After traveling less than a mile I spoke to a fellow working in his yard. A few minutes later I was being given a tour of John’s tropical backyard, filled with fruit trees, bananas, palms, and herbs. He had created a shady and eatable landscape.
Returning to my bike I told him “this is what touring on your bicycle should be like. It isn’t about how many miles you ride, it’s about the things you see and the people you meet along those miles.”
I also told him about a doctor friend of mine who has been riding for a very long time. Earlier this year, this friend joined in the annual Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG). When I told him that I’d like to see his pictures, his reply was “I didn’t take any.” As I was shaking my head, he said “there was this cool old covered bridge, I wish that I would have stopped for a picture.”
It had been nearly ten years since I was last on this little-known bike path paralleling Barna Road, which is also known as the Wuestoff Trail since it begins across from the entrance to Wuestoff Park, which you can use for trailhead parking. It was good to see my old friends were doing well: the oaks, hickory, and sand pine trees, the beautyberry, sumac, prickly pear, and poison ivy. All happily living along their sand ridge, part of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, and a unique area where the rare and endangered Titusville mint grows.
The trail is a winding pathway through the wild near the top of this yellow sand ridge. I noticed something different, something I remembered from earlier rides along this way. Part of the hill was missing. The yellow sand mound was reduced to a yellow sand bowl. Why would anyone dig up and remove such a beautiful place?
Back in the neighborhood, it was different as well. It wasn’t what was missing, it was what was there. Houses where there once was forest. Both sides of the once empty road now were covered by houses.
As I neared the intersection of a very busy road, Columbia Boulevard, I turned around, wanting to avoid the perils of vehicles cutting me off. When I moved into town over thirty years ago, neither this road or light existed. Now it has become a major north-south artery.
Again forgetting my water bottle, and using a one liter tea bottle to carry water. I decided to try to cut through one of these new neighborhoods to get to a nearby conveience store. Two dead ends later, I gave up and hoped that water would be available at the Homer Powell Nature Center in Wuestoff Park.
My legs were reminding me that I haven’t done much riding in the last six months. When I started up this side of the ridge, I was breathing heavy and my heart was pounding, even while using many of my lower gears.
Not far from the top there a nice bench in the shade. I took advantage of it for a rest, a text to Sandy, and a selfie. Including this one, my selfie count has to be nearing a half a dozen. It is difficult to get both me and the beard in the picture, but I’m not going to start carrying a “selfie stick.” I have to draw the line somewhere.
Back to where I had started on the trail, I continued in the opposite direction, into Wuestoff Park and up to the Homer Powell Nature Center. I’d never ridden through this park, although Sandy and I had hiked the trail. But I knew Homer Powell for many years through Scouting.
Stopping near the restrooms and nature center, I looked for a water faucet. The center was locked but the restrooms were open. Adding water to my one liter tea bottle took a bit of creativity. It needed to be folded in half to fit below the faucet. Half a water bottle, half the water. I drank as much as I could before topping it off one last time for the ride home.
The trail ended in the back of an older neighborhood. Back to the sidewalk that would take me back to my own neighborhood and home.
With less that a mile to go, I noticed John – the fellow with the tropical backyard – riding toward me. Maybe talking to me this morning inspired him for a short ride himself.
As I rode up my driveway, the odometer read 9.7. It wasn’t the ten miles I was planning on, but with a heat index of over a hundred degrees, it was close enough for me.