Day 56 – Florahome, FL, to Anastasia St Pk, St Augustine, FL “The Final Leg” Distance – 60.5 / 3711.6

It was another cold night.  I ended up sleeping in lots of layers including my down sweater, that I have been using for a pillow, my pile pullover pulled up on my legs like pants and two pairs of wool bike socks to keep my feet warm.  Hey, don’t knock it, it worked.  I got a good night’s sleep and my stomach was much better this morning.  I was really thankful after the way I felt yesterday. 

The rid today could not have been better for the last day.  Once I got off highway 100, where the traffic was heavy and fast, it was an enjoyable cruise in to the finish line.  I had lots of time since Sherry, Angelo and Paula were driving over from Lanark Village and my brother and Joyce from Deland.  The road was smooth, flat, scenic and I had a tail wind.  I rode along the St Johns River for a while.  I stopped ‘to take some pictures and got to talk to a couple of guys bringing in their catch of blue crabs.  It’s what they do for a living and they were telling me it was pretty early in the season and it was questionable whether it was economically prudent to even be going out.  It was interesting talking to them, it’s always nice to learn.

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St Johns River

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Crabbers coming in to the dock

After I left the river I rode through farm land that was producing potatoes, and I mean lots of potatoes, miles and miles of potatoes, pretty much from the St Johns to St Augustine.  About six miles west of St Augustine I saw this memorial for a cyclist that was killed by a hit and run motorist.  It was a very humbling experience and made me realize more than ever how fortunate I was to ride this many miles without an incident.

As I rode into St Augustine my emotions were many; the joy of finishing the ride, the excitement of seeing family and friends, and the disappointment of the trip ending.  I had decided to ride to Anastasia St Pk to finish so that I could actually end at the Atlantic.  The ACA official end of the “Southern Tier” is at the intersection of  King St and Avenida Menendez, right in the heart of the historic district.

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On the way to the beach, where I was going to meet my greeting party, I stopped at the old lighthouse.  The buildings were very elaborate compared to other lighthouses I have seen.  It was really beautiful.

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Then it was time for the trip to be over.  As I entered the park the lady at the entrance gate didn’t charge me and told me that they (Sherry and the gang) were waiting for me.  I felt like royalty.  As I rode into the beach parking lot I was greeted with hugs and congratulations.  Now we are really talking emotional.

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Then we all went out on the beach for the final pictures of the trip. 

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Again, I want to thank everyone for your thoughts, prayers and well wishes for the trip.  I hope that all of your positive energy comes back to you ten fold, and that everyone can have an adventure in their life that is as meaningful as bicycling across the “Southern Tier”. 

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Day 55 – O’Leno State Park, FL, to 3 miles east of Florahome, FL Distance – 76.0 / 3651.1

The temperature last night hit an all-time low for the date, of 39°.  I was cold about all night since I had mailed my sleeping bag home.  I’ve been without it for almost a month and hadn’t missed it.  My Walmart cheepo fleece blanket just didn’t cut it.  It was so cold I didn’t even eat at camp.  I hightailed it into High Springs, about eight miles from camp, for a bite.  I had my bike clothes plus along sleeve silk-weight shirt, my fleece pullover, and my jqcket.  I even wore my zip-offs over my bike shorts.  Fortunately it warmed up quickly and I was able to shed part of my extra layers.

Today’s ride went to Alachua where I stopped to publish yesterday’s post.  When I got back on the bike I noticed that my cycle computer was not working.  On these rides that’s something you need, because sometimes the directions will tell you to turn onto unsigned road in “x” miles.   There was a Walgreens where I was so I got a new battery since that is the most common problem.  After putting the battery in and reprograming the computer I was off riding.  The ride went across the northern edge of Gainesville on roads that had a wide shoulder, some even marked as bike lanes.  Then it followed the Gainesville / Hawthorne Rails to Trails path to, you guessed it, Hawthorne. 

I have either picked up some bug or something I recently ate has given me pretty severe stomach pains today.  No symptoms except pain in the lower abdominal area.  It really pu a damper on the ride.  The only way I could get some relief riding was to be down on my aero-bars or off the bike to lay on my right side in a fetal position.  Other than that the ride was great. 

When I was approaching Florahome, I noticed a bike path running parallel to the route so I crossed over to it and rode it into town.  I stopped at a convenience store and got a Sprite, thinking that it might give me some stomach relief and a fellow told me that they are going to continue the path all the way to St Augustine eventually.

I ended up staying o the path out of town until it ran out about three miles east of town.  The was a small clearing so I decided to just set up camp right there instead of riding on to the state forest a couple of miles further.  While I was sitting around reading a gentleman rode up on a bike and we visited for a while.  He will be turning 70 soon and lives in the area.  He told me some about his career in the US Airforce.  He worked primarily with helicopters.

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Tonight is my last night on the trail.  It’s hard to believe that it’s coming to an end.  It seems like it was just a short time ago that I was walking around Ocean Beach, CA, with Todd, Jessica and Scarlet.  There is a part of me that hates that the trip is almost over, but it is so exciting to think that tomorrow I’ll be seeing Sherry and Sandy the Wonder Dog.  I’m also thrilled that my brother and sister-in-law, John and Joyce, and our friends, Angelo and Paula, will be there to meet me at the end of my journey.  I have been so blessed to have such a strong following on this trip. I want to thank all of you for your thoughts, prayers and comments along the way.

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Day 54 – Suwannee River State Park, FL, to O’Leno State Park, FL Distance – 71.7 / 3575.1

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“Morning has broken, like the first morning…”.  The sun had just cleared the trees and this was my morning greeting, and the sides of the road stayed lined with flowers practically the whole day.  What a blessing. 
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Last evening at the park was so nice.  After spending time with Martin and Judith, eating and cleaning up, I had lots of time to just sit and relax.  The weather was incredible.  A cold front came through and the air was dry and cool.  When I woke up this morning it was 51° out, the coolest I’ve seen for quite awhile.  I even had to put extra clothes on while I ate and took down camp.  About 25 miles into the ride I was approaching I-75 and the White Springs exit.  I remembered from driving by here, numerous times, that there was a McDonalds there so I went about a mile off route so I could publish what I had written last night.  As I was pulling into the parking lot I saw Kevin and Josh, who I met yesterday.  They had stayed in White Springs.  They were going to camp but they were invited to spend the night at the White Springs Bicycle Club building.  They said it as an amazing experience.  There was a group of “older” cyclist starting the “Southern Tier” heading west.  Apparently some of the folks that started Adventure Cycling are involved with the club.  It was good to see them again so soon.  There were very few services on the ride today, so when I came to a little store by Ichetucknee Springs State Park, I decided to pull in, eat my lunch and see if there was anything I needed for tonight or in the morning.  Low and behold, there was Josh and Kevin again.  They had the same idea as I did.  They left before me and I doubt if I will see them again.  They were planning on going quite a ways further today than me and I probably won’t catch them again. I finished riding a little earlier today so I had time to relax and explore the park.  When I went down to where the “sink” is I realized that Sherry and I had been there before.  (The Santa Fe River, that runs through the park, sinks into limestone caverns and travels about three miles before it resurfaces) The park is on the old town site of Leno.  The town was originally called Keno, after the gambling game, but ecclesiastical and commercial pressure caused the name to be changed.  It became a ghost town when the railroad bypassed it.  Then the state bought the old town of Leno and named the park O’Leno, for old Leno.  I took a short hike through a cypress stand along the river, I have always loved the cypress knees.

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While I was fixing supper I had the idea of sharing my home with you, so here it is.
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Bedroom
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Kitchen
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Living room/Office

And of course you have seen lots of pictures of my RV.

Two days to go.  Tomorrow I’ll be staying in a state forest east of Gainesville, about 75 miles from where I am, and then Wednesday, I’ll be pulling in to St Augustine.  Yahoo!!

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Day 53 – Tallahassee, FL, to Suwannee River State Park, 9 mi E of Lee, FL Distance – 80.0 / 3503.4

This has been an delightful day!  Right before I went to bed last night I finally realized that I had crossed into the Eastern Time Zone, which meant I was going to bed an hour later than I had planned.  I still wanted to get up for an early start, so I kept my alarm set for 5:15, not realizing that everything changed, and by the time I was packed and ready to ride it was still pitch dark outside.  Well, I wasn’t going to just sit around so I took off.  I could just make out the road.  There sure wasn’t any traffic.  After I turned off the highway the motel was on, I was on what was probably the prettiest road I’ve been on in FL.  The road was like a tunnel through overhanging oaks.  I tried to get a picture, but I couldn’t see through the view finder.  It was just black.I had a heck of a time reading the road signs for the turns I was supposed to make. But, I made it and it eventually got light.  The first town I came to was Wacissa.  When we drive to Lanark, we go through there.  I actually rode on part of my driving route form Wacissa to Monticello.  The hills are a lot tougher on the bike than they are in the Suburban.  From there I picked up US 90 again and rode it all the way to the park.  It’s funny, it has been weeks and I haven’t hardly seen any other riders.  Then today I meet a fellow heading west that started in Gainesville, FL, and I met two fellows from Utah, Kevin and Josh, who left San Diego on March 4th.  I had heard about them from other riders.  Some days they would be a little bit ahead of me and some days a little bit behind.  Today they were behind, but overtook me outside of Madison.  We talked for a while, it seems like they are really enjoying themselves.
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Kevin and Josh

Oh yeah, before I forget, I HAD A TAILWIND TODAY!!!!!

Right before I got to the park I crossed the Suwannee.  It is such a beautiful, peaceful river.  I often think about the time Sherry and I took a multi-day canoe trip down it. 

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The beautiful Suwannee River When I got to the park I was greeted by a very friendly lady at the entrance. 

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Campground lady

We talked for a while and then I rode on to my campsite.  When I got there the man camping next to me came over.  He was initially interested in my BOB trailer, but then we got into talking about the trip and all kinds of stuff.  In a little while he asked if I would like a vodka and tonic.  What a silly question?  He and his wife came over to my site with the drinks, tortilla chips and salsa.  We sat around and talked for a good while.  He flew a small, 1947 vintage airplane across the country once.  How cool is that?  It was very interesting hearing about his flight. They are from upstate New York, and he was originally from England.
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Martin and Judith

Then it was time for dinner.  Tonight it was roasted garlic quinoa, cooked onion/squash/snap peas, and chicken. 
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Now I’m just sitting around chilling and writing this.  Tomorrow’s ride is about 70 miles and then there will be just two days to St Augustine.  I’m starting to have those mixed feelings you have at the end of a trip, excited to finish the long journey, but hating for it to be over.

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Day 52 – Marianna, FL, to LaQuinta Inn Tallahassee South Distance – 82.2 / 3423.4

I’m really glad I took the day off at the caverns.  Not only did I really enjoy myself, the rest did me a lot of good.  I got my usual early start this morning.  No lazying around while I ate. The route was pleasant today.  Part of it was on US 90, but more than half of it was on smaller roads that were lightly traveled and had good shoulders and great surface.  It’s so different riding on smooth pavement than chip-and-seal.  I passed through a number of towns again today which made the ride more interesting.  I also passed a several lakes and rivers, and I always enjoy seeing them.  I rode through the town of Chattahoochee, which is right on the FL/GA line.  I was going to ride into Georgia just to get a picture of the welcome sign, but I got involved in trying not to miss my turn and forgot all about it until I was too far away to turn around.  Heading in to Chattahoochee, the terrain became more hills and the hills became longer and steeper.  There were still flat stretches but it remained that way all the way through Tallahassee.  The route took me right by Florida State University.  It’s always interesting to me to see college campuses.  As I was entering town the sky began to darken and the thunder started rumbling.  I rode on until the lightning started and then I took cover.  I found a small porch on the county health department building, and I was glad it was there.  The lightning intensified and the rain came in to rents.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of how hard it was coming down, but it was blowind in under the porch and the camera would have been ruined.  It didn’t last long, so I was on my way after about a thirty minute delay.

As I was searching for my motel I found a Cuban restaurant and a natural foods store.  After I settled in I went back and had dinner and picked up some things for the remainder of my trip.  I only have four days to go and I miss my family more and more the closer I get.  Well, it won’t be long now.  Sorry Bob, no pictures today.

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Day 51 – Day off at Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna, FL

Wow, I slept until 8:00.  I’ve been getting up at 5:15, to get an early start and beat the wind, so this was wonderful.  I took my time and even read while I ate my oatmeal and drank my coffee.  It was a real treat.  A couple of people stopped by to talk.  I don’t think they see many people traveling by bike.Actually, I don’t think they see too many people in tents, especially little single-person ones like I am using.  I had to change campsites because the one I was in was reserved by someone else tonight.  The one I was supposed to move into was occupied, and I had to wait for those people to leave before I could move.  They weren’t in any hurry so I read more and just took it easy. 

After I moved camp I jumped on the bike and rode to the visitors center where the cave tours began.  They run them every thirty minutes so I wasn’t worried about my timing.  When I got there they were just calling for the next tour to go to the staging area.  I asked if it was too late for me to be in that group and they said no problem.  I paid my $8.00 and joined the group.  The caverns were spectacular.  The tour took about 45 minutes and I was impressed at how extensive they were.  It’s hard to believe that they are just under the ground where you would never expect them to be.  Here are some pictures.

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Since I was almost to the entrance to the park I decided to go ahead and ride into town and look around.  Marianna is pretty good size compared to all the little towns I’ve been traveling through.  I believe there would be about anything you could want, right there.  In the old downtown area I found a coffee shop/bakery.  I went in to look around and ended up ordering a Greek salad for a late lunch.  I topped it off with a piece of caramel, pecan cheesecake.  Actually, I enjoyed the salad more than the cheesecake.  I think I crave salad more than anything.  I’ve tried to figure a way to have it, but I can’t keep the lettuce.

After that I went back to camp to settle in for the remainder of the day and evening.  I’ve got a big day ahead of me tomorrow.  I’ll be riding to and through Tallahassee.  I’m planning on staying in a room since I can’t find anyplace to camp.  I will sleep good.  I will sleep good.  I will sleep good.  Trying a different approach.

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Day 50 – DeFuniak Springs, FL, to Florida Caverns St Pk, Marianna, FL Distance – 73.5 / 3341.2

The ride today was one of those “put in the miles days”.  The entire route, except for three miles to the park, was on US 90.  One thing about it, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the shoulder is wide and smooth.  I stopped in Ponce De Leon, about 20 miles from where I started, for my pancakes and egg.  As I was riding into town I saw a sign for a restaurant called “Sally’s”.  It wasn’t hard to find.

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Lee, I thought about you and Sally when I saw this place.  So many great memories. Everyone was real friendly and the food was good.  I sat around for quite awhile before heading out.  It’s funny, ever since I entered Florida, I feel like I have all the time in the world.  I’m still riding the same distance each day at about the same pace, but I’ve been getting into camp later because I drag my feet so much during the day. I guess it is knowing that I’m almost there that makes the difference.  Anyway, I passed through lots of towns today.  They were only about 10 miles apart.  It seems like logging and saw mills are the main thing going on around the area.  If you look back through the thin row of trees along the road everything has been clear-cut. When I got to Marianna, I knew the park was three miles off route, but, when I got there the campground was another three miles from the entrance.  Not the kind of surprise you want at the end of the day. Tomorrow I’m taking a day off to rest and explore the park.  The campground seems very nice, I think it will be a good place to relax.

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