Last day, 35 miles to go

Wheel full 70px On August 18th when I started this trip in Halifax, Nova Scotia I had absolutely no sense of any connection to a “last day” of what has turned out to be a 3,600 mile/5,700 kilometer 84 day bicycle ride.  Key West, of course, was my destination then as it is today, but it existed back then only as a remote point on a map.  For all that it figured in my consciousness when I set out I could have just as easily been riding to Tierra del Fuego or, for that matter, the moon.

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Wheel full 70px And now I’m here on the cusp of the end.  The connection has been formed, one rotation of my bike’s pedals at a time.  For whatever it is worth, I now have a string of memories that carry me at 10 miles/16 kilometers an hour down the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, past beaches and capes and rocky headlands, through farms and forests and  small towns and great cities, and punctuated by ferry rides, tent and table-top camping, and a variety of motels and other lodging, some nice, some not.  Those memories also include visits with friends and family and phone calls with my wife, as well as a lot of time just being alone with my thoughts.  It has been a great trip, and I can be satisfied that, within the context of my life to date, to the extent that I wanted to do something epic I have done just that.  I have nothing to complain about and no regrets.

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Wheel full 70px So I’m the blue dot, and in a few hours will ride the last one percent of my total mileage on the road.  That distance is a little more than five percent of my Florida miles

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and puts me about two-thirds of the way along the Florida Keys.

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Wheel full 70px My last night on the road was spent at Bahia Honda State Park, where I braved the bugs and raccoons and slept once again on a picnic table-top.

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Wheel full 70px I had ridden almost 68 miles/110 km to get here yesterday from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.  That ride included crossing the Seven Mile Bridge on the Overseas Highway.

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Wheel full 70px The bridge is, in fact, seven miles/11 km from one end to the other.  How about that?  Another amazing thing on a ride that’s been full of amazing things.  And today I’ll be in Key West.

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Eleven days, 550 miles to go

Wheel full 70px I stayed my first night in Florida in a Jacksonville city park campground along the coast.

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Wheel full 70px I also took my last ferry ride of the trip, all of about 10 minutes long over the St. Johns River.

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Wheel full 70px The ferry is part of the East Coast Greenway route.

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Wheel full 70px I am of the opinion after 10 weeks of riding that the ECG is more hype than anything else, and is not really a serious effort to link up points along the Atlantic Coast for bicycle travelers.  So many rants, though, and so little time.

Wheel full 70px I started this morning just above the “n” in Jacksonville on the map below.

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Wheel full 70px I’ll ride through St. Augustine and hit the 50 mile/80 kilometer point north of Palm Coast, but haven’t ID’d a place to spend the night yet.  The beaches here are all gorgeous, and it’s another beautiful day for a ride.

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And “pet friendly,” too!

Wheel full 70px One of the more challenging tasks I face each morning before taking off on the bike for the day is trying to find lodging that falls close to the number of miles I project I will travel that day.  I start by looking for campgrounds because they are generally the lowest cost alternative, and if I can’t find one then I start looking at motels. Sometimes I have to adjust the mileage to allow for a longer day in order to reach lodging in a place where choices are few and far between.

Wheel full 70px This morning my Allstays campground finder app showed a campground right on the route I will be traveling and perfectly located at 55 miles/90 km from where I am right now.  There was nothing else for miles going forward past it.  “Perfect!” I thought, and clicked on the “more info” tab.

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Wheel full 70px Somehow, even after the Purgatory Club in Provincetown, I don’t think so.  I’m proud of my newly slimmed down physique…but not that proud.

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Wheel full 70px Today’s ride will take me from Richmond Hill, South Carolina to some budget motel along I-95 near Brunswick, where I will spend the night wondering about the joys of camping in the buff.  Sounds like a good way to OD on DEET to me.  Just sayin’.

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Cape Hatteras

Wheel full 70px I just couldn’t help it.

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Wheel full 70px I saw the lighthouse and I just had to stop for the night.  I have the NPS campground here almost all to myself, and I can sit at my picnic table in the dark, watch the light wink as it turns around and around, and recall past visits to this amazing place dating back 35 years.  Is this the last time I will ever be here?  So many important memories to call to mind, so many days that were about as perfect as days can get.

Wheel full 70px I’ll get up in the morning, pack the bike, say goodbye to the lighthouse as I ride by (just in case), stop to eat breakfast (biscuits with sausage gravy) at the Diamond Shoals restaurant, and head for the ferry landing at Hatteras and the village of Ocracoke.

I’m sleeping…

…on top of a picnic table under the stars tonight.  Not because it’s really warm- it cooled off rapidly when the sun went down- or bug free- the mosquitoes are out in force tonight for the first time on my trip.  But here I am, because

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Wheel full 70px Sandspurs!  I’m not setting up my tent or risking my Thermarest in those, and this campground- otherwise very nice- is loaded with them.