I had a recurring though the first two days of the ride. Over and over again my mind would ask: “where are all the f’ing orange trees?!” Well, day three brought me my answer. LitT’s unfortunate episode the night before had landed us in an orange orchard.
While chewing down a couple of fresh oranges LiiT started waxing philosophical about how one who had the misfortune of being born in these parts might make an attempt at moving to the City to make it big, but would most likely end up back here, working his father’s land (perhaps not all that bad a life). As he was finishing this though a car pulled up, we quickly tossed the peels in the bush and began to explain that a freak bought of nausea the night before had forced us down where we were and that we were just breaking camp to move along. The guy who got out of the car quickly dismissed any concern and told us all he was doing was coming through to spray the weeds … on his father’s farm.
And with that bit, it was time, once again to hit the trail. The dew saturated pair of shorts hanging from my bivy’s guy line had made a strong case for me to break out a fresh pair of shorts. Fresh, dry shorts and a clean underside to put in them just iced the cake of the morning.
This section of the route is the bulk of the pavement. Some of which is on US27.
The road into Clermont was easily the worst part of the entire route. Boring miles on paved highways with trucks and such buzzing by at uncomfortable speeds. Years of riding US29 south of Atlanta had prepared me for this sort of ride though. To break up the pavement section (and work out some electronic mishaps) LiiT suggested we break for lunch at a Chik-fil-A. While we were pulling into the parking lot he shared a bit of AT wisdom with me: get an extra sandwich and put it in your bag; it’ll keep for two days, easily.
After the break we started what Karlos describes as:
THE MOST EPIC ROAD RIDE EVER!!!
I respectfully disconcur. More pavement, lots of hills. Probably fun if you’re from Florida and are on a 14lb road bike. Not so much fun if you are on a loaded 40+lb mountain bike. I was ready for something other than asphalt.
Be careful what you wish for.
The first turn off pavement is marked by a yellow gate you have to throw your bike over. Once over it you are met with a nice fire road… a nice Florida fire road, made with extra soft extra deep sand. 20mph suddenly breaks to hike-a-bike. Thanks Karlos.
All this was the lead up to a 3/4 circumnavigation of Lake Apopka, Florida’s third largest lake and a superfund site! There is a limestone levy, presumably built around the north shore of the lake as part of the cleanup/containment project. The top of the levy is flat and has been designated as a mixed-use trail. Flat, and relatively unshaded. The lake was full of alligators (didn’t see any on the ground), but the most surprising find was the three cats we ran into within about a mile.
I’d never even seen cat tracks in the wild before, so to come around a bend and suddenly see a 100lb cat nonchalantly crossing the road 50 yards ahead of me was a bit of a shock. I didn’t feel too threatened by alligators while on my bike, but I had no hope of being able to outrun/maneuver a panther.
As luck would have it, the weather seemed to be hitting the cats pretty hard to, they seemed rather lethargic and completely disinterested in the two idiots careening towards them on bikes stuffed with cured meats.
The rest of the lake was rather tame by comparison.
After leaving the lake we turned north out of Apopka and headed into Wekiwa State Park. LiiT’s riding partner from the first day called him while we were grabbing a bite in Apopka to say that he had finished his work and wanted to rendezvous with us and finish out the ride. We worked out the best place to meet up, which turned out to be a slight detour for us to the edge of the park where he could park at a fire house.
We met Kevin, who’d clearly decided to rejoin us at the last possible moment. He’d already unpacked all his gear so he was frantically grabbing things out of various packs in his car and tossing them on his bike. Daylight was fading when we finally got back to the trail.
I hadn’t gotten a full charge on my headlight from the night before so I knew I wasn’t going to be going very far once it got dark. LiiT had a dynamo hub powering a pretty sweet setup. He ran a 1000 lumen headlight and a USB charger from his front hub. He used the charger to keep his phone/GPS/Bluetooth speaker/backup battery fully charged.
The stretch of ‘trail’ after we crossed the river taking us out of Wekiwa must have only been ridden by Karlos. The ground was almost unvisible through the brush. Palms constantly flapped our faces and the multiple twists and turns had us backtracking so much that we spent as much time on route as off. We finally got out of the woods and crossed the road into Seminole State Forest. My plan (as my light was critically low) was to convince them to camp as soon as we got into the forest. But since the traverse of the forest was entirely on hardpack road and not dense overgrown singletrack, LiiT’s light was more than enough to light the entire road for the three of us. We rode until around 11pm and made it all the way to just shy of the north edge of the park where there was a small campsite where the road kissed the Florida Trail.
This was the first ‘legit’ campsite I’d used the entire trip. The local boyscout troup had been kind enough to leave [treated] wood for us too! The highlight of the campsite was the picnic table: it was really nice to be able to sit on something other than dirt for a change. But the real highlight of the evening was when I opened my bag, too tired to make dinner, and saw a Chik-fil-A bag staring out at me!
That sandwich gave me the energy to break out the cookset and heat up the strawberries and angelfood cake I’d dehydrated for the trip. I’d made enough for everyone to have a nice warm desert.
Day three down, all that was left was to wake up and finish the job.
The day’s ride: