September 23, 2005

Start: Columbus, Georgia
Huntsville, Alabama
Miles: 270 miles
Route taken: Route 27 north through Rome to Route 20 west across state line to Route 35 north to Route 72 west exit at Huntsville.


        There was no putting it off any longer, so I packed up the bike, fired her up and headed off to the most desolate road I could find.

        That was Route 27, which runs north along the west border of Georgia and once you get out of La Grange it is a parade of tiny towns in between farmland. The towns are always announced by the mobile homes that rest before the city sign.

        The mobile homes are a mixture; some are clean, tidy and very habitable living spaces, while others look as if they were abandoned and the only way you know they are not is the laundry drying on the lines.

        There are four cars on the property and three of them haven’t run for years and the fourth is soon to join them. You don’t ever see the people that live there. They are hidden, maybe by choice, maybe by necessity, but finding that answer is not possible. The pit bulls, rottweilers and hunting dogs living on leashes in what would constitute the front yard serve as an effective unwelcome mat.

        I wondered if the bike did break down, how would I get help. I guess I would have to try and dodge those dogs and go to the nicer mobile homes and hope someone was home before one of the killer canines chewed through his leash in a pre homicidal, frothing rage.

        Fortunately as the miles built up, so did my confidence. By the time I made the entry in Alabama I was feeling fairly sure Libertad was not going to betray me. We had one stop before we reached Huntsville and it was a bit out of the way, but I was certain it would be worth it.

        I was wrong.

        Not only was I wrong, but I was suckered. I hate to be suckered. Being a man that fancies himself as a dabbler in areas of cons, it irks me when I am the mark.

        The Unclaimed Baggage Center is Scottsboro, Alabama’s claim for anyone to visit. If it wasn’t for this approximately 50,000 square-foot store, there really would be no reason to come to this town in northeast Alabama.

        Well after an hour at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, there is still no reason. This is not a tourist attraction. It is a thrift store, and not even a very interesting thrift store.

        I should have known when I saw the “café” serving Starbucks Coffee. It was like when you realize the peanut isn’t under the shell you picked.

        But I played on, and looked for something redeeming in the place.

        I didn’t find it.

        I did find old, out of fashion clothes, worn luggage that looked like it was tied to the plane when it was roaring down the runway and lots of scratched sunglasses.

        Those items I can buy being on an airplane. The other merchandise the store offered I can not.

        Surfboards, paintings, raggedy strollers and several copies of the same book were strewn about the store.

First of all, who brings a painting on an airplane? And if you did bring a painting on an airplane, would you forget it?

An employee at the store told me 90 percent of the stuff comes from the airlines and that some is unclaimed cargo and freight shipments.

I’m not buying it, not for a minute. This is garage sale crap that I have seen all along the highways I have been traveling on. I now know who buys that junk and where it ends up.

The question is, who buys the junk once it is here and why? I saw a couple buy a CD player for 20 dollars. Another five bucks and you could have had a new one at Wal-Mart. Wait a week and it goes on sale and you get it for the same price.

My God, have we become that gullible as a nation? Were we always that gullible? I pray we weren’t, but after visiting this store I fear the worst.