The Heavyweight Champion & the Baby Stroller

Winter in Florida is not all about snowbirds thawing out stiff limbs. There are loads of drifters and adventurers floating around too. Here are three of the most eccentric that we have come across…

Phil the ‘Turtle’ makes us look like lightweights. His latest ride is a rock solid, industrial strength Worksman delivery bike, hand welded to tow a lumbering box trailer (which was adapted from a jet-ski trailer). In his box of tricks he hauls a full-size car battery, solar panels, weather-band radio, walky-talky radio, CD collection, hard covered books, and electric blanket.  All up he has over 400lbs of gear with only his coaster brakes to slow him down!! During the last 32 years he told us he has cycled over 300,000 miles through every state in America (pushing his heavy rig over the Rocky Mountains). The only thing stopping him from claiming his Guinness World Record for ‘most distance travelled by bike’ was his brother’s girlfriend who threw out his collection of Atlases documenting all of his travels. Phil’s ramblings around America are funded by his knife sharpening skills. Along with lots of route recommendations he gave us a demo of his hand powered bench grinder and donated one of his hunting knives to us. Phil was such a chilled out character with a flair for storytelling – a legend of the road.

When I first saw Milton I thought he was rather odd. What kind of Dad pushes his baby stroller along the side of an extremely busy highway? Then when we met him further down the road I realised his baby stroller wasn’t carrying a baby after all, but all his supplies for a cross country adventure. Milton is currently walking and running his way from Miami to Los Angeles for ECYE – a charity that educates and empowers young people in developing nations. To make it even more difficult for himself he is trying to do it all within 100 days. So far he is averaging around 30 miles a day, but is hoping to step it up to 35-40 miles per day by Texas. To donate to his charity and find out if he beats us across the country visit his blog at http://www.100daysofmadness.com

Allen was seeking refuge from hurricane Katrina when he said he received a warning from above. He followed his impulse and jumped out of his tent just in time to avoid a giant tree crashing down upon him. That night he had a dream that he should cycle for Jesus, which is what he has been doing ever since. On his simple single speed Schwinn he has pedaled over 15,000 miles. He funds his travels around America with donations and odd jobs.

Manatee Springs, Florida

Creative commons photo

We dropped down to the Manatee Springs State Park in Florida hoping to be able to spot a manatee. Manatee’s are big lovable sea cows that swim up into the warmer waters of the river hot springs during winter. Don’t you just want to give one a hug?

Unfortunately we didn’t spot any manatees, but we did make some other friends of the forest…

We met the luckiest deer in Florida, who were very happy to be avoiding the guns and hounds of hunting season. They knew it too, walking right up to our tent to see what was going on. Meanwhile some cheeky raccoons kept us up most of the night as they performed acrobatics trying to get into our waterproof dog food bag (which is now not so waterproof).

Manatee Springs State Park was a detour off our ACA Southern Tier route, but well worth it. Swimming in the ‘hot springs’ (or more accurately ‘tepid springs’) among roosting vultures and gnarled oaks draped in Spanish Moss was magical.

The Road Trip

We loaded everything we own into a rental van and drove down the east coast of America from Maine to Florida. We were very happy to find out there was way more room than we thought – in fact Jack and Paco had lots of room to spread out.

Along the way we dropped into New York City, where Jack was a big hit with the friendly New Yorkers. Christmas was spent enjoying sushi in one of the lovely city parks of Savannah, Georgia. The road trip ended in Florida, the Sunshine State, where of course we were greeted by two days of rain! Now, on with the ride!

Waiting for The Weather Gods

The wild weather is following us! First up, our ride from Nova Scotia was delayed by around a week by heavy rains and winds. This was our friend’s village an hours drive away…

Then during out stay in Saint Stephen, New Brunswick, heavy snowfall was followed by days of intense rain.

The Saint Croix river, which forms the border of New Brunswick, Canada and Maine, USA was raging with all of the extra melt water and run-off. Thankfully we were safe and sound under a warm roof, but others were not so lucky. Cars and roads were washed away and gas pumps, stores, and houses went under water. It was the worst flooding the area had seen in decades, and fears of a dam bursting had the surrounding towns poised for evacuation. It seems we had overstayed our welcome. It was clearly time to head south.

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin…

Spending time with our friend Sheryl’s five boisterous children on the border of New Brunswick/Maine was a constant party, although sometimes more tiring than a long day in the saddle.

The youngest boy, Trustim is blessed with a wild imagination that made us remember just how much fun it was to be a kid. After getting bored with cutting paper snowflakes for the Christmas tree Trustim decided it was time to play hairdresser. He was going for the asymmetrical look and lopped the right side of both his younger sister’s golden locks. I thought it looked avant-garde and showed some emerging talent. Mama bear was not impressed.

On another occasion Paco disappeared while we were bringing the Christmas tree in through the front door. Zoa went into a fluster, searching the house, before running out into the streets, calling his name across the dark neighbourhood. No Paco. By the time we returned home Paco had magically re-appeared. Three year old Chaylie, who was truly in love with our dogs, had hidden Paco in her bedroom closet keeping him all to herself! Jack was too big to be hidden, so he was turned into a princess instead…

Now, check out the gingerbread houses of the fantastic five, and our attempt at a gingerbread castle…