The Emerald Coast
March 26, 2011
Bo’s trip down into Mexico was canceled due to concerns of increasing violence that could affect the safety of riders. Instead, a trip across the southeastern Gulf coastline was planned to eventually reach Savanna, Georgia. Bo and Joy, Bud and Karen and Herman would do the whole journey and return back to the Dallas area the following Saturday. I decided to tag along with the ride until Destin, Florida. I found out later that Charlie was planning on doing the same, and Allan had the same idea right before we left.
I met the group at the Cotton Gin Saturday early. Jim came down to see us off. We rode into the East Texas piney woods past Lake Sam Rayburn and crossed into Louisiana below the Toledo Bend Reservoir. The trees and grass are very green now, and the Dogwoods are a bright contrast with their white blooms.
The rivers and lowlands of Louisiana were becoming more prevalent as we continued east through the winding path of the Red River and eventually the Mississippi. Just as we neared the lowlands of the big river, Black Water by the Doobie Brothers came up on the satellite radio. What timing…
We crossed the Mississippi on ferry between New Roads and St. Francisville, our stop for the evening. This year is the last that the ferry will run, with a new bridge south of the crossing almost complete.
The Azaleas where amazing all through Louisiana and into Mississippi.
Prior to dinner, Bo led us on an adventurous loop of the woods.
We decided on doing dinner at the Eight Sisters Restaurant, to get some authentic soul food.
My gumbo was looking back at me… Darn good, though. The sweet potato pie was so good I forgot to take a picture of it.
March 27, 2011
We worked our way down to the Gulf Coast this morning, and rode along the breaking waves on Highway 90. The damage from Hurricane Katrina was prominent. Gone were the majestic old homes along beach. New homes have been built up on some lots, and others just had a slab or piers left behind from the storm. There is a brand new bridge at Biloxi now open.
Charlie, Allan and I rode north towards the interstate in order to get to the Destin area a bit earlier, while Bo’s group went on to the ferry. Good thing we split away, as our smaller tanks would have required a fuel stop before the ferry, which would have thrown timing by a 1.5 hour delay. Bo’s group was the last to board the ferry, and they immediately departed.
The three of us rode north and back down to the coast at Pensacola. We were making lunch plans over the radio, and decided on Pensacola Beach for a stop.
Charlie remembered a fun-looking place right near where he and Cindy had stayed once. Crabs turned out to be great food, with just a great view of the bright white sand beach with plenty of activity. I had a shrimp po’ boy, and Charlie had a crab cake benedict. Not your typical Dallas lunch…
On east through the pristine beaches of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. This will be a return destination for Deb and me soon.
We settled into the hotel, and checked Bo’s group via SPOT GPS positioning. We were over an hour ahead of them, so we decided to shower off and meet them at their hotel in the bar.
The first order of business was to get Allan to take off his shoes and experience the soft amazing sands of the Emerald Coast. This beach sand is famous, with its quality reputed to be one of the best in the world. The water off of the beach is a spectacular clear emerald color. It was too cold to swim, and the red flag warning was out warning of dangerous undertow.
Margaritas were on my mind, and we discovered half-price drinks there mixed up by Tom, the friendly barkeep, and Miranda Belle, his sidekick from North Carolina. He was coaching her through the art of the mixed drink. And for entertainment, we were all trying to figure out the names of all of the generations down to Miranda’s.
Dinner was at Dewey’s in Destin. After the margaritas, there was no sense in mounting the motos. I called up Zimmer Shuttle for a ride for the eight of us. Jamie answered, and at first sounded a bit grumpy at the late notice. He showed up on time, and my first thought was Dog the Bounty Hunter with his burly looks. He turned out to not be a grumpy driver at all, and was a blast with a great beach lifestyle attitude and bleached blonde hair to go along with it all.
Dewey’s moved not too long ago to a harbor location. The sunset through the boats was spectacular. I shot the requisite photos, and headed in for a locals favorite Pirate’s Punch (hey, I’m on the beach…). The food at Dewey’s was just a spectacular as the sunset. I had blackened Red Snapper, remembering back to the days my dad and I fished the deep seas of the Gulf for the same. He loved the coast.
March 28, 2011
Charlie and Allan were planning on traveling to Baton Rouge for an overnight stay before heading home. I had made up my mind on the previous day to make the run back home in a single day. The reason was two-fold. I’m doing a 12-hour rally at the end of April, and needed to get a good feeling for distance over time without spending much down time, and I wanted to get home to Debbie (the more important reason).
The obvious route to make the best time is the dreaded interstate highway system. I decided to work my way up north first, and took Hwy 98 and 49 between Mobile and Jackson. Both of these roads were surprisingly pleasant, even though they were designed for high traffic with four lanes. The route was rolling hills through forests the whole way, with minimal traffic.
I got my mind set on barbecue for lunch in Jackson, and started searching for a stop. I found one just south of Jackson, Old-timers BBQ. The warmth of the cafe was a nice change from the chilly temperature that had had been dropping steadily from the low 70’s in the Emerald Coast this morning to below 50 in Jackson. I ordered up my sliced brisket sandwich and had a seat. I heard what I thought was a Cajun accent call that my order ready, and I asked him if he was from Louisiana. He said no, and did I have a problem with his accent. I said of course not, and asked him where he was from. “Forty years in this country, from Greece!”, he replied. He said he knew nothing when he arrived here, language or trade, and built his own business. I applauded his effort, and his cooking skills. It was some of the best brisket I have ever had.
Interstate 20 is nothing to write home about. It just gets you there. But I enjoyed it regardless, listening to music and meditating (while still paying careful attention) at 75 mph. There was a nasty wildfire around Longview that made for a foggy-looking ride for a bit.
Another good weekend ride, and some very contrasting scenery and weather. I love motorcycling…