To discuss motocross gear from Winn-Dixie we first have to talk about Google Photos.
I’ve been using Google Photos for a while now to archive and backup all the photos I take via my cell phone. It’s a wonderful service that makes searching through endless streams of digital photos as simple as entering a few keywords. Google uses some fancy algorithms to analyze the subject of photos and automatically add tags that are searchable. Enter the term “hiking” and you’re met with every photo you’ve ever taken that includes people hiking, a trail through the woods, scenic landscapes eclipsed by a trail head marker and the occasional photo of hiking boots. All without having to add a single tag yourself. Brilliant.
A few weeks ago I installed the Google Photo app on my laptop and asked it to upload the 30,000+ photos that were stored in the depths of it’s hard drive. The app went to work and in during my laptop’s downtime it’s been slowly uploading all those photos to Google’s servers with each one getting it’s own searchable tags applied. Beyond the tags the service also organizes photos by time and date to allow yet another way to search for that certain photo. Today the assistant feature (similar to Facebook’s “Here’s what you did X years ago” feature) let me know that 6 years ago today I had a fantastic shopping trip. Don’t believe me? Let’s go for a two wheeled ride down memory lane.
So it’s January 2nd, 2012 and my son is heavily involved in motocross. We spend our weekends hauling bikes around the state racing and practicing at local tracks. My wife managed the gear and research making sure that we were getting the most for our money and that my son was as safe as possible. It was time for a set of knee braces and we were after a set from Asterisk. After some diligent research and internet prowling we made a deal on an almost new set listed on craigslist in Birmingham Alabama. The details were set and the seller agreed to meet me a day later in the parking lot of a Winn-Dixie near Opelika. The only problem? That’s a 3 and a half hour drive from the house. I decided this was an excellent opportunity for an adventure and loaded up the motorcycle with my camping gear.
After an early morning ride through Atlanta traffic I crossed the Alabama border and turned toward Opelika. I made contact with the seller of the knee braces and waited for him in the parking lot of one of the last remaining 500 Winn-Dixies in the south east. Shortly there after the deal was done and I was left with a day and a half before I needed to return home. What do you do with a day and a half and a bike loaded with camping gear? You explore! I plugged Little River Canyon Preserve into the GPS and set off in a northernly direction via the back roads of Alabama. Alabama has some fantastically bad back roads which I love! These roads were simply made for a dual sport bike.
After spending 4 hours or so winding my way through eastern Alabama I pulled into the lodge at the Little River Canyon Preserve and went inside to slap down American dollars in exchange for a primitive camp site. The lady working the counter wasn’t prepared for anyone to ask for a primitive campsite since it was going to be 20 degrees overnight. She was even less prepared for someone to stroll in and ask for said campsite while riding a motorcycle. She nicely explained that they typically didn’t allow primitive campsite check in after dark as it was difficult to find, but that if I was out riding a motorcycle in the cold weather she was sure I could find a campsite. I headed up the ridge toward the primitive campground which, big surprise, I had all to myself. I threw the tent up, stuffed my gear and sleeping bag inside and got a fire up and going to fight off the bitter cold.
The primitive campground here sits on top of a ridge and as the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped I phoned home to let my wife know where I was and my plans for the next day. While on the phone something began circling the campsite just outside of the light from the fire. Every now and then a set of eyes would flash as this interloper stopped and sized me up from the darkness. I kept my wife on the phone in case I ended up being mauled and she needed some sort of proof for the life insurance claim. After feeling me out from the safety of the dark for several minutes a siberian husky walked into camp.
She hung out until the fire died down and I turned in for the night. As I began breaking camp the next morning she showed back up hoping to score some breakfast. Pop tarts aren’t generally good for dogs so she had to see me off with just a pat on the head. Now I had a full day to do some exploring around the canyon before heading home. From wikipedia:
Little River Canyon National Preserve is a United StatesNational Preserve located on top of Lookout Mountain near Fort Payne, Alabama, and DeSoto State Park. Created by an Act of Congress in 1992, the 15,288-acre (6,187 ha) preserve protects what is sometimes said to be the nation’s longest mountaintop river, the Little River. The canyon was historically called “May’s Gulf”, “gulf” being a common term throughout the Cumberland Plateau for this sort of feature. Prior to being assigned to the National Park Service, the canyon area formed the southmost unit of Alabama’s DeSoto State Park.
I spent most of the morning riding around the rim of the canyon and taking in the views. The river creates several scenic waterfalls and there are plenty of overlooks to stop at and admire the sandstone cliffs as they drop off suddenly to the floor of the canyon below. Years later this remains one of my favorite motorcycle based trips.