Today was the only day of the entire ride across the country that the entire group started and ended the route together. I awoke extra early to ride through downtown Palatka and see the sights I missed yesterday. Riding out on my unloaded bike, I looked for all the murals that are part of their downtown restoration project–there were many, but these were my favorites:
The other things that caught my eye, in this historic town, were the individual monuments on the courthouse lawn honoring the Veterans of every war.
Then, at the end of Main Street was a Veterans Park, along the waterfront of the St. John’s River, and next to the park was Memorial Bridge, with 4 life sized bronze statues of World War I Servicemen standing watch on the 4 corners of the bridge. Very patriotic, and you know how I like that.
I got back to the motel by 8:20, and all the guys were already on their bikes, ready to roll. I hurried and loaded up my bike, and pretty quickly we were on the road. It was fun riding together for the first time since we began riding the first day of the tour. Early in today’s route, we cycled along a dedicated bike path for several miles, which made it possible to talk and take photos of each other, without interference from traffic.
With only 33 miles to cover, before we knew it, we were in St. Augustine.
As we pulled into town, Tom R was again surprised, this time by his daughter and son-in-law, who had driven down from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to cheer him on and be here for the finish. Wow! He has loyal family!
St. Augustine was founded in September 1565 by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain and is the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the US. As we cycled thru town, we passed historic buildings with Spanish architecture, but there was very little time to stop. We were on a mission.
Continuing on to the Mellow Mushroom, we were met by Chris’s girlfriend Linda, who drove down to Florida, and my college roommate Lez’lie, who drove up from Celebration, Florida. They and Tom R’s kids joined us for a tasty celebratory lunch.
Lots of stories, memories and laughs were shared. And then we mounted our bikes for our ride to the beach and wheel dip in the Atlantic Ocean.
We rode a rubber boardwalk through part of the sand, but after that, we had to use all the strength we had to push our heavy bikes through deep sand and then to the water’s edge. We had 3 people taking photos of 9 stray cat cyclists, with wind and the sound of ocean water thrown into the mix. I’m not saying it was complete mayhem, but it was impossible to get everyone’s attention in any one direction at any one time for a photo with all of us looking at one camera.
But who needs a perfect photo? Nothing about the ride was perfect. This is just a bunch of mostly novice bicycle tourists who supported and encouraged each other as we found our way across the country together. None of us will ever forget the once-in-a-lifetime feelings of accomplishment we felt, as we stood together at the ocean’s edge, having just completed an epic self supported transcontinental bike journey together.