Vancleave, MS to Dauphin Island, AL
Despite our less than acceptable campground last night, we did manage to get a good nights rest in our cabin. Staying inside allowed us to get a pretty good jump on the day, and by the time we left the sun was actually out and shining.
The roads in this part of the country are in pretty rough condition and shoulders are nonexistent. The hills here are pretty small and rolling, but just big enough to make us glad that our bikes have gears. At the bottom of each divide is usually a river or a bayou filled with cypress and other deciduous trees. The ridge tops consist mostly of loblolly pine with some long leaf pine mixed in and oaks scattered throughout. The undergrowth is thick and appears almost impenetrable. It makes for some nice scenery to ride through.
Just before the Alabama state line, we spotted a busy little bakery and decided we had to stop and see what all the fuss was about. Inside we found some delicious pastries and cookies, and decided to buy a few. I have a hard time riding past a bakery. Every time I see a bakery sign I think of all of the wonderful bakeries in Missoula I used to take for granted, that is, until this trip. These pastries were great, but until this trip, I didn't realize how extraordinary the baked goods are in Missoula.
As we rode on further, the road conditions did not improve. We were forced to ride on the road because there was no shoulder and, unfortunately, traffic began to increase. This led to people passing us on dangerous blind corners or hill tops. One person even pulled right up behind us and then started honking his horn in earnest, as if we were doing something wrong or like we should be riding somewhere else. We pulled completely off the road in fear that this person might try to run us off, and they honked some more and roared past us in a huge pickup with a loud exhaust. After the news of our friend getting hurt, this really set me off and I yelled at the person as they went past. I would have liked nothing better than to have had him turn around so we could have a little talk.
We entered Alabama, and found a gravel road short cut that would allow us to get out of this busy traffic for a few miles. We haven't ridden on gravel much on this trip, but it was actually a nice change. The road was well packed and we only saw a few cars. Before long we came to the town of Bayou La Batre. This is the town featured in Forest Gump where Forest begins his shrimping business Bubba-Gump Shrimp. The town is actually a huge seafood processing area, so we were going to stop and eat at a certain restaurant we heard had the best food in Alabama, but it was closed when we arrived. We stopped for a food break anyway. As we ate our snacks we saw two people on touring bikes cruising through town heading West. We waved them down and they came over to talk. We met Janet and Alex. They are traveling by Xtracycle. An Xtracycle is basically a bike with a longer wheelbase, almost as long as a tandem, but the whole back of the bike is an integrated rack with bags. These things are really cool and they can carry tons of gear. We talked with these two for awhile about the bikes and about their trip. They started up in Georgia and are heading to Houston. Coincidentally, Janet has mapped out a route from St. Augustine to Jacksonville, and this is the route we have been wondering about. After we reach St. Augustine we will need to ride to Jacksonville to get on the train. Janet was very excited that we would be able to use her route that she had taken some time to plan. She and Alex even had a bike map of Jacksonville that they gave us. At least we have that figured out now! After a nice chat with these two, we decided we had better get going. It is so exciting that we are seeing people heading the other way.
From Bayou La Batre to Dauphin Island, we rode to the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. Then we rode over a couple mile long bridge that was quite high at the top to allow for ship passage. We stopped at the top and enjoyed our first views of the Gulf of Mexico. It was so strange to see off shore oil drilling platforms as far as we could see. A stark contrast to the Pacific Coast.
Once we reached Dauphin Island, it was immediately apparent that this place is much fancier that the other parts of Mississippi and Alabama that we had ridden through. This looks like a resort town. We rode from one end of the island to the other and then found the campground. The campground here is full of snowbird Rvers and was reminiscent of Arizona in that way. We enjoy being around these retired people though as they make for a carefree and jovial atmosphere. We found our campsite and set up for the night. I was very excited because, as far as I know, this is the first time I have ever camped on any island. Luckily, it sounds like the ferry across the Mobile Bay is operating tomorrow so we will be able to get across. We heard that it was broken down a few days ago.