From the top of the bay bridge, I could see for miles and miles. The sun glistened off the waters of the bay and in the distance, the waters of the gulf were an emerald blue. The nostalgia was strong, and a small space in my heart ached with the act of leaving. I had been coming to Panama City Beach since I was about four years old, and now, I was leaving my son there, with my father, in the hopes that he too would cultivate memories he would long cherish.
Back in the real world, I slaved at my desk job and watched the circus that is our Federal government work out their partisan/class warfare bickering in search of a budget. The highlight of my week was having the strap on my laptop bag come undone (for the third time), which sent my expensive work laptop crashing to the ground. This time, the damage was severe, and she was no longer functioning. Friday, my boss asked me to call him at work. He informed me there was a possibility I would be furloughed on Monday if Congress did not get its act together. Oh joy.... The carnival just got personal.
Dee Dee and I decided we would put our faith in Ole Betsy, a.k.a. The Silver Streak, and take our bikes with us to Panama City for the weekend. Unlike the previous Saturday, this ride was rather fast and uneventful. We pulled into PCB just in time to hear the good news, a budget had been agreed upon. We were a little too tired to fix the flat on Dee Dee's back tire. We laid out our plan for the weekend. Saturday, we would run, swim, and fix Dee Dee's tire. Sunday, we ride.
Saturday morning, I got up at 9 AM EDT, 8 AM local time, and got ready to run. The sun came out, and I knew that if I didn't get going, it would be very hot and humid. Dee Dee joined me, and together we ran a mile or so down the road before turning around and heading back. Dee Dee's tummy was bothering her, and she'd already put in most of her mileage for the week. After dropping Dee Dee off, headed back out on my own. I wanted to get in between 8 and 9 miles, but the heat and humidity encouraged me to cut it short. I cut through the neighborhoods and managed to find the Ironman Florida running route along the lagoon. It's always fun for me to catch up with old(ish) memories.
After we ate breakfast, we packed up our stuff and headed up to the big pool by the beach. The water in the pool was cold! I grabbed my wet suit and headed down to the beach after Matthew and his guest. They were mucking around in waist deep water. The gulf was just as cold as the pool. I slipped into my wet suit and proceeded to get acclimated. Even so, putting my face in the water to swim still took my breath away. I headed down towards the St. Andrew's pier for about ten minutes before heading back. I wasn't all that comfortable swimming by myself. Most of the beach goers were opting to sun themselves for some reason. I swam back to the place where I had left Matthew, and I spent about another 25 minutes floating in the gulf. It was quite refreshing. I was even able to get into the pool afterwards sans wet suit.
Upwards of 1 PM-ish or so, a fog rolled down the beach and obscured the sun for the rest of the day. I haven't been in PCB during April very often, but that was a new one on me. We spent the rest of the day getting ready for and cooking dinner, fixing Dee Dee's bike, and sitting out on the patio with my father, talking and drinking beer/wine. PCB is definitely a low stress kinda place :-)
Sunday morning we were up and at'em at almost exactly the same time. Dee Dee and I were out on our bikes by 9-ish. I needed to do an hour and a half, but given that this was Dee Dee's first ride of the year, I compromised and asked her if she wanted to just ride to the pier and back. That's almost exactly a twenty mile loop. We both enjoyed the tail wind on the way down, but on the way back.... not so much. Still, Dee Dee was a trooper, and she hung tough until we got back to the abode. We showered, ate breakfast, then packed up and headed for home.
My father stayed behind in Panama City to wait for my sister and her daughter to arrive from Spain. He earned the right to call Panama City Beach (his second) home. My opportunity for following in his footsteps has probably passed. I don't regret the path that I have chosen. We each march to the sound of our own drummer. Yet the allure of the beaches, the sweet smell of sea, will always call to me like the song of the Siren. That soft tug at my heartstrings will probably never go away. It will just have to be dealt with. I am my father's son.