It is cold in Minnesota. I am from the Midwest, I grew up here, and know how winter cold feels. I stood at the bus stop in high school in blizzard conditions. I am used to the cold and the snow. However, the crispness of the cold here is different. The cold isn’t dry and harsh like it is in Chicago in late January and early February. At least it isn’t like that right now. Earlier this year, my wife and I planned a short trip to visit my family in Florida. When we left Minnesota, the high temperature was 42ºF. When we landed in Florida, it was nearly 80ºF.
When we first planned the trip, and up to the point I started packing, I had vacillated on the decision to bring my skates. I wanted to pack light because it was a short trip, and didn’t think I would have time to skate. My wife prompted me to bring my skates, and that provided the support to tip the scales in favor of packing my skates. I put 5 days worth of clothes and some necessary work out gear in my Bont back pack, which is used to travel, and hopped the plan with my family to the Sunshine State.
It rained the first full day we were there, but the second day of the trip had some very nice weather. I convinced my father to get up early and take me out to a skate spot that also allowed him to fish. We were out the door at 6:45 AM, and headed for Pensacola Beach from Pensacola. After doing some digging, I decided to skate the South Santa Rosa Loop Trail which runs through part of the Gulf National Seashore. The Gulf National Seashore is the park system that covers the barrier islands along the coast of Mississippi and Florida. The portion I skated was between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach, Florida. My father dropped me off on the Pensacola Beach side of the island, and I skated East toward Navarre Beach. The website describes the trial as 8 feet wide and paved with asphalt and is ideal for, among other things, inline skating. First, the trail on the barrier island is not 8 feet wide. Realistically, it is 4 to 5 feet wide. Second, it isn’t very well maintained as the pavement is rough, and completely washed out in some places. Finally, the path doesn’t run the length of the island. Rather, it shifts out onto the two-lane highway that runs the length of the island and takes up part of the roadway as bike lane. The path is really rough, and, for those familiar with the analogy, reminds me of the first 8 miles of the NorthShore Inline Marathon course. Oddly, the bike lane in the roadway is in much better condition than the path portions in Pensacola Beach. The road was very nice to skate. There were some ruts from where heavy equipment had moved the sand around to clear the road, but beyond that, the pavement was a moderately rough texture that is easy to skate. If you skate this route, skate in the street for the entire route and avoid the paved trail.
If you want a warm and scenic place to skate in Northwest Florida, this is a very good option. The road wasn’t very heavily traveled at around 8 AM on a Saturday morning. Being late in the year, the only other people out were the fishermen. As I was skating from Pensacola Beach to Navarre Beach, I had beach and the Gulf of Mexico to my right, and more beach and the Pensacola Bay to my left. The white sand beaches in this area, rising sun, and ocean made this a beautiful place to skate. I skated 20 miles total, starting with the 10 miles from Pensacola Beach to Navarre Beach, turned around and skated back about 7 miles, turned again and finished with the 3 miles back to where my father had set up to fish. The total duration was about 1:27:00, and I averaged around 14 miles per hour. Not bad considering the surface on the trail for the first mile or so was very rough, and the wind from the North was in my face for the entire skate.
I am really glad I brought my skates on this trip. It was a lot of fun to get out and skate while in Florida. Now that I am back in the cold of the great white North, I am back in the basement with renewed focus on building base functional strength. More on that in a future post, though.