Pedaling for Peace

On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. After staying with another friend in Columbus, GA for several months, I moved "back home" to Kentucky to stay with my dad for a while and build a better "resource base" for future endeavors including review and further tracking and primitive survival skills training at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker School , and a possible longer tour of the east coast, northern tier, and north west coast back down to Santa Barbara, CA.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Astor Landing Campground Review - Tent Test I

So, just to be clear, this image is NOT of Astor Landing Campground in Astor, FL. I wish it were, but both my camera batteries were dead when I set out on my little adventure this past weekend (January 27-29) so I was not able to take pictures there. However, I have attempted to recreate some of my experience by setting up my tent AGAIN in the backyard of the house where I am currently staying in Orange Park, FL. (For more info on the "real" Astor Landing Campground go to:

My reason for being at Astor Landing was to sleep in between officiating bike races in De Land and De Leon Springs, FL. Astor Landing was just a few miles north of the second race venue so I thought I'd give it a try. Besides, given all the work I have put into my "travel tent", I thought it was high time I gave it a test run.

I pulled into the campground around 5:30 pm. The office was closed, but a very nice gentleman in a mobile home was there to stand in for his son-in-law who was the owner of the property. I think showing up in my light-blue, '73 VW Bug put everyone at ease, as the one's who saw me smiled and some waved. I finally managed to track down the $28.00 cash for a non-electric tent sight " the trees over behind Jeff" and handed that over to my host.

Turns out, Astor Landing is a very quiet, off the beaten path hang-out for quite a few people, I'm assuming mostly retired, or "snow birds" who stay in Florida during the milder winter months. As I was later told by another volunteer at the bike race, people usually don't try to camp too much in Florida during the summer months because it just gets too hot.

However, such was not the case this particular Saturday night. No, I checked and the weatherman said the low was around 48, unless you count the actual low on Sunday morning which was around 41. Knowing that it was likely to get cold, I prepared my tent as follows...(Update 2013 - these photos were accidentally deleted via my G+ account and I have not had time to replace them. Sorry. :(  )

Floor liner (no clothes in the bags this night)

Yoga Mat

I especially like these foam pads because they compress but they never "bottom out".

Thermarest Pad

Wool Blanket/Outer Sleeping Bag

Inner Light-Weight Sleeping Bag (This one I picked up back in 1996 to take with me to Kauai.)

And my silk/cotton sleeping bag liner.

After getting the tent and sleeping gear situated, I took advantage of the campground's shower facility. It was clean, not spotless mind you, but definitely suitable for a campsite. The hot water was nice and hot and I didn't have to wait for it to get that way! : )

I completed my "evening routine" with no interruptions (after all, I was probably the only one there who was NOT in a mobile home of some kind), headed back to my tent, enjoyed a little reading and writing by the light of my headlamp, which, by the way, fit conveniently over the main support cord that ran inside the top of the tent. I even discovered I could slide it up and down the length of the tent as necessary.

Once I was tucked into the liner, inside my sleeping bag, I was then able to zip the outer wool blanket bag all around me, up over my head and everything. Because it has multiple zipper pulls going in opposite directions I was able to zip it almost completely closed except for a small space to breathe through.

And So I Slept! I figure I crashed around 10:00 pm or so (there was one small group of people having a bit of raucous fun on the other side of the catch-and-release pond, but it was Saturday night, so I understood). I tell you though, as soon as it got quiet, I was out, "snug as a bug in a rug"! And even though I woke up spontaneously at 4:30, I went right back to sleep preferring my "snugness" to the chilly air outside my "rug".

But, at 6:15 it was time to get up and get ready to head back down the road to the next race venue, a road race around the Spring Garden Ranch Horse Farm, winter training grounds for many of the world's top standardbred harness racers.
( Being there actually made me a little "homesick", seeing how I was born in Kentucky! : ) The ranch includes a restaurant on a hill by the race track, complete with dancing Sand Hill Cranes to keep the owners, tourists, and horses company. If I'm ever in that area again, I hope I can actually get to watch the horses - with my camera! : ))

All-in-all, it was a nice weekend. I was very pleased with the way my tent worked, although, it hasn't been rained on yet, so that will have to wait for another camping trip. (Or maybe I'll wait until it gets rained on here in Orange Park before I take it down?) And, even though 48 is pretty cold, I'd like to see if I would stay warm at even lower temperatures with just the gear I used this time.

Also, for a "lesson learned": I plan on laying my clothes out for the next day between the sleeping bag and the wool blanket. Not only will they add more insulation, but they will actually be WARM for me to put on in the morning! : ))

Furthermore, should I ever have to be in the woods for a longer period of time, especially in colder weather, I think I could combine this tent with a debris shelter, which would add much more insulation to the wind and water repelling capabilities of the tent fabric.


Please Note: If you have found this blog to be of "value"; i.e. entertaining, informative, educational, etc. please consider making a donation via the "Donate" button in the upper right-hand menu. I have recently upgraded the button from PayPal so it should be working now. If you have any interest in purchasing a tent like the one shown here, feel free to contact me and I'll see what I can do for you. Also, if you happen to be looking for a nice place to camp in Florida, I would definitely recommend Astor Landing. Feel free to tell them, "That girl in the light-blue Bug sent you." And don't forget the restaurant at Spring Garden Ranch. They were very generous with bagged lunches and providing parking for our bike race.

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