The heat was oppressive, beating down on my head, baking my brain, my hide being tanned by the sun as I was making my way the forty five (s)miles from Carabelle to St Marks. Shoeless Jo sits in the shaded wagon I pull behind me, the warm breeze being scooped onto his face as I look up the highway another mile. I was praying for the rain that had been forecasted to begin but there were no clouds in the sky.
Alligator Bay was our only opportunity to cool off, stripping both Jo and I down and diving into the eighty degree water. I didn’t see any alligators, but it was so hot, it wouldn’t have mattered if I did.
The pavement made a bend beneath me, turning inland, leaving the bay shores behind us along with any chance of taking another dip.
My vision became tunneled, squinting my eyes through the lens of my fogged shades. A weakness came over me within a matter of moments that concerned me slightly. I was avoiding heat stroke by slowing my pace and continuing to nurse the luke warm water from my plastic bottle. A gas station up the road presented itself just in the nick of time, parking my bike under the gazebo.
My legs wobbled at the knee like a drunken sailors, my hands shaky as I made my way into the air conditioned building. I placed my hand against the wall, thinking for a split second that I might fold in the middle, a chance of my limp body landing on the ground. That didn’t happen though, instead, I reached into the cooler, putting my head in it first as I fished for a few cold drinks.
I stayed there with Jo, seated outside on the patio, until the the peak heat broke somewhere around dinner time. I knew that I needed to eat, to consume enough calories to propel me the next twenty five miles but the heat had zapped my appetite entirely. A single bite took what seemed like an hour to swallow, chewing the same piece of food over and over again before it actually found its own way down.
I started the day off exhausted, having slept on a boat dock the evening before, the yellow flys nipping at me in the night. And there were even more of them swarming in the morning, trying to strip my flesh as the sun was coming up.
Although I’ve never met her before, I sure would like to, if only for a second to give her a hug and thank her for her kindness. I believe she’s an earth angel, making herself known to me at exactly the right time. I was sitting in a fifties diner where I had written my previous blog. A message popped up on my iPhone, Facebook alerting me; it was Roxie reaching out. She’s on the other side of the country in Phoenix. She sent me this message…
The heat relinquished its hold on the earth as the rain Gods took over and showered both Jo and I for the final mile. It was the best feeling ever. We arrived in St Marks just after supper time, making my way through a jungle, accidentally running over a snake that was slithering along the bike path.
We arrived at the Pirates Landing, a bar and grill. I thought about how earlier in the day I would have happily volunteered to walk the plank just to take a swim. The waitress welcomed us in as I flopped my tired self onto a chair, requesting from her several glasses of ice water and a few minutes to decide on a meal. She wanted to meet Jo so we stepped outside together with a container of gourmet scraps from her kitchen. She looked at him in his wagon, softly saying to him, “hi Jo, I’m Aunt Bonnie”. Jo fell in love with her, and so did I.
Aunt Bonnie shared her onion rings with me, then passed some bacon wrapped jumbo shrimp under my nose, shrimp that came right out of her backyard, the bay they live on. And then she wrapped up a huge slice of gooey lemon pie, to-go, along with an invitation to return for a morning meal, on the house.
After an hour had passed and my baked brain was no longer sizzling, Jo and I made our way to the Fish Camp, the most amazing motel room ever that Roxie had treated us to. The cooler was cranking when I walked in the room, making me feel like I had just arrived inside a penguin sanctuary, or heaven on earth.
In the south they would say, “bless your heart”, referring to the kind deed that Roxie had done for Jo and I. As I laid there in that marshmallow bed, I said a silent prayer, but knew already that her heart is blessed and that mine is too.
The legendary, B.B King, put an album out titled, One Kind Favor. That’s exactly what Roxie did for us. And what countless others have done for Jo and I as we make our way. And now, as I head out on the smoldering highway, I’ll be be listening to the blues man through my headphones; and his song will remind me to, “Let The Good Times Roll”.