We woke up to blue skies on Saturday morning with temps heading up from the low-60s into the high 70’s. Without a doubt, it was going to be great day if we could stay off of Front Beach, Back Beach & Thomas Drive as they would be transformed into gridlocked parking lots.
Since we had “house guests” and didn’t want to disturb them by rustling around in the kitchen or firing up my computers in the living room where Ryan was sleeping, we “slept in a bit” (so to speak) and then I quietly left the condo and spent about 30 minutes or so cleaning grime off the Road King at the nice wash rack Sterling Reef sets up for its Thunder Beach guests.
When I came back to the condo everyone had started to move around a bit. Debbie fixed her oatmeal and raisins, I pulled out a yogurt and Bobby decided to brave the crowds and head down to Burger King for a breakfast sandwich. We migrated to the balcony to enjoy the early morning sun and to check out sailboats, jet skis and other things happening down on the beach that had been in-hiding over the past two days of our visit. Bobby returned after a bit – Burger King was a zoo — and brought along some cinnamon buns for the three of us.
The plan for the day was an 80-mile to 100-mile round trip motorcycle ride down business route 98 through Panama City and out east on US 98 along the Gulf to Mexico Beach for lunch at Toucans. I was also thinking about going a bit further east after lunch; perhaps to St. Josephs just to get in a little more coastal riding time.
However, before leaving Front Beach we paid another visit to the Beach Bar & Package Store where Bobby treated Debbie to a Mudslide; that’s trouble! Debbie REALLY enjoyed those mudslides and did they ever put her in a relaxed and carefree mood! What a hoot; she had me in stitches all morning.
As we saddled-up to for the ride over to Mexico Beach word came back that co-owner and manager Michael McGinnis had somehow been able to get The Outpost for Bikers over in Freeport, Florida dried out and opened for business after being flooded on Wednesday. So, the revised plan was to make the 40-mile ride to Toucans, have lunch and then head 70 miles east and north to Freeport where the rest of Bobby’s gang would be hanging-out.
I captured the 110 mile ride to Mexico Beach and the Outpost on my GoPro cameras and culled-out about 33 clips in a 90-second movie you can see here:
Highlights from Saturday included a very long lunch stop at Toucans; they too were seriously shorthanded in both the server and kitchen staff departments. Of course, there are worse things than sitting alongside the Gulf of Mexico on a warm sunny day watching folks play beach volleyball while sipping cold drinks and shooting the breeze with good friends.
Out next stop was the Outpost; again, just amazing how they were able to get that place squared away after being several feet under water. For reference purposes, here’s what the inside of the main building / bar / kitchen looked like on Wednesday at the height of the flood. If you belong to Facebook, you can also see a video of the flood here. But 72 hours later, here is a short video I made while walking around the hardest hit area, not that you could tell there’d been any damage.
‘Geneva’ was booked as the band for the afternoon. God love her, she was amazing back in the day. But the act has gotten a little long in the tooth. Even Sharky’s where she’s been performing every bike week that we’ve been to signed-on a band out of Atlanta called Topper. But, hey, it’s background music and it was just fine for hanging out chatting with folks and people watching.
We stayed at the Outpost for about an hour or so and then headed back to the condo to get cleaned up for dinner. Of course, getting back to the condo was easier said than done. In addition to finding that none of the in-town gas stations had any premium or mid-grade gasoline, Saturday’s great weather also brought out motorcyclists and car-bound gawkers by the tens of thousands, turning Front Beach into a parking lot… just as expected.
Now, if there’s one thing a Harley-Davidson 110 cubic inch motor doesn’t like it’s sitting at a standstill idling on a hot day. In just a matter of moments I found our Road King CVO was running on one cylinder (EITSM mode) and I couldn’t get off of Front Beach fast enough. At the first opportunity after getting stopping in traffic, we bailed-off Front Beach on a side street that took us to Back Beach / US 98. It was also backed-up, but at least it was moving. In fact, after we got past the traffic control cones set-up to guide vehicles into Harley-Davidson of PCB, it started moving quite nicely and before we knew it we were back at the condo; easy in / easy out! If we’d have stayed on Front Beach we’d have probably been stuck in traffic for another two hours, assuming my motor didn’t quit due to overheating!
Once we were back at the condo we talked about dinner options, invited Bobby and Ryan to join us at Bone Fish Grill and made an on-line 7:30 reservation for four. It was a whopping 3 minute ride over, which is one of the things we really like about where we stay: it’s easy to get places. The dinner was outstanding – really – and much to my surprise, Ryan pulled one of my stunts by intercepting the waitress and picking up the tab: certainly not expected nor called for but humbly accepted…
After that we headed – you guessed it – over to the Beach Bar & Package Store! We had a great time and ran into a friend from Marietta – Justin – and his girlfriend Brooke. However, what no one expected was for Justin to “pop the question” right there on the patio! I quickly grabbed my phone and began filming, albeit a bit too late to catch the ring coming out of the jacket pocket and box, but enough to capture the actual marriage proposal and Brooke’s answer: that was very cool.
After a while Debbie asked if I wanted to go and check out the Salty Goat and or Coyote Ugly as the clock made its way around to 10:00pm. However, I could see she was really tired after a long hot day in the sun on the bike and in need of sleep, not more night life. So, we headed on back to the condo and declared victory!
After all, we’d braved the bad weather forecasts, made the trip down in the cold & rain and spent 3 wonderful days in Panama City Beach and with a couple of fun-loving, chivalrous friends. It was simply a great time! The only thing that could have made it any better would have been if David & Deb could have joined us. Even better would have been the entire gang: Carrie Ann, Jeanette, Chuck & Julie, Jeff and Sharon, etc. They’re such an enjoyable group of folks to be with, whatever the occasion. Just glad Carrie Ann & Jeanette were kind enough to share Bobby and Ryan with us for the weekend!