Day 40: Disgraced by Hard Headwinds

Distance: 24 mi.

Song of the Day: Ram Jam — Black Betty (for the Alabama reference)

8:30AM: Rise and depart winding Southwest through Pensacola’s feeder streets; miles go slow due to intense winds blowing directly opposite us. Finally drop south over Perdido Bridge into a headwind so intense we can barely slug our bikes up the climb. Lizzie seyz “I’ve never pedaled so hard to move downhill in my life.”

Hit the beach and the winds are even worse. Sand abrasive on our legs and hands, whipping up into our eyes as we wobble and swerve down the beach road shoulder, standing out of saddle more often than not to pedal pathetically against the powerful wind.

Check Google Maps mid-day — we’ve only moved forward 4.2 miles in a solid hour’s worth of hard biking. Check the weather — headwinds clocked at 30MPH will not abate until 3PM, and only then they retreat to a fierce 22MPH.

We capture a moment of respite crossing into Alabama near beach high risers:

1:30PM: Nearing Orange Beach we are utterly flagged by the battle against the wind; it’s doubly frustrating to make so little progress fresh on the heels of a rest day. Approaching a massive bridge vaulted some 80 — 100 feet in the air, we grimace in recollection of the last bridge and Lizzie declares “I’m not crossing that bridge.”

She sticks out her thumb on the side of the road while I steam and stomp around, upset that we are calling it quits but uncertain what else to do. Lizzie hails a wondrously generous woman Edie who offers to drive us over the bridge in her small SUV; there’s no way the bags will fit, I say, so she calls her husband Jeff with a Ford F250. He arrives ten minutes later and we throw the bikes and bags in his truck and set off.

Jeff is a proponent of cycling — a commonality among those who pause their own lives to offer us help — and used to ride centuries in the Texan heat, often competitively. Jeff and Lizzie are getting along swimmingly, Jeff enjoys her gaiety and off-kilter banter about roadkill, snakes, and trucks. Nobody is too keen to end the drive after we cross the bridge; Jeff inadvertently drives on, using his acute eye to point out variations in the land, a coyote in the middle of a farm plain, or features of the Mobile, Alabama bay, the city itself comprising a distant nub in the skyline.

Up, up, up Jeff accelerates thru the Baldwin Beach Express, taking us in the direction contrary to the name, onto I-10 and thru Spanish Fort; in what feels like an instant he’s zipped into Meager State Park to chat and joke with the park ranger. Before we can insert a word edgewise he’s pulled out $27.50 from his wallet and purchased us a single tent campsite in the park. Lizzie and I gush Thank You’s as we step out of the trunk, spellbound by the 50 miles we’ve accumulated as if our first time traveling by locomotive.

We come into our own in the new clime, now soft and still, no calamitous wind interrupting each momentary thought. Liz and I react separately to the episodic hitchhike. I feel like a cheater; but Lizzie is nothing except cooly relaxed and grateful to be in more fortunate straits and a little closer to our goal. I talk through my position, which eventually softens, as the principles aren’t sound: there’s no basis for being precious about biking every single mile of every single day in a continuous manner; the true spirit imbued by adventure has no place for false purities. It was my idea to return to the beach, and it wound up being a not very good idea; then again, we saw new wonders and met Jeff and Edie, worth it even without the free hitch. We biked hard today, albeit for a shorter distance and time. We’ll bike hard again tomorrow. What’s the sense in griping about any of it?