Feb 9, RD9 AFHD 30
Dawn broke over the Big Lagoon State park with a rush of wind in the tops of the slash pines and very cool air temperature. Sometime in the night our very small on board propane tank that fuels the heater gave off its last BTUs of energy. STella’s back wheels were parked within a foot or two of the brackish water that fills the swamp like pools of this lovely state park. Today will be the day we leave Florida and enter Alabama, which will be a first for both of us. Life time good friend (49 years, anyway), former Marine, fellow Ragbrai rider Tom Colley and his lovely wife, Sue, will be receiving us sometime today. Another highlight of this remarkable trip, that they would happen to be in their winter get away residence the same time we’re traveling through and literally Right ON the bike route. Blessings!! Again!!
Doing a local weather check didn’t improve the outlook for today’s travel, as the winds were predicted to stay strong and countervailing throughout the day. Back to the triple layering of a week or so ago (so long, or not?) would be the order of the day. We had hoped to do some more exploring of this pretty State Park located on a pristine, totally undeveloped beach. Timing not good for this, however, since the park personnel had marked today for a “controlled burn” which would keep the fuel level of the undergrowth at a concentration that wouldn’t burn all the larger, older trees in the event of a major fire. Getting back to the ST bike route was an easy jaunt, and after a McD breakfast and a couple of their famous “senior coffees”, the journey resumed ever westward. In one of those ironic twists, my bike travels in the first half hour were much faster than the long line of stopped vehicles that I passed as they waited for their turn on a one-way trip across one of the many high structures that enable travel along this Gulf Coast. My designated “bike path” was wide open and I could ride unhindered up and over the bridge. Cathy smartly elected to wait out the early morning commuter traffic in a parking lot drinking more coffee and reading.
The next 10 miles were an act of contrition for this bit of excess. The entire width of the “bike lane” I was supposed to be riding on was scalloped out by the asphalt grinder monsters and were unrideable. This is some of the most stressful riding you can experience since there isn’t enough room for both you on the bike and the cars in your lane. Luckily, there was a separate bike trail alongside the route at the end of that 10 miles for some decompression.
Tom and Sue live in Vermont, so the 30 days that they take for their winter get away are a high light for them. They rent a very nice place on the sand dunes next to the beautiful beach west of Gulf Shores. During the coming month, their children and grandchildren will also be able to visit them here, so the perfect arrangement all around.
I arrived on the bike around noon and Cathy found a place to store the camper for a couple of days at an RV park not far away. A joyous reunion all around. Tom and Sue continue to be impervious to ageing and are a delight to be around. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch prepared by Sue, washed down gratefully with some cold brews, and then walked directly out the back door on to the nearly deserted and sparkling white beach of the Gulf Coast. Cathy never tires of watching the sea birds that soar, wade, dive, and scamper along and above the shore line.
The rest of the day was spent hiking along the unspoiled dunes that follow this edge of the ocean. In the distance are the giant oil and gas drilling rigs that continue to extract that ancient source of fuel from deep under this mammoth bay.
After 9 straight days riding, tomorrow will be a “day off”, as we continue to explore by foot and by car all the history and beauty of the region.
So glad to be here, and so happy to have you all along. Comments always welcome. Happily heard from our Barnstormer Pilot, Dave, today as he checked in on us. I look forward to Cindy Sue’s comments as much as she looks forward to each day’s new posts. Blessings on you all.