I’m under a house. My head hurts. A throbbing headache has robbed my brain of its operational abilities. Dehydration for certain. It is real. I pound a gallon of water and we pack up and move out, looking for coffee and toilets. Everything is closed on this sleepy island. Most things don’t even open again for four more days. Gas station fried chicken is now a breakfast food group. Fight me about it.
Not gonna fight me? Great. I’ve got a ferry four miles up to catch. Ride!
The pseudo-hangover continues in the form of a US Coast Guard inspection on the Mobile Bay Ferry. The boat off this island is presently shut down. The gentleman at the ticket booth explains further, “probably back up and running at 1pm”. Well, ok then. Damon and I adjust plans; I cancel on the backyard camp permission and he calls a state park half the distance up. We enter a holding pattern formation.
The holding pattern evolves into a picnic table nap, which evolves into picnic table yoga. I’m having a hard time sitting still. Damon is exploring Historic Fort Gaines; I head back to the ferry docking port. I find another picnic table, public restrooms and electrical outlets. Another ferry worker now ballparks the time at 2pm, if all goes well. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
I shoot the shit with a guy by the name of Towhead Steve. Steve is in a canoe. He’s been traveling solely by canoe for 6 months now. Crazy. He’s quite the character. Interesting guy and loves to talk. When what he calls his “operation” is done, he will canoe as many miles as we will bicycle on our operation. Amazing.
The USCG hasn’t even arrived yet; I can’t sit still; I decide to handle some bike maintenance while the ferry folks handle some boat maintenance. My tires are in serious need of rotation — the back one is heavily worn. I’m rather appalled by how unevenly the wear is. In the process, I figure out that the adhesive on the tape I used on my tire boot is eating away at the tubes, causing at least one of my two flats yesterday. I remove the tape and clean it all up. I break the valve stem on a tube I’m about to patch but successfully patch another one. So I at least have one functional spare.
Dauphin Island is truly a beautiful place; I’m starting to feel like I’m trapped in paradise. All of this maintenance and reflection is interrupted by an impromptu pop-up photo shoot. Of the avian variety. The bird bird bird is the word. It requires very little direction on my part, honestly. This gorgeous creature really knows how to work it and soaks it up; a true professional in the industry.
Eventually, all the idle maintenance and empty photography lead to Damon coming back around the way and ponying up for a couple craft beers from the ferry concession stand — which leads to me grabbing us a couple more after that. Feels like what a beach island vacation might feel like. Thanks, Fairhope Brewery — though I’d hope to get outta here fairly soon, please. At this rate, I’ll wake up back under the stilts with an actual hangover tomorrow morning.
The Coast Guard eventually shows up. Two hours later and the ferry is shut down due to needed repairs. Fuck. Now what?! To ride up to Mobile and around would be about 120 more miles. Miles through a city and miles on a highway. We’ve asked 10-20 people with boats to help us out, without any luck whatsoever. I’ve even offered someone $50 to take us over. Everyone finds a different way to tell us no. Sitting around any longer is tough. Plus, I feel like I’m in some remixed version of Groundhog Day. Seated at the picnic table by the ferry entrance next to a “ferry closed” sign, I repeatedly find myself responding to motorists’ inquiries: “the ferry is shut down”. “I don’t know”. “Hopefully, I’m on this bicycle so I can’t even just drive for an hour and a half to get around”. Eventually I decide to save oxygen and simply give the guillotine-hand-to-the-neck signal when motorists show up and open their yap. What I wouldn’t give for one of them to be ghost bustin’ ass Bill Murray, all of this frustration would be worth it.
Back in not the land of make believe, we decide to ride the miles to Mobile, right after we make a last second attempt to find anyone with a boat… finally one of the Maritime Pilots offers to take us over! His name is Reed and it seems he genuinely wants to help us out. Alright! We get our bikes on board and we are zooming along the water, three short miles to Fort Morgan.
As quickly as it appears, success is snatched away only to be replaced with bittersweet defeat. Two point nine nine nine miles later and this big official boat is too big to dock in the low tide on the other side. Smaller than the ferry, bigger than the fishing boat — Reed doesn’t wanna risk tearing the boat up or losing his job. Fuck. It’s so close I feel like I can probably jump it. No dice, we head back across the water, with no solution in sight. We were literally only feet away. It’s one of the most deflating experiences of my life. Similar to a time I flew from Bangkok to Kathmandu, circled Kathmandu airport for two hours during that horrific earthquake and ended up back in Bangkok after 14 hours of going nowhere. Ugh.
We have given up. We are defeated. This is Groundhog Day. Or worse, maybe it’s My Cousin Vinny. It’s some sort of classic 90’s comedy. We are stuck in Alabama Mud. I’m pretty sure I may have said “I shot the clerk”. Though I don’t need a lawyer, I need a fisherman. Butt. It turns out Reed planted a seed with Daryl. Daryl has a fishing boat and might be going off sea fishing. Might. We wait. Wait. Wait. Then. Like a 1986 Strawberry, Daryl comes through in the clutch. He and his crew show up; we load up; they get us over!
Two boat rides on the day and finally we break on through to the other side. The Doors were not on the playlist today. There was no playlist. But we’re now at historic Fort Morgan. Instead of an island this is more of a peninsula/archipelago kinda deal. Beautiful gulf coast you have, Alabama. After a long mentally-draining day I’m ecstatic to no longer be “water-locked”. The road is recently paved and smooth. I feel like riding miles on miles on miles. Butt. The sun is setting on setting on setting. We won’t be making Florida today. We settle on an RV park instead of remote sleeping in the natural preserve. Didn’t expect an 11 mile day. Didn’t expect a second night in Alabama. But we started on an island… now we’re here. No longer bound by water, tomorrow we can pedal our faces off to make up for a day lost on Dauphin.