Riding across the Intracoastal Waterway to Vilano Beach from St. Augustine
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)