91. DAYS 61-73! FLORIDA and THE FINISH! 3200 Miles!

22-25/Apr. Days 61- 64. Pensacola - Holt - DeFuniak Spring - Falling Waters S/P - Lake Seminole, Georgia.  193 Miles. HELLO FLORIDA!
Neither of us could believe that we’d cycled all the way to Florida. It was just as surprising that it had taken us until day 62 to find a French style bakery, selling proper pain au chocolate! As we sat eating our pastries, gazing out a large window and mulling over the usual topics of conversation (accommodation options and milage) we watched a guy tie his two large poodles around the same tree we’d precariously leant a fully loaded tandem up against. The inch of handle bar end which supported the entire weight of the bike certainly wasn’t poodle proof, the kick from a grasshopper would’ve most likely caused our transport to topple over, so this was a disaster waiting to happen. L relocated the Flying Fox. Death by tandem for two cute pooches was off the menu.

Over a burnt and gooey mess of campfire s’mores, our camp neighbour at falling Water State Park gave us a heads up about the area of West Florida we were about to cycle through. On days 63 and 64 we meandered through an area which had been decimated by a huge hurricane last October. We’d not seen anything else like it, our camp neighbour had been right about that. Hurricane Michael had obliterated almost every tree and house roof along the route which we pedalled. Our chosen campsite was still closed, having not yet been rebuilt so we opted to hop state into Georgia, for a night on the shores of lake Seminole. Our little Vango took a battering from the wind during the night but managed to keep out the torrential rain. In fact so weather proof and inviting was our tiny home, that by the morning we were sharing our tent with what seemed like Georgia’s entire ant population (of around 56 billion).

26/27 Apr. Day 65 & 66. Lake Seminole, GA - Tallahassee, FL.
94 Miles. Giant Sea Blobs: Manatees.
In true WarmShowers fashion, we were welcomed into yet another stranger’s home despite having only enquired about staying, a handful of hours earlier. WarmShowers No.15 were young, fun, health and environmentally conscious (the latter two hadn't been of concern for most people in the states we'd travelled through, so this was refreshing to see). We were invited to stay a second night. I was ‘pro’ taking a day off in the hope of seeing wild manatees at Wakulla Springs state park but my idea wasn’t greeted with much enthusiasm from L. Giant sea blobs weren’t at the top of his priority list and he was keen to point out that a 45 mile cycle detour didn’t exactly count as a day off from the pedals. He might have been right about the ‘day off’ thing but in the end he agreed the following day, to steer the tandem to the state park in search of manatees.

28/29 Apr. Days 67 & 68. Tallahassee - Madison - White Springs. 
100 Miles. A tale of 3 cafes...
Any tour guide would be impressed with just how comprehensively L and I managed to tour Tallahassee but between you and I, it was because we got completely lost. We ended up trailblazing every cycle-able inch of the University campus, all the while trying to avoid knocking over students with our ultra wide panniers! We unintentionally clocked up a few more laps around the city before being spat out on the far side of Tallahassee and back on to the Southern Tier. Despite still having a weeks worth of epic cross-country cycle days remaining, we’d already started to splurge. $100 got handed over to an independent BnB owner in Madison on day 67 and on day 68 we’d pigged out at no less than three different cafe’s, all in the space of a 1 mile stretch through a small Florida town.

30/Apr. Day 69. White Springs - Ichetucknee Springs 
42 Miles. The day he almost kissed a snake. 
We’d had a string of hot days, cycling in 30-34°C heat, 90% humidity and without any white fluffy clouds to break up the blistering blue skies. Surprisingly this wasn’t as horrendous as it sounds, in truth, the experience was only mildly uncomfortable. Florida’s abundance of crystal clear natural springs had been providing L and I with inviting opportunities to strip-off, jump in and cool down. The short cycle from White Springs to Ichetucknee Springs meant left us with enough time to pitch our tent at the campground, borrow some inflatable rings and spend a coupe of hours tubing down the state park’s natural lazy river. The experience turned less relaxing after a bend in the river forced the current to push L into a fallen tree branch which jutted out of the water. No amount of splashing could have prevented what unfolded. L found himself within kissing distance of a large snake which was perched upon the shaking tree branch and now wobbling back and forth in front of his face. After that moment, and then the realisation that snakes can swim… we were keen to reach the end of our lazy river adventure. Far too much excitement for one day!

1-3/May. Days 70-72. Ichetucknee Springs - Gainesville - Palatka
131 Miles. The last few days!
The weather had changed upon hitting Gainesville. We checked into WarmShowers host #16 and stayed for two nights to avoid cycling in the wet the following day. Between museums, sinkholes and bicycle repair shops, it wasn’t difficult to find something to do on our rainy day off. After avoiding a couple of near misses with ‘white line drifters’ in Gainesville, we were glad to spend the majority of day 72 riding on vehicle prohibited, bicycle trails. Without doubt, there's something much more enjoyable about riding without having to be on constant high alert for the unpredictable movements of moronic car drivers. Nearing Palatka, we'd began pedalling like the clappers in an effort to stay ahead of the ominous grey cloud which had pursued us for almost an hour. The thunderstorm was due to hit Palatka at 3pm, and like clockwork it did! A dramatic rear wheel blow out, earlier in the day had delayed our progress by 20 minutes and so at 3pm, we were 10 minutes outside of town. Bloody typical! There was no option other than to take cover under the small roof over the entrance of the working men's club. We waited for a break in the rain so we could pedal on for 10 more minutes to a BnB we’d booked in town. As luck would have it, the owner was a cyclist herself. She gave us space in her garage to park the drowned Flying Fox and she thoughtfully brought a load of old towels for wiping down our wet and mud splattered panniers. It was our second to last day and we were… completely drenched.

4/May. Day 73. Palatka - St. Augustine
41 Miles. 3200 Total trip miles. THE FINAL DAY. 
A rogue squirrel, jumping across the cycle trail from one tree to another, narrowly missed colliding with my head. Two lost puppies almost became our cycle companions and L was pretty sure we’d just run over a miniature snake (no bigger than a pencil). A small alligator had appeared to befriended a turtle in a pond under a bridge and a black snake who crossed the path in front, gave the both of us a shock. Whilst stopped for a picnic lunch I used the back of our only spoon to squash a menacing looking spider but before I’d had chance to wash the remains off the spoon, L used it to tuck into a packet of tuna…
That concluded our odd collection of wildlife encounters on the last day our USA coast to coast. On a side note and a super space saving tip for bicycle touring: It is possible to buy tuna in sachets (basically cat food packets) and since this discovering this back in Arizona, we'd stopped buying tins.

Instead of riding the pre mapped road route, we kept on with a newly constructed bicycle trail which followed the 207 towards St. Augustine. The trail was peaceful and although it abruptly ended, resulting in us picking our away through long grass to get onto the 207, it gave us time to reflect upon our trip. 

After crossing over a bridge at St. Augustine, we headed for the beach. Carrying a fully loaded tandem half a mile down the beach to dip wheels in the sea, didn’t interest either of us in the slightest but we both agreed to drag the Flying Fox onto the sand for a ‘we made it’ photo. What a surreal ending to an amazing trip. There’d been plenty of highs and lows and the last day was no different, we both felt mixed emotions. Elated to have completed such a challenge but sad that the pedalling part of our journey home to the UK, was now over. 

BUT WHAT NEXT? Find out in the FINAL blog post next week! 
A little extra note: We are raising money for two great charities as we cycle home to the UK from Australia, across the landmass in the middle... AMERICA. If you'd like to sponsor us, that would be amazing, here is the link to our just giving page where you can also find out more about the charities: CALM and Alzheimer's Society. Thank you to all who have donated.