May 8, 2010 Count to Ten, Mommy.

Kate Murr

Audie left us in a parking lot at Perdido Key. While it was probably a little nerve racking for him, this drop off seemed not nearly so scary to us as when Christopher left us in St. Augustine. We simply put our gear and bikes together and headed west. There is a fantastic bike lane along this stretch of road until Orange Beach, Alabama where the route turns north and scary.

We stopped for a picnic lunch on the beach of leftover Chicken Marengo and Publix treasures including cashews and fresh veggies. After lunch we chased crabs and spent a long time watching bivalves burrow in the sand. We had wanted to volunteer with oil spill clean-up efforts while we were in town, and though I contacted several organizations, most required training, and I didn’t find any that just wanted helpers for a day or two. We had heard beach-cleaning crews had already pre-cleared the local beaches of debris, and as we picnicked, a group of Navy cadets shoveled sand off walkways.

The ride afforded us views of the highly developed shoreline and a great bridge view of the bay.  We posed by the Welcome to Alabama sign, happy that we had traversed our first state.

As we turned north on Highway 59, though, the good feeling, at least for me, disappeared amid three lanes of traffic and no real shoulder to speak of, save a foot-wide aggressive rumble strip. After a few miles of literal nerve jolting travel, we sought the air-conditioned shelter of a Publix where we bought ice and a box of popsicles, which we shared with grocery store patrons. Clearly, we were procrastinating.

When we did leave the store, we cautiously made our way to a point where a bike trail magically appeared along the road. Fortunately the East Shore Trail is straight and smooth along the Point Clear shoreline, which features stately, well-kept and well-sighted second and third homes nestled in woods behind signs boasting family names and puns.

We met officer Fred along the trail, who said we were welcome to camp behind the Fair Hope police station. Knowing we had a safe spot for the evening, we decided to stop for dinner at Tamara’s Steamers where we met one of the most lovely couples on the planet, Terry and Linda.

Before we had exchanged names, the pair had invited us to stay at their home. Even though they were finished with their dinner, they stuck around and chatted with us, picked up our dinner bill, and gave us solid directions to their house, just a little ways past the police station. The roughly four miles in the dark was a bit much for me after the jostling, stressful, and long ride we’d already put in. We stuck to sidewalks after hearing horror stories of the way locals disregarded bikers, which was additionally agonizing for me, since the weight distribution of my packed Burly pushes my bike around on curbs and uneven surfaces. At one point, we were poised at the top of a sidewalk hill and I froze. Jane told me to count to 10 and come on, so I did, and Stuart kindly rerouted us to hilly neighborhood streets.

Our hosts met us outside to guide us in to their driveway, then led us to their bedroom, where they had a futon mattress waiting for the kids, and a big king-size bed waiting for us. After tucking in the wee, the adults visited and enjoyed good tunes and Southern Comfort served from an heirloom green glass eagle poured into small barrel glasses.

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