A homeless man woke me up this morning just as the sun was beginning to do the same. He tucked his bedroll behind the bush on the opposite side of the concrete wall where I was laying, where it would be out of site, safe. He said that the church next door was hosting a free breakfast, that I could join him, pointing his finger a block away.
After saying goodbye to Greg, Patrick and his folks, I pedaled east across the highway, leaving the luxurious lifestyle and the Caribe Resort behind me. That was yesterday. I also bid my farewell to Alabama as I crossed over into Florida at the Florabama state line.
The open sign was flashing at MoJo’s coffee shop in Perdido Key. I spent the warmer part of the day hanging out with Jo on their shaded patio. The iced Americano that the gal made me was strong enough to send a car across the entire state. Several hours passed with me writing my last blog and pausing on occasion to chat with a few of the patrons that were coming and going.
One of the many things that I have loved about this long bike ride has been the random human connections I’ve experienced, all of the relationships that have spawned along the way.
Absolute strangers have taken me in, making friends, spending time together getting to know each other. They’re treating Jo and I like we are family. These countless miracles continue to amaze me.
I’m taking each day as it comes. This is freedom. I have a general idea of the direction I’m headed but no course set in stone. Since my cycling specific road map fell out of my pocket on the Westside of Austin a few weeks ago, I now glance at the map on my phone each day and decide which road to explore.
When I arrived in Pensacola my stomach was talking to me. In the downtown district, I sat down on the patio of an Irish pub and shoveled in a shepherds pie. The sun was setting in the park across the street. I stopped there on a bench and watched the night take over the day. Meanwhile, there was a street musician serenading me from a half block away. I walked in that direction.
That’s when I met Larry and Crystal. They were taking up residency in front of World of Beer, people watching, those shuffling along the congested sidewalk. They said hi as I passed, pointing at Jo who was sticking his head out of his wagon as I pushed.
I took a table by myself out front. Larry walked over, randomly handing me the four dollars he had in his pocket, then offered to buy me a cold drink and invited me to sit with them.
There was a wonderful connection between us. We spent an hour talking about our values, our dreams, our passions, our work; sprinkling the topic of faith in on occasion. It was one of those conversations that lifted our spirits even higher and confirmed that we both were exactly where we needed to be at that moment.
I had tried to line up a Warm Showers host here in Pensacola but wasn’t successful. The Methodist Church in downtown is on the list of hosts but doesn’t allow dogs in their building. Another person I contacted online already had a houseful and two of my friends had reached out to people they knew here but had no luck.
I decided I would camp at the church, sleeping out under the stars, laying my sleeping bag out on the soft court-yard lawn. It seemed like the perfect spot as I drifted of to sleep, Jo resting in his wagon beside me. At four in the morning, that’s when the sprinklers came on.