Last night we decided to try for a 5:30 AM departure. We would have made it except that Ray's front tire was flat. This one beat even my in-front-of-the-hotel flat in Natchez! We fixed it without incident and were rolling at exactly 6, which was still better than we had been doing. We were checking into our hotel in Ocean Springs at 11:30.
In the opening scene of 'Gladiator' Russell Crowe tells his legions not to be troubled if they suddenly find themselves transported from the battlefield to a wondrous place of peace -- '...for you are in Elysium.'
When we made the turn from highway 26 to highway 15 this morning, I thought for a moment that a logging truck must have surely dispached all three of us to Bicycle Elysium. One moment we were gripping our handlebars as the tractor-trailers, logging trucks, and pickups blew past us; the next moment we were rolling fast and silently over silky smooth new asphault, pushed by a gentle tailwind, under a canopy of oaks, through a national forest with no other vehicle anywhere around! The previous 32 miles were immediately forgotten. These idyllic conditions remained for the next 25 miles or so. This stretch of road was unanimously declared to be the best we have yet experienced.
We covered today's 68 miles in under four and a half hours, giving us an average pace of better than 15 mph (significantly faster than any previous day) with a lower than average effort.
After we checked into our hotel, Fred called --- who came over and gave us a tour of the area, including some remaining evidence of Hurricane Katrina from three years earlier. We all enjoyed a buffet at one of the local casino's. It was ample, tasty, and quite a bargain.