Wednesday, June 4, 2008

June 4, 2008: Duaphin Island, AL to Pensacola, FL - Ferry well done

This morning we slept in (6:30) so that we could enjoy the Cajun breakfast plus pancakes promised by the proprietor of our b&b yesterday. It ended up being a regular breakfast of eggs, grits, bacon, sausage, biscuits and so forth, but it was still a cut above what we had been getting in our hotels. 

Oil rigs in the Bay

Live Croakers???

Fort Gaines, back view

Our ferry was scheduled to depart at 9:30, so we were there well in advance. Nonetheless, 9:30 came and went with no sign of the ferry. We soon learned that it was out of action with a steering problem. The word was that it would be there ASAP if they could fix it, otherwise ferry number two would go at 11:00, as scheduled. We decided to go up the road to have a look at Fort Gaines, a Confederate installation at the tip of the island. We looked around the exterior but decided to pass on a closer inspection. That was a good call because at around 10 the ferry appeared in the bay headed for the dock. Happily, we made it to the other side of the bay without further delay.

On the ferry.

Another of Fred's fashion statements. Note the removable sunscreen mustache.

The problem, however, was that we were now just starting a 50 mile ride under an intense sun with neither clouds nor shade to be seen anywhere. Our pattern was to be close to finished by this time, not just starting out. By the end of the ride I was 'well done'. The usual amount of sunscreen just could not hold up to today's radiation. 

At about the halfway point the pointed the way, but it was a way contrary to the directions given by Paul Walker (Fred's friend, my statistics instructor from 37 years ago, and the brother of our host, Sonny, in Pensacola). Fred insisted we follow Paul's directions instead of the GPS. We were headed in the right direction but the gps was very unhappy about the route and kept suggesting turns or u-turns. That usually stops after a little while when you take a legitimate alternative, so I became increasingly suspicious. We eventually stopped for a little break and I asked a local for some guidance. He told me that our current road dead-ends in a few miles and would definitely not get us to our destination. 

Fred had already taken off down the road, but we knew he'd be back, so Ray and I broke out the map. We quickly determined that the GPS's last ignored instruction was the way to go. Fred finally showed up, and the remainder of the ride went smoothly, guided by the GPS. 

Once at Sonny's place in Pensacola we were able to check to see what went wrong with Paul Walker's directions. He was using MapQuest and unless you zoom in past a certain point, it looks like Route 180 turns north and intersects 98, when in fact it just continues straight as a two lane road and dead-ends. We therefore officially hold Paul blameless for the faulty directions into Pensacola.

Approximately one foot inside the Florida border Fred managed to get into an argument with a guy passing us on the bridge. The passing motorist was unhappy about Fred riding on the left edge of the shoulder. (I am unhappy about the same thing, but have learned to live with it.) 

Maybe 15 minutes later we were stopped at a convenience store when a young woman, chatting with a friend in a running car parked in front of the store, opened her window and dropped her cigarette butt on the ground. Fred turned to Ray and said, "Watch this." He then dramatically walked over, picked up her discarded cigarette, put it out, and dropped it into the trash can. He then walked around to the back of her car and pretended to note her tag number while placing a phone call (actually to his brother, but it looked like he was reporting her to some authority). The end result was a protracted name-calling fest, that rapidly involved Ray as well, whom she instructed to perform a sex act involving extreme flexibility. In return, Ray wished her "a good, short life," having little patience for smokers. He and Fred then mounted up and started down the road while I finished the last swig of my Powerade and donned my helmet. Before I could escape, however, the offended smoker returned and started in on ME! Apparently I deserved it for being "dressed like them." Up to this point I had been an innocent bystander. I refused to reciprocate, dusted off some old crisis intervention skills, and tried to calm her down. She was still upset, though, because she was convinced that Fred had reported her to the police for littering. I assured her that this was not the case, but I don't think she believed me. It's great to be back in Florida! Bring on the yahoos, and let the beer bottles fly! 

Fred had prepared us for a 'rustic' concrete block shelter. Instead, Sonny has a very nicely decorated three bedroom house and gave us a very warm welcome. Paul showed up a little later with Uncle Buck, an 87 year old WWII ace who just lost his wife of 66 years.
We all went to dinner at a local place where Sonny is a favored regular, so we got great service. 

Not counting a couple of miles before the ferry ride, we rode 51 miles in 3 hours, 13 minutes, at a pace of 15.9 mph. Not bad considering the wind and tall bridges we had to climb.

We are looking forward to our first real day of relaxation tomorrow. I plan to do laundry and to try to find a bike shop to get a jockey pulley to have in reserve. (When cleaning the bike after our rainy day last week, I noticed a missing tooth on one of mine. For now it is still working fine, but bike shops are rare on this route so I want to be prepared.)

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