Thursday, May 17, 2007

Livingston, AL

We are now in Livingston, Alabama, 5 days into our trip, and we are doing well. Livingston is just off the published UGRR route, near the 230-mile point of the route. We have put about 260 total miles on our bikes since leaving Mobile. This is our first time having computer access since our last post.

Day 3 (Monday). Monday was as good a day as Sunday was challenging. After that hard day on Sunday, we took the morning of Monday off. Took the time to get a good breakfast & lunch, found a laundromat to wash our clothes, and found the library where we checked email and entered our last blog posts. We biked in the afternoon, altering our plans to do a shorter ride, to Coffeeville, AL. The roads were some of the best we'd seen, beautiful rolling hills, where the downhills more than compensated for any uphills. Very fun riding!!! At one point, we chose an optional short cut which was identified on the map, but which required that we cross 1.5 miles of dirt road. That was a bit of an adventure. Much of it was ridable, but in some places the accumulated sand was so deep we had to walk our bikes through it -- a little tough given the weight. But we got thru it ok. At Coffeeville, we road an additional 4 miles out of town to a campground where we stayed the night. It was a beautiful place on the banks of the Tombigbee River.

Day 4 (Tuesday) (Subtitle: Stranded!) Tuesday brought some renewed challenges. I (Mike) found myself with bike problems that morning, problems with shifting gears. Virtually impossible to proceed this way. (Why the sudden change one morning, I don't know.) Anyway, we spent a good part of the morning at the campground working on the cable adjustments, riding around in circles in the parking lot to test it, etc. Finally got the gears to the point where the bike was, while not ideal, at least ridable. Interesting learning here is that there are NO bike shops anywhere close to the towns we are passing thru down here. (The maps had warned of this... they were right!) Closest shop with a mechanic was in Mobile, which we were certainly not going back to. The next one up ahead is in Starkville, MS, about 25 miles outside of Columbus. Our plan now is to catch them when we meet our friends in Columbus on Saturday. In the meantime, I am ok riding as is.

Because of losing riding time on Tuesday morning, though, we were not able to get as far as we wanted to that night. That meant being in the middle of nowhere for the night. We set our objective for a store at a major intersection on the route, got there at about 5:20 pm, only to find that the store closed at 5! But 2 nice gentlemen there directed us into the small town of Nanaflia, where another store was still open. We went there, replenished our supply of water and gatorade, and got the recommendation from the store owner of a good, safe place to set up our tent, on the grounds of a church just outside of town. It was an excellent place, and we had our first, successful experience of impromptu camping.

Day 5 (Wednesday) was a 50 mile ride to where we are now, Livingston. Some more great biking roads, especially during the morning. We encountered our first rain of the trip that day. Fortunately the worst of it hit while we were stopped at a service station, so we took advantage of eating and talking to folks while under cover. When the hard rain gave way to gentle rain, we donned our rain jackets, packed up our key things (camera, phones, etc.) in plastic, and continued on down the road. This was an excellent first test of our "rainy weather systems", and for the most part it all worked out fine. The only real discomfort was cold wet feet, but that passed once the rain ended, perhaps a half hour later. This also gave us experience riding on wet roads. One clearly must slow down and use extra caution, but it was all common sense, and very workable. At one point during the day (fortunately, the rain had stopped by then), our route crossed the Tombigbee River again, on a very scary bridge with some very heavy truck traffic. Assessing the situation, we quickly concluded that we did not need to risk trying to ride this. We crossed the road and walked our bikes across the bridge in a wide shoulder, facing oncoming traffic. Much better! The rest of the ride went well, although for some reason the hills, while not big, felt a little harder than those in the morning.

So here we are now, in Livingston, at a Comfort Inn hotel, with nice room, shower, an in-house laundromat, a computer in the front lobby, and a Subway and a Burger King right next door. Who could ask for anything more???!! We find ourselves doing well, beginning to feel the wear of hard, successive days of biking, and looking forward to being able to take a little time off. Today our plan is to bike about 55 miles to Aliceville, and then on Friday it is a short 33 miles to Columbus, where we will meet our friends, take care of my bike, and get a little time where we can take a rest from pedaling.

More as we have the opportunity to enter it. Thanks everyone, for your comments and emails -- it is really fun to see those and to have that occasional contact with the "outside world"!

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