April 11, 2019

We landed in Atlanta late last night. It was 74 degrees at 10:45. It became quickly evident that heat is going to be the biggest challenge of this leg.

We drove to Dawn’s house in Leesburg and got a few hours of sleep. Left their house this morning just after 9 AM.

Grabbed the groceries from Walmart in Perry, Florida and headed to the airbnb for early check in. 87 degrees outside. Way too hot to ride and make any real progress, and we were both still pretty tired, so we took a nap and woke up just before 4:30.

Changed clothes and were back in the car heading back to Tennille. 87 degrees still, but shade is actually kind of pleasant.

We got to Tennille at 5:30 and unloaded the bike and everything i needed, and I was on by 5:40. Sunset in Florida was at 7:48, and I estimated I’d be 3 hours and 12 minutes based on two mph faster than my average, since it is quite flat. So I would be an hour in the dark, regardless, but I’ve been challenging myself to beat the estimated time, so I set under three hours as the goal.

Lots of animals on the side of the road and the trail today. Lizards, turtles, rabbits, squirrels, a fox, and hundreds of birds.

At Cross City I grabbed more water and got onto a trail that was beautiful. Covered by trees and apart from the road, I could pick up some speed confidently and wasn’t getting too hot.

With 12 miles left I was projected to finish at 2 hours 52 minutes, and I was thrilled, but I was still going to be riding in the dark for 48 minutes. I said a quick prayer that I’d be able to see well enough or that I’d know when to make my way to the road and have Randy follow me.

Back up a bit – before I ride each day I pray that I’ll be safe, that I will be up the challenge of the day, and that sometime during the ride I will know that I’m being watched over by loved ones who have passed on.

Three miles later the sun was down and I started to get more than a little nervous. My eyes hadn’t adjusted to the waning light, and my headlight wasn’t strong enough to get past 15 – 20 feet out.

Then the miracle occurred. Okay. Miracle may be just a hair of a stretch. But it felt like a miracle.

In Utah and most of the west we don’t have fireflies. I often forget they exist. But as it got darker and I got more nervous,  the Florida landscape began to flash. Not “real” light – I couldn’t see better because of it, but the tiny insects are eating the plants on the side of the trail, and because of the million flashes on the side of the trail, I could keep riding into the darkness. Now please don’t judge my music – I have a pretty diverse selection on these playlists. But I was riding along with the beautiful flashes of light and the Lady Gaga song, “Applause” came on, and suddenly the flashing lights were paparazzi in my head, each an adoring fan from beyond the grave shouting out cheers and taking photos.

I know it’s just nature. I know it’s just bugs. But for a moment I felt like my friends in heaven got to send me a message – we’re all watching and cheering you on.

510 miles to go.


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