Decided to push it yesterday and clock in a solid 85 mile day from Marianna, Florida straight west to Defuniak Springs then straight south on 331 to Grayton Beach, or, The Most Wonderful Place I Have Been on This Entire Trip. The first 55 to Defuniak were easy enough, though intermittent rain sprinkles, showers, and powerful sunshine made changing clothing a laborious chore that I eventually gave up on.
The last 30 were crazy. After a nice lunch of fried green tomato sandwich, sweet potato fries, and top 3 all-time carrot cake, hopping back on the bike and pushing straight into the wind coming off the Gulf and through the trees cut out for the highway was quite a task. The bridge over Choctawhatchee Bay reminded me of some of the hardest hillclimbs I’ve done in Colorado and California, plus an unprecedented headwind that occasionally attacked from the side. With all the gear on my bike, I’m more like a sail than a knife, which made for quite an adventure.
The second I opened the graciously-offered home I am staying in, I actually laughed out loud in pure joy. I baked cookies and put Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream on top of them. Blew my day’s budget on a tiny but delicious loaded veggie pizza. Watched my Dallas COWBOYS beat the New York Giants on TV. Hadn’t taken a good look at one of those in a while. In other words, any and all pain and misery of the long day was erased at a rapid rate. Woke up and wrote on the front porch, headed to a lovely spot for breakfast and decent coffee (hadn’t had a cup since I left the Fort) and really took them up on those refills. Even got a couple of cups for the road to have on the front porch as I continued to scrawl questionably legible purple cursive all over my notebook. One or two of these writings is nearly sharing-ready, but the computers in the South Walton County Public Library are fairly frustrating and I’m about ready to get back to enjoying this afternoon in Heaven.
Needless to say, some serious laundry, resting in a delightful bed, eating, visiting Seaside and frolicking in waves of nostalgia and Gulf water, and more eating have ensued. I have written more here than I have on the rest of the trip combined, and being the recipient of such generosity as this open home has had a seriously profound effect on me. The luxuries of this predominantly vacation-oriented area have spoiled and delighted me like never before. This experience has driven a lot of my writing, some stuff that I think will really be worth sharing, but I’m not done yet nor do I have much more time in here. Just wanted to go ahead and throw out this teaser/public Thank You..
Tomorrow we press on along beautiful 30A and Highway 98 to Gulf Breeze, Florida where one of my riding partners has a contact who is feeding us and putting us up, followed by a scenic ride along the coast then straight north into Alabama where more of my relatives will be treating us ridiculously well. This stretch of four nights has been/will be incomparably huge. Combined with the re-emergence of the coast (and escape from the backwoods), things are looking way up for me. Central Florida provided lots of challenges in every sense of the word and was a great learning experience, but it’s good to be near the sea.
It’s dawned on me that New Orleans is some four/five days away from here, which is crazy. Never actually been there. Currently planning places to stay along the way and once we arrive, but that will likely be one of the longer stops on this trip. My plans and goals are ever-evolving, but more on that later.. Just wanted to provide an update while I have the chance and am the most well-rested, clean, and full I’ve been in well over a week.