Night Riders: Return of the Wobbly Rob
Last year, my buddy Rob Lutz decided on the spur of the moment to do a Bike Overnight at Fort Pickens in Florida's Gulf Islands National Seashore. He had a blast and wanted to do it again this year. So, for the second annual Wobbly Rob in January, I decided to join him.
We met up at Rob's house -- both of us running late, of course. We finally got packed up and on the road at 6:30 p.m. Since the sun sets early at this time of the year and we knew we would be riding in the dark, we brought extra headlights and rear lights for the ride. Our route also took this into account and kept us off the busy roads.
It was a nice ride through some of the sound-side neighborhoods, then along the bike path beside Highway 98. After some parking-lot hopping in Gulf Breeze, we came to our first obstacle: the Bob Sikes Bridge. While it has a nice dedicated bike lane, it also amounted to a mountain for us flatlanders! Onward and upward we went.
After crossing the bridge it was more bike path until we arrived at Peg Leg Pete's Oyster Bar on Pensacola Beach. After our "strenuous" ride it was time for a refuel. A couple of beers and a grouper sandwich hit the spot, and we were off again.
By now, the moon had set and we were crossing into the national seashore area, so no more street lights -- only our headlights to illuminate the road. It was great! No traffic, stars twinkling overhead, the surf breaking on the beach. You couldn't ask for a better night ride.
After about 7 miles we made it to the park campground. We stayed on the "D Loop," which is the tent and small camper area, so no 50-foot RVs with their generators to contend with. There were only a few other campers in this area, and it appeared everyone was already in bed. We set up the tents and I showed Rob how to steam bake a chocolate cake for dessert, then it was off to bed ourselves.
The next morning we were lazy, and slept in until some of the vehicles leaving woke us up. We fired off the stoves for coffee and oatmeal. Rob found out a spoon is a very valuable item. Then I fascinated him with more steam baking as I made us muffins to finish off breakfast.
We broke camp and rode to the fort for the mandatory photo shoot.
Then we hit the road and started back to the house. The return trip was uneventful; the weather had warmed to around 70 degrees and the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky. Not bad for the 28th of January! We followed the same route back to Highway 98, then crossed over and followed the bay back to Rob's house, finishing up at about 12:30 p.m. It was a great Bike Overnight, and I'm sure we will be doing it again.
Round-trip by Map My Ride has it at 36.5 miles, so that's how it is going in the books. Not a long trip by any standard, but a great ride nonetheless.
Tip for this adventure: Peg Leg Pete's Oyster Bar is a terrific stop for a meal and a drink before entering the national seashore. If you time it right, you can ride into the sunset over the bay.
Favorite local bike shop: Truly Spokin' in Pensacola.