And The Rain Came Down

14/12/16. Christine’s episode with the dog occurred on Monday, the day we left Tallahassee. As you may recall, we were unable to get our package of maps over the weekend so we decided that Christine would set off on her own while Stephen would wait at the post office (a little off route) for the manager to come in (usually about 9 o’clock) and then catch up.

Well of course the inevitable happened! The lady did not turn up as usual. By 10 o’clock Stephen gave up waiting as a man had undertaken to call when he located the package and forward it “express post” to the post office of our choice. It was another hour before the call came and Stephen contemplated returning to collect the package just to be certain. But that would have meant he was 3½ hours behind Christine which would be way too much to make up before darkness fell.

As it was it took him until gone 3 o’clock to catch her even though she had been taking the frequent short but sometimes sharp uphills very easily because (as she puts it) she didn’t have someone glowering at her and tapping his foot at the top of each one. (For the record, Stephen strenuously denies that accusation!) This does prove the “tortoise and the hare principle” that a 2 or 3 kph speed differential is quickly eroded if the faster traveller takes long rests.

The dog incident occurred before we joined up and, of course, there was no sign of dog or owner by the time Stephen came through. (He had a stout stick to hand following a warning phone call.)

Just to explain what happened a large white dog came barking and running out of a house in the middle of the country as Christine cycled past. She pedalled as fast as she could but the dog lunged for and scratched each of her rear panniers before the owner recalled the dog. She remonstrated with him in no uncertain terms. His only response was that someone had called at the house and the dog had escaped.

On the plus side, the weather had changed over the weekend with a significant increase in temperature – highs in the low 70s, rather than the high 40s – but we did have a short, sharp shower to contend with.

After we joined up it was not long until we reached our destination of Chattahoochee. Rolling down into the campsite on the western edge of town, we were told that there was no office on site – if we wanted to register we had to either call or visit the city hall back up the hill – but the man was sure it would be “all right” if we didn’t! We took him at his word and went to our the first tent specific area in a campsite in the country – which meant that we pitched the tent on grass rather than a sandy/gravelly area suitable for a humongous RV.

On Tuesday morning, we went back up the hill – not to pay our dues (a free night’s stay is always good for the budget) but to cycle a mile or so north so that we could say that we had been to Georgia and therefore colour in another bit of the map! What a pair of anoraks!!

Back down the hill, we crossed the river – and changed time zones! Suddenly we had gained an hour although the downside was that it was going to get dark earlier (obviously) – in fact before 5 o’clock. Thankfully our destination, Marianna, was much closer than the previous day’s 80+ km at about 45 km, although the campsite was 5 km off the route.

We arrived in town in time for a lateish lunch (after 1 o’clock – new time) and found a covered picnic area in a small park. We were mighty glad of the roof as the sky to the west was a very threatening black colour and, sure enough, just as we were finishing eating the heavens opened.

It only lasted about 10 minutes but a significant amount of rain came down – a foretaste of the night to come. Once the shower had passed we made our way to the library for a quick “update” online (very speedy wifi – highly recommended) before tackling a couple more hills (it had been another undulating morning) to the entrance of the Florida Caverns State Park. The ranger gave us pause for thought when she said that the campsite was another 3 miles (5 km) into the park but with little alternative and the added attraction of laundry facilities (we had 5 days worth of dirty clothes by this stage) we proceeded.

We passed through swampy forests past another sinkhole until we came to the campsite. The outer tent had gone away damp in the morning thanks to dew and a light early morning shower but, with the tall trees and the sun very low in the sky, there was no chance of it drying. We quickly set up camp, put the washing on, showered and changed into long sleeved shirts and trousers (because of the mosquitoes) before starting to cook dinner but it was still almost pitch dark by the time we started eating.

The washing up done, we dived into the tent to escape the mozzies and wait for the dryer to finish. A light rain started to fall which discouraged the insects but did not encourage us to leave the tent! Stephen took advantage of a break in the rain to make a run to the toilet and pick up the washing at the same time.

It was fortunate timing because not long after he returned the rain came back with a vengeance! And it started to thunder and lightning – and (in the words of the song) it was “very, very frightening” when the largest clap of thunder either of us have ever heard went off right above our heads! The ground definitely shook!

The storm lasted at least an hour and the rain carried on after that.

In the morning we found that the inside of the inner tent was a little damp but everything was OK. However another shower just after we had the bags all packed and were about to take the tent down had us scurrying for shelter again and meant that, when it passed, the tent was saturated when it was packed away. It also meant that it was well past 9 by the time we got going despite the alarm having gone off at 6.

We were back following our old friend US90 having been mostly on more minor roads for the last few days. The weather remained miserable throughout the morning with fine drizzle off and on which was a pain for Christine with her glasses. At lunchtime Christine very wickedly pointed to a small burger joint and Stephen took very little persuasion!

In the afternoon the road started to dry a little and we almost caught a glimpse of the sun but then the skies darkened again so we decided that camping was going to be a damp and miserable option and, in the early afternoon, headed for a motel where we festooned the room with wet, sandy tents and bags.

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