Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I knew it was high time for a beach trip. I put the word out here and there and had a taker, a good friend who just got his bike back on the road. With a donated tire (props to Josh) and help from a friend (thanks Brandon) he was able to make the trip. The plan was to meet between 6:00 and 6:30am for breakfast and hit it soon after. My pal was working with a new pack and had some issues getting it set up like he wanted and on the bike. He was a bit late but it would end up working in our favor. We gassed up and hit the road.
Highway 31 was the doorway to the connecting roads that would deliver us to Florida. I had originally planned to hit 231 to a state park outside Tallahassee. In order to give us more time the following day and not retrace my steps from a recent ride to Dothan, I changed the route. We followed 331 to the state line where we stopped for gas and food. Florala is a small border town well known to travelers heading to the gulf. Our restaurant of choice was on the beaten path near the gas station.
It wasn't much longer before we arrived at our destination. We made great time and arrived at Grayton Beach State Park around 2:00pm. We didn't have any problem checking in...until we mentioned that we camped in hammocks. Florida is apparently very protective of its coastal trees and they were worried if they would support us or if our setup would inflict damage. The first site were were assigned (pictured above) did not have trees large enough so we moved to the site directly across the lane. They asked before we tried anything that we show them where we planned to string up so it became a bit of a fiasco (one of many over the weekend) of moving sites, getting approval, etc. It all ended up working out fine. Just be aware if you are going to Florida and you plan on camping in a hammock, you might encounter some resistance or have to jump through some hoops.
All the effort was well worth it, the state park had access to the bay and the gulf. We got unpacked and set up and walked down to the beach. There was a killer sandbar and the water was warm and clear. We spent some time soaking off the road dirt. It started to rain so I walked the half mile back to camp in a rush to cover up my gear. Some stuff got a good soaking but nothing terrible. I had made some light preparations for rain before hitting the sand. 
Worried about more rain, I hung a tarp over my hammock. This would keep me dry later. We shot the shit at our site and my buddy hit the beach again. I cooked chili and ate and drank a little bit before calling it a night.
I slept from roughly 8pm until 5:30am the next morning. Everything wet had dried as it was getting hot quick. We were losing our shade and were ready to hit the road again. I ate breakfast, made coffee, made one more trek to the sand and hit the road.
Hopping back on 98, we made slow progress through every touristy beach town. There were small stretches where we actually covered some miles but they were few and far between. We grabbed a $1 menu lunch and gas. Since time was getting away from us and I was afraid we would not make it to Mobile that day I decided to call ahead to the Gulf State park and reserve a campsite. I had called several weeks before and been told I would not have a problem getting a spot the week after July 4th. Apparently the operator who said this was not aware that the softball world series would sell out every campsite and hotel in the area. Neither were we. An hour of smart-phoning and calls later and we still did not have a place to stay. We said screw it and pressed on. 
We detoured off 98 onto 399. This was one of the best decisions we made the whole trip. Navarre Beach had the whitest sand and bluest water we saw all weekend. There were stretches of road that are not developed and you are literally right next to the gulf on both sides for miles at a time. We took a brief break, the sun was relentless and we were really cooking at this point.

My buddy decided to split off, he wasn't really interested in my next destination and I think the pace and the sun were negatively effecting his good time. I was going to snap some shots of the National Aviation Museum in Pensacola but I never made it on base. Apparently you have to have a long sleeve shirt (neither a t-shirt or long sleeved jacket will work, I asked) to ride on base so we never even got past the gate. This was fiasco number 2. I backtracked and headed for Perdido Key.

Another bit of smart-phoning and I had some leads on places to stay. Thus begins fiasco number 3. The Beech Camper and Mobile Home park in Orange Beach does not allow motorcycles on its premises. Noted. Another site I won't even name wanted hotel money for a site. No sir. I spoke to a very nice woman on the phone who promised she could find us a space on her site so I went to check it out. Basically we would be stringing up our hammocks in her front yard with no privacy, shade, etc. There were also some "sites" in the woods next to the main loop of the site but old discarded junk, swarms of insects and a strange odor at these "sites" was a little too Texas Chainsaw Massacre for me. I passed. I hit 59 towards Foley stopping at every hotel I saw. I was hit with a lot of "no vacancies" and was quoted rates everywhere from $160/night to $240/night. I decided to loop back. A run down off the road Travelodge had one room left so I grabbed it. I called my buddy and unpacked.
We took a break, cleaned up and decided to venture out for some food. The Keg is a locals joint tucked away in Orange Beach. I happened upon it several years back with my wife and every time I am in the area I try to make it by. The food is great and the staff is friendly and fun. I highly recommend looking it up if you want a non-touristy burger and beer. Heading back I was amazed at the late night traffic and the amount of people out and about. It had been awhile since I was in the area in the summertime. I got back to the room, showered and drifted off to sleep with the help of several rum and cokes.
I woke up the next morning to this. We delayed our departure and waited for a break. We looked at the weather, altered our route, packed and loaded and hit the road. We didn't get far before going through another shower that would keep us damp the rest of the day. 
It was clearing so we decided to check out the beach one last time. This ended up being our saving grace. We watched bad storms and lightning pass directly over our intended path. Killing two birds with one stone, we thought if we were going to sit we might as well eat so we grabbed a booth at the Rib Shack and dined before getting back out in the now manageable showers.
I wrapped my pack in my rain jacket which did a great job of keeping my gear dry. We rode through Pensacola once again and back to 31. I was pretty much over riding in the rain at this point so I opted to catch 65N near Flomaton. My partner wasn't in quite such a hurry so he opted to keep going. I got a text from him later that he got a hotel room for the night and would take his time getting back the next day.

I arrived back home in time for supper. I unpacked my gear, all of which smelled like bug spray and campfires. Even with it's rough spots, it was a killer trip and I already miss being on the coast. I am sunburned in places (should have reapplied), the only souvenir I brought back. If you live close and ever need a quick getaway, don't ignore the coast. There are tons of great state parks to stay in and cool places to see. Do some research, plan your trip and get out on the road.


  1. Sounds like a great time was had. I need to get out on the road soon before I go crazy. The Bastard Bash is almost here so I'll get out there soon.

  2. Great post! Love the pictures and the stories-the beach pictures reminded me of Galveston. I might try carrying my atlas the way you did.

  3. Jeff-yeah, at least cabin fever is easy to cure.

    Chris-Seal Line makes that bag and its awesome, could not be happier with it. Carrying the atlas outside the pack makes checking directions ridiculously quick. I can literally jump off at a traffic light, take a quick look to get my bearings and get back on knowing where to go without having to stop, unpack, look, repack, etc.

  4. I was driving to Florida, through Birmingham and thought it would be funny to email you a picture of the sights from 65. Tell you I was going to watch you sleep or something. When we got to Apalachicola the following morning I saw this.

    I thought, "Damn, he's good. This isn't a coincidence. He pre-creeped my creepiness and turned it around on me. A fucking psychological ninja."

    Looks like a good time. I may have to travel to the gulf on two wheels this winter.

  5. Russ-that's great, "He pre-creeped my creepiness." Hahaha...
    I am always up for a trip to the coast in the off season. If you are serious and want to put something together, send me an e-mail. I'd like to recreate this trip BUT see the Aviation Museum and the USS Alabama Battleship as originally planned.


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