Yesterday I took two of my programming students to the University of South Alabama just west of Mobile for a programming competition. The competition involves a 5-hour session where we cannot make any contact at all with the students. What is a biking professor to do for those 5 hours? Well, let’s see, I’ll go for a bike ride! Here’s a topocreator.com map of the route I took from the university down to the coast and across a 4 mile long bridge.
I started out heading due south on Hillcrest Road which was surprisingly hilly with some 5, 6, and 7% grades. It was a very wide 4 lane road, but there was a bit of traffic. Eventually, I made my way down to Carol Plantation Rd which took me for the next 14 miles south towards the coast. This road had much less traffic, but it was a narrower 2 lane road with a speed limit of 55mph. The road was very straight so most cars passed on the opposite of the road. I had a pretty strong side-headwind to battle so my pace hovered right around 20mph. It was very windy once I made it to the bridge. The middle of the bridge rose up very sharply with a maximum grade of 7%. Just to the right of the white line was about 18 inches of smooth, debris-free shoulder which allowed me to ride the bridge without being in traffic and without worrying about getting a flat tire. The actual shoulder was probably 6 feet wide, but it was quite debris-strewn past that 18 inch mark. It didn’t matter much though because there was hardly any traffic.
Dauphin Island itself was a great place to ride with low speed limits, and wide smooth roads. I rode to the easternmost point of the island just past the ferry which is a 45 minute trip across the bay to Fort Morgan. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for me to ride the ferry across, so I turned around and headed back with a strong tailwind. I was able to average much closer to 25mph for large sections of the return trip, except for the portions of the route which turned northeast since it was a strong southeasterly wind. It was an awesome change of pace from my normal riding in Birmingham.