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David Freeze: Another adventure of a lifetime in the books

Editor’s note: David Freeze has cycled from the West Coast to the East Coast along the southern border. Email him at david.freeze@ctc.net.

Day 42: I can smell the ocean!

Today has been fun, fitting for what’s almost the last full day of riding.

Things came together after some worry late last night that rooms would be tight for tonight. I went to sleep in the High Springs Country Inn with a route plan but no idea where I would sleep. A couple of “no vacancies” and couple more nearly full had me worried. I had plenty of time to analyze the situation while riding today.

I wanted to leave just before first light, and opened the door to find a foggy mist shrouding a dark everything. I could sit down and wait or ride by flashlight. That, of course, was what I did.

I rode south on U.S. 441, passing through an interstate exit town. There were mostly just motels and convenience stores in Alachua while still fogged in. I could only feel the hills ahead because I still couldn’t see them.

I then headed to Gainesville on a light traffic morning. I wondered how things would go in a city of more than 130,000. I wanted to split from U.S. 441 and take S.R. 20 for the trip through town and farther. Not much smaller than Tallahassee, Gainesville sure got it right. Because there were bike lanes and plenty of signs, I stopped to ask for directions only once. I didn’t have to, but one walker was so cute that I stopped after she waved at me to confirm where S.R. 20 was going.

Staying on S.R. 20, I passed through Hawthorne as the sun came out. S.R. 20 had the same four-lane layout and big bike lanes, just like U.S. 441 and 90. I must admit that Florida’s roads are even better than the last time I rode through headed toward Key West.

Next was Interlachen, just a smattering of stores, and then into Palatka, where I am tonight after 66 miles. How I ended up in the Sleep Inn makes for a good story.

Noting that most lodging places seemed more full than usual, I did get two more nearly full that mentioned what they thought of my request for a non-smoking room. One had none; the other had one. Two more already confirmed to be full. So, I looked at the list available and remembered that Sleep Inns sometimes gave good deals. I called the number and got a price only $20 higher than the smoker/non-smoker places. I took it and rode a short mile out of the way.

With a Publix grocery nearby, I have been excited about the little planning required tonight. The next to the last day, when the planning is about done, is one celebration moment of these trips. Most people probably don’t realize that I plan ahead for 60-90 minutes each night. I learned long ago to keep my eyes open and not miss an opportunity to see something special.

On tap for this evening is a trip to Publix, where I bet they have cut up watermelon, and just taking some easy time. My sleep has been sorely lacking lately.

Tomorrow, I will ride to Crescent Beach, just south of St. Augustine Beach, a distance of about 20 miles from here. We’ll make the final photos somewhere near the intersection of U.S. 90 and A1A, possibly eat breakfast and head for home hauling a tired bike.

Interesting is that I passed this exact location on the Maine to Key West ride in 2014.

Places to revisit include Gainesville, named the healthiest city in America in 2003.

I will have the tire dipping photos and final thoughts on this challenging west to east ride across the southernmost United States available tomorrow. We’ll celebrate together then!

Day 43: We’ve done it again!

Another big notch gets carved in my belt! This trip ranks as one of the two hardest solo cycling adventures yet, right there with Alaska.

I left the Sleep Inn at first light and rode 31 miles through Palatka, East Palatka, Hastings and then on into Crescent Beach, arriving just before 10 a.m. Roads used were S.R. 20, 13 over the Johns River Bridge, then 207 and 206 on into the beach. Photographer Karen Leonard had me practice the arrival photos once before she shot them. I told her I had already practiced this part plenty. Then, we got official trip ending wheel dipping photos, assisted by an enthusiastic group from Salt Life Church in Gainesville. Another thing to like about that city!

There are some things to do! I have got to start cutting down on the massive amounts of food. Actually, I think that started yesterday. My hydration just needs to be better always! There are some things that must be done to catch up my duties in other places, but I’m looking forward to seeing people around the county again.

I’ve started to reminisce about all that happened over the last 43 days. It’s amazing how many things I can forget quickly from one, two or especially five or six weeks ago. I will pull all the notes together and add plenty more from memory to make another book.

Here are a few things that jump out quickly.

None of my other trips have had the endless climbing of the first four weeks, most of it in extreme heat. The long periods between supplies kept the bike load heavy and the water hot. I was so happy to dump the hot and replace it with ice-filled, super-cold liquid. I now appreciate ice more than ever. Shade too! What I will remember from the trip across the desert in 114-degree heat won’t be as a bad as it was.

There were lots of encounters with law enforcement along the way. I will skip mentioning the overzealous state troopers, and remember with happinesses and professionalism the deputies and other officers, including the border patrol agents. I’ve saved their contact info and will remember each of them with a book once it’s done.

I was excited from the start about seeing the border and learned a lot from the area residents. The border is in a terrible mess. That was the paper’s goal when we first talked about this trip.

Speaking of residents, meeting them along the way was the top reward of the whole adventure, just ahead of the interaction with readers. I picked up some new followers from other areas and valued everyone who provided input.

As always, people are always asking what is next. What is on my bucket list? One thing that I want to do is actually spend some time on the Mississippi or Ohio rivers, possibly on one of those riverboats. Big rivers amaze me!

The next bike ride? That is another story. I have taken trips now that have framed the country, more or less, with several more through the middle in various directions. I’ll be working on it.

The Salisbury Post and a host of sponsors made this trip possible: Frank and Janis Ramsay, Father and Son Produce, Dick and Jean Richards, Gear for Races, Vac and Dash, Mindi Fires, The Trophy House, David Post, Wayne Cobb, Leonard Wood, Accelerate Therapy and Performance and Skinny Wheels. Thank them when you can. Hopefully it won’t be long till we get together again.

Rayna Gardner, longtime planner and business manager of my trips, gets a lot of credit too. Andy Mooney and Paris Goodnight from the Post put the updates together in the Post and are always a pleasure to work with.

Biggest of all, thank you all for the prayers and support. The best boost to me is to feel that Rowan and an even bigger surrounding area are riding along as I go. One thing that starts now, we can talk about this adventure for a long time. I hope we do as I see you around! We didn’t meet a Grizzly this time, but we met a hurricane and barely staggered out of the desert.

This adventure is dedicated to Ollie McKnight and Patsy McBride, both big supporters previously but who watched this one from heaven.

And last but not least, as requested, the good Lord did ride with me, every single day! I wouldn’t be here if he didn’t and I am especially humbled by the whole experience.

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