Central Alabama

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Chris Myers

Where is it? I know it's around here somewhere. After all the pictures and movies, it shouldn't be that hard to spot, yet for some reason it seems to be eluding me in the early stages of the tour. Oh well, they say patience is a virtue and I know Alabama is as good a location as any, so I won't waver in my quest. I've journeyed here to find the South, and I'm going to ride until I do.

Think about it. When someone mentions the South, what states pop into your mind? Georgia? Alabama? Mississippi? Louisiana? The Carolinas? Tennessee? Those are all valid choices but I'll guarantee that if you left that list on the table, you'd hear some vociferous objections from residents of Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida and several others. My point being - the South is a huge area encompassing as many as 12 to 14 states depending on whom you're with when the subject comes up. With so many laying claims to their own piece of the sweet potato pie, I've decided to take my search straight into the Heart of Dixie.

A Little North, A Little South
In the early going, as the miles tick away while riding north out of Birmingham, it's almost a letdown to be on Route 121's curves, all rimmed with tall trees, steep rocks, and fast moving creeks. Normally, geography and roads like this are to be coveted, especially when riding a corner carver as perfectly honed as Aprilia's Tuono. Strange as it may sound, this is not what I'm after. Today's quest calls for swamps, cotton fields, and the arrow-straight roads that accompany them. But, as any hunter can attest, you only see turkey when you're looking for deer.

Swinging north on Route 160, the ride begins to take more of a relaxed pace over rolling hills and pastures. The open fields are actually a welcome relief as the rising sun slowly begins to warm me. The easy ride and the smooth running Tuono allow the mind to wander. Just outside of Arkadelphia, a mountain with switchbacks and sharp curves literally pops up out of nowhere. Awakened by a legitimately nice stretch of road, I pull over, gather my wits and turn around. I'll need to ride that again. This short stretch of Route 191, ending at Route 69, has a little bit of everything for the sporty biker. I rode it three times just to wake myself up.

South on 69, the hunger pangs can be ignored no longer. In Jasper, the pull of the burger chains really rattles my chain, but I refrain. Near Cordova, a sign reading Special: Catfish Sandwich catches my eye. Now that's a southern lunch. The Frosty Mug Drive In has been around since 1950 and it's easy to understand why: The sandwich is delicious. Eating outside, I find a new friend in a stray kitten that happily shares my lunch. Is a catfish-eating cat committing some bizarre form of Darwinian cannibalism?

(End of preview text.)

For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the September/October 2005 back issue.