20121025-175912.jpgIt’s over. We arrived in St. Augustine, Florida on the Atlantic coast this afternoon about 3:00 PM (EST). This is a picture of us at the bike shop where we left our Cannondale to have it shipped home.

We finished a day earlier than anticipated. It would make a good story to write that we raced hurricane Sandy to the finish line. Sandy is approaching the coast of Florida as I write and we have had a few sprinkles and a 20 mph headwind but that isn’t the real reason we got here early. The real reason goes something like this:

Yesterday we had planned to stop for the day in Gainesville but when we got there the only place to stay within biking distance wanted $150 for the night. That was too much even for Her Majesty so we agreed to press on which meant riding an additional 16 miles to Hawthorne. That made for a total of 102 miles for the day (our highest single day total for this trip). It was dusk when we arrived only to find that the single campground and motel in the town closed down years ago (that Adventure Cycling Association!) We made do with pitching our tent along the bike path we rode in on and crossed our fingers that the police didn’t drive by and evict us for vagrancy.

We fought the plentiful mosquitos for possession of our corn/rice dinner then dove into our tent to escape the horde. Mercifully, no one came by during the night to hassle us and we slipped out of town at dawn.

A talkative fellow at a diner along the way convinced us to take an alternative and shorter route to St. Agustine which chopped twenty miles from our route. Ergo, we got to the finish line a day early.

20121025-183951.jpgWe met this brother and sister on the bike path near where we camped. They were mightily intrigued by our two seater which they realized would be more comfortable than the two of them sharing a single seat.

We had a Twilight Zone experience this afternoon. About fifteen miles out of St. Augustine we came across a smooth, wide bike trail that paralleled the highway. We got on the trail. There were no identifying signs or posters. Nothing to tell you the trail’s name or how long it is or where it goes. But, it seemed to be going in the general direction we wanted to go so we pedaled merrily along for about ten miles. Doubts began to surface when we still had not seen any information after ten miles and we met no one on the trail we could ask. Then it got even stranger when we saw a light up ahead that looked like the light on the front of a locomotive. Now, this bike path was arrow-straight and gently graded so that we were reasonably sure it was a rails-to-trails former railroad. After another mile and a half we got close enough to see that the light was, indeed, the light on the front of a locomotive! It was coming straight at us. But how could that be? We were on an asphalt trail. (doo doo dee doo.) Weird, huh?

Well, here’s the thing: We still don’t know the name of the trail. The trail is a converted railroad. The engine was on a track that dead-ended at the trail’s dead end which was in the middle of nowhere. We had to backtrack 1.5 miles to find a road that took us out to the highway. Whew! At least we didn’t get run over by a locomotive on a bike trail! Double whew! At least we’re not losing our minds.

We are now traveling in a Nissan Sentra north to visit Nick & family. Driving from the Hertz location to our hotel we both were aware of how much more secure one feels in a car than on a bicycle when dealing with city traffic. It’s like “Go ahead and bump me!” now when a car gets close. “We’ve got an envelope of steel that surrounds us and air bags to boot!”

ALERT! Just because we have finished the bike ride does not mean Chelan Traveler is finished. We are still traveling, after all, so stay tuned. There may be valuable cash and prizes for faithful readers (just kidding about the cash and prizes.)