Day Nine

Shorter, AL to Prattville, AL

I woke up this morning with what runners and cyclists call " dead legs." As I said yesterday, that extended ride to Shorter took more out of me than I thought. As a result, I was more stiff and sore than at any other time yet in my trip. At least my ankles weren't hurting.

Because of my dead legs and because I was up too late getting my E-mail at the truck stop and didn't get much sleep, I decided to change my plans. I had made up a cue sheet to ride to Greenville, due south of Montgomery. I needed to head south because if I went straight west, I would hit the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, where there is only an interstate bridge and bicycles are not allowed. Heading south in Alabama and Mississippi would bring me to the river at Natchez instead. For once I was up early enough to get the free continental breakfast at the Days Inn. I grabbed two donuts (" The Breakfast of Champions" ) and paused at the travel brochure stand. I picked up two brochures about Selma and decided to go there instead. It sounded like there was enough to do in town that it would be a good place for my upcoming rest day this weekend. I made plans to ride to Prattville, just northwest of Montgomery, instead of Greenville.  It would be a short day, but the alternative (to Greenville or directly  to Selma) would have been my longest day yet, something I definitely was not prepared to do. I had ridden three consecutive hard days from Dublin to Shorter, covering nearly 200 miles.

I started out at a good pace which I managed to maintain throughout the day. The weather was beautiful, and I finally rode without a jacket. I had intuitively mapped out a great route and was quite proud of myself at the end of the ride. The roads had low traffic, lots of curves and few steep hills. I managed to skirt the north side of Montgomery without getting caught up in any congestion. I also got to pay my first toll as a cyclist after crossing a bridge over the Tallapoosa River. It was 75 cents, just like for cars--too bad the rate was based on axles instead of tires or weight. The toll collector was friendly  and we talked about my trip until the next car came. She thought it was really cool. I would happily pay at every major river crossing to ride on such a well-shouldered, low traffic bridge.

There was only one brief, difficult segment of today's ride--crossing back over the river on US 231. I just pedaled like mad until I was over the bridge, cruising around 19 mph. I coasted downhill and caught my breath, pleased that I was turning off of this highway at the next intersection. I was only on 231 for 3/4 of a mile. Lower Wetumpka Road was another pleasant ride, eventually hooking up with Alabama River Parkway and another toll bridge. This was a four-lane road with the traffic of a two-lane, another nice ride. The sparse traffic on good roads puzzled me.  Maybe Alabamans don't like to pay tolls. On the other hand, as an Illinoisan, I'm used to it! Since traffic was light, I talked with the toll collector for awhile. He was impressed with my journey and wished me luck. I'm sure it has to be hard being a toll collector. I mean, the work isn't difficult, but I couldn't imagine being in a little booth all day watching people who are going somewhere.

I enjoyed the parkway, as it wound through an underpopulated natural area. It had a certain remoteness about it that was peaceful. As I approached what appeared to be the hardest hill climb of the day, I felt that telltale mushiness beneath me... I had another rear flat. And yes, it was in the same place, near the cut in the sidewall that I booted in Metter. Yes, it was time to install the spare tire, but I didn't. I just patched the tube and stuck a dollar inside the tire to reinforce the boot. Call me an idiot.

The funniest thing was when I started rolling again. Not more than 100 yards down the road, a veritable forest of signs thrust into the air n the horizon: BP, Waffle House, Chevron... The whole time I had been fixing my flat and thinking I was in the middle of nowhere, I was right on the verge of everything. I laughed at the dark comedic element of it, like the man dying of thirst who can't climb that last sand dune to see the nearby city.

I located my motel for the night, another Days Inn. When I checked in, the motel clerk asked me where I was going next. I told him that I was heading to Selma on SR 14. He expressed concern, saying that the road was very busy and narrow, with lots of logging trucks to boot. He said something about going on " 20" but I never found a route with that number anywhere near Prattville on my maps. For some reason, I doubted his assessment. When I got to my room and got online, I checked the yellow pages for Selma and found a bike shop, Joe's. I called and Joe himself answered. He was really interested in my trip and how I found him. He also assured me that SR 14 would be fine. I trusted a bike shop owner more than a motel clerk, naturally. On Friday, I would find out which one was right.

I checked in early so I could work on the web site using Montgomery's local dial-up. I made good progress, but it wasn't quite ready for prime time. I had a good pizza from Hungry Howie's for dinner.

Totals for the day: 36.22 miles in 2:42:10 for a 13.3 mph average.

Sorry, no photos today.

Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.