I was prepared for today's ride to take all day, so I hit the road at sunrise and rode fast and hard, at least by my standards. The ride was uneventful. Around 2:00 I arrived in the "Twin Cities" -- Valparaiso and Niceville, Florida.
I had a couple of options for today... I could ride long and hard and reach the coast around noon and ride along the coast to Destin, or I could make it a short day and camp at Blackwater River State Park, in the middle of nowhere, and ride to Destin tomorrow. It was the Interstate that made up my mind for me... the sound and smell of traffic and trucks idling on the on-ramp interfered with my sleep, and I decided I was fed up with following highways. I'm not contributing to engine exhaust, so why should I breathe it all the time?
Carol fixed me a nice breakfast this morning to get me on my way. Unfortunately something, either this morning or yesterday, gave me a persistent stomachache in addition to the lower-backache I'd picked up in the strawberry field, so it was an uncomfortable ride.
I followed the route Bruce suggested around Pensacola to the west and north, but even that far from the coast I saw lots of hurricane damage. The sides of the roads were littered with asphalt shingles and vinyl siding, even as construction workers were scrambling to put new flimsy shingles and siding in their places.
[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on February 3, 2005]
As I write this, I'm still in Alabama, just across the border from Florida, but by the time I send it I'll be in Florida at last. I wound up staying in Alabama a couple days longer than I expected!
I woke well before dawn in the strawberry field and picked about 50 slugs off my tent before hitting the road at sunrise. I stopped at a convenience store and told a curious passerby that I was having trouble finding campgrounds and hotels. His response changed my day and nearly changed my whole trip: he said this area is still recovering from last August's hurricanes, so there are hundreds of workmen visiting from out of town, plus displaced homeowners and renters. He suggested I go farther from the coast, i.e. back north where I had just come from.
If I could live this Groundhog Day over and over again, like Bill Murray's character in the movie, I don't think I would bike all day in the rain. I'd watch the 6 AM broadcast of the Buffy musical until I was sick of it. I'd try all of the thousands of ways to order Waffle House hashbrowns, including the ones that involve Bert's Chili, without fear of getting sick tomorrow. I'd call a cab and give the cute, sleep-deprived waitress the ride home to Mobile she was fishing for, and then I'd go to the airport and fly to Pittsburgh to meet my new nephew.
It rained all night on my little tent but let up a few hours before dawn. I left my camp in Mobile at a reasonable hour and headed straight for Barnes and Noble: the time had come to buy my Florida map. There were some stores in the nearby malls that I thought might carry chain lube, so I paid quick visits to Sears, Target, and Toys R Us.
I rode into Pascagoula first thing this morning and went straight to the First Baptist Church. A member of the office staff patiently confirmed that yes, it is the church featured in Ray Stevens's song, "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival" but no, the event did not actually occur.
I spent nearly an hour in the public library getting phone numbers for campgrounds, but when I stepped outside and called them, only one allowed tents, and it was in Mobile, Alabama, 30 miles away. I decided to give it a shot.
[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on January 31, 2005]
I was all set to go to church Sunday morning in Gulfport, but I underestimated how long it would take to find the place. Rather than arrive late, I decided to head on down the road. By the time the service ended, I was already in Biloxi!
I was all set to go to church this morning, but I underestimated how long it would take to find the place. Rather than arrive late, I decided to head on down the road. By the time the service ended, I was already in Biloxi!
It was an absolutely gorgeous day. The clouds were gone by 11 and stayed gone all day, and there was no wind, so although the temperature was cool it wasn't chilly.