Sunday, July 19, 2015

Day 16: Darien to Fernandina Beach

Route: Darien, GA to Fernandina Beach, FL
Mileage: 82 miles

We planned to leave at 7am, but it really didn't happen.  We went down to get our continental Comfort Inn breakfast.  I was really over bad greasy food so didn't feel like experimenting with their sausage or eggs and actually had 2 bananas and peanut butter.  Keegan did the sausage and eggs and lots of coffee.  We then packed up and were pumped for our ride--excited to hit Florida and get to Fernandina! It was so humid out and our bike had been inside in the cold air conditioned room, that when we hit the outdoors, it immediately condensed.

We had only gone 3/4 mile when the familiar hissing of a flat tire sounded.  This was our first flat of the front tire.  Keegan jokes with me that whenever we get a flat, he says "protect your wheel!" like I could have prevented the flat from happening.  So, naturally, I gave him a hard time for not protecting his wheel. We got it all fixed up and tried Take 2 of the day.

As we started out of the area, Keegan said, "turn around".  There was a dog chasing us, almost in slow motion, and not even barking.  It was almost just like a friendly dog running with us.  I wasn't the least bit scared.  He trotted for awhile and then disappeared as we continued on.  Then we headed down 17 for a bit until Google advised us to go down 99.  We enjoyed this road because it was newly repaved and super smooth and we could find protection inside the barrels.

But before too long, Google told us to "continue straight" at an intersection.  On the map, it looked as though a road continued, but in reality, we saw no road.  We pulled across anyways, if for no other reason than to take a picture of the ridiculousness.

"Continue straight", where?

First of all, I would like to note that I Google Earthed our whole route that morning and tried to confirm they were real roads.  But in retrospect, I was fooled again.  Look at these photos of the map and tell me you wouldn't be fooled too?

That looks pretty legit that it just continues on.  Where it hist Waverly, it then continues straight onto 17 again, which makes a sharp turn south.

Turns out, none of these are real "roads".  Not even Big Man Rd.

If you looked at this, you'd think this was a road.  But actually, Google just lays a gray strip down anything it considers a road--now we know that underneath it is sand and shrubs and horribleness.

As I was grabbing these shots, I scrolled through the directions to see if there were other red flags that should have told me don't ride here, and that's when I saw what must be the ONLY car to ever have driven down these roads. And this was the first road that did seem like a ok dirt road at first. Google has not and never will catch a car driving down some of the "roads" we went down.  They were not suited for man, nor machine!

So Keegan and I regrouped and decided what to do.  I looked up the driving directions (since no cars could pass down here) and it was an extra 10 miles onto our trip if we went that way.  Here's where it gets sticky about how the negotiation of taking this path went, and Keegan emphasized he wanted me to set the record straight.  I looked to see how far it was between where we were and when we got to 17, which we knew was a real road.  That was 10 miles.  At any point, it was possible it may have become paved but the first road we were on, Rozier Rd, was clearly not.  Keegan asked how long that was, and Rozier Rd was a little over a mile.  This is how far Keegan thought the entire detour through the woods was--1.3 miles.  So when he said, "let's just do it", he did not think it would be 10 miles of hell.  He would never have agreed to that.  He wondered how I let that happen, but I thought he heard and understood it was 10 miles of detour [through the woods] OR 10 miles detour [added onto our total mileage should we not go this way].  I figured he was the captain of this bike and I deferred to him.  So we took our final proof of life photo, and headed into the unknown.

We should have known...we made it about 5 yards in and the mosquitoes just swarmed, to the point I was actually scared, it was like a horror movie.  They were most certainly tiger mosquitoes, although there was no time to take a photo.  I watched no short of 30 mosquitoes instantly land on Keegan and said--we have to stop!  I did a hilarious shake-off-the-mosquito-while-finding-bug-spray dance.  Most of the cans of sunscreen and bug spray lived on the periphery of the bag, but I kept striking out as I attempted to locate it, pausing to swat some pests on in doing so.  Finally I found it, and immediately sprayed it into the air to hopefully break up the party.  I then doused Keegan with a few shots and then myself.  We then covered ourselves in it.  It was 10% DEET (I hate to use DEET, my toxicology class in grad school taught me that's some scary stuff [don't use it when you're pregnant, folks!]).  Keegan says in Alaska (where he is from) they use 100% DEET.  Yikes!  We doused ourselves and both of us felt our skin burning.  Our pores were hyper open, it probably got right in there!  But I suppose in the immediate it helped protect us from those tiger mosquitoes, that are known to carry yellow fever, dengue fever and even Chikungunya fever, which can cause arthritis-like symptoms (how will I know if I have it!?).  So, after our brief mosquito freak-out, we headed into the unknown.

I don't know how it's possible, but everything just kept getting worse.  First, it switched from dirt to grass and weeds.

Here comes the grass!

I hit something by accident on my phone and it gave it this filter, looks pretty cool...and ominous.

As we neared the end of Rozier Rd, we hoped maybe--just maybe--the next road would be paved.  Nope!  But we sure got a good laugh that there was even a street sign there. Why it exists, we have little clue.

Oh good, otherwise we'd be so lost.

But then the grass turned into tall weeds.  I could see it getting stuck in our chain ring, especially on the tandem side.  Finally, enough grass and crap made our tandem chain pop off (which connects Keegan's pedals to mine), so Keegan diligently fixed that.

Can you believe this?

Well, it got worse.  As we approached the next obstacle, from afar it looked like it was a mud hill which would have been miserable.  Instead it was a downed tree that we had to try and squeeze by.

Have you paused and asked yourself, what about other bugs?!  Well, we didn't have much choice but to go through.  Luckily I had on my sexy white UV blocking leggings, but Keegan's legs were bare.  I was worried about him and the ticks, let's hope none got him because we got too caught up to look. Now, I don't want to ruin anyone's image of my strong manly partner--but the guy does not care for spiders.  At all.  We got into even more foresty territory (couldn't take pics, trying to just stay balanced!) and I hear Keegan let out a cry "Giant spider!!" and duck down.  He probably said "duck!" for me to do the same, but I didn't get the warning in time, so I saw that giant spider, but wasn't sure I was able to duck in time.  I saw spider web on Keegan, so we stopped to examine.  If I did the mosquito dance, Keegan did the spider dance, which is a frantic wiping of the body followed by inverting himself and brushing possible spiders off his head (someone had suggested we write a book that turns into a movie about this ride, and I couldn't help but imagine some actor trying to recreate this and my mosquito dance moments--we would have to carefully coach them). I saw the size of that spider, if it was there, I would have seen it.  We both inspected our helmets and each other and deemed ourselves spider free, and hastily got back to the task at hand--get the hell out of this place.

That's when we came to the next impasse.  We had been stopped several times by these gates before.  Some we were able to go around, others we were able to tilt the bike and get underneath and others were low enough we could lift the bike over.  We got to this mess and Keegan said, "let's lift it".  Now, I know I'm, like, super buff and all, but I just looked at him with confusion.  The gate was higher than my crotch, meaning, I couldn't just step over it--especially while holding one end of a 100+ lbs bicycle.  So we took all the bags off, lifted them over, lifted the bike, put the bags back on, and set down the road.  Look at those weeds and brush, that's what we were going head first into.

Turns out, some of those are thorn bushes.  The next thing I knew, something came flying at my face and my helmet got knocked backwards off my head.  I kept pedaling, because I have no choice, when Keegan pedals I pedal, but I grabbed for my face.  I thought Keegan had moved a branch out of the way that snapped back and whacked me--nope! It was Keegan's arm that hit me.  He had be caught on a thorn bush and in dislodging it his arm flung backwards.  I could only laugh.  What would people say if I showed up with a black eye? Domestic abuse is never something to joke about, but I thought how opposite of an impression that would give.  Given the circumstances of this ridiculous journey, Keegan and I couldn't be dealing with it any better.  We just laugh when we see the "road" getting worse and just trudge through it together.  But it was at about this point, Keegan did note that he wanted it on the record that he did not agree to 10 miles of this!  Before we got out of the thorn bushes, Keegan must have been torn up on his shins.  When we arrived at our destination for the night, his leg was filthy, but upon closer examination, one leg was covered in blood.

Somewhere after the thorns, the road turned to gravel, which is also hard to bike in.  I asked Keegan to rank the terrains: sand/dirt, gravel, brush.  Although the brush beat us up, he said sand/dirt was definitely the worst and hardest to bike in.  So guess what the next road consisted of?  Sand/dirt.  We were on that road for about 5 miles.  Somehow houses started to pop up.  We figured they must have wondered "where the heck did those bikes just come from!?".  Some dogs started chasing us but gave up pretty quickly, we probably weren't fast enough for them to get too excited about. Finally, we reached pavement, and again rejoiced.

A look back as we said good riddance to that dirt road!
Just a little farther down that street was a gas station, like a little oasis waiting for us.  We stopped to regroup.  The 15 mile dirt road detour was rough, but it was pretty consistent.  This 10 mile terrain just kept getting worse and was mentally taxing.  At points I thought we were doomed and may need to reconsider.  It was rough.  So we took a break for ice cream, to refill water, and for Keegan to inspect and clean the bike--we brought half the forest back with us.

Champions of YES deserve ice cream.
At this point we had only made it about 30 miles, so we still had a ways to go.  But at least we had found 17, although Google didn't want us to take it.  Google wanted us to take the Georgia Coast Rail Trail, which was separated from 17 by a layer of trees.  This direction I did pick up as I was inspecting the map, and figured it wasn't paved.  And nope--sure wasn't paved!  No thanks, Google, taking the ROOOAAAAD!

Georgia Coast Rail Trail head.  No thank you!
Seems to be where the Georgia Coast Rail Trail ended--what was your exit strategy for us, Google??
We continued on 17, when we looked to our right, where the Rail Trail used to be and saw what looked like perhaps a nice path.  At this point, Google wanted us on 17, but we went to investigate.  Well, wouldn't you know it, a beautiful bike path Google was holding back from us.

Finally we had made it to our stopping point for lunch.  I had yelped yet again where to go, and this time it was Salt. Pepper. Thyme. in an otherwise deserted little town.  Yelp indicated there were other restaurants there, but I didn't really notice them as we pulled in.  This was certainly the classiest place we stopped for food in our filthy outfits. Keegan was afraid to use their fancy napkins.

Luckily after lunch, we only had 24 miles to go, so we were happy about that.  We also knew that at any time now, we would be entering Florida!  I checked the map to see how close we were getting, and just as I did, I realized Florida was right on the other side of the bridge we were approaching.  I don't even know how to describe the feelings I had.  I was truly excited.  I know we haven't finished our whole ride yet, but it was one of those moments that just felt so good.  We lived up to our hashtag, we made it from #NYC2FL.  It was pretty exhilarating to bike over that bridge, I can only imagine how it will feel to reach the JA Conference.

The moment I realize we are about to cross into Florida

Last shot from Georgia!

Florida, we're here!

We did it! We really did it!  We biked from NYC to Florida!
Our victory was short lived.  Just as we had pedaled for a few hundred feet, my pedal broke.  A pin had come out from one end and released the clip.  So we stopped.  Keegan went into repair mode.  He's fixed these pedals many times before, but of course it was this time they were really resistant to being fixed.  I should have taken a video, he was beating that pin with a pair of pliers to no avail for quite some time.  But persistence paid off and finally he got it!

Then, we carried on!  And we were getting close to our destination, Amelia Island!

Before too long, we finally hit A1A.  Keegan requested Vanilla Ice be played.

Before the song even ended, we had another bike malfunction.  The tandem chain came off again.  Nothing you can do since you can no longer pedal, so we slowly coasted over to a shady spot to turn off of the road. Upon inspection while fixing the chain, Keegan identified the problem.  A chainring bolt from the back tandem chainring was missing.  This happened to us a bunch on our last Florida bike trip, so we quickly knew the fix: zip ties.  Keegan zipped it to keep it tight, and we continued our decrepit journey.  Only 10 miles more to go!  Come on!

Putting the chain back on

Makeshift chainring bolt

Finally, we made it to Amelia Island!

That large bridge is all that stood between us and our tiny mini vacation, and for me--nostalgia! 

Any guesses what happened next?  As Google navigated us to our cottage we rented, it told us to go down another nonexistent road. I couldn't believe that was a possibility on the Island.  But we circumnavigated and finally got to the house, later than we had planned, but we made it.  And luckily a key was under the mat as instructed and we hadn't been scammed.  Hooray!  It was a great little place, just across from the beach and from a boardwalk to get there over the dunes.

Turning the corner to our cottage.  There's the beach!

There's a roof deck too!

Spare bedroom if anyone wants to join!
We showered and got ready to go to dinner, but before we did, we made a quick trip down to the beach.  I couldn't contain myself, I'm not really even a big beach person (reminder: I'm fair skinned) but this particular beach brought back so many memories.  It's probably been 20 years since I've been back, but the memories came rushing back, even the very smell of opening the air conditioned rental mixed with the beach air.  I immediately took a picture of the beach to send to my mom, her response "Oh wow, just like I remembered.  Thanks for the special Rx!" It was magical to be back.  I had tried to convince my family to meet us down here, especially with the extra room, but no one bit. Turns out, we all grow up and our lives get more complicated and less easy to coordinate.  When we were kids, my dad couldn't take off work to come to the beach, but now as adults, no one else could. Well, my whole family is in my heart with me down here.  Such special times with my grandparents, mom and sister.  Miss you all. But I was also happy to share these memories with Keegan and bring him into the mix :) Welcome to the Teffeteller/Horonjeff tradition! (Can it still be a tradition if you've had a 20 year hiatus?)

Boardwalks over the dunes

The rip currents are no joke!  I almost got swallowed up by one on this beach (they didn't have such nice warning signs then).  My sister, only 3 years older, had to swim out to save me.  Thanks Jaime, I'm glad I'm alive to revisit here!

Begin awkward windblown selfie photoshoot....

After a trip down memory lane, we headed to dinner.  I yelped again, trying to find a place close to a grocery store and the CVS I had my Rx called into.  We ended up at a sushi place that was amazing.  I feel like we need to disclose to the wait staff why we order so much.  People must think we are crazy.  Even when we were ordering our fried ice cream, we asked if we should get two because we were hungry and didn't want to skimp!

After dinner we went next door to Publix to get food for the next couple of days (since no one is here to cook for us--sheesh!!!).  Keegan made fun of me because I was like a little kid in there.  I guess I was still hungry and having a scarcity complex that I just wanted to buy all the food. I crave fruit so got 6 bananas, 3 nectarines, and a bag of cherries.  He questioned if I would eat all of that.  Yup!  We got to the veggie section and Keegan got stopped by the juice at the end of the aisle.  While he picked that out, I went to go get us vegetables for our meals here.  Finally, I walked back over, he was till just standing there staring.  "What's taking so long??" I asked.  "I'm trying to figure out which one is 100% Florida orange juice!" he replied.  Cute :)  He finally made his selection and we continued on, picking up snacks and decent deli meat (maybe it was all the Pandora adds for Boar's Head deli meat we kept hearing, we went for Boar's Head). As we got to the register I felt like a little kid being shamed after helping their parent shop with additional goodies.  He found a pinky ball I put in there and laughed as he was like, "what is this!?".  A pinky ball!  To help roll out sore muscles!  He just laughed and shook his head as he put it on the belt.  We had only brought one pannier with us (fools!) and we filled it to the brim, we couldn't close it.  I even carried an extra grocery bag with more food.  We are here for 3 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 3 dinners--we needed food!

After Publix we went across the street to CVS to pick up my prescription that had been called in.  We then biked home in the very dark roads of Fernandina.  Kind of scary.  We didn't want to wear our bike shoes so we biked slowly on the little nubs.  If you tuned into our Bike The Keys journey, you'll remember I crashed into a bush and twisted my ankle doing this before--glad I had Keegan helping to keep us afloat :)

And that was the end of a crazy day!  We came home and attempted to watch some TV, because we could, but were both so tired, we ended up shutting it off and going to bed.  But we went to bed with a sense of real accomplishment and pure happiness.  Keegan says the trip is essentially over, because our last two days after this break is just like riding for a weekend as we typically did during training.  That makes me sad already to think it's almost over.  It has been so incredible--not just our physical journey, but the journey with all of you who have been following us.  Truly, your support has magnified any and all expectations I had of this trip.

My only regret is that we haven't raised the money we set out to.  We are still shy of $9,000 with only a few more days to go.  We will need a seriously big push to get to $14,000 by the time the JA Conference starts on Thursday.  I know we have raised a lot of awareness, but I really want to pull into that conference letting the families not only did people hear us--but they cared to make a difference.  So please, share our link with your networks, tell them why it matters to you, this journey has been something we all have been on together, let's finish it together!  Please share:

With love....

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