Day 1 – Florida at it's best.

Dear Cliff of the ‘Cliff Bar’, I just want you to know that your litte peanut butter snacks of goodness are the bomb!

The morning went well, but I didn’t get much sleep. I must have paced around the damn hotel room checking, double checking and triple checking that I had enough. The truth is I have WAY too much stuff. While it’s better to be safe than sorry, there is no way I could have carried half of the stuff by backpack. My original plan was to backpack the trip. It would have provided me more flexability and not have to stick to wonderful asphalt/concrete. Unfortunately my sciatic nerve from 3 herniated discs years ago said “NO” to the backpack.

 The evening before departing provided a little excitement. A transformer blew somewhere nearby and set off the (loud) fire alarm. After detaching myself from the ceiling,I went out to the lobby to see what the heck was happening. I felt like I was on the set of ‘Cocoon’ with all the shirtless, shoeless, dark leathery skin, retirees becoming increasingly more irritated that the alarm was hurting their hearing-aids. Entertaining and took a bit of the stress away…

Within the first mile of the trip my glasses were already fogging up and sweat dripping down my back. This is something that I have now accepted and realize will be a constant for many days. At about the 3 mile mark a man on bicycle passed by obviously getting some training in. He was dressed in full cycle attire and I couldn’t help but immediately thinking how much shorter this trip would have been on a bicycle. About 10 minutes later, he (Dan Rhodes) road back up to me and asked me “What are you doing”? A question that I have begun to get quite used to on the road. 🙂 After telling him briefly, he comically road circles near me and was upset that he failed to bring his camera. Honored by the suggestion, I offered to take a picture of us and send it to him. He obliged and we took a photo of us and of him by my cart. We chatted a bit more and then before he begun to ride-off into the sunrise, he asked if it would be okay if he prayed for me. Even as I type, my eyes start to well up as I think about this gesture from a complete stranger. I agreed and Dan immediately grabbed both my hands and said the most inspirational prayer I have ever heard. I was touched and inspired by Dan Rhodes. Thank you Dan! When recalling the event and how many cars drove my on the rural country road. The thought of ‘what in the heck’ are these two grown men blocking traffic and holding hands must have been priceless.

My new friend Dan

No kidding. Within the first hour the following songs played from a local radio station:

  • I walk a lonely road – Green Day
  • Lonesome Loser – Little River Band  ( while I love the song…it still ticked me off!)

For the next couple of hours, I switched to listening to my MP3 player.

Observations from the road:

  • I love Semi-trucks! At 90+degrees and no wind, they bring short moments of pleasure after they drive by.
  • Most cars in this stretch of the road have 1 of 2 things hanging from their read-view mirrow. Either a cross or a handicap sign.
  • Lot of dead snakes, but no live ones (yet).
  • The crown victoria (hands-down) wins as the most popular car between Jacksonville and Calahan, Fl.

At approximately the 14 mile mark, I entered the town of Calahan, FL. Small town with about 2 stoplights. Very similar to where I grew up in Lolo, Mt. Big Props to my Lolo Peeps!! There I grabbed some water and began walking. Immediately my feet told me to take a break, so I did. All intentions of keeping my clothes (white shirt) clean flew out the window. Under a tree I found a nice sandy, shady spot and took a little cat nap. 20-30 minutes later I was energized. Had a quick snack and caught up on a couple phone calls. It was a very peaceful moment.

From there it was a long stretch of road and I had to take several breaks to rest my feet. While focusing on the blister building on my right heal, a wonderful woman and her daughter walked out to the street to enquire “What are you doing”? She proceeded to hand me two cans of ravioli for dinner. I never knew that such a simple ravioli gesture could bring so much joy! If I had know this, I would have given it as a gift so much more in the past. I gladly accepted her gift and asked her if it would be possible to get some ice water, as my water was getting hot. “No problem” she said, and went back into the house on her mission. Quckly she emerged not only holding my water bottle, but a loaf of bread and a frozen 2 liter bottle of water. <insert tear here> No other motivation than wanting to help another human being out.

Best dinner ever!

I love the Bible Belt!

I got to my destination fairly early in the evening, and just ahead of the looming rain storm. I took cover under a businesses awning, ate some ravioli, took a hand shower and changed my clothing. This awning just happened to be a spot where customers can make after hour payments. So getting busted pantless by the two cars that pulled up was emarrasing to say the least.  The rain came soon thereafter and didn’t let up for over an hour. I had to huddle next to my cart in my rain gear and hope for the best. After the rain stopped,I  thought about trying to make camp behind the building. This urge was quickly squashed when I saw the Sherriff car hiding on the other side of the building. I pushed on and knew that I had to find a decent (read: somewhat dry) location within the next 30 minutes.

Hiding from the rain.

Lucky location for the night was a small church aobut 1/2 mile away.  I asked permission from a woman there and she said “You go right on ahead buddy”. Pitched tent in light rain and got in (albeit wet, but not cold). From my new office, any thought of typing or writing the blog quickly flew out the window. Trying to sleep in the 90 heat, while sweating…was work enough. Nope, that’s not exactly true!! There is more! I quickly realized that I was within 50 yards to the busiest stretch of railroad track I have ever heard. Every 20 minutes the GA – FL express went by and let me know by repeatedly signaling the horn. When the train wasn’t passing, there was a bird that refused to quit making noise all night. Now normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but it was like listening to your boring AT&T default ringer going off all night. In fact, it really did sound like my phone ringer. I have now proceeded to change my ringtone. 

 Lastly, the night did have one more interruption. The gal that gave me permission to stay on the property, failed to devlier the full message (approval part) to members of her congregation. At about 1:30 a.m. I woke up to truck head lights about 20 feet from my tent and a guy yelling “Hello”. I poked my head through and asked what was happening. After exchanging details, he quickly apologized and asked “What are you doing”? No ravioli or prayer this time, just him extending his arm into the tent and telling me how nice it was to meet me. I didn’t get this man’s name, but his politeness and southern accent I shall never forget.

First night in the tent. The bar was set low for future nights.


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