Day 40 – A Rare Rest Day – Chillin’ with the Manatees (December 11, 2020)

Night 40- Tallahassee, FL (rest day)

Yeah. Our legs needed a rest. Everything else was just incredible.

Waking up in a tent isn’t so bad when you have nowhere to be anytime soon. Our host Ingolf had already provided an incredible night of food, drinks, and fire. Our fellow cyclist/guest Stephanie somehow had energy to spare even after pulling 107 miles the day before. As a laid in my tent I debated whether to get up and relight the fire or just lay there and write first. Well I love a good fire. I’m sitting in front of one right now.

Drawn by the flame, people started waking up and coming around. Ingolf came down with coffee and muffins before making breakfast. This guy had hosted a ton of people before and knew what we needed. I just wake up too early. Breakfast followed with us all going over plans for the day. Stephanie needed to grab a new chain and wanted to find the library. Russell and I both had some clicking noises to deal with in our cranks. Ingolf had some meeting at 11. After which he wanted to take us to Wakulla Spring/park.

Plan set. Meet back at the house and leave at 2pm.

Stephanie found the library and some awesome doughnut shop. She got her new chain, but we agreed to help her with it later. Russell and I went to a bike shop called Bike house. These guys have a very similar product and set up as Bicycle Recycle that we worked with in Williamsport. Both shops helped us out in tremendous ways. Bike house was set to close at 12. But when we rolled in they gave us stands and tools and explained they usually close to the public at 12. Even our shop back home was open to us for extended hours. This was great. We took our time and got into some nitty-gritty stuff. The owner was even familiar with our home town and so we chatted quite a bit.

For those that don’t have the feeling of how time moves when you are busy in the shop, it vanishes quickly. You blink and it’s been 3 hours. So we hurried back to home base with 8 minutes to spare. Fortunately we were only a mile away and this part of Tallahassee is riddled with bike trails and bike friendly drivers. Incredible.

We made it back first, with Stephanie rolling in just a few minutes later. We packed into Ingolf’s car (masks on and such) and we are off to catch a boat.

Wakulla Springs is a pretty awesome sight with a wild source. The “lake” is the size of a large pond, maybe 100 yards across. The water is incredibly clear, so much so that you can see the bottom with just a bit of light. Except you cannot see the bottom of the spring. The massive hole spans most of that 100 yards and goes down about 180 feet. Then it turns toward the lodge on the shore and opens into a large room that then goes down to 300 feet below the surface. I believe the furthest down they have explored it was only about 350 feet because you have to switch to a re-breather and navigating underwater caves with those is incredibly dangerous.

The boat is a large flat bottom boat with room for 40 or 50 people. With three in the front, us four in the middle, and 4 in the back, we were all safely spaced out (masks on still). Being spaced out was nice because we were in for some sights all around.

Then between the nature of this incredible spring and the surrounding flora, this was a natural flocking spot for herons, egrets, ibis, and a palette of various other water foul. Our tour guide (and most of the people on the boat) was very knowledgeable and had a pretty keen eye. With a boat full of bird watchers we didn’t miss a thing.

After seeing many small flattened ones, Russell and I just wanted to see a live gator. And so we did. Check that off. Then the guide made mention of manatees. No dice, but we kept our eyes open knowing we wouldn’t see that as roadkill.

Throughout the bullrush, reeds, and Cyprus trees, there was plenty of wildlife. But there was one species the tour guide and everyone on board seem to actively ignore. Black Vultures. It was almost comical seeing as how there were a few hundred of them roosting in the same spot. “Oh look at the little duckies”… “yeah. But what about that looming cloud of massive black birds?” I can see how birdwatching in Florida is a bit more exciting than the north east because of the diversity, but it is still kind of hard to ignore these big guys.

As we circled back towards the lodge we had to turn on the gas motor as the current from the spring is pretty swift. We went into a small offshoot where two Tarzan movies and The Creature from the Black Lagoon were filmed. Pretty neat, but not a neat as the alligator eye-spy game we were all playing. 1 foot to 6 foot, they didn’t really have a care in the world.

Then we saw a manatee. It looked like young adult from its size, but it wanted nothing to do with our gas motor. Understandably so, these guys tend to catch boat props quite easily. Check that box off.

Then at the end of the tour it was time to go for a dip. Stephanie had made so many detours to various springs that she even had a mask and snorkel. Even low on space, we find room for fun. Just off the shore, there were a few large platforms with a roped off area for swimming. “Don’t play with the manatees” said the nearest sign. Oh well, guess we’ll just have fun jumping off the 2 story deck into the bottomless pit.

I’ll admit, while I was the one most eager to jump from the high dive, I was the last to do it. It was a jump I’d done at various tough mudder events, but the feeling of my stomach in free fall comes back like the memory of the last thing you ate before you vomit. Can’t quite taste it without the rest of the memory. Stephanie jumped first, Russell went over (a few times), and I finally plopped in. When in Rome, jump into the cool body of water. This water was about 69 degrees year round. Pretty cool, but not shock the air out of your lungs. So we swam for a bit. A very exhausting thing if all you have been doing is riding a bike and standing for the last month+.

After we dried off we made our way into the massive lodge. Pretty cool building. The structure reminded me of Saint Augustine, but the wooden ceiling was hand pained with some form of native design. We also found ourselves at a chess table. I lost, but this time with an audience. So even better.

A car ride home, we didn’t have much planned aside from a new chain ceremony. What should have been a 10 minute swap for both of us turned into an hour of fun. Russell helped Stephanie tackle an issue with sizing and I messed up running my chain through my rear derailleur. The aggravating part was that without the pliers I shipped home (which only have this one purpose) the “quick-links” became a challenge.

Pizza arrived and we all just shared an evening of stories, planning, and enjoying the noise ordinance shattering music from some party a few blocks away. Thank you drum corps for teaching me how to sleep through light and loud music.

In the morning we are taking off for Chattahoochee. Only 45 miles to warm back into the riding life, but we also have a confirmed host. It seems that Stephanie will be riding along with us for this chunk. Her pace and destinations are a bit different, but a willing host and a chance to ride with people for once helped her when deciding. So for a day, we will ride as a pack and not a pair. A proper peloton.

Have a great day everyone. Hopefully today’s log wasn’t too boring. It was a much needed break and everything else was just extra. Breakfast is coming and the day is short. Don’t forget to take a dip in some cool spring or just enjoy a nice breakfast yourself.

As usual-

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