September 22, 2012
The club splits up today, and we choose to hop on the Silver Comet less than a mile before it ends at the Alabama border and morphs into the Chief Ladiga Trail. We are riding with our friends Darrel and Holly, planning to do thirty miles. Other club members start further back, planning to do fifty miles. We will all meet at the trailside Welcome Center in Piedmont, then eat lunch together at the only restaurant in town, the Solid Rock Cafe.
The Chief Ladiga Trail, like the Silver Comet Trail, is built on an abandoned rail bed. This sign stands at the border between Georgia and Alabama marking the end of one trail and the beginning of another. But, we don’t need to sign to tell us that things have changed. Suddenly the wide smooth concrete pavement of the Silver Comet turns to a narrower asphalt trail, there are no more picnic tables or benches, and vast expanses of the asphalt bear gaping cracks from tree roots and age.
Yet, we kind of like the LadigaTrail better.
We pass through a rural landscape--there are cotton fields, soybean fields, and fields of corn stubble. There are no sub-developments--just modest farm houses and weathered outbuildings, a few chickens pecking in a yard, and valiant miniature dogs yapping at the end of a driveway guarding their home from threatening bikers. And, yes, there are also forested sections, where the canopy of trees shades us, and springs flow from rocky cliffs that hug the trail and hold chill air to cool us long after the sun is high in the sky.
Is Dick's knee injury the result of the curse of Chief Ladiga? Here in the South we believe in ghosts, and clearly it would be totally understandable if the trail’s namesake came back throughout the ages to seek revenge for the suffering of his people at the hands of our ancestors. Andrew Jackson forced Creek Tribe Chief Ladiga to enter into a treaty to give up tribal land for terms that the United States failed to honor. Eventually those that survived were banished to Oklahoma parcels far less verdant than the rolling green hills the settlers coveted here.
Amazingly, Dick’s pain dissipates within hours of leaving the trail behind.
Some ice on the knee, a convivial cocktail hour, Mexican food with friends, and early to bed. Except for the knee thing, this is yet another perfect day.