As we were planning the route, for our trip, this day was noted as almost 65 miles. And the notes said it contained a lot of rough, bumpy roads, with plenty of highway travel time. So, instead of torturing the girls by riding all 65 miles, we decided to go ahead and rent a truck. PLUS, I wanted my daughter to still 'kinda' love me when we got home. I didn't want a road rebellion right in the middle of the trip.
I'm not always smart, but I think this was a wise move on our part. If I haven't said it before, kids are very strong, but mentally they are not always willing to go along with my whims peacefully.
So, we trekked back to the closest u-haul shop, and rented the truck for the day. It cost a TON of money to do this. But, again, to save my sanity, I think it was money well spent. Unfortunately, don't tell the kids this, but it comes directly out of their Christmas gifts. I'm sure they will appreciate that! Just kidding.
Anyhow, we rented a truck, and threw all of the bikes and gear in the back end. And headed on down the road. Essentially we knocked the entire length of the south side of Gainesville on this leg of the trip. We traveled from Manatee Springs State Park back over to Gold Head Branch State Park. I think we rode 15-20 miles for the day.
We spent the last 2 days at Gold Head Branch. Enjoying the park, and the local town of Keystone Heights. Another point to remember, when you are on your bike... it is ALWAYS several miles back to the closest town from the park campgrounds. So, in the case of Manatee Springs, it was about 6-7 miles. In the case of Gold Head Branch it was 6-9 miles (depending on where you camped inside of the campground). In a car, that's no big deal at all. On a bike, it equals a 30-60 minute ride. That's okay, but just keep that distinction in mind when doing your planning.
Image via WikipediaGold Head Branch State Park is a pretty cool park. It was originally built during the 30's, in the Great Depression, by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corpse). A concept America should have thought about before they threw all of their money at a bunch of bankers. Who knows what we could have done for the infrastructure of our country with all that money. Look at how well built things were back then:
Here's one of the buildings, still standing, from 70-80 years ago. They sure did a heck of a job on the stuff they built back then. Oh well, I guess!
Anyhow, it is a great park. The lake itself is not a spring, so it's not super clear, blue water. But it was SO cool to jump in, and it was absolutely refreshing on a hot day.
The craziest thing for us, was jumping into the lake on the very first night of our trip. We rode 40+ miles, and the girls and I were hot and tired. We were so late getting into the campground, that the sun was setting when we actually got into the water that first night. So, we just wanted to go jump in and feel refreshed. It was delightfully cool, and felt so good to head back down to camp after going for a super fast swim. It was about a mile (or so) from our campsite to the lake, so we had to ride to get everywhere.
Finally, we came back to the lake, at the end of our tour, and I noticed this sign:
So then I told the girls it was okay to go ahead and play in the water:
Actually, after they saw the sign, this was about as far as they would go in the water. And that was about all Chris would let them do as well. I couldn't resist though. I had to get back in. It was SO refreshing, and felt so good. Under normal circumstances, if there are dozens of people in the water, I wouldn't expect a gator to be anywhere near this portion of beach that they have roped off for swimming. It was a bit eerie to see that sign though. It makes you think twice about getting in the water... that's for sure.
Gold Head Branch also has an interesting creature that you can take a photo of. He's called the Mossman. I assume, it's similar to the Bigfoot or Swamp thing stories that have floated around the country for decades. This one is pretty cool.
Then, you get a few shots of us hanging around the campsite, doing what we do best... goofing off.
Finally, a few shots of the other great outdoor activity you can explore at Gold Head Branch. There are a couple of large lakes here for exploring. And with lots of wildlife running around, this has to be a great way to enjoy the area.
I'm sad to say, this is basically the end of our tour. We did have one last day of riding, but it concluded with use riding back to Palatka, FL. It was an inglorious finish, with some of the strongest headwinds and worst traffic of the entire trip.
Waiting for us was Mogwai, our trusty steed. I don't know that I've ever seen the girls happier than at that moment when we pulled into the parking lot, and were finally done pedaling.
Kaitlyn actually admitted that she had more fun on the trip than she expected. But, I don't know that she would have enjoyed one stroke more on the bike pedals than she absolutely had to.
If you have any questions or comments, I'll be glad to help out in any way that I can. Overall, traveling across a part of Florida by bike was one of the coolest things I've ever done. And it was encouraging to know that Chris and I were much stronger than we ever thought at riding. After this experience, a cross-country trip seems TOTALLY plausible.
I think Chris will have more details, and specifics, that I have left out over the length of the trip. But, I hope you've enjoyed checking out the journey.
All the best,