Day 1
October 1st, 2009
Prattville, Ala.

It had seemed ages since my last long ride, and I was really looking forward to this edition of the Fall Tour more then any other in a great while.

I was up at 5:30am and ready to go by 6. I loaded the RT the night before so not much to do. I kissed my wife good bye and pulled the garage door up letting a dark night in.  Sunrise was still 90 minutes away.
"I'll call ya in a few hours, I don't plan on stopping anytime soon,"  I said to Debbie.

"Ok please be careful and keep me in the loop"

"you know I will."

On that note I toed the RT into first, and rolled out the driveway.  I took 6th Street into downtown and worked my way across the mostly sleeping city to the West side, where I stopped to fill up at the Chevron station located at U.S. 82 and SR 14. I was 30 miles into a full tank so really no need to stop, other then I needed to sync the low fuel warning on the Zumo with the bike's gauges.

It took slightly more then 3 dollars to top the tank.  "There that should do it, next stop Meridian."  There would be no custom route for today, so I went to the recently found file and tabbed the address for the KOA located just east of Dallas, over 600 miles.  A 600 mile day is a significant ride, no matter how you slice it.  I needed to get to Dallas today to set up the remaining days.  I lost my buffer day because I had to take care of some things related to my part time job the day before, so I had no room for anything unexpected, I didn't like it, but there was nothing I could do about it.
The morning was a cool 50 degrees, and radar indicated a line of rain in the Dallas area.  It was not real wide, but it was quite lengthy, stretching from the Gulf coast of Texas all the way into Kansas.  I was sure to find it, and when I did, I hoped to be through it in short order.

I left the con store on SR 14 in the dark.  The tour would begin with a ride all the way across Autauga County to Selma.  One of the state's thickest deer population areas.  I was in a somber mood.  The day before, a experienced member of the ST forum was killed by a deer near Enterprise Alabama at 3 pm in the afternoon, and to make matters worse a member of my church was killed (on his bike) when a car pulled out in front of him on his commute out the East side of town to MaXwell AFB, a ride I'm sure he had done many times.  He was killed less then a mile from his house. 

Those 2 incidents put a damper on my mood, as I motored west in the dark for Texas.

It seems deer are on a jihad against Long Riders, too many have been killed or injured the last couple of years.  They are like homicide bombers in my thinking.  Knowing I'm not too good to be attacked by one, I kept my speed down to 45-50 miles a hour as I scanned the shoulders for any sign of a beast.  I saw none.  At that speed you have a chance if one jumps you, at 70-80 mph, not much you can do.  I hate deer and wish they could be hunted year round.

SR 14 unfolds over hills and through swamps and timberland as I rode west.  I'm intimately familiar with the road, I've been riding it since I was 15.  The highway also takes me past the homes of old friends.

The sun was rising by the time I arrived in Selma.  The glare in my mirrors made it difficult to check traffic behind me, as I waited out several traffic lights.  The warm rays felt good on my back.  Selma is a dying city, and I don't know how much longer it has.

I left Selma on U.S. 80 heading west for farm country.  I don't ride West Alabama very often, I see it mostly as I come and go on long tours.  The land is fertile and many large farms dot the roadsides.

A east bound trooper spotted me doing 75, but made no move.  The speed limit is 65 on this 4 lane highway.  I guess I was in the margin of error.  I also started a recurring theme for this tour-the screen in the high position.  When the weather is hot, I can't do that, so I sacrifice quiet for air circulation.  The BMW RT probably has the quietist cockpit in all of motorcycling.

The RT took me through the warm and cool layers as I eased up the hills and low spots.  Warm up high, cool low.  I thought about how thermal layers felt but couldn't figure out how they worked.

In Uniontown, the long brick front stores were mostly closed, and the charred hulk of a recently burned down gas station, occupied the main corner.  The town was grim looking and I was glad to leave it in the mirrors.

The highway reverted back to 2 lane and I passed two 18 wheelers in one shot, it was a little closer then I would have liked, but not a bad maneuver overall.

A rusting water tower greeted me in Cuba, Alabama where U.S. 80 abruptly ends and a Long Rider picks up I-59.  After the long ride across West Alabama I was ready to pick up the pace and try to get to Dallas.  I goosed the RT up to 80 mph and dispatched the 25 or so miles to Meridian rather quickly.  "I said I was ridin to Meridian non-stop and I did."
"Time for a break," so I went looking for the McDonalds I know to be here.  Our bus stopped there on the way back from our senior trip to New Orleans, although the building has seen many versions of the franchise in the last 35 years, all I needed the current one to have is WIFI.

A few tours ago, I began to favor McDonalds for butt breaks.  Found in almost all cities of any size now days, it will have place to sit, clean restroom, and something to drink.   I usually get a baked apple pie to go with my break.  I'd just put down 150 miles and was on schedule.

With a good WIFI connection I read USA Today, and caught up on the news.  They also have a excellent weather link, and I looked at a live radar report.  The rain in Dallas has not moved since this morning.  "I'll eventually find it, but I hope it moves more east so as not to hamper my camping plans."  I talked to Debbie and sent Joe Norris a text.  He's coming over to the KOA to take me to supper.  He's the webmaster at ST-Owners.com and does a fine job there.
When I went back out to the bike the sun was really shining down, so I vented out the Roadcrafter and went to textile gloves, and put the Oakleys on.  I love my new sunglasses, they are made by Oakley and called Ducatis designed for riders by riders.  Won't tell y'all what I paid for them.

Back on the road the Zumo directed me to I-20 toward Jackson, I took it and made myself comfortable.
A trooper near Clinton was in the median, causing everyone to hit the brakes in a panic.  I went by him at 65.
I was only slowed on I-20 by construction.

I overtook a metric cruiser from Louisiana that had the bike  was grossly overloaded.  I don't know how he held the bike up.

About halfway to Jackson I remembered the Mississippi State Fire Academy was on the way.  I decided to stop in and do a little thinking back.  It was here I spent the toughest 5 days of my life in Smoke Divers Training.  In was a very physical week, and there were several times I thought I wouldn't make it.  But I did, and now my name came be found on the plague with the rest of my class that hangs on the wall of the administration building.  I'm as proud of that as most anything.

"I remember it was the airport exit," as I drew closer to Jackson.  My memory was good and soon I found it right where I remembered it.  The pine tress still line the way as I made my way down the road and through the gate.  I pulled in the parking lot and went inside.  The receptionist greeted me, "Can I help you?"  "Not really, I just wanna see if my name is still in the hall."  "Oh ok, just go there and turn right."  "Thanks."

A short walk later I found it in the line with all the other classes.  "Guy Boutin Prattville, Alabama."  It has been hanging there for 21 years, as have all the classes before and since.  I was one of the older guys in the class at 33 so my guess most of those guys are still active but winding down their careers.   I think our class was the sixth taught? Feeling good I went back out to the RT and rode around the campus down to the smokehouse and high-rise tower, where I struggled so mightily 21 years ago.  Many good memories came back to me.  I recall the Thursday night before the final check off on Friday, we were all nervous and tense, as we went over last minute battle plans.  You had to finish the course without running out of air, to do so meant failure, and a week of hell for nothing.  My partner and I made it with air leftover, and I'll never forget the feeling as we busted out the smokehouse, "DID IT!"  It was a great drive home.  

​I'm listed about halfway.   One of my proudest moments.
Mission completed I went back to I-20 and continued my ride.  "I'll eat lunch in Vicksburg, I'll need gas by then too."  My low fuel warning came on the Zumo before the bike's warning lit up.  The zumo is set for 220 miles, when it fires off I still have over 1 gallon.

The ride into Vicksburg was routine and I found a busy Shoney's where I ordered some excellent grilled chicken and rice.   Before eating I went to the restroom to wash my hands.  "All this swine flu going around a Long Rider gotta be careful."  The only problem they had one of those blower things that dried hands (and not very well I might add) that's fine but now I have nothing to grad the knob with.  Everyone knows the door knob is the nastiest thing in the bathroom.  I used toilet paper instead.

I put a few notes in the Iphone, checked in with Debbie and let Joe know I was on schedule.  I was forced out prematurely by a overly air conditioned dining room.

When I finished I made a short ride to a Exxon con store called "suds n smokes."  With the proliferation of ethanol almost everywhere, my intent was to stay with the major brands gas as much as I could, thinking they will have more additives in the swirl to  help.  Both of my bikes run ok on the stuff, but they don't really like it.

Finished in Vicksburg I loaded up and kept riding west, crossing the Mississippi River in the early afternoon.  Now I had to get ready to ride all the way across Louisiana, and I wasn't looking forward to it.

About all you can say about I-20 is it works.  It will take you west or east quickly and without too much fuss.  I sang songs in my helmet and contemplated host of things in my mind that had been mysteriously absent since my last long ride.

I saw a coffee vending 6 wheel truck with the name "S&D Coffee" on the side.  It looked too much like the word "sad."  "I'd say having your coffee named Sad is not a good thing," as I came around him.  

It was a long boring ride across Louisiana, and I did it without stopping.  Thank God for cruise control.  I kept checking the GPS, "next turn 200 miles, next turn 180 miles" etc.  It seemed I many never get out of Louisiana.
Finally I arrived at my exit where I sought a place to take a butt break.  I found one in a truck stop named "Kyle's Kwik Shop."  I put 5 gallons of gas in the RT and went inside for a snack.  I bought a Mountain Dew and a Oatmeal cookie.  While I was sitting at table in the Subway section of the store, a tall, white haired man approached me.  "Is that your BMW out front?"  

"Yes it is"

"How ya like it?"

"I love it, it does every thing well"

"I have a Gold Wing, but thinking about a sport touring bike, dang that's a good looking bike.  How many miles you have on it?"

"over 50 thousand."

'Yes sir, that's a nice bike"

And so it goes, it would not be the last time this tour it would commented on.  I seldom if ever have someone seek me out about the Honda.

I sent Joe a text, that read.  "Zumo says I'll be at the KOA at 6:30pm."  "ok" was the response.  I put in a few journal notes, and spoke to my son.

I would have hung around longer but the store speakers had the most god awful hard rock music ever playing on the system and it chased me out.  It was nothing but noise, so I got back on the road.

The GPS directed me back across I-20 into Longview, where I promptly missed the first turn she wanted me to take onto a local county road.  I just plain wasn't paying attention.  The unit recalculated and put me on another county road that deposited me on the west side of town on U.S. 80.

I was still snagged in Longview traffic, and it took too long to clear the city and return to clear running.  The urban sprawl of Longview, White Oak, and Gladewater quickly put me behind the aforementioned 6:30pm arrival time.  The GPS was now saying 7:00pm.

Speed limits on many secondary highways in Texas is 70 mph.  I don't have a problem with that if I'm the only joker doing 70, but letting some of these clowns on a 2 lane road where he can legally do 70 is down right scary.  All afternoon I had cars whizzing by with people on the phone doing 75 zipping past driveways and side roads without a notion some guy may pop in and pop out.

The skies were definitely growing dark in the west, I was closing in on the line of rain that had been waiting for me all day. "I wonder why this system is stalled?"  I asked.

In Mineola I stopped in the parking lot of the police station to check my Iphone.  I zoomed in on the Caddo Mills area but all it could tell me was rain would be in the area.

At Emory I went to FM 515, a nice road over several lakes.  I had to deal with the lake activity traffic the old fashioned way.  I passed them at will taking full advantage of the 70 mph speed limit on 50 mph vehicles.

The clouds in the west were growing ever more sinister.  All around it was raining, I could smell it.  Now the GPS directed me off the highway to a very small local road.  "I hope this thing knows what its doin."  I've forgotten the name of it, but it was narrow, very bumpy and downright primitive.  Deep into the local countryside I went, surrounded on all sides with very menacing weather, but I stayed with it.  A few times the road even turned to dirt, but quickly returned to "pavement" less than a quarter mile later.  The scenery was farms and timber.  If not for the weather, it would have been good riding.  Finally I came to a highway near I-30.  So far my luck had been good with the rain but that was about to run out.

In this picture you can see the leading edge of a front.
I was on a isolated county road in Texas.

Less then a quarter mile I could see a huge wall of rain, and wouldn't you know it, the GPS was telling me to get on I-30 and go that way.  "Man I don't wanna do this, but the KOA is that way."  I proceeded on, and in a very short while was blasted by a thick sheet of heavy rain.  In 2 seconds the Roadcrafter was soaked.  I couldn't see a thing.  It was as if somebody had a fire hose on me.

It was dumb to continue, I couldn't even see the road surface in the dusky light.   The road looked like it had a creek running over it.  It was foolish to continue, but I had no place to go, there was no shelter to be seen.  Luckily, it was over less then half mile.  I took my exit, and rode down SR 36 to the KOA.  Evidence of the heavy rain having passed through here was everywhere.  It was almost 8pm.  The office of the KOA was closed so I did a night check in and went in to put my tent up.  There was no sign of Joe anywhere.

Menacing clouds were everywhere.
The campground had covered sites which was great.  I pulled the RT in and set the stand after a 623 mile day.
I picked up a text from Joe saying he waited as long as he could be he had to get back.  I was disappointed not getting to meet him.  I set my tent up, and set about to assess the situation.  The rain was east of me now, but it was still kind of cloudy and the air looked unstable.  "No card lock it might not rain more, but the radar said there is no rain west of here."  I was mostly confident I'd see no more rain for at least a few days now.

Supper was a diet coke and bag of chips, but that was all I really wanted anyway.  I cleaned off the screen, and took a shower.  After that was over I called Debbie and told her good night.

It had been a long day, but I was glad to be here.