April 24: And in Conclusion…

We have some more photos to show you from our fun meet ups yesterday with the Canine Companions Jacksonville Puppy Outing Group .

This trip was a learning experience as all travel is, and a challenging adventure for us, but most of all, it was a rewarding  chance to help raise awareness for this great organization. The Canine Companions volunteers , graduates and staffers from west to east, who took the time to make contact with us and to help us in our endeavor, and who do such good work for the dogs and the graduates, really motivated  us as we rode each day. Thank you all!

Lastly, for anyone who has been inspired  to donate to this great organization which provides these highly trained assistance dogs to its graduates free of charge, please let us know your name and address so that we can personally thank you.  Canine Companions will of course acknowledge your donation but we might not be aware of what you’ve done and we do want to express our appreciation too.

The photos of the Canine Companions “welcome committee ” at the end of our ride are from Tom and Janci, and then last night we were hosted at dinner by Jacksonville POG members and very active Canine Companions volunteers Tonda and Lee Hoyt.  A lovely conclusion to a great day!

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Day 58:We’ve Reached St. Augustine!

 

 

April 23, 2016

Palatka, FL to St. Augustine, FL

Day: 39.6 miles; Total: 3,134.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 300′

Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8646724

 

We packed up the bike panniers one last time and headed out across the St John’s River. Our route had us winding north and even west through farms, and then along the river, before heading actually east into our end point. We rode though the town of Hastings, the potato capital of Florida , and saw lots of potato fields. The western turns brought us out the the river with its nice homes and docks, and then we finally turned east.

We entered St. Augustine and joined the throngs of tourists on the streets, along with horse drawn carriages, tour trams and other ways to see this historic city.  At the end of the official ACA Southern Tier route, there standing by the Bridge of Lions, was a wonderful group of local CCI folks and their dogs, cheering us on. It was just a perfect way to end this long ride to raise awareness for this great organization and we so appreciated their being there to greet us. Very exciting!

We gathered for a fun lunch and enjoyed making new friends! Thank you all for taking the time to come out for this!

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Heading out one last time on this trip

 

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Over the St John’s River

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Mellow flat riding

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These palms have been all over the Florida forests we’ve seen

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Spuds Farms

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Life along the river

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Progress!

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The Canine Companions group !

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Celebrating with Traveler

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Not exactly dipping the wheels, but close enough!

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Regal V

We have one more piece of news that we received a few days ago. We are very excited that Regal, the puppy we turned in mid February before leaving on this trip, has been selected to be a Canine Companions Breeder. She will return to us and we will be her Breeder Caretakers . A new road awaits us all!

 

 

Support Canine Companions for Independence.

Donate at our event page.

See details about our Southern Tier route.

Day 57:Getting Closer…

 

 

April 22, 2016

Gainesville, FL to Palatka, FL

Day: 57.4 miles; Total: 3,094.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,073′

Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8634281

 

Breakfast options for an early start in Gainesville were a McDonalds or Fast Eddy’s so of course we joined the crowd of locals at the walk up/drive up window for FE’s breakfast sandwiches ( mayo optional and tater tots were the vegetable option). Fueled up, we headed down a country road lined with small homes and went towards the start of the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail.

This beautiful paved biking and hiking trail runs for about 16 miles alongside a state preserve, and we rode under trees hanging with moss, past water features filled with frogs and birds, and no motor vehicles!! It was great riding. On the trail, we met two very interesting cyclists, Paul and Bill, who are teachers for an organization that supports folks with Parkinson’s. They both have the disease and are working to assist others in ways to do beneficial training and exercising. Their website is Parkinson’snetwork.org, so check it out if you’re interested.

When the trail ended, we were then going north, (?) back on a highway for a bit, then a very rural road with broken surfacing, and after several small towns, we rode onto another bike trail. This was the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail, and again a lovely place to ride on,  actually getting to chat together as we rode along. It crossed over more field-like terrain and was nicely flat. When it ended, we rode the final 10 miles back on the highway with some shoulders for us. Logging trucks roared by and traffic was busy as we entered Palatka, and just as we saw the St John’s River where our motel was, the threatened rain began, but we were only in it for a few blocks.

We got in early, for us, and had time for a quick lunch and then laundry( so exciting!). Hard to believe tomorrow is the last biking day!

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Fast Eddy’s to start the day

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On the trail

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Traveler checks out the moss

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What a nice trail to bike on

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Traveler meets Paul and Bill ( in addition to their Parkinson’s work, we learned that Bill grew up in San Anselmo in Marin county and Paul leads hiking trips in New Zealand!)

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Look! Florida citrus along the road

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Remember all those big dormant pecan trees in New Mexico and Texas? Here are pecan sprouting leaves and dripping with moss

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The view along this afternoon ‘s trail 

 

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Tonight, we had a real treat, dinner with CCI Puppy Raiser Janci and her fifth puppy Gulliver, a model puppy. Great fun!

Support Canine Companions for Independence.

Donate at our event page.

See details about our Southern Tier route.

Day 56:From the Itchetucknee to Gator Country

 

 

April 21, 2016

Itchetucknee Springs State Park, FL to Gainesville, FL

Day: 46.6 miles; Total: 3,037.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,447′

Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8623143

 

We got complementary coffee at the camp store and met the owner’s mom who told us about how popular this river originating from the springs is , when in full season. Kayakers and canoeists are on the chrystal clear waters now but come summer, it sounds like non stop tubing takes over. We headed out to go check out the Headspring and the Blue Hole, near the north end of the river, set in very pretty lush green forests.

We rode through the farmland and reached High Spring where we stopped for an early lunch. Like many of these small Florida towns, the central area is typically where the historic buildings are and where non chain places still continue. This downtown had a short few blocks that included Jim Gabriel’s nice Sante Fe Bicycle Outfitters, a bike shop where I got my tires pumped with his equipment and I also got to stroll around the farmers market going on by the old railroad station. Fresh produce, baked goods and nice local handcrafted items were for sale. In a small world coincidence, the first person I spoke with had lived near where we do in Marin County at one point.  She had great looking breads for sale but too big to carry on our bikes. I settled for two small brownies for later- yum!

We were headed past luxurious looking horse farms into Gainesville ( home to the Univ of Florida Gators) and as we approached town, there were defined bike lanes and we saw other day riders. It’s nice not to feel alone out there on the road! We met Peggy and Cliff, experienced cyclists who have done some great organized tours, and they gave us very good advice on how to get to our downtown motel. Their advice got us nicely here, near the University, for tonight.

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Traveler meets Beth at the cabins

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The very clear Head Spring

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An idea of this river route

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Traveler is trying to get his head around the amount of water discharged every day naturally by this spring 

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Grazing among the cypress trees

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Our bikes fit right into the mural in High Spring

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A glimpse of one of the many horse properties we got a quick peek of

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Traveler meets Peggy and Cliff

 

Support Canine Companions for Independence.

Donate at our event page.

See details about our Southern Tier route.

Day 55:Way Down Along the S(u)annee River

 

April 20, 2016

Madison, FL to Itchetucknee Springs State Park, FL

Day: 77.7 miles; Total: 2,990.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,964′

Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8610831

 

Breakfast at the Unity House B&B in Madison was delicious and fun, as we got to chat with both fellow guest Judy, from nearby Gainesville and also with our host, Linda who told us a bit about this charming small town.

Our route had us again on our friend, 90, for part of the morning and then we turned onto quieter roads, passing Suwannee State Park, and then roughly parallelling the river at a distance. I’m not sure Stephen Foster ever saw the river that was the subject of his song, and the spelling changed for ease of pronunciation we were told.

We rode past farms, very green hay fields and pasturelands and lots of timber operations. At one point, an odd map blip had us biking happily with a tail wind down a road the wrong way for a few miles, but we returned , into the wind of course, to the right place and relaunched.

We were going to be at a cabin place with no food nearby for dinner, so we got great house smoked BBQ and sides, southern style, at a small local place in the tiny town of Wellborn, about 30 miles from the end of our day. I love the fact that sometimes we have just chanced upon great local food in quite small towns. People are making some great things! We pulled into the Canoe and Cabins place in the north end of the river that forms Itchetucknee Springs State Park in the early evening, thanks to some windy riding, and we were very happy to see our basic cabin. Tomorrow we will go see the spring fed river here that is extremely popular for tubing and paddling.

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Traveler meets Judy, who gave us good suggestions for our stay in Gainesville 

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Our hostess, Linda, in her beautiful house, meets Traveler 

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The Suwannee 

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Lots of wildflowers along the road

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Traveler meets April, Tara and Sarita near Live Oak

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Another lovely road; no shoulder but generally quiet

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Yummy stop to get dinner

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Our little cabin. Not exactly camping but we needed our sleeping bags

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Okay, this was a seriously good finale to our BBQ sandwiches; freshly baked pound cake plus Seattle chocolate from Lindsay.  Traveler is very enthusiastic!

 

Support Canine Companions for Independence.

Donate at our event page.

See details about our Southern Tier route.