Our trip down to Panama City Beach was an interesting study in what it means to “dress for success,” where the last two of the three legs of our journey were quite successful after a less than flawless first leg. Here’s the dealeo…
When we rolled out of the driveway at 6:00am the temps were in the low 50’s with high humidity but I figured we’d still be able to get by with leather chaps/over pants and our quilted leather jackets until the sun came up and temps moved into the 60’s. Well, neither of those two things happened. By the time we arrived in Phenix, Alabama for our gas stop the cool, moist air had finally chilled-us to the point where we were both uncomfortable and nearly shivering.
While stopped I decided it was time to give-up on the sun and put on our Gerbing’s heated jackets and gloves. Back on the road, I think it took both of us about 10 minutes with the heat full-on before our cores were warmed-up and another 10 minutes for that warmth to work its way through our legs and feet. From then on, the last 3 hours on the bike were a heck of a lot more pleasant and relaxing than the first 2 hours. Well, actually, the first hour wasn’t all that bad since we travelled mostly on tree-lined back roads; it was the prolonged exposure at freeway speed on I-85 and I-185 that chilled us to the bone.
The next call for a wardrobe change was when we arrived in Dothan, Alabama some 90 minutes later. I probably should have mentioned that the entire Florida Panhandle had been deluged with over two feet (yes, over 24”) of rain from Tuesday through Wednesday and would still be dealing with lingering showers on into Friday. So, it was a pretty good bet we’d find rain and, luckily for us, it held off long enough for us to duck the worst it by taking the west-side by-pass and taking a short stop at the Cracker Barrel in Dothan. After a nice mid-morning break we added our boot covers, rain suits and both switched to full-face helmets before heading out on the last leg into Florida and down to the Gulf. Debbie stayed plugged-in with her Gerbing’s whereas I didn’t think I’d need it with the rain suit.
Sure enough, our first encounter with the rain came some 10 miles later as we crossed into Florida. For some reason it wasn’t raining in Chipley but by the time we hit Vernon and made the turn on 79 for the final run to the Gulf it was a steady rain all the way into Panama City Beach. Despite the weather, our gear kept us warm and dry the entire way.
When we rolled into town at 11am local (12 noon EDT), our first stop was Sharky’s. It’s become something of a tradition for us to stop and decompress at Sharky’s after the six-hour ride with a few frozen beverages and the best darn fish tacos & cheese grits ever. It makes moving all of our stuff from the bike into our condo at Sterling Reef just a little easier and less rushed. It also gave the rain time to stop, so that was nice too. However, our stop had a little bit of drama when Miss Debbie slipped on the wet, painted decking and banged her knee pretty hard. We iced it down for the next hour or so and thankfully that seemed to do the trick: no further knee issues for the rest of the trip.
After getting settled in the condo we made a short trip over to Wally-World to pick up some yogurt, oatmeal, raisins, utensils and soft drinks and then relaxed at the condo for a bit while it rained a little more. Usually I spent that time washing the dead bugs off the motorcycle: no need for that this time. The bike was bug-free but filthy and likely to get filthier if the rain didn’t let-up. So, I used that time to download the video I’d shot on the way down with the two GoPro cameras and edited that all into a short 2-minute movie to capture our ride to PCB. I must say, I think this one turned out pretty well.
As things dried up around 5 we ventured down Front Beach on the bike to see if we might be able to find a place to have some dinner. Debbie had really enjoyed her salmon at Dick’s Last Resort and that was her pick so Pier Park was our destination. Traffic was actually pretty tied-up, but more than two-thirds of that was cars & trucks, not bikes. As usual, the traffic seemed to let up near Sharky’s so it was an easy ride the rest of the way to Pier Park. Pier Park was not what I’d call “hopping” with excitement and Dick’s had some kind of a stand-up berating the audience which turned me off, noting I was lukewarm to begin with. So, we decided to take a walk up to the theater and then back down the other side of the main drag to see if anything had changed; no, not really. However, imagine our surprise when we ran into our friend and Debbie’s former fashionista at Horsetown, Misty, and her bo Jeff as we walked around. What a wonderful surprise that was!
As a side note: We spent the better part of 15 months completely rebuilding Debbie’s wardrobe with Misty’s tireless assistance and became fast friends in the process. I don’t think I’ve heard Miss Debbie utter “I don’t have a thing to wear” ever since, and she always makes those outfits look great!!!
Anyway, it was such a treat to see Misty and meet Jeff… in Panama City Beach of all places; it’s such a small world…. Not finding all that much excitement at Pier Park we decided to head back down and try out the re-opened Harpoon Harry’s restaurant back near our condo. Along the way it became pretty clear that the only place really hopping was the Salty Goat, which now featured live bands instead of just being a juke-box joint. We definitely wanted to pay them a visit at some point. Harpoon Harry’s and its companion restaurant called Breakers had both closed last year right before the fall rally and the story was, both buildings were being razed to make room for a new condo complex. Funny how things change: everything was freshened-up and the food was pretty good. Not as good as the first time we came for fall 2012, but a lot better than spring 2013. My tilapia was excellent and Debbie’s chicken over greens was, well, tasty and abundant. Best of all, the cocktails were 2-for-1 and, well, delicious! In fact, they were too delicious. Apparently Jack Bishop, the original owner, got bored after selling the property that housed the original Harpoon Harry’s and Breakers and bought it back, reopening in February just before spring break under just one banner: Harpoon Harry’s for both sides of the restaurant.
It was about 7:30 when we headed back to the condo to change clothes and get Debbie’s chaps (it was not raining, but it was cool) with every intention of visiting the Salty Goat, Coyote Ugly and perhaps a few other places. However, between the long ride, the weather and the aforementioned 2-for-1 cocktails, we decided to sit down and rest a bit on the couch and were both out in no time. I woke up around 10:30 and found Debbie had gotten into her PJs and gone to bed and that was pretty much that! I thought about rustling her up – the real fun at PCB doesn’t begin until 10:30 anyway – but decided that she probably needed the rest. Frankly, getting a good night’s rest was probably the right move. Hey, we’re on vacation and the objective is to rest, relax and enjoy each other’s company without the bothers of home life for work life. Just chillin’ with my sweetie with the waters of the Gulf lapping up against the beach and gentle breeze blowing certainly fits that bill!