I made no schedule that day. I knew that I wanted to be in Miami by Tuesday night, so when I got up that Sunday, it was hammer time.
BUT, I still didn't set an alarm. I got up when I was done sleeping. That night before I didn't only buy two pints of Ice Cream, I bought something to eat too, just cant remember now what it was.....
I ate, packed up, and checked out, heading towards the google map location that told me where I could get coffee... I found the place. It was nice, the people inside interesting and inquisitive about who I was and where I was going. They told me I was heading into a place called the Devils Garden, and that I should watch out for the big trucks that run them roads.
I got an iced coffee. The first Coffee that I got to taste in a few days. Unfortunately she put sugar in it. The lady was so nice and everyone was so nice that I just drank it anyways, even though I prefer my coffee in its most natural form.
I was heading into the unknown. I would at some point traverse the panther habitat at Big Cypress preserve and I do not like heading into the unknown and the wilderness without a lighter. It took me a Long time to find a lighter, but I did.
Finally got on the road, and it was pavement for a bit, with cars going by, and me going towards no where. Eventually I got to a spot that turned off to dirt, but the area had some serious no trespassing signage so I kept on the pavement and did my best to navigate around the obstacle.
There were abandoned shrimp farms back there. So weird to read all the signage and observe all the abandon. Weird to see that even the locals call this place the Devils Garden. It was blazing hot, and I was almost out of water with an expected 17 to go before a known restock. I didn't like those numbers but had resolved to deal with what may come.
As I pedaled along I saw a telephone repair man and I knew he had water so I begged, and restocked and kept moving on an additional bottle, still in trouble but not as bad as before.
I thought about it for a long time. Guess I wasn't in a huge rush to jump back into the frying pan. I watched as the Natives drove around the reservation on ATVs, and after having a nice conversation with a family, and a gift of ICE cold water from them, I set off to find the local public works office and ask them if the route my Droid suggested was clear and legal.
Before I could find the office I found an police officer and he got on the horn and told me that it was not a good route do to the fences. I backtracked got back on track and kept moving, finally back on route, 14+ miles later. O well. As I started getting closer to the other side where the dirty alternate I had asked the policeman about dumped out, I noticed there was a prison there and now I understand what they mean about not being able to navigate the area.
I was still about 10 miles away from my planned rest and restock when I noticed a storm rolling in. The area is so flat, that I could see the black clouds coming for miles. I had never seen a storm move so fast, so the only option I had was to hammer. So I tucked into my Freddie aero bars and did just that.
8 miles to go, the air got noticeably cooler.
6 miles to go the wind was blowing hard.
4 miles to go the lightning and thunder were all around.
2 miles to go and all hell breaks loose.
Its storming so hard that I have zero visibility. The rain is coming sideways and the wind is blowing so hard that I am being blown off the road, having to lean into the wind to stay up right
Working as hard as I could I finally made the gas station and my planned rest and restock before heading into The Big Cypress preserve.
I hung up my wet clothes. I pulled my sleeveless base layer out my bag and put it on to warm myself up. I went in and sat down and slowly, ate and drank and ate and stocked up, for about 3 hours.
My next destination was the Sasquatch research center. I called ahead and got a campsite. The guy seemed fairly concerned I wouldn't be interested, and he had agreed that me coming late was gonna be OK.
When I left the convenience store it was still drizzling. After a little bit of pavement I entered the Big Cypress preserve through a pedestrian entrance on the far west side. The roads were hard pack limestone and fast. I saw huge pits full of gators, more gators then I have ever seen in one place at one time.
I never saw a panther, not a single one, but I was happy that there was plenty of traction and only a slight drizzle. Before long I was on Turner Camp road which was 17 miles of dirt road thru the preserve ending on Alligator Alley.
As the sun set, and the rain let up, I got such a treat. The moon was big in front. The skies to the east were constantly sparking from a distant lightning storm, same with the skies to the west. I was threading the gauntlet between two storms, with moonlight guiding the way and huge bats, bigger then any I have ever seen, gliding over head as they feasted on the mosquitoes.
Not far down that road, I pedaled the last few miles of pavement to the Sasquatch Research Center and found the camp host. Got my spot, and went in the shower first.
The mosquitoes were horrendous. It was another maddening evening, feeling the insane itch all over my legs, my spray worked, but if I missed anything they would be on me, blackening the skin, they were small and would mass on your flesh in a second.
I found some mosquito incense someone had left over, and took a break in there, under the smoke. I organized my desire to set up my hennessey hammock, and then went outside to try and sleep.
I knew ahead of time that it would be a rough night, but lord did I underestimate what the night would truly have in store with me and the mosquitoes.