Day 4
August 8th, 2017
Holiday Inn Express
Gadsden, Alabama

I slept in a little this morning, didn't get up till after 7.  "Today is a short ride, no hurry,"  as I packed the Moto Fizz bag.
The maid spoke to me through the door.

"Sir you need anything?"

"no m'am, I'm just about to go downstairs."

Lil Red was outside all ready to go.  Again, weather was not good.  Another pocket of rain was out there waiting for me on my planned route through Georgia.  I closed the app, "I ain't ever seen anything like this, I've made 3 week cross country rides and not get near this  wet."

While putting my gloves on to ride out, a black Ford sedan pulled in and 2 ladies got out in a big fuss.   From the words yelled, it was some kind of lovers quarrel.  Next thing I know the trunk went up, and she started tossing luggage out on the ramp, and sped off, leaving her partner standing in the wake.

The desk clerk came running out-

"What's going on?"

"Lover's spat."  I said.

"Well they didn't hafta to do all that"

I responded, "I know it, But I'll say this, quickest drop off a I've ever seen."

I wasn't really sure about the first 50 miles today.  I failed to note which route I rode east.  My goal on this day back in 173 was to visit Mt.  Cheaha and then on to spend the night in La Grange with my dad who was in town working, and riding home the next day.

Those were days 7 and 8 back in 1973, I'll cover both  today.

Leaving the motel I rode down to Rainbow Drive to gas up at the Shell Station I knew to be there.  Finished that, I was ready to go and put this little ride in the books.  Puddles of standing water guarded the edges, testimony to all the rain the last few days.  You don't see standing water in Alabama this time of year.

After studying the 73 map, and the modern atlas, I decided the route I took out of Gadsden that morning was U.S. 278 to Piedmont.  I was trying to get to Mt. Cheaha that day, and failed miserably.  I believed at the time one of the small lines of road through the National Forest would take me to Cheaha.  They were not numbered, or had a name on the Exxon road map, and I lost my way.  I finally gave up and returned to SR 9 and went on to Georgia through Heflin.

I blew it again today when I missed the turn off for 278.  For some reason I stayed on U.S. 431 to Anniston.  Perhaps because I ride that highway from Cheaha every year after I visit the mountain.  The atlas I carried with me on this tour was not very detailed, and it caused me problems.

Just west of Anniston I pulled to the side of the road to check the map, I knew I was wrong, but I also knew I could pick up U.S. 78 east of Anniston and get back on route.  Turning around and going back to the correct route of 1973 would mean 60 miles extra.  This was the only time the entire trip I left the route for any length of time.

The gray, damp weather was still with me, but at least it wasn't raining.  Anniston now has a new by pass around the city, that effectively saves a long rider 30 mintues by not bringing him through the heart of downtown.  Nice.

Back on course I piloted the CB to Heflin where I went to SR 46 and the ride turned very rural.  East Alabama has some nice rolling hills I'd forgotten about, but on this soggy looking morning I recieved a nice reminder.  Alabama is a warm, and green place to live, and this year even more so.  It looked like Ireland the last few days.

"Alabama is a warm and green place to live, and this year even more so.  It looked like Ireland the last few days."
The CB 1100 rumbled along the Alabama landscapes over rolling hills and valleys.  Old bridges elevated the roadbed over bubbling creeks, full from the abundant rains.  I kept a slow pace as I passed into Georgia.  One of the things I did remember from 1973 was the town of Bowdon, Georgia.  I passed through many southern towns, but Bowdon stuck in my head.  My mind told me it had a distinct small town business district.

When I arrived in the town, I knew why I remembered it.  The shops were very close to the street.  The place had a West Virginia feel.  I ambled along in the early morning overcast, for a place to take a few pictures.  I found a spot in front of a tatoo parlor.
Downtown Bowdon, Georgia reminded me of West Virginia
My trip was drawing to a close when I left Bowdon, and SR 100 was a fitting highway to put this Journey to the Past to rest.  A light rain began to fall as Lil Red and I headed for home, both literally and spritually.  The road had a few nice sweeping curves and there was no traffic to make thinking hard.

Farmhouses with small tool shops nearby populated the land around SR 100.  I rode under a few tall tree canopies. You don't see that anymore.  States  have deemed trees near the road as dangerous and therefore solved the problem with tree skitters and saws, and in the process removed much of the character of these old state highways once had.

It was a great 30 mile ride into Franklin.  I knew from here it was a short ride to La Grange and from there a quick ride home via Auburn.

Entering Franklin the rain lifted.  I found a con store thing and went in for something to drink.   "To close to lunch to buy anything to eat, so I'll just get something to drink."  I also bought 10 scratch off lotto tickets.   Alabama has no lottery so whenever I pass through Georgia I pick up one for myself, and a few to give to friends.  Top prize on these tickets was 40k.

I was standing out front when a man pulled in to do business with the insurance office next door, but not open yet.  He saw Lil Red.

"Great bike"


"I'm riding a Harley right now"

"oh ok"

We chatted about riding and a few other things.  He was a contract painter currently between jobs.

"look here, I gotta get back Alabama, you take it easy ok"

"you bet"

I threw my leg over the CB, hit the starter and nodded at the man, then dropped into gear and pulled off.  I knew the run  into La Grange would not be much.  I use to do it all the time coming back from the Blue Ridge back in the day before urban sprawl out of Atlanta made it too painful.  Now I return from that part of the country via Chattanooga.

I spent that Monday night with my dad in La Grange and the motel was the Heart of Lagrange.  All my research about the motel came up empty.  No such place exists currently to my knowledge.  The name was correct, I recall it was in the heart of the city, but La Grange is way different today.  With no firm address to work off of, I had no idea where to find it.  I thought about searching out some old timer to see what he knew, but changed my mind with, "not worth the effort."

When I left La Grange that morning my rear tire was showing thread and I didn't even know it.  I never looked once at the rear tire though I oiled the chain almost every night.  I was going to find out how bad it was in about 60 miles.

I-85 north to Montgomery is mega fast.  People run 90 mph on a routine basis.  Lil Red does not like that.  Certainly he is capable of such speeds, but he doesn't like it, so we just did the best we could.

I wanted to make Auburn so I could combine a lunch/ gas stop, but Lil Red was begging so I relented. I stopped for gas at a busy Shell Station on the U.S. 411 exit.  Trucks and cars were everywhere, going in and out of McDonalds, Waffle House and various con stores.  I tip toed the CB around them with great caution.  I pumped in 3.9 gallons, most of the trip.

A short ride into Aurburn followed where I left 85 SR 14 west, it would take me home.  No more route changes.  That was my plan in 1973.  

Lunch was a place called the Shrimp Basket.  The shrimp was good, but didn't care for the red beans and rice.  I called Debbie and reported in.

"Home about 2pm look for me"


The Auburn campus was coming to life with returnng students.  In 1973 that was me.  I was leaving for college a few weeks after my return.

I was leaving Auburn that day when I first noticed something was amiss with the rear end.  I went in a gas station ( that I could not find in 2017) to see what was going on.  It was then I saw my rear tire almost flat.  "I'm losing air."  I rotated the tire and saw the bald spot, down to the tube.  All street bikes of that era had spoked rims and thus tubes.  Mag wheels were still 4-5 years off.  Tires of that time were nothing like the belted tires of today.  You were lucky if you got 5k out of one of those old tires even on a little bike like the CB 350F.  I aired the tire and kept going, hoping I could limp the tire in the last 60 miles.

All of that came back to me as I rode SR 14 to home, another pleasant ride over a old state highway.  The tire went flat again in Tallassee, and again I aired it  up.  "If i can get to Wetumpka, I might have a chance at making it all the way."  My 18 year old mind was cooking up a plot that had very little chance of succeeding. I saw the building where I aired the tire up that day.  It is no longer a gas station,  just a empty old decaying building. 

The skies were partly cloudy again.  But I could see dark clouds in the south.  I passed just in front of them and didn't get  wet.

"In a few miles I'll be near the place where the tire went flat again for good," I said.  I was in a slight curve when the last of the air ran out and the 350 drifted over the yellow line.  An east bound milk truck was coming at me from a distance.  "I can go to the side, or I can ride this out and bring the 350 back over to my line, not critical point yet."  With the rear end acting squirrely I managed to get the 350 back into my lane and off the road.  I set the stand and inspected the wheel.  The tube was now hanging out of the tire.  "I can't air this up again if I wanted to," so started pushing.  I was 25 miles from home.  My plan was to find a place to call ( cell phones were science fiction) home for someone to come get me. 

Trying to nurse that tire 60 miles, probably the dumbest thing I ever tried on a bike.  Lucky I didn't get hurt.

I canvassed the locale for the old store I pushed it to.  I use to know it, but over the years I just lost it.  I knew about where it was, but I wasn't sure that to be it.  "It can't be far from the spot I pulled off, noway I could have pushed a loaded bike very far."

Looking here and there, I took the CB to my best guess place.  I parked the Honda and looked around, and soon as I turned and saw the pond, I knew I had it.  "This is it, I recall this very view."  I looked closer at the old building and could see remants of the ancient gas station.   "No doubt about it, this is it." 

The scene began to juxtpose back to 1973 in my mind.  I could picture myself walking in that door and finding 2 guys, my age, just hanging out.  I asked to use the phone.  They listened in on my converation with a family friend with a pick up, he was at work and could come later.  Like in 5 hours .  

One of the young men asked me- "How much is worth to ya to get your bike back home?"

"5 dollars?"

"ok, I'll bring my truck around."

The 3 of us had no problem loading the 350 in the bed.  I jumped in the back and just held the bike.  We had no tie downs.  "Just take it real easy around the turns I said."  By my calculations we only had to make 2.  We made it back to Hickory Lane without incident.

Lil Red peers at the old store that came to my rescue in 1973.  It took a little work, but I found it.
Short video on SR 14 scene.
Now my ride was over, this is where it ended in 1973, a flat tire 20 miles from home.  On this day the CB 1100 will finally finish that ride.  I loaded back up with my memories of this current ride to add to those of that summer so long ago.  It felt good,  to say, "yeah, I really did this back then."  I recalled how warm I felt when I unloaded the CB out of the pick up truck.  Might not have finished the way I wanted, but I did it.

I noted the miles on Lil Red's trip meter for the ride so far.  "This is where the ride ended in 1973, to be accurate it will be the number I'll work off, to see how  close I get to the 73 miles."  I tapped the number into my notes found on the Iphone app.

To this day, while engaged on 8,000 mile cross country rides, I keep careful tabs on my tires, and check them at least once a day for PSI, wear, and overall fitness.  A lesson learned from 1973.

I returned from that trip ready for whatever my life had in store.  I knew I wanted to take more trips, and ride motorcycles.  I loved those 8 days on the road as much as any glorious cross country ride I'd ever been on.

Riding the last few miles through Wetumpka and then to Prattville my mind stayed busy with things I only think about when I'm in the wind.  All the family and friends I've lost the last 44 years came to mind.  My parents, my 8 aunts and uncles and 4 cousins, all from my mother's side.  I have but one uncle left out of the 9 siblings mother had.  When I was 18 I never took time to think they could die.  " Where have the years gone?" I asked as I crossed the Coosa River at Wetumpka.

The first time I made this ride older folks called me "son."  Now they call me "sir."  I thought about that when I was at the Chicken Shack a few days ago.  How the farmer in 73 called me, "son," and he wasn't the only one.

This little trip confirmed I've lived my life well.  Better than I ever could have imagined when I was 18.  I married a beautiful girl that made me the envy of a lot of men.  I raised the son every father envisioned, did well in my career, and got to retire at age 49.  When I was 18 I could not picture life at 62, a mind that young cannot fathom that much life experience, he is not equipped for it at that age, does not compute, because at 18 next month is a long time to wait for anything.  Now a month is blink.

I came back into East Prattville through Millbrook via a few short cuts I know.  The low growl of Lil Red let everyone in Eastwood know I was home.  I came up my the drive and parked at the back door, and it seemed I passed through a time hole, as if 1973 dissolved and I was back in 2017.  I have to move the Si to get my motorcycles in/out so I left Lil Red out.  "I'll shuffle the rides around later, for now I just want relax."

Debbie greeted me when I opened the back door.  "Hey!  You're home!  "Yessss, in ways I can't even describe."  

I finished the day with 276 miles, and 1172 for the trip.  MPG was 44.4 for the entire 1172 miles, and  Lil Red used 26.6 gallons of gas.

It was good to be home.