GEOFF'S FINAL WORDS
It's been a couple of weeks since we rolled into St. Augustine Beach, concluding our coast-coast bike tour and proving the adage that everywhere is within cycling distance, if you have the time. The 50km home stretch on a sunny Monday (March 20) included some standard elements of our entire 3,600km bike ride, including towns with unusual names. On this day, we departed East Palatka ("pile of kaka", opined our Best Western clerk) and rolled through Spuds, perhaps the potato-growing capital of Florida. The route featured both tailwinds and headwinds, dedicated bike paths through woodland, bike lanes on a busy highway, and cars…many cars…on the roads leading to St. Augustine Beach. Unusually, we encountered a group of 250 Bike Forida road cyclists on a loop to and from St. A. At one point a large guy on a fancy carbon-frame bike moved up behind me and started berating in lavish terms retirees from the West Island of Montreal with the leisure to ride across America. Turns out he was a DDO guy who flew down for this one-week event, and Barc (a few minutes behind me on this leg) had unwittingly provided him background details essential to this riff. Less amusing was his misogyny and Duddy Kravitz-like schtick that grew more extreme until I conveniently arrived at a junction requiring me to re-orient with Barc. Oy!
The crest of the causeway bridge over to St. Augustine Beach…while providing a fine view of the intracoastal waterway…failed to give us that hoped-for vista of the Atlantic coast, but it was still very exciting for this rookie to pass through some dunes to emerge near the ocean pier marking the end of our long journey. No bands, flags, nor cheering throngs to mark our arrival on this windy day at the beach, however, which for us was a required photo op rather than a tanning opportunity. After pictures taken by some lonely divorcee we pressed into duty on our behalf, we looped back to the city of St. Augustine for lunch at the Ice House, recommended to us as a great lunch option by this same woman. Good, if expensive, food and cordial bar service located in Florida's first legal distillery, a location very much on the route of the local tourist trains. The driver of one passing train "interviewed" me for the benefit of his passengers, thereby securing our place in the history of the area. Two Canadians who just arrived from San Diego, folks: Exhibit A.
It would be nice to think that like all great travellers (per Disraeli), I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen. Even now, my memories of our forty-nine days on the road fade, re-align, or become more vivid. Some of my takeaways:
• Glad I agreed to Barc's invitation to complete his Southern Tier trifecta. Whether in a tent, at a "warm showers" host, or in a motel, seven weeks of togetherness with my brother had its strained moments, but the journey was mostly fun and cordial, even though I was less obedient than his sons. Thanks, Barc.
• Barc was right about the Southwest desert and hills being really evocative and the most interesting stretch of the journey, even though every section had its charms. We had rain on only two of the days, and seeing the South close up on a bicycle is the right way to feel the heat (and occasional cold), meet locals, and gather a sensory memory of all we've seen or smelled.
• We saw too many Trump bumper stickers, but a surprising number of NPR types were outspoken about the orange-headed one. Even the South seems divided on American politics.
• Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
• Drink water.
Our car rental for the 21-hour, overnight drive north to Syracuse NY was a Toyota minivan, which rendered unremarkable 1,100 miles of any hills, rain, and headwinds. Is there gas in the car? Yes, there's gas in the car…adios, friends.
A Limerick by Barc
Two brothers went out for a ride
From one to the other side
It mostly got done
It mostly was fun
And they're mostly glad they tried