After Easter it was finally time to get Pearl moving again. We spent nearly five months in Winter Garden, Florida and enjoyed it for the most part, especially the local bike paths and close proximity to downtown shopping and markets. It's a good spot to be car-free! But this time the campground clientele tended more towards workers and permanents, with fewer travelers and snowbirds, and it just wasn't as pleasant a place to stay as the year before. So we were more than ready to get going.
Our first stop was a park we stayed in last year and really liked, Towns Bluff, a county park near Hazlehurst, Georgia adjacent to the shores of the Altamaha River. This campground is a bit out of the way to drive to but perfect for us, as it doesn't take reservations, and sites always seem to be available mid-week. Not sure about the weekends. There are day-use areas and boat put-ins, so it gets some day use as well, but the campground is separate from the day-use area, with a security-coded gate to enter, so you don't get the annoying drive-through "lookie loos" so common at many public campgrounds.
There are 24 sites in the campground, but one belongs to the camp host and three to rental trailers. With the park's senior discount, our site with water and 50-amp electric cost us $22.50/night ($25 without discount). We chose the same site as last year, a large pull-through. Because the park was fairly empty, there were no other rigs close to us. This was a pleasant change from Florida.
Just look how much breathing room Pearl had to herself here! Ahhhhhhh....
There are very clean bathrooms in the large bath house, and a small laundry room with a great price, only $1 each for washer and dryer. We had just done laundry before arriving so didn't avail ourselves of the facilities. There is a dump station in the park as well.
We got between 1-2 bars of 4G LTE signal on our Mifi device, so were able to use the internet, but there are no OTA television signals available. Although the tall pines made satellite reception tricky, after Barry moved our Dish Playmaker around a few times, we were able to pick up stations other than locals (since we were still set up to receive Orlando stations and too far from there to get those).
We enjoyed hiking around the park, and aside from a couple of passing pick-ups on the roads, had the place to ourselves. No one else was using the hiking trail. We didn't try mountain biking, but the roads inside the park would be good for an easy ride as all are unpaved.
The trail goes right by the river providing a perfect environment for birds.
In addition to fishing, the river is popular for canoeing and kayaking.
We consider this park one of the hidden gems of the southeast and would happily return anytime.
This post is out of order, but given its significance, I thought it important that I publish it as soon as I was up to writing it.
It was our first full day in beautiful Petersburg Corps of Engineer Campground outside of Augusta, Georgia. We had stayed in this park a year earlier when heading north out of Florida, and were looking forward to a three-night return stay.
We had just had a great road ride exploring some of the area around Lake Strom Thurmond on a perfect spring day. We were taking a cool-down loop through the shady campground, which is a bit on the hilly side.
Barry was ahead of me and had already ridden through the downhill loop ahead. It was a blind curve, but since he'd ridden through, and I hadn't heard any yelling, I started coasting downhill around he curve without expecting anything blocking my path. Since the road is one-way, I knew I wouldn't encounter anyone coming towards me.
Suddenly a tiny little girl (maybe 3 years old) on a teeny-tiny bike pulled out right in front of me, crossing the road. She didn't see me coming, and I didn't see her until it was too late to stop or go wide.
Though I didn't have time to direct my body on the bike to avoid the accident, my brain did indeed register what was about to happen and I remember feeling horrified that I was about to crash into her, but I had no idea how bad it would be. If you've ever seen one of the many crashes when the Tour de France is televised, though, you have some idea how quickly a lightweight carbon bike can go flying. It's not a pretty sight.
I crashed right into the little girl broadside, and my bike stopped immediately and sent me flying over the handlebars face first. I have never endo'd before, but I know it is pretty common, especially among mountain bikers. Often a wrist or collarbone bears the brunt of the impact, and I must have gotten my hands out to try to break my fall, since I had injuries there, but I took the worst of it, as they say, on the chin.
I was bleeding quite a bit from around my outer mouth area and felt like I'd lost a bunch of teeth in back as my bite was immediately messed up. Fortunately, the body protects us from pain immediately after an accident, as happened when I fractured my pelvis almost twelve years ago to the day, so I didn't feel pain at that point, but I was totally conscious and realized that this was bad, very bad. We were in a campground, with no car, I knew I'd need to go to an ER, and I didn't know how much damage I had done to my body. As you might imagine, I was scared and upset.
The little girl's father, who was notably absent at the time of impact, showed up soon after the accident. She, thank the gods, was okay, just a skinned knee and shook up, of course. I felt terrible that I hit her, of course, but I do blame her parents for not paying attention. No child of that age should be riding a bike in the road, even in a campground, without parental supervision, and I am sure her father learned a valuable lesson as his daughter could have easily been hit by a car rather than a bicycle and had much more serious injuries. (I learned many lessons as well.)
Some campers at an adjacent site brought ice and paper towels while Barry called 911. They also took care of both our bikes while we were in the ER. They were strangers to us but anxious to help in any way they could, and we both so appreciated that.
An ambulance, the sheriff, and the park host arrived pretty quickly, I was soon whisked off to an Augusta hospital about 30 minutes away. Before leaving for the hospital, there was some discussion of whether Barry should drive Pearl to the hospital or come with us in the ambulance. Thank goodness the latter solution was chosen. He was shaken by seeing me all bloody and banged up, and having to unhook and then drive Pearl in an unfamiliar place while upset could have been dangerous. But I was thinking of Paisley inside and how long she might be there alone before we'd be able to return. We hadn't had her out to do her business since 7;30 am, and the accident occurred around noon. Normally I take her out for the second time of the day around 1 pm.
The pain started kicking in on the ambulance ride, as it did with my pelvic injury in '05, but , like then, they can't give anything for pain, so I was suffering pretty badly. My left thumb, right pinky, and jaw felt like three pinpoints of pain.
I was in the ER for approximately six hours, and it took a couple more hours before I got any pain medication after begging the nurse for it. When it finally came, it provided blessed relief. X-rays of both my hands were taken and showed that I had a left thumb fracture and right pinky sprain. These were both splinted and wrapped.
They next performed a CT scan of my jaw. The jaw wasn't broken as I'd feared, but I wish I'd thought to ask about dislocation, because it certainly seemed to be. Even as I write this nearly a week later, my bite is still off more than a little. I am very thankful that I didn't actually lose any teeth, as it had felt like I had. I've had a lot of dental work, so my teeth are worth quite a lot! There is a tiny chip on one of my front teeth, but that is all the damage I've been able to assess so far, and I had no bleeding inside my mouth.
The last thing they did before I was discharged was suturing small lacerations above my upper lip and on my chin. Both required a couple of absorbable sutures. The impact also took off some skin in both places so I have "strawberries" there and and am still cleaning the wounds and changing bandages daily. I've got purple (now complimented with yellow) bruising on my neck and a big bruise on my left quad. I was sore in the rib cage and sternum area, like I'd done an intense workout at the gym, but those areas have both improved a lot day by day. My neck, back, and legs are fine (other than the one quad bruise), so I'm getting around fine.
I was finally discharged from the ER around dinner time. Since we have no car, we had to take an expensive cab ride back to the campground. First, though, we had to stop at Rite Aid across the street and get my prescriptions filled. Barry made sure they understood the scenario, and the pharmacist rushed them through. Thanks, Rite-Aid! While he was waiting, Barry walked across the road to McDonald's and brought me back a smoothie. We hadn't eaten anything since breakfast.
It was dusk by the time we reached the campground, and thankfully, Paisley was okay and hadn't peed in Pearl. She's a real trooper. Barry had to take two walking (actually jogging) trips over to the campsite where he'd left our bikes, and ride each of them back over to our site. My bike was in much better shape than I was.
Almost a week later, my lower face and jaw are much less swollen than initially, but I can't open my mouth very far, making eating and tooth brushing difficult. I also have an area of numbness with tingling on the left side of my bottom lip, left side of chin, and lower left quadrant of my jaw and gums inside my mouth. From my online research, I understand that this is nerve damage and has a good chance of resolving in weeks or months. I am very hopeful that that will occur as this would be hard to live with; it's like I just got a bunch of novacaine injections on that side of my mouth; only the numbing doesn't wear off.
We are now back in North Carolina, and I have an appointment with my long-time PCP (who happens to be a cyclist and tri-athlete, so she understands my lifestyle and passion for cycling) next week. I may have to consult an oral surgeon if my jaw alignment doesn't resolve on its own once all the swelling is gone, There's a possibility I'll have to have jaw surgery. I really hope I get my smile back, as it's my favorite feature.
My sprained pinky is no biggie. It's still a little stiff but getting closer to normal every day. My thumb is also improving. It's still swollen and stiff, but improving, and I'm only wearing the splint at night. During the day, I'm moving it gently to keep it from freezing up.
Each day is a bit better than the one before, so I am trying to remain optimistic. The little girl could have been seriously hurt. Or I could have knocked out all my front teeth or messed up my neck, for instance.
As I mentioned above, I learned some valuable lessons from this unfortunate accident. I should have been going slower around a downhill blind curve. I could have easily avoided hitting the little girl, no matter where she was, had this been an uphill or even flat section of road. But with downhill speed, even though I was just coasting, I had much less time to react. I also re-affirmed my belief that most people are basically good and want to help. Even though Barry and I sometimes feel that we are "different" than most other campers with our active lifestyle, bicycling passion, and different political convictions; ultimately, we are all human beings first. The campers who unselfishly helped us when I crashed in front of their campsite reminded me of the good in people. I won't soon forget this, and to these kind strangers, I send out my heartfelt gratitude and love, even if they never see this post.
It probably goes without saying, but our summer plans of road-tripping out west are on hold for now. We're just taking it day by day, and I'll continue updating the blog now and then with my progress as well as post other things I had planned. I am disappointed as I was having a really good cycling year, with over 1600 miles on the tally so far, but life will continue, and like I did after recovering from my pelvic fracture and surgery in '05, I am hopeful I'll get back on the "horse" one of these days!
For the past two winters in Winter Garden, Florida, we have occasionally ridden our bicycles along this short one-way stretch of old brick road leading to the Tildenville School. The West Orange Trail crosses the road near its southern terminus, so it is one of several ways to access the paved bike path.
A brick road, while charming, is not a comfortable ride on a road bike, But that's all we could have told you about the road; we knew nothing of its history. But that was soon to change.
Not long ago, while watching the local news, I happened to catch a story about this very road. I missed the beginning of the piece but did catch the fact that an historic marker had just been erected along it. We had to find out more, so I sent Barry, my intrepid photographer, on a morning walk down to the road for a few photos.
Here's the shiny new plaque, juxtaposed against the old bricks below.
Reading the marker, we found it fascinating to learn how this now 0.6 mile section of brick road used to be State Highway 22, which wound around the entire area we now ride through on the West Orange Trail, a paved multi-use path. The bricks continued even farther east into Orlando.
We can vouch for the phrase on the plaque "As durable as they were uncomfortable"!
Despite the discomfort, the road is undeniably scenic, framed by Spanish Moss in the trees.
If these old bricks could talk, the stories they could tell!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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