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October 18, 2019

Day 4: Madison, MS to Birmingham/Leeds, AL

Tomorrow, Tropical Storm Nestor is supposed to make landfall in the southeastern United States. Perfect. Just as I was poised to complete my cross-country journey on the AT, the entire southeast is going to get slammed by a tropical storm. Perfect.

In any event, I've tried to look at the weather forecasts to determine how far I can ride tomorrow without getting slammed by Tropical Storm Nestor.

Right now, my best guess is that I can ride from Madison, MS to Meridian, MS to Tuscaloosa, AL to Birmingham, AL. This ride looks to be approximately 258 miles.

Meridian: No rain forecasted for Sat 10/19/19.
Tuscaloosa: Rain forecasted from 12:00 noon - 2:00 p.m. (Sat 10/19/19).
Birmingham: No rain forecasted for Sat 10/19/19.
Atlanta: Rain forecasted from 5:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. (Sat 10/19/19).

So, it would seem that the plan is to leave tomorrow (Sat 10/19/19) at about 10:00 a.m. Temperature in Madison should be up to 63F by then. Then, I ride to Meridian, MS, Tuscaloosa, AL, and Birmingham, AL.

1) Madison, MS to Meridian, MS. Approximately 112 miles. 1 hour 42 minutes.
2) Meridian, MS to Tuscaloosa, AL. Approximately 95 miles. 1 hour 28 minutes.
3) Tuscaloosa, AL to Birmingham, AL. Approximately 57 miles. 57 minutes.

Leave Madison: 10:00 a.m.
Arrive Meridian, MS: 12:00 noon
Refuel and eat lunch in Meridian. Give the storm some time to head east. 12:00-1:00pm.
Arrive Tuscaloosa, AL: 3:00 p.m.
Arrive Birmingham, AL: 4:00 p.m.

I will plan to refuel tomorrow in Madison, Meridian, and Tuscaloosa.
I will plan on spending tomorrow night in Birmingham because, if I continue on to Atlanta, I'll get caught up in Tropical storm Nestor.

The plan is to hunker down in Birmingham, and wait for the storm to pass on Saturday afternoon/evening. Then, on Sunday, I will get up and ride the final 360 miles into Columbia, SC.

In the morning, as I'm checking out of the Meek's Estate, Jack shows up.

"Why does your father block my texts? He won't answer my phone calls. Any reason why?"

But Jack doesn't know really. He can't say.

I decide to wander across the property just for old time's sake. I find the tree house out back and climb into it. Mark did a good job of having it built. Mine collapsed years ago. But Mark was smart enough to pay someone to build his and it still stands. Signed by countless neighborhood kids.

But it's sad that the cousins are gone. I don't like that they grow up and move away. It's not fair. I feel like they should be here, but instead they scattered with the winds and now it's just me, feeling nostalgic for a time we can never get back to.

As I walk back to the house through the woods, it starts to get sort of rainy/misty. Like, I did a lot of research on the weather forecast because Tropical Storm Nestor is brewing out there in the Gulf of Mexico. S.L. made sure I was aware of this, and I greatly appreciate it, as I was unaware of its presence. I do generally check the weather of the towns I ride through before I take off in the morning. But news of a Tropical Storm caught me off guard.

So, I check and see that I should be OK to ride as far as Meridian, anyway. Then, after that, it's sort of hard to guess.

I use a few different apps including the Weather App on the iPhone and My Radar. You don't ride a motorcycle without this information.

My plan from last night was to get to Meridian, and then look to see what the weather looks like then.

But it's already misting/sprinkling on me as I'm rolling out of Madison, down I-55. People have their windshield wipers on. This is not the weather I'd hoped for.

Molly and SL flew out this morning from Jackson International Airport, and I'm reasonably sure that that's what I should be doing. I consider riding to the airport, buying a plane ticket to Columbia, S.C., and just flying there. Abandon the bike at the airport and deal with it next weekend.

But I decide to just keep riding and see what happens and, once I hit I-20 east, and get near the airport, the sun comes out and I'm so happy I could die. Like...wow...that's a good feeling. It's the best feeling on earth. Like, you go from imagining this ride in the rain for hundreds of miles without any waterproof gear, to riding through the sunny countryside.

So, I'm all stoked as I head east on I-20. I've ridden the section of I-20 between Dallas and Jackson many times, over the last 30 years. But I-20 east of Jackson isn't somthing I've seen many times. Maybe once when we went to Ron's funeral.

But I'm riding east on I-20 and I make it to Meridian, no problem. I gas up. The price of gas keeps getting cheaper and cheaper, ever since I left Colorado. If it's more than $2.19 a gallon, then I look for another gas station.

Stop for lunch at McDonald's. Ben got me to start eating at McDonald's again. I quit eating there a long time ago. I'm not clear why. I got tired of their menu, I think. But now, they have a lot of new items on the menu. So I stop and eat lunch. I got in my 100 miles before noon, so I'm in pretty good shape. My goal for today is to make it to Birmingham, but there's some question if the storm will dissipate in time for me to make it there today.

I get back out onto the interstate, always heading east on I-20. Forever east. At some poing, a little car comes past me with New York plates and he's skint back. And it's on. Now, we're running triple digits for some time.

Occasionally, I check my iPhone Waze app to watch for police, but it's hard when you're running triple digits down I-20. That takes a lot of concentration in and of itself. And, don't think I've forgotten the deer I hit back on July 5th. It really changes how you view riding a motorcycle. I'd been so lucky for so long that I sort of came to think that I was invincible. But all of that changed when the deer smashed into the side of the bike that night on July 5th when I went crashing down going 60 mph. And now, I'm aware that I'm not invincible. Every dead animal in the interstate is a warning to me at this point. Now I realize that that animal could have been my demise.

But we're running triple digits, me and this little moron from New York. And when I say triple digits, I'm pushing it. I'm running it up to 120 mph to let him know that he's racing the wrong guy. Like...I left the XR650's at the house for a reason. And if you want to go, then let's go, bitch. But at 120 mph, it starts to get a little head shake/wobble going. So I end up just running 100mph - 110 mph for what seems like hours. Probably it was for about an hour. I dunno.

After I make it to Tuscaloosa, I change the destination in my iPhone to Birmingham. I do this while I'm racing down the interstate at 110 mph. Somehow, I get this done without dying. But then, I run into a light mist/rain band, and I'm like....oh hell no. I only need to make it as far as Birmingham today. I'm not riding in the rain unless I absolutely have to. So I do a U-turn and head back to the last little intersection I passed which had hotels and restaurants. Like...I'm not wanting to get drenched unnecessarily. And I seem to recall that the weather was always going to be an issue if I got there too soon. Basically, running triple digits forced me to get to town too soon. So stupid there aren't words.

At 2:00 p.m., I pull over at a McDonald's and set up camp. I strip down out of all of my cold weather gear. I'm charging my MacBook Air, my iPhone, and swatting flies with my long johns. This alarm keeps going off nonstop behind the counter. Maddening. But I have my Bose Accoustic Noise Canceling Headphones on, and now I figure out how to use my MacBook air again. I haven't touched it for nearly 2 years. But now I've got it playing music, and I killed several of the flies.

Like, the mistake here is to check in to a hotel. It's very hard to go from running triple digits to decompressing in a McDonald's. But I make the switch. I strip down to just my riding pants basically. Not sure how many flies I've killed, but several.

Now, I can watch the Radar updated real-time in my My Radar app. This is a trick I learned from some other riders out of the north entrance to Yellowstone once when I was riding up to Alaska and back. We were huddled together at a gas station when a storm set in and they had the little radar weather app that showed the bands would break up and move off, somehow.

And that's where I am now. I'm watching the bands of weather disappear on the southern side of Birmingham. And, it's not like I'm going that much further anyway.

About 3:30 p.m., I decide that it's probably safe for me to continue my journey. I decide to try to make it to Moody, Alabama, on the east side of Birmingham.

Posted by Rob Kiser on October 18, 2019 at 9:31 PM


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