Making a right in Jacksonville

After a convivial weekend with family, who pulled out all the stops (and made fun of my glove tan lines, which…fair enough!), it was time to hop back on the bicycle Tuesday morning. I made my way across Jacksonville itself, watching the neighborhoods change and give way to industrial areas before ducking onto the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail, a placid 14 miles before I connected back onto Route 90. A road cyclist going the other way on the trail turned around to ask questions and chat, as did another roadie who saw me ahead on 90. He slowed down for a bit to speak about the trip and I learned about his house in Maspeth, Queens before he resumed his normal pace.US 90 is probably the most straightforward way across this part of the country by bicycle and makes for pretty good riding with a fair amount of truck traffic. My maps follow it often but also detour where less-trafficked roads are available or have more services, so I’ll play things by ear. On Tuesday, for example, I hopped off 90 towards the town of White Springs. I had received the combination to the Suwannee Bicycle Association’s headquarters there. After getting somewhat settled, I saw a couple guys out front of the clubhouse and joined their conversation: it turned out one of them was a mountain bike instructor and grew up here and the other was from NJ but traveling and working by van and that day was riding some mountain bike trails nearby. The former gave me some directions around town and I visited one of the springs by the river, with the remains of the surrounding bath house, and walked a bit around town. White Springs bills itself as Florida’s first tourist town and used to have quite a few hotels, but as the surrounding aquifer drained out the spring became inactive; Interstate 10 also drew most traffic out of town. White Springs does have a yoga studio, though, and thinking I could use a stretch I returned to the clubhouse and asked if it was active. The answer was yes, and the classes were taught by the MTB instructor’s stepmother. The three of us agreed to meet at the class later that evening. Somewhat surprisingly in such a small town, it proved to be a well-attended session. Afterward I and the other Jersey native were invited up for dinner, which included fresh kale from the garden, with some friends of theirs. We discussed the SBA and bicycles a bit but also spoke at length about the history of the town and its future. The clubhouse had an amazing kitchen but I was full of gratitude for the unexpected communal meal nearby.The next morning I continued west, the road signs offering zen koans about the route.I crossed a bridge as a train began to pass below.Soon I took a break in Madison at a sandwich shop opposite the county courthouse (which to my untrained eye appears to have ample grain storage) before continuing through Greenville, former home to one Ray Charles.Next I arrived in Monticello (in Jefferson County), where 90 circled around the central square. Monticello also has a historic opera house and a few cafes open at different times of the day: I stopped at one this afternoon and may grab something to go tomorrow on my way out: tonight I’m staying at a former goat farm just north of town so I’ll double back in the morning before again riding west!

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