Today started out in Ocala at the Best Western where I stayed last night. The peace and quiet of the hotel was just what I needed after my accident yesterday. One of the best things about staying at Best Western is the free breakfast. I wolfed down 3 of these bad boys before I hit the road today! The ride today was very pleasant and thankfully uneventful. There were even a few hills in the middle of the day to add some variety into the usually pancake-flat Florida terrain.
The route to Gainesville. ~50 miles today.
The main goal today was to make some distance north. I wanted to set myself up for my visit to the Kanapaha Prairie which will occur at 7:30 tomorrow morning. As I was going to be in Gainesville for the night, several people suggested that I check out the La Chua trail at Payne's Prairie State Park in the afternoon. Both Kanapaha and Payne's Prairies are "wet" prairies. They are very large, very flat pans that are almost completely covered by shallow water. This terrain concentrate waders, rails, cranes, and, at least today, owls! I was riding into the trailhead along the edge of a field when a Barn owl (#250) flew out and went right over my head. It did not perch so I had to settle for a quick flyby view. A few minutes later I heard 2 Barred owls calling back and forth (#251) from one of the hammocks around the Prairie perimeter. I did not expect to find any new birds today, so I was pleasantly surprised to find two year owls in the middle of the day!
Payne's Prairie was just a fantastic place. There is a very nice boardwalk that snakes through the wet areas, and there is even a skinny grass trail that gets you right down onto the ground. The are alligators everywhere. They crawl right up onto the path, and you must use great caution to avoid them. I did not have any problems, but I can tell you it was weird to be 10 feet from them with nothing in between us!
Payne's Prairie boardwalk over a marshy bit
The more typical flat lands with shallow puddles everywhere
Taken with iPhone, not my real lens!
I was really tired after wandering around Payne's Prairie today. I can tell that the year is really starting to take its toll on my body. I rest at night, but that's it. I am stuck out in the heat all day long unless I go into a place to eat lunch. It is hot here now and will only get hotter as I move west. The days are getting longer as well which compounds this problem. There is no air conditioned car in which I can shelter and recharge. I knew this year was going to be a long road, but for the first time I am starting to really feel it as I approach just the 1/4 mark of 2014. I am just going to try to keep plugging away while riding a reasonable number of miles each day. Tomorrow I've got about 60, so we'll see how that goes.