Day 59  May 2, 2017 Palatka, FL to St. Augustine, FL

Third time is just as special as the first two!

Day 59 – today would be our last biking day. The goal was St. Augustine Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.  70 in morning rose to 90 by afternoon.  

Since it was our last night of the tour we slept at a motel so that we would not have to pack up a damp or wet tent. It also gave us an opportunity to organize our luggage for going home and shipping our bikes.  

Our ride began at Crystal Cove Resort on the St. Johns River. To rejoin the route we had to ride three miles to get back on the route. In so doing we rode through the town of Palatka. Back on SR 100/US 17 we crossed the St. Johns River, which had a pedestrian/bike lane separated from traffic by a cement barrier. Only on a bike (or walking) can you stop at the top of the bridge and watch the sun rise over the river. We had two choices for our route today – one was a recently completed bike trail to St. Augustine which was the hypotenuse of the right triangle we would be riding or choosing to ride the legs of the right triangle. Since I wanted to experience the scenery I chose to ride through the rural towns and along St. Johns River instead of riding through a canopy of trees. I could ride bike trails at home. Road through the historic town of Hastings, Spuds, Racy Point and Riverdale (both located on the St. Johns River). Past many agricultural fields -potato, strawberry, melon and corn fields to name a few. In one field saw them harvesting potatoes, from the field potatoes where going up the conveyer belt and then dropping into a truck bed. In another field migrate workers were harvesting what appeared from a distance to be melons. Corn field was definitely knee high and it was not even the Fourth of July.

In every state I saw adopt the road signs. When I saw one of these signs I would say “In loving memory of all the people that had died from cancer listed on my white jersey” or “In honor of all the people fighting or have survived cancer”. Sometimes I just added “In loving memory of my sister, Nancy.” Saw another ghost bike honoring a biker who was killed by an hit and run driver. Also on this route there were road signs honoring people who had been killed in an accident. It really hits home how careful you have to be at all times.  

Since I had some extra time I chose to go down the road that led to the bike path which all but two riders had taken. In doing this I road by a vast land fill area for recycling and garbage. I had hoped to reconnect with the bike path but after three miles when I did not see it I turned back and rode to county road 214 which would take me into St. Augustine.  

Rode into St. Augustine on King St. and passed several historic buildings in the downtown. St. Augustine is a place I would like to return to. Rode across the Bridge of Lions and then to Mellow Mushroom where we were to meet everyone by noon. We would then ride as a group to the ocean. People said I was beaming as I rode in. Inside me I was so happy that I was able to finish the ride that it must have radiated outward. Jared, our leader, soon joined us and we rode as a group the 3.8 miles to the beach. It was exciting; a much anticipated moment. Dipping our wheels in the Atlantic Ocean was the climax of the trip, but the true experiences and growth were in all the miles we had ridden. You realize what you are capable of doing; desire is very powerful. Many photos were taken at the beach and then people starting dispersing. After being together for 59 days it was hard to say good bye.  

Six of us would still be together that night. From the beach we rode our bikes to the bike shop where are bikes would be boxed up and shipped home. One of our leaders drove us passed the Fountain of Youth and then took our picture on the most photographed street in St. Augustine, the road in front of the Fountain of Youth. She then took us to the motel . Motel was right on the Atlantic Ocean and so after showering we all walked the beach. We reminisced about the trip over dinner. It was truly a special day. Went to bed early because tomorrow I would be flying home.  

I will be posting my blog with photos, now that I will have access to wifi at my home. Thank you for sharing in my journey.

Bike path on the bridge over St. John’s River
Sun rising over St. John’s River

One of the several agricultural fields that I would see today

Riding into historic Hastings
A man getting ready to fish in the above river
Across the St. John’s River is the coal plant and cooling towers that were just down the road from where we stayed last night.
Soon I would no longer be seeing the trees dripping with Spanish Moss
The tallest Magnolia tree I saw on trip. Racy Point on the St. Johns River.
We are in Gator country!
Migrant workers picking watermelons(?)
Ghost bike
We have reached the city we have been riding to.
Doug, Patty, and Jim in our Southern Tier jerseys
Riding to St. Augustine Beach


A dream come true, a promised kept, an incredible journey!

Ponce de Leon Street – Jim, Patty, Doug, and Sheri

Day 39  April 14, 2017  Bunkie, LA to Morganza, LA

79.8 miles 7 hours 14 extra miles due to a miss turn and wrong directions to campsite.  

We had spent the night at Fire Station #2 in Bunkie. Nice green grass to set up tent. Unfortunately they leave the perimeter lights on all night. So I did not get a good night’s sleep. Also the mockingbirds began their song at three in the morning. Another one of the joys of sleeping outside.  

Todays ride would be several turns so we were cautioned to pay attention to the map. As it turned out the turns for route 29 were clearly marked and so it was not difficult to follow map. It was our third full day of riding in Louisiana and scenery changed with and within each day. I still had not gotten use to all the water. Beautiful river in Cottonport. Noticed a sign by the river, Raymond Laborde Correction Center, had to take a picture because my dad’s name was Raymond. I made the promise to my dad in 2010 that I would bike across America. He and my mom have been with me on all three journeys; a cardinal will remind me of their presence.    

Went through the small German town of Hamburg. The road from Hamburg to Simmesport was parallel to the train tracks. In several spots it was very rough. After Simmesport we turned onto LA 418, a very rough road with no shoulder. We were on 418 for 18 rough miles. We passed wheat fields, a paper mill, freshly tilled fields, an old church and cemetery, and only three cars. We were all glad to get off this road in spite of the interesting landscape.  

Took 417 instead of 418 which became unsigned Levee Rd. I need the road signs. Did not discover my error for several miles and then found 419, a road that would take me back to Highway 1. Highway 1 was on the same road as the dam that controlled the flow of water from the Atchofalaya River into the Mississippi. Shortly after the dam we would be in Morganza. Directions given me for campsite were incorrect so rode an extra 12 (4, 4, 2 & 2) miles, 8 miles into a head wind and 4 miles with a tail wind. Directions that were given to me was that campsite was 4 miles outside town, but instead it was 4 blocks pass the town. I finally find the entrance thanks to Jared standing by the roadside. (Sign to RV camp was set way back.). A warm shower helped me after a long day of riding.  

Cattle grazing on grass.
Church of the Little Flower; one of the few Catholic Churches I saw.
Road we were riding on curved around showing a variety of landscapes
Water was everywhere in Louisiana; beautiful reflections of the trees
First field of corn that I saw
River along side of road in Cottonport, LA
The odd shaped trees attracted my attention
Freshly tilled field just off of 418 (very rough road)
Our road ran parallel to train tracks
For Owen, Quinn and Cole
Bridge over Atchafalaya River
Atchafalaya River
Train bridge we passed under.
Soaking the recently cut pine trees; this makes the grinding up process for paper easier
Field of wheat
Church cemetery- since Louisiana is so low and water soaked, if coffins are buried they eventually rise to the ground level.
Old church next to cemetery
Confederate flags began to appear in Louisiana

Cyprus trees along the creek of the wrong road (417) I took
Control Structure that restricts the flow of water from the Atchafalaya River into the Mississippi and Red River

Day 50   April 25, 2017  DeFuniak, FL to Marianna, FL

68 miles 5 hours 5 minutes 70 when left camp and reached 90 during ride but was 83 when got to camp.

We are spending the night at Caverns State Park, a beautiful wooded area with plenty of poison ivy around. Will not be going into the woods today. Camp site is Blue Hole because it is a short distance from Blue Pond – got that name because the water is a blue green (see photo). Matt thinks the blue color is caused from copper in the soil.  

Route today was on HWY 90 until we went off route to get to our campsite. Pretty straight road with several rollers; climbed 1800 feet which is nothing compared to what we have previously done. Once again the road was lined with tall pines. Five logging trucks and two pine chip trucks passed me by. Because of the humidity their fragrance lingered in the air. Luckily only 1 garbage truck passed me by.  

We road through several small towns until we reached Marianna, population 3,605. 

As I was leaving DeFuniak Springs I took time to bike around Circle Dr. and saw all the historic homes, some dated back to early 1800’s around the perfectly round lake (which is not man made.). Ducks and geese could be seen on the lake.   

Sunrise at our campsite

Our campsite
Historic Library on Circle Dr

One of the historic homes

The perfectly round lake

Another historic home with a tricycle on front porch

Historic caboose
HWY 90 looked like this for miles and miles except going through small towns
Road over this tree-lined track
Prisoners were gathering the trimmings from the trees

Choctawhatchee River

Looking at the Choctawhatchee River from the other side of the road


HWY 90
Beginning to see trees dripping with Spanish Moss

Holmes Creek
One of the views riding to the campsite
Notice Matt’s bike on top of the table. Left to right Sheri, Evan, Sally, Jim, and Doug

Blue Hole swimming hole
Evan just did a cannonball

Day 48  April 23, 2017  Lillian, AL to Blackwater State Park, FL

83 miles. 6 hours 39 minutes

Waking up to the rising sun over Perdido Bay. Will be packing up a wet tent this morning due to the rain storm that came at two in the morning. It was a gentle rain and so when I heard it I had to put down my rain fly-had kept it up to see the bay and stay cool. After a while lightning began which lite up my tent. Each lightning strike lasted a good twenty seconds. When the thunder began it followed the same pattern. Laid in bed listening to the rain, hearing the thunder and seeing the lightning. Was a wake for a good hour. The rain was a cleansing of negative thoughts for me; there was a lot of tension in camp last night. To be expected when everyone. Is tired and hot. After a night’s sleep people are better. Woke up at 5 and another day has begun. Will be wearing my white jersey today to honor all the people I am riding for.  Shortly after I had put my bags outside my tent it began raining. Quickly put them back in tent and waited the rain out about 5 minutes. Had to pack up a very wet tent. Had breakfast and packed my lunch and then walked my bike up the very steep hill. No one rode up. About a mile into ride the sky opened up and we had rain for the next hour. I returned to Costal HWY retracing the 10 miles we had come yesterday. I was unable to take pictures because of rain. Saw an ambulance pass me on way to Pensacola and again prayed that it was not for one of our riders. Unfortunately that was not the case. Steve making a right turn on to Main Street fell after riding over an unsmooth train track. The ambulance took him along with his good college friend Matt to the hospital. First report was that he had suffered a broken hip. He will be having surgery tomorrow,Monday. The two of them have been nicknamed the miners and both are great guys. Steve will be missed. Pray for all our safety throughout the last eight days of riding.  

Chose to go off course – wanted to take the two bridges to Santa Rosa Island. The rode was HWY 98 / 30. The first bridge was three miles over the water with a steep hill for boats to pass under. Rode through Gulf Springs and then crossed the second mile long bridge to Santa Rosa. Stopped at the visitor center to get directions on how to get to the east end of the island and then back to the mainland. The woman asked me where I was going and I said I was spending the night at Blackwater state park. She looked at me and said by car it will take at least an hour. I then told her I had been biking from San Diego and that I was okay with high long it took. The island was long and narrow and at one point you could see bodies of water on both sides of the road. The sand was white. Scenery was touristy but peaceful. I rode east and crossed at Navarre. Not knowing how far I had to go at times was a little unnerving. Questioned if I was going in right direction. My once good sense of direction has been turned upside down on this trip. Made it back to mainland. The bridge that I crossed back was only a half mile, but was under construction and so I was unable to get any pictures. After Steve’s accident I was very cautious. The ride north was right into a 18 mph headwind; this went on for 20 miles. Kept looking for HWY 90 which would take me the back way into camp. I was looking for Deacon Bridge Rd and after going 5 miles turned around. Two miles back I ran into Matt and we both turned back and found Denton Bridge Road. There is comfort in numbers when you don’t know where you are going. It was nice to talk to Matt and find out how Steve was doing. Rode through tall pines; after three miles got to Blackwater State Park, a beautiful campsite awaited us with plenty of clean bathrooms and showers. My friend Sherri had laid out my tent to dry, which I was grateful for. Dinner was quiet because we were missing Steve, Matt, Jim and Jared. 

I was glad I did the extra miles. Did a lot of thinking about what is truly important in life. Small things that upset you really don’t matter. Other than Steve’s accident it had been a great day. Looking forward to riding tomorrow. Miss you.    

Sunrise over Perdido Bay

Train track that Steve fell on
What you don’t want to see on a bike ride

Bridge I would be crossing

View from bridge

Construction on 87

River in Blackwater State Park that we went over entering park

Entrance to park
Matt at the end of the ride

At the end of a long and beautiful ride

Day 49  April 24, 2017  Blackwater River State Park, FL to DeFuniak Springs, FL

83 miles; 6 hours 11 minutesWe spent the night at Blackwater state park which is a beautiful Florida State park. We were surrounded by tall pine trees. There were no trains, roasters, bright lights, or interstate to bother us. I had a great night’s sleep in spite of having to walk to the bathroom twice. Woke up to a cool, overcast morning, 55 degrees. It brought back the memory of all those cold mornings when your hands were so cold they were numb. Had hot oatmeal and coffee to warm me up. My tent had some condensation on it so I let it dry while I had breakfast and packed my lunch. It was mostly dry when I came back. Meet several of the twenty-two women who also were at the park who were going on a week long kayaking trip. They kayak a different river every day and then return to the park at night. Today was their first day.  

I had decided last night that I was going to loop back and do the route I did not do yesterday since I went to Santa Rosa Island. Our route today was 51 miles and by doing the loop I added on 32 more. Almost all of the 51 miles was spent on HWY 90, which is a busy road, but has a nice shoulder. Saw my first logging truck in several days. Realized how much I miss the fragrance of the cut pines as they go whizzing by.   

My first 32 miles were spent on rural roads and the Blackwater trail. It was very peaceful and beautiful – tall pines and rivers. It took me 3 1/2 hours before I finally warmed up. An hour later the sun began to peak out and I finally took my jacket off.  I enjoyed the day very much. At 51 miles, my odometer registered 3000 miles, total miles done since San Diego. We had a nice tail wind the last twenty miles into DeFuniak Springs.  After yesterday’s 15-20 mph headwind it was a welcome relief. Now it was time to find our campsite, Lake Juniper RV Park. For 4 miles we zigzagged our way off HWY 90 to the campsite. Again I am about 10 feet from the water’s edge. It was cool at our campsite (60) and so after I showered I put on long warm pants and a long sleeve jersey with my fleece jacket. We all thought Florida would be warm and we would not be pulling out our warm clothing again till we were home. How wrong we were.  Watched the sun set over the lake. Once again we have one toilet and one shower in one room for the women and similar for the men, patience and planning. The only noise I hear is the “voices” of insects. Once again I had a great day of biking.  

Only eight more days of riding and then we will be at St. Augustine and the Atlantic Ocean. Hard to believe after so many days on the road.  

Update on Steve from his fall on yesterday: his surgery went well. He had a break in his femur, not his hip. Which is great news. The doctors put a plate in and said that he should be able to put weight on it in a couple of days. Wishful thinking is that he will be able to rejoin us. Time to say good night. Miss you.  

Rivers and creeks are low due to lack of rain in Florida

One of the rural roads I was on.

Historic Brick road is now used as a bike path; road on it for several miles


Blackwater Trail

Reflections

River, a source of energy for me. Notice how shallow it is.




HWY 90 ran parallel to the train tracks 


HWY 90 train track is to the right.


Reflections on Lake Juniper



Sunset on Lake Juniper

Day 35  April 11, 2017  Silsbee, TX to Merryville, LA

53.5 miles; 4 hoursWoke up early to a cloudy day with temperature 65. We had spent the night at Red Cloud RV Park. Had not slept well last night and so was a little bit out of sorts. Even though it had not rained last night our tents were soaked from the condensation. I do not like putting my tent away wet, but once again I had to. Would have to lay it out in the sun to dry after ride before setting it up. Had breakfast first and then talked to Andy about minor noise I was having on bike – chain was rubbing against the derailleur. Thought it would be an easy fix, but ended up taking three people to fix it. Did not help my mood because it slowed me down and everything already was taking too much time. I started beating myself up for being so slow. Was the last one to leave camp this morning with Steve and Matt. Matt rode ahead once we were on US 96 North. Steve stayed behind me. They were late leaving camp because Steve had a flat tire.  

Did not take a picture of the Neches River 3 miles into ride because it is difficult to snap a photo when someone is following you. As I continued to ride I thought about why I was so upset with myself, but then I started thinking about why I was riding and realized that the people fighting cancer wake up often to a bad day and they just push through it. It helped me move beyond …. About 90 minutes into ride it started to drizzle on and off. The sky looked threatening in the east – the way we would soon be heading. I hoped that the storm would move faster than me.  

Since this would be my last day in Texas I continued to look for postcards for Brennan and Owen – I have been looking for the past three days, but with no luck. Some clerks do not even know what a post card is. I think post cards are becoming obsolete.

We passed through the small town of Buna – small town with a big heart was their welcoming sign. Checked in several gas stations for postcards but with no luck. It was then onto Kirbyville. Meet up with Sheri, Andy, Robin, and Evan at a service station. Sheri encouraged me to have one of their honey biscuits. I did and it was delicious. It is good that I had it because I did not get another chance to eat anything. I then tried for postcards at the Dollar General store but with no luck. Since it had started to rain harder I took out my hearing aids and asked for two plastic bags at the Dollar General for my camera and phone. We had 24 more miles to ride. 

It was 11:11 when the rain began to come down in buckets. After riding for 19 days in Texas, Texas was weeping because we were leaving. Rain did not let up till 8:00 tonight. The rain was so intense the side of the road was like a river as I climbed a short hill. Everything including shoes and socks were soaked at this point. The rain was coming down so hard it reminded me of kernels of popcorn popping on the road. As the rain came down the temperature dropped fifteen degrees to 62. Light jacket clunk to my arms and I started getting cold. All I could think about was getting to camp as quickly as possible and getting warm. I even prayed that the sun would come out but it never did. I just put my head down and peddled hard. Had two turns to make before I reached Merryville and so I watched for them by watching mileage on odometer. 

Shortly before I came to Merryville I crossed the Sabine River and was in Louisiana, my fifth state. The rain had tappered off a bit and so I took out my camera. My fingers were so cold it was hard to get it out of the plastic bag, but finally I succeeded and was able to take a photo with my camera and phone. I quickly began riding because I was really cold. I began looking for Merryville and when I saw bikes leaning against this building I knew I had arrived at the Musem. I fell getting off my bike but Jim and Doug were their to help me. When I went inside I began to shivering. Sally started rubbing me down to get me warm. The ladies in the museum brought me a blanket and a towel. When Carol arrived she brought in her sleeping bag and down jacket. They removed my wet clothing and put the down jacket on, kept the blanket wrapped around me and put me in a down sleeping bag. They brought me warm coffee to drink. After about 45 minutes I stopped shivering and started to warm up. I realized later how close to suffering hypothermia I was.  

The Museum community made us a delicious Louisiana dinner and breakfast. The treasurer explained several of the artifacts in the museum. What impressed me the most was how happy and resilient these people are. First Rita then the rains of 2015 destroyed homes and took everything away from them due to the flooding. The community came together to rebuild. The lively hood of the Merryville and neighboring communities is logging. The name Merryville is the only town spelled with a “y”; all others spell it Merriville with an “i”. Merryville got its name because it was surrounded by dry communities. People would come to this town to get merry. Thus the name Merryville.  

Set up my tent on the stage outside the museum with Steve, Matt, Sheri, Sue, and Anne. Others slept inside the museum. We were unable to enjoy the beauty of the grounds because they were soaked. I was exhausted and so went to bed early. Slept well. Miss you.  

First railroad gate crossing I saw

US 96, four lane HWY with nice wide shoulder and radial tires and wires

Shortly after Steve passed me while I took a picture, he had his second flat of the day, a radial wire

Cattle I saw during my ride

One of many logging trucks I saw. This one was just outside Kirbyville.

Entering my fifth state rained soaked
Through it all I could still smile; was getting warm

The women who helped me, left to right – Elaine, me, Renee

The stage where we slept that night.
My tent in the foreground. How close the train was to the stage. There were a couple of trains through the night that let us know their presence by blowing their whistle.


Artifacts in museum. 

Day 41  April 16, 2017  Jackson, LA to Mt. Hermon, LA

Happy Easter61 am 90 pm 

Beautiful ride 

76.5 miles, 6 hours 1 minute. Steep rolling hills with a slight head wind the last 20 miles.

Took the original Adventure Cycling route, which was beautiful. Only three of us took this route. The woman at the Perrys Bike Hostel and Camp recommended the shorter route and most riders chose to do this route. On the original route trees formed a canopy over the road way. Pavement was smooth with no shoulder. Very little traffic – in 35 miles only saw 20 cars. Enjoyed all the natural beauty as I celebrated Easter from the seat of my bicycle. Saw several families seating outside sharing a meal. Wish them all a Happy Easter as I rode by.   

Shortly after I began riding after leaving camp a male cardinal flew across the road in front of me. The cardinal was my mom and dad’s favorite bird. Later in the morning I saw both a female and a male cardinal. I felt the presence of my parents with me on this special day. 

In Norwood I was focused on seeing if the Texaco gas station was open to get water and missed the flashing caution light. The flashing caution light was my signal to turn onto 422. It was okay because 2 miles down the road I crossed into Mississippi. Took a picture and retraced my route back into Louisiana and junction 422. It was an additional 4 miles, but 4 beautiful miles. On the way to Mt. Hermon went through several small towns which did not have services. Finally I found a small grocery store that was open on Easter just after passing Easleyville.  

Saw cows, horses, a donkey and goats while I was riding. Freshly tilled field showed off the richness in color of the soil.  

We were spending the night at the Silver Creek RV Park and camp which was off route. We took HWY 38 to get to Mt Hermon. For 20 miles we pedaled up and down the steep rolling hills. Upon reaching camp I had to set up tent and do my laundry. Discovered after washing that the dryers were not working. I had put up a clothes line between trees by my tent, but when I was ready to hang up my laundry the blue sky had been replaced by dark storm clouds. I hung my laundry up underneath the roof of the shelter hoping that it would dry by morning. (Which it did not). The sky opened up and buckets of rain fell on us. Once again I am in awe by the intensity of the rain here.  

Sally from England and Jared (leader) were the cooks for the night. Sally made her traditional Easter dinner, an English breakfast – fried eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, and toast with raspberry jam. For dessert we had rice pudding. It was tasty. We all enjoyed having breakfast for dinner, since there is never enough time to have bacon and eggs in the morning. After cleaning up we all retired to our rain soaked tents. Missed being with my family on this holiday. Also missed going to Easter mass, but could not find a Catholic Church close to our route. Predominantly Baptist churches dotted our route.

Went to bed knowing that my tent would be wet again in the morning and that I would be packing up damp or wet clothing. The humidity is so high here that condensation forms on everything. I knew my clothes would be no exception. I hope all of you had a wonder day. Miss you. 

Making breakfast and packing under shelter at Perry’s Bike Hostel and Camp
Where I took a shower the night before. One shower; one toilet in another building
The start of the Adventure Cycling route which only three of us took
Beautiful violet wildflowers occasionally lined the roadside; wildflowers are not as plentiful in Louisiana as they were in Texas

Canopy of trees covered the road
Tall pines lined the road for several miles; their fragrance could be smelt as the logging trucks went by. How tall and straight the trees were never ceased to amaze me. The wonders of nature.
Amite River

One of several “creeks” we crossed over in Louisiana.  Water is everywhere in Louisiana.

 

First time I saw the confederate flag being flown;  it would not be the last time.


Just finished ride.  Tents are drying out around me.  Wore my white jersey on Easter to honor all the people I am riding for.