(Apologies for backtracking, but I needed to put in a business plug.)
Ron and I returned from our beach stranding at about 6:45 a.m.
I took a shower and headed to a motorcycle shop called Adrenaline Rush.
I wanted my bike looked over before heading further west. The folks there took really good care of me. The owner checked my tires and my breaks. (He told me I needed to replace the rear breaks -- which I still have yet to do.)
"How much do I owe you?"
"No charge," he said.
I wanted to pay him something.
He said, "save your money for the journey."
Who does that?
(Now fast forward...)
When I stopped at the Fort Walton Beach library, I had no place to go.
On a whim, I checked on airbnb to see if I could find any listings.
If you can believe this, I found a hostel-type setting for $25 a night. I booked the room for two-days (to rest), and to my surprise, they accepted my last minute reservation.
I felt like the luckiest person in the world. That is, until I got a little lost. The place was sort of hidden and tucked in off the main road. I could not find it. Instead, I could feel my anxiety rising; I stopped the motorcycle for a moment to give myself a mental pep-talk.
When I arrived, a very tall man (named Tiki) led me into the house, had me set my stuff down, and waited as I reviewed all the house rules. The process was somewhat formal and uncomfortable. He showed me my bunk-bed, the bathroom, and the kitchen area.
I mentioned that I needed to do laundry; however, rather than paying him, I offered to do laundry for the establishment. In exchange, I was able to wash two loads for free.
As I settled in, I went to move my motorcycle. I could not find my keys. Another strike of anxiety hit. I calmed myself down (internally) and looked through my shoulder bag again. I found my keys exactly where I had left them. At this point, I knew that it was time to take a break because I was starting to question myself on every little thing.
After doing some loads of laundry for the house, I took a shower, and went to bed. No one was in my room the first night I stayed. I had the whole area to myself. As I laid in bed, I could feel my body vibrating and shaking from all the motorcycle riding. It was as if I was still on the bike. Eventually, I shut down and drifted into a deep sleep.
When I awoke, I began the morning with a pretty deep conversation with Bill (Little Bill from Macon, Georgia). Actually, we had a brief conversation the previous evening, but the one we had in the morning was on another level.
He fed me with his life story and his experiences in Asia, specifically South Korea and Japan. Choosing to go into the military had altered the course of what his life would have been like had he stayed in Macon. He studied Buddhism, meditated regularly, and worked in information technology. Boy did we converse for a long time. Not just about him, but about this process of reflection and evaluation.
He shared several compelling lessons with me. One that I latched onto was the idea of viewing ourselves as works of art. Although I had heard this metaphor before, I had forgotten how insightful that vision was.
He fed me more contemplative ideas as our discussion spilled over the 60-minute mark.
Following the philosophical meal, Tiki had asked me if I wanted to ride with him to do some shopping. I agreed. He took me and another woman (named Dawn) to Whole Foods and Fresh Market. I was able to buy what I call fancy food including Chilean Sea Bass. I could not pass up the price point.
What you see below are lion fish.
I had never seen so many of them in one space.
During our return, I was able to take better pictures of the Emerald Coast.
I hope these photos demonstrate why tourists flood the area.
When we returned, I did my laundry, and Bill and I spoke even more. Did I mention how excited I was about cooking my fancy food that evening.
Although I wanted to nap, I opted for reorganizing my luggage. Moving a few things around gave me more space and access.
As the hours wore on, I met my new roommates who were down for a wedding. In addition, I began the prep work for tonight's meal.
I found some cannellini beans, so I used those with my chicken andouille sausage (a pork and beans prototype); I drenched the fish in melted sea salt butter and shook it up in a ginger panko topping before baking it. I also diced up some fresh apricots (warmed those) and placed them on top of some citrus madeleines.
I fed Bill and Chasity (an Oregon native) all the food I had.
[She had recently moved and was in a transition period. Chasity taught me about cranberry bogs -- and reminded me of why it is important to be vulnerable and ask for help.]
As we finished our meals, more and more interesting people started showing up. I was sort of glad to be exiting the following morning. While I wanted to get to know Bill, Tiki (he's off to Montreal... then Bali), and Chasity, I had had plenty of rest and could continue on my journey.
The following day was abuzz with activity due to all the new people. It really felt like a hostel on Sunday morning.
Because I had packed the night before, my exit was smooth. Hugs were exchanged, and off I went to my next destination: Summerdale, Alabama.
Until next time, my friend.