I woke well before dawn in the strawberry field and picked about 50 slugs off my tent before hitting the road at sunrise. I stopped at a convenience store and told a curious passerby that I was having trouble finding campgrounds and hotels. His response changed my day and nearly changed my whole trip: he said this area is still recovering from last August's hurricanes, so there are hundreds of workmen visiting from out of town, plus displaced homeowners and renters. He suggested I go farther from the coast, i.e. back north where I had just come from.
That would be a good suggestion, if I knew of any campgrounds farther north, but I didn't! I called a hotel in Pensacola, verified that there was at least one room available in town, and decided to ride there and use the library in the morning to plot further plans. If necessary, I'd pack up my gear and take a Greyhound to somewhere less windblown.
But as I was approaching the Florida border, I spotted another cyclist and stopped to talk. I asked him about the extent of the hurricane damage, and he said it was really only bad for a 100-mile stretch of the coast; once I got east of Destin I should be fine. Then he invited me to use the Internet at his place. By the time we were a mile down the road, he had invited me to camp in his yard. By the time I met his wife, I was to sleep in their camper in the garage. By the time I woke from an afternoon nap, I had been invited to sleep indoors and have dinner and breakfast with them. They took me to an import grocery store, where I bought two pounds of halvah (energy food!), and to a buffet restaurant where I got their money's worth.
Bruce is a retired Navy dental technician who makes extraordinary wildlife-inspired jigsaw art when he's not out bicycling. He and his wife travel quite a bit and have all sorts of campground guides. I was able to find enough places in these guides that do allow tents and are not booked solid (I called them to double-check) that I won't have to ride the bus after all; I'll just detour around the windblown area as far as Destin.