Saturday, August 2, 2008

(Day 5) Slowly losing elevation...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Day 5
Sardis, MS to Beebe, AR

…and that could only mean one thing, big waters ahead. Actually, once I passed the Blue Ridge Mountains, I was expecting I would slowly ascend as I moved westward; this was a pleasant surprise to be close to sea level so far inland.

After riding over 300 miles of backroads yesterday, I caught a few extra winks of sleep this morning and was rolling shortly after 9am:




One of my original plans was to take a picture of each city sign that I saw. Here is Crenshaw, MS:

I was then going to make a video to the tune of Johnny Cash’s version of “I’ve been everywhere”. This probably would have added another couple days to my trip, they were everywhere. I scraped the idea. (I looked up the lyrics and there are a few places that are on the trail: Oklahoma, Tennessee, Richfield, Colorado and …Jellico! A few other places are very nearby: Tulsa, Little Rock and Crater Lake. Did I just plan another trip?)

It’s about 200ft in elevation where I was traveling in the Mississippi River Basin. I could watch the altimeter for miles and it would not change. I started to wonder if big muddy would change directions on me. It seems entirely possibly.

Capturing the vastness of the rice fields on camera is impossible, but here’s my best shot:

Find the crop duster:

My first welcome sign and I only get half of it:

It’s big, it’s muddy:

Goodbye Mississippi:

Hello Helena, AR:

Al waved me over and asked me if I was riding the Transam Trail:

Yes, sir, I am. Al said he sees a lot of riders coming thru. Some standing, some driving too fast and sometimes he’ll see 2 or 3 groups a week.

All I left behind here and on most parts of the trip was simply a puff of dust:

Shade was sparse; here was a big oak tree out in the middle of nowhere. It kind of reminded me of “The Shawshank Redemption” when Andy was describing to Ellis on where to go when he got out:

So I ate lunch there at about 1pm local time. Still had a little ways to go before reaching Beebe, so I marched onward, bring on the levees:

Not all of the roads were traveled on very often, but still easily passable for the Orangutan:

I was wondering when I’d cross I-40, this is westbound traffic:

Here is my westbound path from that point:

Time for another granola bar; I sat at this church and watched a crop duster work a field to the south. I thought about the cemetery behind me and how creepy it would be to find [My Name] and [My birthdate], 1878 – [Today’s Date], 1908 on a gravestone. I knew it was back there, but it would have been a long and hot walk in boots to find it. I moved on after the crop duster show:

I roll into Beebe, AR, find the hotel that Garmin was sending the GPS CD to and I got a room. I wonder how and why this privacy lock was broken? No privacy for me:

Turkey and swiss sandwich at “The Grill”:

I actually met a crop duster pilot here and learned that his pilot license was very limited. It sounded like a cool job until someone else walked in and was talking about how someone had recently gone down in one of those planes.

Laundry time again. One of my pet peeves is when “your” is used when “you’re” is the correct spelling. But, when “you’re” is used when “your” is the correct spelling, I just laugh:

Made good time in the straight flats today, and although possibly obtainable, the max speed is inaccurate once again:

Total mileage: 1169
Daily mileage: 187
Wildlife observed: Remarkably few wild animals today, I did see a fat deer who didn’t “run like a deer”, maybe pregnant? Maybe old?
Favorite Sight: Rice Fields and crop dusters
Favorite Scent: Nothing in particular but the incense in hotel lobbies is obnoxious.
Favorite Sound: The KTM running strong and Al from some farm near big muddy: “They just dumb”
Favorite Taste: Eh, I guess the grilled turkey and swiss from The Grill in Beebe.
Favorite Feel: Letting the back wheel get loose accelerating out of the gravel turns
Ailments: Nothing in particular, it seems sleeping like a rock has helped a lot with any pains. Do have some strange bug bites left over from Tennessee though.

(Day 4) It’s Monday, let’s get to work…

Monday, July 7, 2008
Day 4
Lawrenceburg, TN to Sardis, MS

My GPS tracks show that I was rolling at 6:57am. I got a picture of Randy’s mobile recreation unit (probably at around 6:56am):

Breaker, breaker, one, nine…we have a crotch-rocket cowboy westbound on six four, keep your eyes peeled:

Much like yesterday, I was just trying to knock out as much of Tennessee as possible and my destination was uncertain. Scenes such as these were common:

I really tried to get a good shot of the last picture, but it just didn’t come out as well as I had hoped. In the distance the trees were larger where the fog began. It looked much cooler in person.

Every once in awhile I’d stop on a bridge to take a picture of the creek or river I was crossing:



I fell:

The bottom of the river in the previous picture is not rocky. It is just rock. One big, long rock. And what happens to a rock when it sits under flowing water? Yes, it becomes smooth. And if the conditions are right, which they apparently were, you’ll get some algae growing on the rock. That was the situation here. I was thoroughly warned about this section and I’m glad I was because it would be easy to try to cross this creek at 35-40 mph on this particular section of road. Somehow I was able to find enough footing to get the bike back up and roll it to the other side.

Falling down here was the “breaking of the ice” for me. Before, I was just getting a feel for the TransAm Trail. Getting in rhythm with finding each turn, getting used to browsing the GPS, making sure I was on schedule and constantly thinking about fuel, tire pressure and any other mechanical thing that could go wrong. Shortly after I fell and got the bike upright, I began to “laugh out loud”. No longer was I uptight, but now I was just having fun.

Shortly afterwards there was another creek crossing of the same variety. This one was narrower and I somehow made it across safely:

I liked stopping at cemeteries and browsing over the names. They seemed lonely, I’m sure they enjoyed the company:

Yes, this is part of the trail (if only I knew at this point how nice this trail is compared to what I was going to encounter out west):

You can’t cross the Tennessee River without singing out loud Alabama’s “Oh Tennessee River and the mountain man, we get together anytime we can…”:

“Oh Tennessee River and the mountain man, we play together in Mother Nature’s band”:

On the other side of the bridge were some cool homes. I really liked this particular area:

I could see someone walking into this wall:

And then comes miles and miles of gravel roads. All of it looking similar to scenes such as these:

Then I came up to Selmer, TN, a scheduled stop on the TAT. It was only 12:30pm but I had already put about 150 miles down and wasn’t sure of the next available motel. I wasn’t planning on camping tonight as I needed to wash clothes and take a good shower. And, Selmer didn’t look too inviting of outsiders. So, I decided to eat lunch on my bike on the side of the road and march westward:

Let’s go muddin’!

(I didn’t find any mud)

At this point the forest got thick and the habitats that I saw looked very shady. The TN/MS border is roughly around here with TN to the left and MS to the right. No welcome to Mississippi:

I’m sorry for not producing a better picture, but this wasn’t an area I wanted to spend any extra time.

I had let my gas run low because all of the premium pumps that I found in Selmer were out of order. So I made a detour to this gas station near Kossuth, MS:

I would find that many of my detours led me to something I would never forget. This time a very, very pale and thin old lady (but still able to walk briskly) gave me the meanest look I have received to date. She was mad that I hadn’t moved my bike away from the pump before I went into the store to get water and snacks. Wish I had a picture, but I’m glad I didn’t because it would probably give me nightmares.

The gravel roads were nice in Mississippi, just deeper in places and the rocks were bigger:

Holy Kudzu:

I didn’t get many more pictures after this because I was getting tired and smelled bad. I darted to the next motel I could find which turned out to be in Sardis, MS. Soft bed, clean towels, just what the doctor ordered:

Those tiled ceilings are good for drying clothes:

I was in bad shape here. Walking was hard because my feet were just raw, monkey butt was an issue and I was just plain tuckered out. I spent a good amount of time in the hotel room just drying out and I actually started to feel better sooner than I expected. So, I found the closest non-chain restaurant I could. It was a BBQ joint that was just some hole in the wall, err, bullethole in the window:

I dropped more meat on my plate than I was able to keep on the sandwich:

After dinner, I figured out what I did wrong with my GPS. I had updated to City Navigator 2009 2 days before I left. The only way to fix it was to re-map the entire TAT route by hand (which took me a week to do at home before the trip started) or revert back to City Navigator 2008. I called Garmin and they were going to overnight a CD to me at the Budget Inn in Beebe, AR. My next planned destination.

I’m done, over and out:

Total mileage: 982
Daily mileage: 315
Wildlife observed: Everything I’ve seen before and some armadillos…dead ones. I would like to see one that is actually walking around.
Favorite Sight: Super 8
Favorite Scent: Not sure what the crop was, but it reminded me of pysillium husk.
Favorite Sound: Nothing in particular
Favorite Taste: Potato salad from BBQ place
Favorite Feel: Definitely the bed and not my air mattress.
Ailments: Bug bites, tweaked left ankle acting up again, fatigue, soggy feet from wet socks