Davis Bayou From the National Park Visitor’s Center

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Ok. I’m going to admit it. I was scared to sleep outside, all by myself. I have been camping with other people–my dad, friends who I haven’t known well enough to say no to–but I really want to be able to go alone. I’ve got the biking part of the bike trip down–now I need to figure out how to sleep through the night so I can ride again the next day and get to the next place. So yeah, ten hours of sleep later, and the First Time is out of the way. But I need to figure out how to feed myself–so hungry! Anyway. I got up, ate a grapefruit, took down the tent, and headed to the Visitor’s Center on bike, in case they had the coffee I left at home. I locked up on an overgrown bike rack, walked around the building, sat on a bench, and snapped a photo of this view. If “camping” means this is at the end of your commute, I’m in.

Fishing Pier at Lake Mars in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

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I am not one for making a plan or carrying a map, prefering to find my way by feel or hoping there will be a sign, a foolish strategy likely picked up from my father. If I don’t have anywhere in particular to be, though, the Never Fail Guide Service is perfectly sufficient. It does mean, however, that sometimes I end up on my first solo camping trip, at Davis Bayou in Gulf Islands National Seashore, riding around rich people’s cul de sacs or on roads with no shoulders. Oh well. I rode around so many weird neighborhoods today, showing so many levels of wear, passing folks smoking on their porches in their Slankets, kids on bikes, old ladies with dogs, and a Justin Bieber lookalike on a skateboard–I hope he finds his way out. I took a right on Beachview Road, hoping it would lead me to a beach view. I usually have bad luck following roads in search of their namesakes (today’s trip down Old Oak Lane a case in point), but today I ended up here, at the boat launch at Lake Mars, where the marsh meets saltwater, just me, my bike, and this great blue heron. And now I’m back in the park, writing from a bench tucked away in the marshy grass, waiting for the longest night of the year to kick in. I wouldn’t be here if not for the bike.

Davis Bayou in the Gulf Islands National Seashore

It’s still the holidays, I think, so today I tossed the Surly in the back of my car, grabbed my National Parks Passport, and headed to Mississippi to get a cancellation stamp from Davis Bayou, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The gulf shoreline along scenic highway 90 looks a lot different than it did this time last year. It’s still eerily quiet and relatively empty, but now there are roving bands of workers in matching t-shirts and reflective vests carrying clear trash bags, raking through the sand, hunting for oil. Continue reading