Girl Meets World On A Yamaha FZ-07 Part 6: The South

Not quite Southern hospitality.

Tiff and I met at the track, where she races her Ninja 250 with more enjoyment and positivity than anyone else on the grid. When Tiffani got word that she’d be getting laid off from her job in Los Angeles, she didn’t fret. In typical ultra-optimistic Tiff style, she saw it as an opportunity to hit the road on her newly acquired Yamaha FZ-07. What follows are Tiffani’s reports from the road, originally posted for her friends on Facebook but shared here with her permission for all to enjoy. — Ari Henning

Riding across America on an FZ-07, Mississippi
All the waterways in Mississippi were this color. Real pretty, huh?©Motorcyclist

Sitting at the Florida state line, before spending the next couple days finally grabbing that one-way finish line, I should probably recap the last few days of travel.

After I reluctantly left COTA (click here to see Update 5 from Texas) and spent the night on the outskirts of Texas, I headed up to Arkansas to visit Hot Springs National Park. After being on the road for two weeks, a dip in a hot spring sounded pretty fantastic. Nothing eventful on the ride up aside from having to literally dodge a chicken crossing the road (I assume the punch line is my life). I rolled in late afternoon Friday only to learn that this "park" was just a strip mall of geothermal spas.

Riding across America on an FZ-07, parks in Mississippi
"Park" - They kept using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.©Motorcyclist

I walked into the only bathhouse that appeared to be open, and they told me it would be $33 and a two-hour wait. As this is a story about a motorcycle adventure and not the princess diaries, I promptly turned on my heel and headed to camp at an equally unimpressive campground. The people there were nice though, as a sweet older couple who were vacationing in an RV made a point to make sure I was taken care of, fed, and warm before I headed out the next day, just because I was alone and on a bike. The kindness of strangers still shocks me sometimes.

On day 14 of my trip, I was off to Mississippi. Oh, where do I even start on Mississippi. For my first impression, I came upon not one, but two different restaurants where the cashier couldn’t do basic math well enough to make change. I want to believe these are unfortunate outliers, but my sample since crossing over from Arkansas was not painting the state in a great light.

But the real kicker that day was the most creepy unwanted attention I’ve ever received. And I gotta say, as a woman who exists outside, I’m very used to getting hit on/cat called/approached/harassed/etc.

I’m ordering food at a cafe in a small town in Mississippi, and a large man comes up, grabs my hand, starts shaking it, and introduces himself. I smile politely and return to paying the lady. As I’m waiting for my food, he comes up behind me and asks if I want a neck tattoo. Um… What? I tell him I’m not interested, get my food, and go to sit down. He then follows me to my booth, sits down next to me, and starts asking me if I can “draw letters”. I tell him I’m not very good at it and attempt to eat. He hands me a receipt and a pen and insists I try to draw his initials. Growing even more uncomfortable and hoping he’ll leave me alone so I can get out of my booth, I draw him some quick block letters. He then hands me another pen and insist I color them.

Seriously. What. The. Hell. I color them hoping he’s satisfied and will leave me alone. He then demands I draw them on his arm so he can envision it as a tattoo. I tell him I need to get back on the road, he tells me he’ll let me leave when I’m done. I draw it on his arm as quickly as I can as he grabs my other hand to “brace himself for the pain” while telling me how soft my hands are and asking about lotions. As soon as I’m done, he stands up to admire his arm, I get the hell out of that booth, throw away 90 percent of my food, and leave. He follows me to my bike as I’m gearing up and welcomes me to Mississippi.

Welcome, indeed.

I stopped by the Petrified Forest before determining what to do next, as that had been my original destination for the day. Still shaken up and feeling gross and a little violated, I determined I didn’t want to spend another minute in Mississippi. It was late and I had already covered nearly 300 miles so far, but I hopped back on my bike, got on the interstate, and pounded out miles as fast as I could get away with on the FZ ‘til I made it to a hotel in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The next day I woke up in Alabama, hoping to turn around my impression of the south. It had started raining as I was packing up, and I think anyone who has ever even mentioned things like rain racing knows how I feel about riding in the rain. That is to say, I’m mildly obsessed with it. There’s something about that extra level of inconvenience and suffering that somehow brings me to my zen place. Temps were in the comfortable 60s, and save for my gloves, my Dainese gear kept me dry.

Riding across America on an FZ-07, using GPS
The one day I get rain just happens to be the one day my GPS pretends it missed the memo on ignoring dirt roads. Thanks, GPS!©Motorcyclist

I enjoyed a ride down the state in everything from drizzling to pouring before I turned my attention towards finding a place to sleep. After my GPS led me through a few more questionable trailer parks that for some reason called themselves campgrounds, I ultimately found a cute camp spot near the Georgia border.

Riding across America on an FZ-07, Alabama
This still doesn’t make up for everything else, but at least you’re trying, Alabama©Motorcyclist

I rolled into Georgia the next morning, and for the first event of the day, I missed a 35 mph sign (that lasted all of two blocks sandwiched between two 45 mph signs) and got met with instant flashing blue behind me. I was doing 50 in a 35—well, one mistake in over 4,000 miles isn’t so bad. I didn’t feel like letting it ruin my morning, so I brushed off the distaste and started heading south toward Florida.

All in all, despite some of the challenges with finding camp spots that didn’t look like a redneck horror movie and the… interesting people I encountered, things are still going well. Now onward! To Florida and the final state before the Atlantic Ocean!