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Wednesday 13 July 2011

Day 65 - Gulf Islands Seashore

Todays mileage: 77
Total mileage: 3,261
End point: Grayton Beach, FL

I woke up at 7am looking forward to riding a along the coastline. To do this though I needed to escape Pensacola and get over to the beach. This involved crossing 3 mile bridge over to Gulf Breeze and then another bridge over to the actual beach. The traffic was pretty heavy but they had managed to squeeze in a small bike lane and the tolls ofcourse did not apply to me. On 3 mile bridge they were very keen not to have anyone stopping, there was even a sign saying not to stop for flat tyres and that you be fined for doing so. This seemed a little bit harsh - its not like anyone goes looking for those, trust me I know.

Once I hit the proper coastal road traffic was a bit calmer and I caught up with another biker called Patrick. He was a really great guy, half Canadian, half American - I think he thinks of himself as American now apart from when it comes to ice hockey ;) I noticed a small tattoo on his calf, an 'm' with a dot above it. This is the tattoo someone gets who has completed an iron man - big respect, he was telling me he had to actually walk the marathon because of leg problems, but still completed it! Patrick road with me for a good 10 miles or so to the end of the island, it was nice to have some company and exchange a few stories. The area we were cycling through was protected state park so was completely undeveloped, very beautiful but apparently slightly dangerous due to dive bombing nesting birds!
I had to cut back onto the mainland at this point, the next island on the coast is actually owned by the Air Force - good deal for them. So I was back on main highway 98 but only had 20 miles or so until I would reach my end destination of Gulf Shore Drive. Well or so I thought, once I got to Gulf Shore Drive the house numbers weren't quite working out. I phoned Allie whose family I am now staying with, but it turns out there are two Gulf Shore Drives on the coast! The next one being another 20 miles down the road, this wasn't necessarily a bad thing as I need to keep the mileages up.

For part of this journey I managed to cut off 98 and get back on a quieter costal road which ran next to Miramar beach. As I was cycling a long I got overtaken by a couple of youths on scooters, I was doing about 20mph with the wind at my back and they were probably doing around 30mph. The road had lots of pedestrians and thus had lots of stop signs at every junction. The first scooter kid ploughed nearly full speed into the back of a massive ford truck, he had barely started to brake. It was a nasty crash, the kid had taken a massive blow to the leg, lots of blood and he couldn't walk; the scooter was completely destroyed. The driver of the truck lept out and iwas very sympathetic. The dad was actually following on a scooter behind and soon turned up. I felt pretty sick to be honest and a lesson learnt on the dangers of scooters, especially in the hands of kids.

I pushed on and made good progress heading towards the correct Gulf Shore Drive, which is just after Grayson State Park, somewhere I had looked at camping before I knew Allie was here. Allie is Rick Micks girlfriend, and she is here with her parents, two sisters, uncle's family and another family who are close friends. Everyone has been very kind and hospitable and the house has a great location right on the beach, but down a private road so its quite quiet here. I found everyone apart from Allie who came to the door, sitting out on the beach. I went straight for a dive in the ocean and was accompanied by everyone else! They seem to be a little upset with the seaweed which is everywhere, but its quite harmless. I also went sea canoeing with Kevin, Allie's uncle which I have never done before, great fun apart from the fact we took two massive wipeouts. The waves to my suprise have been fairly big, I was expecting it to be a bit calmer in the gulf of mexico. We have just had a massive meal; a huge buffet of all kinds of things, all very good. I'm now tucking into some ice cream whilst the families play games and have fun. I wish I could stay here longer but the clock is ticking.

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