Yesterday, we ended up biking 47.65 miles altogether.
Today, was a little sketchy, because we still hadn't figured out the whole map situation. Meaning... we weren't sure which directions would provide the most reliable results. So, again, we started today trying to see which of the options would work best? This was the first 'official' day on the Florida Springs actual tour, according to the GORP directions.
The second day was going to be a BIG day. We were planning on biking about 65 miles this day, and arriving at a privately owned campground, called Ocean Pond Campground, in the Osceola National Forest.
Here we are, starting the day at our campsite in Gold Head Branch State Park. It was pretty awesome, especially the first couple nights of the trip, because the weather was unseasonably cool. Apparently it actually got down into the 50's during the night for the first couple of nights. In Florida, this is MIRACULOUS. And our sleeping bags and gear were more than sufficient to keep us warm.
Because of my confusion with the maps and directions, we actually varied our route from the GORP directions at the start of the day. This caused us to miss one of the Springs that we should have seen along our route. Looking back on it, this was a bit of a bummer. We ended up biking almost 55 LONG, butt-breaking and demoralizing miles this day. And we still didn't make it to our destination.
For the most part, we just passed the time with pedaling and more pedaling and hoping some town would eventually show up around the next bend. It was surprising how few decent sized towns there are along this route. One town, today, was more like a Florida State corrections facility. There were no stores, or places to stop... and yet it was marked as a town.
Here we are, taking a mid-morning break. It was still in the upper-80's, so we had to relax in the shade, rather than hang out in the direct sunlight.
Towards the end of the ride today, it was getting close to 5 in the evening. And we had biked about 50 miles, and it was becoming a little daunting waiting for the next town to show up so we could get some dinner, rest our rears, and take a bathroom break. It seemed like those last ten miles just might not end. And the girls were getting tired, and I wasn't sure how much farther we had to go.
Based on the GORP directions, we figured the town of Sanderson might be a good place to stop for the night, instead of going all the way to the campground. It turns out, Sanderson is NOT a good place to stop. We finally rolled into town, butt weary, hungry, and cranky. And I was hoping to call it for the day so we could relax. But this little town had plans of its own. There are no hotels, no B & B's, in fact there's not much of anything in town. They do have 3 teensy little grocery stores. So we stopped into one store to pick up some fruit and other goodies.
Christy noticed there was a fire station across the street from the store, so we got the idea of trying to put up our tent out beside the station. Unfortunately, the door was open to the station, but there was not a single person to be found anywhere. So, we figured we could hang out for a few minutes and just make sure it would be alright to camp outside there.
Turns out... we ended up waiting for over an hour-and-a-half for the crew to come back from the emergency call they were on. By the time they got back it was starting to get dark, so we were desperately hoping they were going to let us camp there. Here are some shots of us hanging out beside the fire station.
Nope! Not on your freaking life.
Apparently, since 9/11, this is no longer allowed. It may be public property, but it sure as heck isn't open to the public.
Thankfully the crew at the station was good enough to call up the local County Sheriff and have him come out and set us up with something safe. Under normal circumstances we would have been totally on our own to find somewhere to stay. But, everyone at the station had pity on our family, and the Sheriff hooked us up with an outstanding, undisclosed spot outside of town. And, on top of that, he also had one of his on duty deputies come by and check on us throughout the night.
I wouldn't normally say something like this... but I have to give a HUGE thank you, and recognition, to the Sheriff and crew at the Baker County fire station for helping us out. We appreciate the help! And for keeping us out of the 'meth' district of Sanderson, we sincerely thank you!
It was a little crazy when the Sheriff finally found us a spot to stay for the night. By that time, it was completely dark, and I only had one light to use as we rode along the road to our destination for the night. We ended up having to ride several more miles to our stopping point for the night.
At one point, I am riding along in front of everyone else. I can hardly see more than 5-10 feet in front of me. Out of nowhere, this cardboard box leaps out of the grass along the side of the road, and gets tangled up in my front tire. I slam on my breaks, because it freaked me out and almost gave me a heart attack. Kaitlyn comes screaming up behind me, and plows into the trailer with her bike. Thankfully we all kept ourselves upright, no kissing of pavement or anything. But that near crash, made me have to change my shorts when we finally got stopped for the night. And now, there's a nice black tire skid-mark running up the back side of the bike trailer.
We survived the several mile ride in the dark, helped by the Sheriff, who eventually came up behind us and helped light the way for us with his headlights.
Our final stop for the night was truly one of the strangest spots I have ever camped at in my lifetime. We threw up the tent as fast as we possible could, threw all our gear inside, sat inside the tent chatting for a few minutes, and then we all crashed. We were pretty much up with the sun the next morning, so we could get back on the road as soon as possible.
We finished the day at 54.18 miles. And, by far, this was the toughest day of the entire trip. The long miles, the confusion over the directions, and the lack of accommodations all teamed up to make this day as close to disaster as we were going to come.
It was at this point that Chris and I decided we were going to abandon the Google maps instructions, and just go strictly with the destruction's as described by the GORP website. This turned out to be a GREAT decision, although we still faced a few minor issues later in the trip.