Day 1
September 4th, 2005
Prattville, Alabama

I was reluctant to start this tour with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still playing out.  Refugees from the Gulf Coast were making their way into Prattville, and it seemed I should put this tour on hold, to see how things would go down.

"Look, go ahead and go, things are only slightly outta whack around here, nothing I can't handle," my wife reported.  "I can take care of myself."  Of that I was sure of.

"Well, if you have a problem call my brother, or Chris."  My brother and son were close by, as were all my friends at the fire department.  I'd been planning this tour for several months, and was looking forward to it.  "Ok I'm in, I'll see you in 12 days when you fly into DC."

I lounged around the house all morning, packed, ran 4 miles and biked 25, to get a few last licks in before going on a training hiatus for 2 weeks.  By 6:00 pm I was ready to go, and said my good byes.  

Because I promised my sister to stop in the next time I passed through Gadsden, I had a late afternoon start.  I was going to spend the first night at her home in Gadsden, a short 140 mile ride north.  One I've done 10,000 times.  It was the day before Labor Day, and I knew things might be hectic, but I guessed everyone was where they needed to be, and would stay put till the following afternoon.

The ST 1300 would be sitting this one out, and I could tell it was really pissed off.  It wouldn't even look at me when I fired the RT up.  The rumble of the boxer twin filled the garage, when I hit the starter, a strange sound for a house use to the whirl of the high tech Hondas of years past.  I reset all the meters and clunked into first.  The RT has a long drop when you press the toe shifter down, and the noise echoed off the walls.  I feathered the clutch out, and went up the driveway and out of the neighborhood.  Good bye folks, see y'all in a couple of weeks!

Debbie followed me to the ATM where I pulled out some extra cash from my account.  "Don't spend it all in one place."  "I won't."  "Yeah right,  just save enough to get to Virginia next week."  A few moments later we peeled off, me for the open road, while she took the route home.  We each gave the other a thoughtful wave at the separation point.

I-65 North was kind of quiet this time of day.  Something about late afternoon rides makes me glad to be alive.  A quick head check put me in the northbound traffic flow, and off I went.

The RT settled on 80 mph, so I set the cruise, and dialed the ESA suspension to comfort.  I left the screen low in the waning hot afternoon of a late summer day in Alabama.

Several cars pulling boats, were going north and I moved around them quickly.  One moment I'm in a guy's rear view mirror, the next I'm in front.

I'd been looking forward to this trip for a number of weeks.  Despite having just returned from the west coast 2 months ago, I had a bad case of cabin fever.  I was more than ready to get back on the road, and to see what adventure awaited me.

Long convoys of military vehicles were headed south on I-65 for the Gulf Coast.  Mile after mile of them.  The response might have been slow to this tragedy, but you can rest assured, the area will get all they need now that we are mobilized.  Lengthy convoys of civilian trucks were also moving south, carrying everything from generators to bottled water.  I predict the world will witness the greatest rebuilding project ever under taken.  The task before our great nation is enormous, an area the size of the UK must be rebuilt and restored.  I'm confident we will succeed.

The rural homes along I-65 looked peaceful, and I wondered how many might be cranking out home made ice cream on the back patio.  The sun would soon dip below the tree line, and I would have no views, other than that of what I could see by my headlight.

Exit # 212 is home to the famous peach water tower.  I took it and went to SR 145.  One of the few roads in Alabama where a guy can ride 30 miles without interruption.  No towns, or red lights between here and Wilsonville.
​The Peach Tower in Clanton
The 30 miles to Wilsonville went quickly and I motored by the huge steam generating plant.  I've been coming this way for 30 years, and always amazed at how huge this plant is.  Steam billowed out the stacks, and I wondered how many make work each shift at this place.

Dusk found me passing the cemetery in Harpersville, and when darkness fell I was in Pell City at a steakhouse I'd been passing for 30 years.  In all that time this would be but my second time to stop.  The first was on the 1100 when I traveled to Eaststoc in 2001.  My first rally.

I took a booth at the window so I could keep an eye on the RT across the street.  Two Harleys sat outside directly in front of me, the riders at a table a few rows away.

The place was busy, and I noticed no one was eating.  NOT a good sign.  My waitress came for my order of chicken and baked potato.  "Look baby, if ya get MY order in ahead of those 2 crowded tables, I'll put something extra for ya on the table.  "You got it sweetie."

The wall near the cash register had 3 deer mounts hanging.  All with nice antlers, that soon was going to play in something hilarious.

My chicken came quickly, before the other tables were even finished putting orders in.  "You did good baby," as the waitress sat my food down.  The chicken was good, and the potato hot.  I hate it when I get cold baked potatoes.  When I finished eating I called Chris to check on a wedding he was suppose to be in.  It was cancelled 3 hours before the ceremony was to begin.  I wanted him to tell the story again, because it was so funny.  "So how come she called it off?"  " She got in a big fuss with him about something, got pissed off, and called it off.  They had just picked up folks who had flown in from across the country."  "Man, that's awesome."  "Yeah, now they all gotta fly back."

I put a few notes in the Axim, and watched the Harley guys leave.  When they went out to the bikes they had to bump start one.  I called my sister to let her know I'd be there in about an hour.  

A line was at the register when I went to pay my ticket.  An attractive, well "endowed" lady with her mother, was 2 up ahead of me.  Two young men in jeans and boots were  between us.  They were laughing and smiling, and I KNEW why, as I looked to the lady ahead of them.  One of them pointed to the deer mounts, and said rather loudly with a coy face, " NICE RACK."  The lady turned around and said in a stern voice, " I beg YOUR pardon."  He pointed at the deer mount and said, "that one has a real nice rack, not that yours is any less, but that joker is ready for prime time."  The lady asked, "is that a compliment?"  To which I came forward and said, "Yes."  The mother came out and said, "Cheryl you gotta learn to take a compliment, relax."  

The meal set me back 6.50 and I gave my waitress 4 bucks for taking care of me.  One of the best 10 dollar meals of the tour.

The RT has some of the best stock lighting in the business, I count six lights in the case, 2 BIG lights and 4 smaller ones.  They lit the construction zones up on I-20 as I made my way among the barrels.  I thought I was in a rodeo with so many to dodge.  The interstate was dark, and big trucks were all around me.  I was glad it was a short ride to Lincoln where I exited for SR 21 and the final 30 miles into Gadsden.

With a new Honda plant in Lincoln, the once tiny town is now a busy place.  I think SUVs are assembled there, but I could be wrong.  

I kept my speed down as I crossed over several lake and river crossings.  The lights of nearby cabins and houses reflecting off the water.  It was a pleasant ride, and one I've enjoyed since I was a teenager.  A portion of the route is on a causeway with water on both sides.   Thankfully, I did not have to dodge any deer.

Rainbow Drive was quiet as I made the last few miles to my sister's.  Past the fast food rows, and shopping centers I went till the turn off for her neighborhood brought me up a short hill, to her driveway.  Janice came out to meet me when I pulled the RT in the carport.

"So you FINALLY did come."

"I said I was didn't I."

"New bike?"


"Its a beauty, what kind is IT?"


" I didn't know they made motorcycles"

"been makin bikes longer than cars I think"

I put down a nice 138 miles for the evening.  A good start to a long tour.

At the kitchen table, I chatted the hours away with my sister and brother in law.  I downed 2 diet drinks, and some pretzels.  I told them good night about 12 and went upstairs, to check my route for the next day.  I wasn't very excited, because I had a long slab ride to West Virginia.  I was glad to have knocked 130 miles off the total already.  My plan is to camp out in Pipestem State Park near Princeton.  I've camped there before and remember it as a good place.

I set the clock for 6 am, I knew better than to count on my sister to get me up for a early ride.