September 29, 2012
It’s 7:00 p.m. and Christof and I have been huddled in our tent for the past hour unable to leave due to a violent tropical storm. Seeing it brewing and riding like crazy to get here – we just managed to set up before it broke, although waiting for the storm to pass before setting up our tent which is now pushed up by bubbles of water, around our sleeping mats floating like life rafts – would have been smarter.
This morning swarms of resurrected mosquitoes had us dancing a jig as we packed up and got off of St. George Island as fast as possible. The wind at our backs, we sped along until we came to the bridge, a four-mile struggle against head winds.
The shoulders on bridges have far more debris than the roadsides, lacking ditches to absorb the accumulation, that gets caught by the guard rails. How does so much broken glass get onto a new bridge, do people open their windows and pitch out empty bottles? I heard a clacking sound on Christof’s bicycle and, stopping, removed a piece of brown glass without any damage to his tire. Kevlar tires are the best, no flats so far!
Two more bridges to cross before breakfast in Apalachicola. During breakfast the usual conversation with a group of Southerners.
-Where are you from?
– From Germany.
– Where are you riding from?
– From Cape Cod.
– You rode here from Cape Cod? Hey ya’ll these people rode here from Boston!
– Where ya’ll headed?
– California? You’re going to ride to California from here?
– We won’t be able to ride the whole way, we’re have to rent a car somewhere along the line or we’ll never get to LA in time to catch our plane.
– If you have to leave something off, skip the South. There’s nothing to see in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana but country, swamps and alligators!
After breakfast we rode and rode. We are sick and tired of cycling and ready for a break. More pedaling in the intense heat away from the coastal breezes, through pine forests, and ripped-up, swampy land rife with mosquitoes, for new developments.
After lunch my back tire was flat, but seeing threatening clouds, Christof quickly pumped it up and we just reached The No Name Cafe, a charming community center/gift shop/craft store/bookshop, before it started pouring.
After the rain stopped, Christof changed my tire while I finished off and uploaded a blog using the Café’s wifi. Christof and the Café owner had an animated discussion about politics and poverty. She had clear cut opinions about the government which she finds useless – with exception of tax collection and war. Whatever it does is inefficient and costly, not having to earn the money it wastes.
She married a Northerner, and his memory of life in Philadelphia was that everyone worked. Because of welfare and food stamps, this is no longer necessary. Now mothers bear children for benefits. Hunger, she says, would be the only way of getting people away from the cradle-to-grave mentality that creates a chain of dependency. As a former resident of Alabama, she advised us to steer clear of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana:
– Unless you’re interested in seeing shacks and toothless people.
Threatening clouds on the horizon inspired us to cut the conversation short and press on to the campground – still miles away – before the next downpour.
Christof has gone to take a shower, and I’m still on my sleeping mat with the tent bottom billowing up around me. The shoes and umbrella – hurriedly deposited outside the door as we jumped inside for shelter – are floating in ankle-deep water. Christof wants me to come outside, because the storm is over. The area we set our tent up is now a lake. We simply pick up our tent and move to an island of dry land.
Donna, the campground host, offers us towels to dry off with, unnecessary because our tent is still dry. She brings us plates piled high with barbecue which we gratefully accept and carry to the recreation center. Inside we meet a young couple from Germany, cycling – in reverse order – the same route we are on.
They are both bakers – Bäckermeister – and are thinking of emigrating and opening a business here. They have taken six months off to travel and find their Arcadia. The search has been narrowed down to California and Florida; only a milder climate can tempt them away from Germany.
We spend the evening chatting and discover that today in Port St. Joe, we unwittingly crossed the time zone into Central Standard Time.