Monday, October 26, 2009

Firenze ... Alabama?

When we planned this trip in August, we knew that there was a chance that it could be cold during the last week of October. We just didn't think it would be 34 degrees.

But you take what you get when it comes to weather, and it's almost never what you think you want. And of course sometimes what you think you want is not what it turns out that you really want, and almost never is it what you really need. This is never more so than when it comes to pizza, nor is the basic premise with which I opened this paragraph: You take what you get. And with pizza, as with biking, you nontheless voraciously consume it until you lay back, replete, in pain, regretting that last slice/20 miles.

Sweet (burp) pain.

We had an early breakfast Sunday morning at the Ridgetop Bed and Breakfast. Bill and Kay Jones had a full house, with another couple down from Nashville for the weekend and a family of four up from Alabama. They had plenty of food, though, and of course RandoGirl and I stoked up for the long day ahead.

We were on the road before 9 am, freezing as we headed down Ridgetop Road to Hwy 412. From there, we went to probably the toughest climb of the day -- the ramp up to the Trace. The sun was just hitting the dewey grass, as in the picture below, setting steam rolling over the road.

I had expected the fall leaves to be less colorful as we headed south, but they were still incredible today. As the day went on, a few more evergreens began to pop in with the oaks and maples, lending a verdant contrast to the yellows, oranges, and reds.

We reached Collinwood just before noon, very ready for lunch. The last time I had been here was on a RAAM training ride in spring of 2008, and there had been a couple of restaurants next to the Wayne County Visitor's Center that were getting ready to open. I was really looking forward to trying one of these, and was deeply saddened when RandoGirl and I passed by the now dark stores -- closed, dusty, with some scattered furniture inside. Victims of a tough economy, or just bad business ideas in a town that seems willing to only support a couple of places to eat.

Basically, Collinwood has two dining options for the cyclist touring the Trace. There's a convenience store that offers fairly fast junk food -- burgers and fried chicken -- as well as Gatorade and Cokes and candy bars. This place is very popular with motorcyclists on the Trace, who can fill the tanks on their bikes while they fill their bellies. The other choice is a "meat and three" called Chad's, which is where most of the locals seem to eat.

We've done both before, and since there was nothing more interesting we chose Chad's this time. If nothing else, it's fun to see something that used to be common in this world -- a pay phone. Of course, it didn't work.

On Sunday's, the buffet is the only choice. The meat was sliced pork or chicken fingers, and the vegetables were the usual suspects -- green beans, corn, hominy, and peas -- cooked southern style. They also had fried okra, a small salad bar, and white cake with chocolate icing. We ate quickly, surrounded by the post-church crowd decked out in suits and ties and dresses, all of them giving us disapproving looks, as if spandex was clothing "of the devil."

Back on the Trace, we were soon to the Tennessee/Alabama state line, where I filmed a little video. You may have to turn up your speakers to hear what I'm saying.

About 15 miles south, we turned onto Hwy 14 for Florence. Since we were no longer on the Trace, we began to be hounded by dogs again, although these all seemed to be mostly phoning it in (probably not using the pay phone at Chad's, of course). Their barks were less "Grrr" and more "Meh," and we just laconically told them to go home as we rode past.

Soon we were navigating downtown Florence, trying to find The Limestone House. We stayed here before about two and one-half years ago, but still got lost. Finally, we passed it and RandoGirl and I both simultaneously called out, "There it is." Weird that we could think that we would miss it, since the front is (aptly enough) white limestone.

Carolyn Waterman, who owns this B&B with her husband Dan, came out to greet us, and we soon had the bags off the bike and up in our room. She even let us keep the Co-Motion in the sun room, all cozy and tucked i for the night. I think I even saw a mint on her handlebars.

We, on the other hand, had the Edison Suite, which Carolyn told us her kids used to call the tree house. It overlooks the huge backyard, with lots of windows and a great bed.

Here's the sitting room.

Afterwards, we had a great dinner at Ricoletti's downtown. RandoGirl had the chicken marsala, and I had a huge dish of pasta. It was too much to eat, and I now feel bloated .. although the five diet cokes probably contributed ... but it was what I thought that I wanted. You takes what you gets, but you darn sure takes what you ordered, and if you don't pay for it you have to wash dishes. I ordered a long bike trip, so now I have to go massage RandoGirl's back.

There are worse ways to pay for your dinner.

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