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.
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).
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.