124 days, 12 states, and over 2,500 miles we did it!! This morning, around 10am we pedaled across the imaginary line separating Alabama and Florida. Kyle and I, as a team made it from Wisconsin to Florida by man power 🙂 What a wonderful feeling it was! We hugged, kissed, yelled, took photos, smiled, ran around, and celebrated the best we could on the side of the road with 25mph head winds. I had thought about it, actually making it to Florida, countless times. But actually doing it- actually pedaling across that “line” was something special. Something I haven’t quite been able to articulate yet; I’m not ready to try and write about the array of emotions we experienced, therefore I’ll give it some time before creating a reflection. We both laughed rather hard when we realized that as soon as we reached that Florida sign, we felt ready to be home. I was not expecting this, I was thinking that I was going to feel sad, confused, not ready to have made it. But the exact opposite happened- together we yelled “Fred! We’re ready! You can come get us now!” We were joking, but my dad, Fred, is going to pick us up on the 23rd and I guess we were feeling ready a bit sooner 🙂 Laughing and elated on the feeling of making it, we pedaled away, into the damn headwind and continued the 33 miles to our next ‘warmshower’ stay. The day had a light hearted feeling about it- I had never been so happy to be in Florida, even the FL License plates made me smile. It was marvelous and spectacular and there is no one else in the world I would have rather shared it with than Kyle. You could have never convinced us we would make it to Florida…on a tandem bicycle…but there we were, pedaling along the paved path next to the beach having made it to Florida. Woo!
Anyway, the rest of the day as I mentioned above was exciting, light-hearted, and despite the strong headwind, rather fun. Around 2:30pm we arrived to downtown Pensacola and stopped in at a bar for one celebratory beer. We only had 7 miles to our hosts’ house so we took some time to relax a bit before continuing over the big, loud, fast moving bridge into Gulf Breeze, FL. Pedaling over the bridge was not very fun- despite having a huge shoulder the cars moving 55mph next to us and the wind howling at our faces made the entire thing a big overwhelming. I was thrilled when we got off the bridge and hopped onto the sidewalk. That is when we first met Charlie, our host, who had surprised us and came to meet us on his bicycle. We made some introductions while pedaling and followed him to his house a couple miles away. There we met Missy, his wife, and got settled into their motor home, parked in their driveway, which is where we spent the night. Charlie and Missy were the most wonderful hosts and we all had such an awesome time together. From the moment we pulled up in their garage the conversation did not stop until we said goodnight. Charlie and Kyle took apart our tandem bicycle to try and find the source of an annoying ticking noise we were dealing with, while Missy and I went inside and talked about careers, the school system, and life choices. While Missy and I were sitting on the couch chatting Charlie came rushing in, “Missy, do you want to ride the tandem bicycle??” Charlie and Missy are both avid bicyclists, they do long distances and Missy even does triathlons- but neither of them had been on a tandem bicycle. It was pretty entertaining watching them get going on the bike, nervous and laughing at how different it was. They pedaled down the block and when they came back informed us that they didn’t know how to turn it around so instead got off and picked it up to turn it around. We all laughed at this and then went inside to have some dinner and cold beers. The remainder of the evening was spent in their homey kitchen, listening to Christmas music, a fire glowing in the fireplace, chatting and laughing. The four of us had such a blast and we spent so much time laughing that my cheeks hurt. Thank you so much Missy and Charlie. You guys went above and beyond in your hosting and we appreciate the hospitality so much. The motor home was such a nice place to stay and we wish we lived closer so we could hang out more as I can tell we would all be such good friends. The magic of traveling and meeting wonderful humans!
Our day of pedaling after leaving Charlie and Missy’s was a spectacular treat. Kyle and I were both completely unaware of what Pensacola Beach had to offer. At first it was similar to the beaches in St. Petersburg: tall condos, restaurants, development, people, and piers. But as we pedaled farther East on the paved bike trail the development slowly started to dwindle away until suddenly I realized we were surrounded, in all directions, by raw, untouched sand dunes and white beaches. Besides a few road signs there was absolutely no development on the dune and beaches. For about 8 miles we were surrounded by the most beautiful preserve. It was windy, but sunny and we pedaled along as the salt spray came misting through the air. Despite being 100 yards from the actual water the spray splattered our glasses and covered our skin, which for the first time in weeks was uncovered by clothing because it was finally warm enough for shorts and short sleeve! Stopping a few times to admire the large expanse of sand dunes and Gulf waters which seemed to be green due to the white sand, we smiled as we pedaled along. While pedaling we met another bicyclist named Mike. He was out for his daily 20 mile ride and ended up pedaling with us for a half hour or so. We chatted and got to know each other while he showed us some side streets and gave some advice for the next 20 miles of our day. It was wonderful to meet him and we feel thankful he took the time out of his day to pedal along with us. Thanks Mike!
50 miles later we arrived at Henderson Beach State Park where we are currently staying for a couple of days. Right before we arrived at the Park we met a couple who were also on a bicycle tour from Fort. Lauderdale to Houston, TX. They were from England and have been traveling by bicycle for over a year visiting places like Japan, Singapore, Europe, and America. It was fun to chat with them a bit and we laughed as they were heading to Missy and Charlie’s! What a small world it is in the biking ‘warmshowers’ community!
As I write this, we are currently sitting at Panera Bread in Destin, Florida. It is really cold, wet, and windy outside and we decided to take a walk from the State Park and find some warmth with wifi and hot coffee! We have been enjoying our stay at the State Park thus far and will be leaving tomorrow morning for our last day of pedaling! Tomorrow we will pedal 50 miles to St. Andrews State Park where we will spend three nights before my dad comes and picks us up on the 23rd. As the days begin to dwindle down on this grand journey we find ourselves contemplative and nostalgic thinking about the last 6 months and all it has entailed. Onward! (For a little while longer at least :))