Friday, September 7, 2018


Last week I spent a couple of days in Florida with some friends from Brazil. Here we are in the Animal Kingdom beneath Pandora's floating rocks.

Leidi, Alice, Diogo, and I at Pandora

My inner monologue went crazy during the trip. It switched from English to Portuguese sometime during the the first day. I didn't notice the transition, I just noticed that suddenly I was thinking in Portuguese. This was weird because I know all kinds of words for computer-and-business-related stuff, but not for everyday stuff, so my inner monologue would draw a blank pretty regularly. The whole time, it was like the longest game of Taboo ever too. I didn't know a bunch of words, and they knew I didn't know a bunch of words, so we were both trying to explain things while avoiding the most obvious words that one might use to explain them, with hilarious results. They left Friday morning, and I had to drive back to the ATL, but knowing I'd have the whole day to myself, I brought my bike, and figured I'd ride the sections of Croom for which I have no GPS data. On the drive over to Croom, my brain was apparently trying to switch back to English, and for 6 or 8 hours that day, I had no voice in my head, at all. I had thoughts, but they weren't accompanied by a voice. When I'd talk to people, there were no words in my head to accompany the words that were coming out of my mouth. It was the strangest experience. I didn't start thinking in English again until most of the way back to Atlanta.

The drive from Orlando to Croom was uneventful except that I stopped at a gas station hoping to score some Gatorade and bananas. This was a mom-and-pop gas station, not a QT or Racetrack. They had the Gatorade, but were out of bananas. They did carry them, but the basket was empty. The lady offered to see what she had in the back though - she likes to keep fruit around for her kids, when they come by. After a quick trip to the cooler, she came back with a box full of something...

"Do you want peaches?"

"Yeah! That'd be great!"

And, man they were. Perfectly ripe. A little cool. The flesh pulled right away from the pit. I hadn't had peaches that good in years, and I live in Georgia. It was the most satisfying 2 dollars I'd spent the whole trip.

I arrived at Croom shortly thereafter, feeling a little short on sleep, but well enough to knock out some Florida miles.

Croom Trailhead

It took me a minute to get ready, and a bunch of riders came through on the Withlacoochee Trail while I was at it. The Withlacoochee crosses Croom Road right there at the trailhead. During the Huracan, we pick it up, ride a mile or two, ride most of Croom, then bump back out to the Withlacoochee. Everybody looked hot and tired. Nobody seemed fresh. I wondered if I was overconfident about how I was feeling.

The trail was a little rough. It had apparently rained intensely, every day, for the past 2 weeks, though never for very long - 30 minutes or an hour at a time, maybe twice a day. The trail looked like it had been stormed on, and not ridden since. I figured I'd do my part to help restore it, however futile that might prove.

To a non-Floridian, the woods was absolutely gorgeous.

The space between the trees, and the dense brush here...

Croom 1

And here, the low hanging, mossy, Live Oak, surrounded by Longleaf Pine, who's fallen needles choke out anything between them...

Croom 2

Here the photo just doesn't do it justice. There are rolling hills in the background, perfectly visible in the summer time, despite being in the middle of the forest...

Croom 3

I enjoyed the forest as much as the trail.

Oh yeah... one thing I particularly enjoyed was rolling over pine needles. They lie there baking in the heat all day, and then emit a strong fragrance when you crunch over them. There's a bit of that in Georgia, but whole sections of the woods smelled like baked, crunchy pine needles down there.

I love it!

I also loved who well signed the trail was.

You are Here

This was fortunate because I'd printed a map at the hotel, but failed to get a little ziplock bag to put it in, and it wouldn't have lasted a minute in the heat. I took a photo of it, but pulling my phone out all of the time would have been such an unbearable pain... Luckily, I didn't have to.

There was one chunk of the trail called So-Co (Southern Comfort) that wound back and forth over various little mine tailings.

So-Co Signage

How anyone ever discovered them in the first place is beyond me. In Georgia, there's geography to follow. Croom has some minor elevation changes, but nothing significant enough that you'd know where you are based on them. Different parts of the forest have slightly different character, so maybe that's how you can tell where you are. I'd be really interested in learning how to nav off trail in Florida, other than just by map and compass.

There weren't many distinct features out there, but there were one or two. This old bike reminded me of the lost-and-found at the pizza place by my house.

Lost and Found

At the Smith Prairie Trailhead...

Smith Prairie Kiosk

...I took a wrong turn and ended up heading west rather than east. I figured the trail would head south a bit then branch to the east, but no, it just kept bending around to the right. Apparently there was a less-well-marked trail leading east from the trailhead itself, rather than from somewhere down the well-marked trail that I was on.

No matter, I figured, I'd just keep going until I hit Tucker Hill, take the road back, and pick up the correct trail.

There was a little problem though. I mentioned that it had been raining... It had been, and flooding. And, at one point, the trail just disappeared into the water.



The water looked like it went a long way to the right, so I tried bushwhacking around it to the left. The complete lack of any indication that anyone else had done that was a little disconcerting, but I went for it.

...and soon realized why no one else did.


That little pond was the source of the puddle that had swamped the trail. The water in the woods didn't look much like gator country, but that little pond sure did, and it was a long way around it. It seemed like walking directly through the swamp until I picked up the trail again was the best bet. The absolute best bet would probably have been to go back to the trail itself, and follow it through the water. My plan put me mid-thigh-deep for a while, but I did, eventually, end up back on the trail, which I followed from there to Tucker Hill.

Tucker Hill Lot

The sky was huge along the road back to Smith Prairie.

Biggish Sky

Bigger than you usually get to see in North Georgia.

I found the trail I was supposed to be on, took it back to the main Blue Trail, and took that back to the car.


I don't believe I've been as sweaty as I got that day, on any other ride, in recent memory. My clothes were disgusting. The worst part was that my gloves had been really gross, and though I'd washed them, they really needed to be washed twice. They were dry when I started, but they smelled really bad. When I finished, they were just that much more disgusting.

On the drive home, I grabbed some BBQ chicken at Sonny's BBQ, where there was apparently a conflict between the various members of the wait staff over god knows what, but one of them was being very loud and snippy... "Wait! Don't do anything! Am I officially off of the floor?" "What?" "Am I officially off of the floor, or not!?" "Yes." "Am I? Really? Ohhhkaaay (incredulously)." That kind of thing. I think she wanted to be sure that they didn't seat me at one of her tables or something.

My chicken was super good, and sat well in my tummy for the drive home, which took 2 hours longer than expected because of an overturned tractor trailer truck, blocking all lanes just before an exit. My AC eventually froze up while I crept forward for those two hours, but fortunately did so right at the end, and I didn't notice until I was moving again.

One more thing... There are 2 options for music in South Georgia - Country and Christian. Considering the wholesome nature of the content, it was funny to see what my radio displayed as the name of one of the songs:

Asses At

Heh. Asses.

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