Monday, May 30, 2016

St. Augustine to Dunedin, Fl

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 in 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 was 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 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
With Lucia
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. 

Nice gator!
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's neighborhood
Friend Dyann
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 opportunity to get caught up and see this area of Florida.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tallahassee to St. Augustine, FL

February 10th to 15th, 2015

Garmin Info with Maps

Work in process
I spent a very windy rest day in Tallahassee. Aside from a much needed day off the trike, I only needed to get my hair cut and colored. This is actually something I enjoy taking care of. I'm never really sure how it will turn out and am at the mercy of the local stylist that I pick fairly randomly. Hair care on the road is an adventure that requires courage and faith. Over the years I have learned that some stylists are better at color and some are better at cuts. It is very unusual to find a stylist that is good at both. I used to spend a great deal of money and have also found that you don't always get what you pay for where hair styling is concerned. Now I try to keep my expectations low and hope for the best. 
Finished product

Tallahassee is a big enough city that I should be able to find a stylists to work on my hair as a walk-in.  As with many things while touring, I turned to Google Maps to find salons listed close to my hotel and started walking. Interestingly, the first few salons I walked into only worked on African-American hair. I kept walking and it was too early for some salons as no one was available to do the color. Walking was actually a challenge with the very high winds. After checking into 7 salons, I ended up at a shopping mall getting my hair cut and colored at a Super Cuts. The woman who worked on my hair was very experienced and I was happy with the results and the $55 price. Nice!!

Election humor?
Zef loading up Myrtle and bags
The next morning I got going at a reasonable hour. Today I was headed to a Warm Showers host's home in Monticello. Now that I'm in Florida it appears there are a lot of Warm Shower opportunities. Nef and 00na had generously accepted my request to stay. All the reviews on the Warm Showers website were very positive but I was a bit curious because 00na is spelled with zeros instead of O's. It's natural to speculate what kind of people I was about to meet and this spelling had me imagining someone very new agey that would have colorful crystals, angels, unicorns and lots of purple in the decor. And I really do love seeing how people live. 
The morning was brutally cold at 28 degrees. I left Tallahassee bundled up with lots of climbing to do taking Miccosukee Rd. Not long after getting back to Hwy 90, a bespectacled, bearded man wearing a weathered leather hat and a brown work coat flagged me down. It was Zef, my Warm Showers host. He was on his way home after a morning trip to Tallahassee and, when he saw the loaded trike, figured there probably wasn't another touring triker heading east on this road. Zef was driving a work van and offered me a ride to the house since it was so cold. Wow, how nice is this! I didn't hesitate to accept and we had the trike loaded in no time. 

Monticello isn't very far from Tallahassee and we were at the house in another 20 minutes. Zef and 00na have a really beautiful, elegant home in the country. This property is completely secluded down a dirt road and there are no other houses around. My accommodation for the night was a separate house with 2 bedrooms. Often they have more than one guest cyclist staying but, tonight, I was the only one. This was a very posh stop. The house was beautifully furnished with laundry, full kitchen, wifi and very comfortable. Every stay is a surprise and this was very unexpected.  After getting settled, I went to the main house for lunch. I was here so early, they actually fed me lunch! 00na is an artist that works in a special kind of colorful acrylic.  I discovered she spells her name with zeros because it is easier than typing capitol O's. Funny, huh? We talked for a while and then I went back to the guest house to do laundry, upload photos, work on the journal and enjoy the rest of the day. Lunch was late enough that I wasn't hungry for dinner and, instead, shared a glass of wine with 00na. Rough day of touring huh!?

Warm Showers guest house in Monticello

00na showing me a frame decorated with acrylics
Very colorful work in progress

Sweet 1958 Nash Metropolitan

In the morning, Zef came by to say goodbye before leaving for the day and then I got a tour of 00na's studio with a chance to sit in a sweet 1958 Nash Metropolitan. Very cool! Again, it was so cold I took my time getting on the road. Even still, it was barely 30 degrees when I pushed off close to 9:30. 00na had recommended riding a back road and it was lovely. Trees provided a canopy of green over the road with cows grazing on idyllic rolling meadows as I rode this 10 mile detour back to Hwy 90. The hwy continued on a hilly route with the biggest hills going through the town of Madison where I stopped for supplies.  After the town of Lee, I stopped for pictures of the fabled Suwannee River before turning into Suzanne River State Park to camp for the night. It was going to be a cold evening but not as cold as the last week. 

Site at Suzanne River Park
Suwannee River
Live oak canopy

I find getting up on cold mornings to be tortuous. This morning was under 40 degrees and I was grumpy waiting to get water boiling for coffee and oatmeal. I was bundled up eating my breakfast, breaking camp and loading up the trike. The forecast called for the day to be a clear and sunny and I was looking forward to warming up. The miles went through small towns of Live Oak, Wellborn and Lake City over softly rolling hills before riding along the Osceola National Forest. I ended the day at Ocean Pond State Park. The entrance to the park is actually a few miles from Hwy 90 and the campground was surprisingly busy. I got the last primitive tent site for $8. I learned an annual reenactment of the Battle of Olustee (or Battle of Ocean Pond) would take place the next day. This is a big deal. I didn't even realize the Civil War was fought so far south. In fact, the Battle of Olustee was the only battle fought in Florida. In case you are wondering, the Confederate side won this skirmish. 

Primitive site at Ocean Pond
Delicious dinner
Reenactment actors
Debbie on the Jackson Baldwin trail
The next morning was significantly warmer and my morning routine was much easier in 50 degree temps. Wow, did that feel good. I made my way back to Hwy 90 to find a road that was crowded with vehicles going to the grounds of the battle. Trucks went by that had cannons and horses. Many people were walking along the road in costume. Some were in military uniforms for both sides of the Civil War and some were dressed as everyday folk, slaves, crafts people, servants and southern belles. I really enjoyed the scene and slowly rode through. There were also lots of police attempting to keep traffic moving. The rest of the ride was fairly flat through the small towns of Sanderson and MacClenny before turning off Hwy 90 to take the Jackson Baldwin rail trail. A few miles later I met up with trikers Debbie and David who are also Warm Showers hosts to escort me to their home about 20 miles east of Jacksonville. This is a really nice trail and it was fantastic to be riding with fellow trikers. They took me on a detour on a raised path over everglades before we headed to their home. Warm Showers is a really amazing website and this couple made me feel very comfortable. I had my own room and we all gabbed the night away talking about touring.

Trikers Debbie and David
Jackson Baldwin trail with Debbie and David 

Dave escorting me into Jacksonville

In the morning, David rode with me into Jacksonville across the Acosta Bridge before turning to go back home. That was very nice of David to make sure I made into this big city on a more comfortable route. I was very thankful we did this ride on Sunday because some of the roads I took to get through Jacksonville would have been awful in busy traffic.  I took an alternate, and less busy, Hwy 90 to Hwy 116 continuing south east to the coast.  I think most cyclists go north of Jacksonville and take a ferry across the St. John's River.  Unfortunately, the ferry wasn't running and has been closed for maintenance and so I had to ride right through very busy Jacksonville on less than cycling friendly roads. My destination was Hanna Park which is on the Atlantic Ocean. It is a beautiful park and I could hear the ocean waves crashing from my camp site. 

View from the Acosta Bridge in Jacksonville
Beautiful Hanna Park
First view of the Atlantic Ocean

Time to toast

Wow, did it feel good to be at the Atlantic Ocean. Today is my 57th birthday and I just rode my tricycle across the US. Woohoo!! I bought a bottle of Maker's Mark Kentucky Bourbon to celebrate and quietly toast my birthday and satisfying achievement. 
Arriving at the Atlantic

Another delicious camp meal
Running pink ribbon
The next morning I got packed up to head south for another monumental destination for this tour. I took the A1A through lots of very upscale beach communities. There were no stores or cafes or any commerce. I was really looking forward to stopping for a cup of coffee but that didn't happen. Mile after mile was one gated community after another. Every car on the road was new, German and expensive. No one said hello.  A big run raising money for Breast cancer had taken place the day before and there were pink stenciled signs in the road to give runners and walkers proper direction. I rode through Atlantic, Neptune, Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra Beaches before I found a gas station to stop at.  I was hungry and really needed to pee. I used a table outside to make my lunch and take a rest. From here I rode along desolate beach dunes through the Guana River Marsh Aquatic Preserve on a thin piece of land separating the Atlantic Ocean and the Guana River.  I was still on the A1A and didn't see any civilization until reaching Vilano Beach. Here I a turned to cross the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge into St Augustine.  

Marshland on the A1A
Big moment to reach the end of the Southern Tier
Crossing the bridge into St. Augustine

St. Augustine is known for many things including being the oldest town in the US. It is also the end of the Southern Tier bicycle route across the country.  Lots of cyclists start and end bike trips here. Knowing how many people had cycled here made this a very special day. I got many honks from people driving by who knew why I was here. People yelled out lots of enthusiastic woohoos and offered big thumbs up out the car windows as they drove passed. I took some pictures at a city sign and then went into town in search of a motel. Google had shown me a couple of cheaper options and I started my way north of the historic area to check them out. The first motel I went to had vacancies but the rooms wouldn't be ready until 7 pm. 7 pm? The owner explained that the rooms weren't yet clean and he couldn't rent them out. I asked what is special about 7 pm. Really nothing and, in fact, there was no telling when the rooms might be cleaned. For some reason the housekeepers hadn't shown up for work today. He recommended another motel that was close by. This motel was run down and also didn't have any clean rooms available. Hhhmmm.... At the 3rd motel I got a room and the story. Apparently, Florida has laws allowing motel owners to pay their housekeepers just $3 for each room cleaned. What? Housekeepers need to clean 3 rooms in an hour to earn just $9.  Can a room be cleaned and sheets changed in 20 minutes? Wow and that is assuming there are enough rooms to clean to make a decent amount of money in a day. 10 rooms cleaned would only get a housekeeper $30. It was no wonder the housekeepers didn't show up for work. I ended up at a Knight's Inn getting a well used room for $60. St. Augustine is a very touristic town and $60 for a room is cheap here. The receptionist also decided to tell me stories about being held up at knifepoint or having a gun pulled on her. I really didn't feel safe even after she told me these stories took place in other hotels that weren't even in St. Augustine. Very weird! Even still, I booked in for 2 nights. 

I have been in touch with a cycling friend I know from Portland. Patty just happen to be in town visiting her daughter and we will get together to do some sight seeing while getting caught up. I was looking forward to being with a friend.