Barber Motor Sports Birmingham, Alabama
I Left my job of 31 years last week and can now call myself “Retired” . That in itself is a whole other story as this one is about the retirement treat to myself, a ride on the back roads of Georgia and Alabama to the Barber Motors Sports Vintage Motorcycle Museum which is about 30 miles east of Birmingham Alabama. I'd heard about this place some years ago and always wanted to visit. However ,it is one of those locations that are really too far to do in a weekend from my hometown of Jacksonville, FL but not far enough to make a long trip out of, About 3-4 days seemed about right.
Not having to worry about going into the office anymore, I left Jacksonville early on a Tuesday morning. I probably should have waited for a while as it was pretty foggy out but I wanted to get on the road. The fog did not start to burn off until I got well outside of Jacksonville nearing Callahan and by the time I reached the Georgia border, there was nothing but a hard, clear, blue sky above me…….Nice.
Riding into to Georgia on US1 from the south is not too exciting. The straight and flat roads that one finds in Florida continue well into Georgia. US1 runs along the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp all the way to Waycross, GA where I stopped for Gas and a bite to eat. Waycross is a pretty good sized small town. I left US1 in Waycross and found my way over to RT520 which I would follow west and north all the way through Georgia.
Outside of Waycross the countryside began to change a bit. While the road was still pretty straight, it began to get somewhat hilly, the trees were changing for the monotonous pines of north Florida and southern Georgia to more Oak trees and lots of Pecan Trees. There were quite a few signs along the road: “Pecans For Sale”. Making good time on the 4 lane state road I was soon at Tifton GA Which is at the intersection of I-75, the interstate that runs north-south through Georgia. Past Tifton, another 40 miles or so brought me to Albany, GA where I crossed the Flint River. Across the River 520 takes a more northerly bent. Near Columbus, GA 520 runs through Ft Benning Military Reservation. I think that I visited here once way back in the day when a distant relative of mine was in the Army here. Exiting Ft Benning you ride into Columbus, GA. It is a big city that I did not want to ride through.
Luckily, there is a bypass available that takes you pretty much around the southern edge of the city and across the Chattahoochee River into Alabama. Here 520 became RT280. Riding along 280 north, it became decidedly more hilly but still a 4 lane road and a pretty fast ride. I stopped in the town of Opelika for a late Lunch and continued on to the small town of Sylacauga where I stopped at a Best Western Motel for the day: 420 miles for the day. At the Motel, I checked in, got my stuff moved in to the room and changed out of my riding gear. Having eaten a late lunch, I was not all that hungry yet so took a walk. Out behind the motel was an old cemetery on the side of a hill with tombstones dating back into the early 1800’s. Pretty neat. I walked around the cemetery for a while then back over to RT280 where I found a restaurant “Don’s Alabama BBQ” not a very original name but I figured I’d give it a try, The pulled pork platter was pretty good.
Back at the Motel I called the wife and then wrote a bit in the travel journal. Took a shower and watched some silly stuff on the TV. After a good, long, hard day on the bike, I fell asleep pretty early. I was up pretty early but I knew that Barber Motor Sports did not open till 10 am so I went over to the nearby Waffle House and had an overpriced breakfast and a couple of cups of fairly good coffee while I read the Birmingham Times . I checked out of the motel and was back on the road by 9 AM
Through the towns of Childersburg and Harpersville where I got off of RT 280 and onto SR 231 to Vincent and took and took CR 25 north to Leeds , AL. What a great 21 miles it was; all winding country road with very little traffic, over some serious hills which some folks here in the east might even call a mountain. There were even a few hairpin turns that were quite challenging for this rider used to the straight flat roads of Florida. Coming in to the Town of Leeds which is about 20 miles east of the city of Birmingham, I immediately saw signs for the Barber Motor Sports Museum and arrived there a bit after 10:30 am, There were only two cars in the lot and one other bike. As I got off of my bike anther rider came in, he parked next to me and we had a little chat. Turned out he rode up from Austin, Texas!
The museum was awesome! Being 5 floors tall and all open, there are currently over 750, completely restored, vintage motorcycles on display. There are also some Indy and formula race cars and a few vintage automobiles as well. Outside of the museum is a race track…..not your usual oval but a winding track through the grounds. I tried to get the guard to let me take a lap or two but could not get past the gate to the track. I spent several hours there looking at all of the bikes and wandering around the beautifully kept grounds. If you are ever in the Birmingham area, it is well worth the visit.
I left the Barber Motor Sports about 3 in the afternoon and not having had anything to eat since breakfast, I stopped at a small local diner in Leeds and had a great BLT sandwich before heading out onto the highway and east back towards Atlanta. On I-20, I had no intention of riding into Atlanta, but it would get me back to Ammanville, AL where I could get onto RT431 south into Alabama before heading over into Georgia. It was a quick, 60 mile, 70+MPH, Interstate ride to Ammanville where I got onto RT431, topped off the gas tank before heading south on a fine back road ride all the way to Roanoke, AL. where I got onto 219 east and let the GPS lead me through back roads and small towns of Alabama into Georgia where I stopped at Forsyth, GA as the sun was setting. It was another long but really great day.
I spent another night at another Best Western Motel outside of Forsyth, which was just at the entrance to I-75. Tomorrow would be a highway day on the bike. I have mixed feelings about riding on the slab. I much more enjoy a winding back country road but when I want to get somewhere fast, the Interstate is the only way to go and my bike is made for it. The large Yamaha touring bike with its smooth riding 4 cylinders, the factory cruise control, highway pegs and a wide, comfortable aftermarket seat make the miles fly by when cruising down the highway at 75mph. I had a good night’s sleep and woke early, took a shower and ready to go, opened the motel door to some pea soup thick fog. I could hardly see across the parking lot. So much for an early start, so I wandered off to the office and took advantage of their complimentary “continental” breakfast and a few cups of coffee while I read the Atlanta Journal newspaper. When I was done, the fog was still way too thick to ride in so I went back to the room and watched some local news on the TV, there was a thing about how I-16 had been shut down for several hours earlier in the morning due to a multi-car pileup blamed on the foggy driving conditions. Just thing a bike rider needs to hear about! The fog started to burn off about 9am and I was itching to get on the road so I checked out of the motel. I made sure everything was tightly packed and headed out south on I-95 towards Macon, GA.
About 20 miles north of Macon I-75 forks with one fork heading south through Macon and eventually into North Florida, The other Fork heads southeast, turning east and becomes I-16 which, 152 miles later connects to I-95m just outside of Savannah, GA. It’s a nice highway ride with the traffic thinning out once out of the Macon area. I pushed the speed up to 76 mph on the GPS and clicked on the cruise control. With feet on the highway pegs, I watched the scenery and miles roll by as I rode across Georgia. At the intersection of I-16 and I-95 I stopped for gas and got a bite to eat at the convenience store before heading south on I-95. I only stayed on I-95 for about 20 miles, getting off at the town of Richmond and on to RT17. This road is such a nice ride. Many years ago, I suppose it was the main north south road through this area before the Interstate was built. RT17 winds through all of the small Georgia towns and marshland along the east coast of Georgia . Finally after Brunswick, RT17 heads back inland and south to the small town of Kingsland.
There is a small park with big, shady oak and pine trees right in the center of Kingsland. Feeling the need for some rest, I stopped at the park, parked the bike under a tree and was getting ready to lay down beside it when I was approached by a young man asking for money. He looked and smelled like he had not taken a shower in a week. He was Skinny and strung out. Normally I tell these folks, “sorry, but I’m not carrying any cash.” But this guy look so damned pitiful, I gave him five bucks. “Get something to eat” I told him as he walked off. I put my riding jacket down on the ground and soon was taking a nice short nap. I woke about a half hour-45 minutes later, took a walk around the park and feeling much refresh got back on the bike. Several blocks down the main street of Kingsland, I saw the guy that I had given the 5 bucks to walking into a liquor store…..so much for “getting a bite to eat”
Crossing the St Mary’s river into Florida, RT17 heads east back under i-95 and over to the town of Yulee where I picked up the northern end of A1A, (the south end is in Key west , Fl some 500 miles down the east coast ). I rode over to Fernandina Beach and then that delightful 21 miles on A1A along the Atlantic Ocean to the St Johns River Ferry. Across the river, it was only a couple of more turns to the house. A little over 950 miles in about 2 ½ days of riding.
Here is a slideshow of some of the photos I took at the Museum :