April 23 - May 3: Florida

4/23 - Pensacola (69 miles 2440 total)
69 miles from the dauphin island beach club condos, AL, to the ramada inn in pensacola, FL
we didn't have breakfast this morning 'til 7, since the ferry that would take us off the western end of the island didn't leave 'til 8, & it was only about 2.5 miles from the condos to the ferry landing. so our morning was relatively leisurely.
we rode along the bike path from our condos all the way to the ferry landing. it was nice to see so many school children riding their bikes on the path to get to school. & we were pleased to note that the children were wearing helmets; none of the grownups we saw biking yesterday were helmeted.
once the few cars lined up for the ferry drove onto it, they let us bikers walk our bikes on. it was a beautiful day & a lovely boat trip across mobile bay....very smooth, except for a few dips when we hit higher waves; one wave even came splashing over the front of the ferry, dampening a biker or 2 standing in that spot.
here's a photo of a few bikers with our lineup of bikes along the rim of the ferry before the boat left the dock on dauphin island. in the group looking this way, from left, are roma, mary (from boston), sari, bryn, kathy grubb, & frances.
later, when we were on the high seas, i took this photo of, from left, CJ, marilyn dehaan, & anne. the many fans rooting for anne to make the whole trip on this, her 3rd try in 3 years, will be pleased to see that she's still biking....& today made it into florida. she's never gotten as far as florida on any previous attempt.
yesterday i mentioned that when we looked out into the gulf from our condos, we could see many oil rigs out on the horizon. today, while crossing mobile bay, we saw some oil rigs up close, like this one that sandy (on the right) is looking at in this photo.
a little later, sandy held up a piece of her peanut-butter sandwich, & one of the terns that was flying overhead came down & carefully plucked it from her fingers. (it was the same type of bird that i photographed last night on the beach at dauphin island.)
we got off the boat around 8:45 & started riding eastward. for about 25 miles we saw houses like the ones in this photo along the shore off to our right. notice they're on stilts. between us & the houses was a sandy, scrub, dune-like area. people seem to like those bright house colors around here; how 'bout that purple one??
once we got to the town of gulf shores, things changed dramatically. gone were the stretches of tree-lined roads that were a part of the morning. we rode along state rd 182, which hugged the shoreline. that is, we could see the shoreline if we looked hard beyond the multitudes of high-rise condos that lined the shore.
in the vicinity of gulf shores state park, we pedaled past sand dunes along the shore. beyond the dunes very near the water were quite a few motel-type units that are operated by the state park system. i'd think this would be a much quieter place to stay than in a high-rise on the busy streets of gulf shores.
at about 35 miles we came to the state of florida welcome sign. it seemed fitting that it was almost lost in a construction zone. just behind it was yet another high-rise being built. in this 'welcome-to-florida' photo are, from left, roma, bev, sari, & marilyn boger.
while stopped here to take photos, a runner came by & offered to use everyone's camera to take photos of the whole group. after doing that, he mentioned that he takes spinning classes, but hasn't yet ventured out on the road on a bike.
as we were about to leave, he pointed to a spot down toward the shore named flora-bama; it sits astride the boundary between florida & alabama. the runner said he'd eaten there on easter, & that the place serves a type of shrimp that's very hard to find....& is especially tasty. since it was very near noon & we were very hungry, sari & i immediately decided this would be a perfect place to stop. even tho' we had packed sandwiches in our bags, the lure of fresh shrimp & oysters was just too hard to resist.
roma, marilyn, & bev decided to keep biking, but sari & i--seldom able to turn our backs on a likely adventure--walked back amongst some rather rickety-looking, smallish wood buildings 'til we got to a 2-story, rambling, weather-beaten building with a large deck on the 2nd level. all around us were workmen setting up tables. nearby was a lineup of porta-potties. a woman came by & surely noticed our puzzled looks, so she stopped to explain that this coming weekend is the mullet toss weekend. (they toss fish from one state to another, which, at this locale, means only a few feet.) she said the event has been covered by CNN in the past, & they're expecting a reporter from the wall street journal this year.
the lady then pointed out where we should go into the lower level oyster bar to order our food, then would probably enjoy taking the food upstairs to eat on the deck overlooking the beach. wow it was busy in the oyster bar, & the food coming out of the kitchen was fantastic-looking. sari & i went to the 'order' window & asked the cook what specialties we should try. he suggested cajun-steamed oysters (topped with parmesan) & the royal red shrimp (the big ones the runner had told us about). we got an order of each to share. while waiting for our food, we read posters advertising the upcoming weekend----"the 19th annual mullet toss & gulf coast's greatest beach party." the list of "possible, probable events" included the usual wet t-shirt contest, & also a frozen t-shirt contest (???), plus a "show your heine-y contest" sponsored by heineken.
i heard the cook hammering at something, & looked back in the galley to see him prying open some large oysters. it wasn't long before our food was ready, so we carried it upstairs to the deck. a nice woman offered to take our photo as we savored our delicacies. on the beach there in the background, a group was gathering around some jet-skis. & we saw some para-sailers quite a ways out over the waves.
the food was spectacular. i've never tasted such fresh oysters. & the shrimp more than lived up to the runner's ravings. an article that was posted in the place called flora-bama the "only 5-star honky-tonk on the gulf coast." if you're ever in the area, don't miss it.
it was getting near 2 when we finally left the pub & started pedaling eastward. we passed along the interesting sand dunes of perdido key state park. by about mile 50, we started getting into the outskirts of pensacola, which meant traffic & more traffic. some of the roads along which we were routed were quite scenic, especially "scenic highway" US 90 the last 5 miles along the shore to our motel, the ramada inn.
the evening was very short, because our table in the motel's dining room had very poor service; it took us almost 3 hours to get our meal. but the good news is that we bike only 53 miles tomorrow---to crestview. hopefully more delicious seafood awaits us en route.
If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, feel free to e-mail me with your request, and I'll save your note and get back to you after the ride. Stay tuned....

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