Saturday, March 11, 2006

La Quinta Inn, Tillman's Corner, Alabama

At the Hampton Inn this morning, I knew I hadn't enough rest, but I was up at 7:30 and went down for breakfast. A dozen items from which to choose. Asked the desk clerk for additional time. She said I could check out at 12:00. The bill, with taxes, $100. A fortune. (How easily I spent $100 to $125 on hotels in the states before heading south to Mexico!)

As I loaded the bike, I reflected on this trip and items I've lost. There have been surprisingly few: a couple nice pens, the tent and sandals (in Alaska), a gas can left behind in Canada. That's about it. (Oh, and a little bit of cash in Cusco.)

North Florida has some very pretty country. If only they'd quit cutting down their forests! I have to believe the clearing of lands must lead to increased devastation inland when hurricanes sweep across this landscape.

Interstate 10 is in perfect condition, permitting absolutely carefree driving. I cruised at 80 without even thinking of it. I saw many motorcycles heading home (many in trailers or truck beds), and still some going toward Daytona, where "Bike Week" events wrap up Sunday.

The riding is so easy. People are laid back on their Harleys, t-shirts, no helmets, sipping drinks. On these interstate highways, you just don't have to worry. We're truly spoiled.

In Pensacola, I visited a "Cracker Barrel" restaurant for the first time. I had to try one of these ubiquitous restaurants. Outside, uniformed Marines and civilian-attired former Marines were seeking support for the local Reserve Unit. Inside, autographed photos of country western singers and other celebrities adorn the walls. Some are inscribed "to my friends at Cracker Barrel." Decent food, I tried the turkey dinner with raspberry lemonade.

Crossed into Alabama, and to my surprise, the Central Time Zone. It felt like progress.

East of Mobile, in the town of Spanish Fort, I searched for a campground shown on my map. Riding some of the backroads, it became clear that this town is preparing for a real estate boom. If I had money, this would be a place I'd invest. It is soon to be a full-service suburb of Mobile. Never did find that campground.

Crossed Mobile Bay, passing the battleship Alabama, a permanent memorial now, and stopped at Tillmans Corner west of Mobile. At an interchange, I found a cluster of motels.

On the south side of the highway, there is a "Holiday Inn Express". I pulled in to ask about a room. The entire ground floor was being renovated. I realized that they were repairing the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Despite the construction, the charge for a room was still over $109, plus taxes. Too much for me.

Across the street, another hotel sat dark. I think it may have been the "Hampton Inn" that signs directed travelers to at this exit. It appears they may not reopen.

On the north (inland) side of the interstate, I found a "La Quinta". $80 for a room. They had also suffered damage, but operations here were back to normal. I asked if they offer discounts, but was told they stopped giving discounts after Katrina.

Service sector employees are difficult to find in this area. Fast food restaurants have been forced to close dining rooms or curtail hours for lack of staffing.

About 425 miles driven today, the same as a ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles (a pretty easy jaunt.)

***

Putting weight back on, with the abundant and tempting (and fatty) foods.

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