Feb 4: RD 4, AFHD 25
With the major change from riding as a threesome to riding as a single, the weather also decided to do its own major change. Our typically cool mornings have been very short-lived with clear blue skies warming us up along with the countryside. Today, however, the totally overcast skies had that “gonna be here all day” look to them. Hugs all around for Carol, Jackie and Richard as they motored out of the RV park and headed back to Jacksonville for the return of the rented rig. It has been wonderful sharing the start of this ride with them.
With our friends departure, I prepared to get ready for the day. Cathy was free to explore along the great Suwanee River. And it is a major waterway in these parts. She loves looking for the LBB’s (little brown birds” and trying to identify them, especially since there are several species known to be here that she doesn’t have on her life list. She was also surprised to find how fearsome and often the floods are that are associated with this river that we all picture from Stephen Foster’s timeless song. Suffice to say that the crests from some recent floods were 20 FEET! over the normal level of the river. There are no plans to dam it for flood control since that same flooding is what refills the mangrove swamps along its banks.
At 42 degrees, it was evident I needed to adapt my riding togs. I pulled on three layers, hoping that I would be shedding them before long. As I headed out of the RV park and on to the highway, just enough of a sprinkle of rain had me turning around to go fetch my trusty Camino poncho. Now short of places to carry everything, I added the 2nd pannier. I almost looked like a cross-country biker now 🙂
The silver lining in all this was that the winds that have been consistently out of the north west continued. Since leaving St Augustine, my route has been a little more north than west. Today’s route got me going in a generally all-day western direction. So, the NW winds were behind me for a good share of today’s 75 mile ride.
I should digress for just a bit here to respond to the numerous “So, what’s the ride like so far?” questions. For my Ragbrai compatriots, think of the easiest day you’ve EVER had on Ragbrai. Got it? Now think of a ride TWICE that easy!! That’s what the first 3 days have been. Basically flat terrain, temps in the 70s!, excellent roads or bikepaths, adequate stops for refreshment (admittedly, no pie), and around 60 mile days. Perfect, huh?
There you have it. So today is no reason for complaining. After all, tho it never warmed up past the mid 50s, (I still had on the same 3 layers at the end of the day) it didn’t rain either. There were quite a few long, but basically gentle hills (more of them all the time as I get farther into the Panhandle), and at 75 miles, longer than I’ve done heretofore. Still all good!
I’m now about 270 miles out from St Augustine and you can see how little elevation climb there has been. Some spots on today’s route were higher, but we’d be splitting hairs to add them in.
I’m sure there’s a descriptive word that goes beyond “rural”, and that’s where I traveled today. There was at least a 20 mile stretch where the only dwelling on any property was a single or double wide trailer. And the word “prosperous” didn’t apply to any of them. Surprisingly, again, at about 20 mile intervals, there would be a gorgeous estate with large yards and fenced in pastures. Except for scattered logging operations, I couldn’t see what “fuels” the economy here. A major exception to that is depicted in this photo. Make no mistake, Lee Family Peanut Farm is no small peanuts enterprise!
Whoever is choreographing this ride sees to it that there is a bit of excitement (welcome or otherwise) for each day. Since yesterday didn’t provide this adrenaline boost, today made up for it with two episodes. The first occurred just as I turned off a “lightly used” country road on to a “very sparsely used” country road. As I was checking the map in the mapcase on the handle bars, a semi-automatic high caliber rifle opened up in the timber immediately adjacent to the road I had just entered. Oh, Yeah! That’ll raise the hair way up on the back of your neck! I prayed it wasn’t aimed at me and contined riding. And the firing continued. So I rode faster! Adrenaline is good like that.
Episode two was not much later when two dogs didn’t stop at my usually effective command of “Go Home Dog!!, issued in my best Parade Ground voice. So, super crank speed again. The little yappy terrier just wouldn’t give it up. I was glad it was little short legs instead of his much longer legged fellow bike chaser. I yelled back at him that I hoped he got ran over getting back home.
There are specific roads designated as part of the USA Bicycle Route system. These have ample bike lane space on both sides of the road and make for less worrisome travel. I spent a goodly amount of time on just such a road today.
Looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight! So, good night to all, and thanks for prayers and following along.