Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Fool Wandering in the Desert

When we last left our intrepid idiot at the end of yesterday's post, he was bedded down in his tent while the last of an early evening Florida rainstorm dripped from the trees. Through pure luck, he had overcome a couple of monumental brain farts -- no tubes to fit his new tires, and no pump with which to pump up said tubes. Would his luck continue?

Well, of course.

I slept great, thanks to my new larger Big Agnes air mattress. The temperature dropped just enough for me to need my light sleeping bag, and the tent kept me snug and dry all night. I awoke at dawn, fixed a big cup of coffee to go with the three-seed demi that I had bought at Panera the day before, and took a few minutes to take some pictures of the trees in the park.

I then broke down my tent, shook as much rain and sand off of it as I could, and began packing up. I was in bike clothes and sunscreen, heading east into the rising sun, before 9 am.

Soon, I entered a familial county.

Just before LaBelle, the road began to tell me to rethink my plan.

The GPS soon began doing the same thing. For some reason, it wanted me to go almost directly north on dirt roads. Since dirt roads in Florida are usually sandy, and sand can not only bog down your tires but destroys your drive chain, I wanted to stick to asphalt. The GPS insisted it knew a short-cut, and would spend the next hour telling me to make a U-turn as soon as possible.

Since this route had a long stretch without amenities, I stopped once again in LaBelle to top off my bottles. In my panniers, I still had an extra bottle full of water from my campsite, and hoped that three bottles would be enough as I headed northeast on FL 29.

This is a busy, fast road, but with a pretty good shoulder. Two out of every three trucks going north were full of oranges, and two out of every three heading back were empty and slavering for citrus. The cars were zipping by too fast to really take in some of the beauty of the country here.

Just short of Palmdale, I turned left on State Hwy 74. I had emptied one bottle already, but knew that going on into Palmdale would be useless since there are no stores there. Going west on 74, traffic was lighter and the tailwind made it easy to cruise along over the flat country at a good clip.

The horizon shimmered in the distance, making it easy to see what few vehicles there were minutes before they reached me. I think that I could have seen Russia from this road, if not for the continental United States.

About 10 miles down this road, I saw the dirt road that my GPS had wanted me to take. It would have been eight miles, but did not look too bad. Maybe next time ...

A couple of miles further, I turned north on Tasmania Road. My other bottle was empty now, too, so I stopped to retrieve the last of my water from my pannier. I now had just under one full bottle, with 20 miles to go before the next store. This was going to require careful rationing and hard riding -- not a good mix. About five miles later, I had an inkling what the pig in the ditch in the picture below felt like.

I had left Hendry County for Glades County just outside of LaBelle, and now crossed into Highlands County. I still had a long way to go, but at least I was now in the right county.

I had maybe three more swallows of water in my last bottle when I saw this sign.

The owner was nonplussed when I walked in, as if fully loaded touring bicycles came by all the time. He busies himself doing inventory of his eight shelves of goods, while the television behind the register blared North by Northwest, with Cary Grant crazily driving along an empty road through the middle of the night. I got two bottles of Gatorade, an Orange Crush, a bag of ice, and an Almond Joy candy bar. Back on the front porch, I filled my bottles with ice and cool drink, with Cary in the background explaining to the local police how someone had been trying to kill him. I sat for a minute, drinking my Orange Crush and eating my candy bar, before climbing back on the bike. Heading north on the empty road again a few minutes later, life was good and the world was rich with grand potential.

It was now after 2 pm, and I had less than 20 miles to go to my hotel.  I had slowed down, and thought that my headwind was back when I realized that I was grinding along on a 1-2% grade climb. Soon, I began to see actual pseudo-hills.

There were a number of signs like this, probably to remind people that they were no longer in flat country with unlimited visibility. The plains of roaming cattle had given way again to rows of orange trees.

The hills separated a series of placid lakes.

This is when I realized that I must be near Lake Placid, where my hotel was.

It was just after 3 pm, so I stopped at a grocery store to eat a sandwich and drink something. I got to my hotel about 4 pm, showered, and just laid down for a couple of hours to watch brainless television, eat empty carbohydrates, and drink copious amounts of water.

I couldn't find North by Northwest, but was reasonably certain that things would work out for Cary alright in the end, too. Things usually do.


  1. You were "flat out" lucky on this trip - get it? I make me laugh (clearly I have been hanging around you).