|Well as you all may well know by now we have had a dramatic change of events. Saturday was such a good day I feel I owe it to myself and the memory of this trip to write in my journal and record all those great feelings as if nothing had happened yet. So here goes.
We got up VERY early this morning to try and get ahead of the traffic we dealt with yesterday! We were on the road literally at the crack of dawn and stopped for our favorite breakfast at McDonald's! Love my Egg McMuffin! There isn't much you can do to an egg to make it unhealthy!
It was only 7 miles until we got to the Cochran-Africatown Bridge that would take us over the Mobile Bay. Big bridges always have me concerned, especially when we have to deal with traffic. But once again, it posed no problem at all. There is always an emergency lane that gives us a wide berth of safety. Problem is all the junk that collects on the road like glass, cans, screws and what have you have no place to go and really clutter up the extra lane. But we made it safely, the sunrise reflected encouragingly off the water and the buildings. It was rather pretty for such an industrial area.
Once we got over the bridge, the best part of the day started as we followed the scenic route south along the Mobile Bay through the artsy, lavish tree lined streets of Daphne and Fairhope! It was just so very beautiful as we rode thru the quiet lanes, a true tunnel of old live oak trees, decorated with Spanish moss, elaborate gated driveways that protected the privacy of the residents but gave the rest of us something to "ooh and aah" at! How many times can you say "oh look at that one!!" In 15 miles?? Lot of times! Turning our heads to look left and right; it was a wonderful start to the day!
In fact is was just so wonderful, it brought on the need to stop and have a cup of coffee and a little mid morning treat! We were approaching Fairhope, Alabama and after listening to Mike describe what he remembered of this artsy town, it felt like we needed to experience it! I certainly was in love with the approach!
We were now within in sight of water and I could just feel the difference in myself! Having finally finished with the closed in, wooded highways of Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama it was time to be near open water and I could feel it all around us! As we ran along the bay on our bicycles and could see and smell the great open water all around it, my spirits just lifted! I felt so energized and enthusiastic! Even tho I don't necessarily like to be ON the water, I do love it close by! We were really enjoying the riding! When we got to Fairhope, it was just as welcoming and inviting as I hoped it would be! We were seeing people again out and doing things! Riding bicycles, running, walking and just being outside! Seems like a long time since we have noticed people other than ourselves outside enjoying the great outdoors! There was something very endearing about that! We felt our surroundings come to life! The perfect little Cafe sat on a corner as we passed thru town and it was too inviting to resist! Umbrellas and tables on the sidewalk to enjoy the morning shade and breeze, we stopped.
Then and there I felt it, "I got my Mojo back!" I felt the enthusiasm for the trip that had been missing for awhile! The menu at this little snack stop was just too much to resist! It all looked and sounded delicious! Of course we were chatting to our sweet waitress and she asked if it was our fist time here. Obviously . . .but she said oh that's wonderful! We like to give complimentary beignets to our first time guests! I was already feeling so overwhelmed with excitement, that those words nearly made me cry! I LOVE beignets! Great coffee, complimentary beignets, sitting in the breeze under the shade of an umbrella on the sidewalk in an adorable little southern town . . .I was one happy cyclists! The tempting menu, we shared an omelet while we relaxed to absorb the ambiance!! The water and bay were close by. It felt like it could be a very nice place to stay for the night but we had only gone a short distance and we really wanted to get to the real beach in Florida! Once every last crumb was gone, we made our way back onto the road and travelled on.
We made the decision, more or less, to push the 70+ miles to get to Gulf Breeze Florida and take a day off at the beach. We were still in Alabama, the roads were lovely and flat and we were making great time. As we rode along the roads continued to increase in traffic, and the shoulders continued to decrease in width! We started out with lovely wide clean shoulders but they progressively got more narrow, a rumble strip suddenly appeared and riding got increasingly more difficult as it was constant bumper to bumper traffic. At least we had the very pleasant morning.
We still have not crossed into Florida, but along the route we chose gas stations are very frequent and we were able to stay hydrated with frequents stops to fill up with cold water. Our goal was the beach, we were going to keep going! The excitement of finally reaching Florida was envigorating as we crossed yet another bridge crossing the water and the Florida State Line and then of course the sign!! We made it to Florida!!! We rode into Pensacola without a problem other than the traffic but we made it. To get to Gulf Breeze we had to ride over a 3 mile bridge, more like a causeway, but call it anything you want it was a confined 2 lanes that went on for 3 miles and as we approached, it was under construction!! Oooooh that was nasty! We had to ride between the moveble cement lane barriers on our right and the Saturday evening rush of cars on our immediate left as we approached the bridge! A new bridge is being constructed in the water to our right! There of course was an emergency lane for us to ride in, but it was so full of junk, the wind was blowing as you can imagine it would be over the open water! The traffic was intense, I had a white knuckle grip on my bicycle hoping a plastic bottle or that hunk of styrofoam did not blow in front of my wheel! At the end of a 77 mile day, this was a horrible way to end the day, but our destination was just over the bridge!
Quickly we learned of our first mistake. We did not call or book ahead for a room! We checked to see which hotels were in the area, but that is as far as we got, just didn't know if we would make it this far I guess. It was quite a shock to first of all see the price of the rooms and then to figure out there were only hotels of any reputable service and all the rooms were filled!!!! Oh dear! Pensacola Beach was another 5 miles and another bridge ahead and that just sounded like too much! I checked on my phone app Hotels.com and it let me book a room at the Quality Inn the hotel we were standing in front of! Highway robbery of a nightly price, but we jumped at it! When we checked in, they said they just had a cancellation that is why it was available. It was an unbelievable price but it was a room! The good news is if we had to pay the horrible price it was a suite with a bay view and a private deck!! Cool!
It did not take long to settle in, jump in the pool and relax from the day.
It was now after a long day that I spoke to my sister in regards to my mom and her declining health. I knew when we started the trip that there would always be the possibility mom's health would fail and this seemed to be what was happening. It is always so difficult to tell or how to respond. It seems crazy that there should be any question at all but there were so many unanswered questions and we needed to make a decision because the option to finish our Epic Bicycle Journey here in Pensacola presented itself as a possibility.
To make a long story short, we talked and talked and reasoned all night long. By the next day we had come to the decision that we had in fact reached an ocean, well the Gulf at least, not the ocean we had planned on dipping our toes in, but there was some satisfaction in reaching another large body of water. We would end our trip here and go back for my mom.
Feeling like we needed to have some sort of celebration at the end of our journey, we decided we would spend an extra day at the beach. Because we are only at Gulf Breeze, the white sand beach we are looking for is not here but across another bridge at Pensacola Beach. So we made a reservation at a more beachy hotel for tomorrow.
Thanks everyone for all of your support and understanding! When it comes to family, there is nothing more important. I am sure you will all understand our decision and know it was very difficult for us.