Blog #26

Note: This post is best read while looking at a map of the south shore of Florida’s panhandle.

A few years ago Pete and I had a couple day layover at one of his lavish homes in Panama City Beach. We headed out for a day ride, went east on US 98 and stumbled onto one of the most scenic, largely rural rides I’d ever taken.

I couldn’t wait to tell Miss Phyllis all about it: uncongested roadway, minimal commercial development, wide, white beaches on the right, and most often, woods on the left. Hard to believe we were traveling the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.

I peaked Phyllis’s interest. It took a while, but Saturday, May 21, we loaded the motorcycle, our bicycles, and seemingly about half of all we own into our 2015 23 foot Jayco Toyhauler and headed out towards Carrabelle Beach RV Park. The RV park is located right on US 98, smack in the middle of Florida’s Forgotten Coast near the town of Carrabelle.

Packed full, but still room to make coffee.

It took my old 2003 GMC truck a couple days to get us there, but after one night of boondocking in a Walmart parking lot, we found the RV park, unloaded the MC and bikes, and got to exploring.

Our home for a week.

Apparently there is some debate over exactly what is included in the Forgotten Coast. I subscribe to the definition that starts just past Tyndall Air Force Base, east through Mexico Beach, Beacon Hill, Saint Joe Beach, Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, Carrabelle Beach and Carrabelle, Saint James, Turkey Point, Saint Teresa, Saint James Island, Bald Point State Park, and Alligator Point. US 98 hugs the Gulf for most of the trip.

We left home on Saturday morning and set up camp on Sunday afternoon. Monday morning “Biker Chick” Miss Phyllis was ready to get the motorcycle out on the open road. We rode east from Carrabelle Beach to Alligator Point. It was a great ride with many interesting stops along the way.

Wednesday morning we headed out on the bike for lunch with Pete and Miss Connie, (affectionately known as “Burton”) at their newest lavish home in Panama City Beach. Having ridden the coast east of us, the lunch ride took us to the remaining coast west of our campground, all the way to PCB, another incredible ride with beautiful ocean beaches and mostly rural riding.

We saw fighter jets maneuvering in formation above Tyndall AFB, much of which can be seen from the road with its massive runways. A map check shows the giant footprint of that base.

There has been some residential development along the Forgotten Coast since Pete and I rode it. I’m told that most giant commercial development avoids the area because of its hurricane history. For instance, in October of 2018, Hurricane Michael, a category 5 Hurricane, came up the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall at Mexico Beach. It did catastrophic damage to everything in its path including a large part of Tyndall AFB and all of Mexico Beach.

Another high point of the trip was lunch and shopping in Apalachicola, a very neat little town, the Crooked River Lighthouse in Carrabelle, and the Camp Gordon Johnston WWII museum in Carrabelle, all within bicycling distance. And of course Miss Phyllis’s requisite morning and evening walks on the excellent, deep, largely uninhabited beach directly across from the RV park.

We found the local radio station broadcasting out of Apalachicola, Oyster radio, 106.5 FM. I often travel with a professional sketch artist who was kind enough to sketch the Forgotten Highway along with the lyrics of a song that was written specifically for this radio station.

If you haven’t been there, get your motorcycle to Florida’s Forgotten Coast. There are plenty of places to stay if you don’t RV. Have your significant other drive the family truckster and you follow on the bike. You won’t regret the trip. And make certain to tune into Oyster Radio to get a real feel for coastal life.

Thanks for reading. Larry Rinehart, the Prudent Biker (most of the time).

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