After camping in Gulf State Park and enjoying the Gulf of Mexico, it took us a week to cross the Florida panhandle. Cruising through Pensacola was interesting, as my brother was stationed there for some of his years as an aviator in the Navy. The Panhandle is made up of the Western Highlands and Marianna Lowlands. Rolling hills and the Apalachiola and Perdido Rivers lie in this area. I was surprised by the vast amount of rural farmland we cycled by and the number of sweet, little towns. It gave me a whole new insight into the many contrasts within this state.
Hot and humid southern weather arrived as we camped on beautiful spots like Seminole Lake. Alligator eyes shimmered at night on the water. No night swimming for us.
On May 17 we crossed the St. John's River into East Palatka. It runs north for 318 miles before draining into Jacksonville. From there we cycled east into the oldest city in America, St. Augustine, which was founded in 1565. Spanish Coquistador Don Juan Ponce de Leon actually put shore at this site searching for the Fountain of Youth in 1513. The group landed during Spain's Feast of Flowers (the Easter season) so the new land was named Florida, meaning "flowery". We saw many flora and citrus in bloom for sure. We also enjoyed a day of sight seeing including Flagler College and the massive Castillo de San Marcos (the fort that has guarded the city's waterfront for three centuries). Fifty days after beginning our cross country trek we celebrated our final day on the Southern Tier. But the next morning got back in the saddle to ride north along oceanfront A1A to Jacksonville Beach, Mark Trail's hometown. Light winds made the ride easy and our bicycle computers docked over 3,100 miles.
Our adventure was over, but what we witnessed over the past 2 months crossing the U.S. will linger. Not only the beautiful, but the distressing things as well- environmental concerns (fracking, pit mining, oil extraction, waste/pollution, feed lots, severe drought, fire devastation, flooded Florida towns), economic affects (extremely depressed small towns, urban sprawl 20 miles out from cities, extreme poverties on reservations and especially, southern rural areas), and social dilemmas (alcoholism, drug abuse, and crime reported to us by residents of these areas). We have many challenges ahead of us as a nation, as well as our place in the human race. We each go back to our communities to do our part to better the world. Thanks to all those who made our rides easier and more memorable. A special appreciation also, to my fabulous cycling partner, Mark - through highs and lows it was an amazing adventure to share together. Thank you. We both extend gratitude to God and the universe for our many blessings.
We met many long distance cyclists. We wish them safe and happy travels. Here are just a few:
Two blokes from the UK, Gary and Steve, crossing the U.S, and previously have done the Northern Tier.
Mark and Alex, from the southeast to the Pacific Northwest.
Thank you for sharing in our blog. If you are interested in supporting notable bike organizations and efforts here are just a few.
Fellow cyclist, Michael Zachary, raising funds for World Bicycle Relief-
Tallahassee Bicycle House- www.bicyclehouse.org
Rails to Trails-www.railstotrails.org
Adventure Cycling Association-www.adventurecycling.org