Just returned from my second trek to the Great Chicken Rally in Huntsville, Alabama.
I still prefer the old “Rocket City Rally” name because it fits in with the city so much better. The space museum and much of the architecture play tribute to the role Huntsville played in the American space program and still plays in high-tech ballistics. But they do cook up a huge amount of chicken!
The event is held on the Tennessee River at Ditto Landing- just a few miles south of Huntsville. The weather was warm, but not terribly hot, and the evenings were cool. A bit of a breeze wafted in from the marina every so often. Perfect camping weather.
This was my first trip over a hundred miles since my knee surgery in January. Riding had presented no problems up to now, but I was a little nervous about my endurance. Not to mention hefting a fully loaded GS up on to the center stand! So the first day I headed out taking a direct route down the Muskogee Turnpike. While uninspiring it did allow me to refresh my memory of highway riding. Crosswind. Big truck. Slappa-slappa-plumpf. Crosswind.
Oh, did I mention it was windy? Sheesh. Terrible 20-25 mph crosswind the whole day. I made it to Little Rock and cried uncle.
The next morning I loaded up and hit the Interstate. The wind had calmed a little and life was good. A couple hundred miles later traffic started slowing down and a huge traffic jam came to a standstill. Fortunately I made an exit after only about 20 minutes and headed for the “old road.” In this case it was US-70 and followed it through a third of Arkansas. It was a welcome relief from the stressful pace and constant train of trucks on I-40.
I have found Wikipedia entries for U.S. highways to be invaluable in situations like this. Just by simply googling “US70” I had and image of the route and a quick reference to all the Interstates that the road intersected.
U.S. Route 70 on Wikipedia
The downside to this approach was discovered when I crossed the Mississippi. While the winds were calmer then when I had left Tulsa, it was still whipping me around pretty good. A minor irritation on the open highway. But approaching the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge, or the “old bridge” as locals call it, the wind became more than an annoyance. As the bridge rose up over Old Man River the gale became ferocious. Then the lanes narrowed as I entered the afterthought concrete barriers… which seemed to funnel all the wind directly at my throat! I hunkered down behind my windshield as the handlebars twitched and my head was tugged from side to side. Popping out in Tennessee was a wonderful feeling.
After a quick lunch stop I was on my way across the corner of Tennessee and Mississippi. After crossing the Alabama line I stopped for a little while on the Natchez Trace. Last year I had ridden a couple hundred miles of this park-road and highly recommend it.
Onward into Alabama and I made a note of the Coon Dog Cemetery for the return trip. What might I find? Graves of hunting dogs? Or a community named Coon Dog that happened to have a cemetery? I was not sure.
I rolled into Ditto Landing about 4:30 and felt pretty good about the fact I had just ridden over 400 miles.
The weekend was great weather and I visited the local museum/train depot in Huntsville as well as the rocket museum (duh!). The high point was a ride down to Birmingham to visit the Barber Museum. But that’s a story for another day.
And dangit, if I didn’t forget to stop at the Coon Dog Cemetery!