Tuesday 20th January 2015:
Well what a few days! So much to tell you all! Firstly, I can report the saloon was indeed very cool! I felt a bit sad I was without a leather jacket and I couldn’t bring myself to take loads of photos so y’all will have to take my word for it… big moustaches, long pony tails, wooden floors and bottles of beer make for a cool saloon. My motel on the other hand wasn’t so cool. It had a lock on the door and a toilet so things could have been worse but I didn’t hesitate to put both my tent footprint and then my sleeping bag on the bed before going to sleep. I considered the floor as an alternative but decided that the cigarette ash scattered all over the carpet was in fact a worse option than the suspiciously off-white sheets. To top it off, the next morning when I came to check-out and get my 5 dollar deposit back there wasn’t a soul in sight and I had to begrudgingly leave without it!
So cycling off minus my 5 dollars I found myself feeling more apprehensive than the previous day… that evening was to be the first where I would not know in advance where I would be sleeping. There were no camping grounds that I knew and no towns big enough to have hotels. I have repeatedly been surprised by the size, or lack thereof, of some of the places that have had misleadingly big text on my map! As far as I’m concerned, a big town has big map-text (think font size 14), medium towns are a reliable font 12 and small villages can only just be read by most adults when held at arms length. So when I arrived at the large-fonted Molasses Junction on my first day I was somewhat startled to find nothing more than a petrol station and a half empty shop at a T-junction! As a result, I learnt quickly that unless accommodation/camping was specifically marked, text size no longer had any meaning! With that in mind, I trusted my map when it told me there would be no accommodation for at least 60 miles.
Luckily I ended up being waved over that afternoon by a passing motorist who wanted to hear about where I was going and who then told me about a very basic wild camp a few miles off course. Although the detour was not ideal I thought I’d go and suss it out – at least it would be free.
When I reached the turning to the site I bumped into a really friendly couple, Brad and Sherry (and Josie the dog!), who had been out running along the camp trail. We got chatting about where I was heading and my plans for that evening and they ended up inviting me to stay in their barn in the next town. Very thankful to have somewhere with running water and friendly faces next door I jumped at the chance and met up with them later that afternoon at their amazing barn.
I had my tent set up in minutes and was relaxing on a sun lounger when they arrived for Sherry to ride the horses and Brad to extend his daily run by lapping the paddock! It was such a lovely spot and they were such lovely people I felt incredibly relieved to have bumped into them and not to be at the wild camp on my tod! They actually ended up inviting me in for dinner and then to stay in their spare room. Both into their wildlife, I chuckled as we moved 3 glass cages of snakes out of the room in order for me to go in! Oh and did I mention there was a hawk in the living room too! Terry Gregory, you would have loved it!
The next morning I set off with a bag full of oranges from Brad and Sherry’s trees and headed towards Gainsville. The ride was lovely, nearly all day on bike trails, and the weather beautiful. I also had the added excitement of some pretty awesome wildlife spotting…
You’ll be pleased to hear this second spotting was in a designated nature reserve but whilst casually wandering along the river trail a particularly large fella happened to be crossing the path right in front of me giving me a near heart attack! I very quickly abandoned my plans to reach the park’s viewing platform and instead power walked my way back to the raised boardwalk hoping to arrive with all limbs attached!
Much safer pictures of trees and birds would have to do from now on!
So after my near death alligator experience I was lucky enough to bump into one of the nicest people in Gainsville… the lovely Filipe. Having recently through-hiked the Appalachian Trail Filipe was “passing on” the kindnesses he received during his 6 month epic trip (yeah that’s 6 months of hiking!) and incredibly generously took me out for dinner and local beers. If this trip continues in the way it’s started this first week I’m going to have a lifetime of passing on to do and I shall genuinely look forward to it. A big thanks to you again Filipe should you find yourself reading this! And for everyone else, check out some of his videos… a clever man indeed, both inspiring and slightly depressing when I accept that my handiwork with a camera will never be half as creative let alone accomplished: https://vimeo.com/user9093797
St. Augustine – Gainsville: 18th – 21st Jan 2015
Total so far: 160km