A number of transitions have taken place in the last few weeks. We crossed into two more states: Georgia and Florida. We have witnessed changes in agriculture, foliage, styles of architecture, and even how we are received by the locals. Our daily rhythm has even evolved as the weather and roads became more hospitable. We are currently transitioning into the last leg of our journey, with the kind and generous support of our friends from previous chapters of life and from this adventure itself.
As stated in the previous post, South Carolina was not a very pleasurable portion of our path. To hasten our departure from it we increased our daily mileage, and one day of limited lodging necessitated we set a new personal record for ourselves -we pedaled 73 miles fully loaded (our other record of 104 miles was without our load). Seemingly, as soon as we crossed the state line into Georgia the clouds parted and the sun shone on us warmly. The roads were in better condition, no more rumble strip on the white line, drivers gave us space, and Statesboro even had ample, continuous bike lanes!
We have also noticed the changes in home architecture along the way. The abundance of white farm houses with black shutters began in North Dakota and stretched through Indiana. Brick homes began to appear in southern Indiana and the style began to change to Colonial while in Kentucky all the way through Virginia. Our Carolinas experience was mostly coastal, so stilted beach houses abounded. Georgia homes featured large front porches equipped with rocking chairs.
The kids have not really noted Florida’s style of houses yet, in part because they are too distracted by the distinct change in the foliage, both agricultural and natural. Our pleasant rural ride through Georgia Piedmont reminded us of a less-flat version of Midwestern farmland, filled with cotton fields, pecan orchards, and onions. As we neared Florida, we returned to the Coastal Plain with more development and jungle-like feel. The kids quickly discovered that saw palmettos make for great fort building, but those forts do not protect them from the wrath of fire ants or mosquitoes.
As our multitude of bug bites suggest, our camping frequency is on an upswing. That speaks to the increased availability of campgrounds and a marked improvement in the weather. We had gotten into a solid routine of stopping at churches for our lunch picnics, stopping at convenience stores for water and bathroom breaks, and closing out our days at a hotel where Otter took up the hobby of building card towers and we habitually watched Wheel of Fortune every evening. Tango was disappointed to find out you can only be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune once a year, thereby squashing his grand plan of making a career of the game show and luxuriously living off the proceeds. With the resumption of camping and denser population our rhythm has changed to include library stops mid-day for our picnic lunches, bathroom breaks, and homeschool work, with campground fort building replacing televised game shows.
Florida received us warmly. Shortly after our arrival in Jacksonville, a police officer pulled up next to us and asked if we were local or from far away. When we told him we started in Seattle his jaw dropped, he turned off his motorcycle, and asked for a selfie picture to post on his department’s Facebook page. He then shook each of the kids’ hands and told them how lucky they were to get such an experience. Other retirees and retired-aged athletes have approached us in various parking lots or when stopped in traffic to express support for our endeavor or offer guidance on upcoming road construction issues. We met a father and daughter at a park who greeted us as old friends. They shared their kites, let us love on the their dogs, and even volunteered to escort us through a construction zone that followed our park break. Kindness is alive and well.
We met up with the ever kind and loving Mr. C (from Montana and Indiana) and his son for dinner while in Jacksonville. They treated us to dinner and bestowed upon us tips on how to continue adventuring economically. Never has a bike breakdown in the middle of nowhere [Montana] bore so much fruit this many months after the fact!
We left Mr. C. to head onto St. Augustine, where friends we met in Albuquerque years ago now reside. This navy family generously allowed us to store resupply boxes with them for the last 10 months and we were pleasantly surprised to find letters for the kids and a care package awaiting us at their home upon our arrival. It means so much to the kids to be remembered by friends made before and during this adventure. The navy family has warmly incorporated us into their daily life for the last five days. Reconnecting with our friends, neighborhood Nerf gun battles, make-up fun, baking time, and a date night have made for a much-appreciated respite from our itinerant lifestyle. In addition, they lent us their vehicle to facilitate our sight-seeing. We checked out the Castillo de San Marcos (the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States); the Jacksonville Museum of Science and History; St. Augustine’s Alligator Farm; and unexpectedly, a drive down to Titusville to view the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch (another moment when I wished I had more than my phone camera!). What a treat to be witness to what may be a revolutionary milestone in space travel! We saw the first two boosters’ descent back to the launch pad and were satisfied by the closing sonic boom.
We are now packing up in preparation for the final leg of the journey as we make our 90-degree turn west and depart the Atlantic Coast tomorrow morning. The stress of the imminent transitions ahead is creeping in. We have about 1,000 miles to go, so we should be done by the end of March, depending upon weather. With that triumph comes a lot of unknowns in terms of our future as we adjust to stationary life and begin job searching. However, as the last ten months have taught us, there are lots of pleasant surprises and blessings to be discovered in the unknown.