Day 49: Palatka, Florida, to St. Augustine, Florida

Last Coca-Cola of the trip. Maybe ever. (Thanks to Barbara for a bunch of these photos!)

Well, that’s it. At a little before noon today, we walked our bikes onto the beach at Anastasia State Park, doused each other in celebratory Coca-Cola, and just like that, our 49-day bike ride became something we did, and not something we’re doing. Maybe tomorrow I will realize it’s over, but I haven’t quite processed it yet.

Tony put together a very special playlist for our short ride into St. Augustine today, including:

  • The A-Team Theme
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  • Hold On – Wilson Phillips
  • We Built This City – Starship
  • Kickstart My Heart – Motley Crue
  • Blackened – Metallica
  • Angelf&#% – The Misfits
  • King Of The Road – Roger Miller

We flew down Highway 207 all the way here, and were welcomed by a screaming woman wearing a Big City Mountaineers T-shirt about a block before we were to ride over the Bridge of Lions. Barbara Bain and her daughter Alli had driven down from Jacksonville to greet us and escort us to the beach. We biked a short few miles on A1A and rolled onto sand, took some photos, and turned around and rode to A1A Cycle Works to drop off our bikes for shipment.

Now I’m off my bike. Which means I lived through the bike ride of my life.
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Day 48: High Springs, Florida, to Palatka, Florida

Our team photo with Robin this morning. Note that I am taller than Tony.

We rode out of High Springs, Florida, this morning as a team of four, and everyone from Iowa got a flat tire today. First Nick, before we even got out of town, then me, with about 35 miles left, and then Tony, when a screw punched through his rear tire on Highway 20. It was my first flat since just east of Langtry, Texas, and Tony’s first flat since just east of Van Horn, Texas. I’m crossing my fingers for the last 40 miles tomorrow. If I get a flat with less than 2 miles left, I’m walking it in.

We rode nearly half a mile out of our way today to thank a BCM donor, Dean Chance, for his recent donation. Turns out the Southern Tier route goes right by his office in Gainesville, so we stopped and had lunch with him, got a tour of his office and an adjustment for his old pal from chiropractic school, Tony. Then we enjoyed 16 miles of bike path all the way to Hawthorne, and then we took Highway 20 all the way into Palatka. And that was day 48 of 49. Tomorrow, 40 miles will get us to the Atlantic Ocean.

I was reading a blog from some other bike tourers, and Dwight, the guy writing, said something to the effect of, “I can’t wait to get back to my normal life. Wait, what am I talking about? This is my life.”

Today felt like the 50th day in a row we did this. In reality, it was only the 48th day out of the last 52. This has been my life:
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Day 47: Madison, Florida, to High Springs, Florida

Nick: “Boy, if you were going to pick three guys who look exactly the same as they did in high school …”

I think Nick and I have both gained about 20 pounds, and Tony’s six inches taller and 40 pounds bulkier, but we all pretty much have the same haircuts. Mine being just a general mess. But now, Tony’s a successful entrepreneur, Nick’s traveling all over the globe as an engineer, and I’m working for BCM doing a job no one ever told me existed. This is officially one of those things I never thought I’d be doing with these guys 13 years after I graduated high school, if you would have asked me in 1997.

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Day 46: Tallahassee, Florida, to Madison, Florida

We have about three inches left to the coast on the Florida map on page 13 of the Rand McNally Midsize Road Atlas. We’re in our fourth time zone, eighth state, 213 donations, $17,967 raised, and we have 210 miles left to ride in three days. We’re also closing in on roughly 300 Snickers bars consumed, I believe.

Today, we added a third alumnus of the Class of 1997 dishwasher/busboys at the Pinicon Restaurant and Lounge in New Hampton, Iowa. World traveler and engineer Nick Kolbet arrived late last night with panniers in tow, and hopped on his bike and rocked out 67 miles today like it was a morning jog. Having Nick along is a little bit more fresh energy for us, and we have basically the same dynamic we had as teenagers. And pretty much the same jokes.

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Day 45: Blountstown, Florida, to Tallahassee, Florida

This was the driest time of the day. Then we got dumped on.

I think at the end of any long trip, the newness has worn off and you start unconsciously “enjoying” it less. You don’t take as much time to get your camera out, you shoot fewer photos, spend less time looking at the scenery, talk to local folks a little bit less, take a little more time to raise your hand to wave at passing cars, and you start thinking about the end more and more.

I think getting rained on all day definitely accelerates the start of that process. We rode 50 miles today, and got rained on for about 40 of those miles. We’re both starting to count down those last miles, and the time we spend not riding definitely feels idle — maybe we should have ridden another 30 miles today and tried to make it in a little earlier? I feel a little guilty that I’m not as present for these days, and that I’m spending time in the saddle thinking about mountains, and climbing rope, and seeing my friends in Denver again, and getting back to the BCM office, but I suppose that’s natural.
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Day 44: Niceville, Florida, to Blountstown, Florida

As we rode through Clarksville, Florida on Highway 20 today, I heard a loud bang on my left. I thought maybe the car that just passed me had run over something, but then I heard another bang. And another one. Turns out it was just a guy standing on the porch of his trailer home, repeatedly firing a rifle into the woods, about 40 feet off the road. We stopped at the convenience store next door and got some chocolate milk. None of the other customers seemed to have noticed.
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Day 42: Milton, Florida, to Niceville, Florida

Before we started this trip, my pal Mick told me that everyone we talked to along the way would ask 1) Where we were going on our bikes, 2) Where we started, and 3) How far we rode every day. For the most part, he was right. I notice a lot of people, including our waitress at Kwik Burger in Milton this morning, have one more thing to say: I could never do that.

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