Friday, February 19, 2010
Silver Run Lake to Vancleave, MS
Today was just one of those kind of days where we couldn't get the smiles off of our faces. It all started with us waking up in a warm room and a comfortable bed at the Foley's house. Ron and Carol offered to make us a warm breakfast. We couldn't decline because it is so rare that we ever cook ourselves a breakfast. Carol made some delicious pancakes and bacon and we shared a pot of coffee to wash it all down with. Ron and Carol showed us one of their favorite ways to eat pancakes, with sorghum molasses on top, with or without syrup. We both tried this new topping, and actually we liked it a lot. We really enjoy finding differences in food, even in something as simple as pancakes.
After breakfast, we chatted with Ron and Carol for awhile, and then bid them farewell so we could pack up our stuff and get on the road. Once we had all of our gear loaded up, We went to tell the owner of the campground, Nella Ruth, goodbye. When we went in her house, we found that she had prepared some coffee for us and had been waiting with two coffee mugs set out for us both. Nella Ruth was so nice, we couldn't decline drinking a cup of coffee with her, so we talked with her for a bit and drank some more coffee. Nella Ruth told us she is 85 years old, and she has been having some health problems, but she is eagerly awaiting her recovery so she can continue taking care of her business. She has suffered breast cancer and just had her second mastectomy, but she said she expects to be out mowing the lawns and taking care of the yards of the property at Silver Run Lakes this summer. She said she is not much of a house keeper, but she loves to work hard outside. Her optimism was inspiring to us, and gave us some motivation to get on our bikes and ride.
Just as we were getting on our bikes and about to leave, Carol pulled up with her friend Renee. She introduced us and asked us to tell Renee about our travels. Come to find out, Renee is a bit of a cycling fan too, but she was amazed at our trip. She couldn't believe that we had ridden from Oregon. We talked for a few more minutes and then actually left Silver Run Lake for real. We only rode about three miles down the road, and I could not believe what I was seeing. I thought I was looking at cyclists, and as we got closer, I noticed it looked like they had panniers. This couldn't be true I thought, we never see other bike tourists. As we neared this mirage, it turned out to be real. We stopped and met two cyclists traveling the opposite direction on the Southern Tier. Jeff and Ryan met up in Pensacola and had been riding together since then. It was great to talk to these two guys, they were the first cyclists we have seen since Sundance and Yana in Bracketville, TX. Jeff is riding the Southern Tier, and Ryan started in Virginia and rode down to the Southern Tier to get to California. He is using his bike literally as a form of transportation to get himself to the beginning of the Pacific Crest trail. When he arrives at the beginning of the PCT after biking the whole Southern Tier, he will ditch his bike and then hike the whole 2,600 miles to the Canada border. Needless to say we had a great time talking to these guys. Coincidentally, Ryan has a friend in Missoula, so he might visit Montana after the PCT. We told him he should give us a shout when he makes it that far.
At this point, we had stopped to talk so much, we weren't sure if we could still make it to our destination, but we figured we would try. We had only gone three miles and it was after noon. We chugged along about as fast as we could. We were still able to feel some deep down fatigue from our 95 miles a couple of days ago. On one deserted country road along the way, an old timer waved to us as we went by and asked us if we were having a good ride. We reluctantly stopped as we knew we should keep on the stick as much as possible, but it is very hard for us to pass up a conversation with elderly folks. The man was out feeding his chickens when he waved us down. He told us that he is a county official, and that Mobile county had just approved a one million dollar bike path from his part of the county all of the way to the city of Mobile. We told him how much we cyclists appreciate projects like this and assured him it would be a boon to the rural area. We told him we had to keep riding, and on we went. At this point, we couldn't believe how many people we had stopped to talk to today, and we were wondering how many more times we would be stopped to talk before the day was over.
Now I really thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I saw two guys coming up the road in our direction with blaze orange vests on. I could not imagine what they were doing. From a distance I thought I was seeing a garbage clean up crew, but as we neared, the two people looked like they were rocking back and forth. When we came up to the two, we found that they were on rollerblades. We couldn't even believe that this was all happening in one day. We had to stop and talk to these two. Dan and Steven were embarking on a cross country rollerblade trip on the Southern Tier. They both hailed from New York and were the first people we met who were doing a trip for a cause. They created a charity called In Motion for a Million for Huntington’s Disease Society of America and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. They are trying to raise one million dollars. After swapping some stories with these guys, and they told us a tale about getting kicked off the roads in Alabama, we let these two get on their way. We cannot imagine rollerblading the Southern Tier, but these guys seem up to the challenge.
Not long after we talked to the old timer, we came to an intersection and stopped to check our map to make sure we weren't making a wrong turn. The back roads in Mississippi are poorly signed, so we double check them if we can. While we were stopped, a school bus pulled up and the driver got out of the bus and walked over to us. She asked if we knew where we were, and we asked her directions to double check our map. She point the way, and then asked us where we were from. As soon as we mention to people where we are from, and where we started our trip, we always get a few questions. Well this bus driver was very friendly and she asked us all about our trip. She then found out that we both work in Yellowstone and gushed about how much she loves Montana and both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. After talking with her for awhile, we rode off again, this time laughing about the unlikely odds that we would still make it to our destination before dark. Less than five miles down the road, we stopped for a bathroom break and, to our amazement, some recreational cyclists pulled up and we chatted with them about our trip and about riding in Mississippi in general. We also coaxed them into taking the spare wheel we found in Texas off our hands. They were part of the Gulf Coast Cycling Club, and said they could use this wheel as a door prize or something like that. We were more than happy that our find would go to some cause that would promote cycling in some way. After we chatted with these folks for awhile, we again made our way toward our final destination, Vancleave.
Despite all of our stops for conversations, we still made it to Vancleave right as the sun went down. We found the Bluff Creek campground and inquired about a tent site. Much to our disappointment, the tent sites were $30 per night. At this point, then sun was completely down, and the nearest campground was 6 miles further. Dani was not in the mood to ride in the dark, especially because near Vancleave, the traffic had increase and people were driving like idiots. The owner informed us that our only other option was a cabin at $40 per night. I was not happy with this at all and balked at the price. I told him we didn't need water, electricity, or even a shower, but he snootily said that is all he had. The sign at the entrance said they had primitive campsites, so obviously there was some false advertising going on. After talking with Dani, we decided that the cabin was then better deal and doled out forty greenbacks.
We had high hopes for our cabin, obviously much too high. We found our cabin right next to a campsite with a degenerate drunk couple yelling and arguing with each other. They were saying things like “I hope you have to have lung surgery you !@#$%.” Great we thought. We opened the cabin and it was basically filthy. There was no heater which we assumed we would have for forty bucks. The shower house conveniently located across the street from the cabin was so run down that we hardly even wanted to walk in the door let alone disrobe and take showers. We had been taken for forty bucks. Just let this be a lesson to you all out there. Do not even go to the Bluff Creek campground in Vancleave.
Despite the end of our day, we were smiling all day. We met so many great talkative folks who were genuinely interesting, and who were also interested in our travels. We have discovered that no matter what the time is, it is always worth taking the time out of our day to chat with new and interesting people. Because of this, we are starting to feel like the United States is more of a community we belong in rather than just a big amalgamation of states with whom we have nothing in common. We now have friends spread out all over this land, and any news we hear from those places in the future will be so much more personal. One of our biggest goals in doing this trip was really discovering America and the people who live here. That has happened, but to an extent beyond what we could have imagined at the beginning.
Speaking of people we have met, we just need to make a note about Matt Potter, the guy we met in San Luis Obispo, California. He is the guy that was there when Dani crashed. He helped us find a good place to spend the night, and he even took us out for supper. We just received word from him that he was out for his daily bike ride and, in almost the same place Dani crashed, he was hit by a truck that swerved into the bike lane when the driver stopped paying attention. The truck was traveling at 60 mph and struck Matt from behind. He woke up in the hospital with a broken spine, an arm broken in five places, a fractured skull, broken ribs, and a whole litany of other injuries. Matt spent a month in the hospital and is now in a body cast. We have not been able to call him back due to the complete lack of Verizon service along our route and at our camping spots, but we got this info from the message he left us. He said he expects full recovery in 6 months to a year. This just goes to show how important it is to really pay attention while you are driving. To cyclists, nothing really matters more than that. We are so vulnerable to automobiles. Stay off the damn cell phones while you are driving and appreciate the fact that cars and trucks are basically massive cannon balls. One little slip up at the wheel can mean killing a cyclist or a pedestrian. Slow down and appreciate that roads are not just for cars. In the mean time, we hope Matt will recover quickly, and that he can get back on the bike again someday soon.