Google Maps is a fucking troublemaker. It used to be that the only dirt roads we found were ones we tripped over on road bikes.
Now, one can simply pull up a map of wherever, and see roads that look like they'd be good to ride.
Some pan out and are brilliant. Others are shit, and are quickly forgotten.
Florida presented MANY options for dirt. The first day's dirt was outstanding. Hard packed, sort of smooth, and it ended at the beach. Easy peasy...
On Wednesday, I found a dirt section that went from about 3 miles from where we were staying, looped 11 (yes, ELEVEN!) miles thru the woods, and popped out in the next town over.
The area had been freshly logged, so the roads were smashed down pretty well. There were a few soft spots, but all in all, it was good stuff...
I hit a section that was a bit deeper in the trees...probably 4 miles into the road.
It was a GD Florida panther.
No, not this kind...
I came to complete stop.
I rarely get nervous about things, don't scare easily, and rarely panic. I will admit, I got a little panicky. Fuck going forward.
I hopped off the bike, turned it around, and did a Sven Nys-esque remount.
My easy spin thru the woods became an interval that would have made Laurens Ten Dam jealous of the foam and snot produced.
Outright 8 year old little kid fear will make one ride really hard. Really really hard!
I must have looked over my shoulder 100x in 4 miles.
Once on the main road, I relaxed a bit. The pace, however, stayed high until I hit what resembled civilization.
No, I did NOT get a picture of the beast, but I'll gladly send you a GPS plotted map of the EXACT spot of the sighting so you can go do some research on your own.
I caught up with a Florida Wildlife Officer at the gas station later that night, and he said sightings have gone WAY up in the area. Super!
Yeah...I'm a dumbass for not even thinking about it in the first place. But why would one?
Where we went in the panhandle was superb. Great beaches. Crazy low-key. Great roads. We'll be there again next Summer.
I'm tired. Vacation takes it out of a brother. well...that and 10 hours in the car with 3 kids...