Tuesday, November 20, 2012


It was a Thursday night, much like any other. I'd spent the day working and managing family affairs, I'd done some laundry and run to the grocery store and so forth. But there was one subtle difference distinguishing this Thursday from most others. In the middle of my living room, my adventure pile had amassed itself and the back of my mind was whirling with anticipation.

 Adventure Pile

The anticipation hadn't made its way forward yet though. The day had been far too busy for that. In fact, I'd been so busy for the past two weeks that the event that pile amassed itself for kind-of snuck up on me.

It wasn't until my alarm went off Friday morning that it really hit me, but then it _really_ hit me. I was about to ride a mountain bike 250 miles across Florida, from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico.

Having had my so much else on my mind, for so long, the prospect seemed to me, at that moment, probably as it would any normal person.


"God, I'd get tired driving that."

And yet, it would be so. I'd worked out the logistics and committed to the effort, so some part of my mind must have felt capable. Lying there though, I couldn't remember which part.

In fact, it wasn't until an hour or so later that I started feeling right about the whole thing. As I went through the motions, little things triggered memories. Walking out through the garage, the slight chill in the air, stopping at the local gas station in the dark, the Dutch Monkey run...

 Dutch Monkery

"Oh, yeah, I remember this. This is something I do. I can do this."

I had a 7 hour drive ahead of me but unlike my three previous excursions to Central Florida, this time I would have company.

I picked up Shey Lindner at the Waffle House just south of Jackson where his wife Kari had dropped him off. Earlier this year, Kari won the Huracan, the other six-million mile ride around Central Florida, but she had other things to do this week and would not be joining us. Kari is really great. I got to hang out with her a bit during the TNGA and it was nice to get to say hi to her at the Waffle House, but "hi" is about all I had time to say. We needed to be in Inglis around 1 PM and we wouldn't make it if we didn't get moving.

In the past, the drive down has seemed interminable, but this time it flew right by. It was great to have someone to talk to. Good company goes a long way.

One of the most overlooked, but nonetheless challenging aspects of these point-to-point events is coordinating transportation. You either have to get from your car to the start or from the finish to your car, the former being preferable. I'd helped Karlos out with this during the TNGA and he returned the favor for me this past Friday.

We met him at the Riverside RV Resort, where they'd graciously allowed us to park our cars, free of charge. Jason and Kim Murrell were there too. We shoehorned our bikes into Karlos' roof rack...


...shoehorned our bodies into his truck, and hit the road.

First stop: lunch. And not a moment too soon. Good lord, I was hungry.


We at at some restaurant in Dunnellon, right on the Rainbow River. The food was pretty good. Not amazing, but definitely better than "satisfactory". I'd eat there again.

The river itself was beautiful.

 Rainbow River

Deep, clear water, and with fall hitting the cypress along the banks, I could see why they called it the Rainbow River.

The drive to New Smyrna Beach was 4 or 5 more hours. I slept for some part of that. Karlos looked pretty tired too. We got there though, and checked-in to the Scottish Inn. Most of the rest of the riders were meeting for dinner at The Breakers so we drove over to hang out with them. It was cool to see everyone but mr and Shey and the Murrells really just wanted to eat and sleep so we bailed at the earliest opportunity.

It seemed late but it was really only about 9 so we got to bed early and slept really well. I woke up naturally well before the alarm, went back to sleep and even woke up again before the alarm. Mmmmm. Long sleep.

At 5am we rolled out of the hotel. The start was at 6, about 4 miles away. Jason and Kim had left already, around midnight. There was a 30% chance of rain for the next day, and being an Independent Time Trial, the rules for the event allowed you to leave kind-of whenever you want as long as you hit all of the checkpoints and keep track of your start and finish time.

The Murrells had left early to beat the rain, but in fact, it had rained off and on all night and by the time we left, had let up entirely and started to dry so I'm not sure how much their early departure actually helped.

We got slightly lost on the way to the start. The start was on 4th avenue. We came in on 3rd, figured we'd take it to the beach and then cut over to 4th, but 3rd bends around subtly and eventually just goes north along the beach. Woohoo! Though confounding, we figured it out eventually and barely made the riders meeting.

"..to the Cross Florida Individual Time Trial, brought to you by Singletrack Samurai Productions and me, Karlos, the Naked Indian..."

"...follow the GPS route and take photos of your bike at each of the designated checkpoints..."

We missed "Welcome" but that was about it.

Karlos handed out cards with the MTBCast number on it. I tried to do a pre-start call-in and ended up calling Joes personal number instead, waking him up at 6am. Sorry Joe.

Checkpoint 0 was a wheel dip in the Atlantic.

I walked my bike down to the water. It was salty, breezy, wet, sandy. The waves were loud. There was no hint of sun. Reflective strips on everybody's gear would flash when someone else randomly turned their head in that direction. Two dozen red lights blinked in syncopated non-rhythm. None of these things seemed to go together. None of it seemed real.

 Wheel Dippers

 Wheel Dip in the Atlantic

Jeez, did my bike just touch the Ocean?

Actually, I guess the Ocean came in and touched my bike.

It felt strange. I don't know how to explain it. These words don't adequately convey the strangeness.

We started there on the beach. Karlos staggered us by 30 seconds. CFiTT champs went first, then Tour Divide finishers, then Huracan champs or something like that. Each rider could ride out with a buddy. Shey was the Huracan champ and we rode out together.

The previous night's rain made for an easy ride up off of the beach, and with that, we were on our way.

I immediately got the song Mercy from Kanye West stuck in my head.

"...She go wherever I go, wherever we go, we do it pronto..."

And it was stuck in my head for the entire rest of the ride.

On the way out of town, we climbed several bridges over several canals and joked about it being the only real elevation on the route.

We zigged and zagged through town, through some apartments, on some trails behind the college or something, and eventually arrived in the middle of nowhere.

Shey kept dropping back and fiddling with his GPS. Apparently one of the rubber bands holding it on had gotten up over the little joystick thing and clicked it a bunch of times, enabling all sorts of random things. He eventually straightened it all out and took off, but we leapfrogged for the first 15 miles or so.

Somewhere in there, the sun came up and we hit our first dirt on Volco Road.

 Volco Road

I felt great.

 Not Feeling Bad Yet

My hands were bothering me a little, like I was leaning on them too hard or something, but that was all.

Karlos passed me on Maytown Road and we rode together for probably 10 miles.


Over the course of about one mile, I went from feeling great to experiencing all possible discomfort. It all went bad, all at once. Usually the day starts off as fun, transitions to work and then eventually transitions to suffering, at which point I camp. This time, it went from fun, directly to suffering with no intermediate "work" phase.

Individual muscles in my legs began to hurt, one after another. Not get tired, just hurt. When the hurt in one would go away, that one would become tired and another would start to hurt. I couldn't breathe well either. My head was killing me. I was thirsty as hell but too full to drink. I kept looking back at my cassette and being disappointed by what gear I was in.

I was riding on pavement. Rough pavement, but still, pavement, and it felt like sand - slower and slower.

Pavement became gravel and that just made it even harder. There was some long section where they were repaving like 2 miles of the road or something. One lane was blocked off and flagmen were allowing traffic through on the other. I usually push hard to get through those and minimize the impact on drivers but it just went on forever and at a point I just had to sit up and annoy the poor people behind me.

Eventually, I rolled into Osteen, Checkpoint 1, and took my photo at the marker.

 Osteen Marker

Two other riders pulled in right behind me. I'd been passed by a dozen or more already.


I'd gotten the idea a mile or so earlier, that maybe my brakes were dragging. I'd replaced the rear pads the previous Thursday and I think someone had accidentally pulled my front brake loading my bike onto Karlos' truck.


The rear wheel wouldn't even turn a half-revolution on its own. The front was even worse than that.

I reshimmed the rear and got it rolling well. The front required a little more work. One side of the caliper was pushed in more than the other. I needed to spread them and then let them reset. I couldn't find anything sufficient to do that with though so I ran to the Sunoco on the corner and borrowed a screwdriver.

Turned out I needed to reshim the front as well, but when I was done, it was like night and day.

While I worked on my bike, there was this guy Mike sitting outside of the gas station, taking a smoke break. Without exception, every customer that walked out said something to the effect of "See you later Mike" or "Have a good one Mike." Literally, like 15 different customers.

"Man, you know everyone don't you?"

He just smiled and said: "I've been here a long time."

So, when I left, I said "Have a good one Mike" as well. It just seemed appropriate.

I think I was about 40 miles or so into the route at that point. The next leg was on the East Central Rail Trail.

 East Central Rail Trail

Right as I got on the trail, I called in to MTBCast and during the call, I passed a gigantic Yellow Rat Snake.

My body had started feeling better, my bike felt like it would actually roll, and I'd seen some wildlife, which I always love. I was in good spirits.

Somewhere in there, I touched my brakes and heard a "p'chang!" but nothing else happened and the wheel still looked true, so I figured it was just the rotor catching a bit of the brake pad that had gotten crunched during the spreading operation earlier.

The next 5 or 6 miles went by quickly and easily.

I passed some random, beautiful Florida lake.

 Some Lake

But somewhere in there, rather suddenly, everything started hurting and getting tired again.

I was always in a reasonable gear and apparently moving reasonably fast, but I felt really, really weak.

Sometimes it's like that though, so I pushed through, hoping it would pass.

I caught the riders that had passed me earlier and we leapfrogged for a while.

As the miles drug on, pavement gave way to gravel, sand and dirt.

 Random Dirt Road

There was one section of grasstrack. I had to hop over a fence at some point and ride along the service "road" for a railroad.

I can barely remember exactly what I rode. At the time, I could barely pay attention to my GPS, or to much of anything really. It was miserable.

Somewhere near Blue Springs I diverged from the rail up onto another paved bike path.

At that intersection, there were a bunch of kids down along the tracks with a cop, searching for something. He didn't give me any trouble but kindly suggested that I ride the paved bike trail rather than along the railroad, for safety reasons.

I passed families and elderly couples on the bike path. They all looked at me strangely. I forget that I must look out of place sometimes. I don't have frame bags but I do have an overstuffed camelback and a light on my helmet in the middle of the day. These things probably raise some eyebrows.

We had to jog left, down to Lake Beresford for the next Checkpoint.

As I turned off of the paved trail, I was accosted by a Gopher Tortoise.

 Tortoise Number One

It didn't pull into its shell or anything, it just stood there and hissed at me. I stopped immediately but it just hissed again.

"All right man, I'll get out of your way."

I moved to the right of the trail and it just walked on by me. It was only when I leaned over to take the photo that it even half-pulled itself into its shell.

As it walked past, it would pause, kind of look over its shoulder, in as much as a tortoise can, and then continue. It did that twice, hissing at me over and over, the whole time.

Very entertaining.

Ok, which tree did I need to take a photo by?

This one was at the GPS coordinates.

 Beresford Tree One

But the description of the tree sounded much more like this one: "hanging out over the lake"

 Beresford Tree Three

I took photos at both, just to be sure.

The magic of singletrack along the lake made me feel slightly better but only slightly and as soon as I got back on the paved trail, the suffering set in again.

I stopped at the Hontoon Convenience Store for lunch, or whatever meal it was. I had no reasonable sense of time at that point.

It turned out that the p'chang on the rail-trail had actually been a broken spoke.

 Broken Spoke

The wheel was still trueish though, so I wrapped it up and kept an eye on it.

I also sat down on the curb and ate, but...

Some seemingly-infinite distance ahead, there was a ferry that crossed the St. John's River which stopped running at 5:30 PM. I had to make the ferry. If I didn't, I'd have to wait until 7AM the next day and the only place my research had turned up to spend the night was in Pierson, 20 miles back south. Not wanting to have to backtrack or search for some place to sleep, I was motivated to make the ferry, so I didn't hang around the Hontoon store for long.

The next leg led through a long stretch of forest where they were doing some Longleaf Pine restoration.

 Longleaf Restoration

My friend Debbie and her family ride their horses down in Florida sometimes and she's mentioned seeing and hearing about the DNR cutting and even poisoning oaks and other trees but keeping the pines. I believed her, but it seemed very strange, to both of us really, but now I get it.

The pines they're attempting to keep are longleaf. Given a chance, they'll dominate the forest, but they can be outcompeted fairly easily by other species. In antiquity, longleaf dominated the southeast but entire forests of it were cleared, and never grew back. In Florida, they're attempting to restore some of those forests.

I saw various signs to this effect in various places during this trip, but it didn't click in my head until I rode into that particular preserve.


As if to reassure me that the efforts were worthwhile, I ran into another gopher tortoise.

 Tortoise Number Two

This one was a little more shy.

The grasstrack through the pines went on forever, and then there was endless zagging through some other preserve. The road there was at least limestone, but then, this...

 Railroad Trail

Oh, god, not again

I probably maintained 5 or 6 miles per hour, max, along that gravel chunk before eventually pushing through some sawgrass and entering the back door of Chuck Lennon Park.

Never had I been so happy to find singletrack.

And it was glorious.

 Chuck Lennon Shred

The shred was indescribable. The trails there are fairly technical and there are lots of little obstacles and I imagine it would be really fun to ride fresh.

As it was, I used it for recovery. There is some magic to twisty singletrack that heals whatever toll the road took out on you. It probably has to do with using different muscles and alternating quickly between them, rather than sitting in one position, overworking one set. I don't know. Whatever it is, it's nice and I left Chuck Lennon feeling about 10% more refreshed than when I entered.

Checkpoint 3:

 Chuck Lennon Kiosk

Got it.

I saw two riders leaving the lot as I stopped to take that photo and he chase was on until I turned on to County Road 3, directly into the wind.

It was relentless.

I could see those two riders, just ahead but it took miles and miles to pull them down. In fact, I even started seeing more riders ahead of them before I caught.

That road was so long, and it was so windy, and I was so weak. Kanye was gone and another song invaded my mind...

"...Sunken eyes, Whining dog! It's times like this you should pray for never!"

Be assured, I won't.

I used every strategy I know to keep going.

A while back, I'd paid a visit to my buddy Eddie O'Dea at 55Nine Performance for a fit and he'd given me some not-necessarily intuitive, but, at it turned out, very valuable tips. I put them into practice as well. Thanks Ed, I owe you.

It was all I could do to keep myself from stopping in Pierson but I could see a rider just ahead and I knew there was one last gas station before the ferry. I would stop there.

It turned out that the rider ahead was Cabe Crisler, whom I'd met once before when he and a bunch of Karlos' buddies came up to ride the Pinhoti. He rides for Super Cool Bikes and he's easily recognizable, sporting the most triumphant goatee in the Southeast. We sat on the curb out front for a few minutes, refueling and evaluating the final push to the ferry.

Objectively, things looked good. We had two and a half hours to cover 15 miles of road. We'd make it, easily, unless something really bad happened.

Just then, Peter Kraft Sr. and Jr. arrived but they were worried. The ferry runs until 5:30, or until it's too dark to run, which could be as early as 5, these days. Still though, two hours for 15 miles. No problem.

The first few miles flew by. Me and Cabe rolled together. There was a section of dirt road, but it was solid.


We saw a dozen or more wild turkeys in somebody's front yard. Sandhill cranes were everywhere too, again, usually just hanging out in people's yards. We were relaxed, averaging about 16 mph and feeling confident.

Then the route threw everything it could at us.

First it was wind, then rough gravel roads, then soft, sandy roads, and then completely unridable sand for a half mile or more.

 Unridable Sand

The weird thing was that the unridable sand road had houses and farms off of it. Without 4 wheel drive and big tires, there's no way you'd get out of your driveway and everybody living there appeared to have normal little cars. How'd you like to call in to work with that excuse. "Sorry boss, the road out front of my house has become impassible."

Clearing the last bit of sand, I had 7 minutes to make it to the ferry by 5PM, and the final stretch was a mile of washboard.

I turned myself inside out, but I made it, and it was hard to walk once I was off the bike.

It appeared that I wasn't the only one having trouble getting to the ferry. There were tons of people there and someone else would show up every few minutes. Anyone who hadn't pre-ridden that section was surprised by how difficult it had been.

 Fort Gates Ferry

We asked Captain Gene to wait until the last possible minute, and at literally the last possible minute, the Peters Kraft arrived and we shoved off.

Checkpoint 4: Bike on the ferry, underway.

 Bike on the Ferry

Me and Cabe talked on the ferry. Salty Springs was six or eight miles away and definitely had some convenience stores. We made plans to roll there easily, eat and find a place to camp nearby. The Shanty Pond campground was just inside of the Ocala and it allegedly had water, so that seemed like a good spot.

The road to Salty Springs was long, straight and very, very washboardy. I'd gotten a little rest waiting for the ferry though, so the miles ticked by easily. I think the promise of the day's end might have helped a little too.

The sun set for real as we approached Salty Springs. When we hit the highway, we could see neon signs on the other side and headed directly for them. What we found was a convenience store-slash-restaurant where they had all kinds of good food, including pizza. I think the place was named "Salty's." I'd mentioned, not ten minutes earlier, how happy I'd be if there was a pizza place in Salty Springs, and lo, what luck.

Steven Martine and somebody else that I didn't recognize were just leaving when we rode up and they vouched for the quality of the food. Another rider on a cross bike (who's name I now forget because I'm terrible with names, please somebody remind me of this guy's name) arrived a few minutes later and the three of us ate together.

 Phenomenal Pizza

I have never had a bad pizza in Florida and that meal was no exception. I'm sure Domino's or Pizza Hut is the same there as here, but seriously, every single little local restaurant has phenomenal pizza. How is it that this came to be?

We ate up and stocked up and talked to the owners who were as surprised by what we were doing as most people we run into on these things. They gave us a good tip though. There was a state park directly across the street with tent camping and showers and even laundry that I hadn't turned up when researching the route. Woohoo! They closed the gates at 8 though and it was 7:50, so we said some quick goodbyes and headed for the park.

We got campsite 117, right on the corner, with the recreation barn across to the right. "Look for the pole." Got it.

We found the corner, and the pole and set up camp.


Cabe had a hammock and a blanket. Cross-guy had a bivvy and a pad, but I don't think he had a bag, or maybe his pad was just a torso pad. I had a pad, bag and tent.

I rode down to the bath house and took an anticlimactic shower. The water didn't stay warm long and there were upper and lower nozzles but only the lower one had warm water at all.

Right as we were getting comfortable, a guy came around and told us we were in the wrong spot. There was another road that we'd ridden right past in the dark and our site was on THAT corner. All right, we moved, and midway through that, another guy came around to check that we weren't just poaching. I hadn't put the tag they gave me on the post. He was kind of a jerk at first, presumably because there was only one rule and we hadn't followed it, but we had our tag and I told him something like: "Man, I'm sorry, I rode 120 miles today, I can barely even spell my name right now" and that put him in a better mood.

Cabe had to fight off raccoons for a while but afterward we slept very well. Somewhere in the middle of the night, I thought it had started raining but it turned out that it was just pine needles falling out of the tree above me. The others both got a little cold during the night but I was as cozy and warm as could be.

So, I get questions like this sometimes... a Big Agnes Seedhouse 1 (in fast-fly-mode), Thermarest Neoair pad, Mountain Hardware Phantom 32 bag and a wal-mart emergency blanket all fit in a Camelback Blowfish, unexpanded, and even with 2 spare tubes and other odds and ends, weighs 8 pounds. You can still stuff lots of food in there too and you're ready for anything. Everybody says that I appear to pack light, but then when we go through our gear, I seem to be carrying more stuff than they are.

The next morning we got up at 5:30 and grabbed some breakfast at Square Meal in the same strip mall we'd eaten at the night before. They weren't officially open when we got there but there were several folks inside and they were serving, so we lucked out. Eggs, potatoes and toast... I loved everything on my plate. It was as satisfying as the pizza the night before.

We were moving by 6:45, right into the Ocala. Having now crossed it in the morning, at noon, and in the middle of the night, I think I prefer the morning to any other time. It's overcast and cool, the sun is low. Slim chance of being accosted in daylight. Yes, I believe the morning is my favorite time to cross the Ocala.

The roads are just as endless though, no matter what time of day.

 Ocala Crossing

I felt very good though, better even than I thought. I looked back once and my buddies were right behind me. A few hills later, I looked back and they were gone.

Damn, I'd hoped we could ride together, but that's how these things are.

Fifteen or twenty miles later I still felt great, or I guess I should say that I felt normal. At that point, I'd expect to still be having fun, and that's how it was.

For two weeks leading up to the event, I'd worked hard, gotten little sleep and put in relatively few miles. I'd done a couple of 30-milers on the road, but they weren't really long enough to gauge anything from. I guess what happened was that even though I suffered terribly, I'd gotten in a good number of miles the day before, and caught up on sleep that previous night too. Whatever had happened, I was charging across the Ocala like I felt I should be and the day was looking right up.

At Lake Eaton, I took photos at the overlooks for the next three Checkpoints.

 Eaton One

The last time I was at Lake Eaton, it was too dark to see much, but from what I could see, I suspected it might be beautiful during the day.

Yep, beautiful during the day.

 Lake Eaton Itself

 Lake Eaton Itself, Again

On the way out, right near the road, a large doe walked right across the trail in front of me. The deer sure grow big in Florida. I've noticed that before too. I always assumed that it's because they have a solid food source all year, but for some reason, the squirrels in Florida are all very small, so that logic might not be correct.

No idea.

I'd been passed by a few trucks already, but when I turned south on FS05, I started seeing lots and lots of hunters. Most appeared to have just arrived. From the cages in their beds, they mostly appeared to be running bear with dogs. They were all friendly - smiles and nods and waves, kind of like you'd expect. Several even had their kids with them. I guess somehow I managed to find the one set of crazy people last time. Not this time though.

FS05 descends to a prairie/sinkhole thing and then climbs back out and as you descend, you can see the climb looming ahead. It looks bad but it's not as bad as it looks, I don't think I even dropped into my middle ring.

About halfway up that climb I saw a dark shape on the left hand side of the road.

No way... Yes! Yes! Yes way!

A Florida Black Bear.

 Florida Black Bear Zoomed In

Or, as Gene DuBeilak postulates: How do you know it's a _Florida_ Black Bear? Maybe it's a bear from somewhere else, like, say, New Hampshire, and he's just down visiting his relatives in Florida, I mean, it is Thanksgiving and all...

He posted something to that effect on Facebook and I was too sleepy to get it for like 5 seconds but then when I did, I laughed involuntarily and then kept laughing later, involuntarily when it would cross my mind again. It even happened again this morning. I could just imagine a bear driving down from New Hampshire, arm hanging out the window... Oh, man. Why is that so funny?

I remember as I approached the bear thinking "please don't run away, please don't run away..." so I could get a photo, but then when I got pretty close it occurred to me that I should be careful what I wish for, it would probably be good if it did actually run away. What would I do if it didn't? But then it tore off into the woods right after I got that shot so I didn't have to worry about it at all.

The irony? I hadn't seen a hunter in a mile or so, but directly over the next hill, just a few hundred yards away there was a small group. I figured I wouldn't take sides in this match though and didn't mention anything to them.

The Ocala goes on forever and ever but eventually I crossed it, and approached Marshall Swamp, which I still think is the most scenic section of the route.

 Marshall Swamp

I made several navigational errors coming out of the singletrack. The route appeared to send me down a fire break, and it looked like lots of riders had gone that way, but zooming in, I was off route. The actual route was about 40 feet to the right, so I spun back and made sure to ride it. I ended up on a blue trail later too and had to do the same thing. The orange trail diverges from blue but it's not an obvious intersection. Waah! I hate having to backtrack. It probably only added 5 minutes, but you never know, that could end up mattering in the end.

My stomach was actually growling as I approached Baseline Road. I had plenty of energy but I was starving.

I stopped at the gas station on Baseline to fuel up. The last time I was there a kid tried to steal my GPS, so this time I asked them if I could bring my bike inside. The owners were very gracious and seemed excited to be part of the event. Almost every rider had stopped there and eaten at some point.

I sat down for probably 20 minutes and ate a satisfying meal which included my favorite beverage of all time, Mountain Dew Livewire.

 Lunch at Baseline

I called in to MTBCast and right as I hung up, Kathryn called me. My tracker wasn't working.


It seems like every event, somebody's tracker doesn't work. I guess it was my turn. It thought it was working though, and later it would turn out that I got emails from it when I pressed the "I'm OK" button, so something was working. I wonder if there was some sort of copy/paste error with the shared page or something. I don't know. Dangit. I'll have to sort that out though so it doesn't happen again.

Cabe showed up right as I was leaving and we hung out for a minute or two before I got on the road.

Next Checkpoint: Greenway Cycles.

 Greenway Cycles

They were open, for some reason. I didn't think they would be open on Sunday. No time to stop in and say hi though, I had a lot of miles still ahead of me. I rolled up, took the photo and pressed on immediately.

I still felt good but the day's activities had transitioned from fun to work and the few miles of trail through Marshall Swamp hadn't yet undone the long miles of road I'd put in that morning. I needed singletrack therapy, and fortunately I was headed directly into some.

I'm not sure how many miles of singletrack there are in Santos, but it goes on forever. Oddly, I'd never ridden any of it in the "correct" direction before though. During previous events, I've always followed the OMBA Epic route from west-to-east, but it is recommended to be ridden east-to-west, and this time I finally had the chance to do that.

About 10 feet into the trail, I had to make my first stop though. There was a family coming the other way and one of the kids got his shoelace wrapped around his pedal so tightly that his dad had to cut it off. I wish I could say that I haven't had to to the exact same thing with my kids, and with my own shoelace, but I have, for both.

The first, I don't know, ten miles or so are really easy and fun. It's just twisty flow, and relatively flat.

Somewhere in there you cross I-75, just past the Landbridge trailhead.

 I-75 from Landbridge

It always seems weird to me to cross an interstate on my bike, I don't know why, it just does.

After the bridge. I rolled through the vast clear-cut of the Christmas trail. In the past, I have marvelled at it but this time, I understood it.

 Christmas - Scrub Jay Habitat

They (I don't know who "they" are exactly, but They) cut down the forest so oak scrub would grow back and provide a habitat for the Scrub Jay, which is either endangered or threatened, or something. It had not occurred to me that oak scrub would grow back so quickly or so densely the last time I rode through, but man, it sure did. Karlos mentioned something about that on the drive to the start and I'd forgotten about it until I popped out into the clearing and then it hit me again. I looked hard for Scrub Jays but I didn't see one. Maybe next time, I'd love to see one in real life.

After all the easy stuff, Santos becomes pure shred. Nayl's and Ern'n'Burn are super fun to ride. They're not super, super technical, but I imagine they might seem that way on a typical bikepacking rig.

It always seems that when I ride those trails though, I'm in no shape to be riding them. Seriously, one day I'm going to have to go back there and ride first thing in the morning, without having ridden 200 miles already. I bet that would be fun.

Oh, yeah, there was this one spot on Ern'n'Burn where you drop down and then there's another little bluff that you have to ride up, turn left at the top and drop down again. It looked perfect for a hip-transfer and it looked like I'd have perfect speed for it too so I'm pumping down the transition from the first drop and right as I rolled across the flat, I noticed some dude in the woods to my left, fixing something and it distracted me, and I did a little brake check, no longer had the momentum for the hip transfer and had to just roll over the bluff. A minute later it occurred to me that I probably shouldn't be riding like I'm at a skatepark 200 miles into a 250 mile ride. I could easily over-jump it and crash or something, then I'd be screwed. Somehow this had not occurred to me earlier, so I'm going to go ahead and thank God right now for putting that dude there to distract me and possibly save me from my own stupidity.

Ern'n'Burn seemed to be 3 times longer than I remembered, but I still enjoyed it. The Cross Florida Greenway that followed was fast and fun. For as horrible as I'd felt the day before, it was funny, I hadn't even thought about feeling bad that day. I mean, it had become work, but I still generally felt good. Nothing hurt, I wasn't terribly tired or anything. I had plenty of power.

Then suddenly, it was as if someone pulled the power cable out of the wall. There's a section of the greenway that gets a little sandy, and right there I ran completely out of energy. The previous day's weakness returned, full force and all I could do was just try to push through it.

If the sand wasn't bad enough, when I got into Halpata, there was a long section of grass track.


It was like trying to ride across your yard on your BMX bike when you were a kid, and straight into the sun, no less.

I ended up stopping somewhere in there and removing my base-layer, hoping that maybe I'd just gotten overheated. It helped a little, and bit-by-bit I came back from the edge.

I'm sure that whatever it was, it was nutrition-related. That's usually where I have a problem, if I have one. Most likely, the ravioli. On a long enough ride, meat's not usually a good idea, even if it's just a little bit, at least for me.

Coming out of Halpata, I saw a large black boar not 10 feet away, but fortunately on the other side of a fence. I don't really like wild pigs, though I am getting less scared of them, they generally seem to flee, like everything else. I'm still pretty scared of feral pigs though.

When I hit the highway, I was done with dirt. It was just roads and paved trails from there on out. My energy was coming back so I figured I'd be able to knock it out pretty quickly.

In fact, I made good time to Dunnellon and ran into both Peter Krafts at a gas station there. I ran in quickly for some gatorade and a Bon Appetite danish.

There was a fairly shifty-looking guy there, eyeing the hell out of our bikes. He had ridden up on a bike himself, too. It was really odd, I mean, he was really fidgety and he hung around for a while, and he'd stand next to my bike and turn his back to me and then look over his shoulder and kind of shuffle around. I'd heard him talking to the clerk earlier too, and he wasn't just crazy or something. It was weird. Eventually, I had to just look the guy directly in the eye and follow him around and make sure he knew that I was watching everything he did. After I did, he got on his bike and left immediately. Weirdo.

The Krafts were leaving as I began eating. I spent about 6 or 8 minutes eating and hit the road, hoping to pull them back in.

Between there and the coast, there were a million turns. I took two wrong ones but generally made good time.

The sun was setting over Lake Rousseau and it looked really pretty between the houses. I hoped to come to a clearing for a photo but there never was one.

Shey called to tell me he was at the parking lot at the end of the route. I'd forgotten that my phone was even on and the vibration startled me.

I seemed so close but every time I'd zoom out on the GPS, it looked like I still had a long way to go.

I tried hard to pull down the Krafts but really I was just racing the sun and it was ultimately fruitless. The sun set. I'd hoped to see it hanging low over the Gulf, but it was gone.

As I rolled through the lot, I said a quick hello to Shey and something about "knocking out this last section real quick."

In my mind, I had entirely discounted the last stretch of trail past the lot. Conceptually, it just goes out to the Gulf from the highway, real quick, but it's actually like five miles or more. That doesn't sound like a lot, but when you're ready to be done and you've got five more miles, they might as well be twenty.

Still, they were at least flat miles and I probably made quicker work of them than they felt.

The Krafts were still down at the end when I arrived. They'd finished 6 or 8 minutes before. They'd apparently held their lead. Who knows when they started though, I may have had to beat them by 20 minutes or more to actually come in ahead.

I walked my bike down to the Gulf and dipped my wheel.

The final Checkpoint:

 Wheel Dip in the Gulf

It was weird there because there were no waves and no beach, just limestone rocks and grass. The water was really calm and quiet. I guess I expected it to be more like the Atlantic had been.

What a day. What a weekend.

It wasn't quite over though, we had to ride five miles or so back to the lot. We rode all that together though. That's when I learned that the Krafts were the Krafts, father and son, Peter Sr. and Peter Jr.

Father and son, they rode that route together.

I had plenty of time to contemplate this and it made me think of two things...

I love riding with my dad. I do it as often as I can. It's one of my favorite things in the world. In the world! We usually just have time for quick rides around local trails but we've had some real adventures too. Man, I love riding with my dad! For that matter, I just love my dad. I need to go do some rides with my dad.

The other thing... Basically the same thing, but in the other direction.

I love riding with my girls! One of my favorite things in the world. We've had some memorable adventures. May we please, please have more. I love my girls, I need to go do some rides with my girls.

When I got back to the lot, me and Shey packed up and headed into Inglis for some real food at Shrimp Landing.

 Shrimp Landing

The Shrimp Landing had very good food. Much better than that place on the river, though I'll still argue that it was good too.

Steven Martine and Paul and Lynne Daniels showed up right after we ordered. Paul and Steven finished well. Lynne had broken a pedal, actually before I saw her at the ferry even, and had to abandon. Ruth showed up right as we were leaving. She and Justin were going to ride back the other way across the state to their car in New Smyrna Beach. I don't think they were going to ride the route though, just find a quick way back. Still though, not what I'd want to do.

Shey had finished Sunday morning at 3am or so, slept in the car somewhere and spent Sunday day waiting for me, hanging out at Denny's and sleeping more in the car.

He was slightly more awake than I was, so he drove first, but he needed sleep when we got to I-75 and I took over. For the next hour, I swear I watched every minute tick by on the clock. When we needed gas, we ended up at a gas-station-slash-hotel, the Economy Inn, in who-knows-where. For $25 we got a non-smoking double and crashed. If the room was deficient in any way, I didn't notice. It had a shower and a bed. Both seemed to work and that's all that I paid attention to.

I think it was 7:30 when we rolled out the next morning. We made good time back to the ATL. I dropped Shey off at the same Waffle House I'd picked him up at the previous Friday.

By 11am I was in Alpharetta and ate an early lunch at Dee Thai. Mmm, hmmm, Pad Kee Mao. I needed to put some calories back, or something. That's what I told myself. It seemed like a good excuse.

After that I went home and slept all day. Ahh.

I have no idea how the results will shake out. I emailed in my photos and finish time but they'll probably take a week to process. I'm expecting a mid-pack finish, but given some of the riders I was up against, that might even be optimistic.

Good finish or not, I enjoyed the event. I wish I'd prepared better and had a better first day but I don't realistically think I could have, given the work I had to get done, so it is what it is.

Speaking of work, I probably ought to get some of that done rather than writing this novel.

Back to the real world.


  1. Great write up. I enjoyed reading it. After all my talk of abandoning with the broken pedal, I ended up staying on route. I rode 71 miles on the Spindle, and then was able to replace it at Greenway at the time the shop opened, so I think I will get an official finish. Lynne