December 10, 2016 – Sun, 50 degrees
Miles Today: 98
Miles to Date: 20,245
States to Date: 48
I couldn’t decide if I was happier to get to my 48th state or get the heck out of Alabama, a state whose sweet demeanor and excellent food is blunted by lousy shoulders and motorists who ignore cyclists at every turn. Either way, it was a great day to head south and escape colder temperatures.
When I passed Lakewood – the highest elevation in Florida at a whopping 345 feet above sea level – I realized my days of climbing are fully behind me.
DeFuniak Springs was founded as a Winter Chautauqua and has a lovely round lake surrounded by cottages and the impressive meetinghouse. The town is also famous for McLain’s buffet restaurant, a welcome break for a hungry cyclist on a long day.
As soon as I passed south of I-10 travel turned super smooth. US 331 is still under construction, but most of it is fresh blacktop with a dedicated bike lane. I reached the beach by 3 p.m. and then tootled down Scenic 30A along a very nice bike path, mostly empty on a December afternoon.
I spent some time in Seaside, a 1980’s era planned community often credited for spurring the term ‘New Urbanism.’ low-rise, high density, mixed use. Everything old becomes new. Seaside Florida is really not that different from Seaside NJ, and virtually identical to the nineteenth century Ocean Grove NJ, except that the Florida version is polished and tony.
Still, I do not want to sell Seaside short. The development dates from 1981 and signals a departure from the isolated oceanfront towers typical of Florida beaches in the 1960’s and 70’s. Seaside doesn’t seem so innovative today in large part because so much that has come after emulates it. Yet, as I pedaled through adjacent communities modeled on Seaside’s success, none of them achieve Seaside’s level of planning, architecture or community. Seaside really slows the car down; it puts pedestrians and cyclists on par with the vehicles. It is too upscale and resort-like to be a realistic town, but the scale is very good. Later communities, sometimes gated, almost all with more private space, copy Seaside’s bric-a-brac vocabulary but miss the main point – which is to celebrate connecting with others rather than maximizing the private view.