WATERLOO, Ala. (WHNT) - The roar of motorcycles will be heard from one side of north Alabama to the other this weekend, as riders commemorate the Trail of Tears.
This year, a single ride will take place instead of the divided rides we’ve seen in years past.
On Thursday morning it was relatively calm along the banks of the Tennessee River in Waterloo, but come Saturday this place will be packed. For 22 years, the small town of only a few hundred has hosted one of the biggest motorcycle rides in the southeast.
“People come in here on boats, they come in on bikes, and they come from everywhere,” Waterloo Mayor Mel Grimes explained.
According to Grimes, he and the town council plan year-round for this event.
Grimes said after several years of separation, there will only be one Trail of Tears ride this year.
On Saturday the ride will begin in Bridgeport at 8:00 a.m. and end in Waterloo at 3:00 p.m., with a stop at Rocket Harley-Davidson in Huntsville for lunch. These are the roads that will be impacted Saturday morning and midday:
- Highway 72 from Bridgeport to Huntsville, then riders get on I-565 (leaving at 8:00 a.m.)
- At approximately 10:30 a.m. riders exit I-565 West at Exit 3, to stop at Rocket Harley-Davidson (leaving there at 12:30 p.m.)
- At 12:30 p.m. riders will get back on I-565, head west and exit at Mooresville Road, Exit 2, heading north to Hwy. 72
- Riders then turn left on U.S. 72 west to head into Athens - the state will block access to Athens from I-65 and the U.S. 72 ramp. Motorists cannot exit at 351. Athens Police urge motorists to take U.S. 31 to get north and south in Athens. In the past, the event has taken from 15 minutes to an hour to get through Athens, depending on the number of riders.
- Riders will continue west to Waterloo.
Waterloo marks the place where thousands of Indians were forced onto boats and taken west.
“So many of the riders are already here in Waterloo before the ride even begins,” stated Grimes. “There are thousands of people out here and we offer free camping. Waterloo is probably the most beautiful place in the state of Alabama.”
And the town can't wait to welcome the motorcycle riders who plan to memorialize the trek.
Trail of Tears map
As you can tell from this map, the ride actually begins in Chattanooga. Participants will meet in Chattanooga on Friday, where they will travel to Bridgeport for the official kick-off party.
For more information on the Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride, follow this link.