Alabama and the Appalachians

Alabama is a lot hillier than I imagined. Somehow I pictured flat pastures and croplands but there is more pine forest than anything else. I’ve had to nurse my right knee by walking up the steeper slopes and it seems to be working. But now my left knee is sore. I didn’t have these problems ten years ago. I wonder why? One challenge is that they don’t grade the small county roads that I prefer to ride on, so the inclines can get pretty steep. They aren’t long hills but they sure can be steep. As I made my way north I began to encounter steeper hills–the start of the Appalachian Mountains. Here is a typical road.

I have not done too much sight seeing in Alabama. Still focused on getting in shape and heading north. I did stay one night in Tuskegee, and actually stayed in a hotel on the University of Tuskegee campus. The school was founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881. Here is a photo of his home which is on the campus.

 

Alabama is in the Bible belt, so there must be thousands of churches. I passed so many I began to photograph them. Here is a selection of one day’s worth of churches.

Many of them have inspirational sayings out front. I saw one that said “The best vitamin for a Christian is B1.” After awhile I started photographing them. Here are some of my favorites.

People have been very friendly and interested in my trip. They can’t believe I rode all the way from Miami. Once, I was resting by the side of a quiet county road when a guy in a pickup truck drove by. He waved at me and I waved back. A few minutes later he returned, saying that he thought I was on a motorcycle and needed help. He offered to give me a lift in his truck if I needed it. Very nice! You have to love the dialect here also. When I said I was going to Michigan one woman asked if I have kinfolk up there. Yes, I suppose I do. When I stopped in a small country store, the proprietor asked if I was looking for some “dranks.”

Someone told me timber was Alabama’s biggest industry. I was a bit surprised, expecting cotton or some other crop. But there are a darn lot of tree farms here. It makes for good camping, but a little nerve-wracking when the timber trucks roar past you. Here are some ready to be taken to the saw mill

Of course, when they harvest the trees it makes the landscape look like a war zone.

  

Here is a typical pine tree farm.

I passed a number of old houses that had fallen into dispreair. I always wonder about the history of these places. What happened to the occupants? Where is Johnnie now?

  

I passed this fast food chicken place. Gizzards? No thanks!

As I continued to make my way north I hit my first patch of bad weather. It rained all day. Luckily I saw the forecast so I got a cheap motel near Roanoke and just rested, performed maintenance on my bike and watched sports on TV.  A boring day but it’s better being inside than out when it rains all day.

I found another nice bike trail on–guess what?–Google maps. It is so nice not to have to worry about cars and trucks whizzing by.

The best sign post a bicycle tourist can see.

Crossing the noisy I-20 expressway.

A nice quiet road in the forest.

Here I am contemplating the way forward.

Many small towns have fallen on hard times. “Main Street” is deserted, with shops closed and the area abandoned. It is sad but it shows that everything changes. I’ll return to the topic of change in a future post. Here is a shot of an abandoned shopping plaza.

Here I am camping out after a long tiring day.

I am currently in Fort Payne, AL. Ready to cross over into Georgia. It is supposed to rain again tonight so we will see how tomorrow shapes up. Here is my current location.

One last thing about Alabama. People are friendly, but I have a bone to pick with the highway department. They gouge out deep troughs in the shoulders of most state and county roads to alert drivers if they are drifting off the road. This is good for drivers but terrible for cyclists. Instead of a nice safe shoulder I was forced to ride on the road many times. Believe me, 12 inches to the right of the white line is a lot safer than 12 inches to the left. I won’t give Alabama a middle finger nomination for this but just a “I wish you didn’t do that” nomination. See what I mean:

Next up: Georgia, North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

5 Responses to “Alabama and the Appalachians”

  1. Deirdre Brownlow says:

    Wouldn’t it be cool if those strip malls could be repurposed as retirement apartments for seniors. We saw much of the same abandonment already almost 20 years ago on our van trip. There isn’t any industry and no strong desire for higher education so the poor stay poor and others more ambitious leave. I think quite a bit of the timber is used for furniture.

    The shoulders in those roads look dangerous because of the grooves and also the budget blacktop. Yikes. Hope you find some more bicycle pathways on Google maps. Stay safe.

    • Kevin Koski says:

      Well it show that everything changes. Once, those places were thriving and profitable. But for whatever reason, farms closed, industries moved out, people left, so that the area shrinks. Whole towns have disappeared this way.

  2. Mike Kilpela says:

    I still remember the hills of the Blue Ridge Parkway as a challenge. I was 15 and indestructible at the time. Sounds like quite a hike on 2 bum knees. Check Google maps for the “Flat” route.

  3. Don Kilpela Sr. says:

    I’m enjoying your blog as usual. Quite a difference from your earlier trek across Asia, et al. I’ll be driving to Denver about the middle of May for a graduation and will get a chance to visit your sister and dad. We’ll have a few laughs at your expense of course.

    I was heartened to read that for the most part people have been friendly and helpful (all except that fool in Florida). I would not have expected that and I am disheartened to read that the bike paths in Alabama are not the top priority of the Road Commission. Hang in there, Kev and take a break for a few days while the weather is nice. We’ve just finished cleaning up after a snow storm this week.

    Until next time,

    Capt. Don Sr.

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