Sunday, April 22, dawned cool and beautiful in Pascagoula. Since we only had a 42-mile ride to Dauphin Island, leaving time was delayed until about 8:30 AM. Barb Larsen, who was my roommate for the night, and I decided to eat breakfast in the restaurant. Sometimes it is a luxury just to sit at a table and have someone bring you pancakes and hot coffee, as opposed to standing in a parking lot, eating oatmeal. The restaurant was not crowded so we began to talk with the waitress, a customer and the hostess. As we told them that we had started the ride on March 9, the customer asked, “What year”.
Donna and I started the ride together. We had been told that the “Gator Ranch” was at mile 8. I didn’t plan to stop, since alligators are so common in South Georgia. Well, we never saw the attraction, but just down the road, we did spot a small one sunning himself in a pond. At mile 10 we entered Alabama and began to feel a slight head wind (a forecast of things to come). In the small town of Grand Bay, we left US 90 and turned directly into the wind, headed for Dauphin Island. The SAG was a welcomed site at mile 20. Even my puppy enjoyed a special treat, as everyone complained about the wind.
For another 15 miles we fought a steadily increasing headwind, with nothing but pine trees and old mobile homes as scenery. Because of the wind, the SAG made an unplanned stop just before we turned onto the highway leading to the Dauphin Island Bridge.For a brief time the headwind became a crosswind. So we were granted a short reprieve before hitting the three-mile bridge. Then the wind became brutal, gusting over 20 miles per hour. As the bridge arch crossing the gulf intercoastal waterway drew near, its grade looked almost impossible to climb. However, once we got there, it was steep, but not as bad as it had looked earlier. Reaching the top was difficult with wind gusts threatening to blow me over at any minute. And, going down the other side was not any easier. I never reached more than 10 mph on the way down, with the wind in my face. Finally, the bridge came to an end, and with it, the strong wind. Several of the women said it was a great ride. Looking back on it, I feel it was one of the most difficult short rides I have ever done. But, this trip has changed my perspective on tackling tough situations on my bike. Had this experience been early in the ride, I might easily have jumped into the SAG. But, now I feel so much stronger and willing to take on more challenges. We are staying at the Dauphin Island Beach Club, in a condo-type arrangement. I was assigned my own room, which is a luxury. This is a beautiful place with a pool and the ocean right over the dunes. Katrina damage is hardly evident here. Our condo is the one on the bottom right side.
After a bath, nap and laundry time, John and Mary White called to let me know they had arrived. It was wonderful to see them. They were my guests for dinner with the group. I guess John enjoyed being the only man with 27+ women! After dinner, we visited for a while, and then parted ways with plans for a sightseeing trip the next day. After they left, I walked out toward the beach for a while and saw the rigs that looked like small ships lined dotting the horizon.Monday morning the six of us sharing the condo had a delicious breakfast of eggs, English muffins, yogurt, coffee and orange juice, while enjoying the ocean breeze. John and Mary picked me up for a day of sight seeing. We went by their bed and breakfast on the inlet side, a quaint little place owned originally by the Dubarrys(early copy machine founder). Driving to the east end of the island, we were surprised to see a rig rather near the shore.
Then we headed for Bellingrath Gardens, a place I first heard about from Ione Murphy years ago. Bellingrath Gardens, covering 65 acres, was the dream of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. Walter was a native of Atlanta, who bought the franchise to sell the new bottled Coca Cola in southern Alabama in 1903. The Mobile Coca Cola Bottling Company became one of the most successful in the United States, and brought “Mr. Bell” great wealth. In 1917, Mr. Bell consulted his doctor about a series of ailments. The doctor diagnosed the ailments as being a direct result of his being a work-a-holic. To combat his disease, the doctor suggested that he “learn how to play”. So he bought some land with a fishing shack on the Fowl River. In the meantime, Bessie developed a love for plants, creating a showplace of their home. Later, lack of space inspired Bessie to expand her gardens to the land on the river. The couple engaged one of Mobile’s leading architects to design the garden. Upon completion, the couple invited the public to view the masterpiece. The event was so successful; they continued the practice throughout their lives. The couple finally decided to build a 1,000+ square foot home on the grounds in 1935. After the deaths of the Bellingraths, the home and gardens were turned over to the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation. For more information on Bellingrath Gardens see the website at http://www.bellingrath.org/home/ After spending time at the Gardens, we enjoyed sandwiches on the grounds before departing. I have included a sampling of the photos taken there.
Then we headed up to the road for a bit of shopping. One of the new energy drinks I have learned about is a combination of Ensure and Frappicino. Think about the ingredients, lots of protein and caffeine! So, I wanted to pick up some of each to get me through the final 9 days of cycling. We came back to the island to regroup before going to dinner.
On the way in, we spotted the Dauphin Island Elementary School. It has 75 students, K-5, with most of the staff wearing many hats. I met the principal, Paula Loper, who is retiring this year. She is full of energy and reminds me so much of Charlotte Coursey. The school has one class each of kindergarten, first, second, third, and a 4-5 multiage classroom. Imagine teaching in a school like this, with the beach as your backyard yard.
As it tuned out, the only restaurants on the island were closed on Monday. So John, Mary and I made our way back to Bayou Le Batre to the Lighthouse Restaurant in search of good seafood. We were not disappointed.
I brought some of my grouper and potato salad back, intending to put it in the SAG cooler and enjoy it for lunch tomorrow. I bid farewell to John and Mary before turning in for the night. It was great to have them here and share the experience of Bellingrath Gardens.