Monday, October 26, 2009

Sweet as Tupelo, Honey

I like bed and breakfasts. Hotels have beds, and most of them even offer a "breakfast" -- if that's what you want to call a selection of mass-produced muffins and bagels, cold cereal, instant oatmeal, and maybe a waffle machine. If I wanted waffles, I would let Donkey come live with me.

And the beds at bed and breakfasts are usually not all that more comfortable or plush than beds at hotels -- the rooms are just prettier, and the comforters are downier, and the pillows ... ah, the pillows.

But the breakfasts! Ah, yes. The breakfasts are usually so good that they ruin the bed, because you spend the night constantly waking up, rolling over, looking at the clock, and muttering under your breath, "Hurry, Mr. Sun ... Rise and bring forth a magic day filled with that glorious breakfast." And then RandoGirl hits me with a pillow, again, and tells me to stop waking her up.

But even RandoGirl was glad to break yon evening fast this morning at The Limestone House.

Best pancakes ever!

Nontheless, regardless, and irregardless, we had to be on our way early to bike 93 miles to Tupelo, so we rolled out before 8:30 into the morning chill. Leaving the rolling hills in Florence and getting back on Hwy 14, we made a quick stop about seven miles from the Trace at a Peddler's One-Stop.

You can't read the yellow sign there, but it says that the store is closing this week, and that everything must go. They still had Gatorade and a few candy bars to sell us, but the shelves inside were getting bare, and the lady at the register (who said she's been there for 36 years) looked really sad as she tended to the final customers. It was clear many of them were stopping by to check in one last time and say goodbye. Another bit of Americana fading away.

A few miles after we got back on the Trace, we crossed the Tennessee River.

A barge was working its way down from Muscle Shoals and the road was fairly empty here. The day was starting to warm up to a decently comfortable level, and life was good.

It is axiomatic that any time you cross a creek or river, you must climb. The climb out of the Tennessee River watershed was very long -- probably about five miles -- but extremely subtle, with grades mostly between two and five degrees. We only had to get off the big ring a couple of times, and that was mostly due to the fatigue from the previous few days of riding.

Not long after, we hit the next state line of the trip.

For lunch, we stopped in Tombigbee. Since there are no stores or restaurants in the state park, we went to Patty's Place. Out front, there was a fellow driving a tractor, talking on a cell phone.

To be honest, the engine was off. I don't think International Harvester has bluetooth.

At Patty's, Patty herself sold us a couple of hamburgers, some cokes, and chips. She told us that she and her husband had just bought the place, although they had been going to the state park for years. Her plan is to soon put a deck on the back, serve more food, and have her husband play the guitar back there. She was also taking a poll as to whether she should extend the store's hours to 9 pm. We voted yes.

Back on the road just after noon, we crossed over the Tenn-Tombigbee Waterway.

It's kind of hard to see, but just past that bridge is a huuuuge lock. This waterway connects the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River, so that barges and boats can get from Florence to Mobile, AL, without having to go all the way to the Mississippi River. It is really cool.

The burial mound at the state line was pretty cool, but the Pharr Mounds were awesome. While we were stopped here, a fellow drove in and started to put together a rubber-band powered airplane -- not just some little balsa wood deal, but a big kevlar plane with a four-foot wingspan. I would have loved to stick around and see him fly it, but we did not want to mess with Tupelo traffic.

After five hours of fast riding, we were getting tired, and had to stop one last time about 10 miles from our hotel. RandoGirl prostrated herself facing west towards the Old Trace, but just to stretch out her back and tightening hamstrings.

Traffic began picking up about here, and we knew we were getting close to Tupelo. Finally, we started seeing exits, and then the Garmin told us to turn right. So we did.

I had plotted a circuitous route to our hotel trying to avoid traffic, and the series of roads worked like a charm. After a tricky left turn across North Gloster Road into the parking lot of the Marriott Courtyard, we were done.

In Florence, we had begun hearing scary talk about nasty weather for Tuesday. As soon as we were checked in, I took a shower and drew a bath for RandoGirl. But, just like a randonneur, she was already preoccupied with the next day's ride.

It does not look promising.

We were also very excited, as we were pulling in to the Marriott, to notice that there was an Outback Steakhouse right there! Sure, it's boring and ubiquitous, but sometimes you want the comfort and simplicity of the tried and mostly true.

And sometimes you just want a good margarita.


  1. Alas, the Garmin... I knew it well, if only for an evening! :-)

    Sounds like a great trip.

  2. You both look great! Noon Saturday, in the cold blustery drizzle, knowing you were already ensconced in your cabin with RG, a fire, a bottle of vino, and a leopard-skin snuggie, I liked your plan better than mine. But it was a great first brevet! Great posts, keep your powder dry Tuesday. Kevin

  3. Maurice:

    The Garmin says "hi." It sounded like "beep," but I know what it meant.


    Congratulations on Watertown. It looks like you hung with the other fast guys very nicely.


  4. Good stuff...keep the updates coming! Have fun!