October 9, 2022 — York AL to Tuscaloosa AL.

I knew I had a good 7 hour ride in front of me to a motel in Tuscaloosa. The only Warm Showers host in the city never answered my message or text, and the closest campground would have added another 10 miles to today’s 73 and tomorrow’s 57. Add in the time to set up and tear down and pack and that’s a significant cut out of already short days and I did want to have some time in the city, too.

Make that 81 miles. I had a grand plan to shave off a mile from my trip and neither Google nor Ride With GPS told me my plan was doomed by a dirt road. I rode two miles to that road and figured, what the heck, it’s only two miles. About a quarter mile in after PH had already waded through a mud puddle, there was a gate with a number on it. I called and left a message, slipped under the gate, and got about another 1/8 mile before the phone rang. Not a good plan, there are hunters on that land. Rats. So I turned around and headed back. Just as I was going through the mud puddle again and trying to shift, the chain jammed and I had to get off into the mud. Crap and double crap. All this really only took about 10 minutes, minus the two miles on the road to get there, but now I had to backtrack, too. What’s another 8 miles?

US 11 continued to have good shoulders and sparse traffic. I stopped in Livingston for a breakfast break and ate at a Mennonite-run “Touch of Home Bakery.” I had a nice chat with the women who were asking about my trip and a heart-stopping biscuit and sausage, coffee, and a cinnamon-apple coffee cake. I used the stop to take a restroom break, and clean some of the mud off of my cleats.

In Eutaw, I saw a car wash and thought it was a good opportunity to clean off Papa Hobo. I went into one of the stalls and a man who was polishing his car said, “Don’t work!” I asked if any of them worked and he grunted, “Da last one work.” It was a dollar. Four quarters, actually, which I did not have. I went to the change machine, but it was not working, and then back to the man who had a bag full of quarters, so most likely his place. Anyway, for $1, I got all the mud off of the bike and bags and water bottles, and most of it off of my shoes.

Just a bit further on in Eutaw, an older man called out to me, “Hey, bicyclist! Didn’t you ride through here last summer?” No, and I went over to talk to him. He said I looked like a guy who rode through last summer. “Nope! Not me. It’s my first time in Alabama.” “Well, I own this whole block, and I got a cafe up (about 4 storefronts up) there if you want to take a break.” I did want to take a break, as it was lunch time and I had put on 50 miles. Turns out he runs the cafe which has coffee and soft drinks and a lot of crap food. I ordered a hamburger, coke, and a cookie, and he brought out a box of frozen Angus Hamburgers, grabbed one and threw it in the microwave. “Oh, well,” I thought, “No worse than McDonalds.” It was OK, but the coke wasn’t very cold and the cookie was stale. Not the reason I stopped though. While I ate, I got his story. He traveled the US doing missionary work, which basically meant collecting money. I asked how he came to own the whole block. “My daddy. He was the preacher and he started buying these buildings. We own all this and that one over there, and that one down there, and oh, the police station is ours too. They rent it from us.” He had 5 sons and 2 daughters and 3 of them lived here but the rest were in Houston and Dallas. I asked to take his picture and he said sure, but “Are you going to post that on Instagram?” “No, I don’t use that but it will be in my blog.” “Well, good! Tell all them folks to come to Leo’s cafe when they drive through Eutaw.” “Will do, and I get another picture of the storefront, too.”

I took leave shortly thereafter to continue my journey. I’m sure you’re asking the same questions I didn’t have the time or forthrightness to ask, like, what’s the connection between the missionary work and the church funds? Are the building church owned or pastor owned? (and do you pay taxes on them). How did your daddy pay for all of this? etc., etc. 😜

I got to Tuscaloosa, took a shower and headed into town. It was 4:30, so I didn’t have a lot of daylight left. I did get to see an amazing sunset and I got to the Bear Bryant statue just after dark. It was well lit however, and for all you Crimsom Tide lovers, his pics are below! I didn’t have much more in me since the trip downtown added 11 miles to my total for the day. I made a quick stop for food and a beer at the grocery next to the motel. Off to bed to rest up for the trip to Birmingham tomorrow where a Warm Showers awaits. My host has nothing going on and says I can stay as long as I need. That’ll be good as the rain from Hurricane Nicole will be hitting Friday. A rest day will give me some time to plot my way to Tennessee.

Oh, and with the first 11 miles of today’s ride, I passed my 2005 cross country total of 3,726 miles, and still counting!