The Story Thus Far
The Way I was headed this Sunday morning was a meandering run first to the west. I had not been on the bike for days and just wasn't ready to fight a headwind at 10 A.M, so I took a morning boost to the West. After that I will turn right and feather my way into the Northeast, taking the wind on my starboard bow, angling in such a way that were I sailing I would be close-hauled and shouldering my way against wind and wave, doing some pounding and getting a bit wet. But not today; today I am only doing a little urban pedaling on a Long Ride.
Where I will turn right it is pretty far Out There on what was a Country Road when I first moved to this part of Florida almost thirty years ago; but that infamous housing bubble and those rascally mortgage companies fixed that. Now there are a lot of three story office buildings and strip malls and condos that sit eerily quiet on a brisk Sunday Morning, and I fear they are just as quiet for the rest of the week as well. But these buildings suit me just fine. They are dampening the effect of the wind and this shiny new wide commercial lane is empty and I am a ghost, a ghost cyclist pedaling fast to the Northeast and putting down miles. I am looking all around me and trying to remember what this place was like when I first saw it, but there is not much to remember. Cow pastures and huge oak trees, primarily, those huge moss-draped Live Oaks that I call Worship Trees, because on a really hot Florida summer day they are good to sit under, drink your water and say a prayer.
It's True: I Am A Druid
I look at one office building parking lot. There is a big For Sale sign out front, worn and peeling and forlorn. Just behind the sign is one of those big Worship Oaks, spreading its branches wide and shading an empty parking lot. Once it had shaded cattle lying underneath to escape the sun.
Progress Is Its Own Reward and the plight of those cows and realtors don't concern me this morning. Today I am all about the miles and going nowhere. This stretch will give me thirty miles of progress, thirty miles of angling up on this route and then I'll have fifty miles and then I'll turn South. That will put the wind on my Port quarter, a broad reach with a lift and I will ride to Ponce Inlet. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Today, so far, it is.
Florida is a Pirate Place, and we are still here, all around, everywhere, if you know how to look. (Some of the worst pirates used to sit in those empty office buildings; but they have taken their plunder and moved on.) Were you to enter the woods behind many of these buildings you will find a tent and a bicycle, sometimes two or three. They go by the name of the Homeless, but that ain't it. These are Florida Pirates, unshipped crew waiting quietly for a Captain and a boat and a horizon. These guys live outside normal society but they are here, all the same. Were you to give them a house to live in, you would soon enough find them sleeping out back around a smoldering bonfire.
Florida was founded by pirates. They called themselves explorers and Conquistadores, but if you ever ran into them on the high seas you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. One of the mightiest of these pirates was a diminutive little man with a giant ambition and a touch of the poet. His name was Juan Ponce deLeon.
I won't go into the history and story of Juan Ponce, not yet. I'm saving all that for a novel I'm working on about a couple of beach bum Hobie sailors who run into an old guy claiming to know where the Fountain of Youth is and who may or may not be Don Juan himself.
Today the only importance of the Spaniard Who Owned Puerto Rico is that an opening into the sea on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, an opening once known as Mosquito Inlet, was ultimately re-named Ponce Inlet and a Lighthouse was built there and a fishing fleet established and then, just like that, two hundred years go by and it has become an elegant tourist stop and an exclusive hideout neighborhood for retired corporate pirates.
My long Northeast trek is behind me. Those empty buildings did their job well enough, they efficiently blocked and tempered the wind and I am grateful for that; but I miss the pastureland. But what of it? Here now is Old Ormond Beach, once home to some of the greatest Pirates of all time, men with names like Flagler and Rockefeller. Here now is Ormond Beach and I am turning right again, the wind has not changed and I will get that bit of lift from a breeze that started out strong enough and is only growing stronger. This is cycling!
I know a park where I can sneak a beer and a banana and some honey roasted peanuts. The market where I buy these supplies is frequented by those guys I mentioned earlier. Their pirate-cycles are out front. They're buying beer too, and why not? Nobody here but us “homeless” guys.
Do Herons Fly At Night?Last night before the wine took over I had gone out behind the trailer with Daisy so we could do our business. There was a small bonfire and meat cooking on the grill. Looking up, I noticed the wind was pushing the palms around pretty good, and pushing the clouds out of the sky creating one of those crystalline nights when the stars twinkle and shimmer and seem close enough to touch. As I look two huge Herons fly over, pushed by the wind and looking not so much as though they are flying but rather hurtling through the sky, sent on a mission by whatever god deals with the ways of birds and leaving me (as always) glad just to be here.
I need a new saddle and often look longingly at pictures of Brooks B-17 leather beauties on the interweb, but what of that? I toss my empty beer can and banana peel and so on into the nearby trashcan, step from the bench of the concrete table where I am sitting (so that my feet do not touch the ground) and into the pedals. My old saddle is a cheap plastic thing I pirated from some other bike and is wrapped with black electric tape and so far this year I have put in almost 2500 miles sitting on that seat, so I think she will be good for a few more. It is about 26 miles to Ponce Inlet and that beer was good and the day is only getting better and my butt feels fine.
I will be following the River South to Ponce Inlet. The tide is unusually high, a result of that stiff East Wind trying to blow the Ocean over the barrier island and into the river. Helped by the gravitational pull of a nearly new Moon, the waves are lapping up over the seawall and there is salt spray misting across the road. The temperature is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit and I'm breezing along at 19 mph and I have to control myself to keep from bursting into song. I am a bit wary; the right combination of wind and wave could slap me down and off the bike and I am hard pressed to imagine a mishap I would cherish more.
This is a Blast! Pirate Cycling!
Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Pirate Hideout