Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 56

Saint Augustine Florida

Here it is - The final day, the day we ride into St. Augustine. We all got ready to leave Palatka, and start our ride to the finish. We took some pictures of the three of us getting ready to head out, did our final checks and we were off!

Within minutes of starting for the day we had what would be the largest hill of the day - the bridge leaving from East Palatka over the St. John River. We found ourselves traveling along some very scenic roads along the St. John River, in very nice well shaded neighborhoods.

The roads were flat, with very little traffic so we were able to ride as a group and talk. We found ourselves reminicing about the t=last couple of weeks riding together and what we thought life would be like after the ride. We could not help but wonder what we would do and how we would get back to our "normal" lives.

The neighborhoods along the river turned into farm lands as we started heading East towards St. Augustine. As we rode through Hastings we were met by signs proclaiming this to be the potato growing center of Florida. We watched as field after field was being harvested today, and finding many trucks taking the pototo crop from the fields along the roads we were traveling.

We stopped at a local store for a quick break before we started the last few miles into St. Augustine. The store was something out of the past still exsisting, the cash register was an old push button type mashine that would normally be seen in an antique store, and the store was extremely busy ( it was luch time so I guess we should expect this) they were selling buckets of deepfried chicken livers and gizzards, and the locals say that we need to try them - they are good. We did not try them, none of us was quite that brave.

We again set out on the road, and continued to ride together to talk, and occationally drop back and ride alone to reflect opun where we are, where we have been and what we were about to accomplish. It all seems so surreal still. All the talking we were doing made the time pass very quickly, and we were at the St. Augustine city limits in no time at all!

We stopped and just stared at first, no-one saying a word. Then we looked at each other with tears in our eyes and realized we were here and almost finished. We took a few minutes and got some pictures at the sign and then continued on to the center of town for the "official finish". The Adventure Cycling maps have us finishing by Flagler College.

So we left for the king St. finish by the college. We were now on very heavily traveled main roads with no shoulder, this lasted right up to the end at the covered pavillion. When we arrived we were met by my wife Tammy, my son Jeremy, Gerry's Sister and her Husband, and 4 riders from Get Your Guts in Gear. (Gary Beckman, his Mom and Dad, and Susan D'Aulerio). It was an amazing few minutes of gathering our thoughts, taking pictures, and enjoying the beauty of the St. Augustine.

After our pictures, greeting friends and families, it was pointed out that the final launch of the space shuttle Atlatis would be starting in a few minutes. We decided to make our way to the Lions Head Bridge to watch for the launch.(we had to cross the bridge to get to the ocean for the ceremonial dipping of the tires anyway!!)

We sat on the bridge and within minutes were greeted by a long plume of white smoke and a visible trail of fire from the solid rocket boosters of the shuttle. Wha an awesome finish to an amazing ride, who could ask for better fireworks that this??
After the liftoff of the shuttle they lowered the drawbridge (it was left open during the launch so that no one would stop and cause a problem otherwise) and we all went on our way to Anastasia State Park to complete the ride by dipping the tires.

Gary Beckman, his Mom and Dad, and Susan D'Aulerio all rode the last few miles with us to the ocean and cheered us on as we finally got to dip the tires in the Atlantic Ocean - we had done it- pedaled our bikes from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. We all took turns with the photo oportunities that were around us, and enjoyed Gary and his family, Susan, Gerry's Sister and husband all clapping as we dipped our tires. When we looked back from the water we realized that many beachgoers were also standing around and clapping for us too!!

We left the beach for the picnic area where Tammy had set up a party for us. Sandwich platters, soda and a cupcake cake for all to enjoy. Gerry, Ron and I, all toasted the safe finish of our journey with a glass of Asti Spumanti. We were also met there by Joy Hooper and her husband, they drove in from Tifton, Georgia to watch us finish the ride. Joy is an ostomy nurse, that has an awesome passion for her job. She has developed an "Anatomical Ostomy Apron" to explain ostomies,and colon resections.
Here are some websites to check out Joy's aprons:

and if the ride down from Georgia wasn't enough she had brought with her $180.00 in donations that she had raised for our cause!!! She also treated us to a full presentation of her apron, and her knowledge and presentation were fantastic!

I will no doubt write more as I gather my thoughts and some more pictures too!
It has been a great deal of fun for me to ride to bring awareness to Crohn's colitis, colorectal cancer, and ostomies, and blog along the way for all of you to get a sense of what I found on the road.

Thank you all for following, writing and supporting this cause.... and stay tuned for more as time goes on.........

The garmin information for the day is as follows:

Day 56 Palatka to St. Augustine by wegotguts at Garmin Connect - Details

Day 55

Lake City to Palatka

Before I got on the road today I received a call from Ron saying that they had a good day yesterday and were feeling extremely good starting today. They were interested in making a big ride today and rejoining to finish the ride together. That was awesome news, it is far better to ride with others than to ride alone!
I told them I would love to finish the ride with them but the way we had finished yesterday would make it difficult to get back together. We all decided to finish today's ride and meet tomorrow in Palatka for the final ride into Saint Augustine.
With that, I got to where I was supposed to turn yesterday and headed out for Palatka.

Heading out on the road today, I had two distinct features that grabbed my attention, the first was the sighting of what appeared to be Texas Longhorns on a farm, (not only is Florida hilly like Texas but has Longhorns too!), and the second was the constant sound of helicopters flying around, (I later learned that this was due to the close proximity of the National Gaurd's Blanding Traing Center). i again took a wrong road today that put me about 8 miles out of my way(round trip). I got myself back on track and before long found I was again on the rolling hills of Texas - I mean Florida- and the wonderful, heavily cracked chipseal pavement just made for an awesome riding Day!!

I was riding with purpose, I had to finish in Palatka so that tomorrow I could reunite with Ron and Gerry to finish. Not an easy task given the road conditions and Florida weather being hot and humid, but I did make it. At this point I am starting to have mixed emotions about finishing - on the one hand am very exited to be so close to the end, to be able to say I pedaled from Coast to Coast. But on the other hand it was going to be over, the friendships made, the talking about colon health, the views, the kindnesses shown, the hills were all going to be done.(ok so I won't really miss any of the hills!) But, basically all I have had to do for the past 55 days or so was to clean up camp everyday, pedal to my next stop and eat, each and every day.

It is all about to end and I will have to try a resume a "normal life" again. But what am I thinking??? I still have one more day of riding so why worry about such things as the end when I have one more day to enjoy with friends!!! Let's cross that bridge when we get to it - for now I will enjoy more riding!

Today's Garmin information is as follows:

Day 55 Lake City to Palatka by wegotguts at Garmin Connect - Details

Day 54

Spirit of Suwanee Park to Lake City

With a good nights rest and camp picked up it was on to the business of the day - where are we going to stop for the night? While talking to Ron and Gerry, it was decided that they did not want to push on too fast and that they would slow the pace and finish a day later than I would. We talked a bit and I decided to try and make it as close to St. Augustine as possible. We took a few pictures of the three of us, and said our goodbye's and I was off on my own to finish.

I had mapped a route different than the Adventure Cycling route for today mostly on route 41. It was rather hot and sticky already this morning so I wanted a fairly early start. I immediately was met by more Florida rolling hills, (I think we have established and documented quite well by now that Florida is definatly not flat!!)and also some very nice colors from the flowers in bloom along the road. It was hot and humid and quite a pretty ride to start the day - UNTIL - the dreaded chase dog approached from the left, ok so it was 4 dogs... but only one was fast enough to be a threat,(the other three were little dogs mostly barking)and I was going fast enough and had enough of a head start that he did not catch me.

I was back to my relaxed pace and doing well when I was chased by another dog from the right this time - he came out of nowhere quitely and when he was about 10 feet away - started barking. I grabbed for my dog repelant spray and sprayed at him, it seemed to work even though I did not directly hit him, he backed off and I continued.

I passed through White Springs, a nice little town along the Suwannee River, it has some nice old scenic buildings and homes along main street, and not much traffic. I had not eaten breakfast, so I was beginning to feel hungry, I found a gas station just before I-10 and stopped for some snack type breakfast foods. After some food and a juice, I was again on my way. I passed I-10 and before long made it to Lake City, and by this time I was quite hot and sweaty. After I passed my turn for the route I was supposed to take, I decided to call it quits for the day (about 4-5 miles past my turn) I will start tomorrow where I was supposed to turn today! A good starting point to start a new day.

Todays Garmin information is as follows:

Day 54 Spirit of Suwannee Park to Lake City by wegotguts at Garmin Connect - Details