After breakfast at Waffle house and a nice chat with an older couple, ” We used to camp in farmers fields,” he told me, we were on our way. We had detoured a bit to get to Albany so we worked a back road path back to the TAT. A little Lane to Glendale road and soon we were back in the dirt.
The ride was one of the most fun yet with lots of gravel and dirt roads through the national forest. We spooked a buck who went hurdling through the undergrowth. We seem to be traveling slow enough on the dirt to allow the deer to spook out in front of us, let’s hope. We met an Indian camping by us in the Georgia mountains who lost a leg when he hit a deer and his foot went underneath the big old Hog’s brake pedal.
A few thoughts on riding gravel. It’s unstable, like riding on marbles. The bike seems to float on its own around the road. Any turn and a little to much throttle and the front wheel sets itself free. After lots of miles on this stuff I’ve come up with a technique. Riding faster, say around 30 to 40 seems to settle things down, if you’re comfortable riding at those speeds with little control. Turning is more of willing the bike into the idea of a turn than actually turning the bars, which always results in a drifting slide off the steep crown of the road. Hug the tank with your knees, relax your arms completely, and lay the bike ever so gently to the side underneath you, weight the outside peg and your turning. What doesn’t work is aggressive turning while “goosing” it to hook up the rear wheel. The front wheel will unweight and off you drift.
We careened over little plank bridges and across fields of soybean and corn. Dogs ran with us, folks waved and stared and then back into the cool forest again. The change from dark to light is so drastic that no eyewear is ideal. I notice our favorites are my new Scott goggles with photosensitive lenses. I usually like to wear sunglasses so I have access to my face but the dust is too much now. We got some sandy sections and best of all a freshly graded road that was sticky and fast. The big question is how fast do you want to go on a narrow one lane road around a blind turn so as to not splatter yourself across someone’s windshield. We like to slow way down.
I was thinking the only thing better than a paved road after a long stretch of dirt is a dirt road after a long stretch of pavement. We pass a sign that states, simply “Pavement Ends” good sign. We pass what must be the five hundredth Baptist Church, on every little road in the American South. We pass crosses made out of rough cut timber, lattice and stone. American flags are only slightly more common than confederate ones and “God” signs of hand painted scripture adorn fences and poles. We pass and get passed by quads and dirt bikes and in this way share something with folks here, despite being Yankees far from home. I suspect these folks could get a broken motorcycle going in no time at all and probably have the spare parts lying somewhere amidst the things in their front lawn. At one point a quad scares the hell out of us, blowing by us at well over 60, leaving a cloud of dust we follow for miles.
Samantha is taking to the trail like a pro and I look in my rear view to see her right there, 30 mph on loose gravel and she’s humming along on my wheel.
After a fun stream crossing I lead us up a wrong road. Somewhere in the u turn a bike gets tired and lies down, like an unwilling pack horse. A family pulls up in a truck and helps us pick up the bike. We stand and chat in the middle of the road. They are off to deliver apples to a friend for a pie because her trees don’t have any yet. They share a recipe for pan fried apples in butter. I get the feeling we could stay for dinner and certainly would if they asked. They said they’ve seen other odd looking creatures like us along the road and we explain the trail to them. Mom says, “Well we sure appreciate you coming through here.” Southerners must be some of the nicest people on the planet.
We cover about 170 miles of mostly dirt. I have to keep reminding myself that we don’t have to catch up with the New Zealanders somewhere up the trail from us. Probably about two days ahead now. We take a detour into Clarksdale Mississippi to see the home of the blues and shack up at my uncles flat. The place turns out to be very high end with 20′ ceilings and an espresso bar on the first floor. We are glad to be out of the tent and seedy motels for a few nights of luxury. Best of all we’re right downtown and a block from Red’s, Rust and Ground Zero – Morgan Freeman’s place. My uncle tells us we just missed BB King and Robert Plant. We do meet Bubba who owns a few buildings downtown and helps us lock the bikes safely inside The Clarksdale Bank. They sounded good rumbling inside the giant abandoned marble lobby and will be fine there for a few days while our butts recover (the banks been closed for years).
We are thinking it might be time for an oil change and filter wash. It’s been a long way since our first dirt road outside of Tallahasse Florida. We’ve ridden in Florida and crossed Georgia and Tenessee into Mississippi. The Oregon coast seems a long way off from here.