A restless night in the hotel after some great food at Hooter’s (finally) last evening.  Beginning any day with breakfast is not an absolute necessity for me, this morning the standard ‘continental-breakfast’ will provide my start.  Now a consistent cup of coffee is something else – since 40 – I like to have one of those.   Now finding one when traveling is pretty much a losing battle too, same this morning – the coffee stunk.

Still, I loaded the truck and headed westward down the blvd, up the road, simple plan, continue west until…………

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Highway 98 can become pretty busy along Florida’s ‘panhandle’ so I located the drive along the beach (Gulf Dr.) and headed out and west on it, if I am to be stuck in traffic it will be along the shore.  Years ago I couldn’t drive this area because in the semi I was confined more to ‘by-pass’s and driven by a delivery schedule; today I’m just ‘ambling’ down the blvd at a comfortable rate soaking it all in – maybe one day I’ll follow the shore all the way to Galveston.

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The scenery is pretty much the same as the beach in SW Fl that I grew up with and became accustomed to, nothing extraordinary different except the quantitative volume of cement that has continually gone into our shoreline.  Some speak of how creating new beach barriers or ‘jetties’ affects the natural movement of beaches; It appears that with all this cement on our beaches now – our coastline is in itself a giant man-made ‘jettie.’

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I recall going to the beach before, and as it all began (the condo’s) in the 50’s.

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Moving along Gulf Blvd the ride was comfortable and only once or twice do I recall being slowed by someone – maybe the cool weather had folks inside or we were simply all going the same speed, same direction, not sure – but it was a good time for a ride.  I just continued to be amused with the folks, buildings, and sand in someone else s neighborhood.

Soon the beach of Florida turned into a section of beach in Alabama, and this hwy 182 ended, oops.  It was necessary to ‘back-track’ (I hate to back-track) a few miles over to Fort Morgan (civil war era fortress) and catch the Ferry to avoid city traffic – 20 miles later and just past the remnants of a Fort I stood waiting in-line at the Ferry Landing.

It was my intention to continue westward, maybe even to New Orleans and catch up with a couple Mississippi River friends before finally deciding where the turning point would be.  The Ferry had departed just before my arrival, so I grabbed a sandwich and a Pepsi from the cooler while staring through these portholes at the whitecaps across the bay.

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Somewhere within this idle time, the individual peering out of those portholes found a little peace with it all.  Finishing my sandwich I strolled over to the little truck and pulled from the awaiting vehicles – leaving from the same direction that I had arrived.

I made an ‘about-face.’

Thirty five years ago and my first summer out of high school (1970) Dad got me a job across the panhandle.  Based out of Marianna, Fl – I drove a semi shuttling gladiolus (flowers) from Foley, Alabama (near here) back to Marianna.  After loading it was a hundred or so mile drive each day across Hwy 90 (Interstate 10 was incomplete).  This area was one of the first that I began to appreciate the character of this region.

 

My thoughts on this date was that if I could make a ‘lap’ through Foley, (Ala.) and then retrace my old route on hwy 90 eastward through the panhandle – then somehow this ride (and my ‘about-face’) could be validated – one more of those ‘little-circles‘ closed.

The pines of the panhandle and rolling nature of the panhandle create a comfortable and hospitable setting.  The lay of the land, the weather; a little different than other places in its own way – anyway, I wanted to drive this road once again – so I did, 35 years later.

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It all felt fitting to be coming back into the state of Florida on the same old highway as I did so many times that summer long ago, I wondered if I could find anything familiar along the way – and this too could be considered ‘closure’ in some very small way.

I noticed Pensacola’s gridlock as the biker ahead continued to put his foot down.  With the sudden congestion I jumped on hwy 29 and interstate-10 to ‘skirt’ the city; all those people ……

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The foundations beneath the interstate bridges of Pensacola bare regards of respect to the pilots, airmen – those that directly support our country’s warriors, the US Air-Force.    Enlarge and check out the jet fighters on the supports of the overpasses.

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At Milton a few miles away where I rejoined the roll of old hwy 90, eastward – and familiar.

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and there are places to paddle too (Blackwater State Park)

Businesses adapt or die on these old highways,

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The sun dropped behind me as homes passed along the wayside – its a nice time of day with the sun at your back, everything has clarity and the windshield doesn’t seem quite so dirty.

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soon the back-roads lead me into the Georgia landscape.  I debated finding a room for the night or taking the express route to the lake – after the slower coastal rides, I found some ‘zip’ in a cup of coffee and blasted through the night to my familiar bed..

So a ride about nothing?

Not sure yet, losing a Dad is never on the top of anyone’s list – in my own way I found comfort in one of the few places that he and I shared and spent extended time together – riding old highways as he ‘ciphered-out’ our surroundings – he was real good at ‘figurin’ things out.

He would wipe the inside of the windshield (defroster didn’t work) with his handkerchief, mix ketchup with his eggs and grits, ’sop up the gravy’ from the skillet with a piece of bread, he liked cornbread and butter-milk, he could tell you the history of a truck from just walking around it, he would unbuckle his britches in front of anyone (during conversation) to tuck his shirt-tail in (no big deal), he rolled his Prince-Albert cigarettes while driving (his elbows on the steering wheel) and he coughed as hard as he worked.  He was just ‘Dad’ and that’s how we knew him – he “was what he was.”

I guess life is like a highway, another place with a good seat to appreciate whats right there in front of us, an opportunity to acknowledge others as we pass, a place to remember – and a time to move on.

W.T.Haynie – Feb. 19, 1926 – Feb. 16, 2010

– bye Dad, thanks for the ride.   – “uddddnnnnnn.”

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