If the first question out of your mouth after the handshake is "How do you feel about riding farther, faster and longer and coming back when it will be darker and colder?" and the reply is "What are you thinking" instead of "no," you know you are in the company of someone who isn't afraid to ride.
You could call what we did meandering, though we had a very specific goal: I needed to scout a campsite at Payne Lake for an upcoming trip. I looked at the roads and connecting roads on the map and laid the tape on the tank before leaving. We shot the breeze for a minute before heading out.
Glenn is a trip if you've never met him. He has this affable yet slightly mischievous way that makes him seem like he is up for anything. He carries a lot of bags on his bike and they are topped to the brim just in case that "anything" breaks out at a given moment. He's bi-lingual (thanks to immersion) and married (also thanks to immersion) and has one child. A family guy, like me. The Navy took him to more places I'll ever be and man...his stories have stories.
We beat a path down Shades Crest and crossed to the South section. I had never lead on this route before and I blew a turn which we quickly fixed. I remember checking roads on Google maps to make sure they were't dirt and that they looked paved...and they were. That being said, they were't paved well and every offshoot road was dirt. We blasted down the road, which was plenty curvy, thinking at any minute we'd run out of pavement and I'd be a liar for saying it was an all street ride. We made it to the end and with a quick right we were back on solid road.
We hit some patches of grooved pavement and passed by West Blocton, Centreville and Brent and made our turn onto Payne lake road. This was a killer stretch that we bombed over, I was a liar here for sure hitting at least +10. The sun was quickly retreating and my fingers were good and cold. I knew were in for some fun later.
The campsite was a ghost town: eerily empty ranger station, eerily empty camp host house. We ran around to the boat launch to take a look at the water and the view was good. We bs'd a little more and took some pictures. Riding to the open loop we did see one couple camping with a horse trailer. They eyed us uneasily at times and graced us with a cryptic head nod which may or may not have been a gypsy curse.
We looked at the sites and made sure the bathrooms had everything the wife would need on our trip. More bs'ing, more photos. We departed smiling at our silent companions hoping to make them rethink their actions upon us. Back to the cold hands, I took leather Thinsulate lined gloves to ride in but that didn't stop three of my digits from becoming pale with purple nails. I rubbed my hands together and thought about how life would be if I had to ditch "JT" and answer to "Ol' Seven Fingers." We stopped for gas in Centreville and talked routes back. Glenn produced some extra gloves from one of his hard bags (which I am pretty sure he inherited from Mary Poppins) and I tried them but decided to keep on with my gauntlets.
Instead of fighting wildlife and going through Montevallo, we made a b-line for the interstate. While boring, they are normally better lit and warmer. We killed it on this stretch making good time and hit 11 and finally the interstate. Again, tearing ass in the cold darkness I kept an eye on Glenn. We made our way to a crossroads and parted ways. The last words of the day were via PM, but they won't be the last.
We covered about 150 miles and at least 3 counties from 4:00 to 7:45. I didn't take many pictures because Glenn had the good equipment and most of the time was spent riding. I was freezing most of the night after but eventually got color and feeling back in all 10 of my fingers. It was a great afternoon for a ride and I was grateful to have someone to go with.