Another Hour West...

MikeO

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Dereham, Norfolk, today...
8th March

After saying farewell (again) to Jeff, Keri & Jacob, I’m on the road at 0830. After much thought, I’ve decided to leave my camping gear with Jeff. The exchange rate is so favourable at the moment that I’ll be staying in motels until it changes radically. Jeff will ship the gear to me as & when I need it. This allows me to travel with all my kit either in the panniers or in the tank bag system, which will make securing the bike each evening much simpler…

Last night Jeff, Keri and I went to Keri’s mum’s house in Daytona. It is the kind of place which makes me want to go out & buy a lottery ticket – I don’t think I’d ever get tired of watching this sunset…

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I head out West, using the GPS to begin with, then the compass, staying off the main highways and enjoying the perfect riding weather. The humidity of Bike Week has cleared and it’s now like a warm spring day in the UK – I notice a bank’s thermometer saying it’s 71º. One of the advantages of riding on “the road less travelled” is the chance of coming across odd sights. This collection of curios and antiques (and junk, let’s face it :D) is near Silver Springs…

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Most of the roads are quiet, straight and hardly challenging…

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…but I take solace in the fact that I’m probably much warmer than anyone riding in the UK at the moment :D

I continue North West and, by about 1600, decide it’s time to stop. I ride to Panacea City, thinking it will be the answer – but it’s, sadly, a crappy little town without a decent looking motel, besides which, it advertises itself with a large missile, hardly welcoming…

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I ride through the splendidly named Sopchoppy – but decide not to stay when I realise I’m more than a month early for the social event of the year…

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…and I end up in a Best Western on the outskirts of Panama City. I find I’ve crossed a time zone and it’s now 1530, not 1630 as I’d thought. Tomorrow I’ll head towards the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, to look at the (free :D) museum there – meantime, it’s time to catch up on some Zeds after quite a long week…;)
 
9th March

Had a very bad night’s sleep. For the last couple of weeks I’ve had some kind of chest infection & I’m waking during the night coughing my lungs up…:( Despite my natural reluctance to spend money, I have a chat with my girlfriend and she bullies me into going to see a doctor…

Set off towards Pensacola, but I find that the whole coastal ‘Parkway’ to be a succession of tourist towns full of ‘Spring Breakers’ (college kids on Spring holiday).

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The speed limit varies between 35 & 45 mph, but it’s academic, as we’re lucky to hit 20. Somewhere in a traffic jam, I notice a ZZ Top fan with a sense of humour…

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I stop to get some fuel – the view isn’t exactly awful – the Bank’s thermometer reads 68º F – very nice :D

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However, despite the good weather, I still feel like crap and, unable to locate a doctor’s surgery, check into a cheap motel and get my head down.
 
10th March

Woke feeling a little better (still being cyber-nagged to go to the quack, though). I arrive at Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum at 1000…

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It’s an excellent (& free!) museum, funded entirely from voluntary donations (as well as some fairly hefty ones from Aerospace Corporations ;)). The centrepiece of the atrium display is a 4-ship of A-4 Skyhawks, painted in the colours of The Blue Angels, the USN Aerobatic Team…

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The museum is crammed with exhibits. Unfortunately, the lighting is not conducive to digital photography (not to mine anyway :D), so I’ve only taken a few pictures. Exhibits range from the early days of flight to FA18s & F 14s. Many of the exhibits have been left ‘partially restored’ to allow visitors to see what lurks beneath the canvas…

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I joined a guided tour. This old boy, Bob, gave a fair talk around the exhibits, but, embarrassingly, couldn’t field a single question in the hour that I stayed with the group. The end of each spiel became tense, as he asked if anyone had any questions – in the end I’m pretty sure people stopped asking, to let him save face…

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They have an IMAX cinema and a flight sim you can have a go in. The IMAX is spectacular - doing aerobatics with the Blue Angels produces some real stomach-lurching moments :D.

As I get ready to leave, I find that my mobile phone is missing :(. I do a quick search, remembering I had it (to fend off some cyber-nagging) at breakfast. I ride the 10 miles back to the motel, to find that Abbi, the girl whose misfortune it is in life to clean up after people like me, had found it and was delighted I’d come back. I give her 5 bucks (today’s exchange rate – 23p ;)) and thank her sincerely.

I’ve had enough of Spring Breakers, beaches, traffic jams etc etc. I decide to head North into Alabama. ‘What’s good to do in Alabama?’ I ask Abbi – ‘Get drunk’ she replies – completely seriously :D

I switch the GPS to ‘idle’ and use my new compass to find my way North. Well, actually, I just rode away from the sea…

I get to Brewton and carefully select a motel next to the railway line – a fact that doesn’t become apparent until 0200…
 


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