Thanks to all donors so far, and for those who haven’t please consider. All funds go to the 4 nonprofits. www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work
MOBILE: The friendly folks at the Trek Store tuned up my bike and gave me a safe route to downtown Mobile. Once there, I met a woman named Mareike who bike tours with her husband. She told me that in Germany bicycles are designed with many safety features like built-in lights powered by the wheel movement. She graciously let me use the rest room in her office building. The next thing I know I’m in an industrial area for several hours – broken up concrete, trains on both sides of me, streets with no names. Hard-hatted men helped me navigate through the meandering gravel and bumpy roads til I finally made it north about 9 miles to go over the only bridge in Mobile bicycles are allowed on (on the map above of my route you’ll see that lollipop shape on the top – took me 20 miles out of my way).
East of Mobile, traveling across the Mobile Bay Area was beautiful, miles and miles of roadway with a good bike lane and water on both sides. Check out the USS Battleship Alabama. I would have stopped at that park but I was already 2 hours behind schedule and the day was hot and sticky. I made it safely to FAIRHOPE, AL with a travel tip from the clerk at the hotel (whom I called since I was running late).
The next day, south of FAIRHOPE, I stopped at a gas station for a break and had a discussion with a delivery guy who asked why I was cycling. I told him about New Beginnings Work. His skepticism turned to support when he realized all the benefits of programs that help those released from prisons and jails and benefit society as a whole.
Route 59 in GULF SHORES, AL is not good for cyclists. I took a convoluted safer way as I left the motel to get to the shore road, dozens of miles of a road with bike lanes, the ocean to my right.
At the ALABAMA-FLORIDA state line, I bumped into the Mullet Fest – people (yes, some with mullets) throw the mullet (fish) across the state line – attended by thousands and lasting for days. Yes, indeedy. No more to say about that.
PENSACOLA. Thanks, Diane and Earl for opening up your home to me for a few days and showing me a bit of the town as well. Diane joined me for 4 days of cycling and it’s been nice to have the company and the laughs. In addition, WEAR TV in Pensacola interviewed us and representatives of REAP (Re-Entry Alliance of Pensacola). Here is the clip they aired.
Kevin and Vinnie of REAP have many positive stories of those helped with re-entry from prisons and jails – people leading productive lives, helping others, running their own businesses. Inspiration!
The ride to DESTIN was mostly beautiful, with bike lanes, some jittery sidewalks, and an enjoyable ice cream break plus a walk over the Okaloosa Bridge (the water really is that blue). Packing up and leaving the room in the morning, I was so obsessed about a lost bike strap, that in the process of looking for it I covered up and then left behind my snack bags and wet-wipes. Diane and I have that in common – we lose things in plain sight and spend way too much time looking for them (won’t give details about sun screen and single sock)! Of course, the bike strap showed up in Diane’s bag when we unpacked the next night.
The next day, though, to PANAMA CITY was way too “traffic-y” and stressful, especially knowing a long bridge lay in wait. Sure enough, crossing the Hathaway Bridge was not fun- the photo shows its age. (Come on, America, let’s fix these old bridges please!). Diane and I zigged and zagged through Panama City to get to the hotel since there are no bike lanes in town and the rush of cars continued, forcing us (when we could find them) on to rickety sidewalks again. The Comfort Inn was like an oasis – we devoured the entire container of iced lemon water in the lobby and laughed somewhat hysterically throughout the evening about the harrowing events of that day.
Riding to MARIANNA was much more peaceful, and included views of magnolia trees, scenic pastures, and free ice at a guns and ammo gas station. Yes, there are gas stations that are arsenals of weapons, something I’d not seen before, with people who wished us safe travels. I rode in a rain storm for the first time, though we took shelter for a few minutes when it was heavy. And I survived.
But, creatures decided to attack. Not really. In one quiet stretch of wooded roadways, Diane was way ahead of me. I heard the sound of some kind of animal running in the woods keeping up with me. Of course I thought “mountain lion” even though we were miles away from their habitat. (The hotel clerk that evening said it was probably a fox.). Next, at a bend in the road, dogs on both sides of the road were barking. On our side, a pit bull barked and jumped up but I thought no big deal since the yard was fenced. No it wasn’t. He pops out at the end as Diane’s bike passes. A burst of adrenalin hits me and I zoom ahead of her muttering “I don’t mean to be rude, Diane, but I’m going ahead of you,” leaving her to fend for herself. Rude? How about cowardly? She’s faster than me so I knew she’d be fine and the dog didn’t follow. I couldn’t stop laughing at myself for miles.
Yesterday’s ride to QUINCY/TALLAHASSEE area was beautiful on old route 90. It was peaceful with moderate hills and generally good bike lanes (with surprisingly little broken glass, usually the norm on many bike lanes). Then we got to “the bridge” – the Chattahoochee Bridge – where you are basically going down into a gorge and then back up, and I can tell you the up was impossible for me. I had to walk my bike up around 10-15 minutes. We learned at the bait and tackle gas station (yes, they all have themes it seems) that others have been conquered by that incline as well. After a nice break, we headed out of Chattahoochee with the sound of thunder behind us. Needless to say, we wanted to beat the storm (particularly the lightning) and except for a few sprinkles, we did.
We arrived at Quincy, outside of Tallahassee, where Diane left her car so she can return home. However, the road to the house where her bike was required going up a gargantuan hill – one that I wasn’t going to attempt and even Diane decided to walk it rather than bike it. This final image of the road that Diane trudged up while I waited by the bikes shows her as a little red dot (her cycling clothing). I watched that dot slowly make its way to the top of that roller coaster hill with fingers crossed that she wouldn’t tip backwards and roll down. Seriously, it looked like it was an 80 degree incline. Whatever it was, she got the car, we made it to Tallahassee with the bikes in the back, and had pizza. Phew. 200 miles in 4 days with her — 520 for me since Lubbock (think I’m approaching 900 soon).
Special thanks to Diane’s co-worker Katie who showed up at the first 3 hotels and left us home-made manicotti, salads, desserts, water and snack foods. You’re the best, Katie!