Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fires and Flipovers and Funerals, Oh My!

Yesterday was a day of "F's" which is fitting, since it was a Friday the 13th.

The downside to getting a motorcycle trip started before daylight is riding in the dark where my little bike is lost in a sea of headlights.  The upside is getting to witness a fantastic sunrise.  As I headed east on I-10 through Baytown and Mont Belvieu, a giant red sun began to peak over the scallop of clouds sitting out there on the horizon.  It rose quickly and soon I felt less invisible, as we all flew along the interstate at 75+ mph. 

Somewhere along that stretch of interstate, there was significant police action on the other side of the median  - an 18-wheeler turned over on its side.  I always wonder how the heck that can happen on a flat, straight stretch of highway.  Not too much later, on our side of the interstate, the left lane was closed off and workers were repairing a damaged stretch of pavement left charred by another apparently recent accident.

Another bad accident near Gautier had traffic backed up for miles in the west-bound lanes and had the eastbound lanes slowed significantly, as folks rubbernecked the mayhem on the other side.  An SUV or minivan was flipped over and resting on its roof perpendicular to the roadway and was part on the shoulder and part in the right lane.  Folks could be seen working over someone or someones in the grass alongside the shoulder.  As I continued east, a few miles later, I saw the ambulance flying along the shoulder, so this accident had apparently just happened moments before I got there. 

Then there was the smoke - lots of it - billowing up into the sky above the treetops.  It could be seen for miles but was impossible to tell which side of the interstate this inferno was happening.  A portable electric sign warned us travelers of smoke on the roadway ahead, but fortunately the wind was blowing it away and off to the north.  As I passed what was apparently 'ground zero,' the trees blocked any view of what might be causing this inferno. 

As if all this wasn't entertainment enough...as I neared Tilman's Corner, AL, a funeral entourage, with significant police car and motorcycle escort - lights flashing - entered the interstate.  The mounted officers had the entrance ramp lane and adjacent lane blocked to allow smooth entry of the entire motorcade and then moved up to the front of the line to lead the escort and block up-coming entrance ramps.  Judging from the number of police cars and motor escorts, the number of white stretch limos, this was an important person.  This was confirmed when I spotted the news chopper hovering above as we neared downtown Mobile.  The police cars blocked all three lanes of the interstate, effectively creating a rolling roadblock and keeping the funeral procession together.  However, from the rear, it was creating mayhem.  While those of us near the front and immediately behind the procession knew what was happening, cars coming up from behind had no idea, as they weaved through traffic trying to get past the traffic jam.  Once they worked their way up, they could see what was happening, but not before these drivers put those of us near the front at real risk.  By the time we reached the split immediately before the tunnel, my position in traffic moved from being second vehicle behind the trailing police car in the left lane to about 10th or 11th position, thanks to all of the drivers who weaved through traffic, cut people off, and forced themselves into adjacent lanes of traffic and up to the front of the queue in futile efforts to find a way past the roadblock.  The funeral took the last exit to the right, just before the tunnel. 

Well, all this visual distraction and need for vigilance certainly made the miles fly by!  That, and the absolutely perfect weather!  Not a cloud in the sky, temperatures in the mid- to high 70's the entire day.  It couldn't have been more perfect for a motorcycle trip.

Before I continued across the bridges to Pensacola Beach, I needed to take a detour over to the Running Wild running store on Cervantes St to pick up my race packet with race bib and event shirt.  The shirt is awesome, one of the best!  Good fit and emminently wearable.

This little detour now out of the way, I back-tracked to US-98 and to the beach and the Hampton Inn, where I'd be staying the next three days.

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I used this trip across I-10 to Pensacola - and to the Gulf Coast Half Marathon I would be running on Sunday in Pensacola Beach - to collect those Waffle Houses that I missed getting when I abandoned the second half of the Waffle House SaddleSore 2000 last month.  Getting these would add a few more states to my list, and to my goal of getting all 25 states.

First Waffle House stop was in Jennings, LA.  It was an easy off-easy on detour to grab a quick photo of the Waffle House and took only a couple of minutes.

WH #945, Jennings LA
Second Waffle House stop was in Walker, LA and was combined with a gas stop.  I got lazy on this one and simply backed the bike up from the pump after getting gas, pulling out the rally flag and camera and snapping a couple of shots.


WH #1233, Wal ker LA
Third Waffle House stop was in Gulfport, MS.  Here I topped off the gas tank and grabbed a small McDonalds burger.  The Waffle House was right next door, which made getting this photo easy.


WH #1497, Gulfport MS
Fourth Waffle House stop was in Loxley, AL.  I pulled up to the gas pump to top off, looked across the street, and quickly abandoned my plan to ride over there for this photo.   It was easily grabbed right there from the gas pump, although it took a couple of attemps to get the zoom and shutter speed correct.


WH #869, Loxley AL
Fifth - and last - Waffle House stop was in Gulf Breeze, FL.  I debated whether to get this one, given the very heavy traffic and the very tiny parking lot of this particular store but as I neared it I could see that the parking lot was completely empty and that a traffic light just before the store would help me greatly when it came time to depart the parking lot. 


WH #158, Gulf Breeze FL

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