Tag Archives: bicycle travel

Version 0.20

01-08-19

I was feasted by the owner of Myers Rv Campground–I think she said her name was Joleen, or something to that effect. I’m not quite sure why she fed me so, unless she was really that desperate to get rid of the food from the “party” she had last night, or she realized that as a cyclist I would be very hungry, or maybe she is just this generous with everyone. All I know is that I was feasted to the brim on gumbo, rice, veggies, dessert and now I am satisfied and all the mosquitoes in my tent are dead. No finding refuge in here, no siree!

I went to Avery Island my first day in New Iberia for a TABASCO tour, and I’m reminded of this because I kept my rather large ticket as a bookmark, and on the side currently facing up, which I hadn’t bother to read as it’s something like a crest or seal, it states: “Avery Island “Man and Environment In Balance””. They do a lot of environmental conservation on the “island”, which, if you’re interested you can read about briefly here. I shall like to go back some day as I didn’t pay the fee to wander the jungle gardens within which there resides a large Buddha statue from, supposedly, the 12th century—quite a wonder! The gardens are themselves too a wonder.

In the distance, the middle-near distance, a cow moo’s, and another, and that is a wonder. A mournful kind of wonder, though. And fifty yards straight on is an oak wreathed with Spanish moss lit up by a lamp, the moss radiating light faintly, like a phantom, like horror stories from nineteenth century African(-American) slaves. And THAT is a wonder, a fearful, savage, sad wonder.

All these fucking RV’s are humming with the energy of their generators, or whatever is producing electricity for their microwaves, tv’s, air conditioners, stereos, computers, or whatever it is to run. I don’t know if that’s a wonder or not. I suppose it’s a technological wonder. But what I can’t understand is why when camping one wants all that noise and blather around. Where went the sanctifying peace and quiet of nature? The soft and continuous chirp of crickets. Or the mysterious crunch and rustle of leaves as a curious creature scurries past. Inside their five insulated walls they miss all this with their televisions and stereos blowing static, and they miss the mournful lowing of the cow, and the “who cooks for you” of the Barred Owl, and the chatter and squeaking that has just sprung up out of the darkness like hundreds of rubber duckies squeezed over and over in a sort of distant musical cacophony.

Of all our senses I think the sense of hearing is the most mysterious. All these ethereal tinglings of hair follicles in one’s auditory canal. Things perceived at a distance just far enough away so that you can not quite make it out visually, or so nearby that you might step on it but unable to discern where at all it is, and so unfamiliar that even if you could see it it would be almost meaningless. Sound can come from anywhere and be transmitted through anything. It floats on air, is carried by the wind, is the wind itself. It is like millions of taut wires protruding from your ears in countless directions being tripped by tiptoeing feet or colossally heavy hammers or butterfly wings of dynamite. We hear things in the dark, and may, through their agency, be brought into the light, yet we may hear things in broad daylight and be pitched into an impenetrable black.

Version 0.19

01-06-19

Another day.

Another day spent questioning what I am doing, or, rather, why I am doing. Most of this stemming from thoughts abut the self-guided tour of the TABASCO facility: of was it worth the money ($5, which is very little, really) on a Sunday when no one is there working, and so the bottling plant, which is where I would see any activity, is just a large room with a lot of inert machinery, instead of a place humming, alive with employees applying themselves to whatever tasks are tasked them. You might say it’s like going to see an opera on a day that it’s not being performed, and paying for a ticket anyway, and going to your seat and sitting for two or three hours. Well, the theater it’s being performed in might be beautiful, but what’s the point of rustling up the price of a ticket to sit amongst the old bones, to stare up at that sternum and ribs vaulting over you like a cage just to look out on an empty black? It’s the musicians and actors, the set design and props that put flesh on the skeleton, that are the blood and the heart and the lungs that give it life, that enable it to move one to tears or make him laugh uproariously or gasp in astonishment. That’s what people go to the opera for. Not to stare at a skeleton, no matter how old or fascinating it might be! Leave that to the archaeologists and historians to sweep away the dust from the bones, and inform you on just which date it was born and how old it was when it died…

[Later]
I was interrupted mid-thought for dinner with my hosts, and now I’m back a different person. The way they talk, these two! And their life experiences! Their knowledge and feeling for the South, but Louisiana in particular, is a beautiful, admirable thing. It’s like finding a pearl hidden amongst all the junk and trash and sediment of the road, or on the banks of some garbage-strewn bayou. It shines with the light of a thousand suns, and its flame is fanned by all of these crazy yet simple contraptions that have been collected and refurbished so that they work and shine like they are new, and are placed just so on the shelves and tables like so many trophies and pictures of loved ones smiling down at one affectionately. “Would you like to go on a bicycle ride around town? We can eat at such and such a place and you can take a tour of Shadows. It’ll be fun and easy. New Iberia is small so it won’t take much time at all, and there’s a lovely city park just the other side of The Teche. Or how about some open-water fishing? I can tell you the fish like to congregate around the oil rigs out there in the gulf. If you get hungry again Kathy’ll make you some of that delicious shrimp gumbo. NO tomatoes in gumbo, and the stock is made from boiled shrimp heads like it should be. And you know why Louisiana has such a French character, or at least it used to, well the English who were busy settling Canada and the northern United States didn’t like these French mongrels and kicked ’em out and they somehow ended up in Spain and later a deal was cut whereupon the Spanish shipped ’em into the swamps of Louisisana and then you got cajun cooking. If you need some salt to season anything just head on over to these places called “islands.” They’re not really islands, but just look it as they’re large mounds surrounded by swampland, but these mounds are solid, subterranean mountains of salt forced up out of the earth like a pimple. If you go to Avery Island you can get yourself some TABASCO sauce and pray at the buddha all together. The camelias might be just beginning to bloom too. And when you’re done all that just come back to the house and we’ll feed you some more and we’ll give you a history of Mardi Gras, how it’s a Catholic event, Fat Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday and all, and you can look at these pictures in the creole cookbook of how the holiday is celebrated out in the country because it is far different from what they do in New Orleans.”

So, now I am relaxed and happy with a full belly and WILL be taking a tour of Shadows tomorrow and getting a Po’ Boy and eating at Victor’s Cafeteria, and God knows what else. The bike trip. Ah, the bike trip. I’m less concerned about that now. What comes, comes. I’m just here to record the experience.

Version 0.13

12-26-18

What a day! What a day!

Well, no, actually. It wasn’t that interesting at all. Not at all so interesting as “what a day” would imply, nor was it so interesting that an exclamation point be required at the end of that phrase. It was pretty easy and basic which, sometimes, isn’t a bad thing. It was a sentence ended with a period. No more and no less.

Happily I am writing in my journal rather than dictating into a microphone. I found the pen I thought I had lost while breaking my tent down this morning. Still don’t know where it was hiding.

I cycled from Dauphin Island to Ocean Springs today. Ocean Springs is in Mississippi. My Alabama photo section for this trip is going to be a bit thin. But I’m renting a car and driving to New Orleans thanks to the weather which has largely been frustrating my attempt to enjoy this bicycle journey and seems to want to make my life miserable (with a good deal of success), so I suspect, based on renting a car, that the Mississippi section will be even smaller still.

I’m camped at a grounds that is part of the National Seashore, therefore it is under federal jurisdiction, but because the government is shutdown there is no one working here, meaning there is no one to charge me the fee to camp, but also coincidentally not anyone here to tell me I can’t camp (because it’s closed to the public). It’s a very nice circumstance to find myself in, especially considering I’m not availing myself of any of their amenities and will only be here maybe sixteen hours. The downside to this, the camping, is that the rain forecasted for the next week begins tonight. I’m under a tree, so afforded some protection, but even still I don’t know that I will sleep well (rain on a tent is noisy). And I’ll have to break camp then bike to the car rental in the rain tomorrow. A sad affair not worth dwelling on.

The one point of interest for the day was running into another cycle-tourist headed in the opposite direction. He had a deep tan and deep creases in his tanned face from spending loads of time outside beneath the sun, and a longish pepper-grey braided beard. I thought he might be more at home in black leather chaps riding a Harley than a bicycle. His name was Joseph, John, James… something with a “J”, and he was stupendously loaded down with luggage, AND pulling a trailer, within which, seated like a queen, was his dog. I can’t imagine the speeds he must average. One’s speed is meaningless of course to the person whose speed holds no meaning, but me, I don’t think I could travel like that (though, to be fair, I’ve looked at a couple bikes with the capacity to hold some extreme amounts of food and water for potentially slower and more remote bike trips). Anyway, we had a short chat while simultaneously shooing away a male dog who seemed very curious and perhaps quite taken by the lady in the trailer. I eventually got him to run off by tossing a rock in his direction, no doubt a common tactic used before judging by his reaction. Was better than listening to J. shout at him every time he wandered too close, while also threatening to pepper spray him. We parted ways after a short bit of where-ya-goin’, where-ya-come-from, etc. He’s very nearly finished his third trip on the Southern Tier. I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would want to travel the same route across the same country three times, but good on him I guess. Sure beats sitting on one’s ass watching the world spin by.

Version 0.12

December, 23 2018

I’m leaving Pensacola today, and having my last coffee and breakfast at Polonza, a bistro that serves some of the best coffee in north Florida (and to my knowledge the only town or city serving great coffee until one gets to Jacksonville (it can be found in Tallahassee but it’s a bit of a secret)) as well as an excellent breakfast and lunch. Spent the morning down at Palafox Pier overlooking Pensacola Bay trying to photograph reflections in the lens of a distance viewer, as well as gulls, pigeons, and the occasional pelican gliding on the sea breeze. Difficult, difficult birds are to catch, most especially if one is trying to place them in a specific area of a landscape, or even just wishing to have a horizontal horizon in the picture.

Like trying to nab a fly with chopsticks.

Just had a long chat with Taylor, the head barista here. Turns out he used to work for Perc in Savannah, Georgia, and we met briefly some years back during my last bike tour. Absolutely crazy that. “It’s a small world” is such a cliche phrase, and some might say it’s overuse, but if it fits it fits, right? The specialty coffee world is even smaller still, and that makes it easy to meet and make lasting friendships and acquaintanceships. Here’s to another.

Being on this bike trip I’ve begun to realize ever more concretely what it is I want out of travel, and mainly that is to find a good place to stay for a while and explore, and to explore from, and NOT to be constantly on the move. Yet bicycle travel is often about being on the move. Too, it may be difficult to stay in one place for long if one’s desire is also to be frugal, particularly in my case as I love cities so much. Yes, there exist Warmshowers hosts, but one can only stay for so long without being a burden. So, find another! Not always as easy as it would seem! Well then what about the natural world that I profess to love so much? As long as one has food and water for days, and doesn’t mind being dirty and smelly for extended periods this is great! Of course if you happen to be near a river cleanliness and drinking water is less of an issue, assuming the water source hasn’t been polluted or fouled in some way. I guess all this is really just to say that I’m happy to spend my Christmas, and perhaps some days more, on Dauphin Island at a host’s while he is away, which, while not allowing access to the inner keep, does have the desirable amenities (latrine, power, wifi, water, shower) out of doors. I’ll likely be in no hurry to hop back on my bike again.

Something else I’ve discovered that I want when I travel is flexibility. What that means to me is the ability to get where I want when I want in a relatively short span of time (within reason of course). The bicycle can be an excellent tool for this, at least in comparison to a slower means of travel such as running or walking, but it’s still rather slow, methodical, and, being human-powered, requires a fair bit of effort and energy, so that even something like a “short” five mile detour (which becomes a ten mile roundtrip) to visit some place or thing of interest can take a lot of daylight, as well as energy. This may be all fine and good for some, especially if planned for, but may prove to be impossible as a spontaneous side quest to one’s main objective for the day. So I’m beginning to think I’d like a motorcycle. And maybe one with a sidecar in which I could securely fit my bicycle because I’d still like to get in miles recreationally. As well, the bicycle could be used as a means of transport for various so-called side quests while leaving the motorcycle at headquarters (campsite, motel, whatever it is). The benefit of traveling by motorcycle is increased flexibility because higher speeds, and being able to pack one’s saddle bags a bit more full without suffering the great inconvenience of pedaling a bicycle with additional weight. Granted, there are drawbacks as well: insurance, cost, repairs, fuel…. But this is all just speculation for now….

Version 0.11

I arrived in Pensacola earlier today.

WINDY AS FUCK.

A steady-ish fifteen miles per hour headwind accompanied on occasion by gusts that were much higher than that. This got me to thinking about, and I mean really properly thinking about, why wind from any direction (excepting that from behind) on a bicycle is the bane, the adversary, the nemesis that it is. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not so much just the obvious one, that it slows you down, but that it’s impact, that is the actual physical force of the wind, is of a feeling akin to getting punched by a gloved fist in the gut, like getting smashed in the face with a dense, heavy pillow, like having a bed sheet thrown over you while cycling in a wind tunnel. It hits you, it pulls at you, it pushes you with fiendish delight, and as a cyclist you have no defense. So, it is the physical force of the wind that is so demoralizing, not merely the fact that one moves at slower speed. And when it comes to crossing bridges that realization can become terrifying, particularly those with limited shoulders, because the wind can and does move you. Assuredly one of the last ways I would like to die is by being pushed by a gust of wind into a speeding semi. Naturally then my last real obstacle was a bridge, with little shoulder, from Gulf Breeze (funny name that) to Pensacola. This was a nightmarish death tunnel what with the wind and the cars and the semis barreling along the highway beside me. At the end of all this though, I was greeted by Jeb, the Creative Director at First United Methodist Church, where I would be staying, and who himself had done some bicycle touring in the past, and has plans for touring in the future, and organized and setup the WarmShowers account. It was a greeting I was only too happy to receive.

I’ve managed to find at least one great place for food in town: End of the Line Cafe, a vegan joint serving coffee, beer, assorted other drinks, and great food. I’m heading to a whiskey bar later for a drink. Need to find a proper pen instead of this silver marker I’m writing with. I’m not at all certain what possessed me to bring it, but it’s coming in handy right now.

Cities, though! They’re always undermining my resolve to be frugal. You only live once, most people say. And in this case it’s highly unlikely I’ll be back to the places I’m passing through, excellent food or not. Excellent food can be found nearly anywhere, especially if one knows how to cook. And that’s one thing I miss a lot—having a stove, a little good cooking oil, a frying pan, and some vegetables to go with the rice I cook on nights that I camp. But anyway, I guess my excuse is that I’m traveling through these cities so I should be enjoying them.

Version 0.10

Today I unexpectedly covered over 90 miles from Eastpoint to Seacrest. I rolled into Central Standard Time some point west of Apalachicola and so I kinda gained an hour. I say sort of because the sun goes down when the sun goes down. It’s just earlier or later depending on what side of the line you’re on. However, there is a psychological effect that this has upon you when you realize that suddenly the time is two o’clock when you thought it was three. I still ended up cycling into darkness but arrived an hour earlier than I would have had I still been on Eastern Standard Time.

I felt really down last night and early this morning. Wanted to be away from the visitor’s center before nine o’clock, which is when they opened, and I was at quarter of. I was a bit surprised to see the employee not show up until exactly nine, but it saved me the trouble of having to explain myself to someone. Had a cold breakfast of muesli, banana, yogurt and peanut butter overlooking the Gulf, which was beautiful, unlike my mental state. However, no coffee because I couldn’t find the handle for my grinder after digging around a bunch for it, so I looked for coffee in Apalachicola and found some at The Apalachicola Chocolate and Coffee Company. It’s a cute little place. Coffee was terrible, but the baked goods were great. Had a delicious brownie covered in frosting, only some of which I ate while at the cafe; the rest I saved as much needed additional calories for the bike ride.

While at the cafe I sent out some WarmShowers requests because at the time I wasn’t sure where the hell I was going to be ending my day, much less where I might sleep. Called a guy who was okay with me staying the night to let him know I wouldn’t be in Seacrest because it’s 95 miles and I was pretty certain I wasn’t capable of putting in that distance today (of course here I am), or that I just didn’t want to. But this makes a perfect segue. Even though I did put in those 95 miles, that’s not something I want to do regularly (or again), especially having spent two weeks in Tally; my legs aren’t there. But at the same time despite the fact that being in Tally was awesome, I ought to be in New Orleans, or past New Orleans, right now, but I’m not. So I want to make up time, but after yesterday, feeling rough about two-thirds of the way through it and sleeping so poorly, it doesn’t make much sense. What is the point of the trip? It’s certainly not doing long days for the sake of doing long days. It’s to photograph the United States, and to write about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. That is all. But there being a deadline for the start of this Australia trip of Doug’s is driving me up a wall. I hate deadlines, most especially when they interfere with my personal plans and projects. It’d be cool if I could get across the country, but at this point I don’t even know if I’ll make it to Houston or Austin. Probably Houston at least, but definitely not Big Bend National Park which is a place I dearly want to visit, and the thought of not getting there is disappointing, so I’m trying to knock out long days, but that’s not going to work for me. So I’m just going to pedal my bike, take it day by day from here on out. I’ll get to where I get to and there is no changing that. As Henry Miller says, “the main thing is food. Trust to Providence for the rest.” I keep that in the back of my mind all the time. Some of the time…

Anyway, while I was at the cafe I struck up conversation with a guy who had kayaked the Apalachicola river over the course of six or seven days and had just finished earlier that morning. He was meeting his wife in town and spending the day there. He showed me some photos of the river, how high it was and how fast it was running (FAST). Normally, he said, he likes to camp on sandbars, but there weren’t any the river was so high. He sleeps in a hammock though, so finding a place to hang it up wasn’t much of a problem for him. Brings an enormous solar panel with him too that is like the size of a twin bed sheet almost, but it folds up pretty small, though I’m skeptical how small something like that can fold up. He was a cool dude. Curious about my bike. I wish him and his wife the best.

I actually would have liked to have spent more time in Apalachicola. Seems a quaint tourist town now, but has a deep maritime history as the Apalachicola River, miles across at its mouth, is an enormous river that empties into the Gulf of Mexico. And there is still a community of working watermen there such as there are on some rivers that make up the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the Bay itself. There is a photographer who has a studio in downtown Apalachicola, Richard Bickel, who’s done a lot of documentary work in that area amongst the communities of watermen. It’s beautiful stuff, printed in pretty large format some of them. A lot of posed works, which I don’t fault him for, but numerous candid photos of the men working and the boys playing, and some gorgeous atmospheric landscape pieces.

After leaving town I was surprised at how good I felt and how well I was moving along. In fact I felt great for almost the entirety of the ride, which was a remarkable change from yesterday. To the right of me and the left along Highway 98 were pine plantations only a few miles outside of town. Two enormous pine plantations. At least I think they’re plantations because they’re all growing in rows and that’s not really a thing nature does herself, like one doesn’t see clouds in regiments like one sees at a Navy football game with the marching on of midshipmen. The ocean waves roll onto shore as they roll into the shore, which is in some ways regular, but not exacting like a metronome in its regularity, and plants don’t drop their seeds in a straight line, and the wind and the animals don’t plant them in neat rows. This is a distinctly human characteristic, this type of organizational neurosis. But these pines some of them, I guess from the hurricane, are bending gracefully across rows, touching others gently as if to say “we’re still alive!” That is unless these bent ones are truly snapped somewhere, not bent, and then they’re grabbing onto the living in a sort of desperation, a fearful begging, terrified of what might come next.

It wasn’t until I got to Port St. Joe that I slowed down, and that was only because there, and further along in Mexico Beach, these towns were a demolition. Basically the closer you got to Panama City and Calloway, where the eye passed so i was told, the more calamitous everything looked and the worse the devastation was. I don’t even know how to explain the appearance of these places, to verbalize it, to paint a picture. It is a thing which has to be seen. One has to walk through the demolished neighborhoods, along the streets that were once impassable, completely washed away in places. Trees down, roofs ripped from houses, windows shattered, trash in the trees, refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers strewn about the streets, houses piles of rubble. Along a section of the coastal road in Mexico Beach there were regular mounds of concrete debris, almost like ant mounds, as though there was some care given in cleaning up and setting aside for removal what once was certain persons’ homes. I clearly remember passing one row of apartments or small homes that were built up on stilts, and one at an end had fallen into the one next to it, and that had collapsed into the next one, and that into the next, and it was this sort of weird dilapidated embrace of wood and vinyl and metal and concrete leaning to. One could imagine the slightest wind pushing the whole thing, all six or seven of these buildings, over into a heap. There were homes without windows, without anything. With new windows where there weren’t windows before: that is gaping holes in their walls. And people are still there trying to put their lives back together. There are a lot of contractors from all over rebuilding for people, repairing damaged buildings, building new buildings. Well, rebuilding for money of course, but the people who have money are those who are paying them. These contractors according to Marty my Warmshowers host come from all over—Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana… It’s sort of disgusting when you think of it. They smell blood, just like a pack of hyenas. And then these people who I guess want to move back once their house is rebuilt, I wonder if they’re a bit mad.

Speaking of Port St. Joe, as I was stopping here and there taking pictures on my way out of town I passed a couple of ladies who had some tents setup, and a sign for free food. Curiosity got the better of me and I turned around to see what the meaning of all this was. A man driving past actually shouted out his window to me to “get some free food!” So I got some free food. Free food for anybody! Burgers, hotdogs, baked beans, sodas, chips. It worked out for me, and all the while I’m sitting there eating these ladies are telling me I should come up and get some more, but I wanted to be able to ride my bike afterward. Still had a long way to go, and by this point I was pretty confident I could make it to Seacrest. While sitting there on a parking block I asked them what they were all about. In short, they’re from Pensacola but the lady has a small church in town—just a tiny, concrete structure. They were actually set up on the front lawn of it. The lady tells me that she prayed to God that if the building itself was spared, that is the walls were still standing, that regardless of whatever else was damaged she would repair and reopen it. And so she is. There was actually a man working inside while I was eating my lunch. I’m not sure who she’s aligned with out there—a church group, I suppose—but she tells them what she needs and they get it for her. Then the ladies set up here, give away food all day, go home, and come back the next day, on and on and on. Port St. Joe currently has no restaurants open, nor is there much in the way of markets for food; I recall only seeing a Dollar General Market on my way through. So they’ve been doing this for several days or weeks now. The generosity nearly brings me to tears. I’ve never seen anything like it before (the generosity nor the kind of destruction a hurricane brings), and this was two months ago. I imagine this will not be a most enjoyable Christmas for some people. But just the same, simply having a Christmas is something to give thanks for.

After Mexico Beach there is this insanely long stretch of straight road, that is actually kind of nice, that passes by, or bisects Tyndall Air Force Base. The base was a total demolition. Marty told me they aren’t running much of anything right now. I saw and heard three or four jets on the ride today so I guess they’re just running at low capacity. The place got steamrolled. Hangars and buildings ripped to shreds, because it’s all like basic, simple construction for that stuff, just sheetmetal and concrete. The air force lost some planes that were grounded to have work done to them, so they couldn’t get them out with the others that were evacuated. The hurricane just tore them up, sort of picked them up and tossed them around like a small child playing with his toys. That was a crazy stretch though. Super flat, and straight as an arrow for I don’t know how many miles. At least ten with maybe a slight curve. Then I crossed a pretty awful bridge with no shoulder into Parker and Callaway, and if I thought that Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe were bad, these two towns on the edges of Panama City were far worse. Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe are like gulf resort towns. There’s money, and so there was rebuilding going on. There was life there. There was a sunniness, a sense of hope. But these other places, Parker and Callaway, and a bunch of Panama City too, are like cities of the dead. They’re basically ghettos (using that term loosely as I was only cycling through), and it was pretty clear the money doesn’t exist to be able to clean up something like that. It all looked like a war zone, like an army marched through and annihilated everything, or plunked itself down on the perimeter and shelled the places with their artillery, everybody in town walking about shell-shocked, zombie like, half dead inside, hopelessly fouled up. I saw a sign in someone’s yard stating “You loot, I shoot.” However, once I passed through Panama City things cleaned up a bunch, and the rest of the twenty miles or so was just pretty easy pedaling.

Version 0.09

Camped out at Forgotten Coast Visitor’s Center on the “Big Bend Scenic Byway Coastal Trail.” I always wait too long to start looking for a suitable place to pitch a tent. Sometimes the thing materializes quickly and easily, though. Of course at other times, like this one, it’s a struggle and takes some doing to discover.

Wanted to camp on the beach tonight, but the beach is only yards off the highway and so was extremely noisy. Too, because it wasn’t terribly broad either, I was concerned about the tide coming in. Continuing on I swung into a huge K-12 school complex but I was seen scouting things out and grew nervous and didn’t want to have to explain myself. I was surprised because it was 6:30 and damn well dark enough that people were driving with lights on. Did not expect to see cars and a bus driving up the long, winding drive from the highway. The place was enclosed by a fence too. That played into the idea of outsiders not belonging. Like sneaking into a gated community where all the fancy-pants live away from the dirt and deprivation of the world of regular folks. I probably should not have let it bother me, but if I had got halfway into setting up camp or making dinner then run off the property I would have been none too pleased

It’s impossible to wildcamp because Florida is a jungle, and all the vegetation seems to have thorns or sharp edges or woody stems or grows so thickly that a machete would be required to clear a space for a tent. The forests beneath the canopy are just a tangle of vines, shrubs and other plants; and fields leave one extremely visible, and are the homes of stiff, tall-growing grasses and sharp viny plants. Lucky I am to have stumbled upon this place then. I remember my first night in Arkansas crossing the Mississippi river in the dark, sadly missing what was a stunning sunset. The first building I came to, if memory serves, was the welcome center, and so I camped there around back on the manicured lawn. It was already closed, as this one is, and I didn’t think I needed to fear discovery. It was of course quite a bit larger as it was a state welcome center and not just a regional one. So, my personal opinion is that visitors centers make pretty good places to camp. I tend to not bother with being too inconspicuous because I tend to think being upfront and honest about what you’re doing, especially as a bicycle traveller is a good way of going about things, and most people don’t seem to care if you tell them you’re just camping overnight and moving on the next morning. The place was closed well before I arrived anyway, and they reopen at nine tomorrow morning, so the risk of discovery, if there is a risk, is slim, and if they want to kick me out in the morning, if I’m not already gone, well, I’ll be in the process of leaving anyway.

Today has been a long, excruciating day. Eighty miles of cycling, the first forty of which went by quite smoothly, the latter forty not so much. Legs are feeling pretty wrecked.