Day 3
April 2nd, 2004
Albany, Georgia

I was up early showering and watching TV,  waiting for Ray.  He was coming by at 9am and I was anxious to see him again.  I grew bored so walked to the nearby mega mart store and bought a Mountain Dew.

Today was an important day for me.  My motorcycle adventures are more than just miles and places.  They are my personal connection to the world around me.  My tours are a mixture of riding, sightseeing, exploring, and checking out anything that peaks my curiosity.  I love the freedom my bikes grant me, and I'm addicted to the endless possibilities each day offers when I'm on tour.  Will today be the day I see something I've always wanted like Crater Lake?  Or will it be the day I stumble onto a quiet hill in South Dakota, with a all encompassing private view of the American Plains?  Maybe it will be a day I find a road that leans me in all the angles, and tests my skills to the max.  Perhaps this will be the day of a soaking rain followed by a rainbow over a valley.  And lastly, it could be a day such as this, when my bike and love of riding bring me back to an old friend.
I have never liked feeling rushed on tour.  When planning this day I did not care how many miles I rode.  I needed to spend time with my friend.

Ray's company moved him back to Georgia in the mid 90s, but we stayed in contact and speak frequently, I don't know why its been so long since I came to see him. 
I was watching TV when Ray knocked on the door a few minutes after 9.  I flung the door open and was immediately snagged in a big bear hug. 

Man it was good to see him, it was like we were never apart.

We took off in his car and went down to a local cafe for breakfast.

Ray wanted to know what was going on in Prattville, he named off as many former players as he could so I can fill him in on how he was doing.  He even asked about old coaching rivals, a few had fallen on bad health and it sobered him.

Ray Holder taught me a lot more than sports.  With his employees and players he hated mediocrity, and passed that to me.  He was a shrewd businessman and it showed in his coaching.  He was the best motivator I ever saw.  Our players would do anything for him.  I might have been the brains of the team, but I depended on him to have our kids ready to play.

I looked across the table at him, and thought about all the struggles and pressures.  Of dealing with idiots and people who would cheat kids.  Now, all that is behind us.  I kept the faith, and now I ride the country without a care, and back home my study is lined with championship trophies.

We spoke about Michael Baldwin.  A former player of ours and a good friend of Chris and Collin.  Michael was struck and killed 2 years ago on a Houston freeway when he stopped to assist a young lady whose vehicle was disabled.

After breakfast we drove around Albany.  He took me to a Regions bank so I could use the ATM and not suffer any fees.

Ray is 13 years my senior but I never thought much about it.  I just looked at him as my friend.  We spoke about today being the first day of his retirement.  He said he was ready and wanted to live a slow pace out on his farm.

He returned me to the motel a few minutes after 11.  He had one last meeting back at his office.   He had to turn his pager and phone in, and have the company car changed over into his name, and after that he was going home and get on a tractor.
​Ray Holder.  A true friend.
I held his hand a long time when we shook, and when he sat down in the car I touched his shoulder and said-

"You take care of yourself"

"I will, I want you to spend the night the next time"


Then he backed out and was gone.

I sadly went back inside and started the packing process.  I finished in 15 minutes and turned in my key at the office while the 13 warmed up.  I mounted and dropped into gear then idled out the parking lot to US 82 West.  From there I took SR 300 north.

Miller Brewing Company has a huge plant in Albany.  I went by it on my way out.  

SR 300 was a good road.  The wind was back, but it was mostly a tailwind.  The route carried me past pecan orchards and sleepy towns.  I was loving it.

Todays' routes will primarily be a repeat of the 2002 DC trip.  It was not a bad ride that day, so I didn't mind repeating it.  I knew it had to better than whatever the interstate had to offer.

I will be passing through many small towns today.  I learned long ago NOT to speed in small southern towns.  I took several microwave baths today.

After a quiet ride on 300 I went to SR 30, and US 280.  These routes will take me east across Georgia through a string of small villages.  Hamlets with courthouse squares and old timey hardware stores.  Places interstate goers don't know anything about.
​The Wilcox County Courthouse.  Abbeville, Georgia
McRae was an interesting place.  I was working my way through the small town when I noticed the Statue of Liberty.  The city had a corner called Liberty Square.  It was here the town honored her veterans and war dead.
​Liberty Square.  McRae, Georgia
A few blocks later a local cop was directing traffic.  I saw a long line of cars ahead and nobody was moving.  I eased to the officer and asked through my flipped up shield- "Whats goin on?"   With exasperation in his voice he said, "Them boys on the garbage truck ran off the road and turned over, they ain't hurt, just made a dadgum mess, trash all over the place."  "I reckon I'll go back and take a break while y'all clear a path."  "Be a good idea."
I rode back to the east side of town and found a gas mart, topped off the tank, bought some Dew and a snack, and parked my bones.  I propped against the ice cooler looking at a grocery store across the street.  The wind was blowing really hard and caught 2 carts.  It was pushing them down a short hill, when suddenly they crashed into a parked car.  Man, that joker is going to be pissed I thought.

Two lumbering 18 wheelers working for the same company were moving slowly eastward on 280.  They had 6 cars locked down on the 2 lane highway, which offered little opportunity for passing.  The 13 worked me into the key spot directly behind truck number 2, from here I will able take both.  A few miles later, my chance came and I dropped into 3rd taking both on a short straight with room to spare. 

The wind was really howling again today, flags everywhere were straight out.  I had the screen adjusted down to enjoy the smells and feelings of a cross state ride on forgotten back roads.  The riding was good.

Riding along my thoughts kept turning to Ray, and my own impending retirement.  I can leave anytime I want now, but I just can't make up my mind when to pull the trigger.  A few months ago I though I knew, but not so sure now.  I have a meeting with a counselor when I return, perhaps I will know more then.  But I'll say this, when you have your time in, things look different.  It's a good feeling.

I came across a burned out brick house and slowed.  The roof was burned off, but the brick walls were still still standing.  The interior was 100% gone, a sign volunteers fought this fire.  They are not trained in aggressive interior fire fighting tactics, and normally just surround a house and poor water in.  Can't blame them, but the result is usually what you see here.  I'm sure they did the best they could with limited training and equipment, and they kept it from spreading to anything else, about all you can ask of folks who do it for free.
​The sights and sounds of a spring ride across Georgia.
The campus of Brewton-Parker College is in Mount Vernon.  The school is in the same conference as Chris' school so he spent time over here playing ball.  I can see why he said they didn't like coming here.  Not much to do when the game was over.

Mount Vernon is a pretty town with brick homes on Main Street, and blooming Dogwoods lining the roadway.
I pushed on east through the towns.  Claxton was next, and the fruitcake company was still there.  I wondered just what they do this time of year.  I don't see fruitcakes on shelves till Thanksgiving, but I guess they find something to stay busy, the parking lot was full with employee's cars.

In Pembroke I found a store and eased in to check the map.  My goal for today is a KOA just east of Savannah.  It looks like I will have little trouble reaching it.  I checked messages then moved out.  I took a local road out of town, and headed over to I-16.

The afternoon sun was drifting behind me, as I came down the I-16 ramp at the same time I was bringing the screen up to the freeway position. Traffic was heavy and I worked over to the "fast" lane, and settled in for a quick ride to I-95.  I got bogged down in a construction zone, and when I came out the east side I got so excited I missed the exit for I-95 north.  I saw it, but wasn't able to get back right without cutting someone off.  Not doing that, I'll just play it safe, go down to the next exit and double back.  I can't recall how many times I've seen some joker on 2 wheels or 4, about to miss his exit, then at the last second cut across 3 lanes of traffic, causing brake lights to fire off.  

It was 4-5 miles east to the next exit, before I could turn around.

Nothing ever changes on I-95.  Always thick in cars no matter where you decide to join it.  Vehicles were all around me displaying tags from every state on the east coast.  It is 3 lane mayhem for 2,000 miles.  Oh, what a ugly road.

The exit I need is about 40 miles north of where I'm at.  Only problem was dark clouds loomed in that direction.  I noticed south bound cars had their headlights on, not a good sign. I kept riding north and it started to get really dark, so I sized up the situation.  I needed a weather report.

I took the US 80 exit and went to a Super 8 motel parking lot and called Chief Gann in his office back home.  He reported back-

"large thunderstorm parked over Savannah right now, raining most of the night but moving out by morning."

"ok thanks"

Decision time, but it would be an easy one.  It would be nice to work a few miles closer east, but that would put me in the storm.  Camping was totally out of the question tonight, so do I stay dry here, or ride into the teeth of big time storm for the sake of a few miles?  Early in the day I might ride on through the storm, but this time of day near my goal?  I'm staying put.  

From the parking lot of the Super 8 I got out my phone.  A walk in pays full retail for a room, so I called reservations and booked it for 50 something.  About 30 off the walk in rate.  When I finished I just strolled in and said I had reservation.

They put me in a nice ground floor room and I proceeded to unload.  I flipped the TV on and saw it was raining buckets near the KOA.  I'm about 50 miles away from where I wanted to be, but I'll make it up tomorrow.  I rode 241 miles today.

I called home and reported the situation, then bought some junk food from the store next door and read the paper.  I got out my atlas and made notes for my map pocket on tomorrows ride to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

A hot shower and bath was next, and after that I strolled over to a nearby Wendy's for a single combo.  A nice steakhouse was next door, but it was jam packed.  

A family with 2 teenagers was seated next to me.  Their accents gave them away from somewhere north.  The father did nothing but complain the whole meal.  "Service is slow here (always is at Wendy's) the weather is crap, gas is too high, motels are expensive, I got too much work at the office to take a week off blah blah."  I was going to tell that joker to just get a pistol and end all his misery, cause I was tired of hearing it.  His poor family, I guess they never get a break.

Back at the room I fired up my DVD player, slipped on my surround sound headphones, and watched the new version of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."  Ok so its not going to win any Academy Awards, but it was scary.

Today was a good day.  I visited with Ray, and spent some quality time touring southern back roads.  Neither are things I'd done in awhile, and it felt good to cross them off the list.

I rolled over about 12 and went to sleep.  Great day, and looking forward to the next.

Footnote-  I must add a sad footnote to this story.  I lost another of my best friends, Ray Holder, on Feb 1, 2005.  He died quietly in his sleep at the farmhouse he loved so well.  I was in the office at fire department headquarters when I got the call.

I was only with Ray for 6 years, before his company moved him to Georgia, separating us.  The years we were together, we were almost inseparable.  We spent almost our entire free time at some ball field working with the boys that loved him so well.  We were a good team, he and I.  Our teams were extremely successful, and it was mostly due to the way he was able to motivate and get the best out of each kid.  Yes, he was demanding, and forceful, but always knew when to hug and praise.  The boys in the picture below would do ANYTHING for him.  He always told me, "If you don't expect alot, you won't get much."  I applied that philosophy not only to my coaching, but raising my son.  

We did not always have the best football or baseball players, but we always had the best team.  They loved each other, and collectively did things no one thought was possible, except for our coaches and players.

The years the picture below represents were great times.  I think of them often, and how much fun it was.  The after game celebrations, the long hours at practice, conflicts with other coaches, meeting him for lunch to discuss items, and watching football and baseball on the weekends.  Chris spent many nights at his home, he was like a brother to me.  I missed Ray the last 8-9 years, but we spoke often on the phone.  He always asked how his ex players were doing.

I'm in a new chapter in my life book, but the pages from this time are bent and worn, because I review them and rejoice in them frequently.  My time in this life stage was short, but they were rewarding and fulfilling, and without Ray it would not as been near as much fun, or maybe even possible.  Every father should have the quality of years with his son, I had when Chris was young.  Ray Holder was instrumental in making those years what they were.

I'm sad I will not be able to return to Albany to spend the night with him, like we talked about in the story above, but I'm happy I got to see him one last time, even if it was only briefly.  I will always have that last moment when I touched him on the shoulder before he closed the car door and the left the parking lot of the motel.

Rest well my brother, I'll never forget you.

1991 ProAction YMCA Football team.  I'm in the red cap, Ray beside me.

3 consecutive city championships
48 consecutive wins
2 league championships
6 playoff appearances