THE MOST IMPORTANT LINK OF ALL
Who Are We?
Two friends; one crazy adventure: to raise money for the Search Dog Foundation, SDF (a non-profit that raises and trains search and rescue dogs). How to get attention for this cause? By biking from Maine to Key West in less than two months. Chance of success? Maybe. Crazy? Definitely. Awesome adventure? Undoubtedly.
Or if you're feeling courageous, the full lecture...
Team e2 is the brainchild of a graduating high school senior (Evan Smith) and a graduating master's student (Evan Patronik). Evan Smith and I met about 4 years ago through his older brother and have become close friends, mostly through our similar personalities and tastes of outdoor activities (such as swimming in the Atlantic during early February of last year). On a whim one night, we decided to undertake a "crazy adventure" during the summer of 2008: a bike trip logging nearly 3,000 miles from the tip of Maine to the bottom of the Florida Keys. On its own, this journey would be fulfilling enough for the both of us but we had hoped to gain something more. This led us to idea of using our trip to raise money for a more than worthy cause. We have involved ourselves in a fundraising effort with the "Search Dog Foundation" (SDF), a not-for-profit non-governmental organization based out of California. Their mission is to produce the most highly trained FEMA Advanced Certified Canine Disaster Search Teams in the country. These teams are trained to search for live victims of natural disasters or terrorist attacks. The teams are provided at no cost to fire departments and other emergency service agencies throughout the country and are essential in the post-disaster rescue effort. We are spreading the word of our charity ride to individuals we meet on the ride (which is why you may be at this website) and with companies around the country. Feel free to donate to the cause using the link provided on this page, as well as check out our pictures and blog in order to follow us on this amazing and crazy adventure!!!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Trying to get a place to stay after today's ride was quite a debacle. There were plenty of fire stations in the area where we were headed (originally Floridana Beach, now Vero Beach), just no one that wanted to take us in. Finally, I was able to get in touch with a nice woman (or man...gosh, at this point I can't remember) who hooked us up with the Vero Beach Fire Rescue Station 5 personnel. They had just been transplanted to a brand new station two years before because of a hurricane that came through and tore up the old place. The woman (or man)...the "individual", on the phone assured me that if a hurricane came through, that was the place to be because it was built tighter than a _____'s _____. Can't exactly display that kind of language here, but that's what they said! So we headed for Vero Veach, 74 miles down the coast, into the wind (as usual) on an extraordinarily hot day. Now, you might think "but at least it's windy, so the heat isn't as unbearable, right?" Wrong. It could be gale force coming at you, but you're still pedaling all strength, all the time. Sure, you may evaporate a drop of sweat or there, but your pores are working overtime pumping perspiration out of every possible spot. Wind + Heat + Heading South = Dead
Well, not exactly dead...but close.
So looking back on today's pictures, we had some good (and bad) events. Let's run through them...
Unique and astounding architecture: some of these homes along the sound (actually the Indian River Aquatic Reserve...which would lead me to believe it was a river...but I'm saying sound) were just incredible...the variety of architectural designs gave a great reason to slow down and just see how different each house could be from the one next to it, let alone the next 100 down the street.
Dolphins: thank god for Esmith's eagle eyes, or these guys would have gone undiscovered! We rode by a set of docks and lo and behold, a pod of dolphins! They stuck around for a little while, long enough for me to get my D80 out of my front pack and snap a few shots of some dorsal fins slicing through the calm surface of the sound. We were tempted to try to get on one of the docks and see just how friendly the dolphins would be, but arrest for trespassing was not on our list of objectives for the day.
Bike malfunction #1: remember that guy Sean that we met in North Carolina? Well, one of the stories he told us was about the pelotons (groups of bicyclists...think the Tour de France and all those cyclists) that form on the roads in Florida. Apparently, there aren't a lot of great roads to ride on, so most cyclists all tend to ride together on the same roads, forming these massive groups. Not only is it fun to join in one of these rides with your fellow enthusiasts, you can save a lot of energy through drafting. This is especially helpful when you've got 60 pounds of gear to carry, and these guys will go out of their way to suck you into the amoebic mass and do your work for crazy people like us. Well, Esmith and I had been excited about finding one of these pelotons since Sean told us about them, and today was going to be the day. The weather was getting nice and hot and were about to head out onto the coastal island with lots of traffic where a big group would be good to fight the cars and the wind. Well, we're about to head out onto the land bridge and a bolt on Esmith's rack shears right off, dropping his rack onto his tire, completely incapacitating his ride. I stop, walk the bike back, and we start to investigate the severity of the failure. And just as we surmise that some serious fixing is in order, what do we look up to see passing us but a peloton of about 40 guys on bikes. Oh, the cruel irony of life!!! Luckily, just a mile back was a bike shop (a very helpful running lady was nice enough to stop by and let us know), so we drug our bikes back to the shop and let them take care of the ordeal. 45 minutes and 10 degress Fahrenheit later, we're back on the road.
Ron Jon's Surf Shop: the plan was to stop at Ron Jon's surf shop, the original huge shop, just to see what they had. This did not work out as planned. I got there first by a few minutes, and pulled over by a bench to wait for Esmith...who, absorbed in the biking as we tended to become, shoots right past the shop, not noticing me waving frantically on the corner. I hop on my bike to try to catch up with him...but then, he's doing the same thinking that I'M ahead of him, so it's a no win situation. I don't know if I've mentioned this by this point, but Esmith's phone has been rendered useless without an electrical outlet by the downpour we rode through in northern Florida. So I just kept riding until Esmith called my cellphone from a table at McDonald's (boooo! booooo on McD's!!). Unknowingly, I'd already passed him since he had stopped, so the next 40 minutes was spent with us ricocheting back and forth, up and down the street until we finally met. Our first time getting separated on the trip...and so close to the end!!
Our first legitimately caused flat: short and sweet, my tire exploded because finally an object of worthy inflation-deadliness was able to penetrate and cause a flat.
Tortoise: I was able to snag a tortoise just as it tried to escape into the underbrush beside the sidewalk. And by "just able", I mean, stopped my bike, got my camera out, took some pictures, and got in its way as it slowly made its escape. Then more pictures and some angry hissing from the infuriated reptile.
High five plants: probably one of my top 20 coolest parts of the trip was this simple plant. Almost a weed, even; it was everywhere. But gosh darn were its big leaves great for high-fiving (see picture above). Esmith demonstrates this technique perfectly (and I'd like to mention that I stupidly took that picture while turned around while riding) I'm glad it didn't have some sort of toxin or allergic reaction causing sap, because I think we high-fived 643 of these things.
After a stellar shopping trip to CVS (not exactly), we arrived at the Fire Rescue Station. Now, THIS place had some characters. I was a little unsure how it was going to be hanging out there for the night, because they were a little ambivalent to our presence at first (just going about their daily routine), but this soon changed to hilarity and absurd conversations. The whole crew was awesome. From left to right in the picture, I think it goes like this: Emit, Esmith, Pete up top, Ray down below, Me, Lt. Wayne (or as most call him "Big Sexy" or "The Love Machine"), and Jay. It was like college hanging out with these guys. Jay, Esmith, and I were up for quite awhile exchanging stories and jokes, and just musing about life in general. I think his wife was on her last year of law school, so I hope she's coming along well, Jay!! This crew of guys were great and I'm really glad we were able to stop by and spend the evening with them. Hope you're all doing well, fellas.
Alright, I'll start this off with an aside that it's been quite some time since I wrote last and also since Esmith and I ended the trip...so a lot of this is fuzzy as I didn't take as great of notes toward the end of the trip. But I'll do my best and if I leave anyone out or forget a name, you can e-mail me a complaint. I don't foresee this though, so off we go!
The day started as most do: early, drowsy, but ready to bike. Mary took us out for breakfast out a local eating establishment (good old hometown breakfast place, you know the type). Plenty of greasy consumables were eaten, paying no heed to the calories or fat because really, our metabolisms are roaring infernos at this point. We say our goodbyes to our one-day-family and strike out on that lonely road again.
Today's destination was originally supposed to be Mims, but because we had torn asphalt the last few days, we could bump ourselves up a little bit. We ended up deciding on Titusville, a city about 62 miles just down yonder road (oh, wait, it's Route 1 AGAIN!). I was busy trying to line up our sleeping arrangements for most today's ride (if you think talking on a cell phone distracts you while driving, try it while riding a bike), so not much occurred on today's ride that I noticed...except for the amazing Pet Vet Cruiser. It's a bus that drives around, spaying and neutering every poor animal in sight. Actually it's a lot less rampant and out of control than that and serves a great purpose in lowering the animal population...but it was a little humorous seeing a bus that cruises the streets, chopping off and removing the crucial bits and pieces of male and female (respectively) pets everywhere. Amazing that the highlight of the day was a genital removing vehicle.
We were able to stop at a library and negotiate our residence for that evening through Lieutenant Rodney of the Titusville Fire Station. He assured us that they would have a place for us so our destination was secured for the day. It ended up being a pretty short day so we had time to get lost looking for the grocery store which was right down the street from the fire station for about an hour. Great dinner of Caesar salad and chicken I think. Then talking to Bobby (one of the fire fighters) about motorcycles (he had pretty cool modified one) and Olympics. Probably one of the more interesting parts of the evening, as well as one of the most disappointing, was the fact that we were literally just under 10 miles from Cape Canaveral. That's right, where they shoot off the space shuttle!! The guys said that they've seen so many by this point that they aren't even that amazing anymore (cha right!), and seeing one during the day is great, but at night they're even better. You'd swear it was daylight the amount of energy that vehicle puts out in the form of light. So that was the incredible part. Unfortunately, we were not around for any launches. That's the disappointing part. But they did have a gnarly old fire truck, the FIRST one the city ever owned, restored to its original condition. They use it in parades and events. And being the big shot, highfalutin big shots we were, they let us play in it. Well, take pictures with it, but same thing. You should have seen how bells and whistles this baby had!
After the Olympics and some mindnumbing episodes of whatnot on the TV, we hit the hay in preparation for the ensuing day of biking. Thanks for the great hospitality, Titusville FPD, namely Allan, Bobby, and Rodney.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Though I slept on the typical pull-out sleeper sofa last night, it was probably my best night of sleep on this trip. When I laid down, I got about 4.5 seconds of reading in before I was out. So waking up was a treat as I was actually well rested and lively. Breakfast was delicious...bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs...maybe some toast even. We got a late start, about 11, as we just moped around our new home with Liz and Rod (and Fudge of course). But the road beckoned, so we finally got all our junk together on our bikes, took our family picture (see above!), and hit that old dusty trail. It was a little overcast and we had a long day ahead of us. Our buddy (one of my best friends from UMD) is attending the University of Florida in Gainesville for graduate work in aerospace engineering (he's doing some research with flying velociraptors or T-rexes or something...). And he's actually applying for his PhD-ship this fall, so wish him luck! Anywho, Brob, as we call him, decided that if we were going to be biking through his area then he might as well join us for a little ride. Bear with me here as I work out the progression of the day.
We were originally supposed to be spending the night in Flagler Beach, but unfortunately the closest Fire Department was about 9 miles down A1A in a little town called Ormond By the Sea. So we called ahead to the Fire Department and who answers but Manny, a sweet girl with a bubbly voice. She puts me in touch with Phil, the chief, and apparently he's already heard about us. This stuns me because how in the world could he already know what we're about? I just assume there's two other guys who are biking the same route and we're just filching off of their fame...which I have no problem with. So he says to come on in and they would gladly take care of us for the evening. Yada yada yada, we contact Brob and he plans to park near the station and ride up to meet us in Crescent Beach on his sweet Giant racing bike. Little did he know there would be unfavorable weather. Ha, sucker.
So before I get to the awesome weather that accosted us for most of our ride, let me tell you about a little bridge called the Nassau Sound Bridge. This unimposing, 0.9 mile bridge presents you with the opportunity to lazily cruise over the Nassau Sound, 360 degree vantage points surround giving great views of the ocean, beach, and island...ALONG WITH 30 MPH HEADWINDS THAT SLAM INTO YOU FOR THE LENGTH OF THE BRIDGE!!! With the winds and the slight uphill because of the bridge, this traverse rivaled some of our worst hills in New England (if it had only been longer...). All we could do was laugh hysterically as we churned our way over this behemoth. There wasn't even any respite on the downhill, because you actually had to PEDAL down the hill. So that was the first piece of awesomeness in a day full of miserable weather.
Apparently in Florida, "rain showers between 3 and 4 pm" actually means "relentless downpour from 2 to 7 pm". We were able to wait out the first portion of the storm under the porch of a gas station in the middle of nowhere, but the rain was just not stopping and we had places to be so we buckled down and moved out. The ride was pretty miserable; everything we owned was soaked (Esmith's brand new phone...the one he just got during the stop in MD because his last phone died due to water damage...yep, it got water damage again). Luckily all my electronics were well protected with Ziploc Bags (did you know that "These food storage containers lock tightly so your foods stay fresh and your items remain protected."?...I'm shamelessly plugging products here hoping for donations from their respective companies). So we rode on and on, and the rain kept falling...into our bags and shoes and eyes. Cars were dowsing us with wonderfully clean road water and at one point we came over a bridge and confronted a 4 inch deep puddle the ran the width of the road and stretched about 50 yards ahead of us. There was no going around it so we had to just ford the damn thing. Since both my fenders were removed during the course of the trip, my tires took the liberty of dumping any water they picked up right into the heels of my shoes. Oh joy!
So we rode and rode and rode and finally met up with Brob 32 miles from our destination (Brob is a sadomasochist when it comes to working out and being active, so riding the 64 miles that day in the rain was not as awful for him as I would have liked it to have been). The ride from there on out was great. We kept up a decent pace and it was relieving to have someone else to talk to (when you're on the road with the same person for a month, you unavoidably run out of topics of conversation). So the ride went smoothly and quickly with the rain lightening up later in the day (though never stopping).
When we finally got the fire department, it was about 7:30 pm and Phil came running out "Your food's getting cold! Get in here and eat!". Apparently the guys and girls at the department had cooked us a HUGE meal for our arrival (these people were great). We got showered up, Brob started cooking his delicious chicken, vegetables, and pasta meal, and we realized that everyone at the station was pretty much the nicest person ever. I don't know if I've ever met a group of friendlier, nicer, more welcoming people in my life. We had a lot of fun hanging out and chit chatting and also found out that someone, a mystery friend who may or may not be a fire chief from one of our previous Station sleepovers, had sent an e-mail to all the fire chiefs that he knew down the coast of Florida letting them know about our trip and that we may be coming through and needing help (sorry about the long sentence). So they were well aware of our adventure and astounded us with their capacity for assistance. There was Phil, the chief (runs triathlons and does all kinds of crazy physical activity), Manny (the sweet one who I talked to on the phone and was all smiles), Mike (never saw him without his hat on or a smile off his face...he was also a big fan of the olympics), Jodie (he showed us all around the trucks and let us play with all the gear...then showed us all the tracheotomy equipment and the drill to put IV's into people's shin bones), Courtney (Jodie's exuberant girlfriend who is a beach lifeguard and a cheerleader at UF...I believe), Mary (the mother of the department...such a sweet gal), and Joe (I didn't get a lot of interaction with Joe, but from what I saw, I imagine he was the jokester of the group).
So the day ended very well; we got to meet a bunch of new friends and meet up with an old one. We were able to watch the men's 4x200 free relay race (and I use race lightly) and got some good sleep. It was a 96 mile day, but that just meant the next few would be a little bit shorter!
Special thanks to the Ormond By the Sea FD; you guys were awesome hosts and went above and beyond what was necessary for two ragtag ruffians like ourselves. Thank you.
The miles were short today and the day went by pretty quickly. At least towards the end, because the beginning was spent with Esmith trying not to die on his bike. Apparently the food/water poisoning was still in his system and he was something to see as he biked. I've tried to ride like he did when I'm tired, but just can't do it. He was basically slumped over his front pack, hands hanging over the front and his chin resting on his arms, just slugging along at a speed that was just below the one that would make him puke. As the day went on he got better though so the riding was much smoother. I unfortunately felt really good on the bike this day, so at one point I just rode ahead for about 25 minutes going 20 mph...which never happens so it was a REALLY good day for me. We met back up at a convenience store and made the last slog to our place of residence for the night in Fernandina Beach in a gorgeous neighborhood.
The family we stayed with is related to us in this way: Emsith's mom is a substitute teacher with a woman whose husband went to the Coast Guard Academy and is best friends with a Coast Guard buddy Rod...who is the father of the family we stayed with. So we spent the evening with Rod, Ashley, Liz, Maddie (Ashley's unbelievably adorable 2 year old daughter) and Fudge, the dog. The whole family was so easy to get along with and we had a blast. Liz had just graduated college the year before so we had some stuff to chat about, what with the dilemma of careers and moving on in the world as adults (bleh!). Liz, Esmith, and I ended up going to see Pineapple Express which although it dragged on at the end, was incredibly funny. I almost peed myself during the scene when kicks through the windshield of the cop car. Bedtime.
Today started out very foggy, with our tent (we had set it up the night before for the illusion of us sleeping in it) soaked from the dew and our shoes and bikes covered in sand as we pedaled out of the campsite on the sandy road. I got some good shots of some horses as we pedaled through the country and the day went by relatively quickly. For lunch we stopped in Atkinson GA next to a church (the Church of God of Prophecy) and I decided to head in and see if they would offer us a table inside out of the heat to eat at. It was Sunday, so they were in service, but before I knew it, we were at a table with our food plus tons and tons of food that they were offering us as well. They were more than helpful and let us stay for quite some time. We ended up talking with the Pastor and one of the parishioners (I can't for the life of me remember their names and I think I lost the paper where I wrote it down). The pastor is in our photo gallery though!
After lunch we kept riding and came across a bridge over the Satilla River. This was the bridge we had been waiting for, too. All this trip, we've been keeping our eyes open for a bridge or cliff or something to jump off of and finally we got the perfect one. We rode down under the bridge where there was a boat ramp and several families and groups of friends hanging out on the water on the gorgeous afternoon. I asked a lady if the water was deep enough to jump off the bridge, to which she responded: "Well, I don't know how deep it is, but people jump off it all the time." Good enough for me. We got changed into our suits and a fisherman actually found the deepest part of the water for us with his depth finder. The jump was exhilarating and we finally got our leaps!! The pictures are great and will be in the photo gallery soon. While we dried off, some guys our age gave us some soda and hung out chatting with us before they sped off in their boats and jet skis for a day on the water.
So we finally arrived in Folkston, GA at about 6 pm. I had tried calling the Fire Department earlier in the day but to no avail. When we arrived in town, we stopped a lady coming out of a Rite Aid and asked her where the fire station was; directions ensued and we found that the station was volunteer only and wasn't actually occupied. So great. We didn't want to ride ahead to the campsite which we found out wasn't actually even open, so now we had no place to sleep. We asked a guy about the police station, but he said that probably wouldn't work and suggested we just sleep on the Amtrak station platform (that sounds great!). That seemed like our only option, so we went to a deli/seafood place for dinner (didn't want to cook) while night time approached. Esmith and I were feeling a little sick because I think we got our hands on some bad water at some point in day, so dinner was a little slow; though Esmith was definitely more under the weather than I. We were trying to decide what we wanted to do about sleeping when I finally decided that to just buckle under and ask the high schooler behind the counter. When we had ordered, he was pretty interested in what we were doing and seemed legitimately excited about what we were doing, so I figured why the hell not ask him? It went something like this:
ME: "Hey, what's up I'm Evan. This is gonna come across as weird, but do you live around here?"
JUSTIN: "Uh, yeah, why?"
ME: "We don't have a place to stay tonight and we were wondering if we could crash at your place...even just camp in your backyard."
JUSTIN: "Ha, no problem. Let me call my grandmother and see if it's ok."
*goes into kitchen and calls grandmother...a few minutes pass*
JUSTIN: "Hey, my grandmother wants to know if you happened to ask an older lady this afternoon where the fire station was." *I say so* "Yeah, that was her. She says it's cool."
BOOYAH!!! We hung around the deli while Justin finished up working...drank about a gallon of sweet tea so he would have less to carry into the back...and followed him home on our bikes. His grandparents, Ellen and Dean, were great. Dean was retired from the military (he'd been all over) and Ellen worked as a correctional officer at the State Pen right outside of town. Her shift was 5pm to 5 am the next day, so they were wide awake when we rolled in. We chatted it up, exchanging the normal descriptions of our journey and finding out everything about each other. Justin is a senior in high school and will be attending college for classical guitar (he's pretty good). We got to watch the Olympics and saw the men's 4x100 free race. Oh. My. God. I have never been more excited about a sporting event in my life. That was by far the best race I've ever seen; up on my seat, practically standing on the recliner, watching Lezak make the most incredible comeback ever. We were all screaming and yelling and it was absolutely ridiculous. I was jacked up on energy for the next few hours. Esmith got the fold out futon and I got the floor (still infinitely more comfortable than being in a tent on my pad...actually one of the better night's of sleep I've gotten on the trip). We exited quietly in the morning because Ellen needed her sleep with her flipped schedule.
Today was an interesting one. We finally got a break from the boring flatlands as some small rolling hills got thrown into the mix. We broke 2K miles and boy was it hot. It was just too hot to eat outside so we ended up taking our lunch materials into a Dairy Queen and just making our PB&J's in there. It was a little awkward, but again we've developed the ability to feel no shame on this trip. The interesting part of today was arriving in Odum at the campsite. It was cheap, only $10, so we were very happy about that, but again it's crazy hot outside, the ants are EVERYWHERE and they fill everything you own, and it looks like it might possibly rain. Drat. But wait, what's this? KC's Clubhouse? What is that? Apparently, this campsite has a little building that a main room, kitchen, and two screened in porches that they let the local 4H Club use. Well, no one was using it, so we decided we just may sleep in there tonight. Though the porch was just as hot as our tent might be, there were ceiling fans all around. Unfortunately the lights for the whole place were also on the same switch as the fans, so the place was lit up like the fourth of July if the fans were on. Now, not that we were doing anything wrong or anyone might be mad that we were sleeping on our pads on the porch, we just didn't want to deal with any complications. So we went around the building unscrewing all the lights so we could have a good night's sleep without any interruptions.
Backtrack. We got to take showers and the bathrooms are full of geckos and green tree frogs. These guys can stick to pretty much anything and we had a great time playing with them and watching them leap onto the walls, mirrors, ceiling, and us. Esmith spent 10 minutes trying to catch the gecko until it finally just leapt onto his back and then just crawled around on him for awhile. Outside, the frogs and toads were just as plentiful, and Esmith spent some time taking pictures and watching the frogs swim around in an old empty pool that had rain water in it.