Day 4: NOLA to Pensacola, FL – Wednesday, May 30th

New Orleans Hotel. Also, “Heaven.”. Royal St. Charles. Hotwire did us good here! We probably weren’t classy enough of guests. Oh well!

We had good intentions to get up early…but beds and air conditioning are so nice! We eventually got up and headed out to breakfast at a local bar. Good pancakes and bacon! We got the bikes out of the garage, loaded up, and hit the road again.

Sharing the road with streetcars is interesting. Driving inside of the railroad tracks isn’t a problem—but turning across them was a little bit tricky. The key is to be decisive, or those wheels don’t want to leave the groove.

Riding between the rails

Here’s the view from lunch…

We took US-90 east past Slidell and Bay St Louis towards Gulfport and Biloxi. This day was easily our most scenic drive. We drove past a rocket engine testing facility. Glad nothing went wrong there!

Weather was great—a bit breezy from the storms that passed through the night before, but beautiful. We spent miles within 150 feet of the shoreline. The wind blew sand into the highway—not enough to be a nuisance, just enough to let you smell the gulf. It was magnificent! Seriously, this was good riding.

Traffic was a little bit thicker through this segment, but it was worth it to enjoy the ocean drive. Lunch was in Biloxi, just south of the Keesler AFB. The food was excellent and the place was beautiful—gulf view from 3 of 4 windows. We saw tons of folks kiteboarding…and it almost looked fun! We continued down US-90 into Florida.

We were too busy driving and admiring to take pictures…this is from Google Street View in Pass Christian, MS. Very representative of this leg!

The ride to Dauphin island was great. Nice bridges and good scenery. We passed a good sized Baptist church on the right…followed by one on the left in about 300 yards. The name was “Perfect Alternative Baptist Church.” Seems to me they’re not even trying to pretend there wasn’t a split…

Ferry ride!

The Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan Ferry was great. Just a few bucks for our 35 minute cruise. GPS said we made about 8mph across Navy Cove. It was a really windy day, so the waves were fairly significant. I was actually a little concerned about the bikes standing up—but no problems.

When we stopped for our mandatory picture, Matt pulled all the way off the road. Once you got off the shoulder, it was a sand-grass mix. Neither of us expected the sand to be quite so deep or soft. Matt covered me when his wheel spun trying to dig out. I’m glad I kept my bike on the shoulder!

Welcome to Florida! (This is just before I get covered in Sand….)

Right across the Florida line was great. Most of the houses were isolated with great views and sitting on flood stilts. It was tempting to camp underneath one of those houses—the view would be perfect, and the stilts were just right for attaching hammocks. That seemed like a pretty good way to pick up some trespassing charge or meet an angry Floridian with a gun, so we settled on the Big Lagoon State Park southwest of Pensacola.

Big Lagoon State Park in FL

No trees to speak of at the campsite, but it was a nice place. We set up camp and then headed out to the Shrimp Basket for dinner. Today had been woefully inadequate in terms of ice cream consumption, so we went to Publix to pick up ice cream, more bug spray, and some coffee for Karen.

We made it back to the campsite and ate the ice cream. We headed up to the (really nice) bath house and came back to the site to find a raccoon on top of the picnic table just staring at us.

On closer inspection, the little devil had eaten our remaining ice cream bar! He managed to get into my backpack, open a wal-mart bag to get to a sealed zip-lock of pistachios inside of it! I ran him off and figured that’d be the end of it. I would be wrong…

I woke up about half an hour later to see him back on the picnic table again. This time, he found his way into my zipped toiletries bag. I guess the chocolate ice cream bar left his teeth feeling dirty, because he decided to eat my toothpaste. He was working a pretty good number on my contact solution bottle. I think he thought it was a flask! I ran him off and went back to bed.

Evil.

Twenty minutes later, I woke up and saw those little beady eyes again. This time I woke Matt up. Were it not for the evidence (ripped bags, missing items), I think Matt would have thought the raccoon was like the evil attack rodent that didn’t actually exist Monday night. This time, Matt saw our visitor.

Around 1am, our sleep-deprived brains decided our best course of action was to hang the backpacks on the pole that supported a clothes line. Because, everyone knows, raccoons can’t climb trees or anything.

We woke up again a few minutes later to see a raccoon happily perched on top of the pole, unzipping my bag. Darn raccoon!

Next effort: hang the bags from the middle of the clothesline. After the fact, we’d notice that the bag was only hanging about 8 inches off the ground or “1/2 raccoon length” in a more useful standard of measurement. We woke up again to see a raccoon happily gnawing away on my bag.

Next effort: wad up plastic sacks on the clothesline. Perhaps our little scavenging friend will be dissuaded by the noise! Nope. But it did serve to wake us up when he came to visit.

Next effort: my flashlight on strobe, hanging next to the bags. This was probably my favorite effort, because I woke up and asked Matt if he could see the light, because I couldn’t. He could…which meant only one thing. The raccoon was between me and the light.

Raccoon: 5. Homo sapiens: 0.

At one point, I woke up before he got on the clothesline, and looked over. He was just sitting there looking at me, so I did the only logical thing: I threw my Crocs at him. Besides my terrible aim, the raccoon just looked at me like, “Seriously? That’s the best you’ve got.” He didn’t even bother running away.

Our final solution was unfortunately not a “final solution” if you get my drift. We moved all of our bags between where we were sleeping. We figured this was either pure genius or idiocy, and it wouldn’t take long to tell.

Our furry friend did not possess the intestinal fortitude to crawl over us—but he did try a Mission Impossible “descend-from-above” technique. Lucky for us and unlucky for him the tree branch directly over Matt wasn’t strong enough for him, so he just kept shaking the fire out of it and never could make it all the way.

Now—let’s get that sleep in. Tomorrow’s a long day.

Day 4: 204 miles. 946 miles cumulative.