There is a certain satisfaction in seeing something in part, and then, seeing it entirely. You have an opportunity to imagine what you cannot see, filling in the void with endless possibilities. Maybe you imagine, as I did, that the random bicycle path you picked on a map will lead you to Voodoo Doughnuts; maybe your imagination was in fact, creepily accurate. When you finally see the forest for more than the trees, you gain perspective. Or, at the very least, you can figure out where the hell you are.
bicycle route sidewalk I’ve been taking through Biloxi to Ocean Springs for the last few weeks also runs West, following US 90 until it terminates somewhere before Louisiana. I could have looked at Google Maps to find out exactly where I would end up had I decided to head in that direction, but what’s the fun in that? So I decided to take the trusty Dahon on it’s longest jaunt yet: to the end of the sidewalk.
The fact of the matter here is that there is an ocean on one side of you, and a highway on the other. Not much more can be said of it, unless you want to hear a description of the subtle hues in the sky and the feelings I feel when the wind blows a summer breeze (it makes me feel fine). There are many portions where the transition from one patch of sandy concrete to another patch of sandy concrete is a little less than delicate, but I’m on a Dahon with 20” BMX tires, I’ll be A-OK. Now, the guy I passed on skinny road slicks and TT aero bars (yes, also riding on the same “bike path”) well, he’s very possibly now deceased.
As I made my way, passing beach-goers and a giant military-industrial-complex-themed retirement home, I did notice something very much out of place:
Did you spot it? Between those two cars driving at felony speeds. Let me zoom in for you:
“SHARE THE ROAD.” Yes, please-- and thank you very much. That looks like a bike lane! How excited am I to finally find a road that affords me my very own lane. This was, however, not the end of the sidewalk, and I had miles still to go. I’ll check it out on my way back, I thought to myself. Something to look forward to. I pedaled on.
The sidewalk continues on and eventually merges with the spaghetti bowl of pedestrian/bicycle leisure paths of Jones Park. We’re now officially in Gulfport. This park was nice; there was the giant pavilion above, a couple piers to fish off of, an ice cream man in his ice cream truck and plenty of “green space”. After meandering for a minute or two, I reached the western-most portion of the park and suddenly realized that this was it. The path ends here. If I wanted to continue to ride, I would need to take normal roads and join the parade of motor vehicles we refer to as “traffic”. I’m here, I might as well check out what Gulfport is all about, and it was about lunchtime, so I found what appeared to be the main street and moseyed on into town in search of equal parts food and cultural understanding.
Not a whole lot beyond an Oyster House and a Sonic, as far as I could tell. I did find the local library, though, and figured I would use one of their computers to a.) write a quick message to the Mrs. in the event a pickup truck with a confederate flag and muddin’ tires prevents me from doing so at a later point in time, and b.) search Urban Spoon for a decent place to eat.
Finding a place to lock up my bike was proving to be difficult. There were no bike racks, nor railings, nor chain-link fences that would accommodate my diminutive U-Lock, so I had to get creative. Finding a wooden post in the ground, I unfolded the Dahon and locked it to itself, a la a double-jointed escape artist.
I wrote my message to the Mrs. and Urban Spoon’d a local vegetarian restaurant called Good Karma, and continued on my way. [The restaurant, I would find, was actually out of food by the time I got there, but all was well, because they gave me some tea and a cookie and didn’t charge me for it. Something something something karma.]
Having had my fill of Gulfport, I rode eastward, back towards the mysterious bike lane. Where did it go? I was very excited to find out… up until the point I discovered that it leads to absolutely nowhere.
Sure, it looks like a legitimate bike lane, and technically it is, but the more I followed it, the more I suspected the city had a bicycle stencil and a surplus of road paint, and they just kept painting the shoulder until they ran out. Or got bored. Because after six or so miles of increasing nothingness, I came to what appeared to be a highway on-ramp with bicycle stencils on its shoulder.
Yeah, I quit. It was time to turn back around. I’m not sure what I expected, but I don’t think it was to be led out into the bayous of Mississippi just to get on an interstate…on a bicycle. I rode back south towards the Gulf and back onto the familiar sidewalk that takes me to Biloxi.
Even though I was ultimately disappointed in the destination, the journey itself wasn’t bad. I mean, I got to ride for quite a while on a lane designated for bicycles, so that was kind of a treat compared to feeling marginalized(literally) on the regular streets. And if anything, I increased awareness of other cyclists on the road, as I’m sure people drive up and down this stretch regularly without ever seeing someone actually use the bike lane.
So I officially retract my previous statements about Mississippi not including bicycles in their infrastructure. They do make accommodations for bicyclists—they just suck at doing it.