Me at Doug's place in Orlando

Beach bumming, I have decided, is filthy, fulfulling work.

I rode the Nighthawk over to the Kennedy Space Center after a very sore nine hours in the saddle from Atlanta to Orlando, then a couple of days in Orlando with Doug, his sister, and his girlfriend. I have to say, it's been a long time since I felt as good as I did while I was pushing 90 on the Beeline, a long straight road under me and a hot blue sky above - I had a distinct thought, "I'm alive and riding to the sea. This is wonderful."

KSC was an interesting diversion, and I sprinted out to the Nighthawk after I got back from the Apollo Moon launch complex and saw giant thunderheads looming ominously over the cape: there was a voice on the loudspeaker advising everyone to stay indoors to avoid the 'hellacious storm headed this way,' but I decided I'd make a dash for it instead -- and, through some great good luck, managed to ride fast enough to escape the storm altogether.

I had a drink at a local bar when I got to Cocoa Beach, then spent the night on the beach. The bad stuff first: ants. Actually, the ants were really the only negative, but (since it was dark), I had the misfortune to spread out for the night (no towel or sheet, mind you -- just me on the sand) in a spot that was evidently a favorite nocturnal haunt for the Cocoa Beach ant population, and was bitten no less than 10 times on my hands. I itched for a solid five days after that.

But aside from that, sleeping on the beach is awesome. You actually don't get as sandy as you might imagine, since you're dry when you're on the sand, and you either have a beach towel (as a smarter person would have) or you're wearing clothes, and there's always a nice breeze off the ocean to keep you cool. I woke up at first light, and I felt more refreshed than I've felt from a night of sleep in quite some time.

The next day a local surfer girl saw me fumbling haplessly in the ocean with my rented foam surfboard, took pity on me, and showed me the basics, and within a half hour, I was happily romping my way along the breakers. From a certain perspective, surfing seems kind of stupid, because most of the sport is just sitting placidly in the water waiting for a decent wave to come along, but, at least for the few hours I was surfing, when a decent wave does come along, it's one heck of a rush to stand up and ride it in. I should also note here that even moderate-sized waves are capable of completely owning surfers who don't know what they're doing (read: me), and when you wipe out on a decent sized wave, suddenly your face and knees are careening off the ocean floor while your board sails merrily toward the back of your head. I actually had to stop after about three or four hours, when my knee slammed against the bottom in a particularly unpleasant wipe out, and I discovered (actually not until about five minutes later, when I was in shallow enough water to see me knee clearly) that I was bleeding all over myself.

"You might want to get out for a while," the surfer girl advised me dryly, "before a shark eats you."

So I returned the board and headed to Jacksonville. By this point, I should note, I was looking considerably worse-for-wear, smelled rather badly, and my hair was thoroughly matted from so much time spent being crushed by a helmet. So when I arrived in Jacksonville, somewhat less than resplendent in my motorcycle jacket that I was wearing with no shirt underneath, I found that people were giving me the guarded looks with which they favored beach bums. The upside of this was that actual beach bums were quite friendly: I had a long conversation with two particularly outgoing beach bums who regalled me with long and unlikely stories of their youths, involving numerous scenes fleeing from the police on a motorcycle, which, the man informed me, actually broke into three pieces after he slammed into a fence at 85 miles per hour. He, naturally, was perfectly ok.

And you know, I would just like to state for the record, what is the absolute worst thing in the world? Getting rained on when you're riding and have no prospect of getting dry clothes any time soon. My feet were wet for a solid two days, and when I stopped for a brief dinner in Valdosta, I examined my feet in the bathroom, and dear God they were raw, disgusting, swollen masses of hurt. I gingerly put on my final remaining pair of dry socks, called James, who assured me that the road from Valdosta to Macon only had about a 30% chance of rain. Naturally, as soon as I got on the highway, it started pouring for about 15 minutes, just long enough to thoroughly drench my socks -- as they remained for the remainder of the painful ride back to Marietta.

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