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Grand Tour of the Fl Northern Panhandle Terry H and Dave M

Editorial Note: This article first appeared in May 2013.

Terry's Story

Since becoming a Sandie in March of this year I thought planning and completing a Grand Tour would be a great excuse for a ride. So I planned out a route and knowing it would be more fun to have a buddy I contacted Dave M to see if he wanted to go for a ride. He readily agreed and we looked at the weather and chose Wednesday for the ride. The weather had been great and looked to be the same. Forecast called for Sunny, high 60’s in the morning, warming to about 80 and light south winds in the afternoon. Knowing that some of the towns we may visit may not have available the named locations we need, I had to come up with a few back ups just in case. We found all of my first choices so I will stick with those stops.

Dave and I decided to meet in FWB and about 8:15 am we headed north toward our first stop in Milligan. The usual route took us up 85, PJ Adams, Antioch Road and then Hwy 90 to the Milligan Town sign. I brought along my tripod so that we could both be in the photos. Took our photo and headed back toward Crestview.

We took Old Bethel, jumped off on Sioux Circle for a scenic detour, back on to Old Bethel and then turned north on 85. After getting our A at the Auburn Pentecostal Church we continued north to our next stop at Campton Assembly Church on 85. But as we arrived, we noticed there was a funeral being held there and it just did not seem right to try and squeeze our bikes in between the parked cars for a photo. This became an “oh no” moment. After a quick conference on the side of the road we decided to head up to Hwy 2 and go look for our next stop at Oak Grove. After that we would head back to see if the service was over and everyone gone so we could get our photo. The other C choice had been Crestview and that was back 15 miles in the wrong direction. But a funny thing happened on the way to Oak Grove – we zipped by a sign directing us down a side road to the Campton 1st Baptist Church. So in true Sandie fashion – we performed a U Turn and headed back to look for the alternate C. A couple of miles down the road – success. After the photo we checked our GPS and it appeared we could stay on this road and hit Hwy 2. So off we went exploring our unplanned route.

We did run into Hwy 2 and headed west. After crossing the Yellow River we began looking for Oak Grove but there was nothing there. A few more miles down the road we pulled over for a pow wow. Dave’s GPS said Oak Grove was at the river – we must have missed it among all the trees on both sides of the road. So after our u-turn heading back to the river, we came across a highway worker on the shoulder climbing out of some road equipment. In typical male fashion of stopping and asking for directions, (haha) I went over to inquire about the elusive town of Oak Grove. Well after about 10 minutes of listening to him – seriously it was 10 minutes – I walked away with this information: “had we come by here in the early to mid 1800’s there would have been a Post Office, General Store and Stage Coach Stop all most likely with the Oak Grove name on them. He thinks there was also a ferry crossing at the river. For today – he did not know of any sort of landmarks, buildings, signs or anything else we could use with the Oak Grove name on them.” Interesting intel but not going to help us today. We left thinking we would have to use our O back up stop we took earlier in Ocean City. But as were approaching the bridge we both noticed the very small and very secluded Oak Grove sign on the north side of the road. How lucky for us. Being twisted like it was it is hard to say which way it was supposed to be facing. Oh well. We took our photo and headed east on 2 back to 85.

A few more miles north on 85 we came to Laurel Hill. Since we were safely off the road we discussed our next few stops being Svea and then Dorcas. Dave joked about whether or not we would find any dorks in Dorcas. So off we went in search of Svea. Once back up to speed I realized my hat bill was flapping in the wind – on my head – under my helmet. When we stopped for our photo I laughingly told Dave we would be bringing our own dork to Dorcas. We snapped the photo and headed out. About 100 yards down the road we turned south on 393 and headed toward Dorcas. We turned off at the first Dorcas named point we came across on Old Dorcas Road to catch the Dorcas Baptist Church. I was hoping we could head due east toward New Harmony instead of down to 90. But a quick survey we found that the pavement turned to a dirt road and we opted for the pavement of Hwy 90. So we headed back to 393 and south toward 90. Good thing we stopped at the church as we saw no other Dorcas landmarks to use.

Deerland was supposed to be on that corner of 90 and 393 but there was no evidence of Deerland – guess it went the way of Oak Grove. That was not a primary stop so no big deal that it wasn’t there. When we hit 1087 we turned north in search of New Harmony. On the way we passed a water tower that beckoned me to stop and photograph. A few miles up the road we captured our photo in New Harmony, checked our directions for Liberty and went on our way in search of the next stop.

We headed east on 2 and then south on 331. Observing the surrounding landscape, we noticed a Happy Thanksgiving sign in someone’s yard….things that make you go hmmm. Were they early or late – or is it just a year round celebration for them. Well no time to stop and ask today. We found Liberty and quickly snapped the photo as 331 is a busy road. It was about that time that we realized our hunger was calling out to us. After all it was past noon and that seems a little late for a Sandie lunch. Our route was taking us through Defuniak Springs so we decided to check out the big burger place I had heard so much about – Ed’s Restaurant. After turning off 331 on to 90 we did a quick pull over to capture our letter D at the Defuniak Springs town limit sign.

At Ed’s, I decided to order what they were famous for – the Pub Burger. Good “big” burger, lots of fries and excellent sweet tea in a very large cup. Dave opted for the fish sandwich and said it was good. I am thinking it was since he finished it all.

After lunch we headed out toward our next stop in Argyle and also looking for some non ethanol fuel on the way. The Captain had told me the night before at Biker Burger meeting there is a station in Argyle carrying all 3 grades of non ethanol. So after grabbing our Argyle photo, we cruised on over to fuel up. But when we got there, the only grade they had was 87. Apparently the 2 higher grades are popular and they didn’t have any. Well I can use 87 and filled up but Dave opted to wait so he could get a higher octane – even if meant putting in that 10% E stuff. Some guy pulled up for fuel and apparently was pretty upset that all they had was 87. He started off ranting and raving to Dave about his boat, then politics then back to fishing when he gave Dave some contact info about some sort of fishing club something or other he invited him to check out. I had to practically drag him out of this guy’s grasp so we could keep going. So 4 or 5 miles down the road we stopped in Ponce de Leon for Dave to fuel up. I took the opportunity to go in and grab a Powerball ticket for the $330 million dollar prize that night. Well I didn’t win but if I had disappeared without a trace I wanted you guys to have a heads up as to why.

Out of Ponce de Leon we headed south on 81 to Red Bay and our last stop. After taking the photo, we were recapping the day and talking about our respective routes home. In true biker family style, another bike stopped to ask if we were ok. Awesome. After assuring him we were, he left and we headed out on our way home. After hitting the end of 81 we turned west on 20. At 331 I turned south and Dave stayed west toward Niceville and eventually FWB.

So as George would sum it up, 2 Sandies on 2 rides, 12 stops plus lunch, right at 205 miles round trip in about 6 ½ hours of riding and taking photos plus an hour for our lunch stop. It was all around great day to complete our 1st Grand Tour.

Next up is a Grand Tour of the beach towns of the panhandle.

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