Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sunglasses, Riding Lawnmowers, and a Hotel

The rain stopped by sunrise, but the skies were still ugly, the forecast was for more rain, and tree snot continued to drip onto my tarp so I took care of morning business under the tarp.

With camp chores done, I broke down camp and headed off. I reached SR 20 in about 20 minutes at which point a long, long roadwalk would ensue. About 40 miles of it, in fact, and more than 30 of it was on SR 20. I would, I knew, become very familiar with SR 20.

For the day, I completed just under 20 miles of it, stopping in Ebro for the night. Yep, that's about all I have to say for the whole day of hiking. There's not much to say. The roadwalk was a roadwalk--not fun, but otherwise uneventful. Miraculously, it never did rain this day--a pleasant surprise--but the skies did stay grey and cloudy all day.

The biggest event of the walk was that I lost my precious sunglasses. I stopped at a convenience store to buy a Coke and some snacks, and when I left, the sun peeked out a bit so I put on my sunglasses. About five minutes later, the clouds covered the sun again, so I took the glasses off and hung them on the collar of my shirt like I always have. Keeps them out of the way but easily accessible, and in a place where I won't accidentally crush them.

A couple of miles later, the sun make another brief appearance so I went to grab the glasses, but they were gone. Gone! It was a shock. I know I put them there. I hadn't stopped to rest or leaned over to pick anything up, but now they were gone. I can only imagine one of the large trucks driving by caused a gust of wind strong enough to blow the sunglasses off my collar (those big machines do cause some VERY strong gusts, and I often have to hold my hat on when they pass), and it made so much noise driving by that I didn't hear the glasses fall off in the gust. It's the only explaination. I was bummed, though. I bought the glasses at a Publix in Plantation and I liked them. Now I needed to find a new replacement.

I checked into the Ebro Motel, which was something of a luxury. It was only two days earlier I left my motel room in Blounstown, so it's not like I felt especially dirty or in need of a bed.

But I got the room anyhow for a couple of reasons. One, I wouldn't have to find a place to stealth camp. Two, it still looked like it could rain during the night, and I'd rather be indoors if it did. And three, I was just plain sick of camping. I've slept outdoors more often this year than indoors--37 times, in fact, out of 66 days. The ratio would have been even worse if it wasn't for those hotels I use on a daily basis when Amanda is visiting.

So into the motel I went. Room 115.
I was disheartened to discover that the television received satillite reception, so the Weather Channel showed everything but local weather during the 'Local on the 8s' segments. I had to watch the news on CBS to actually get the local weather forecast (which was very encouraging, I might add).

The next morning, I walked over to the nearby gas station to pick up some snacks and make a few phone calls.

And then it happened. Something wonderfully unexpected, wonderfully surprising, and reminds me why I do this hike.

Someone drove up on a riding lawn mower, parked it in front of the gas pump, then started to fill it up. =)

I'd never heard of anyone driving a riding lawn mower to the gas station for a fill-up before, and presumeably he didn't come from very far away, but the sight was a fun surprise.

The man driving it wore a big, white cowboy hat with something approaching a handlebar mustache.

When the tank was full, he replaced the nozzle, started up the lawnmower, and peeled out of there, doing a sharp U-turn between the pumps and driving away.

The skies had cleared overnight, and I squinted in the sun without my sunglasses. The air was COLD as well. I packed my fleece jacket away in the motel, but a mile down the road I couldn't take it anymore and pulled it out again along with my gloves. Darned cold morning.

At one point, while crossing over a bridge, a guy in an SUV pulled over ahead of me. When I caught up with the vehicle, the man offered me a ride--oh, if only I could--but I turned him down explaining that I was thru-hiking the Florida Trail.

I don't know if he was familiar with the trail or what a thru-hike was, and I never got a chance to find out since just as I said those words, a police officer pulled up alongside the man.

I waved to the officer and continued walking, feeling bad for the nice man in the SUV. You aren't supposed to stop on the shoulder of the road on the bridge, and he'd been busted for doing that because he wanted to offer me a ride.

Fortunately, he might have been caught, but the police officer didn't make the illegal stop official since about ten seconds later, the police car continued along the bridge and a few seconds later, so did the man with the SUV.

I reached the town of Freeport early in the afternoon, a bit confused at one intersection where Highway 331 did not match what my maps showed at all. My official Florida Trail map, the Florida AAA map, and the map of Freeport in my guidebook showed Highway 331 doing a mile-or-so long jaunt down SR 20, but when I reached the intersection, it went straight through crossing over SR 20, but not following it at all.

I concluded that they rerouted the highway, since none of my maps showed any street at all to the right where there clearly was a street now. I'd stick with the established trail directly into downtown Freeport, however, if only because a real supermarket lurked in town and I hoped to get on the Internet at the library.

The supermarket was wonderful, and I filled up with all the needed supplies for the next few days, and the library was open for business. Nobody was there, so they let me use their computers as long a I wanted to, which ended up being about 2 1/2 hours to catch up on the message boards and e-mail. (Most of it, at least!)

Before leaving town, I stopped at a convenience store where I bought dinner (a chili dog, some snacks, and a Coke) before heading up Business 331 and finally leaving SR 20 for good.

My maps showed Business 331 as good old 331. Definitely a rerouting of the highway.

I left Freeport near sundown, and within a couple of miles it was dark with the occasional car passing by.

Where Business 331 intersected with the new 331, traffic picked up significantly--both in volume and in speed. It seemed like hundreds of cars zoomed down the road in both directions, and I pulled out my headlamp to wear. Not to see better, but rather so cars could see ME better.


Anonymous said...

I kept waiting to hear you bought sunglasses in one of those places you stopped, nothing, nada, zip, more about them. I wonder....are your eyes getting used to the sun now? Or by then you didn't think it interesting enough to let us know, or were you waiting for the next chump to ask? Consider it done, if so.
Happy Trails and sunny skies be yours,
O Dog

Anonymous said...

I'd never heard of anyone driving a riding lawn mower to the gas station for a fill-up before, and presumeably he didn't come from very far away, but the sight was a fun surprise.

you think that's a funny sight...
I grew up on a farm, went to a rual high school and one day out of the school year the members of the FFA (Future Farmers of America)would drive their tractors to school...yep, their tractors.
The view of the school parking lot was very interesting on that day! :)
~Wander Woman

Krafty Kat said...

Your experiences with the lawn mower at the gas station remind me of when I lived in mainly rural PA and used to go to the drive-thru window of the bank on my bike. All the time! They look at you funny the first time.


Anonymous said...

To find those sunglasses now.........Just think what they would bring on ebay!

DC Stones

Anonymous said...

forget the ebay rate......i can only imagine a pair of sunglasses in good shape, not smelly.......oh, the money some would pay for those..............

tractors......riding lawn mowers... when i was a kid they were becoming a big hit and the price was low enough that many in our area were getting them.......at night, a nice summer night our parents would make the round of phone calls and the dads would tape.....duct.......a flashlight to the front end, us older kids would get our bikes, the moms rode in the back of a trailer pulled by one of the larger mowers. one mom played the accordian.........her favorite song.......apples, peaches pumpkin pie............ we would ride from one house to another, picking up more people along the way. snacks, drinks....kids and dad kinds, and stay out all night long. what a great time........ and no we didn't drive through the yards, but down the country roads.


Teresa said...

Ryan, Ever consider carrying a gps receiver? It seems like there have been a lot wrong turns and detours along the way. Turn on the gps and presto, you know exactly where you are. And you might also be able to load the trail route onto the gps.

Funhog said...

Ever seen the movie The Straight Story? It's a true life tale about a 73 year old man who rides his mower 370+ miles from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his dying brother. I bet he had to pull up to a gas station or two along the way!

Anonymous said...

I used to work at a burger joint in S AL (not too far from the NW terminus of the Florida Trail) that had regular visits of riders on horseback at the drive-thru.

Anonymous said...

In Florida, I hear it is quite common for Dui drivers who are suspended to use their lawnmowmers as a "secondary" vehichle..Just a new thought...

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You made me smile when you typed: "Yep, that's about all I have to say for the whole day of hiking. There's not much to say."

And then you went on to type two lengthy paragraphs about the loss of your sunglasses. :D

Little things sure do become a big deal on the trail, eh?

As for the busy roads at night, have you ever considered wearing noe of those orange safety vests, or even some reflective tape on your backpack?

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers