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FW: [Dauphin Island] Dauphin Island stirs memories

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  • Amos J Wright
    fyi..ajwright@uab.edu ... From: pat creel [mailto:patcreel@cableone.net] Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2004 7:33 AM To: AL-MOBILE-DAUPHIN-ISLAND-L@rootsweb.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 26 9:00 AM
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: pat creel [mailto:patcreel@...]
      Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2004 7:33 AM
      To: AL-MOBILE-DAUPHIN-ISLAND-L@...
      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
      1979,
      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
      apart
      from beach, dunes and two sandy little kids on a low-budget vacation.

      Maybe two years later, Frederick wrecked buildings and homes on
      the
      island. In the early morning hours of Sept. 13, the hurricane took out
      the
      four-mile bridge connecting the island to mainland Alabama. The island
      was
      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
      Coast Guard.

      The morning I bicycled to Dauphin Island from a beach house west
      of
      Gulf Shores, a line of cars, pickup trucks and vans had queued at a
      tiny,
      wood frame guard shack near Fort Morgan.

      Essentially, the round-trip, flat rate is the cheapest way to take
      the
      trip to Dauphin Island by ferry. But the driver of every other car
      wanted to
      know every conceivable way the fare might be computed -- number of
      people in
      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.
      Motorists
      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
      invited
      pedestrians inside to escape the blistering sun.

      I had a cheap poncho inside my Camel hydropack. The poncho was
      about
      as easy to open as peeling apart a decal in the dark. I ended up wearing
      the
      poncho like a scarf when the wind grabbed it. Quite possibly, the
      highlight
      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
      ashore.

      Dauphin Island is billed as a resort. It has beach houses to rent,
      a
      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
      the
      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
      Bean"
      where every other tourist from the ferry had elected to have breakfast.
      I
      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
      vacation
      is working. By the time the line at the counter had thinned and I'd
      ordered
      breakfast, it was 10 a.m.

      Dauphin Island is about 14 miles long, seven open to the public,
      the
      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
      vacation
      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
      public
      beach. There wasn't enough left of the building to stir much nostalgia
      as I
      rode by.

      Riding back to our beach house at Gulf Shores, I stopped at a
      resort
      restaurant to drink four glasses of ice water and soak up some air
      conditioning.

      My family was away on a vacation mission of its own when I got
      back. I
      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,
      found
      it unrecognizable but refreshing and inviting. I will go back.



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