This year’s Alabama Tandem Weekend (ATW) was hosted by Tim & Beverly P. out of their home town of Sylacauga, Alabama. It’s pronounced sil-la-caw-ga and it’s located southeast of Birmingham at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Mountains. For classic TV buffs, it’s also where Jim Nabors was born and raised. Just a neat little southern town surrounded by some outstanding, quiet rural roads that are ideal for cycling. We also found some very nice restaurants and our hosts were as gracious as could be: we had a great time!!
As a little background, ATW has traditionally been a low-cost or sometimes no-frills weekend of tandem cycling hosted somewhere in Alabama. Our first ATW was back in 1998 at Fairhope. The 1999 – 2003 editions were hosted by George & Judy B. in Auburn and then in their home town of Trussville for 2004 & 2005. In 2006 and 2007, Hal & Judy Y. resurrected ATW and hosted it out of Enterprise. In 2008 & 2009 Jack & Susan G. hosted an out-and-back overnighter on the Chief LaDiga trail between Anniston & Cedartown at the Georgia state line. Steve & Wendy B. hosted the 2010 ATW in Eufaula and then 2011’s ATW in Clayton.
OK, back to this year’s event. Tim & Beverly did a great job of getting the word out on ATW by leveraging Facebook and various other outlets and then kept everyone up to date and filled with all kinds of information in advance of the event via the Facebook page & Email. Maps & GPS files along with the agenda we mailed out well in advance of the weekend so everyone would have a chance to see what Tim & Bev had planned. The Jameson Inn was our host motel for the event and @ $55/night, it was a great value. We had a very nice room that was clean and up-to-date with a comfortable bed, small fridge, microwave, and easy access to the parking lot where a lot of socializing took place. Like all Jameson Inn’s where we’ve stayed, it also had a nice little room off the lobby stocked with the typical breakfast fare that you find in most hotels and motels that offer breakfast as part of your lodging fee. Again, just a great value @ $55/night.
Friday, March 23rd
Well, I should probably note that our ATW plans had an interesting twist in that we were asked if we’d be willing to ride a Triplet with one of our dear friends, Brenda, whose significant other James was otherwise indisposed for the weekend. Brenda & James own a 26″ Co-Motion PeriScope Trident and Brenda would be sharing a ride to Slyacauga with some other friends from the Murfreesboro, TN, area: Larry & Martha T. So, we tentatively agreed we’d need to meet at the Jameson Inn around 10:30 – 11:00 am so that we’d have time to get the triplet ready to go before the designated ride start at 1:00 pm.
With that in mind, we opted to leave home around 9:00 am EDT so we’d arrive around 10:00 am CDT, noting it was 135 mile drive. Yes, yes.. Google Maps says it’s a 3hr drive but even my Garmin knows that for me… 135 miles = about 2 hrs in the car. Other than being rained on throughout the drive over, it was a relatively uneventful trip. And, given how much rain was in the forecast, we were already thinking today might be a wash-out for riding, which wasn’t all bad as a down day to relax would be welcomed.
We arrived right around 10:00 am, met our host Tim P. in the hotel breakfast room along with some of our other friends and new friends from this year’s ATW and received our “goody-bag” with maps and some other swag. Tim was watching the weather radar and keeping fingers crossed that the rain would continue to trend north and south of Sylacauga. We met our fellow triplet team — Eric, Linda & Lisa — who were out in the parking lot getting their 700c Aluminum Co-Motion triplet ready to go. We had a good time visiting with them and all of the other folks who were starting to gather before heading to lunch and then the ride start across from the Blue Bell Ice Cream plant in downtown Sylacauga. However, our little group was thinking that riding on wet roads was not in the cards for us, so we were already working on an alternative agenda… one that anticipated our Triplet, Brenda, Larry & Martha might be running a little bit late. I think it may have been around 11:30 am when they arrived. Again, we weren’t all that worked up about making the 1:00 pm ride start so no big deal there. Once they arrived we decided we’d car pool down to Broadway St. in downtown Sylacauga and have lunch at the Marble City Grill, then mosey over to the ride start to see how the weather looked before making a final decision on our ride / no-ride plan.
We collected another couple along the way and had a very nice lunch at the Marble City Cafe. Not exactly pre-ride food either, I might add. I think we finished lunch until around 12:45, so when we drove the two blocks over to the ride start is was pretty clear we wouldn’t be going off with the mass start, noting I hadn’t even swapped out the saddles and pedals on the Triplet. So, as the rest of the riders departed I unloaded the Triplet from Larry’s Honda Odyssey and set about to changing out the aforementioned saddles and pedals and setting up the riding position to closely match our Calfee as best as I could given the dimensions of the PeriScope Trident. The rest of our little group headed into the Blue Bell lobby to change into their cycling togs while I continued to tweak the Triplet. About the time that I had the bike ready to go the skies opened up on us so the bikes went back into the vans along with us as we waited out the short rain squall. Of course, with the roads soaked our interest in riding was about zilch, so we headed back into the Blue Bell building to check out the packing operations through the 2nd floor observation windows while enjoying our $.50 scoops of Blue Bell ice cream: yum!
Photos above: Blue Bell Ice Cream Plant in Sylacauga & $.50 “scoops”
We gave up on the idea of doing the planned ride for Friday and, instead, decided we’d check out some of the local sights and then head back to the hotel for a shorter, 15-mile loop to use as a shake-down ride for the Triplets. The shake-down ride was mostly for our team, as Debbie and I had never ridden Brenda & James Co-Motion PeriScope Trident and just being a little off on the fit could be problematic. So, we walked over to a nearby bike shop… the town’s only bike shop, and had a nice little chat with the owner / chief mechanic / head of sales / shop race team: hey, it’s a small town and this was a small shop! After that we walked two blocks to the Isabel Anderson Comer Museum so we could check out their Jim Nabor’s collection. There was actually some pretty cool stuff in the display and worth the walk!
We wandered back towards the Blue Bell plant and the vans with the Triplets and, after meeting up with some other friends who had driven out to one of the attractions on the Friday ride, we all headed back to the Jameson Inn so we could go and do our shake down ride. We rolled out around 3:00pm, which would get us back in plenty of time before heading back downtown for dinner. The shake-down ride went well, but I discovered the Triplet we were riding was in dire need of some maintenance. So, I knew what I’d be doing on Saturday morning.
For the folks who did the full agenda for Friday’s afternoon ride, there was a 12-noon tour of the Blue Bell plant before the ride and then options of 36 or 39 mile rides that would take the teams out to a local covered bridge and a grist mill on quiet rural roads… well, once they made their way out of town. Tim and Bev had also mapped out a morning out-and-back ride to Bull Mountain; however, that was a complete wash-out. Tim & Bev had also made Friday night’s dinner arrangements at a local Mexican place they like called L’ Acosta on Broadway, just across the street from the Marble City Grill. We shared a table with our Triplet riding partners — Brenda, Eric, Linda & Lisa — along with long time friends Paul & Jody B. from Atlanta and Charlie & Resa B. from South Carolina. It’s always hard to find a good Margarita, and once again we were challenged here despite trying to “help” simplify the recipe, i.e., Tequila + Sweet & Sour Mix (period). Oh well, my shot of 1800 was nice and cold and so were the Bud Lights. We had a great time and that pretty much wrapped our day. We opted to head back to our room to do some reading and called it a night.
All-in-all, we really enjoyed our first day. Perhaps a little too much structure for us, but we’re always game whatever the rally hosts plan and can adapt as needed. Tim & Bev really did a lot of work to organize all of the activities and ride routes, going well above and beyond the “no frills” level in their efforts. Well, that and they’re just the nicest folks…
More to follow in our Saturday and Sunday Reports.