Head down, walk on

Roman Mars, my favorite name for a writer, encourages urban pedestrians to look down and appreciate that, in years past, industrialists incorporated elegant design in utilitarian objects such as drainage grates and manhole covers. In his book The 99% Invisible City, Mars explains that aesthetic detail under foot in late 19th and early 20th centuries elevated the mundane primarily for the pleasure of a walking public. (The trend waned as vehicle use increased, but some urban dwellers continue “drainspotting” on sidewalks and streets with the same determination as shell seekers at low tide.)

I study the ground as I walk too, but on north Baldwin County trails I look for the shards and sherds of utilitarian objects like dishes and liniment bottles. I run my finger over a weathered wide bottle lip or raised lettering on a jar fragment etched with time and ponder its use and original owner. I marvel at a tiny bubble suspended in amber glass, trace the veins on pottery pieces, and examine a busy blue transferware pattern and then wonder how this remnant landed in my path. Who was the child that cared for and then lost this pitted marble? (Maybe she buried it so a wanderer could discover it decades later.)

My walks turn up nothing of value, no prized arrowhead or soldier’s buttons, the kinds of objects that excite collectors. But art is where you find it, even in a mosaic of random rubble from early farm life.

Ride of the centuries (suitable for all ages)

“It is history that teaches us to hope,” a wise general once wrote. I thought of that today while studying the headstones at Village Point Park Preserve in Daphne. The sweet cemetery bears witness that this was ranchland belonging to the D’Olive family in the 1700s, long before this was a city, or part of a state, or even an independent nation.

Village Point Park Preserve

The park is an estuary for wildlife and home to State Champion Trees. It is also a convenient place to start a ride or a walk along the Eastern Shore Trail, with public parking dawn to dusk, picnic tables and restrooms, bike racks, and nature trails. Directly outside the park gate, cross Scenic 98 (Main Street) to get on the Eastern Shore Trail, which is well-marked and a sidewalk here, level and shady. Less than a mile south, cross Whispering Pines Road to rest on a bench under a generous oak. The sidewalk continues behind the Daphne Library then skirts the massive steel dreidel sculpture, “Luminosity.”

As you approach a four-way stop at Santa Rosa Avenue, note a collection of whimsical metal sculptures on the left and Daphne Elementary School ahead on the right. Cross Scenic 98 here to stay on the Trail (sidewalk) in front of the school.

Olde Towne Daphne

The sidewalks cross several low-density neighborhood street outlets. When you spot Lott Park ballfields and tennis courts on your left, the compact commercial district lies just ahead. Yield to pedestrians on busy fair-weather weekends. Little Bethel Baptist Church and cemetery, at the corner of Magnolia Avenue, has a special history dating to the mid 1800s. Take a moment to cross Scenic 98, read the historic sign in front, and contemplate the lives (at the gravesites) of those early residents.

Back on the sidewalk, pass the City Hall complex and then Christ the King Catholic Church and school. Just beyond it, look for the directional arrow to cross Scenic 98 again to stay on the Trail (sidewalk). Half a mile south is W.J. Carroll Intermediate School, and a directional sign for the Black Educational Museum. Next to a small white clapboard building, a plaque explains the history of Black education on the Eastern Shore, which had humble beginnings here in 1889.

On your return trip, take your time, and enjoy the shops and eateries in “contemporary” Olde Towne Daphne. Look for other historic signs on the route. Total travel distance is 5.5 miles round trip. (27710 Main Street to 1000 Main Street, Daphne)

Bike-friendly campaign

dr poetThe Trailblazers launched a Bike-friendly campaign in summer 2019 to recognize private businesses that serve and encourage county cyclists. Here is a list of the initial recipients of the coveted window cling that proclaims “bike friendly” status.

1 Sunflower café
2 Fairhope Health Foods
3 The Warehouse Bakery
4 District Hall
5 Fairhope United Methodist Church
6 Fairhope Unitarian Fellowship
7 Bayside Orthopedics
8 Winn Dixie
9 Thomas Fitness Center
10 Greer’s
11 Two Sisters Deli
12 Pro Cycle
13 The Fairhope Store
1. Whits
2. Infinity Bicycles
3. Eastern Shore cycles
4. Publix Daphne
1 Foley Bike Shop
2 Drowsy Poet Coffee Co.
Gulf Shores
1 Zaxby’s
2 Tacky Jacks
3 Acme Oyster House
4 The Hangout
5 Gulf Island Grill
6 Beach House Kitchen & Cocktails
7 Glow Yoga
8 Big Beach Brewing Co.
9 Gulf Shores United Methodist Church
10 Rouses Market
11 Tikis mini golf and bike shack
12 Picnic Beach Restaurant

*Government agencies provide racks at public parks and buildings or on city streets, and we are grateful for those. This list (above) includes private places that serve the cycling community by renting or servicing bikes or by providing racks. No doubt we missed a few, and would be happy to send them a “bike-friendly” window cling, too.


Trailblazers salute “bike-friendly” businesses

Lynnora Ash and jeremy cafe
Sunflower Cafe owner Lynnora Ash shows off a bike-friendly logo. The cafe, which recently added a bike rack, is one of many businesses recognized by the Trailblazer for helping cyclists.  With her is Board member Jeremy Portillo.

Daphne, Ala (June 24, 2019) – Two popular purveyors of ice cream, both located on the Eastern Shore Trail, have been recognized for accommodating bicycles. Just in time for National Ice Cream Month in July, the Baldwin County Trailblazers, founders of the Trail, presented Whit’s Frozen Custard in Daphne and Two Sisters Bakery & Deli in Fairhope a Bike-Friendly window emblem for providing bikes racks on site.

“We want to raise awareness that a growing cyclist community is good for business,” says Jennifer Vestal, president of the Trailblazers. “Eventually we hope to give 50 businesses across the county a Bike-Friendly emblem to display on glass doors or windows. But bicycling and ice cream are two of the joys of summer, so these shops are fitting places to kick off a Bike-Friendly campaign.”

Celebrating National Ice Cream Month or any time, cyclists have an advantage. According to Harvard Health, an average-weight adult burns about 300 calories every 30 minutes during a leisurely paced bike ride. That’s about twice the calories of a single serving of your favorite flavor.

These short-ride destinations on the Eastern Shore Trail offer ice cream and a bike rack:

  • Whit’s Frozen Custard, 1204 Main Street, south of downtown Daphne. Located 2.5 miles, or about 10 minutes by bike, from Village Point Park where you can leave a car. (Facebook: Whit’s Frozen Custard of Daphne)
  • Two Sisters Bakery & Deli, 19452 Scenic Highway 98, serves Cammie’s Old Dutch ice cream. Located 1.3 miles, less than 10 minutes by bike, south of the Fairhope Municipal Pier where you can leave a car, or 2 miles north of The Grand Hotel. (Facebook: Two Sisters Bakery & Deli)

Know of other businesses that deserve bike friendly recognition? Contact baldwincountytrailblazers@gmail.com

Baldwin County Trailblazers is a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for biking and walking within the county. See Thetrailblazers.org