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Related Photos The Chattanooga, TN to Bainbridge, GA Stage Back
(via Highways 27, 16, 41, 208, 128, 49, 280)
October 4, 2004
Refreshed from our rest day in Chattanooga, we were eager to make our entry into the state of Georgia. Donna and Philip prepared another wonderful breakfast to start off the day. Following breakfast, our hosts gave us a couple of MoonPies to pack in our food bag. A Chattanooga bakery has been making these huge, chocolate cookies since 1917. The phrase, “RC Cola and a MoonPie,” is well known around the South as a delicious, bargain-priced combination. We weren’t interested in the cola but we certainly feasted our eyes on the MoonPies.
Once we were all packed up, Philip and Donna joined us on their tandem for the ride through Chattanooga and beyond. Because we were riding through a city of 160,000 during the morning rush hour, we were very grateful to have them leading the way. The biggest challenge was leaving the residential area with a left turn onto Barton Avenue. There was a steady stream of cars coming down the hill that just didn’t quit. Our hosts were able to find a break in traffic for their crossing. After five minutes, we were able to merge with the bewildered commuters.
When we reached Forest Avenue, we made a left turn onto the Walnut Street Bridge. Since this bridge was for non-motorized traffic only, we were able to take our time pedaling across. This leisure span across the Tennessee River offered us tremendous views of the riverfront. Back in 1969, Chattanooga, with its valley setting and soot from foundries and coal-fired power plants, was portrayed as the nation’s most polluted city. As we were absorbing our view, we were thinking, “Wow, what a transformation!” The city must certainly give Atlanta some stiff competition as the jewel of the South. Halfway across the bridge, we had to stop. There was just too much to see.
Looking to the east, the sun was highlighting the Veterans Bridge and the tall bluffs on the south shore. Patches of lush, green foliage were seen cascading down the layers of rock. To the southwest, a tree covered Lookout Mountain towered above the area’s peaks. Below the mountain and directly in front of us were the triangular glass profiles of the Tennessee Aquarium, poking up into the morning sky. To our right, we took in our last view of the Market Street Bridge with its blue bascule. After gazing in wonderment and clicking the camera repeatedly, it was time to move on. As we trekked across the bridge, a few cyclists were seen heading to work. They were evidently benefiting from the bike lanes that Philip helped implement downtown.
After exiting the bridge, we looped around to hop onto southbound Riverfront Parkway. Here, the traffic was initially very heavy as we veered around to the east side of downtown. We rode on the parkway for two miles before heading over to Rossville Avenue. Shortly after taking a right turn onto Rossville, we passed under Interstate 24. We were now southbound on our principal road, Highway 27, and only two miles from the state line. A few blocks later, we pulled into a restaurant parking lot for our five mile break. Some patrons walking into the restaurant asked where we had bike from. When we answered, “Alaska,” they were somewhat aghast and incredulous.
During our rest break, Donna was quick to point out the contrast of our two tandems. One bike had about 140 pounds of gear and the other was carrying just a small black bag in back. She said that the passing motorists might look at that and wonder, “Why is that one couple making the other couple do all of the work?!” Continuing on, the road made a slight bend to the left and a half mile later we were at the state line. Upon leaving Tennessee, Georgia displayed the sign, “Welcome – We’re glad Georgia’s on your mind.” At that point, a long curvy climb loomed ahead and that was, in fact, what was on our minds. This large hill was such a distraction that we missed getting a photo of the welcome sign. Thankfully, Philip and Donna were able to snap a photo on their return and email it to us.
For at least two miles, we climbed up out of the Tennessee River Valley before reaching the town, Fort Oglethorpe, GA in Catoosa County. This city of 7,000 is among Georgia’s “newer” towns as it was established in 1949 after the War Department closed down the army facility of the same name. At the south edge of town, we entered the Chickamauga Battlefield which was the site of one of the most deadly battles fought during the Civil War. In 1863, over 37,000 men perished over two days on this sacred ground. Dozens of Rebel and Yankee memorials are scattered around the battlefield to honor the war dead from various states. A number of monuments can be seen while following the three mile road through the park. The name Chickamauga was derived from an ancient Cherokee word meaning, “River of Death.” With area legends such as “Old Green Eyes” and “The Floating Lady in a White Gown,” this was not a place we would want to be after dark.
Before venturing through the park, we had an important stop to make. The battlefield’s visitor center offered a nice backdrop for a special photo opportunity. We had now biked 6,000 miles! The last time we had reached a 1,000 plateau, we were back in Missouri. Philip and Donna took turns taking photos of us posing in front of the large, white building. We were wrapping up the shooting when Philip reminded us about our tradition of holding up fingers for each thousand miles completed. Oops! A few more shots were taken, this time with the obligatory six fingers up in the air.
Heading into the park, Barb took a few photos of the monuments before handing our camera off to Donna. For the next couple of miles, Donna had fun shooting us as we rode along. It was a rare opportunity for us to collect some action photos of ourselves. All of the previous action photos had been taken by newspaper photographers. After riding with us for about fourteen miles, our tandem companions gracefully wrapped up their sendoff of us. They wished us well with the final segment of our journey. A short distance later, we reached the south boundary of this scenic park.
After passing through the battlefield, the road curved to the west and then rejoined southbound Highway 27 where we crossed into Walker County. Our main road was now a five lane highway with a center turning lane but no shoulder. We weren’t too keen about the missing shoulder but the mid morning traffic was lighter and most everyone gave us a wide berth. Before long, we climbed up a medium size hill. Once we reached the crest, we stopped to gaze back at the tree-filled Tennessee River Valley. What a view! It was a sunny but slightly hazy morning. Campaign signs were becoming more and more prominent as the elections were drawing closer. One billboard implored, “Keep Georgia Democrat.” From 1872 to 2003, Georgians only elected Democratic governors.
As we distanced ourselves from the river valley, the terrain was mostly rolling hills. We were seeing a bit of debris along the highway edge and inevitably, we ran over some occasionally. There was some broken glass shards among the rubbish. The glass would not have an effect on motorists but we were certainly trying to dodge it. Even with the road obstacles, we were cranking along pretty well at 12-14 mph. Near the small settlement of Rock Spring, GA, we passed by Northwestern Technical College. It seemed kind of unusual to have a college campus in a mostly rural setting.
Three miles south of the school, our bike started snaking down the road. The rear tandem tire was flat. Because there was no road shoulder, we walked our rig a hundred yards north to a side road. Upon inspecting the tire, Randall found a sliver of glass. Hmmm? We wondered where that came from! With the glass extracted, a piece of purple duct tape was placed inside the tire to cover the small hole. After inserting a new tube and muscling two hundred up and down iterations on the tire pump, we had the desired pressure of 90 psi. While we were reattaching the inflated wheel, a farm pickup slowly came down the side road at 5-10 mph. When the farmer reached us, he hollered out his side window, “Y’all need any help?” Wearing a well-worn Georgia Tech cap, the man had a striking resemblance to Jimmy Carter. We thanked him for his concern but assured him that we were doing okay. He then cautioned us about the motorists, “Be careful, there’s some crazy drivers out there.”
At the outskirts of LaFayette, GA, a hotel sign gave us some amusement. Next to a picture depicting a pelican sitting on a post were the words, “Key West Inn.” We reasoned that anyone traveling this slower highway down to the Florida Keys might be enticed to stay at this hotel. Since it was near midday, we had no interest in staying there. Before entering the downtown, we made a right turn onto McCarter Road and pedaled a quarter mile up an appreciable hill. We had made prior arrangements with the staff of Unique Fabricating South to stop for a luncheon. UFS, an affiliate of Randall’s former employer, Unique Fabricating in Auburn Hills, MI (www.uniquefabricating.com), was a business stop for him on a couple of occasions.
We were relieved to arrive at UFS before noon as past experience had shown that cycle touring and scheduling don’t always mesh (flat tires, tough hills, etc.). As we set up our laptop for a continuous slideshow of adventure highlights, Todd, Carol, Clyde, Kathy and Bill extended their enthusiastic greetings to us. They were quite tickled that we considered them for a stop. When we planned this route in 2003, we weren’t aware that we would be passing by this familiar manufacturing plant. The gang at UFS naturally had dozens of questions for us. Kathy quizzed us about the photo of a collapsed farm silo in Kansas. We could tell by her questioning that she had visited our website’s latest posting. That, in itself, made our day as we were never sure if someone was actually reading or viewing our web postings.
As the photo slides continue to roll on our laptop, we entertained numerous questions from wild animal sightings to flat tire frequencies. When we completed our meal, Todd handed us a check from UFS to forward to Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County. We were very appreciative of their contribution. Todd expressed how amazing it was to do what we were doing as he was impressed with our adventurous spirit. He followed, “You have inspired us all to look at our lives and to do something different.” His comment was gratifying to hear as when we set out for this long journey, our motives were to bike for a cause and to enjoy the ride. We never had any thought that we might motivate others to consider doing something out of the ordinary.
Following the luncheon, we checked to see if a supply package had arrived for us. Back in Somerset, KY, we had coordinated with Barb’s sister to have the shipment mailed to UFS from Kansas. After Carol was unable to find anything for us in the plant, Bill suggested we check the mailbox outside. To our relief, there was our package. It seemed that sometimes we could travel just as fast as the U.S. mail! Before departing, we packed our Camelbaks with ice to make the warm afternoon more tolerable. As we rode down the hill back to the main road, we decided to ride through LaFayette (pronounced, “la FAY et” by the locals) instead of taking the loop around town.
Like the small towns we had passed through before, this village of about 7,000 had a quaint downtown that featured two-story red brick buildings with canopies extending over the sidewalk. Reconnecting with our principal highway, we continued south up a long climb. The road now had two lanes with a one to two foot shoulder. The shoulder, however, was useless to us as it had the infamous rumble strips that we last saw in Kentucky. What a bummer! As we practiced previously, we stayed to the left of the shoulder unless a big truck was passing us.
Before we finished the long hill, we discovered that the rear tandem tire was deflated. Not again! We knew something was different as the hill seemed a lot tougher than it originally appeared. With the afternoon heating up, we figured that the weather was affecting our strength. Since there was no available side road, we pulled our rig a few feet off the road and onto the grass, hoping that we weren’t sitting on any weeds with stickers. Like our late morning flat, this one was also caused by a sliver of glass. After applying another duct tape patch and inserting a new tube, we ventured on. Although the highway appeared to be fairly clean now, we certainly had an increased paranoia of broken glass.
The terrain continued to be moderate rolling hills as we seemed to be following a small ridge that was on our left. The deep blue sky was now completely devoid of clouds. It was a refreshing setting. After skirting Trion, GA, we arrived in Summerville, GA which is the county seat of Chattooga. The courthouse was the most striking building in town. A four-faced clock tower was capped with a gold dome. Departing town, Highway 27 made a noticeable bend to the east as it continued mostly east for a dozen miles. We knew right away that things were going to get hilly. Before long, we were entering the Chattahoochee National Forest.
We were now following a winding road with trees all around us. Encountering a number of sizable hills, we shifted quickly into granny gear so that the heat wouldn’t do us in. We didn’t expect Georgia to be flat but these hills were a bit more than we had anticipated. What a workout! One really long hill had a cell phone tower on top so we were hoping that would be the worst of it. Beyond the hill, we rested under a shade tree at a park ranger station. Fairly exhausted, we decided it was time to snack on the super-octane power food we had packed with us. The MoonPies with their chocolate-coated, graham-cracker layers and creamy marshmallow filling really hit the spot. With the big boost of energy, we finished the ten mile trek across the national forest in strong fashion.
Near Amuchee, GA, the highway went from two lanes to a divided, four-lane highway with a wide shoulder. Oh, life is good! Passing through the tiny town, we noticed the Piggly Wiggly supermarket and the General Dollar store which are quite prominent in the South. Now heading south, we saw a small sawmill operation along the road. As expected, we were seeing a few logging trucks ramble down the road. They were loaded with long, skinny logs. The road signs were now calling Highway 27, Martha Berry Highway. Who was Martha Berry? When we arrived in Rome, GA, we got our answer. Outside of town, we passed by Berry College which has a 28,000 acre campus (among the world’s largest). Martha was the daughter of a wealthy planter who used her innovative skills as an educator to start up several “Berry Schools.” She initially founded a boys’ school in 1902 and the college was later established in 1926.
By the time we reached Rome, we had logged almost 70 miles and were ready to call it a day. Being a sizable town of 35,000, we stopped at a convenience store to inquire about motel options. It was important to us to have a restaurant nearby. The attendant pointed us to a Howard Johnson Express which was several blocks south. After settling in, we walked a half block to a Chinese restaurant which featured a buffet. Without any guilt, we feasted on the abundance of food.
Miles cycled – 69.1
October 5, 2004
Our morning began with a continental breakfast at the motel. We had tried to reach the local newspaper the night before but had no success. After breakfast, we were able to reach a clerk at the Rome News-Tribune office. She advised that the reporters do not come in until 10 AM. We requested to have a reporter call us after 10. Although our planned destination was less than 60 miles away, we were a little nervous about getting too late of a start. We hadn’t talked to a reporter since Kentucky so we felt like we should make the time to chat about our adventure.
While waiting for a reporter to call, we spent time reading about the local history. The city’s founders placed names in a hat and came up with “Rome” which also fit the setting of seven hills and some intersecting rivers. Near the center of town, the Etowah River and the Oostanaula River merge to form the Coosa River. The settlement began after the forceful removal of the Cherokee Indians on the Trail of Tears. When we biked through southern Illinois, we saw some signs which noted this historical passage.
The Cherokees were initially displaced from their ancestral lands in northern Georgia and the Carolinas before being moved to temporary camps in Tennessee and then onto Oklahoma in 1838-39. Although the “Indian Removal Act” of 1830 set the stage for the Cherokee’s removal, it was the discovery of gold in Dahlonega, GA in 1828 that really forced the issue. Mid 20th century movies of Cowboy and Indian conflicts always portrayed the clashes as occurring in the late 19th century’s “Old West.” It appears, however, that the greatest hardships to Native Americans occurred in southeastern USA prior to the Civil War.
At 10:15 AM, we received a call from Lauren. She said she would be right over to hear our story. When Lauren arrived, we were all packed except for our Camelbaks as Barb was busy filling them with ice and water. After Randall had given a few details on our extended journey, the young, inquisitive lady asked why we decided to do the trip on a bike, and a tandem bike at that. Randall explained, “We have always shared a love of cycling having purchasing a tandem in 1998, which in effect, doubled our fun. With the two-seat bicycle we have gone faster and further ever since!” Once we finished the interview, Lauren said that a photographer would catch up with us down the road. All we had to do was pedal south on Highway 27.
Before leaving town, we had to find a post office so we could mail a package. We took Martha Berry Boulevard south to the downtown area. The streets there ran from southwest to northeast. After a few turns, we were quickly disoriented and perturbed. While seeking out the post office, we stumbled across historic Broad Street. This extremely wide thoroughfare was divided by rows of 50 FT trees and was filled with magnificent landmarks. The city hall, with its two large pillars, captured our attention. Standing in front of the building was a bronze replica of Capitoline Wolf. The statue was an official gift from the Italian government in 1929. The art portrays Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, Italy. According to legend, the brothers were cast away as infants and raised by a wolf.
After a few more blocks of searching, we found the post office on a side street. When the mail clerk took Barb’s package, he asked her where she was biking to. Intrigued by her tour, the clerk related how his daughter had biked with a group from Indiana to Georgia. Without any prior arrangements, they slept in various churches during their trip. They were especially thrilled whenever they found a church that had cushioned pews. At 11:05 AM, we were finally headed south out of town. Highway 27 continued to be a divided, four-lane road with a shoulder up to two feet wide. As before, the rumble strips sometimes took up most of the shoulder.
About six miles south of Rome, we passed by Floyd College, a two-year community college. The school’s large USA flag was flowing to the south. There was nothing like a tail wind to boost our spirits. A little while later, our cell phone started ringing. Barb took the call as we rolled along at 12 mph. David, the News-Tribune photographer was phoning to find out where we were. Barb replied, “We’re at mile marker eight.” The photographer said to keep pedaling. He followed with, “I’m in a silver pickup, just ignore me.” So, we continued across the mostly rolling hills. Less than a mile later, we spotted him on the side of the rode. Per his instructions, we biked by without even a wink.
Like other action photographers we’d seen, David wasn’t done. He passed us again and set up for a second shot. After this sequence, he scurried to pass us again for a third shot. Still not satisfied, he passed us again for a fourth shot. Just as he came into view ahead, a highway patrolman passed us and immediately turned on his flashing lights. He pulled up behind the silver pickup now parked off the road. We were wondering, “Is this going to be a citation or an offer of aid?” It turned out to be an offer of aid. When David explained that he was photographing a bicycle, the puzzled patrolman reacted, “Bike? What bike?” After the location of our oncoming bike was pointed out, the patrolman hopped in his car quickly to avoid spoiling the setup.
Still not finished, David passed us again. We were astonished. Having skipped our usual five mile break twice, we had now gone almost 14 miles nonstop and were feeling tired. When we reached his fifth photo shoot, we pulled over for a break and chatted for a while. He had done some cycling in the past so he had a number of questions about our gear. The next day, our story made the front page of northwest Georgia’s most prominent newspaper. David persistence resulted in a wonderful action photo and Lauren composed a nice story with the opening, “From Alaska to Key West on a bicycle built for two…” To view the web posted version, click: Rome News-Tribune.
After entering the next county, we were greeted with the sign, “Polk County – Where Folks are Friendly.” A couple miles north of Cedartown, GA, the highway split into a bypass and a business route. Since we were ready to eat lunch, we chose to go through town. As we neared the center of this city of 9,000, we opted for a stop at Dairy Queen. While waiting in line, the hungry customers were quizzing us about our trip. Everyone in the restaurant seemed to be very open and forward with us even though we were complete strangers. They were all very much in awe of our trip. Outside the restaurant, a little boy charmed us with, “I like your bike!” There was no false advertisement here; the Polk County folks ARE friendly.
Following lunch, we continued south under a partly cloudy sky. The hills were becoming more substantial. Just before reaching the southern boundary of Polk County, we began a mile long climb. Near the top of the climb was the sign, “Dugdown Road.” Once we reached the hillcrest, the same interesting name appeared on another sign, “Dugdown Baptist Church.” When we checked our map, we found that there was a small settlement of the same name about two miles off the highway. Being on top of a mountain, we wondered if the early settlers “dug down” to find minerals or to build their homes. The scenery on top was just fabulous as we had a clear view all around.
For the next few miles, we seemed to be following a ridge as we biked along. The trees were getting more abundant on the distant hillsides. Not long after taking note of the tree density, we met a semi truck loaded with large logs. A mile north of Buchanan, GA (pronounced “BUCK-an’-uhn” by the locals), we faced another split in the highway and again we chose to go through town. This small city of about 1,000 is the county seat of Haralson County. The red-brick courthouse there had a four-faced clock tower which now seemed to be a standard of Georgia courthouses. Going through the small downtown, we really worked to climb over a couple of short hills. We were now second guessing our decision to skip the bypass.
Outside of Buchanan, we paused to check out a large plastic bull that was being used to draw attention to the Callaway Livestock Pavilion. We started having flashbacks to the last big bull we saw in Montana. That plastic version was a red and white Hereford bull that advertised a convenience store and wildlife gallery. This Georgia bull was painted black to resemble the Angus breed. When we later compared the photos, it was very apparent that the bulls were made from the same mold. Both bulls displayed a large tail and brisket and were covered with a wavy texture. Remnants of the horns could be seen on the Georgia bull (the horns were sawed off to reflect the hornless breed). These marketing ploys made us wonder how many of these large bulls were made.
Rejoining the main road south of town, we climbed over some moderate hills for about three miles before reaching yet another split in the highway. This time, we skipped the business district of Bremen, GA and stayed with the bypass. Throughout the five mile bypass we encounter several large hills. What a workout! We were resigned to the fact that the terrain was going to be challenging no matter what route we took. The traffic was somewhat moderate until we finished the bypass and then the floodgates were opened. Just ahead was Interstate 20 and we were now mixing with a number of motorist who were in a hurry and had little patience for a touring bicycle. With little or no shoulder to protect us, we got honked at a couple of times. The drivers definitely weren’t blasting their horns to extend a friendly Georgia greeting.
Passing under I-20, we were now directly west of Atlanta, GA. Being just 40 miles from the city limits, we expected that Highway 27 would be busy and hectic until we reach our destination. After biking up the hill south of the overpass, we stopped to rest from the stressful pedaling. We found ourselves directly across from a small, secured facility. The neighboring sign, “West Georgia Boot Camp,” was our tip off that we wouldn’t want to pick up any hitchhikers in the area. For the last eight miles into Carrollton, GA, we shared the active, four lane highway with the motorists. To our relief, the hills during this stretch were more moderate.
At the outskirts of Carrollton, we had a fast descent as we raced down to the Little Tallapoosa River. Following the river, we had a difficult climb to reach the heart of this town of 20,000. Before tackling the hill, we stopped to ponder our options. Knowing that we would be leaving Highway 27 the next day for our detour to Americus, GA, we wanted to find a motel that would minimize the competition with rush hour traffic. Hence, the motels right across the street did not appeal to us. So, we shifted into granny gear and crawled to the town’s center.
With no motels in the area, we pulled off the busy Park Street and onto a side street so we could review the map again and access our motel options. While resting, a service van pulled over next to us. The driver asked if we were doing okay and if we needed help finding something. He then pointed us to some motels on Park Street about a mile south. Although this was a mile beyond the turn we would be making the next day, we decided that we were too tired to do any more searching. Continuing south on Park Street, we blended in with the rush hour traffic. Near the top of the next hill, we turned to a motel that had a neighboring restaurant. While checking in, the motel manager asked Barb, “Where do you get the strength to bike that far?” She answered, “We take it one day at a time.”
Miles cycled – 57.5
October 6, 2004
After munching on the continental breakfast at the motel, we hopped back onto Highway 27 and headed north to the center of Carrollton to pick up the road that would take us to the southeast. The traffic was still fairly busy so we turned right on South Street after several blocks and then left onto Bradley Street. Heading north again, we passed through the historic district. Carrollton is the county seat of Carroll County which was established in 1826. Like Kentucky’s Carrollton and Carroll County (established in 1838) that we had previously biked through, this Georgia county and city bears the name of Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence.
We struggled up a steep hill to reach the town square. At that point, we turned east onto Newnan Street, the main thoroughfare through town. Wanting to gaze at the neighboring buildings, we pulled over to a street-side parking spot near a construction site. The nearby courthouse was a two story rock and concrete building without a clock tower. An earlier courthouse did have a clock tower but was lost in a fire in 1927. While taking in the architectural sights, we were distracting the construction crew somewhat. Later, the project supervisor walked over and asked about our trip. He thought that it was great that we were living our dream. He followed with, “There’s a lot of people out there that are looking for a change in their lives. Your trip will cause them to reflect on what they’re doing with their future.”
Continuing east, we went downhill and then up another tough hill. This town seemed to be full of hills. We were looking to turn right onto Newnan Road but we missed the unmarked street. Our miscue was resolved by turning right at the next available street and then jogging a couple blocks over to catch our target road. After a mile on this road, it connected with Highway 16 which was also referred to as Alternate Highway 27. Headed southeast, we were now on our planned detour from Highway 27. If we would have stayed on Highway 27, it would have taken us through Columbus, GA. After a couple of hectic days of riding on a busy, four-lane highway, it was a relief to be on a two lane road. Our shoulder was only one to two feet wide with occasional rumble strips to jar us awake.
As we cut through the morning’s haze, the traffic was heavier at the outskirts of Carrollton before tapering off to a more comfortable level. For the first few miles, we seemed to be doing a lot of climbing. We would go up for a long stretch followed by a short decline and then another long stretch up. With more ups than downs, we began to wonder if we were closing in on the state’s highest elevation. The road-side sign, “Happy Hill Missionary Baptist Church,” also confirmed to us that we were in a very hilly setting. To avoid tiring quickly, we increased our rest stop frequency from every five miles to every three. Some of the longer hills had passing lanes which gave us more of a comfort zone as we advanced up.
After ascending several hills, we started to notice piles of tree limbs that had been cut from the trees above. A little later, we caught up with the crew that was doing the trimming. Apparently, the power company was cutting the trees back so that there would be no interference with the power lines. A mile later, we saw yet another crew that was mowing the grader ditch. Motorists were cautioned to the grass and weed cutting activity with an orange diamond-shaped sign stating, “Sheriff Work Detail.” County jail laborers dressed in white overalls and yellow hardhats were seen driving the tractor mowers along the road. As we got further away from the city, we saw an occasional farm, usually framed with a white or brown wood fence. One side road was called, “Little New York Road,” which didn’t seem like a very rural name.
North of Whitesburg, GA, we paused at the Southern Fried Catfish and BBQ Restaurant. There was smoke drifting up from a large outdoor cooker to lure in customers. Nearby, there were two cords of chopped timber to keep the fire going. We took a moment to read their roadside advertisements. One sign displayed a happy and plump pig wearing a chef’s hat as he sat next to a fire. Near the pig was a catfish holding a flying pan over a grill. And if that didn’t capture your attention, surely the $3.99 special for a blackened cheeseburger, french fries and drink would. They would even throw in a biscuit and gravy for an additional $0.99. It was mid morning so we chose not to try the local cuisine.
Passing through Whitesburg, the primary interest was a 30 FT high Quonset hut that had three gigantic bulldogs painted on its face. We weren’t sure if the building was a veterinary facility or just belonged to a local bulldog lover. Down a ways from the hut was a strikingly-white Baptist church with a tall steeple. Just a mile southeast of town, we reached the Chattahoochee River which is the boundary for Carroll and Coweta Counties. As we approached the river, we first noticed a large white van that was pulled over on the side of the road. Then we saw six men walking along the side of the road, picking up trashing and stashing it into plastic bags.
As we got closer, we realized that the laborers were prisoners. Wearing villainous, black and white stripe uniforms, some of the men paused to watch as we passed through. We suddenly had a heighten sense of awareness of our surroundings, wondering, “What’s more risky, passing by a bear or a group of prisoners?!” Barb took a couple of photos from a distance as we didn’t want to upset anyone. Adding to our slight anxiety was our uphill setting of four percent grade. We were in no position to speed by this crew as we could only muster a seven mph pace. Once we got onto the bridge, we distanced ourselves as we rode non-stop over the Chattahoochee. This tree-lined river was very scenic and had a substantial amount of water flowing.
After biking over twenty miles of relentless hills, we reached Newnan, GA, a city of 16,000. At the north side of town, we saw a Hardee’s Restaurant and decided to make it a meal stop. It was actually a bit early to eat lunch as we were still ten miles from our halfway point of the day. When looking at our map though, the route for the balance of the day showed no towns of significance. While ordering our meal, the clerk asked where we were biking from. She found our answer incredulous but didn’t seem to grasp the extent of our trip. Later, while enjoying our meal, we could hear a lot of chatter in the kitchen as the clerk was busy gossiping about the “Alaska bikers.” Once we finished our meal, we were getting chilled drinking our milk shakes so we stepped outside to warm up. Now almost noon, the hazy skies were just starting to clear.
Our ride through Newnan was quite a treat. The city, like many Georgia towns has a rich Civil War history. Because of its strategic position on the railroad, Confederate military hospitals were established in several of the city’s large buildings. When those sites filled up, the overflow went to schools, churches and private homes. This “hospital city” was caring for 10,000 soldiers at one time. Later, there was a lot of prosperity related to the local cotton mills. As we turned south on Jackson street, we got a sense for how much prosperity there was.
Beginning at the Coweta County Courthouse (with its four-face, clock tower), we trekked by an incredible array of buildings and private homes for one mile. Block after block, we passed by murals, large churches, and huge white houses with two-story pillars. The courthouse was the site of a 1948 murder trial of a wealthy kingpin that was immortalized in the book, “Murder in Coweta County.” In 1983, a television movie based on the book starred Andy Griffith (as the villain) and Johnny Cash (as the heroic sheriff). It is portrayed as the first trial in the South where a white man was condemned to death on the testimony of a black man.
A couple of miles south of Newnan, we biked under Interstate 85. Just like our I-20 crossing the day before, we were still 40 miles from Atlanta. That was because we had been traveling mostly to the southeast. Near the freeway, a semi-truck with the name, Equine Express, pulled out in front of us. The fancy trailer the truck was hauling looked like a limo for horses with enough room for six to eight pampered equines. Beyond the interstate, the signs were telling us that we were now on southbound Highway 41. We noticed that the trees were becoming more abundant as they sometimes ran parallel to the road, giving us occasional shade from the bright sunny afternoon.
A short distance from I-85, we passed through the small town of Moreland, GA, home of Lewis Grizzard, a syndicated columnist and stand-up comedian. A museum there keeps the Grizzard memory alive as he passed away in 1994. Lewis’ advice to Atlantans in case of nuclear war was among his unforgettable quotes: “If you live on the south side of Atlanta, get on I-75 and go south. If you live on the north side of Atlanta get on I-75 and go north. If you are a Yankee get on 285” (I-285 is a loop around the city). To our relief, the hilly terrain flattened out a bit south of Moreland. With the moderate rolling hills, we were able to go a little faster. The shoulder was still pretty scarce at one FT width but we were thankful not to encounter any rumble strips. The motorists were considerate and giving us wide berths when passing.
About twelve miles from Newnan, we reached Luthersville, GA. Like Moreland, this small town of 700 seemed to have deteriorated over the years. Continuing through rural Georgia, we noticed a lot of Kudzu that had taken over the neighboring fence line. In places where the grader ditch had been scraped, the reddish dirt was exposed. We went by one phone utility box which had its cover knocked off. With the jumble mess of exposed wires, we wondered how the calls ever got through. The afternoon temperatures climbed into the 80s as we looked for some icy refreshments in the next town.
At a convenience store in Greenville, GA, we packed our Camelbaks with ice and tea. Stocked on the shelves were jars of pigs’ feet and hot sausage. This was not the type of snacks we were looking for, but apparently it was popular with the locals. This small city of 1,000 had a town square with the Meriwether County Courthouse sitting in the middle. The majestic building had a copper dome with clocks on four sides. After circling the square a couple of times, we continued south. Outside of town, we passed by an old farm house with some character. The two story structure had a rock foundation and chimney and was capped with a red, tin roof. The siding appeared to be made of rough-cut timber. It was quite a sight!
After a few miles, we saw a couple of signs that captured our attention. The first was a brown, Georgia D.O.T. sign that stated, “Please Do Not Pick Wildflowers.” No wildflowers were seen in the vicinity so we wondered if the sign was very effective. A neighboring billboard promoted the Mountain Top Resort. Having battled a fair number of Georgia hills already, we certainly didn’t want to encounter a mountain! Three miles north of Warm Springs, GA, we passed by the Roosevelt Memorial Airport, a small field with a stated elevation of 880 FT.
Past the airport, a man in a compact car slowed down next to us as we were pedaling up a short incline. While Randall steered and controlled the tandem, the driver quizzed Barb about our ride. When he learned that we were going to stop to tour FDR’s “Little White House” near Warm Springs, he preceded to describe all of the tourist hot spots in the area. For nearly two miles, he carried on with Barb while keeping abreast with us at eight to ten mph. Because of limited sight distance, motorists were somewhat hesitant to pass the car-tandem obstruction but did so at everyone’s peril. At the end of the chat, Barb was socially amused and Randall was a nervous wreck.
Just outside Warm Springs, we stopped to read an interpretative sign about FDR. Our 32nd president was attracted to the area’s spring-fed pools of 88 degree water. Roosevelt was hopeful that the warm mineral water would improve his polio-induced paraplegia. He founded a hospital at the springs in 1927 so that others could rehabilitate at the site. Continuing into town, we crossed over Whitehouse Parkway and then pedaled through the one block of downtown. Thanks to the historical prominence of FDR’s stays at his retreat, this small resort town of 500 was a thriving community.
Now 3:40 PM, we were concerned about our timing as the Little White House Museum closed at 4:45 PM. So, we made a U turn back to Whitehouse Parkway where we stopped at a convenience store. Barb had made reservations with a private campground the night before so we had to find enough food for three meals at this store. Stocking up with snack food, canned chili, boxed macaroni and pastries, we ate our first meal (of nutritious snack food) right at the store. While enjoying our quick meal, a customer asked about our destination. When we told him that we were biking to the Little White House and then to a campground nearby, he seemed to be familiar with the area. He said, “Y’all lucky that the big hill is beyond the campground, ya don’t have to deal with that until tomorrow.” Sometimes, we could just do without the unsolicited descriptions of the local terrain!
To get to the Little White House, we had to head south onto Whitehouse Parkway. Making the right turn from the convenience store, we saw that an incredible hill awaited us. We croaked at the extent of the hill. With the grade at eight to nine percent for two-thirds of a mile, we hadn’t seen anything like that since southern Illinois. When we later looked at a topographical map, we found our starting and ending elevations to be 900 and 1,200 FT, respectively. Doing the arithmetic, our average grade was 8.5 percent. We shifted right away to our second lowest gear and then to our lowest gear a few minutes later.
Before long, we had company. As we crawled up the hill, two boys ages 10 to 12, caught sight of us while biking on a side road and began their pursuit. Pedaling their undersized BMX bikes in rapid fashion, they quickly passed us and then made U turns so that they were riding abreast with us. The one boy asked, “Is it okay if we follow y’all?” Barb answered, “Its okay as long as you don’t get too close.” The two youngsters then quizzed us about our bike and gear as we strained to ascend the hill. No longer facing a boring afternoon, the two kids pulled ahead of us and then would drop behind us. To a passing motorist, this playful activity might have resembled the Aesop’s Fable of “The Hare and the Tortoise.”
After climbing for one-third of a mile, we reached the driveway to the museum and naturally, it was all uphill. As the boys continued to circle us, we climbed the additional third of a mile to the museum. Reaching the museum, we locked our rig to a parking sign. We asked the departing kids if this was a good museum to see. They replied that they had never gone inside. Now 4:05 PM, we scurried to pay admission as we had less than an hour. While Barb paid for the tickets, the nearby park attendants ask Randall where we were biking from and to. The astonished ladies followed his answer with, “Good Lord! Y’all know that has to be some kind of a world record!” Randall responded, “Well we felt like we broke some record just climbing up your big hill here!”
Touring through the 12,000 SQ FT museum was enlightening for a couple of baby boomers that didn’t know FDR. We gawked at his 1940 Willys roadster and his 1938 Ford convertible equipped with hand controls. We learned that FDR’s experiences of visiting his Georgia neighbors and seeing their hardships helped him to develop New Deal policies such as the Rural Electrification Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority. From the museum, we scampered over to the Little White House. A park attendant there gave us a nice guided tour. Roosevelt was so enchanted with Warm Springs that he built the only home he ever owned on the north slope of Pine Mountain while governor of New York in 1932. This modest, six-room, clapboard cottage served as a relaxing, comfortable haven for him during his regular visits to Warm Springs.
The most intriguing exhibit we saw was the “Unfinished Portrait” which we found to be quite eerie. Elizabeth Shoumatoff had begun painting a portrait of the president at noon on April 12, 1945. At 1 PM, Shoumatoff was sketching in the detail around his eyes while FDR was being served lunch. After flinching in his chair, FDR said, “I have a terrible headache” and then suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He passed away two hours later. Stunned from witnessing the president’s fatal stroke, Shoumatoff made no more brush strokes to the painting. She never did finish her portrait of the man, leaving the world with an unfinished portrait. In the summer of 1945, using memory, sketches and the original painting as a guide, Shoumatoff began a new painting. She presented her final work to the Little White House in 1960.
The Little White House was a wonderful visit, even if it took us up a tough hill. We were grateful to the man at the Soddy Daisy Burger King in Tennessee who suggested this stop. Exiting the park, we coasted down the driveway and back to Whitehouse Parkway where we continued south. We still had a bit of a hill to climb but the worst appeared to be behind us. When we reached the hillcrest, we paused to gaze at the tremendous view to the north. Climbing big hills has its rewards. For two miles, we followed the now moderate hilly road to our campground. The site was not well marked as there was just a sign with an arrow and the letters, “RV.” We looked at the driveway and just shook our heads. It was simply two parallel cow paths with occasional holes. Some of holes were patched with rocks, some were not. The private campground could not be seen from the highway so we were keeping our fingers crossed, hoping we had the right road.
After carefully riding our rig for a half mile in granny gear over the rough path, we reached the campground. There waiting in lawn chairs was the owner and his helper. When Barb contacted the man the night before, he indicated that he lived in Columbus, GA. He said that our projected arrival time of 5 PM would work great for him as he had to come out to mow the grass. Other than a couple of unattended mobile trailers, the grounds were empty. We were told that hunters stayed at the site on weekends as October was not a busy month. With hot showers, electricity and picnic tables, this location had everything we needed. We were astonished when the man asked for only $8.40. He was very apologetic about having to collect a $0.40 sales tax.
Once we got the tent set up, we quickly took a shower. With an upcoming sunset of 7:15 PM, we wanted to be dry and fed by nightfall. It had been quite a while since we used our camping gear and some questioned why we even bother to haul it around. We had actually gotten quite use to the 140 pounds of cargo. There were times when Randall asked Barb “Is the trailer still there?” Some touring cyclists travel without camping gear and manage to bike from motel to motel or find a home to stay in. We met some bikers with that style of cycling and they always seemed pressed to bike 80 to 100 plus miles in order to reach the next motel. Their lighter load allowed them to achieve higher mileage each day but were they stopping occasionally to smell the roses?
Under a now hazy sky, Barb set up the sleeping bags and gear in the tent while Randall boiled water for two meals. Gathering small pine cones and twigs from under the picnic table, he found sufficient fuel to fire our force-draft, wood-burning stove for fifteen minutes. Hot tea and bowls of chili and macaroni were ready for Barb when she finished the tent. After washing the dishes and hanging the towels to dry, we put the food bag on a tall tree limb. We didn’t think we were in bear country any more but you never know what kind of critters you might attract with food smells. Attempts to retrieve email with our satellite phone failed as the signal was too weak. Because of the thick haze and surrounding trees, the email would have to wait for another day. After a pretty arduous day of cycling in the Georgia hills, we were ready for a restful night.
Miles cycled – 62.7
October 7, 2004
To begin the morning, we pulled on our jackets as the temperature had dropped to the upper 40s overnight. The sun was said to rise at 7:35 AM but with a foggy morning, it was going to take awhile for things to warm up. Our first meal of the day consisted of pastries. Not a considerable breakfast but it would have to do until we reach the next significant town 19 miles away. Breaking camp at 8:15 AM, we ventured out into the fog. When we finished the bumpy driveway, we turned south onto Whitehouse Parkway before reaching Scenic Heights Road a half mile later. At the intersection was a sign for F. D. Roosevelt State Park. We were now at the east boundary of the park.
Because we were turning east onto Scenic Heights, we would not be entering the park. The man at the store in Warm Springs who described the big hill after the campground must have been referring to the state park and Pine Mountain. We had no regrets that we missed the hill. Except for a couple of short climbs, the Scenic Heights Road was like riding on a ridge. There were apparently some nice views along the way, but the fog wipe out any long-distance sighting seeing. After riding the ridge for five miles, we descended down a long hill where we rejoined Highway 41. Now heading southeast, our highway continued to have no shoulder but the traffic was very light.
A couple of miles down, we stop for a break at a side road, taking in an energy bar to supplement our earlier small breakfast. The country road we had stopped at was called Tax Road. Our map showed that there was a small settlement nearby called Tax Crossroads. A short distance later, we reached the small town of Woodland, GA. An empty log truck turned in front of us at the main street. Logging has apparently been the town’s livelihood for a long time. Heading south of town, the tree population increased as there were a few patches of newly planted pines. The terrain was moderate rolling hills which was pleasant to ride on. The fog had broken up somewhat but it was still fairly hazy out.
After a couple hours of pedaling, we reached Talbotton, GA, a city of 1,000. Anxious for a breakfast stop, we biked to the center of town to survey our options. Not seeing anything there, we headed back to the north where we had seen a small café that was converted from a former motel. Stepping up to the counter, we scanned the wall-posted menu which of course, listed grits and biscuits and gravy. For our selection, we went with hotcakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and orange juice. To our consternation, we had trouble communicating our selections. The young order clerk was apparently not use to our Midwestern accent and had us repeat the words two to three times. At one point, we physically pointed to “orange juice” on the wall menu to confirm our selection.
While placing our order, a middle aged woman had been keenly observing us as she sat, waiting for her carry-out breakfast. She asked us a question, and like the order clerk, we were having a problem understanding her accent. On the fourth try, Barb realized that the lady wanted to know where we’re traveling to. When Barb answered that we were biking from Alaska to Florida, the woman’s eye rolled around and then asked, “Why?” Barb answered, “To see the countryside at a slow pace.” The woman followed in a deflating tone, “That’s the dumbest thing aw have ever heard of. Why don’t y’all just jump in a car and drive there!” Barb added that we were biking for a cause, raising money for Habitat for Humanity. The lady just shook her head in disbelief. After a half hour wait, our breakfast was ready. This wasn’t a fast-food style restaurant but the food looked delicious and we were hungry.
Following breakfast, we biked south into town again where we stopped across from the Talbot County Courthouse. This government building had a four-face tower clock like others we had seen but it was of a smaller stature. From US census figures, we learned that the county had seen a lot of prosperity earlier with a population of 16,000 in 1850, half of whom were slaves. Cotton was king until severe erosion, soil depletion and the boll weevil menace wreaked havoc in the early 1920s. The cotton production never recovered. A steadily decline in the agricultural economy has left the county with a population of 6,000.
A number of young men were seen loitering about the city’s downtown. As we pedaled through town, the idle men standing at the store fronts would give us and our rig a long stare. No one would initiate a wave but whenever Barb waved, the recipient would give us a hearty wave back. We were curious if the hesitancy was related to the submissive role blacks were expected to have with whites in the past. Up to the mid 20th century, blacks could risk injury or death if they initiated a greeting to a white person. Whatever the case, riding through a small rural town with a black to white proportion of four to one (2000 US census) was certainly enlightening.
Knowing that service stops in the next several miles would be rare, we stopped at a convenience store before departing town. There, we bought a few snacks and packed our Camelbaks with ice and water. Checking out the local bulletin board there, we saw a curious posting. The top line opened with “What: Chittling Plates.” Apparently, four women were offering dishes of a favorite cuisine in the South. In a practice handed down though several generations, all parts of a butchered hog are completely used. Several recipes exist for preparing the pig intestines for human consumption (chittlings). Even the blood can be used to make “blood pudding.”
Departing Talbotton, we turned east onto Highway 208. Initially, this road was quite hilly before flattening out to moderate, rolling hills. We felt like we were in a very rural setting now as the shoulder-less highway was narrow and fairly curvy. The vehicles were quite scarce on this road which was nice. After about ten miles of winding through the countryside, we reached some road construction. Road graders were seen cleaning up the grader ditch. This activity was exposing the reddish-brown soil. The trees eventually thinned out so we could have more distance views. We noticed more farms along the way. Some farms had colorful barns while in other settings, only an old shack could be seen. One farmer was busy harvesting his corn. He had made several passes on his hilly field by the time we biked by. A couple miles down the road, this same farmer passed us with a truckload of corn headed for the grain elevator.
Just before crossing the Taylor County line, we saw a sign for the Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church. Although the country church wasn’t visible along the road, it must have had quite a heritage, having been established in 1840. According to the sign, the congregation met every fourth Sunday at 3 PM. While passing one barn, two horses stood out in the yard facing us. They intently stared us down as we approached as they weren’t going to bulge an inch. Most of the small farms had a pen of goats near the house. Occasionally, we passed by some colorful ponds. Some ponds had floating ducks while others had wading cattle, trying to cool off from the heat.
Soon after crossing Highway 19, we coasted down a fast hill before going over Patsiliga Creek. Keeping our momentum going, we were able to get up the ensuing hill without much problem. After riding over a few more rolling hills, we reached Highway 128 where we turned and headed south. The terrain was now mostly flat with several fields along the way. Just a mile down this highway, we pulled off onto a side road for an extended break. We had pedaled 27 miles since breakfast so it was time to munch on our energy bars and snacks. While resting, a southbound log truck raced down the highway. We were thinking, “Oh wonderful, we have traffic again!”
For the next several miles, we observed a quite diverse agricultural setting. There were pastures with cattle along with fields of corn, milo, alfalfa and cotton. For the first time on our tour, we saw vast fields of cotton. What a sight! We stopped at one cotton crop that looked like it was ready to harvest. Walking up to the plants, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to squeeze the cotton. It was so white and so soft. Continuing south, a few log trucks passed us without issue as the northbound traffic was light. With a slight tailwind, we managed to arrive in Reynolds, GA by 1:45 PM. We circle around this town of 1,000, hoping to find a restaurant but none were open. It was curious to see a tall, cell-phone tower in the center of town.
Having biked 55 miles from Warm Springs, we were tired and hungry so we stopped at a convenience store to buy some sandwiches and icy drinks. After warming them up in the microwave, we sat outside in the shade, enjoying our meal. Recharged after our late lunch, we continued south on Highway 128. We were now riding parallel to Interstate 75 which was 20 miles to the east. At the outskirts of town, a hound dog caught sight of us and began his pursuit. While he wasn’t able to reach us, he was quite a sight to see, bouncing up and down and with ears flopping. He seemed to want to play but we weren’t being cooperative.
South of Reynolds, the farm scene changed from crops to mostly pastures. The tall grass appeared to be quite abundant for the grazing cattle. A Hereford cattle farm had a sign that proudly proclaimed they were the breeders of Domestic Mischief and Victor Domino. We saw a variety of cattle of all colors. One cute, all-white calf was standing alone in a pasture, wagging its tail. To our surprise, we saw a large herd of Long-horn cattle. Lazing about, they looked our way as we coasted by. After crossing into Macon County, we passed by a couple of pecan tree orchards. Having never seen a grove of pecan trees before, we gazed in wonderment.
Trekking through our fourth county of the day, the pastures gave way to mostly crops. We were seeing more and more cotton with an occasional field of hay or soybeans. For a few miles, we must have been riding on a ridge as we could see for miles to the east. What a view! We saw one interesting rock formation along the road. With the colors of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, it looked like a big dip of ice cream, melting away in the sun. Another scenic setting was the Whitewater State Park where we crossed over Whitewater Creek. Through the trees, we were able to catch glimpses of Whitewater Pond.
Enjoying the benefits of stronger tailwind, we soon reached Oglethorpe, GA, the county seat of Macon County. This city of 1,200 was named after the English general who founded the state in 1733. Passing near the courthouse, we couldn’t help but notice the stately, white tower which was perched on the rooftop. Since Oglethorpe didn’t have a motel, we weren’t quite finished riding for the day. With the four-face, courthouse tower clocks showing 5:30 PM, our weary legs were starting to feel the effects of a long ride. After a brief rest, we turned east onto Chatham Street for a two mile jog to Montezuma, GA. At the outskirts of Oglethorpe, we crossed an overpass that took us over the railroad tracks. Down below, we could see a rusting caboose that had been retired long ago. Above the trees in the distance, a tall, lookout tower could be seen.
We were grateful we had taken a break as the traffic between these sister cities was horrendous. It was nearly solid cars for the entire stretch. There was a two FT shoulder for some relief but things got interesting when we reached the quarter-mile long Flint River Bridge. At that point, the shoulder disappeared and a three-hundred FT segment of the bridge necked down to one lane for repair work. When the weary flagman flipped his sign from “Stop” to “Slow,” we quickly merged with the traffic to finish the challenging crossing. Now entering Montezuma, the rush of cars followed us to the center of town. We stopped across from the post office to catch our breath and to get our bearings. Randall called the motel to confirm the location. We didn’t want to go down any more busy roads than we had to. For a small city of 4,000, it seemed like every citizen was out driving their car that afternoon!
Continuing through town, we went south and then east on Spaulding Road. When we checked into the motel, we learned that only second floor rooms were available. We reluctantly went with the upper level, carrying our gear and tandem up the stairs. Because our lodging was in a busy commercial district, we did not feel comfortable with locking up our rig outside. Even though we had asked for a non-smoking room, the room smelled pretty smoky. To remedy, the manager gave us a can of room freshener to mask the odor. After settling in, we checked our email for any updates on our planned visit to Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) in nearby Americus. Brenda, the Development Director at our HFH Oakland County, MI affiliate had sent us the contact information for Joedy, the Public Relations Director at HFHI. We had a second email from Justin, the editor of Habichat, HFHI’s internal, weekly newsletter. He wanted to do an article on our trip and had some questions about our adventure.
Following dinner at a nearby restaurant, we sent Joedy an email that described our projected arrival time and length of stay. We could arrive in Americus the next afternoon or wait a day in Montezuma for some rest and writing. The timing depended on what worked best for the staff at HFHI. A second email was sent to Justin to forward comments about our trip. In addition to inserting our press release, we included the web link to the story that was recently published by the Rome News-Tribune. Having completed our correspondence to HFHI staffing, we anxiously awaited their responses.
Miles cycled – 77.6
October 8, 2004
We began our morning with a continental breakfast at the motel. Needing to know what we would be doing for the balance of the day, we checked our email. Joedy had sent out an early morning reply. He extended a warm welcome to us (even though we were still 25 miles away) but stated his regrets that none of the senior staff would be available to meet us. The 2004 Jimmy Carter Work Project was just two weeks away, he explained, and many in top leadership were engaged in the project. Joedy also included a direct contact for the Americus Times-Recorder. He indicated that he would have a media team member contact the Americus newspaper about a possible story about our trip.
The PR director added that he would let the HFHI staff know of our upcoming arrival by emailing the director of the Global Village and Discovery Center. For lodging in Americus, Joedy recommended the historic Windsor Hotel in the center of town. From his email reply, we didn’t know exactly who we would be meeting at HFHI or if we would meet anyone right away. We decided to go ahead and make today a travel day without any expectation that HFHI would have someone available to greet us. When we called to reserve a room at the Windsor, we learned that they had no first floor rooms and that the rate was $120/night. We decided to book a room at Holiday Inn Express instead.
We also got an email reply from Justin. He said he would have a story in today’s newsletter so that staff and volunteers there would know we’re coming. With little time to write a story, Justin received permission from the Rome News-Tribune to republish their story on us. To view the newsletter and our story, click Habichat (Adobe Reader required to view). Justin also expressed his appreciation for our efforts with this heartwarming note: “Thanks for your hard work–it is true that spreading the word about Habitat and demonstrating your passion for the organization is valuable and you really can’t put a price tag on that. It is encouraging for me and the other staff I’ve shared your story with to see the lengths people go to support families in need of decent places to live.”
Before checking out of the motel at 11 AM, we used the contact information from Joedy to call the Americus Times-Recorder. When Barb explained that we were supporting Habitat for Humanity by bicycling from Alaska to Florida, the editor stated that they were rushing to get the next edition out and had no one available to take our story. Oh well. We concluded that the staff at HFHI might have better luck linking the local newspaper to our story. Once we hauled our bike and gear down the stairs, we were on our way. To avoid the busy street we biked to town on, we hopped on the four-mile Oglethorpe-Montezuma Bypass and headed southwest.
After two miles, we reached the Flint River. Unlike the earlier crossing, we had a nice shoulder and little traffic so we were able to leisurely bike across and enjoy the scenery. The Flint is one of only 40 rivers in the USA to flow over 200 miles unimpeded. When Hernando de Soto and his Spanish explorers ventured into the Flint River Valley in 1540, they were astonished to find an established society of people. Many of the trails and settlements the Creek Indians created are now Georgia highways and cities. Like the Cherokee Nation to the north, the Creeks were forced out by the white settlers. The conflict came to a head with Creek War of 1813-1814 as one nation was methodically moved out so that another nation might survive.
Beyond the river, we pedaled past the Oglethorpe city limits again before merging with Highway 49. Unlike the previous two mornings, we were enjoying a partly cloudy day with no haze. What a gorgeous day to ride a bike! Continuing southwest, we would occasionally pass by small groves of pecan trees. Otherwise, there were a number of irrigated crops seen along the road. Along one field, two men, perhaps county agricultural agents, had stopped to inspect a cotton crop. We were still evidently in logging country as trucks loaded with skinny timber passed us about once a mile. A large facility we biked by had high fences with razor-sharp barb wire. A roadside sign identified the complex as the Macon State Prison.
After just ten miles of riding, we reached the entrance to the Andersonville National Historic Site. The pretty, mile-long driveway was lined with tall pines. From February, 1864 through the last fourteen months of the Civil War, this site was a Confederate military prison called Camp Sumter. Of the total of 45,000 Union soldiers confined here, nearly 13,000 died at the camp. Our first stop at this 495 acre park was the National Prisoner of War Museum which was opened in 1998. Before entering the museum, we snacked on energy bars as it was now 12:15 PM. We found the various exhibits to be very enlightening. The museum displayed the American POW experience throughout the country’s history. It was quite daunting to see a number of artifacts which exemplified the grim life suffered by prisoners of war.
From the museum, we pedaled our rig a half mile over to the Andersonville National Cemetery. This site was established as a national cemetery on July 26, 1865. The nearly 13,000 Union soldiers that perished in the nearby prison camp are buried here. The initial interments began in February, 1864. With up to a hundred dead to bury daily, the prisoners’ bodies were placed shoulder to shoulder in a trench. As a result of this practice, the headstones are only inches apart. Thanks to the numerical record keeping by a prisoner and the follow up of Clara Barton, only 500 of the burials are unidentified. By 1868, more than 800 remains of those who died in nearby prison camps and buried in common graves were disinterred and brought to Andersonville. The cemetery now contains more than 18,000 interments as these sacred grounds continue to provide a permanent resting place of honor for deceased veterans.
Following our heartfelt tour of the cemetery, we biked a half mile over to the prison site. The prison pen was a 1,620 FT long by 779 FT wide stockade constructed of 20 FT long hewn pine logs, buried 5 FT into the ground. Sentry boxes stood at 90 FT intervals along the top of the parallelogram-shaped stockade. At a distance of 19 FT from inside the walls was a “deadline” which prisoners were forbidden to cross. The prison walls no longer stand but the corners were reconstructed and markers inserted to give observers an idea of what the layout was like. Diseases, foul water supply, inadequate medical care, lack of shelter, short and defective rations and overcrowding all contributed to the terrifying mortality rates. Deaths at POW camps on both sides were staggering during the Civil War. However, at Andersonville, the problem was exacerbated by deteriorating economic conditions in the area.
Near the camp, the Providence Spring House was constructed in 1901 to memorialize a miracle spring. An inscription on a wall read, “The Prisoners’ cry of thirst rang up to Heaven; God heard, and with His thunder cleft the earth and His sweet water came rushing here.” On August 9, 1864, a natural spring erupted during a heavy rainstorm, an occurrence many prisoners attributed to Divine Providence. The spring, however, was located just beyond the deadline. The captain in charge of the camp allowed the men to channel the water inside the prison. Believing that God answered the captives’ prayers for water, both the Confederates and the prisoners called the site, Providence Spring.
Having spent two hours touring the park, we were thinking, “Wow, what a place to experience!” Taking the park’s exit, we were soon reunited with Highway 49. Although we were skirting the small town of Andersonville at that point, we decided not to stop as we were only fifteen miles from our destination. Continuing southwest, we had to tackle a big hill just outside of Andersonville. After conquering that hill, we groaned as we could see an even longer hill beyond. Now, we were regretting that we hadn’t stopped earlier to rest. Once, we reached the next hillcrest, we pulled onto a side road for a snack break.
With our legs rested, we continued our trek to Americus. Looking ahead in the distance, it appeared that we were riding on a high plateau. As the trees became less dense, we notice some tree plantings in the neighboring pastures. Young pine trees, at a height of two to three FT, made for a rich, green cover. We later passed by several miles of fields. One farmer was out baling his hay and making a lot of dust for us to sneeze at. The majority of the crops were cotton. With balls of cotton littering the roadside, we speculated that harvest was ongoing and that some loose cotton was falling off the trucks or cotton pickers.
About four miles northeast of Americus, we turned onto Airport Road and followed it a half mile to Souther Field. On a warm May afternoon in 1923, a young Charles Lindbergh arrived at this airport on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The previous several months, he had been saving money while working as a wing walker for a flying circus in Jacksonville, FL. With the $500 stuffed in his boots, he bought a Curtis JN4 “Jenny” biplane that was part of the WWI surplus.
After the Jenny was assembled, Lindbergh taxied around for a while to get the feel of it. Although he had some dual instruction time to his credit, he did not advertise the fact that he had not actually soloed before. When he dinged up the plane up a bit trying to take off, he asked a local pilot to ride with him. A few hours later, Lindbergh did his first solo over the neighboring cotton fields. He then flew his new plane to Montgomery, AL to begin his barnstorming career. A Georgia historical marker and a monument recognize Lindbergh’s first solo flight.
Returning to the main highway, we were just a couple of miles outside Americus when a HFHI staff member called us on the cell phone. Some interns with the Global Village and Discovery Center wanted to greet us at the GVDC parking lot when we arrive in town. A photographer was also going to be on hand. As we navigated the hills and traffic into Americus, the HFHI staffer gave Barb the directions to the center. When asked what time they could expect us, Barb replied, “In 15 to 20 minutes.” So now, we were suddenly on a schedule. We would not be going directly to the motel to shower as earlier planned. When we reached Forsyth Street, we went west on the busy, one-way street with two lanes.
The first impression we had of this city of 17,000 was that it was in a hilly setting. We were initially climbing at seven mph up a hill and then flew down the other side at 36 mph. Motorists did not attempt to pass us on the downhill. As we got closer to the town’s center, the traffic lights became more abundant. Naturally, the lights changed from green to yellow to red as we were trying to race up the next hill. When we reached the heart of downtown, we got confused about where to turn so Barb went inside a store to ask for directions. After a one-mile, wild ride through the heart of Americus, we arrived at HFHI. As we gazed at the red-brick three-story building, we realized that we still had a few more blocks before reaching the GVDC parking lot. In fact, the interns that were going to greet us were just starting to walk over from HFHI. They waved and said, “Go straight and then turn right, you can’t miss it!”
When we reached the parking lot, Chuck, the HFHI photographer, was the first to arrive. For some action photo shots, we continued riding up and down a neighboring street. Once we stopped in the parking lot, he took additional photos of us standing next to the tandem. As we were posing, two women and a man arrived to extend greetings on behalf of HFHI. The interns were a young, bubbly group that initially gawked at our rig in wonderment and then started asking a number of questions about our trip. One query was about the amount of exposure to the outdoors we were getting. We answered by showing the tan lines under our sandals. That display brought out the most laughter. A few moments later, David, a volunteer at the GVDC came outside to checkout the commotion. This small group of HFHI associates went out of their way to express appreciation for our efforts.
Following the extended welcome, David indicated that he would personally give us a tour of the area. So, we quickly set up a schedule to check out the sights. As we were discussing the timing, a woman walking from the GVDC to the HFHI headquarters, paused to ask David if his visitors were all set with lodging. Linda, who was charge of Tours and Hospitality at HFHI, said that there were rooms available at the Mir (Russian for peace) guest house. Before committing, Barb quickly called Holiday Inn Express to cancel our booking. Linda had some tasks at HFHI to complete before she could get us setup at the Mir. Knowing that the headquarters would be closed for the weekend, we hopped on our bike for a ride back.
It was now 4 PM on a Friday and the traffic was much heavier. As we passed a local woman walking down the sidewalk, she noticed our HFH banner and started applauding us. She then blurted out, “Whatever y’all doing for Habitat, thank you!!” Parking our rig at the nearby Mir, we walked over to explore the HFHI headquarters. The three-story building was a former car dealership. Inside, we marveled at how they had transformed the building. At the main lobby, we could look up 30 FT for an unobstructed view. On the north and south sides, a framed outline gave the three floors of offices a home-styled appearance. Following the walls of the lobby and hallways, we checked out the displays.
Among several awards in a glass case, the most striking honor was the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1996, President Clinton presented this award to Millard Fuller, founder of HFH. Another touching display was a sword-hammer. The descendants of a Civil War veteran converted their ancestor’s sword to a hammer and presented it to Habitat. The caption, “They shall turn their swords into hammers,” was adapted from a Bible verse. A photo in the hallway showed a HFH house built in Florida and had the caption, “After the hurricane, the Miami Herald said it all – Tally: Habitat 27, Andrew 0.” The photo caption was touting the fact that HFH houses weathered the storm whereas some commercially built homes did not.
Following our tour of the headquarters, we met with Linda at the Mir. This former two-story house had been nicely converted for guest lodging. The rooms featured small refrigerators and microwaves and a washer and dryer were also available. The setting was just perfect for our needs. The room we selected had a framed photograph, probably taken in Africa. It displayed two men transporting bricks for houses on platforms balanced on their bicycles. As typical of many homes in the South, the house had an elevated front porch. We particularly enjoyed swaying in the swing chair.
Curious about trip, Linda invited us to join her and her husband Paul for dinner at a nearby restaurant. As we enjoyed our delicious meal, we learned that Paul also worked at HFHI as an accountant. The couple quizzed us about different aspects of our journey. Linda had read a couple of books about individuals who had gone on a big adventure so she was intrigued with our undertaking. She noted that one woman came to Americus by foot having walked clear across the USA! Linda strongly urged us to write a book. Following dinner, the couple took us by their office areas at the headquarters. As we wrapped up the evening, Linda offered to lend us her personal minivan should we need to go anywhere.
Miles cycled – 26.9
October 9-11, 2004
Our busy day of sightseeing began with David picking us up at the Mir. From there, he treated us to an “old fashion” breakfast at Granny’s Place. Originally from England, David and his wife decided after retirement to do volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity. Having previous worked for oil companies in the states, the couple enjoys a summer home in Vermont. Bringing a wealth of experiences to HFHI, we were delighted to have such an interesting gentleman as our tour guide. When David quizzed us about why we chose Habit for Humanity for our designated charity, we related to a friend from Duluth, MN.
We met Dave Mattson while attending a touring cycling class in Montana in 2000. Having a common passion for living our dreams, Dave did his cross country trek in 2001, riding from Washington to Maine. Partnering with the Duluth affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, he was able to raise $10,000 to apply to a house in Duluth. He quit his job and reached high for his goal. Likewise, we opted to bike for a cause. Habitat to us represented a charity that was a household name. We didn’t want to spend a great deal of time on the tour explaining who or why. We appreciated the fact that HFH houses are hand ups, not hand outs. The owner’s sweat equity and pride of ownership are key aspects to the success of Habitat for Humanity. The people who had met us on the tour have expressed a “feel good” mentality when learning about our cause.
Having heard our side, David then preceded to describe the history of Habitat for Humanity. The story began with the founder, Millard Fuller. A self-made millionaire at the age of 29, this native Alabaman made his fortune from mail-order catalogs. Faced with a struggling marriage with his wife, Linda, they re-evaluated their values and decided to completely change their focus in life. They sold all of their possessions and gave the money to the poor. Their search for a different lifestyle led them to Koinonia Farm west of Americus that was founded by farmer and biblical scholar, Clarence Jordan. This Christian, interracial community began in 1942 and suffered two decades of hardships as the South was not ready to embrace a settlement where blacks and whites worked together in the spirit of partnership. Prior to Fullers’ arrival in 1968, the nonviolent community withstood firebombs, bullets, KKK rallies, death threats, property damage and excommunication from churches.
With Jordan, Millard Fuller formed several partnership enterprises at Koinonia (pronounced – koy-nohn-ee’-ah). Among the Christian-based partnerships was a ministry in housing. They built modest houses on a non-profit, no-interest basis, thus making the homes affordable to families with low incomes. In 1973, the Fullers and their four children moved to Africa to apply what they had learned at Koinonia. Their system of building homes was a success over there as the poor nations embraced their concepts. Although Fuller was convinced his model could be applied all over the world, there was a strong pull for him to return to the states in 1976 to deal with housing issues there. That year, he moved his family to Americus and founded Habitat for Humanity.
Now a worldwide housing ministry with over 2,000 affiliates in 100 countries, this grass-roots movement is active in all 50 states. Sometime in 2005, HFHI expects to build its 200,000th home. After his presidency, Jimmy Carter, along with his wife, Rosalynn became involved with HFH in 1984. Through his annual Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP), he has given the organization tremendous visibility. We had people in remote areas of Canada rave about seeing Carter help build Habitat houses there. With the 2005 JCWP based in Michigan, we were honored that the funds that we collected went into one of the ten homes built in Oakland County. Following breakfast, David took us to the Global Village and Discovery Center. There, we “visited” several countries without ever leaving American soil.
The GVDC was obviously David’s domain. We could see the pride on his face as he took us on a personal tour of the place. Opened in 2003, the center is HFHI’s window to the world of poverty. Imagine going to a theme park and the first setting you stroll through is a slum. Set up as an interactive, open-air museum, the six acre site illustrates the housing transformation that partner families undergo to thrive in Habitat homes worldwide. Many people may be familiar with the homes that Habitat builds in their local communities but can not grasp how much of an improvement a Habitat house is in other countries. The center featured the Donor Recognition Plaza, Welcome Center and Marketplace, a “Living in Poverty” exhibit and a global village of 15 homes (two of which were under construction).
At the entrance, we passed by the Donor Recognition Plaza consisting of hundreds of red bricks. At the center of the circular Honor Wall was a globe with bibles positioned on opposite sides. With a gift of $100 or more, quite a number of donors have had a name inscribed on a brick. To begin our tour through the global homes, we first passed through the life-sized recreation of a slum area. This “Living in Poverty” settlement is a crowded neighborhood of discarded lumber, rusted tin panels and worn tarps. Seeing firsthand, the poverty housing that one in five people live in worldwide, put a lump in our throats. We asked David about a light bulb we saw hanging from the ceiling with a string. He answered, “A light bulb symbolizes a family’s hope that they may someday have electricity.”
After exiting the unsavory shacks, we walked a short distance to view example Habitat houses from Mexico, Guatemala, Kenya, Botswana, Malawl, Ghana, Haiti, Zambia, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, India and Sri Lanka (the last two were under construction). For each home constructed, care was taken to match the materials and designs that were appropriate for the affiliate country. A common theme for all Habitat houses is a securely fastened roof, a strong door, adequate ventilation and strong walls. In addition to the homes, two open-air community centers were built. As authentically as possible, landscaping, fencing, and walkways were replicated to represent each area of the world. Next to the Botswana home, there was a separate, out-house with two holes. One hole is always covered for composting.
With ample space to grow, the village is expected to expand to 35 houses. At the center of the site is an interactive area where guests can make blocks and tiles. Imagine sifting the red Georgia soil, mixing it with cement and then packing it into a block press. To construct the Tanzania house, 2,500 wall blocks and 1,000 roof tiles were required. As we departed the global village, there was a large billboard sign with a kindly reminder, “Poverty housing is a worldwide scourge and the United States isn’t exempt.” After the wonderful tour, David gave us two T-shirts from the gift shop. There were a number of interesting collectables and souvenirs at the Welcome Center but we chose to travel lightly. To view photos from our HFHI visit, click Habitat for Humanity International.
From the GVDC center, David drove us to two areas in Americus which had Habitat homes. The first group of homes was built in the 1980s. Barb noted that none of the houses had garages. David said that because of the logic, “We’re building habitat for people, not cars,” no garages or carports are included. In another part of town, we drove through a community of homes constructed in the late 90s in a blitz build. A community building was also established for the area. David noted that several construction vendors such as Whirlpool and Dow donate items such as appliances and insulation. Although no air conditioners are included in the homes, the ductwork is built in should the homeowner decide to add A/C later.
Before returning us to the Mir house, David took us by several buildings and houses owned by HFHI. Before settling into the present headquarters, HFHI had setup their main offices in three different buildings over the years. They still use the former headquarter sites but for specific projects. A number of the private homes that Habitat bought in the area are now guest houses for volunteers or are being used for various projects and activities. When we got a grasp of all of the buildings that HFHI was applying for their mission, our heads were spinning. They are well established in Americus. As David dropped us off, we strongly expressed our appreciation for the grand tour.
Tired from all of sightseeing, we took an afternoon nap. At 5 PM, we walked a half mile southeast to St. Mary’s Catholic Church for the Saturday evening mass. After the service, we enjoyed a stroll by several historic houses. When established in 1832, the town’s inhabitants drew a name out of a hat. It was Americus. Like Newnan to the north, a major rail line went through the city. During the Civil War, the town was the site of three Confederate hospitals. The locals were not very happy about the POW camp in Andersonville (ten miles to the northeast). They were concerned about potential escapees and they considered the smell unbearable. In the 21st century, the city continues to thrive from a strong agricultural economy, including cotton, peanuts and vegetables.
Back at the Mir, we checked our messages before falling asleep. An email from Barb’s sister Susan noted that she had received some supplies we had ordered. Among the items was a replacement reservoir for Randall’s Camelbak hydration pack. His worn-out reservoir was leaking occasionally as water would drip on him, causing some distraction. This equipment issue was not nearly as serious as a stripped-out bottom bracket but it eventually needed to be resolved. Knowing that we would be replacing the rear tandem tire soon, we added a new tire and three tubes to our request list. We then instructed Susan to mail the package to a southern Georgia post office.
Sunday morning, we ate a small snack before heading for the downtown area on foot. Going east on Lamar Street and then over to Forsyth Street, we followed the tree-lined sidewalks to the Windsor Hotel. Although we chose not to stay at this historic hotel, our curiosity took us inside for a peak. The lobby was a three tiered open atrium filled with carved oak and marble. A large mirror on the north wall was quite striking. Outside, the building’s towers, turrets and terra cotta ornamentation were spectacular. After sauntering by several more historic structures, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some food. With four bags of groceries in hand, we returned to the Mir guest house.
For the balance of the morning, we worked on our adventure writing and photo screening. In the late afternoon, Randall examined the rear tandem tire and determined it was time to replace. There were small areas on the tire that had worn down to the thread level. While putting on the new tire, he found our rig to be quite dirty. It was time to hose down the bike with a power wash. We hitched up our empty trailer and pedaled a mile east to the self-service car wash. During our short ride, three cars gave us friendly honks and one passenger flashed a peace sign. After inserting a few quarters, we aimed the power spray carefully on the tandem and trailer. Once we removed the grime from the drive chain and timing chain, we quickly wiped them dry with paper towels and then lubed them up with chain oil.
Now that our bike looked almost new again, we pedaled a block over to a Sonic Drive-In that we discovered on the way down. Although, our frig back at the guest house was well stocked with food, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. It started to sprinkle after we placed our order for cherry lime-aids, burgers and onion rings. Naturally, it would rain after a trip to the car wash! We put our food order into our trailer bag and made a mad dash back to our lodging. Upon our return, we quickly placed the tarp on our tandem to avoid the approaching heavy rain. Before retiring for the night, we checked the weather forecast for the next day. With rain slated almost the entire day, we easily decided that we needed another day for rest and writing.
After a large breakfast at the Mir Monday morning, we resumed writing about our trip. A constant rain outside gave us a smoothing sound for focusing on our glorious experiences. Since we were not riding today, we were thinking, “Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!” In the late morning, there was a short break in the rain so Randall walked a few blocks over to a beauty salon. His instructions to the hair stylist were simply “Cut it down to a half inch or less; beard included.” With Barb referring to Randall as Gentle Ben (as in a character with a large, shaggy beard), he decided it was time to look more refined. Also influencing him was the expectation of warmer days ahead. As our day wound down, we wrote a check to HFHI to cover our wonderful stay in Mir. Although there were no set room charges, a donation of $10/night was encouraged.
Miles cycled – 2.7
October 12, 2004
Having rained all night, we were wondering if we were in for a soggy day. Thankfully the showers subsided by the time we finished breakfast. To make our exit out of town, we went one mile west on Church Street. We would be heading west for the bulk of the day so that we could rejoin Highway 27. The west side of Americus turned out to be just as hilly as the east side. After struggling up one climb in heavy traffic, we reached westbound Highway 280. Noting that the traffic light at the intersection was displaying a green light for only 30 seconds, we knew we couldn’t waste time going across. Once we had traveled a couple of miles on Highway 280, the traffic thinned out considerably. Occasionally, we would feel a drop of moisture fall from the sky but rain did not appear to be imminent.
For several miles, we went up and down several medium size hills. With the next town expected to be Plains, GA, we wondered, “When does the flat stuff start?” One road side sign along the way caught our attention, “Sons of Confederate Veterans – Join Now.” If there was any doubt before, we’re in the South now! A couple of miles east of Plains, the hills started leveling out some as we were seeing an abundance of peanut fields. We had never seen peanut plants before so we gawked at the sight. Near the fields was a huge peanut processing plant. Outside the facility, there were several large blowers lined up under sheds. The blowers were for curing wagon loads of peanuts. In one peanut field, we could see about 50 Canada geese that were mulching on either the plants or the peanuts. And we thought they ate only grass!
Just after passing a “Georgia Presidential Pathways” sign, we turn left onto the driveway of the Georgia Visitor Center. After snacking on some energy bars, we went inside the center for a look around. This was a convenient stop as maps of Plains were available to get us oriented. After five minutes of wandering around, a woman behind the counter waved us over. She held up her copy of Americus Times-Recorder and queried, “Y’all know you were in the newspaper today?” Startled, we zoomed in on the small photo with a 30 word caption. Sure enough, there we were. The lady offered her paper to us but we declined as we could pick one up in Plains. Randall followed with, “Keep your paper so you can show your visitors that you had some bikers stop by today.”
Reaching the outskirts of Plains, the unusually tall water tower dominated the skyline. In 1976, the media setup their television trailers at this tower to cover the presidential campaign. Because of Jimmy Carter’s rise to fame in the mid 1970s, many Americans have heard of Plains, GA. As we pedaled into this small community of 700, were struck by how little the town has changed through the years. Certainly, there was a whirlwind of activities 30 years ago that could have transformed the village but except for a greater emphasis of souvenirs, it’s the same old town. Even with the closing of the high school in 1979 (because of consolidation), the town’s population has been stable.
As we approached the one-block long business district, we immediately noticed the red, white and blue sign that displayed, “Plains Georgia – Home of Jimmy Carter – Our 39th President.” Seeing this setting really made us marvel about the path Carter took to the White House. Here was a man from an isolated, small town upbringing that broadened his horizons to achieve a lofty goal. Wow! Our first stop was at the Plains Depot. The depot served as the presidential campaign headquarters for Carter. It is now a self-guided museum detailing his grassroots campaign. When Jimmy broke the news to his mom that he was running for President, Miss Lillian’s reply was, “Of what?” In January, 1977, an eighteen-car passenger train dubbed the “Peanut Express,” departed this depot for Washington D.C. Filled to capacity, the train transported its ecstatic passengers to Carter’s inauguration.
Across the street from the depot, we entered the Plains Pharmacy to buy two copies of the Americus Times-Recorder. On the east exterior wall of the store was a mural with the caption, “If These Sidewalks Could Talk.” The display celebrated Jimmy Carter’s past and noted the annual peanut festival. We pedaled east past the downtown stores to get a closer look at the Golden Peanut Company. This site was formerly the Carter Warehouse as the family had a farm supply business there. Jimmy Carter, with the passing of his father in 1953, retired from the navy to assume control of the business. With brother Billy’s help, the Carters operated the business up to 1981.
While gazing at the complex, a man driving a tractor pulled a wagon loaded with peanuts onto the scales for a weight. The mound of peanuts poking above the wagon looked like a pile of pine mulch from a distance. We then heard a truck-like noise coming from the south. A huge, yellow, peanut combine was barrowing into town so we nudged our rig off the street for its safe passage. Some of the tin warehouses were coated with a reddish dust as the area’s red dirt apparently separated from the peanuts during loading and unloading. Plains certainly thrives on peanuts.
Opposite the town’s business district is a former gas station. Two, full-service style pumps sit out in front with a red ribbon draped around the perimeter. With the sign, “Fine Products for You and Your Car,” the site looked pretty run down and untouched for the past twenty years. Also somewhat faded was the roadside sign, “Billy Carter’s Service Station.” Jimmy’s brother owned and operated the place from 1972-81. Billy was a magnet to the press as he freely spoke what was on his mind. At this point, his old station is not a museum but a curiosity.
On the northeast side of town, the old high school is now a museum. The school did well to prepare the rural kids for the outside world. One teacher during Jimmy’s and Rosalynn’s school years was famous for her quote, “Any schoolboy, even one of ours, might grow up to be President of the United States.” Heading west out of town, we passed by the Methodist Church where Jimmy and Rosalynn were married. A block west of the church is the Carter’s private residence and the only house they ever owned. Trees obscure views of the property but the secret service sentry can be seen at the southeast corner.
The fact that the Carters made Plains their home after the presidency confirmed that they cherished the small town values. Even with their hectic travel schedule, they still manage to attend the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains 35 to 40 weeks out of the year. Because this small, 100 member congregation has the nation’s most popular Sunday school teacher, they host over 10,000 visitors a year. One of the most frequent questions that friends asked us about our AK 2 FL trip was, “Are you going to meet Jimmy Carter?” While in Americus, David with Habitat for Humanity International checked the Sunday school schedule at Maranatha, but regrettably, we learned that the Carter’s were out of town for the weekend.
After our intriguing tour of Plains, we continued west on Highway 280. Just outside town, we passed by several more fields of peanuts. Harvest was underway as digger equipment had gone up and down the rows to extract the green plants from the ground. Before releasing the plants, they were gently shook to remove the red soil and then laid upside down. By rotating the plants so that the leaves are face down, the moist peanut pods are allowed to dry in the field for several days. Once the crop is dried out, a combine (either self-propelled or pulled by a tractor) goes over the rows to scoop up the plants and separates the pods. To accelerate curing, the peanuts are dumped into wagons with perforated flooring before being sold at peanut buying stations. With nearly half of the nation’s peanuts grown in Georgia, it would be difficult to pass through the state without seeing a peanut or two.
Yearning to see Carter’s boyhood farm, a mile west of town we turned left onto Old Plains Highway. During our short jaunt to the farmhouse, we passed by the Lebanon Cemetery where the former president’s folks and siblings are buried. Pulling into the driveway of the farm, we parked our rig in the parking lot where a park ranger greeted us. When the attendant asked where we had biked from, she was astonished to hear what our starting point was. Having previously worked at a park in Alaska, she could appreciate that we had come a ways down the road. She followed with, “My Lord! On a bike? I get tired just pedaling around the block!” Overhearing our conversation with the ranger, a park visitor asked if it was true that we had biked from Alaska. After asking questions about our trip, he had us stand behind our tandem for a few photos.
Strolling over to the farmhouse, we couldn’t help but notice the huge pecan trees to the west. Jimmy’s mother had planted the grove shortly after settling there in 1928. The income from the pecan sales was considered Miss Lillian’s money which she could spend as she saw fit. The day the Carter family moved to the farm was memorable as Jimmy’s father, Earl had forgotten his house key. They had their four-year-old son crawl through a window to unlock the door. The family never locked the door again. The farm was sold to a neighbor in 1949 but the National Park Service was able to purchase a small portion which included the residence and surrounding structures. Opened in 2000, the Carter farm reflects the background and influences that contributed to the development of President Carter’s beliefs and personality.
The Carters were one of two white families that lived in a rural community of sharecroppers and tenant farmers. With 25 black families in the area, Jimmy grew up with black playmates and adult caretakers that strongly shaped his values. The farm saw a major transformation with the addition of running water in 1935 and the installation of electrical service in 1938. The windmill that supplied water was quite remarkable. Position half way up in the structure was a wooden tank that could hold up to 1,700 gallons. During his presidency, this windmill may have giving Carter insights into non-oil dependent energy resources. After obtaining running water, they were able to setup a rudimentary shower using a large tin can with a bottom perforated by nail holes.
Adjacent to the Carter home was a family operated store that had rural necessities such as canned goods, kerosene, soap, flour and syrup. Among the notable items on the price list was gasoline at $0.17/gal and lard at $0.10/lb. Standing outside the store, Randall noticed a series of small pits scattered about the exposed red soil. From his childhood days in southern Kansas, he recognized the little dimples in the ground as traps set up by antlions (or doodlebugs). After building a cone-shaped pit about two inches wide and deep, the antlion waits at the bottom for an ant or other insect to slip on the loose soil and fall in. As soon as the ant is tripped down the hole, the doodlebug has its next meal. Having not seen an antlion pit in thirty years, Randall was thrilled at the sighting but Barb was dubious that such a foe of ants existed.
With still nearly 50 miles to our next destination, we wrapped up our visit to the Carter’s boyhood farm and continued west on Old Plains Highway. After a half mile, we turned right onto Sumter-Webster County Line Road for a short jog back to Highway 280. The dirt road quickly changed the color of our tires from black to red. Heading west on Highway 280 again, we now had some moderate hills to climb in Webster County. Although the traffic was light, we didn’t cherish climbing up a hill with a logging truck on our tail. The driver patiently followed us until we got to the hillcrest.
After six miles of intermittent pine trees, we reached Preston, GA, the county seat of Webster. With only 450 citizens, the town’s main attractions were the courthouse and a restaurant. The courthouse had a four-sided tower but no clocks were visible. The county was originally named from the Creek word, Kinchafoonee, but many residents thought the name was awkward, undignified, and would invite ridicule from outsiders so they renamed it after Daniel Webster. The one restaurant in town was called Mom’s Kitchen and had a large mural depicting the “Last Supper.” We were contemplating a meal stop but decided we weren’t ready for our last supper. With the next town nine miles away, we wanted to tackle a few more miles before taking our break.
As we departed Preston, we noticed three elderly men who were standing along the side of the road. They had a pickup load of produce that they were selling. The men gave us a pretty heavy stare as we pedaled along. When we passed the trio, Barb waved and said “Hi!” They then broke into laughter as one of them chuckled, “Das awright. Das awright. Das awright.” West of town, we continued to encounter moderate size hills under an overcast day. The one upside to the abundant hills were the distant views after each ascension. We were enjoying the Georgia countryside. A couple of times, we passed groves of large pecan trees. We never realized that the trees got so big.
Just past 1 PM, we reached Richland, GA, a city of 1,700. Finding nothing resembling a restaurant on the highway, we jogged a block over to check out the business district. As we pedaled down the two blocks of downtown, nearly all of the buildings appeared to be vacant. With a near ghost-town appearance, the decline of the town was an eerie sight. So, we trekked back to the west bound highway, hoping that there would be something on the outskirts of town. Passing by the municipal building, a jail annex with a razor wire fence could be seen nearby. An inmate apparently saw us bike by as he shouted out some unintelligible words.
After climbing a short hill, we found a cafeteria-styled restaurant. With an all-you-can-eat option, we both enjoyed very large meals. Naturally, we had pecan pie for dessert. The service there was quite good as we were drinking a lot of ice tea and the waitress kept refilling our glasses without delay. She even allowed us to pack our Camelbaks with ice before departing. As we left Richland, we were now headed in a southwest direction. The medium size hills continued to give us a workout. Our map was showing a small settlement called Randall about three miles ahead. Hoping to get a photo of Randall, GA, we saw no sign to announce the establishment’s name as we biked by a dozen houses.
Following a series of rolling hills, we reached Lumpkin, GA. The Stewart County Courthouse there was a red brick building with four, tall, white-pillars in front. The white, four-face clock tower was extraordinarily tall. As we ventured through town, we saw some attractive 19th century homes. Some workers painting one of the homes gave us a big wave as we biked by. At the west edge of town we finally rejoined Highway 27 which we had left in Carrollton, GA days earlier. Our long detour through Americus was now complete. With all of the people and sights we came across, we found this diversion from Highway 27 to be quite worthwhile.
Heading south, the road was now a divided, four-lane highway with a two FT shoulder. However, after climbing a hill, we discovered that the highway was going through a major overhaul. Apparently this stretch of Highway 27 necked down to two lanes and the construction crews were in the process of advancing the four-lane mode several miles south. Whatever the case, the road transitioned to a single, two-lane pavement after crossing Hodchodkee Pond. We still had a two FT shoulder which was the most important thing to us. Climbing up a long hill, we could see a lot of heavy equipment activity to our left as the workers groomed the red soil for a new, northbound highway. Vast amounts of dirt were being removed from the hills to reduce the steepness of the grade.
Through our travels, we had seen a lot of road construction but nothing matched the beauty of the red soil here. The trucks, backhoes and motor scrapers were all coated with dust as they moved the brilliant, red dirt. A couple of miles down the road, a huge mound of fill dirt had a strikingly rich, red color to it. For ten miles, several motor scrapers were seen pacing up and down the construction path with loads of dirt. Many of drivers gave us a wave as they plodded along with their heavy equipment at 20 mph. One worker just shook his head and then followed with a thumbs-up. After seven miles and several long hills, the pavement and the road construction switched sides. With the road construction now on our right, we experienced a dramatic change to our setting. The shoulder was gone.
Although the traffic was somewhat light, about half of the vehicles were semi-trucks. Our stress level suddenly jumped from three to eight on a scale of ten. As we crawled up each hill, we would check our mirrors for southbound trucks before descending. If there was nothing in sight, chances were that we would be on our way up the next hill before another truck arrived. On two occasions, we had two opposing trucks reaching us simultaneously so we quickly got off the road to let them pass. Whew! One southbound semi-truck started blowing his horn intermittently a half mile away. The driver had plenty of room to pass but was probably checking to see if we were awake.
To add to our misery, a landscape contractor had seeded some grass in the bare grader ditch and was now covering the bed with straw. With a John Deere tractor pulling an open top spreader, they were literally shooting the straw onto the roadside. When we first saw this operation from a mile a way, we couldn’t figure out where all the dust was coming from. Needless to say, we had a few sneezes as the straw blower passed by. Boosting our spirits, the sun eventually broke through the clouds as the chance for rain was diminished. Within five miles of Cuthbert, GA, we called the motel where we had reservations. Three miles north of town, the highway bypassed the city. We needed to clarify if the motel was in town or on the bypass. They were on the bypass.
After climbing what seemed like an infinite number of hills, the terrain finally leveled out some. We were starting to see some hay fields along the way. Passing by one large pecan grove, we could see cattle grazing under the trees. By the time we reached the bypass, the road construction was thankfully behind us. With the traffic volume picking up, we labored to finish our final three miles. Checking into the motel, we enjoyed the convenience of a nearby Huddle House restaurant before closing out our day. The waitress that served us dinner was memorable as each of her sentences began with the word, “Sweetheart.” She certainly enjoyed her work.
Miles cycled – 60.0
October 13, 2004
Hoping to advance 70 miles today, we rose before sunrise. Having completed our continental breakfast by 7 AM, we had to wait ten minutes before departing as there wasn’t sufficient daylight to be visible on the road. Instead of continuing on the bypass highway, we decided to bike a mile west so that we could check out the city of Cuthbert. We quickly learned that the town was situated on a hill as our first mile of the day was drudgery, all uphill! Ascending the hill, we passed by a woman sitting out on a front porch in a rocking chair. She sat there expressionless as we pedaled by.
Before reaching the center of this city of 3,700, we were amazed at the configuration of the town’s water tower. Most tanks we had seen were short and squatty. This one was strikingly tall and skinny. We wondered if the water kept the citizens fit. The caption on the tower stated, “City of Cuthbert – Est. 1831.” Pedaling over to the town square, we circled it two times to take in the area’s sights. The Randolph County Courthouse with its four-faced clock tower was positioned near the square. Having seen enough of town, we headed south to rejoin Highway 27. The road was no longer a four-lane divided highway but a two-lane payment with no shoulder.
Riding down a hill out of town, it was a dreary overcast morning with patches of fog. Northbound motorists had their lights on as they approached Cuthbert. At times, it appeared to be raining in the south. For the next several miles we ascended over several sizable hills which left us wondering, “Is Florida going to be flat?” Occasionally, a logging truck would pass us. Otherwise, the traffic was light. Gradually, the hills got smaller and smaller to where we had a rolling-hill setting. After leaving an area that was dense with trees, we were surprised to see a Smokey-the-Bear sign – in Spanish. Above Smokey’s head was the word, “PIENSA!” (Think!), and below was the word, “GRACIAS!” On the opposing side of the sign, there was a graphic display of burning timber with the caption, “Prevent Wild Fires!”
Apparently, the timber and brush offered good hunting opportunities as we passed a small building with the sign, “Georgia Bucks and Beards – Trophy Deer and Turkey Hunting.” Along the road, we were now seeing pastures of cattle and fields of various crops. Approaching one small herd of cows, we spooked some white birds which were roosting on the backs of the beef (checking for fleas?). The sudden flight of the birds also spooked the cattle as they trotted away. The fog had finally burned off but it was still mostly cloudy. The water in a couple of farm ponds we passed by had a blue-greenish tint.
Shortly after crossing into Clay County, we reached an intersection called Suttons Corner. A nearby sign had an arrow with the name, “Fort Gaines,” so that travelers knew to go west for this Georgia town. Now only twelve miles from the Alabama – Georgia border, we were very close to a bike tour we did the week of Thanksgiving in 2003. A 50 mile, scenic loop took us around Walter F George Reservoir where we passed through Fort Gaines. That tour, as we recalled, took us over a few big hills. From that experience, we should have expected some tough climbing in Georgia.
Looking back to the north, we noticed that the state had designated this portion of Highway 27 as a hurricane evacuation route. Motorists were to tune in to FM 90.9 for updates. With all of the hurricanes Florida had endured the past summer, we wondered how busy this route was back then. Before continuing south, a westbound log truck loaded with very long, pines crossed the highway. The timber appeared to extend beyond the trailer by 30 FT. As we pedaled along, the sun was starting to peak through the clouds, creating some supernatural views.
Continuing south, it was apparent that Clay County was a prospering agricultural setting. Cotton was prominent but peanuts appeared to be king in the county. We stopped next to one field where two tractor-propelled peanut combines were sitting idle. Although we didn’t get to see the machines in action, we could see that a series of fingers and a horizontal auger served to scoop the peanut plants off the ground to be advanced through the separation process. We noticed that some of the farmers were baling the peanut vines following harvest. The vines are rich in nutrients and make good livestock feed. Other farmers simply plowed the vines back into the soil as the peanut plant remains have a high nitrogen content.
Just as we finished photographing the peanut equipment, the sun burst through the clouds. With the wonderful, natural lighting, we shot the photos again. After passing by several peanut fields, we coasted by a farm house with several structures and farm equipment. In the curing sheds, we could see at least two dozen wagon loads of peanuts. That’s a lot of peanuts! Near the home, there were 20 cows clustered around four peanut bales. The cattle seemed to be having quite a picnic. North of Bluffton, GA, we noticed a small rural house that had seen better days. The rusted, tin roof was almost a solid reddish-brown color. A friend of ours in Michigan called this dwelling a “Couldya House,” (as in, could ya love a man enough to live there?)
A mile outside of Bluffton, we skipped the bypass highway and ventured through the center of this town of 100. Among the sights, we saw horses grazing under pecan trees, a huge six FT cactus plant and a small palm tree. Rejoining Highway 27, we were surprised to see that it was now a divided, four-lane highway with a small shoulder. The extra lanes curiously necked back down to two after a couple of miles. As we came up to a farm driveway on the left, we saw a John Deere tractor moving along and hoisting its front scoop high up in the air. At the same time, we noticed that the scoop had an occupant who was trying to keep his balance. The tractor then stopped in front of a small tree and the daredevil rider proceeded to pick some pecans.
Advancing our rig through the countryside, we approached a herd of 70 steers and heifers that was gathered along the fence. Every single cow focused on us as we got closer. As we pedaled by, they all turned counterclockwise so that they could continue watching us. A dozen of them started pursuing us, following for a hundred FT before stopping. We wondered what the attraction was. Did we smell like peanuts? After only eight miles of travel, we were leaving the L-shaped Clay County and entering Early County. A sign marking a country road soon captured our attention. The orange-color dirt path was called Flea Hop Road.
Checking our map, if we were to take a four mile detour down this dusty road, it would take us to the Kolomoki Mounds Park. A Georgia historical marker noted that the park memorialized a prehistoric Georgia civilization that had lived here about 1,500 years earlier. At a height of 60 FT, the temple mounds were said to be shaped like rectangular pyramids with bases as large as a football field. Because we were expecting a high mileage day, we decided not to take this diversion. After passing several fields of baled peanut plants, we met a tractor that had a rear fork attachment for hauling the bales around. Some of the bales had white or black plastic covering to give the feed a longer shelf life. From a distance, the white bales looked like marshmallows.
On our east horizon, we could see a small plane swooping around and flying erratically. Having had a prior sighting of a crop dusting plane in Kansas, we were hoping for a closer photo. The pilot apparently read our minds as he did a low fly-by right over our heads while Barb shot away. The plane continued southwest so either the application was completed or it was reloading with more pesticides. A few miles into Early County, we noticed an abundance of cotton. Perhaps cotton was king here. For one of our five mile breaks, we pulled over on a path to a cotton field.
As we gazed at the expanse of cotton, we noticed three northbound cotton pickers heading up the highway. Having seen a few pickers sitting idle in farm yards, it was a thrill to actually see the machines move along. While Barb was busy photographing the green monsters, Randall realized that they intended to turn onto the path we were standing on. He quickly moved our rig out of harms way. One by one, the pickers advanced down the cotton path. Regrettably, they were headed to the opposite end of the field so we were unable to see some cotton being harvested. Among close encounters with harvesting equipment, we could now count a wheat combine in Colorado, a corn combine in Illinois, and a peanut combine and a cotton picker in Georgia.
After miles of cotton fields, we reached Blakely, GA, the county seat of Early County. Unlike other Georgia towns that Highway 27 went around, there was no bypass here. With a population of 5,700, this was the largest city we had seen since Americus. Following the rolling hills into town, we could see that the highway ran right into the courthouse. As we biked up a slight hill, we saw two teenage boys walking along on the sidewalk. They were both wearing medium weight coats that we would be accustomed to wearing in Michigan during the month of December. With the temperature in the low 60s, being bundled up like that seemed kind of odd.
Now 12 noon, we surveyed the downtown area for food options before circling back a couple of blocks to Hardees. While ordering hamburgers and milkshakes, the clerk asked us where we were biking from. With our answer, her jaw lowered a bit and her eyes widen before wishing us a safe journey. After finishing our lunch, we continued back up to the courthouse. We saw another teenager strolling down the sidewalk. This one seemed more reasonably dressed for the climate with a black, long sleeve shirt and white shorts that didn’t quite make it to his waistline. When he discovered our approaching rig, he suddenly stopped and gave us a long, blank stare.
Reaching the county building, we followed the highway to the right to get around the obstruction. Unlike previous courthouses we had seen, this one had a copper-top dome. Just below the dome were the obligatory clocks, mounted on four sides. On the south side of the courthouse was a well-groomed town square. Following the square around a couple of times, we admired a large mural on the side of a building. With the caption, “Birdsong Peanuts,” a team of mules were shown pulling a digger across a field while the farmers gathered the peanut plants into a stack.
Departing town, we passed by some substantial, private homes that were built in the 19th century. Many of the houses had tall white pillars or huge front porches. Continuing with Highway 27, it made a slight bend to the left as we were now heading southeast. Back in the country, we passed by more cotton patches. In one field, we saw a large cotton bale that was ready to haul away. The 1,500 lb bale, covered with a green tarp, appeared to be about the size to fit into the back of a truck. We later confirmed this hunch as a truck hauling one of the huge bales passed us going down the highway.
To our relief, we were now riding through some fairly flat terrain. We were beginning to wonder if Georgia had any flat areas. In addition, we had a ten mph tailwind so we were flying along at 12 to 14 mph. Life is good! The two lane highway was a bit narrow but we weren’t complaining. That was particularly the case when we saw a private street sign that read, “KWITCHERBITCHIN.” It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon as we passed several small farms. One farm had several emus in the front yard. After hearing that this bird is commonly raised in the South, we finally got to see some.
A mile west of Colquitt, GA, Highway 27 made a bend to the east and became a four-lane highway before passing a peanut processing plant. One gate to the site had the sign, “Birdsong Peanuts – Fudge Buying Point,” so we assumed that yummy, fudge peanuts were being processed there. The highway did not bypass Colquitt so we soon reached the city’s business district where we found a large town square with a fairly new courthouse in the center. We headed straight for the post office which was directly across from the Miller County Courthouse. The supply package Barb’s sister, Susan had mailed four days earlier had arrived. The new tire and tubes would double our on-board supply and hopefully be enough to get us to Key West.
Outside the post office, Randall strapped the package to the top of the trailer for the final 20 miles of riding. Before launching our tandem, a distinguish-looking lady (a southern belle, perhaps?) stopped to ask us about our Habitat for Humanity banner. She knew about the Habitat homes that had been built in Miller County and wondered if we were involved with that. We then told her about extent of our trip. Learning that we were visitors, she immediately started promoting her town. The entire town square is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among the remarkable buildings was the pink, Tarrer Inn, a bed and breakfast which was built in 1861.
She went on to note the Cotton Hall which featured Swamp Gravy, a Southern storytelling tradition that blended comedy, drama and music. Plus, this town of 1,900 was known as the “Mayhaw Capitol of the World.” A mayhaw is a small, red berry that is found in river bottoms under hardwood trees or in bayous surrounding lakes. The fruit commonly is used for jams and jellies. After the extended plug this woman gave for her city, we didn’t have the heart to tell her that we weren’t staying long. Randall asked about the newness of the courthouse. The lady then confessed, “Honey, we have the ugliest courthouse in Georgia. But, we do have the most handsome mayor!” The boxy, orange-tan brick building was built in 1977 to replace the previous one that was destroyed by fire. The modern architecture wasn’t so much ugly as it was just an inappropriate structure to place in the middle of a traditional town square.
Having received a heavy promotion of Colquitt from the lady with civic pride, we proceeded to bike around the square. The business district certainly had a lot of character as we elected to pedal an additional two loops around. The old buildings were quaint looking and some of the larger buildings had some wonderful murals. There were some older vehicles around town but the most curious one was a red and black Ford. The right door and support pillar had been cut away from the pickup so that passengers could get in and out quickly. We weren’t sure why this was done.
Before making our exit out of Colquitt, we stopped at a convenience store to pack our Camelbaks with ice and water. Fed up with his leaky system, Randall opened the supply package to retrieve the new Camelbak reservoir that Susan had packed. While paying for our icy water, the clerk asked us where we had biked from. Our answer left her speechless. While her eyes and mouth were still wide open, we handed her one of our cards. Her manager, hovering in the background, immediately took interest and grabbed the card out of her hand. We pulled a second card out for the clerk so she wouldn’t feel left out.
After placing the card in his wallet, the manager questioned us about our trip. At first, he was under the impression that we were in a race. When we clarified that we were not in a race, he seemed mystified as to why we were doing the trip. He was certain that what we were doing had to break a record of some kind. One clerk noted that we didn’t look very tan after being outdoors for so long. We then showed off the white/brown contrast under our sandals which brought on an abundance of laughter in the store.
Heading east of town, the four-lane divided highway made a bend back to the southeast. The terrain continued to be relatively flat as we were enjoying a fast ride. This segment of highway seemed virtually deserted. We wondered why four lanes were needed but suspected that the route was probably packed during hurricane evacuations. We passed by a number of crystal-blue ponds and saw some brown, swampy areas. One field had cattle grazing among the cotton plants. Apparently, there was no concern that the cows would munch on the cotton. Some of the area’s farms had decorative fences and gates.
About eight miles northwest of Bainbridge, GA, we passed by a large industrial park. The park was a former Army air field during World War II. Beyond this commercial complex, the traffic increased considerably and rumble strips were inserted into the shoulder. Not the most pleasant way to end the day, the bumpy surface was avoided as much as possible for the next several miles. Bainbridge, with a population of 12,000, was a fairly large city so the extra traffic was not unexpected. We had reserved a motel at the south end of town so that we would not have to contend with commuters in the morning. Our challenge was to get through town before the late afternoon traffic picked up. A couple miles outside of town, we stopped at a convenience store for rest and beverages. We expected the biking ahead of us to be hectic at times so we needed to have fresh legs.
At the outskirts of town, we took the Dothan Road exit from Highway 27 which would take us to the business district. Just a mile later, the street took us up over a bridge. A diamond-shaped caution sign alerted motorists with, “Watch for Bicycles on Bridge – SHARE the Road.” Down below the bridge, we could see the muddy Flint River which we were crossing a third and final time. The river appeared to be twice as wide as it was in Montezuma. Nearing the historical part of town, we turned south onto Crawford Street for a closer look. We gazed with wonder as we passed several older buildings.
After a couple of blocks, we reached the Decatur County Courthouse. This red-brick building was very majestic with its four large white pillars and very tall clock tower. One of the four clocks indicated that it was 3:55 PM. Having traveled over 70 miles, we felt we had made pretty good time. From the courthouse, we parked our rig at the neighboring town square and took in the sights. With all history in the area, there were several Georgia historical markers present. One noted that Hernando de Soto and his Spanish Army had discovered the inland waters of the Flint River near there in 1540. A neighboring statue was a memorial to the Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
While walking around in the large courtyard, we had our first sighting of Spanish moss. The moss and the historical buildings reminded us a lot of the French Quarter in New Orleans, LA. We hopped back onto our tandem and turned south onto Broad Street. After a couple of blocks, we headed east onto a busy Shotwell Street. For a half mile, we passed by an incredible array of private homes. While we slowly pedaled along these gorgeous houses, we were unaware that we were creating a gawker slowdown in the traffic. At Scott Street, we turned south for our last mile of cycling. This less traveled road was very scenic with pine trees shading the path.
South of town, we reconnected with Highway 27 where our motel was located just a block away. After checking in, Barb was able to reach Barbara, a Bainbridge newspaper reporter. She was excited to hear about our story but had commitments that evening. So, we planned on an interview the next morning. For dinner, we walked to a nearby restaurant. Our request for ice tea tipped us off that we were almost out of the South. The tea was now served unsweetened. Barb was very happy with that transition. As we retired for the night, we marveled over all that Georgia had to offer and that we would soon be crossing into our last state!
Miles cycled – 74.4
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