Happy Thanksgiving! I was thankful on this day that it didn't rain, and that the sun came out to heat things up. It was a beautifully clear blue sky. There were no clouds in sight, and the sun was hot and welcoming. I decided it was time to pull out the long pants to replace the cargo shorts I'd been wearing. It was pretty chilly in the shade with the wind blowing slightly. I pulled out my bag of clothes from my rucksack, and my stomach dropped. It was soaked. Everything inside the rucksack was completely soaked with icy cold water, down to the core. All my cold weather clothes were moist and cold, despite having covered it all with the tarp. What good is it for if not to stop water from getting through? I gave the tarp a disapproving look as you would a dog who tore up the trash. What did you do?! Well, this put a damper in my morning. Luckily the sun was shining, so I held off breaking down the tent, and used it, instead, as a clothesline. I hung up the clothes I would wear for the day, and stuffed the rest back into the rucksack. I'd deal with those when I reached some laundry place.
I sat down on my yoga mat to avoid the cold concrete, and drew for the first time this trek. I sat there in my Batman pajama pants, clothes air drying, in the middle of a field, on a concrete slab, drawing. I was happy. I was content.
Once my clothes were dry enough I decided it was time to hit up that McDonald's to finish writing and post my blog entry. I broke everything down and rolled out. When I reached the McDonalds, though, I found it was closed. Of course, it was Thanksgiving. People spend time with family on Thanksgiving, and places remain closed. I would have to postpone my posting until another day. On I went.
I finally hit Highway 17, which headed me north, and I realized this was where I'd calculated 100 miles! I made it to three digits' worth of miles. That felt like a momentous accomplishment worth celebrating. I saw an open Wawa across the street, so I decided a celebratory feast was in order. I got a hoagie and a soup, and celebrated on the curb behind the station. This was a good day.
I continued north up the road. I didn't go far before I saw a black jeep stopped up ahead, and a man coming out of it. I saw he was holding a black plastic bag as he headed towards the sidewalk I was on. "Would you like a hot turkey dinner?" he asked. I looked around to see whom he was addressing, and realized there was no one around except us. I stammered some kind of thanks, and his girlfriend came out of the jeep to join us. He hurriedly led the conversation, not giving me much of a chance to say anything other than "thanks, I really appreciate this," and before his girlfriend reached us, he was turning to go. He bumped into her for not having seen her, and they both got into their jeep and drove off with a quick "Happy Thanksgiving." His name was Scott, but I never got to talk to the lady. This was another situation I wished I could have said more, done more, but their wonderful gesture was not unappreciated. Having just eaten my Wawa feast, I tied the plastic bag to the DragonWagon, deciding it would make a great dinner.
I didn't walk two miles more before a guy on a motorized bicycle rode up behind me. I veered off the sidewalk to give him room to pass, but he stopped instead. He asked if I wanted some turkey, to which I declined, telling him I'd only just received some dinner. He insisted in me having it, so I accepted, overwhelmed by the sudden surge of kindness, and before I could say or do more, he rode off in the direction he came from.
I have to stop at this point, and really appreciate all that's happened on my journey. I have encountered so much unexpected kindness since I've started my adventure, that I'm completely overwhelmed. People have offered me so much help, assistance, meals, money, kindness, and well wishes that I don't know what to do with it all. It's filling me up with such gratitude I may soon explode. From the first kid, Sheradon, who gave me nuggets and $5, to sheriff McCue who offered me new wheels, to the family man who bought my breakfast, to Scott and the kid on the bike who gave me turkey dinners on Thanksgiving. This is not even mentioning my friends who offered me their couch for a few weeks, and my parents' never ending support. I have some serious karma to pass forward. I have a lot of kindness to give out before I feel balanced again. I am so thankful for each and every one of these people. I hope everyone receives this sort of kindness in their lives. The world is turning out to be a much better place than I'd expected. My faith in humanity is flourishing.
As I continued walking, carrying two turkey dinners, I came across a homeless man at an intersection, asking for help. I offered him one of the meals I'd been given. He thanked me for it, then said he could really use some cigarettes instead. I told him I unfortunately didn't smoke. I thought for a second I'd give him some cash, but decided not to since he'd be buying cigarettes with it. I was pleased that I gave him a meal, I didn't need to give him smokes. Maybe I should have, just to perpetuate the kindness train, but I felt it a better kindness not to. Maybe I'm wrong.
As the sun was getting close to setting, I started looking for a decent place to set up camp. The pickings were slim, since I'd reached Sanford and was close to downtown. I kept looking around as the sun got lower and lower, and the wind began to pick up a bit, dropping the temperature. I came to a cluster of trees, and turned in to check it out. There was a sign that said it was city property, and trespassers would be prosecuted. I went in to see if there were any decent hiding spots, but found none. I stopped for a minute to weigh my options. It was about to get dark and cold. I could try to set up here, and dodge the cold, but I'd be in serious risk of being seen. I could try to keep going, but I might not find anything better. I decided I couldn't stay there. I was about to stand up to go, when I heard some rustling behind me. I look at the tree I was sitting against, and there was a squirrel right by me. He stared right at me, still as could be. I slowly pulled out my camera, and he got a little curious about it. People here must feed the squirrels regularly, because he came off the tree and braved the ground right next to me. I held the camera in my hand as he assessed whether it would be good food, or whether he should even reach for it. This was a fun little interaction, I really enjoyed it. He eventually decided this was not food and that I was not worth the interest, so he scampered off back into the tree. I rolled on.
I continued up the road, until I came to some railroad tracks. I looked down one direction that looked too cluttered with buildings, then down the other direction, which looked like it had some residential areas. I looked at a building down the second direction that looked like an old abandoned warehouse. Seemed like the best option at this point, so I followed the tracks toward it. When I reached it I found it had a truck yard in the back, with a big opening in the fence. I passed through, I went to the corner. It was completely empty. The courtyard was fenced in all around, and there was overgrowth breaking through the concrete in several places. This place had been deserted for a long while. I checked to make sure no one else had gotten the same idea I had of making this a temporary home. Once my perimeter check was successful, I quickly set up camp as the sun disappeared beyond the horizon. I quietly thanked Scott and his girlfriend for the delicious meal I ate that night.
The courtyard was bare, so it did little to block any wind as it came in bursts. Inside my tent, the gusts inflated the tarp, which bellowed every time. It was a cold and periodically loud night. Every time the wind blew in, rustling and inflating the tarp, I woke up abruptly. At one point I couldn't sleep because the gusts had come too often, so I got up and looked at the sky. It was beautiful and clear. I looked at the stars for a while as I walked around the courtyard, and really appreciated the beauty of it all. What a grand adventure this had been turning out to be.
My fingers were a bit numb this morning as I rolled up my sleeping bag. It hadn't been as cold as the previous night, but the bursts of wind were not forgiving. I was a bit clumsy in breaking down the camp, and periodically had to stop to warm up my hands in my pockets. It was a bit of a cold start, and a bit sluggish. I considered avoiding concrete camping in the future, at least when the weather is cold. After I packed everything up, I headed out through the railroad tracks, back to the road.
I did a lot of constant walking this day. With the wind blowing consistently, I had little motivation to stop. I walked through Sanford, I passed a large lake that the road wound around, and then I came to a bridge. This looked like one of those bridges that interstates have, with the concrete walls, and the two lanes split individually. I didn't want to get on it only to find there was no lane I could use, then be blocked in with speeding cars by the concrete walls, so I looked for an alternate route. I saw a little side road that had a much smaller, older looking bridge at the end of it. It must have been the bridge that was used before this new fancy one had been built. The smaller bridge seemed to have the large iron girder structure on the sides, and was probably not used as much. I decided this was my better option. I took the small side road, which led to a park. I reached the small bridge, then realized why it seemed so much smaller. It only went halfway across the water, then seemed to be cut off. I got a little closer to get a better view. There was a sign at the entrance to the bridge saying something about it being a memorial bridge. They'd apparently cut out the other half to allow bigger boats to go by. Damn. I turned around back up the side road, heading to the bigger bridge. I tried to find any alternate route, but it seemed this bridge was the only one around. I went up it.
It was a hard push up the incline of the bridge, and my legs burned from having taken no breaks that day. Thankfully the side lane was as wide as a car, so I stuck close to the side wall, as far from traffic as I could be. I saw the smaller bridge off to the side, much lower down than the one I'd gone up. I reached the peak of the bridge and looked out at the lake. The view was magnificent. There was some other large bridge a couple of miles away, and the sun was reflecting beautifully off the water. It was a great sight, well worth the climb. The decline of the bridge was fun, with the DragonWagon pushing me from behind, trying to go faster than I allowed it. I was at a jog from the weight of it. I got to the bottom of the bridge and found I'd made it to DeBary "The River City."
After several more miles, and a few rumbles from my stomach, I came across the 4B's breakfast place. This was the only restaurant I'd found for a long while, so I decided to stop in. I rolled the wagon around back, and hid it behind the dumpster, between some trees. I walked into the restaurant, and was really relieved to find that they'd put the heater on inside. I ordered a hot chocolate, and enjoyed some delicious French toast and ham. A few more miles down the road I came across another McDonald's, and decided it was time to post the entry I hadn't been able to at the previous one a couple of days back. It took me a little too long to finish the post about the first three days, so I decided I would set up camp somewhere nearby and finish writing the rest in the morning. I found a perfect little spot behind a plaza full of doctors' offices. There was a hill next to a small lake, with trees and bushes hiding the camp from sight. The bushes also worked to block the wind, so I was particularly pleased with this location after the complications of the two previous nights. As I finished setting up and the sun was setting, I smelled something delicious. I realized I'd only eaten the one time for breakfast, and that I'd been walking all day, but my camp was already set up. I took a look around, and found that as the sunlight was dimming, my tent wasn't visible at all unless you walked right up on it. It was far enough out of the way that it seemed unlikely anyone would wander towards it, so I decided to risk it. This was the first time I would walk away from my set up camp site. It was risky, but I felt pretty confident with my concealed location. It was time for some dinner. Luckily, on my return, my confidence was met with confirmation, as no one seemed to have found my encampment. I got into my tent with a full belly, and was pleasantly surprised to find the inside was relatively warm. I was far enough from traffic that I couldn't hear it, and covered enough by bushes and trees that the wind couldn't reach me. This, so far, had been the most perfect spot to camp.
It was a beautiful sunrise over the lake in the morning as I broke down the tent. There was still a little chill, but it was nothing compared to what it had been the previous days. By all accounts, this was a great morning with a clear sky. I got myself over to the McDonald's early in the morning, and set up the DragonWagon just outside the window where I would sit and write this post. As I set myself up at the table, a couple of older gentlemen approached me, and started asking me about my trip. One of them, Trevor, was visiting from England, and his friend, whose name I regrettably don't remember hearing, was a US Navy Veteran. They were curious about the wagon, guessing I was prior military due to its organization. They seemed fascinated to hear about my reasoning for my journey, and when I told them I was writing about it, they asked for the blog. If you guys are reading this, thank you for your interest in my adventure and for your donation to my cause. I hope you guys enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it.
I am now just a few miles away from Scott's house, who invited me to spend a night. He used to be a coworker of mine, and is a good friend. I look forward to catching up with him. I'm now all caught up with my blog, and am anxious to see what the next few days have in store for me. Once I leave Scott's place, which is in Deland, I'll be heading to Ocala. The route I've chosen will cut through the Ocala National Forest, so I'm looking forward to that. Here goes Day 6!