Posted by: twistsoffeet | May 26, 2011

I Dedicate This Post To…

It was a beautiful morning for a ride.

I had slept well, showered, and overfed last night, so I was ready to have a great day. The first five miles were pretty level, a little up and down but very tame. Then, I saw the beast of my nightmares.

Riding Hwy 431 north out of Gadsden, AL, is a monster just waiting to devour any unsuspecting cyclists who dare to attempt it.  If you like climbing on your bike, and are not weighted down with four months of protein powders and waxy maize vitamins, and other sports supplements that I have chosen to use as my nutrition, I am certain you would still dread this hill and possibly it would spank you.

However, if you are touring and pulling a trailer like I am, it would make you want to run away and hide screaming in fear the whole way. It is four miles of 7% incline. The big rigs were all in low gear going up and down this mountain. Due to traffic concerns, I did it in 200-300 yard sections before getting off on the soft shoulder and resting. It is a multi-lane divided highway but, and here I must apologize to the majority of Alabamans who do not fit into this category, today I had the misfortune to meet on the highway the low life ignorant uneducated two celled life forms barely one step out of the primordial ooze and slime that the rest of this planet’s life left behind millions of years ago.

They would pull up right on my tail and rev their engine and honk at me, even though there was another empty lane for them to pass me totally available. They would yell their comments at me and I did just as those who know me would expect. I advised Bubba and Sadie May and the rest of these cretin Mo Fo’s  exactly what they could do all while saluting them with my middle finger.

Probably not wise but I tried to play nice and they would not let me.  None of them had the bull parts to stop and take a shot at the action, which is probably a good thing for me in many different ways.  Whew… I needed to get that out and off of my shoulders. Like I said, this does not represent the majority of Alabamans I have met who are intelligent, sometimes well-educated, and almost always friendly and helpful.

So today I dedicate this post to my new friends who are the exact opposite of those I described as lowly. I will mention a few by name, then tell the story.  Bobby Carter of Albertville,  AL, Brent Breland of Albertville, and McRae Benefield, President of GSM Steele and Mechanical Contractors.

After reaching the summit of the Hwy 431 beast, I flew down the other side.  I tried to go slower, but I just wanted to get away. Bobby Carter was in his car, and saw me and decided to turn around and try to catch up with me.  I finally reached the bottom of the hill, and stopped to rest and let my brakes cool down.  Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me and looking, saw a car and a man in his mid 60’s walking up to me.  Bobby shook my hand opened his wallet and handed me $10.00.  I looked at him and asked why he then asked me to ride my bike for him because he was just plum too old to do it himself and it looked like I was having too much fun.

Bobby told me his story: never married, he was in the first infantry regiment out of Fort Hood in Vietnam in, I believe, 1966.  He said I was riding my bike faster than he rides his Harley. I actually topped out at 37 mph. Bobby and I chatted for a while and he is certainly one of those characters I have met on this trip.

I finally got back on the road. I continued on for about 17 more miles, finally stopping ad resting in Albertville, AL.  After resting, I started off and made it about 100 feet before the tongue or hitch bar on my trailer snapped off.  I was devastated by this potentially trip-ending mishap. I pulled everything away from the road, when who should ride up on his Harley but Bobby Carter.  He wanted to chat but I had to concentrate on resolving my dilemma.

Suddenly Brent Breland drove up in his truck and asked what the problem was as he looked over my rig.  Finally, he said, “Well… let’s get it in my truck and take it to my shop across the highway!”

I said goodbye to Bobby and followed Brent over to Danny Thrash Motors in Albertville.  His guy there was not able to help me, so Brent took me over to GSM Mechanical Contractors, a couple of buildings away. We were speaking to some of the workers, who were, by the way, great guys, when McRae Benefield walked up.

It turns out he is a bicyclist who did a 18 day tour through Louisiana and he had seen me on the beast earlier and just had to come out and meet the crazy guy he had seen earlier. We all looked at my bike and discussed several different options.

McRae told his guys to fabricate something that would repair my trailer and told them not to charge me. Talk about the good guys in white hats riding up to the rescue– just when it seemed all was lost.  I am deeply indebted to all of these guys who helped me get on the road again and I can not thank them enough.

I finally got back on the road with a fully repaired trailer. Life was suddenly about to get even more interesting and frightening. I was now faced with a 1.5 mil downhill run on a 7 1/2 % grade. It was steep fast, and with a 80 pound trailer pushing me it was potentially very dangerous.  I was about to get an up close and personal meeting with fear and danger. I honestly really tried to go slow.  I pulled the brakes the whole way down, but I just kept building speed. Finally, with about 1/4 mile to go and at about 35 mph my front tire suddenly had a blowout.  I do not mean a somewhat slow loss of air. No… this was a loud bang the sound of rushing air and near loss of control of my bike.

Fortunately, I have good instincts.  I think fast and on my feat and I have experience. I also believe God was looking out for me because this could have been a fatal catastrophe. I was able to slow my bike down, and with great difficulty keep the rubber on the road until I was able to stop.  I was able to throw on a new tube and get back on the road, but it was getting late. I was in Guntersville, AL,  surrounded by tornado devastation.

I was unable to find a place to camp, so I went to the police station. They suggested a county park across the bridge on the Tennessee River. I went there, but it was destroyed and posted no camping. Riding down the road, I stopped at a Petro station and asked for suggestions and they suggested Honeycomb Campground, another six miles down the road.

I headed out, but the sun was beginning to go down.  I finally arrived at Honeycomb, AL,  just as it was dark. The staff is friendly, and I do have access to a shower and commode and both are immaculately clean but 19.08 to pitch my tent is a bit steep. Nonetheless I really had no choice so here I am in site #3 sweating, in the Alabama night humidity.

The air is still right now, but I am afraid that will change.  The police in Guntersville warned me that late tonight the storm system  that hit Oklahoma and Kansas was expected to arrive here and tomorrow is supposed to be very stormy. I have scoped it out and I think my best bet, albeit not a really solid option, is that if I hear the freight train roaring down on me I hopefully can make a mad dash for the bathroom building. That building is at least cinder block and probably the most solid building in the area.

Nonetheless, my prayer is that the whole storm system  just goes away and all of this destruction is over, not just here but around the nation.

I have now ridden through close to 300 miles of nearly constant signs of tornado devastation.  The destruction that is out there is unbelievable, and my heart goes out for all of those who are suffering through it.

I am going to end this here with thanking my new friends and all of the good people of Alabama I have met who are kind, friendly, and helpful to this stranger. Thank you, every one of you, for making my experience as good as it has been up to this point.


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