My cousin gets his kids up for school and gets out the door all while setting me up to make some morning coffee. This is how I know we’re related. He’s a pour over OG. Like since way back. Classic style. I love it. I pour like I’ve never poured before. The simplicity speaks logically to me… be the coffee machine. Plus gravity. Plus then I hit the Publix 4 miles up. It’s 2.5 miles further than another one, but this one has green lines on the Google maps all the way to it (which is back online, in case I’m your source for updates on the suite of Google products — pay me, Google). Except the first/last 1/2 mile or so has no green line. Challenge accepted. Shit is real deal Holyfield, so I leave my helmet home and Pool Noodle Petra and I let these motherfuckers know that streets belong to people… and pool noodles.
Mother Nature let it all out yesterday and is in a much better state of being today. Beautiful riding environment. 70° and blue skies. The wind is calmer this morning, yet still noticeable, and noticeably out of the west. A lot of noticeability, ya notice? Oh yeah. Guess which direction I’m headed for the first thirty miles? Loop full of headwinds, for cereals.
Oh winds and hills. Oh hills and winds. Hot tub time machine yourself to the end of the day and then back here right away, just to learn that I somehow gain 1,500 in elevation today. I’ve gone off about Flat Earth Floriduh riding in the panhandle exactly one a year ago, no need to time travel there when you can read it here. So this West Orange Trail is pretty great. Without vehicles, with some shade. Very nice, Borat. What’s up vanilla face? Between this and the soon to connect with South Lake Apopka Trail, at least this headwinded 30 miles is all non motorized. A passing cyclist waves and looks and exclaims “nice!”. I can’t tell if the comment is because I’m fully loaded. Or because of the flag. I really honestly think it’s Petra. Even though she’s all tucked straight back like Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs on account of this trails lack of four wheel vehicles — she’s still pretty awesomely on display in all her traffic calming glory. Ah shit. And damnit. I miss the trail connection back two miles uphill.
Lots of passing cyclists and joggers and walkers. Only a few acknowledge. Now that’s strange. You see me. I guess. Certainly I at least nod to them, yo. Probably 50 times today. The shit that makes your head nod. Keeps my neck muscles loose too. I’ve documented the holy trinity of nod, wave or spoken hello on this site previously. Can’t link it, look it up. It’s not happening much here. The nodding. Maybe the looking things up as well. I dunno. I don’t care much, it’s a glorious trail. The winds are mos def now at much more strumpf. Probably gusting to 18-20. In my face. I push it. Ah push it. Real good. I’ve got no shirt, no cap, no helmet for the entire afternoon, all the way to Clermont Brewing Company for an early afternoon caloric refresher. Hold the salt N pepa.
Somewhere around mile eighteen I stop in the shade of a highway underpass to top off the front tire. I like touring at the top of the pressure range recommended for flat protection purposes. Woo. It needed it. I take it all the way to 8.5 bars. Somewhere around mile twenty Black Thought is going in on his 16 bars on Common’s “When We Move”.
BANG! Shits fired. Nope. Front wheel down. Blow out. Wow that’s a loud one. I pray to the spoke gods old and new that it’s the tube and not the tire as I come to a bumpy stop under a tree. My mind flashes back to rebuilding my back tire with duct tape near Ticonderoga circa 2006. I scan worriedly. Definitely just the tube! Gracias spoke gods. Also grateful this happens on a non motor trail and not a highway shoulder, so I swap out the tube, fill only to 7.7 bars and pocket the rest of the miles on the trail into Clermont.
A touristy little historic downtown is jumping with folks who are not at work on a Friday afternoon. I am one of them. Hell yes. The strawberry blond here is fabulous. Not too strawberry at all. The beer too. Crisp light and refreshing. I handle some short bike ride biz (code word for slow roll buffalo) and check the route maps. I’m back on the ACA map and happy about it. Back with the fossil fuelers though. About 30 miles of sprawl left. The state park 10 miles up is full with no campgrounds open. I could stop there and plead my case. Plenty of daylight left today. I decide to push out into the unknown, or more specifically the entire Walt Disney World thingamabob.
Sidebar your honor. So I’ve been to Walt Disney World probably seven times at least. I was a kid and I still can’t keep count. Family vacation shit. I remember when Epcot opened, people were bugging out. And it was kinda cool. Maybe that’s why I like nation hopping. Since then the whole thing multiplied one attraction after another. The ouroboros again. It got corny. Maybe it always was. I could probably get down with any of it for one day, then it’s played out. The best shit I ever got out of all this whimsical corporatist propaganda was a wonderful profile pic. The MF OG unicorn, bitches.
This state park ranger is a total douchebag right about now. Like right now. Like now. Now. There’s no “primitive” sites available so he wants me to pay $50 to set up in between RVs. Fuck all that noise. He gets no name and I move southbound on the shoulder of highway 27. Vehicles in full force, vrooming and showing off their insecurities on the roadway. It’s now Friday rush hour; Petra is vigilant and so I am. The wind is now on my right and having a non headwind is absolute “muah”. The hills and rolling and I’m pedaling at 16-20mph, eventually jumping off to smaller roads and skirting easy; catching the tailwind for the next 6 miles.
just a mile or two away from the “happiest place on earth” and what I’m guessing is typically a slow quiet road is now a detoured highway reroute — jammed up in an hour-long 3 mile stretch of nearly standstill traffic. It’s difficult for me to get through because there’s not even a shoulder. When traffic moves I dip in and move the same speed in between cars. Then they pick up until one finally gets impatient and nudges past me. Some try it and then get stuck next to me. Some others do that and are large 18 wheelers going 10 mph next me, squeezing me off the road as the dirt half of his truck passes me. What the fuck yo!! No pool noodle can save me now so my first instinct is to shift up and stand up and burn rubber up ahead of him and let him know how I really feel. I said it I meant it. What?
The sun’s getting low big guy and I’m concerned about advanced remote sleeping locations. Not a lot of good spots, honestly. Still in the resort suburb sprawl around whatever part of being near the magic kingdom this is. Literally I’m on Ronald Reagan Parkway waiting for my trickle down. 40 plus years later and still nothing. Ronald Wilson Reagan. 666. If you’re confused, I’ll let Michael Render tell it.
Yeah. It’s getting dark dark. My best plan right now is to set up behind an unoccupied new build with a for sale sign out front. Not my favorite idea due to the potential of a waking up to a loaded shotgun in my face at 1am, bu…. Oh shit! Polk Country Fire Station 20.
The captain on duty has no problem with me setting up camp behind the station. He lets me know it’s not very quiet. I let him know I’d rather not be on the road after dark and I have have earplugs. There’s a train and a road and they are all going to make noise all night. Whatever. I’ll make do. I thank them and pop up the palace. Shoot the shit with them as well. They’re a paid department, working for the county. Used to be volunteer, that got phased out years ago. I guess this is a byproduct of all that sprawl? Maybe there’s a silver lining. They cover a larger area and all those people need EMS and Fire response so the county deems it feasible to pay professionals. They’re fully nationally certified firefighters and run three people on the engine and are all EMTs (like my department) with one paramedic on duty as well. Firefighter Kyle tells me they work 24 on and 48 off. Yikes. I’m fortunate to have 4 crews for a 24/72 rotation, what he calls Delta schedule. I pop into the tent. The roar of traffic 50 feet in one direction and the earth rumbling from passing trains 50 feet in another and what sounds like wild animals fighting or fucking in another direction set me up for what might be an interesting night under the stars.