Day 7: Fort Pierce, FL to Melbourne, FL - Between the Ends of America - CycleBlaze

April 19, 2011

Day 7: Fort Pierce, FL to Melbourne, FL

It's 5:30 in the morning and I'm already sweating as I pack up my gear, take down the tent, and load everything onto the bike. The rain cover and bike are soaked with moisture even though it's 75 degrees and it didn't rain last night. I'm on the bike by 6:00, in the dark, riding with a full moon, the occasional street light, and a couple of passing cars. The miniature headlight that sits on top of my handlebars lights the way.

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Just like yesterday, I can smell and hear the ocean but can't see it unless a county park comes close to the road. I look only at the pavement in front of me, the trees, some homes, and the traffic. I want to take pictures and write about interesting stuff but there's literally nothing remarkable out here. Everything runs together in a lump of nice, which is the word that most effectively sums up this part of Florida. Everything's neat and tidy, pleasant and careful not to offend, just as it should be. At least the riding's good: cool, windless, without even the smallest hill to get in the way. I mash the pedals and fly north with a sweet tailwind.

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It looks like I'm riding along the ocean, but I'm not seeing it.
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I wave when I pass road bikes, since there aren't many out on a Tuesday morning. Some wave back but most don't. One guy riding in the opposite direction looks like he's raising his left hand to wave, but instead reaches back and gives the side of his butt cheek a deep, satisfying scratch. Well played, local road biker.

I wind my way through the streets of Melbourne, avoiding the traffic that fills up and speeds through its main roads, and eventually make it to the home of Ann, John, and Dewey the Springer Spaniel. It's the first time I've stayed with a Warm Showers host on this trip.

Ready to cross the bridge on the left and ride into Melbourne.
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In the early evening, while everyone else is off at the beach, I take a walk around the neighborhood. The breeze is strong, the sun's behind the clouds, and I feel great walking around in normal clothes and spending time away from the bike. As I walk I carefully peel dried skin from the top of my hand, the one I burned so badly on the first two days of the trip. The old skin comes off easily in long and wide strips. It feels and looks like when I was in elementary school and would put Elmer's glue on my hand, let it dry, and then tear it all off in big chunks.

Not long after I start, I reach the main east-west street that runs through this area. It's four lanes wide with short concrete dividers and a wide section of grass running between the two directions. A few blocks to the east, across from the Winn-Dixie, sits a mess of flashing lights and damaged cars. There are four of them: a light blue Dodge Caravan up front, followed by a generic-looking silver Buick, an orange Chrysler PT Cruiser, and a black, late-model Ford truck. They're all together in a crooked line, the impact of the Ford running into the back of the PT Cruiser causing each of the cars to compress a bit like an accordion. Three of them escape with serious but fixable cosmetic damage. One doesn't. The front tire of the orange PT Cruiser sits on the ground while the back hangs at least two feet up in the air. Just behind the front doors, the frame bends upward at a 20-degree break where the impact of the collision with the truck pushed the rear of the car in on itself. I wish I had my camera because this is great material for the journal.

I walk toward the front door of the store, passing a woman who keeps looking back at the accident scene.

"That orange car sure got the worst of it," I say.

She shakes her head. "I saw a blanket covering something over there on the other side of it."

Someone's dead.

I'm glad I couldn't take that picture.

A minute later I walk into the store through the sliding doors and overhear a woman explaining to a stranger that the man driving the truck was drunk.

When I first passed the accident, I noticed a guy sitting on the folded-down tailgate of the Ford truck, looking detached. I figured he was just upset about causing an accident, ruining his truck, and jacking up the cost of his car insurance. As I walk through the aisles of the store I realize what was really going through his head: he just killed someone. He'll probably be in jail tonight and, eventually, for a large part of the rest of his life. He woke up expecting today to be like any other and now his world has changed forever-just like the lives of his wife or girlfriend, his kids, his parents, and the family of the person he killed through his irresponsibility.

I wander around the store because I'm too distracted to figure out what I want or go find it once I decide. I do two or three laps, picking a few things up and then putting them right back. Eventually I get a candy bar, which I eat as I walk past the crash scene and back to Ann's house.

The night's much less heavy: eating pasta with pesto and vegetables grown fresh in Ann's garden, watching a cringe-worthy chick flick set in Cairo, talking about bikes and touring gear, drinking a beer made in a brewery in Key West called the Southernmost Beer, and chatting online with Desiree as I peel more skin from my hands, arms, and shoulders.

Ann and John.
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Ann and John are awesome. I fall asleep thinking about how happy I am to be here, and how thankful I am for Warm Showers helping to bring us together.

Today's ride: 58 miles (93 km)
Total: 399 miles (642 km)

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