Day Five

Last night at dinner, just after I had published the account of Day Four (link below) for which the email system misfired, only sending out notices to a few subscribers, Ken, James and I had a conversation that determined today’s route and set the pattern for future course decisions. The process of choosing routes and daily destinations is deceptively complex; I think we finally got it right.

As background, understand that determinative factors, like weather, exhaustion and closed roads, can and do change daily. Last night, we were weighing whether we can get to Charleston before Ken has to return to New York. We had already decided that we should have a rest and exploration day in Savannah, which none of us has seen, and at 330 miles (the shortest, ugliest route to Savannah from where we were) that ciity looked at least three very hard days away, or maybe four easier days in which we could take prettier, non-distance-optimized routes totaling, say, 380 miles.

Then there was the question of whether the ride from Savannah to Charleston would take one day or two; Garmin Select was suggesting a 146 mile route, just beyond what we would try to do in a day. Problem was, four days to Savannah, a rest day then two more to Charleston added up to one more day than Ken is confident that he has – and he wants to see Charleston.

As further background, we have come to distrust bicycle mapping programs. On my cross country ride five years ago, Map My Ride mislead me regularly, telling me to take roads that didn’t exist or had been closed for construction or were private and impassible. I had assumed that the algorithms had gotten much better since then, but on Day Two Garmin Connect told us to take a nonexistent road and we had a similar problem with Ride with GPS on Day Three.

Such mapping problems leave us searching for another, always longer, route while on the road. Thus a 110 mile ride can easily turn into a 120 mile one (which is why the idea of doing 330 miles to Savannah in three days was concerning – that distance would already be a stretch, and any detours would make it a killer).

In the event, James saved us one day (and set an important precedent) by finding a website that has rider reviews of point to point rides, including one praising a 106 mile, regularly ridden route from Savannah to Charleston. This find convinced us that covering that distance in a day would be no big deal after a rest day – unless we get terrible weather – which in turn allowed us to happily plan a much prettier and less risky 4 day ride to Savannah, while giving Ken high confidence of making it to Charleston. The key is that our level of confidence in a prose review of a particular route, written by a rider, is much higher than it is in a purely map/algorithm-generated route.

Consequently, we decided to take four days to get to Savannah, with somewhat shorter and vastly prettier daily routes than would have been the case if we had had to do it in three days.

Ken then improved the process in a different way: he used Strava’s heat maps of cyclists’ favorite routes between Melbourne and Daytona Beach, where we are now, to lay out a stunningly pretty 96 mile ride, then downloaded turn by turn directions of that route into his on-bicycle Garmin device so we could follow the route while rolling. Pretty nifty.

If you were to check out the map and data from today’s ride
you would find first that we followed a route that was often within a block of Route One, but rarely on it. The roads we followed were generally residential on one side, with the wide Indian River on the other. The homes were not as opulent as the ones we had passed in previous days, but they were very nice. Interestingly, an astonishing number of them still proudly display Trump signs (including some of the ‘don’t blame me, I voted for Trump’ variety) or Trump flags, some for 2024. In any event, the riding on those roads was delicious: good pavement, no cross streets, very little traffic and lovely vistas.

The best part of the ride was a 30 mile off-road trail on what had once been a railroad right of way through a swampy nature preserve.

Ken and I (James was in the van on a real road) hoped to see some gators along the side of the path, but didn’t. We did have a nice experience that could have been exactly the sort of route disaster I described above, though: 11 miles into the trail, it was closed for construction, theoretically requiring us to reverse course. There were eight or ten construction guys digging a trench from swamp to swamp across the path with heavy equipment, and they completely blocked the way. They very kindly, if gruffly, moved their equipment to let us through on my promise that they would never see us again. The ride through the forest/swamp/fields was glorious.

The stats would also tell you that we were very, very fast today, with an average speed of 17mph in spite of many slowdowns through towns, at lights, etc. The real rolling speed must have been 19 or 20.

No, we haven’t suddenly gotten much stronger. We had a screaming tail wind all day long. It was very pleasant, but we’d be fools to expect that luck to be repeated any time soon.

M.H. Johnston

5 comments to Day Five

  • DOUG  says:

    Great post

  • Dennis Paine  says:

    Not bad to not encounter any gators.

    However the reviewer who posted that 106 mile Savannah-Charleston review deserves a shout-out.

  • Rob A.  says:

    Keep going strong!

  • Lewis Runnion  says:

    I happen to be in the Everglades fishing this week and also saw no gators. The guide tells me they are in process of reproducing and have sought more private settings for such occurrences. Ride safely!

    • M Johnston  says:

      Fun. Watch out for pythons, though.

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