21/12/16. When we left you, we were waiting for Charlie to “rescue” us from the freezing cold!
Suffice to say, our “knight in shining campervan” appeared! He whisked us along the quieter but slightly longer road which we would have taken if the weather had been kinder. It was a fabulous road along the Gulf Islands National Seashore with “the whitest sand” in the world – a claim we had heard elsewhere on our travels in NZ and Australia!
Who are we to judge? It was definitely very white sand. And it would be a lovely bike ride providing the temperature was well above the 3 or 4° outside the campervan where we were de-thawing.
Charlie took us to see Fort Pickens, a Civil War fort at the end of the peninsula, which had lots of interest – but that bitingly cold wind had all of us wanting to be inside. He took us home where he and his wife, Missy, and Charlie made us extremely welcome – showered, warmed, fed, watered and entertained in fine style.
We spent the night in the campervan- and it was bliss compared with a tent. So much room! And warm! And all the “facilities”!
Rising on Tuesday morning it felt warmer – but only just! We waved goodbye to Missy & Charlie and set off over Three Mile Bridge (it was that long!) to Pensacola. Then, passing through the downtown area, Stephen realised that he had left the tyre pump behind. A phone call to Charlie to see if anyone would be home if he cycled back, elicited the news that he (Charlie) was driving in the opposite direction – but, Charlie being Charlie, he immediately turned round and picked up the pump before bringing it to us in the cafe where we had stopped.
Kindness or what?
We continue to be be blown away by the unbelievable goodness that we encounter on our travels. We look forward to repaying some of that when we are back home and settled.
With pump securely back on the bike, we set off through unappealing suburbs of Pensacola (the downtown area looked to be very nice and worth a visit to one of the oldest towns in Florida, something St Augustine also claims). We passed a couple of naval bases before passing over the intracoastal waterway to yet another barrier island where the level of affluence was turned up a notch or two.
And then we reached the stateline. Finally, after 5 weeks we were across Florida and into Alabama! Encouragingly, the bike lane beside the road improved immediately with an additional white line and 2 feet wide lane separating it from the road. This better provision for cyclists continued for much of our two days in Alabama.
We soon came to our goal of the Gulf State Park, which all the reviews suggested was top notch in both quality and price. We opted for “primitive camping” which was a site without hookups for water, sewerage or electricity at a cost of $26, compared to $50 with facilities. (We may have nipped across the road to an empty non-primitive site to get water and plug in Garmins, phones etc!)
The campground was particularly notable for the signs saying “Don’t Aggravate the Alligators”. We managed to restrain ourselves from so doing, not least because we didn’t see one of the critters!
The day had been marginally warmer than Monday but it was still decidedly nippy and even Stephen had at least 3 layers on the top all day although he did have some extra ventilation in the area of his rear end where his cycling leggings developed a gaping foot long hole, mended later that night by Christine! We were soon ensconced in our cozy little tent and hoping the promised warmer weather would arrive overnight.
Sadly, things were still chilly the next morning although perhaps a degree or two warmer. Towards the middle of the day the temperature got into the “acceptable” zone but as the sun went west it started to get chilly again.
It was a lovely ride for the first 20 km or so along either roads seemingly closed to motor traffic or designated bike paths. When these came to an end we joined a quiet road to Fort Morgan and the ferry to Dauphin Island. With a reasonable shoulder, the few cars were not a problem.
We arrived at the point from where the ferry left with an hour to spare which made for a convenient lunch stop (table and benches provided). As the ferry pulled in we joined the queue of 5 cars (from 5 different states) and paid our $5 a head fare for the ¾ hour trip.
Danielle and Kyle who we met 3 or 4 days earlier had had a horrible sounding crossing with 4 foot waves coming on board but we were much more fortunate. It was like a mill pond allowing us to view the oil & gas production platforms in Mobile Bay and out in the Gulf.
Arriving on Dauphin Island it was a short ride to our overnight stop. This was under the house of yet another WarmShowers hosts (John & Jan) who allow cyclists to use their property even when they are not there. There is a tap, cold open shower, power point, “portaloo” (with shovel) and password free wifi. What more do you need at the end of a long day in the saddle?