Magical Marianna

400 miles to Pensacola. Five days. A dumpload of gear. Sore legs. The space between Gainesville and Pensacola, from what I have seen thus far, has been filled with Spanish moss and defunct towns. Tyler and I have done the majority of riding together, taking turns pulling each other through the headwinds of northern Florida.

This morning we’re in Marianna, Florida. It’s a short day to Defuniak Springs—65 miles—and the gang has slept in. My body woke craving coffee and something fatty. So I sit and write with a cup of ‘Bikers Jo,’ Nescafe and hot water, and a heavily buttered piece of toast.

Our hosts here are Bonnie and Richard. They live in what has been described by four of our group, separate of each other, as ‘Magical.’ It is the word that best describes their home, a sprawling fairy-tale of a house with a Victorian backbone. Inside the home is lovely. Floral wallpapers, acute attention to detail, fine hardwoods. The kitchen is the hub, the television room stuck some distance from the nucleus of activity. There is a life-sized wizard in the kid’s playroom, a series of bedded lofts, shag carpet for floor sleeping, and an Australian sheepdog named Bucky who pads around like a small, happy bear.

And that’s the inside. From the back porch we look out over Merritt’s Mill Pond, clear and cold from Blue Springs, the pond’s source. Around are thirty acres of preserved land that Richard and Bonnie enjoy, Richard especially. He’s built a series of trails running through the woods, planting boxwoods and flowers and ferns along the trail’s sides. It is an effort of preservation, a long-term commitment to these woods and their homes.

Bonnie and Richard’s love for this home is reflected in their hospitality towards their guests. Keys to Freeze felt so welcome last night and this morning.

You might even say that their generosity is like planting a tree. Confucius says, and then Richard reflected, ‘One generation plants the tree, another sits in their shade.’

I hope to pay forward their support of Keys to Freeze down the road. Till then, Pensacola.

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