Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

10 April 2011

It's The Ride, Not The Destination

We pilots get up early. It’s in our nature. Most of us are so used to sunrise takeoffs that we just normally wake up well before that magical time. At least, that’s how it is for me and most of the pilots I know.

And it was no different today, Sunday. I thought it was going to be foggy but it wasn’t. (That’s another thing: we pilots are always checking and watching the weather.) It was bright and sunny and warm. As usual, I went out to the living room and began my routine of checking the usual internet websites I monitor.

And then it hit me.

Every Sunday I end up lounging around the house, doing nothing and then getting angry at myself for being so unproductive. Today would be different. I would get on the bike and ride out to the beach for breakfast! At least, that was the plan.

I was on the road shortly after seven. Not terribly early, I know, but I cannot just throw some clothes on and head out the door. I have to shower and shave and get ready. Sometimes I envy friends who can be out the door in ten minutes. I’m not one of them.

The Sportster and I headed down Scenic Highway (U.S. 90) at just above the 45 mph speed limit, passing joggers and bicyclists and feeling a little guilty. That’s what I should be doing, not riding a motorcycle. My reverie was short-lived, as I was immediately aggravated by some asshole in a very big pickup truck who was in a very big hurry and just had to tailgate me. Why do people have to be in such a rush on a Sunday morning fer cryin’ out loud? I pull over and let him pass, only to have him replaced by yet another asshole in another pickup truck in an another big hurry. (Sigh) Sometimes you just can’t win. I try not to let the tailgaters put me in a bad mood, but they do piss me off.

If you check the map above (my house is where the Google marker "A" is), you'll see that while Pensacola is on the water, it is not on the Gulf of Mexico. South of us is the Gulf Breeze peninsula. And further south still is the fragile barrier island of Pensacola Beach.

At the bottom of Scenic Highway where it turns into Cervantes Street, I could see out across the bay. Low, steel-gray clouds filled the sky, and there were areas of rain moving in from the southwest. Great. From the Three-Mile Bridge you can normally see all the way over to Pensacola Naval Air Station, some five miles to the west. Not today. In another fifteen minutes or so, drivers on the causeway would be treated to a morning deluge. I was glad I was early. I had considered turning around, but the plan was to ride out to the beach and dammit, to the beach I would ride!

Gulf Breeze is an overcrowded speed-trap of a town. Apparently the various idiots who have been in our local government since the 1960s never envisioned that traffic might ever increase on U.S. Highway 98, a major east/west corridor that runs through their little peninsula. Whodathunkit?! So development has pretty much been unplanned and unrestricted. A big elementary/middle/high school was built astride the highway! So every weekday morning and afternoon during the school year, traffic slows to 20 mph. This is so typical of the way in which Florida plans for development. Which is to say, it doesn’t. Growth just sort of occurs unfettered, and the inevitable problems always seem to take everyone by surprise. For as long as I’ve been living here (23 years) people have been arguing about what to do about the overdevelopment and traffic in Gulf Breeze.

I pass a Starbucks on the left (not stopping there!) and a Waffle House on my right (nor there either). I turn south across the Bob Sikes Bridge to Pensacola Beach. I can see that the tops of the condos are up in the clouds. And they’re not very tall condos. Visibility underneath is so-so; not flyable in any case with such low ceilings. After paying the $1.00 toll, I find the island dreary and deserted. Then again, the “season” hasn’t really started here yet.

You would think that Pensacola Beach, being our premier tourist destination would have some little breakfast places where a guy could get a cup of coffee and a bagel and sit outside where he could smell the salt air as he read the Sunday paper or something, right? Nope, not here. It strikes me that for a place that relies on tourism, we have so very little to offer visitors. I see a few stalwart touristas out roaming around with their children, looking lost. And I wonder what they’re thinking, spending so much money to come to this dismal, rainy place with so little to do.

I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m pretty sure that the Santa Rosa Island Authority (the local governing body) must make it economically unfeasible to run a small business on Pensacola Beach. I’ve heard the fees are enormous, and they take a cut of the revenue. A business that might survive during the tourist season would never make it during the rest of the year.

I cruise up and down the main thoroughfare. Not only are there no coffee shops or diners, none of the bigger restaurants are even open. Even the Native Café, which says they’re open every day at 7:30, wasn’t. I could, I suppose, drop into one of the major hotels and eat in their restaurant, but what good would that be? Likewise, I pass up the Circle-K gas stations, seemingly the only place to get a cup of coffee anymore.

Ultimately, I turn tail and head back northbound, leaving this shitty little place, leaving it to the dumb out-of-towners who come here and go, “You mean to tell me there isn’t even a place to get breakfast around here?! Kids, next time we’re going to Panama City Beach!” Back across the bridge, up in Gulf Breeze I pass the Starbucks again (still not stopping there!), I think about how grouchy I am. I wanted this to be an enjoyable, restorative ride. Instead, it’s made me depressed and angry. Fortunately, the bike has been running superbly. I love that.

The low clouds have pushed further north. I get rained on a little as I go back up Scenic Highway. It stings my face. Oddly, it doesn't even bother me; I know it's temporary. Sure enough, as I cross I-10 the sky is suddenly filled with small, puffy, white clouds and I’m bathed in warm sunshine. My mood brightens and I marvel at how the weather can change so much in such a short distance. Before turning into my subdivision, I head up to a nearby Circle-K convenience store to get the paper. Back in the house, my own eggs and coffee taste just as good as any I might’ve gotten down on the beach.

I shouldn't really have been surprised that there's so very little down on Pensacola Beach. I just figured that there's be someplace to grab a quick cup of coffee. Heh. My “Sunday morning ride out to the beach to get breakfast?” I won’t make that mistake again. Nevertheless, even though the destination was disappointing, the ride was still awesome. And that's the most important thing.

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