Mobile, Alabama is fantastic. We spent the night there, and our host James gave me some tips on route that I took to heart – along with some advice to avoid a specific section of Mobile from a coworker due to safety concerns. Looking at the map, I could ride the same number (roughly) of miles through Alabama if I didn’t go back to Wilmer and headed south from Mobile to Dauphin Island and then across to Pensacola through the bay there.
The first hour I got torrential rain. I couldn’t believe how much rain was coming down. There were times I wasn’t absolutely certain there wasn’t someone just dumping buckets of water over my head. But then the sun came out and the rain stopped. Only the wind remained, and it came from the east. So with 25-35 mph headwind we decided that since there was no more climb either direction, we drove to Pensacola and rode with the wind. That was a much more pleasant ride than battling a headwind.
A few things happened that were interesting – first of all, we had dinner at the Ruth’s Chris in Mobile. Say what you want about southern hospitality, but they’re certainly accommodating, and the meal was fantastic. Thanks again, Josh (SLC General Manager)! Shortly after the rain stopped the bike started to feel a little wonky. I looked down and couldn’t see anything, but it felt a little like I’d gotten peanut butter stuck in my chain. About a minute later, I couldn’t pedal at all. There was a piece of wire I’d picked up somewhere that I couldn’t see from above, and it had become so tangled in my chain that it took me nearly 30 minutes to get it dislodged. I briefly thought the day would be troublesome from that, since I wasn’t sure I hadn’t damaged the chain, but it seemed to work still, so I pressed on.
At the southern tip of Pensacola right by the Gulf of Mexico is where the Blue Angels train. The sky was still thick with low clouds, so we couldn’t see anything, but boy, when those things take off you sure know exactly what is happening. “The Sound of Freedom” is what I call that, having been raised around fighter jets on Air Force bases most of my youth. It was moving to have that punctuate my day.
The final thing I’ll mention is the bridges. I’ve highlighted two of them on the map cutout below. While not terribly high over the water, (maybe 60-75 feet over the water?) they are still bridges. They are basically a concrete bridge like an overpass. They have concrete barriers on the sides that are really only about waist-high when I’m on the bicycle. If I get hit, (always the fear) I’m water-bound. Much of the time I can just put my head down a little and keep going, and as long as I don’t think too much about it, I’m good. Unfortunately on the one farthest east (the first one I came to), as I approached, I could hear sirens, and I wasn’t entirely certain which direction they were coming from. So I kept going. These bridges are two lanes with a slight shoulder. So when there is an emergency and emergency vehicles are needing to cross, the rule becomes, “get across the bridge as safely and quickly as you can and then get out of the way of the emergency vehicle” instead of “pull over and let them pass you wherever you are.” (right? who knew?) But the fire truck was coming toward me, and had a pretty good stream of cars in front of it. The cars on my side of the bridge couldn’t see the truck for the bridge. But as they all got closer to the top and the fire truck got closer to approaching the end of the bridge, they not only have the sirens going, they blast the horn to let people know they are going to change lanes and pull over before you get onto the bridge. It was deafening, and it did give me quite a scare, but I was able to keep going, and the next bridge wasn’t so terrifying. I even had a moment where I thought, “it’s going to be so cool to do the bridges between the Keys in a couple of months.”
848 miles left to Key West.