After making the trek across Georgia from Columbus to Savannah the last three years, we decided to try another route for our ATS for 2015. We have been talking about trying to cross different states for some time now and 2015 felt like a good time to begin with a different state. Several states were in the running, but we settled on Florida. With several new riders we felt it might be easier for our group to keep the ride shorter. With a distance of only 135 miles coast to coast, and the route being significantly more flat than our Georgia trips, we were easily sold on this 2-dayer.
A pre-ride recon trip a couple of months before our ride helped us get the route decided between Cedar Key and St. Augustine. The wind on the recon trip was steadily from the east so we decided to begin in St. Augustine and benefit from the tail wind (as it turned out the wind was in our face the majority of the trip but averaged only 4-5 mph so it wasn’t significant). The decision was made to make the longer trip of the two days on the first day since we were fresher with our destination on day one being Gainesville.
We departed early Friday morning October 9th from our “usual” spot and per Pedaling for Kids tradition, we did not leave before being prayed for by Dr. Jimmy Elder of First Baptist Church of Columbus. We thank Dr. Elder and First Baptist for their continued support of PFK since our inception in 2010. We firmly believe Dr. Elder’s prayers protect us and the 2015 trip was no exception; we had a great ride, a great time, and had no injuries!
Riders this year were: Tripp and Conner Blankenship, Mike “Campi” Campos, Barrie Clark, Reames Clark, Rhonda “Lil Riv” Eysel, Chester Fort, Mike Moore, Jay “Hawkeye” Parker, and Jack “Doc” Sherrer. We absolutely had the best SAG team possible – led by the incredibly patient Liz Singley. Katie Parker was a SAG again this year while also serving as the official photographer of the trip. She was ably assisted by daughters Mary Avnor and Hendley. Lori Hughes – who is the unofficial Social Chairman for each ATS – also served as a SAG along with Loretta Fort. We appreciate the help and protection our SAGs give us; there is no way we could do our ATSs without them!
The first night in St. Augustine we stayed on the beach at the Hampton Inn and all ate together at a local restaurant within walking distance – the Sunset Grille. The 87-mile trip from St. Augustine to Gainesville started out in the rain but that soon gave way to a beautiful day and great cycling weather.
Our second night in Gainesville had us at ‘The Lodge’. Hawkeye and Katie grilled absolutely fantastic cheeseburgers and we ate in The Lodge’s courtyard. Doc manned the bar and the drink of the night was the “Orange Creamsicle”. We even made friends with locals having a high school reunion. Our new friends were very accommodating and insisted we join them in their reunion festivities. It was a memorable night to say the least!
With a distance of only 48 miles, the second day of cycling was relatively easy. Our two youngest riders – Conner Blankenship and Reames Clark – posed for photos at the Cedar Key city limits and were then honored by leading the group into town. Cedar Key was a beautiful destination for us and we had great accommodations with condos at Nature’s Landing. We celebrated our successful trip with a cocktail party featuring the Brazilian caipirinha and our always popular (?!) cycling trivia contest. Mike Campos was recognized as the top adult fund-raiser with a beautiful crystal award and Conner Blankenship was likewise recognized with a crystal piece as the top youth fundraiser.
We again thank all the cyclists and SAGs that made the trip a great time and success. And thanks especially to the cyclists who raised significant amounts of monies for the children with disabilities that Pedaling for Kids helps. The amounts raised far-and-away eclipsed what was required of each rider taking part in the ATS trip.