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June 19th, 2013 | Florida

Mexico Beach…

We left Tampa behind us and headed for US 19, rather than follow the quicker Interstate 75.

I wanted to see more of the quieter side of the countryside, and despite Patricia’s misgivings that it was going to take too long to hug the coast all the way to New Orleans, in the end we were happy we made the decision to take the back roads…

Tyre shop along Highway 19 running north to Otter Creek...

Tyre shop along Highway 19 running north to Otter Creek…

ere I come from, two is an even number... But no matterr...

Where I come from, two is an even number… But no matter…

We stopped for a late breakfast at Otter Creek, about 175 km north of Tampa. I was still used to riding for either two hours or 200 km before making a pit-stop, and that suited Patricia as well.

 Little roadside store and diner... Whacky stuff inside....

Little roadside store and diner, just off US 19, at Otter Creek…. Whacky stuff inside…

Avoid if on foot...

Avoid if on foot…

"We're in the Deep South for sure, y'all..."

“We’re in the Deep South for sure, y’all…”

John Wayne lives on in the form of Jerky...

John Wayne lives on in the form of Jerky…

The store was filled with all sorts of memorabilia, hunting and fishing trophies, and a couple of huge wasps nests… At the back was a small kitchen from where two women dispensed a very basic menu.

The coffee was good, the food was tasty, and the service swift.

We sat outside after we had eaten and checked on the mileage we had left to Panama City. Gi-Gi informed us that it was a mere 425 km, a doddle considering how long she knew I could ride…

Patricia rolled her eyes when I explained that we would get there in about 6 hours, considering we had to make a fuel and lunch stop. We were both melting quietly in the heat, and it wasn’t even close to midday yet…

We stopped for fuel in Parry, a town that lies on the crossroads of major routes going north, south, east and west. We went west, heading towards Oyster Bay on the Gulf of Mexico, but not before I enjoyed my first visit to a Waffle House franchise…

The food was good, and while we ate, we watched servicemen from the nearby air force base being greeted by patrons and strangers alike, and being thanked for their service to their country… I thought back to my own military service and remembered that we were never thanked in the same way… Maybe it was because deep down everybody knew it was all for a lost cause…

The US 98 onto which we had turned when we left Perry, ran through lush forests of verdant green. The huge trees grew close to the road and sometimes it was if we were riding down a jungle tunnel. I was in my element; great roads, great scenery, and rock and roll in my ears…

The new tyres had settled in nicely, and I could feel “true grip” under me again… Almost forgotten what that felt like !!

 Biggest darn pick-up truck I ever did see...!!

Biggest darn pick-up truck I ever did see…!!

"Panama City ?? I thought we did that already !!"

“Panama City ?? I thought we did that already !!”

Then the bloody rain came down again…on cue, you might say. Late afternoon, and the heavens opened once more…
The rain lashed down again... Patricia thought I was crazy to ride in it...

The rain lashed down again… Patricia thought I was crazy to ride in it…

The names here crack me up... I made up some rythning words to go with the first one which I will not share with you...

The names here crack me up… I made up some rhyming words to go with the first one which I will not share with you…

We stopped in Carrabelle, or rather I stopped to wait for Patricia, who had slowed down considerably in the rain. The first words she said as she came up to me were,

“You are not allowed to ride in rain like that again…!!”

“This should be good..!!” smirked the Big Fella, “Let’s see who gets the better of this little conversation !”

The Big Fella wasn’t quite sure of the new dynamics of riding with a back-up driver who sat in comfort while we battled the elements… He wanted to make sure the pecking order remained intact…

I gave my wife my most winning smile and told her as sweetly as I could that it was not so bad, and that “wet was wet”, and  “no sense in stopping as I was soaked already when she handed me my rain-suit just outside Crooked River…”

Fun in the mud if you have the right wheels...

Fun in the mud if you have the right wheels…

It drizzled on and off for the next 8o odd kilometres, until we got to St Joseph’s Bay, a small hamlet of what looked like holiday homes, with a smattering of inhabited homes among them. We were riding right along side the Gulf of Mexico at that point, the gently lapping water more like a lake than the sea…

Executive shack on the sea just outside Mexico Beach. It'll do for me...

Executive shack on the sea just outside Mexico Beach. It would do for me…

By the time we reached Mexico Beach, we had had enough of the rain and the mugginess that came after it. In places, the road steamed, and inside my riding kit, I was steaming too… We decided to look for a place to stay, and chose a smart looking cottagey type hotel, and went inside to see if they had room.

Checking in at this place can be a unique experience. You could lose an arm...

Checking in at this place can be a unique experience. You could lose an arm…

As I walked up to the counter, I saw Patricia conversing with a large Yellow and Blue Macaw, that was trying to lure her closer to get onto her shoulder, which it eventually did..

I was not paying too much attention to the guy behind the counter, but as I leaned on it to ask for a room, a huge Great Dane rose off the floor and planted it’s feet on the counter near my hands… It gave me a baleful look and asked “what the bloody hell I wanted ?”…or so it seemed. Then while the owner explained that they had no lodging available, the dog chewed on my left hand…

I wondered what other animals were waiting to ambush us, and was not all that unhappy to have to go in search of accommodation elsewhere…

We settled on the largest hotel in the town, the five-storey El Governador, which while not as cheap as we wanted, suited our needs perfectly. The beach was literally outside the door and after unpacking what we needed, we headed downstairs and onto the sugary white sand. But not before I was instructed in no uncertain terms to put my wet and smelly boots out on the balcony…

Late afternoon, Mexico Beach. The swim was a life-saver...

Late afternoon, Mexico Beach. The swim was a life-saver…

Always stylish, even on the beach...

Always stylish, even on the beach…

Looking at little frazzled after a hot and wet ride...

Looking at little frazzled after a long, hot and wet ride…

Book early to eat here and expect to wait in a long queue if you don't...

Book early to eat here and expect to wait in a long queue if you don’t…

Even steak... These people are animals...

Oysters maybe, but everything else should be shown a bit of heat in my humble opinion…

After our swim we inquired at the front desk about a place to enjoy some seafood. We were directed to a little place just down the road, appropriately known as Killer Seafood, and told to hurry on down as they closed at 7.00 pm !!

This sleepy little seaside town closed down early, even though many of the hotels were fully booked with tourists.

We were told that this used to be called the “Forgotten Coast” but that name no longer applied. One of the people we met said it was now known as the “Redneck Riviera”…

We were lucky to get a table, even though the wait to get inside the place took half an hour… The waitress stood outside on the sidewalk and wrote names down on a list, and eventually closed the writing pad and declared the restaurant closed for the night.

Several large groups of people were turned away, and Patricia and I looked at our watches and wondered how much better this place could do if they stayed open for another hour or two…

While she was outside, and to cool off customers who were waiting, the waitress sold cold beers and sodas from a huge cooler box behind her… You could run up a huge bar tab just waiting outside, which some families probably did !!

They make no bones about it either...

They make no bones about it either…

The food was excellent, and we were one of the last tables to be seated, and consequently, the last table to leave. This was one occasion where I wished we had got there sooner, and had more time to enjoy the surrounding of this great little restaurant, and for me, that is saying something !!

There was no internet of any kind at the hotel, even in the lobby, where we were told there was…Naughty !!

So, with no emails to read or posts to try to write, we had an early night and fell asleep with the sound of the ocean in the background, and my boots walking around on the balcony…

©GBWT 2013

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