“Well, today was supposed to be D-Day. I was supposed to have made it to the east coast by day’s end. I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in myself for not having finished today. But..... the people I have encountered and the support that I have experienced along the way has greatly outweighed any and all feelings of disappointment and frustration. So on we go...
Today’s ride was a long day in the saddle. I felt the aftereffects of yesterday’s push. My legs felt very heavy all day. But the pedals kept turning. One of the firefighters, Hunter Kyser, who was from the Daphne Station I stayed at last night, told me that his family owns a fish shop down in Robertsdale. It just so happens that it landed on my route along the way. So I popped in about an hour and a half into the ride to pay him a visit. He gave me the lowdown on how some of the fishing supply works down here. Pretty interesting stuff knowing the timeframe of what “fresh fish” really means. I’ll let you do you own research on that. Don’t worry, your health isn’t in any danger. He also steamed up some shrimp for me to give me a little protein boost. Thank you Hunter for your generosity and conversation.
I continued on and crossed the Florida state line a little later in the morning. That makes our 8th and final state of the journey. I sat there for a moment reflecting on how far the roads have taken us. Florida seemed so far away when we first started this journey. Seeing the little blue dot on google maps all the way out here was a tremendous feeling. But the day wasn’t done. I still had hours of riding ahead of me.
I had some headwinds in the beginning of the ride. There were also quite a few smaller rolling hills. Not something I expected in Florida. Towards the midpoint of the ride there was a lot of construction. There were crews doing work to widen the road so a large portion of the highway had been freshly paved but was still closed off to normal traffic. So I was able to ride along a perfectly smooth road for several miles with no traffic to bother me. It was rather nice. A lot less stressful than having cars pass me constantly. I sat down for a quick lunch a little after my halfway mark and hopped back on the road. From there on out I pretty much just kept my head down and pedaled away.
I made it into Crestview just after sundown. As I rolled up to the fire station, there was a gentleman waiting outside to greet me. When I finish my rides after pedaling all day, my mind is completely in another place for several minutes and I have to reset my mental state. The gentleman says “What’s up dude!”. That hasn’t been something I’ve heard this entire trip. So I refocus on who is talking to me and it turns out it’s a guy I used to be a firefighter with back when I worked for CAL FIRE in Riverside County. His name is Kevin Walters and he had moved out to Florida a few years back. Coincidentally, he works for the fire department I decided to stop at for the evening. Imagine the odds of this random meeting happening. This journey has had some amazing surprises. Not to take away from any of the other amazing experiences that I’ve had so far, but when you are meeting nothing but (friendly) strangers day after day and you finally get to see a familiar face, it is an absolute breath of fresh air. Being able to talk to and relate to Kevin with things from back home was so alleviating. He made sure to wear his California Republic shirt to represent and support the folks back home. He came in on his day off to be able to meet me and even drove me around to a couple stores to get some supplies. Thank you Kevin for making the effort to make me feel at home. It was super rad to be able to share this with someone along the way that I know personally. Something that I also found interesting was the station that Cory, Kevin, and I all first started at. The three of us all started at Station 25 in San Jacinto, all in separate years. The coincidences keep happening.
The folks at Crestview Station 3 were awesome as well. They invited me in and cooked a great lasagna dinner. One of the engines from another station came over to hang out as well. I shared Cory’s history and what I was riding for. There was one gentleman there that was very passionate in talking about his experience with PTSD. As a former member of the military, he said it has taken him years to recover from issues he was going through in the past. He said he still continues to battle them today. It seemed that everyone was onboard with the progression of how PTSD is being brought into the spotlight. Thank you to the Crestview Fire Department for you hospitality and generosity. It was great spending time with all of you.
Thank you to all of you who continue to offer support and motivational comments. There was one comment that talked about how I started this journey on a high note, then transitioned to being alone and eventually had some breakdowns going through the empty desert. But since then, through perseverance and with the help of others, things have grown and more and more people have become a part of this journey. Thank you Susan Clancy for you metaphorical expertise. This comment rings true with how life can be. You can be having the best moment of your life and then have it all stripped away in an instant. And you will probably feel very alone for some time. But you cannot give up. Persevere and reach out. In time and with patience, you will find support. You will find purpose. You will find meaning. Never stop, my friends.”
Day 31 donation total: $9,736
Great job Thomas!!!