Blue Ridge Parkway
June 8 / June 19

Michael J. Ferguson

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index


1  Saturday, June 8, Montréal
2  Sunday, June 9, Mount Pisgah
3  Bryson City, Monday, June 10
4  Ranger, Tuesday, June 11
5  Wednesday, June 12, Jacks River Field Campground
6  Thursday, June 13, Dalton, GA
7  Friday, June 14, Cloudland Canyon State Park
8  Saturday, June 15, Cloudland State Park
9  Sunday, June 16, Gadsen
10  Monday, June 17 to Wednesday, June 19, Birmingham
11  Wednesday, June 19, Birmingham, Cincinnati, and Montréal
12  Maps

1  Saturday, June 8, Montréal

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Again I am on my way to visit my Aunt Mary in Birmingham, Alabama. Aunt Mary is now 96, and has had a tough year. In fact she took a turn for the worse twice last year, the first time when I was riding around Maui, and the second when I was riding around Kauai. Both times Bill Parker tried to find me, with news of Aunt Mary's problems. He and Virginia were unsuccessful both times. This time he knows I am coming.

I am starting at Asheville, NC but won't actually get into town. The Asheville/Hendersonville airport is on the Hendersonville side of the Blue Ridge Parkway  and I hope to start up immediately towards Mount Pisgah. The guide book says that once I get to the Parkway, it is a climb of 4500' in 20 miles. That is the easy day. The next day goes up to Richland Balsam, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway  at 6400'. The total climb for a day of 60 miles is supposed to be 7000'. We shall see ... possibly only cloud.

Mount Pisgah

It has been a day fraught with the appropriate amount of trauma - brakes totally messed up by the folding and I took almost 2 hours to put the bike back together - an airline agent said ``This is an all day thing?''; I forgot my all my maps and my new lantern that I bought in Kauai because I did not do a Breakfast Room check before I left ( I found a better lantern, perhaps, at K-mart but it all took time.) - after provisioning, I started up to Mount Pisgah at about 5:00pm - only 20 miles but what a climb - then my tire blew up - before this trip I had a flat tire on the way to INRS and it resulted in me replacing the two wheels and getting new heavy duty tubes - I noticed a problem with the tire when I was putting on the new wheels but decided to leave it. This is the wettest night that I have ever tried to camp - the tent platforms in the Mount Pisgah Campground were close to quicksand and there was no room in the Mount Pisgah Inn. At the moment it is 10:00pm, pouring rain, and I am in the ``comfort station'' at the campground - and the roof is leaking. I expect I shall be here all night. Several people stopped to ask if I needed help, including the park ranger, when I was fixing my tire. Robert Dalton of Marietta, GA, came back. He was up for a weekend of meditation at the Mount Pisgah Inn but came by again as I was riding up and up, so very slowly, and gave me a ride to the campground, Mount Pisgah Inn and back again. I am going to have to quit writing now ... there are too many drops from the roof hitting Sam, my computer.

2  Sunday, June 9, Mount Pisgah

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There were some lulls in the ``pitter-patter'' on the roof during the night, but they were only that, lulls. Morning, when it finally started at 6:30am, was foggy (low clouds really), and rain. It was nice, though, to stand up in the light and get my bike ready. This was only the second campground with electricity in the washroom, that I have seen on the Blue Ridge Parkway  - the other was at Crabtree Meadows. After about 4 miles of enjoying the cliff define itself in the cloud, and overlooks, that overlooked a void, I left the Parkway on NC 275 going towards Waynesville, 22 miles away. It was nice to drop out of the cloud and actually see the rain. It was a very steep wet drop, and, whenever I stopped, I had to pry open my hands that seemed to cramp on every movement. The road paralleled a deep gorge with its own river and had cliffs rising on either side. It was really quite pretty, even, maybe because of, the rain.

It seems that gas station/convenience stores no longer sell maps. Since I left all my maps at home, and I had left the known track, the Blue Ridge Parkway , I really needed one. The best I could do was a free one of ``Western North Carolina'' that was strong on the tourist attractions but weak on the roads and towns. It did get me to Waynesville, and the signs of ``Warning Truckers: summits of 5000' and winding road for 36 miles'' dissuaded me from taking a side road. I checked my Bicycling the Blue Ridge Parkway and discovered, much to my surprise, that the road that intersected the Blue Ridge Parkway  first had a lower ``gap''. I opted for 23/74 over the Blue Ridge Parkway . However, before I got there, a ``rest stop'' with visitor information ``stopped'' me. I got a map of North Carolina, but the greatest surprise was that the sky suddenly became blue.

I left in sunshine, and hit the Blue Ridge Parkway , not after a climb of 1500' as I had thought, but only about 300'. The gap was only 3300' and that meant an additional climb of about 2500', possibly in the sun, but my faith was limited. I decided to continue over the gap to Sylva. It was mostly downhill, with enough uphill to keep me honest and exhausted, and quite refreshing to have the sun. I was looking, and found, what apparently was the best, laundromat in Sylva, ``Ted's''. I threw all my wet stuff, including my sleeping bag, and ``complete'' rain gear that I put on at Mount Pisgah, into a dryer. A newly emigrated gulf coast Alabaman, who had seen my bead air seat, came over to talk. He said that he had measured two inches of rain in last night's storm. I think he is about to add a ``Ferguson Bead Seat'' to his bike - perhaps Peggy's children will see, in some remote section of the world, the legacy of their grandfather.

From Sylva I continued along 23/74, 23/441, 74, or some combination of the above, towards Bryson City carefully missing Cherokee. When Virginia and I were through Cherokee in the early 70's, it was a tourist zoo. Since then they have added casinos and who knows what more - I will not miss it. Bryson City is south and west of Cherokee.

Presently it is 8:00pm and I am in the Bear Hunter's Campground in Bryson City. I arrived at about 3:30pm, just in time for the afternoon shower. The shower delayed, nicely, until I had my tent totally up and had made my ``check in call'' to Virginia. At about 6:00pm the sun returned and it is presently quite pretty. The river in front of me is quite high - the dirt road on the other side is partially under and over the surface of the river. Apparently there were flash flood warnings during last night's storm. About ten feet above the road is a train track - obviously built high enough to avoid the most recalcitrant river.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the Bear Hunter's Campground is that I am writing the journal on my picnic table with SAM plugged in. It is the first time I have had electricity so easily accessible.

I suppose it has been an easy trip so far - since I arrived in Asheville, I have only gone 82 miles (130km) and swam up only 3400 feet (1030 m).

3  Bryson City, Monday, June 10

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I am again out on my picnic table writing. It is barely 6:00am with clouds on the ridge just on the other side of the river. The sun is not really up yet and I do believe the cloud is dribbling, and coming to join me. The sun burned through, on the low hills by about 10:00am. The higher ones seemed to have a cloud top for most of the day. I am not at all convinced that it is possible to ride a bike on the high roads and see anything other than cloud - most of the time.

** A Small Mystery Solved: In California I saw two dead Great Horned Owls on the road - I wondered how! This morning I disturbed another owl sitting in the middle of the road - resting? - there was nothing there to eat

The highlight of the day was the Nantahala Gorge and River. Upon entering the Gorge there was a sign - There are slow moving Rafting Busses for 20 miles. There were at least 30 different rafting and kayaking companies in the gorge. The Nantahala Outdoor Center or NOC appears to be the largest and the most prestigious of the group. At its main terminus, and up river for a mile or so, it has a slalom course that I think I have seen on TV. The Nantahala River is unusual in the south - it is not a river of brown sludge - the one going by my campground in Bryson City, and all the ones around there were. The NOC also has a thriving Mountain Bike shop and rental. My new wheels do not seem to brake as well as my old ones so I bought some new brake pads in their shop. To put them on I needed to take everything off my bike. A hiker and his kids saw my stuff on the ground and asked, ``Is that all your stuff? Do you really put it on your bike or do you have a trailer?''. I assured him that it was indeed possible to put it all on my bike. I am not at all sure that the new pads have done much good. However, all the new pads say that it takes a while to get the rims working with the pads. We shall see.

The gorge had sharp wooded cliffs with the river, overrun with one man rubber ``kayaks'' and large 5 to 8 man rafts. It was sort of fun to have some of the groups that had watched me fix my bike shout a greeting as they went by. The most interesting problem was watching a ``Fast River Raft'' try to free itself from the top of rock in the middle of the river. They bounced it, shifted weight, leaned in all directions, took a direct hit from a competitors raft and were still stuck. Finally, the water seemed to lift it free and they were ``off''. It was a beautiful ride, and would have been wonderful, except that there were trucks - there is no alternative to this route. I must admit though, except for one, they all gave me much margin. The ``one'' gave me enough, but I would have liked a little more.

The most memorable event of the day was a two mile, 900 foot, 9% grade up hill. Last year, I would never have been able to ride up. This year my new lower gearing made it possible, but not without sweat. The second was finding a place to stay. The gorge had several dozen campgrounds, but it was still morning when I went through. Lake Hiwassee was just beyond Murphy, where I stopped for supper. The highway went by one arm of it so I thought that there might be some private campgrounds that were not on the map. I didn't see any lake or any campgrounds. Then I saw a sign pointing to the Poatee Creek Campground run by the TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority. The lady in the Red Spot by the intersection thought it was about 10 miles away, down Hi 19/128. I started up the road and immediately climbed a ridge line, at only 5mph. It was now 7:00pm and at that rate I would not get to the campground until several hours after dark. I gave up and turned around to go along 64/74 where the lady said that she knew of no campgrounds. I didn't find any, but did find the Morris Motel, all by itself in the middle of no where. I am now there writing. I am delighted that they have ``no smoking'' rooms, and cost only $30.00 - marginally more than KOA campground.

Today I went 65 miles (105 km) and climbed 3300' (1000m) - an easy day. I didn't think so. Perhaps I am getting old.

4  Ranger, Tuesday, June 11

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Unfortunately I have discovered that SAM's battery has died. The charger stops charging after about 10 minutes and the battery lasts about 3min on what the charger says is a full charge. I will only be able to write where I can plug in.

Today I start out into really unknown territory. I go to Ducktown, TN, south to Copper Hill, and then into Northern Georgia, and hopefully along the river that is being used for the Olympic Whitewater events. I am following a route described to me by Bill Parker, but have never had any maps that actually showed roads running the entire distance he described. I will have to see if I can get some maps and directions when I get to Blue Ridge, GA, the place where I think I should actually turn west,

The early morning fog cleared at about 8:45am. In many ways it was sad - the foggy countryside is quite forgiving of rural poverty and auto junk, and it is quite pleasant to ride.

Some church advertising:

** 7 days without prayer makes 1 weak.

** When he reigns, it pours.

**     CH  CH
What is missing?
UR missing!

It was about 20 miles to Copper Valley and Ducktown on a nicely shouldered divided 4 lane. In many ways this is nicer to ride than a two lane road - there is plenty of room for the trucks to pass. This area of Tennessee is famous for its copper smelters. After leaving the new Copper Valley at the intersection of US64/TN68 it is about 4 miles south to a huge copper smelter and rail yards. At that point I thought that the whole town of Copper Hill had probably been abandoned for the more livable Copper Valley to the north. However, just south of the smelter, there was a town. It had its own ``Visitor Bureau'' and but no postcards. I asked a girl in the visitor bureau if they were up or down wind of the smelter. She said she didn't know. It wasn't an overpowering odor but it was noticeable.

The visitor bureau had a state map of Georgia so I was able begin to follow Bill Parker's directions. Although Copper Hill is in Tennessee, McCaysville, GA is contiguous with it in Georgia. I am not at all certain which side of the border I was when I got the map. The most prominent GA2 was about 6 miles inside Georgia. This was, apparently, Old State Route 2. It started out benignly enough, with intimidatingly steep hills through Georgia rural suburbia. Eventually it gave way to a dirt road that climbed 1000' or so up the side of a sharp ridge into the Chattahoochee National Forest. It was through the trees, about 72F (23C) and sunny - really very pleasant. The only traffic was the occasional pickup truck. Johnny Jones stopped to talk. He was a retired wilderness ranger, moonshiner, and was brought up on a farm nearby. His dream was to be independent and totally live off the land. He felt that his biggest mistake was to accept a job working for someone else. He loved his 15 years as a wilderness ranger, and had nothing but scorn for the current crop who patrolled the wilderness in 4x4s and pickups. He was out weeks at a time with nothing but his pack, shoes, and 357 magnum. He had his share of confrontations with rednecks.

He told me that it was illegal to cross the Cohutta Wilderness section of the Chattahoochee National Forest on a mountain bike so I would have to get off SR2 and go around. He also thought that I wouldn't make it to the Lake Conasauga campground before dark, but that there was a closer one. This was the primitive Jacks Field River campground. That is where I am now.

It has tent platforms, modern flush pit toilets, and only a stream for running water. It is the first time that I have really needed my water filter. I stopped at about 5:00pm after taking a run at the hill just out of the campground. Today was 45mi (75km) and a very tough 3300' (1000m).

5  Wednesday, June 12, Jacks River Field Campground

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It rained most of the night but had stopped just before dawn. I left after leisurely breaking camp. I was in no real hurry to attack the muddy roads. Last night the hill out of Jacks River intimidated me. This morning it took me an hour to go up the first 1 1/2 miles. There is no question that Johnny Jones was right - I never would have made it to Lake Conasauga before nightfall. The morning was spent covering five miles through the dense woods - mostly poplar and oak - and mostly in the fog. I didn't really miss anything though, because the trees blocked all views. The surprise of the day was a wild boar who came out into the middle of the road just in front of me. I had stopped to refuel but he did not stay long enough for me to get a picture. The only other wildlife that I have seen in the wilderness area was a bunny.

**It is not clear which is the hardest, going up or down hill. Today, I was eating enough but was suffering from leg burnout going up hill. This necessitated numerous stops and feelings of exhaustion. Going down was a question of keeping the speed under control - which meant squeezing the brakes as hard as possible all the time. After about five minutes of this my hands were painful immovable claws. In a lot of cases it was impossible to slow down enough to stop. I had to wait until the road was gentler.

Thunder rolled around me all morning, but the drops that occasionally hit me were mostly absorbed by the canopy of trees. I took my time, contemplating some mysteries such as how a vine can leap ten feet from one tree to another. The wild flowers were blue and yellow, with the occasional red in profusion. I would say that it was relaxing except that the exhaustion, and sore legs kept getting in the way. The landmarks referred to by Johnny Jones, came in order, although I only vaguely remembered their names. The most interesting was Three Forks. It was here that my detailed North Georgia map indicated that Old SR 2 went through the Cohutta Wilderness. In fact, the highway became a trail through the wilderness that was off limits to all motorised vehicles, hang gliders, and bicycles. The main road skirted the wilderness. At about noon I was at the Potato Patch Junction with 5 miles up to go the Lake Conasauga and 17 miles down to US411. Then the rain that had stayed away all morning hit with full fury. Rather than go up in the rain, I decided to go down in the rain. The braking was harder than ever, and the road ranged from steep to very steep. It was five miles and a drop of 2500 feet, all down on the dirt road. At times it was quite hairy. I made it though, and noted that the rain seemed to disappear as I got lower. It seems that the mountains grab the clouds and make it very difficult to avoid the rain. It is cooler though - really quite pleasant.

US411 arrived on schedule, with the last seven miles paved - CCCamp Rd. The town of Eton was at the crossroads but was totally devoid of anything for reprovisioning. My detailed North Georgia map does better in the residential areas than in the ``wilderness''. I was able to follow moderately small roads, across pleasantly flat rural suburbia to Dalton, GA. None of my maps show any campgrounds in this area and no one I talked to seemed to know of any. Tonight is another motel night. It was easy this time because I crossed under I75 on US41. I75 is one of the main Interstates to Florida. I suspect every exit has motels. I am at the Motel 6 and am doing my laundry at the nearby Best Western Dalton Inn.

Although my trip computer said it was only 45 miles and a climb of 1700 feet, it sure felt like more - and probably was because I stopped so frequently.

6  Thursday, June 13, Dalton, GA

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I actually have a destination in mind today - Cloudland Canyon State Park. Last year I tried to go there but ran out of time and stayed at the small Lookout Lake fishing campground in Salem. I also have a route - GA201 to GA136, the latter being the Lookout Mountain Scenic Highway, not to be confused with the Lookout Mountain Parkway which it perhaps merges with for 2.5 miles.

From my map, I thought that the intersection of GA201 was about one mile north. After 2.5 miles I asked some directions. I still had not reached the intersection but could take Old Lafayette Road to Lafayette Road - GA201 in disguise. After that it was easy - except for the annoying Georgia habit of resetting mileage markers every time you cross a county line. I again misjudged the distance from my map and wondered if I had missed my intersection with GA136. I didn't really think that would be possible, and it wasn't. The confusion came because I saw a ``1'' mile marker twice, two miles apart.

Scenic GA136 was dull reasonably flat Georgia rural suburbia for 35 miles, all the way to Lafayette (the town this time). I had lunch at Taco Bell - 3 cheese burrito - and was dismayed that it took me about two hours before I could actually ride with reasonable efficiency again. I am beginning to believe that it ``fast food'' and bicycle riding don't really mix.

After Lafayette, GA136 started to wind through hills and woods. In places it was even free of roadside trash. Soon there was a huge ridge in front - it was the Lookout Mountain ridge line. It did indeed look all the 1000 foot climb that I had remembered. When I got closer, I revised my estimate - it looked only as if it were about 600'. In reality it was 800'. The last 200' were the hardest. I kept thinking and hoping that the next slight bend in the road was the top.

I arrived at Cloudland State Park at a quite civilized 4:00pm. I opted at the ranger station for the walk-in campground and had a slight disagreement with the ranger when he indicated that I had to pay $2.00 parking fee for my bike. Some other visitors thought that was a little silly, but he persisted in asking his fellow rangers, getting no answer. I think he was relieved when he put the registration information into the computer, including the bicycle, it came back with $8.00 instead of $10.00 - some programmer got it right for a change.

After one and half miles down, and one steep scary curve, I arrived, set up camp, and was inside the tent getting ready to go take my shower when the afternoon thunderstorm hit. This was a real storm. One lightning hit about 200m away. I saw and heard the flash at the same time, then I felt the shock wave, and finally I smelt it. It was the second closest strike I have ever experienced. The storm continued for about an hour, and then appeared to bee over. I went up to have my shower, and waited afterwards at the bathrooms for round two to slow down so I could return to the tent. It lulled for a bit and I got back. The tent platform was a small lake.

Tomorrow I shall follow the directions for the Lookout Mountain Parkway given to me by the other ranger at the park headquarters. It appears that my ``correction'' to the route was wrong. I will probably spend tomorrow night at Desoto State Park - a key signpost for following the Parkway.

7  Friday, June 14, Cloudland Canyon State Park

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There may be canyon around here but I don't know where. My walk-in campground is carved out of the woods - no meadows or openings to be seen.

Since I have the time, I decided to stay for the day to find out if a canyon really existed. Indeed it does, and it is quite impressive - well worth the trip. The easiest view is from the picnic grounds. The canyon drops off about 1000' (300m). In the early morning when I saw it from there, clouds were forming below me. Eventually they filled up the front of the canyon - started strolling down towards me and rose a bit. I haven't seen anything quite like it since the Kalalau Valley on Kauai. By mid morning they had disappeared.

After tearing my brakes apart again - I started at the picnic grounds by the canyon - a thoroughly delightful place to fix a bike, and finished at the restrooms in my campground - I rode to the West Rim Campground in search of the overlook that I had seen across the canyon from the picnic grounds. The West Rim Trail, may have been on the West Rim but all you could see were trees. This trail actually went to two waterfalls that were at the end of the canyon. The trail down was sort of amazing - mostly wooden steps attached to the side of the cliff. It dropped this way about 400' (130m) to two waterfalls. The falls were not terribly impressive. Each dropped about 100' (30m), and had only a ``bridle veil'' of water. The overlook that I had seen from the picnic ground was not on this part of the trail. I returned ``home'' to my own campground and started looking for the trail that led to the rim that started here. Last night I was alone - tonight there are many. As I was coming in, I met a transplanted Israeli in the parking lot. A little later as I was looking for the rim trail. I met the entire family, also looking for the rim trail. They had two little girls, and had just moved from Tucson to Atlanta. He was working for the Centre for Disease Control on mosquito populations and she was a teacher. The trail did not seem to be in the place indicated by the map but we persisted. I eventually found the trail - they are all well marked in the park with different colored blazes. I waited for them to make sure they knew and then we continued on along the trail. I went on ahead and found the West Rim Overlook. The canyon is indeed spectacular and this is the best place to see it. It is, in fact two canyons, joining at the point where they put the picnic grounds.

I waited here for twenty minutes enjoying the view, and waiting for the family to catch up. I was a little worried that they had taken a wrong turn, and the little girls were worried that something had happened to me. Fortunately, nothing was amiss. They continued on to the waterfalls and I went back to camp to have my shower and supper. There was no ``mandatory'' afternoon thunderstorm today. For that I am grateful - the family is still out on the trail.

8  Saturday, June 15, Cloudland State Park

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I woke up in the middle of the night with about 30, 1cm red sores (bites?) on my bum and even a couple on my chest. I noticed some 1/2 inch long red ants with white heads as crawling all over the tent platform, and over the tent as I was setting it up. I was careful to keep the door closed most of the time but killed a few in the tent. I was a naive northern boy and had never seen any fire ants. - and any way, they came in large ant hills, didn't they? Apparently, when they become endemic, they venture from their nest and cover the neighborhood. I don't know whether I just picked a particularly bad tent site or whether the entire walk-in campground is like that. I will certainly avoid the same mistake again. The bites are quite unpleasant!

Today I am off on a short ride to Alabama's Desoto Soto State Park. Hopefully I can stay on the Lookout Mountain Parkway  all the way. One mystery was solved - the Lookout Mountain Parkway  sign on GA136. Apparently GA189 and not GA157 is the Lookout Mountain Parkway  south of Chattanooga until it deadends at GA136. GA136 then joins the two routes. Apparently I made my mistakes early. However, going south from here, GA157 is the Parkway, all the way to the town of Cloudland. There it is a right turn to Mentone, AL, off GA157, rather than the left to Summerville, staying on GA157 that I made last year.

** The signs on the Lookout Mountain Parkway  are totally inconsistent - but manageable this year. There is no sign at the intersection of GA136 and GA157 going south to Cloudland. I suppose, that, since GA136 falls off the side of the mountain if you continue straight, you should decide that you had left the Lookout Mountain Parkway . In general, there are no signs on the parkway itself to reassure you that you are going the correct direction. There are signs at turns, but none if you are to go straight. There was a sign at Cloudland fort the turn west, that I missed, or was absent last year, and another at Mentone for the turn south. Since I knew that the Lookout Mountain Parkway  went through Desoto State Park and Fort Payne, I tended to follow those signs - they were most obvious. After the State Park, it was straight to Gadsen - on county roads mostly. These small roads do not show up on my map. After Desoto State Park, the next sign was 40 miles away just outside Gadsen. Why it was there, I don't know - the road was straight.

It was another beautiful day and I broke camp slowly, leaving at about 7:30am. The wildlife for the morning was a tiny kangaroo mouse? hopping on the shoulder of the road towards me, and a huge golden eagle that left its perch and flew away down the road. In the 30 miles to Cloudland, only once do you get a glimpse that you are on the top of a mountain - an overlook looking east, 1000' down into the valley. The rest of time you are on the top of the with vistas of woods and farmland. From Mentone the Lookout Mountain Parkway  spends most of its time on or near the western side of the mountain. Occasionally you get a glimpse of the valley below through someone's backyard.

I tried to reprovision in Mentone, but the two tiny groceries did not even have anything acceptable for dinner. Just south of Mentone, the Lookout Mountain Parkway  went through a very high class residential neighborhood. I wonder where these people go for groceries. This section was one of the prettiest on the route. The road was completely shaded with trees overhanging from both sides. The houses on either side were almost estates. I knew I was leaving ``civilization'' when the speed limit went up from 25mph to 45mph. At that point the trees pulled back from the sides of the road and the country became a little more open.

It was about 1:45pm when I arrived at Desoto State Park. I still had no food for supper, a possible leak in my Thermarest mattress, and it was still early, so I decided to continue on towards Gadsen, about 45 miles away. The southern boundary of Desoto State Park is the town of Fort Payne. It appeared to be quite large, so I thought I could get food and wine there. However, the large, downtown, part of Fort Payne was at the bottom of the mountain. I was not going down 800' just for that. I stayed on top. This part of the Lookout Mountain Parkway  was rather open and pleasant farmland, quite a way from the edge. My altimeter assured me that I had not dropped very much. The final 18 miles dropped slowly, and mostly continuously. Just before I reached Gadsen, when I had dropped about 700', I saw a sign ``Campground at top of hill.'' I couldn't see the campground, and I had just been on the top of the hill. I was not about to go up and see. I also still had no food.

From there the road really went steeply down. I certainly was not about to go up again. In the flatland I was able to get some food, contact cement to fix my air mattress, and some wine. Near I59 and US278, I found the new Rodeway Inn where I stopped. Today I went 97 miles (158km) and climbed about 4000' (1220m).

9  Sunday, June 16, Gadsen

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It is about 65 miles to Birmingham - a not too exciting ride, but US11 parallels I59 so the traffic was quite light and there were no trucks. It was mostly lightly undulating countryside that varied from rural suburbia to quite pastoral. It is calving, kidding, and foaling time - the babies were invariably curious and sort of cute. Historic Springville announced itself and was a quaint little town with intriguing stuff shops - although the ``Wilderness Shop'' was really a hunter's store and home of an NRA supporter. A sign in the window said ``It is not about guns - it's freedom!'' - I would probably amend that to be ``It is not about guns - it's freedom to make a misjudgment, fatal!'' Fortunately it was Sunday so they were closed. The next town was Trussville, which was rapidly becoming a collection of very new and rich enclaves, with such names as ``Maple Grove.'' Both of these towns had a large industrial base of light industry.

** When I stop to refuel, I lay my bike down on the bank. People sometimes stop to ask whether I am OK. One very concerned guy saw me and then turned around and came back to ask if I needed help. After a long discussion about my trip, he then gave me instructions about how to get into Birmingham, about ten miles (16km) away at that point.

It was four lanes from Trussville to Birmingham. I still had about seven miles to go after I hit the Birmingham city limits. I arrived at about 1;30pm but delayed my real entry until after 3:00pm. I wanted to see Aunt Mary before going over to Bill Parker's house. Bill told me that Mary normally had a nap starting at about 1:30pm until ???. Mary was cheerful, and bright, although not very mobile. She was much better than when I had seen her in February. It was good to see her so comfortable. I will be seeing her a couple of times a day until I leave on Wednesday.

Today I rode 63 miles (101km) and climbed only 900' (275m).

10  Monday, June 17 to Wednesday, June 19, Birmingham

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Aunt Mary seems quite comfortable and, although she says she feels ``sickly'', she seems to be doing quite well. Unlike the first time I arrived, she has been in her wheel chair each time I came after Sunday. Sometimes it was even hard to find her. On Monday, I took her outside to see the flowers and enjoy the sun. She was delighted. On Tuesday, a new sign had appeared on the door of her ``unit'' saying ``All patients leaving the unit must sign out with the duty nurse!'' I was also told by the unit chief that I couldn't take her out because I was not on the list of ``approved persons''. The chief went away to see if he could get some decision on my case and to try to find Bill - who has power of attorney. After about 5 minutes, with Mary waiting in her wheel chair to go out, I decided I would obey the letter of the law and sign her out to the front porch. We came back about an hour later and the station chief was all smiles. I assumed that he had found Bill - he had, according to Bill that evening. Since then I have had no hassles from the staff.

Bill and I went our all three nights for Barbecue. We went back to the Golden Rule Barbecue - the south's most famous barbecue, twice and once to another one Bill and his motorcycle club frequent. Real barbecue, according to Bill, must be pork. In Texas, they use only beef, and it tastes stringy, dry, and like a poor ``shepherd's pie''. In Alabama it is pork. Bill is right. The Alabama pork barbecue, especially the crispy outside, is quite delicious. An especially wonderful experience, that I first had in February when I came to visit Aunt Mary, was a lesson in Alabama Phonology by Jeannette Harvey, a waitress at the Golden Rule. She has analyzed Alabama speech and has the following rules:

There were some more but I forget, even with my second, and repeat lesson.

The most surprising event was a call at Bill's from Virginia on Tuesday night, the 18th. She wanted to know where I was. I thought that I had made reservations to return on the 19th and had not looked carefully at my ticket. It did, indeed, say that I was to come back on the 18th. For a $50.00 penalty, Delta was willing to change the reservation for the 19th. Unfortunately, my preferred flight through Atlanta was not available, and I shall arrive until after midnight rather than the more civilized 9:45pm. It does mean I shall have more time to spend with Aunt Mary.

11  Wednesday, June 19, Birmingham, Cincinnati, and Montréal

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The day was more or less uneventful. Heat, 95, has arrived to Birmingham. The major advantage of my flight errors is that I was able visit with Aunt Mary until 3:15pm rather than noon if I had done it right. We generally just spent quiet time together and she was genuinely distressed that I had to go. She also is congenitally worried about missing things and insisted, as soon as she heard that I had to leave in ten minutes, that I immediately get everything organized so I wouldn't be late.

It was a ``long'' 30 minute ride to the airport - easier to going from it than coming back. My brand new map did not account for runway extensions so the entrance road of choice did not exist. The thunderstorms that were threatening all day arrived just while I was packing my bike. After the usual organizational packing problems, I checked in. I told the agent of my ticketing problems while I was paying my $50.00 change charge. He said that last night, when I was supposed to go to Montréal, he was unable to get a passenger that wanted to Montréal out of Birmingham - some equipment failure problems. He said he tried everything but to no avail. However, I may not have gotten stuck last night. This passenger was going via Cincinnati while I was scheduled to go via Atlanta.

We left in a warm drizzle and flew to Cincinnati at about 15,000'. The clouds were an absolute fantasy land - a landscape of towers, cliffs, and images of dogs and witches - with the sun behind making all the edges sharp and crisp. It is not something you ordinarily see from 35,000'. We had to hold for about fifteen minutes over Cincinnati because a thunderstorm was also ``holding'' right over the airport. We finally landed after running a slalom course around some local windstorms on our way to the runway. All traffic into the airport was delayed. Our plane to Montréal, which had just come from Greenville, SC, arrived at the time it was to depart. We were about 45 minutes late and were well away from the gate when the pilot announced that a late arriving plane with some passengers bound had just landed and that we were going to wait for them. They were driven out to the plane, the ramp lowered , and we were away - about an hour late. It was a nice gesture on the part of Comair - a night in Cincinnati?

We landed at Dorval at 1:00am, about 30 minutes late. The 12:30am landing is outside the Dorval curfew, but the new Canadair Regional Jet is considered so quiet that it is not bound by the curfew. Normally, two Comair Canadair Regional Jets spend the night in Montréal. Perhaps they feel better being nearer home too.

After about a half hour, all the bags had arrived - customs and immigration was quite efficient and speedy with no wait there. We struggled with Dorval's new ``automated'' parking payment, and were finally home at about 2:00am.

12  Maps

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File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.02.
On 12 Nov 2008, 11:01.