There were no eggs, but there was a lot of bakin’ – in that the weather was forecast for mid 90’s Fahrenheit, humidity of a similar level and not much chance of rain in the forecast. Perfect conditions for a solo bike ride of about 100 miles, right?
JOM of Gravel Cyclist was in the mood for exploring roads on Saturday, 11th July, 2015 and organiz(s)ed a route that would follow our marvelous Suwanee River Cruise route – just over 70 miles, albeit with a few tiny modifications. This idea was proposed to the other lads of the G.C. crew, but sadly there were no takers. They were busy with other obligations or out of town. In a situation like this, it is normal for one to up the mileage and ride solo, right?
All was going well the morning of, until JOM underestimated how much time he should allow for loading the bike and other sundry crap into the car. As a result, he didn’t begin riding from Branford, Florida until 9am. Already it was very hot, with humidity off the chart, and very little cloud cover. This meant the air conditioning would be running full blast – aka jersey fully unzipped, flapping open.
One of the tweaks to this route, was to forgo the stop ordinarily made in Mayo, Florida, seat of Lafayette County. At approximately 23 miles along the route, Mayo came a little too early. Rather, a new store stop, popular among the cave diving community, had been found in Luraville (so small no Wikipedia article exists) approximately 30 miles in – the Luraville Country Store. Some people may think that stopping after 30 miles of cycling is a bit weak. But, when one has burned through 30 ounces of a 40 ounce two bottle stash (approximately 1.18 litres) in this short space of time, stopping is wise. For the record, JOM normally eschews use of a Camelbak.
Following Luraville, Florida, Dowling Park was the next community along the route. According to Wikipedia, there were 7,604 residents in the area as of July 2007. I (JOM) don’t know if the residents were hiding out, but I barely saw a soul when I passed through. Maybe they are seasonal boaters who hold a temporary residence along the Suwanee River? I had sufficient fluid on board, and kept pressing on.
The stretch of route following Dowling Park was heavily shaded, perfect considering the rising temperatures and sun at this time of the day. If you’ve not ridden beneath a tree canopy, you are in for a treat. The temperature drops at least 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and provides a pleasant respite from the blazing rays of the sun. Unfortunately, the wind was kicking up a bit, mostly into JOM’s face, making for slower than usual progress.
The next middle-of-nowhere store stop came somewhere along FL-51, a mostly flat road that links Mayo, Florida to Live Oak, Florida. I have no idea what industry resides near this location, but it sounded like a jet engine test site. Must be most pleasant if you reside on a farm in the area. Regardless, the chemical hydration I (JOM) guzzled tasted awesome and was much needed; just a shame there wasn’t much ambiance in the area to enhance the experience.
Mile 62 to mile 92 were a rough affair. In hindsight, I (JOM) should have stopped to rehydrate again, at another convenience store along the route. Unfortunately, I chose not to, and the 40 ounces of fluid aboard my bike were depleted by mile 82. Thankfully, there were only ten miles of chugging before the final store stop, but it was a very slow ten miles. I kept myself somewhat sane by converting the remaining route mileage between kilometres and miles – just the things one normally does when you crack completely in the heat.
O’Brien, Florida could not have come fast enough. I (JOM) will spare readers the details of whatever hydration was consumed, but it contained enough sugar to make the remaining seven miles back to Branford, Florida.
Overall, an absolutely fantastic route. Would I (JOM) ride it again? For sure. Do I recommend exploring new roads? Definitely – but utilize resources like online mapping software. Had I ridden this route without sufficient planning, meandering without a care, I would have run out of fluid far from anywhere, and could have been in serious trouble.
More about route planning in a future Beginners article! Thanks for reading!