Orange Park Florida to St. Augustine Florida
Today was the final day of my journey to St. Augustine. It’s hard to describe the emotion that 66 days of cycling, most of them consecutive, will bring. I enjoyed each mile of today’s ride. I traveled 560 miles to traverse Florida from the Western tip on the Gulf Coast to St. Augustine in the Northeast. Today was easily the best weather I have experienced since leaving Alabama on November 8th. Yesterday was the only other comfortable day of riding. All of the preceding days were cold, some of them bone chilling.
I stopped for lunch in Palatka and spent two hours. I ate at the Magnolia Cafe. My friend and former riding companion from the pre-Austin days of the tour recommended it to me after she went through Palatka three days ago. It was a very good lunch. Afterwards, I went across the street for an Americano and an Apple Turnover. I took them outside on the porch. The sun was shining and I spent the second hour of my lunch break just sitting and soaking up the warmth. I fell asleep in the chair. I must have looked a little bit ridiculous. It was just what I needed to complete the last 30 miles of the journey.
There were a lot of paved bike trails on today’s route. That made the ride even more enjoyable. I arrived in St. Augustine at 4pm. I’m staying right downtown in the old quarter at a Hostel called the “Pirate House.” St. Augustine is on a bay. Tomorrow I will ride out to the ocean to dip my front wheel in the Atlantic, capping my coast-to-coast trip. It’s about 3 miles from St. Augustine to the Ocean. While today officially ended this journey, tomorrow will be the ceremonial conclusion.
While I was riding today, I wrote a poem about what it’s like to cross the country on a bicycle. It call it “The Country.” It didn’t come to me all at once. I would pull off the road to jot down various pieces. By the fourth time I pulled over (well out of the traffic) the poem was mostly complete.
When I started thinking about the logistics of this journey back in January, I realized I wanted to complete the ride in St. Augustine on November 19th. This is a special day for me. One year ago today I underwent open heart surgery to replace my Aortic Valve. I have always been an active guy. I played sports when I was young and I led an active lifestyle for most of my adult life.
When I was a kid, I had asthma. I remember trying to keep up with the other kids at recess. Typically I would have to sit down and watch them after just a few minutes of running around. I hated that. By the time I reached Middle School, I had “outgrown” much of that, and by the time I reached High School, I felt like I could keep up with the other kids, most of the time. But I didn’t have the endurance that they had. I dismissed that as being a result of reduced lung capacity due to childhood asthma, which was a factor, but not the only factor.
After my 11th Seattle to Portland bike ride, at the age of 64, I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t have the endurance that I felt I should have. I asked my doctor to do some tests. In the fall of last year I learned that I was born with a Bifurcated Aortic Valve. Normally you are born with three “leaves” in your Aortic Valve, I was born with only two. That causes a murmur, blood bypassing the valve when it opens and closes. In other words, reduced exercise capacity. A lot of things started to make sense to me.
The surgery was successful. There is a three month recovery from that surgery. Two days shy of the three months I was skiing again. It was during the recovery that I decided it was time to fulfill my dream of riding a bike across the country. I also thought it would be great to complete the ride by arriving in St. Augustine on the one year anniversary of the surgery. I am thrilled, and grateful, to have made that happen. This is a special day.
The Southern Tier is complete. Tomorrow I will ride out to the ocean and dip my wheel in the Atlantic.
Arrived one day ahead of the group after giving them a 2 day jump on me out of Austin.