Day 4: Horses, Horses, Horses

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Gainesville, FL to High Springs, FL (~30 mi / 48 km)

Note: it’s about 45 mi / 72 km from Gainesville, FL, to Ichetucknee, where we ended up at the end of the day.

That recovery ride was probably better than doing nothing on our rest day, but it was still tough! Joel and Jeff are serious cyclists and though I’m sure they were going at a leisurely pace, it felt more like a normal to fast pace for us.

I will say that it was refreshing to ride without gear on the back during that 1 hr ride. It makes a huge difference, and was an added incentive for us to leave as much as possible behind in Gainesville. We probably dropped 1/3 of our load there at my brother’s house.

So we are sore as we head out of Gainesville, now on the Adventure Cycling routes that we brought with us, which, we soon find out, lead us along some seriously back country roads. No dirt roads or anything like that, just beautiful, often shaded, two lane county roads (e.g. CR 137). Low traffic, sometimes a shoulder, sometimes not. All of the drivers that do pass us are courteous and give us space as they pass, if they can.

We stop outside a church for a break and to check how far we are from High Springs – at this point we’re looking for some significant food, not just the snacks that we have with us… a truck pulls over onto the grass, and a retired couple starts asking us about our trip… “We’ve always seen folks that look kinda like you, and wondered where they were goin’ and what they were doin'”.

So we chat about our trip for a bit, and Bill and Claudia offer us some tips, giving us a better (more direct) route to take to Ichetucknee, as well as some restaurant suggestions. They also give us their phone numbers to call them if we needed anything throughout the day!

We go the rest of the way into High Springs and find one of the suggested restaurants, Alice’s Parkside, which is full of locals who give us a bit of a quizzical look as we walk in with our backpacks and cycling clothes on. The folks who are sitting near us are friendly and strike up conversation, asking us about our trip, and we ask them about the parks and springs around town.

“Oh, you hafta go see Ginnie Springs! Evrybody goes to Ichetucknee, but I heard Ginnie Springs is so much more be-a-utiful! Y’all need to git urselves a truck! I cain’t believe ur ridin’ them bi-cycles in this heat!”

This is Glenda, and she comes running out after us as we are leaving with a grand idea. I was amazed by her accent and am attempting to capture just a tiny piece of it here.

“Hey y’all, I got that big black truck over thar, we could toss ur bikes up thar and take you wherever you wanna go, we ain’t doin’ nothin’, just give us a bit to finish our lunch. Y’all cain’t ride them bikes in this heat!”

On the porch of Alice's Parkside, waiting for Glenda and her grandson to finish lunch

We take her up on her offer, and her 16-year-old grandson Jeremiah hops up in the back of the truck, moves around the feed bucket and cage they had used to catch and deliver wild hogs earlier in the day, and gets our bikes up into the truck. 

Hitchin' a ride in Glenda's truck

We head out of town in Glenda’s truck – quickly (“Y’all might wanna hold on! Hee-hee!”) – and visit a couple of the springs that Glenda wanted to show us (Poe Springs, Blue Springs, and Ginnie Springs). They were certainly beautiful – the folks at Blue Springs let us get out without paying to look at the “bowl” (the head of the springs where the water comes out and there are underwater caves, etc) – but they were also expensive to visit and/or camp at. For instance, it would have cost us about $45 to camp at Ginnie Springs. Too much for our budget.

So we ask Glenda to take us back into town so we could just stick with Plan A and bike out to Ichetucknee, but being the kind lady she is, she insists that we let her take us directly to the campsite. All the while she’s chattin’ it up, telling us about herself and her family, asking about ours, encouraging us to get a truck – as we drive on some of these back roads it makes sense why – and all of a sudden we see a bunch of slowing and stopped cars ahead of us on the highway, and then we see why – there are 6 or so horses on the side of the road, starting to walk into the road.

Jeremiah rounds up the horses

Glenda immediately pulls off the road in a position to block the horses from coming our way, and tells her grandson Jeremiah to “git outa the truck and go round up them horses!” He very successfully gets them off of the road and headed down the dirt path from whence they came, and the next hour or so was spent with us following the horses, trying to get them back in their pen, complicated by the fact that there were plenty of woods for them to hide in. It is a wonderful serendipitous country adventure as we try to help out the neighbors who knew whose horses they were but didn’t know how to contact the owner, who wasn’t home. I must say Amy and I aren’t doing much besides hanging out with Glenda and neighbor Brenda as Jeremiah and the Brenda’s nephew tool around on foot and via a knobby-tired golf cart to get the horses back in the pen and fix the part of the fence where they were able to get out.

Eventually the adventure is over, and they take us to a nice, cheap campsite outside of Ichetucknee. We loved spending the afternoon with Glenda and Jeremiah and were blessed to see how she could strike up a conversation with just about anyone and make them feel loved, make them feel like a human being.

We try to rest in the shade in the campsite’s grassy area, but there are ants everywhere. Amy wakes up feeling very sick and dehydrated, we set up camp and use our stove for the first time to cook a freeze-dried backpacker meal of chili.

It’s hard to fall asleep (it’s hot and humid, and loud – I even wake up in the morning to, “Does anyone have anymore beers?”). I must have squeezed water out of my camelbak during the night, because there is some water in the tent again in the morning. Don’t worry about your tent, Dan, we’re taking good care of it… we dry it out every time it ends up wet in the morning :).

2 Truths and 2 Lies

Instead of 2 truths and a lie, we bring you our first installment of… 2 truths and 2 lies!

The first person to respond with the correct answers will receive a postcard from the road. So respond in a comment on this post with your answers, and your address.

  1. Amy has showered every day since we left last Tuesday
  2. Amy has showered 2 times since we left last Tuesday
  3. Amy has brushed her teeth 2 times a day since we left last Tuesday
  4. Amy has brushed her teeth 2 times since we left last Tuesday

Good luck!

Monologue

Many people said that riding our bikes to Canada was going to be very difficult. I knew that it would be. I also knew that I wouldn’t know how hard it was going to be until we actually tried it. Let me say it: it is very hard. I’ve only done 2 days of riding at this point and giving up has seemed real. We could rent a car and drive around for the next few months and just take pictures of us on our bikes. Would you know the difference? Probably, I’m a good storyteller, but not that good.  Truthfully, I can say that I don’t know if we’ll make it to Canada by riding our bikes.  But we are going to try our best to try our best to ride them for a long time. By the time we did the 120 miles to Gainesville, I felt as if I’d ridden to Canada.

Did I have realistic expectations? No, but I don’t think that you can.  Did we properly train? Nope. The trip is kicking our butts, but that’s okay.  I keep a bike rider’s credo in mind: ride your ride. I am not a great biker rider.  But I do love to ride a bike.  I don’t love having a heavy bike and riding up hills.  But I love the feeling that comes at the crest of the hill and the rush that comes from flying down the hill.

At this point we’re taking it nice and slow. I hope to do 50 miles tomorrow. We probably won’t make it to Tallahassee for 3 days.  (Sorry Adam, Casey, Kelly, and Cat) The road is tough. But that’s okay. Life is about challenges and perseverance. We can hide in fear, or we can choose to live. I hope I am alive.

Miles to date: about 125

Day 3: Humble pie isn’t so bad

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Gainesville, FL (10 mi / 16 km)

I did not want to take a rest day at first. Nathan suggested that it might be prudent. He was right. We hung out with Sam and his roommate Adam. We talked about big life things and he cooked us dinner.  We chilled out and met up with our Gainesville cycling guru, Joel. He gave us tons of tips and took us to a bike shop. We did end up getting clip in (clipless/SPD) pedals, but not much else. It wasn’t the friendliest or most helpful shop we’ve been to.  We missed our Orange Cycle friends.  They’ve spoiled us. But Joel gave us the hook up and took us out riding on a “recovery” ride. Joel is an excellent cyclist. I am a novice.  The Hawthorne trail was beautiful, but there are a lot of hills.  A 10-mile recovery ride wasn’t quite what we had in mind. So I’m recovering as I write this.

Day 2: Is it going to be like this forever?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fruitland Park, FL to Gainesville, FL (~60 mi / 97 km)

We slept in and were on the road by about 7:45. It was already hot. But I think that we packed up at a record pace because the devil mosquitoes were eating us. (What is their purpose in the food chain?)

Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Where is the coffee?

We stopped at a Panera in the Villages: yes the wonderful retirement community. There were more golf carts in the parking lot than cars. Seriously. Coffee was the goal.

It was hot.

Highway 441 has many rolling hills. Which in theory is nice, but when on a bike with at least 25 pounds of gear and a backpack with 3 liters of water and a ukulele it is tough.

The morning was uneventful.

We found a nice little church north of Ocala and chilled out for a few hours. It must have looked sort of strange: we pitched our tent to dry it out in the sun with other random things that were soaked from last night’s rain and then we had our bikes unloaded the shade with us napping and reading for 3 hours.

It was nice. We decided to get back on the road about 4:45. The heat seemed to have dissipated some.

Mistake.

We were still 30 some miles from Gainesville. I kept on thinking of the YouTube video David after the dentist: will it be like this forever?

The hills were devastating and so was the heat. Every thing I swear was uphill.

We had to stop a lot.

Nathan’s brother, Sam’s friend Joel (follow that…Sam’s friend, Joel) is a bike rider and asked how many miles per hour we were averaging…like 20? No, we are in over our heads. More like 9 hopefully 10 miles an hour.

It took us seemingly forever to get to Gainesville.

We left Fruitland Park at 7:20 am and arrived in Gainesville at about 9 pm. It was awesome seeing old favorite places in my old collegiate stomping grounds, but I was too dead tired to appreciate much of anything.

We arrived at Sam’s apartment to applause and a little laughter. Apparently we looked a bit loaded down.