Day 6: Jonathan Dickinson State Park to Fort Pierce, FL - Between the Ends of America - CycleBlaze

April 18, 2011

Day 6: Jonathan Dickinson State Park to Fort Pierce, FL

I look down at the blister on the inside part of my left ankle. It's about the size of a piece of M&Ms candy, twice as big as when I went to bed last night. The skin stretches tight all around and it seems ready to burst. So I help it along. With the prick of a toothpick a disgusting yellow-orange liquid shoots out the side and runs slowly down to the bottom of my foot, leaving behind it a narrow trail of fluid. It's a beautiful way to start the day.

I ride north on Highway 1, a completely featureless section of road, and occupy myself by singing Phil Collins songs. It's flat and there's a tailwind, just like every other day I've spent in Florida. Even if you're out of shape it's easy to ride here.

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I'm heading over the first of two bridges from the mainland to Hutchinson Island South when I take a look in the mirror attached to the left side of my helmet and see a rider gaining on me. She soon pulls alongside and asks me where I'm going. When I tell her, she immediately gets excited for me. Her name's Rachel. She lives in the area although she's originally from New York. She's in her 40s but starts college in the fall, and when she's done she wants to do a cross-country trip like mine. We stop at the crest of the bridge and I give her the address for this journal. She laughs when she reads the part; she's never heard of it but loves the name. With traffic flying past us under the hot morning sun I explain the reasons why it's the greatest website ever created.

After a few minutes we start back down the other side and soon she turns off to the right to head back to her house. I know that I'm doing something impressive out here, but the positive responses, well wishes, and God-bless-yous from the complete strangers I meet along the way really drive that point home. If you happen to see me on the road this summer, stop and say hello. You'll make my day.

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I pass many miles riding down Ocean Drive. I'm glad they named it that way, otherwise I wouldn't know that I'm just a quarter of a mile from the Atlantic. It's always behind condos or trees or dunes and I only see it twice during the early part of the afternoon. Every time I stop I'm smacked over the head by the heat, standing with little to no wind around to cool me off and sweating uncontrollably. I decide that from now on I'm riding early or late, but not during the day if I can help it. A few extra miles a day aren't worth it.

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I'm daydreaming about a delicious hot dog, riding on a wide path parallel to Highway A1A, when I miss by an inch a can of Natural Ice beer that sits in the middle of a path in a plastic bag. I turn around, go back, and give it a kick. It's full. If I'd hit that thing at my blazing 13 mile-per-hour speed it probably would have shoved the handlebars to the left or right and thrown me over them, headfirst, onto the ground. My friends and family worry about me getting hurt on this trip, and there are plenty of ways for it to happen: getting nicked by a Buick, riding straight into a jersey barrier, or being made into dinner by a hungry mountain lion in Western Montana. None of us ever figured a tall boy of Natty Ice might be the thing to worry about.

I stood in front of this thing for at least 15 seconds thinking "Hmm, I wonder why they put fake pelicans on top of those pilings." And then it turned to look at me.
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The heat's enough by early afternoon. I stop in Fort Pierce and spend the rest of the day writing, sending emails, taking pictures, and rehydrating. I'm working in the laundry room around 10:00 when Barry, who owns the campground, comes in to close up for the night. He's a genuinely kind man with a great smile, a calm manner of speaking, and a modest New York accent. I ask him if I can stay a bit longer to keep working and he says yes. Ten minutes later he comes back to check up on me, bring me a fresh apple and plum, and wish me good luck. This place is a KOA and it's ridiculously expensive for a tent camper on a bike, but on this day it's given me everything I could want.

Hard at work in the laundry room.
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I look down at my ankle just before bed and see that the blister has returned. It stares back at me, shiny and smooth, looking like a big, flesh-colored jelly bean. I decide to let it live for one more night.

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 341 miles (549 km)

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