It was getting dark in Dunnellon and the clouds headed my way looked pretty saturated. I was running out of time and needed a break. I spotted a building with a front porch and one of those glider type benches. I pulled up and propped my bike against the building and sat down on the glider. I took my wet shoes and socks off to let my feet feel the fresh air. I was at the American Legion Post #58 and displayed on the outside wall was a small poster showing the proud men that run it and their phone numbers. At the top of the tree was Commander John Taylor.
As I was pulling in, I noticed a large field behind the building. I replaced my socks and shoes and took a gander for myself of the layout. A nice large, grassy field with 3 street lights for lighting in 3 corners. Two add-on sheds stuck out from the rear of the building with a small walkway between the two. Perfect for a traveler on a bike with wet feet and little time to set up a tent for the night. I quickly scampered to the front of the building and went right to the top of the chain of command and dialed his number. Commander Taylor answered and I introduced myself and explained what I was doing. I informed him of my plight and asked if I could have his permission to set up my tent for the night. Without a thought he granted me aboard. He was aware of the oncoming weather and wished me luck. After thanking him endlessly, I wheeled my bike around to the back and began setting up the tent. Drops started falling as I finished putting up the rain-fly. Now I had to quickly get my gear into the tent and park my steed under the overhang between the two sheds.
It wasn’t the downpour I thought it was going to be but rather a steady slow rain that continued through most of the night. In the morning I dried the tent as much as I could and loaded the bike for another ride. I called Commander Taylor to let him know I was OK and leaving his property the way I found it. He wished me luck, I thanked him some more and I was off again.
I continued up route 41 to Williston and then to Archer. Two quaint towns with enough hills to make me work. I was reminded again of the Poconos from the pine trees and the building styles. The people of the towns seemed busy with their day and gave a few waves as I passed through.
The 12 mile ride to Gainesville was hot but as long as I kept riding, it was cool as air conditioning, relatively speaking I mean. The farms and open pastures were just picturesque with cows and horses dotting them. The horse ranches seemed large and well kept with gorgeous houses and horse stalls. I thought about asking for a job cleaning up horse dung just for the privilege of being on their land.
I was pretty beat when I reached Gainesville and needed to eat and relax. I stopped at a Subway and refreshed.
Gainesville of course is a big college town. Lots of orange and blue colors. The downtown area had some great shops that catered to many different lifestyles. It’s also a very bike friendly city. I had no trouble getting around and sometimes could choose between riding on the main road or wide bike paths alongside of them.
In some areas around University of Florida there are walls painted by students that are works of art and expression that are so much different than graffiti. Extra trash cans are chained to the walls for used up spray cans, solvent rags, and used brushes. Even the trash cans become a canvas for strokes of color. Somewhere along the way I sat in a Starbucks to use the Wi-Fi and drink an iced coffee. I planned my next route out of town.
To my delight there was another bike trail that went 16 miles into Hawthorne. Completely paved and well maintained by the state. The Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail was lined with trees and wildlife on both sides. Sometimes it ran past private property or a business. There are benches placed every few miles and some with drinking fountains. Further apart are places with restrooms and a map of the trail showing where you are. There is plenty of shade from the tress and the smooth surface of the paved road makes you wish it would never end. You hear more birds chirping than you do from the noise of cars on the highway it parallels.
Riding from Hawthorne to Hollister was tricky. There was some asphalt to the right of the white line but it was patchy in places and rough and sometimes broken. Sometimes I would have to ride off the road to avoid bad spots when me and cars from both directions line up together in the same spot. After trying for too long to obey the law of “moving with traffic,” I decided it was much too dangerous. I switched over to the other side of the road and faced oncoming traffic. This way I could see cars coming and then veer off the road when I needed to. If there was no traffic I could just move along on the road as pretty as you like and make better time.
When I got into Hollister I was wrung out. I scouted around for a possible place to set up my tent. That’s when I came to the Hollister Volunteer Fire Dept. There were two kids washing the firetruck for the two big parades the next day, 4th of July. These were the children of Fire Chief Bob Davenport. His daughter ran up to me as if she knew me and wanted to give me a hug in her wet clothes. I managed to talk her out of it and asked her if there was adult around. She went to looked for her dad just as he stepped out of the side door from where I was straddling my bike. I introduced myself and gave him my card. We talked a bit and in a few minutes he had a note for me to give to the police if they spotted me behind the old 1975 Ford firetruck parked on the side of the building. I was off to set up the tent.
I found the place in the grassy field where I wanted to sleep. In a few minutes I had the tent up and was tossing my gear inside and couldn’t wait to lay down on my sleeping bag. That didn’t happen. The grassy field was abundant with my little friends. While I was loading up the tent, herds of GNATS made their way into my polyester bedroom. They were all gathered at the top where the mosquito netting was strategically placed to let the heat out. First, you can’t just squish a gnat against a tent. Second, they see your finger coming and are quick to elude it. Third, you can’t just whisk them out with a rag because more gnats will fly in.
Someone told me I should take along some duct tape, the super fixer. But I didn’t. Then I remembered I had Scabs. Little round, self sticking inner tube patches. I peeled off the backing and for 30 minutes I stuck them one by one to the sticky side of the patch. It was still pretty tricky because they dodge the patch too but if you wear them down enough you can be victorious. I managed to fill one patch before they were all a part of my collection. I rested for a short time then realized I was hungry. This is when I discovered my next problem.
With my bike unloaded I was off to find something to eat. I rode out to the road and continued along what I thought was a mildly bumpy bike lane. It dawned on me that the bumping was fairly regular. About as regular as one bump per revolution of my wheel. I looked down at my back tire and could see a small bulge going round. When I inspected it I found a rip in the tire where it meets the rim. No doubt it was from riding the white line just hours before. That tire had to manage some pretty rough road with all that weight. I couldn’t feel the bumping with all the weight on the bike, but now the bike was able to react to the imperfection without the load bearing down on it. I thought I was going to be stuck there another day because the next day was the 4th of July. But I got lucky.
It just so happened that 7 miles down the road was a Walmart. Walmart is always open. In the morning I would just switch the back tire with the front tire. The back tire needed to be replaced soon anyway because of the 1000 miles and all that weight it had on it. The front tire is in very good shape and made a great spare tire for the rear. (As I’m writing this at Anastasia State Park at the camp store picnic tables, a mouse just ran into my foot. There are several running around the trash bin behind the cafe.)
In the morning I switched the tires and dried the dew from the tent. Chief Bob was dressed in his white shirt and was ready to go to the parade in Interlachen, the next town over to the west. He wished me luck on my journey and doubled checked to see if I remembered his email address so I could send him his photo. I did remember and we bid each other goodbye and he drove of in his command vehicle.
Total mileage: 1,157
© Ron Wynkoop and Bike2Cloud9, 2011.