Southern Tier - San Diego to Atlanta

 

Fall 2004

 

Denis Kertz, ©2004

 

Day 40: Fri, Nov 5, 2004 - Kirbyville, TX to DeRidder, LA [51.6, 4:23:01, 11.8, 25.1]

The morning was another clear sky with temperature in the 40s.I headed north on 96 and found a cafť open with some trucks parked in the parking lot.A number of locals stopped by so I figured I was in the right place.I had the pancake breakfast which included bacon.The 3 pancakes were good and the third largest of the trip so I left Texas in style.

 

I took 363 out of town through familiar forested scenery with a lot of truck traffic including logging trucks.Logging was an obvious industry with a big logging mill outside of town and later a plywood location.After 17 miles and passing through Bon Wier, I crossed the Sabine River in a couple more miles and left Texas in my rear view mirror after almost 3 weeks and entered Louisiana.Another 5 miles brought me to Merryville where I stopped for my late breakfast.

 

190 took me north out of town for 6 miles and then 13 miles east to DeRidder.As I got close to DeRidder the heavy forest receded and ranch land and cattle showed up.In town I located the library but was unable to access my email.The PCs were running GNOME and Netscape.The PCs also allowed running Windows via VMWARE where I used Internet Explorer but still couldnít access my email.

 

After giving up on email I found a barber shop where I had my beard trimmed for a whopping $1.Just as important the barber told me about a $20 motel just outside town.I was already set to take tomorrow as a rest day and had planned camping tonight and a motel tomorrow but this motel sounded like the deal for 2 nights.Of course, I was assured I couldnít miss the motel, which always makes me uneasy since I usually then miss whatever was a canít miss.I was told it was on 190 between 112 and 26 but I didnít find it so I circled back.At a foodmart I learned it was just past 26 so I set out again and finally found it.

 

The motel looked somewhat dilapidated so I asked to see the room first.It was actually OK, fully functional and had a nice sized TV.So I took the room but had to pay cash, the price of economy.Then I settled in for the day.

 

During the day I had 2 more dog encounters but they were easy targets as I simply yelled ďBad BushĒ and they slunk away.

Day 41: Sat, Nov 6, 2004 - DeRidder, LA

When I got up I rode about 4 miles back to town and found a restaurant open for breakfast and had my usual pancakes which were fine.There was a Bank One in town so I was able to get cash without any surcharge from an ATM machine.Then I stopped at the library again.As a visitor I had to get another special ID since yesterdayís ID was only good for yesterday.DeRidder really had a nice library for a town for 7,500 and had at least 20 Internet PCs.Today I was able to access my email so yesterdayís problem must have been a problem with my email server.

 

I spent most of the day watching golf and college football, managing to see Mizzou lose another game. But the OU-A&M game was a great, high scoring game.Later I had a frozen pizza at the nearby foodmart.

Day 42: Sun, Nov 7, 2004 - DeRidder, LA to Opelousas, LA [97.3, 7:13:39, 13.4]

Rather than ride 4 miles back to town I rode to the foodmart next door and had my cereal breakfast.I was off just after 7:00 and took 26 east.After 15 miles I could have stopped for breakfast but chose to push on to Oberlin, another 19 miles.Oberlin, population 1,437, had a large courthouse but no town square.What it surprisingly didnít have was a restaurant serving breakfast.So I had a second cereal breakfast at a foodmart.

 

When I left town I glanced at my cyclometer and was amazed to see it showed I had ridden 45 miles when the actual mileage was just over 30.I then guessed I hadnít reset the mileage in the morning but disproved that theory later by comparing the odometer reading with yesterday.However, I noticed an exorbitant max speed and concluded the unit somehow malfunctioned and added extra mileage, a quirk which I had never seen before.

 

After leaving Oberlin the scenery changed significantly.I left the heavily forested landscape behind and rode through fields with grazing cattle and crops.I saw more cattle than in any single day in Texas.I also saw my first rice fields and what I believe was sugar cane.This scenery change was a welcomed one.

 

25 miles brought me to Mamou, a town of 2,711.I stopped at a foodmart just after 12:00 for a sandwich.From there it was an easy 23 miles to Opelousas, population of 20,000 and third oldest city in Louisiana, my destination for the day.After 16 miles I picked up 3043 the rest of the way.

 

Instead of following the Adventure Cycling route all the way into town I picked up 104 again which intersected with 190 where a police officer was directing traffic away from town but I went in on 190.When I got to Main Street it was obvious some event was just being concluded.I hunted down a bicycle shop which was either out of business or moved to another location.I found the Jim Bowie Tourist Information Center but it was closed.0 for 2, I finally found a place with a Louisiana map, which I needed for my modified route to St. Francisville tomorrow.

 

Finally, I headed to the north end of town for a motel.There was camping on the south end in a city park but I decided to forego camping in this town of 16,910.I found the Budget Inn that was a little more expensive at $30 than I guessed from outside appearance.There was a small restaurant, Papaís Potatoes, next door that had carry out.I ordered grilled pork chops with red beans and rice for $5 that was very good.The red beans and rice alone were almost more than I could eat.

 

This was an easy day on fresh legs.I saw my first real evidence of the South Ė a Piggly Wiggle grocery store leaving Mamou.

Day 43: Mon, Nov 8, 2004 - Opelousas, LA to St. Francisville, LA [69.5, 5:51:52, 11.8]

I was up before 7:00 but had to wait until then for the place next door to open for breakfast.I had their pancake breakfast and asked them to supersize the pancakes.The breakfast was OK with reasonably large pancakes but only 2 of them.

 

I left town around 8:00 on 182 towards Washington.There wasnít any shoulder and the edge of the road was often cracked so riding required attention.10 joined 182 before Washington and I took it all the way to Lebeau.Interestingly after Washington the traffic died out and 10 then had a really nice shoulder.

 

The dayís destination was St. Francisville and required crossing the Atchafalaya River and Mississippi River.The Adventure Cycling route did a big loop to the north to cross the Atchafalaya at a bridge in Simmesport and then dropped back down to cross the Mississippi at a ferry.By this route the distance was 110 miles.However, I knew a route that simply went east from Lebeau and crossed the Atchafalaya, with a little ingenuity, at Melville and saved about 50 miles.

 

So at Lebeau I left the Adventure Cycling route and stayed on 10 through Palmetto to Melville, about 15 miles.The road paralleled railroad tracks on a levee that varied from 4 to 10 feet high, passing through rural farmland and wooded land.At Melville I stopped for my late breakfast at a foodmart.After I bought my milk I noticed the church next door had a nice lawn in back with a couple of wrought iron tables and chairs so I rolled my bicycle there.As I was leaving afterwards a guy pulled into the parking lot and asked where I was from.When I told him he informed me that the premises were private property and I informed him I was leaving.It was a nice Christian welcome from a local.

 

As I dumped my trash at the foodmart another friendlier local tried to help me with directions to Morganza.There was a ferry across the Atchafalaya but it only ran early and late but I knew from another cyclistís travelogue that there was a walkway across the railroad bridge and then a gravel road to link up with 10 again.The localís ďhelpĒ was just confusing as he talked about riding 25 miles on a gravel road.We finally agreed I would make it somehow and I pushed on.

 

I pushed my bike up the levee towards the bridge and promptly saw a Private Property sign but it was my day for trespassing so I ignored it.While riding into town I noticed people were working on the railroad.I hoped that meant no trains would be coming across the bridge as I crossed.I was sure there was room for me and any train but I wasnít so sure there was room for a train and my bike.So I rode my bike on the corrugated iron pathway rather than just push the bike and that required extra attention so I couldnít enjoy the view.

 

On the other side the levee was fenced but I discovered I could push my bike a little further where it passed over a north-south gravel road where the fence ended.At that point I just rolled my bike down the levee to the gravel road.A road sign told me to take the next right for 10 which was a gravel road as well.The gravel road wasnít bad with small gravel and I rode it for 4 miles to a T intersection where I turned left for another mile on a gravel road that had a little larger gravel.After another 5 miles of gravel I turned left at another T intersection to take 10 north and then east to Morganza.

 

In Morganza I stopped at a foodmart that didnít have any interesting food but there was a restaurant next door where I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich.It was pretty good but it seemed to take forever, as if they had to hunt down a chicken first.

 

Leaving Morganza on 1 I was back on the Adventure Cycling route and picked up 420 to follow along the Mississippi levee about 8 miles to the ferry.The ferry ran every 15 and 45 minutes after the hour and I arrived just after 2:00.In the eastbound direction the ferry was free so I got a free ride across the Mississippi.

 

On the other side I rode into St. Francisville and took a side road along some of the older homes for which St. Francisville is noted.Then I passed by a library so I stopped and checked email.Continuing I stopped at a foodmart in town where they didnít have anything interesting so I had an ice cream.Many of the southern foodmarts have primarily fried foods such as fried chicken.While there I met another cyclist temporarily stationed in the area and out for a ride on his recumbent and we chatted.

 

Around 4:00 I left on 3057 to its intersection with 61.Another foodmart had nothing interesting but a 3rd foodmart at least had some Hot Pockets that resembled pepperoni pizza so I nuked that.As I was leaving I noticed that my cyclometer had again mysteriously added about 3 miles to my odometer and I had another impossibly high maximum speed reading.I rode east on 61 for a couple miles with lots of traffic on a wide shoulder before I turned off on 965.From there it was 3 miles to the Green Acres Campground.

 

I was told a tent site was $15 but it actually cost $16.70 with tax, the only place I recalled charging tax so maybe that was just a Louisiana thing.It was a decent place with reasonable facilities, just overpriced but there wasnít much competition with few campgrounds along the route in this area.On the plus side it did have a game room with lighting where I was able to retire to after setting up.

Day 44: Tue, Nov 9, 2004 - St. Francisville, LA to Franklinton, LA [92.8, 7:50:24, 11.8]

When I got up it was in the low 40s.My tent was wet when I packed up and I knew I would have to dry it out later.I rode 965 some 5 miles to Jackson for breakfast.Yesterday the campground hostess said cyclists liked the area because it was hilly.I laughed because I hadnít seen anything resembling a real hill.Today I could see why folks consider it hilly even though the hills were modest.I would spend the rest of the day riding on rolling terrain with modest hills.

 

I rode into Jackson and found the restaurant just in town where I had the pancake breakfast with decent pancakes.Then I retraced my way back out of town to take 421 north only to find a sign warning a bridge was out in 12 miles.So I checked my state map and found an alternate route that was even a little shorter.I rode back through town and stopped at a couple grocery stores before I found some decent cereal.Then I took 68 north for 8 miles where it intersected 19.68 was a nice country road though a bit rough in spots.When I reach 19 I took it north a few miles to Norwood.

 

It was only 9:30 and a little early for my late breakfast but there wasnít anything after Norwood for a while so I ate there.Then took 422 east through what was nice rural country riding for most of the day.I missed a turn before Woodland but recovered by taking 78 south and promptly missed my turn on 432.When I rode past the Woodland town sign on the south end I knew I had gone too far and it was an easy backtrack to 432.

 

I rode 432 for 9 miles and then 38 for 7 miles to Easleyville where I stopped for lunch.I used the break as an opportunity to set up my wet tent to dry it out which didnít take long in the sun.

 

Shortly after 1:00 I resumed riding on 38 for 7 miles and then on 1050 for 6 miles to Tangipahoa.Then I rode 440 for 7 miles to Bolivar.Just before Bolivar I thought my rear tire looked slightly flat and it wasnít long before it was obviously going flat.When I removed the tube I found an abrasion about 2 inches long and patched it with an oblong patch.The abrasion was on the inside of the tube where it faced the rim strip.I found a little grit inside the tire and guessed that might have been the culprit.

 

After Bolivar I rode another 16 miles to Franklinton.Near Franklinton I was supposed to turn right on 16 but there was also an opportunity to turn right on 16 before town and I did that.When 16 and 25 split I realized something was awry so I retraced my way back towards town.

 

By this time it was 5:00 and daylight was fading.There were 2 motels in town but one was east on 10 and one south on 16.I pretty much had to pick a direction because of fading daylight so I took 10 east since that is where the eating places appeared to be.I found the Liberty Inn on the east edge where the manager was leaving as I arrived.I knew from appearances this was not a cheapo motel.The manager said the rate was $45 and I said I would check the other motel, which surprised him as he was apparently unaware there was another motel.Then he offered the room for $40.I accepted that offer because it really was too dark to be riding and there was always a chance the other motel no longer existed.

 

The room turned out to be very nice, probably the best value for the money on the trip.After settling in I walked a couple blocks to the Pizza Inn and there I discovered real value Ė a pizza buffet for $6 that included a salad bar.I made more trips to the buffet than Iím willing to admit.

 

Back at the motel I settled in to watch the Country Music Association annual awards.

Day 45: Wed, Nov 10, 2004 - Franklinton, LA to Bogalusa, LA [28.3, 2:40:04, 10.6, 23.7]

When I left just before 7:00 I retraced my way a little over a mile back through town on 10.I didnít find anything for breakfast but I didnít expect to since the guy at the Pizza Inn didnít know of any breakfast place.So I turned south on 16 and stopped at a foodmart for a cereal breakfast.

 

Continuing on 16 I didnít find anything along 16 but I did find the other motel just before I took 1072 east.Based on appearance this motel was undoubtedly a little cheaper but the motel I stayed at was better located.

 

There was nothing between Franklinton and Bogalusa except rural countryside.I did see a bunch of large birds along that way that looked like vultures so I kept riding.After a little more than 20 miles I entered the Bogalusa area and zig zagged my way through town on 60.I rode through an old downtown section but I didnít find any breakfast place so I asked a guy.The only place he could come up with was a Hardeeís and he gave me directions to get there.There I had some pancakes that were the microwave variety and expectedly very ordinary but their biscuit sandwich was good.

 

Then I had a decision to make.The weather forecast called for thunderstorms that night and thunderstorms the next day and there was no indoor accommodations ahead except for some B&Bís in Poplarville that wanted $75-85.On the other hand there was a nearby motel for $28 so I decided this town of 10,000 was a reasonable place to hole up for the day and tomorrow if necessary.

 

After breakfast I found the local library and checked email.Then I checked in at the motel and was told another cyclist had checked in earlier.After settling in, I remembered some bills to pay so I walked the mile or so back to the library to take care of that.There were a few rain drops so I grabbed my rain jacket.After taking care of the bills I started back to my motel.It was misting so I put on my rain jacket.Along the way I stopped at a Piggly Wiggly for some food.

 

It is interesting that most of the motels I stayed in had a microwave and a small refrigerator and this motel was no exception.So I bought a couple frozen Cajun microwaveable dishes and some milk for cereal.When I left the store it was raining lightly and by the time I got to the motel it was raining steadily so I made it back just barely in time.


Day 46: Thu, Nov 11, 2004 - Bogalusa, LA

It was cloudy but not raining in the morning but the forecast was for thunderstorms in the afternoon.If there had been a good destination not too far away I would have hit the road but there wasnít so I decided to layover.

 

In mid-morning after some shopping I noticed an elderly man walking back to the motel.When he stopped at room #6 I realized he was the other cyclist since I was told he was staying in room #6.So I introduced myself to Clay, a 73 year old man from Greenville, SC, who had been on the road since June 1, just over 6 months.He had ridden from home to Wisconsin, where he had taught school for 35 years, to Salt Lake City and was now on his way home.He was pretty much following the Adventure Cycling route, averaging about 50 miles/day and staying in motels and camping only when necessary.Since we had nothing else to do we spent an hour or so chatting about our travels.

 

I made another trip to the library in the afternoon when the sky started clearing up and the sun put in an appearance.Despite the ominous weather forecast it would have been an OK day to travel after all.

Day 47: Fri, Nov 12, 2004 - Bogalusa, LA to Perkinston, MS [62.2, 5:16:02, 11.8, 32.9]

Since there wasnít a real breakfast place in town I had my cereal breakfast in my room.As I was leaving my room just before 7:00 I saw Clay leaving the motel area.I caught up with him as we both rode out of town on 10 which had a nice shoulder.However, that shoulder disappeared in a few miles when we entered Mississippi where 10 became 26.It would have been possible to take 26 all the way to Poplarville but it wouldnít have been wise with no shoulder and high speed traffic.So the Adventure Cycling route took a series of back country roads to Poplarville.Clay was going to take 26, the direct route, until he saw there was no shoulder and then decided to ride along with me.

 

It was a challenge to follow the route to Poplarville via the back roads because there were a number of roads and some didnít have signs.So it was important to follow the map directions closely and use the mileage cues to get the right turnoffs.Even then we missed the first road because it was unsigned and didnít quite match the mileage cue.Another road had a different sign (Sam Smith rather than White Sand) but by watching the mileage cues closely we were able to make it to Poplarville, population 2,081, right around 10:00 after almost 30 miles.

 

We immediately looked for breakfast but there were only a couple choices.A bakery served breakfast but was done for the day so we stopped at a Hardee.I had 2 bacon-egg-cheese-biscuit sandwiches because there was a 2-for-1 special and their microwave pancakes were nothing to get excited about.

 

After about 45 minutes we took off for Perkinston.Fortunately, the route was much easier with only a few back roads and the riding was more enjoyable.For the day I set the pace and Clay lagged behind, as was expected at his age, and I simply waited at every turn for him to catch up.Of course, this slowed me down but it also forced me to take it easy rather than just grind out the miles.

 

At the start of the day I had some thought I could make Vancleave, which was about 100 miles, but arriving in Perkinston just after 2:00 made Vancleave a real stretch with about 40 miles and 3 hours of daylight.There were a couple of USFS campgrounds down the road but there were no services near them so it became apparent that Perkinston was a logical destination, not to mention that was as far as Clay was going to go.

 

While we were scoping out Perkinston on the north end near the RV Park, the owner saw us and walked over and told us about the area.He said camping would be $10 for both of us or $5/person.That was a good deal and we signed up on the spot.We found a good spot by the river away from the road and the RVs to set up.While setting up, an older guy stopped by in his pickup.He seemed to be some kind of informal guard for the park but mostly wanted to talk.He offered us a beer but Clay didnít drink and I wasnít sure I wanted to prolong the conversation so I declined.

 

After settling in we rode a short distance back to town to a grocery store with a deli but the deli was closed for the day so we had to make do with what was in the store.I found a turkey sandwich that sufficed along with some chips and a drink.

 

Back at camp the old guy was ďguardingĒ the entrance, sitting in his pickup as he had been when we left.I took advantage of the covered pavilion by our tents with a couple picnic tables by the river to write my notes.

Day 48: Sat, Nov 13, 2004 - Perkinston, MS to Mobile, AL [95.5, 8:06:17, 11.7, 31.5]

There were a few raindrops in the night but no rain.When I got up Clay was already up which wasnít surprising since he said he didnít sleep well, especially in a tent.We headed to a foodmart just down the road and I had my cereal breakfast.

 

It was 7:30 when we left under an overcast sky.The route again took back roads but it was an easy route, nothing like yesterday morning.It was just over 40 miles to Vancleave, the next services and Clayís destination for the day.There were a lot of dogs yesterday and today and many of them were on the loose.Usually I think I stirred the dogs up when I passed by so they were ready when Clay came by later.In mid-morning 3 dogs came after me and ran with me for at least a quarter mile until I stopped at an intersection to wait for Clay.When Clay came by he said a dog owner stopped him and asked if he had seen his 3 dogs, undoubtedly the ones who ran with me.When we started riding again, these dogs reappeared and ran with us some more before finally giving up.Hopefully they made it home on their own.

 

We reached Vancleave around noon and rode through town on 57 but found nothing in this town of 3,600.Not wanting to waste more time since I had more than 40 miles to my destination, we parted ways with Clay staying at a nearby campground that was reputed to have cabins.It was a good time to part since we had incompatible riding styles.I wanted to do longer rides than were realistic for Clay and Clay wanted to stay only in motels while I preferred camping for the most part.Still riding together for the day and a half was a good time.

 

I pushed on somewhat relieved that I could push the pace as much as I wanted.I rode on to Wade on some more back roads with an scenic crossing of the Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area.Much of this area was kind of a swamp with trees nestled in the water.

 

After 13 miles I reached Wade where I stopped at a foodmart for a break.My plan for the day was to continue on to Grand Bay for the day and then ride along the coast to Dauphin Island tomorrow and cross along the coast on the Mobile Bay Ferry.My Adventure Cycling map suggested checking the ferry to make sure it was running and provided the phone number to call.Fortunately I called this number and discovered the ferry was out of commission indefinitely.Later I learned it had sunk during the hurricane in the summer.I was disappointed to learn the ferry was out and that meant I had to take the alternate route through Mobile and around the northern end of Mobile Bay.

 

When I left Wade there was a lot more traffic on the road that became 614.In about 10 miles I left Mississippi after less than 2 days and entered Alabama, which announced its presence with a simple ĎAlabama State Lineí sign rather than the usual state welcome sign.

 

614 became Airport Boulevard in Alabama and took me towards Mobile.Eventually the route took me to Zeigler Boulevard which became Springhill Avenue in the city and the fun began.Once again I got that feeling and noticed my rear tire going flat.This happened around 4:00 and I didnít think I had time to stop and fix the flat before dark so I pumped it up and hoped I could limp into town and fix it at a motel.However, the tire was only good for 1-2 miles before I had to pump it up again.I went through this routine about 6 times as darkness raced in.

 

It was not a fun final 10 miles as I sprinted each time after pumping the tire in an attempt to make as much progress before the tire went soft.As it got darker I turned on my red blinkie rear light.When I came to I65 in town I saw my first motel, an extended stay place that turned out to be full.The clerk suggested a nearby Motel 6 on Moffett and called to make sure something was available but despite being helpful she was at a loss to explain how to get to the place.She wanted to simply suggest a few directions when I was totally in the dark as to the layout and orientation of the city.I tried to get her to draw a simple map but she seemed unable to perform that simple act.As it turned out the street layout could have simply been drawn by laying an A on its side with the A pointing east, showing how the current street and Moffett intersected and the crossbar of the A representing I65 cutting through.The problem was that it was not possible to simply go north from where I was because a river and railroad blocked the way.Instead, I had to head east to the intersection with Moffett and then west on Moffett.

 

Fortunately another customer showed up and understood my predicament and showed me the layout on a map he had in his truck.Armed with that insight, I pumped up my tire and started a combination of pushing and riding to make my way through traffic in darkness.But when I got to where I expected to see a Motel 6 sign I saw nothing.I retraced my way to a foodmart where I was lucky to encounter a customer who told me the Motel 6 was on another street but there was a Super 8 just ahead on the left.

 

Armed with this more specific information, I headed further up Moffet and finally saw the Super 8 sign that was hidden by trees until close by.I got a room for $67 that was no better than the motel in Franklinton but over $25 more.Nevertheless, I was relieved to finally be set for the night and I was surprised to find it was only 6:30 when it seemed like it had to be much later.

 

In my room I promptly set about fixing the flat.I discovered it was another abrasion flat just next to the previous one.I could only guess that the rim strip was causing the abrasion but couldnít feel or see anything.I fixed the abrasion with another oblong patch.

 

I ate next door at a Hardeeís that I only knew was there because the desk clerk told me so.Its sign was out and it was set back from the road with only a small Hardeeís sign in the window.

Day 49: Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Mobile, AL to Gulf Shores, AL [67.1, 6:31:20, 10.3, 37.5]

In the morning I took advantage of the Super 8 continental breakfast but I used my own cereal.When I left around 7:30 I found it much easier navigating in daylight rather than darkness.Moffett merged with Springhill and took me downtown.There I had to head north for about 3 miles to take the Cochrane Bridge over the Mobile River and then head south in effectively a big upside down U turn.The bridge turned out to be the hardest climb I had done since the Texas Hill Country, a climb that wasnít helped any by a stiff headwind.

 

I took 90/98 east across Mobile Bay and stopped at the USS Alabama Memorial Park where I paid $10 to get on the destroyer from World War II.I spent about an hour on the ship where I was able to climb much of the way up the tower of the ship.

 

I continued on across the bay in cloudy weather with a fair headwind.On the other side I rode south on the east side of the bay.I was suffering from pancake withdrawal so when I saw a Waffle House, another staple of the South, I stopped for my second breakfast.I didnít expect pancakes but I was pretty sure I could get a waffle and I was right.I had a double pecan waffle and it was good although service was awfully slow.

 

Leaving I met a local teenager on a bike who eyed my pannier racks and wondered where he could get something similar.I suggested he might need to get on the Internet and he told me in turn that the local bike shop, where I wanted to get a new chain and rim strip was closed on Sunday, which didnít surprise me.So I took off down 98 on a divided 4-lane road with a mixed shoulder.Near Fairhope I left 98 on Section Street and took headed towards the shore.There I took 98 Alt, a scenic version of 98 along the coast.There were some nice views along the coast and it was pleasant cycling for about 8 miles.I also noticed quite a bit of brush collection along the road and later I guessed that was hurricane cleanup debris.

 

South of Point Clear I headed east on 98, fighting some headwind, and stopped in Magnolia Springs for a break.When I resumed I did a little zig zagging on CR49, CR26, CR65, CR10, and finally SR59.On CR26 I met Yair, an Israeli cycling in the other direction.He had started in Richmond, VA, where his Aunt lived, and rode to St Augustine, FL, and then west on the Adventure Cycling Southern Tier Route.His plan was to do an outer loop around the US but conceded the Northern Tier route was likely a problem due to cold weather when he expected to be there around March.Yair also clued me in that there was a lot of hurricane devastation further south which made me wonder if camping was going to be a realistic option.

 

I pushed on to Gulf Shores where I found the Southport Campground in good shape.When I pulled in the hostess was not around but I met Roy, who was living there while working on hurricane reconstruction.Roy invited me to his cookout with a couple friends who were also living there.So I set up by his site and was fed chicken, steak, and beer with his friends, Tim and Wayne.

 

Roy, Tim, and Wayne had been drinking for much of the day and were a little tipsy but still good company.I was warned the temperature was supposed to get down in the 30s overnight and Roy insisted I sleep in his heated pop-up tent trailer.It wasnít his trailer but belonged to two other guys who were due back at some unknown point before morning so I wasnít really interested in sleeping in the trailer, not to mention that the 30s was OK sleeping weather as far as I was concerned.

 

After Tim and Wayne left I watched some TV with Roy and then Roy fell asleep.That made it easy for me to gracefully retire to my tent at 8:30.It turned out to be an enjoyable evening with these good olí boys and getting fed was a bonus.


Day 50: Mon, Nov 15, 2004 - Gulf Shores, AL to Milton, FL [65.2, 6:12:15, 10.5, 30.8]

With a lot of workers in the campground it got noisy early and I was packed and ready to go by 6:30.Roy was up and looking much better than last night so I chatted with him a bit.Then I thanked him for his hospitality and took off.

 

I climbed the bridge over the waterway next to the campground and began looking for the breakfast place that I had been told was just on the other side.It turned out to be over a mile away and I had assumed I missed it when I finally spotted it.I had two large pecan pancakes that I would have considered very good except they were a little burnt on one side.

\

After breakfast I rode a few miles south on 59 and then took 182 east along the coast.The hurricane had damaged the coast from here to Pensacola and reconstruction was underway.There was a lot of sand blown around with some of it still on the edge of the road.Dump trucks were dumping sand on the beach to restore the beach.

 

It was hard to know how much damage there was.A number of buildings looked fine on the outside but perhaps they had water damage inside.It was not an attractive looking beach so motels that could have been open were possibly closed because there was no tourist interest.And if there were no tourists there was also no need for restaurants either.It was a good thing that I had found a breakfast place earlier because there were 3 Waffle Houses along the route that were all closed and that would have irritated me no end had I been looking for breakfast.

 

I got to see this close up and in slow motion.There was a stiff headwind that limited me to about 8 mph, the first major headwind of the trip.On the bright side with all the construction there were lots of porta-potties so restrooms were plentiful.

 

From the bridge at Bayou St. John to Gulf Beach the damage was more extensive and there was a lot more reconstruction underway.One problem with the damage was street signs werenít necessarily reliable since they sometimes didnít exist any longer.At the Florida state line there was no ďWelcome to FloridaĒ sign but that was understandable.Just past Gulf Beach I needed to pick up Gulf Beach Highway, which I missed, perhaps due to a missing sign, but I recovered quickly and got back on the route.This turnoff made a big difference because there were trees that helped slow the wind and I was finally able to break into double digit speed.At Pleasant Grove I stopped for my cereal breakfast.

 

Resuming I approached Pensacola in 4 miles.I wanted to get to a bike shop to resolve my rear tire problem and get a new chain.There were 2 bike shops on Navy Boulevard which turned into Garden Street.As I approached the turnoff to Navy Boulevard I got that sinking feeling and I could tell my rear tire was going flat.Fortunately, it was a slower leak than before and two pumps got me to the first bike shop where I discovered the shop it was gone.A couple more pumps got me to the second shop which looked like a used parts bike shop and no one was there.

 

I only had one more bike shop listing and that was away from downtown so I decided to hit the library first.After some directions I discovered the library was closed on Mondays but I found a library worker who let me check a phone book.I found another bike shop listing and then a local pulled out a couple maps that showed me where they were.He gave me directions to the first one on 12th Ave and I took off.

 

When I got to the bike shop, Cycle Sports and Bicycles, I removed my rear tire and found the leak was between the two patches of the previous abrasions, which was not a surprise.I took my tire and tube into the shop to see if they could resolve the problem.The mechanic checked them out but could find nothing.Suspecting it might be a rim strip problem I had him replace it.While he was doing that I checked the tire again and noticed a discolorization on the tire sidewall by the wire bead.When I checked inside the tire I could feel some abrasion, and this was at the spot where the flats had occurred.

 

So the tire needed to be replaced and I was surprised the shop had the exact replacement in stock, which would not have been the case for a typical bike shop.When I thought about it, it wasnít so surprising because I realized this shop was prepared to handle touring cyclists along this standard cross country bike route.I also replaced the tube in addition to the tire and the fix cost $46.On the other hand I had planned to replace my chain but the shop measured the wear and recommended not replacing it.

 

Since it was already 2:00 I had thought I might stay in town if there were an inexpensive motel but the shop told me I would be unlikely to find any motel room with the influx of all the reconstruction workers.So they game me directions to get to the Scenic Highway on the east side of Pensacola and I took off.The coastal highway had nice views but there was a lot of traffic.I had to be careful because there was occasional hurricane debris in the shoulder.I rode past the I10 bridge and up to Riverview where I took 90 east.

 

90 was a 4-lane road with a lot of traffic and a fairly decent shoulder.In 5 miles I reached Pace but rode on when I didnít notice any motels and I figured another 8 miles to Milton, the Canoe Capital of Florida, would likely be better anyway.In Milton I stopped at the Emerald Sands Inn only to find they were full and I learned most everything else was full as well.The desk clerk made a few calls with no luck and then gave me a list of campgrounds and a phone for calling.

 

I got lucky and the first campground was Cedar Pines Campground where I talked to Steve.At first Steve said they were full but when I said I was a cyclist he said no problem.When I asked for directions, he volunteered to pick me up which was great as there wasnít much daylight left.Steve gave some area background on our ride to the campground.Both he and the motel clerk noted that it was nice to be full but not so nice to have to continually turn people away every day.Steve also said 90 was normally low traffic but had been going gangbusters since the hurricane reconstruction started.I also learned that Steve was a former middle manager from AT&T Microelectronics who had been forced to retire early and had bought the campground from his brother.

 

As if picking me up wasnít enough, Steve let me use the rear of his house with its own bathroom and charged $10, a bargain under the circumstances.

Day 51: Tue, Nov 16, 2004 - Milton, FL to DeFuniak Springs, FL [76.8, 5:56:42, 12.9]

I was packed up and gone by 6:30.I took 89 back to town, just over 4 miles and it came out close to the Emerald Inn, so I could easily have ridden to the campground last night before it got too dark.There was a Waffle House nearby on 90 so I ate there and had a double pecan waffle again.I was beginning to like Waffle House because I could count on their waffles although their service tended to be slow.They also had a house newspaper so I caught up on some news.

 

The Adventure Cycling route leaving town followed the Blackwater Trail and then some back roads to Holt where it rejoined 90 but I elected to just take 90 all the way to DeFuniak Springs.Once I got out of town 90 had only modest traffic with a good shoulder.

 

It was a beautiful day starting with sunshine, the first such day I could remember for a long time.Only some modest headwind blemished the day but the scenery was nothing exciting.

 

I used up most of my food supply last night so I needed to get to a real grocery store and that meant riding all the way to Crestview, a town of 10,000 and almost 40 miles.As I rode into Crestview I noticed what looked like a couple motels but their signs were out.Large neon signs seemed to be a common victim of the hurricane.I rode through town on 90 looking for a grocery store but didnít find one.Then I rode almost a mile north on 85 and still didnít find anything so I finally asked.I learned I had to go even further north to find a grocery store.I was a little reluctant until I learned the library was also there.

 

I found the Winn Dixie and found food including milk and cereal for my late breakfast.Then I went across the road and found the library behind the post office.These were curious locations for services that are usually located downtown where they are more generally accessible.I spent about an hour checking email and perusing the Internet.

 

I left just after 1:00 for DeFuniak Springs, 30 miles away, and I made good time.I stopped halfway at Mossy Head for a quick break and then rode into DeFuniak Springs, a town of 7,000.I rode past the first motel that was on the edge of town and stopped at the next motel that was more centrally located.I thought it was a $30 motel based on appearance but it cost $38.The interior didnít alter my opinion.

 

After cleaning up, I collected my laundry, stuffed them into my collapsible nylon daypack, and walked several blocks to a Laundromat for a needed cleaning.

Back at the motel I called a Dominoís for pizza and was surprised to hear a medium pizza was $11.76.So I called Pizza Hut and got one for just $11.49, a 27 cent savings.Then I checked out the TV and was surprised to find the most important channel, The Weather Channel, was blocked but I had checked the weather on the Internet so I settled back to watch NCAA basketball.

Day 52: Wed, Nov 17, 2004 - DeFuniak Springs, FL to Chattahoochee, FL [84.7, 7:08:11, 11.8, 25.8]

I packed up and rode down the street a short ways to what looked like the place to eat breakfast with locals around.There was a Waffle House in the area but apparently it was somewhere on the edge of town so I didnít bother to find it.This place was just ordinary but I did get a few pancake calories.

 

When I left I did a near circular loop around Lake DeFuniak, one of two naturally round spring fed lakes in the world, which was scenic and the enclosing park was already decorated with some holiday decorations.It was a beautiful morning again as I headed out of town, a virtual carbon copy of yesterday with sunshine and temperature climbing into the 70s, ideal cycling weather only marred by some modest headwind.

 

I spent the day riding on 90 with its good shoulder.The road passed by mostly tall trees with small towns about every 10 miles, ideal cycling distance between services.After 28 miles I entered Bonifay, population 4,078.If there had been a Waffle House I would have gone for it.Instead I had my usual late breakfast.When I rode into Chipley I found a library along the road so I stopped for a quick email check.After another 28 miles I rode into Marianna, population 6,230, and stopped for a lunch break.

 

When I left town I decided to stay on 90 since it was 2-3 miles shorter than the side roads of the Adventure Cycling route to Grand Ridge.90 was 4 lanes and busy for a couple miles out and then reverted to its usual self.A few miles after leaving Grand Ridge the nice shoulder on 90 inexplicably disappeared and riding became somewhat dicey with no shoulder for the 4 miles to Sneads.In Sneads there was road construction on 90 that forced a single lane.This was a good thing because I only had to contend with one-way traffic for a while.It also bunched up the traffic in my direction which gave me mostly clear sailing back on 2 lanes once my bunch raced on.Then a couple miles from Chattahoochee the good shoulder returned for the rest of the way.

 

I arrived in Chattahoochee around 3:30 which was now 4:30 Eastern Standard Time once I crossed the Apalachicola River, which gave me just a little over an hour of daylight.I ordered a foot long sub at a Subway, ate half, and saved the other half.Then I took Bolivar Street 2 miles north to a US Army Corps of Engineers Campground on Lake Seminole. I paid $12 to the check-in hostess who said she saw me riding earlier in the day and was betting she would see me again here.The timing of arrival was ideal as the sun was setting as I rode down a short hill to the campground.I got a few photos and then found my assigned camp site.

 

Interestingly, I was now in Georgia and would be back in Florida when I went back to town in the morning.Then I would leave the Adventure Cycling route for good as I made my way to Brunswick and Savannah on the Atlantic Coast.


 

 

 


 

Copyright Denis Kertz, 2004. All rights reserved.