Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22, 2010 – Day 17 Backdoor ride to Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Today started out on a high note, breakfast at the local McDonalds featured entertainment provided by one old white geezer up on his soapbox carping about everything and anything, accompanied by two old black geezers, both bored out of their skulls.

At one point the white guy said “You know what’s on the statue of Liberty don’cha? Send me your poor, your ragged, that sort of stuff.” To which the black guy on the left said “I don’ care what it say, all that happen a long time ago and now’s different.” They were discussing the merits of current administrative policy regarding illegal’s from Mexico. During the half hour I was there they covered the oil spill (“If’n it wuz up to me I’da blowed it up myself.”) and pretty much all the current events going on in the world.

Our first stop was at the tiny town of Arcola where old men were falling asleep in their favorite chairs-stools on the sidewalks and it was barely 10:00am. Arcola has a lazy little river flowing through town and old buildings tumble down to the water’s edge. It’s an artist’s town by virtue of the scenery, the subject matter is endless.


My morning ride was not as pleasant as it could be due to my cheap sunglasses sliding down my nose. It allowed the wind to vibrate them causing a semi-blurred effect, most annoying. The first Family Dollar store I came to was in Belzoni where I popped in and bought two pairs and some water. Fifteen bucks total for everything. Not bad. Their selection wasn’t the greatest but at least the nose-sliding thing was gone.

By late morning I was well out into the countryside riding between thousands of acres planted in cotton and corn. Often there were swamps on the opposite side of the road and the green algae covering the surface of the water looked just like smooth lawn. Heavy equipment being towed from one field to another was a common sight and they always waved.

It was in the same general location where I came across the Club Kitty Kitty, a dance hall located way out in the sticks. I was reminded of all the old movies I’d seen that used just such a place as a location. Kitty Kitty has a convenient swamp located right across the road for those occasions when a disgruntled customer needs to be dealt with a bit more severely.

Tchula is a small village that was really depressing to see. Nearly all the shops were closed up, most of the buildings were falling down, and the employment opportunities looked dismal. People were just sitting around outside – the heat was intense – and they looked really dejected. I can’t imagine how bad life must be for them right now; where would you go to find work? How would you even get there? It was really awful. I took one photo as I rode into town, the old bronze sign put up by the Historical folks. Then I rode through town and couldn’t take any more, it was just too sad.

Continuing on my eastward route I came across another sign that caught my eye so I turned around and headed back thinking I’d found a new unheard of town. When I got back to the turn-off it was nothing more than a sign with the name of the road, not a town. You can see why I was excited, eh?

A few years ago I was in Atlanta on business and the factory people invited me out to Lake Lanier for the weekend. While there I was introduced to a local non-native plant that has invaded most of the south. It’s called Kudzu and it’s the most invasive pest I’ve ever seen, even worse than the Ivy we fight all the time at home. Today as I was riding the further east I got the more I saw of it; I’d truly hate to have that stuff get started around our part of the country.

Old abandoned buildings continue to fascinate me and this afternoon I paused to shoot pics of the old Brooksville School. It’s now totally defunct with all the windows busted out and most of the doors ripped off. I wonder whatever happened to the people who built it and why did it become a derelict? It’s no small country school; it’s a really big building with huge wings and must have had room for hundreds of kids in its day. Now it’s just an empty shell full of ghosts…

Macon, MS was one of my way-points and I spent a fair amount of time walking around looking at old shops and the County Courthouse. There’s a neat sign in front of the town’s information center telling about the history of local blues musicians, who they were and where they went. All through the south you’ll find similar stories; it’s a great part of the country for blues fans to visit. Mississippi has a “Blues Commission” that established the Macon sign and others like it throughout the state; there’s even a “Blues road” you can follow to see where the artists lived and worked.

The ride from Macon to Alabama isn’t long and I soon found myself there, more or less via the backdoor traveling on highway 14. It was a funny feeling riding alone through the lonely countryside; there’s so much history in that area, so much turmoil has occurred and it’s possible to imagine how it must have been. I arrived at Aliceville where I’d hoped to find lodging but it turned out to be nothing more than a small village with no tourist accommodations. I had to decide where to stop for the night; Selma was in one direction and Tuscaloosa in another. I queried Garmin & Company for a Days Inn and Tuscaloosa won.

The ride was now on the 70 mph slab and I had to stay in the right hand lane to ride at that speed, the others were traveling much faster. As it turned out it was a good thing I did, the state coppers were out in volume with their hair dryers stuck out the windows buzzing the speeders as they flew past. They’re the sneakiest bunch of traffic cops I think I’ve ever seen; the places they hide are unbelievable. I guess the laws regarding entrapment haven’t been enacted in Alabama.

I arrived at the Days Inn around 5:30pm, just in the nick as there was only one non-smoking room left on the ground floor. I snagged it right away, unloaded Green Girl, and hoofed it down the street to BAMA Wings for a dinner of fried catfish & coleslaw. It was most satisfactory, just perfect for this long day.

Back at the motel I thought to check the mileage on Green Girl and was surprised to see it’s at 4,832 miles; more than what I’d imagined it would be. Typical of Kawasaki, I’ve experienced zero problems and don’t expect to in the future.

When I’m in Florida, maybe after Key West I’ll see about having her oil changed. Sorry Red Dog but I think this is why I’m riding Green Girl…


  1. Yer right on about all the turmoil in the history of that area. Your ride today took you close by the vicinity where the three civil rights workers were murdered in June, 1964...buried in a dirt dam...Philadelphia, Neshoba County. We're glad you're through Mississippi.

  2. Best blog post so far, great photos, interesting stories, but we hope those burning bridges you've left behind don't catch up!
    Are you passing any other motorcyclists on the road or are they exhibiting a degree (or 109 of them) of sanity and staying inside during the summer?

  3. Hon, Mississippi is just like any other place, it has it's good point and it has it's bad ones. The culture is definitely different from ours but that's part of why I like to travel.

  4. D and N,

    Thanx for the nice comments! Bridges? I ain' burned no bridges! I ain' got no stinkin' bridges!

    Haven't seen very many bikers since leaving AR. Seems the further east I travel the fewer there are and you're probably right, it's too damn hot to ride. In a way it makes it nice for me, no need to share the road but I expect that will change when I get to Florida.

  5. Great photos, did you want to go into the abandoned school and take more?