That’s not a typo. Deseret is a very large cattle and citrus Ranch in the area. The next 30 plus miles will be walking on roads. It is going to seem like a desert.
Campsite Bonus SpaceX Launch
There was an unexpected bonus to staying at this campsite last night. It is sparsely populated with pine trees and for the most part very open. It is also only about 40 miles from the Space Center.
Last night was a launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. I had a great view of the entire sequence. You could see both boosters separate from the main rocket and do their firing maneuvers to come back to the lunch pad. I couldn’t see them land but I could see the final deceleration burn.
Road Walk One SR 192
After the 1 mile out of the campsite to the parking area, the road walk begins for the day. State road 192 that leads to either St Cloud or Melbourne.
It is a pretty high speed road with a decent amount of traffic, but at 7am, the westbound traffic is not too bad.
The road is four lanes of traffic with a bike lane sized shoulder. The grass shoulder is very wide and very flat. I am able to walk on the pavement about 90 percent of the time. About fifty percent of the drivers move over into the other lane so I can stay on the pavement.
The grass is covered with hard frost when I start the walk, but by a mile in, it is turning to water. My feet are getting a little damp, but not bad.
I had in my mind that this part of the roadwalk was six miles. After three miles, I passed a road with a sign indicating the Deseret HQ was six miles down that road.
Only twenty yards past that road, my Spidey senses told me to stop. The road sign said Deer Park Rd, which sounded familiar, so I checked the map, and sure enough, this is my turn. It would not have been a good start to the day to have to backtrack on a highway.
Road Walk Two Deer Park Road
This road is a country road with not too much traffic. It would turn out that the ranch owns everything on either side of this entire road.
It begins with houses and pasture. The pastures are huge and I can see cypress domes scattered throughout. I know there are cattle here, but they are very far away because these prairies are huge.
For the first half of the road it is easy to find the shade tree about every half of a mile. On the second half of the road they are a mile plus apart. And by then it is getting quite warm so the north half of the walk was far less pleasant than the south half.
About 5 mi up the road there was a water cache and a bench on the side of the road. It was the only bench on the entire road. I sat for 10 or 15 minutes and had a snack.
Shortly after leaving the bench, a truck pulled alongside me and stopped on the side of the road. I was expecting them to ask if I needed a ride. But to my delight he asked if I wanted some oranges and beef jerky. Oranges would definitely hit the spot right now so I grabbed two red navels out of the back of his truck.
I chatted with him for a while and find out that he is the owner of the fruit stand that’s on State Road 520 at the end of the next road walk. I was planning on camping on the road before State Road 20 but who knows. I should have time to actually get that far today.
This Ranch is so huge that they label they’re farming operations as units. Most of the units are for cattle but some of them are for citrus. I have no idea how large this Ranch actually is. But from my perspective it looks like an entire county.
I have to stop pretty frequently on the road walk in the afternoon. It is getting warm and I am getting tired. I’m saving my secret weapon, my coffee, 2:00 p.m. when it should have the best effect. I should be at the end of this roadblock at about that time.
On one of my stops I decide to take the insole heels out of my shoes. There are some discomfort under the front part of the heel that I’m hoping goes away if I remove them.
Within 5 minutes of walking in this new arrangement I can tell it is a step backwards. The pressure is gone under my foot but my achilles tendon is getting more pressure. I think in this situation it’s better to have the pressure under the foot and have the tendon feel its best. So I stopped and put the insoles back in.
Road Walk Three Nova Road
Nova Road has a lot more traffic than Deer Park Road. It is also a two-lane road but it’s obvious that it is a connector between two cities. There is both automobile and semi trailer traffic.
The shoulder is fairly narrow here in the grass is somewhat sloped but it is walkable. I am able to spend about 60% of the time on the pavement and 40% in the grass.
At the first shaded area I find on the road I stopped to drink my coffee. I had a small snack too.
This road walk is about 7 miles long. I can’t go a full 3 mph while walking because of my achilles tendon. But I can manage two and a half without too many stops.
I actually mixed two different instant coffees in my bottle today. One of them is a Trader Joe’s with cream and sugar and the other is my typical Cafe Bustello.
Normally cream in instant coffee will not dissolve in cold water, but this Trader Joe’s dissolves extremely well. The Cafe Bustello Cafe con Leche will not dissolve in cold water. I may have found a new addition to my standard hiking foods.
The coffee today is doing its job quite well. I’m not sure if I even took any breaks other than maybe 60 seconds to adjust gear or grab a snack or water. I have no aches, I have no pains, I am just a hiking machine at this point.
About halfway through the Nova Road hike, it is obvious that I am going to reach 520 well before dark. I begin to wonder if the citrus stand will still be there by the time I get there. I am hoping he is so I can get some more oranges.
SR520 Leads to Cocoa Beach
The plan the entire day was to find some place along Nova Road to camp. I am eyeing every potential site along the road with a discerning eye.
The only spots available are trees which are only 50 yards away from the highway. You are definitely not well hidden. You are also definitely not going to get more than 10 minutes of sleep.
I am certain that this road see some form of traffic all night long even at 4:00 a.m. and any vehicle moving down this road is going to wake you up. I wear earplugs to drown out noises at night. But there is nothing that’s going to drown out the road noise this close to the highway.
Since the fruit stand is only about 10 mi from Cocoa, I begin to think that it would be quite easy to either hitch or Uber from here to Cocoa. And if it’s easy to get to Cocoa, then what’s another 10 mi to go all the way to Cocoa Beach?
After a few minutes on the Marriott app, I find that our favorite hotel next to Ron Jon’s has availability and for just a few Marriott points. It would be nice to do laundry and soak my feet in the ocean tonight.
When I finally get to the end of Nova Road and look to my right, I can see that the fruit stand is still open. I am there in less than 5 minutes eating fresh boiled peanuts.
Fruit Stand Man
The fruit stand operator is an awesome person. Not only did he stop on the side of the road earlier in the day to give me oranges and beef jerky, but he refuses to take payment from hikers for anything.
After eating a bag of peanuts and another Orange, I am ready to put my plan into action. I tell the fruit stand guy my plan and he offers to drive me as far as Cocoa. It sounds like this plan is going to work out after all.
He has a steady stream of customers, even for the 20 minutes or so that I am there eating his peanuts. Nearly everyone buys peanuts and one other item.
After talking about it with him later, I find that tomatoes are the trigger item. If he ever runs out of tomatoes during the day, people will begin to lose their shit when they find out he doesn’t have any more tomatoes. He could run out of any other item and people will not care. But a lack of tomatoes could start world war 3.
Luckily today he still has about a half a box of tomatoes. And people are still buying them even as the sun is sitting.
He decides it’s time to pack it up so I help them pack up all of the produce into his truck. Within twenty minutes, everything is packed up. Now comes the hard work.
He has rows of signs each direction on the highway telling the drivers what goods he has today. I think getting all of the signs took well over 45 minutes. The big signs are held up by rebar driven in the ground. He has a special tool to help pull them up. Even with the tool it is very difficult to do.
It is pretty dark by the time we have gotten all 10 sets of signs. But we are now headed in the direction of Cocoa.
It has been at least 25 years since I have been to this part of Cocoa. It has grown significantly. It is hard to recognize as the same city until we get right near the downtown Center.
We passed through downtown cocoa and then I realize we are on the next causeway to Merritt Island. I asked him if he realizes he just passed US1 and Cocoa and he says yes he’s planning to take me all the way to Cocoa Beach.
I was not expecting that at all. What started out as an easier way to get an Uber has turned into a full-blown delivery. The graciousness and the compassion this guy has is just overwhelming. He really does love hikers. He talks the talk, but he walks the walk even better.
He ends up dropping me off right in the Ron Jons parking lot. I only have to walk to the other side of the building to get to the hotel. Within minutes I am showered and clean.
The first order of business is to buy some flip flops. The second order of business is dinner which I eat in the hotel restaurant. The third order of business is laundry. When I find that the dry cycle is 45 minutes long I initiate the fourth order which is to walk in the ocean water.
All the chores are done but it is nearly 11:00. There will be no blogging tonight. There will only be slumber.
Emotion of the Day
One person made a very big difference in the outcome of my day.
This should have been one of the less pleasant days of the entire trip. Along hot road walk and camping next to a highway, unless you want to do 30 miles worth of road walk in one day.
But fruit stand man fed me and kept me company and refused payment. He drove me 20 miles in the opposite direction of his home at the end of a long work day. And he again refused payment.
If you die and go to heaven and find a fruit stand up there, make sure you stop by, eat an orange, and shoot the breeze for a while. You will not regret it.
January 20, 2023 at 3:06 pm
My favorite post yet! What a fantastic gesture by the fruit stand man. You sure lucked out! Looking forward to getting out to Cocoa beach later in spring.