Day 28: Oxford to Birmingham, AL

Phil’s alarm clock didn’t sound this morning, so when I woke up and saw that it was 7:30, we both jumped up and started packing.  We had told Reverend Chuck that we would be leaving by 8am.  We made it out by 8:05, dropped the key in Chuck’s mailbox, and rode about a mile to Starbucks for breakfast.

Phil and I with some of the Oxford locals at Starbucks

Having a loaded bicycle in a small town in Alabama (or anywhere, I’d imagine) is a great conversation starter.  Several people struck up conversation, asking what we were doing, offering their advice on places to check out around town and when we get to New Orleans, and informing us that there is a pretty high-profile bicycle race just a few miles away in Cheaha State Park, the location of the high point in Alabama.  We were lucky enough to get a photo with a few of the folks who spoke to us at Starbucks.

Back on the road, we backtracked to the church before we were on course with Garmin.  I’m afraid I’ve been spending too much time following the purple line that Garmin lays out for me.  Like any computer game that one gets addicted to, I’ve been seeing the purple line in my dreams and every time I close my eyes.  It’s really quite fascinating, as I thought it could only happen with games like tetris and minesweeper, but a little frightening as well.  I’m glad that New Orleans is only about a week away, so I will be free from Garmin’s trance for a few months.

In the first twenty miles of the day, we passed various attractions such as the Eastaboga Nut House (another pecan facility), the Talladega Super Speedway, and Scuttlebutt Wireless (sorry, Verizon, but I think I would switch to this wireless provider just for the great name if I lived here).  We also had tremendous luck with the winds and terrain, as route 78 was mainly a gradual decline in altitude and we were going downwind the entire time.  This luck changed shortly after we stopped for food in Pell City at the Ark Family Restaurant.  We turned off of 78, and were faced with some serious hills for the second third of the journey.  Heading back towards 78, we turned into the wind.

We stopped at a gas station for our second break of the day about 20 miles outside of Birmingham.  There, we saw all sorts of interesting people, but nobody talked to us except for a cross country coach who was stopping in with the team after they had run a half marathon.  The last ten miles into Birmingham were very industrial.  We played leapfrog with a train heading into the city, and then ended up riding down a road that reminded me of Allens Avenue in Providence, minus the bike lanes and the strip clubs (I know, I know…what other distinguishing characteristics could there be?  It just felt like Allens Ave).

Phil, me, Jen and Mark in Birmingham

We arrived at Jen and Mark’s apartment just before Jen was leaving to go to a movie, so she left shortly after letting us in.  After showering, Mark took Phil and me to a modest, but very delicious French restaurant.  We finished the night off with a beer at Avondale Brewing Company, the local brewery that recently opened.  The beer was very good, and the bartender and brew master were both very friendly.

About Sarah

Sarah grew up in Cranston - just south of Providence, Rhode Island - and developed a love for travel, music, and outdoor sports at an early age. She had started bicycling long distances at age 12, as a participant of the MS150 bike tours to raise money for the MS Society. She didn't use her bike regularly until she built her own while studying in Montreal and found it an excellent way to get around the city. After graduating from McGill and moving back to Providence, Sarah started working at Brown University's office of Environmental Health & Safety as the Biological Safety Specialist. She was living 4 miles away at the time, and for the first few weeks was driving to work. She made the switch from driving to bicycling when she realized that she could get to work faster, avoid parking tickets, and integrate a few miles of training into her day. Bicycling was better for the environment and better for her own health and mood. She found that she had more energy and felt much happier once she started biking to work. When her car broke down several months later, she never bothered replacing it. After 4 years of working in Biosafety (and on her master's in Environmental Studies), Sarah left her job to pursue her passion. She has been working various jobs in the bicycle industry since June of 2011, including pedicab driver, bicycle tour guide, bike mechanic and traveling bicycle advocate. In between seasonal jobs, she has done a few long-distance bike tours, which is the main reason for this blog. Her dream is to eventually ride around the world and sail across the oceans.

Posted on 19 November 2011, in Bicycle Touring, Providence to New Orleans. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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