Livingston AL to Forest MS 90 miles with hills in Mississippi and rain.
After my late arrival in Livingston, I got to bed late - doing these reports takes time! - and got up late - I need my eight hours of sleep. I left Livingston about 9:15 this morning. It was cloudy and muggy. The temperature wasn't high, but the humidty sure was. Riding conditions weren't bad, just very sticky. US 11 had a decent shoulder, albeit with gentle rumble rumble strip, and light to moderate traffic.
I rode though York and stopped in Cuba, quite near the Mississppi border, for some Gatorade and two candy bars. I had the usual questions and good wishes. Note that 90% of the folks I interacted with in Alabama have been black, and all have been friendly, helpful, and supportive. There are only a few black bicycle tourists, but the black culture here seems to admire folks who are willing to do bicycle touring. I enjoy getting wave and smiles and thumbs up signs from folks along the way.
When I entered Mississippi, the road deteriorated sharply. The shoulder went away and regular cracks in the pavement made riding painful. Thump-thump; thump-thump, repeated for hours does not a happy bicyclist make! In Mississippi, they seem to have simply paved over the old segmented concrete road bed and what were expansion strips, have now become regular cracks in the new pavement. Oh my aching whatever!
The cracks went on for a lot of miles, at least six, but it seemed like 60! Then new pavement appeared and life was much improved. I stopped near Russel to ask about a map and found no map, but a father and son who were interested in my tour and who showed me the daily report in the newspaper from a local man and his nephew who are riding across the US. They were due to pass through Texarkana today: bad timing since they got socked by heavy rain yesterday. The folks I met, and apparently a lot of other local folks, are following the trip with great interest.
When I reached Meridian, I bought an overpriced map at a service station and got routing advice. It was definitely a good thing that I had already figured out a route though town using Street Atlas! I stopped for lunch at a near by Waffle House - where my waitress was a bicyclist - and the headed through town using B street to 26th Ave and then going north to 8th street and finally getting on Old US 80 with the help of a woman at a small gas station on US 19. It was complicated by the fact that the signs are for 'new' US 80 which, of course, is part of I-20 as it leaves town heading west. Old US 80 reminded me of Old US 70 near Black Mountain NC - it has those original concrete slabs, sometimes covered with broken asphalt. Riding it was pleasant, if hot and bumpy. The humidity remained near 100% and the temperature had climbed to near 90 F. Riding down here is not for folks who can't take heat!
Bridge on old US 80
New US 80
A few miles west of Meridian, Old US 80 becomes US 80 as it crosses the interstate. A sign says "start of state maintenance" and the road quality improves a lot, although it still obviously asphalt over concrete slabs with regular cracks, a rough surface, and no shoulder. It isn't nearly as bad as that sounds, in part because it is also quite hilly and runs through pretty country. I stopped in Chunky for an RC and a candy bar; my energy level was running low. I stopped again in Newton because a big storm was crossing my route a few miles on. I experienced light rain coming into Newton and could see the heavy rain ahead and hear the thunder. While I was in Newton, I bought candy at the Dollar General store - much cheaper than the little stores along the way! - and ate a sub at Subway. I had about 20 miles left to ride and I figured I'd need the energy.
Since the main part of the storm had passed to the north, I rode west into light rain that fairly quickly became moderate rain. I had already packed my camera away and now I put on my rain cape. I rode in my cape for five miles or so and then, when the rain had let up a bit, removed it and rode in mostly light rain the rest of the way to Forest. The rain actually made riding more pleasant since it cooled me down. As I sit in my motel room, I can hear heavy rain falling. It is a nice sound, but I'm glad I don't have to be out in it!