Sunday, March 6, 2011

Riding toward Florida - On the Road Again

Friday afternoon I left home to start my ride across I-10 toward Florida. My ultimate destination will be Jacksonville for the annual IBA "Pizza Party" but that's not until next Friday. In the middle of this trip I plan to spend 6 days at Marriott's Legends Edge, a time-share community on the grounds of Marriott Legends Point Resort in Panama City Beach.

I left Friday afternoon for a couple of reasons. The primary reason was timing. This would get me a couple hundred miles down the road, staying in Lafayette for the night then arriving in Panama City Beach early afternoon. The timing lets me get checked in, get the bike unloaded, and then head back out to the grocery store to stock up the kitchen for the week. The second reason was serendipity. A strong storm front was expected to pass through Houston heading east to Florida. I would be just ahead of this front all day Saturday. In retrospect this was a very good decision. Tornadoes did massive damage and caused 1 death and a dozen injuries in Rayne LA, just 11 miles west of where I spent the night on the west side of Lafayette. It struck at 10:00 AM. I left the hotel at 6:00 AM.

Traffic along I-10 was badly backed up from the east side of Lake Charles all the way to Lafayette. It was no better a couple of hours later as I walked next door to buy dinner at Taco Bell. The hotel clerk said it was Mardi Gras traffic. Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. Friday evening, through the heart of Mardi Gras country in LA and heading east toward Baton Rouge and New Orleans.


I worked my way across I-10 through LA, into MS, AL, then through the panhandle of FL without incident. I stayed mostly ahead of the rain - running through a few small pockets of rain, but not sustained or serious - and arrived at my exit off of I-10 and onto US-331 south toward the Gulf coast. It was very windy and got windier the closer I got to the coast.

I arrived at the Marriott resort at 1:30 and knew it would be too early to check in, so I parked the bike at the registration center and walked next door to have a nice grilled grouper sandwich for late lunch at 30-Degree Blue Grill. Once back at the registration center and short wait and my unit was ready.

It's a great unit, sitting at the end of the building and facing 90-degrees away from the other units. This gave me a view of the St. Andrews Bay, not the pool complex, and a more private entrance and balcony. Thumbs up!

With bike unloaded in two trips, I grabbed my helmet again and jumped on the bike to head for the grocery store just a couple of miles away (very convenient). empty side- and top-cases let me buy a nice menu of food items: steaks, frozen shrimp, rice, frozen vegetable medley (to cook with the shrimp as a skillet dinner), salad makings, sandwich makings, mini bagels, smoked lox, fruit, wines, sparkling water, frozen berry mix for my Cheerios. And, of course, a package of mint Oreo cookies!

In looking through the welcome packet I noticed on the activities calendar that there would be beer and nachos happy hour at the center Saturday evening, so after getting the groceries put away, I walked over and got a pitcher of beer and container of nachos to bring back to my unit. Great way to end a long day!


Sunday morning I was more than ready to go for a run. The extensive grounds of this resort, which includes an 18-hole golf course and private residences lining the fairways, provide me a wide variety of running routes. I got 3.5 miles in, just exploring the resort grounds, and got a better idea of how I can get a long run in later this week.

The weather was overcast and chilly so I spent the rest of the day holed up in my spacious 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom, full kitchen unit watching movies and relaxing. That afternoon I called a high school friend who lives in Panama City to make plans for a get-together. I have not seen her since the early 1980's. We lost track of each other after that and then I moved to Texas. But we found each other recently on Facebook! We made plans to have dinner together Monday evening and her sister, who was 3 years behind us in high school, would be joining us.

Tomorrow - Monday - I will stay close to the resort again, and that evening high school friend Linda and her sister Sandy will come get me and we'll go for dinner. Seafood, I hope!

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