Saturday, January 29, 2005

In the Sunshine State...

...but there ain't no sun!

Managed to miss the Greyhound in New Orleans (do I detect a common theme emerging?) so had to ride the dog to Mobile, Alabama, thereby missing out the brief stretch of Mississippi that's on the route. Met a cool guy on the bus - Art - who's yet another really intelligent interesting person. He's done a few degrees, fluent in Japanese and several European languages, owns 5 guns, 3 cars and 3 motorbikes. And he drives a truck because it pays so much better than any other job out there. Had a cool time chatting to him. I ended up committing myself to doing a parachute jump in 2005 when I get back to the UK...

It was dark by the time I got to Mobile, so got a motel across the road. It was grim as usual, but what made it bad wasn't the drawings on the sheets or the grotty decor, but the overly 'friendly' owner. He got very excited when I said I was from the UK - he'd lived in Luton years ago. So he shook my hand and gave me a big hug. When he hugged me for the second time I was rather uncomfortably aware of how tight he was pressing himself against me and squeezing my ass. My skintight lycra shorts must be irresistable! I kept the door well locked that night.

Treated myself to a hot Greek supper in a really bizarre bar - I was the youngest person there by about 60 years. All the old single people in the area seemed to hang out there flirting with each other.

The next day was pretty nice - slept late because I was knackered then headed through the moderately attractive city of Mobile - some nice streets of Greek revival houses (like New Orleans) lined with beautiful live oaks. Had a nice tail wind too as I rode the 20 or 30 miles down the east side of Mobile bay through a pretty wealthy area.

It got dark earlier than I was expecting - I'm getting quite close to the east end of the current time zone here. I stopped at a gas station to buy some food and see if there was anywhere nearby to camp. A woman in the queue behind me overheard and came up and asked if I wanted to stay at her condo! It was funny - she was really nervous that I would think she was wierd for offering! Of course I accepted - the thought of a comfortable warm bed and someone to speak to for an evening (and avoiding cycling on the pretty busy roads in the dark) was very appealing. Her condo is right on the border of Alabama and Florida, at a place called Perdido. It's one of the areas that got hit worst by Hurricane Ivan. She was down there to start fixing her place up. (by the way a condo's like an appartment in a high rise block, hers is really nice with a pool and security at reception, right on the beautiful sandy beach! I didn't actually know what a condo was when she said that's where she was staying.)

I'd read about the hurricane in the news, but really didn't appreciate how bad the destruction was, or how bad it could still be now four or five months later. We met up with her friend and neighbour and drove to get some supper at a bar. All the other condos and houses were deserted, no lights on, piles of trash at the roadside, destroyed trees. It was awful. I took loads of photos the next day when I rode through it in the light.

We had a great time at the bar, and Mary Ethel's friend insisted on stopping at a supermarket to buy me some fruit & chocolate for the next day's ride.

Sat up chatting to Mary Ethel for ages. Yet again, like so many people I've met, she's really inteligent and interesting. She feels really depressed that Bush got in again, we discussed politics and America for a long time.

And my bed was so comfortable and warm! She offered to have me stay for a few days, but I resisted the temptation - I'd like to ride to St Augustine, and it's just possible (despite me getting really confused about how much time I've got left - think my brain got fried in New Orleans).

Yesterday I left after a wonderful breakfast of fried eggs and rode in a strong headwind under grey skies through the destruction. It started raining after lunch continued all afternoon. I got drenched. My waterproofs are good, but my gloves and feet got soaked, which cools me down. One highlight of the day was stopping at a roadside stall selling bags of boiled peanuts. I'd never heard of them before, but they seem to be a local speciality. They're dead tasty.

The other highlight was stopping at a bike shop to shelter and meeting a really friendly guy there. His grandpa was scottish, and he plays the bagpipes. He spend 2 years in Glasgow aged 13 learning the pipes - he hated it! But he was really friendly and he gave me a soda and let me dry out and heat up, and we chatted for ages about scotland and politics. I asked him what the Confederate flag represents here; it's being flown a lot more here than I've seen so far on my trip. He says that people who fly it claim that it represents 'heritage not hate' - but that argument wouldn't hold if a german person was to fly a Nazi flag.

Cycled on through the rain and stopped for a really bad pizza in a gas station when it got too dark, then rode a couple of rather hairy miles in the darkness to a campsite. Thankfully the rain pretty muched stopped at sunset, and I was able to pitch my tent under a big gazebo thing, so I stayed dry, though there was no way to get my gloves, socks or shoes dry.

I was so tired - I was trying to write my journal but kept falling asleep!

Today's been ok - less wind, only light drizzle, except for one heavy shower which made me decide to come into a beautiful old (1880) library in the town I'm in - DeFuniak Springs. I'll head onwards now and try to cover another 30 miles or so to the next town which has the option of a motel (if I get soaked) or another campsite.

Looking forward to getting home right now, but if the weather improves in the next week then I'll be sad to leave! My mood is tied very closely to the weather.

Bye for now,


1 comment:

2long4u said...

Yea Tom, you HAVE to take a leap of faith! I can't wait to see the pics from your first sky dive!!!! Wish I could be there rather than simply see proof later. It was great meeting you! And I believe you were the more interesting person! Hope you are doing well. Keep in touch. Of course; I will always wonder what that lady on the bus was laughing about. --Art