What a great day. I woke after the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks. I’m amazed at the effect that the injection & anti-biotics have had in under 24hrs. The only downside will be that I’ll have to tell my girlfriend that she was right…:(
I pack the bike, avoid the ‘Complimentary Continental Breakfast’ (which comprises re-constituted orange juice and pre-wrapped ‘honey buns’ :barf) and I’m on the road for 0900, heading North towards De Soto State Park. As I packed, I managed to destroy the zip on my wash-bag, so decide to treat myself to a new one. Or rather try to. It seems that Americans don’t use wash bags. I eventually track down a bag, which, I have a sneaking suspicion, is actually meant to be used for cosmetics… At least it’s black.
: I ask at the counter if they have a photocopier – they don’t. The chap next to me, Joe, immediately offers me the use of his. His office is across the street (he’s a psychologist, it turns out – not sure how I should take him approaching me
). I go with him, do my photocopying whilst chatting to him about a trip to the UK he’s doing next week, taking his 82 yr old mother back to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where she was brought up. He asks what weather he should expect. I look out of his office window at the cloudless calm day, already 65º F and not yet 10am. ‘Not like this – you might want to wrap up a little warmer’. I recommend him the crab sandwiches at The Jolly Fisherman at Craster and we say our goodbyes. Another example of superb American hospitality.
I ride through some brilliant roads. The scenery is pleasant, but not spectacular, so it’s easy to concentrate wholly on making good progress. The road surfaces are excellent, dry and I’m keeping a fairly steady 85-90 through the 55mph limit
. The bike’s really performing well after its service and the new tyres seem to be doing the job fine – the bike seems every bit as sure-footed as when it was shod with Tourances (although I’ve dropped the front tyre pressure from the 42 recommended by Bob, to 36, as I was running on the previous tyres …).
I enter De Soto Park and I’m a bit underwhelmed. It’s a pleasant enough bit of woodland, but nothing like as picturesque as yesterdays ride through Cheaha… I stop at 1200 at a small, ramshackle restaurant cum new age art shop which looks like it might provide an alternative to Waffle House ‘two over easy and a side of scattered all the way’ (don’t ask).
I sit down and straight away get talking to Jerry and Connie Geron, a charming couple from Huntsville Alabama. They’re up here for a day trip using up a day’s holiday (he has a ‘use it or lose it’ clause in his contract – he works for a firm in support of the International Space Station). They’ve chosen a beautiful day, though there’s a distinct chill in the air, up here at 2000 ft in the hills. Jerry & Connie have a daughter who did 3 months internship near Brighton last year and Connie visited her and was smitten by the New Forest area. They ask if I’ve been to the Little River Canyon – I haven’t, so Jerry goes out to his car and brings me a leaflet showing a 11 mile route which follows the course of the Little River as it winds its way through a gorge. Sounds great – that’s what I’ll do after lunch. We talk whilst we eat our excellent meals and, eventually, having exchanged Email addresses, they leave. I get up to pay my bill to find that they bought me lunch as they left…
I ride down towards Fort Payne and the entrance to the canyon. The road is beautifully and recently surfaced, but, usually just where you don’t want it, there is the occasional pile of gravel in the road. It’s difficult to see as because of the shadows of the trees, so you have no alternative but to ride slowly. Which is no hardship – the views are beautiful.
I ride the length of the road and then the return, as I’ve decided to find a motel in Fort Payne (I’ve checked – there’s no railway line near where the motels are grouped
). I see a sign I’d missed previously…
Mmm… The road is appallingly surfaced, washboard corrugations, bloody great potholes and tons of gravel – exactly what the GS was built for
. I get to the other end about half an hour later with (most of) my fillings still in place and head for the motel. I check into the Days Inn, have a splendidly unhealthy meal at the nearby Waffle House and settle down for the evening with the road atlas. Where tomorrow….?