I reach DeFuniak Springs early, and during breakfast the locals tease me that I’m lucky to be alive after sleeping out around here. They’re friendly, down-south folks.
At the post office I get some much-anticipated materials from Pete. As I read his letters I realize again how deep and unspoken our friendship is. We assume that we will again undertake projects and life experiences together, and we think of each other when making future plans. I didn’t realize to what extent until Pete mentions that he might prefer to put off grad school another year or two if I plan to locate near Denver. I spend some time imagining what journeys might lie ahead of us.
The riding gets flat again, through grass, pines, and a few ramshackle towns. The bike map comes through with one of its occasional fine side routes, a totally untrafficked forested country road. It’s beautiful carefree riding.
I get on a bike path as I pull into Milton. At the end is a bike shop, which I’m thankful for because I have a broken spoke that’s throwing my whole rear wheel out of whack. The shop is attended by two dogs, and a big woman with a baby in her arms. She turns out to be just what I need – knowledgeable, helpful, and completely willing to let me use the shop and help me with the tools. I spend a long time replacing spokes and truing my poor back wheel. I never would have been able to do it anywhere else.
It’s getting late when I leave. I figure I’ll find a room in Pace, but I don’t. I cross the bay to Pensacola in the twilight, and continue in the dark until I hit a Ramada Inn. It’s posh, perfect for my last splurge. I get ice cream from DQ and settle in for a movie. Ahhh…