I got on the road only slightly later than planned and started my ride through the Ocala National Forest. I started the day sans my leg warmers and was a bit chilly, but when I caught a piece of the sun it warmed up quickly and was just glorious. I quickly realized what I had been missing in the last couple of weeks of the ride and that was some atmosphere. With the one 60-mile exception south of Panama City, I had been riding on fairly major roads and there was no ambiance to my rides. I was just pedaling alongside traffic. When there are some pleasant trees and birds chirping I tend not to notice things such as a headwind, or if the road is in rough shape.
I had written out a lengthy and complex set of directions for the day that would take me to the coast. Before I had ridden even five miles, the directions were rendered useless, as one of the roads I had planned on taking was not paved. I was so glad that I spent half an hour to write all that out. I had to backtrack a bit and found a route through the forest that kept me off the main thoroughfare for the most part.
The first 20 miles zipped on by. Not as the past few days because I was really turning the cranks to make some time, but because I was just enjoying the scenery in the forest, scanning for wildlife. I had to periodically move over to let a car pass, but as it was fewer than half a dozen times I really didn’t mind.
I was riding without directions for the most part. I had my laptop map but I hate taking it out when I am riding. I was less concerned where I was riding, but rather was trying to follow quiet, well-paved roads. There was one stretch where I was riding southwest, in the exact opposite direction that I needed to go.
I rode through several different areas that had the most fragrant flowers. They smelled so amazingly splendid. I was pretty sure that they were orange blossoms, but was a little shy about asking anyone. What would a person think when some dude walked up to them wearing spandex asking about orange blossoms?
Later in the day I again found myself riding southwest again. It was my own fault as I listened to someone else’s directions. I should have looked for myself. I like traveling by myself as I have the freedom do to what I want when I want to do it, but I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of, or to stop me when I am about to head in the wrong direction. I still like taking responsibility for my own decisions. If I am going to bet on someone, I might as well make it me. The thing was that I ended up exactly where I didn’t want to be. I was a bit annoyed as I was hoping to get to the ocean at a decent hour. It was hard to be that annoyed about adding 15 miles to my ride for the day with the unplanned detours. While it added 15% on to my mileage for day, I just rode from the other side of the country and I was almost at the Atlantic Ocean.
In the afternoon I knocked off a big chunk of miles. I rode for an hour and a half without even thinking about it. It was the first hot day in some time and I was feeling the effects. I grabbed an ice cream after a bit. I was sluggish and tired. I was tired to the point where I almost fell asleep on the bike again. One day that is going to get me. There has been a lot of adversity on this trip lately, but I am trying to just pedal on through it.
When I saw a sign for New Smyrna Beach just 29 miles hence, I was fired up. I could ride 29 miles in my sleep I thought, and I almost did. After 15 miles though, I was out of gas. It was the usual back, shoulders and arms.
Eventually I made it to New Smyrna Beach and still had to run to the coast. I took the bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway and there it was, my first view of the Atlantic Ocean in since flying from New York to Los Angeles. I rode over the bridge and with the fading sunlight glinting on the water I had made it to the Atlantic Ocean. I rode to the beach and literally rode my bike right on to the sand (which probably wasn’t the smartest idea). There was even a couple there that took a photo for me. Sure the picture could be with any body of water in the background, but it’s the Atlantic Ocean.
My plan when I arrived at the ocean was to grab a beer at some beach bar, watch the ocean and reflect on what had transpired in my getting there. It figured that I had chosen the only residential area on the eastern seaboard without a nearby bar. I wasn’t too hung up on celebrating as I still had a long way back to New York.
For dinner I bucked the trend and rode my bike about ¾ of a mile down the road. I had some mediocre lasagna and the worst service, but it did end with me going to Dairy Queen for a bucket of ice cream. The whole time I ate dinner I nervously watched my bike out the window. It was the first time I was concerned about my bike on the trip.