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I had seen 2011 out with a bang with the seafood feast and 2012 started in as equally an amazing fashion. The condo property where Jeff & Heidi own a place had a cruise from 9 to 11am and while I had plans to be elsewhere in the evening, it was less than 60 miles and there was a decent tailwind. The cruise along the intracoastal was lovely. The fog from the previous day had lifted meaning we could see so much. The capitain asked us if we wanted to see dolphin or historic sites and the kids and myself shouted for dolphins so that’s what we got. He found a spot where a family of them were swimming around our boat and almost everyone onboard screamed in joy when we saw them. There were fathers taking pictures with cameras that had lenses as long as my arm and which made me and my 3.6x zoom a little jealous.

As we headed back towards the dock, the captain announced that anyone wanting to navigate and steer the vessel could. A line of 4-8 year olds formed with one noticeable exception, me. I figured with my plans to maybe do some sailing in the Caribbean I should get some experience and so I was the tallest person in the line by at least a couple of feet. It was amusing to steer and was told by the captain about the glory of the Crimson Tide, the UA college American football team who would be playing against LSU the following week. I realised I didn’t have a team to support and so that’s why I now say ROLL TIDE!

After making land again, we headed back to the condo where I packed my things up and got ready to leave. Jeff & Heidi had said I could stay for a second night, but while I was having a superb time I decided to get going. There was just enough time for us to go down to the beach and take part in the Polar Bear Plunge. In Japan they have hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year, while in the US they have Polar Bear Plunges, people deciding to get into the water on New Years Day. Thankfully, while the Gulf of Mexico isn’t warm, it’s really not that cold. After the first couple of seconds I was pretty comfortable being in the water. I’m just glad I wasn’t up in New England and hopping into the Atlantic up there.

After the plunge, we dried up and said our goodbyes. It had been a lovely way to bring in the New Years and am so grateful for them for accepting me in at such short notice and sharing the holiday with me. Our paths might cross again while I’m in Orlando and it’d be great to meet up again.

I knew it was going to be a good day as soon as I got on the bike. I had a good tailwind and with minimal pedalling I was rolling along at 20 mph as the road followed the beach along. Until I re-crossed the intracoastal, it was a beautiful ride and then it became slightly less so, but still nice enough. I got a puncture about 15 miles before my Warmshowers place but did my normal pump and ride as it was only going down slowly.

I arrived at Craig’s a little before sunset, so found a note saying he was out at the beach. I used the time to do some minor bike maintenance and before long he was back. We moved our things upstairs, spent time sat round his place talking and then headed out to an Irish pub where I had a pint of cider and a variety of other beers while enjoying the evening and meeting some bizarre people. The highlight was probably a lady called Amanda from Alabama. She had been drinking a fair amount and regaled us with some intriguing stories about her 5 bedroom house with a nanny back in Birmingham, Alabama as well as a place in the UK and one in Italy. Oh, and she’d sailed around the world but couldn’t really name places she had been. She was also more than willing to sail me across the Caribbean. If only any of it had been true it would have been a great chance meeting and I’d be talking about my sailing plans! Oh well, here’s hoping!

Dolphins

Cycling along the beach

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