23rd May 2016 Cullman, Al to Borden Springs, Al 138.5 kms - 86.1 miles Up = 1078m - Down = 1073m
23rd May 2016 - Cullman, Alabama to Borden Springs, Alabama.
I think it is fair to say that today was a day we all had concerns about – right from the early planning days. Annie said the first time she looked at the elevation profile the big drop around 65 kms into the ride had her worried. What had me worried was the amount of climbing for the day, particularly in the first half of the ride.
Despite a cracker of an evening organised by Oscar at our Airbnb – we were all up bright and early and on the road in really good time. Perhaps it was the very relaxed atmosphere at Oscar’s place, and the great "locals" we met. I would highly recommend this Airbnb to anyone travelling through Cullman!!
If I had to have a criticism – and this is only because of my height (well – the lack of it) – but the shower had obviously been installed by Oscar who was a professional gridiron player (now a leading gridiron coach) – he's a big tall guy!!! For me to turn the taps on was quite a balancing act!! I had to stand on tip-toes, and shuffle around the small ledge of the shower base, reach as high as I could and turn the tap on – there was no way I could avoid washing my hair!!! I found it very amusing and knew Annie must have had this problem too!!
Anyway – off we set – back on a road we had been on earlier in our travels (from Sardis Lake to Tupelo) the 278. It’s quality hadn’t changed – sometimes 1 lane in each direction, sometimes 2, sometimes a beaut shoulder, more often none – and it was as feared - pretty hilly. It also carried a lot of trucks – so it wasn’t the most pleasant of rides. We had great conversation about the early days of roading in Alabama around the fire last night which gave us an interesting insight – shonky and corrupt from the start it seems!!
I think I posted yesterday that I had seen a lot of poultry farms – well – I felt like I was back working for Tegel in New Zealand today. Obviously between Cullman and Gadsden – sheds were being cleared and the birds freighted to the factory on this day. When you are cycling – it is not the most pleasant experience – odour wise, and featherwise when one of these trucks passes – and we had several!! I saw Tyson feed trucks on the road too, so assume these were Tyson chickens. Interestingly, my boss when I worked at Tegel had done a study tour in the USA with Tyson, so maybe it was in this area?
Our first rest stop was taken after 45 kms in the town of Snead – an agricultural centre, with the normal array of fast food outlets as it lay on an east / west and north / south intersection.
The next step was to get to Gadsden for lunch – another 40 kms on. This was going to include the huge “drop”. And it was a drop – signs were present for trucks to engage lower gears – and we flew down. It would have been great had there been a good shoulder – but we had to be very careful on bends of the rumble strips and mindful of traffic from behind. Once down it was gently undulating through to the busy town of Gadsden. I think the population there is about 40,000 and it seemed a busier and more bustling place than that number suggests. I guess because several roads joined from north, south, east and west, and various compass points in between.
Two-thirds of the day had been covered – so continuing with the healthy diet of this trip - when we saw a "Waffle Shop" - we had to stop. I reckon the pecan ones are to die for – I am sure they are healthy and good for me!!
The next 40 kms was to Piedmont – the traffic was lighter (no chook trucks anyway) and, only undulating so we made good time. In fact – we had some excitement on this section – in the distance we spotted a tractor travelling in the same direction as us!! We gradually made ground on it – and eventually overtook it!!!!
Nothing like Macca’s free wifi at Piedmont to check on the final 8 miles of the day to get to the Campground at Borden Springs on the Chief Ladiga Trail. There was a driving option and a biking option – and once we were out of the town and could see the bike trail – we opted to go on that while Pat took the driving option.
What a FABULOUS trail it is!! We met up with Rita and Jerry who were cycling 13 miles out and 13 miles back (they lived in Piedmont) so we learnt the history of this disused railway track, enjoyed their company and had a flat well sealed and marked ride the 7.5 miles to camp. Meanwhile Pat had a hilly, twisty, very rough 8 miles to cover in the van.
The temperature had got into the mid 80’s today so the shady nature of the trail was wonderful. Apparently in the creek alongside there are beavers – but sadly we couldn’t spot any building their little dams. I always thought these were a more northern USA animal.
The camp is apparently swarming on weekends. Lots of scout groups, church groups, youth groups etc use this wide open facility to do tramping and biking activities. But being a Monday – it was very quiet. The staff were great, very friendly, helpful and informative – but I don’t think they have been much more than a 20 km radius of the camp!! Their southern accents were both amazing and amusing!!
Campsites are lovely mown grass, but what they call over here “primitive” – no power or water hook-ups. The amenities block though was very good – and we were able to plug in all our "electricals" to charge there. Pat and Annie prepared a meal for us via the cooker in the campervan and they also got a great fire burning in the fire-pit with our site, so it was a lovely way to end the day - glass of Toi Toi Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in our hands, eating dinner sitting around a camp fire!! Phone reception was bad – and we had to find a special spot to stand where 2 metal roads crossed and we could get 2 bars so at least a weak signal!! If you ever want a chance to get away from it all - yet still not be too far from small towns like Piedmont, and under 100 miles from Atlanta - this is the perfect spot!