A wood stork, we thought it was pretty cool. Apparently they are kind of like crows to people down here, you know, scavengers.
We've reached the Atlantic Ocean!!!
Aww...I think this one is a winner.
Greg's bike in the Atlantic Ocean, too bad his helmet is obscuring Chompy the Alligator from view.
East Palatka to St. Augustine Florida
4,958 miles so far
Today is the day! We are going to be reaching to Atlantic Ocean today and the grand finale of our bike trip. We got up this morning in good spirits, excited for this monumental occasion. I can't tell you how many times I have thought about the day we will reach the Atlantic Ocean when we were going through trying times along our route. We have long waited for this day. At the same time, we feel very much in disbelief that our adventure has come to an end, after all this time we have been riding.
We got up and ate our Meusli for breakfast and headed down the road on this perfect, sunny real Florida day. It is not Florida cold today! We took a shortcut from our campground to meet back up with the route. I was surprised to start to see agriculture again along these roads. The soil here is glorified sand and we watched as workers harvested cabbages from the fields. They walked alongside large tractors, lobbing cabbage heads into the large bin pulled behind the tractor. We also saw many tomato farms with empty fields. It must be too early to plant tomatoes in Florida. We stopped at a roadside produce stand that disappointed us just as the last one we had seen in California did. There were several local items at this stand, cabbage heads, honey and maybe some of the citrus. The rest of the produce was all of the same conventional food you would find at a grocery store except for the quality of these was much less and they seemed to be on their way out. Needless to say, we didn't buy anything.
We turned north and rode in that direction for about ten miles, the whole time fighting a headwind. Normally this would have bugged me, but I realized that no matter what the weather threw at us, we would reach the Ocean today. So we pushed on through the headwind and stopped for lunch at a small feed/convenience store at Molasses Junction. This junction is where the route turns and the strong headwind becomes a fine tailwind. We ate some herring filets with green chiles on Triscuits and trail mix. We even made friends with a kitty who licked out our spent herring tin. It wasn't long after that we rolled into St. Augustine and I began to feel very excited that we were in the last city on our route. We made it! First we saw the city limit sign, and shortly after we began to see all of the old buildings and Spanish architecture that St. Augustine is so famous for. The buildings are tall and resemble mission-style buildings. They are mostly painted white with rusty orange or red trim. Most of the very oldest (and even some of the new) buildings in St. Augustine are made of coquina. Coquina is a type of rock made up of shell particles and pieces that have been compressed over time to form a very hard substance. This was a particularly advantageous material in the building of forts because it was known to absorb the shock of cannonballs instead of cracking or breaking under pressure. We didn't stop in town today because we have a mission. We rode straight through St. Augustine and over the bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island, where we will be camping and where we can get to the Atlantic Ocean.
We found Anastasia State Park and rode to the beach. We could hear the waves crashing but could not yet see the ocean and we were giddy. We dismounted our bikes and began to roll and push them about 300 yards down the soft sandy beach to where the surf meets the sand. What an exciting moment this is! I relished the feeling of the waves over my feet and watched the waves lap at our tires. What a peaceful moment. The Atlantic seems a lot more gentle than the Pacific, which we have come to know well. After our initial moments enjoying the feeling of joy and accomplishment, we asked some nice beachcombers to take some pictures for us. Having this moment captured in a photograph is priceless to us. I think it is especially important because at the time, being there at the ocean having just completed the longest, and first bike tour you have ever done, it is difficult to believe that you are really there. Maybe this picture will capture our feelings.
After the ceremonial tradition of touching our wheels to the ocean, we went back up the beach and straight to the foot showers. We rinsed our bikes off completely to get rid of the corrosive salt water and sand. After that we went to the campsite and set up our tent, still pondering the fact that we made it at last. Not only have we made it to the Atlantic Ocean, but we have finished this bike tour on my 23rd birthday! What an unforgettable gift for me. I will never forget this birthday and it is probably one of the most unique ones I will have. The combination of these events calls for a great celebration. We decided on a little Mexican Cafe in St. Augustine called “Madre's.” We went all out for the night (relative to our normal dinners). We ordered jalapeno poppers for an appetizer. They were the best poppers I've ever had and they weren't out of a box. They were very large jalapenos filled with cheese and battered and lightly fried. They came with a chipotle sauce and a tasty raspberry sauce. Next we ordered a pitcher of Sangria to share. Mmm...what a nice treat for us! We have probably had about three drinks each on our entire trip, so we really enjoyed the Sangria. Next, we ordered burritos, Greg having a blackened fish burritos and Dani having a veggie burrito with sprouts and avocado. For dessert we each got a delicious piece of peanut butter pie. Peanut butter pie is a tasty, rich peanutbuttery concoction with a quality similar to cheesecake, covered on top by a layer of chocolate and drizzled with white and dark chocolate. We thoroughly enjoyed our celebration dinner and walked our bikes most of the four miles back to the campground.
We wasted no time in getting into our tent and falling asleep. What a great ending to such a long-awaited day.
It is really hard to imagine that today actually happened. I can still vividly remember our train ride to Portland, and our first day of riding. I can remember so many of the places we have been along the way, and in some ways it does not seem very long ago. Then, in another way, certain things seem forever ago. I can remember our first day in Texas when we rode to El Paso. That seems so long ago... and it was.
The truth is, our trip encompassed 120 days. That is really not a huge amount of time in the grand scheme of life, but this trip was really living. Life can so easily become routine, but this trip was not. Sure there were many things we did over each day like set up camp, or take down camp. And yes, we rode our bikes everyday, but it did not feel routine. Everyday we saw something new. Everyday was its own adventure, yet it was part of a bigger adventure.
This trip was a first for us both. It was the first time where we dreamed something up that was truly different from the norm, different from what anyone would ever expect us to do, and instead of shying away from it, we ran with it. It has proved to us that there is no one path that any life should follow. There is no set of expectations that we all have to meet. I am not advocating a life without work or jobs or responsibilities, quite the contrary. A true adventure (and I feel ours is) requires all of these things and more. In 120 days we have seen and done more than many people on this Earth will do or see in a lifetime.
When we arrived here in St. Augustine, and we rolled our bikes out to reach the Atlantic Ocean, I thought of everything that it took for us to get here. Was it worth it? Yes, I would do it all over again right now. For a boy that grew up in Midwest and having never spent much time traveling, this trip has really opened my eyes. The world is not nearly as big as I once thought it was. I have ridden my bike from one great ocean to another. I have seen deserts and rainforests. I have seen the biggest trees on Earth. I have been from 100 feet below sea level to over 8,000 feet. I crossed our own Continental Divide. I pedaled along the Columbia river, over the Colorado, and I took a ferry across the Mississippi. I have seen the most productive agricultural valley in the United States. I could go on forever.
As we looked out across the ocean and the waves rolled onto the beach to meet our wheels I realized that life is supposed to be an adventure. This trip, more than anything, has cemented that thought in my brain. We only get to live life once. Why not make it an adventure? That being said, I am so glad we made it to St. Augustine safely. Now we can look back on our trip and remember the things that were most important to us. We can also move toward our next adventure.