Monday, May 14, 2007

Heat, Hills, and Hunger

We left Hubbard's Landing with goodbyes and thank yous. And thus started Day #2, which by the title of this you can tell brought us some challenges.

This was Mother's Day, a quiet Sunday which we figured would be good traveling on some roads which normally could be busy with some truck traffic through one stretch. From that perspective, this was a good choice. Relatively few vehicles on these roads. On the other hand, we learned that the towns we were going through: a) are extremely small -- more like little crossroads than towns; and b) the few commercial services that exist there are completely closed down on Sundays.

The route we took had many hills, some of them really large, and the temperature was in the 90's F (32-35 C). We found one open gas station / convenience store where we were able to buy gatorade, bread and turkey slices. After 45 miles, we had gone through 4 gatorade bottles and 4 water bottles, and were down to our last swallows of water in the last bottle when we finally pulled up the last immense hill and entered the town of Perdue Hill, where we were anxious to replenish our resources, maybe even stay the night. Sorry, this was not to be. Not only were there no hotels or campgrounds here, but the combination gas station/post office / convenience store was closed. The only good thing is that it had two working vending machines with cold drinks there, and there was a very fine bench under the shade of the gas station roof in front of the store. We got some drinks, literally bought the one machine out of its supply of bottled water, took our shoes and socks off, stretched out on the bench and rested for about an hour. The best closed shop I've ever experienced! Oh the other good thing is that this was the first place we'd been to in the last day and half that had decent cell phone reception, so we were able to phone "happy mothers day" greetings to my mother, and Joan was able to receive them from our kids.

At 4 pm, the temperature was still high, but beginning to drop just a bit, and we dragged ourselves back onto our bikes and set out for Grove Hill. Just another 17 miles down the road, according to the map. We had one absolutely outstanding downhill ride from Perdue Hill down to the Alabama River, but we found that what goes down must eventually go back up. There is a reason that Perdue Hill and Grove Hill have the word "hill" in their names. The hills would have been difficult work anyway, but after the long day we'd already had, and no food besides our little turkey sandwiches and some handfuls of gorp (peanuts/raisins/M&Ms mixture), this was truly a very, very hard 17 miles. Climbing up the last huge long hill we expected to see a town around every bend, but it was like a cruel hoax.... each bend would only bring another bend or small rise (small rises were beginning to feel like big hills in their own right). Finally, as dusk began to set in, we came into the town of Grove Hill. And low and behold there was an open convenience store and a fried chicken fast food restaurant called Chesters. We'd found an oasis in the desert!!!! Quickly, we ordered a chicken dinner, which they boxed and bagged for us, bungee tied it to the back of our bikes, bought 2 more bottles of gatorade, got some extra bags to more securely tie down our food from a nice young man who was there watching us through all of this, and then rode as fast as our weary legs could go down the main street of Grove Hill to the other end of town where we found our hotel, just as true darkness fell. We collapsed into our room, and had the best fried chicken dinner this world has ever known!

Day 2 was in the books, thankfully. Just under 70 miles covered in a mere 7 hours and 33 minutes of biking time. Ugh!


Peter said...

Mike and Joan, thanks for these great and detailed accounts of your travels! Mike - you area a blogging pro! Looking forward to continued "riding" with you all. Best regards, Pete

Tamara Smith said...

Mike and Joan,
We are thinking of you every day, with prayers and positive energy for safety, pleasant conditions, and good experiences. I am enjoying the detailed accounts. I'm not sure how you're managing it! I'd be too exhausted to do any creative writing. I believe you've found another calling. The conditions sure make you appreciate what we normally take for granted. A belated "Happy Mother's Day" Joan.
Take care both of you!! And keep the posts coming (if you can)!
Tamara and the Smith boys

Ggsmammashari said...

What a fascinating adventure! It feels like I am doing it with you, that is without the sweat and sore muscles. I can't wait to read/hear more.

Mourad said...

Best Wishes and Luck to you joan and Mike. Reading this blog is fantastic and inspiring. Keep the posts coming in when ever you have a chance please.