I’m going to begin by saying this project so far is one of the most intense, harrowing, beautiful experiences of my life. I’ve ridden about 100 miles in the past two days, which is really not much on a bike, but has been pretty intense for me.
I started in Tampa, Florida. I spent the day before that with my friend Ericka, and she took me out to different parts of Tampa to perform. I tried performing on the streets of Ybor City and was ejected from one area as I started by a security guard, so me and Ericka, and her roommate Andi, and my long-time friends Jamin and Elton walked down the street and I started performing on the street corner. That was mildly successful. Then Ericka and Andi and I took the Tampa ferry to Curtis Hickson Park. There was an amphitheater there that was totally vacant and open for use and a park full of people enjoying the day. I knew what I had to do, I had to figure out a way to herd the people from the park to the amphitheater nearby, and that thought terrified me, so I knew I had to do it. With Ericka’s help we went out to the park, I handed people my card, and told them I’d be doing a free One-Man Shakespeare performance in the amphitheater in 5 minutes. A few people did actually show up, so I did an impromptu full show of all seven of my scenes. The people seemed to enjoy it and I even made some money.
The next morning, my stuff all packed up, Ericka made me some breakfast, and saw me off, and I took off on my fully loaded bike (the first time I had ridden it with ANY weight on it was this day) onto Dale Mabry road. It was touch and go at first, but I took to it pretty quickly, and I just started going. Even with about 60lbs of stuff on my bike, the Surly made the ride pretty smooth. Man… even after a nights sleep I’m still foggy, having trouble remembering… Well basically after a few hours I ended up on Suncoast trail, which was a long, long winding trail going north… I road that for a while then I finally came off of it to get some dinner and find a place to sleep, and I ended up in a town called Shady Hills. I rode for a bit more, finally found a cafe where I could get something to eat, had a huge meal, and about 6pm set out to find a place to sleep.
I tried to go knock on the door of a Baptist church I passed, but they were already locked up… so I tried to stealth camp out in the back. Eventually after about 30 min of setting up my camp a police officer who’d been called by one of the residents nearby asked me to move on and watched as I repacked my entire camp and rode on… I stopped at another house about half a mile away, knocked on the door, no answer… someone was home, but they didn’t answer, I tried one or two more houses. Finally I knocked on Joe’s door, a 30 something guy with a family. I explained to him what I was doing and asked if I could camp on his property. He said it’d be fine with him, but I had to hide by the bushes so I’d be out of sight of his dog, and the dog next door, so that they wouldn’t bark all night because Joe was about to go to sleep to wake up for work. Well…
Because of the ant piles on the ground, and because I was scared of the spiders lurking in the bushes, after some toiling and fiddling in the dark with my 60lbs of bags and my bike, and getting more and more anxious because the dogs were already starting to bark I finally just laid my bike down in front of the bushes, covered it with one of my two huge tarps, and laid the other one down to set my camp up on (They’re a bit heavy, and over-sized, but those tarps came in reeeallll handy). I finally set up camp and slid into my sleeping bag inside of the tarp… that’s when the terror started.
The dogs could smell me I guess and just kept barking and howling all night, as well as all the other dogs in the neighborhood… besides that, I didn’t know if Joe had alerted his next door neighbors if I would be sleeping on the property, so I was always scared they’d discover me, plus I was paranoid that some curious passer by would become curious about what exactly was hiding under those brown tarps (though they would have been hard to see from the road at night), plus the constant sound of passing traffic, and other misc. night sounds made me a nervous wreck. PLUS dew was beginning to form inside the tarp and I was getting a little wet. PLUS worried friends and family were calling and texting all night (well their fears were justified…) All of that added up made it so that in about 5-6 of lying in my sleeping bag I hadn’t really slept at all. So around 4 am, I decided the only option left was just to pack up and keep going….