11/12/17 – Ichetucknee to Gainesville, FL 

The group split up today.  Erwin and Eric had already ridden ahead to Ginnie Springs to scuba dive in some spring fed underwater caves. Tim R, Ed and I decided to kayak down the Ichetucknee River, before riding the day’s route, and the rest of the group just did what we normally do—they rode the day’s route.  

Tom R, Ed and I got up extra early, packed our gear and loaded up our bikes, before renting kayaks and catching the shuttle to the North End Launch, we put in just past the Headwaters of the river. 

For most of our float, we had the entire 6-mile long pristine river to ourselves. 

The water was crystal-clear, glassy smooth and serene, but the current, created by the 9 named springs and who knows how many unnamed springs that feed the river (over 212 million gallons of water flow per day), was deceivingly quick. 

As we floated along, we saw various wildlife:  fish, birds, turtles and wild pigs, but thankfully no alligators or snakes.  The water temperature was 72 degrees, but the air was was chilly and the skies were overcast, so none of us were willing to swim, but it sure was tempting.  

At the end of the float, our shuttle driver loaded up the kayaks and dropped us at the campground, where we changed into our cycling clothes and hit the road. 

The riding conditions were the same as yesterday, hilly, a little overcast and a headwind, so we started our one mile riding rotation again. 
It was lunchtime when we arrived Fort White, 7 miles into our ride, and we weren’t expecting any other services on our route, so we stopped to eat at the one and only open eatery in the town—a Subway sandwich shop.  

After lunch, we went to work knocking off the miles to Gainesville. Once in town, the traffic was a little scarey and the shoulder disappeared from the road we’d been riding on, so we picked a longer safer route to get us to our final destination, the home of a couple of ACA members who enjoy hosting ACA tour groups and Warm Showers cyclists.  

Tom and Mary, our amazing hosts, have a beautiful home in a secluded area near Florida State University.  They posted signs along the route to guide us from where Google Maps dumped us off to their home, which is in a large wooded area.  When we arrived, there was vast space for us to either set up our tents in their yard or cowboy camp on their wrap around screened porch.  And which of those do you think I did?  Cowboy camped, of course.  

They guided us to refreshing beverages, hors d’oeuvres, clean towels, warm showers and their laundry room.  After entertaining us with stories of many of their world-wide cycling adventures, we sat down for dinner, and this is where Martha made our day. She laid out a spread of super healthy hot food that was to die for—more vegetables than we have eaten in weeks, all in one meal. 

Then came the dinner time entertainment—-their cat. Tom has trained him to jump through a hoop, sit and roll over. It’s possible that Tom has too much free time on his hands, now that he’s retired.  

Our hosts had wood stacked up for a campfire, but this group is dominated by early-to-bed folks, so we didn’t get to take them up on that plan.  We turned in early.  While I laid in my sleeping bag and thought back on Tom and Mary’s hospitality and generosity, I was once again amazed.  I need to be better. I need to do better.  

Counting down, we only have 2 more days to go. 

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