The Sunshine State lives up to its name – at last…

Our third full day in Florida and finally some warmth and sunshine to mark the first 50 miles of our journey. It’s good to be back in touring mode and in T shirts and shorts.

We could not have had an easier start, just 100 metres of ascent in 50 miles demonstrates how flat this part of Florida is. Travelling west; once we left the delightful city of St. Augustine, the urban sprawl rapidly gave way to swampy forests where lichens hang of the trees like old mens’ beards. Further on, Hastings styles itself the potato capital of Florida. It’s not hard to see why, we cycled past enormous acreages planted out to the tubers.

Our billet for the night is the small town of Palatka, situated on the west bank of the huge St. Johns River, which flows north to the Atlantic at Jacksonville.

Mile long bridge spanning the St. Johns River at Palatka

Saturday was a dreary, grey, day as we continued our drive across the Panhandle from Tampa airport. We viewed the launch pads and buildings at Cape Canaveral, stopped for a short walk through conserved swamps in the hope of seeing alligators but failed. However, a little further on we did see a small group of Manatees just loitering in a river – curious mammals with heads like seals and tails like beavers.

Daytona Beach was a disappointment, very tired and shabby, making us very glad to have stayed at St. Augustine Beach with its long sandy shoreline and proximity to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the US.

Sunday, another cold, grey and wet day was spent cycling around the old town with buildings and a fort dating back to the 1600s. Fragler College, originally built as an hotel, was particularly impressive.

Fragler College Courtyard – At. Augustine

Another imperative is the ritual dipping of bikes’ wheels; apparently in ‘the rules’ when riding coast to coast. It would be a bad job if we ever get to California, to find ourselves disqualified!

Dipping the wheels in the Atlantic at St. Augustine Beach

Lets us take you to the Mardis Gras …

First Leg – USA Southern Tier. St. Augustine, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana.

For a while there it looked like we might not get away this winter, but a 26 day window opened so we jumped through and find ourselves in Florida USA.

The twin draws of sunshine and another cycling adventure will see us following the orange line on the map above, pedaling west, from St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast. Founded by Spanish explorers in 1565 this is the oldest continuously inhabited, European established settlement, in the US.

Our route follows Adventure Cycling’s Southern Tier Route, which crosses the continent, ending at San Diego, California on the Pacific coast. Totalling just over 3,000 miles, the entire route would be a might ambitious for us old codgers to achieve in three weeks. Our plan is to get to New Orleans on this leg, following the blue route south, once we reach the Mississippi River – about a third of the total route. (Leaving another couple of trips for the future).

If all goes to plan, we will arrive in New Orleans during the festivities and processions leading up to the City’s world famous Mardis Gras.

Wet and windy weather delayed our departure from Gatwick by an hour and US customs was the usual tedious process on arrival at Tampa. The airport is well laid out with very efficient, driverless, trains taking the slog out of getting around the concourse.

Today, we will head for At. Augustine in our rental car, via Cape Canaveral and Daytona beach, leaving Sunday to prepare the bikes and kit for an early start on Monday morning.