Day 52 – Palatka, FL to Saint Augustine, FL – 43.91 miles – Elevation: +322 / -449 feet
The final day. Fortunately, the route was only about 44 miles and we completed it by lunchtime, even riding at a leisurely pace.
About a mile from the end we stopped, posed for a group picture then rode the final mile in single file to the end. The group was lead by Don, a man who was an inspiration for me every day of the trip. Don finished at the end of the pack almost every day. In fact, most nights I was in bed sleeping before he was able to get a shower.
So what made Don so inspiring? He got up every day and rode the complete route with a prosthetic leg. It was only fitting that the man who finished last so many days got to finish first the last day.
I completed a lifelong dream and it was an incredible journey I will never forget. I hope everyone gets to complete their dream. Thanks to everyone who followed me on my journey and for all of the kind words and encouragement!
Day 51 – High Springs, FL to Palatka, FL – 85.69 miles – Elevation: +1,594 / -1,562 feet
Today is the second to last day. While it was supposed to be an 84 mile ride, I got to do a few extra miles. As luck would have it, one of my riding partners forget the cue sheet this morning so I offered mine. Since I ride with a bicycle GPS, I general don’t use my cue sheet.
Unfortunately, we got caught in a thunderstorm this morning while I was in front leading the group. We each take turns leading for two miles. Unknown to me they dropped off and found cover from the rain and lightning while I sped up in an effort to outrun the storm.
To make matters worse, I missed a turn and without a cue sheet I couldn’t find my way back to the route. A quick call to SAG and I was back on the route. Once back on the route, I met up with Ron and Nancy and rode with them until I met up with my group again.
I was pleasantly surprised by Colleen at dinner tonight and I am looking forward to finishing the ride tomorrow and returning home.
Day 49 – Madison, FL to High Springs FL – 77.54 miles – Elevation: +1,280 / -1,348 feet
Today was a 77 mile ride. It turned out to be another excellent cycling day just like we had yesterday. We are all getting visibly stronger and less intimidated by the high mileage days. Unfortunately it’s a bit late since the trip is drawing to an end. We only have two riding days left and less than 130 miles to go until we dip our front wheels in the Atlantic Ocean.
The highlight of the day was the scenery and wild flowers.
Day 48 – Tallahassee, FL to Madison, FL – 49.33 miles – Elevation: +1,160 / -1,084 feet
Today was a relatively short day with only a 48 mile ride. Fortunately, the hills leaving Tallahassee were not as steep as the ones coming in. I never realized how hilly the area was before this.
The weather and scenery were great. In fact, I would rate it as an ideal cycling day. Along the way we stopped at the hometown of Ray Charles and had some fun taking pictures of ourselves with his statue.
The spirits of the group are very high now as we near the end of the ride.
Day 47 – Marianna, FL to Tallahassee, FL – 75.14 miles – Elevation: +2,457 / -2,448 feet
Today was a 75 mile ride. Without a doubt Florida has the best roads to cycle. Lisa had to break off from the group because she had a TV interview to make and I had to ride at a slower pace because of my injury.
Day 46 – DeFuniak Springs, FL to Marianna, FL – 69.64 miles – Elevation: +1,617 / – 1,742 feet
Today was a 69 mile ride. Since I missed the riders’ meeting last night, I didn’t realize that breakfast was a half hour earlier than usual. Nevertheless, my riding partners waited for me and helped me live up to my promise to the doctor to go easy for the next few days. I can’t begin to tell you what a great group my riding partners are. I will dearly miss them when this is over.
In addition, the slower pace gave me some time to recover from the emotional roller coaster that I was on yesterday and helped me realize how lucky I am and how many people had helped to keep me going.
Colleen for arranging the initial doctor’s appointment at the very last minute.
Bubba for lending me a SAG vehicle to go to the appointment.
The doctor for seeing me on a very short notice and for asking the surgeon to see me.
The surgeon for staying after hours to perform the surgery.
And everyone’s comments and support.
Everyone helped me get my head on straight. Thank you. I am truly blessed.
Day 45 – Milton, FL to DeFuniak Springs, FL – 54.71 miles – Elevation: +951 / -860 feet
Today was a relatively short 54.5 mile day. Unfortunately, I had a doctor appointment at 1:45 PM. Since the doctor was more than an hour’s drive from the finish point, I really had to push hard to finish the route and make my appointment. In fact, I may have been the first rider in.
As I mentioned before, my goal is to complete the whole route. However, today was one of the days that I almost didn’t complete. I had a similar dilemma on day 23 leaving Sanderson when I broke my front shifter cable. SAG wanted to drive me to the rest stop to have my bike fixed there. However, I refused and continued on so I could complete the whole route,
The question I am struggling with today is do I have to cycle every inch of the route to say I successfully completed the coast to coast route? What do you think? Anyone?
Today’s 85 mile ride started with heavy rain while we waited to get on the ferry to leave the island. While waiting for the ferry one of the riders accidentally dropped his smart phone into the bay. Shorty afterwards the rain subsided. Thank you Bruce for the sacrifice.
However, the day wasn’t without other mishaps. Udi broke his second spoke of the trip and had to use a loaner wheel to finish the route. Nevertheless, rains, lost phones or broken spokes could not keep us from entering Florida, our 8th and final state.
I woke up to the pitter patter of rainfall on my tent this morning. Luckily it is a rest day and I don’t have to ride today. The time off also gives me the opportunity to share a little bit about the support staff that help so much to make us successful in our adventure. Without them the journey would be much more difficult.
There is the Wolfpack, a group of young men that put up and take down our tent city and other support facilities at each overnight location come rain or shine. For example, when I arrived here, all I had to do was find my tent. Inside my tent my bags and inflated air mattress were already there waiting for me.
There is also a SAG support staff that are stationed 20 to 30 miles apart along the route that check to ensure each rider arrives when expected. If a ride doesn’t show up, someone on the SAG team goes out looking for them. In remote areas the SAG also supplies drinks, snacks, and a chair to sit in. The support staff even does our laundry for us about twice a week.
Having toured self supported I can say without a doubt that the jobs that the support staff do for us would be exhausting if we have to do them ourselves before and after each ride. Especially on long rides.