Northern Lights

29/11/16. We have reached St Augustine where we turn west towards Houston having spent two nights with a lovely WarmShowers family – firstly with Joy & Howard Montgomery in Ormond Beach (just north of Daytona) and then with Joy’s daughter Abby & Mike about 20 km south of here.

While with Joy & Howard, Christine went to church with their 91 year old neighbour, Jim, while Stephen borrowed one of Howard’s road bikes to go for an early morning ride with Joy. Howard came with us for the first section before turning off to ride with his usual group of friends. Stephen accompanied Joy not out of gallantry but because he didn’t want to slow the “big boys” down! Initially Stephen kept up the pace that Howard had being setting but he was mighty glad when Joy took over in front and slowed the pace a little as he was about to expire!

Christine’s church service with Jim was a much more friendly affair than the previous week and she came away with a welcome pack of goodies, including a couple of sweets.

By the time Christine returned from church and had brunch it was almost midday as we set off, so we were a little unsure if we would make it to Joy’s condo where Abby & Mike live as it was about 65 km so we left things a bit vague regarding whether we would stay with Abby and Mike.

The first part of the route followed that which Joy had shown Stephen earlier and was simply glorious through lovely state parks with views of wooded areas and mangrove swamps. We then rejoined the A1A alongside the beach where we were fortunate that the strong breeze that was blowing was coming straight off the Atlantic making it a sidewind rather than being in our faces.

About 4 o’clock we came to a campsite on the beach and decided to try it. The lady proudly told us that there was room and was a little surprised when we declined the opportunity to pay $70 + tax for the privilege!

We pressed on and, as we passed a mountain bike trail centre, a car pulled alongside and asked if we were with WarmShowers. It was Abby and Mike who had just finished a ride and were heading to the grocery store. What a coincidence! A minute earlier or later and we would have missed each other.

We reached the condo just before the sun set and were pretty exhausted, Stephen having done a total of 70 miles in two sessions and Christine having ridden at a faster pace than she finds comfortable. Abby and Mike cooked us a lovely meal with three kinds of fresh fish (they are both keen anglers) and we had a good chat getting to know them a little before falling into bed at about 8 o’clock.

Monday was a much easier and shorter ride to a campsite in the Anastasia State Park on the edge of St Augustine. When checking in we were a little disconcerted to be told that we must keep to the recognised paths and roads as there are two sorts of venomous snakes in the park. Also food has to be hung from posts as the raccoons are always hungry and,” while the polite ones will unzip the tent, the rude ones will gnaw straight through”!

Today (Tuesday), we have walked into St Augustine itself for a look round the first city established in the US by Europeans (the Spanish in 1565). We had heard that it is lovely and worth a visit. We were not misinformed. There are some genuinely old buildings, even by European standards, and narrow cobbled streets. We have also been impressed by two former hotels built in the late 19th century by Henry Flagler (a tycoon from the same era as Rockefeller). One of these is now used by the city council and houses a museum while the other is part of Flagler College. The latter has a courtyard and an entrance hall that have a very similar feel to the quad of an Oxford college – most impressive.

We will be staying in town until after dark as everybody tells us that the Christmas lights are worth a look.

Continuing Northwards

25/11/16. We have continued our slow progress north over the last three days spending the Thanksgiving holiday (including a rest/ laundry day) at a campsite just south of Titusville. With uninterrupted views across the river/lagoon of Cape Canaveral this would offer a spectacular sight of rockets taking off.

Wednesday’s riding got off to an uninspiring start through residential areas before landing us back on US1. However, after half a mile or so we turned off right down to the river and followed a lovely quiet road through Rockledge. The houses along here were much nicer than most that we have seen – large but less ostentatious (far fewer “classical” columns, a particular bugbear of Stephen’s) perhaps because they seemed older. This is, of course, a comparative term as we passed the equivalent of a blue plaque on a house dating back to the 1870s. Incidentally, one of our Warmshowers hosts was telling us about the phenomenal population growth in South Florida (around Miami) from something like 5,000 in 1900 to 6 million nowadays. Wowser!

After Rockledge we came to the pretty little town of Cocoa where we stopped for lunch before continuing along the river’s edge past more large houses (slightly newer, more columns but no completely OTT).

We gave turkey a miss on Thanksgiving – it’s a bit difficult to roast on a one ring gas burner – and went for the less traditional pasta and tomato sauce!

Friday promised to be a bit of a slog as the route followed US1 all the way to our destination of Edgewater. However, once past Titusville, it was much more pleasant than anticipated as the road became much less busy and the scenery was rural for long stretches (reminding us a little of Australia at one point). The houses seemed poorer (perhaps because they were fronting the highway rather than the river) and there were more Trump/Pence posters (dispiritingly, we are moving towards his heartland).

Oh. And we didn’t have a headwind!

At one point we came across a large (at least 12 inches) tortoise heading towards the highway. We gingerly helped it turn round before getting on our way, so hopefully it survived. There was a reasonable shoulder along most of the route so we didn’t feel intimidated by the traffic until the last 2 or 3 miles into Edgewater where it appeared that some bright spark had decided to turn the shoulder into a sort of rumble strip to wake dozing motorists by chopping up the surface. This made it unrideable and we had to use the main carriageway where the speeding drivers did not welcome us, probably not understanding why we were not in the safety of the shoulder.

A Year On

24/11/16. A year ago we set off for New Zealand on the second stage of our travels (post broken arm). In that time we have:-

  • Cycled 8,000 km (more for Stephen with his rides on “days off”).
  • Visited 12 countries (NZ, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, UK, USA) on our bikes and 3 others (St Maarten, St Martin and St Kitts) plus 2 US “territories” (Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands) as stops on the cruise.
  • Met some lovely people which has reaffirmed our faith in basic human goodness.
  • Had this faith rocked by political events!
  • Spent 185 nights (more than 50%) sleeping in a tent.
  • Discovered that cruise ships are a wonderful way of travelling from A to B for not much money.
  • Eaten loads of pasta and tomato sauce.

Florida So Far

24/11/16.

  • It is hot, and flat
  • The countryside is quite frankly pretty dull.
  • The cycling hasn’t been great so far with a lot of it on busy roads, with cycle lanes, along built up areas.
  • In general the provision for cycling with painted cycle lanes and miles of good pavements, or sidewalks, if you prefer, has been far better than we had anticipated!
  • We imagine the air quality in Florida is terrible as it has felt like cycling in the centre of London all the way so far.
  • The people are very friendly. Lots of interest in what we are doing and wanting to chat. Lovely.
  • The birds are brilliant. Lots of them including ospreys, cranes, pelicans, woodpeckers, cormorants and numerous others.
  • Seeing a rocket go across the sky just after take off from Cape Canaveral was really exciting.

Happy Birthday to Christine (Update)

22/11/16. After dinner we went to look at the lights laid on for Christine’s birthday. As we approached the circular road on which the lights were located we were stopped by a man who told us that pedestrians were not allowed and we had to go back and get our car. When we explained that we didn’t have one as we were on bikes he offered us a “compromise” – we could take his car!

We continue to be overwhelmed by the kindness and friendliness of Americans on a one-to-one basis. They are right up there with the best that we have encountered on our travels (which is a pretty high bar).

Happy Birthday Christine

22/11/16. Many happy returns to Christine on her xxth birthday (where xx is a number a little bit bigger than 21!) It hasn’t been a particularly special day for her as we had to cycle 12 km before we could get breakfast – at a Subway. Stephen really knows how to give a girl a good time huh?

We then cycled another 35 km to our overnight campsite just outside Melbourne (not that one). However, the site has laid on a special evening for Christine as it is “Lightfest” which means that the park in which the site is located will be lit up with lots of Christmas/Thanksgiving lights!

While stopped, once looking at the sea and once for food shopping (including a birthday cake which Christine demolished in one sitting despite it saying it comprised 2 servings!), we got chatting with two lovely people. Firstly there was Jon who has aspirations to go cycling round the world himself when he retires. (Go for it, Jon. We can thoroughly recommend it.) And then Susan from North Carolina who asked if she could pray for us.

Yesterday (Monday) was an easy day as we did just over 30 km to reach our first US campsite at Sebastian Inlet. As we arrived there at lunchtime, we went our separate ways for a couple of hours. Christine caught up on her walking around the inlet observing the abundant birdlife (pelicans and ospreys included) while Stephen did the obvious combined with a dip in the Atlantic which was a whole lot warmer than it is when it hits British shores.