Today’s distance / ???????: 38 miles / 59.2km
Average speed / ????: 8mph / 12.9km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 34m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 1611mi (plus 266mi) / 2594km (plus 430km)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30.26.01.4, W087.11.26.8
I was out of the campground by daybreak at 6am. I am having to really make the most of the daylight hours now with the shorter days.
The east-bound traffic on highway 98 was bumper-to-bumper today. I was feeling rather self-counsious, knowing that the most exciting thing that most of the poor sods in the cars were going to see on their commute was some randon guy skating in the opposite direction. I could feel people’s eyes on me as I skated. If I were them, and had to do that commute everyday, I would drive half way and cycle the rest. Sitting in a car, driving at 1mph for 20 minutes is the craziest thing in the world.
A surprise came at about 9am when a car pulled into a MacDonald’s carpark next to where I was skating by, and the occupant of the car jumped out and yelled “You need breakfast?!”
It was Li-Anh, a local who had seen the article about my journey in the local newspaper (Northwest Florida Daily News article here, video footage here) – on the front page no less. LiAnh and her adorable little daughter treated me to a Deluxe McBreakfast (translated as almost as many calories you can fit on to a plate without actually serving sold lard coated in sugar). A wonderful calorific delight, the breakfast powered me to Navarre Beach, quite certainly the most amazing sight I have seen in Florida.
Navarre Beach is like a war-zone. Local residents seem almost non-existant, the streets deserted save for a few contractors working on sparsely distributed houses. A couple of guys are fighting back the sand using high powered petrol engined leaf blowers, clearing sand from the pavements. This is the scene of two consecutive major hurricanes, one in 2004, and one in 2005. In the hurricanes, sand dunes that protected houses and roads from wind-blown sand were flattened, along with many houses. The area is eerily vacant. It is rare to see a house without a For Sale sign in front of it. No one wants to be here, it seems.
A few miles along the Navarre Beach Road, the houses peter out, and a large gate across the road clearly states that noone is to continue along the road. In the distance, large buldozers push sand from the road. I decided to skirt the gate and hike along the beach to the side of the road, to find out what all the fuss is about.
A ton of TNT could not have destoyed the road and parking areas more extensively than the Navarre Beach State Park road is destroyed. Asphalt is twisted and sunken. Nature has taken back with force what once belonged to her.
Giving the buldozers a wide berth, I risk skateboarding on what remains of the road. I come up to more reconstruction work and am told to keep of the road. “We don’t have the proper insurance to have you here, boy! Git off the road!” I am told that 100 feet either side of the road is restricted access. No public allowed. I walk a further mile along the road in the sand, past the major reconstruction works, and start skating on the road again. I didn’t realise how far it was between where the road was closed – I had to skate to avoid having to walk the final 6 miles. There were no more construction officials or workers the rest of the way, and with a strong onshore southerly wind of about 15 knots, I was wishing I had a kite to pull me along the deserted road.
I arrived at the Pensacola beach side of the road unscathed and continued on into Pensacola. Sore feet, sore legs, I am ready for another break. A couple of days here should do wonders.
I met up with Jamey Jones, step-father to a friend of a friend of a friend. Thank you to Eric from Tampa for setting this up, and thank you to Jamey for allowing me to stay a couple of nights to recoup. Jamey has arranged for me to speak to 160 kids at his middle school tomorrow, so that should be good fun.