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Begun April 15, 1996 (income tax day)
Our Austin layover was delightful, but a day too long. Getting going again was a bit tough. In Eastern Texas, we moved into pine forests - read: logging trucks - which are still with here in Alabama. Some nice camping. A little rain.
Louisiana was different. To begin with, the roads are simply AWFUL. The county backroads are better, but the state roads are quite simply not maintained. The people, however, are quite wonderful, open and willing to inquire. We were in Louisiana just two hours - on Easter Sunday** - when a pickup truck pulled over in front of me; a pleasant-looking young man leaped out, introduced himself, and invited us to his family home (which we'd just passed) for Easter dinner. We spent three hours there and had a warm, wonderful time with a delightful family. It was difficult to leave. The next day, in a small town, we were interviewed for their weekly local "Good News" program.
(** We entered Texas on St. Patrick's Day, Sunday, and left it three weeks later on Easter Sunday, after 1021.1 miles.)
And so went Louisiana. We were interviewed a second time in the eastern portion of the state. We learned that, according to Louisianans themselves, Louisiana has the crookedest government in the land. And the roads are lousy because "all the money goes into pockets."
Mississippi roads are MUCH better, though we have not had any shoulder to speak of since Texas. Mississippi, where we are, is just as green and lush as was Louisiana: forests, grasslands, GREEN. We changed course somewhat in Mississippi to make allowances for bad weather moving through. In Lucedale last night, we witnessed (from indoors) a giant gulf thunderstorm. HUGE bolts and cracks of lightning, which I could see through my closed eyelids. Boombooms which shook the building. Predictions of 3" of rain PER HOUR. And some areas did get that. So we dallied for a couple of hours this morning till we were sure it was safe to set out. We don't mind getting wet, but riding through an electrical storm is not something we wanted to do. But it didn't even rain on us.
This was our second electrical storm. We have encountered all manner of weather except snow, but so far none of it has delayed us - it yet may, but it hasn't yet.
Tomorrow we will ride the ferry across four miles of the mouth of Mobile Bay. The following day we enter Florida, for the last leg. We will have had two nights in Mississippi and two nights in Alabama. There is no doubt that we look like aliens wherever we go. Westerners are used to oddity. Texans didn't care. Louisianans were open and inquiring. Mississippians were aloof and cool, and almost judgmental. No read, yet, on Alabamians, though they do seem to be willingly helpful.
I have begun to think seriously of home. I have a craving for good music, for good bread, for good, solid, real, unfried food. (It's amazing how good bad food can taste when one has ridden on empty for 30+ miles.) I want to wake up in the same room day after day after day. I want to ride an unburdened bike. I love this journey. I love the doing, the change, the constant newness. And I love home; routine; belonging.
Three Nights Later: Crestview, Florida
Can't really say much about Alabama, except that the roads are good; still few shoulders, but the lanes are wider than in Louisiana. The bridge to Dauphin Island is lovely. The island itself looks like Palm Springs with conifers. Scrub palms grow directly below the pines. The ferry ride took 45 minutes, but not a soul chose to converse with us. We are into a tourist region and people are very close. We camped in the Gulf Shores State Park, which is a clean, green, lovely facility. Made a couple of friends there. Then on through beachfront communities along the Gulf, which looked like beach communities anywhere.
Into the state of Florida on 17 April, after 2247 miles. First stop in Pensacola was a bike shop: in Mississippi, after 2100 miles, I finally had my first flat tire since my threads had gotten too thin. So I got new tires in Pensacola. Had I done so in Austin as I had intended, I'd have done the whole trip flat-free. But the mechanic there insisted the tires could easily finish the trip and I chose to believe him. He was wrong - due, in large part I'm sure - to the lousy roads in Louisiana.
We are once again dodging thunderstorms. We really thought we'd have sun all through the South, but -boy- were we wrong. This morning we couldn't leave til 10AM, though we did not get any rain til five minutes after we finished the day's increment.
We still have about 8-9 riding days left, depending on the weather, of course. But we have done a full projection for the remaining miles, and have purchased return tickets.
I will arrive home on 29 April, two months to the day since I left home. Also, a week or two sooner than I anticipated. With luck, that will give us a day or two to snoop around St. Augustine. But that's our cushion for the unknowns of the weather.
© 1996 BFZ
This is Bunni's last fedex to us from the road. In a few days she will follow up with a description of the last days of the trip, what it feels like to actually finish, and hopefully a perspective on the entire adventure. So check back to Armchair World for the conclusion to "Ocean to Ocean on Two Wheels"! (AW)
More Chapters on the Ocean to Ocean Ride
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