November 27 - Eustis, Florida

It's been entirely too cushy lately. Today, the easy cruising came to an end.

We have decided to ride across the Everglades. This means there will be a very long day the day we get to Miami. I had originally planned for Everglades day to be the last day before Jim gets on the plane to go home. We decided that we would be pushing it to get the bike packed and shipped before Jim had to go to the airport. So today we changed plans and decided to get in a day early. We skipped Daytona Beach, and headed directly to Mt. Dora, which was originally last night's stop. Today we rode 94 miles, up hills and into headwinds. It was gruelling. Jim is currently sound asleep, pretending like he's reading a book. It's 8:00 pm.

We are in Eustis, which is the next town before the goal of Mt. Dora. When we got to Eustis, there had been light showers for the last 10 miles, and there was this classic Florida motel, right next door to the China Buffet.

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The fact that this was obviously the perfect stop was reinforced when the skies opened up as soon as we got in the room. It's been pouring nonstop ever since.

Apart from the hills and wind, today was a very excellent day. We headed inland from St. Augustine. We were off the Adventure Cycling route all day, cutting corners so we could get a day ahead. The roads were all state highways, with wide shoulders and moderate traffic.

The first town we came to, Hastings, billed itself as the Potato Capital of Florida. It is surrounded by miles of potato fields, and at the center of it is a potato chip company

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The potato chip company is actually a big ranch and farm.

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At the town of Palatka, we headed south and rode for about 50 miles through Ocala National Forest. Most of the forest is scrubby stuff like this.

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Driving off road vehicles is very big in Ocala National Forest. We saw lots of country gentlemen with old four wheel drive pickup trucks with giant wheels jacked up so you need a stepladder to get in. There was one guy who had an especially old beat up truck who had a decal across the top of the windshield that said "HILLBILLY". (Jim: "Some things don't need to be said.") Every quarter mile his motor would surge and the truck would make a huge backfire. I am pretty sure this guy and his off-road buddies are "native Floridians".

After Ocala National Forest, you enter the orange-producing region. Here is the first orange grove of the trip.

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Here is the map of today's gruelling journey.

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