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Friday, June 30, 2017

3000 Miles and Into Florida

It took me until 8 to get around and out of the hotel this morning, the time I normally get out, but later than I had hoped for today. I biked 303 across the lovely Blythe Island, then back onto 17 it was. The good shoulder continued today. The highway zagged over to the West before heading South through one little unremarkable town after another. One had a sign advertising "Dead Peoples Things for Sale", getting their business across in the most tactful way possible. It was some needed amusement in my day. The scenery was neither terrible nor terribly exciting, and I often found my eyes more drawn to the billowing clouds in the sky. I rode hard all day long, with few stops. It wasn't until I was just north of the Florida border, in Kingsland, that I stopped at a convenience store to get some junk food and rest a moment, having scarcely eaten breakfast.

I crossed the St Mary's River and arrived in Florida at last, having crossed through 15 states, a couple more than once, and come right about 3000 miles. 17 in Florida continued to have good shoulder. When I turned onto the famed A1A, there was even designated bike lane. ...For awhile, until there was a big construction barrier over said bike lane, for a short stretch, and then for mile after mile. Drivers were generally good, but it was definitely a bit dicey being in the midst of the heavy traffic, especially with all the big trucks. The sad, funny thing, was that the driver who passed me in the scariest, closest, most pointless way, to get to a stoplight just a little faster, had a Florida plate...covered at the top by sign saying "Pittsburgh" and the bottom "Steelers". Even in Florida, I can't escape those damn Pittsburgh drivers.

But eventually, my shoulder came back, and with it, my safety. The bridge onto Amelia Island had a gorgeous view, but even with a wide shoulder, there was no way I was stopping to admire or take pictures. I turned onto Amelia Parkway, then for awhile had a paralleling bike path. I soon reached Amelia Island State Park, where I had considered camping. I passed it by. I had found a host for tonight. Kind of. He had a full, busy house, but I could stay at his office. As long as I made it by 4:30, before he left. With it being about 90 miles total for the day, I had to move. Which was a shame, since it was now with a need for haste that there was finally stuff to see. I got onto a bike trail through a park, biking over a beautiful boardwalk next to a bird refuge, then a winding path through a jungle-like forest, taking a brief break to get a view of the beach, then raced along a more open section of trail to its end, back onto A1A.

Waiting on the ferry was hard when I was in a hurry. I was grateful that a driver told me that I go up front and get loaded on first. That's the way most car ferries are I've been on, but not the last in North Carolina, so I wasn't sure. It seemed to take forever to get moving, but at least the ride itself was quick. A1A to Mayport to Plaza to First St. There was a little traffic to contend with for awhile, but First Street was fairly untrafficked, and after a time even had bike lane, not only that, but islands blocking cars from using it as a through road, while allowing bikes through. It was nice. Sadly it had construction on it toward the end, forcing me onto the more trafficked 2nd, but I was just about done then. 3rd St is the highway, and it was not easy to get across, but after that, I had arrived.

My "host" met me and was able to chat with me briefly before leaving to pick up his daughter from soccer, giving me the run of the office. I may not have a bed, but I've got everything else, electricity, AC, bathroom, refrigerator, wifi, and even a computer that I'm using to watch Netflix. It's been a nice evening to myself. I picked up some pizza and I've been watching some Orange is the New Black. It will be bed time after another episode...maybe two. I'm debating between my sleeping bag and air pad on the floor or two office chairs put together. 

If I get comfortable enough, I might as well sleep in. It's Saturday, so he's not coming into the office. And I have only 30 miles, after my long run today, to reach St Augustine tomorrow. And there, I get to see my Rachael, the two of us having a mini vacation together for the 4th of July weekend. ...Crazy to think that after it's been a seven week journey for me to get here, that she's leaving tomorrow morning on a plane to get down here in the early afternoon (though in fairness, she is skipping the whole going up to Bar Harbor part first). I confess I have never been on am airplane. I don't think I would like it. I find it surreal enough to arrive places by train or bus. Bicycle speed just feels so much more natural. ...But then, I'm not complaining about getting to see my lady.

Thursday, June 29, 2017


I said farewell to my fabulous host and hit the road around 8. I navigated a few city streets and then quickly was back on 17. ...But this was a different 17 than I was used to. This one had shoulder. No, not just shoulder, but a designated bike lane. For reasons I don't understand, the cyclist symbols on their lanes appear to be wearing rice hats or something rather than helmets, but I'm not complaining. The bike lane didn't last for too long, but the shoulder held. In fact, right after the bike lane ended there was briefly a shoulder so wide it felt like a "Yo dawg, we here you like shoulder, so here's shoulder with your shoulder," kind of situation. But on a whole, even as the shoulder would vary widely in width throughout the day, it was at all times much better than it's been throughout the Carolinas. It made for much better, much more relaxed, riding all day.

A dozen or so miles in, as I sat at a light, with mist covering the road ahead, this little boy looked out of the passenger seat of a van at me, and shouted in the most adorable voice, "Are you ready for it?" It took me just a moment to realize he was referring to the imminent rain. I smiled and nodded back at him as the light changed. The rain came seconds later, drips at first, quickly becoming a downpour, thunder rumbling in the distance. But in this heat, I didn't mind. The only frustration was in getting water in my left eye that was hard to get out with every bit of fabric on me soaked through.

As the rain reduced to a drizzle, I reached Midway, where I came upon a beautiful, historic cemetery, of the sort I haven't seen since the Northeast. I took some time to admire the trees and graves before heading on. At Riceboro I stopped to use the restroom and buy some junk at the convenience store. The lady at the register there exclaimed "You're riding in the rain?" I told her I still had to get where I was going. The world doesn't stop because it's raining. A ways south of there I saw America's Smallest Church...which is exactly what it sounds like. Oh, the roadside attractions of the rural America...

At Eulonia I had a choice to make to stay on 17 or make the turn onto 99 as Google suggested. 17 was the shorter route, but 99 had little towns along it and I knew it would be less trafficked. I decided to take 99. It meant I was going straight east against the wind for awhile, but not too long. But sadly, the little towns bore little to no interest, as they were scarce but names on the map and some houses. Darien came and went. Then I passed through a lovely marshy wilderness area. And shortly after, I reached Brunswick.

I debated whether to keep my hotel reservation or cancel and continue a few more miles to a campground. I said the heck with it, and decided to stay in the hotel. If I do it all the time I will break my budget, but I spent less than expected getting lots of hosts for most the trip. And this hotel is barely more than primitive camping at Myrtle Beach cost. I was a little concerned at first because I couldn't find an office, the place where it should be locked and empty. After some searching, it turned out that the old hotel building next door is housing the office for this one while it undergoes renovation. It was odd. But I got in.

And after an evening of relaxing with TV, getting Subway, researching if the off-tasing water is okay to drink (which apparently it is), and talking to people on the phone, it is now sleep time.