From: pat creel [mailto:patcreel@...
Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2004 7:33 AM
Subject: [Dauphin Island] Dauphin Island stirs memories
Dauphin Island stirs memories
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA
[COPIED from google.com/alerts]
By ED CULLEN
To take my mind off the heat of the oppressive morning, I tried to
remember Dauphin Island the last time I'd visited.
In the late 1970s, before Hurricane Frederick hit in September
my wife, two small children and I had stayed at what seemed the oldest
Holiday Inn imaginable.
Now, riding a bicycle along the Fort Morgan road to the ferry that
would take me back to Dauphin Island, I could remember almost nothing
from beach, dunes and two sandy little kids on a low-budget vacation.
Maybe two years later, Frederick wrecked buildings and homes on
island. In the early morning hours of Sept. 13, the hurricane took out
four-mile bridge connecting the island to mainland Alabama. The island
without electricity for weeks.
For the next three years, one reached Dauphin Island by ferry or
private boat. Initially, the ferry was a troop landing craft provided by
The morning I bicycled to Dauphin Island from a beach house west
Gulf Shores, a line of cars, pickup trucks and vans had queued at a
wood frame guard shack near Fort Morgan.
Essentially, the round-trip, flat rate is the cheapest way to take
trip to Dauphin Island by ferry. But the driver of every other car
know every conceivable way the fare might be computed -- number of
a vehicle, number of older passengers and children.
Bicyclists are considered pedestrians. I paid $5 for a round-trip
ticket and was told to go sit under the big oak tree.
"Board after all the cars are on," the woman said.
The Fort Morgan/Dauphin Island ferry is a no-frills boat.
sit in their cars to get out of the weather. There is no shelter for
pedestrians. At least, I saw no sign over any doorway or hatch that
pedestrians inside to escape the blistering sun.
I had a cheap poncho inside my Camel hydropack. The poncho was
as easy to open as peeling apart a decal in the dark. I ended up wearing
poncho like a scarf when the wind grabbed it. Quite possibly, the
of the crossing for many passengers was my tussle with the poncho.
The ride across Mobile Bay was without incident. Last to board,
pedestrians and cyclists are also last to depart the ferry. We lowly,
nonmotorists tugged our forelocks as the last SUVs and a Humvee rumbled
Dauphin Island is billed as a resort. It has beach houses to rent,
golf course, good fishing, a bird sanctuary and a public beach. But the
island has more a feeling of someone's home.
While most clerks in Gulf Shores are doing well to point you in
direction of the beach, the residents of Dauphin Island know their
territory. I interrupted a man working in his front yard to ask where I
might find breakfast, and he treated me like a lost son.
I followed his directions down a bicycle path to the "Cow and
where every other tourist from the ferry had elected to have breakfast.
got a cup of coffee and retired to a table to wait.
It was at that moment that it hit me that I was on vacation,
unreachable by telephone, surrounded by friendly strangers with the day
stretching before me.
You know that sense of no time that settles over you when a
is working. By the time the line at the counter had thinned and I'd
breakfast, it was 10 a.m.
Dauphin Island is about 14 miles long, seven open to the public,
rest the property of a former congressman's family, I was told at the
Chamber of Commerce.
The Holiday Inn where my family and I stayed on that long-ago
was demolished by Hurricane Frederick. A condo may rise on the spot, a
volunteer at the Chamber of Commerce told me.
The old hotel was toward the west end of the island, near the
beach. There wasn't enough left of the building to stir much nostalgia
Riding back to our beach house at Gulf Shores, I stopped at a
restaurant to drink four glasses of ice water and soak up some air
My family was away on a vacation mission of its own when I got
took a long shower followed by a long nap.
I'd been back to a place I'd held in memory for almost 30 years,
it unrecognizable but refreshing and inviting. I will go back.
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