Been out of town for the last week or so enjoying some more Florida warmth (I can get used to this!). This trip was with Margaret.
Some friends invited us to join them on a tandem (bicycle) weekend with a small group of other like minded cyclists in Niceville, Florida. They and the others were invited down to join a great couple they had met at tandem events in the southeast. George and Marti and their grown kids are an air force family that, after 30 years of service, had settled in Niceville now that George had retired (although he went back to work for the air force as a contractor). They cycle with others on their single bikes but tandem riders are scarce even with the year round warm temps.
To keep this brief all I’ll say is the cycling was fun, traffic low, roads flat (really flat!), seafood restaurants plentiful and the hospitality of our hosts outstanding!
One of the highlights on day two of cycling was a stop at the Air Force Armament Museum near Eglin Air Force Base. While we didn’t all have time to tour the indoor museum we were treated to a tour of the military aircraft outside. Our tour guide was our host for the weekend, George, who served as a pilot while in the ‘force’. What made this special was that George had flown the B-52 Stratofortress during the first Gulf War that’s on display at the museum . He told of the missions he flew and the capabilities of his plane and several of the others on display. As ‘civilians’ it’s difficult to have a connection to what we see on television and in the media, but standing next to a guy who risked his life for us was quite moving. Most of us go through our lives not considering the risks others take on our behalf, whatever their motivation….the fact is they do it. Here was a regular guy whose work was to protect us, regardless of our personal opinions of war and the politics that motivate it. I have a high degree of respect for all the “Georges” out there.
After the weekend in Niceville Margaret and I headed to Saint George Island, across the bay from Apalachicola. We had never visited this part of Florida and I had taken a chance on one of the two hotels on the tiny island (mostly home and condo rentals). The Saint George Inn is an old hotel that has that classic beach appearance. While not the Ritz it has an old world charm, plus it’s a two minute walk to the beach. With Apalachicola only a ten minute drive this is an excellent location for beach and seafood (Apalachicola has all the good restaurants). The bay produces some of the worlds best oysters which are served at all the local restaurants.
Being the dutiful husband I indulged my wife and joined her at the Saint George beach. While I’m not a ‘beach’ person ( after an hour I’m ready to do anything else) I admit that people watching at the beach is extraordinary. I spent much time just observing, and I discovered that, for reasons unbeknownst to me, people leave their inhibitions at home in exchange for time on the sand and surf. Consider; most folks wear the most unflattering clothing; they lug more furniture, towels, blankets, food, drink, toys, blow up devices, fishing accessories along with a multitude of devices to transport these items; they play a myriad of ridiculous games; they either lather themselves in sunscreen attracting a dusting of sand that takes days to remove from ones every crevice or they burn their bodies to a crisp; they argue, curse and rag at their partners and kids until exhausted and then do it all again the next day with as much zeal as they exhibited on the day of their arrival. Is it the sun that erases the memory of the previous day, or is life at home so mundane that they’d rather endure another day at the beach than the six hour drive home? I’m really not a beach person.
Traveling is such a great reward in retirement. It recharges the ‘batteries’, puts a fresh face on life at home and definitely keeps a marriage fresh and alive (Margaret and I fall in love all over again when we travel). Whatever the sacrifices we need make to keep traveling it’s worth the price!