Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Goodbye, Mississippi. You probably won't be missed.

Day 2 - Sept. 17, 2017 - Twiltley Branch > Foscue Creek ACOE Campground

When I woke up around 8:30, I didn't feel human.  I was a shaky, desiccated husk that could barely move voluntarily.  The reason I woke up was because what little hydration that remained in my body desperately wanted out.  That and because the RV across from my site was having shower door problems.  Apparently only Bob would know how to fix it, so his wife was hollering loudly for his assistance.  I don't know that there are any RVs large enough to necessitate yelling.  I fell back asleep as soon as I could.

When I woke up around 10:30, I felt human enough to roll out of my tent.  Late starts beget late starts, but at least it was going to be a short day at 40 less than the prior.  Being so late in the morning, I was roasting as my tent had already been baking in the sun for a few hours, but I had an escape plan in place.  I'd showered the night prior and had been pleasantly surprised to find the bathroom air conditioned.  After dragging myself out of my tent, I limped my way up to the bathroom where I plopped down on a bench and cooled off for about ten minutes.

Normally, bathroom hangs are not a great plan, but Twiltley had two things going for it: 1) It was practically an RV park.  There were no other tent campers, just RVs, all of which have their own toilets, and 2) The toilets had no seats, just metal bowls.  Since the toilets had no seats and the campers already had their own private facilities, it smelled like no one had used the bathroom in quite some time, meaning a bathroom hang was just fine.  Either that or Twiltley has the best janitorial staff in campground history.

Cooled off and packed up, I slowly rolled through and out of the campground.  I'd come in after the park had closed the night prior, rolling my bike under the gate, and this morning I was confronted with a dilemma.  I could have easily left the park without paying and no one would have been any the wiser, or I could pony up.  I'd already had such a rough start to the tour (skewer, fender, bank, sand, dogs, etc.), was it really worth risking the bad karma to save a few bucks?  I had to decide between saving money and earning imaginary moral points.  I decided on the imaginary currency and rolled up to the payment station.  The decision paid off, as the person working the counter said that this one was on the house since no one had checked me in the night before.  I thanked him and headed on my way.  Day 2 was already looking better.

Aside from starting smoothly, it looked better because I wasn't going to be tackling any side roads today.  I'd be on US-80 most of the day, which, after the nighttime riding of yesterday, I'd gladly take the rumble strips.  Mentally prepared for the rough ride, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the highway was different once I reached Alabama.  No more deep rumble strips, just a wide open shoulder with all the room a cyclist could ever want.  Now if someone could just do something about this humidity...

The humidity from the evening before hadn't cleared out overnight.  Looking at the forecast, it appeared that the remnants of a tropical storm were on their way, which would hopefully clear out the ambient moisture.  As a light drizzle started to fall, I kept my fingers crossed that once the rain stopped, the humidity would disappear with it.

"Be careful what you wish for," said every anthropomorphized ironic twist ever.  I don't know if the humidity ever went down during the day because that light drizzle was just a lead up to a half-day full on downpour.  With how wet I was, I may as well have been riding at the bottom of the ocean.  No worries of humidity, at least.

At least it looks like this after the rain.

About 20 miles outside of Demopolis, AL, the rain finally ceased and the wet roads spread out the setting suns rays in a manner suitable for the Barnes.  I was soaked to the bone, but at least the view was nice.  I don't remember if the rain took the humidity with it, but I do know it took the shoulder away with it.  In place of the shoulder it left an army of frogs, many of which were trying to commit suicide by bike.  The last stretch into Demopolis was a hairy one with its shoulderless frog gauntlet.

Again, the campground was closed by the time I arrived.  It appeared that the ACOE hours were similar to those of an old folks home.  Same clientele, as well.  I walked my bike under the gate and found an unoccupied campground a few sites away from the closest RV.  It was only 10:30pm, but the campground was dead silent, so I unpacked and set up camp as quietly as possible.  While minding my own business and unloading my bike, I heard something rustling in the bushes between my camp and the Black Warrior River just a ways off.  I looked up and saw what appeared to be an opossum.  It was the size of an opossum, moved like an opossum, and was as unafraid of me as any backyard opossum I've ever met.  But something was funny about this opossum; it appeared to be wearing body armor.  An armorpossum.

It wasn't an opossum!  It was an armadillo!  My first armadillo!  Well, my first living armadillo!  I'd seen their corpses all along the Texas highway the weeks of driving prior, but I had yet to see one alive.  This reminded me that I'd seen a lot more giant snakes squished along the side of the road during that day's ride, and I really hoped I wouldn't get to meet a living one of them.  But that reminder was quickly replaced by the fact that a real life armadillo was walking by my camp!  It was awesome!

After my close encounter of the adorable kind (and leprotic), I hit the showers.  I was a damn wreck.  My feet were covered in blistered from moving around so much in wet socks.  My nipples were chafed bloody from rubbing against a wet shirt.  My chest was covered in a rash either from the intense heat of the day or the extended period of wetness.  The relaxing shower I took did little to relieve the grossness.

I crawled into bed feeling better than I had the night before.  Partly due to acclimation, mostly due to the barely 70 mile day.  My body was less achy, and my spirits were much higher.  I really felt like luck was back on my side.  A feeling that was reinforced by the sound of rain drops against my tent only minutes after crawling into bed for the night.

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