In The De Soto Swelter, Day Four

Leaving The Woods

With support from North St. Bags

Listen, you know the deal by now. The idea of waking up early, like still-the-middle-of-the-night early, to get a few hours of riding in before heat gets unbearable sounds promising. That is until 4am rolls around and the body so worn out from heat exhaustion and perpetually teetering on the edge of dehydration refuses to put forth any effort beyond turning the phone off and returning to its comatose state. But last night's temperatures were so pleasant, and we damn near drank all of Black Creek, that I manage to crawl out of my hammock as awkwardly as possible and greet first light with a smile and a defiant middle finger.

Because, you know what? Be as hot as you want De Soto National Forest, because we're sixty miles away from the Gulf Coast and I'm over you. I'm over your towering pines. I'm over your haunted cypress swamps. I'm over your skittish coyotes and nosey dragonflies. I'm over your total lack of snakes. We're sixty miles away from the Gulf Coast and you can kiss my ass because we are going to make it to the coast today no matter what.

And so, defiant and proud, Johnnie and I, we pack up.

Skidding into the void.

Talking is pointless. We ride in silence, on a mission to get out of this forest. The only thing that has changed from the past few days is our awareness of our proximity to the Gulf. Johnny keeps saying he can't wait to dip his feet in the cool, clear water on the beach. I don't have the heart to tell him what he's dreaming of, the gulf coast won't have. We pedal onward.

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North St Bags

Some Pokémon are hard to catch.

Some Pokémon are not hard to catch.

Mississippi life south of De Soto National Forest is a bit more, well, bumpin. Suburban sprawl but with a notable southern finesse surrounds us on these narrow, shoulder-less roads- of which only two lead across swamps and into town. With only two roads, the car traffic at the best of times tolerates us, but our arrival into Gulfport, Mississippi is marked by car horns, yelling, and semi drivers' successful attempts at intimidation. The air is cooler, with a sweetened smell to it, signifying how close we must be to the gulf. It's the barrier needed to ignore the terrible drivers just long enough until we can find a side street.

And then we see it.

Wind coming off the water smacks us in the face, and it's the first real break from the heat we've had all day.

It's not that big of a deal.

The evening light comes fast. Johnny treats himself to a dinner at Waffle House. I can't bring myself to leave the beach and the water, so I wander along Gulfport's shore. You can tell, from block to block, that the town had struggled in recovering from Katrina. But folks walk past vacant, overgrown lots on their way to the beach. What buildings there are, the lights are on and people are inside.

The sunset lasts for an eternity. I meet back up with Johnny. His hat now has a wafflehouse button on it. Cars drive past in the darkness, waves crash into the white sand. Now we just have to get to New Orleans.

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