Day Twenty: Monday, October 18th, 2004
        Up bright and early once again for a nice swim and a fine breakfast of scrambled eggs cooked over my Coleman. Waffle House - eat your heart out. Meanwhile, I asked the lady that runs the place what kind of critter that critter at the campsite was. She said it is a Patagonian Cavy. Then I packed up and left.

        I was headed east but, oddly enough, my path took me right past city hall in Gainesville so I wasted an hour or so there on the internet once again. I also stopped by Circuit City and picked up a groovy laptop light so that I don't have to waste my lantern battery when I am working at night. It works great.

        Then it was off to the east coast of Florida. After a couple hours of driving I arrived at Flagler Beach. A wonderful section of beach which (surprisingly) did not seem to be completely over run with tacky gift shops and such nonsense. It also helped that I have come across it out of season. There were only a few people wandering the beaches when I got there, including one fellow scouring the sand with a metal detector.

        It didn't take me long to get in the water myself and it was very nice. The sand seemed to consist more of broken shells than anything else and the waves were huge, but it was great fun. I stayed there for perhaps an hour despite the fact that the sky was threatening rain. Then I decided it was time to seek out a campground for the night.

        Everywhere I looked there were motorbikers and store signs saying "welcome bikers" and "we love bikers". It seems that I have shown up in the middle of "Biketoberfest". Oh yeah, booze and leather and tattoos and piercings and beer bellies and noisy machines everywhere I look. I know how to pick 'em!

        Naturally it took me 2 1/2 hours to find a campground that was only about five minutes away from where I started, but we'll ignore that. I eventually made it to the Holiday Travel Park Co-op ($20/night) and managed to set up my tent in the middle of the playground. (Hey, it was dark, and I was just following the example of some other guy who had his tent set up there.) I went to sleep in a campground filled with (gasp) bikers.

Day 21: Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

        A fine night in the tent, even if I had the roar of the interstate nearby once again as well as the occasional motor bike rumbling along in the dark. I slept in a little too late this morning, but was thinking that it would be great to go see the beach at sunset. Maybe tomorrow. I was greeted by some of those lovely grasshopper-sized frogs on the outside of my tent and car when I got up.

        I figured I would stay a second night at the campground but since I wanted to move to the proper tenting area I packed up anyway and then went down to the beach once again and ate breakfast overlooking the beach at the Pier Restaurant.

        A scorcher of a day. My first trip was to a nearby store for some sunscreen (half price thanks to the off-season) and then I attacked the waves once more. Once again, I was pretty well the only fool out there. It was still great. I'm not sure which was more fun: leaping up and letting the waves carry me as they came crashing in or standing my ground and letting them smash into me. It was tiring just trying to remain upright in those waves.

        Eventually I left there and decided to check in for another night at the campground. The first lady was ready to charge me a whopping $6.50 for the night. I knew something had to be up with that. The second lady corrected her, saying that it is $6.50/person but that they charge for a minimum of two people. (Rubbing in the fact, once again, that I am all alone...) So, I got charged $13.00. A little less than the $20 I got charged for the night before. However, I may have been given a special "biker" rate.

        Once again, I didn't know where to set up my tent, despite getting some seemingly useful directions from the lady there. She seemed to be basically saying that if there was a grassy spot, I could use it. I eventually found a spot and then took their pool for a test drive. It was in a bit of a need of a cleaning (lots of pine needles and bits of branches collected in the bottom) but it was otherwise a great swim.

        Then I headed a little ways south to check out Daytona Beach and see whether it was any more crowded. It certainly fit my imagination of the tacky tourist spot with all the lots offering pay parking and t-shirt shops and such. But the beach itself was very nice. The sand was almost white here and there was a much more gradual slope to the beach, though the waves, once you got out a bit, were still pretty fierce. I was hot and the waves were beckoning but I had my backpack (and laptop) with me and I dared not put it down and go in the water for fear that some masked bandit would appear out of nowhere and snatch it away. I looked around for some sort of lockers, but could not find any and didn't want to trek all the way back to the car. Instead I had to content myself with walking in the ankle deep water instead, watching crazy fools get flung up into the sky on the nearby Sling Shot ride, and check out a few of the noisy arcades.

        I would've tried the sling shot ride myself - only $25, or $40 if you want a video tape showing you screaming and vomiting, but for some reason I decided against it...

        I eventually left around suppertime and stopped off at a Denny's Diner where I had to put up with the temper tantrums of a gay bald waiter. Not that I have anything against bald waiters (or gay ones) but he was having issues with the waitress and taking them out on everyone else there. On her first day of work she decides to take a smoke break while she has about five tables of customers on the go. Then when "her" customers asked him for something he just kept saying "I'm sorry, but you aren't my responsibility, your waitress decided to abandon you." The meal wasn't exactly what I ordered but it was very tasty so I didn't mind too much. Still, I was glad to leave when it was over.

        I planned on taking another swim at Flagler's Beach once I got back and maybe even take a dip in the pool. But downpours and lightning put an end to those plans. Instead of spending the evening hiding out in my tent I returned to Daytona Beach and the nearby library with the wireless hotspot. When I returned to my tent later that night, I found that my tarp had done its proper duty and I was able to have a pretty dry night there despite the occasional showers throughout the night.

Day 22: Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

        With biker festivities starting up at the campground, I decided it was time to bid this place goodbye and find myself another spot for the following night. I had breakfast once again at the Pier Restaurant and was planning on a swim but it was actually a little too cool for it right then and didn't look too promising for the rest of the day. I went back to the library once again and updated the web site a bit and when I came out it was gorgeous so off to Daytona Beach I went once again.

        The sun was hot, the sand beautiful, the waves grand, the water nice... but something was missing. Someone else, I suppose. It looks like I came a little too "off season". All we have are old couples and bikers. Or just no one at all. I didn't want the crowds of summer or the insanity of Spring Break, but I didn't really want this either. Something depressing about seeing all the tourist spots empty with the workers sitting around bored and grumpy.

        Feeling down, I went back to the library to try and clear my head and plan out my next move. I was tempted to leave the area entirely but decided to give it one more day. I found another campground online that was just a little further south.

        When I got there the first thing I saw was a security guard at the entrance and bikers everywhere. Never a good sign. Inside, the fellow told me that they did have tenting spots and that it would cost $38/night. At my look of surprise he explained that all the actual tent areas were taken and that he'd be giving me a full hook-up RV site instead. He seemed surprised that I declined.

        Off I went further south, cursing all those bikers for taking up the tenting sites. I had finally decided to get away from all these crazy bikers and was headed for the interstate and Orlando when I noticed another campground and decided to give it a try. The Sugar Mill Ruins Campground. At $28.30/night it was my most expensive site of the trip - and no hook-ups either! Poor tenters just get no respect. The girl with metal studs in her eyebrow showed me where to go on the map but worried that the area might be flooded. "Come back and we'll put you over on the 'island' instead if that's flooded," she said.

        No picnic tables, no fire rings. Florida campgrounds just don't understand what tenting is all about. But at least it wasn't flooded either. I set up, went to the nearby Denny's to eat (no bald gay waiters this time) and then I came back and swam in the pool for a bit. Reading a local paper it seems that I just missed George W. Bush, who was in Daytona Beach on Sunday. First the White House, now here. He'll think I am following him! Had another couple swims back at the campground pool (which is populated by lots of little lizards who were unfortunately too fast to really get a very good shot of) and then called it a night.

Day 23: Thursday, October 21st, 2004

        As part of this campground's biker festivities (I can't get away from it) they were having an all you can eat breakfast from 8-10am for $5. Fortunately, you didn't have to be a biker to take part so I went in and pigged out on scrambled eggs and bacon. The funniest sight of the morning was seeing two bearded bikers over at the laundromat folding bedsheets together. Not something you see every day.

        Then it was off to the beach once again. This time it was Bethune Beach, but once you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all. And this one was even more vacant than the others. The poor lifeguard must've been pretty bored. At least I felt pretty safe knowing that I had his undivided attention. (Or maybe he was actually sleeping up in his little tower...)

        Did a little wandering around the area and then came back to the campground and set up my laptop over by the pool, alternating swimming and fiddling on the computer.

        Not sure if it was the water in the pool or the reflected sun, or a combination of both, but after my second swim my eyes began burning strongly and continued to do so for most of the afternoon, despite flushing them out with water. So I took it easy for the rest of the day. I did go back in the pool later in the evening, but this time I was armed with a diving mask. It was pretty cool swimming underwater at night with the pool lit up from below. It was also very cool swimming upside down, seeing the surface of the water as if it was a mirror. I tried that for a bit until I managed to whack my head off the bottom of the pool. Not too swift!

        A pretty uneventful day. Tomorrow I plan on heading for Orlando to get away from the bikers and see if they have any "real" campgrounds there. I'm also thinking of checking out Wet 'n Wild over the weekend. Could be fun.

on to the next day...