Sweet Home...


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May 31, 2002
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Dereham, Norfolk, today...
11th March

I wake at 0600, feeling like crap – again. No cyber-nagging today (out of mobile coverage :thumb) – but I decide I’ll find a doctor today…

A few miles up the (excellent) back roads, I come across Dozier – and it’s well named – a sleepier little town would be hard to find ;) There I find the Dozier Family Health Center.


I drop in & I’m seen very quickly by Carol Morrison, the doctor. She gives me a thorough examination, a blood pressure test, a Cortisone (sp?) injection, a prescription for anti-biotics (I have bronchitis) and a bill for $75 (current exchange rate = 23p). She also gave me some anti-allergy pills she had on trial :eek – I take one immediately, and another at 1700. They promise to be non-drowsy – I can vouch for this – I feel completely wired :D

I continue North towards Cheaha State Park, which Jeff recommended as having some good roads (and some HILLS! :D). The roads are splendid – well surfaced, dry and twisty. It’s 70º F and the bike’s going well (or is that the drugs?) – life is good…


I overtake a truck and notice something come past me – I check my mirror in time to see the compass I bought at Daytona burst in a shower of plastic as it hits the ground at 85mph… Poo.

I stop at the next town, Union Springs, to get my prescription filled ($68 – current exchange rate = 20p). The town is a pleasant, but apparently dying, little place. Back in the 50s I bet it was like the place in Back to the Future, but now it’s deserted, with many of the shops on main street empty (listen to the lyrics to ‘My Home Town’ by Bruce Springsteen – that’s Union Springs).

However, they have an English Pointer statue in the main street (the town holds regular gun dog field trials), so they get my vote…(English Pointers in the UK are trained to keep their tails parallel with the ground when pointing, whereas in the USA, the tail is meant to be vertical. So now you know.)


As I ride on through some fantastic hilly (but poorly surfaced) back roads (through Cheaha State Park – the highest point in Alabama), I notice some smoke on the opposite hillside and stop. The woods here are dry as tinder, and small fires can soon get out of control (this is also happening in Florida as I write)…


…a little further down the road, a fire crew is packing up – I tell them about the fire and they resignedly take details & thank me, before heading off in that direction, looking very tired…

In the middle of nowhere, I happen across a cemetery. I don’t know if there used to be a community here, or whether it’s local custom to bury your loved ones in the woods, but it seemed like a peaceful place to see out eternity…


I eventually get tired (or the drugs are wearing off :D) and find a Super 8 motel in Talladega, and start taking more drugs… I turn on the TV and find that they’re showing the Blues Brothers on Turner South – Cab Calloway – Minnie the Moocher – epic! :thumb

12th March

What a great day. I woke after the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks. I’m amazed at the effect that the injection & anti-biotics have had in under 24hrs. The only downside will be that I’ll have to tell my girlfriend that she was right…:(

I pack the bike, avoid the ‘Complimentary Continental Breakfast’ (which comprises re-constituted orange juice and pre-wrapped ‘honey buns’ :barf) and I’m on the road for 0900, heading North towards De Soto State Park. As I packed, I managed to destroy the zip on my wash-bag, so decide to treat myself to a new one. Or rather try to. It seems that Americans don’t use wash bags. I eventually track down a bag, which, I have a sneaking suspicion, is actually meant to be used for cosmetics… At least it’s black. :rolleyes: I ask at the counter if they have a photocopier – they don’t. The chap next to me, Joe, immediately offers me the use of his. His office is across the street (he’s a psychologist, it turns out – not sure how I should take him approaching me :D). I go with him, do my photocopying whilst chatting to him about a trip to the UK he’s doing next week, taking his 82 yr old mother back to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where she was brought up. He asks what weather he should expect. I look out of his office window at the cloudless calm day, already 65º F and not yet 10am. ‘Not like this – you might want to wrap up a little warmer’. I recommend him the crab sandwiches at The Jolly Fisherman at Craster and we say our goodbyes. Another example of superb American hospitality.

I ride through some brilliant roads. The scenery is pleasant, but not spectacular, so it’s easy to concentrate wholly on making good progress. The road surfaces are excellent, dry and I’m keeping a fairly steady 85-90 through the 55mph limit :D. The bike’s really performing well after its service and the new tyres seem to be doing the job fine – the bike seems every bit as sure-footed as when it was shod with Tourances (although I’ve dropped the front tyre pressure from the 42 recommended by Bob, to 36, as I was running on the previous tyres …).

I enter De Soto Park and I’m a bit underwhelmed. It’s a pleasant enough bit of woodland, but nothing like as picturesque as yesterdays ride through Cheaha… I stop at 1200 at a small, ramshackle restaurant cum new age art shop which looks like it might provide an alternative to Waffle House ‘two over easy and a side of scattered all the way’ (don’t ask).


I sit down and straight away get talking to Jerry and Connie Geron, a charming couple from Huntsville Alabama. They’re up here for a day trip using up a day’s holiday (he has a ‘use it or lose it’ clause in his contract – he works for a firm in support of the International Space Station). They’ve chosen a beautiful day, though there’s a distinct chill in the air, up here at 2000 ft in the hills. Jerry & Connie have a daughter who did 3 months internship near Brighton last year and Connie visited her and was smitten by the New Forest area. They ask if I’ve been to the Little River Canyon – I haven’t, so Jerry goes out to his car and brings me a leaflet showing a 11 mile route which follows the course of the Little River as it winds its way through a gorge. Sounds great – that’s what I’ll do after lunch. We talk whilst we eat our excellent meals and, eventually, having exchanged Email addresses, they leave. I get up to pay my bill to find that they bought me lunch as they left…

I ride down towards Fort Payne and the entrance to the canyon. The road is beautifully and recently surfaced, but, usually just where you don’t want it, there is the occasional pile of gravel in the road. It’s difficult to see as because of the shadows of the trees, so you have no alternative but to ride slowly. Which is no hardship – the views are beautiful.


I ride the length of the road and then the return, as I’ve decided to find a motel in Fort Payne (I’ve checked – there’s no railway line near where the motels are grouped :D). I see a sign I’d missed previously…


Mmm… The road is appallingly surfaced, washboard corrugations, bloody great potholes and tons of gravel – exactly what the GS was built for :thumb. I get to the other end about half an hour later with (most of) my fillings still in place and head for the motel. I check into the Days Inn, have a splendidly unhealthy meal at the nearby Waffle House and settle down for the evening with the road atlas. Where tomorrow….?

13th March

Another good night’s sleep. I’m on the road for 0930, heading towards the Natchez Trace Parkway, a road which leads from Jackson Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Like the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s a road designed as a tourist route – commercial traffic is prohibited. I aim to join it around the town of Cherokee, on the Alabama/Mississippi border, and then ride towards Nashville, where I plan to spend tonight. I’ve programmed a route into the GPS , but I plan to be flexible...;)


I ride through pleasant rolling countryside – the roads are quiet and the weather fine, although it’s not as warm as yesterday. I divert from my route when I see a sign for Natural Bridge. The signs (as with every tourist trap in the USA :D) proclaim it in grand terms…


Actually, it’s a cave with a hole in the roof :p - that’s being a little unfair, it’s quite picturesque…


An added attraction is the ‘Indian Face Rock’. If you try hard enough, you can just make it out – well worth $2.50 :rolleyes:


Further up the road, I stop for lunch at Haleyville, and do a bit of a double-take as I see the sign.


Apparently, Haleyville was the first place in the USA to introduce the emergency number 911 (the equivalent to dialling 999 in the UK). The town sign commemorates this fact. After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the term 911 took on a whole new meaning, and the numbers have been over-painted on the town’s sign…


Still, at least they’ve still got Doug Kennedy to be proud of…

I continue North West until I hit the Parkway. The temperature has dropped quite dramatically – I notice that a thermometer in Colinwood shows 55º F – down from 65º earlier today at Fort Payne. I decide to stop in Lawrenceburg, which turns out to be a small industrial town, which apparently manufactures rednecks and pick-up trucks, if the local populace is anything to go by… I check into the Best Western and settle in for the evening.
14th March

On the road for 0900. It’s a dull, drizzly day and I note with a smile that it’s warmer in London, according to the weather channel… There’s little point in riding in this weather unless you have a schedule to keep to, as you’re never going to see any scenic roads at their best. I decide to ride towards Memphis and stop early at Wilderville, a crossroads in the middle of nowhere.

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