The previous day’s ride across the Three Mile Bridge into Pensacola was just a hint of what we were in for on our ride into Mobile. The bridge over Mobile Bay is 7 miles long and ends in a narrow tunnel that we were warned repeatedly would be the last thing we’d ever see if we attempted to enter it. Our route out of Pensacola was straightforward enough- we just had to follow the charmingly named Old Spanish Trail the whole way- but we figured that we’d work out the tunnel issue once we got to it.
We crossed the border into Alabama early in the day. Shortly after, R saw a ‘U-Pick Blueberries’ sign and swerved off the road and into the driveway of Joe. He had only put up the sign a week before to make some use out of the plentiful blueberry bushes crowded around the front of the property. We got the sense that he was more interested in company than in collecting the $1/pint as advertised. As soon as we got off our bikes, we were ushered to his patio where I sat on a dusty chair and R was directed to sit in the driver’s seat of a parked golf cart nearby. Joe took the patio swing for himself. We chatted for a while about growing up in Alabama before the war, his health problems (or lack thereof), and why New York has the best hot dogs. We did not get around to blueberries until a while later when Joe directed me to stay seated while R went to pick some berries. We were told that after a little bit, I’d relieve R so he could come back and chat while I did the picking. What was supposed to be a quick roadside stop turned into an hour-long visit that included a full medical history of Joe and his wife, a few dirty jokes (his, not ours), a tour of his house, and about a half a gallon of blueberries, for which he refused to accept payment.
Laden with berries, we made our exit and got back on the road. We didn’t stop again until we reached Daphne, AL, on the shores of Mobile Bay, around lunch time. Daphne is a small town with a ton of charm, but not a lot of dining options. Most of the restaurants were closed between lunch and dinner, so we ended up at the only place that was open in the mid-afternoon, which also happened to be one of the iconic eateries in the area. Manci’s Antique Club has the kind of old world charm that doesn’t exist for most contemporary restaurants. It is run by old, grumpy Italian men, has no windows, and had more customers seated at the bar with a pint glass than in the dining room with a sandwich. But it was awesome! We each had a po boy with fried seafood, prompting us, once again, to vow that we’ll start taking better care of our arteries any day now.
After lunch, we called our hosts in Mobile, Dan and Amy, an awesome couple that we met through CouchSurfing.org. We had been playing phone tag with them for a few days and the one recurring theme in all of the messages was how were we planning to get past the tunnel into town? We got Amy on the phone and she immediately asked what we were going to do about the tunnel. When we didn’t have a good answer for her, she told us that she and Dan would borrow a bike rack from some friends and come and get us. We were totally floored by their generosity and willingness to go out of their way- to track down a bike rack and come pick us up directly after work-that we almost found it difficult to accept. Almost. We arranged to meet at a bar along the bridge (what kind of bridge is this??)- we’d be the only ones in spandex.
As we got on the bridge, everything made more sense. It is less of a conventional bridge and more of a slightly elevated highway that runs along the marshes through the bay. Everywhere the road hits land, there is a collection of bars and seafood restaurants. We headed for Tacky Jack’s, one of the last places you’ll hit before the dreaded tunnel. R went inside to check it out and grab some water and I collapsed in a heap on a bench outside. It was so, so hot and we had come a long way that day- water was all I wanted. So imagine my surprise when R came out a few minutes later with a tiny cup of water and a big cup of something sweet, frozen, and alcoholic. It is called a Bushwhacker and we had just been treated to a couple by Steve Robbins, who must have thought we really needed one.
I quickly warmed up to the idea of a cold drink on a hot day and we sipped our drinks and chatted with Steve and the rest of the cast at Tacky Jack’s. We had an amazing time swapping stories and learning about Steve’s charity work. We also had another round of Bushwhackers, which was maybe a little ambitious for first timers. We were sorry to go and leave our new friends (and new favorite bar) when Dan and Amy pulled in, but we were equally thrilled to meet our hosts and check out Mobile.
Turns out they weren’t lying about the tunnel. It is dark and fast and there is absolutely no shoulder to ride on. The reason they were so insistent that we had a plan was because they had previously hosted a woman on a cycle tour who had gone ahead and ridden through the tunnel. We gathered that she was so traumatized by the experience that Dan and Amy didn’t want two more cyclists to have to go through the same thing, thus the bike rack. We were grateful enough that we had scored again with incredibly kind and thoughtful hosts and then it turned out that they were cool, too!
Aside from working full time and frequently hosting CouchSurfers, Dan and Amy are home brewers! They not only like to drink it and know basically everything about it, but they make their own!! We tried one from their latest batch and then went out to a cute little neighborhood grill for dinner where we had more po boys (how do we never get sick of these?). We bombarded them for the whole night with alternating questions about the basics of beer brewing and the highlights of Amy’s home state, Louisiana. We were so exhausted from the ride, but by the time we went to sleep that night we had worked ourselves into a frenzy of excitement for Louisiana. We just had to get Mississippi out of the way first.