34 Miles - Highway 49 Scariest Road of Entire Trip; Overwhelming Heat; Short Day to Hattiesburg - March 22, 2017
Change in Route
My planned route from the start was to take Highway 84 from Gatesville, Texas all the way to Valdosta, Georgia.
From there, I'd head south towards Titusville, Florida. However, after receiving counsel from Mike Kindle
(a friend who biked on Highway 90 from the Florida Coast to Louisiana), I opted to bike south and make a direct line
to the Florida Panhandle. I was told Highway 90 was bicycle-friendly and had wide shoulder and a bicycle lane in many sections.
Having experience cycling in the South, I knew not to push my luck with whatever was ahead
for the remainder of Mississippi, followed by Alabama and Georgia. So from Collins, I headed south on Highway 49 towards Hattiesburg.
PHOTO: Five miles to Seminary, and 24 to Hattiesburg.
The Scariest Road in America
I'll say up front that it was a good decision to divert from my route to the Florida Panhandle.
However, there was one dangerous section to contend with. Right here.
Let me introduce you to Highway 49 between Seminary and Hattiesburg. It is about 12 miles of no shoulder and loads of traffic headed south
to Hattiesburg. Honestly, I still can't comprehend why such hoardes of people would want to visit Hattiesburg. The traffic reminded me of somewhere in
New York or Chicago.
I stayed far to the right. I had my rear flashing lights on.
Sometimes I'd edge onto the slither of pavement to the right of the rumble strip.
The problem: there were so many cars flying by that then it wouldn't feel safe to get back to the
left of the rumble strip until the torrent of cars had passed.
The riding was really stressful. It was the only time on the trip where I was seriously concerned about
my safety and watching my side view mirror like a hawk.
Many cars and trucks honked at me. In fact, over four days I got honked more in Mississippi than any other state in the country.
After about 10-12 miles of cycling hell, the highway's shoulder gave me some grace. Sweet relief.
Right at that point, there was this gentleman by his truck wanting to speak with me.
I'm not gonna lie. At first, I got defensive and rehearsed how I would respond if
he lectured me about "bicycles shouldn't be on the road" or something like that.
Well, this man's intentions were positive. His name was Mr. Folkes (I forgot his first name),
a retired professor from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He told me that he'd like to buy me lunch. He
said if I went to a certain restaurant and mentioned his name, I'd get a free meal.
I was so grateful, but the restaurant was miles off the main highway and I told
him that I was merely biking through Hattiesburg. Eating at that place wouldn't work.
Still, I thanked him profusely for his friendliness and got a picture of him. What a nice guy.
A nice wide shoulder as I got closer to Hattiesburg.
By the way, signs indicating distances by driving time were meaningless to me. The only
measurement that helped was a one-hour car ride was about what I'd do in a day.
Approaching a traffic light at the Interstate 59 intersection.
The traffic was intense and the shoulder was minimal within the city.
At the crossing of N. 26th Avenue and Hardy Street, I was at the southeast corner of the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi.
On the south side of Hattiesburg, I was more tired than usual due to the stressful riding conditions.
I had only gone 31 miles and it felt like I had gone 90. Also, the temperature became hot enough to be issue.
With a break in order, I ate and rested at a Subway restaurant inside an Exxon gasmart for over an hour.
Good news: the ten day friend-less streak ended when Christy of Hattiesburg visited me.
We had known each other through online communications on and off for 10+ years
(i.e. the Friendship Board on ColoradoGuy.com), and finally we met in person.
Much thanks to Christy for seeing me on her lunch break. :)
Humbled In My Motel Room
I rested. I showered. I had to take this in stride.
To give a little perspective: I encountered two people at the motel who encouraged me. The woman who checked me in
was stunned when I told her I rode my bicycle here after starting in California
six weeks ago. It put a huge smile on my face. Then another guy who works on the cleaning crew, helped me find my room and asked about my bike.
When I told him what I was doing, he started laughing and patting me on the back. He treated me like a super-athlete.
It was a paradox. To an average cross-country cyclist, riding only 34 miles would be considered a lazy day. Yet, when viewed from the perspective of an
"ordinary joe," riding 34 miles is a lot and oh my gosh, it's just unbelievable that you rode your bike from California to here!!! ;-)
After Christy was gone, I was ready to go. Beyond Hattiesburg, the plan was to ride a few miles south and then ride east on
Highway 98 as far as I could towards the Alabama state line. There were no motels that I knew of in that section of small towns named
New Augusta, Beaumont, and McLain. I just figured I'd go another 30 miles or so, and then hitchhike back.
I even got some cash from my debit card to pay someone.
Well, they say the "best laid plans of mice and men often go astray." From the Subway, I biked
two miles to the Highway 49 & 98 interchange, and the heat got to me. It was clear that my body was not adapting well to the afternoon heat. So
at another gasmart, I called it a day and paid an Uber to shuttle me to a Motel 6. I was conflicted and upset. It was so humbling to have only gone 34 miles.
My video explaining the situation ...
University of Southern Mississippi
I was determined to make the best of my evening in Hattiesburg. I walked to the University of Southern Mississippi campus
where I spotted two waterfalls. It was then that I remembered that in 1994,
I had visited this campus when I was researching graduate schools
to study social work.
A guy told me about a tornado in 2013 did a lot of damage to the front of the campus.
There were many large and mature trees in front, but now there were none.
Java Werks Coffee & Tea
I visited Java Werks Coffee & Tea across the campus. It was a cozy cafe to relax, and I happened to sit across from Bill and Catherine.
Quickly we got into a conversation, and I ended up making a 9-minute Facebook live video of us. We got to talking at 1:30.
When the cafe was closing, we all left and my new friends gave me a ride back to my motel. It was much appreciated. Here's a nice picture of us. :)
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