80 miles - Long Day in Florida Panhandle; Hot Day with Many Rest Breaks; Visit to Georgia State Line - March 28, 2017
In the morning, Michelle drove me back to the Walton County Courthouse in DeFuniak Springs. Here's a shot from the car.
Today would be a long day, a successful day, and a nerve-wracking day as the heat would be intense.
While biking across the panhandle on Highway 90, you never get close to the beach. It's mostly forest like this ...
Ponce de Leon, Florida
The first town I'd enter was Ponce de Leon at eleven miles.
I encountered another bike across America cyclist. His name was Grady, a fellow Coloradan who lives in Granby.
He started in San Diego
as well and intended to finish in St. Augustine, Florida. He said his wife and two kids have been an informal
support vehicle the whole time. He'd ride out with just the basics and his family would be out and about in their RV. They'd meet each evening.
Amazingly, he asked, "Are you the guy with the YouTube videos?" He had watched some of my advice videos on
www.youtube.com/bikeacrossusa. That made me smile. :)
Look at the beautiful shoulder.
Like I said when I crossed into western Florida on Day 45,
if you're seeking a route in the Southeast, Highway 90 across northern Florida should be under your consideration. How you get safely and sanely
Mississippi, Alabama, and/or Georgia will be your challenge after that.
The temperatures got into the mid-80s by late morning.
A rest break in the shade at a gas station in Bonifay.
In Chipley, I needed a longer break from the heat.
The only place open (with seating) was a Mexican restaurant on the southwest corner of the junction of Highway 90 and Route 77.
Crazily, it started to rain while I had lunch, and it was still drizzling when I got back on the bike.
Soon though, the rain stopped and the sun came back in full force.
I arrived in Marianna at 58 miles and sipped sweet tea in front of a cafe.
These north Florida towns seemed to have an identity crisis. They were far enough from the beaches to not feel like a
wonderful, touristy, palm treed beach town. And yet, even though there were elements of southern culture, it is clearly not a southern town.
(Nowhere in Florida is the South!)
As I sipped my tea, I debated whether to continue. "Here I go again," I thought.
It would have been perfectly reasonable to call it a day and get a motel room in Marianna, for the heat
was concerning to me. Yet to have biked just 58 miles so late in the journey would have been disappointing. I couldn't stay.
There was one cheap motel in Chattahoochee that I'd already researched that was 25 miles ahead. My heart wanted to get there. I rested
more and even went inside to sip on another refill of sweet tea. (The waitress was so kind and accommodating.) After that,
I headed east and figured I'd take it one mile at a time.
Thankfully there were little towns between Marianna and Chattahoochee. In Sneads, I stopped once more at a Blondie's gasmart.
Outside, I met a friendly motorcyclist wearing Florida State apparel. We had a good conversation about this area being "Seminoles Country."
I kept going. By the late afternoon, the sun set to the west where it was more at my back instead of my right side.
Beyond the Chattohoochee sign was a 225 foot hill that keeps cyclists honest. :)
I'd stay at the Relax Inn, one of the cheapest and dumpiest motels on this trip. Remember though, I said it was "cheap" -- and cheap is a good thing
when you're on a long bicycle tour and you don't like camping.
From the blue dot, I'd walk to Decatur Street and then go north to the border.
The Georgia State Line
If you study maps, you may notice that Georgia intrudes downward into northern Florida. Well, the Georgia / Florida border is
within a mile of Chattahoochee. After showering and getting my bearings, I went on a walk to Georgia.
When I originally planned my route, my plan was to go through nine states with Georgia included. I intended to
take Highway 84 across Alabama and into much of south Georgia, but those plans changed when I learned how great Highway 90 in Florida was.
I have many friends in Georgia -- country folks, rednecks,
city types in Atlanta -- and for a few minutes,
I was in solidarity with them and even made surprise phone calls.
On my previous trips in 2008 and 2011, I finished at
Jekyll Island and
St. Simons Island respectively. This
gave Georgia a special place in my heart. It was only right that I'd include Georgia in Trip #3. :)
On my way back, I passed the Florida State Hospital. Established in the 19th Century,
it was the only mental health institution in the state until 1947. (It was originally named the Florida State Hospital for the Insane.)
You might notice some of the old mental institutions were placed waaaaaaay on the edge of a state or in a remote setting. This was often done
due to the fear and stigma of mental illness. The rationale was, "let's keep those people far away and out of sight from the rest of us."
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