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I’d arrived in Pompano on Tuesday and had originally thought I’d be rolling out on Thursday. Having enjoyed my time there and with Noelle’s kindness, I stayed until Sunday, but then it was time to go. It was lovely relaxing, playing scrabble and going for a ride down the intracoastal with Tom, but the semblance of a plan had formed during my time and I’d got a new mirror so it was time to roll.

I’d been in touch with Patrick from Fanning Springs and it looks like I might be heading off on a route I randomly put together one day I opened up Google Maps. It’ll see me head north through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio at least and then maybe east depending on time and weather. If it were a couple of months later, it’d be a sensible plan, but no matter how much the Florida weather in the mid-80s wants me think it’s summer, it’s actually still winter. That means that further north I’m likely to face rain, sleet and generally cold days but after reading a bit of Alastair Humphrey’s first book (can be got for free from his site as a pdf) I decided I might as well head north and see what happens. I can always turn south-west at any time it gets too cold to keep going north.

Leaving Noelle’s, I made it back to A1A and was almost immediately glad to have my new mirror. The weekend warriors were out on their pack rides and on my way up to Palm Beach I probably saw more spandex than I’d seen in the previous months. Having my mirror meant I knew when they’d come up behind me and allowed me to accelerate in anticipation so I could try drafting behind them. Most days I’m riding along fairly effortlessly at 12-14 mph, but sat behind groups of lycra-clad riders meant I could go along at 18-20 mph for a couple of miles before my legs started to feel that burn you get when you push your threshold.

People often say I must be really fit having ridden as far as I have, but it’s really more about a willingness to sit on a bike and go. Although some people like to present their efforts to cycle tour as superhuman, I’m not fond of that. I think it’s a way to boost their own ego while scaring others away from a wonderful way to go from A to B. Riding with these others let me see that while I’m great at holding my low steady pace for hours on end, there are plenty of riders who can sustain higher speeds. They might not have a laden bike that weighs over 100 pounds, but if they wanted to they could. Finding the time and desire to get out is really more of a challenge for most than the encounters they will find when they ride.

Approaching Palm Beach, the other riders all seemed to turn west so I got the last few miles of riding past multi-million dollar homes by the Atlantic to myself. I had arranged to meet Mike, my Warmshowers host for the night, at Tropical Fruit Store. I rolled up and a couple of minutes later he and his friend Chris did too. Chris was amazed to hear about my adventures and the idea of someone cycle touring and while we sat down for some delicious juices I answered the usual range of questions. He had lots more to ask, but had to go and meet his girlfriend, so we arranged that if I was still in town the next day we’d meet up for a beer or three at the local Irish pub.

I was glad that Mike had ridden out to meet me, as it meant I got a guided tour back to his place. He not only took me down small residential backstreets that I’d never have known about otherwise, but could also point out places of interest that I’d have otherwise been oblivious to. That local touch is one of the many reasons why staying with people on Warmshowers is much better than going from motel to motel.

After I’d unloaded and cleaned up, I headed out with Mike to downtown Palm Beach. He’s a photographer and had a shoot. It gave me a chance to wander around the shopping district which was recently renovated and is really rather pretty. My plan had been to go and find a place to sit down and continue reading Moods of Future Joy, but was saddened to find my Kindle had decided to stop working. Instead, I went to Barnes and Noble and found my way to the libros del niño section and found myself engrossed in the book ¿eres su mi mama?

In the evening we went to a party at Mike’s brother’s place and I got to meet a variety of lovely people including Brian and his family from Connecticut who were interesting and if I make it up there our paths may cross again. Things like that are the real experiences that you get from meeting locals and having kind hosts, Warmshowers wins again.

Riding up the Atlantic Coast – windy

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