Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

I took a little 200 mile ride out to Little River Canyon National Preserve near Ft. Payne, AL today. I have been wanting to go there ever since I overflew it about 2 months ago on a Herk low-level route and the Nav told me it looked like a great place for a motorcycle ride. I initially planned to go yesterday but held off due to a lot of t-storms in the area.

The ride over was not bad at all: it wasn’t too hot, and I got there in about 1.5 hours instead of the 2-2.5 I was expecting. The falls aren’t exactly spectacular when it hasn’t rained a lot lately, but the canyon still looks cool and you can also walk right up to the edge of the falls. e and I hope to take The Boy back there for a picnic someday.

The curvy road near the canyon was fun to ride, and I stopped at several of the overlooks (see map below). One thing I didn’t like is that all of the overlooks are loose gravel, making it a little slippery for my bike. When I got to the junction of AL 176 and county road 275, I had a choice to make. There are big signs saying that the 11-mile ride is steep, curvy, and generally not for trailers, RVs or big trucks. It didn’t mention anything about motorcycles, though, so I figured I’d check it out to see how it was. It turned out to be every bit as steep and curvy as promised; I doubt I averaged more than 15 mph the whole time. The road wasn’t gravelly but it wasn’t exactly paved well either. Then about 7-8 miles into the 11-mile drive, the paved road continued straight as CR 43 while the road I wanted (275) made an abrupt left turn. I started going left until I saw that I was looking down a very steep hill–I’m talking Lombard Street here–that was loose gravel. I could just see myself getting to the bottom and not being able to stop or turn as I flew over the edge. I stopped, or rather I tried to stop, and with the brake pressed and both heels on the ground I kept sliding downhill. I was a little nervous for a second, but then I was able to slowly turn sideways and power the bike back on to the blacktop. I stopped for a second to catch my breath then continued on CR 43.

One of the drawbacks of the internet age is that almost nobody carries around atlases or maps anymore. I fully intended to bring one but forgot. So here I was at the junction of 275 and 43, knowing that I could go back the way I came but not wanting to because I was getting close to the needing gas point. In the end I decided to ride along CR 43. In less than 10 minutes I met up with AL 176 again. I saw that I had nearly 30 miles until I really needed to stop for gas, and I was fairly confident that I could go back through the Little River Canyon and to the gas station on the other side with no problems. This time through I didn’t stop at a single overlook, instead really enjoying the curves and the occasional glimpses of the canyon. Now that I’d survived the poorly-paved CR 275, AL 176 seemed like nothing, even when it curved sharply. I wound my way back through the park and was at the gas station 15 miles before I really needed one.

After buying my gas I noticed that the sky to the east was looking pretty ominous. In fact, I was sure it was raining somewhere out there, but I wasn’t sure if it was on my route. I stood there at the station for about 10 minutes trying to decide if I wanted to put on my rain suit or not. In the end I chose to wait until I was sure I was going into the rain. That turned out to be a good decision because 3 miles later I made a left turn that took me away from the storm. In hindsight, if I had been able to negotiate CR 275 as planned, I would have come home on a different road that was more southerly and would have probably passed right through the storm.

The ride home was fairly uneventful except that my keister really started getting sore and, oh yeah, I almost got killed in Rome. Rome, GA, that is. I was bypassing the town on Loop 1 in the 55 zone when the truck in front of me came to an abrupt stop at a light that had just turned yellow when he was practically through it. I’d been watching the truck next to me because it was trying to ease into my lane to avoid someone turning right. I looked up to see the stopped pickup, squeezed hard on the brakes and realized I wasn’t going to be able to stop. Without really thinking about it, I swerved left into the empty left turn lane then applied the gas just in time to run the red light. I hope it wasn’t one of the lights equipped with a camera, but even so it was better than smacking into the truck. I got home just a few minutes ago, 199.3 miles and 5 hours after I started. I’m going to spend the rest of the day in the air conditioning and then get to bed early so I can wake up early to fly tomorrow.