A Day Of Joy And Remembering

February 26, 2024
On December 29, 2023 I did serious damage to my beloved RedBird and broke four of my ribs on the right side. As I am laying on my back in the middle of Interstate I65, what I can see of RedBird hurts me more than the pain in my body. It looks like her days of riding are over as her front end looks pretty well destroyed. The day after my accident, my sister and nephew ride with me back down to pick up what is left of her from the wrecking yard. I am still in very intense pain but sometimes you just do what you have to do. We get her home after about an eight hour round trip and wheel her in my garage. The month of January is pretty much a painful blur as I can not do much of anything except hurt. Toward the end of the month I manage to somehow get RedBird pushed into my workshop. Since I figure she is toast, I need to start removing stuff I want to keep. But the more I look at her, the more I realize that maybe she is in a little better shape than I think. So I strip all the broken stuff off the front end, measure the trueness of her front forks and she is just fine. I fix some wires that had been cut into during the wreck and then she fires up and purrs like a happy kitten. Now I am faced with the real question - what do I do with her? The wreck happened because I inadvertently locked the front wheel. RedBird is the only one of the four ST1100s I own that is not ABS equipped. I have lost a lot of 'manual dexterity' because of the nerve damage in my hands and the surgeries to fix the problems. So I have to face the fact that I cannot safely ride a non ABS equipped bike anymore. Over the last twenty years I have rolled the project of converting RedBird to an ABS mode in my mind - ever since I got SweetTreat my second ST1100 which was ABS equipped. After noodling it around in my head, I realize I have too many good memories with RedBird to part her out. So I wheel an ABS equipped parts bike I have on hand into my workshop and the fun begins. I had previously swapped the front forks, triple tree and calipers from an ABS bike to RedBird a few years ago so that part of the heavy lifting is already done. This project requires replacing all the hydraulics, the entire wiring harness, the final drive and a few other bits and pieces - not a task for someone fainthearted, easily frustrated or in a hurry. But I am able to pull it off and now she is factory ABS equipped just like the other three girls. I have done a little road test earlier but I want to do a real test now that she is completely put back together again. And today is the day for that as the weather is just perfect for a ride.  
I have my route figured out in my head and it starts with running down part of the Natchez Trace. There will be little traffic and slow speeds which will be a good beginning test to see how she runs and handles. I take my favorite shortcut to get there and pass by this old ante-bellum manse that I've always admired.
Before long, I am through the gates of my beloved Natchez Trace and fall into an easy, slow pace.
The Trace is pretty much empty this morning except for a few bicyclists so I can just relax and get a feel for how RedBird is running and handling in the many curves in front of me.
  I jump off at Highway 50, and before long I am running Highway 247, another one of my favorite local roads. I pick up the pace a bit to stretch her legs out and see how well she slows down and stops now.  
Soon I make my way around Chapel Hill which is in the county where I grew up. I figure there's no better place for a test run than roads that I grew up on riding a bicycle. This is spot is a little unusual as you have a choice - over the railroad or under the railroad.
I know these roads well from all the years of living in the area. They give me a great chance to crank up the wick a bit.
It's about time for RedBird to 'eat' and I wouldn't mind getting something myself. So I feed her first and it just so happens the market has some fresh chicken tenders just coming up. I avail myself of them and they are really fresh and really good.
But we need to get rolling and rolling we do. I wander down the road where I started my life. The old shack we lived in has long been torn down but the big rock in the picture where the our outhouse stood on is still there.  
And just a few hundred yards up the road is what used to be my grandparent's old barn. We'd put an old bed railing across the loft doors and go roller-skating up there. The skates were the old kind that just clipped to your shoes so you didn't want to make a sudden stop and have them come off and toss you out loft door.
Every time I come this way and up this hill I always remember Mr. Ledford. He had a reputation for taking out large insurance policies on various family members who suddenly would come to a mysterious end. On this stretch of road he finally got caught in his mischief. He had killed his wife - who just happened to have a large insurance policy on her - and had her in their car. He was trying to push the car down the hill after he set it on fire to make it look like an accident but he got caught.
I make my way past the less than world famous Possum Trot. I remember when the grocery was in full tilt and right up that road my daddy would take me to Bob Cutters. He cut folk's hair out in his front yard and he shored my locks many times as I was growing up.
  I make a brief stop by Short Cemetery where my parents, one set of grandparents and one set of great grandparents are laid to rest. Most of the folks on my momma's side are buried here out in the country up in the hills.  

I figure to today I will just loop back from Springplace Pike to Yell Road and then back to the Holler. I stop again at Bivins Road where my great grandfather had a very large farm. His two sons - my great uncles - also owned quite a bit of land next to his place. Their last names were Bivins and so that's what they named the road that went by their places. I used to spend time out here at my great grandparent's farm during the summer and bring my bicycle. In those days this road was creek gravel and so were the surrounding roads. So I got a lot of practice riding in gravel though my two wheels were only 'leg powered'.

It's through the backroads around Lewisburg where I grew up and then out highway 373 past the Culleoka 'elbow'.
Culleoka was known world wide until the 1950s for their sweet cantaloupes that were grown in the area. There was an aquifer that gave them a unique sweet taste but overproduction finally ran it dry and put an end to all of that.
It's on up skirting around Columbia and under 'headache bridge' - known locally as the 'Carter's Creek Can Opener'. As well marked as this low clearance bridge is, you can see the various places it has been hit over the years. I figure either folks can't read, they don't know the height of their vehicles or else they just have a bolt loose somewhere.
It's a twist and a turn around Leipers Fork and then I take the Trace back to the Holler.
  I get RedBird wheeled back into her position in the garage so she can tell the other three girls about her little 'excursion'.  
  It's been a great day of over 200 miles of smiles and memories of the past. RedBird has performed as well as ever and she is quite ready for her next adventure.