May 6, 2018
Maybe we’ve sounded a bit cranky our first few days? All I know is last night I collapsed on the carpet when we finally got to our AirBnb room and moaned for a while as Dee took a shower. Pathetic.
But today was a whole new day. We enjoyed the 13-mile Old Cutler Trail from Homestead to south of Miami, then the M path greenway (top photo) into the city. It is very cool: you ride under the elevated train in the middle of the road. The train tracks above gave us perfect shade from the morning sun, which was already hot.
The rest of our 72 miles today were a mix of Route 1 and A1A. We had hot sun, rain showers that we waited out under an awning, and much-needed cloud cover for the last few hours. We passed the bouncing beach scene in Fort Lauderdale and gawked at seaside and waterway mansions in Hillsboro before rolling into Boca Raton.
And here we are, at the beautiful home of a running friend from Greensboro. She’s gone on a work trip to Canada but left us a key, treats in the refrigerator and towels for her pool. The bar has now been set quite high for all hosts still to come!
Before I doze off, some of the things I’m grateful for:
Our bikes taking in the sunrise in Boca Raton.
May 7, 2018
We had a fun day of riding despite the unrelenting heat. After breakfast and one more goodbye to Sally before we see her in R.I., we headed north past ultra lavish homes along A1A, appreciating mostly that their sculpted hedges and such gave us some sweet morning shade.
We rode across lots of bridges today, back and forth across the Intracoastal Waterway...but they were flat! Drawbridges! I love drawbridges! And the sea. We got great views of it every so often between the mansions and over the hedges. It was an exquisite blue with a little green and it was sparkling. The light breeze coming off the water was as refreshing as a cool drink.
The riding went easily today, with nice stretches of greenway interspersed with bike lanes. And because we stopped to take photos, here’s a small gallery from the day.
Dee enjoying the Greenway outside of Titusville, FL
May 9, 2018
What a difference a day makes! At this time last night I was truly worried. We had biked into strong winds the last 20 miles of an 84-mile day. It was hot and the winds were defeating, then Dee reported the same northerly winds were forecast for the next two days. The sun has been relentless and my skin is fried. I climbed into bed with chills, mentally and physically spent, and worried that maybe this trip was just too much. (Dee, characteristically, was doing fine, you should know. I’ve known this woman for 32 years and she’s a bit super human.)
This morning we left our little roadside motel without even the comfort of a cup of coffee before hitting the road. Our aim was to ride as much as we could in the relative cool of the morning when the wind would be as gentle as possible. We climbed over a bridge back over to the mainland, turned right and headed north. It was a beautiful morning.
Good morning from Melbourne, looking back at the bridge we just crossed.
The first 20 miles were delightful. We rode along the West Bank of the Indian River enjoying the views and along a bike lane of Route 1 enjoying bits of shade from trees along the road. At 20 miles, just before entering Cocoa, we spotted the Tilted Cup and enjoyed a delicious breakfast right on our route. Well fueled, we headed for Titusville, the temperature continuing to rise. Next stop was the Village Inn, at mile 38, where it was free pie day! Dee loves bargains as much as my husband does. It was a perfect treat: sharing a slice of strawberry rhubarb with vanilla ice cream, ice coffee, and ice water for our water bottles.
Titusville is embracing trails these days, after years of being known for its Kennedy Space Center. We enjoyed the longest stretch of greenway yet, a beautiful wide path that took us maybe 20 miles north.
Gary Norman, a local greenway enthusiast, gave us some local knowledge, including that we’d find a little tent up the way in Mayville selling drinks and snacks to cyclists. We found it and loved it — ice-cold Gatorade and water on the honor system.
Please note how I am wearing as much clothes as I can stand in the heat to keep the sun off my arms and quads. Dee has gone the opposite way, opting for as little clothing as possible: a sun dress with an open back. Today I told her that when she gets home to Rhode Island and it’s a nice hot day, I want her to go for a run in a long sleeved shirt and capris and feel a little of my pain.
Economic development along the East Coast Greenway comes in all forms.
All in all, our 76-mile day was a good one. I am climbing into bed at the Best Western with less heat rash, slightly sore quads, and a renewed sense that this crazy journey is possible. With 450 miles behind us, we have met coastal Florida up close and personally (two more days of riding here before we cross into Georgia) and we’re excited to be heading for St. Augustine tomorrow. Cheerio!
The Sweetheart Trail in downtown Daytona
May 10, 2018
The bike-tour gods were smiling on us today — or, as a woman we talked with in a riverfront park in Daytona put it, little angels were following us. Neither of us is much into angels but we appreciated the woman’s sentiment and her hopes that we stay safe.
We had a wonderful ride, Edgewater to St. Augustine. The East Coast Greenway here forms the eastern side of the developing St. John’s River to Sea Loop. It’s gorgeous, highly recommended. In the early morning we pedaled along the river out of Edgewater to a fun greenway along the riverfront in Daytona. After we crossed the Intracoastal Waterway for the 547th time or so (immersion therapy for my bridge phobia, I think it’s starting to kick in) and cooled off with a mid-morning snack stop at Starbucks, we had a gorgeous road along the river from Ormond north, complete with precious shade from trees and hedges. Then we crossed over to the ocean side and enjoyed the views of beautiful beach while riding on a nice greenway path on the other side of the road. At Flagler Beach — hopping with surfers and parasailing and beach goers— we stopped for cold drinks and to honor our two Kona Roves for hitting 500 miles on this trip.
In Palm Shores, at what looks like the tip of a skinny spit of land we’d been riding most of the afternoon, we stopped in at Trailhead Bikes, a shop that sits right on the Greenway, and then rode through a magical stretch of winding greenway with jungly, tropical vegetation on both sides — delightful.
The last 20 or so miles took us past Fort Matanzas, the site of a bloody massacre between the Spanish and French, and on into St. Augustine, a charming city with its own fort, Castillo de San Marcos, and plenty of Spanish-influence architecture. We are staying at an AirBnb in a beautiful neighborhood of older homes, some shambly and some quite handsome, just up from the fort. We got to take a nice evening walk into town for dinner and back through the fort.
I don’t know the formula that made today so nice. No headwinds makes a big difference, certainly —at worst we had easterly winds and sometimes even a tailwind. The scenery was varied, the roads and greenways often quiet. Partly I may just be settling into the cycling on our seventh straight day of riding. Or maybe it was angels. In any case, this is the kind of day I pictured when I dreamed about this trip: sailing along on two wheels all day, sharing interesting stories and conversation with Dee, taking in beautiful shorelines, smelling boxwood blooms and cut grass and sea air. I had no cares or concerns beyond keeping myself hydrated and fed (and relatively cool by squirting water on my long sleeve shirt) and checking the map on my phone every so often to keep us on course.
Every day won’t be like this, we know that. Rain, hills, highways and more are ahead of us. Which is all the more reason to savor the good days.
Front steps of our AirBnb in St. Augustine — thanks Pam!
Post dinner, walking at The Castillo.
Riding across the Intracoastal Waterway to Vilano Beach from St. Augustine
May 12, 2018
We were sitting around the dinner table looking at photos tonight at our friend Virginia’s house. She has moved from New York City to Amelia Island, where she spent her summers as a kid. She hosted us overnight on our drive down to Key West a week ago, and again these last two nights as we enjoyed our first day off. Dee was air-dropping us photos from the past week on her phone and I realized that we are going to have to start taking photos of street signs or other identifying information to help us remember where we were — the days and places and stretches of pretty greenway are starting to blend together. Or melt together in the mid-day sun...
We had another good ride on Friday, 56 miles — a much needed light day. We had a similar mix all morning of oceanfront and Waterway as the day before. In tony Ponte Vedra, the traffic was backed up in the southbound lane, probably for a golf tournament at Sawgrass. We were ready for mid-morning coffee by then, but clearly two sweaty cyclists with zinc oxide on their lips and helmet hair weren’t quite the right patrons for this resort. No matter, we found the Bold Bean on the outskirts of Jacksonville. Extra bonus: A LensCrafters store was right next door, so Dee got her sunglasses tightened and cleaned by a kind woman who came out to look at our bikes and wish us well on the trip.
Iced latte and oatmeal cookie in air conditioning: Mid-morning refueling.
The last 15 miles of the ride were our most stunning in all of Florida. In Mayport we took the ferry across the St. John’s River ($1 for cyclists) to Fort George Island. We picked up snacks at the Circle K and had a picnic in a pavilion overlooking the river. A protected greenway took us from Little Talbot to Big Talbot Islands with sweeping views of inlets, bright white sand, and fields of grass and wildflowers. There were a few motorboats anchored on the beaches off in the distance but it all had a wild, undiscovered feel. Dee stopped to talk with a park ranger as we left Little Talbot and he offered a few helpful pointers, like how to pick up the greenway through Big Talbot just off a parking lot. We told him about our trip and he got a wistful look. “I wish I could go with you,” he said, not entirely joking.
We were downright giddy to arrive on Amelia Island and cruise the winding Greenway trails, under trees draped in Spanish moss, to reach Virginia’s house. So many pleasures, beginning with taking a shower without also having to wash our day’s clothes and wring them out, instead dropping them in her washing machine.
Today Andrew, a friend of Virginia’s, gave our bikes a good once over, cleaning and lubing the chains, checking the brakes, etc. Then we met Phil Scanlan and his fiancée Judy for a wonderful lunch by the beach. Phil is a super Greenway ambassador and the powerhouse behind the beautiful trail network on Amelia Island. We loved his stories of working with local and state officials in New Jersey on water pollution, volunteer advocacy that prepared him well for organizing and leading efforts on Amelia. The island’s trails are now recognized as a distinctive feature helping to set it apart from other Florida destinations. Phil is a great example of the many local champions, Florida to Maine, who help the East Coast Greenway continue to grow.
It’s on to Georgia tomorrow! But first a few tallies as we wrap up Florida:
Miles since Key West: 596
Days of riding : 8
Wildlife spotted: Roosters and chickens (free range all over Key West), turtles, deer, bunnies, pelicans, ibis, sand hill cranes, armadillos (dead on the road shoulder), dolphin, manatees (only the concrete kind, holding a mailbox, all up and down Route 1)
Terry, Liza, Dee, Lisa and Virginia. And Waffles.
May 13, 2018
This little bike adventure has been graced by so many kindnesses, big and small. Today we were embraced by kind acts from three brand-new friends.
Gift 1: Liza, a neighbor friend of Virginia’s, picked us up at 6:30 am in her tricked-out van. Our bikes were resting comfortably in the carpeted back, tied to hooks on the van walls. Liza drove us through the Starbucks window for lattes and then on to the waterfront in St. Mary’s, Georgia, allowing us to avoid miles of road construction heading out of Amelia Island. So we started our ride right where the ferry (that Phil Scanlan and others are working to get running again) would have dropped us off from Fernandina Beach. Liza felt like an instant, hilarious friend. She drove off last night with our bikes pre-loaded in her van, calling out to her husband, “Terry, how much do you think we can get for these bikes?” I loved her energy. The icing on the cake was that she brought Waffles along for the ride. The big fluff ball of a puppy sat for part of the time on the back seat between me and Virginia (who is joining us for three days of riding to Savannah) with his head in my lap. Swoon. I am missing Amos and Juno, my own pooches, so badly I can barely think about it, so I was a happy camper to ride along, one hand holding coffee and the other petting a sweet pup.
Gift 2: Waiting for us in St. Mary’s was Terry Landreth, a longtime East Coast Greenway champion and owner of Camden Bikes in town. He plugged in the address of our final destination in Brunswick today and then led us for the whole 57-mile ride. He began with a quick pedal through his charming town, pointing out local historic sites and waving to every car that passed — it’s clear he loves his community and knows just about everyone there. We saw a brand-new Greenway segment right downtown and watched people starting to queue up for the ferry to Cumberland Island.
We made a quick stop at Terry’s shop (the only gold-level bicycle friendly business in Georgia!) a few miles outside of town. Because, never pass up another bathroom stop when you’ve just had a latte. Then we rode, enjoying the beautiful Greenway segment in Woodbine, including a boardwalk along the Satilla River. At one point Terry spotted a cyclist far up the road and sprinted ahead to see who it was; soon Joseph, a 19-year-old riding a folding bike and bound for Pennsylvania, had joined our tour. Like Virginia says, the day had a Forrest Gump quality to it, like there might be 20 of us by the afternoon, rolling into Brunswick, Terry leading us all.
Terry made sure we didn’t miss this photo opp just after the Woodbine greenway section
It was a great treat to leave the navigation to someone else all day. Terry is a fabulous bike guide, pointing out sights and stopping at two convenience stores for bathrooms and cold drinks. He understood my bridge issues (the B word) enough to route us into Brunswick in a way that avoided the mammoth Rt. 17 bridge into town. We hugged our newest friend goodbye and he rode back a few miles to find his wife, waiting to celebrate Mother’s Day. Thanks for sharing him, Darlene!
Gift 3: Rita! Thanks to a call that Stefanie, an earlier end-to-end rider, put out for hosting us, Rita contacted us last week to offer her house in Brunswick for dinner and overnight stay. We took showers tonight and then sat in her kitchen as she made bowls full of food, the tasty innards for tacos that thoughtfully suited Dee, our vegetarian, and Virginia, our gluten-free guest rider. We talked and laughed with her and felt like friends in less than 10 minutes, I think. Rita says one of her daughters claims her mom picks up strays (Rita saw Stefanie on the road last spring with a thunderstorm brewing, went and got a truck and brought her home). I say Rita is spreading good karma that is going to come back to her in spades.
So we head off to sleep tonight with full bellies and full hearts. There’s no way to properly thank all the people who are helping us along the way, including eight sets of people who are staying with my dogs at the river in North Carolina through June. I can only gain inspiration from Liza, Terry, and Rita and re-commit to helping others similarly when I can. Cheers y’all.
Dee took this stunning shot of the Altamaha River as we approached Darien in the morning.
Coincidence and synchronicity are both defined as “striking occurrences of two or more events at one time.” The difference is that coincidence is perceived as chance or luck while synchronicity implies the presence of a deeper intelligence at work.
May 15, 2018
Synchronicity, then! I like the idea of a deeper intelligence at work as we make our way steadily north up the East Coast. Thanks to that deeper presence — and the good part about Facebook — my first-ever boyfriend, Charlie Finnegan from Wellesley High, now living in Rhode Island, and our crew were in southern coastal Georgia at the same time. Charlie and his wife, Linda, came to St. Simons Island for a few days to celebrate their daughter Olivia’s graduation from University of South Carolina. So, thanks to the marvels of Google, Dee found a sweet breakfast place in Darien to meet. We had a beautiful sunrise ride there, riding over creeks and marshes and rivers (see Dee’s stunning shot above).
Karla (another Wellesley High pal) please note: I put on sneakers for the forecast of rain (that never really came).
It was fun catching up with the Finnegans and, to be honest, soaking up a few “you rode how far?!” Charlie and I had reconnected some 20 years ago, pre-Facebook, when my kids were little and we lived in Mystic, CT, and my new friend Kim had grown up best friends with Linda. How cool is that? Linda said something sweet as we were wrapping up breakfast. I was talking to her about how fun it is to travel by bike, and how doable it is, how Bob had just taken his first bike trip with me last year and loved it. We — Finnegans and us — are at the wonderful age when, with any financial cushion at all, we can start to daydream about retiring, or at least cutting back on work, and Linda seemed intrigued. (Charlie loves to bike, he’s training for another MS 150 next month inRhode Island; Dee has done two with him and I joined them for one.) “Maybe there’s a reason we met for breakfast,” she told me. A reason or a deeper presence — I love to think of inspiring someone to start bike touring.
Enjoying a nice stretch of greenway out of Darien. I ride so fast with my 50 pounds of panniers and all that Dee couldn’t catch me in focus.
Water and bathroom stop where we gave some locals plenty to talk about
After lunch at Angie’s Diner in Midway, Dee met a family’s baby parrot. With the surname of Bird, she feels an affinity for winged creatures.
The rest of our miles, 66 in total to Richmond Hill, flew by in a blur. I don’t know how to explain it but they were effortless, even when we had to balance on the shoulder of Route 17 in the narrow space between the grass and a rumble strip. (“Shake and bake” is what Virginia’s biking friends call riding on rough roads and rumble strips.)
After fine dining (hey, they have a salad bar!) at the travel stop restaurant near our Holiday Inn, we had another sweet dose of synchronicity to end our day. We had been talking about watching Forrest Gump ever since Virginia laughed about how Joseph joining our ride on Sunday reminded her of all the people who joined Forrest as he started running across the U.S. When you get to be our age (Dee and me, not young Virginia) you can barely remember movie scenes, much less the story. I wish you could have seen us in our hotel room fumbling over how we could play Netflix from our phones on the TV. I’m playing a YouTube how-to video where the guy is talking about cables that we don’t have while Dee is clicking around with the remote. Then, miracle of miracles: Dee types in Forrest Gump and the movie was playing on one of the 87 channels on the TV, at 7:45 — just 10 minutes away!
The movie holds up after all these years, go watch it again. Tom Hanks is brilliant. And much of it was shot in Savannah, where are headed now. Coincidence? I think not.