I can now truly appreciate why Arlen does not post to his blog as frequently as his readers would like him to; when you physically exert yourself all day, have limited electrical outlets for recharging the phone, etc., lots of things get in the way, and sleep seems far more compelling. In fact, halfway through writing this post, I had to stop to recharge my phone.
I have a lot to do to catch my readers up with my progress. This will probably be more pictures than words...
After our orientation meeting on April 13, the group went out to dinner.
The next morning, it took awhile to get organized. People hung out in the inn's courtyard.
Here's the group van and trailer.
People go in the van when necessary (though it is not a sag wagon--meaning we are expected to ride all the miles), when bicycles need transport they go on the roof of the van (as already occurred on our first cycling day when someone's rear derailleur fell apart), and personal and group gear goes in the trailer. The trailer is small, but these leaders know how to load it! Check it out; this is after the personal gear is loaded but before the group gear is loaded.
These cyclists are ready to hit the road.
The group cycled to the official start of the route--at the site of the last slave market held in Mobile in 1859.
On the way out of Mobile, we passed the cemetery for Africatown.
We rode steep up and over a bridge that crossed an inlet to Mobile Bay on the Gulf of Mexico.
At this point, the threatening weather started to move in. On the other side of the bridge, we stopped to see the USS Alabama.
This is also where we did the ceremonial dipping of the tires in the Gulf. I cheated a bit; I wet my hand and patted my bike instead.
As we left this spot, the rain started. It rained for most of the rest of the ride (20 miles total, 713 feet ascended) but the thunder showers held off until we had tents set up at Blakeley State Park.
This first night camping was very dramatic. Torrential rain, thunder and lightning, and high winds. By morning, my tent was an island in a new sea. (A couple of us talked about how scary it would have been for a runaway slave to have been outdoors during a night like that.)
Surprisingly, my gear and I were dry inside, but I got very wet getting myself and my gear out of the tent. Four inches of standing water at the door!
The next day was a long day--64 miles with 3,000 feet of climbing. The morning had the steepest, most continuous climbs, it just poured, and the wind (a headwind, of course) gusted as high as 35 mph. I made the mistake of not eating enough for breakfast and not stopping enough to eat and drink during the morning part of the ride. After that, I felt I just couldn't catch up on energy. Consequently, I took a lot of breaks during the afternoon. Thankfully, the day got sunny, and the ride became less steep. It took me 8 hours from the time I left camp in the morning to get to the next camp! Yes, I was the last one to arrive. Found out, though, that one of our fellow riders left the tour before riding at all that day. (Down to 12 at the moment.)
Beautiful campground (Little River State Forest in Uriah)! Dropped below freezing at night, which caught some people by surprise. Seemed okay to me; I was toasty warm (which might mean I will be uncomfortably warm during the hot nights to come).
Today's ride, April 16, was shorter. 49 miles, with 2,063 feet of climbing. I started the day with twice as much breakfast and took frequent breaks to eat and drink, so the energy thing went better. The whole day was sunny, got up into the 60s; perfect cycling weather! I was not the last to pull into City Pavillion in Grove Hill (I spent 5.5 hours point to point), and I did not have two flats, leave my phone behind at a rest stop, or miss a turn and go miles out of the way (all of which happened to others).
Random notes and thoughts after these few days:
• Road kill is different here. I've pedaled past lots of dead possums and three armadillos. Sorry; no picture.
• One of the leaders told me that Alabama ranks second for its botanical diversity. I am enjoying all the different trees and, especially, the fragrant flowers we cycle past.
• The roads here, at least the ones we're cycling on, are a lot better than Maine roads. I guess it helps to have a milder winter.
• We have cycled past some interesting homesteads and magnolia trees. I hope you can display these next two photos very large for the full effect.
• So far, my photos of farms have been unimpressive, even though the farms are quite impressive. Cows and horses everywhere. Fields upon fields. Goats even. (Sorry, Janet, no photo.) Here is one cotton field with some cotton bolls still hanging on.
• There is a lot of orange dirt here! I never see dirt this color in Maine.
• There were loads of logging trucks passing us these last two days. Some drive excessively fast and don't yield an inch of road to a cyclist. I've shrieked a few times. Seeing a couple of logs by the roadside that had come off trucks also gave me pause.
• We have met some incredibly warm, friendly, and generous people! We draw attention, and a lot of people approach us to chat, find out what we're doing, and offer advice. We have also been warned that we're traveling through an area where we will encounter people who are distrustful of people without southern accents, but I've had no such encounters yet.
Over and out for now. To sleep!