This was a day of watching supersonic fighter jets at Eglin AFB and then cruising along the Florida Panhandle coast with a strong tailwind – sweet!
I rode from Ft Walton Beach, FL to Panama City, FL today. A ride of 77 miles and a little under 700 ft of climbing – again, basically all of which was just on the arched bridges that I crossed throughout the day. About half of the ride was a bit inland on highways and the other half was right along the beach/coast. I definitely hit the primary area between Ft Walton Beach and Panama City Beach where college spring break is going in full force.
The route: I started out on Hwy 85 going up to Eglin and then back south to the coast. The whole day could have been on Hwy 98 into Panama City. I took 3 detours from that: 1) in Destin, FL I took some side streets for a few miles to avoid the very crowded and narrow highway corridor through the city, 2) just East of Destin I rode along the coast (“old Hwy 98”) for about 10 miles, and 3) in Panama City Beach I also went down to the beach road for about 20 miles before getting back on Hwy 98 to cross the bridge into Panama City.
The weather: Chilly!! I had not used my winter riding coat since West Texas, but I had an opportunity to get it out this morning. Temps at 8a were in the low 40s and with a 15 mph wind, the wind chill was actually in the 30s. The day was totally sunny (I am lucking out big time) and so warmed up pretty quickly later in the morning but still was just a high of about 60 for the day. Winds were out of the NW at 15 mph or so, so I had a big tail wind all day – wonderful!! Pretty nice cycling weather (but everyone who came down here to go to the beach is getting a bum deal with the cold FL weather).
The ride was quite enjoyable (with a tail wind that seems to always be the case). I covered 3 things that I love: 1) USAF fighter aircraft, 2) beaches, 3) and of course cycling. I hung out at Eglin AFB for 3 hours watching the jets and then stopped at a local bike store, so my ride didn’t actually start until about 130p today – easily the latest start I’ve had for a ride.
Eglin AFB just north of Ft Walton Beach. This is one of the primary operational testing facilities of the USAF. The base is huge (you can see that on Google Earth/Maps). All of the aircraft pictures/videos are from different spots I was at just outside the fence at Eglin today. Some of you may not know - I started out my career as an aerospace engineer and USAF officer - thus the focus of military planes in my trip!!
Museum next to Eglin AFB. The SR-71! The first production plane that could go Mach 3+ and it was built in the 1960s (basically less than 60 years after we figured out how to fly - amazing...). From my perspective this was probably the most insanely challenging and successful technical development program that has been accomplished to date (even more than the Apollo program that took man to the moon).
USAF F-35 stealth fighter undergoing flight test at Eglin. This is our 3rd generation stealth fighter (F-117 and F-22 being 1st and 2nd - all Lockheed aircraft).
F-35 in a steep bank coming off the runway.
Nice bridge decorations just outside the gate.
Video 1: F-35 banking after flying over the Eglin main runway.
F-16 flying over the runway - these were out flying with the F-35s this morning.
Video 2: two F-16s and then an A-10 (I worked on these 20 yrs ago when I was in the USAF – great to see again!)
Video 3: F-16 screaming over the runway and quickly banking/elevating
Video 4: F-35
Video 5: two F-16s followed by a third
F-35s banking over the runway.
Video 6: F-35 with an F-16 chase plane, followed by a second F-35
Destin, FL. Just east of Ft Walton Beach - this seemed to be a central location for spring breakers.
Crossing over into Destin, FL. Beautiful blue water (unlike the browner color to the Gulf that I saw back in Mississippi along the Gulf - that coming primarily from silt runoff from the Mississippi River 40 miles to the west).
Beach road along the Gulf Coast just east of Destin.
White sands of the Gulf. Incredible. This near Destin, FL.
Typical landscape inland a few miles along Hwy 98. Given the strong tail wind I had, I put my head down and cycled along at 20-25 mph on this stretch for 30 miles or so, to get to the next beach!
The next beach!! Panama City Beach.
Spring break parties on the beach - brave souls given Temps in the 50s!
Wonderful beach views with the sun starting to go down.
Bridge on Hwy 98 going into Panama City.
Panama City bay and port.