This morning, I awoke feeling as fresh as a daisy — run over by a coal rollin pick up truck. Yep, the morning definitely felt like the sixth consecutive day on a bike. As Mike mentioned, it isn’t so much the legs (although they are weary), but more the soreness and fatigue of exerting from a single position for hours on end.
Usually, only a cup of coffee will get me moving on a morning like this. But today, there was an additional reason to bounce (crawl) out of the warm sleeping bag and get packing. Instead of our usual coffee and oatmeal, Mike had promised me a hot diner breakfast at a little town about six miles along the ride. This was, in part, a luxury, but it was also a necessity as we had been unable to find oatmeal in any quantity small enough that we would want to carry it at our last couple of grocery stops. And so, by 7:30 AM, we were packed and on the Trace.
But not for long, because as soon as we pulled onto the Trace, we spotted road closed and detour signs, which usually a not a good thing when bike touring. All those prayers must still be working though, because the detour pointed us right toward the little town of Cherokee, AL. We cruised along southerly bound for a couple of miles toward town, when we saw the detour sign point to an easterly left turn. Knowing Cherokee to be dead south, we decided to take a chance and ignore the detour sign.
Besides, the weather was beautiful and the sun was coming up over the cotton fields.
Sunrise on the Trace
Within a few more miles, we snuck up on the backside of Cherokee and parked ourselves as the local breakfast spot. JJs is just the type of diner that one finds scattered in small towns across the country, at least those small towns that are still lucky enough to have an open restaurant. Local men loudly opined their views on how the SEC (as in Southeastern Conference, not Security Exchange Commission) selects its football champions to their counterparts seated at different tables and booths throughout the diner. Sticking out, we found ourselves a corner booth and enjoyed the best the diner had to offer. Luckily, at this point, we are not picky and even diner coffee and unseasoned omelets with processed cheese taste delicious. And, Mike even got to have the trip’s very first BREAKFAST PIE!
Breakfast Pie at JJ’s in Cherokee, AL
Turns out, the large men arguing the SEC particulars were part of the town’s fire crew. As they out, they confirmed that they had set up that detour a few days back when there was some water issues closing roads into town. We had made the right call in ignoring the detour, saving ourselves an extra three miles of riding. The day was looking good!!!
And so, even with the breakfast stop, we were on the bike and riding toward Tupelo, MS, by 8:30 AM with six miles and food safely under our belts.
The Trace offered another beautiful day of riding. Although our rear ends were uncomfortable and made us fidgety on the bike at times, the rolling hills kept us occupied and a slight to moderate headwind kept us from overheating. The predicted morning rain never materialized, and we made good time, traveling mostly in silence toward a rest day.
Riding the Trace–somewhere between Colbert Ferry and Tupelo
One of the things that I love most about these trips is the synchronicity we have other, both on and off the bike. On the bike, we feel each other’s effort. Even without looking ahead, I know when the road ticks upward as I feel Mike lean into the pedals and I match him stroke for stroke. When the strain requires down-shifting, I let off and watch as the chain moves left to a smaller ring. Coming out of a downhill tuck, we know when to uncurl ourselves and start pedaling again. There’s no need to say anything. We just know and adjust.
Off the bike, the rhythm is similar. We have a routine for loading and unloading the bike. And we go about setting up camp, making repairs, and cooking dinner without the need to ask where things are, what needs to be done next, etc. We’ve done this so many times that we could do it in the dark (actually, we have done it in the dark). For example, last night, we got a flat in the small tire on the BOB trailer. As I was pitching the tent, Mike pulled the tire off and located the puncture in the tube and the offending shard of glass in the tire. Without saying anything, I walked over to patch the tube (I always do the patching), while Mike wandered off to get us water. By the time the patch was dry, he was back to finish the repair work and I headed back to finish setting up camp. It’s a strange thing to be so in sync with another human being.
But you needn’t fear that we live the days in complete silence. There’s plenty to talk about . . . we just don’t need to talk about mundane logistics very much.
The Trace has various interesting historical markers and points of interest. Although we don’t stop at every one, we use the most interesting ones as an excuse to stop and take small breaks, especially those that also house restrooms and water.
The Bear Creek Mound was built between 1100-1300 AD and used for ceremonial or elite residential use. (I guess the Native Americans also had their 1%ers.)
Bear Creek Indian Burial Mound
At another stop, we ran into another biker–of a sort. A lone biker on an old cheap Walmart bike, with a gallon jug of water on one handlebar and a backpack hanging off the other. When filling water bottles, he inquired about our trip. Turns out, he’d been at Colbert Ferry as well, probably a day or two before us. Before parting, he told Mike, “I gotta get me a lady friend and a bike like that.”
We’d been stressing a little because over the last few days, we’d developed a squeak emanating from the back half of the rig that had been growing increasingly louder over the miles. It was hard to diagnose as it only occurred when riding fully loaded (which means we can’t recreate it at night when we have the time to fix it). We’d been biking along thinking it could be the free hub (bad news if so) or the rear drum brake (also not such an easy fix) or perhaps the rear rack or the BOB trailer. We’d been hoping it was one of these less essential parts, like the rack or trailer wheel. Seeing a guy riding mile after mileon a old hoopdy/hooptie/hoop-d*** bike reminded us to keep these things in perspective and not get too obsessed about chirps and squeaks along the way.
Even so, when we got into Tupelo, we did stop in for some expert advice from Brian at the local bike shop, Bicycle Pacelines. Thinking the likely culprit to be the small wheel on the BOB trailer (which has over 6,000 loaded miles on it), we had Brian take a look. Although the wheel is probably out of grease, it still spins easily, so we bought a new quick release skewer and continued onward to the hotel . . . which meant dinner!
Our plan had been to buy a six pack of beer, order a pizza and watch Game Six of the World Series from the comfort of our king-sized bed. Alas, the pizza joints in this town (or at least those that aren’t Pizza Hut) don’t deliver, so after laundering and showering, we took a short walk through the motel parking lots to The Lost Pizza Co. A popular place, the line was so long and Mike was so worn out that he nearly fell over waiting in line to order. But order he did–two beers, one large salad and one large pizza. YUM!
The Happy Hippie (vegetarian) pizza at Lost Pizza in Tupelo, MS.
And yes, we ate all but three slices of that large pizza. We could have finished it off, but I wanted to save room for the Fro-Yo next door and for a seventh inning snack. Hudson would have been proud of us. We mounded 1.5# of Fro-Yo and toppings into to-go cartons and happily headed back to the hotel, devouring spoonfuls of chocolate, coffee and caramel goodness as we walked.
When we got “home”, Hudson must have had his rally cap on, as the Kansas City Royals royally spanked the San Francisco Giants 10-0 in a must-win Game 6. We made it to the 7th inning, but with the score at that point 9-0, we succumbed to the eight pillows and king-sized bed.
Tomorrow — nothing, or at least, nothing that requires riding the bike!