Wow! What a great start to this ride! The totally-new-to-camping-Greenberg crew pulled their nice rented RV rig right in next to us at the Compass RV park last night (Jan 31). High fives all around for their trouble-less maiden trip from Jacksonville to our locale just outside St Augustine. A very social and pleasant breakfast this cool morning (Feb 1) in STella as we planned the day’s route. It was decided we would mount all the bikes on the rack on STella, all of us inside, and motor on down to the Adventure Cycling planned route start at the “Lion’s Bridge” at the water’s edge of Old St Augustine. Since I have envisioned from the onset that this ride is from “sea to sea”, I had previously ridden east over the two causeways separating St Augustine from the ocean, and dipped the rear tire into the gentle waves of the Atlantic in that ancient port of call. Then I rode back to the parking area, so, for Ken Brust, I rode it BOTH WAYS! But, I”m not going to tack those “extra” miles on the for the total tally.
By an incredible stroke of luck, a lady at the Lightner Museum had told us about an unheralded and little publized landmark located near the Castillo de San Marcos. It was absolutely just the PERFECT icon for this adventure. It has been in that spot since 1928.
Buoyed up by this find, the Intrepid Trio posed next to the marble lions guarding the bridge for the perfect photo op.
Having spent the last 4 days in this wonderful town, we were well acquainted with our exit from it and the first miles of the Southern Tier. It could not have been a more perfectly scripted day for this beginning; sunny skies, predicted high of 72 degrees, light winds, and NEARLY TOTALLY FLAT route! Cousin Carol and Cathy did a final round of sightseeing in the Old City, and then drove STella back to the Compass Campground and checked out. Cathy was designated Convoy Leader, and Carol dutifully followed in her wake as they took the RVs ahead to the planned camp for the night. Cathy will have more to say about that later 🙂
Adventure Cycling does a masterful job of planning and mapping the route. As little time as possible is spent on high-traffic roads, but there are situations where they can not be avoided. This roadside shrine about an hour out of town was a grim reminder that when we are on the road, vigilance is total. In any vehicle/bicycle confrontation, the bicycle always loses.
Our route soon took us to and through the famous vegetable production areas of Florida. In short order, we were in the midst of truly rural, production intensive farm country. The pass-through town of Palatka bills itself as the largest potato growing area of the eastern seaboard. We wondered if Maine would challenge that, but we saw many things that had us convinced. The size of the fields was amazing to me, knowing that the complete reliance on irrigation meant that they were leveled to the fraction of an inch over a mile to accommodate their trench irrigation systems.
It was obvious from the number of American and service flags flying in front of homes and businesses, that this part of the state wears its patriotism on its sleeve. The new, modern bridge over the immense St Johns River had these bronze heroes of the first world war still standing guard. When they were first put in place, the old drawbridge that stood here for years was brand new. The soldiers had never been “relieved of duty”, so stood yet at both ends of the new, modern bridge.
Since the last time I rode any distance on my bike was last October, I didn’t want to “overdo” the first day. I had planned on a 60 mile day, and our planned campsite came nearly “spot on” at 59 miles. It’s time to return to the Convoy Leader Cathy to describe getting to the campsite for “night one”.
STella drives almost like a car, I’m glad to say. I feel quite comfortable tooling down the highway in her. Our designated camp site tonight was a “primitive” campground several miles inside a state forest. As I started down a forest road best described also as primitive, followed by Carol and Jackie in their rv, I really hoped she would also prove good on narrow one-lane rutted sand paths brushed by tree branches every few feet. She was fine, but the road only got worse, and the forest service map became more and more confusing and bore less and less resemblance to what we were seeing. We decided that the wide spot back by the highway would be a perfect place, if only we could find it again! After many twists and turns we finally found our way back, just as the sun was going down, and just in time to meet the bikers as they arrived. Like we’ve always said “It’s an Adventure!”