Day 17: Reidsville, GA to near Adrian, GA - Between the Ends of America - CycleBlaze

April 29, 2011

Day 17: Reidsville, GA to near Adrian, GA

We eat breakfast in a small corner room near the front of the building. It holds four tables, each with a flower-patterned tablecloth and four chairs. Thin white curtains cover the small windows that face out to the north and the east. When breakfast comes I recognize the eggs, the bacon, and the toast, but not the big pile of stuff that looks like grainy puke with a spoonful of butter dropped into the middle. Someone has to tell me that they're grits. As it turns out, with butter and a bit of salt and pepper they taste much better than they look, and they're the kind of stick-to-your-ribs food that's perfect for long-distance bike riding.

Halfway through breakfast, Ben Barfield walks through the door. He's a 74-year-old local biker who introduced himself to the Millers as they pulled into Reidsville yesterday morning. He rides a lot in the area and does whatever he can to help the touring cyclists that pass through his small town. We have a great half hour together, laughing and talking the entire time about bikes, traveling, and the friendliness and generosity of the people we've met in Georgia. Everyone speaks at a low yell to make sure Ben can hear everything.

The breakfast club.
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I say goodbye to my new friends as they pedal away to the north, bound for Statesboro, with Ben tagging along for the first 20 miles to guide them in the right direction. This time I know for sure that I won't see them again on this trip.

People often ask me if I get lonely traveling by myself. I always tell them that I'm never really alone. Many friends and family members back home follow along through the journal. Several hundred more people that I've never met do the same. Phone calls, text messages, and email make it easy to stay touch with anyone. I talk to new people every single day. And sometimes I'm fortunate enough to spend time with people like the Millers, who are doing the same crazy kinds of things that I am, who immediately understand why I'm out here. Our paths won't cross again, but like everyone else I meet along the road, part of them will be with me all the way to Washington.

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I'm running out of words to describe my love for country riding in Georgia. The skies that stormed and poured and screamed yesterday now shine a cloudless, brilliant blue. I ride past pale yellow wheat fields and acres of onions that glow golden in the late morning sun, breathing in the cool and clean country air. The roads stay mostly empty and wind a smooth, rolling, quiet path toward the northwest. For the first time in a week there's a headwind, but it keeps me from sweating so I don't mind at all.

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I look down at my rear rack and notice that the front-most bolt on the left side needs only a few more turns before it pops out and falls to the ground forever. Like a stock car pit crew member I stop, pull open the left-front bag, fish out the multi-tool, find the right wrench, screw the bolt back in, and then pack it all back up in less than 90 seconds.

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The afternoon brings more hills and heat, but it's still amazing riding. I turn more toward the west and wave at a couple of donkeys that stop and stare as I roll by. The chipmunks that run off the side of the road are now mostly black, not brown. I see signs pointing toward a town called Ohoopee. Black vultures with yellow wing tips hover in the wind above. In Washington State, people honk when they want the asshole on the bike to get out of the way. Here it's just to say hello.

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When I think of the South, double-wides and old houses with sagging roofs and broken-down cars sitting in the front yard come to mind. I see some places like that around here, but I also pass beautiful homes all day, with covered porches and sprawling lawns shaded by long lines of leafy trees. The Baptist churches are just as wonderful.

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I pull up in front of the only restaurant in Adrian. Two kids, a boy and girl, both about 10 years old, sit in the dark green plastic chairs lined against the front wall.

"Hey guys. How you doing?" I say with a smile as I unclip my left foot from the pedal, climb off the bike, and carefully prop it up against the chairs so that it won't fall over.

Silence.

I can almost hear the gears turning in their heads as they try to make sense of this ridiculous looking guy who rode up on the strangest looking bicycle they've ever seen, who has no accent, is sweating heavily, and has two lines running down the length of his head from the helmet he just took off.

"Umm ... uhh ... h— ... hi," the boy says eventually. It's the best he can do. His friend just watches in disbelief.

I say something else a few minutes later as I walk toward the door and get another pair of stunned stares. The boy's eyes turn big and his mouth hangs open a little.

I'm the only person in the restaurant that doesn't know at least half of the others—and the place is packed.

From Adrian I push north as daylight starts to fade. I know there aren't any campgrounds out here—or state parks, recreation areas, or Warm Showers or Couch Surfing hosts. I have to improvise. A few miles up the road I see an old cemetery, located up a slight hill and out of the view of passing drivers. I eyeball it for a few minutes, but it's still a bit too light outside to stop, and the place is creepy enough that it's not worth waiting around.

I ride a couple more miles before I pull off to the left side of the road and into the parking lot of the Garden of Prayer Assembly of God church. There aren't any cars, the sign out front tells me there aren't any services scheduled until Sunday, and it's on high ground with no mosquitoes. I walk the bike around to the back and find a flat spot for the tent, right between a pair of aluminum sheds, one red and one silver. A forest backs up the property and I can hear birds chirping, crickets crying out, geese honking, and little critters running up and down the branches of the trees. It's perfect.

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I startle a few times when the sheds creak and pop as the heat that built up from the sunlight leaks back out into the cool night air. A car or semi passes on the highway every few minutes. It takes half an hour to get used to the unfamiliar noises and then I fall into a heavy sleep.

Today's ride: 60 miles (97 km)
Total: 941 miles (1,514 km)

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