Demopolis, AL to Meridian, MS
I started out the morning with breakfast at Hardee's. Then I went to Mail Boxes Etc. and sent four pounds of stuff home. The first ten miles of US 80 were four lanes, but then things got a little tighter. The traffic was the same but crammed into fewer lanes, and with a tiny shoulder instead of a full break-down lane. A highlight was the high bridge over the Tombigbee River (I love that name!). The roadway was wide enough there that I even felt comfortable stopping on the bridge to take some pictures. I found a quarter on the brdge, too!
I stopped for lunch in Cuba, AL, but I couldn't find anything I wanted to eat. I had juice and Gatorade instead. A few miles later, I crossed into Mississippi. There was no state welcome sign, however. The only " Welcome to Mississippi" was on a sign for the State Line Land & Timber Company. The first few miles of US 80 in Mississippi were recently paved with a small shoulder and no rumble strips. However, after crossing I-20, the road took on the traits that give Mississippi a reputation for having some of the worst roads in America. The bumps were brutal, and I was miserable. The white line was the only shoulder. I declared that every cyclist should ride across this state once just to gain new appreciation for the roads of his or her own state. I stopped to drink at the top of a hill. I was wondering if there was some other way to get across this state because I couldn't imagine riding several days on roads like this. It really wasn't any fun. Looking at the map, I could see that I was getting close to Meridian. I hoped that the road conditions would improve there.
My prayers were answered just a few miles later--a smooth road with shoulders. I passed a church that had a peculiar look, like a big room annexed to a motel. " There is no cable TV in the motel of the Lord," I quipped. Soon I hit the east end of Meridian with more than a dozen motels. I already had a reservation at the Motel 6, so I passed up a bunch of $20-25 places. If I had known there were so many other inexpensive options, I might not have made a reservation. However, the Motel 6 was the first motel where I could connect to the Internet at a high speed, 48K. Everywhere else so far, I could only manage 26K (or worse). I walked through the interchange wasteland to Wendy's for dinner. Freeway interchanges are among the most unwalkable environments around. More than once I have thought that if I got hit by a car  on this trip, it would be while walking to or from dinner rather than while riding my bike.
I came up with a simple solution to my Vicksburg problem of how to get across the Mississippi River. It was so obvious that I should have thought of it before. I checked the online yellow pages for taxi companies and found several. I would simply hire a taxi to take me to Louisiana. I justified it as being just like taking a ferry across the river (my mom assured me that no one was going to hold it against me if I got a four-mile ride in the process of biking across the entire country).
The big debate for the night was whether to ride the next day to Forest in the predicted rain. I was leaning toward spending another night at the Motel 6 with my fast Internet connection, but I knew it was too soon for another rest day, too. I decided to play it by ear. I watched an awful movie, 3,000 Miles To Graceland. The film was overflowing with gratuitous violence, and most of the characters got killed. I decided that the only reason Courteney Cox was in it was to satisfy the guys who said, " Reservoir Dogs was cool, but there weren't any chicks." Later in the evening, I noticed that my rear tire was flat again. Okay, three strikes! I couldn't find a leak in the tube, even immersed in water, but since it had two patches already, I threw it in the trash. I also swapped my spare tire, a folding Continental Top Touring 2000, with the double-booted Panaracer Pasela. I kept that tire just in case something worse happened down the road. I felt so unstylish having mismatched tires, but I was glad to be finished with the damaged tire and recurrent flats.
Totals for the day: 55.95 miles in 4:18:16 for a 13.1 mph average.
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