This morning I awoke feeling so much better than the day before. I had slept so well, even though we turned our light after 10:00. I got on the road about 7:20 AM, heading out on a busy highway that had a very wide shoulder. We rode only about 7 miles before turning on to a quieter, yet smooth road. It was a beautiful morning with a temperature of about 65, the fragrance of honeysuckle in the air, a few azaleas still blooming and birds singing all along the way. I wished Sam Chapman were there to identify those sounds.
At about mile 15 we entered the Desoto National Forest. The pine trees still showed evidence of Katrina as they were bent over like old men. And, some had broken off about 10 feet up. It seemed that the hardwoods were spared so much damage.
Our first SAG was at mile 20.
To remind non-cyclists, the SAG is there to support riders with food, water, pain relievers, and minor bike repairs.
Our SAG usually meets us every 20 miles, or sooner if the ride is especially difficult. On this ride, the SAG driver checks off each cyclist as she stops. This is to make sure no one gets lost. If someone does not show up in a reasonable time, the driver will go looking. If a rider is ill, tired or has a serious bicycle problem, the SAG driver will take her to the hotel.
After about mile 30, we turned onto a road with pine trees and ditches holding water, called wet pine savannas. This soil is highly acidic, with low nutrient content. Plants that grow in these areas make up for the lack of nutrients by killing and devouring insects. Thus, they are called carnivorous plants. I looked to my right and saw a group of pitcher plants. Thinking I would stop the next time I saw some, I looked ahead and saw about 6-8 bicycles lying beside the road and women with cameras in the woods. There were pitcher plants, sundews, small orchids, and other plants I have yet to identify.
It is hard for me to understand how people can just ride by without looking at the beauty of God’s earth. But, we are all on this ride for different reasons.
As we made a turn onto Old Fort Bayou Road, there was a convenience store with more than just candy and chips. Almost everyone stopped for lunch here. But, they did have rules for entering the store!
Just after I ordered, the electricity in the store went off. But, the clerk was able to serve me the best roast beef sandwich I have had in a long time! We spent some time talking with a couple of local citizens about all of the construction going on as a result of Katrina. They told us that we were about 15 miles from the coast at that location.
The sandwich, along with a V-8 and a Yoohoo gave me the energy I needed to push on to the next turn. Our last SAG was at the entrance to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, it is closed until September 2007 for construction of a new visitors’ center. Sandhill cranes are on the endangered species list, with only 100 individuals and 20 breeding pairs left, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Shortly after the SAG, we crossed under I-10 and entered the town of Gautier. From that point until the end of today’s ride there was a lot of traffic. But, the road was 4-laned so it wasn’t so bad. We turned on to US 90 at about mile 62. Not long after that, we crossed the Singing River and the Pascagoula River. The view from the bridge over the Pascagoula was breathtaking.
Our home for the night in Pascagoula is the La Font Inn. It looks like it might have been built in the 1970s, but is very well kept, with
an Olympic sized swimming pool. We all enjoyed an afternoon relaxing by that pool. (Note the tan lines, a true sign of a cyclist)
For trivia experts, Pascagoula is the home of Trent Lott and the birthplace of Jimmy Buffet (two ends of the spectrum!)Tomorrow is a 42-mile easy day to Dauphin Island, AL, where we will spend two nights. I am looking forward to seeing John and Mary White there. It is hard to believe that the trip is almost over. The feeling seems to be that the long days are over, except for one more 90-mile day. We all seem to be in a mellow mood tonight.