Good Way To End A Year

December 29, 2016
  With the recent health challenges I have faced, I was out of the saddle for almost three months. I've been doing some local riding, but this will be my first road trip. It's the official 'Last Ride Of The Year' RTE held at the Stagecoach Restaurant in Stockton, Alabama. It's a favorite event for many long distance riders, so I'll get see some of my friends that I don't often get to see. I've got some computer work to do that has to be done when no one is on their system, so I leave the Holler really early. With those tasks accomplished, I mount Redbird and we're off like a dirty shirt.  
  Traffic is not too bad as I make my way out of Nashville. If it was 'normal' quitting time, I65 South would be a parking lot.
  But as I leave Nashville behind, the slab is pretty clear and for that I am thankful. Ever since I was run off the road back in August which totaled my truck, I am a bit leery of any vehicle being in close proximity to me. I'm sure over time it will get better, but right now it's sort like having a sore toe - don't want nobody to get near!

  As I make my way down to LA - Lower Alabama, I pass one of my favorite rest areas. They have a Saturn 1B rocket on display. It was this model that took the Apollo modules to the moon when I was in still in high school. My favorite uncle worked in the space program, so he was literally the family 'rocket scientist'. My original career plan was to be an aerospace engineer. I took all the math and science I could get in high school and enrolled in the program at the University of Tennessee. But military service intervened via the draft, and I ended up in software development courtesy of the USMC.
  As I cross the Tennessee River near Decatur, the wind has really picked up enough to cause white caps. Looks like I'll be fighting the crosswinds all the way down.
  Birmingham comes quickly enough, which is about half way to my destination in Bay Minette.

And every time I come this way, I always look for Vulcan - the symbol of the city up on Red Mountain. He stands 56 feet tall on the ridge and represents the city's roots in the iron and steel industry. He is the largest cast iron statue in the world and is well worth a visit if you've never been there. I remember as kid, my parents took my sister and me down to see it. What amazed me was that our old rickety car actually made the 400+ mile round trip without breaking down.

  Speaking of breaking down, for some reason my cruise control has decided to work intermittently. I've had the MCCruise units for many years and they are pretty rock solid. So I know it is either the O-rings going bad from the ethanol content of the gas, or else the speed sensor wires are loose. Since I am stopped for a break, I check the sensor wires. Sure nuff, they have vibrated slightly loose from the rough slab ride. I reseat them and that's the ticket - problem solved.
  The passage through Montgomery is nice as the traffic is light.
  Soon I'm at my destination for the evening - The Log Cabin Inn. Shuey, another distance rider, put me on to this place. It is an old Days Inn that the new owners have remodeled and done a great job with it.
  Not much to unpack since this is just an overnight trip. But then I realize that I have forgotten my cover for Redbird. I apologize profusely to her for making her spend the night exposed to the elements. But she is a gracious lady and says that she will be just fine.
  Shuey has chosen the Monterrey Mexican Restaurant for those that want to go to dinner. It is a great choice as the food is good and the service is excellent.
  Over some mighty fine grub, I catch up with several of my friends and make some new ones. But duty calls, and I head back to the motel as 3 am this morning came a bit too early for my liking. It's not long before I am on another journey in which I don't have to go anywhere to get to my destination.  
December 30, 2016
  The restaurant doesn't open until 7 AM, so I figure if I leave around 6:30 AM I'll be in good shape. It's little cooler this morning, but that's why I always have my heated gear along. I remember in the old days, you just bundled up and hoped for the best. At 60 mph and 32 degrees F, the wind chill is about 13 degrees F according to the National Weather Service. Without heated gear to keep your core temperature up, you can get hypothermia quicker than you can say 'What happened?'  
  I breeze into booming metropolis of Stockton proper having the road pretty much all to myself.  
  I get my picture now, as there won't be much space when the crowds come riding in. Andy, who was born in the UK and now lives in Texas, beats me as the first one to arrive. So guess today I'll just have to settle for number 2.  
  Pretty soon the doors swing open and buffet is ready to go. I load my plate up 'assorted pork products' as Peter, one of my riding buddies, calls it. Eggs are custom ordered, so I get hen fruit scrambled with some cheese mixed in. Mighty fine grub, if I do say so myself.
  And mighty fine is the company also as I get to sit with folks from around the country. It's good once again to be with my friends that sometimes I don't see but maybe once a year. But frequency has nothing to do with friendship, as friends are friends regardless.  
  When we go back outside, the parking lot is filling up pretty quickly. All sorts of folks from all sorts of places are pulling in. Most are here for lunch, but I like doing breakfast so I can eat and get back to the Holler before it gets too late.  
  And the time has come for me to do that very thing. I give my friends a good hug, stop for one last shot and I'm headed for the Holler.  
  The run is pretty simple - get back to I65, follow it to Nashville to I40, then I40 to my exit.  
  I figured I should be able to only have to make one gas stop on the road, and it worked that way going down. As it turns out, I stop at the same exit going back just on the other side of the slab. No cruise control work at this one since it is performing flawlessly after my previous 'adjustment'.  
  There's a little traffic as I make my way north, but not enough to be a bother. I see a large Cross and I am reminded again of my Heavenly Father and how much He loves me.  
  I catch another good shot of the Saturn rocket as I approach the Tennessee border.  
  From this sign, I know I am less than 100 miles to my beloved Holler and ought to be at the house before good dark.  
  As I get into Nashville, traffic picks up as usual. I just hope that all the mobile phone booths are paying a little bit of attention as they whiz along at NASCAR speeds.  
  Usually I take the I440 loop so I don't have to deal with the downtown traffic. But there's a wreck and it's backed up, so I figure downtown it is. Well, the best laid plans of mice and motorcyclists sometimes go astray. There's also a wreck on the Interstate downtown, so I get off the slab and figure I'll head for the back streets. When I look ahead, I notice the wreck is just before the get on ramp ahead of me. I figure that should work nicely and it does. Sometimes I'd rather be lucky than good since lucky is free.  
  With no more drama, I pull into the Holler with a little over 900 miles for the two days. It's been a good run to see good friends and to make good memories.