I didn’t get much sleep the night before I left. I couldn’t fall asleep knowing the space shuttle was returning to Earth at 2:38 AM and I couldn’t stop my mind from thinking about about hundred things before the alarm clock went off at 5:00 AM Wed. Not the kind of start I was looking for.
My support team showed up at about 5:15. Bondo with a half cup of hot coffee from Denny’s with cream. Just the way I like it. He couldn’t stop looking at his watch and wondering when the news teams and the marching band were going to show up that he planned for. Then Moe showed up with his video camera rolling and narrating as I did all the heavy work lugging all my gear down the stairs. I guess he just wanted documented proof that I actually worked.
After a couple of awkward but needed, one arm manly hugs, I straddled my road worthy, gear laden bicycle and pushed on the pedal for the first revolution. This was the first time I really felt the weight of all my gear. The bike flexed from side to side unsteadily and I felt like a little kid again trying to get my balance. I was praying the welds wouldn’t break.
As I made my way out of the parking lot and up the small incline to the road I heard Bondo’s jeep rolling up behind me. He started blowing the horn with a rhythm I thought I recognized. I think he was trying to fill in for the marching band that never showed.
My first challenge was making it over the bridge from Merritt Island to Cocoa. There is a walkway across but it was just as wide as my saddlebags. I thought this was a good time to just walk the bike across and not try to master the twisting load I was hauling behind me.
I snaked my way through the side streets of Cocoa avoiding a major intersection and loose gravel on the shoulder. Then I entered the main highway to see how bikes and cars would respect each other. I had plenty of room marked for bikes and every car seemed to move away from me as much as they could. Some gave short beeps with their horn. These were what I’m going to call “You GO!” beeps, not the “Get outta my @&#%$ way” beeps. When I can, I wave back in recognition and thanks.
My next goal was to make it to Nova Rd. about 13 miles away. Nova Rd. has a 14 mile long straight stretch that takes you through some of the most beautiful and quiet farmland. The skies were slightly overcast and were a welcome reprieve from the strong hot sun. The air was cool in some places and chilly in others from the night. The sun was still low and it made for a comfortable ride.
Seven miles down Nova Rd. came my first misfortune. There in the middle of the road was a Brevard County Sheriff with his car blocking both lanes and his roof lights flashing. My first thought was what did Bondo and Moe have in store for me now! As I approached his vehicle I gave him a nod and stopped to see if I was going to be handcuffed. I wouldn’t put anything past “my friends.”
As it turned out there was a wildfire a few miles down the road. The sheriff told me the smoke was so thick he couldn’t see the lines in the road. I would have to take another route. Unfortunately this meant about an extra 17 miles to get me where Nova Rd. was going to take me.
I sucked it up and started on my way.
So there I am pedaling away and I start to see cows in the fields. Now any other time I pass cows when I’m driving in a car it seems as though I’m not even there. They never notice me. But this time is different. I’ve discovered that cows have very good hearing. I noticed the cows were looking at me. Not just a few but ALL of them! They could hear me coming way before I got to them. It wasn’t like they caught me out of the corner of their eye, but rather were looking behind themselves to see me. And the look on their faces was intense interest. I felt like Donald Trump at a hair stylists convention. (Come on, everyone is doin’ it)
The rest of the ride was getting harder. I’m breathing in smoke from the wildfire and my water is getting low. I wasn’t expecting to put on those extra 17 miles. Maybe that’s what the cows were worried about. 🙂 Several times I passed through clouds of Love bugs. Luckily I wasn’t going fast enough to make them splatter on my face.
My hands started getting numb and my left knee started to hurt when I pedaled too hard. I’m afraid my right leg is going to be bigger than the left one. I’m starting to rest more frequently and the sky is clouding up and the wind is gusting in all directions. I’m not ready for rain. I have no rain gear yet and my video camera bag is vulnerable. I haven’t seen any shelter for hours. No bridges, homes, stores or trees. Everything was off limits to me by the barbed wire fences along the highways. Then it started to drizzle.
Like an oasis in the desert I happened upon a small wildlife management refuge. The park was closed and chained off but on this side of the fence there was a small tin roof pavilion, restroom, water spigots and picnic tables. Whoo Hoo! I sat under the pavilion for a brief time as the rain started and stopped several times. I tried to get water from the spigots but it was turned off. NO WATER! I laid down to straighten my aching legs and that’s when I realized I was getting sleepy from not sleeping last night. I could pitch my tent here but I didn’t have enough water to carry me through. I was also afraid that a park ranger might happen along and tell me to leave. I decided to push on.
Finally I got to a spot where there was a nice green lawn and big shade trees. I dropped my bike down and took off my shoes and used them as a pillow and drifted off to sleep. The ants woke me up two hours later by biting my arm. A nice power nap. Up and going again.
I finally made it to the point where Nova Rd. met the highway I was on. I was able to get some Gatorade and fried chicken legs. I got to wash the sand off my face that the sand trucks put there as they passed me on the road. I couldn’t relax too much because I felt like I would still fall asleep. Back in the saddle again.
I rode 2 miles more to the St. Cloud city limit. My destination. It was only supposed to be 45 miles. I just rode 61.
My body ached and I felt like a gorilla. My whole walk was changing. I stopped at the first motel I came to and talked the manager down $10 from his price for the room. I opened the door, wheeled my bike inside and leaned it against the wall and flopped down on the bed and fell asleep.