Day 5: Pensacola, FL to Ghetto Birmingham, AL – Thursday, May 31st

Possible plane choices to try to fly home…

I forgot to mention earlier, but sometime during the day yesterday, Matt’s  bike battery gave up the ghost. We tried pulling the headlight fuse and disconnecting accessories, but with no success. As a result, at every stop, Matt is getting in a nice little sprint or two for a kick-start.  For the record, Matt learned that it’s a good idea to make sure you’re not in 5th gear when kick starting. It really isn’t fun to stall the bike when you’re kick-starting it.

I can has?

First stop of the day was Pensacola Naval Air Station for the Naval Air Museum. The MP at the gate made me switch into full-finger gloves. They’re serious about the base rules for cyclists. It was a really good museum. We didn’t do any of the guided tours or movies or anything, but we really enjoyed it. The restaurant was even decent and reasonably priced.

As we ate lunch, we were considering the many, many hot miles that were between us and sleeping in our own beds. Lots of great ideas appeared during lunch. We could sell the bikes and trade them for jet skis and ride the Mississippi back home. We could buy two jet skis and straddle the bikes on the jet skis… We could rent a truck… We could hijack a cargo plane… It’s a shame the pilots all looked bigger than us!

Looks like I landed this one…

Let’s just say it was hard to leave the comfortable air conditioned seats of the museum to start driving north, but we did it.

We drove through a bunch of fresh construction. New blacktop is really hot on a hot summer afternoon! We took interstate for a good section of this trip just to avoid stop-and-go and to try to make up some time, because this was going to be the least pleasant leg of the trip.

My turn to catch Matt looking derpy. I think this is the point that we realized the Facebook post saying, “Dead battery, camping, my butt hurts” sounded kind of funny…

With stops about every fifty miles for either fuel or ice cream, we made pretty good time. GPS gave us a rolling average of 61mph, which really isn’t bad. We didn’t have bad experiences with many crazies on four wheels. We had our first encounters with rain on this segment of the trip. We mostly had a little bit of drizzle and overcast….not enough water to soak through the gear, but enough to take the edge off the heat. Very nice.

We made it to Alabaster, AL (just south of Birmingham) for dinner. GPS led us astray there trying to find a Mexican place. Eventually we gave up and asked a lawn crew where to find it. (No stereotyping there!)

We used hotwire there to find a hotel on the north side of Huntsville. We ended up at the Rime Garden Inn. For the record, I-59/I-20 heading to the Birmingham airport was the worst road we rode, and it only foreshadowed this awesome “hotel.”

Let me just share my tripadvisor review for your enjoyment:

“Worth losing money not to stay here”

1 of 5 stars Reviewed June 15, 2012

Got a deal on this with one of the travel sites. Didn’t last an hour. The hotel down the road was worth every penny to live through the night!

Highlights:

  • The hotel is actually a converted apartment complex. “Converted” is used loosely. The rooms surrounding our second room were still apartments.
  • By apartments, I mean projects.
  • The first room we were given was already occupied. By a man who had been there a week. Whoopsie!
  • The second room we were given was already occupied….by some sorts of horrible creatures. The “neighbors” (the guys partying at 5) warned of bedbugs on the scary-stained couch. The mold in the bathroom was nice, too.
  • The second room included an one A/C unit….for the whole apartment. They solved that little problem by cutting a whole in the wall and putting a rectangular tube to funnel some of the air into the bedroom.
  • The second room didn’t include a smoke detector in the bedroom….but you could see where it used to be!
  • The carpet was coming up at the thresholds, so you could see the edge of the tack strip.

The cop patrolling the parking lot, the groups of people standing and staring on the side of the road all combined to make this a place I wasn’t too interested in staying.

Dirty, disorganized, and a disaster waiting to happen. I give this place a D!

Room Tip: Choose one at another hotel.

Update: The manager wrote back and disputed my review. It was total garbage and hilarious.

The beautiful multi-room air-conditioning unit. This was just a little thing, but was kind of the icing on the cake…

So yeah, it was pretty awesome. The forty five minutes that the bike spent parked here was the only time on the trip—including New Orleans—that either of us felt compelled to use our disc locks to keep things safe. I nearly didn’t take my helmet off to go inside.

We decided it was worth losing money to move down to the Holiday Inn Express that night. It was so beautiful, clean, and safe, that I nearly hugged the desk clerk. Matt said it was a beautiful beacon on the hill. Enjoyed the pool and met some nice folks, parked with a bunch of nice bikes, and generally felt like we weren’t going to die.

Day 5: 284 miles. Cumulative: 1,230 miles.

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