Day 2- Siwash at Port St. Lucie

After spending a grey and wet day trying to put some miles on without getting soaked, a sizeable nail through the back tire put an end to my 100-mile ambitions at around six pm. it was getting dark, and i hadn’t passed a seedy motel in ages. Best Westerns and Holiday Inns there were aplenty, but sadly it looked like I was about to venture beyond the land of the thirty dollar special, with only Albert and Brigette to show for it. After patching my the tire and getting back on the Publix-IHOP-Walgreens-Burger King-Marathon-7/11-CVS conveyor belt, i started to wonder just where i would spend the night. i was loathe to part with 100 bucks to sleep in a sterile box with cable.

i did have another option. despite coming under fire from various parties, i’ve been toting a hammock under the vaguely delusional notion that i might be able to do some camping, save some readies, etc (after all, I am unemployed and with few prospects). ever since a rather soggy conversation in India with Uncle Howard about the merits of a Hennessey Hammock, getting one has felt a little bit like destiny. i mean, the thing weighs 1.1 kilos and you don’t need any tent pegs. how cool is that?

sadly, it’s been looking rather like i wasn’t going to get the chance to use it. Most of the trees in Florida seem to have been cut down to make room for RV parks, and most of the RV parks don’t seem to have anything else you can tie a hammock to. it’s strictly back in, and hook up, open a Busch and say hello to the neighbors. This has been double disappointing, since i vowed to recoup the cost of the damn thing through savings on h/motel rooms. using campgrounds, that would take eighteen nights assuming a cost of $20 per night. with the but only 4 nights of Siwashing. so you can see the attraction of some bush whackin’.

So anyway, i thought i would warm myself up to this. coming off the road after 80-odd miles is a pretty smelly business. showers tend to be uppermost in your mind at the end of the day. and that is where i was heading. the legs hurt, and i was in need of a good dousing. but then i saw it. the perfect road. paved but turning quickly to gravel. leading to nowhere. on an impulse, i turned and followed it down to where it ended at a small power substation (if indeed that’s what they’re called). behind that was rather promising and abandoned stand of trees (i had noticed that the 2 acre lot was for sale as i rolled in). a quick three minute bushwhack into the forest, and there was a grove of conifers, largely hidden in the bushes. perfect. i charged in, and got busy making fool of myself setting up the hammock for the first time. thank god i didn’t attempt it in an RV park. they would have sold tickets and hot dogs. I managed to tie the last knot just as it got proper dark, then i bush whacked my way back out of there, hopped on the bike, and cycled over to the mall for my usual evening shop of fruit, a single tin of beer, some muffins, and a bottle of this mysterious (but delicious) liquid called muscle milk*.

Then, looking for somewhere i could plug in the laptop, i wandered into an unassuming Pizza shop, and was greeted by Carlos, a Portuguese ex-pat who had moved to Port St. Lucie via Mozambique and New York. he had one hell of a life story to tell, and wasted no time in telling it – plying me with various freebies (‘garlic knots’ anyone?) to keep me in my seat talking about english football. i was there until eleven. he liked the idea of the trans-florida bike ride, and when he asked where i was staying i mumbled something about the Best Western up the road. “that’s a shame. you could have come round to mine. met the kids.”

i smiled and thanked him gratefully, then excused myself for a date with the bush…

next morning: i.e. after a sleepless interval

you would never guess that it would get so bloody cold overnight here in florida. or maybe you would. it is the beginning of march, after all. i spent the night trying to wrap myself in every last bit of clothing within reach, then tossiing fitfully as i dreamed of helicopters pounding the air overhead, scanning the forest with heat sensing cameras. i’m not sure if i managed much sleep proper, but eventually the sky did start to get brighter. i did some extra strength shivering in an attempt to get up enough heat to exit the cocoon, then hauled myself and my several loads worth of gear back out to the road. there were a few quizzical glances from the morning’s first shoppers, but i just smiled and waved, trying to keep my hand low and my nose averted….

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* Muscle Milk: contains no milk

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a perfect night’s accommodation. email me direct if you want GPS co-ordinates.

interim tallies

Greetings from the Siwash*

prevalent conditions:  sun, wind, brush fires

prevalent conditions:  wet, no wind, bad drivers

 

*more on this later

Day 1 – Daytona to Rockledge

11:15 – Daytona

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2:16 PM– Scottsmoor

the old boy in the gas station seemed pretty excited about the forest fire. ‘Outta control’ he said, with blue eyes glittering. ‘That’s why I’m stocking up.’ He had a 24 case of Coor’s Light under one arm and asked for a carton of cigarettes when he got to the till. “Good thing you ain’t riding north! !” He chuckled as he walked out. “Be careful now!”

We had both just finished listening to a rather sizable lady explain to the counter staff that her husband had been complaining that she was getting too thin. ‘He’s told me I look like a crack whore,’ she cackled. The counter staff nodded sympathetically. I couldn’t see her face throughout this exchange, so I held back on passing judgement. ‘an that just ain’t no fair.’ Despite dropping the Southern double negative, she sounded fairly well satisfied with the situation.

This being my first stop, there’s already a few lessons to be learned. 1) I really am going to have to do something about my saddle. After two hours, it has started to feel like I was sawing at my perinium with a loop of barbed wire. That, or I have somehow managed to sit on the bike chain. 2) a quart-sized water bottle is inadequate. Mostly because 3) Florida is fucking huge. No matter how much you think of the place as being wall-to-wall crowded with Publix, Walgreens and the like, there are still these huge empty bits in between, containing just the odd trailer (not even trailer park), fishing hole, Church of the Nazarene or closed down marina. There seem to be a shit load of those, leading me to think that 4) the economy here is still on its ass. I have passed many desolate scenes worthy of Stephen Shore. Beautiful and empty in a sort of post-apocalyptic way.

Perhaps that’s not far off, in one respect. Especially now that the sky is purple and orange from the ‘out of control’ forest fire rolling in from the west, and the sirens have started to wail

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18:40 Garden Court Motel – Rocklege

After a quick stop for endlessly refillable drinks at Burger King in Coca (I know), the GPS led me down a surprisingly nice, riverside street then chucked me back out on US 1 by the Garden Court Motel. Here I was greeted, somewhat suspiciously at first, by Bridgette, a tiny lady with a wandering eye and pinstriped shorts in brightest pink. Checking in seemed to put her in a bit of a tizzy, not least because I asked for a discount on the $45 room rate (it would seem Indian habits are hard to break). Bridgette gave me a long and baleful look then silently shook her head.

‘So that’s a ‘No?’ I asked.

She nodded again, very slowly.

When I asked to see the room she let out a long howl that kind of surprised me. “AAAAALLLLLBERRRRRRT.” I heard a sort of shuffling noise, and then an even smaller man in blue shorts with purple braces appeared.

“Can you show this gentleman number four?”

I dutifully followed on Albert’s heels, careful not to step on him. “Been here long?” I asked.

“Only thirty-seven years.” He kept shuffling along down the row of rooms without looking back.

“Will it be OK if I keep my bike inside?”

That stopped him. Very slowly he turned, giving it some serious consideration. “We’ll have to get something for you to lean it on. Getting paint that matches these days can be murder.”

My kindly hosts originally came to Florida from Kiel in Germany, via Hamilton Ontario and Connecticut. I mentioned that I was from Toronto.

“Ah. Toronto. Very cold there.”

“Yep.”

“Where do you live now.”

“London.”

“And how do you earn your living?”

Albert doesn’t mess around.

“Well. My last job was doing internet stuff, but I haven’t worked for about a year. ”

“We don’t have internet here,” Brigette chimed in.

“That’s ok.”

“So how do you earn your living?” Clearly, once on to a point, Albert could be relentless.

“Well, I got a bit of money when I left work, and we rented our house, and now we’re staying with family in Daytona, and kind of just getting by.”

There was a long silence in which I felt the full and weighty stares of two tiny folk who could easily have been members of the Lollipop Guild.

Then Brigette piped up. “Check out is at ten.” She pushed something black in a plastic bag across the counter to me. “And it’s five dollars deposit for the remote.”


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Heading Orff…

well, it seems that only road travel elicits anything like regular blog contributions, hence the plan to see a fair swathe of Florida using that most unconventional of vehicles (in the US at least): the bicycle.

at 1000 miles, the proposed route could be called a tad ambitious, and i am reserving the right to tailor the course to prevailing mood and circumstance (likely to be driven by the size an insistence of the saddle sores). but let’s just see how we go.

i’ve been fiddling with the bike setup for about a week now, and am well pleased with the Batavus i spotted while in Bali and kept on hold for a rainy day. although it’s fairly clear that it hasn’t exactly been designed for touring — a fact underscored by the many raised eyebrows on the part of the fine gents from Orange Cycle in orlando when they fitted the rack. my other essential bit of kit is the all-in-one hammock, which meets the weight criteria but possibly not the security or stability criteria that have been stipulated by the missus. thankfully Florida is the land of the cheap roadside motel, so i should hopefully be able to credit card my way out of any unsavoury or unlikely camping scenarios.

It all sounds a bit like folly, but i guess there’s only one way to find out.

As ever, i’m grateful to the Missus, and to her dad Farouk, for doing the parental bit while i get to go and have ‘fun’. I will be on standby, and have promised to be back within two days of any emergency.

will also be travelling with the essentials: laptop and broadband stick, so, in a way, it will be like i never left. Hoping to document a fair bit of it here, but will turn off the email notifications so everyone can carry on with their lives in peace.

hasta luego!

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The Culture Mulch

It’s been a tumultuous week.

Thankfully the missus has documented the horrors of our transit so thoroughly that i need not go into it here — nor hopefully think back on it ever again.

Instead, we consider what it means to be washed up in Daytona Beach at the father-in-law’s lovely ocean-side flat. Three days in and the midgets have neither worn out their welcome, nor the plush white carpets…although limits are being tested on both fronts.

As for what else has changed, it struck me today, as I was hoovering up several small mountains of food-based debris, that this time last week i was undertaking a similar task, only I was using a broom made of bound sticks. Eating is still done waterside, but there is a lot more use of cutlery here in Florida. Transportation (for me) is still two-wheeled, but i’m having to do a lot more of the work myself now that my cycle is motorless (i am still regarded as a freak in the streets though — in India it was for obvious reasons, but here, judging by the looks i’m getting, i’m a fool to attempt battle with SUVs and millions of farting Harleys using only the power of the human leg). But, perhaps the most telling difference is that we are back to full time childcare, as both boys bid a fond goodbye to their schools last week. So far, i think we’re enjoying it (long journeys aside), thanks in large part to the ministrations of aunties and grandpa’s on various continents. However, this morning, after a few successive days of chaos, i felt compelled to draw up a daily schedule and for once the Missus, who normally hates these things, didn’t object.

That may have something to do with my plan to cycle down the coast next week. i’m hoping to get as far as the Keys, but will be loaded up with mobile phone and wireless internet, fully anticipating a panicked phone call requesting that I turn around and get the hell back to Dodge. Expect more on this later. In the meantime, some assorted images from the Family Transitional.

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the usual toilet message gets a helpful appendix

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10 rupees worth of welding gets you another fifty miles down the road

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pineapple, coconut, cheese sandwich. our favourite beach seller sticks to the basics

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keeping the doctor well away

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It’s early morning atop a sizable hill, and there is Tash. Remarkable on several levels.

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the famed ‘sweat water lake’ of Arambol

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the motorcycle tide has receded.

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a motley band of motorists

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A dedication to detonation

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…albeit delayed

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strange bedfellows

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seen any wolves?

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uncle cory meets Eggie’s school teacher

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the thai clunker gets a new home

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as does the Enfield. presumably we’ll meet again…

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Egg got straight A’s in fruit

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don’t ask me who the new addition is….

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all change

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nothing better than a fireside chat and a game of dominoes at Scooterworks.

Egg is definitely happy to be back in London.

December’s Contender

‘Twas the month of December when it suddenly dawned,

That insidious notion: another year gone.

And thus to the interweb we scurried all a bumble,

To post many pics (have a bit of a mumble).

And yet, as years go, it treated us well.

Consider: only in balmiest beauty did we dwell.

We met lots of people, too many to remember,

And that was just in the month of December.

So here are the photos, in time-honoured dollop;

Proof that life is too short to be lived as polyp.