Today, was basically a 'getting started' day.
Before we even got on the road, we had a serious test to overcome. The Scion XB is an amazing car. It holds all of us comfortably, and it gets superb gas mileage. And it's manufactured by a high quality company. BUT, it is NOT a large car. The over length is about 10 feet long. And it's not very tall either. In other words, it's not like have a gigantic truck you can throw all your stuff into, and just shoot off into the sunset. With the Scion, you actually have to organize and plan how you will stack everything inside. And in the case of a family bicycle tour... outside as well. Couple that with the fact that we were bringing along 4 family members, 3 bikes (one of them a tandem), a bike trailer, and all of our gear for a week... and we had to make sure we were organized.
If you didn't see this bike tour gear video, you should check it out.
The key to making this work was a handy bike rack we picked up at Dick's Sporting Goods, called the Yakima MegaJoe. It is actually built for 3 bicycles, but when you put it on the back door of a Scion, the car door is only designed to hold 2 bikes. So, we DID NOT put all 3 bikes on the back rack. We stuffed the third bike and the bike trailer inside of the car with us. And, because the tandem is about 3-4 feet wider than the Scion, I actually had to take the front and back wheels off of the bike so it didn't hang out into the other lanes of traffic. As it was we had bike overhang of about 12 inches on both sides of the car. If somebody went by too closely, they could swiped the side of their car with the bike. That also helped cut off some of the weight on the Yakima bike rack.
After I loaded up all the bike gear, I had to stuff the girls inside, on top of everything else. You should have seen me squeeeeeezing them into the back seat with my feet. I had to push, and jump, and cram them into the teensy little space we had left in back.
In truth, they were fine. There were a few dangling bike rims and bags inside the car, but they had plenty of room to sit absolutely still for the three hour drive up. I guess I should mention, Christy had a bicycle bar-end sitting poised right at the end of her nose for the entire drive as well. If she needed to pick anything, though, she was ready to go without taking her hands off the steering wheel. Come to think of it... I don't know why car manufacturers haven't come up with this automated feature yet?
Because of our situation, we drove all of our gear up to Palatka, FL where we could park our car and begin our tour. We didn't want to leave it sitting out in the middle of a parking lot somewhere, so anyone could have their way with it. My Uncle Dwaine, lives up there and told us we could leave the car at his place. THANK YOU for that Uncle!
The great part about starting out from his home, was that he said a prayer for us just as we were heading out. I think that helped keep us safe, and set the tone for the whole trip.
Here we are at the start of the trip. Us and the bikes.
However, by starting here, we had about 35 miles to ride to our destination before we even got to the suggested Florida Springs tour route.
So, I won't go into a lot of detail about the route on this day.
Let me just add one point right now, about maps and planning and bicycles:
When we started planning our route, we used the tour advice (at the above link) and printed out all of their pages and directions. I also thought it would be wise to use the new Image via WikipediaGoogle Maps bicycle feature. So I mapped out our route, and we printed out all the proposed routes.
Unfortunately, about half way through the ride, we came to a key turn in the route. It a street called Holloway road. Because of our confusion following how the directions were stated, we had already rode past Holloway. We stopped to eat lunch, rest a bit, and collect our thoughts.
The lady in the store advised us that we had passed the road a couple miles back. SO, we had to back track a couple miles to find the turn. We rode all the way back to Holloway, only to find that it was a sand covered road. And I don't mean a thin layer of sand. I'm talking inch-deep sand.
If you're not familiar with biking, sand is the arch-nemesis of bicyclers. Tires don't roll and they slide out from under you constantly. The Google bike map route had us traveling on this road for MILES. There was NO WAY, on planet earth, we were going to be able to do it. SO... we had to bike all the way back and take a different route forward.
We probably should have taken pictures while walking up this road, for posterity. But seeing the look of hatred looming over my family's eyes is not something I wanted to share with the world... so I decided not to take any pictures here.
The new route worked out fine, but by back-tracking like that, we added on an extra 5 miles onto our day, plus some exhausting sand trekking.
What a FANTASTIC way to start our trip... let me tell you!
From there, we actually took a superb, brand-new 'rails to trails' bike path into the town of Keystone, FL. Which was excellent! We expected to hit the Gold Head Branch State Park when we got to Keystone. What we found, though, was that we still had 6 miles of biking to get to the park. So, all the excitement and energy we had built up by reaching town, deflated instantly, when we realized we still had 6 miles of riding to do. That was NOT what we had been hoping for.
However, everyone 'Manned Up', and we pushed through to the park.
Now, you would think our day would be over, once we reached the park... but you would be wrong. I'm not sure exactly why, but it seems like every State park in Florida has SUPER long entrance roads. So, we had to bike 3 MORE miles to get to the campground site in the back end of the park. In a car, 2 or 3 mile entrance roads aren't really a big deal. No work, no effort, just a couple extra minutes and you're there. But on a bike, you're talking 10 more minutes of ride time, on butt cheeks that are already quacking (quaking - sp?) and aching?
We didn't take any pictures of the this first day. We did come back later in the week, so I'll put up some pictures of the Gold Head Branch State Park a little later, when we make the trip back around.