The cyclist only respite, the "Honey Hub", in Gackle was well received by its inhabitants last night. The fact the we had a nice shower and a couch to sit on is a welcome retreat. Having a comfortable worn couch to sink into is something you may not consider that special. However, when you are camping, or even the nights in the hotels, there is not typically a "comfortable" sitting chair. To ease back and relax your lower back with some deep sitting is fantastic.
Our host the Millers, of the Miller Honey Farm, have a great concept in leaving this one room basement unlocked for any cyclist coming along the cross country route to make themselves at home. As mentioned yesterday, they simply rely on donations. It was started as a concept by Jesse's father who was a marathoner and bee keeper. He, along with three others, started the "Honey Stinger" brand of sports and energy supplements. I picked up a few they had for sale in the room to try on the road. I had tried the "waffle" style some years back, but opted for the gels this time.
The Millers stopped and chatted for a few moments when they got home. They mentioned they would come back down once the put their kids to bed. However, based on the bit of commotion heard upstairs, that did not go as smoothly as they planned; I would guess. So we did not get the opportunity to visit with them. Before retiring to my tent for the night, I stuck a green pin in the center of Lakeland, FL on the wall map representing the residences of the visitors who passed through. As the only pin in Lakeland, and one of only 5 pins from the State of Florida, it was quietly a proud moment.
With rain passing and the night cooling, I left a few items out dry overnight, but there have been some changes that have caused that to be a bad idea. For most of the first three weeks, the humidity at night has been very low. Last night however, it was 100%. So instead of my apparel gear drying, they did an amazing job of absorbing moisture. There was a dryer in the room, and I did not want to disturb the guys last night, but had no choice this morning.
As independent riders, there was almost an unspoken rule that we would leave separately tomorrow and catch up on the road, if it worked out. Gordon said more than once he was leaving at first light. I am usually excited to get the day started and like to leave early as well, but knew I would wait for him to leave first. Indeed he left at first light, but what stunned me was that he left in a heavy fog. A bit later I pedaled up to the Co Op for some food for the day, as there is only one C-Store on the route today. I waited there for quite a bit of time before I felt it clear enough to get on the road. Gary has said he would come along a bit later.
It was about 7:45 before I left the Co Op. The route certainly starts to flatten out with only one big descent and climb in and out of a bit of a valley where the little Yellowstone River park resides. It is about 55 miles into the ride and that is where I stop to have lunch. With a helping tailwind and relatively flat terrain, I cover the 74 miles in relatively short order. I am in a hotel tonight and that turns out to be good as other storms are coming through as I type this. I have my wet camping and shelter gear strewn about the room in an attempt to dry it out. The room looks like a labyrinth of tents and tunnels that my great nieces and nephews would have a grand time crawling through.
There has been some significant, yet subtle changes of the landscape in recent days.
The evolution of the route over the past few weeks has been interesting. For instance the scents have changed. Initially it was the aromatic cedars and sweet sap of the pines. That gave way to the clean dry smells of fresh cut hay and combined grains. More earthy aromas of the livestock and farms were present as I travelled east. The dusty heat of some of the harsher lands were part of the flow into the surprising lake and swamplands of the past two days. I did not expect the heavier, almost stagnant smells of marsh and muck the last couple of routes. You would almost think I was home, except for the higher, fresher, green notes that remain mixed in the air. Oddly, all of these have been interrupted by the pungent scents of a skunk. It is curious to me that a wave of a polecat's presence is noticed on average once every day.
The animals have changed as well. We have noted the change from predominance of wildlife to livestock. Even the bovine mix is changing from almost exclusive Angus to Hereford and Charolais that I saw on the route today. I am starting to see more of the black and white splotch painted Holstein dairy cows as well.
As you may have noted, I enjoy the watching the fowl along the route. Besides the increase of waterfowl in the area, the fields were still great sources to spot casts of Hawks and covey of Grouse. But the highlight of my ride today was seeing several ringneck pheasant explode from the long roadside grasses and drag their long tail feathers into the rows of corn. Their golden plumage, bright green head and distinctive red wattle are a sight to see in flight.
One final major change over the last two days. The first three full weeks of evenings and nights have been special for many reasons, but one distinctive reason I have not mentioned before. No bugs. I have not had to apply any Deet spray for the first 21 days. With the advent of the wetlands yesterday, that changed with introduction of Mosquitos. I understand the roads the next couple of days will be flat and dry, so hopefully the Mosquitos may be temporary. However, the lakes of Minnesota are a few days away and my guess is I will be going through some spray.
On to Fargo tomorrow.