Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Sketchy departure

January 24th, 2012

Simple plan. Of sorts. Across Alabama Bay then pick up Highway 90 back to the coast at Pensacola. And into Florida. Save for the exit from Mobile, and the final section, I’d no map. Reliant instead on a rough sketch I’d made of the route in my pocket book. Penned an outline, annotated with a few major intersections and one town – Loxley – to serve as headmarks.

Except I’d overlooked the need for a bit of a detour through north Mobile to reach the causeway across the bay. Bicycles prohibited from using the more direct tunnel route. Obliged instead to ride through Alabama State Docks. Numerous rail tracks. Scrap yards. A wrong turn. Tedious.

Beyond the bay progress had picked up. Long straight stretch of highway, rolling far into the distance. Then Loxley. Lunch stop and chance to assess progress. I’d forty or so miles to go, and just over three hours of daylight left.

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Frustrations

January 23rd, 2012

I disliked Mobile. A few wide leafy boulevards. Smart Convention Centre. Well-kept. But surprisingly arrogant drivers. Two spotty young men in a pick-up shouting abuse. Tooting on the horn. All talk but no trousers. Children on a school bus tossing an apple out the window at me. Poor anticipation by other road users of my presence – tens of yards – amongst the worst I’ve ever seen. Hassled for directions by another motorist whilst clearly engrossed in conversation on my cell.

Seeking a short break from the frustrations of the road, I’d stopped at a gas station and ordered a freshly made sub. Clearly enunciated what I wanted. Slowly. But the sandwich artist wasn’t listening, too busy swapping tittle-tattle with her co-workers. Even when I repeated it, albeit with a few teasing changes. Live squid with petroleum jelly on Sourdough. Outside I sat watching cars come and go from the disabled bay. Profiling the occupants. Little evidence of physical impairment.

I’d left Dauphin Island after an early lunch. GulfView Cafe down on the golf course. One of just two such establishments open. And I’d visited the other the previous day. Bright day but strong winds. I’d waited to see if they’d subside a bit. Forlorn hope the ferry might run. But it hadn’t. Few oil rigs out in the bay. Gulf of Mexico. Some just miles away, others dots in the distance.

Retracing my steps off the island across the causeway hadn’t been as bad as I thought it might have been. Windy, but steady and on the port bow rather than the perfect cross wind I’d feared. Blowing across the carriage way afforded me some protection, and meant I’d not be pushed into the traffic if caught unawares.

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Upwardly Mobile

January 23rd, 2012

Three options scribbled in my pocket book. Run north, back over the exposed causeway from Dauphin Island, through the city of Mobile and around Alabama Bay to Pensacola. Or wait for the winds to drop and the ferry across the mouth to start running once more. Reaching Pensacola the same day, or stopping short at Gulf Shores. Dependant on daylight.

Quick check with the ferry company ruled out the last two options. They’d not be running today. And the forecast didn’t bode well for the next day. Safer option was to head for Mobile. Night there, then on to Pensacola the following morning. Little shy of one hundred miles.

I’d pondered riding for Pensacola in a single day but decided against it. I’d struggle to complete in daylight, even if conditions were good. Which wasn’t the case. Winds of around twenty five miles per hour, compounded by being from West-South-West – perfect crosswinds on the causeway. If I needed to walk in places, so be it.

So I settled on two days around Alabama Bay and on to Pensacola. Forty miles or so to Mobile, then a further sixty the next day. A relatively short run north to Mobile had the advantage of a delayed departure from Dauphin Island and the chance to exploit the predicted afternoon drop in wind strength. It might not be much, but it could be just enough.

I reflected a while on the plan. It’d work of course. And it was the only realistic option. Kicking myself a little for not having headed for Mobile in the first place, rather than dropping down to Dauphin Island. But it’d seemed a sensible move at the time. Spilt milk. Costing me two days and consuming much of my margin for reaching Miami and a flight back to the UK. Felt comfortable I could stick to the schedule, but I’d need to be pretty slick with packing up my trusty steed and all the kit. Lots of strong coffee.

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