Day 8 - too far - Sunday
I started a bit late (on the road at 8:15), but I made it out of the Disney suburbs
alive. I met a cycler named Lee as I was riding out of Oakland. Lee just did the
Southern Tier trans-US trip last October and November. He did the crossing in about
6 weeks because he had to be back at work. We rode together for several miles, talking
about bicycle touring and life in general.
We passed a lot of people doing the MS150, probably going from Mount Dora to where I
had just left. It was really nice to have someone else to ride with, because the time
went much more quickly. Lee was obviously going slower so I could keep up, but I was
surprised how fast I was moving, carrying over 100 lbs. of gear. These old legs are
Lee and I parted ways between Monteverde and Astatula. I have his business card, so
I'll try to send a postcard from somewhere.
I finally found a hill I couldn't pedal up. Actually, two. The first I may have been
able to get up by standing and honking, but the second was definitely too much for me.
The second was on a road called "Thrill Hill Road." The thrill was short-lived, but
the uphill seemed to go on forever.
I had originally planned to stay in a hotel in Mount Dora, but after I got there I
noticed that there was a national park a few miles down the road. I decided to push
on and live more cheaply. This meant a 75 mile day. Fortunately, I arrived early
enough to rest for a few hours before setting up camp. I finally sealed the seams on
my tent, which had leaked several days back at the Peace River campground.
This was the cheapest campground yet, at $7 a night. The shower was _very_ cold.
It was at Clearwater Lake Recreation Area in Ocala National Forest.
Lots of riders on unloaded bikes - most looking exhausted - doing the MS150.
The kids in Mount Dora who asked about my bike and my trip.
A very nice and very popular bike path outside of Oakland.
Day 9 - first backtrack
Today I headed out of the park at a reasonable hour, passing through several towns
too small to make the map. I was riding along and noticed a snake starting to cross
the road. It almost gave itself whiplash trying to turn around when it saw me. I
only realized after I passed it that it was either a king snake or a coral snake, with
very distinct rings.
I decided to cut a few miles off the Adventure Cycling route, because I want to get
out of Florida to someplace where the days are cooler. Plus I really wanted to get
to a bike shop and trade out my saddle. It appears that my seat-bones are too far
apart for the Brooks Professional, because the two divots on the seat are on the edge
of the frame. I think that after a few hours of riding, my seatbones rest on the frame
and get very sore.
My primary destination for the day was Ormond Beach, where Kaye had sent my Visa card
for my Waterhouse account. I made it into town fighting a slight headwind, high
temperatures, and a sore butt, only to discover that the zip code from the map was
wrong. The AC map listed a zip code that hadn't been in use for 5 years. Unfortunately,
that meant that my package was delivered to the local main office, which was 5 miles
back on the road I had just travelled. On the way I stopped at a bike shop and picked
up a nicely padded saddle, which I hope will solve my problem.
After backtracking I decided to push on to a campground north of town, which meant
another 75 mile day. It would have been 65 without the backtrcking, though. I did
ride through the nicest section of road yet, north of Ormond Beach. I also met up
with another nice cyclist named Tom, who rode with me for a few miles.
I camped in the Bulow RV Resort, which is the largest one I have seen. The office was
closed, so I couldn't get change to do laundry. I saw my first alligator in the pond
next to my tent. I think it was trying to look like a log, because it didn't move a
bit while I watched it.
Beautiful tree-lined road in Tomoka State Park north of Ormond Beach.
Coral snake in road.
Day 10 - backtrack #2
I didn't fully recover from yesterday's ride, because my morning heart rate was 72. I
waited a while for the sun to come up far enough to partially dry my tent before
heading out around 9:30. While I was waiting, a huge bird came strolling by my tent.
I think it was a crane or a stork, and it was at least 2 feet tall. I got it on film.
I installed the new seat. I'm crossing my fingers.
Today's ride was pretty boring, mostly on highways and not passing through any towns.
I stopped at a fruit stand to pick up some apples and take a rest. Then I headed
toward Saint Augustine Beach, intending to grab lunch in town. I stopped at a Subway,
went to pull out my wallet, and realized that my wallet wasn't there. I had left it
back at the fruit stand! It had my bank card, credit cards, insurance card, cash, and
a bunch of other stuff. I could get along without it, but that would be a pain.
I backtracked the 11.5 miles (I counted) and (Thank God and Saint Jude!) it was there!
I had made excellent time, praying the whole way, so I decide to buy some oranges and
refill my tank before making the trek back to town. After 3 oranges I decide to get a
pecan log to round things out :-).
The ride back was uneventful, but I decided to cut the day short at 63 miles. The
St. Augustine Beach KOA was several dollars cheaper than Cooksey's Camping Resort,
and closer to St. Augustine, so I decided to stay.
I met an interesting Australian named Peter at the tent site next door. Peter has been
in the US for several months sight-seeing with a car. He is staying at tent camping
places to save money. I was going to go out to eat, but when Peter offered to share his
dinner, I accepted in a heartbeat! He is an excellent cook, and he may open a restaurant
of his own in Australia some day. Peter says "Australia's contribution to the world
will be to teach the Japanese how to relax." It seems that many Japanese go to
Australia for vacations, and according to Peter "They learn how to wind surf and take
it easy. Then they go back home and say 'What's this all for?'"
Peter is also quite the flaming homosexual, with shaved head, pony tail, and pierced
nipples. He's on a whirlwind sex tour of the US. Except for us both being campers,
we are as different as two people raised on different planets could be.
Stopped at a Catholic Church (locked) to pray on my way back to retrieve my wallet.
Was held up briefly at a drawbridge onto Anastasia Island.
Peter the Australian and his excellent campfire cooking.
Cutting up and eating oranges under a tree at the fruit stand.
Day 11 - Saint Augustine tourist
I started this day with Tai Chi, for the first time during the trip. It felt really
Peter offered to drive into St. Augustine today so we could do the tourist thing, so
I was happy to give the bike a rest. We went to the Castillo de San Marcos, which is
probably the oldest European structure in the United States. It's a fascinating place,
built primarily to house the colonists during a siege by the French or English.
Our tour guide was a pretty interesting fellow, who had once been in radio and used
to devote his spare time to re-enactments of Spanish life in old St. Augustine.
After the fort, we drove into the center of town and strolled the streets. We had
lunch (over priced) at the Museum Cafe at the Oldest House Museum. The museum was
reasonably priced and held and interesting selection of items from historical S.A.
The British really loved to burn towns, because they burned S.A. twice!
After lunch we went into the touristy shopping area of town where Peter admired the
architecture and I marveled at the variety of gift shops. Florida has more t-shirt
shops per capita than any other place on earth.
We headed back to camp and I made a few phone calls and looked at the maps again. I
think I can cut 2 days off my schedule if I go off the AC route and extend a couple
of riding days. I don't know what I'll do about Savannah - I may skip it...
Peter and I went to pick up some food for dinner at the Winn Dixie (very convenient).
Once again Peter did most of the cooking while I provided moral support. He has
inspired me to do more cooking in the future. Up 'til now I have always arrived in
camp too exhausted to think about cooking, but Peter made it seem so easy that I have
to try it. It just takes a little planning.
Castillo - you need to be in an airplane to get a good camera shot.
Flagler College - used to be a high-class resort hotel.
Day 12 - to Callahan
I expected to start a little late because the sun doesn't reach my tent site until
8:30 or so. I wanted to dry my tent, so I moved it into the sun in the next site.
I was on the road by 9:45 - a little late, but not bad.
The ride through St. Augustine was very nice. I was able to get a couple of pictures
of the Castillo that I didn't get the day before. This was generally a good riding
day all the way to Jacksonville. Most of the way followed A1A near the beach and
through the Guana River State Park, so traffic was light and there wasn't much
Then I hit Ponte Vedra. This is where the rich come to die. As I rode along, the
houses kept getting bigger and bigger, and the yards likewise. This is some very
expensive real estate. There are huge resort communities sandwiched in as well.
By the time I reached Atlantic Beach, the houses and hotels were back to reasonable.
This would be a good place to check out if you want to see the beach in Florida.
As I neared the naval base, the feel of the area changed. It's no longer a tourist
economy; it's mostly a main road between places. The ferry across to St. George's
Island was cheap - $.50, and I was happy to see someone finally giving a reasonable
rate to people under their own power :-).
When I reached the campsite I planned to sleep at, I didn't like the place, so I
decided to keep going and look for a free site. Unfortunately, the route north
of Jacksonville goes through some pretty redneck areas, so I didn't feel comfortable
asking anyone if I could camp in their yard. I have a basic rule that if there is
a "Beware of dog" sign, I don't ask. And there were a lot of dogs.
By the time I made it to Callahan, I was exhausted and happy to pay whatever it cost
for a motel room. $28 is pretty high when you consider that I paid $23 by Disney,
but I was in no mood to shop around. I must stop doing this if I want to get the
trip cost back down to reasonable. At least I was able to make a local call to the
Jacksonville Netcom line, so I got on the net and picked up e-mail. (I also had
dinner at the Western Sizzler - all you can eat, and I did.)
I rode 78 miles today!
Saint Augustine, a pretty town that doesn't owe its existence to a beach.
The beautiful, undeveloped area in Guana River State Park.
Ponte Vedra, the vacation spot for the rich.
Squadrons of 8-10 pelicans flying in tight formation along the beach.
A guy named "Coon Head" acting as a flagman for a road construction site. Coon Head has
been hitch-hiking around the US for a couple of years and is working to pay for a bus
Day 13 - in the lap of luxury, sort of
The Royal Inn is somewhat of a dump. The walls are painted cinder block, the carpet
is old, and the toilet top is cracked. But the place is clean (the nicest thing you
can say about it) and the people at the desk are friendly. They didn't charge me for
the 3 local phone calls I made to Netcom.
I decided to cut a few miles off the ACA route, again, so I took Florida 115 to
Hilliard instead of the normal route via back roads through St. George. This saves
about 20 miles, although the route near the St. Marys River would be nicer.
The trip into and out of Folkston was uneventful. There are several produce inspection
stations near the FL-GA border. I don't know if they are trying to tax produce leaving
Florida or what.
When I checked the map, I realized that there are no services for many miles outside
of Folkston. So I stopped at the local grocery store and stocked up. I had planned
to stay at Alex Vinson's parents' place for the night, but I didn't know where it was
exactly, and I wanted to be prepared in case they weren't there.
As it turned out, I don't know where the Vinson's live, but I never saw their house.
There was a sand road where I think they live, but it's a major pain to move the
loaded bike down a sandy road, so I didn't check it out. I figured I would move
on to the campground near Atkinson or find a place off the road.
When I looked at the map more carefully, I realized that the campground is almost a
mile down a sand road. That's when I really started looking for a free campsite.
I found a gated road on a tree farm, marked "No Hunting." Well, I'm not doing any
hunting, so I slid the bike under the gate and rolled out of sight of traffic.
This is the lap of luxury. I took a nice little walk to find out what's down the
road (nothing) and fixed dinner. Steamed broccoli, noodles in a chicken sauce, and
a Treet sandwich may not be gourmet fare, but it's heaven when you're camping.
I have a quiet campsite with birds singing for me and only the mosquitoes and ticks
to bother me. I found my first tick, and it's a tiny thing - no more than 1/8"
across. It makes me nervous, because there could be others on me and I wouldn't
even notice them.
I saw a turkey. At least that's what I think it was; it was bigger than any other
bird around, and it flew off as soon as it saw me. I didn't know turkeys could fly!
But it was up over the treetops (about 20 feet) in a few seconds. Later I heard a
turkey call, so I'm pretty sure I was right.
I've been thinking about my options for the rest of the trip. Here are the pro's and
Free camping: Pro is cheap. Con is won't meet other people unless I get permission
to camp in someone's yard. Con is no clean water supply for bathing, cooking, and
Commercial campsite: cheaper than hotels. Pro is I get to meet other people doing
something similar. Pro is shower. Con is still almost twice my projected daily
expenditure, and that doesn't cover food.
Hotel: Pro is air conditioning. Pro is bed. Big con is cost. Con is I won't meet
many (or any, so far) other people. Con is must eat at restaurants.
So hotels are out. They have no advantages I care about for this trip, unless I meet
someone to share the expenses.
Free camping is not perfect, because I really enjoy meeting people at campsites. But
I'll never keep my budget down unless I do some free camping.
Campgrounds aren't perfect, because of the cost. If I can share a tent site with one
other person and bring the cost down, I could probably afford to stay at a campsite
every other day.
The optimal solution is to meet some other people who are doing a similar trip, ride
with them, and share a campsite with them. This doesn't seem likely, because they
would be going in the same direction. We won't meet unless one of us is going much
faster than the other, and then we wouldn't want to ride together...
My first wild turkey.
Mosquitoes eating me alive.
A pretty and friendly young woman working at the convenience store.
A pair of red-headed woodpeckers I passed this morning.
Day 14 - the longest day and another backtrack (almost)
According to my odometer, I rode 99 miles today. I'm not 100% sure because I
accidentally stopped my daily odometer a couple of times during the day. I didn't
intend to go that far, but I had trouble finding a campsite.
I started the day at my free campsite with everything wet. It didn't rain, but the
night-time temperature was 60 degrees, so there was serious dew on everything. And
I had picked a campsite with too much shade, so the sun didn't dry everything off
before I hit the road. At least I was moving by about 9:00.
I have been considering taking a shortcut to Savannah, because the ACA route goes
through nearly uninhabited country. There are few towns big enough to have a grocery
store; most only have "country stores," which are glorified convenience stores.
I was still wavering when I left Hortense - a mere crossroads on the state highway -
when I discovered I had lost my map. I could backtrack 5 to 10 miles (I wasn't sure
how far) or I could make up a route using the Georgia state map I bought at Hortense.
I decided to make up a route and headed forward.
Initially I decided to follow what I remembered of the ACA route, but I quickly found
that I had forgotten some details. A very helpful woman at a squash farm headed me
toward US 84 at Screven, and I was headed to Savannah. The road is not ideal for
cycling; the first part was two lanes with a narrow shoulder, but it widened to 4
lanes at Jessup.
I wanted to do at least 60 miles, so I kept going to Ludowici. Although Jessup seems
like a nice town, Ludowici seemed less friendly. I asked a woman in Ludowici where
to find a campsite, and she directed me 25 miles down the road! I headed down a back
road that I hoped led to Hinesville and kept an eye out for a free campsite. As I
neared Hinesville, a man stopped his car to talk to me. He had met another person
biking across the US, but the other guy was a comedien; he stopped at different towns
to work to pay his way. The Hinesville gentleman was nice enough to direct me to a
campsite on Fort Stewart. It was further than I hoped to go, but it sounded better
than the alternative: a hotel.
After stopping to ask directions 3 times, I found Holbrook Pond at 8:00, but the
office was closed. I went on in and found a site. The neighbors were nice enough
to loan me their restroom key so I could take a hot shower, and I settled in to bed.
This is exactly the type of place I had hoped to find for my trip: minimal amenities,
a quiet location (except for the occasional cannon fire at the shooting range a couple
of miles away), a clear view of the sun to the east to dry the tent in the morning,
and a reasonable price (Did I mention that it's only $3 a night?). I'm sitting at a
picnic table running the computer off of my solar cells. It's a beautiful morning.
Vultures picking at a road kill (2 groups at 2 different times)
Tree farms giving way to "normal" farms.
A rather large field producing yellow summer squash. The very nice woman working
there came over to give me directions and offer me some water. She called me "sweetie,"
and she had a delightful southern accent. I really feel like I'm back in Georgia.
A deer crossed the road in front of me as I headed into camp. I only saw the tail
end of it because I was watching the gravel road for bumps.
Changes last made on: Thu May 30 17:59:59 1996