Bessemer to Livingston AL 107 miles with a good bit of climbing
I slept in a bit this morning because I had a 'free' highspeed internet connection last night and I wanted to take advantage of it. Usually I have to pay 10 cents a minute for a 1-800 connection, but Birmingham (and therefore Bessemer) has a local worldnet number. Among other things, I uploaded all the images I had taken in the first five days of the trip - 17 MB of them. I left this morning after a good breakfast at Quincys - $3 for a very complete breakfast bar plus 1.09 for coffee, a good deal - at about 9:30.
Riding 11 to Tuscaloosa proved problematic - "you can't get there from here without going half way around the world!" - and I ended up riding AL 216. If you follow 11 out of Bessemer, the road becomes Academy after 11 joins the interstate. Academy runs into CR 20, The Old Tuscaloosa Highway, and if you turn right on CR 20 and just keep pedaling, it turns into 216 in about ten miles, so you'll end up in Tuscaloosa. I had hoped to cut over to 11 near Tannehill, but the road I tried to use ended in a gate. Ah well, 216 is an interesting, and quite hilly ride.
Birmingham and Bessemer - iron and steel making names - so where does the ore come from? I found out today. 216 climbs over a series of ridges, and the later ridges have huge open pit mines on them. The earlier ridges tend to be clearcut, so this ride isn't as pretty as it might have been, and the mines mean lots of big dump trucks on the narrow, curvy road without shoulders.
Actually it wasn't bad riding! The ridges blocked most of the wind and the dump trucks, and other vehicles on the road were well driven so that I never felt in danger. I did, once or twice, get off the road to let a truck get by on a curve. I stopped for lunch in Brookwood, which seems to the center of the mining industry. It was interesting and folks were, as is usual for Alabama, friendly.
After Brookwood, 216, which had been climbing pretty steadily for at least ten miles, runs mostly gently downhill to Tuscaloosa. I'm sure that 11 would have been less hilly, but it probably would also have been windier, so 216 may have been a faster route for me. My average speed to Tuscaloosa was about 11.5 mph. That is at least a mph better than I have been doing on 11.
Riding through Tuscaloosa wasn't bad. I took 215 which is University Blvd. It goes north around the town and passed through the Univesity of Alabama; a pretty school with a BIG football stadium. After Tuscaloosa I go back on 11 which was incredibly flat, straight, and boring for about ten miles. Then it improved by getting hillier and curvier as it worked its way west and south. Down near Ralph (Ralph Al - a strange name) it was nice, if quite hot, riding. I stopped for yet another bottle of Gatorade near Knoxville. As is often the case down here, the clerk at the store came out and visited with me about my trip. I was tired and it was getting to be too late in the day to make Livingston, my original destination, before dark, so I decided I would stop in Eutaw (Utah, I guess). When I got to Eutaw, the only motel wasn't up to my (low) standards, so I ate supper, got some spare batteries for my headlight - another nice visit with a the woman who sold me the batteries - and headed on down the road knowing it would be after dark when I got to Livingston.
I realized, in Eutaw, that one of the problems I have with touring in the south is that the sun goes down too early. Up north I have lots of light after supper, often to 10 PM. Here it is dark by 8 PM! Anyway, the riding conditions were nearly ideal as I left Eutaw at about 6:45. I had about 26 miles to ride and about an hour before sundown. The road was mostly flat. There was no wind.
Near dusk, just south of Eutaw
The temperature was in the 70s. I had a great ride, saw a deer and big owl in the swamp that 11 runs through between Boligee and Epes, and rode into Livingston at 8:45 PM - 13 mph average speed including one break to pee on the road while there was still, barely, enough light to see what I was peeing on. Not much traffic, just lots of fecund nature to enjoy!
I'm staying at the Livingston Motel - the other two motels are 3 miles away up by the interstate. It just started raining as I write this - the first real rain I've seen on this trip. The accommodations are OK and the price and location are great. The phone even lets me use my modem, although I did break the new adapter I just bought at Radio Shack when I was trying to get things setup here! There will be more Radio Shacks along the way...