“…in the sunshine.”
Roy Ayers Ubiquity sets the tone…
“Folks get down in the sunshine.” These rides are so much about people. The people I get to know a whole lot or just a little bit. Myself included. My friend and fellow bike tourist Daniel put me on to the phrase Trail Magic a couple years ago; I had known the phenomena but had never named it. Folks will seemingly come out of nowhere to help you, the way some rando in west Texas named Dale did one frigid windy morning, landing me at La Loma Del Chivo. Today the people and their serendipitous sensibilities and soul are the principle actors, the soundtrack is fanatically curated and the view from my handlebars couldn’t be better.
Day two starts around 1am, as rain drops increase in volume. I jump up and pop up the rain fly, grabbing my laundry off the paracord clothesline I set up. The rain doesn’t last long and I pass back out. Take it as a lesson to have everything ready for rain. In Spain, it falls mainly in the plains. Here it’s anywhere at anytime. Still dark around 6 and I rise, shit, shower, pack up and put rubber to pavement. I don’t even caffeinate, which is insane. Crazy talk. Or maybe we both just noticed the lack of a lighter or matches in my packing list? The dumb fireman forgot fire. Your taxes pay for me to go on vacation and not fight, nor apparently start, fires. You’re welcome. Thanks. Better than bombs. Better than oil. For real though – books, hospitals and bridges should be alongside me on holiday. Ask somebody.
There’s a light fog and good cloud cover so I push it to LaBelle Florida for coffee and breakfast, where’s there no sign of Patti. There is however a great coffeeshop in town, so this town gets an da instead of a duh. Oat milk latte and breakfast sandwich minus the cheese. I’ve entered the word of a dairy free lifestyle, not just for this trip but perhaps for the long haul. My gut is pleased both inside and out for this. I have no precise destination today but eyeball a couple strong possibles, destined toward Lake Okeechobee, I cross Caloosahatchee thrice more, the final time it’s a become a canal. The upcoming levee around Florida’s largest freshwater lake is a bomb ass multi use trail know as LOST. Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, Floriduh.
I get the text from my longtime homie Goonie. His real name is Owen, but you know – rap shit. He’s been back and forth between Arizona and work locations lately; we missed connecting last year when my long ride went through Tucson instead of Phoenix. Goonie is working a gig down in WPB and has crazy space at the lush poolside Airbnb. I’ll be in stroking distance to the Atlantic coast tomorrow and have been striking out on places to legally overnight when I get there. Do I wanna come kick it? Hell, yeah. The answer is sí! ¡Mas magico!
“Just bees and trees and flowers…”
Picture me rolling. All inspired. 16 mph. Head nodding hard AF. Playlist flourishing like flowers all around. Shoutout to Sly & The Family Stone, Hall and Oates and The Coup. Then Vibes and Stuff. Special special special special dedication. The flowers turn to farms. On one side heavy commercial truck traffic at 50. On the others, serene majestic horses and cows. Don’t have a cow man. America didn’t listen to Bart Simpson, so we have a lot of fat cows. Everywhere. Right here, under a fucking palm tree. Steaks and sugars. The horses are here too. They are gorgeous. On some, there’s still a Drumpf flag. Only spotted five flags or signs so far – much less than years rate, but still bro. Bros. Get over it. I’m not much into either side. How is that we have more gender identities than political parties? Ridiculous. And Y’all gotta get a new thing. I pass an identically branded Let’s Go Brandon flag, giggling at the propaganda. Ain’t shit funny. Theres a minimum age to be President of the United States of America, there should be a maximum age limit as well. Also, every elected official at every level of government in the nation should be held to two term tradition established for the presidency by George Washington. If it’s good enough G-Wash, it’s good enough for everybody. Except wooden teeth and slaves, fuck that.
“Feel what I feel when I feel what I feel when I’m feel in’”
Goddamn federal government. The US Army Corp of Engineers is slackin on their mackin. I’ve shouted them out before, a few hundred miles further north in Georgia. This trail is actually shut down!? I ride up to the peak and some dude in a white pickup truck who won’t even get a made up name tells me “closed in both directions” as I’m standing there watching construction vehicle doing construction vehicle shit all around me. No shit Sherlock. Ok… he gets a name… and it’s Sherlock. The federal engineers are taking longer at fixing shit, which relegates me to a stint on Highway 27 and/or winding busted up back roads. I can’t really tell if I can even get through any way but the vrooming highway I been straddling or on much of the day. Tim Maia joins me for this segment, “Nobody Can Live Forever”. You’ve likely never heard it. Listen to it if you’re still not dead yet.
I’m still peeved about this trail closing. Like 30 miles of non motorized awesome sauce along the lake down the crapper. I’m now on old highway 80 and then old highway 27. Seems better then the trucks going 90 mph on the new highway 80/27. Anytime you’re on “old highway” anything you’re on a road they’ve stopped maintaining. It’s usually busted up and broken and this one is no different as I bump along at 9 mph. It gets much worse after this massive cock and balls spray painted on the street. It is the universal signal for big pothole. Seriously. Bike nerd guerilla tactical street maintenance. A colossal erection points my direction, the biggest I’ve ever seen — 6 or 7 feet long, with enormous balls to boot.
So I know what’s coming. A big old fucking. Prison tape style. Another closure? What in tarnation. I’m getting dicked into riding that frigging Highway. Not today Nixon/Cheney/DeVos. With so many assholes named Dick, I say fuck it and ignore the barrier, blaring My Philosophy so loudly that the handlebars are rattling with bass. I’m refueling mid flight on a ClifF Bar (send me a lifetime supply why don’t ya?!) and I have to stop to make sure it’s not a mechanical issue.
3 miles up and another cyclist is coming the other way, pulled over. Day rider in Lycra. Nice bikepack setup. He looks like a Steve. I’ve got miles and miles to go so I just slow to cruising speed, reduce Boogie Down Productions to not-scary-for-old-white-man level and ask if I’m able to get through the closure, to which Steve replies “barely”. Good enough for immigrants! Gracias Esteban. I roll on, happy enough to be away from the active highway I hear droning to the north, with that damn levee path behind that and behind my reach.
So right now I’m at the section where I can see on Google maps that I have to jump up the the roaring highway for about a half mile to get over a canal and then back on the old highway. The satellite view also reveals that the half mile is nearly shoulders and the old highway appears to go to rocks and dirt and for the next few miles. Fuck. Both of those suck. I see large construction cranes on the levee. Doing whatever it is the army engineers do. I’m legit at this T in the road back to the divided highway when a grizzly motherfucker in rusted out pick up gives me a little beep. At this point I’ll take any advice to get me through the next 10 miles so I stop and turn down The Sonics. He pulls up next to me, puts it in park and turns the truck off. Damn. My man has time. He’s a few teeth short and his name is definitely Jeb or Clem. Jeb’s drawl is thick. I dive deep and drastically decipher. He tells me he’s lived here 50 years. He lays out my options. The one I was going with – get on the highway – he calls “bloody 27”. He doesn’t suggest it. The old road continues after this canal but gets really bad. He’s lukewarm about it. Most importantly, he affirms that I can go around barriers and ride the levee path. And that’s it’s gorgeous. This section is actually open or at least not under construction. I thank Jeb profusely for the magical wisdom, I’m pretty sure he tracked me down to tell me because he goes back the other way as I head up the levee path, dip dodge duck dive and dodge and I am in heaven!
This path is wonderful. I’m LOST. There’s tranquility and water and greenery and the most ballingest turtle, chilling by the side of the path. Turtles shell has gotta be 28-30” long. Beefy guy. Or gal. I didn’t check and they weren’t talking much, just soaking up the vibe in the sunshine.
Just under 80 miles on the day and I am ready to relax. I’m not gonna make it to the campground I had hoped though. I turn a bend and see and RV park down there. I explore and its closed. With gates. I find a way around and cruise the loops for a possible gatehouse host. This ain’t really my soon, many times I’ve been turned away. Despite the word “campground”, no one is sleeping outside. This is a parking lot full of RVs with bright LED lights everywhere and a roaring highway in the background. I am on the southern coast of Lake Okeechobee, in a town called South Bay Floriduh. I meet I man named Squirt. Legitimately. I’m honestly not making this one up. I introduce myself and we shake hands and he says “Squirt”. He’s got a flip phone and an Army cap. He corroborates the horrors of riding Highway 27, “well, that’d be suicide” he tells me. He’s been coming here for 30 years; the folks that run this park are very professional and I should take a spot. So I do just that. In between the rows and rows of RV’s and next to the showers and bathrooms that nobody here really uses. There’s electricity. There’s water. Wifi. This is far from anything remotely primitive. Cool with me though, I’m utterly gassed. Probably a little dehydrated with a touch of heat exhaustion. The door on the RV next to me flies open as a couple dogs and a woman come out. Her names Debbie and she tells me she’s got cases of seltzer water. Would I like one? Does the pope shit in the woods? Does a bear wear a funny hat? Yes ma’am. Ice cold. Later she brings another one. She’s doesn’t even wanna talk much. I like the cut of your jib Debbie; I am too tired to talk much either. Ramen and retire.