I think I have made a mistake by choosing the back roads over the highways. While I get less traffic I'm giving up safety in spades because many of these roads, inexplicably, have no shoulders. This leaves me no option except to ride in the lane along with everyone else. There's few words that can describe the stress of having giant SUV's, 18 wheelers and other assorted abnormally large vehicles zoom past you at warp speed within inches of you. Some give you an uber-loud honk as they pass while others take the effort to yell something, always unintelligble at those speeds thanks to the doppler effect. Once you commit to driving in one direction though it's not like you can change your mind so you make the best of it, grit your teeth and soldier on towards the destination. It's amazing how religious I've suddenly become in those moments, praying to the Almighty my soul not yet to take (or whatever) and hoping with all my might that a shoulder will come up soon.

Adding to the above, yesterday the wind introduced itself as a new challenge that I would become intimately familiar with. Today it was the sun's turn. Despite lathering on SPF70 lotion so thick it looks like cake icing my skin still sizzles like bacon on a hot skillet when the Bright One shines mercilessly hour after hour. I now have a "farmer tan" that has left my forearms and legs so dark I think they qualify as bona fide African American limbs.

A cursory inventory of afflictions and I can tally numb hands and feet, an infected fingernail, parallel scratches on my left leg from a fall that itch so I strum them as though guitar strings, sores and blisters too numerous to account for and so on. But am I downbeat about any of this? Hell no! I am now more determined than when I began and to be honest, I surprised myself by not having questioned yet whether I can really do this. I worry much, much more about money, safety and whether the bike will hold up than the actual physical challenge of crossing America coast-to-coast diagonally.

For no particular reason other than my innate competitiveness I have set for myself a goal of at least sixty miles a day and today I met that goal again. Although I try to reason that I'm not in any kind of a race the truth is that time and even more so my budget are straining the scope of this effort. Kid's level math is enough to make me realize that finishing the goal in half the time (whatever arbitrary time I make up) is bound to cost me roughly half as much. I count on some $4,000 to my name which means I can spend $100 for 40 days or $40 for 100. Either way I'll be broke at the end... if I can make it to the end that is!

Which is why I feel so clever by camping out and saving me the heady sums they want for a motel. Camping, to tell the truth and be disagreeable with who knows how many camping fans, just plain sucks. All this jibe about communing with nature and getting away from civilization is for the birds. Literally. I sleep terrible, the bugs bug me, the cold and damp of the night are uncomfortable. And those noises of Things That Go Bump In The Dark I admit are just a bit too unnerving for peaceful rest. Even more disagreeable to me is the inability to shower. Which is why I feel particularly clever about today's turn of events.

My goal for the day had been a state park a few miles east of Tampa. Just before I got there I saw this city park and decided to investigate. It was about 6pm already and there was not a soul around. There wasn't, to be precise, a city proper for this city park either that I could tell, only a church across the street and maybe a few houses in the distance. I decided to set my tent up here and in the most tucked away corner just in case. While there were, of course, no shower facilities there was a bathroom and I decided to bathe right off the sink which I did with some effort a handful of cold water at a time. I was beyond filthy. I could have swam through a hundred yards of sewage and come out the other end cleaner. After I was done I felt like a real person again and decided to wash my bike jersey and shorts too. I could not believe how much dirt was coming off the clothes. I wondered briefly if maybe it was the short's ink that was turning the water black until I remembered why, then, did my blue jersey bleed this "black ink" as well?

Whenever I can get away with saving the money from a stay at a motel I feel like I've beat the system so I guess I am a happy camper after all :-)

Day 8