Day 22, 4 December, Restarted in Florida

After driving 665 miles yesterday from Navasota TX to Defuniak Springs FL we were able to set up to ride away from the spreading storm system.  It was an exhausting drive, as the rains in TX were at times light, then heavy and finally around Houston they became biblical in proportion for about 2-3 hours.  It was very tense driving on I-10 and 12 in the torrential downpour, as all the vehicles were traveling at 45-55 mph with warning flashers on and wiper blades at max speed.  The ditches were full and there was standing water everywhere.  Finally the rains eased and by the time we got to the east side of Louisiana they stopped, but the forecast was for rain to extend halfway into FL today.  We understand that Galveston had received record rains, nearly three times the previous record, so we fell our choice to move east was the right decision.

Our ride today started with a lost hour, because we crossed over the east coast time zone line right before Gretna, our start point.  So, we had to work a little harder to get our ride done today, which meant I pedaled until 6 pm to complete 104.6 miles to Madison FL.  All the usual suspects were present today, with swirling winds since we’re on the storm boundary, occasional hilliness, and tight roads.  For a state whose highest point is only 388 feet, it was surprising how much up and downhill riding  there was today.  Still, I enjoyed the ride very much.  Adding to our challenges, I inadvertently left my cell phone in the truck with Louise mid morning when I shed some clothing.   It didn’t take long for us to both realize we were not in contact, so I finally found a Pilot gas station that had a public phone and called Louise and told her where to meet me.  With her uncanny navigational skills she managed to turn left instead of right and drive into Georgia while trying to get to me.  Not hard to do, as were not far from the state line, but we did lose a little time.  I did manage to pedal about two miles around the gas station parking lot while waiting.  🙂  After that, Louise headed off to an oil service station in Tallahassee to change oil in the truck, while I navigated my way through the city and out the other side.

We have a few impressions from today to share.  As we passed through Greenville today Louise spotted a life sized statue and sign indicating Ray Charles was born here and that his blindness started at 4-5 years old and he was totally blind by 7.  If you’ve not been to Florida it is essentially a very large sandbox, with beautiful beaches along the coast lines.  All that sand makes a great home for lots of ants and palmetto bugs (a genteel way of saying cockroaches).  The area we traveled in today is away from the beaches, with little sign of industry and poor agricultural conditions, leaving timber industry as the most apparent business.  While there have been small pockets of affluence, we mostly saw rather poverty stricken rural homes and declining small towns.  Notable in this part off the country is a large number of small churches in the country and towns; mostly Baptist, but including most other Christian groups as well.  This year northern FL has experienced drought conditions and we’ve seen a lack of water in the low areas.  Hope the current storm helps to ease the fire concerns.

It has been distressing here and back in rural Texas to see the amount of litter in the ditches, as well as around many homes.  Despite promotional campaigns, like “Don’t Mess With Texas” and similar exhortations in FL, the rural and urban poor just don’t seem to care.  Not surprising, as my recollection is that the drive to clean up our environment has been a luxury of middle and upper income groups, starting as far back as the 1960s when we started having Earth Day events.  An anecdotal example of what I see as a poor person’s attitude toward trash is the amount of trash strewn around homeless encampments in major cities like Portland.  Perhaps some institutional incentives rather than hallow threats of fines are needed to deal with the problem, such as paying the unemployed to do more clean up around rural roads and neglected areas in our communities.

Tomorrow we push further east to put us within range of St Augustine on Tuesday.  There is some chance of rain and thundershowers for us tomorrow, but we should be okay.  Here are a couple shots from today.  An old school house in Gretna at the start, two random buildings–graffiti’ed shed and plantation style home, the new state capitol and old capitol, Spanish moss covered tree and me on a canopied street, palmetto trees, and Ray Charles statue in Greenville.