Panama City Beach, FL to Destin, FL
Total Miles: 2212
Yesterday evening I’m sitting at my camp cooking dinner, parmesan rotini with pepper fried spam, when my camp neighbor walks up. He’s this really young looking guy, maybe 19 or so, and he’s camping out with a bunch of his equally young looking friends. He comes up and says, “Excuse me, sir, but my friends and I are going to be playing music from our speaker and just wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t bother you.” I was a bit taken aback, firstly by the fact that he called me sir and secondly because wtf? Have a finally reached that age where people younger than me think I’m going to snap and start yelling at them for playing their music too loud? Like, give me another 30 or 40 years and I’ll most assuredly be the guy yelling at them damn kids to get off my lawn, but not yet. I’m cool, I’m hip, I’m down with the loud music and partying! I’m still in my prime, dammit! I wanted to be like, “Yeah man! Crank up the tunes, bro! Party on!” The question threw me off though and I kind of just mumbled, ‘Yeah. Sure. Do your thing.” I’m 28 going on 68 I guess.
The second thing had the potential to be very, very bad. After my awkward encounter with the denizen’s of the younger generation I get a call on my phone from somebody from Panama City Beach. Strange, I don’t know anyone here and nobody here knows my number. I answer and it’s the front desk lady from the campground, she said someone had turned in my wallet that I had apparently left in the bathhouse. Classic James. Anyone who knows me knows how incredibly careless and forgetful I am. I’d lose my shoes if they weren’t attached to my bike. I put down my food and rush to the front office. She said it was a kid that turned it in so I ask her where they are camped so that I could go thank them. She gave me their site number and I pedal over. It was a husband and wife and their two kids. I walk up and explain what happened, apparently the parents didn’t even know that the kid had done it. One of the kid had a terrified look on his face and wouldn’t look at me, so I figured he was the one that found it. There was like 5 bucks in there before that wasn’t there now so I think he thought I was gonna rat him out. Not today, kid. Although I of course don’t condone stealing, I wasn’t about to rat out the kid that basically saved me from my own stupidity. We’ll just call it a finders fee.
I woke up today to cloudy skies and lots of wind whipping at my tent. I knew it was gonna be like this so I had prepared a primary and backup campsite, one at about the 45 mile mark and one at the 65, so I could pedal as far as the weather permitted. Once I got on the road, though, it seemed as if my expert forethought was not necessary. The wind was blowing for sure, it was freaking whipping, but it was coming off the ocean with just enough of a westerly tilt to it that it actually helped me a bit. I cruised about 5 miles and stopped in for a sausage egg mcmuffin breakfast before I put in some serious miles. It was looking really ugly out and I was mentally prepared for copious amounts of rain an misery but to my utter delight it was not really the case. I killed the next 20 miles or so with the help of the almost but not quite tailwind.
That all changed at my next stop. The tailwind was tenuous at best and I just knew that it couldn’t last and boy was I right. After my Mountain Dew and Reeses stop I was fighting a headwind the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. It was like Mother Nature had just flipped a big ol’ switch labeled “Screw James and his little Bike too!” 20 MPH winds with 30 MPH gusts were pushing me all over the place and it wasn’t coming directly at me, more from my 10 ‘o’ clock, so it was both pushing me back and knocking me to the side. Luckily I was on a bike path most of the time so rather than being in danger of over-correcting into traffic I was just a big lumbering hazard to the beach cruiser mounted tourists around me. There was one little ray of sunshine on this miserable half of a day, though. His name was Tad and he’s a fellow bicyclist like myself, I saw him approaching ahead of me and as soon as he saw me he was waving like mad to get my attention. He was on his way to Tampa from San Diego and we swapped road tips about our respective ways ahead. I told him about the 5 dollar biker site at Fanning Springs and he told me about a free beach camping spot a few days ahead. It’s always nice to get to talk to someone with the same crazy mentality as myself. Good luck, man!
So by the time I get to my short ride backup camping spot I’m freaking beat. The last 20 miles really took a lot out of me and I was glad I had planned ahead. I got checked in, set up my camp and headed out for a long overdue haircut followed my some ice cold beer. Tomorrow is supposed to be more of the same weather but with any luck I’ll survive. Stay tuned for the next edition of James and his Bike!