The Truman Show

18/12/16. Friday was a very mixed day. It went downhill very quickly, then improved a fair bit, then was absolute pants (bloody Garmin! or Stephen depending on who is telling the story!!) and finally was rather lovely (although by then tiredness & bad temper made it difficult to appreciate how lovely!)

From DeFuniak Springs, as foreshadowed in the last post, we went “off piste” by heading down to the coast. This involved taking US331 which was going to be quieter than US90.  More digits = quieter road, right?

Wrong!

It was much busier and, to make it worse, it was being widened to dual carriageway (or divided highway as it is known here – a more understandable name in our humble opinion). This meant that the roadworks impinged on the shoulder for long stretches pushing us out towards the traffic making for the scariest riding we have had in the US. In some ways it reminded us of the bad bits of New Zealand. Perhaps less aggressive driving but offset by more traffic.

Then, just as we reached the end of the roadworks and had a better shoulder to ride on, the traffic reduced significantly for no apparent reason. We were not complaining but just wish it had happened earlier when we had to “share the road”.

Although the cycling now felt much safer the countryside was less appealing than the last few days – as though development had started but then, largely, been abandoned so that it was generally quite “scruffy”. We then came to a long, long bridge over the Choctawhatchee Bay to yet another barrier island/spit of land.

Once over this, the Garmin (operated by Stephen) suggested that we headed down a gravel track into Point Washington State Forest rather than along another busy US route. Christine was dubious but Stephen had faith.

You can guess how it turned out! The track deteriorated becoming increasingly sandy which meant that even Stephen was reduced to pushing. Then it was flooded at one point but we battled our way through the trees round the flood. Turning eastwards we pushed for a while until the trail dived into another flood which did not appear to be passable.

So we headed back westwards with the Garmin showing a track that reached a proper road. We followed this for a while, manhandling the bikes over a fallen tree, until it came to an abrupt end.

At this point Christine resumed charge of navigation and Stephen ducked for cover! We returned to the busy road, via the forest around the flood and the sandy and gravel track, where we had a late and silent lunch. We turned off the main road after a mile or so and joined bike paths alongside roads for the rest of our trip to our Warmshowers host.

The route went through very pleasant, affluent villages on the Gulf Coast and, although we didn’t see much of the beach because of the houses between the road and the sea, it was all very pleasant.

At one point Christine remarked that the buildings reminded her of the The Truman Show. (A great film. If you haven’t seen it then go out of your way to do so but don’t read anything with plot spoilers beforehand.) We found out later that this place (unimaginatively called Seaside!) was where it was filmed.

Our 2 hour, 6 km “yomp” around the forest meant that we arrived at Martin’s house later than expected but he, Molly and Joey (the friendliest dogs on the beach) were just returning from their afternoon walk so it “worked” well.

A warm shower and delicious meal improved our humour no end (!) but, although we were enjoying the bike related chat with Martin, we were both absolutely whacked and turned in before 7.30!

Saturday morning dawned fair and warm, and after a relaxed breakfast we waved goodbye Martin and Joey (Molly was curled up somewhere – sensible lady) setting off back along the trail beside the Scenic 30A for the next 30 km. Well rested, we  were much more able to appreciate its loveliness than the previous afternoon.

We passed many lakes which were of a type, according to the information boards, only found in “Madagascar, Australia and South Walton” (we were in Walton County). We had heard of two of these places before and are not convinced that the third, despite being lovely, is of quite such significance to the world!

Reaching the end of the Scenic 30A  the route followed a mixture of main road with shoulder and quieter roads with sidewalk/separate bike trails through a more commercial/developed stretch of the coast into Fort Walton Beach where we had booked a motel for 2 nights (Saturday & Sunday) to accommodate Christine’s pill day and church.

Just after crossing a bridge we met a young couple, Danielle and Kyle, who were on the last day of a 6 month trip from Wisconsin back to Florida initially by boat but they then swapped to a brand new tandem when they reached the coast and weather turned bad.

Amazingly, Stephen did NOT go for a bike ride on Sunday morning.

No, he was not feeling unwell! It was a combination of unappealing looking routes (other than along the coast which we have already covered or will tomorrow), several other things to do (food shopping, blog writing, reading, etc) and (the biggie) an unappealing weather forecast of thunderstorms and heavy rain. What a wimp!

Just on the subject of weather, the US is in the grip of some bizarre meteorological conditions at the moment with Storm Decima continuing to bring snow and record cold temperatures to the north east. Here in Fort Walton Beach it was 22°C (yes, Celsius!) at 6 am this morning and expected to rise to 23 or 24 by midday before falling to 6 or 7 by dawn tomorrow – a change of 16 degrees in 24 hours! – and hitting a high of 11 by the middle of the day on Monday.

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