So, I got up having not really slept at all all night (but feeling sort of energized and refreshed), repacked everything in the dark (I had a headlamp, and used the red light to repack). And rode over to the Hess station at the corner. My bike charger wasn’t working properly, so I went to check to see if the issue was my usb cord. It wasn’t so I just prayed the charger would work again, bought a TON of food (I got really hungry and desperate for food the day before). I bought what ever I could fit in whatever space I had left, 2 bananas, 2 snickers bars, and a ham sandwich. Thankfully someone outside talked me out of getting back on the trail (never back track), and so I just rode up 41 in the dark. It wasn’t so bad really. First of all shortly after I started riding my bike charger kicked back up (THANK GOD), I didn’t feel tired at all, there was sidewalk for few miles down the road, so I listened to Sprint radio on my phone for a few miles.

I finally reached an area called Brooksville and rode for a while, and it was terribly spooky, and gorgeous, like a lush setting out of a Tim Burton movie. I was a bit hesitant to turn down the spooky backroad my gps pointed me toward, but b this time it was almost 6 and the sun was about to come up. So I started down this road, and spooky as all of this was, I was really more exhilarated than anything. The sun rose as I was riding through this haunted neighborhood (filled with beautiful horse ranches and tall mossy trees lining the roads) and it was spectacular. I rode though that area for a while, fighting with my phone for battery life (I need to sit somewhere each day with the phone and give it a proper full charge from an outlet or it’ll be useless to me) until I got to the Withlacoochie Trail.

When I got there there was like a general store which was there for people getting onto the trail, which opened at 9. It was 8. Across the street, was a community center of sorts where some volunteers from this small town happened to be doing voter registration for the Florida primaries, which was FORTUITOUS because it meant I could get refill my water, and charge my phone (though I had to wait outside, couldn’t loiter in the voter registration). So I sat and waited at the general store with my bike, changed into drier clothes, napped a bit, and when the general store finally opened I bought a bit more food. After about an hour-hour and a half nap I retrieved my phone and went back to my bike, and geared up to get on the trail.

Sitting at the bench reading the paper where my bike was parked was an older man, maybe 45-50 years old, normal dude. His name was Mike. He asked me a bit about what I was doing, I told him, he thought the idea was cool… he told me he was into motorcycles and then he told me he used to be in a bike gang and led a pretty nasty life up until a few years ago. He said he’d been in prison for nearly beating a man to death in a bar fight. Said a few months in, before he was finally sentenced the mother of the man he’d nearly killed came to visit him, the only visitor he ever received, and one he wasn’t at all expecting. He said he sat down with her a bit confused, and she asked to pray with him. She told him she forgave him for what he did and began a friendship with Mike and led him to Jesus Christ. She, and her son testified on his behalf at Mike’s trial and he was let off with parole. He said what gets him wasn’t that he escaped 10 years in prison, but that this woman forgave him… he said since that time he’s been running that general store, living in that small town, still pursuing his love of motorcycles, but also getting into other things.. like helping to organize fundraisers to build wells and feed children in Kenya. He was a sweet guy. I thought to myself… this guy is wonderful, and God put him on my path to share this story with me, before I get on this trail…

Immediately following that I gave Mike my card, and took off on the Withlacoochie Trail. It was BEAUTIFUL. Like something out of a Terrance Malick film. Again mossy trees hanging over the length of this trail which must have been about 20-30 miles long. All of it super easy to ride on, filled with nice people, and let out into a town every two miles or so. I can’t say enough about how gorgeous it was. There were moments I really thought I was in a movie or a painting. I stopped at a bike shop close to coming off of it, picked up some stuff, napped for a bit on their benches, returned some of the MANY calls and texts I’d still been getting all day, and got back on my bike for the last 27 miles toward Ocala.

They were a GRUELING 27 miles, especially the closer I got to my cousins’ house. Not for any particular reason, it was a beautiful day, it was still really early in the day (getting up before the sun and riding is the way to go), and I was riding on a road that had sidewalk for much of it.. It’s just that by this point I was closing in one 12 hours of riding on and off (probably about 7 straight hours of riding all together), I ached EVERYWHERE, especially in my knees and lower back, I was cramping up a bit, the town was pretty hilly, and I was just ready to rest. Finally I did make it to Ocala, my cousin Natasha came and got me, and I followed her on my bike to her, my cousin Dawana and her husband Homer and their son, my little cousin Jay R lived.

RELIEF.

I could barley move, think, blink my eyes, but I got a shower, Tasha took Jay R and I to sushi, and I got back, caught up with Dawana and Homer, and then got some REST. I plan to perform here in Ocala tomorrow, and take off toward Tallahassee Fri. The Lesson learned? Make sure I know where I’m going to sleep. More to come. Check the blog for video.