I like the white fabric of my tent; it lights up with the rising sun. The birds sing their morning song. I woke up to rollover because I stick to my sleeping bag in this humidity and was too hot to zip myself into an oven. Note: good tent for Badlands winter weather. Everything has moisture on it. Time to break down camp, stretch my legs, clean my mouth, and get on the road. I wonder what challenges today will bring as I set off at 7am.
I followed the map from the park exit and then drove on dirt and sand roads for 14 miles. I saw squirrels, poop with berries in it, and a large construction truck. I had to work harder to keep my balance in rough and muddy terrain. I stayed mostly in gear 2-4. On County Road 246 there were “This is Wetland” signs in the ditch beyond the trees, perhaps for the animals to read. I was on my third protein bar by 10am. I went through a small town, White Springs, and missed the turn to Camp St by 0.4 miles.
I found my way to County Rd 25A and stayed on that road for 10 miles. Between there and Stagecoach Rd/Co Rd 132, I got chased by my first dog. I would’ve gotten chased by another, but he had a limp. The first dog ran the 100 yards to his barely-there broken fence and stopped in the road at the end of his property line. Another dog went so far as to protect his neighbor’s yard as well. Luckily, for me, these attacks were planned when I was able to go faster downhill. Note: buy doggy sonar repellant.
I didn’t know how much more my heart could take and was able to rest under the shade of a tree on the corner of Co Rd 25A and Co Rd 132. I called Caleb and he offered alternative routes or to come get me. I told him I would think about it at camp – if I made it there. I stopped at a gas station at 1:30pm to get some juice; turns out the water flavor packets I brought were disgusting and made my water smell worse than hot dog poop in a plastic bag on a Florida summer day. And all was going good until I hit 24th street.
I rode through five miles of sand and had to walk my bike at points to keep from falling over. I had put my camera away so that it wouldn’t get crushed if I fell or broken if I got attacked by a vicious dog. I pulled out my only defense – a knife, and held it close to cut their biting jaws off my ankle if need be. The directions or the signs were confusing and I again found myself at Co Rd 132 with the option of left or right. I heard cars to the right and soon found the park on my right with Hwy 90 in front of the park entrance across the railroad tracks.
Here, I met Valeska and Philipp cycling from Los Angeles to Miami. They are from Austria and have been travel-cycling on and off for eight years. The ranger at Suwannee River State Park will put us in the same camp – saving me $16. As we ride in, a branch falls off a tree and I stop just in time to watch it land before me. Note: wearing a helmet is a good thing. We are at Site 18 and meet our neighbor, fellow cyclist, Bob from Fairbanks, Alaska. He started in San Diego and will be flying back home from Orlando.
My camp buddies were all twice my age, but had ten times that amount of experience. Tea and cookies were had as stories were shared. Note: bring cup so you can accept offered drinks. There is a lot of adventure in the world just waiting to be had and they agree that New Zealand is the best place to cycle in the world – yet. I’m able to get a hot shower before sunset and notice burnt arms and some mosquito bites. We stay up until the full moon over powers the stars and then it’s time to sleep.
I covered 54 miles and got up to 22 mph outrunning dogs. At one point, I stopped by a farm where 20 calves came to the fence and we just stared at each other for a bit, then I talked some, and kept going. The ground is hard tonight; not that it hasn’t been hard every other night I’ve ever slept on it – except for sand. I cleared the big sticks and rocks, but the ground is still uneven. Two trains have passed. I know I’m tired enough I will sleep through it. My neighbors are quiet; my zippers the only thing making noise.