Today was our day to drive home to the hills of East Tennessee from the flats of Western Florida. We planned to leave this morning by 11:oo am (noon, Eastern time), so I got up early enough to take in one last ride. This made six days in a row of cycling, which is something I almost never get.
The wind was near still again this morning. Looking out at the gulf was like looking at a calm lake. There weren't really any waves to speak of. What little there was simply lapped against the shore. This made for easy riding in about any direction, so I picked the one direction I really hadn't ridden in yet. I headed west through the town of Pensacola Beach and then went north.
The first thing you have to do when heading north from there is to go over an Intercoastal Waterway bridge, which is the closest thing they have to climbs around the Pensacola area. They are relatively steep, but very short. Barely worth the effort of a East Tennessee boy like me, but you take what you can get. Next up was the passage through the town of Gulf Breeze. Gulf Breeze is usually heavily trafficked, but not so much on a Saturday morning, so I had the left-most of the three north-bound lanes mostly to myself. The only thing that really slowed me down was the fact that I just missed making it through the green on every traffic light.
The Intercoastal Waterway bridge from Pensacola Beach to Gulf Breeze crosses over Santa Rosa Sound. The next bridge I came to, which was on the north end of Gulf Breeze, crosses Pensacola Bay to Pensacola. This bridge is known as the "Three Mile Bridge", and for good reason. I'd been across it before by bicycle four or five years ago, and it hasn't gotten any shorter since then. There are three "humps" in the bridge to allow ships to pass under, but only the middle one is of any substance, and the slope and height are similar to the other bridge.
I got to the Pensacola end of the bridge and waited about five minutes before I could cross the road and head back (traffic was picking up). On starting back, I found that I had been riding into a bit of a headwind after all, and I was able to go a little faster back over the bridge. I again caught every light going through Gulf Breeze and hit the final bridge for the last time. The four crossing were my only real opportunities to coast at all. I think I'll enjoy doing that most of all once I get back out on my home roads.
We hit the road about when we wanted and my brother caught up with us in downtown Pensacola just before we hit the Interstate on-ramp. He was on his bike, and was heading to the Post Office and hoping to catch us. Thank goodness for cell phones, 'cause he got us just in time for us to pull into a gas station for the minute or two he needed to get there.
The trip home was mostly boring and uneventful other than the SUV with the trailer whose driver decided to veer quickly into our lane somewhere between Birmingham and Gadsden in Alabama. If I hadn't been looking right at them, they would have hit us. As it was, it's a good thing there wasn't anyone behind me when I hit the brakes...hard.
But now we're home. Maybe I'll see if someone wants to go ride at I.C. King tomorrow?