Traversing the South
We've made it across the South! We're 11 states and about 4600 miles/7400 km into our trip at this point! After our weekend with the Bakers we continued east through East Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama (briefly), and on to Florida. We hung out in Florida for a few days and then got back on the move cruising up the Florida coast then up through Georgia, South Carolina and are now in North Carolina.
*Note the world's best panda photo-bomb at the Louisiana sign!
It's been a whirlwind since Texas, so let's go through the highlights of each state.
I'm a solid believer that the best of Louisiana is reflected in its people, culture, music, food, art, festivals, etc. Therefore, driving through it for the scenery, we probably didn't get the prime experience. It was super green, but there was a lot of water everywhere. We had generally been camping for free on public land, so the evening passing through Louisiana, we were aiming toward a national forest and we realized as we were driving that on either side of the highway that we were driving on, all the trees were underwater. We were a bit nervous about being able to find a dry place to camp but it worked out okay in the end. We found a spot that would normally have been well back from the water's edge, but in this case was a river-front site. We were chased into our tent pretty quickly by swarms of mosquitoes and had an early morning wake-up call from a couple of fishermen putting their boats in, but all in all it was a pretty swell spot. Also, driving out in the morning, we saw a plane spraying fields as we went - I got a pretty cool shot from my helmet camera getting buzzed by it just as a the sun was coming up.
Mississippi was beautiful to drive through. I should point out that the whole time driving east through the South we avoided the interstate highways as much as we could, so going through Mississippi we wound our way through the Homochitto and De Soto National Forests. Given the windy tree-lined roads and general lack of other cars, it made for a lovely ride through.
Alabama was a quick stop, we passed through the southern most part of the state near Mobile. Where we entered it was a small forest road so it didn't have a state sign, so no photo op for that one. Memorable event in Alabama was mostly that I had to get new tires for my bike while we were there. The photo below doesn't really do it justice, but because we didn't have time to wait for anyone to order the right tires in, I had to go pick up tires from one place and take them to another to have them installed. Tire transportation on a motorcycle in this case meant strapping one to the back with the rest of our gear and wearing the other around my waste like an inner tube as I drove from one spot to the other.
The Florida Panhandle was pretty much what you would expect for the beach-y touristy towns that we drove through - lots of blinky lights, restaurants, and traffic lights. Before we got to the touristy part through, we stopped to work at the Wakulla County Public Library that is definitely the coolest library we've seen so far. We pulled into the parking lot and there was a chicken house out front with chicken run around one of the gardens by the entrance. They also had a "library of things" inside where you could borrow various tools and household items. They had puzzles in their reading rooms. And in the bathrooms they had brightly coloured signs for the kids with the rules for the bathroom - in the stall this meant a note saying to "Flush when you're done." Apparently, someone tried to call out the head librarian for using the word "done" instead of "finished" for their sign, so there was also an entire explanation of grammatical history clarifying that it is perfectly acceptable to used "finished" and "done" synonymously in that context and the trend away from using the word "done" was just English snobbery in the 1800's because the word "done" was more commonly used by the Americans, Irish, and Scottish. Lesson: Don't throw down grammatically against the head librarian of a public library!
Our first night in Florida, we camped at an RV Park in Mexico Beach. This is a small town right on the coast that was the landing spot for Hurricane Michael last October. After 7-8 months the whole town is still completely wrecked. It was nuts. The RV park we stayed in was the only place open. We got into town after dark and the entire town was dark - no street lights, no stores, and barely any houses lit up. Driving out in the morning we were able to see the damage more clearly with the whole town still looking like a construction site and all the forests completely wind swept with the branches pulled off the trees.
Driving along the rest of the panhandle that morning was lovely, the road hugged the coast and it was a beautiful sunny day.
Once we were in Florida, we hung out there for the better part of a week. North Central Florida is Jon's old stomping ground and he has a brother in South Florida. We'll get into more details of what we were up to in separate posts, but it was nice to be settled for a few days to catch up on laundry and showers after our week on the road.
Heading north out of Florida after we took the scenic highway up the Atlantic coast for the morning. We spend the afternoon at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral (again, more on that later) and then rode through the pouring rain to St Augustine, near Jacksonville. We were thankful to be greeted at the Baker's house when we got there to put on some dry clothes and have a wonderful home cooked dinner. Thanks Linda & Walt!
Given our soggy arrival in North Florida, we checked the weather ahead and saw nothing but rain forecast for the next few days. Therefore, rather than sight-seeing and camping for the next couple of days, we decided to get through it as quick as we could and just hopped on the interstates to head to Jon's sister's place in North Carolina. This ended up being our longest day so far (~435 miles/700 km across 4 states), but we did it. And miraculously stayed dry the whole time! We must have been riding in a dry pocket between storms all day. Multiple times we drove through areas drying out from recent rain and when we arrived in Charlotte, Elizabeth told us it was the first dry 1/2-hour they'd seen all day. Not sure how we caught that lucky break, but we'll take it!
We stayed with Elizabeth & Chris for two nights - long enough to be able to celebrate Elizabeth's birthday breakfast this morning - Happy Birthday!
Now we're back on the road heading west toward the mountains. We stopped to get Jon new tires in Asheville to be ready with new treads for The Tail of the Dragon and the Blue Ridge Parkway coming up in the next few days.