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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, March 2, 2012

From Florida to Mississippi

Having spent Wednesday night at Port St Joe, right on the Gulf Coast we were very much looking forward to a scenic drive along the beautiful white sand beaches to Panama City and then a swing inland to run parallel with I 10 into Alabama. Unfortunately, the fog was thick and dangerous and within a few miles we realized we'd see nothing and when crossing the causeways along the coast it would be suicidal to continue. Thus we turned inland sooner than planned.

We passed through more tree plantations that had been control  burned and pastures of cattle. In several locations we passed work crews from the local correctional institutions doing mowing alongside the road. Love the DOC letters on their backs.  In Freeport we came upon a very small local cafe. We and another couple were to only none residents--they were from Montana and stood out very noticeably as tourists with the fancy studded bag and his well pressed shorts and matching polo shirt and dockers.  We looked Northern pale but still were dressed like the other patrons. I had a large pancake that was very YELLOW and two sausage patties with syrup whose ingredients I chose not to read and dishwater coffee. Oh, well, you win some, you lose some. The price was right, anyway. Continued along until the road turned once more toward the Gulf and into Niceville. Interesting, that is the fictional name chosen by the fictional author in The Help.

Not having any new scenery to enjoy I started noticing billboards: Life is Short, Have Seconds at Louis' Pizza! And some others which I've forgotten!The walkway outside a high school wishing Katelyn and Jalen happy 16th birthday. Then we got onto I 10 toward Pensacola. It is very similar in this area to the Taconic Parkway in NYS.

Pensacola is the home of the Navy Blue Angels. I'd love to see them or The Thunderbirds sometime. They are so beautiful and the pilots such pros. This plane was in one of the rest areas. I was playing with the new camera--still not terribly happy with it--but I'm learning gradually. As we continued West the sky became more cloudy and thunderheads were forming--we were running just south of all that storm activity in Alabama etc. and the northern sky showed it.

Once we got through the Pensacola and Naval Air Stations area we were home free into Alabama!  At last, out of Florida. It seemed as though we would NEVER make any headway westward. It was like last Fall in North Dakota--thought we'd never move on. But at long last --The Alabama welcome sign and center. I have no idea how I managed to either lose or leave behind the maps for Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. I know I got them out of the box of maps but they either fell out in some motel or I left that packet at home though I cannot imagine where. Oh, well, we picked up a new Alabama map and, when I admired a really clever poster showing caricatures of famous people and places in Alabama, the young girl asked if I'd like one. It was free so why not? I was amazed at home many of the places on the poster we've been to. Guess we've spent some time in the place where Stars Fell!

As we returned to the car, a young man on a motorcycle cruised over. With a big grin, he said--see you guys got lost, too!  He was from Montreal. We told him about living in Highgate and St Albans and how Montreal was a frequent haunt in those days--at least for me, if not Bill! Sitting and plotting our path we noticed the Mobile Bay ferry. So we went back in to see if it is operating, since it is a long way south with no other path to the other side. The girl gave us all the info and our path was chosen. Called and made a reservation in Foley,Al and we were on our way. Exit 44 to 59 South to the Quality Inn.

Tammy, the manager, was just so welcoming. She has an artificial tree in the lobby that she decorates throughout the year---she already has it festooned with Easter decorations and the windows and doors have Easter decals and a big welcome Spring sign on the entrance. Just so jovial. And she said, you guys need a jacuzzi and upgraded us to a king room with one.

Got into the perfect room and as we unpacked our little cloth cooler it was soaking wet on the outside--but not on the inside. OMG, it is so humid, the darned thing had condensation on the outside--it was sweating! My hair which is straight as a pin is FRIZZING!!

Applebees was right next door so we went over for a quick meal and then returned to the room where I simply dropped into the jacuzzi for about an hour. Nothing worth anything on TV so to bed at 9, which was really 10 since we have crossed into Central Time.

This morning we went to breakfast before packing to leave but then on the road to the Gulf Shores and headed toward the ferry at Fort Morgan. Several little clusters of pastel houses high on stilts along the way. The color of the houses make me happy--they look like spring flowers--and like Hawaiian shirts would look out of place anywhere else but on the shores of a body of water in the hot South with blazing sun and balmy breezes. Fort Morgan which was also a Civil War defense installation at the mouth of Mobile Bay is sort of in complete decay. A path allows exploration but it didn't look very inviting. Instead we proceeded to the ferry landing.

Every piling had a pelican on it. Fun to watch the shuffling of positions--everytime one of them dove into the water another would take its piling place. More birds than places so it was constant musical chairs. Soon a flotilla of some sort of duck arrived--smoothly gliding along--and then as one, diving together. Avian synchronized swimming. We had an hour wait for the ferry but the day was so perfect and the birds so amusing the time went by quite quickly. We also were chatted up by a local Alabamian who had lived for about 30 years in Arizona but came back home. Talked about the service boat approaching the rig--bringing supplies and maybe shuttling shifting crews.

Bill noticed small rocks in the crotch of the tree we were sitting under. It appears that they were deposited there by surf surge. Kind of sobering to see how high and rough the water can be. Apparently the last hurricane to hit this particular site was Ivan--about ten years ago.

A shrimp boat came slowly by with a flock of pelicans close behind. And then came the 1145 ferry to take us to Dauphin Island. The Captain himself directs us aboard. Then one of the crew comes along to collect the toll, tell us that we may roam the deck at will, where the head is located and that the crossing takes about 35 minutes and cheerfully wishes us a good and enjoyable voyage. So Southern gracious and quite cute too. LOL

The pelicans abandoned all but one piling--and that one was quite crowded. Others, who couldn't get on, were swimming around the boat patiently waiting its departure. As we pulled out I watched them resume their fishing posts until the next ferry incursion. Bill pointed out the fact that the ferry had kissed the nearest piling at least a few times. LOL

I love being on the water ---especially when the swells are gentle and the chop not too heavy. I could have wished for less haze but the sun glinting off the water and the gentle roll of the boat were so relaxing. The entry to the Dauphin Island landing was lined with Coast Guard cutters, small cruise boats and the Port Master's boat.

After landing we turned toward Fort Gaines, the other defense site for entry to the bay and route to Mobile. It is here that Admiral Farragut uttered his famous--Damned the torpedoes ( mines ) Full Speed Ahead. Look at all those gun ports on this fort--Farragut's gun boats took out all but one of them. He had landed a large force behind the fort before  his attack from the water. Needless to say, Gaines, the commander after whom the fort has since been named, graciously accepted Farragut's invitation, under a flag of truce, to join him aboard his ship for a glass of wine and to tender the fort's surrender. The Union had control of Mobile Bay!

After a quick stop in the gift shop we headed off the Island and across Heron Bay, looking out at the large ships moving toward Mobile.  Picked up Rt188 west and pretty quickly came upon Mary's Place. Established in 1922 by a black lady named Mary, who lived to 102, it is now operated by a white couple who identify themselves on the back of their menu. I had a half muffaletta to die for and two huge glasses of some of the best sweet tea I've ever had. Bill had a small oyster po'boy which he said was also delicious. As we left our waitress said God Bless You and have a safe trip. We are once more in strong Baptist land.

These little towns are so funny--never had the coach out in the road stopping traffic to let students and faculty out of the schoolyard--and let me tell you--he had the hand moves down and no one was moving until all the school vehicles were out. In time, we reached 90 west and followed it straight to our motel in Biloxi. Unfortunately, I did not buy another battery for this camera--they are really expensive--but I should have. The entry bridge and causeway into Biloxi is really spectacular and the strip of casinos and mansions is beautiful.  My battery was depleted however and no matter how I tried to trick it--there was no juice available. Don't think we'll ever take that way into Biloxi again but maybe I can find shots on the internet. Not going to search tonight however.

So, I had hoped to walk the white sands of the Biloxi beach and the weather has turned foul. Raining now, supposed to get severe at times and we have a tornado watch until 9 pm. Supposed to be thunderstorms tomorrow! The weather this year has made the trip so far a bit uncomfortable. Primarily the humidity but for the last week or so it has been the heat and humidity. It has never been like this on our visits to the Gulf before. Oh, well, at least it isn't snow. And that is the whole reason for being here at all--no cold, no snow, no ice. Success is ours!  LOL

Tomorrow Louisiana--north of Lk Pontchatrain---no New Orleans. Bill won't do cities--besides he really wouldn't enjoy it there anyway--though he does like the music I've brought home from there. Until then, take it easy!

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