Shoal

Day 3 starts at Waffle House. I don't know it now, but today is our speed day along flat stretches of U.S. 90, the triumph of the tandem.

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There is going to be a surprising amount of friction today, but we are innocent of that over our waffles and bacon and coffee.

We visit in morning light Lake DeFuniak and wonder anew at the Edwardian homes around its mile-long perimeter, the anomaly of the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood (not a Marvel set piece, an actual relic of a time so, so very different from our own) and its preservation in Florida where stuff is torn down as civic duty, economic necessity and scheme-preserving matter of course. There's the library, born of the virtuous Chautauqua movement as well. The stage and amphitheater, too, pose a conundrum against rural Florida expectations where mass delusion colludes to tell a story about annual live theater festivals of exceeding popularity. Pull my other leg.

We leave DeFuniak Springs. Our paths cross in Mossy Head with Bill Conner, a man so clearly grieving a darkening cloud seems to park above his head. He is riding from Madison, Wisc., to Fort Lauderdale to meet the transplant doctors who harvested his 20-year-old daughter's organs to save multiple lives. "Enjoy him while you can," he says to me about Avery without evangelizing.

Before we reach the city limits on our way out of town a pickup passenger is the first and only to yell at us. "Get on the sidewalk," he offers, though not in a way inviting further dialogue.

In Crestview we see steel girders rising, lifted by a crane into place outlining a defined embryonic courthouse. We aim at lunch in Holt down the road. Susan's restaurant proves worthy of the pedal.

We fill our bellies, cool our jets and refresh our legs for a swift afternoon.

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On the far side of Holt we bolt down the highway, moving at pace. A new white truck idles between the Old Spanish Trail and the CSX tracks to our right. We race on along this flat, straight stretch. Soon the truck and its hitched trailer passes in the far lane. Twenty seconds later I am jolted into lever-grabbing reflex when the truck, now 100 yards ahead, squeals and smokes its tires as if braking to avoid a crash.

Here we go. I brace for impact. I scan frantically for the cause of the impending crash and any dangers nearing us. None come. Pedal on. In a minute, again the tires of the truck lock up and squeal, raise white smoke and just as suddenly roll on again. Realization dawns. This is on purpose.

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Friction Evaluation Unit. The truck and the apparatus it hauls behind it brake purposefully and skid the tires. Water sprays simultaneous with the braking.

My tax dollars at work.