David Freeze column: Another day in Alabama

Published 12:05 am Saturday, July 4, 2015

I got up this morning in Aliceville, Alabama, ready to head to Tuscaloosa.

First light was at about 6 o’clock because of all the clouds. When I checked the weather on TV, I realized that heavy thunderstorms were all around me, some with rain totals as high as five inches already. More storms were called for today. Luckily, during the day, I only felt 10 drops.

Storms are once again all around me tonight, but I am safely in a motel room. Interestingly, Tupelo, Mississippi, had major flooding this morning and is getting heavy rain again tonight. I hope to be in Tupelo on Sunday.
My maps and Mapquest called for about 44 miles to get to the bike shop in Tuscaloosa. I needed the bike shop for several reasons, but I also had another reason to visit the city. More on that later.

With another great night of sleep — I woke up at 4:00 and realized that I could go back to sleep for another hour — I was ready for a good day.

I had no idea of the terrain toward Tuscaloosa but thought that it might be hilly. As I headed out of town, the roads were flat and it remained that way, even after I turned on County Road 2. I started to think that the trip could go quicker than I expected. With that jinx firmly in place, the roads started to get hillier and steeper. Then I missed a turn somehow and ran dead on into Highway 82, a major road for this area.

The road got marginally better as I headed east and finally I found what I thought was Tuscaloosa. “Not yet, you have to cross the river first,” said my new friends Don Martin and Lee and Robert Strickland. They gave me good directions and information on the area, and off I went in search of the bike shop.
I took a couple of cut through streets to cross the bridge into Tuscaloosa and almost immediately found The Bike Shop on Sixth Street.

I needed help with several things. First, my pump did not want to work right and would not work at all when I needed it for the flat tire the other day. Jason Lake and James Brown got it working right away with a minor change. I needed two more CO2 cartridges and I got them. The worst issue is that my tubes were not exactly the right size for my tires. Jason and James took care of that too.

We talked about all kinds of bike-related things and lots of other stuff, too. Both knew a lot about North Carolina and we all agreed that Alabama and North Carolina had a lot in common, even agreeing that vehicles out in the rural areas often waved to each other. That is one of the things I found almost immediately, that drivers of cars and trucks that met me often waved. Never saw that in New Jersey!

Jason and James gave me good information on my other good reason for coming to town. I make a point to watch Alabama Crimson Tide football whenever I can. They just seem to do it right. With good directions, I headed over to the University of Alabama campus and rode around for most of the next hour. I got to see the stadium, all the football statues, and lots of the huge campus.

Other people were out just like me, just walking around and looking. It reminded me of when I worked in Green Bay for a winter. Every single day, even when bitterly cold, people were out walking around the Packers’ stadium. The immaculate Alabama campus is so well kept, it looks almost storybook. There are historical markers throughout the campus as well.
Finally, as clouds were building, I decided to go find a motel. Kasey Poole and Morgan Curry helped me with that. Both are students here. Kasey told me that she just returned from seeing Niagara Falls and that I would love it.
I missed by one night getting to see an all-day Fourth of July Celebration here in Tuscaloosa on the river. But, I got help with my bike issues today and that was the most important thing.
Jason at The Bike Shop told me why there are so many hills nearby. He told me that this is the southern end of the Appalachian mountains. I totally agree.
Tomorrow, July 4th, I will head back across Highway 82, going west this time to rejoin the Underground Railroad Route in Columbus, Mississippi. With that said, I will hate to leave Alabama. Tomorrow night, I will address this in more detail.
I have one more sponsor to mention: Luis Villareal of Gear for Races has once again helped with the expenses of my trip. Gear for Races supplies all the shirts for our races in Rowan County.
Have a great Fourth of July! If you go to Faith’s celebration, wave at Larry Macon for me. He will be flying the aerobatic plane over the parade start. Larry took me for a ride recently.

See you tomorrow.