With the breaking of a branch the deer look up and jump away to disappear into the forest. The girls are masters of the playground once again.
We are staying at Highland Hammocks State Park today. There are many trails in the park. We plan on walking a couple of them. We start out while it is still early. There is a boardwalk through a swampy area.
The boardwalk brings us to the road. We cross the road to find another playground. The girls are so full of energy, they love to climb all over it. Robin has no problem climbing the iron bars to the platform.
Jasmine is expanding her climbing skills as she conquers a tall tower.
We walk back to the camp area. On our way we stop at the ranger station to say good morning. A new ranger is at the post; Ranger Judy. She has a great idea for the girls. They can become Junior Rangers by working on the Florida's Junior Rangers program.
The girls are so excited they can hardly wait to start. Before we get back to our camp site, we walk another trail. The trail takes us through a 'new' forest. The new growth is coming up quickly after the controlled burn in the area.
Once at the camp site the girls go right to work. Robin makes sure she colors on every page, while Amarins reads her different parts of the program. Jasmine works on the hidden words puzzle with Bill. She has a very sharp mind and gets the hang of it quickly.
Cheyenne fully submerges in the material. She reads every assignment and with little help figures out the answers to questions. After more then an hour she's still working on it. Luring her to take a play ground break doesn't stop her. We let her follow her path of discovery.
Lessons about nature's litter -leaves that break down into tiny pieces and become soil- and people litter -bottles, cans, paper and other trash that can hurt wildlife- are easily understood and absorbed.
The lesson about native plants and exotic plants takes a little longer. The exotic plants invade the habitat of the native plants as they are competing for the same food, water and space to grow. The native plants and animals must find a different place to live if they want to survive.
We are in for another surprise. Rangers Brenda and Judy are making it possible for us to go on the tram ride through the park. We get to see even more of the park and learn about tree surgery that has saved 500 year old trees.
We see where the exotic plants are invading the space of the native plants. There is a leaning hollow tree which provides several plants to grow on it, creating a small habitat by itself.
We learn about the cypress trees. They grow in water. For the roots to absorb oxygen, they grow knees on them that stick out above the water; once a knee, never a tree. Nature in its finest.
A gopher tortoise shows us how fast he can really walk and hurries back into its burrow, not willing to share his lunch time with us.
The park is located in a rolling area, where low parts take turns with high parts. Where we get to the low parts, it gets swampy. We keep our eyes out for alligators. We are rewarded with several sightings of baby alligators, a couple of turtles and eventually mother alligator herself. We keep our feet in the tram.
What a way to explore the park. It is so beautiful, there is so much to see and explore. There are many trails to take to learn even more about this little part of nature.
The girls spend another hour working towards their Junior Ranger badge. Then we are off to the ranger station for inspection. A little nervous and with high expectations they wait for Ranger Brenda to check their work.
To their delight they are rewarded with the Florida Junior Ranger badge!
What a day! Thank you Highland Hammocks State Park for this wonderful gift of nature. Thank you park rangers for your love of the park that you so willingly share with us.
It is after noon when we put the city of Tampa behind us. We are still 20 miles away from Tarpon Springs where we will stay for a couple of days. We take the road all the way to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. We can see the Gulf through some bushes when we ride the bicycle on the Pinellas trail.
We finally make it at 4pm. Same mileage as yesterday, at least twice as tough.
The first visit to the Gulf of Mexico. If we look far enough we can see Texas. We are out on the water again. It is a beautiful day.
Who's the Captain?
Looking for shells.
Swimming with Mitch.
Enjoying Mitch's guitar play.
Giving a new meaning to bearhug...
We meet many wonderful people. We enjoy being in Tarpon Springs. It is very relaxing. We take it easy, receive a massage and recharge the batteries.
Saturday we start again. With 1,400 miles or 20% of our journey complete, the next big break will be in Slaton, Texas, after another 1,400 miles. We know we will not make the mountains of New Mexico before November. Our best guess is now December. Let's hope for a light winter.
As you can tell in the picture. This eagle has it's wing shot off and will never ever feel the freedom again. Will this be our country's future?
There is an underwater observatory. We go down the stairs and observe the different kinds of fish. We're almost fished out, when a huge animal swims by the window. It is a manatee! What a treat. We follow it all the way around the observatory until it seems to surface. We run up the stairs and there it is, in all it's massive glory.
Thrilled with this experience, we admire our manatee stamps on our way back in the tram.
Bill will set up camp, while Amarins and the girls will freshen up a little before supper. When camp is set up, plans are changed. We can not stay on the island after all. Gail and Bob have arranged a motel room for us at the Bella Oasis Hotel, next to the park. It is an inconvenience, but we are very thankful for this solution.
We pack up and head for the motel. We quickly change and can finally go out for supper. We spend an enjoyable evening with Gail and Bob at a nice Italian restaurant.
Bob is making origami birds and frogs for the girls.
John decides to join us for the rest of the day. He will drive ahead to the park in Newport, and meet us there again. The park is located near the St Marks river and has a boarwalk to it.
The girls enjoy the swing set and slide. Cheyenne enjoys the water spickets; she loves to run water over her hair to cool off.
At the park we meet a forest ranger who is on duty to watch the forest from the watch tower. We can come up if we'd like! Of course we'd like to. We've seen many towers and have wondered what the view would be like.
We learn that we can climb any tower we want, as long as the gate is unlocked. That might come in handy later on our journey. This time John is joining us up the 134 steps to the 100 feet high tower house.
All in the tower.
We enjoy our time and enjoy our experience. The view is far and wide and filled with trees. No fires to report today.
100 feet up in the air. 134 steps.
We say goodbye to John and decide to continue on to Wakulla Springs State Park. We turn on SR-267. Instead of continuing on highway 98, along the Gulf coast, we have decided to go a little further inland and ride in a more straighter shot towards Destin, Florida.
We enter the park and ask the park ranger if there is a possibility for us to camp. 'No problem' he says. 'Plenty of space'. Relieved we continue into the park to find another first magnitude spring. Wakulla Springs is the longest and deepest known submerged freshwater cave system in the world.
As was Manatee Springs, this spring is also very cold at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Amarins get her turn this time to 'swim' with the girls. It is actually quite refreshing, but one dive is enough.
Inching into the cold Wakulla Springs.
After this refreshing dive, the girls start building dams and sand castles. Spring + sand + sun = lots and lots of fun.
Building a sand castle.
We ask another ranger where we can put our tent. 'Nowhere' is the answer. There is no campground here and they don't want to make an exception. We can stay in the $100-a-night lodge. Huh?!
Needless to say, we pack up and leave the park to find a place to camp elsewhere. There is no campground anywhere nearby, but after a couple of mile we find a church with a beautiful back yard.
We pitch the tent, snack on our food and start settling down for the night. It's already after six. Our big yellow bike and our large tent cannot remain unnoticed. It doesn't take long before we have visitors.
The church members that come checking are very friendly and are okay with us staying there for the night. We happen to have put up the tent right next to a driveway that leads to a home in the woods.
We get a chance to meet the residents and their daughter and granddaughters. They are out on an errand. When they get back they share popsicles and juice with us. Thanks!
Deshea and Derisha with mom and grandparents brought popsicles!
Heading down the road, we enter the Apalachicola forest. We enjoy being surrounded by the trees. The girl distinguish between coniferous and deciduous very well. They learn about the business of planted forests.
From time to time the forest breaks open and a field appears. In one of them a beautiful fairy tale tree grows.
A fairy tale tree.
Breakfast was a while ago. We are looking forward to brunch with friends. Two days in a row that we have brunch waiting. We could get used to that. The convenience of a follow car is clear. Any volunteers?...
Clouds are on our path. A cold front is coming through and might bring rain today. A dark cloud is hanging right across the road. This one doesn't bring us rain, another one does. We cover under the tarp to stay dry. It only takes a couple of minutes, then it clears up enough to go again.
We stop at an intersection where a picnic table under a pavillion looks very inviting. It is only 10am and we've covered over 20 miles already. Nice.
With excitement we wait for our friends to arrive. We met them for the first time on the Appalachian Trail, two months ago. Anita and Michael have kept track of our journey. Now we are near their home town of Tallahassee it is time to meet again.
We are having a great time catching up. Brunch is filled with fruit, bacon, home made biscuits and cheese grits. We savor the time together. Mamie brought her beading set to share with Cheyenne and Jasmine. We appreciate all of you so much!
At noon we are back on the road again, filled with great company and good food. The land scape is surprising us. Not just lots of trees, but gentle rolling hills too. It feels good to be back in the hills again.
Clouds are filling the sky again. Will we make it to Blountstown today? We keep on going until we can see the rain on the road ahead of us. We pull the bike off the road. Unroll the tarp and squeeze under it together. Just in time. It's a downpour!
It is rather crowded with the five of us under an 8 by 10 tarp. It sure beats being in the rain though. We play a rhyming game to pass the time. When all is clear we continue on our path.
We ride through Bristol, cross the river and are in a new time zone! Central Time. We have an extra hour in the day today. We take it to have a play date at McDonalds in Blountstown.
With a playground there are always more parents with children. A good place to meet locals and ask for a place to stay. We actually have two options. One here in town, one in the next town.
Eventhough we have made it to our destination today, we decide to go for Clarksville. We can stay all day tomorrow at Tanya's home. It is a little further than we thought, but we make it well before sunset.
The girls dive right into the play room and are having a great time playing with Autumn. We visit with Tanya and enjoy the comfort of her home.
The main road, stateroad 20, is horrible. The road is rough, there is no shoulder, traffic consists of logging trucks. It is a tense way to start the day. We are relieved when we roll into Bay County where we finally have a shoulder again.
Not a yard into Bay county we feel we have a flat tire. The timing couldn't have been better. A side road to put the tarp on for the girls to sit on. A shoulder and grass to fix the bike on. We have worn another rear tire out.
In Ormond Beach we put Armadillo tires on our wheels. After 686 miles, the rear tire needs to be replaced. We have not had any flat tires at all with these. The flat we had on our first day with the Armadillo tire was a result of an overinflated inner tube.
We carry an extra tire and inner tube with us so the problem is easily fixed. Soon we are on the road again. Having a shoulder to ride on relieves a lot of tension. At the intersection with highway 231 we stop for breakfast.
At the filling station the news catches up with us. Kristina from Channel 7 in Panama City has come out to see us. See her report here!
The road takes us through beautiful scenery once more. There are still an abundance of flowers blooming here. Bill loves the yellow ones in particular. In a couple of weeks the flowers will be to the end of their season most likely so we take a moment to stop and enjoy them.
We are glad to have taken the moment to stop and smell the flowers. We work so hard at getting to our days destination that from time to time we forget to enjoy the journey. Our minds get absorbed with scavenging for food and a place to camp.
In Ebro we don't find a place to camp, but we do find a place to eat. The Ebro Cafe. We savor the rich flavors of the homemade food. We sit and rest a while and listen to the stories of Ebro's golden days; a logging village with tree farms all around.
These ladies are Ebro originals!
On to the next town; Bruce. Bill has a hunch that this is the place we need to go today. A newspaper article about Ann Tucker and her strive for recognition of the Eastern Creek nation has caught his attention.
We arrive in Bruce and follow the signs to the tribal council building. Here we meet Ann's uncle. What a timing. We get a chance to talk with him and look inside the museum. The building was once used as a school. In the back is still the old iron stove that was given by the army.
We can stay on the tribal grounds tonight. Thank you very much for sharing your story and allowing us to stay!
The girls enjoy the playground as we put up the tent and make the beds once more. Ann's husband stops by and visits for a while. We enjoy the visit.
A couple of bridges take us across the water. On top of the tallest bridge we stop to look around for a while. A vintage bridge picture and a not so vintage shot of Amarins seal the deal.
We roll off the bridge into roadworks onto highway 98 west. It is still morning and we are almost there. The shoulder provides room for us to ride and before we know it we are at Rita and Ernests home. Here we'll have time to rest and time to update.
The afternoon is spend with being together, naps and looking at the computer. We do some laudry and settle in for a while.
Our new rims have arrived! Look at the difference!
We are taking a maiden voyage on our new rims around the campground. Scott rides in Cheyenne's place.
At the end of the afternoon we visit the Pensacola Naval Museum. If you like hands-on musea (or museums), this is a great place to spend the day. We enjoyed every hour of our stay. If the museum hadn't closed when it did, we would have stayed even longer.
Sarah, Cheyenne and Martha. Future Blue Angels?
Scott and Katie fix chicken fajitas for supper. Yumlicious! The rest of the evening we spend around the campfire sharing life together.
It is an exciting new day. We are finally leaving Florida behind us and enter Alabama. We'll be here for just a short spell before we cross into Mississippi.
The racoons must have smelled the chicken fajitas we had for supper. They have been after them all night. Scott and Katie have been up most of the night putting things up, but the racoons got away with the chicken as well as the tortillas after all.
No chicken burritos for breakfast for us, but we still have plenty of sausage and eggs and raisin bread. To warm us up we start with hot chocolate. Ahhh, delightful.
With breakfast behind us and the sun on our tent, it is time to get ready to ride. The Magleys are packing up to head for their home in the mountains of South Carolina. We will continue our journey westward.
It is ten o'clock when we leave the park. We follow SR-182 across a tall bridge onto Perdido Key. White sandy dunes, pretty buildings. We pedal and we pedal. At 11 o'clock we enter Alabama. It has come upon us so suddenly, we have to read the sign a coule of times to make sure.
Alabama the beautiful. Well, this part is certainly beautiful. The buildings are not to overwhelmingly big. The roads are nice and wide, and have a bicycle lane too. So far Alabama is a good experience.
The next big town is Gulf Shores, we plan on being there by lunch. Being on the road it's like we travel from meal to meal. A big town means more meal choices. We enjoy the ride, enjoy the lack of wind, enjoy the sunshine. We can see the tall buildings of Gulf Shores.
Our plan is working fine. It is a little after noon when we stop for a Hardees burger. Eventhough we started late today, we should be able to make it to the ferry that will take us across Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island.
We just turned west on SR-180 when a sign catches our eye:
Now what! We brought the phone number with us, so inquiries are quickly made. The ferry is closed for the entire week and will reopen on Saturday. And it is Monday today. A change of plans! We've run out of map, so it is time to get a new one. A bookstore brings the solution.
There are no other ferries that can take us across the bay. We have to go through Mobile and then head back down to go to Biloxi, Mississippi. Quite the detour. We don't want to hang around at Fort Morgan for the entire week, so we head north on SR-59. We shall see what the new plan brings.
SR-59 takes us to Foley where we pick up highway 98 west. The road takes us over some hills through beautiful scenery. From a Foley resident we get the advice to go to Oak Hollow Farm in Fairhope. They will have a place for us to pitch the tent.
When we where traveling through South Carolina we saw different kinds of crops; peanut, soy and cotton. As we are pedalling through the country side a field full of cotton shows us. As gorgeous as you've ever seen. We have seen the plants with the cotton pods on them, now they have opened and the cotton is ready to pick.
We arrive at Oak Hollow Farm and with one phone call it is a done deal. We can put our tent any where we want to. On top of the hill we find the perfect spot. The girls play at the playground while Amarins and Bill set up camp. Before we go to bed, we have some hot chocolate.
Robin takes a nap in the afternoon. Jasmine plays in the office. Cheyenne helps clean Faith, the horse we'll get to ride on this afternoon. Amarins is doing the internet, Bill is doing the laundry.
The time has finally arrived that we are going to ride some horses. Cheyenne and Jasmine have been anticipating this moment to happen and now it has finally arrived. We go to Sandy's home where three horses are waiting for us.
Cheyenne and Jasmine immediately hop on. Robin thinks the toys are much more fun. Horses are nice at a distance. Cheyenne and Jasmine have a wonderful time. Bill and Amarins also get a chance to ride.
Cheyenne and Jasmine enjoy the horses.
Robin is much more interested in the puppies.
Amarins gets the chance to go on a trail ride with Pat and daughter Bridget. What a wonderful ride it was. Unforgetable. Thanks ladies!