Stormy Night West of the Suwannee

November 16, Suwannee RIver State Park to Jefferson County Line, 40 miles

I got an early start and managed to go 20 miles or so before 10 a.m. Most of that 20 miles was into the wind. I also had the beginning of a cold. I was snotty and tired when I got to the far end of Madison, Fla. Madison had good grocery stores, so I went to a couple on the way through town to stock up on real food. After that, I went to the library and emailed some friends and family. I wrote about how much better the roads were on the Adventure Cycling Route and how I planned to stay on the route for the rest of the trip. Two days later, I changed my mind. I browsed the warmshowers.org listings before I logged off the computer. I needed to do laundry and I wanted someone to hang out with. I found a couple people in Tallahassee and wrote down their names and numbers.

On the way out of Madison I passed a mexican restaurant with a sign advertising an all you can eat lunch buffet. Half a block later I turned around and pedaled towards the restaurant. I had never seen a mexican buffet before and I didn’t want to miss out. It was $6.25 and the food wasn’t great, but it was good enough. I stuffed myself with rice, beans, cheese, sour cream and stuff wrapped in tortillas that came in a variety of textures and temperatures. I was still tired at the end of the meal, so I read for a while and ate chips.

The road west of Madison went gradually uphill. A car was parked at the top of a hill and next to it there was a guy a little younger than me and an old woman. The guy had two thick, foot-long pieces of bamboo in his hand. I stopped and asked if they were alright and the guy said they were just collecting pecans (Pee-cans). He waited until the road was clear, threw one of the chunks of bamboo at the upper branches of a pecan tree on the side of the road, and then collected the nuts. I watched him for a while and the woman asked me how far I was riding. I told her to Austin. We talked for a while, but she spoke quietly and with a think accent. I couldn’t understand a lot of what she said.

Ten miles further, a bobcat crossed the road 30 feet in front of me. I watched it walk into the woods on the right side of the road. It turned around to stare at me for a while and then it disappeared into the woods. It looked like my house cat, but a little bigger and not as fat. And it’s tail was short.

I rode slowly into the wind all afternoon. I took lots of breaks to eat, drink and sit. I couldn’t tell if I was tired from getting sick or from riding so hard into the wind the day before, but I felt really wiped out. I pushed my bike into a pine tree plantation at about 2 p.m. And read for an hour. I thought about staying there for the night, but eventually decided to push myself a little further.

There were no camp grounds on the road ahead and I didn’t know where I was going to sleep. The road East of Monticello looked like a park with wide, freshly mowed lawns and manicured bushes on each side of the road. By 3 p.m., I just wanted to lie down. I pushed my bike down a game trail into the bushes off the side of the road and set up my tent. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading and eating. The day had been perfectly sunny, but clouds gathering at dusk and lightening started to flash. I got into my tent as it started pouring. I stayed mostly dry in my tent and listened to the rain all night. Both the thunder and lightening were almost constant between 8 p.m. And midnight. I tried to count the time between the lightening and thunder to determine if it was getting closer or further away, but they both happened nonstop and I couldn’t tell which thunder claps went with which lightening strikes. I woke up all through the night to groaning thunder and constant lightening flashes.

Southern mansions in Madison.

Self-portrait

lightening camp

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