Day 2 of my road trip from Orlando, Florida to New Orleans started in Pensacola, Florida on US 98 heading into Alabama. My objective was drive US 98 into Mobile where the road intersects with I-10 and U.S. 90 on the bridge across Mobile Bay and drive right through downtown Mobile on U.S. 90 continuing on for another 200 miles into New Orleans. Most of my driving day worked out as planned under hot sunny skies. The area set a high temperature record for the date (June 16) along that portion of the Gulf Coast.
Most of my life I have been a magnet for extreme weather. Though these days many places set high temperature marks each year and the frequent extremes might simply be global warming.
U.S. 98 on the western shore of Perdido Bay.
I lived at Fort Rucker, Alabama army base in 1964. An early childhood memory of white sand beach was one I had always attributed to Carmel, California near my birthplace, but my mother says it was likely Panama City Beach, Florida when my parents took my sister and I there on a beach vacation that year.
I continued west along US 98 wondering when it was going to make a right turn north along the eastern side of Mobile Bay. The turn came after about 40 miles driving west through small towns and street lights with a persistent change in speed limit from 30 to 45 every couple of miles. I kept expecting to get snagged by a cop since I couldn’t remember what speed limit I was supposed to be following much of the time.
Driving off the interstate is how I think a person really sees America, but it requires time and patience.
My overall impression is the area on the east side of Mobile Bay looked like a place with some money. There were a lot of sweet homes. My other impression as I got closer to Mobile is the highway development for a couple dozen miles was kind of strip mallish and suburban. By the time I reached Daphne, I took advantage of the malls to do some shopping at a Winn-Dixie. I figured 4 quarts of sugar-free sports drink would get me through this hot day and Winn-Dixie had them for sale at 75 cents a bottle. Along with some raspberries and a bag of mini carrots for snack food, I was good to go.
Traffic was heavy on a Thursday at 1:30 in the afternoon driving into Mobile. I kind of felt like I was in Southern California traffic jams. The heavy traffic took about 40 minutes to go 10 miles and my plan to drive U.S. 90 through Mobile was canceled when I simply desired to get away from Mobile and back to the beach.
There are some large skyscrapers in Mobile, Alabama, the largest city (pop. about 200,000) between New Orleans and St. Petersburg, Florida. Mobile Bay is the 12th largest shipping port in the USA.
Mobile Bay estuary north of Interstate 10.
Wikipedia – Mobile, AL montage.
The building that caught my attention is the RSA Battle House Tower, Alabama’s tallest building at 745 ft. and the tallest building on the Gulf Coast outside of Houston. I drove I-10 until I came to the intersection for U.S. 90, the beaches road and gave up high speed for more scenery.
My only other stop in Alabama, besides for lights and traffic, was a gas fill-up and a bathroom break after downing the first quart of sports drink. I had asked at the Holiday Inn Express before leaving that morning and was informed I would find cheaper gas in Alabama than Florida. The west side of Mobile Bay lacked the charming character of the small towns on the Eastern Shore in Baldwin County, Alabama.
My only other stop was to say goodbye to Sweet Home Alabama as I drove west on U.S. 90 into Mississippi.
I drove nearly 800 miles over two days to reach New Orleans without once hearing Sweet Home Alabama on the radio. During the past two years of late spring road tripping out of Florida, that Lynyrd Skynyrd song was the most frequent song I heard played on my drive.
Welcome to Mississippi Birthplace of America’s Music.
I was driving into Blues Country.
Orlando to New Orleans Road Trip