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Bob from Arkansas enjoyed sites, people from Thomson
Or So It Seems

Bob Cable from Arkansas met Stacy Turner from Georgia in a hurried introduction outside Little G's Pizza.

I asked the Thomson furniture dealer to point the touring Fayetteville paramedic to the highlights in Thomson, and Turner replied with the zeal of a hometown booster.

"Hickory Hill and the Tom Watson home," he said. "It's out on Highway 223."

"I'm going that way," said Cable, who had mapped out a quiet bicycle ride to Warrenton.

"And what did Tom Watson do?" asked the instigator holding the camera.

"He started Rural Free Delivery," Turner said. He said there was a huge turnout at the downtown railroad depot when the former senator's coffin arrived back in town.

Cable had, indeed, asked for that type of information. When you're squeezing 1,800 miles of small towns into three weeks, you need all the time-saving tips you can get.

When I flagged him down, he was winding Cobbham Road toward Gordon Street. He agreed to trade his story for a breakfast if he could just borrow a phone for a moment to call his wife, Dana, and give her his bearings.

"A week from tomorrow," he told her. "OK, I love you." And he handed the phone back across the table.

"I average about 80 miles or so a day," Cable told me over biscuits and gravy.

"Have you ever had biscuits and gravy at a pizza place before?" I asked.

"No, I don't think so," he said.

"How is it?" I asked.

"It's good. It is good," he said.

On this trip, he drove from Arkansas to Huntsville, Ala., to leave his car with a friend. From there, he began his bicycle tour through the Appalachian Trail and back through the heart of Georgia. He spent last Wednesday night at Mistletoe State Park and followed his map to Thomson. By Wednesday night he would pedal to Mesena and to Camak and through Warrenton toward nowhere in particular. Just somewhere safe and clean, a campground perhaps.

"I have an idea of what I want to do. And I just get up in the morning and kind of follow it. I look for small roads. I look for interesting things," he said.

He maps out a day's travel. "I don't know what to expect," he said. "It's a dot on the map and sometimes you get there and there's nothing there."

This was not his first such trip. He still wears the Team Tyson colors, though he is not racing this year. "I do two or three of these a year," he said. One trip took him to Colorado. Another followed the Mississippi River from its first trickle in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. He shared part of that trip with a friend who had written a book on that route, and who stopped along the way for book-signings.

Cable enjoys local museums and rode past Thomson's, which was closed that morning. He enjoys stopping at bicycle shops for a bike part or for the local perspective. He enjoys meeting people. "When I get home, I'll have about a dozen postcards to write," he said.

On his many miles through many towns, he has never been pulled aside by a curious or suspicious gendarmes. He says police know the difference between a serious cyclist and someone who might have other motives. And only rarely is he buttonholed by a newsie as he passes pizza places and breakfast nooks.

Bob from Arkansas gave Thomson a good review. He said he had met at least one friendly person.

He soaked in the sights we take for granted, headed down the meandering roads we avoid, and went on his way.

Web posted on Thursday, June 16, 2011

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