May 24, 2015
I am writing this at 7:22PM in New Orleans at an advrider contact’s house.
The last couple of days have been eventful. As I rode on from Port St. Joe yesterday I had decided to try to spend the night in Pensacola and catch the ferry across mobile bay the following morning. I turned southbound as I approached Navarre to ride along the Navarre and Pensacola beaches along the gulf coast.
I stopped at Navarre beach to take a long walk. I actually managed to get the shadow fairly stuck in the sand here, so much so that I didn’t even need to put the kickstand down to keep it from falling over. On my way out I managed to get it out after spinning my rear wheel for awhile.
The ride along this key is excellent, as there are long stretches where there are no buildings, and one just rides along the oceanfront.
As I came upon Pensacola beach I started seeing a lot of tents on the beach. Realizing I’d have a much tougher time finding a place to stay or pitch a tent once I was back on the mainland, I decided that whatever event was going on was worth finding out about, if nothing else just to be able to pitch my tent and sleep.
I stopped along the way and asked a man if it was okay to just pitch a tent anywhere on the beach. In broken english and with a thick russian accent this man explained to me that the event was a large gay pride festival, and that yes I could camp anywhere. I figured what the hell, a tentspot is a tentspot. The guy helped me park my bike in the sand and provided a metal sheet to avoid the kickstand sinking into the very loose sand. The man, hereafter Kenny, would go incredibly far out of his way to be helpful, helping me carry my bags to the beach, introducing me to some of his friends, helping me get the tent set up…
He introduced me to a family that was attending the event, they offered me a beer, and even fed me later in the day when I managed to fix their generator.
Once I was settled in and relaxed, a strange irony occurred to me. One night I’m camping with some redneck guys (conferederate flag in the back of their truck, etc), and the next day I’m camping out in what I later found out was something like the 4th largest gay pride event in the country. The places the road will take you…
The event was a strange experience for me. Its a ‘culture’ that I’ve never been exposed to before, everything from the stereotypical butch lesbians to the flaming guys to people who otherwise look and act ‘normal’.
All in all, everyone there was incredibly nice and friendly. It was almost more of a hippy commune gathering that just to happened to be gay than anything else. It was interesting watching them help each other at every turn. For example, Kenny was genuinely just an all around helpful person: he must’ve helped 6 or 7 people get their cars unstuck from the sand while I was there.
I didn’t sleep well that night, however. The weather was awful, wind gusts and rain pretty much all night. My tent would fold in the wind, the roof cover would give way and allow water to come in. By morningtime I had a puddle in my tent, as well as having a wet sleeping bag. In the morning I took a video within my tent of the wind battering down my tent, but by then it was considerably tamer than during the night. I took a few pictures to show how many people were there, but again, by then many people had given up on camping and packed up. While packing my tent I realized one of the poles had actually broken during the gusts. Shattered along the length. I may try to duct tape it, or just get another tent. (It was one of the cheapest ones at walmart anyway). I decided to toss my quart of oil I’d been carrying, as I found it sitting in the puddle in my tent when I woke up. Though realistically I doubt any water got in there, between the fact that it was dipped in water and surrounded by sand… I felt better tossing it.
I continued westward in the morning towards the mobile bay ferry. I rode into some weather, and felt rather philosophical at a certain point: I was riding into the rain. I could see the dark clouds in the distance but chose to soldier on, knowing that though the very immediate future may be filled with despair, bright, beautiful, wonderful things lie in wait for me just further down the road.
“When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
As I did during my last trip, I hope to take pictures at every state crossing along the way.
I had about a half hour wait for the ferry. I met a woman on the ferry who was also traveling westward on her goldwing trike. If I recall correcty she told me her name was Temesa, but styled herself Gram Gram, presumably because she’s a badass grandma biker. When I realized we were headed the same direction I told her I’d follow her until she split northbound in Mississippi. I took US90 pretty much all the way from the ferry to New Orleans. I have a contact in New Orleans who’s letting me spend the night.
May 24, 2015