By the time we made it to Jacksonville we had already been over Florida for a few days. Lucky for us, we weren’t actually done with the sunshine state and had one last stop before we headed up the Atlantic coast.
Colton, our host, gave us the excited-local tour when we came in to town. This is a greeting that has never and will never get old. Our first night, we tried a good beer from his favorite neighborhood bar. The following morning, we were taken to get some of his favorite coffee in town. Colton fancies himself a bit of an expert when it comes to beer and coffee. We do not. However, we enjoy both drinks, especially when someone with good taste recommends them. After both beverage suggestions, he’s batting a thousand.
Soon after, the coffee jitters pushed us into action. We had a growing list of things we needed to take care of. First on the list was to replace the back wheel on the Giant, which had a broken rim from a spoke pulling out. A few visits to bike shops of varying pretense and I finally ended up at the right place.
Scott (the fella on the right) was the kindest of kind bike shop owners, aside from his razzing of anyone he came in contact with. He not only did some searching around to other shops in town for a back wheel set up for a freewheel instead of a cassette, he also didn’t show how disappointed he was when he figured out I didn’t know what I was talking about when I told him it wasn’t a cassette. He had the wheel to replace it, he had tires that he could donate, and he had old tubes to go inside of those tires which sealed a deal that in no way was in his favor.
The wheel upgrade completed around the same time as the laundry that Andrew had been taking care of across town. We chose to meet at a park near the St. John’s River to celebrate an altogether fulfilling day. There were stories being told about our respective shop owners while we climbed a perfect tree then watched the sunset. Our favorite kind of farewell evening.
Colton continued the tradition we have in staying with talented people. He shared his interest in photography when we were parting and also rewrapped my handlebars to a better state than I have seen them before. Along with the tradition of being talented, he’s also one more person we could have had more fun with if given time to stay idle. However, this was one more time that we would be saying goodbye after our brief introduction.
In the week that we had been there, Florida had been a beautiful place that didn’t want company, and now it was sending us away confused about how happy we were to be leaving. We were now set in every way we could think to be set in, with only good people from Florida to thank. That being said, we were finally riding North and anxious for the change that was sure to follow.
Thirty miles into our last day, we were out. Georgia became the fifth state line that we shot awkward video of ourselves dancing on. Cars whizzed by at speeds that can’t be legal while we smiled and took the dumbest pictures we could manage without it being a felony. It didn’t matter that we looked like smelly, homeless clowns, we were moving North toward Savannah and Charleston and D.C. and New York and Montreal. We were finally passing the point where it’s cute to be on a bike trip into the time where family members start feeling serious concern for us. We were doing exactly what we didn’t think we were possibly going to accomplish. We were finishing one leg of a cross-country bicycle ride that has three more legs to go. We were accomplishing something completely unnecessary with help from a bunch of strangers. So we danced and laughed at ourselves while we were stared at by a new state’s inquisitive drivers. It was thirty more miles into Georgia before we stopped for the night in Brunswick.
Outside of the Ole Times Country Buffet, we were greeted by a man that couldn’t have been a day under ninety. He was our first real Georgian that we had met, and he told us his name was Chestnut, we didn’t get his wife’s name, but she called us brave. It’s possible that they were senile, but we enjoyed talking to them and Chestnut gave us a suggestion for a place where we could set up our tent without having any trouble. Where he sent us, through the blackness of unlit Brunswick roads, ended up being a wooded area near a construction site that was exactly what we wanted. Besides some night owl teenagers that came to swim in the pond, we were left alone to enjoy the peace and quiet.
Seventy five more miles and we were going to be in Savannah. Seventy five uneventful miles later, we were in the city that was reminding us why we’re on this trip. Savannah, at first, was a long stretch of what we expect from the highway leading into a small town in the South. We rolled by the usual auto shops, liquor stores, and gun and ammunition depots before our surroundings quickly became a city with grandiose, French architecture and obvious charm. This one isn’t a cyclist town, but it’s the first gem of our Northern route and it made for a great place to get our bearings before we start going through states where our childish sense of geography might finally catch up with us.
Before we move on and have the rest of the Southern states treat us however they please, we found a few opportunities in Savannah to treat ourselves. One being our first successful dumpster dive while riding. We were on our way to get something to eat when it donned on us that little caeser’s prepares pizzas before they are ordered and we may stand a chance to recover some that were made, but never sold. We were close enough to their closing time that we felt comfortable pulling intact cheese pizzas out of someone else’s dumpster and eating it like vultures on roadkill. If we get parasites, you’re welcome to criticize our choices, but we’ll wait and see if any aliens come screaming out of our abdomens.
Besides eating trash, we also got a second day in Savannah to explore more of what the city had to offer. Being on a river gives it the advantage of being naturally appealing, but the cityscape was much more interesting to us than the water around it.
The buildings showed old world influence and there was a new park square every block with another statue commemorating a part of American history that we were too impatient to read about. We followed the roads to narrow walkways and alleys.
The time riding around town was enough to put Savannah on the imaginary list we compile for people when they ask us what our favorite places have been. At some point, either of us may come back, if we ever finish the rest of our trip that is.