The time in Tampa gave me what I needed to completely reach the longed-for rhythm I've been searching for over the last 6 weeks.I left Brandon happy and eager to move forward. I drove up to Perry and stayed at yet another KOA - the one I whined about a couple of posts ago. I went into town looking for interesting things, but ended up back at my campsite because there wasn't much around and I wasn't all that interested in trying.
I did meet a super sweet couple from North Carolina who stopped to talk after seeing my Maine plates. They were interested in my journey and sorry to hear that I hadn't been able to see the North Carolina coast because of the hurricane; they invited me to stay with them next time I'm down that way. People are just so incredibly nice.
After waking up to the [totally unnecessary IMHO] slam-the-dumpster-on-the-garbage-truck alarm at 5:00, I made a quick breakfast and scooted out of Perry.
I made a quick stop at the site of Fort Fanning on the Suwanee River to stretch my legs.
I took Route 98 all the way from Perry to Ft. Walton, which gave Google kittens all day long. I wanted scenery, Google wanted speed. I won - this coastal road meanders through acres of pine, then takes you along the incredibly blue, clear water, then back into a tiny beach town, and then back out onto a giant bridge. The sand on the Florida Panhandle is white and powdery and the water is 14 shades of blue. It's so different from Maine that it's mind boggling.
Just before I got to Ft. Walton I stopped on Okaloosa Island to check out the beach. There are huge sand dunes on the island; the road feels temporary. I finally found a good spot to stop that seemed like it had less sand than other options, so I pulled in and parked, and then noticed dozens of Monarch butterflies in the sweet-smelling shrubs in front of the car. I spent a solid 10 minutes geeking out and taking photos, which earned me some looks from other visitors.
The trek out to the beach is surprisingly tough since the sand is so fine and deep. The dunes are enormous and the sand is nearly blinding. i took all of these photos without actually seeing what I was doing.
I moved on to Ft. Walton and the home of a fellow COA graduate who had invited me to stay. Kendra and her 3 kids welcomed me warmly into their home and provided a cozy bed andgreat dinner. It was such a relief to have a home for the night!
I also got some quality time with Kendra's sweet little cat.
After a quiet breakfast and a last chat with Kendra, I made my way toward Montgomery, Alabama on secondary roads through field after field of cotton.