Gators, comb-overs and party people. Just another week in West Florida.

Belleview – Gainesville – Monticello – Tallahassee – Marianna – Defuniak Springs

“Oh Gainesville? You have to look up Tom and Martha.” So the referral system kicks into action, warm shower to warm shower keeping us comfy as we head North. Tom and Martha could indeed not have been more welcoming, and made sure we dodged a rainy day to take advantage of a both a solstice party and a Super Bowl party – based on epic banqueting, of course.  Both were also a deep, deep source of historical and ornithological info and so we made the most of our day off, including a good look at these fine specimens:

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Our second night in Gainesville was an education in all things Super Bowl, and pre-match entertainment Puppy Bowl which was as odd and cute as it sounds 😍.  Tom, Martha and their friends couldn’t have been more welcoming and curious and, yes, apologetic and embarrassed about their current President. Travelling to other places it can be wise to steer clear of politics and religion, though so far we’re finding people are keen to talk, whatever their beliefs, and are humble, respectful and engaged – if sometimes baffled, angry and upset on the USA’s behalf.  Whatever they are, they care and they are aware.

Reluctantly leaving the lovely woods and Tom and Martha, we rolled off for route 90, and Monticello. Still blessed with fine weather, easy winds and flat roads.  All Warm Showers hosts take things to the next level in an already hospitable country, and Maria and Diane are right up there it seems in the pantheon of legendary hosts, having welcomed about 2000 cyclists into their home.  Their 6 rescue dogs were most excited too, 5 chihuahuas and a pit bull/Labrador cross.  Yup.  We had a great and hilarious night with them all, learning more about how minorities feel in Trump’s America, and some of the things behind the scenes that still show how cultures, races, classes are still separated.  Diane, retired lawyer and part-time prosecutor still in medical cases, also told us how she had dealt with the arrival of an alligator on their farm; “What I do? I shot the fucker.” I nearly weed my pants.  Warm showers hosts continue to surprise and delight, even if Piggy the Chihuahua was not exactly photogenic:

 

 

Starting another day fed, coffeed, warm and dry, we had only an easy roll to the edge of Tallahassee, to stay with friends Zoe met in the Himalayas. David and Mary-Jean had all the essential stuff a cyclist needs, and we swapped from many dogs to 6 cats, including the lovely Dion who adopted us no questions asked.

It was great to see them – and what a beautiful house in a beautiful area! Peg joined us for dinner with catch ups and laughs. It’s amazing to meet up with people again after a couple of years and just pick up where you left off 😊.

Leaving Tallahassee we followed the fast, straight route 90 as far as the edge of Marianna, stopping for the night at probably the worst dollar-for-dollar campsite I’ve ever been too – rank toilets/showers and a tent pitch next to a HUGE road one side and river with v vocal frogs the other, TripAdvisor will be getting a hit from us 🤨. We also had the first mechanical (a flat) so clearly it was cursed.  We’re learning where to find value and where not to expect it, and yet to try stealth camping – warnings of Alligators in every pond and lake are pretty real, and fire-ants, snakes, all sorts of critters rustling about are still making camp sites more attractive.

By the end of our first full week we’d seen a couple of apocalyptic weather forecasts, and as I write they’re being proved pretty accurate, as we come to the end of 24 hours of storms and non-stop RAIN.  We’re shelting at Basshaven Camp ground, just outside DeFuniak Springs, which is what they call ‘faded glory’ perhaps – former train route buildings giving it some pioneer aspect but generally falling down and turning into Mall-ville. The campsite’s ace though and again, SUCH friendly people who’ve taken us under their wings and given us shelter (other than the tent) and a lift to the store, thank goodness. We’re slightly out of town, occupying a bandstand by the water, drying out and waiting for better conditions tomorrow. In a couple of days we hit the Gulf Coast, leave Florida and wend our way through rural Alabama and Mississippi….

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Matt communes with trees on the Suwannee river
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Solstice party, Gainesville woods Fl
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Tom and Martha with Zoe – and local brew
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Matt, Peg, David and Mary-Jean
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