A couple of videos that I wanted to put into the last update but didn’t have time to upload:
Here are some pictures of Birmingham as well:
The past few days have been a mix of doing relaxing things such as having thanksgiving dinner at Mike Pepple’s house outside Pell city, and doing not-so-relaxing things like having a hammer fest in the rain to get myself to Atlanta. It wasn’t always rainy weather, and even when it was, my clothing kept me (somewhat) comfortable. I did not, unfortunately, get the chance to spend a whole lot of time in Birmingham. My brief impression of it was that it was the Robo Cop version of Oklahoma City – in other words, it had many similar architectural and atmospheric aspects, but it has not yet benefitted from (or fallen victim to, depending on your point of view) a major downtown renovation project.
I pedaled through downtown Birmingham, snapped a few photos, and continued on my way East. It would have been great to linger, but my schedule pulled me east. The highlight on the road to Atlanta was Thanksgiving dinner. I had the amazing good luck to be stopped on the side of a small road for a break when a man named Mike Pepple and his son rolled by on their ATV. They stopped to ask what I was up to on my bike. After finding out that I was on a ride to raise money for epilepsy research – Mike’s daughter Heather has epilepsy – he invited me over for dinner. Although I’d been planning to cover more miles that day, Thanksgiving dinner was hardly an offer I could refuse!
It was truly a great experience. So, after a fabulous dinner, I wound up covering the distance from Mike’s house to Atlanta in two days rather than three, which meant an 80 mile day and a 50 mile day on the day of my slide show, which began at 3p.m. on Saturday. In other words, I got an early start on Saturday.
I stayed in Bremen, Georgia on Friday night before riding to Atlanta, and after hearing the noise of a football game from my tent at about 9:30p.m. I decided to hop on my bike and catch the tail end of the show. There may be better towns in United States to watch a high school football game, but I certainly don’t know where they are.
Perhaps any of 200 cities in the South would be equally exciting – I’m not the one to ask. The Bremen Bulldogs lost by a touchdown to their opponents – ECI, not sure what that stands for, and it slipped my mind to ask – but what I caught of the game was awesome. Both teams had a couple thousand people in attendance, marching bands, cheerleaders, jackets, etc. There were police on station to manage the crowd during the game and afterward to control traffic. It was the largest high school event I’ve ever witnessed.
And to think that I nearly resisted the urge to go check out the event! After riding through so many towns with large grandstands and lighting systems next to their football fields as well as elaborate displays of school spirit all around town, I’m happy to have finally been able to witness a game. There are things down here that are just different – windows in store fronts painted in school colors, marquees of gas stations dedicated to high school football, paint on the rear windows of cars supporting teams, blow up displays in peoples’ lawns of high school football players complete with names and numbers… It’s remarkable. Of course, the towns I’ve passed through don’t just have more spirit for football – they have more spirit for everything: Christmas, thanksgiving, cheerleading, all of the things that one could be spirited about it seems.
It’s been a great ride up to now, and I’ve certainly learned a lot – I had a moment in my tent a couple of nights ago when I realized that The United States are really big. It took this tour for me to realize it, but it finally dawned on me that this country is not all about cities, coffee shops, movie theaters, wi-fi, facebook, fixed gear bikes, and other urban stuff that I usually seem to be interested in – well it’s all about that stuff too, but those things are just one tiny aspect of it. In another way, the USA is about endless miles of plowed land with an occasional water tower that has the name of a town emblazoned on it. Then every 20 miles or so there will be a trio of churches – Church of Christ, Methodist, Baptist, in many cases – then every 60 miles or so there might be a Wal-Mart sized city. But that’s only every 60 miles. Or so. The vast majority of the country is farmland with the occasional water towers. It was interesting when this perspective came to me. It seems so obvious, and of course it all makes sense, and would have even before the tour. But to experience it in this way is a different and thorough way to understand the concept. In Arkansas, the formula changes a bit because trees get injected into the mix, ranches and farms become smaller, and churches become more common. However, through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and western Arkansas, the formula holds fairly well.
I have now arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, where I am once again in a land of Wi Fi, facebook, bike shops, movies and other urban excitement. The ride into Atlanta was a good one – I got out of the tent early, and quickly, rode steadily through the day, and arrived early after 50 miles. I used to work with a mechanic at a bike shop – Marco from Bicycle Bob’s in Santa Barbara – who said that the key to finishing the day’s tunes quickly was to always be doing something. This was more important than working fast, working efficiently, etc. Or at least adequate. This approach is something I keep in mind a lot while I’m doing anything outside – especially anything that involves camping. When Marco told me his approach, it wasn’t offered as advice, but I’ve taken it as such…and it seems to work pretty well especially in the context of this bicycle tour. It ensures that I pack up camp quickly, don’t linger during breaks, set up camp quickly, eat, write this update, etc. Something that y’all might latch onto, who knows… Going forward, I will have a slide show on Dec. 3 in Augusta, GA, and then my last slide show on Dec. 7 (tentative) in Charleston, SC.
p.s. Marco tuned like 9 bikes a day.