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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Ginger Beard, Oct 7, 2019.
No people = WIN! Just saying, some like people...
It had been a great day of riding so far but as it progressed, so increased the off and on rain. I had a choice of riding in the rain for another hour or so to a legal campground, commando camp or to grab a cheap motel in Opelika. I'm no fan of camping in the rain. I've been there and I've done that plenty of times and being stuck in a tent from 6 p.m. one day until sunrise the next and then having to pack up a bunch of sopping wet gear is just no fun for me. Don't get me wrong, the solitude it provides is wonderful and the metronomic tempo of rain upon the tent roof holds an unparalleled sedation that a hotel will never provide. What a hotel does provide is the ability to start early the next morning, typically a close proximity to food and fuel as well as a chance to wash some of your smelly wares. Can you see where this is going?
I headed to Opelika AL and the second cheapest available hotel in the town, the first of which was only $17 dollars a night. You'll have to trust me when I say that $17 was far too much money for the place... Second cheapest it is. I got to the Motel6 in Opelika just before dark with a moderate rain as my traveling companion. No worries, my jacket need a wash. I went in to grab a room and got to chatting with the man working the counter. He seemed to have a keen eye for long distance moto travel and was the only person on the trip that immediately asked "A 250 ?". Okay sir , you have my attention.
It turns out that Ben , who was from India, had been a writer for a motorcycle magazine back in India and also worked as a motorcycle tour guide. We spoke for quite a while about motorcycles, it's surrounding culture and how that culture can vary from country to country but the bond between fellow riders seems to ignore those regional boundaries. Ben asked me if I was a writer to which I responded "Man, I absolutely love writing and would revel in doing it professionally but as it stands I've never really pursued it." He replied "Well, you have a writers spirit and from one writer to another I'm going to give you a discount on the room.". I thanked him profusely for the kind gesture , gave him my contact information and extended an invite to stay with me in south FL should he ever decide to visit. Hopefully he takes me up on that!!
I went to my room, unloaded then washed a few items. After that it was time to find some food. Mexican? why not. It's hard to pass up Mexican food especially when I can see a full bar through the window. The place had a reasonable crowd but the bar was virtually empty. Bar it is. I got to talking to the bartender and ordered a couple of shots of tequila. He laughed and took a step back when I spoke Spanish to him , responding with a hardy "Hablas Español !?". Apparently crackers that speak fluent Spanish are not too common here and he told me that I was the first gringo that had ever spoken it to him. Within minutes he had introduced most of the staff to me which I thought was kind of funny. Nice guy and he bought me my first round...But not the following 3.
I sat there for over an hour enjoying drinks, food and conversation. I have some antisocial tendencies but I still enjoy these interpersonal moments.
A selfie for my girl.
I retired to my room , called Sarah and then hit the sack. What a lovely day.
I can swing both ways but there's something to be said about being alone with your own thoughts and just doing your own thing whenever the mood strikes. I'd likely go completely nuts without those times.
You sure that wasn't the HOURLY rate for that $17 room at least you made it sound like that kinda place
That thought crossed my mind when I saw the joint but I was assured that it was indeed for overnight. Definitely the kind of place that you roll your bike inside and sleep on your sleeping bag!
A buddy and I encountered such a place north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Rafael, CA. The motel front desk has a window and you slid your payment through a slot. There was a large Hispanic "street gang" (I'll call them) in the lot wandering around. Girls were coming and going out of rooms in bras and panties. My astute buddy called a couple over (guys, not girls in underwear) and offered cold beers. We instantly had about 20 new friends and were told not to worry about our bikes. They wanted to know everything about our travels. We never had any trouble but I still didn't take my shoes off in the room and I think I was wide awake all night.
I'll opt for the wet tent!!!
Had a similar experience years ago. I don't remember much of the night but I do know that it was a good time. I still pushed the bike indoors just so I could sleep.
I woke up early. so early in fact that not only was it still dark out but there was no one in the office and no coffee or free breakfast to be had. I headed back to my room, made coffee on my camp stove and ate a snack, then loaded up the bike. I was on the bike by 1/4 after 7 and hit the road with a rising sun and temps in the low 50's.
Within a few minutes I was on the dirt. I decided this morning to skip the portion of the seat that goes through the Apalachicola National forest in Florida's panhandle. After a brief conversation with Sarah this morning , I decided that there was no better time than the present to do my own thing and explore a bit rather than ride a canned route.
good morning AL and goodbye to the mountains of the south. These foothills would be the last significant elevation that I'd see on this trip.
I'm not sure if it's the locals using this old home as a dump or if squatters had taken up residence in it.
Passing under yet another interstate.
Not for me, thanks!
I love passing under interstates on the dirt. They just don't have a clue!
It wasn't long before i caught up to some of the slime provided by the overnight rains. This clay can be a pain in the arse when it's really wet but it wasn't too bad.
I was starting to get hungry and decided to hop on the blacktop , passing through a couple of small towns in my search. While cruising along a meandering two lane , an overgrown house caught my eye. As I passed it, the place gave me a strange sense of familiarity and sorrow. I rode on for about a mile before doubling back to have a look.
I parked in the tall grass and walked up the steps to the front door. This may seem odd but I felt as though someone was there with me , giving me a guided tour of sorts. There was a galvanic sense of joy and tranquility as I peered through the windows and sat down on the front stoop. I couldn't shake this sensation of having company.
There were several discarded Christmas ornaments out front and more left hanging in the home.
It looked as though the house had been emptied in haste, leaving behind whatever was deemed nonessential.
Around back was an abandoned late 70's Ford Dually that was still in pretty good shape as well as a Dodge Aries, a car that was never in good shape.
The barn was overgrown but also in excellent shape. The more and more that I looked around, the more evidence I found that this home had only been on it's own for a few years.
There was also a small pole barn with a few tools, a relatively new mower and two amazing antique Ford tractors. Imagine that if you leave your cars outside and build a pole barn for your tractors then it must mean these two were something treasured by their owner. I sat on one, imagining running a plow or dragging a disc with it. What a beautiful piece of history!
A few more minutes wandering around the house revealed an old memorial garden as well as a pool and small greenhouse. Whomever lived here was quite handy and clearly cared deeply for this place.
I loaded up and moved on hoping to find food in the next town. the last two were empty storefront and older homes. No stores or restaurants remained.
As I made my way through the following town, it became apparent that i may not be getting food any time soon. Luckily I had a few snacks to tide me over. Just outside of town was a small church with a large tree. Perfect!
The day had warmed up quite a bit and it was nice to sit down in the shaded grass and relax for a few minutes.
i kept staring at this cemetery , feeling the need to go check it out.
I walked through the gate and straight back to this plot. I just stood there staring at it. The name Bowden was the same as that on the plaque that adorned the entry way on the abandoned house outside of town. That same sense of familiarity and company came over me and i laughed, saying out loud "Hey there Bowden family. I was just at your house but obviously you weren't home. The tractors are still there but the place could really use some tending to. " With that I said my goodbyes to the Bowdens and went to wander around a bit more.
Seeing these small markers with a single date always gives me a little lump in my throat.
And another McCraney loss in the same year.
I spent a few minutes collecting my thoughts and figuring out what direction I'd like to go. There isn't much if I were to go due south but there's a great state park right on the river where GA and AL meet. Sounds good. I left the cemetery to the care of it's specters and they left me with a feeling of gratitude for the life that I've been gifted. I may not be a rich man or the most successful in all of my ventures but I've been lucky. I've been lucky in the family and friends I have and in the fact that I'm healthy enough to still do things like ride a motorcycle cross country. Gratitude and a soft smile were now my riding partners. Thank you Bowden family.
It's fairly easy to avoid the highway in this part of southeast AL.
A fork in the road and another abandoned homestead. the makeshift wheelchair ramp tells a story.
Farms and huge homesteads dominate this expanse.
Soon i was riding directly on the border of AL and FL. One side of the road was Alabama and the other my home state. FL, AL,FL, AL,FL.....
This home and it property were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a dense pine forest. It was beautifully serene and I contemplated throwing down my tent right here but decided to press on.
Those old trees, several discarded child's toys and a well worn fire pit out back. This house would keep it's secrets from me but to someone out there it's a memory and a tale of their youth.
These railroad crossing will sneak up on you. I skid to a stop right at the crossing because I was hot shoeing it. Not the way I'd like to become acquainted with a locomotive.
That great orange orb decided to challenge me. Will it beat me to it's nightly rest before I make camp?! Challenge accepted!
After accepting the sun's call to arms and choosing to win the battle against the imminent nightfall, I upped the speed considerably. I was riding Line Rd east towards the Chattahoochee River and running between 75-80 when I caught a glimpse of movement in the woods ahead. I rolled off the throttle and eased into the brakes when all furry hell broke loose. AI was suddenly running alongside a small herd of deer that were feeding just off the road. Now if you've never ridden past a herd of frightened deer then let me describe that a bit. Have you ever tried to move quickly though a group of toddlers that are in the middle of playing, only to have one dart out directly across your path , forcing you to parkour around them lest you get one tangled in your legs and everyone goes down? that's about what this was like. Suddenly a yearling decides to hook left directly in front of me. I had scrubbed my speed down to around 60 mph when it pulled this little stunt which forced me to get on the brakes HARD!! I slid with the front and rear wheels, me standing with my ass damn near over the tail light so as not to endo. That little deer and I locked gazes as it leapt over the road and the front of my bike. It all played out in slow motion and I was so close to the fawn that I could see that it still had grass in it's mouth!
Okay nature, I see you and I get the message. I'll slow it down, sheesh!!
I got to my intended camp site only to find out that it was closed. With few prospects for camping legally anywhere close by i decided to push on into southern GA in search of lodging. Donalsonville, Iron City, Brinson ? Nothing.
I wound up in the college town of Bainbridge where I had the pleasure of being bent over raw for a crappy hotel room. You see it's game night in small town GA and apparently people pile into Bainbridge for college football which is apparently a big deal here.
No worries, the masonry on this church were worth thee price of admission.
I had gotten the last room available in the hotel which happened to be ground floor and in the back. Nice. I started to unload my bike and was scouting my surroundings for something within walking distance. While getting my last few things into my room I struck up a conversation with a group of contractors that were hanging out in the parking lot drinking beer. After a few minutes of friendly banter they asked me if I'd like to join them for a food and a few drinks.
"Sure, why not?!"
And with that I was on my way to yet another Mexican joint with my new friends for the evening, Jed and Snake. Yep, Jed and Snake and they looked exactly like a Jed and Snake complete with overalls , southern drawls and a camo hat. At dinner I offered to buy the first round of tequila which Snake declined but Jed? He was down to get absolutely shitty if need be. We hit it off pretty well. We all got to talking once the food showed up. It turns out Jed is the regional supervisor for a huge crew of guys that service the electrical grid of every airport in southern GA. You see, Jed with the overalls , southern drawl and camo hat has a masters in electrical engineering and Snake? That's Jed's right hand man and he also has a degree in electrical engineering. Never underestimate a country boy!
We had a few drinks, ate a great meal and had a great conversation about life and careers. When it came to certain political topics, we agreed to disagree like some kind of fucking adults while actually listening to each other's reasons for why we think the way we do about said subjects. Miracles happen every damn day!
I reached for my wallet when the check came and Jed calmly said "No man, you ain't payin' ". Wouldn't even let me leave tip and told me to just pay it forward when I get the chance. Both he and Snake were total class acts. I thanked them both profusely for the dinner, drinks and the company before shaking hands and wishing them well. They headed to the hotel while I decided to go to a bar across the street for a nice glass of whiskey before bed.
This illustrates the beauty of good people crossing paths in mainstream America meaning well to others. Bravo.
I headed to the bar and sat down to order a drink. "Jameson double, neat please." As the waitress poured my drink, the man next to me who had a rather obvious neurological disorder , reached for his drink and accidentally spilled it on the bar and himself. I grabbed a fistfull of napkins and started drying up the counter and his phone so that he could tend to himself. He thanked me for giving him a hand , turned to me and said "Sorry , I have cerebral palsy" (something I'm pretty familiar with as one of my good friends and the head mechanic at my old shop had the same degenerative illness). I turned to him and said "No way man, I just thought that you had a really solid head start on me!" holding up my drink towards him in a cheering motion. He and the bartender started laughing and we all got to talking. as it happens, Billy has a degree in graphic design and was pretty successful in his 20's until his illness progressed. Now he works at Walmart, a place that he had to freaking sue in order to garner full time employment. He and two other staff member wound up winning a class action lawsuit that forced Walmart to not only give them some real gainful employment but also full benefits. what a pathetic company you have if part of your policy (written or otherwise) is to keep people with disabilities at a financial arms length in order to pinch pennies. We need more unions in this country and they need to get back to having real power or this garbage will only get worse. At least the judiciary had the backs of these men and did what is right. I hung out with Billy for an hour or so talking about cars and video game character design (other of my past jobs) as well as cracking jokes a yelling FUCK WALMART with him and the bar tender. I decided to head back to my room while I could still do so under my own power and said goodbye to my new friends.
It was a fantastic end to a great day of adventure.
I'm not always so even keel in those situations and have a propensity to give back whatever I'm receiving. These guys were genuinely kindhearted and earned my respect quite quickly. It doesn't always pay to be an asshole.
Yup. My nature is to reach out and shake a hand. I have nothing to hide. This system has served me well for 42 years riding on this continent. It almost always leads to making new friends and shared stories.