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Saturday 16 July 2011

Day 68 - Gilbert du Motier

Todays mileage: 87
Total mileage: 3,518
End point: Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort, FL
(About 5 miles east of Mayo)

These endless epic miles are taking their toll and staying in nice places like the lodge do not help me get out of bed. Its so hard not to press snooze - you all know the feeling. I eventually threw myself together but not before bumping into the manager in the corridor. He was a good guy and was telling me it was his 2nd week in charge as florida state parks has just outsourced most of its support activities in the parks, I told him was doing a good job ;) A little flattery after my discounted rate.

I didn't get very far before bumping into a couple of cyclists; Dave and Dale out for a morning ride. Cutting perpendicular to my route they were on a lovely bike trail called St.Marks which runs up to Tallahassee, the state capital. Dave very kindly gave me his gloves are seeing the state of mine. Theese were full finger gloves and so at the next gas station and to the amusement of the attendent I chopped the fingers off. They have made the world of difference and may mean I avoid infected hands - thankyou!

Whilst we are talking saints I wanted to mention the St.Joe paper company. The lodge I stayed at last night I was actually founded by one of their managers in the 1930s and Patrick had told me they were huge in Florida. So huge they actually moved the highway around their port building so they could have beach front access, and they even had the eastern time zone shifted east so all their offices would be in the same time zone!

The road today has been very bleak. You don't think of Florida as empty but the counties of Taylor and Lafayette have no disneyland or universal studios. My route on highway 98 and 27 was relatively flat, with forest eitherside. I say forest although it looked more like jungle with dense shrubbery and the odd swamp. At least there was a shoulder to keep me out of the traffic but there were few landmarks or other points of interest. I'd like to tell you about bear fights and alligator escapes but I'm too tired for one of my works of fiction.

I have been rained on pretty much all day, but thankfully it has been drizzle rather than the cats and dogs of yesterday. In fact this has been quite nice as the temperature has been in the 80s and I haven't been sweating like a pig; this is just as well given the gaps between gas stations.

The only town of note was Perry, and in even this wasn't a very high note. I have been wanting to talk water towers though, and Perry had a shiny silver one, unlike most of the white ones I see. I was interested to know why the US has so many water towers and we in the UK appear not to. Firstly it turns out we do have water towers in the UK before someone tells me about the one in Tilehurst in Reading, but on the whole most have been decommissioned. Water towers provide water pressure, and if you don't have a tower then you need an electric pump. The issue with this is that if there is a power cut then not only do you lose pressure but there is a risk of infection spreading through the stagnant water system. Now I'm going to put on my utility hat here and guess that the reason the US still has these water towers is because it I much more prone to power cuts. And the reason for this is that most electricity is still carried on overhead lines which due to some of the more violent weather over here can be taken down by storms and hurricanes etc.. Because of the lack of population density and the high costs of retrofitting it is rare for an electric company to actively seek to bury cables underground. Its a simple economic choice: 7 cents /kwh with occassional power cuts or 12 cents with no power cuts... And so the water tower stays :) Some of this is Peers speculation so I welcome some constructive criticism from engineers out there!

So the title of todays blog - what the hell is that about? Well old Gilbert is the Marquis of Lafayette, a french general who supported the americans in the war of independence and has lots of stuff named after him. From the wikipedia article he sounds like a very intereting bloke and turned down the opportunity to be dictator of France. I need to buy Alan a book on him for xmas, so he can read it and then give me the 1 hour synopsis in the pub. It also turns out he is one of only 7 people to receive hnourary american citizenship with the likes of Winston Churchill and Mother Theresa. What's more odd is that this was only granted in 2002. Does someone in congress have time to figure out which general deserves such an accolade 200 years later??

I passed through the town of Mayo and then cut a little north to a campground on the banks of the river. The owner of tha campground cracked me up. Every few minutes, he'd stop, stare and then say: "Seattle, really? Seattle...hmmm". He insisted on taking a photo of me! I managed to negotiate a picnic shelter again so if it does rain I won't have a wet flysheet which will help me getting out of here. Before cooking dinner I went for a wash / swim in the river. I was a bit concerned though because as I approached the river a 4 foot long fish jumped 6 foot out of the river.. and then again.. and then everywhere: jumping sturgeon. I have never seen anything like this, and its times like this I wish I had an SLR to grab a picture. I only know they were Sturgeon because Geoff, the canoeist told me. He had just completed his instructor exams and was about to start a business leading kayak trips. He jumped in for a swim just to prove to me it was safe, although it wasn't helped by the fact he told me there are alligators in this river, apparently upstream!

So I am closing in on the final destination, tomorrow is the penultimate day. These epic miles seem to be killer at the moment, but it will all be worth it, plus it will be getting my average mileage up to somewhere between 60 to 65 miles. I'm sure I had the final week pencilled in at gentle 55 mile days - oh dear me! Pam is currently on her bacherlorette party so the phone is going on silent before I get any drunk calls from her or her friends!


  1. Brian,
    It was great to meet you on the ride Saturday. I have really enjoyed the blog. Congratulations on completing your journey!


  2. Dale - it was meeting people like you that made the ride so great - keep riding! Although i am going to take a little break :)