Day 3 – Palatka, FL to Lake City, FL 95 miles
Earlier in the day, in the morning, we stopped at a conservatory for a hike. What we thought was going to be 20 minutes of hiking turned into 45 minutes each way to get to a swampy river. Some of the others decided to swim until 2 locals in a fishing boat came over and said, “You aren’t from around these parts, are ya? There’s gators.” Needless to say, everyone then got out.
I have really stepped up my eating. Each meal, I eat more than I ever have before. For lunch on this day, I ate 3 hot dogs topped with potato salad (surprisingly good, and necessary since we don’t have condiments), 1 big piece of chicken, a donut, and some cookies. Then biked 50 miles afterwards.
In Lake City, we arrived around 7:30pm to a taco bar salad at the church who hosted us. Absolutely delicious and again, huge amounts of food.
That night, in Perry, I met the Pastor of the church who hosted us, a great guy named Jeremy. Jeremy is pretty much the man. Grew up in MIdland, Texas and went to Midland Lee, the main rival high school of Permean (the school in the book and movie “Friday Night Lights”). Somehow he found himself in Decorah, Iowa for a year going to Luther College before going down to Texas A&M. We had a great conversation about high school football, since I was curious to know more about the Texas way of life. After meeting Jeremy, I am psyched about getting to his state and learning more about the culture there.
We got to Tallahassee and finished the ride with tough uphill climbs. Tallahassee is the home of Florida State University, so I was not going to miss the opportunity to explore. I biked a few miles over to the campus and had a look. I was surprised by how beautiful the campus is. Clean, green, and well kept.
I met a few girls named Janelle and Morgan outside their Memorial Union building and had a cool conversation. They were really interested in the Bike & Build project, and they gave me some great advice on Tallahassee…the most important being that I could easily enter the Seminoles football stadium just by finding the right gate. So obviously I made my way that direction.
On my way over, I saw a bunch of guys getting ready to do some biking. As I walked closer, I saw them checking out my bike. They rode past and commented on how sweet my bike is. I must say that I felt pretty legit, like a real biker. They asked me if I was coming along with them, but they didn’t know about the 52 miles I had just completed so I had to reply with a no.
So I got into the football stadium, which I always love doing on any campus I am at. It’s almost like a sacred place at any big football school, and it’s always cool to see what each one is like.
Later that night, several of us went out to a small oyster place that also does comedy nights. A couple beers and some free comedy are a nice way to cap off a long biking day.
At one point, I stopped off with Alex to take in the views. We were surprised to see jumping fish in the gulf. And not little fish doing little jumps, but fish a foot or two long and jumping a few feet in the air. Surprising to see, but something I had never seen before. We also got to a different place along the coast and found a long dock that goes out on the water. We relaxed there for a while as others caught up.
Alex is a friend I just met here, and he’s an absolute freak when it comes to biking. His energy on and off the bike is ridiculous, so he’s great to ride with since he’ll always pull. He just got done with a 3 month backpacking hiking trip out west, so he’s a strong kid. He didn’t get on his bike until he got to Jacksonville, but he just dominates. When fell behind the pack a bit on this day, and we wanted to turn it on a bit. So with Alex pulling, I tucked right up behind his back wheel. For 15 straight minutes, we went full speed and averaged about 22 miles per hour. Even drafting, I still was going all out just to keep up with him (remember that he was taking on all the wind, too). He’s a freak, really, but in a great biker kind of way.
That night, we had hose showers in the church parking lot and then were treated extremely well with a shrimp boil. It was essentially corn on the cob, potatoes, and as much shrimp as you can eat. Seriously, they treat us so well.
A bit later in the night, Nate, Jay, and I went down by the shrimpin’ boats on the water and had a beer. Florida summer nights are perfect for that kind of thing.
For lunch, the team leader in the van found a great spot close to the beach. So after 35 miles of biking, we all swam in the gulf for about an hour before eating lunch. This is what’s great about Bike & Build. We have the flexibility to do really cool things on the way. With my waterproof GoPro, I’m hoping to have gotten some awesome pictures and videos.
To we excitedly worked our way towards Panama City before becoming a bit disappointed finding out that there is a difference between Panama City and Panama City Beach. The beach is a spring break hot spot, but the beach also happens to be 10 miles from the city. So after arriving, we weren’t to get to the beach right away. But with some good planning, we had a build day in Panama City the next day. We were all ready for the day off the bike to rest our legs.
At night, we all headed to Chilis to hang out without our bikes in close distance.
In the afternoon, a van full of us headed to see what Panama City Beach was all about. I was pleasantly surprised by what it actually is. Being a spring break place, I thought the beach would be extremely dirty. With white sand and clear water, we had a nice hot day with a lot of sun.
While at the beach, a few of the others somehow got a giant blow up alligator donated to us. We named him David Hassolhoff and he is now our lunch marker. Whoever sets the place for lunch ties it to a street sign to let everyone know where lunch is. The sense of humor in this group is like nothing else.
After a day off, our legs were relatively recharged. The day started out pretty flat with nothing too exciting, but ended with the best road we’ve been on so far. The road was freshly paved, and wrapped up, down, and around the countryside. With almost no traffic, we had the ability to ride without worry. Some of the hills were tough going up, that seemed to not end. But going down some hills were unbelievable. My clocked top speed was 37 miles per hour. Being on roads like these really give a whole new energy when riding. It’s very refreshing and is ideal for bikers like us.
We got here around 2pm to little Defuniak Springs, a nice little town set around a lake. The heat is pretty tough here, even after the sun went down. I am on laundry crew this week, so we had to go out and do laundry like we do every 3 days. With laundry for 27 people, it’s an interesting process. We put all the clothes together in a big tarp, and then literally roll it up like you would roll up a Chipotle burrito. Afterwards, we stuff it into the van, then embarrassingly unload it at the laundromat.
A good friend Nate has been having some troubles with his knee after a fall. He had to take a few days off, and today was his first day back. After 10 miles, his knee was the way it was before and couldn’t pedal. I feel horrible for the guy since he has a great drive to bike across the country and doesn’t want anything to hold him back (which is the same for all 27 of us). We’re hoping he heals pretty quickly and gets back out with us.
So now we are almost out of Florida already. We have a 80 mile day tomorrow, then our first day over 100 miles to get us into Alabama. Then we get 2 build days to rest our legs before a long ride into Mississippi, and another long one to get to Louisiana. All of us our extremely excited to get to New Orleans.
That’s all for now. So far, the trip has been amazing. Everyone here is very unique and generally great attitudes towards this. We have a great time together, which is important since we spend so much time together. Unfortunately Internet hasn’t been as accessible as I hoped so I’m not able to blog as frequently. But I will keep it up as much as possible!