By David Freeze
Another big notch gets carved in my gunbelt! Ranking as one of the two hardest solo cycling adventures yet, right there with Alaska.
I left the Sleep Inn at first light and rode 31 miles through Palatka, East Palatka, Hastings and then on into Crescent Beach, arriving just before 10am. Roads used were SR 20, 13 over the Johns River Bridge, then 207 and 206 on into the beach. Photographer Karen Leonard had me practice the arrival photos once before she shot them. I told her I had already practiced this part plenty. Then, we got official trip ending wheel dipping photos, assisted by an enthusiastic group from Salt Life Church in Gainesville. Another thing to like about that city!
There are some things to do! I have got to start cutting down on the massive amounts of food. Actually, I think that started yesterday. My hydration just needs to be better always! There are some things that must be done to catch up my duties in other places, but I’m looking forward to seeing people around the county again.
I’ve started to reminisce about all that happened over the last 43 days. It’s amazing how many things I can forget quickly from one, two or especially five or six weeks ago. I will pull all the notes together and add plenty more from memory to make another book.
Here are a few things that jump out quickly. None of my other trips have had the endless climbing of the first four weeks, most of it in extreme heat. The long periods between supplies kept the bike load heavy and often the water hot. I was so happy to dump the hot and replace it with ice-filled super cold liquid. I now appreciate ice more than ever. Shade too! What I will remember from the trip across the desert in 114 degree heat won’t be as a bad as it was.
There were lots of encounters with law enforcement along the way. I will skip mentioning the over zealous state troopers, and remember with happinesses and professionalism the deputies and other officers, including the border patrol agents. I’ve saved their contact info and will remember each of them with a book once it’s done.
I was excited from the start about seeing the border and learned a lot from the area residents. The border is in a terrible mess. That was the paper’s goal when we first talked about this trip.
Speaking of residents, meeting them along the way was the top reward of the whole adventure, just ahead of the interaction with readers. I picked up some new followers from other areas and valued everyone who provided input.
As always, people are always asking what is next, what is on my bucket list? One thing that I want to do is actually spend some time on the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers, possibly on one of those riverboats. Big rivers amaze me! The next bike ride, that is another story. I have taken trips now that have framed the country, more or less, with several more through the middle in various directions. I’ll be working on it.
The Salisbury Post and a host of sponsors made this trip possible. Frank and Janis Ramsay, Father and Son Produce, Dick and Jean Richards, Gear for Races, Vac and Dash, Mindi Fires, The Trophy House, David Post, Wayne Cobb, Leonard Wood, Accelerate Therapy and Performance and Skinny Wheels. Thank them when you can and hopefully it won’t be long till we get together again. Rayna Gardner, longtime planner and business manager of my trips, gets a lot of credit too. Andy Mooney and Paris Goodnight from the Post put the updates together in the Post and are always a pleasure to work with.
Biggest of all, thank you all for the prayers and support, but the best boost to me is to feel that Rowan and an even bigger surrounding area are riding along as I go. One thing that starts now, we can talk about this adventure for a long time. I hope we do as I see you around! We didn’t meet a Grizzly this time, but we met a hurricane and barely staggered out of the desert on another day.
This adventure is dedicated to Ollie McKnight and Patsy McBride, both big supporters previously but who watched this one from heaven.
And last but not least, as requested, the Good Lord did ride with me, every single day! I wouldn’t be here if He didn’t and I am especially humbled by the whole experience.