Day 43(Tuesday, May 31):Dauphin Island,AL to Pensacola, FL–57 miles
June 1, 2011 § 1 Comment
We had an enforced late start today; the first ferry off the island is at 8am. After a 35 minute, 10 mile ride, viewing oil platforms in every direction, we begin our real riding day. One of the oil platforms was in water only eleven feet deep; yet they drill down over 12,000 feet for the necessary fossil fuel.
On the mainland side we pass by pentagon shaped Fort Morgan, completed in 1834; some scholars consider it the finest example of military architecture in the New World. Next up 20 miles of windswept, sandy terrain with pastel colored, raised houses everywhere. It seems to go on forever; we take more breaks than normal. We started this ride at 9am; on a normal day we would be already looking for a motel. Not today, not yet.
In Gulf Shores we make the acquaintance of Charles Blackwell. He is an avid bicyclist, currently sidelined some days due to cancer. He tells us of the Flora Bama roadhouse, one of the most famous cultural landmarks on the Gulf. Guess what: John Grisham used it as a location in his book and eventual film, “The Firm”; Jimmy Buffett, the songwriter from Pascagoula, based his song “Bama Breeze” on it! It may even be in the 1960 film “Where the Boys Are”! Charles purchased his house specifically to see the touring cyclists cruise on by and to help them if he can. We are sorry he could not ride with us today and we wish him the best of health in the future.
To make a long story short, there are no motels after crossing into Florida on the Gulf. Alabama is chock full of places; I had suggested Joe pick one. We rode on. We make more stop at the state line. My iPhone says no motels for 20 miles; I figure it’s wrong. Well, the little Ouija Board was right. Huge, new multistory buildings that are all condominiums. This is our introduction to Florida. I do see the Flora Bama; however, Joe does not slow down for a better view or for a visit. We do stop at a gas station; concept confirmed– there are no motels around here. She suggests stopping at a real estate office to check on nightly rentals. We do: $250 a night, security deposit and a cleaning fee. No thanks, we will ride another 20 miles in the heat to Pensacola. The ladies were really nice and gave us a cheer as we left the office.
We are on our way yet again. Joe goes straight, rather than waiting two minutes for me and turning at an important intersection. He doesn’t answer his phone. I wait and eventually follow him on this new “Joe’s unmapped version”of the route. The new road narrows; the shoulder disappears entirely and there is heavy traffic. This is the netherworld of bicycling. If this is Florida, then I do not think I can make it for another 500 miles. My feelings are confirmed by a truck trailering a boat going by so close I run off into the grassy, soft shoulder. I gather my courage and get back on the road; thankfully the next drivers are more considerate. At the next intersection, we switch roads, driving a longer, though safer, distance to the closest hotel we can find–8 miles away. We luck out– there are shoulders the whole way.
We have choices on the route tomorrow; another week and we should be in St. Augustine basking in the Fountain of Youth, conversing with Ponce de Leon….