Day 544 – USA (ALABAMA and MISSISSIPPI): Tough going from Daufin Island to just outside Gautier

Today’s distance / ???????: 60 miles / 96.6km
Average speed / ????: 8.4mph / 13.5km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 7h 08m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 1732mi (plus 266mi) / 2788km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.23.43.1, W088.40.39.6

Daufin Island, Alabama, USA

(Daufin Island)

Bit of an epic day today. I left Daufin Island with smooth roads.

Daufin Island bridge, Alabama, USA

Passed by ship building yards at Alabama Port.

Ship building at Alabama Port, Alabama, USA

Amazed by the tranquil beauty of the surrounding area. Locals oystering in the morning’s calm.

Oystering near Alabama Port, Alabama, USA

The smooth roads were all to change by the time I got to Mississippi. I made the executive decision to cancel the Adventure Cycle Association route plan that I had intended on after I realised that the country roads that the route would have me follow had too much traffic and not enough shoulder. I eyed up the ultra nice smooth shoulder on Interstate Expressway 10 as I skated over it on an overbridge. How nice that would be…

It was not to be however, as I was sure that I wouldn’t get too far on that highway before being pulled off by police. I continued my trek by ways of US higway 90. To my dismay, the shoulder was grooved, apparently as an extra ‘rumble-strip’.

What a grand idea - on the shoulder of US90 in Grand Bay, Alabama, USA

I get the impression more and more as I skate away from Florida that roads in this part of the country were meant for one mode of transport only – automobile. This got only worse the further into Mississippi I went. Granted, the area is recovering from some fairly serious hurricanes in the recent past, but these shoulders are terrible.

Rough, rough shoulders on US 90 at the Mississippi/Alabama border, USA

Ask a local if there is any alternative to US90, and they’ll say “No sir. That’s the only way west.” I have all but given up on asking locals about roads. A quick scout of the area showed a short section (about 5 miles) of nice smooth blacktop back road that let me into Pascagoula.

By the way, what’s with all the flags?

So many of these flags near Grand Bay, Alabama, USA

These little suckers line the road-side, apparently indicating the location of buried wires. Seems a little excessive at times, with hundreds of the little fellas flapping in the breeze.

There is a story behind the above photo, also. I was crouching down to take the photo. Intensely focussed on getting the flag in focus and well-framed. Wating for the wind to blow it just-so so that the text would show. A moment later, the stinging began.

Unbeknownst to me, I was crouched atop a fire-ant hill. Hundreds of the blighters had crawled to the nest’s defence, up my back, down my trousers…what a palaver. I must have made quite the sight jumping up and down on the roadside with my hands down my trousers trying to get the little stinging insects out of all sorts of unmentionable places. I was itching for a while afterwards.

Fire ants near Grand Bay, Alabama, USA

(click on the image for a BIG view)

I pushed on past Pascagoula, into the night. Well after dark, I skated my way through Pascagoula, over the bridge to Gautier.

Pascagoula shipyards, Mississippi, USA

I pushed on past Gautier, hoping to find a church to camp behind. No such luck, and the US90 shoulder deteriorated once again. I finally pitched my tent behind a wall at the entrance of Shell Landing just west of Gautier, exhausted.

Day 543 – USA (FLORIDA and ALABAMA): From Pleasant Grove to Daufin Island

Today’s distance / ???????: 51.6 miles / 83.0km
Average speed / ????: 8.7mph / 14.0km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 56m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 1672mi (plus 266mi) / 2692km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: n/a

An early morning toodle-loo to Verna, Donna, and Tom, and I was away, on the road and keen to get some serious miles in today. That was cut short soon after I got on the road, with a random phone call from “Ric and Laura In the Morning“, a radio show from Albany, New York. The random phone call actually woke me up to a great degree, and I was riding the high of being noticed all the way up in New York, when I got the real shocker – a call from Colin McArdle from West FM in Scotland. We arranged for an interview for that evening.

By now I had become rather suspicious; how the hang were stations from the other side of the world hearing about me?! It appears that information about my journey has been posted on a news story website that picks up interestings stories from around the world. The interview with Colin was a great one. We managed to cover all aspects of my journey, and it was great speaking to a Scot; I wish I had made the trek up to Scotland when I was in the UK. Perhaps another day.

By late morning, I had entered Alabama, arriving in Gulf Shores about 11:30am. By then, the staff at the Tourist Information center that I had visited earlier, had contacted a local reporter, Barry, who, knowing I was a New Zealander, arranged to meet me at the Wheel House, a local restaurant run by a New Zealander. Lo and behold, the restaurant was a real fish and chip shop! My first real fish and chips for over two years, and it was in Alabama.

With John Goodall at Wheel House fish and chip shop in Gulf Shores, Alabama, USA

(Photo by Barry)

John Goodall is the owner and operator of the fish ‘n chip shop, and a real genuine New Zealander. He is from Nelson, up north in the South Island of New Zealand. He’s never run a fish ‘n chip shop before, but figured that it couldn’t be all that hard, and now has an extremely successful place. I really should not have had the fish and chips for lunch. Now I am craving them!

After leaving Gulf Shores, I made a mad dash for the Fort Morgan ferry that would take me to Daufin Island. I made it just in time, arriving just 10 minutes before the ferry arrived at 5:45pm.

Fort Morgan, Alabama, USA

It was dark by the time the ferry arrived at Daufin Island, so I set up my tent in the trees surrounding a parking lot at the Daufin Island bird sanctuary.