There it was… A bridge that rose up like a mountain out of the flat Florida highway. At the top of that bridge we would see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time on this trip. At the bottom of that bridge we would submerge our feet in the waters and come to realize that we had ridden our bicycles 3,588 miles from the waters of the Pacific Ocean in Seattle, WA… The onlookers had no idea why were so excited or what we had accomplished… Or maybe they did due to Michigan yelling “We rode our bikes here from Seattle!!! No big deal or anything!” at the top of his lungs.
So here we are in Daytona Beach, FL with 412 miles left to ride on the coastal highway of A1A all the way to Key West, FL. But those stories are yet to come. Let’s celebrate, laugh at, and dissect the section we just we just completed… The South.
Let’s start off with one of my favorite parts… Town Awards!
Ok so I’m a little biased here. We went through the best town in the universe, which also happens to be my hometown, Florence, AL.
The next issue is that the jury is still out on whether North Florida can be initiated into The South. Well I’m here to settle that right now… If Mobile, AL and the entire state of Louisiana are in The South then I hereby declare Gainesville and anything north of it in the South. Obviously anything south of there is still a northern state.
That being cleared up, here’s the awards excluding Alabama because I’m biased to the best state:
Best Big Town: Little Rock, Arkansas. I was really amazed at the beauty of this city. Right on the river, bike paths everywhere, mountains all around, bustling downtown headed in the right direction. Two thumps up.
Best Mid-Size Town: Gainesville, FL. I have only heard bad things my whole life and the town blew these doubts out of the swamp. Historic town with ancient well kept homes surrounded by Spanish moss hanging from the trees. The town also boasts a huge prairie wildlife preserve with buffalo, wild horses, and of course… gators.
Best Small Town: Dardanelle, AR. Home of the Dardanelle High School Sand Lizards… Enough said.
There were two things that were pretty distinct to the south for us on this journey; they were sort of themes of this region… Dirt roads and dogs.
Dirt Roads: Sometimes the best way to get from one place to the next in the south is via dirt roads. If it’s the shortest distance between A and B and your tired of the highway… Take the dirt road.
Anytime we have pulled onto a dirt road the mindset completely changes… A more adventurous feeling, due to diverging into the unknown and middle of nowhere. You might stumble across some sketchy situation and what happens when you’re stuck out there? From the rocky dirt roads of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi; the red clay dirt roads of Alabama and Georgia; and the sandy dirt roads of north Florida. The feeling is always the same… Adventure.
Dogs: I have no inclination what gears grind in a dog’s head when they see a bicycle but they are obviously nothing shy of pissed off. It didn’t begin until crossing into Arkansas… It hasn’t ended until hitting the coast. How about a leash law southern states… Please!
As soon as you hear the first hysteric set of barks and look over to see no fence, you know they are in route straight to your ankles with jaws wide open. At this point everyone has different methods. Some people use spray bottles to blast their eyes with a stream of cold water when they get close enough. Some people simply yell. Personally I take a different approach…
I start out by looking over my back shoulder and cross over through oncoming traffic to the other side of the road… If they are brave/dumb enough to make it to the other side, I then race them. If they are fast enough, I then pull the metal tire pump off the side of my bike and proceed to swing it at them like a billy club… They never make it past that stage.
So it’s that time again… Random Road Ramblings! All the funny/weird events that truly make this an adventure…
One of the closest encounters I have had with a vehicle on this trip took place with a massive dump truck. The scariest thing you can hear on a bicycle is a car hitting the rumble strip on the side of the road behind you. The rumble strip consists of those little divots on the side of the road that make a loud noise when you hit them to wake you up/bring you back to reality if you veer off the road. So this dump truck began by laying on his horn, and then proceeded to running over the rumble strip to let me know he was coming like a freight train to flatten me like a pancake. So I steer off the road into the grass to avoid the flap jack experience. He passes me completely on the shoulder where I was riding and presented me with a little gift from his driver window… A middle finger to the sky.
We met this certified nut named Paul. All I can think to do here is give you a couple quotes he told us:
“I got karate kicked in the back of the head by a girl that jumped out of a tree while I was in a knife fight.”
“I’ve died and came back to life 4 times… One of those times I was buried under 28 feet of snow and woke up in the morgue in a bag.”
We rode through Auburn on a game day weekend to show our crew of northerners a SEC football weekend… Complete with an Auburn win over Florida and rolling Toomer’s Corner.
I would like to formally welcome Strider’s dad to the south. We stopped by his house in La Grange, GA. Before we got there, Strider said “You’ll be so proud of my dad… He moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Georgia to buy a farm, 4 wheeler, shotgun, dog, and pickup truck.”
Squeeze cut off most of his massive beard… All but the portion that makes up a handlebar mustache that easily rivals Hulk Hogan’s. It really makes a statement when we are sitting outside of the gas station.
Speaking of Squeeze… He walked into a taxidermy place in the middle of nowhere Georgia to ask if he could fill up his water bottle in their sink. As they agree and walk to the back to fill it up, a fellow starts up a conversation with him:
Redneck: “Where you from boy?”
Redneck: “…Ain’t that where Obama’s from?”
Squeeze: “Yeah, I think so.”
Redneck: “I wouldn’t tell folks down here you’re from Chicago.”
We were invited to a church’s dinner one night. After the dinner, 4 of us went to a prayer meeting. Before the prayer meeting started, a lady told us where our futures lay without knowing anything about any of us… “You (Strider) will be a teacher… You (Mama) will be a singer… You (RD) will be a drummer… You (Me) will be a preacher…”
I saw a chicken cross the road.
Ok, here it is… This blog’s BooBooism! A concerned woman sees us taking a break and looking at the map in front of her house. She walks out and asks:
Woman: “Do you guys need any water?”
Boo Boo: “No… But do you have any soup?”
I will give it to Boo Boo here though. She initially said “No, I’m sorry.” We told her where we were planning on camping and she showed up an hour later bearing 3 full Wal-Mart bags worth of food… Including some soup for Boo Boo.
We got hooked up with 2 free tickets to an amusement park in Valdosta, GA from our new buddies there. Two tickets go a long way with our group… After we got stamped, we went back out and rubbed our stamp on everybody else. All in for free… Teamwork.
We rode to and from the amusement park with our Valdosta friends. We had 7 people in a Honda Civic on the way back. We pulled up to one of their friends at a gas station and the conversation went something like this:
Ricky and JP (obviously being black by context): “We got 5 white boys in this car.”
Other car: “You ain’t got 5 white boys in that car.”
4 of us proceed to pile out behind the tinted windows of the back seat.
Other car: “Where’s the fifth at?”
JP hits the trunk button and out pops Michigan.
Ricky: “We told ya… we got white boys on deck!”
Squeeze managed to get what appears to be third degree burn on his entire hand. We were cooking sweet potatoes in a camp fire. When Squeeze was reaching to grab his potato, he managed to trip hand-first straight into the fire. Kid is a trooper; didn’t make a sound and it hasn’t even fazed him.
We had one exceptional change in the dog department. One day while we were taking a break, a pitbull ran up to us just wanting some attention. We played with it for a few minutes and then headed out… But it followed us. We even tried to lose it, but to no avail, it just kept up with us. So we named it Runaway Jim and decided it was coming to Key West with us. Got it some food and water first chance we could. After 15 miles or so, Jim had other plans and started running a different direction. We will miss you Runaway Jim.
We snuck onto the football field at the University of Florida.
One night, we stealth camped in some woods off of a dirt road. Everything was great until we laid down to sleep… That’s when the mosquitoes attacked. Only to keep us up to realize that we were apparently sleeping in a nest of spiders. One crawled on me every 60 seconds or so for the entire night. It was a bloody battle between the enemy and I. I finally passed out due to exhaustion just before sunrise. But of course this was cut short by the blast of a shotgun less than 100 yards away. We all wake up, start rushing to pack up, and run out to the road. Boo Boo is the only one left when we hear a “Hey! Who are you?!” We hear Boo Boo respond with a “Quinn Blackburn… I don’t think you know me.” We get the scoop when he finally catches up. He basically got lectured and the guy made sure to let him know that “A bullet in your head wouldn’t have been prejudice…”
End of The South, beginning of The Coast. 3,588 miles down, 412 to go. Hope y’all enjoyed the blog. Stayed tuned for the final installment after we make it to Key West. Until then…
Create Your Own Adventures…