One of the perks of working at the place I do is that the owner offers a free weekend at his beach house in St. Augustine to all employees once a year. This year, the night back-of-house staff decided to go over this past weekend.
Most of them left Saturday night after work, but I'd intended on riding the bike out there. With it being a home FL Gator game, I was unwilling to chance the occasional drunken idiot driving out to Putnam county to pick beer up after 2 AM (which is when they stop selling it in Alachua county on Saturday night/Sunday morning). So, I rose extra early on Sunday.
At about six-thirty AM, I mounted up and rode out into the misty morning. It was still dark here, and there was a little fog from the dew point being so close to the air temperature. No wind, and an overnight low of about seventy degrees made for perfect riding weather.
By the time I hit Melrose, at about eight-ish, I'd been riding into the rosy fingers of the rising dawn for about an hour. By that point, my face hurt from smiling so much. I stopped in at the quickie mart there for some water and a candy bar to keep the calories up.
Refueled, I got back on the bike and headed east, into the brightening day. By the time I hit Palatka, at around ten-thirty, I'd worked up a good sweat and a better appetite. Some of those hills on the way out there are huge for Florida--almost respectable in their own right! I stopped in at the local McDonalds for a cheap second breakfast and a refill of the Camelback. I ran into a local who was interested in my riding and I gave him the lowdown on my set-up and distances, explaining that I didn't go very far, but that I was comfortable during my trips.
By eleven-thirty I was back on the road. Unfortunately, the weather conspired against me by this point. By the time I turned onto State Road 207, the wind had shifted to the north-east and picked up to fifteen miles an hour with twenty mile an hour gusts. It took me almost an hour and an half to cover ten miles going into that wind. I've been worn out before, but never so sharply over such a short distance.
Turning onto State Road 206, I gained my wind back by walking the bike for five minutes to give my knees a rest. Mounting back up, I continued on into what was turning into a fairly nasty storm. Fortunately, there was no lightning, but it sure was blowing hard. I enjoy riding in the rain, but I have to admit that I was worried for my safety: visibility was waaaaay down. Even with my lights on, I was concerned about drivers on the road.
I didn't come to mischief, though. Pulling into the gas station by I-95, I grabbed an iced coffee and a protein bar to bring my energy levels back up. I rolled on, moving slowly to give my knees a little breathing room after my windy push up 207. A1A came up quickly, and I turned north once again.
I pushed up A1A until I hit the turnoff for St. Augustine Beach. Pulling into the grocery store parking lot, my phone chirped at me to let me know I'd had a text message. Sure enough, it turned out that the guys from work were headed to the grocery store for munchies and beer. Well, that was why I was there, too!
Browsing the beer isle (by the way, the Publix in St. Augustine Beach has the second-best beer selection I've seen in a grocery store), my friends came right on up and expressed surprise over my being there at the same time that they were. Serendipity, eh?
After making my purchases, I loaded back up on the bike and continued on to the beach house. After parking the bike and throwing my stuff inside the entrance hall, I fairly danced the hundred and fifty feet over the dune passage and beach right down to the water. Jumping in was probably the best ending to a bike trip that I've ever had. In the middle of the pouring rain, no less!
After a dunk in the wind-whipped whitecaps, I showered off and strung up the hammock on the upstairs deck. Leaning back with a cold one, I enjoyed the company of my friends (and their cooking!) for the rest of the evening.
I tried to sleep in the Hennessy on the porch that night, but unfortunately, wind-blown rain chased me back inside around three AM. I'd not thought to bring the tarp, what with being under an awning and all...meh...
Still, the hammock saw use as a lounger all weekend, and one of the guys I work with is now looking at them for his hiking use .
I had thought that everyone was staying through until Tuesday morning, but unfortunately, they weren't. So, instead of biking back home tomorrow morning, I got a ride from one of my co-workers. I can do eighty miles in a single ride, but I'm not quite up to back-to-back distances like that just yet...
Pictures attached below (left to right):
1.) The view from the deck over the beach access walkway.
2.) A photo of a rainbow that I snapped from the hammock.
3.) & 4.) The Hennessy strung up on the deck.
5.) A photo of the sunset today. I sure didn't want to leave.