February 17th to 19th, 2016
Garmin Info and Maps
|Magnificent historic lighthouse|
I was very excited to be in St. Augustine. I had reached the end of the Adventure Cycling Southern Tier route and was in one of the oldest towns in the US. Not only that, but a friend from Portland, Patty, was also here visiting her daughter. We spent a crystal clear day playing tourist. This was the first warm day in a long, long time. The day was warm enough to leave the coats behind. What a relief!
We visited the old fort, St. George Street and went out to the beach. The view from the top of the lighthouse was simply stunning. What an amazingly beautiful day in an historic town with lots of character. We also visited her daughter's office in a refurbished old building that was a treat to walk through. I really enjoyed being with a friend to take in the sights. If I had been on my own I probably wouldn't have seen half of what we did. First of all, Patty had a car and secondly, she had been here before and knew what to see and thirdly, I am not a very good tourist. We had a nice late lunch together before saying goodbye.
|With friend Patty|
|Walk up the lighthouse|
|View from lighthouse|
Being a tourist town, St. Augustine is more expensive than most of the towns I had been in, so far. I needed to skedaddle on down the road and got packed up. It was another nice day and it sure felt good to start the day with less layers. Today I was going to start heading to the west coast through a forested area. From Hwy 1 I followed 287 to Palatka that was nicely paved. In Palatka, I stopped at Walmart to get another fuel canister and supplies for dinner. I was headed to Mt. Dora to stay with a triking couple but the distance was too great to do in one day. From Palatka, I took Hwy 19 on a quiet road. it didn't have a huge shoulder but there wasn't enough traffic to matter. The road was also hillier, a lot hillier.
|Salt Springs primitive campsite|
There are a few campgrounds on this road and I stopped for the night at Salt Springs State Park. The ranger lady checked me into a site at the far end of the primitive area. She cautioned me to be 'bear aware'. I asked what that means and she said I should keep all food in my cooler. This lady could see I cycled in with only panniers and I asked her what I should do if I don't have a cooler. She said I should take my food into the tent overnight. My eyes got big with surprise. What?!? Wouldn't that invite a bear to come into my tent? She said it would be ok. I cycled away shaking my head to find the site which was located at the end of a deep sand road. It is impossible to ride in deep sand. Since there was only a couple of sites occupied, I took one I could ride to across from the camp host and bathroom.
I stopped by the camp host to ask about the bear situation. She said no one had seen a bear this season. When I told her that the ranger suggested I keep all my food the tent over night she also said this would be ok. I felt like I had just entered some weird twilight zone. In what universe is it ever ok to keep food even remotely close to your tent in bear country? Again, I left this woman shaking my head. What is also surprising is, the camp ground doesn't have bear boxes to keep food safe.
|Neighbor with a table full of food|
There was an older woman car camping a few sites away. I decided to introduce myself and see how she was storing her food overnight. It looked like she had been here for many days. She had a lot of food strewn out all over the picnic table. I noticed one of her car windows was missing so I didn't think keeping food in the car would be a good idea. In fact, the first thing she told me was raccoons had got into her car last night, through the broken window, and eaten what ever they could find. She was very annoyed with the lost food and the mess they made. Clearly, food was not safe in the car. She was eating a store bought rotisserie chicken and I asked how she was going to store the left-overs. Oh yeah, she was going to bring the chicken into the tent with her. Wow, there going to be a lot of food in this ladies tent tonight. I felt quite secure that any bear would certainly find her food more enticing than mine and would be far too full to pay any notice to my poor rations of oats, coffee, hummus and peanut butter. Never the less, I hung a pannier with my food in a tree.
|Nice road through the forest|
I was so worried about the bear that I didn't sleep well. I imagined any noise was a bear and I was on high alert. I got up in the morning feeling grumpy. It was colder than I expected and the tent was very wet with condensation. I made breakfast and then packed up my wet tent. I was happy to see no animals had got into my food pannier. I was looking forward to getting back out on Hwy 19 and leaving this strange campground. The road was very hilly and quiet as I cycled through the Ocala forest. Within in a few miles of starting out, I could smell a fire and large pieces of ash were falling all around me. The sky was clouded over with smoke. The fire was close. I hoped someone would be coming along to let me know if I was in danger. This went on for many miles and I just kept pedaling. I later learned it was a controlled burn.
|Smoky skies through Ocala Forest|
Hwy 19 went along Lake George and through very small towns. I always hear how flat Florida is but this road was not flat. It was up and down and up and down all day. At Eutis, I turned off the highway to take city streets to my destination of Mt. Dora. This is a sweet little town and I had been invited to stay with some trikers. Mike and Lucia have a beautiful home and they warmly welcomed me. I really needed to dry out my tent and Lucia helped me drape it over a line in the garage. They are planning a cross country trike ride across the US this summer and are busy buying gear. I showed them some gear that I think works especially well. We yakked away the evening while eating a delicious meal.
|Mike clowning around|
|Along Lake Dora|
In the morning, Lucia decided to ride with me to Inverness. Mike was going to be picking up a new Ice trike and made plans to meet us later. It was cool but sunny when Lucia and I headed out. This area has a lot of lakes and we started out with a beautiful view of Lake Dora. Just as we were turning onto Hwy 44, we got stopped by a tractor caravan. This was really cool and I took some video. I never found out where they were going. The tractors were so slow we ended up passing them, haha. Lucia and I really enjoyed watching the tractors.
Tractor caravan holding up traffic
I am always on the look out and very happy when I can find a table to make my lunch. About halfway into today's ride and perfect timing, I spotted a couple of tables in a very manicured lawn. We were about to have an interesting experience. This place is called The Villages. The Villages is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. It is a 55+ community with a big reputation. Everything is gated. There are neighborhoods with Mediterranean homes, ranch styles, modern, victorian mansions and many others in all price ranges with more being built. The place is huge and has large shopping centers with all the usual stores throughout. Most people get around in golf carts. Even though the table we wanted to use was right next to the road, we had to ride around a big gated area to get to it. I also really needed to use a bathroom and we didn't hesitate to walk into a clubhouse. Both of us were the right age and we fit in just fine. No one asked us anything. I could see The Villages is quite expensive and there are lots of rules. Funny enough, the Villages also has one of the highest STD rates in the country. Lots of active seniors here, haha. Lucia and I made ourselves at home fixing a good lunch enjoying the fastidious surroundings. Then we loaded up the trikes and back-tracked our way out to the highway.
|Beautiful route along lakes|
From here, the route was easy riding along Hwy 44. There was a long section with water on both sides of the road. The view was beautiful. Pretty soon we came to the Withlacoochee rail trail. I was going to head south while Lucia was going to be meet Mike in the other direction. This had been a really fun day riding with Lucia. It's been a long time since I had company on the road. We said goodbye and I continued to another hosts home. This trail is something else again. Everyone I passed was at least my age and was riding a recumbent or a trike. Some people even knew who I was calling out "Hello, Myrtle the Turtle". What?!? I stopped and talked to a number of people who were riding Easy Racer Tour Easys. This is a busy trail with recumbents and trikes far out numbering upright riders. Can you imagine? I have never seen this before and it was very exciting. Even though I didn't have far to go to get to my destination, I stopped so often to chat it took awhile. Finally, I turned off to a 55+ mobile home park and found my way to the home of Sue and George. Sue has been following my travels and invited me to stay months ago. I had no idea she is also a warm showers host and opens her home to lots of cyclists all year around.
I parked Myrtle next to Sue and George's trikes. They showed me to my room and then lots of people came over for a pot luck. Then we all went over to a country dance in the community center. I met a ton of people.
|With my triking tribe|
|Lawn Chair Nation - Florida Chapter|
|Myrtle getting some tlc|
The next day, George, Sue and I got on our trikes and pedaled to meet up with the CRABS - Crusty Retired All recumBent Society. Oh my, this had a huge showing and there were mostly trikes! Everyone wanted to meet and congratulate me on the cross country ride. This was the largest gathering of trikes I've seen outside of TOT and the Recumbent Retreat. After lot of pictures, we all rode together about 40 miles before stopping at a brew pub for food. Super fun day! Many thanks to Phil Mix for making this happen. I had a blast! On our way back to the house we stopped at Hampton's Edge Bike shop where Myrtle got a nice tune up. The mechanic made some important adjustments. Regis also showed me how to adjust my rear suspension and the trike is riding much better. Thanks guys!!
Meeting the CRABS
|Look at all these trikes!|
CRABS leaving the caboose
|Crystal River riders|
In the morning, Sue, George and I loaded up the trikes to meet up with more riders. This time I was fully loaded and would ride with a group to Crystal River mostly on another rail trail. It was another gorgeous day and Crystal River is really nice. We stopped at a bridge and were rewarded with a sighting of many slow moving manatees and rays. So cool! We all continued on for lunch at a lovely restaurant on a lake. They escorted me to my turn off to continue riding south where we parted ways.
|Manatee in muddy water|
The rest of the ride was on flat Hwy 98 for another 20 miles to Chassahowitzka where I pulled in to the campground. The campground was full but the gatekeeper let me go in to see if anyone would share their site. Most places won't let you do that. The gatekeeper told me which loop had the nicest people and suggested I start there. He had called the camp host who was waiting and flagged me down to invite me to set up my tent behind their RV. Very nice and thoughful! I didn't even have to pay anything. My timing couldn't have been better because the camphosts left 15 minutes later. They let me use the picnic table and even offered to store my food in a cooler. What a great day!
|Delicious meal after a great day|
|Pinellas trail at Tarpon Springs|
In the morning, after a good night's sleep, I got packed up and continued on down Hwy 19. It was very windy and a big storm was expected. I needed to stay focused to get through the miles. The wind kept my speed slower than normal but I kept going passing town after town. At Tarpon Springs, I was able to get off the hwy and onto the Pinellas Rail Trail. What a relief and I knew I didn't have far to go. I was heading to the home of a friend I hadn't seen since my very first tour. Dyann also rides a trike and was part of the Bitchin Bent Biker Babes that I rode with from the Recumbent Retreat along the Oregon Coast for a week. There were 5 of us. 3 were on trikes and 2 on Gold Rushes. We were fierce. I've always looked back at this part of my first tour with great fondness.
Dyann had just moved from California and her belongings were still mostly in boxes. It was great fun to see Dyann and she was a good sport to let me stay before her house was put together. With the impending stormy weather, I was going to be parked here for a few days. It would be a nice oppourtunity to get caught up and see this area of Florida.