Well, it wasn’t quite a New Orleans-level arrival in Savannah, but there were similarities.
Yesterday afternoon I said goodbye to the cute little doggie Pebbles in St. Pete, and my wonderful host Patrick was kind enough to drive me to the Tampa train station—stopping at both a vegan grocery store and vegan deli on the way for provisions—because there were heavy thunderstorms in the area most of the day. (In the morning, though, before the storms, we went out with his housemate Yvonne and “fed the critters” in the backyard, which is their morning ritual. We fed blue jays, squirrels, and a woodpecker with peanuts in the shell for about half an hour, which was really cute.)
The train ride lasted about eight hours, and deposited me in Savannah at about 1:30 am last night. I did not wish to saddle my new wonderful Warmshowers host Robert with such a late arrival, so I had booked a hotel about 3.5 miles away from the station.
When I disembarked, unlike New Orleans the weather was mild, at about 59 degrees, and there was no wind (nor rain, as I would frequently remind myself over the next hour.) I called the hotel to confirm that my room was still available, since many hotels surrender rooms at 2 am if the guest hasn’t arrived yet, and was assured that it was. I was not sleepy, having dozed on the train, so although the hour, darkness, and unfamiliar city combined to create a bit of a surreal feel, I calmly embarked from the station. I expected it to take me no more than half an hour.
Shortly into my journey, I encountered a freight train crossing the tracks just ahead of me. I sighed and figured I would wait a few minutes for it to pass. No big deal.
But shortly after it blocked my passage, the train slowed, then stopped.
Then it began backing up.
I thought maybe it would back up enough that it would clear the intersection, and I could pass.
No such luck. It stopped again, and showed no signs of proceeding in either direction.
I sighed again, checked Google maps for the alternate (longer) route, and turned around.
The roads out there on the edge of town were quite dark, without much street lighting. And when I got to my next scheduled left turn, I was met with a “road closed” sign.
I weighed my options. Maybe the road was closed to cars, but a bike could squeeze through? I really didn’t want to have to wait for that train.
I decided to chance it, and set out down the dark and desolate road. I reminded myself that this was an adventure—and a comfortable one, at that, with such pleasant weather.
I soon found myself at a more impressive-looking barricade, right before the underpass I needed to cross. After attempting to squeeze the trailer through a space in the barricade, I decided against it, and turned around.
Once again, I weighed my options: go back to the earlier crossing, and hope the train has moved on? Or try yet another way that I could see on the map, even though it would take longer?
I hate backtracking, so I chose the latter.
As I turned left down that new road, I was struck by how deserted it felt. It wasn’t blocked off or listed as closed, but the pavement was full of vegetation, as if it hadn’t been driven on in a while.
I pressed on… and shortly reached another barricade, this one entirely impenetrable.
I turned around, and looked once more at the map to find another alternate route, to avoid backtracking and the chance of hitting that stopped train again.
As I made my way from the deserted back roads onto a main thoroughfare, I was able to appreciate how quiet it was at 2:30 am. Things are different at night. Better.
About half an hour later than I had anticipated—and an hour after disembarking the train—I finally pulled in to the motel’s parking lot, and checked into my room. The room seemed to reflect the extremely low price I had paid for it; the bathroom fan on the same switch with the light was nearly deafening at that hour, and I was mortified at the thought of waking my neighbors, so I turned off the switch and brushed my teeth by the light of my bike’s headlight instead.
I made it into bed about 3:30, and fell asleep shortly thereafter, though I awakened at least once because it was cold. I’m not in Florida anymore. (In St. Pete, I had awakened once at 5 am because I was too hot.)
In the morning, I made my way toward town, along sunny roads filled with many more cars than the night before. The drivers didn’t seem too keen on sharing the road with a cyclist, so I took the sidewalk for much of the way.
After about half an hour—the latter part of which was rather scenic in the way I had hoped for Savannah to be—I arrived at the house of my host Robert, who turned out to also have an adorable and friendly elder small lap dog.
We chatted for a bit, and then Robert, who is a professional photographer, went out to get some good shots in the right time of daylight, and shortly afterward, I did the same. First I visited the old-time natural food store across from Forsyth Park, Brighter Day (est. 1978). I grabbed a sandwich and a chocolatey treat, and then after savoring them both at an outdoor table, I set out first through Forsyth Park, then toward the river, finding several breathtaking small public parks and squares all the way there. This city is as gorgeous as I had hoped, in exactly the ways I had hoped. The large old trees, the Spanish moss, the classic street lamps, cobblestone streets… it is wonderful.
I made it down to the river, and spotted a beautiful old sternwheeler. Shortly after I sat down on a bench in front of it, the boat embarked on a tour.
I spent several hours outside, just enjoying the river and the parks.
At 6:00, I met up with Robert for dinner at one of two vegan restaurants in town, The Haunt. It is a mushroom-focused restaurant, which concerned me a bit since I’m not usually a mushroom fan. Apparently the owner is quite a forager, and this area is rich with mushrooms. (I was impressed to see some gorgeous pink ones at the market earlier.) Nearly every dish on the menu was based on mushrooms. I decided to embrace the moment, and ordered a lion’s mane entree.
Wow, I was impressed. The mushrooms tasted more “meaty” than fungal, and all the ingredients of the dish worked together beautifully. It was a splendid meal.
After dinner, we walked back home, where we chatted on the front porch for a bit (yay for front porches!) while the dog made herself comfortable on my lap.
Tomorrow, I’m hoping to bicycle up to Hilton Head Island, about 35 miles away, across the state line in South Carolina. That may depend on the wind situation, though, as well as the availability of my Hilton Head Servas hosts.
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