So after my night in the building of many couches I was up early and yet again I headed off to the west. I had told myself that if I could make it to New Orleans in three days I was allowed to have a 2nd day off in the city – I do treat myself! I was about 220 miles away so I knew I had a couple of harder days ahead of me but I also suspected it was about time I tested my stamina.
My main concern that day was that I had a ferry to catch over Mobile Bay that was known to be cancelled in foul weather or heavy winds. I had their phone number but annoyingly, despite numerous calls, no one picked up all day so I was unable to confirm the schedule or even that there would be a ferry running. I pedalled on regardless hoping that all would be ok however as I left the city limits of Pensacola it started spitting and within 5 minutes it was a torrential downpour! I quickly darted into a shop to steal a bunch of plastic bags to wrap around my tent and to put on my waterproof socks which I was quite excited about (it turns out they are not waterproof… don’t bother!). It felt somewhat ironic to cross into Alabama passing this sign in the pouring rain with freezing toes…
BUT, setting aside my flirtations with Georgia and despite the horrific weather, this sign did mean one very exciting thing… I had conquered Florida! Whooo! I have now officially cycled across Florida! If everything else goes to pot I at least have that small triumph to hold onto!
So as I dripped my way through Alabama the skies slowly cleared and I eventually made it to the ferry port. I was very hungry and feeling extremely tired but was planning on picking up some food at the port and then catching the next ferry over to Dauphin Island where I was staying that night. Of course, we all know there is going to be a problem otherwise I likely wouldn’t have mentioned it and you’re not wrong. The port I thought I was arriving into turned out to be a tiny dock, much like one on which you’d expect to have seen Otis Redding and there wasn’t a soul in sight. The restaurant was deserted and a sign helpfully told me it would remain so until the end of March. Feeling slightly panicked and a little nauseous from hunger I downed 2 cans of Dr Pepper from a vending machine and found a crushed breakfast bar at the bottom of my pannier. Not really sure what to do next I sat around for a bit and did some stretches that I felt cyclists would do whilst I pondered my next move. Just to put it in context, if the ferry was indeed not operating I would have an 100 odd mile detour trip via Mobile to arrive at pretty much the same place as the 20 minute ferry.
After an hour or so another car arrived and parked in the waiting area making me feel a whole lot better. To be honest, by that point I was so tired and still wet and cold that I think I would have waited until the end of March rather than cycle the detour! The couple in the car confirmed they were in fact also waiting for the ferry and in one split second my day turned from decidedly bad to considerably good! Sure enough, a few more cars arrived and an hour later the (tiny) ferry docked.
Sadly, the ticket conductor called me “Sir” throughout our entire exchange which didn’t do my self confidence much good but by that point my delight at the actual existence of the ferry counteracted the insulting mistake quite nicely! I guess my helmet doesn’t exactly do my hair style justice and as my friend James kindly said to me a week before I left… “Tori, with your cycling outfit I’m not sure this trip is going to be the best time to meet a man”! James, it seems you were right!
So after the ferry drama I was pleased to find it was only a 20 odd minute ride to my base that night. I was with another Warm Showers host but this time, rather unconventionally, I was to be sleeping under their house. This isn’t quite as weird as it sounds as you can see from the photos below! Basically my hosts were away in their R.V. but still let cyclists camp at the house. They have an outdoor shower (which I must admit I didn’t brave in the cold wind), a wifi connection and toilet. It’s was pretty cool to be honest!
That night, in my idyllic setting, it got windy. Not just a little breeze mind but really really windy. Luckily, being on wooden floorboards I had decided to tie my guy ropes to the wooden struts of the house so I didn’t blow away but with no pegs the edges of the tent were lifting up and the wind was whipping any loose fabric back and forth. It was warm but seriously noisy and I must say I didn’t sleep well. Taking everything down the next morning also proved to be a bit of a challenge as everything kept blowing away and the tent nearly flew off as I undid the last guy rope. I had been expecting a bit of wind and I knew that it was going to be in an unfavourable direction for me but I must admit it was a touch stronger than I had been expecting!
Before I set off on what I’d quickly realised was going to be a tough day the lovely Jamie who lived next door invited me in for breakfast. Two giant chocolate chip pancakes and a huge mug of coffee sorted me right out and put me in better spirits. Better spirits that is until I saw my first obstacle of the morning:
Oh boy it was a hard ride that morning! The winds were forecast to be gusting 35 knots and I was totally exposed along the bridge as well as the spit the other side and it took me nearly 3 hours to ride 15 miles. I can’t pretend it wasn’t totally horrible, especially when I knew I had 70 miles to ride that day! At least it wasn’t raining anymore!
After what seemed like a lifetime the road slowly turned to the west and the wind eased off a bit. I was pleased the worst of the weather seemed to have forgotten about me but honestly, the amount of road kill on the Alabama roads was shocking. Now I’ve seen a lot of dead animals so far on this trip – if you spend 6 hours a day on the hard shoulder that’s inevitable wherever you are but Alabama – jeez louise! There were deer, armadillo, birds (of all shapes and sizes), racoons, squirrels, frogs and even a substantial number of domestic dogs and cats. People don’t seem to tie their dogs up or have a proper fence as most people did in Florida, something that I hear is only going to get worse as I head west, but I struggle to understand how a good guard dog is a dead guard dog. What’s even weirder is why no one comes to recover the bodies, I mean come on, don’t people supposedly love their pets… my Dad’s livelihood is built on that assumption! Well Dad, if I can give you one piece of advice, don’t try and sell pet caskets in Alabama – no one gives a sh*t! Florida, fine, Alabama, no chance!
Pensacola to Dauphin Island – 31st Jan – 1st Feb 2015
Total so far: 937km