Michael and I set out from Covington at 9:30 AM last Wednesday morning thinking we’d be in Muscle Shoals in four or five hours. It ended up taking seven and a half. We were idiotically using a map of the eastern U.S. I had in my car which of course doesn’t give you a very blown-up view of Alabama and doesn’t include a lot of smaller roads.
We were fine until we got off I-20 near Birmingham to head northwest. We kept missing our turns and having to fall back on various plan B’s. We never stopped to buy an Alabama map. I’ve already alluded to why that was.
We only stopped once, to eat at so-and-so’s Barbeque in, I think, Gadsden, Alabama, where they had a large menu but DID NOT HAVE BRUNSWICK STEW, and even though it took so long I don’t think we could have shaved more than half a hour off the trip if we’d been riding with someone who knew how to get there or had sense to get a better map. It just took a lot longer than we expected.
I’d intended to start riding at about one or two o’clock Alabama time and to get on the Trace just before it crossed the Tennessee River because the bridge looked so cool in the pictures. That would’ve been about a 30 mile ride before my first night’s stay in Collinwood, TN. But since I wasn’t going to be getting out of the car until after four, I decided to get on the road about 10 miles farther north.
Near the end of our drive, not being sure how to get to our next road, we did the girly thing and stopped for directions in Florence. It turned out that the real estate office I went in had a woman at the desk who said she didn’t know how to get to highway 20, so she called her boss out to tell me.
It was about fifty yards away on the street that ran beside her office.
A few minutes later I started pedaling north. The entire twenty miles to Collinwood was uphill but it was a very slight incline and really easy pedaling. In this very southern part of central Tennessee I crossed five or six small streams per mile. There were also many swarms of small black bugs, bigger than gnats but much smaller than houseflies, so that I had to keep my mouth shut and be continuously brushing them out of the hair on my arms.
The city limits of Collinwood were only a few hundred yards from the Trace. Collinwood is about the size of Social Circle, Georgia in 1960, less than a thousand people I guess and like Social Circle in 1960 it had one of everything one might need in easy walking distance: a Piggly Wiggly, a drug store, a florist, a hardware store, a bank, one church each of your common denominations, and a restaurant, but I was soon informed that better food was cooked to order at the Exxon station, advice I took and was glad I did.
It was getting dark when I pulled into Collinwood and called Mr. and Mrs. Butler, proprietors of Miss Monetta’s Country Cottage where I was to stay. They had already decided to come downtown and watch for me. I followed them the three blocks to the cottage.
The cottage, which I’d reserved for $75, was a two bedroom house with a living room, dining room, large kitchen, breakfast nook, a front and back porch with rocking chairs and swings and a large screen cable T.V. for the first game of the World Series.
When I left the next morning around 10:00 (I was waiting for it to warm up some) I wrote a whole page in their guest book. Among other things I wrote: “It’s just like being at home, only better—cleaner, no Sarah Palin calling me every 15 minutes.”
I highly recommend Collinwood and Miss Monetta’s.