Severe Storms and Tidal Surges

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Sunday January 22, 2017

Cedar Key Rest Day at Sunset Isle RV Park.

I definitely picked a good time to not be riding as the heavy storms slammed into the southeast causing tornadoes and loss of life. My condolences to all who have suffered.

We were fine in our RV however, we did have to move away from the surging high tide that threatened to swamp us. The winds howled all night and even now at 8 am, they are gusting to 50 mph.

Whitecaps on the bay this morning. Last night the water was three feet higher.

he flags are whipping with the howling winds.

I’ll be staying here until Jan. 31, then moving south to Homasassa, Florida until Feb. 11th. This is a planned layover to visit with Jeri and the Frenchies, Griz and Gena. I’ll be riding around so as not to loose to much of the training the past three weeks have given me. I’ll also be posting some accounts of equipment that has worked or not, things that will continue or not, and some of the beauty that is western Florida. I’ll also be playing music for my friends at both parks and hopefully post some videos of that.

I’d like to thank all of you who have been reading and following along with me to this point. It has been a pleasure to see the hit count going up and especially reading the guestbook threads. I’m sure there will be more adventures awaiting.

Which Way Do I Go?: That’s Easy. Just Head Into the Wind

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Saturday January 21, 2017, 52 miles (84 km) – Total so far: 1,058 miles (1,703 km)

Gainesville to Cedar Key, Florida. Sunset Isle RV Park

Ok, today was a hard day. I had a feeling it would be. The weather report was forecasting a storm with the potential of severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes to come in by late afternoon. That meant I had to get to my destination quicker than I’d been moving before so less talking and more riding.

Things started out well as I received another donation to FMF while I was eating second breakfast. Thanks to the nice couple from Cincinnati for helping out. Fueled with coffee and pecan waffles, I rode out of town on yet another bike path for 12 miles. Gainesville, you’ve got it going on for cyclists. Thanks.

Soon though, the wind started to freshen. As storms come from the west here, the winds move from the southwest to bring them in. You might have guessed I of course was heading toward the southwest directly toward them.

As soon as I got out of Gainesville, the scenery consisted of very long, straight roads lined with pine forests and palmettos. Not the most interesting of things to look at as I rode along. I could see cell towers miles away and it seemed to take years to get to them. Of course, the wind started to blow a little harder.

This was my view for over 40 miles.

I was also tired from the last few days efforts. I have pushed a little harder as the temptation of a couple weeks of rest with Jeri, and the Frenchies in the RV motivated me to get there early. I tried all manner of diversions. Singing my new song, making up new ones. Talking to buzzards. Of course, the winds began to blow in earnest.

By lunch time, I was pretty worn out so I stoped at the Ottercreek Country Store for a hot dog. This is a very interesting place with many locally made products as well as several jared items from the Amish in North Carolina. Lunch and conversation was excellent as I learned a little of the history of the area. As I rested inside however, the wind was training for an outright gale.

Having another 20 miles to go, I gamely climbed back in the saddle, dropped my head down and tried to hide behind my fairing as much as possible. I’ve been working on the lyrics to a song about determining which direction I was to go every morning. Something about using the wind as a compass and riding around in a circle until I faced the it and going that way. I didn’t have to do the circle thing as the wind was blowing near hurricane strength.

Ok, ok. Now I’m exaggerating but I swear, the closer I got, the harder it blew. When I was ten miles out, I was going 10mph. At 9 miles, 9mph and at 8 miles…well, you get the picture. When the trees gave way to open marsh, I was struggling to do 5 mph and the high profile Clara was being blown all over the shoulder.

Eventually though, through perseverance, determination and cussed stubbornness, I pulled into Sunset Isle RV Park. There was Bessie the RV, with Jeri and the Frenchies to greet me. It may have been hard but it was worth it and I have a good story to boot.

A welcoming site. A home, Bessie, a dog, Gena and a wife, Jeri who took the picture.

Starting Off a Pint Low: Ending Up Two Pints Ahead.

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Friday January 20, 2017, 77 miles (124 km) – Total so far: 1,006 miles (1,619 km)

Stealth Campsite just West of Hastings to Red roof Inn in Gainesville, Fl.

As I wrote the above sentence, I thought, what a contrast in campsites. One extreme to the other. Not that my stealth site was bad, it just didn’t have a shower, soft bed, or coffee in the room next to a choice of restaurants. It did have mosquitoes however. In abundance. Maybe that’s why I was sluggish and a bit unmotivated this morning. As my site was really only stealthy under the cover of darkness, I had to leave early as well. I’m sure I was a pint of blood low by then.

Starting early does have its rewards.

So, off I went as the sun rose and the light literally glowed off the cabbage and turnip fields. The soil is very rich here and I could actually smell it during the night. The only traffic with me were farmers riding the tractors to the fields. Those guys get up early also.

Passing shadows in the dawn light.

All this to see and I still couldn’t get excited about riding. I had a long day ahead of me and the headwinds were fierce. Clouds guickly came up and it even sprinkled a little. Coffee, I need coffee. As I left in such a hurry, breakfast had been skipped. Not to worry, there was coffee to be had 12 miles down the road.

That helped some but riding along the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail was even better. This would be one of two rails to trails that I would ride on today. The trees kept off most of the wind, there was not even the sound of traffic, and the views were beautiful. Florida has a lot of these tucked away here and there and it’s always a pleasure to ride them.

Clara on the trail. Don't tell her she has a slow moving vehicle sign on her back.

I was enjoying this so much, I almost missed my turnoff. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and stopped to look at the map to make sure. That’s when my day got a whole lot better.

A man drove by, stopped and admired Clara. The usual conversation occurred. I heard his ringtone sound on his phone. It was a blues riff on a harmonica. He said his dad played a lot before he passed. Then he reached into his wallet and gave me my first, on route donation to Fender Music Foundation saying it was from the heart. I was blown away. Excited didn’t begin to describe my feelings. Those five dollars literally made my day.

Here's Robin making the first on route donation.

His name is Robin and he was getting ready for his retirement party later tonight. Thanks from the bottom of my heart my good friend.

Well, after that, nothing could get me down. Not the headwinds, sore legs or relentless miles ahead. I just kept thinking about the generosity of others and how they touch people’s lives they will never know. It’s a good feeling.

Eventually, I made it to lunch where Clara became the topic of conversations again. One man said he would mention me in his church on Sunday hoping to inspire others to help people by doing something they love. It’s really not that hard you know.

The day ended with the last 20 miles or so on the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. I was going off route in Gainesville to start my way to Cedar Key and had been wondering how to navigate safely through the large city. This network of trails were just perfect for that purpose. Gainesville, Home of the University of Florida is very bike friendly. It was strange riding through town listening to Sandhill Craines and avoiding flocks of turkeys instead of cars.

So at the end of my 77 mile day, I was once again reminded how good things can turn out if only you let them. I mentioned a contrast in camp sites but the day was really about the contrasts of my moods brought on by the generosity of others and by seeking the positive. Life is good.

Head West Young Man

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Thursday January 19, 2017, 65 miles (105 km) – Total so far: 929 miles (1,495 km)

Neptune Beach to a stealth camp just west of Hastings, Florida.

Today’s ride was what I expected yesterday’s to be. The route took me down close to the ocean along quite streets filled with people out enjoying the day. I saw people walking, running and even cycling. I met Steve and Marilyn who had done the Southern Tier and were planing a Route 66 tour soon. They gave me lots of good advice for my ride especially when I hit the desert. Thanks guys.

Steve and Marilyn.

The houses along the Atlantic side of Florida are quite amazing. I remember riding south of here a couple of years ago and we had an app that would tell you the value of each one. Jaw dropping fun. These houses were the same. The yards were perfect and the gates and security systems impressive. Makes it really hard to pee without being on video. Haha.

I wonder if they would let me stealth camp in their yard?

Soon though, I was riding in the GTM reserve and there was nothing but me and nature. I had the barrier dune to my left and the inner dune waterway to my right. Now this was much better.

Soon, I arrived at a parking spot which thank goodness had a port-a-John. The historic marker said 30′ 8 “. This is where historians believe that Juan Ponce de Léon’s navigator took the only reading and Ponce claimed the land for Spain in April, 1513. I walked the boardwalk over the dune to fine nearly deserted, white sand beaches and the ocean.

30' 8". Spain. In a way, I claimed it for myself as well. Haha.

I had lunch close to St. Augustine overlooking the ocean. There were pelicans diving for fish sending plumes of water up like whale spouts. Sea gulls squawking, terns doing amazing feats of flight. Then I saw the acrobatic flips and and twists of the silver bodied dauphins. They were in a large pod, feeding or many just having a good time. Lunch with a show.

Soon afterwards, I rode into St. Augustine and began my Southern Tier adventure. Head west young man. The route takes you through the historic part of town which is quite nice. I couldn’t stay as I had already dallied to long but I did capture some photos. Definitely a place to return to.

St. Augustine.

It didn’t take long to leave the busy coastal A1A and fine the lonely country roads again. I was ready to leave the traffic behind and enjoyed riding past fields and fields of potatoes. Yes, Florida Spuds. Who knew?

My plan was to get as far as I could today and stealth camp. I rode along the St. John’s river watching the sun go dawn. A couple of bald eagles flew with me for a while. Just before total darkness though, I spotted a likely place beside a cabbage field. This is were I set up camp much to the delight of thousands of mosquitoes. Thank goodness for a mosquitoes net.

All in all, a pretty fine day.

Mailbox of the day.