Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Georgia- Days 25-29

Georgia is on my mind. How couldn't it be? It's smack dab in the way of my progressing up north. Fortunately I still have some friends in Atlanta so I'm gonna make the most of it. 

Crossing the border from Florida I immediately stop to fuel up. At $3.33 per gallon I briefly consider just doing laps around Georgia for the remainder of the trip, but a bookstore billboard catches my eye and I decide to have a look. First I go next door and have a stroll at the Antique's store which is a very large utopia for anyone into that kind of thing, but it also has a seriously good collection of vinyl too. If you're looking for new tunes to rock those needles let me know, I'll send you directions.

Now I enjoy reading. I used to do quite a lot of it, but these days it's mostly via the web. However, on a trip like this some thread bound paper and ink is never a bad thing. Even if only to start a campfire. The problem is that I hate searching for books. When I walk into a bookstore my brain just sort of freezes up and shorts out from information overload. I do slightly better in libraries where I find it easier to zone in on what I find interesting, but I decided long ago to more or less give up on finding books and focus instead on letting books find me!

I know that may sound like some Age of Aquarius mumbo jumbo, but I have to tell you that although I haven't been constantly reading lately, the books I have read are all winners. So it's with some intrepidity that I stroll into this bookstore. I quickly realize that one way or the other it's going to be a quick trip. Fifty percent of the books are Bibles, another 40% of the books are about the Bible and the remainder are, I assume, filed under the genre of "slightly to mostly blasphemous". 

Amazingly I came away with three books. The Auto- biographical Volume 1 of Mark Twain who happens to be one of my favorite authors, nearly tackled me as I walked down its aisle. It's a tome and with its weight and girth it simply jumped out in front of me and demanded that I buy it. Out of curiosity I decided to see if they would carry anything Buddhist and to my surprise I found my second purchase, the one and only book of that type in the store. Lastly, at the checkout they offered a  book by Mr. Rogers for fifty cents. When I was very young, maybe 6 or 7, I  remember exclaiming very loudly to my Mother as I pointed to him on the T.V., "I DON'T LIKE HIM!!". I can't remember exactly why I objected so much to Mr. Rogers, but I suspect he was just too nice and sugary. However, as an adult I can respect his message and heart so I felt I had to give him a second chance and bought his book for a penance. Though I do hope it isn't too sickly sweet.  

Heading deep into Georgia I had planned on staying in Oconee National Forest for the evening. Unfortunately, I didn't do much actual planning and drove around and through about 80% of it trying to locate the Ranger station and only finding private homes everywhere which I thought was very odd for a National Forest. Needless to say you can guess where the Ranger station check-in was (somewhere in the other 20%) and I eventually gave up on the idea and settled for another night of concrete camping. 

The actual heart of my Georgia trip I'm going to keep short because it was about getting  caught up with a couple of old band mates and although vastly fulfilling for me, it would be of little interest to others. Suffice it to say that they are doing well and I'm very happy to learn that they have not let their creative sparks die and are as successful as ever. A third band mate whom I didn't even know was living there was working so I missed him, but it was nice to hear his voice and catch up on the phone. 

Progressing north I was a little bummed that plans fell apart to have breakfast with an old mountain biking buddy due to residuals of a dental procedure, but he did confirm what I would be doing for the afternoon. Riding Blankets. No, not sleeping in between the sheets. Riding "Blankets",  a top-rated trail system near Woodstock, GA. I never in my life saw a trail parking lot with close to 100 cars in it! Roswell Bikes and Specialized even had tents set up and demo bikes available. I'm not quite sure why I skipped on demoing a $5000 bike? I guess I was either afraid of trashing it or afraid of taking too much of a liking to it! All in all, a great place to ride. They put a lot of work into it and it's well laid out.

One last night of camping in Georgia, I stayed at Cooper's Creek in Cohutta National Forest. I thought it was funny that neither the camp host or the camp Ranger were familiar with my "America the Beautiful" Annual Inter-Agency Pass. It wasn't quite like a bad movie parody, "We ain't never seen one a does 'fore!", but I still had to chuckle and then settled into a cool evening by the "creeking crick". Actually with the sounds of the water flowing over some of the rocks, it was more of a "babbling brook", I'd say. I couldn't understand what it was trying to say, but that didn't stop me from trying. It kind of sounded like it was saying, "Aren't you glad you're not in that horrendous Atlanta traffic anymore?" The answer to which would be a resounding "Hell Yes!". 

So it's off to North Carolina.....

Monday, April 22, 2013

The End of Florida

Days 21-24
This 17th Century Bronze statue and its twin were brought back from China by Mr. Ripley, Believe It or Not!
When you reach St. Augustine many will stop at the Pirate & Treasure or Ripley's Museum, but  it's obligatory to check out the historic side of this city. There are a few interesting old churches and graveyards with their back stories, but the main draw from a historic point of view has to be the Castillo de San Marcos overlooking the old harbor as the only extant 17th century military construction in the country . Nestled snugly into the ground, it looks deceivingly diminutive from not too far back on its expansive grounds, but formidable when up close.

Castillo de Marcos
 Legend has it that on full moons atop the castle walls you can witness the ghosts of Ponce de Leon and his men battling it out with Seminole Indians and later would-be  invaders of the New World in a perpetual duel of swords, arrows, musket and cannon fire. And on really foggy nights angry spatterings of their native tongues can be heard echoing  across the waters. O.K., I made all that up, but hey, it's just another ghost story of which there are many in this, "America's most haunted city". 

Continuing up the coast I passed another ancient looking castle which caused me to double take and then bang a u-turn to have a closer look. It couldn't be real, but it looked as if it was out of Camelot. Pulling in for a closer look I read a placard that stated the castle was built not long, long ago, but fairly recently as a tribute to Jesus. Medieval castles for Jesus, that's a new one to me!

Up in Jacksonville Beach the population, at least at the beach, seemed to be decidedly less gray in the hair than the rest of Florida. Lots of action on the volleyball courts along with Frisbee playing and even a bunch of hippy culture young adults twirling balls on chains and playing with Hula hoops.

With the Florida tour quickly coming to an end I made one last stop at Osceola National Forest as I headed west towards Atlanta. Stopping at the Ranger's office to check-in and get a map I seemed to have interrupted the girl from her game of solitaire based on the wry look she gave me. "There is no check-in, no fees, camp anywhere, just don't dig anything up or burn anything down!" I was actually quite pleased with this reply and laissez-faire approach to managing the forest. Just the way I like it, you leave me alone and I'll leave you alone and we can both just mind our own business. 

I'm not sure what to say about Osceola. Historically, the Confederacy and Union armies met in the largest battle fought on Florida soil during the Civil War, the Battle of Olustee . Today apparently they do a lot of hunting there, but it's an odd park. I believe in the past it was over forested and then non native species began to take over. More recently they decided to burn out all the non native species (and everything else) and then replant and restore the area. The weird part that I noticed as I rode my bike along the fire roads is that all they seemed to replant are really tall, thin Pine trees reaching for the sky and short Date Palms holding down the fort along the ground. No oaks, no bigger palms, no anything else! It makes for a monotonous view with no points of reference (same flatness as the rest of Florida. Have I mentioned how Freaking Flat Florida is?!). However, if you do lose your way one thing is for sure, if you just stay between any one of the millions of perfectly straight lined rows of Pines you know at least you won't be going around in circles! So who knows, you might be "down" with it, or you might not "dig" it; just don't burn it "down" or "dig" it up! 

With that said there is one small section of heavily wooded swamp which is really cool. They've built a boardwalk a nice distance into it that gets you right out in it and makes you feel like part of an ecosystem which you wouldn't otherwise experience unless you were brave enough to put on waders and get chest deep in gators. Lastly, I have to give props to the 5 ft. Black snake who I nearly ran over. He seemed completely nonplussed by my presence, then hung out long enough for me get my camera and even posed for a few shots.

Late, on my last night in Florida in the wee hours of the morning, I had to get up to wee. The scene of stars through the canopy of towering Pine trees was spectacular. I almost set up the camera to capture it. Then I decided to capture some more sleep instead. I figure the stars aren't going anywhere!
 I, however, am!
 I've got Georgia on my mind.....

The Path Taken So Far.

{Technical Note for you number crunching engineers: At 4:30am (~max. Depth of discharge for the House Batteries) I had a reading of 12.56 Volts. That's only 0.04V less than full charge! Awesome!!} (Or maybe I was dreaming?!?!?)