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Saturday, 16 July 2011

Day 67 - Cats and Dogs in Apalachicola

Todays mileage: 87
Total mileage: 3,431
End Point: Wakulla Spings State Park, FL

I had the smallest lie-in this morning, feeling very tired after a couple of days if epic riding and having stayed up late chatting to Carla and Patrick. I appeared upstairs and Carla kindly offered my an egg sandwich and juice for breakfast.  As I was eating she was telling me that they had only just had the kitchen refitted after their house was hit by lightening. The lightening had destroyed the cooked and melted the granite work surface!! Their house isn't even the tallest in the sub-division so they had been particularly unlucky. I said my goodbyes and told them they were welcome anytime in England. I hope they get to do the transam ride too, they were awesome people and so kind.

First port of call was the town of Apalachicola which the national forest in this area is named after. I would have to take quite a serious bridge over the bay to the town of eastpoint. Now most bridges have a bit of a fear factor because there is nowhere to go to the side of the road, however the shoulder was huge on this bridge - but I suddenly realised I had a completely different threat. Flocks of birds flying right towards me, they were racing along from thermals off the bridge. Now I'm not to scared of the seagull like birds but suddenly there were heron like creatures with beaks that were a 6 inches long and a wingspan that was as wide as my my armspan. One particular one came right at me and although it probably missed by a good few feet I was quite scared. I saw the newspaper now, my parents phone hacked by a tabloid journalist to find out the gruesome details of how the birds beak had driven through my helmet and wedged itself firmly in my skull...

On the otherside, the road ran right next to a very thin line of sandy beach. Various people were out fishing by standing in the sea casting nets, something I woudn't have expected to see in america. A few others were nestled next to a palm tree or a parasol fishing with a line. This area of the coast was less developed and it was nice to escape from the commercialization of other resorts I have seen along the coast. I think Carla called this the 'forgotten coast' or some such, very apt.

After 10 miles or so big drops of rain started appearing and the sky turned grey. It started raining for about 10 minutes and then suddenly it came. Dense, heavy, pounding, torrential, soaking, devastating downpour of cats and dogs from which nothing could escape. I cycled for about 5 minutes but by this point the rain was so hard I actually couldn't see were I was going and the road was a river, I needed shelter. Fortunately I found a house with a couple of people doing some work in their carport area and slowing down, they beckoned me under. I should explain that all the houses here have a ground floor which really has nothing in it - either an open air garage or store area, which is designed to take sea swell during a storm. The idea being not to leave everything valuable in this space. It was great to be in the shelter, and it turned the older gentleman was from Liverpool (which is were my dad's family is from) although he had left England at an early age many moons ago. After 20 minutes or so the storm stopped but I was absolutely drenched including my shoes which is never fun.

I headed onwards to Carabelle which was my halfway point and a lunch stop. I was a bit annoyed that I hadn't got here before the storm as I could have been in side a nice dry restaurant and saved time. I had a good Grouper sandwich as I had been wanting to get involved with someone fish whilst I was on the coast. I also saw what claimd to be the worlds smallest police station although to me It just looked like an empty phone box!

I was determined to keep the pace up north of Carabelle, this is very hard when you are soaked through and to make matters worst my gloves have started to fall apart. They haven't been properly dry in days and the stitching is falling out and the material is torn. They will have to last till the end of the trip but then they are going straight in the bin in Jacksonville Beach. North of Carabelle I had a choice as the road forked - take an inland route on 319 via Sopchoppy or continue on the coastal route 98. I decided to wait at the junction for 10 minutes and take the quietest road, and I would count that cars going either way to work that out: 6 cars went left, 6 went right - statistical decision failure. Both had shoulders and had I been dry and happy I would have taken the coastal road, but 319 looked a mile or so shorter and so I took the Sopchoppy route. Sopchoppy is a horrible town by the way, lots of shacks; its crazy how quick you get to poverty once you leave the coast.

I continued through Medart and rejoined 98 for a little bit before cutting up some back roads to my destination: "Edward Ball Wakulla Spring State Park" - bit of a mouthful that one. Going over the 80 mile mark and it approaching 7pm I was looking forward to stopping and drying out, but unfortunately the western entrance marked on google maps is closed and I had to do a few more miles to get to the northern entrance. As I cycled into the park I saw a sign of horror: "camping prohibited" - oh dear me, what an error on my part. There really was nothing around here but the park. I headed down the road with the plan of pleading my case to a park ranger. Instead I found a beautiful 1930s art-deco / spanish lodge, I walked to the front desk and explained myself to the lady behind the counter. I said I was happy to camp under a picnic area or something, she seemed concerned by this due to bears in the park and asked me to come back in a few minutes. After protracted negotiations with her manager and from what I could overhear a description of my soggyness she called me over. She asked me what I would usually pay and I said if I was motelling it, it would normally by a maximum of $40 to $50 - so she charged me $45. These rooms are gorgeous with period features and furniture and at the weekend normally go for $125, not only that but she gave me half a pizza too! I'm so happy to be dry, especially as I can see lightening out of the window!

I now have less than 200 miles to go. I'll keep my fingers crossed for dryer weather tomorrow - although no doubt the chance of thunderstorms will remain at the constant 30%. Quick note of thankyou for the sponsorship from all the Wycombe Abbey and Wycombe High School staff, I know my mum has been rounding you up for sponsorship and it is much appreciated. 

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