Panhandle? Yes. Panhandling? Not Yet.

Mobile, AL to Pensacola, FL

After a generally productive (yet very leisurely) day off yesterday, it was time to hit the road again this morning. Not that I needed another day off yesterday – I just had one after all – but I received a last minute (and somewhat urgent) editing request so I opted to make a day of it. The benefits of an open schedule.

For the record, I’m opting not write an update covering yesterday’s activities as it really was an uneventful day. A good day. But very much uneventful. I’ll recap the highlights. Breakfast. Freelance work. The first seven episodes of The Walking Dead (Season 5). No spoilers please!!

Rested and ready to go, I loaded up my bike, lubed up what was becoming a very noisy chain, and was on the road by 8:20. If all went well, there would be one final State Line to cross today. It’s hard to believe that after six months (minus one day) on the road, today I would find myself back in The Sunshine State. My general goal for the day was Florida. My specific goal was Pensacola which was about 120 km away.

As has been the case on more than one occasion, I had a different opinion from Google as to which route I should take. Google’s route was a bit meandering, as it frequently is. My route was much more direct. Admittedly, there was one minor problem with my route – a problem which I didn’t discover until I was well on my way. I MAY have overlooked the tunnel that crosses under the Mobile River. You’d think after 12,000 km I’d be a bit more map savvy. Can you say, “Old dog. New tricks.”?

It COULD be bicycle-friendly

It COULD be bicycle-friendly

By the time I realized my error (although, “error” sounds a bit harsh), I was pretty much committed to the route. I figured I’d assess the situation when I actually arrived at the tunnel with the hopes that it was a bicycle-friendly tunnel (which is pretty much an oxymoron).

When I arrived at the tunnel there was cause for optimism. While it didn’t seem particularly bicycle-friendly, I also didn’t see any signs restricting bicycles from entering said tunnel. I took that as an open invitation to risk life and limb in a dark, 500 metre tunnel. Sadly, that invitation was quickly revoked because of bad timing. Very bad timing.

I had just started my way down the ramp to the tunnel when a police car was coming up out of the tunnel. While he didn’t stop, his gestures made it very clear that I was not allowed in the tunnel. If only I had waited another 30 seconds. But I hadn’t. Instead I was going to have to take the alternate route.

The alternate route required me to head north to the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge. It was a detour that would add about 10 km to my day. I’m not going to lie. Once the police car was gone I considered doubling back and taking my chances in the tunnel. But I didn’t. Looking back, I kind of wish I had.

View from the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge

View from the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge

That said, one upside to the detour was I ended up meeting Andrew. Andrew was out for a morning run and asked me if I need any help when he saw me consulting my phone for directions. I explained the situation and he confirmed that bikes weren’t allowed in tunnel. Although, apparently there is an annual bike race that does go through the tunnel. Sadly, that race wasn’t today. We chatted for a while before we both needed to get back to our respective tasks. We did.

Despite the unpleasant concept of the having to take a 10 km detour, the ride itself was pleasant and uneventful. All told, it only took about 30 minutes before I had navigated my way along the alternate route and arrived back at the tunnel. This time, on the other side. Given what I know about cycling in tunnels, the detour was probably for the best.

The remainder of the ride was essentially uneventful but very enjoyable. The winds were much more reasonable today and there was a noticeable return of hills. As crazy as it might sound, I think I really like hills. There were still no mountain-like climbs, but there were definitely climbs that required lower gears and several minutes to crest. Once at the top, the hills permitted me to descend at speeds that topped 50 km/h. Believe it or not, it’s been over a month since I’ve topped 50 km/h. It was wonderful. Truly wonderful.

No free orange juice.

No free orange juice.

Much like last year, I couldn’t help but smile (a lot) when I saw the “Welcome to Florida” sign. Yes, there’s still a lot of cycling left to do but crossing that final State Line felt pretty good.

Also like last year’s arrival into Florida, there was no Welcome Center waiting to greet me with freshly squeezed orange juice. That was disappointing because that really would’ve been nice. I’ve always been a big fan of orange juice and yet I have consumed VERY little of it since this journey began.

Of course, now that I’m actually in Florida, I’m going to have to start changing my answer to the “Where are you headed?” question that comes up on a regular basis. Up until now, I’ve simply said, “Florida.” Perhaps now that I’m actually here people will actually have heard of Groveland. Although, I’m guessing not. Perhaps I’ll just say Orlando to keep things simple. No, it’s not particularly true. But it’s close enough.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing to come out of today was the realization that the end is near. No, not in a “fatalistic, end of the world prophecy” kind of way. But rather in an “I’m less than 800 km from Quest Air” kind of way. I’m not going to lie. I’m not sure what I think about that. Sure, there have been some struggles and challenges along the Southern Tier but life on the road is still fun. And, quite frankly, I think it suits me. That said, the sense of accomplishment (at least partial accomplishment at this point) is a pretty great feeling. I guess I have about 800 km to come up with a new plan.

Fortunately, there are some ideas floating around for life after the next 800 km. Rough ideas. But it’s better than no ideas. However, there will be no spoilers at this point. Those ideas are still very much “works in progress”.

Tonight’s accommodation is once again a motel. This time it’s the Days Inn, Pensacola where I’ve managed to be rather productive by doing a little work and a little research. The work was editing. The research was for cameras.

Clearly I’m still travelling without a real camera and, while I don’t like that, it’s likely going to remain that way for a while. Yes, I want (and somewhat need) a new camera but I don’t want to buy a cheap (or even decent) camera now only to want to buy a good camera in a few weeks. I figure if I’m going to get a new camera I might as well get one I really want even if it means waiting for a bit. My phone takes pretty horrible photos so I think tomorrow I’ll pull out the GoPro and see if I can get better results with that. Stay tuned.

Oh, and for those keeping track (and yes, I know I’m the only one), there were two more Subway stops today. One was along the road in Loxley. The second was after I arrived in Pensacola. 120 Subways and counting.

Today’s totals:
Distance travelled: 122.64 km
Ride time: 5:26:30
Average speed: 22.54 km/h
Maximum speed: 53.22 km/h

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