Elevation gained: 719/Miles: 63/Total Miles: 399
I made the right call by heading toward the beach. The ride was, for the most part, flat and Hwy 98 even had a bike lane! It was sunny, but with cold blustery winds. It’s felt strange to be riding along the Gulf Coast and wearing multiple layers to stay warm. Much of the ride I spent down in the handlebars trying to minimize wind resistance. As I rode, I would see flashes of yellow out of the periphery of my view – flocks of yellow rumped warblers that would scatter like leaves as I rode past.
For lunch, I stopped at a BBQ shack near Destin and enjoyed a pulled-pork sandwich, coleslaw and what else? Sweet tea! I’m considering filling an IV drip with this magical elixir and hanging off my handlebars. While I was eating, I chatted with a guy who worked in a bike shop. It turned out to be fortuitous, because when I stopped there to get some leg warmers and spare spokes, they discovered I had a piece of metal in the front tire. If you’re going to have a flat, a bike shop is the best place for it. Robin, the owner was more than helpful. He fixed the tire and adjusted my brakes for free.
I continued my ride with the Gulf of Mexico on my left. It was a bit jarring to see all the hotels, high-end shopping and restaurants after the small towns of the last few days. It was if I had gone from 1970 to 2010 in the space of 40 miles.
Stopping at Henderson State Park, I considered camping. It has some nice protected sites that are within walking distance to the beach. However, the temperature and wind would have made for a miserable night. So, I kept pedaling until I came to Fort Walton Beach where I found a reasonably priced family oriented hotel that I expect was a favorite of Ward and June Cleaver in the early 1960s. There’s even a dilapidated shuffleboard court outside my room.