Fort Valley, GA to Columbus, GA
This was an excellent day, the best of my trip so far. The weather cooperated, as the temperatures climbed back into the 50's and the wind calmed down somewhat. There wasn't a cloud in the sky.
Before I checked out of the Valley Inn, I went back across the street to the Huddle House for breakfast. Their waffles were bland compared to those of Waffle House, and of course, Angie wasn't working that morning.
Traffic west of Fort Valley was a bit of a challenge since SR 96 is a heavily-used truck route. Although most drivers were courteous, there were times when circumstances brought them a bit too close for comfort. There were lots of hills, and while I struggled up many of them, for the first time on this trip I climbed a few with vigor. I think I'm starting to "get my legs." Too bad that right Achilles tendon is still not 100%.
SR 96 was in the process of being widened to four lanes. To my surprise, there were bike lanes on much of the new highway. GDOT did the shoulders right by putting the rumble strip next to the white line and leaving a wide bike lane on the outside of the road. However, they did not handle the right turn lanes intelligently. On the road to Tybee Island, they marked a crossover point for the right turn lane to go to the right of the bike lane. On SR 96, the bike lane followed the shoulder along the right turn lane to the intersection. This puts the rider in an awkward position. The Tybee Island solution is far superior, in my opinion.
I felt a telltale squirm beneath me as the bike lane around Butler ran out. Sure enough, my rear tire was flat. It turned out to be a "shame on me" because the hole was precisely underneath the tire boot I installed back in Metter. It even matched the angle of the cut. I hadn't even looked at the tube that morning--I had only noticed and fixed the cut in the tire's sidewall. Apparently, whatever cut the sidewall scored the tube, and somehow the tube held out for an additional 150+ miles before it succumbed. Pretty amazing. I was lucky to have the flat where there was a wide shoulder to work. It took about 20 minutes since I had to unload the bike, flip it, remove the rear wheel, patch the tube, pump it up, put the wheel back on, flip the bike and put the panniers back on.
One town not yet bypassed by the new SR 96 was Howard. This tiny town was notable for the Crackerland Country Store, featuring antiques and a deli. I ate a very good ham and cheese sandwich while I conversed with the proprietor. She said lots of cyclists come in, mostly during the summer. She thought it was a great way to see the country. She was originally from south Florida where it is flat as a pancake, and she really likes the hills of Georgia. An evangelist preached on the radio, urging his congregation to teach their children to discriminate and not to tolerate. What he meant was to teach kids to discriminate between right and wrong, and not to tolerate the latter. I thought he did a good job of getting everybody's attention with that statement.
I came to the conclusion that GDOT is pretty sloppy about the distances on their signs. I've already pointed out the example heading toward Metter, and there was another inaccurate sign on the way to Fort Valley. Today, the signs to Columbus were off. Either that, or I went only two miles in half an hour. I suppose such inaccuracy is okay for motorists, as it makes a difference of only a few minutes, but for a touring cyclist, a five mile difference is quite significant.
Traffic increased as US 80 merged into SR 96 in Geneva. Because of Fort Benning, the approaches to Columbus from the east are limited. Still, I had a wide shoulder, although the bike lane wasn't marked explicitly. I came into Columbus right at rush hour and regretted it. Trafic was heavy and fairly rude--I was in a city again. The roads were poorly designed, too, with no shoulders. A navigational indiscretion (I didn't make a wrong turn; I just thought going a different way than I'd planned would be better--it wasn't) put me onto the Manchester Expressway (not an expressway in the Chicago sense), plus it cut me off from the Super 8 where I was staying for the night. I had to go past a busy interstate interchange and make an illegal U-turn during a gap in the signal lights. Finally, I made it. The clerk said he'd seen me around 2:15 in Geneva, where I had stopped for drinks.
The Super 8 had laundry facilities, so I finally washed all the clothing that I'd been stinking up for the past week. At least I managed to find one clean top/bottom combination so I had something to wear to the laundry room. There wasn't much else good to say about that Super 8, though. The furniture was beaten up and dingy, and there was a $1.00 charge to activate the phone for local calls. After washing my clothes and hanging them all over the room to dry, I walked about a mile to Applebee's for a burger. For the day, I rode further than yesterday in less time. There are only a few miles left of Georgia.
Totals for the day: 68.56 miles in 5:41:52 for a 12.0 mph average.
Click here to see today's photos.
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