The night of Tuesday the 28th I arrive at the Asheville greyhound station to catch my return bus to Atlanta, Georgia. I’m told the bus is running 30 minutes late, and because of this, I will assuredly miss my next transfer and my 5-hour bus ride will now take 13 hours.
I spend the next few days in Atlanta, recovering from my sleepless bus ride and finding the last piece to my outfit for a New Years party in Orlando, Florida. I ride out of Atlanta early the 31st, with a 7-hour ride ahead of me. I arrive in Orlando at sunset, where my friends Anthony and Dansir are hosting a New Years party. Arriving unannounced, I attempt to find a back way into their gated community. Failing to find one, I resort to accelerating toward the main entrance and killing my engine, allowing me to silently coast past their house at the entrance without drawing attention. After changing clothes and locking my riding gear to the bike, I make my entrance. Tonight’s party draws lots of friends I haven’t seen since I started my trip and a few even longer. Sara doesn’t show up until a few hours later. I catch her off guard, but she’s ecstatic to see me.
Sean (Orlando, Florida 12/31/2010)
The rest of the celebratory night goes well and by morning, the living room is an obstacle course of bodies and blankets over the floor and furniture. Saturday, the 1st, a feast is prepared by and for those who remain from last night. By sunset everyone has left for home, except for me. Do I have a home? It’s Sunday and I’m the last to leave. In a few hours, I return to Boca Raton, more than 4 months and 19,000 km (12,000 mi) since leaving September 1st. I hang around Boca Raton for a week, staying with friends and soaking in the sun, before taking off north on the 11th.
Cici taking refuge from the sun under a Red Stripe cape (Boca Raton, Florida 1/5/2011)
I make a last minute decision to stop in Lake Worth before leaving Palm Beach County to visit and stay with a friend, Cici, for a night. One night turns into two, which also allows me to visit other friends in the neighborhood.
Strangler fig (Lake Worth, Florida 1/12/2011)
I get back on the road the 13th for less than an hour of highway to reach my home town, Stuart. Despite arriving without a confirmed place to stay, there’s a comfort to returning to where I grew up. I no longer have to look at maps or my GPS when I drive, I know all the back roads, I’m rarely further than a 10-minute drive to the beach, and although many friends and my parents have long left this area, I still have a few close friends who remain that would assuredly make room for my stay.
The evening of the 15th I join a friend, Sean, to a birthday party in Fort Pierce held for one of his friends from fire-fighting class. We bring the fire toys and put on a show with poi, staff, and fire breathing. Similarly to the incident in Texas a few months ago, while trying to put out one of my flaming poi, my grip slips and I send it flying into the air. This time, however, it lands in one of the worst possible places. I turn around and look up to see it stuck hanging in a Sable Palm tree. The chain is wrapped around a dead branch, with the wick dangling only a few inches lower. The tip of the flame is licking the branch, threatening to send the entire tree of dry palms aflame. Above the tree is an electrical pole and a transformer. A wave of awe overtakes us all for a few seconds as I glimpse the many possible negative paths into the future if hesitation is allowed to keep us frozen. I leap the neighbor’s fence. In my attempt to climb the tree, the dead palm branches I try to pull myself up with rip off the tree, sending me back to the ground. I can’t get more than a few of the 15 feet I need to reach the poi. I’m surprised that at a house of firefighters there is only one other person trying to help by attempting to climb the tree. I yell for a hose. Someone comes running from behind the house, but is snapped back by the lack of slack, about 20 feet too short. Realizing the other guy is too heavy and the hose can’t reach, I attempt another climb, knowing I’m probably the only one going to get this down before the tree goes up in flames. I created this situation and I’m going to end it. I adjust my climbing method to pull the dead branches outward instead of down, and with great effort, quickly scale the tree. As I near the top, I feel small water droplets from the hose hitting my face and arms. I grab the poi and quickly hand it down to Sean to be extinguished. I jump down from the tree, relieved, and return to the yard of cheering onlookers. I make use of the last few mouthfuls of Ultra Pure lamp oil to breathe fire and start the bonfire. This is quickly nuked when a circling helicopter and police in patrol cars raid the back yard (who just stroll in because no gates were closed or locked). If only our dugout pit had bricks around it.
Weevil (Fort Pierce, Florida 1/15/2011)
morning I pull up to the house of friends Becca and Tom, in Fort Pierce. Tom has the day off work, and his friend invites us out on his boat. We make an entire day of fishing, boating, and island exploring in the intracoastal waterway of Vero Beach.
Our craft for the day (Vero Beach, Florida 1/16/2011)
Island in the intracoastal (Vero Beach, Florida 1/16/2011)
Biggest trout of the day (Vero Beach, Florida 1/16/2011)
Hurricane shipwreck (Vero Beach, Florida 1/16/2011)
Too deep of a venture to recover (Vero Beach, Florida 1/16/2011)
Everything but the engine is gutted (Vero Beach, Florida 1/16/2011)
Good ocean surf springs up on the 19th, so Austin and I cruise out to Tiger Shores beach with a few longboards. It’s a perfect day- a clear sky with a gentle westerly wind and 2-4 foot swells. Austin and I catch a few waves before our friend Julia arrives along with her friend, Kelsey. We give them the boards and I bring out the camera.
Kelsey and Julia (Stuart, Florida 1/19/2011)
Paddle! (Stuart, Florida 1/19/2011)
A lil wave (Stuart, Florida 1/19/2011)
hoop practice (Stuart, Florida 1/19/2011)
Fun with Austin’s 1994 Honda z50r (Palm City, Florida 1/21/2011)
Wee (Palm City, Florida 1/21/2011)
Me (Palm City, Florida 1/21/2011)
Austin (Palm City, Florida 1/21/2011)
Austin (Palm City, Florida 1/21/2011)
Macroalgae and sand (Stuart, Florida 1/24/2011)
Honey Bee (Palm City, Florida 1/27/2011)
With my time in Florida coming to a close, I bid farewell to my friends, and hit the highway on the 28th to Orlando, where I spend the weekend with friends Anthony and Dansir. Monday, the 31st, I set off to Gainesville to stay the night with a friend, Brittany, whom I haven’t seen in years. I get an early start the 1st, and bypassing Jacksonville, arrive in Atlanta a day ahead of schedule.
Some may ask if this is the end of my trip. My reply would be I don’t know. This is certainly a turning point, but not necessarily an end. But, if it is an end, then my only recourse is to look for a beginning elsewhere. I still aspire to traverse South America, but that will have to wait for another place and time, and perhaps with another bike. A final post will ensue that details my impressions and thoughts about the last 5 months, and where I plan to go from here. Until then, I’d like to thank all of you that followed and supported me on this journey; those that have provided places to stay, cooked delicious meals, helped in diagnosing bike problems, and sent messages of encouragement.
Take what you will from my adventure and I hope it inspires you to seek your own.
Shpongle (Palm City, Florida 1/21/2011)