings.  After all it had been 20 years since 1992.   But maybe it was still there under a new name or transformed into a office building.

I left downtown and rode out on U.S. 31.  It was time for a break, and when I saw the McDonalds I took it.  Two oatmeal cookies, and a Coke later all my emails were read, texts returned.  I pulled the weather app.  A heavy rain lay ahead.  "Not good, right on the way to Gadsden."  I mulled over the options.  "Well maybe I can squeeze by before the line finds 31."  Next I rushed out to the CB, "I hope nobody wants to stop to chat with me, I gotta go!"  Nobody did.  

U.S. 31 south out of Decatur is choked in urban sprawl. Much more so than in 1992 never mind 1973.  The Shoney's buliding is probably still around but again, remodeled into something like a pawn store with noway of ever noticing it use to be a Shoney's.

Back in 1973 I ate supper at the Shoney's, and I'll never forget the 25 something waitress with blue eyes that waited on me.  She was a big flirt and had this brand new 18 year gushing.  She knew I was just a kid.  I told her I was on a trip, and from Prattville.

"where iszat?"

"near Montgomery"

The shopping center came to me just like the one in Fayette- when I saw it I knew that was it.   "That's gonna be the shopping center, and the drug store is where that Dollar General is at the far end."  I went in and took my picture, trying recapture the scene from 73.  










 The red topped buidling in the 1973 pic is a Burger King.  Today it is a Papa John's PIzza.
On the south end of Decatur I saw a heavy rain squall moving to me.  I looked around and saw a shuttered old bank, with the drive in teller windows.  I left the road and pulled Lil Red under the drive through in a nick of time as the bottom fell out.  The storm passed in 15 minutes or so.  I spent the time with Debbie on the phone.


When the storm lifted I finished riding out of Decatur on U.S. 31 South.  My next target was Cullman, Alabama and Ave Maria Grotto.  A Holy Land in Minature, created by a abbey monk at St. Bernard's.  It took him many years to complete it.  I stopped to visit in 1973, but today I don't see the need to  do that, so just doing a fly by.

The skies went to partly cloudy, but radar noted a small pocket of rain was in the Gadsden area.  My sister doesn't know I'm coming so not sure what I'm going to find when I get there.

The ride down to Cullman went quickly, 31 is mostly 4 lane and I made good time.  I wasn't sure exactly where the abbey was, but I figured it would not be hard to find.  I remembered it being close to the business district.  I fought my way in the stop and go traffic of Cullman but saw no sign of the abbey.  I made a few turns looking for something familar but had no luck.  Then I saw a sign, pointing the way to the Grotto, it was a few miles east on U.S. 278.  

The entrance was not  where I thought it should be.  You had to follow a short drive through the campus, somehow I thought it was right on the highway.  The tricks your mind plays after 44 years.  However the gift shop building and Grotto were just as I remembered it.  I took a few pics and moved on.  "It's getting late and I need to get to Janice's house."  In 1973 I arrived around lunch time on a Saturday and stayed till Monday morning.  Taking a day and half off the road.  It was a nice break.
I didn't take any pics of the outside in 1973, but I took a number of them inside. I posted 2 below.
In 1973 U.S. 278 was a 2 lane highway across Alabama, today it is 4 lane most of the way, like Cullman to Gadsden.  I rode out of St. Bernards with my final destination of the day in sight.  The ride into Gadsden was uneventful 40 miles, but pleasant.  I kept an eye on the dark clouds to the south but it looked like I would make it in without getting wet.

Like the roadside table at the Mississippi-Alabama line I stopped at one on 278 in 73, but this time I had no permanent marker to help me.  Best I could remember not far west of Gadsden.  I kept scanning for the possibilities but could not locate anything definite.  Finally I took a guess.  "This could be it, but I don't know, it will have to do."  It was time for another then and now shot.
The car in the 1973 photo looks like a 71, or 72 Malibu.  I had a 72 at home.  
Back in 73 I had a hard time finding my sister's house.  It was only my second time to visit, and I came into town from Attala, entirely different look than the more south I came in the first time.  This time that would not be a problem.  Over the years, I've spent a lot of time in Gadsden.  I know it as well as home, so when I came in on this day I knew exactly what roads I needed to get to the other side of the city.

I picked Lil Red through the Gadsden traffic.  That summer Gadsden was a bigger place than Prattville, by a nice margin.  Today the opposite is true.  Gadsden has been in decline a number of years while Prattville has been moving up.

I left Rainbow Drive and went into my sister's neighborhood, and turned into her long driveway.  Nobody was home.  Calls to her cell went to voice mail.  It is not unusual for me to stop in unannounced, because getting her to answer the phone is futile most days.  I checked a few doors, "locked up tight, she must be out of town, she doesn't much lock doors during the day."

By now it was after 5pm.  "I'm going to the Holiday Inn Express and spend the night.  That was a short ride.  At the hotel a busy front desk checked me in best they could.  "Thanks for your patience."  "No problem I don't  have to be anywhere."

"you want to park your bike under our cover?"

"That would be great, I'll be sure not to park it in the way of anything."

I finished the day with 340 miles.

My room was on the 3rd floor, and a Cracker Barrel was just a few feet out the front door.  I threw my stuff down on the bed and relaxed.  It was then I noticed I wasn't hungry.  "I'm going to skip supper and just hand out."

Lil Red had no plastic to debug everyday, so I was able to skip that evening ritual.  All I had to do was clean the Shoei.  I liked that.

My intent was to watch TV a couple of hours on my Iphone.  I took a shower with that in mind.  When I finished I got out my Iphone, but right away I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it.  Too sleepy.  So at 8:30 I turned everything off and went to sleep.

Next - into Georgia and home.