Pensacola to St. Augustine
The last segment of our ride took us through the Florida Panhandle to the Atlantic Ocean. If anyone had thought that Florida was flat, they would have been surprised. Although the hills are not long and steep, the average number of feet climbed averaged over 2,000 per day. Tallahassee is known as the hilliest city in Florida--and I think we must have climbed nearly all of them.
Over the past few weeks, we have encountered several others riding self-contained across the US. Among them were John and Rosemarie from Washington State, Jim from San Francisco, Tim, a recent graduate of Boston college and Lars, a retired doctor from Sweden. All were fulfilling their dream adventure of a cross country bicycle ride. Lars was the most colorful. His fully loaded bike likely weighed about 100 pounds and he generally was able to keep up with us on the flatter areas. He had left San Francisco and headed for Miami and Key West with only standard road maps for guidance. He told me that, in Sweden, doctors see only 25 patients per week. In the US, a doctor may see that many in one morning. I have no doubt that all of those riders completed their journeys.
One of Florida's marketed features is the Suwannee River, immortalized by Stephen Foster's song. He never actually saw the Suwannee but simply needed a pleasant sounding 2 syllable name for his song. The Swanee definitely was a much better name than his original choice of the PeeDee.
The Florida roads were the best of any state. Highway 90 is a major East/West artery and it usually has a smooth, 6 foot wide bike lane on each side with a rumble strip for traffic separation. We felt very comfortable with trucks, busses and recreational vehicles passing safely clear of our bicycles.
On most of the ride, our campsite or other lodging for the night was within cycling distance of a restaurant, supermarket or convenience store. However, on occasion, we were distanced too far to obtain a decent meal. In those situations, the tour leaders would sometimes make spaghetti for dinner or pancakes for breakfast. Those actually tasted better than many of the restaurant meals.
There was considerable movement in the road kill tally as we progressed across the country. Armadillos faded into 4th place while snakes moved up to 3rd. An alligator and several others were added to the list but not in sufficient numbers to make the top 5. The general consensus was that the raccoons and possums were about tied at the top. However, we gave the award to the raccoons because, in the final analysis, we thought that some of the possums may have been simply playing possum.
After 52 days and 3,112 miles, we finally reached St. Augustine. Friends and family greeted us with bottles of champaign as we rode onto a walkway and into the sand at the beautiful Anastasia Park. The dipping of our wheels in the Atlantic was a fitting end to the various challenges of our ride across the US. It had been a long, hard ride but all of the inconveniences were forgotten with the elation experienced at the concluding celebration.
When is the next ride?
Too much cycling can have dire consequences
There are people with more talent but there is no excuse for not trying harder.