Editorial Note: This article was first published in January 2005.
It was a beautiful day/the sun beat down/I had the radio on/I was flyin'…Tom Petty says it best! Except the radio was my own voice in my full-face helmet…hey, we can't all drive a Winger!
So there I was, out and about on a gorgeous day in southwest Alabama looking for letters. I have been a Sandie for I guess about two years now and completed the Grand Tour a hundred times over, but without the proof. I finally made up my mind to get the evidence and my patch, since I'll be leaving for Tyndall AFB soon. I decided on the perfect day to knock out all my letters given that I knew I had at least one in the bag for sure, Andalusia, the other reason for my trip. Since I bought my 919 at the Honda shop there about 3 months ago I wanted to take it back to the same dealership for service. The folks up there are really great and the roads are a ton of fun; especially on that 919 because it's so nimble and responsive. Besides, what Sandie worth her salt can pass up a beautiful sunny day on an equally beautiful bike?
To begin my journey I got up around 6 AM with an air temp of around 30 degrees F. Although cold and early, (did I mention it was cold?) I figured this would give me time to get my service done at the dealership early enough to afford me time to tool around and find my S-A-N-D-O-L-L-A-R-M-C. I planned on getting some of the letters before I made it to Andalusia, so I stopped in Milton to take out my first letter.
I counted on taking the "D" in Dixonville Alabama, right on the FL/AL state line off highway 87/41. Well, for those of you that are counting on that one, forget it! There's a sign right off 87 for the Dixonville Baptist church. I turned at the sign and ended up driving George style (multiple U turns) because that's the ONLY sign for that stinkin' church! And to add insult to injury I never did find the church (or anything else for that matter) with a "D" in Dixonville. I did, however, take advantage of the U-turn set-ups to put my popsicle fingers on the bike's motor so I could feel them again. Moving on, I realize after my unplanned detour I better make time for the dealership. I happened upon Allentown, my other "A", without having to double back or take off on a tangent, so I nabbed it while I found it. Count, two…
I departed the Honda shop around 11, giving me time to grab a bite to eat. There's this really great Mexican restaurant up there, they have the best salsa and their sopaipillas are out of this world! I ate with gusto then took Andalusia as planned for my other "A". I certainly caused a few heads to turn because I took the pic at the big marble sign with the flags that welcomes you to the city. Well, in and of itself, that's not a grand statement, but I had to position the bike so I could get it in the picture with the sign, which is surrounded by grass and no safe place to pull over. Well, I just made myself one! I rode the 919 right up onto the cement triangle that separates the turn lane at the light, so I was right in the middle of traffic, although safely! Snapped the photo before the cops could show up and was gone again. Since I missed my originally planned "D" I took it in Dozier. Heads up, the only sign there is located on a narrow bridge at the bottom of a hill. So, I strategically parked as close to the side of the bridge as I could, ran about 5 yards back, snapped the pic with record time, and then promptly took off again. After that I lucked upon Luverne. After that stop, I got the best "S" of all time at a church in Sweet Home, Alabama. Lynard Skynard fans rejoice! Moving on I grabbed my "O" in Opp and realized I was tired, it was going to be dark soon, and I just wanted to call it a day. So, I pointed the 919 southward and headed back home to Navarre. Along the way I bagged Carolina to finish up a mere 3 letters short of the coveted Grand Tour patch.
Never one to fall short of a goal, (or pass up a long ride on a great day), I took off again about a week later for another ride where I got the post office in Lillian AL and a church in Robertsdale AL. The Holy Grail is just around the corner at this point. However, that last letter was trouble for me, the "N". I rode all over Alabama (twice) short of going to Never Never Land to find that N. I know, I know, I could just take the shot in front of any sign in Navarre and I'd be done, but I am a purist at heart and couldn't bear to throw in the towel and wimp out after over 400 miles and umpteen hours. Well, at least not do it and be proud of it…so there you go.
After I completed my project, I got the added bonus of being the first female to knock out the grand tour. Come on, ladies, let's go riding and do the Grand Tour in one day as an all girls trip!
Anyway, that's my Grand Tour story; hope you enjoyed my narrative as much as I enjoyed the trip! See you on the road… TJ