row2k Features
Destination: Destin
November 9, 2012
John Tracey

Destin, FL

Destination: Destin
Rather than retrace my path along highway 75 and then over to Interstate 10, I decided to hug the coast and take the local highway around the bend in Florida, which pretty much hugs the Gulf of Mexico. It's a toll road with a lot of stops, but it's a lot more interesting. It's also a lot more direct, so the driving time is about the same.

I had an interesting near miss with a local cop. Despite my tendency to exceed the speed limit on the highways, I know that when you're in the towns, you damn well better stick exactly to the speed limit. In a part of the country where billboards preach fire and brimstone, Massachusetts license plates are probably not very popular. This rule saved me many times, when I'd be driving through a town, going 34 in a 35 zone, and go right by a cop. I still seized up, thinking they'd stop me just for being a Damn Yankee, but my fears were unfounded. One time, however, I was changing CD's and was going a little over the limit. Just as I passed a motorcycle cop, he pulled out and started following me. "DAMN," I thought. "No tickets so far, and I do not want one now." I had been so careful. He was a little ways back, so I decided to try and evade him – not outrun the law, mind you, just maybe see if I could lose him in a slow, controlled manner. I figured that if he stopped me, I'd just say I was lost and take the rap. No biggie.

As I made a right onto a small country road here in the sticks of the Florida Panhandle, a miracle happened. A huge, slow-moving truck had made the same right turn and was now between the cop and me. I sped up a little, increasing the distance, and then saw a dirt road to my right. I turned in and didn't think the cop could see me. I drove all the way in, to find two trailer homes. The road ended there, with a dirt circle/cul-de-sac. I sat in front of the trailers. Again, if someone came out with a shotgun, I'd just say I was lost. And then beat it the hell out of there. But only a few dogs joined me. They looked at me funny and then started barking, so I turned around the circle and proceeded a little ways out toward the road. I waited. About 10 minutes later, nothing happened, so I drove out just as a Cadillac with a few old people in it drove in and looked at me like I was from Mars. I went back to the highway and continued, never to see the cop again. Damn, I thought. That was close. My Ticket Karma is good, but it will catch up with me. I better be more careful. Still, the excitement of it all was pretty awesome.

I arrived in at my Destination of Destin, Florida, a little before 8 PM. My goal was to be sitting at the bar ordering dinner somewhere in the town, and sure enough, I was ordering dinner at about 7:57. Life was good. I was contemplating a KOA campground – or some such thing (there were some interesting parks on the map, so I figured I'd find something). But mostly I needed food and rest after another 8-hour day on the road. A local woman sitting next to me told me about a hotel right on the water that was pretty cheap, and sure enough, when I went there, they had a room on the fifth floor with a killer view and a balcony. "Screw it," I thought, I'll car camp another day. I booked two nights and posted some views from the room on Facebook. "How's the car camping going?" my friend Randy texted me. Ha ha... Ok, so I'm still a little leery. I'll do it when the bank account starts getting leaner...

Yesterday was windy as hell, but I finally found a way to get on the water by driving around to the other side of the harbor and putting in at the public beach. I stepped barefoot on what looked like grass, but it was full of burrs. Felt like I was walking on needles. I dropped my oars, sat down and pulled about 20 burrs out of my feet. Hmmm, I thought, I'm not in Boston. I'm in wild country. Better wear shoes.

When I finally launched, the wind was howling, but the protected small harbor was still flat enough to be rowable. The sun was setting, and I rowed the length of the harbor, which was probably only about 3k or so, and then back. I photographed a pelican on a buoy from pretty close up. It was late and pretty cold with the strong Northwest wind. I felt quite certain that no one had ever rowed a single scull on this body of water. It just wasn't that kind of place. And that, as well as the beauty of it all, made me feel that I was staying true to my Mission.

I went back to my room after dinner and watched the election results. The destiny of our country was at stake, and I was watching it all unfold in Destin, Florida.

Today, Wednesday, November 7, I move on to New Orleans. Never been there before, and I can't wait.

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