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Day 52: Starke, FL to New Smyrna Beach, FL

116 miles - The Longest Ride of the Tour; Palatka; Daytona Beach; Meeting Jeb and Tina in New Smyrna Beach - April 1, 2017

Florida Highway 100

Florida Road

Above was my first photo as I biked south on Highway 100. From Starke, the road went due south for 10 miles before turning southeast at Keystone Heights. Notice the sun was to my left; usually I was cycling directly into it. It was a peaceful and cool morning among those pine trees.

It was the 52nd day of the trip and I was oh-so-close to the Atlantic Ocean, but would you believe it? I still had a rush of fear and anxiety as I got ready to leave Starke. My feelings of uneasiness were no different from what I had all those mornings in Arizona, Texas, or Mississippi. It was crazy, man.

I did start early. I realized that Palatka (40 miles) would be a "way too easy" goal, and that meant that I'd have to reach the coastal towns of Bunnell (at the very least) or Ormond Beach (a more ambitious goal). It never occurred to me that I might make it to Daytona Beach or New Smyrna Beach.

Keystone Heights, FL

Keystone Heights, Florida

Around 11 miles, I reached the edge of Keystone Heights and stopped at this convenience store. What is special about this business? Examine the photo and guess. Answer: "SG" is my initials. :)
Palataka, Florida

Putnam Bicycles

Palatka, Florida

The riding was generally easy, although 40 miles is still 40 miles. Much thanks to Putnam Bicycles for pumping my back tire with more air. My tires would do fine today, and it might be a good time to remind you that I had ZERO flats in the front. That's right, zero. And there were just two flats in the back in Lordsburg, NM and Andrews, TX respectively.

A video as I was approaching Palataka ...

Bunnell, FL I rested for short periods at the bike shop and a gasmart on the east side of Palatka. However, I didn't take a prolonged rest like I usually did. Often I'd find a Subway restaurant, buy a sandwich and drink, and put up my legs for optimum rest. In retrospect, I wonder if those kinds of lengthy breaks made my muscles stiffer which could explain why sometimes it was tougher to get back into a groove. Whatever the case, for today, the shorter breaks seemed to help.

Photo: In San Mateo, Highway 100 turned off and would take me through one final rural and forested region for 30 miles to Bunnell. This was it! I was bouncing with emotions and energy. The end was surely near.

Bunnell, FL A few miles of riding led me to this sign.

24 miles to Bunnell.
33 miles to Flagler Beach.

I was only 33 miles from the Atlantic Ocean!!! Oh the excitement.

Once again, I'll remind the reader I would not take a direct route to Flagler Beach. Instead, I'd head south at Bunnell and add another ~50 miles before finishing at Canaveral National Seashore.

Flagler County, Florida I had been texting my friend Jeb Bynum in Titusville throughout the morning. Jeb and his wife Tina were planning to meet me when I arrived in New Smyrna Beach. Through family connections, they planned to give me a free night's stay in a condominium in New Smyrna Beach -- whenever I made it. Because of the distance (roughly 116 miles), and the fact that I was only riding about 60-70 miles each day, I figured I'd lay up in Bunnell or DuPont and stay in a motel. Or, if I was in the mood to pay, I'd contract an Uber to transport me to New Smyrna Beach so I could stay in the condo tonight. Honestly, I didn't know what I would do. All I knew was I shouldn't worry about details this late in the game and to keep riding with a joyful heart.

I sent the adjacent picture to Jeb's phone when I arrived at the Flagler County line. I still had another 20 to 22 miles on this road and the heat was intensifying. Still, I felt generally well. Maybe I had finally adjusted to the heat and learned how to cope with it.

Florida Route 100 Pretty forest with some overhanging trees on Highway 100.

It was no man's land with few signs of human activity.

Wonderful Shade

Shade like this was rare most days. I thoroughly enjoyed this 3-mile section. :)
I arrived in Bunnell at 69 miles and took another short break. There was another thing I did differently today: I ate less. I have no idea if it was healthy, but I avoided larger meals. All I ate were a few granola bars and crackers. I kept it light, and in retrospect, it seemed to help.

If you look for Bunnell on a map of Florida, you'll notice how close it is to the Atlantic Ocean. I was ecstatic. I mean... really... can you believe it? I biked here from freakin' San Diego!

First though, I had to bike from Bunnell to DuPont via U.S. Highway 1 which went south-southeast towards Ormond Beach.

Miami Interstate 95

Interstate 95 Florida

Interstate 95 at Destination Daytona

I kept texting Jeb and notified him when I crossed I-95 at 81 miles. I was still feeling strong -- like I had more hours of cycling in me.

"Holy moly," Jeb texted, "Are you finishing? I'm not letting you end alone."

I assured him I would NOT finish without him. In fact, the plan was for he and I to ride together from New Smyrna Beach to Canaveral National Seashore. Sure, there was a temptation to hit the beach (just a few miles away) at Ormond Beach, but I wouldn't dare do that. I was patient. :)

Palm Trees

Daytona Beach, Florida
Pretty palm trees.

Ormond Beach, Florida

18 miles from Bunnell led me into Ormond Beach, where Highway 1 turned south as it entered the heart of town. Now I was riding adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean by just a few miles. This busy road would take me through Ormond Beach, Holly Hill, Daytona Beach, Port Orange, and New Smyrna Beach.

Highway 1 would look mostly like this all the way to New Smyrna Beach. Two driving lines to the left and a bicycle lane on the right. I felt safe the entire time.

By now, I was nearing 93 miles and still felt pretty good. I had more energy than usual. My left knee wasn't bothering me too much. The heat hadn't done much damage either. By now, I figured I was "playing with the house's money." It was still about 25 miles to Smyrna Beach, but I figured I'd just keep riding and take my time. It was 4:30 p.m. -- still plenty of time for riding -- and if I kept it up, who knows how far I'd get. It was around this point that I began to BELIEVE that maybe, just maybe, I'd make it to New Smyrna Beach.

I continued riding hard on Highway 1. Honestly, I don't know how I did it. I don't think the wind was working in my favor. All I remember was, my legs felt especially strong. I just pedaled a little harder and more aggresively, and my bike responded. Frequently I was riding in the 18-20 mph range. It was so wonderful. The only nuisance was I had to stop at traffic lights, but maybe those short stops helped me too.

People in Cars

Holly Hill, Florida

At a traffic light, I wondered audibly to myself, "What town are we in?"

Well, the car beside me had their windows down, and a woman said, "You're in Holly Hill." I thanked her. Then I joyfully shouted, "I just biked across America. I started in California seven weeks ago!" And like that, people in two cars praised me. I don't remember the exact words, but one of the women said something like she was proud of me. I gushed and waved as they drove ahead.

LPGA Boulevard & Highway 1 U.S. Highway 1 and LPGA Boulevard in Holly Hill.

Around this time, I texted Jeb to inform him I was almost in Daytona Beach, and that's when he knew I was daring to make it to New Smyrna Beach ... today! So Jeb and Tina got in their Jeep in Titusville to hunt me down.

Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona Beach, Florida

A short rest break at the gasmart across from the Crystal Burgers in Daytona Beach.

100+ Miles

Here's my video commemorating my century ride, the first of this bike across America trip and the sixth in my lifetime.

In a sense, I was expecting to get in a 100+ mile day on this tour. However, with so many disappointing rides where I settled instead of going for more, I gave up on the idea. Well, at the risk of sounds too religious, I think this century ride was very much a work of God. He orchestrated everything for me to accomplish this.

To be honest, often I felt like an inadequate cyclist on this trip, and I'll admit that it was probably rooted in insecurity. Sure, I had already gone across the country twice, but a noticable decline in my abilities (compared to my 30s) made me feel less "legit" this go-round. Well, that all changed after today. I had proven to myself that I was the real deal, and ironically, I had proven it just hours from when the whole journey would be over.

What does this mean for you? I hope you feel encouraged and empowered that if I can pull off a trip like this, you certainly can too. :)

At Long Last - Meeting Jeb and Tina Jeb and Tina
Jeb and Tina posing by their Jeep. They found me on the side of Highway 1 in Port Orange, Florida.

This is Jeb and Tina of Titusville. Throughout the planning stages and the long journey itself, the idea that I'd actually bike in beautiful Florida in the presence of my friends seemed like a faraway dream. It was something so far in the future that I thought it'd never happen. Then, after all this time, there they were with big smiles and ready to help on the edge of the road. I was stunned to be face to face with Jeb. I think Jeb was stunned too. Really, can you believe I rode my bicycle from San Diego to the Florida Atlantic Coast??? :)

Even though it was the first time I was meeting Jeb and Tina in person, I have known them for so long. Jeb and Tina were regular visitors of my Friendship Board on www.ColoradoGuy.com many years ago, and we've kept in touch. On my previous trips in 2008 and 2011, I finished at beach towns in Georgia, and each time I regretted not doing it in sunny and wonderful Florida. This time, I wanted to do it right by finishing in Jeb and Tina's hometown of Titusville. Even though I tweaked my route and finished in New Smyrna Beach / Canaveral National Seashore, the ending worked out so well.

Right there, I took off my heavy bags and tossed them in their Jeep. They would leapfrog with me all the way to New Smyrna Beach, which made them the seventh support vehicle on this trip. Also, when Jeb would bike with me the next day on our ceremonial ride, he would become the eleventh person to ride alongside me.

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Jeb made this video with his cell phone.

"Not so shabby," he said. Ha. :)

Traffic I continued riding south, then turned east to get to the bridge over the Halifax River. (Jeb and Tina were behind me in this traffic jam.)

The Atlantic Ocean
So Close To The End

This is one of my favorite videos of the entire trip, if only because of the sheer emotion.
The Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway.
Elation to be in New Smyrna Beach.
Dinner with Jeb and Tina too.

Sea Woods Condominiums

Free Condo

I reached South Atlantic Avenue and biked south to a region full of condominiums. I was tired, but I'm telling ya, I still had energy. I could have gone another 10 to 15 miles if needed.

Remember Jeb and Tina's condo offer? Their family condo was occupied that evening, but amazingly, they "pulled some strings" and got me a free room at Sea Woods Condominiums. It was such a nice place and just two blocks from the beach.

116 Mile Ride

I biked two more miles on a sidewalk, rolled up to the door of the condo, and was done for the day. I had gone 116 miles and was so proud of myself. Like I said, I'm convinced this was all part of God's plan. Today's ride seemed magical.

Here's what I thought about the condo the next morning ...

New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna Beach, FL


Jeb and Tina took me to Breakers Ocean Front Restaurant that has seating on the edge of the beach.

That short distance to the water was all the remained to complete this trip.

Steve and Tina Jeb went outside and got a shot of me and Tina.
Jeb, Tina, and Steve After dinner, we got ice cream. Mmmm.

There's a nice shot of Jeb and Tina. I, however, look horrible!

You are welcome to stay connected with me on my author page.

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