Day Before #40 - Steve's Trip Report Index - Next Day #42

Day 41: Montgomery, AL to Eufaula, AL

87 Miles: Montgomery, Union Springs, Midway, Bullock County and Eufaula - March 12, 2008

Eufaula, AL This morning's ride out of Montgomery to the southeast was a pretty one with a significant number of horse ranches and pastures. Highway 82 then turns to the east toward Union Springs and Eufaula, and 17 miles into the ride, I captured today's first photo. My destination of Eufaula was 70 miles away and by now, I was fit and experienced enough to think 70 miles was not that big of a big deal.

I suffered from allergy woes on this day. By this point, I was regularly taking Loratadine tablets ("Claritin" in the brand name), which never quite helped me feel 100%, but they definitely reduced my suffering.

Alabama Highway 82 Many portions of the road were without much shoulder, but the traffic was definitely relaxed out here. This appeared not to be a major route for commuting and trucking.
Alabama Highway 110 Look at the shape of Alabama inside this sign for Highway 110. The state is squeezed in, appearing shorter and stockier with the bottom area (Mobile, AL) looking like stubby legs. It looks like a deformed seahorse! What do you think? :p)

I will share my imaginative thoughts about what Georgia's shape looked like when I get there. Stay tuned! :)

Spring Near Union Springs, things were already beginning to bloom in southeast Alabama. The Coloradoan in me was amazed considering it was only March 12! And those white blooms on the trees were much brighter in person.
Indian Treaty Boundary Line The Indian Treaty Boudary Line in Union Springs.

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.

"San Diego? 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. :)

Southeast Alabama

I stopped at this very point in northwest Barbour County to call back Jennifer in San Diego (Day 1 - her faced is X'ed out) to apologize for being short with her. I explained about the insanely friendly people that kept talking and talking to me even while I was on the phone with her. Ha! Jennifer was not offended at all and shared in my rejoicing over the story.

After our talk, I stood on this quiet road for a minute or two, just gazing and taking everything in. The chirping of the birds, the slight breeze and the sunny warmth comforting my skin (temperature in the 70's!) were all nice. Pretty wooded areas bordered the relaxed road and I basked in this brightened spirit I obtained from my encounter with the people in Midway. I knew the end was of the journey was coming soon, and I was grateful that at least in this moment, I had some joy inside.

Eufaula, Alabama
Eufaula, Alabama
Eufaula, Alabama
Eufaula, Alabama

I was very impressed with the city of Eufaula, a very charming Alabama town with some character. If I ever live in this state, I would consider living in Eufaula.

Many old Victorian homes and store fronts line Highway 82 to the main junction of the town. Of course, Lake Eufaula, a large lake that acts as the border between Georgia and Alabama, is a major attraction to the east.

I was really tired and my body let me know it! I rode 337 miles in the past four days, and I seemed far, far away from when Charles dropped me off just 84 hours ago (3.5 days ago). I walked from my motel into the downtown shopping area and dined at a cajun restaurant. My exhaustion overwhelmed me as I sat at my table. I was not quite light-headed or dizzy, but I was concerned enough to be very intentional in filling up my body with plenty of food and liquids. Pack those calories and get back to the motel room ASAP!

As much as I enjoyed Eufaula, if there had been any lodging on the Georgia side of the lake (the small town of Georgetown, GA is on the other side), I probably would have rode the extra miles just to say I was in Georgia. Georgia! Georgia is just across the lake!

As if I needed more signs that the end of the journey was near, I bought my airplane ticket that evening. Today was Wednesday (March 12), and I bought my airplane ticket for next Thursday (March 21), with me flying out from Jacksonville to San Diego with a layover in Houston. I had plenty of time to finish - I wanted it that way.

Update on June 2, 2008

After my trip, I frequently spoke with people living in the South about my bond with Highway 82, the road I bicycled on from east Texas all the way to the Georgia coast. How far away do you live from Highway 82? Do you ever cross it? Do you ride on it regularly? If you ever drive on Highway 82, please think of me and remember that I rode on it! Stuff like this.

Well, on May 26, a friend in north Georgia was driving south to the Florida panhandle and was approaching Eufaula. She sent me the adjacent picture through our cell phones. Ahhhhh the memories! :)

Eufaula, Alabama

Day Before #40 - Next Day #42

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