|The Friendliest Convenience Store Hang Out In America - Midway, Alabama
Photo Above: These three men and other locals earned the award for the
"Friendliest Convenience Store Hang Out in America."
I rested in Union Springs at the 45 mile mark and then continued another 20 miles to
Midway, Alabama. It was not much of a town at all,
but I spotted one convenience store, parked and locked my bike and walked in. I needed to rest again.
The cashier, who was probably the owner and noticed me locking my bicycle.
"You don' need ta lock up anythin' aroun' here. It's not like that."
he said with a thick southern accent, "People would stop comin' if it wasn't safe."
There were actual instances on the journey where I locked the bike, and the
owner and/or cashier commented in a way where they seemed offended that I would
even think my bike could be stolen in their little town. This gentleman
did not necessarily sound offended, but very forceful and insistent that I had nothing to worry about.
I was tempted to say what I said once or twice previously to other storekeepers.
Something like: "Well, that sounds good and all, but I already had my
bike stolen once in Arizona
and I'm not taking any chances."
This time, I did not bother to say anything.
Now it is true Midway, Alabama looked like a very rural area.
Just a lazy and hazy little southern town - a modest cluster of homes that did not seem
to have enough people or commerce to be incorporated. Still,
there was no way, after all I had been through
that I was going to risk having another bike stolen. I locked it everywhere as a precaution.
The Friendliest Convenience Store Hang Out in America
I walked back outside with a 24-ounce gatorade and snack
and the man in the black long sleeve shirt (left) was out there by himself.
I probably looked very conspicuous wearing my red cycling gear
and our conversation began. He was shocked that
I was bicycling across America. I mean ... really shocked. He
treated me like I was a revered professional athlete - Michael Jordan or someone like that.
You started in San Diego, California?" he asked with bewilderment, "They should put you on TV!"
A few minutes later, two other young men (middle and right men) walked up and were hanging around.
They were all just friendly and talking - I encouraged them to partake in bicycling as a great way to exercise.
The guy in the middle showed off his t-shirt that commemorated his high
school basketball team's state championship: "Who Did It? Bullock County High School 4A State Champions 2008"
Bullock County High School basketball baby ... I thought back to my day in
west Texas watching
high school basketball
and feeling the intensity the parents had about their kids' sports.
I wondered how Bullock County High School in rural Alabama
would do against those towns outside of Lubbock. It is all speculation I will admit, but my hunch is Bullock County
would whoop their asses right off the court! That's right! :)
The talking continued. Everyone was so social,
almost to the point that it was unreal. Friendly social stimuli was
always welcome and I was getting a big ol' dose of it in Midway, Alabama.
Another man walked toward the entrance and one of the three men could not help but promote me.
"This guy rode his bicycle all the way from California. He's goin' across the country!" he exclaimed.
I just stood there with a humble smile. Take all this in Steve ... You're not always going to be this popular!
Amidst this very convivial and touching scene, I arrived at this conclusion: This is probably the friendliest
convenience store to
hang out in front in America! All you people in Midway should be proud of yourselves!
I continued speaking with the three men when I received
a call from Jennifer in San Diego to check up on me and give me an update on her life.
About that same time, an old beat-up
Ford truck with two men inside parked out front. The driver entered the store
and the man in the passenger seat, a really laid-back
southern man in his 40's, curiously asked what I was doing as I talked on my cell phone.
This is one attribute I noticed in the rural South:
People will boldly talk to you even if you are holding a cell
phone to your ear, and sometimes they will just keep talking and talking
to you all friendly and nice with no concept that you are occupied. I tried to listen to Jennifer but saw diagonally
that the man was talking to me and I felt conflicted ... I cut the conversation short with Jennifer.
I walked to the truck and shook his hand. We talked more about my
bike across America trip, something he already learned about from the three men standing there.
We talked about how we were both heading to Eufaula,
him by truck, me by bicycle, and I think that really impressed him.
He encouraged me to be safe and encouraged me that there was some pretty
countryside out here in southeast Alabama.
The scene was too much - a blessed "too much" if you know what I mean. All these guys helped me feel like a hero,
a star and there was no doubt that my presence with the bicycle was a spectacle in this small town.
I knew I had to get a picture of these men, and I do not think I would have left without one.
Connecting with them meant so much and I hoped that maybe, just maybe, someday they might see their photo on
the trip report I had planned for this day, and upon seeing their photo and reading my article,
they would know they made a difference.
Yes, today was turning out to be a good day. :)