Alabama: Rockets and Music and Bikes, Oh My!

Text: Luke Swab • Photography: Luke Swab

Up until last year, I had never explored Alabama, despite the fact that my home in Chattanooga, TN, is almost a stone’s throw away from the state line—so close that on any given Saturday you can hear University of Alabama football fans yelling “Roll Tide” at the TVs in local bars and restaurants. Typically when I plan to take a weeklong trip, I want to head east toward the Smoky Mountains, but last fall I decided it was time to try something new. My friend Cameron Muilenburg loves exploring and also liked the idea of changing it up, so we prepped the Royal Enfields and it was settled: We were Alabama-bound.

Rockets

The fall weather was crisp, and I was very thankful for my heated jacket when we left the warmth of my garage that Tuesday morning. Huntsville, AL, about 100 miles west, was the first destination. We crossed the mighty Tennessee River and turned onto US 72. Typically we stay away from highways, but this one has little traffic. It was beautiful; we could see the rolling hills ahead, and the trees were just starting to show some signs of color. For 45 miles the Tennessee River came in and out of view before we made the final turn toward Huntsville, with coffee in mind. We pulled into Honest Coffee Roasters to warm up and officially start the day. Cameron and I have developed a mission to always find good coffee on our rides. Honest Coffee Roasters lived up to its nearly five-star Google rating. They serve a quality cappuccino out of their stylish minimalistic shop in the heart of downtown, a block from the Madison County Courthouse.

Just a few miles outside of Huntsville, my inner astronaut kicked in as we parked at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. You see, I’m not just a motorcycle enthusiast. I also have a passion for science and learning about our universe—including space travel. With a full charge on my camera and a fresh memory card, we entered the museum and spent hours wandering through the two exhibit buildings. There was so much to see and read that it was almost overwhelming. It was easy for Cameron and me to lose each other among the exhibits, as I was in another world reading all the plaques and taking photos. Fortunately, the museum is set up as a winding hallway that leads visitors through the seemingly endless maze of old books, photos, and space-exploration-related objects in glass display cases. I found Cameron again and we sat in a full-size replica of the lunar rover. Next we passed through a model of the International Space Station. All that was in the first building.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the September/October 2020 back issue.