This whole week leading up to Christmas has been great. First, last week I was at the right place at the right time. I stopped in the town of Baxley. I had to send a package to a very dear friend in NY to be sure she got it before the holidays. By the time I was finished at the post office, it was getting to be about that time from what the sun was telling me. Now Baxley, I'm guessing here, is about 8,000 or so. So for me to get far enough out of town to find camping I would be riding in the dark. When presented with such things, I have to improvise, so I looked for a city park. I wasn't able to locate one, but what I did see was a church with a good size backyard. So I pulled in to inquire about using an area of their lawn for my trike and tent. The woman working said she needed to call the pastor to check, and a couple minutes later she came outside to inform us that they "couldn't help out, but try the big church at the end of the road." Wow. Never would I have imagined one church pawning me off on another.
So I rode to the big church at the end of the road to see if there was any grass to be had. When I pulled up and stepped inside, I met Wanda. She greeted me with a big smile and a nice southern "What can I do for ya?" I told her the issue and she led me outside, pointed me in the direction of their boy scout building, and said I could set up right next to it. Then she invited me to the children's holiday program followed by chili and hot dogs. I said that I was in, and thanked her over and over. I got everything set up, feed Coop, covered the ride, and was sending out some e-mails when Wanda came over to the tent, right before six. "Sean, I'm sorry but we can't let you camp here tonight. When I said something to one of the trustees, he said we couldn't be liable." "Okay" was my response. I said I could find somewhere else, no worries. She said, "No, we got you a room for the night at a motel just a couple blocks from here, but we hope you'll come back for the chili and hot dogs." I was shocked. This was amazing. I never thought I would ever stay in a "Ho-tel, Mo-tel, Holiday Inn!" during this entire trip. I got to breaking down everything as I wanted to get to the room, unload everything, take a shower, and get back to try to catch part of the children's holiday program. Coop took the bed and I was out the door. Clean, lightweight, and heading for some kids and chili. Unfortunately I took too long of a shower and missed the program, but was just in time to get some food. As I approached the table, a big fresh pot of chili was coming out. I got a nice hot serving and a hot dog, and joined Wanda and her daughter, husband, and another couple at a table and got to telling them about my trip. They were full of questions and interested about the people I had met and the things I had seen. After a couple more bowls of chili and a handful of hot dogs, washed down with a nice big glass of sweeeeeeet tea, the party was coming to a close. We headed outside and I showed off my ride. They handed me a collection they had taken up between them, and with hugs and "Good lucks," they sent me on my way. That night I took another shower and watched to TV before going to sleep.
The next day I headed to Hazelhurst to see about getting a couple of fuel cans. The sporting goods store didn't carry them but "shor nuff" the local Super Walmart had them. I'm not a big fan of Walmart, but pretty much every small town I have gone through has one, and as I make my way through these random towns, I notice that all the small specialty shops that were locally owned and operated are out of business due to the fact Walmart is your one-stop shopping experience. Granted, the super Walmart can probably employ over half of the people affected by this, but the wages suck and your working for the man instead of living your dream. So I only got what I needed: three small fuel cans for my stove, and that's it. I'm not feeding this monster if I can help it, and I won't take the option of being able to camp for the night on their property no questions asked.
The next couple of days where pretty uneventful, mostly consisting of narrow shoulders, people driving too fast while talking on their cellphones, and sleeping in some random pine groves. These pine groves are pretty interesting. They are mostly used for the harvesting of "pine straw"—dead pine needles. They can sell them at $5 for a bundle the size of two big handfuls of the stuff. To me it makes a good, soft bed and great tinder for my fires.
Now for the next five or so states. I don't know anyone. There are no planned-out stops, so showers are becoming farther and farther apart. The great thing about state parks is, let's say you come by one in the afternoon and are not planning on stopping for the night. You can ask to just use the showers because you are traveling, and 99 percent of the time they will say yes. No fee. This happened to me at General Coffee State Park in Coffee County, which is west of Bacon County . . . really! The park rangers were all pretty curious about the ride, the idea, and of course, Coop. So after a few minutes of chit-chat, they said to head on down to the campground and help myself. What they didn't tell me was that it was a mile and a half to the campground, and it was a roller coaster of a road. So we took off down the first hill, and Coop was already down for the run. We hit the first climb and started pushing those pedals round and round. So by the time I got down there, showered, and made my way back, I was in a full sweat coming back out of there!
A couple days later I was heading down 135 trying to hit 76 south of Willachoochee headed towards Nashville. The sun was heading down and we were low on water. We came across a huge machine shed kinda out in the middle of no where. There was a guy outside unloading his truck we rolled up and asked if we could fill up on water and he said sure. As I was filling up on water, which was from a deep well I have come to realize where the good water is its better to get it out in the sticks from a house, church, farm or whatever than to get it in the towns due to the fact they have a water tower which makes the water taste like rusty hard-boiled eggs. Really it does and it makes the food taste that way too. No bueno. So as I was filling up this guy Mike started in on the usual questions. He is a welder so he was pretty interested in the construction of the whole thing. Well as it always does one thing led to another and he offered up some land there at his work shop to set up the tent. He has his own little fish pond in the corner and a picnic table sitting right next to it. Perfect spot. He brought over the bottom half of a barrel for a fire pit and some small pieces of lumber for me to burn. After I got set up and made a fire he came over and sat with me. We didn't talk to much we just looked at the fire and the stars and that was just fine. He knew enough of what I was doing and it was a nice silent moment with a lot shared. The next morning he came back with hot egg sandwich, pbj sandwich, and some homemade cookies. We talked some more about my trip and different things he was working on to make ends meet. As I was loading up I showed him a cracked sleeve on my axle he told me to sit tight and he would do a temporary fix till I got to AL to get the part that Main Street was sending me. After the fix up we shook hands and said our good byes and happy holidays and I was on the move.
When I rolled into Nashville it was lunch time, and I came across this get together outside a Auto body shop and saw that they had the grill fired up and tables set up. I rolled in and asked if they had burgers and dogs for sale. They told me not for sale but to help myself. I went over and got a bite to eat and a couple hot dogs for Coop. As I stuffed my face they asked where I slept and I informed them that I had stayed out at Mike's and they knew the guy and gave him a call. He laughed when he heard I was there. They had also called the local paper and a reporter showed up. She asked a lot of questions and was kinda scared of Coop. He just wanted more hot dogs!!! After the interview and some pictures we continued on to our pine grove site that night.
The following day Christmas Eve we only had to ride 12 miles or so to Reed Bingham State park. When we arrived, I went into the office and met Meagan and Chet. Chet is the Head Ranger there and one of the guys at the body shop had told me he knew him and said he was a real good guy, and he was right because when we arrived I only had $15 on me and was sure I didn't have much more in my account. So he suggested that I could do a couple hours of work around the campground and that would cover the camp fee. I was more than happy to do some work, granted I have peddled over 1,500 miles but that's pretty mundane. So I set up and got to it, scooping out fire pits, picking up branches and busting up old piers.
For dinner tonight I dined on some food that I had gotten from Top-hat. I had beef with potatoes and a mushroom cream sauce. And for Christmas dinner I think I'm going to have the Paniolo BBQ Pork with Coconut rice. YUM YUM!!! But I just wanted to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone out there. To the one I have known before this trip, to the ones that I have met so far on this adventure, and to the ones I still haven't met. Thank you everyone for standing behind me and for all the support you give.
Love and Licks
Sean and Cooper
Love and Licks
Sean and Cooper