Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Road That Wasn't (All) There

Day two (not counting the evening we arrived) in Florida saw me deciding to attempt a full loop ride. When I stayed here in 2001 or 2002 (I can’t quite remember which year), I did a ride that took me from Pensacola Beach to Navarre Beach along Santa Rosa Island, across the Intercoastal Waterway Bridge to Navarre, along Highway 98 to Gulf Breeze, and finally back across another Intercoastal Waterway Bridge to Pensacola Beach again. The whole loop works out to somewhere around 40 miles.

A strong wind was coming out of the East again, so I repeated the attempt to ride in that direction along the Santa Rosa Island Highway. As noted yesterday, the road has not been repaired (or maintained at all) since the double hurricane whammy of Ivan and Dennis. Much of it is somewhat rideable, but there are major sections that require dismounting and carrying the bike across major swaths of sand where the road has been completely washed away. On Monday I had gone about seven miles and had “portaged” across three sections. On Tuesday I was determined to complete the journey to Navarre Beach come what may.

It wasn’t the easiest of trips. The first seven miles I had already seen were the easiest. There was far more damage on the Navarre Beach side. There was one section in particular where I had to carry the bike through deep sand for about 50 yards, and then I had twenty yards of pavement where I didn’t even bather getting back on the bike because there followed a 75 yard section of deep sand again. I did eventually reach Navarre Beach, but I figured that I had carried the bike somewhere between ¼ and ½ mile of the eleven or twelve mile trek.

The town of Navarre Beach also suffered badly from the hurricanes. I rode past a lot of construction sites. I would see two very nice houses up on piers, followed by a house on piers leaning at a 20 to 30 degree angle, followed by an empty lot but for six or seven straight piers and ten or so piers sticking out of the sand at odd angles. The scene repeated in various order throughout. And large piles of sand were everywhere.

Happily, there was no damage to the Intercoastal Waterway Bridge, and I was able to cross to Navarre without incident. I turned left at the end of the bridge onto Highway 98 and experienced a lovely tailwind for most of the 15 mile journey to Gulf Breeze. I wasn’t thrilled about having to ride on a major highway, but there was decent shoulder and the (very) occasional “Bike Lane” marking. I also noted that there were several “Bicycles Sharing Roadway” signs, but I didn’t count on their presence to protect me. Rednecks are everywhere, as evidenced by the jerk who screamed something unintelligible (unintelligent, as likely as not) just as the car he was traveling passed me.

I got to Gulf Breeze and turned left to take the Intercoastal Waterway Bridge to Pensacola Beach. It was then that I really appreciated the tailwind from Navarre to Gulf Breeze, and wished I cold have carried a little bit of it with me back over to Pensacola Beach. Mother Nature was having none of that, though, so I slogged across the bridge and the four miles or so back to the condos through the same wind I’d fought to Navarre Beach. I ready for my pre-lunch nap. I was allowed to sleep for ten minutes before MG sent me to the shower (I’ll admit that I did stink by then).

My cyclometer showed just over 39 miles. Add in the parts where I carried the bike and I am happy to round it off to 40 miles.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that about Navare. I spent alot of time there in the summers in my early teens. My brother in law was stationed in Milton( just north of Pensacola). We would go to Navare on the weekends because of the nice shelters and great beaches.


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