Monday, March 10, 2008

An Enjoyable Day on the Bike

When I first woke up and looked out my window in the morning I saw a couple of cars pass by every minute, so I figured it would be a light day of traffic. When I set out though, the road was packed. There was room for me to ride and the cars pulled me along with their draft, so I didn’t mind the traffic.

Destin, FL was ten miles away and I was there in no time. I was thinking that I should have stayed in Destin on my day off as there was far more going on. Destin is known as the "Luckiest Fishing Village" Had I taken my day off there I might have gone fishing instead of getting some things done.

My bike was making more noise than it had been previously. Worse than possibly doing further damage to my bike was that I had to listen to the thing clicking every time I turned the cranks. It was like driving around in a car all day with the blinker on. I was able to periodically tune it out, but I knew it was there.

It was two hours before I stopped for a rest and checked my mileage. I knocked off a little over 30 miles without even thinking about it, despite a light wind blowing against me. I love when it works like that. I snuck off the road to use the rest room and when I did so I noticed three cyclists going past in my direction with bikes outfitted very similar to mine. I thought perhaps they might be cross-country riders, so I hurried to catch up.

I couldn’t see the trio when I set off, so I pedaled on. Before long I caught them in my sight and slowly reeled them in. They had stopped on the side of the road, so I went over o say hello. They weren’t cross country riders, but a group in their 60’s and 70’s from Montreal that spend the winter in Destin. They enjoy riding and periodically ride from Destin to Panama City Beach and back. I got to use a bit of what’s left of my French as we chatted for a few minutes.

I passed through Panama City, where I thought I might be able to find a bike shop. I found a great bike shop and again a dealer of my brand of bike. There was only one problem; this bike shop was closed on Mondays! The noise from my cranks was really starting to get on my nerves. I hate when my bike makes any ancillary noise.

I rode past Tyndall Air Force Base. I keep passing Air Force Bases. Why don’t I pass any bases for other branches of the military? I would be glad to listen to anyone’s suggestions on that. There were a number of fighters taking off in groups of three. Those things can make some real noise. I would love to ride in a fighter, though I am not sure the government would be apt to let me do so.

The riding in Florida has been fantastic. There are signs announcing that cars should shares the road with bikes, the roads are smooth as glass and for the most part there is a wide shoulder and/or bike lane. When I had spoken to a ranger in the Gulf Islands National Seashore visitor center, he mentioned that Florida is trying to be even more bike-friendly going forward. It could possibly the most bike friendly state through which I have passed. It didn’t hurt that the temperature was in the upper 60’s. It was nice to ride in just my shorts and bike jersey.

South of Panama City, in the area along Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe, is what I imagine the coastline looked like in the Gulfport/Biloxi, Mississippi area before Hurricane Katrina. There were beach houses all along the far side of the shore. Real estate on the gulf coast is a fraction of the cost than on the Atlantic coast and outside of wave sports, all else is pretty much the same.

Around mile 95 my body started revolting. My back started hurting and my legs grew heavy. I stopped at a little shop to take an ice cream break. I looked out over the Gulf and enjoyed the view of the sun shimmering on the water. The day continued on as the road turned inland. The wind was calm and there was very little traffic as I rode through a Cypress/Pine forest. I had spent so much time in and around cities that it was nice to get away from all of that noise and congestion. The ride south of Panama City was so delightful. The ride had been all business for the last week that I almost forgot to stop, look around and enjoy myself. While not an easy day, it was an enjoyable one.

In the evening, my buddy Steve called to get an update on my ride. One of his questions was, “Are you having fun?" What a good day for him to ask. Had he called a couple of days prior, I might have had a different answer. This ride is far more difficult than my 2005 ride as I am spending longer on the bike and trying to document the trip more thoroughly. It’s hard to sit at the computer after a long day on the bike and write in any coherent fashion. The last 60 miles of my day though were a delight. I would be glad to have those 60 miles as a Sunday ride in my neighborhood.

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