Saturday, December 14, 2019


There was a fresh dusting of snow on the lawn when I went outside this morning.  That is the reality of living in Pennsylvania in December.  Technically, it is still Autumn...but the cold has pretty much set in...and even if it is not official yet...winter is here.  All this...making the sunny, seventy degree weather that Robin and I experienced last week in Florida...seems like a distant memory already.

Robin and I designated our last full afternoon in Florida as our beach day.  -- December 6, 2019

Every few years I'm able to save up enough personal days to join my wife, Robin, on her yearly, post-Thanksgiving Day trip to West Palm Beach, Florida.  The years that I can't go, she will fly down...but when I can...we make the 1,100 mile long drive from Manchester, Pennsylvania to South Florida.  The two of us found out a long time ago that we travel well together and...when we make this particular journey... we enjoy choosing a new place to stop and explore between home and West Palm Beach, Florida.  In past years, we've visited St. Augustine, Florida, Charlotte, North Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina...and this year, Augusta, Georgia. 

Robin enjoyed spending time with her relatives...Mitzi, Wayne, and Melanie -- Deecember 1, 2019

Augusta was chosen as our waypoint this year so that Robin could spend time with a few of her relatives and learn more about her family's genealogy.  We met, for the first time, her cousins Mitzi, Wayne, and Melanie.  Mitzi graciously opened her home to us and extended such incredible hospitality to the two of us.  She and Robin sat up into the early hours of the morning talking as if they had known each other all of their lives.  I enjoyed discussing my love of books and reading with Mitzi...and the super fun Breaking Bad conversations I had with Wayne.  After breakfast, while Mitzi and Robin talked and connected over family history, I pulled my Roubaix out of the back of the Silverado and decided to see what I could see.  Not intentionally...but so super nerdy and true to ride took me to the Augusta Canal Headgates and Locks.  Built in 1845, the Augusta Canal is the only intact industrial canal in the American South in continuous use.  From the head gates, I could see the still working locks system and look across the Savannah River towards South Carolina. nerdy...yet, so fun.

From Mitzi's house, I made my way to the head gates and locks on the Augusta Canal.  24 hours prior, I was leaving the cold and wet of Pennsylvania.  The sun and 70 degree temps of Georgia felt so amazing! -- December 1, 2019

 The Augusta Canal Headgates and Locks -- December 1, 2019

One of the locks (and some random locks) on the Augusta Canal. -- December 1, 2019

The only thing between me and South Carolina is the Savannah River! -- December 1, 2019

Riding over the Augusta Canal.  In the distance, you can see the head gates to the canal.  -- December 1, 2019

By three in the afternoon, Robin and I were on the road  headed for our week long stay in South Florida.  Along the way, we passed numerous cotton fields, multiple canals, palm trees, and other sights that just aren't seen at home...arriving at our place in West Palm sometime after midnight.   There's nothing like waking up that first morning in Florida, opening up the door to balcony, stepping out and feeling the warm Florida air and seeing the ocean.  The whole sensation screams, "I'm on vacation!"  For an entire week, Robin and I had our morning coffee and breakfast on the balcony just sitting and enjoying each moment.

The view Robin and I had each morning from our balcony. -- December 6, 2019

Since the middle of October, I've been pulling on my cold weather gear to head out for my bike rides.  It feels so liberating to be able to ditch my heavy gloves and Gore jacket...even if it is just for a week.  Gone, also are the hills and windy roads that I'm use to...replaced with flat, straight beach roads that direct me into a headwind no matter which direction my bike is pointed.  The Pennsylvania landscape of bare trees and plowed over farm fields are temporarily replaced with white beaches, palm trees, and crystal blue ocean water.  The salted streets were, for the time being, forgotten...and in their place was the salt in the air and sand in my drive train.  I managed to get out for a ride each of the days we were in Florida...cranking out well over 100 miles.  Robin came along for two of those in Jonathan Dickinson State Park and the other a ride to visit MacArthur Beach State Park.

With my bike on the Juno Beach Pier -- December 2, 2019

Riding through West Palm Beach, Florida -- December 3, 2019

Yeah...I rode past Mar-A-Lago while I was in West Palm.  Didn't piss at the gate....thought I'd get arrested.  -- December 3, 2019

Riding past Juno Beach -- December 4, 2019

In 2017, on our way home from Florida, I kept seeing signs for Jonathan Dickinson State I kept it on my radar for this visit.  Looking at the park's website, I noticed the many trails for both hiking and biking...which automatically peaked my interest.  Always looking for a new place to hike, Robin and I visited the park twice.  On our first visit, we chose to hike on Kitching Creek Nature Trail.  The landscape was something that I just wasn't use to.  I thought it was quite beautiful.  Robin described it as romantic.  The flat swampy in lands reminded me of some of the plateau areas on top of the mountains in Pennsylvania where I mountain bike.  The forest was populated with slash pine which is native to only South Florida.  Between the trees, you could clearly see the remains of the controlled burns that helped maintain the integrity of the park.  On our way out of the park, we stopped at Hobe Mountain, an ancient sand dune, 86 feet above sea the highest natural point in Florida south of Lake Okeechobee.  The view from the observation deck was us a glimpse of the setting sun in the West and the Atlantic Ocean to the East.  So different...and so beautiful.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park was named after Quaker Jonathan Dickinson who, along with 24 other survivors, were shipwrecked off of Jupiter Island in 1696 on their way to, of all places, Pennsylvania!  -- December 3, 2019

Robin and I took an extremely cool nature hike in Jonathan Dickinson State Park -- December 3, 2019

Hiking along the Nature Trail in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. -- December 3, 2019

Kitching Creek Nature Trail in Jonathan Dickinson State Park -- December 3, 2019

At a whopping 86 feet above sea level, Hobe Mountain is the highest point in Florida south of Lake Okeechobee -- December 3, 2019

The walk up to the observation deck on Hobe Mountain. -- December 3, 2019

The view from the observation deck on Hobe Mountain at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. -- December 4, 2019

An awesome view of the sun setting from the observation tower on Hobe Mountain in Jonathan Dickinson State Park -- December 3, 2019

Two days later, Robin and I found ourselves back at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.  This time with our bikes.  On our previous visit, we noticed a cool biking trail that weaved in and out of pines and saw palmetto.  This leisurely ride with Robin was one of the most fun bike rides I've been on all year.  Even though it was only eight miles long, our little adventure through the park was one of the most visually stimulating rides I've been on in a long time.  Along the way, we saw a few blue herons, a doe, and yeah...even an alligator.  I wanted to see an alligator...until I actually saw it.  Robin named him Chuck.

An amazingly fun bike ride in Jonathan Dickinson State Park with Robin -- December 5, 2019

Jonathan Dickinson State Park -- December 5, 2019

Searching for wildlife in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. I kept my helmet on for safety.  -- December 5, 2019

Yep...found the wildlife!  Hi Chuck! -- December 5, 2019

"Do not FRIGHTEN the alligators." this seriously a problem? -- December 3, 2019

After our morning coffee on our last full day in Florida, Robin and I rode our bikes to MacArthur Beach State Park.  We've been to this particular park each time I've been to Florida.  The park is located on a front barrier island and is only four miles from where we were staying.  We really enjoy the walk across the water to the beach...along the way taking in the sights and sounds of the local wildlife and vegetation.  It's not a long ride to the park...and it's not a long walk along the beach and on the paths to get to the beach...but it sure is beautiful.  Enough of a reason for us to include it in our day.

Bike ride to John D. MacArthur State Park with Robin -- December 6, 2019

Riding to John D. MacArthur Beach State Park -- December 6, 2019

I took this pic from the pier at John D. MacArthur State Park -- December 6, 2019

A view of the beach and the ocean at John D. MacArthur State Park -- December 6, 2019

Some of the amazing wildlife Robin and I came across as we were hiking at John D. MacArthur State Park -- December 6, 2019

Robin took this picture of me at John D. MacArthur State Park -- December 6, 2019

My wife and I have been on many trips together...but this particular trip to Augusta and then Florida was one of the best.  Robin connected with family and I made some new friends.  The weather was perfect...and I really mean perfect.  Not a drop of rain and temps in the 70s all week.  I saw nerdy and
historical places, was surrounded by natural beauty, pedaled dozens and dozens of miles, soaked in a lot of sun, swam in the ocean, saw an alligator (that wasn't in a zoo) and spent quality time with my wife.  That's about as perfect as it gets.  Our trip home was relatively easy and uneventful (as easy and uneventful as driving 17 straight hours can be).  We pulled into our driveway...1,100 miles from our starting 11:50 PM and I unpacked the truck in the 25 degree night air...appreciating my temporary break from the cold.

Enjoying a little "December in Florida" ice cream at Sweet Treats Ice Cream Shop -- December 4, 2019

Life is a journey...not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- December 14, 2019

What a difference 48 hours makes!  On Thursday evening, Robin  and I were enjoying the 70+ degree evening air and festive fake snow that flies in West Palm Beach, Florida and today we ventured out in the balmy 30 degree temps of Pennsylvania for a successful Christmas tree hunt (and kill)!  -- December 5 and 8, 2019

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Here are the GARMIN map and data from the rides and hikes featured in this post.  #OptOutside

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