Day Eight

Columbus, GA to Shorter, AL

Today was another excellent touring day. I even exceeded my expectations for distance. However, I will be happy if I never go back to Columbus, GA.  For starters, my bill at the Super 8 was much higher than the $40.49 rate. That's because there was something like a 15% tax on lodging. The clerks rattled off a bunch of cities with higher rates, but every one of those places was a tourist destination. New York may be higher, but Columbus has no Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, etc. And if a city like Chicago has a high lodging tax that they use to build things like McCormick Place for visitors, then that seems reasonable to me. But in Columbus, it all boils down to soaking travelers. I was annoyed.

The roads approaching downtown were as pathetic as the day before--narrow lanes, no shoulders at all, and sometimes steep dropoffs at the edge of the white line. And the pavement was rough and buckled. Yesterday I had been thinking about how good all the roads I had ridden through Georgia were, but Columbus definitely was an exception. I was glad   to leave.

I didn't see any " Welcome to Alabama" sign on the Chattahoochee bridge between Columbus and Phenix City (that is the correct spelling, by the way). Phenix City once had a terrible reputation for organized crime and gambling. According to Margaret Anne Barnes, author of a book titled The Tragedy and the Triumph of Phenix City, Alabama,

Long known as the " Sin City" by World War II soldiers training across the Chattachoochee River at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Secretary of War called it " the wickedest city in America." General George C. Patton, enraged by the atrocities against his soldiers, publicly threatened to take his tanks across the river and " mash Phenix City flat."

When a new attorney general promising to clean up the town was elected in 1954, he was assassinated (his son later became governor of Alabama). The governor declared martial law and sent the National Guard in to maintain order. More than 750 people were indicted, and the town was cleaned up.

Phenix City was better riding than Columbus, but still no picnic. Something cool happened--a guy in a pickup truck passed in the far lane with a short " beep-beep" of the horn. As I looked at him, he gave me a smile and a big " thumbs-up" sign. That made my day, but an instant later a semi cutting it close almost ended my day. There was heavy truck traffic on US 80 continuing out of the city. Most of the truckers gave me plenty of room, but it was still a little unnerving being passed by several in a row. Unfortunately, US 80 was pretty much the only way for trucks to get from Phenix City to Tuskegee. To get away from the truck traffic, I decided to take a chance on a county road that veered away from US 80. This was a stroke of luck. For the first half hour that I was on CR 26 (Red Road), I saw only half a dozen cars. The pavement was excellent and the pine trees made great scenery. This was what I was touring for! I hadn't seen this in all of Georgia, but I found it in Alabama... a beautiful backroad experience. I began singing--what else?--Lynyrd Skynyrd's " Sweet Home Alabama." In fact, I sang as much as I could remember from their entire Second Helping album, since I had a lot of time on my hands. It was refreshing not to have to brace myself for a passing truck every half a mile. I wished that a road like this went all the way across Alabama, but alas, when it joined with CR 22, the traffic picked up a bit and the pavement deteriorated to a mishmash of pothole repairs gone awry. This was rough going until the Tuskegee city limits, where the pavement was once again smooth.

I had intended to stop in Tuskegee for the night. Because I was having a great day, I decided to keep riding . I rejoined US 80, and the trucks were far less frequent because Interstate 85 runs more closely parallel to it west of Tuskegee. I reached the Days Inn in Shorter and decided to call it a day. It was only 3:30, but I had gone nearly 20 miles further than I'd planned. The rate for the night was $39.95, and the rate with tax was $40.95, a vast improvement over Columbus! There was a truck stop next door where I could eat, a good thing since I hadn't had a meal all day. I went to my room, took off my sweaty cycling clothes, and flopped on the bed. I needed to take a shower before dinner, but I fell asleep instead. The warm day had been harder on my body than I had thought. An hour later, I took that shower and went to dinner. I ordered a bacon and cheese omelette. " Breakfast anytime" is a beautiful thing. The hash browns were disgustingly greasy and the service was slower than molasses, but the omelette was good.

Back in my room, I was very frustrated that I couldn't get connected to the Internet despite having a local access number. I kept getting a " line busy" message, even when I dialed the 800 number. I think it was something with the motel's phone system. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get it to work. Exasperated at 11 PM, I went back to the truck stop and connected through their phone lines instead.

Totals for the day: 65.79 miles in 5:15:06 for a 12.5 mph average.

Click here to see today's photos.

Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.