Faith in Humanity Restored*

*See previous post.

We made our way back to the Chief Ladiga Trail campground and settled in for a few days of R&R. After being at the Choo Choo Garage for ten days we were ready for a change of scene so we returned to this campground right on the bike trail. We had been here in the spring, right before I got shingles on our visit to the Choo Choo Garage. I told Joel I was a little nervous about going back but reminded myself that I got the shot and it’s mostly over.

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Our view in the spring

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And in the fall

We told Terry in the spring that this was the best campground we had ever been in. Quiet and beautiful, it is a true hidden gem. We have our same site right along the creek but it is much drier now. They haven’t had rain in over two months and the leaves are crunchy underfoot. Even though there are no hookups here we planned to stay for several days now that we have a working generator.

Some scenes along the Chief Ladiga Trail.

We planned to sleep, walk the kitties, ride the trail and eat at the Solid Rock Cafe. I had my heart set on their Sunday buffet which we happened onto when we were here last. I also needed a haircut. The first day we rode to Piedmont and I found a salon. When I went in to ask about a haircut she said she was fully booked all day. Hmmm. She probably took one look at my hair and thought “I don’t want to touch that!” I asked if there was another place and she reluctantly sent me down the street to Michelle’s Beauty Boutique. As it happens, Beauty Boutique was the name of the place I got my hair cut in Kansas City for years.

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Michelle was working on someone when I went in but said in about 15 minutes she had time. We sat outside while she finished up. When it was my turn,she and I had a wide-ranging and interesting conversation all sparked by that old question, “Where are you from?” We get that in the south all the time because as Bobbie at the campground explained, “I could tell ya’ll not from around here because of your dialect.”  I explained about the bus and traveling and she remarked that we got to see and experience many things most people don’t. I told her I was well aware of that and felt extremely fortunate. She was complimentary and curious; a delight to chat with. Plus I got a great haircut!

When we approached the counter so I could pay her she said “Today is on the house. I just enjoyed meeting you and it was so interesting talking with you” That was totally unexpected! I protested and she refused. “I want to do this for you. At least she let me tip her. Best haircut ever. And a truly heartwarming experience that touched me deeply.
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With a little more spring in my step, we headed to the Solid Rock for lunch. It did not disappoint and we noted the time of the buffet on Sunday. Sadly, we went on Sunday and they were closed! Just every few weeks. We recalibrated and went to the Piedmont Diner and had a good barbecue plate.

Piedmont has lots of cool old/new signs all around the town.
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That evening some tent campers pulled in on bikes and we chatted a bit. Lonnie and Patricia were riding the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trails from Smyrna, Georgia. And Lonnie was pulling a trailer. There is a section of the Silver Comet Trail between Rockmart and Cedartown that is very steep and hilly and they had ridden that section the day we met them. With the trailer. Yikes! I remember that part of the trail and we walked our bikes in several spots; it is that steep. Patricia said they had to leave her bike at the bottom of the hill while she helped push up the trailer then went back to get her bike. Several times. They were ready to ditch the trailer for the final leg.
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Lonnie and Patricia on arrival

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A couple days later they came and picked up the trailer to take back to Piedmont where they would retrieve it by car.

We told them we were going to be here for a few days and offered to keep it for them till they returned. Now these folks didn’t know us from Adam but they gladly accepted the offer. I made them coffee the next morning before they took off for Anniston, about 30 miles away. They are both 71 years young and Patricia explained that since they didn’t have too many years left so they were doing what they want now. Great plan. She said that they were the kind of people who just say, “We can do this!” And then they do. They love to kayak and paddleboard too and the trailer comes in handy there too. We always enjoy meeting like minded spirits and bike riders. When we explained to them about the bus and traveling Patricia asked “Well, what do you do about church?”

I hesitated before answering that we don’t attend church but I have always viewed gardening, nature, and bicycling as my church. And yoga. Spirit knows no bounds. We forget to ask if they had bus parking at their house but we have their contact info and an invitation anytime we are in their area.

We got in about 80 miles riding the trail. Jim played ukulele and the weather was perfect. The cats were able to go out unleashed for the first time in months and it was a real joy to watch them run around, up trees, chasing each other all around. I was filled with peace and gratitude just sitting by the creek reading my book and watching the kitties run around with Jim playing uke in the background. Like a sponge, I just wanted to soak it all up.

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Great spot for kitties and us too!

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Carmella and Astrid roaming around

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Carmella climbs a tree!

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Carmella, Astrid and Tikita

Some other tent campers arrived on the other side of us and we met Popcorn (really!) and Linda the next morning. They are apparently longtime friends who get together every year or other at a bike trail to camp, ride bikes and catch up.

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Popcorn and Linda

The next day we rode to the Silver Comet Trailhead where we were surprised to see six dogs lounging around in the sun. A guy was there and we figured he brought his dogs out to the trail to relax or something. When he took off on his bike the dogs stayed behind. Hmmm. I saw some plastic bowls and found a running log on the dogs at the trail marker. People had dated when they were there, fed and watered the dogs. Looks they were abandoned or dropped off there. Not good. There were three really cute pit bull mix puppies obviously from the same litter, the mom, and a couple other adult dogs, one who looked like he needed some veterinary attention. I wished I had some dog food to give them.

A short time later Ken arrived and we struck up a conversation. He apparently knew about the dogs, living in Cedartown just 10 miles away by bike. He had both water and food for them, a big bag of food. They devoured it in minutes. I asked him if he added to the log and he said this was the first time he had brought food but said he would bring more tomorrow when he hiked the Pinhoti. When he left I added to the log saying “Fed and watered. Someone please adopt them!”He is a retired physical education professor at a local college and as his retirement present to himself he decided he was going to hike the entire Pinhoti Trail, a nearby hiking trail that actually crosses the Chief Ladiga Trail. Michelle had mentioned this trail during our conversation and he alerted us to where the crossing was near our campground.  Little rough for bikes.
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Apparently armadillos are also born dead by the side of the bike trail.

A few days later I rode back to the trailhead with water and dog biscuits that we use in Texas to avert the packs of dogs that chase us on our bikes. No dogs that day but I was gratified to see that someone else left food and the log was updated to say that the puppies were adopted! I made another plea to adopt the adult dogs, especially the little black one who just didn’t seem quite right. Not sure what will happen from here on out but even though somebody did a bad thing dumping the dogs, lots of other good people chipped in and rallied around them. Thanks, Ken!
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And Popcorn was kind enough to photograph the beginning section of the log for me! I had meant to ask her to and she did it anyway! What a gal!

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Popcorn and Linda. As Linda said, Popcorn is very picturesque.img_3218
Meanwhile we were enjoying getting to know them better. They are a lot like us, except they are way tougher since they tent camp and the nights were chilly! They have a leisurely approach to life and took their time, like we do, having breakfast and taking off on their bikes every day. It was a real pleasure to camp beside them. We extended our stay a few days; it’s that nice.

As Popcorn said, meeting people is the best thing about camping. The sites are spacious with lots of privacy and they were best neighbors ever. They also know all about the bike trails in Georgia and when Linda heard that we were headed to Tallahassee by way of Columbus, Georgia, she alerted us to a trail right near where we were planning to stay at the Elk’s Lodge. She has a great book and I got the info for the trail. We hadn’t planned to stay over in Columbus but when we saw that the Elks was right by the trail, we demurred.

After a 150 mile drive through the mountains with the trees changing into glorious color, we stocked up in Columbus and headed for the Elks. I had called but the number was out of service. I Google Earthed it and it appeared to be closed. It still looked to me like we could park there; at the end of a dead end industrial street. Both the Walmart and the Elks back right up to the Fall Line Trace, which is not the trail Linda told us about but still a nice long trail in Columbus. We made it to the Elks and sure enough, it was closed and chain linked off. There was a spot in the front where we could back in but weren’t sure it was OK. What to do? Go back to the Walmart?  My vote was to try the Elks since way better for the cats.

Jim called the realtor on the sign and as he did, a guy pulled up. I thought OOPS! Busted! We shook hands and he introduced himself as Keith, the owner of the property next door. He said it was fine to park there and that the place across the street had been for sale for seven years! The realtor gave us the OK to stay too, not likely a buyer will kick us out in the next few days. And the best thing about closed Elks Lodges? No donation required! Friendly neighbors and resident cats.

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This kitty showed up immediately. He and Carmella had a hiss-off.

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We love the Elks because they are remote, right next to the bike trails and cheap. Even cheaper when closed.

We are thankful that our travels include so many nice people! How would we get to meet them all otherwise?

Thanks to Michelle, Lonnie and Patricia, Ken, Linda, Popcorn, all the dog feeders and Keith for restoring my temporarily derailed faith that most people really are nice.

After the incident in Kansas City, this stop was a welcome affirmation.

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