Pensacola, FL to Ponce De Leon, FL
1015 ft of climbing
We woke up Monday morning feeling good. I think Chris and I are feeling a bit less frantic and a bit more reflective this week. I wasn't really aware of how intensely focused we've been about completing our mission until the goal began coming into view. Barring the same threats we've faced all along, injury, breakdown, and weather, we have four riding days left.
After breakfast I made it a point to meet our generous host Jennifer, the hotel manager. When I shook her hand and looked in her eyes I could feel the goodness in her. I expressed my sympathies for the loss of her mother and she for the loss of Deidre. We shared a few tearful moments and shared the feeling. Love is the only thing that endures all. Jennifer asked if she could do anything else for us and I knew she meant it with all her heart.
Cancer is an indiscriminate thief. We beat it when we honor those lost to it by being the best people we can be. We also beat it by not giving up on its eradication. In the meantime, I have discovered comfort in a stranger's kind gesture or the shared sorrow of loss.
Michael came down with his bike and Chris and I both marveled at the slick, red, lightweight machine that is a Lamborghini to our Freightliners.
Michael's daughter Jessica, snapped some pictures of the three of us and off we went. The ride began up Scenic Highway. I was expecting white sand beaches and more Floridian Riviera like we had on the way into Pensacola. Instead it was beautiful wooded bluffs.
The first part of the ride was once again rolling hills. Chris and I have talked about how it would be travelling East to West. I think facing the Rockies in the third week would be brutal but really it's changes of scenery that let you know you're making progress. That and crossing state lines and time zones. Speaking of which, we cross our last time zone Tuesday.
We got to treat Michael to a classic gas station grill lunch. Burgers are typically the only alternative to fried on the menus and I am burgered out. I popped spoke number thirteen but replaced it after lunch without having to take the wheel off the bike.
We hit the road and it wasn't long before the clouds opened up and we got dumped on huge. After several miles in a fierce rain Michael noticed his front tire was flat. We looked down the road and low and behold we saw a gas station with a nice big overhanging roof that was not indicated on the map but whose presence could not have been more convenient.
We stopped for traffic and waited for a chance to turn left across the highway. As we crossed I heard a commotion behind me followed by the sound of a helmet slapping the pavement. When Michael made the turn his front tire folded under the rim and the front end slid out from under him like he was riding on ice. We all assessed his condition and fortunately a hip raspberry seems to be the worst of it. Chris and I thanked him for suffering the obligatory crash on the ride. He replaced his tube as the rain waned.
We set out again and the riding was quick. We made it to our intended destination, for the day, of DeFuniak Springs and had the ceremonial changing of the maps. We put section six away and pulled out section seven, the final map.
We all felt so good we decided to go a bit longer and make it a century (one hundred miles) for Michael. We also wanted to chip away at two fairly high mileage days (one hundred eighteen on Thursday and one hundred twenty eight on Friday) we had planned for the end of the week. The towns are coming much more frequently now and are becoming larger making it easier to modify our ride plan if we feel better or worse than expected.
DeFuniak is a lovely looking small town USA kind of place with a small lake at it's center surrounded by a circular drive. The occasional Mercedes in the driveway suggested it is a bedroom community for somewhere else. Tallahassee maybe?
Before leaving DeFuniak we practiced what we've learned by calling the only hotel and one of the only restaurants in Ponce De Leon to make sure they were both open for business before we left the metropolis of five thousand behind.
We ended up having an excellent, healthy dinner complete with salad and baked sweet potatoes. There were actually items on the menu prepared by grilling instead of frying.
Tuesday will be Michael's second and final day riding with us. We look forward to another fine day.
More to come.