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Couch Surfing to Catholic Camping (Day 42) – Mobile, AL to Ocean Springs, MS | We're Not There Yet

Not much to say about a ride on a day like today that I couldn’t just summarize by showing you a picture of our sodden, salt-streaked clothes, caked as they are with grime, grease and grit. In fact, if I had thought to take that picture, I would, since my heat-addled brain can’t seem to think of any better way to describe our daily ordeal with the heat.  Actually, I do have a picture that would do the trick, but M would never let me post it (in fact, she thinks I deleted it!).  It’s a close-up portrait from the end of today’s ride, which reveals her face as a complex collage of sweat, layers upon layers of suntan lotion, road grime, and dead gnats.  Yes, her face looks like a windshield after a cruise on the interstate.

We took off from Mobile this morning after a delicious breakfast prepared by Dan and Amy, our wonderful hosts.  As is usual on these nice mornings, we got a later start than we’d like, even though we know we’ll have to make up for it by cycling in the heat of the day.  And that’s exactly what happened.

What’s this? A Southern state sign with no buckshot holes? Alas, it was brand new.

The ride itself was pretty innocuous.  Easy, flat riding along the coast, and past the classless mega-casinos in Biloxi.  Actually, that was sad enough for us to be really disappointed.  What a cool sounding name! Biloxi! Biloxi Blues! Show me something wonderful, Biloxi! Sadly, it’s just a trashy coastal city with mega-casinos.

M Rides Along the Gulf Coast

We pushed on into the heat of the day, and I guess that I’ve already given you enough visuals on what that’s like.  Around the time we decided to stop for lunch, we got a recommendation for a great Southern restaurant, which happened to be along our route, and the first building that we’d pass for miles. When we finally reached it, dismounted and entered into the icy blast of its full-tilt air-conditioners, we were pretty much set on eating there, even though it turned out to be a Southern buffet.

Now a buffet is supposed to be a great idea for cyclists, since you can eat so very much food at such a cheap price.  On a previous bicycle tour I ate so much at a Chinese buffet that the owners cut me off.  The boss man came over to remove my dirty plates, as he had been doing, but this time he pointedly took away all of my silverware, staring at me all the while, so that I’d know that he wanted me to stop eating. But hey, no one forced him to offer a fixed price buffet. That’s on him. So I went back to the buffet and got three plates of cookies.

Anyhow, I digress. The point is that a buffet is a great way to eat a ton of food, for cheap, which is one of the daily battles on a bicycle tour.  Usually.  The problem is when the food in question is honest-to-goodness Southern cooking, and it’s 100 degrees outside.  After eating what I thought was a modest amount by buffet standards (two heaping platters of fried chicken, fried okra, fried chicken livers and giblets, chicken fried steak, cornbread, okra, macaroni and cheese and chocolate pudding), we left the icy confines of the restaurant for the sweltering heat and humidity of the Mississippi highway.  It felt as if all of the food in my belly doubled in size instantly. That’s how uncomfortable it was.  I could almost feel the ghost of that Chinese buffet owner laughing at me.  As we rode, or more precisely wobbled, away from the buffet, I felt like a hippo riding a tricycle.

We finished the ride by entering one of the most surprising towns on the trip, which is the utterly charming liberal enclave that is called Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  The town is absolutely adorable, and is filled with tons of restaurants, bars, music venues and cafes.  We made it in in the late afternoon, with me still working off the effects of my food hangover, and started calling the churches, looking for a place to stay (like every town in the South, there are more churches per block than Chinese take-out joints in NYC).  We were graciously taken in by the Catholic church, which allowed us to camp out in their garden.  M and I showered discreetly by hunching under the water spigot in the garden, then we spent a lovely evening about the town.

Our little campsite…in the Catholic church garden

Marketing 101: Don’t do this.

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