Oh no, Alabama again…

Posted by on 7, Apr 2022 in 2022 - USA, Tilly the Tandem, USA

Oh no, Alabama again…

The cycle out from Pascogoula was along the main highway for the first 26km. There was a nice shoulder and it was Sunday morning so the road wasn’t busy as all the locals were all presumably at church or McDonald’s for brunch.

We crossed into Alabama – home to the Christian equivalent of the Taliban – and had to head inland as there’s no coast road here. There are dozens of churches and trailers, and naturally enough at one house – a nice looking one too – two terrier like dogs hurtled across the garden and out onto the road to have a go at the panniers. Ha! We’ve been here before matey and rear gunner first class Linda, who feels the same way about Alabama as I do about Brussels sprouts was locked and loaded with her air horn and let rip. I saw one of the two terriers almost fall over in the mirror at the shock of it and they both retreated to their garden. We’re surprised they didn’t get run over.

We stopped for a drink to toast our success and stick two dog stickers on the side of Tilly a few kilometers further on and a lady got out of her car and came up to us and asked if we were the two who’d scared some kid on a roof. Quite what the kid was doing on the roof we’ve no idea, it is Alabama so don’t ask, but we said no and she drove off. It did cross our mind later it may have been our air horn, but as its no where near as loud as some of the trucks exhausts we don’t think so. Oh well, could have been threatened again in Alabama!

It’s not nice the interior. It’s very poor, many of the houses are dilapidated, there are  lots of abandoned properties and the towns look desolate and without hope,.. oh and there’s 2 churches per person, 4 guns and 6 pickup trucks.

It has the lowest vaccination rates in the US and probably the developed world at 50%, and I’m going to channel my Trump here (ie make it all up) but the highest number of churches per head in the country and the highest gun ownership, anti vaxers,  pro lifers and alien abduction rates on the planet and they all vote Trump. Someone look that up for me and let me know how many I got right! But as some Alabamans threatened to kill us on one of our previous trips we may be a bit biased.

Anyway, it was a long cycle through nothingness, with the constant threat of dog attack or snipers, where for the first time ever we felt uneasy about stopping for lunch, eventually stopping outside a veterans club and sitting on tree trunk for our picnic. After a while a lady emerged from the club – which resembled a warehouse – and offered us a drink, food and warmth inside! It was very kind of her but we were very happy in the sunshine with our cheese sandwiches and salt and vinegar crisps!!

We eventually arrived at Dauphin Island fairly early as we didn’t stop much, where we’d planned to take a day off. The island is small but has a cycle path thoughout, a few bars and restaurants and plenty of small scale holiday homes and a couple of hotels. It’s actually really nice, quite hippyish and low key, right up our street and with a great independent motel, but our day off plans were scuppered by the weather.

To get off the island and carry on down the coast we had to take the ferry. The ferry doesn’t sail in windy weather and that was the weather heading in from Monday. So we decided to move on the next day rather than be stuck here for a few days whilst the weather passed.

Our crossing was short and calm with just a gentle breeze and the cycle on from Fort Morgan was lovely. Glorious sunshine and not too hot and a gentle breeze against us. The houses were back to the fabulous stilt homes and the road had a small shoulder but there was little traffic on this peninsula.

After a coffee stop and a planning meeting we decided to spend another day in Alabama and get a beach hotel with a sea view room and duly auctioned off one arm and one leg.  The prices on this coast are horrendous. Its spring break here so the hotels are busy and we are told they are making up for the covid closures by upping their prices. But as the really crap hotels are pricey too, you may as well go for the beach view and stay somewhere without cockroaches…

The cycle to the hotel was along a lovely cycle path winding its way through woods in Gulf State Park. It was the busiest cycle path we’ve been on with loads of people on hire bikes, many electric, and we breezed past them all, including the electric ones getting many a compliment about how easy we made it look!

Our hotel room was great over looking the sea and Linda cooked Mac and cheese and chips on the balcony with a beer to watch the sun go down. Perfect day. Unfortunately our neighbouring room wasn’t so perfect and the noise from the kids, TV and the music was far too loud. The manager asked them to be quiet with absolutely no affect so moved us to a different room. Our arm and leg sacrifice turned out not to be the best night….

We moved on into a strong wind the next day. We must be getting fitter as our legs didn’t complain – our minds keep saying why are you doing this though when there’s a perfectly serviceable hotel every 100m’s and a sandy beach next to it? Anyway, we arrived in Pensacola, one of the nicest towns on the coast for a night at the Victorian B&B. We’ve been here 4 years ago and immediately headed out for an Indian – proper food at last! It was sooooo good and the owner remembered us and Tilly from 4 years ago.

The storm that’s heading our way sounded a humdinger. Baseball size hail, tornados, 80 – 90mph gusts all in the southern US states we’ve just come from and weakening and moving toward us.

We woke the next morning with the winds picking up, overcast skies and some spots of rain in the air. Not too bad though, but we didn’t fancy the Pensacola 7km bridge so opted for a restday to make up for the lost day at Dauphin Island. It’s well worth a day off here, very nice town centre and not busy at all, so we had a relaxing day making the most of our cosy B&B even finding a vegan hot dog for lunch!

From here we then made a dash to our cousins 100km away. We’d had a lovely 2 days in Pensacola but got brought back to earth with a bump as we left.

The Pensacola 7km bridge is being replaced after various disasters since we last cycled this way. At present its just one bridge with a lovely seperate bridge for cyclists and pedestrians and will eventually be 2 bridges, 2 mutli use paths and around 10 lanes of traffic.

We arrived at the start of the bridge to find the cycle path closed. A worker told us the only way to cross was to cycle in the middle of the road as the 5 lanes were seperated into 2 each way with an unused lane in the middle. The benefit of this is that Linda couldn’t see the water below, the disadvantage was trying to cross the 2 lanes that were full with 5 lanes of traffic then cycling down the suicide lane with everything screaming past you. It wasn’t fun and we got hooted a lot, I’m not sure why though. Even I hated it,

I’m very aware of what’s going on behind us when we cycle and am constantly using our mirrors. That allows me to take evasive action when an upcoming car doesn’t appear to have seen us and bail out onto the verge. Weve only had to do that a couple of times this trip, but stuck in the suicide lane there’s no where to go if something goes wrong in front or behind you. So we peddled like hell and hoped for the best

After that rather unpleasant experience we stopped for a smoothie and Linda immediately managed to drop it as she was still so shaken by the bridge experience, but the road then goes into a national park with a toll, so all the main highway traffic heads off on a parallel road and we had the park largely to ourselves. It was a gorgeous cycle, through a moon like vista with sand blowing across the road like snow and the waves crashing on the shore adjacent to us. Beautiful. Mind you, a pick up truck driver managed to make a gun out of his hand a pretended to shoot us as he passed. What is wrong with these people?

Just as we had relaxed we rejoined the main Destin road and said hello again to the traffic. The shoulder became piddly and it really was a very unpleasant afternoons cycle. No wonder so many cyclists here are killed each year. I’d  hate to do that cycle without a mirror to keep an eye on the gunmen driving pickups toward us.

Obviously we got through this part OK and arrived at our cousins for a week off. Well, we thought it was going to be a week off, feet up around the pool, waited on hand and foot by a pair of octanagarians, but they had a list of jobs for us as longs as your arm and we ended up putting Towel rails up, gardening, cleaning etc etc and thoroughly enjoyed it all!! Their house is gorgeous and an oasis of peace and tranquility away from all the noise of the road and we love being there.

Whilst we have loved loads of this trip the noise and waste have really bothered us. So, between jobs we had a planning meeting to decide our next move.  If you have any thought of the planet beating climate change forget it. The Americans can finish the job on their own. Everything is disposable from breakfast to dinner, there’s often no recycling even at houses and the general attitude to the waste is one of complete disinterest and of course everything you buy comes in so much packaging, nearly always plastic. Supermarkets pack about 3 items to every plastic bag, it’s just crazy. When we ask for a coffee in a proper cup or mug we get very odd looks and normally get told they can’t do that.

But worse for us is the noise.  Some of this is obviously our own fault, cycling we get 5 or 6 hours of serious road noise and you’re ready for your ears to have some time off, but it never stops,…. in restaurants Americans always seem to shout And even in your hotel room, the surrounding tv’s blare, air conditioning units are like a lawn mower, the unsilenced cars, heavy trucks and train horns outside are incessant. This must have been the same when we last cycled here, but it seems so much worse now. Its almost a macho thing to have a car that goes broom broom really loud, just like you wanted when you were 5… Idjits.

So our planning meeting, with input from our cousins who wanted us to stay the whole summer – presumably they wanted the house repainted – came to a decision….

3 Comments

  1. Great cliffhanger ending to this episode! And no surprise from us about the compliments from others on the cycle path as you both do make it look easy!

  2. Are you going to hire an RV with Tilly onboard?

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