Day 1
October 10th, 2016
Prattville, Ala

I had to move the Civic Si Vtech to get the FJR out of the garage.  It was 5:30 am and still dark.  Weather was cool and clear, and very Fall like for Alabama.  I put the Si in the front of the driveway and wheeled the FJ out, then returned the Si to his spot in the garage.  My bikes have their own parking area.  Nothing else is allowed there.  No lawnmowers, no weed eaters, no boxes etc.  Just motorcyles and related gear.  The only fault in this arrangement the Si has to be moved to take a bike out.

The zumo 390 booted up and I tapped the route to Martin Creek State Park.  The zumo 390 has software for TPMS, and it reported in all was good with the Michelin Pilot Roads.
I loaded the Feejer the day before so it was ready to go.  I pack by list so I was confident I had everything.  I told Debbie good bye and kissed her before putting the Shoei on.  It was a short good bye.  "I'll call you in a few hours, I won't stop till Meridan, that's 3 hours away."  "Ok, becareful."  "You know I will, talk soon."

The Yamaha had the air temp at 55 degrees.   I fired the Feejer up, dropped into gear, and rode into the darkness.  My Eastwood neighborhood was quiet as I eased by the sleeping houses to East Prattville.   I gassed at the Shell Station on Cobbs Ford Road.  I have a Shell rewards card that nets me 15 cent a gallon off 93 Vpower gas.  All my rides love that stuff, including the finicky Si Vtech.  My emailed receipt noted the time at 6:10 and 4.2 gallons of gas.  It was still dark.

I rode out the East side to Alabama 14 West; and old friend.  The state highway will take me all the way to Selma.  Two papermills, 25 miles apart, are located on 14 West and you can count on log trucks on the weekdays.  I got lucky on this morning and only had to pass 2.  With a brilliant almost luminous sun rising in my mirrors I motored west over friendly territory.  SR 14 is home.  I've been riding it for 45 years or so. 

West of Autaugaville I was passed by a late model Camaro.  That never happens.  Afraid of deer at this early hour, and the limited vision in the dark, I was riding more cautious than usual.  "He must be late for work at the papermill ahead."  The Camaro passed 2 cars a few miles later, that proved to be a pucker moment.  When he pulled out I said, "Nooooo not enough open road!"  In the middle of the pass a East bound car appeared,  "this is gonna be close!"  I dropped way back.   The Camaro got back in without much room left over.  It was nothing short of foolish.  He turned off on the road to the papermill 10 miles later.

A few miles east of Selma the sun fully rose, splashing the landscape in a yellow tinted light.  I'm wearing brand new Klim riding gear, with a Klim long sleeve jersey underneath, outside vents closed on this coolish morning.  I'll tell y'all, I might not be the most famous Long Rider but I was definately the most well dressed.  I sported white and red leather gloves to complete the ensemble.

In Selma the route shifted to U.S. 80 West, and the pace picked up on the 4 lane divided highway.  Visibility was good in the bright sunlight and I worried less about deer.  I set the cruise on the Feejer at 75 and settled in for the long ride to Dallas.  My goal for the day is state park called Martin Creek, about 100 miles East of Dallas off I-40.  My more immediate goal was Meriden, Mississippi.

There is not a lot going on in West Alabama.  The riding was good on 80 as I passed by farmland and pastures.  Farm houses dotted the landscape and cows grazed in the fields.

The FJR has a decent cockpit, but it is not as quiet or roomy as the RT or STs.   There is more wind buffeting and the seat is more narrow, but it is not uncomfortable.   I moved the screen to higher position and was satisfied with the results.  That manuever blocked the cool wind from my torso and quieted down the buffeting.

Marion Junction, Faunsdale, and Demopolis came and went.  The latter being the only thing of any size between Selma and Meriden.  In Cuba, 100 miles or so from Prattville, U.S. 80 meets up with I-20/59 and I made the route change.  From here to Dallas will be I-20.  There is just no other choice given my objectives for the day, which was to get as far West as possible on Day 1.

On I-20 I brought the FJR up to 80+ and quickly knocked down the 25 miles or so to Meriden.  I pulled in the Mcdonalds around 8:20 after 140 non stop miles from home.  This is my routine when I ride due West.  The Mcdonalds in Meriden.   I have a history here.  In 1973, on what I then called a Long tour, I took a butt break from my 1972 CB 350 Four.  On that day I was riding north from Mobile to Decatur.  Prior to that our bus stopped here 3 months earlier on our way back from our senior trip to New Orleans.  So yes, I'm a creature of habit.  The store looks nothing like it did in 1973, but the fact it is still on the property, and in operation is testimony to longevity.  Funny, I can't remember all that much from that senior trip, but I can remember stopping here on the way home.  The city has declined greatly over the years.

I ordered a steak biscuit and found a seat.  I reported in to Debbie.  She's retired now and spends her days taking care of our new house.

"In Meriden, all is good"

"oh ok,  you gonna eat?"

"yeah, I'm gonna get a biscuit"

"I'm just out here potting some plants"

"Ok, I'll send ya text when I stop for gas, couple more hours"


Unlike the WIFI the biscuit was mediocre.   I have come to favor MCdonalds for butt breaks.  Unlike con stores they have clean rest rooms, a place to sit, good WIFI and nice drink bar.  I checked the weather again.  Not a drop of rain all the way to California.  "Could not ask for better weather." I thought.
With the coat off my red KLIM jersey stood out.  Ok so I borrowed it from the dirt guys, but why not?  It gave me a little extra padding at my elbows and shoulders, wicks persperation, and matched my Klim Dakar pants, which I borrowed from the dual sport guys.  I just thought they looked and fit better than the Overland touring pants.  My riding gear is a hybrid of Klim gear.  I have the Overland coat, Dakar pants, and Mojave jersey.  "Why hasn't some guy thought of wearing a motorcross jersey under prior to now?"  Maybe I start a trend?
After checking in with Debbie and the weather, I glanced over the headlines.  "Better get back on the road, long way to go."  
Returning to I-20 was tricky.  I had to negotiate a couple of service roads and a plumber in a van who darted out in front of me without checking up.  I kind of thought he would so I was ready for him.

I-20 West is what it is.  Efficient.  It cuts Mississippi in half and transports a Long Rider safely and effectively to all points horizontal.  I put the Feejer on cruise and trucked.  Traffic moved briskly in the high 70s, so I settled in at 82.  I entertained myself with the Zumo and the electronics on the bike's dash.  "Let's see what tire PSI is.  Yeah that's good.  Check current MPG, hmmm 43 mpg, Mmmm a little low, but cruising at 80+ with touring load will do that."  And so on.

On this tour my butt would get sore about 100 miles or 2 hours, and that's when I took my breaks.  Everything seemed to be in 100 mile chunks.  Sometimes I went farther sometimes a little less.  

With the reserve light flashing I pulled into a Shell station in Pearl and filled up, taking in over 5 gallons in the 6.4 tank.  The light consistently came on around 220 miles into a tank.  It was a quick gas and go, and I was ready for Louisiana, but first I had to knock out the balance of Missisippi.

A Victory rider wearing a leather vest with "Infidels" on the back was up ahead.  I went around him and he never acknowledged me.

By early afternoon I had crossed the river and went into Louisiana and promptly stopped in a Love's Truck Stop with a Arby's inside.   Such is the nature of a interstate ride, fast food, gas and go.  Not much difference between this exit and all the others.

I had a message from Debbie waiting for me.

"Hows it goin?"

"Lunch in Tallulah, Louisiana.  Arby's.

"that sounds good"

"yeah its not bad."

"when ya reckon you'll get to Texas?"

"not for a long time, I'll keep you posted."

I got back on the bike and vowed not to stop again till I got to Texas.  I was already over 300 miles for the day.

Just not much to report on the ride across Louisiana.  I kept one eye on the zumo, as it reported how many miles till the exit in Texas and the park.  The miles ticked off painfully slow.  "Next turn 301 miles" it read.  Ugh.

About 50 miles from Texas I couldn't take it anymore and pulled in a rest stop to walk around.  I vented out the Klim and switched to mesh summer gloves.  It was warm now.

   Rest Area Break

My brother just happened to be on a tour to the Blue Ridge and Virginia on his 2014 Concourse.  It was his first solo ride.  He also left out this morning.   He's been riding as long as I, but just never thought about touring.  I told him, "touring is not the same as long riding,  I can't explain it but you'll figure it out, perhaps on this trip."   I sent him a text, but he didn't respond. I figured he was on the road somewhere.  He was going to Gatlinburg for the night.  I helped him with his routes and hoped they'd work out for him.

When I went by Shreveport I noted something that would be a theme of this tour.  Someplace I'd been before.   I once camped at the KOA Bossier CIty on my last night on a 2 week ride to California.  "What year was that?  2002?  2003?"  I've reached a point I'm always going to find a place I've been in, or close to before.  That feeling comes with all the miles I've put in over the years.  My focus now is to go back and spend a little more time in the places I just rode past.

It was mid afternoon when I finally crossed into Texas, and the miles to exit was finally less than 100.  I found a Shell station at the Forney, Texas exit and topped off the tank.  I sent Debbie a text, "almost there," and got back on the road.

My butt was stiff when the zumo directed me to exit at SR 43 and Tatum for Martin Creek State Park.  I didn't know much about the place and only picked it because I knew it would be the limit I wanted to ride on Day 1.  I was right.  I was ready to park for the night.  The park is located about 25 miles away from I-20, but not before going through the East Texas community of Tatum, which busier than I thought it would be.  The atlas only used a dot to place it.

SR 43 was under construction a few miles from the park.  It was down to one lane and a pilot car.  I got in line and turned the bike off and waited.  Tem minutes later the pilot truck came in and led us.  The GPS got kind of vague and while I was in the line moving through the lane clousure I missed the turn off for the park.  I was too late to make the turn and not able to turn around in the construction.  "I'm going to hafta ride this out and then double back.  Thats gonna mean another wait for the pilot truck."  Annoyed, it was all I could do.   I learned long ago when you make a mistake don't make it worse with another, and risk a accident.  If you miss your exit, don't try to cross over 3 lanes to get there at the last second.  Ride it out, exit safely, and double back.

The county road down to the park took me past a few sad looking farms, eventually landing me at the gate.  Rangers were gone for the day and no instructions on what to do was posted, so I just rode in to the tent sites.  I rode down to the boat ramps but failed to see anyone.  "No one is here?"  They place looked shut down.  I rode a little further and saw a few RVs and went that way.  I met a man with gray beard walking his dog.  "Are you the host?"

"Nooo, I'm on that bike over there"  He pointed to a 80s something GL.

"Ok, I'm gonna set up nearby"

"Ok talk to you later"
The park was pretty much empty.  I like it that way.
I rolled in and shut the FJR down after a 588 mile day.  I unloaded the bike and set up my tent and camp, inflated the ex ped and looked around.  My camp site was near a lake and across the lake is a huge plant of some kind.  Perhaps a mile across the lake.  It was making what I thought wasa lot of white noise.

The man returned from walking his dog and we had a conversation.  His name was Danny and his dog, a poodle mix of some kind, was Halle.  They'd been on the road four months, and had been at the park 5 days.  They were from Arizona and Halle had been every mile with him.  He was on 87 Aspencade, and I not seen one of them in years, but it didn't have all that many miles on it. 

  Halle and Danny in Maine

So where you coming in from?"  He asked.


We told our war stories from the road for 30 minutes.  "Yeah this big truck came over on me onetime and yada yada....."  Halle sat down beside me  for me to rub her head.
"Look here you have something for supper?"

He raised his eyebrows, and looked, "well I got some canned salmon."
"I got some MREs, nothing fancy but you're welcome to one."  I never tried a MRE before, but bought 4 of them for this trip so I would have something to eat anytime I needed a meal.  Over the years I've become reluctant to get my bike out once I park it for the night.

"That sounds good."

"ok pick one."  He took the meatballs and I picked the beef stew.  Not sure what to do, we opened the rubber like package and emptied the contents on the table.  Each packet had everything a long rider needs.  Entree, dessert, cracker like bread, peanut butter, jelly, nuts, beef jerky, condiments and candy.  Mine had skittles and his had M and Ms.  It was great.
The water pouch thing warmed things up nicely and we had a good, hot meal.  "Best meal I've had in 2 weeks" he said,  "thanks."  I plan to do more MREs in the future.  Kind of pricey for 12 dollars a pack, but you have the convenience and that makes it worth it.

We gave our beef jerky to Halle with some leftover peanut butter.  Tired of bland dog biscuits for last month, she was a happy dog.

so where does Halle ride when you go down the road."

"on the passenger seat, between the arm rests.   She's good right there."  She's kind of in a 3 sided box for those of y'all that know the Gold WIng set up.

After supper I strolled over to the bath house where I had HOT water and good pressure.   Something you don't alaways find in a state park.   The evening was mild.  I've camped in East Texas in years past and it can be stifling hot and nuggy, but on this night it was perfect.   I looked over my atlas after my shower, and was sad to learn I was still a long way to Dallas, at least 150 miles.  "Man I didn't realize it was that far."  It would mean a long day tomorrow to make Amarillo.  Add having to get through Dallas, and no doubt it would be a significant ride.

I told Danny good night and crawled in my Marmot tent when darkness baked in.  I was tired and my ex ped and pillow felt good.  A exped is a down sized sleep number bed best I can describe it.  If you do this often, spend the money and sleep like a king.  The night was cool and my 3 season bag was just right.

The only problem was the plant across the lake.  Danny told me it was a power plant, and depending on which way the wind was blowing it was noisy.  Tonight it was blowing in and the noise kept me up all night.  I could even hear the back up beepers on the forklifts.  Rail cars banged all ove the place.  I didn't get any sleep.  I even put my headphones on and listened to music to get some relief.  

It was a long night, but it didn't cost me anything.

Coming Next Day 2- the ride to Amarillo and West Texas.