Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gulf Ferry Ride, Wind, and a taste of Gulf Shores

Beach homes on the Alabama Coast

Greg and the bikes on the ferry in the Gulf

Palmettos in the forest on Dauphin Island

Path to the campground from the beach on Dauphin Island

Greg reenacts a mother sea turtle digging a nest for her young.

Its Greg's "windblown" look

Oil drilling platforms in the Gulf

Gloomy day on the Gulf of Mexico

Dauphin Island to Gulf Shores Alabama
Day 109
27 miles

This morning Greg rode more than two miles back into town to get some fuel for our breakfast. We got to our campground last night and realized we barely had enough gas to make dinner, much less breakfast. Surprisingly, no one in the campground had any fuel to spare. We usually eat cold breakfasts because they are faster and dirty fewer dishes, but every once in a while we decide to make a big, hot breakfast. Greg loves to cook breakfast for me and I love it when he does. Today he made us breakfast burritos filled with cheesy eggs, ranch style beans, hash browns and salsa. It was so satisfying and certainly got us off on the right foot. We finished packing up our gear and decided to walk down to the beach before boarding the ferry. The sand is very white here and the gulf water is a silty brown color. The forest is filled with loblolly pine, shortleaf pine, magnolia, live oak and palmettos. The overcast skies and the murky water with the oil drilling platforms in the distance have left us with a dismal impression of the Gulf Coast.

We departed our campground, crossed the street and instantly found ourselves in line for the ferry to take us across Mobile Bay. It surprised me that this ferry was in fact smaller than the one we rode across the Mississippi River. The watercourse here is much wider and probably as turbulent. Once we rode on to the ferry in line with all of the cars, we parked our bikes against the side of the boat and took everything in. We are riding a boat across a huge bay in the Gulf of Mexico. We rode our bicycles here from Oregon. Sometimes Greg and I have to stop and reflect on that even though we have been the ones making this great trip, one pedal stroke at a time. When the ferry began to pick up speed a friendly man came over from his car and invited us to sit in his car with him, his wife and his sister for the ferry ride. We decided it would be nice to get out of the wind and talk to some folks while we rode across the bay. We had a nice time talking to the trio from Kentucky. They were very interested in our adventure and we had fun talking to them. We realized that we are going to have to figure out what to say when people ask us, “what is the most interesting (weird, most beautiful, coolest, scariest) thing you have seen on your trip?” At this point there are so many things to draw from but those questions make my mind go blank.

Once we got off the ferry we encountered a very strong headwind for the duration of the ride into Gulf Shores. Today the headwind really brought me down. I know that headwinds can physically wear you out, but they can also tire the mind. Having a positive attitude can do wonders for your energy level and willingness to continue. On this particular day I let the headwind get to me and I was grumpy for most of the morning riding. I hate to admit it, but I definitely felt like Oscar the Grouch. Thankfully, Greg has a positive attitude about these situations more often than I do. He just told me, “what can you really do about it? It is going to be windy and you can hate it or you can just accept it.” Sometimes it is good to hear that perspective and get your mind on to other things, thanks Greg.

The beaches here are just filled with an unbelievable amount of beach houses and vacation homes. I see the plants in this area, the native pine trees that have weathered hurricanes and those that have not survived. Most trees are dead, like hundreds of toothpicks just stuck into the land. I can't imagine how anyone can believe that all of these homes could ever stand the forces of a hurricane. My guess is that most will not, considering most of the homes seem to be less than five years old.

We got to Gulf Shores and decided it was essential that we catch up on blogs. Unfortunately the only reliable wireless internet in this part of the country is at McDonalds. So we spend just under three hours working on the blog and it was about 5PM when we headed to the campground, just two miles from here between Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Our camp for the night is a 450+ site RV suburbia filled to the gills with snowbirds. We were lucky to get the last site available in the park. We were not lucky in that all sites cost the same amount- RV or not, the plus side is that it was $25, instead of California's state park fee of $55 for RVs. When I was at the office I asked if there was a problem with raccoons in the park and the hosts said, not that they knew of. Greg and I set up the tent and ate a dinner of MREs courtesy of Ron Foley. The novelty of the MRE is fun initially, but I have a feeling this pseudo-food will come back to bite me.

We cleaned up after dinner and couldn't wait to try out the nice, clean and very hot showers. When I returned from the shower I found one of the small food panniers dragged away from where I placed it and a shadow of a raccoon slipped into the swamp. I was so frustrated when I saw that the raccoon had looted our pannier and destroyed at least $10 worth of food. We were excited to have Fig Newtons as a snack tomorrow, but no...not now. To add insult to the raid, I found slobbery pieces of Fig Newton were spread all over pannier inside and out. I spent the next half hour scrubbing the pannier and cleaning slobbery crumbs off of the salvageable food. The raccoon also managed to bite a couple of small holes in the lid of the pannier. We then placed all food items on top of the charcoal grill in the campsite and placed the BoB trailer on top to keep critters at bay. Greg is ready with the slingshot if they try it again. We both went to bed feeling a little sick with a slight headache. We think this is due to the MRE and all of its mysterious preservatives. We will be doing a cleanse and resuming our food ethics as soon as the tour is over. The forecast calls for a thunderstorm tonight or tomorrow morning, so stay tuned for the coming storm.


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