Today being a travel day, I woke up early – unintentionally - but since I was up, I figured I might just as well do what I need to do to get going. So after taking care of necessities, the trailer was hooked up and ready to roll by 7:30 a.m. After a stop at the dump station – for you non-trailer folks, that’s for the trailer, not for me (sorry, that might be a bit gross for some of you). Anyway, I was on the road at 7:45 a.m.
After having 2 pretty good weather days on the beach, today’s report was not so hot. Possible thunderstorms and rain. So I figured it was a good day to travel anyway.
My original destination for today was an Elks Lodge south of Mobile called Gulf Coast, according to the Elks camping booklet, which, as the name implies, is on the coast. But since I left so early, and the weather was not looking good for later in the day, I opted to keep going to my next destination – Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It really wasn’t all that much further anyway. Of course, by this time, the predicted thunderstorms and rain were in full force.
One of the predictions was for an inch of rain this afternoon. I think I got about ¾ of that while pulling into the Elks Lodge and parking the trailer! Of course, I had no idea where to go – I even had to backtrack on the road once to take another look at the sign which I couldn’t see the first time through because of the rain. So after finally reaching the Elks Lodge, I saw some people going into a shelter. I went back into the trailer, donned my raingear – it was raining REALLY hard at this time - and asked someone where to go. Got directions from the ER, and was on my way.
Oh yeah, on the way into the lodge, there was an overflow for the lake that loomed in front of me, right in the road. I wasn’t really sure if it was supposed to be draining, but then again, the area had just received a huge amount of rain. I also didn’t know whether this was normal, or how deep it was, but it WAS on the road into the lodge – actually it WAS the road. So, figuring there was no other way in, and I could see other cars near the lodge, I forged ahead, although a bit nervously. Fortunately, the road bed held and the water was only a few inches deep, but it sort of gave a glimmer of an idea of what the pioneers went through crossing creeks and rivers in their covered wagons. After all, I just had a little different horse power, and a different style wagon. Okay, maybe not, but it sounded good.
Okay, back to the other adventures of the day, or shall we say “misadventures”, most of which happened while going through Pensacola, or suburbs thereof.
Now, all of you have to realize that I’m a map guy. I don’t own a GPS – yet. So, my only source of direction is the piece of paper I have at my side.
First of all, you have to remember that my route back west was taking me off of freeways, and onto secondary roads, whenever practical, so I was sort of forcing myself onto this little adventure. Have to see rural America the way it really is, right?? Well I got my adventure today.
Okay, so today, I was following Hwy 98 pretty much all the way from Panama City, Florida to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. If the weather was going to get ugly, my alternate route would have been to head up to I10 before reaching Pensacola, and taking I10 through Mobile, Alabama, where 98 takes off again. The weather cooperated – thus far – so I stayed on 98.
Well, somebody forgot to tell someone to put up directional signs in Pensacola! For a seemingly major highway going through the middle of town, you’d think that signage would be important. Not so. They have these 1 foot by 1 foot black and white signs on the road about 10 feet before you have to turn, and with all the other signs on the roads, as well as not knowing where these little guys are going to show up, it becomes a bit of a challenge. And don’t forget, I’m supposed to be watching traffic and signal lights too.
So at one point, I was moving along pretty well, and I happened to look down the side street I was passing, and lo and behold, there’s a sign down there that has 98 on it – the way I’m supposed to be going! So, I found a place to turn around, and of course by this time, my bladder had ideas of its’ own, so I took advantage of my situation, and took a potty break.
Now, the other bit of information here, is that I’m not exactly in the high rent district of town either. Not even close. So, upon leaving the safety of my pickup, and after locking the door, I went inside the trailer to take care of business. While I was in there, what was concerning to me was whether there would be anything left inside the bed of my truck when I came out! Fortunately, all items were present, and I got the H____ out of there.
Okay, having gotten through most of Pensacola, I wasn’t quite finished with my adventures. Continuing on, I was passing over a bridge that crossed a waterway. All was well until I got to the other side and there were no signs pointing me to Hwy 98. In fact, they all had something to do with the Pensacola Naval Air Station! One said something to the affect of “you’d better not come in here unless you’re authorized”. I figured I’d take the one that said “All Visitors Here”. So after saying something touristy to the young female officer at the gate – like “I thought I was on Hwy 98. Must have missed something back there” – and after she checked my driver’s license to make sure I wasn’t a misplaced mental patient (of course, after she saw I was from Oregon, that explained it all), and gave me ‘the look’, she directed me in a no nonsense manner to a place to turn around a couple hundred yards inside the gate, and I exited the base and went back across the bridge. Thus ended my really quick stint in Pensacola. And yes, I found my way back to 98.
I know there was at least one other lost intersection that caused me to have to turn around, but I’ll spare you on this one.
Unfortunately, the same guy who took care of signs for Pensacola, must have done them for Mobile also. I was doing pretty well, until I took the truck route instead of going through the middle of town. I really try to avoid the middle of towns with the trailer. So, you’d think the truck route would just go around and catch up with the primary 98 right? Well, to a trucker I suppose it does. But I wasn’t a trucker and at one point there was a sign in the middle of a Y that could have given me a hint, except that it did not say which road to take!!! No arrows, no west, no north, no truck route, not even the road I was looking for. So how the heck are you supposed to know whether to take the road to the left, or the road to the right. Well, I picked one and ended up taking a little spin through Little Harlem of Mobile, Alabama. At each stop light, I was hoping I would be leaving with all my tires!! Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it was one of those places where I would rather have kept moving. So, this is where I opted to kiss hwy 98 goodbye for a few miles, and took another freeway to get me out of there. After only a couple miles, I was able to take another connector road back to 98 and go merrily along.
Other than the above adventures, the drive through this part of the country reminded me again of Oregon. Mixed forests of conifers and deciduous trees. Different species, of course, but the overall look was similar.
Oh yeah, and before I forget, the Hattiesburg Elks have a very nice location, even if you do have to cross a waterfall before getting there! The lodge overlooks a lake, and they have a 60 site campground next to the lake.
Earlier, when I was getting directions, the ER invited me to the lodge that night, so after dinner, I went over for a visit. Almost looked like home, with the ER acting as the bartender, and one other person. At least I got the complimentary first beer before turning in.
And I gotta say, these folks around here sure do have a funny way of talking!
Travel Time: 7:45 am – 2:30 pm; 6 ¾ hours
Distance: 286 miles