Down and Dirty

De Leon Springs State Park was home to Florida’s first water-powered sugar mill, which was constructed in 1832. During the Civil War, Union troops devastated the plantation that stood in the area, and by the end of the century the region was renamed to Ponce de Leon Springs, or The Fountain of Youth, and became a tourist destination. Alain weaves through the park’s lush flora and combative history. Photo: Jennifer Denis

Down and Dirty A Southern Journey for Sun

It all started with a cold snap at the end of October.

Halloween was only a few days away when the temps began to drop. By the time trick-or-treaters headed into the neighborhoods of our hometown of Sainte-Adele, in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec, conditions were well below freezing and the forecast showed nothing but snow.

As Quebec natives, neither my wife Jennifer nor I are strangers to the cold; we know how to settle into the province’s frigid, white winters. This October, however, we weren’t ready. To truly appreciate the next six snowy months, we needed one final dose of warmth.

Desperate to escape the cold and tired of our previous camping arrangements (sleeping in the bed of our truck), we decided to devote December to a biking road trip and bought a Dodge ProMaster van to facilitate the adventure. It took a month and hundreds of YouTube tutorial videos, but by the end of November we’d turned the ProMaster into a camper/bike garage combo we dubbed the Black Rocket.

Now we just needed to come up with a plan.

We figured we had two options. Number one: Drive out west to the warm sandstone and desert sun of Arizona or Utah. But with only a month-long window, going west was just too far to drive. That left option number two: Head south to North Carolina and ride in Pisgah National Forest. We already knew the area and could visit friends we’d made on previous trips.

The first snowstorm of winter blew in November 27. With the Black Rocket fully packed (albeit slightly disorganized), we punched Brevard, NC into the GPS and headed south.

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Few things top beach views and a fresh cup of coffee first thing in the morning. The day awaits as Jennifer Denis enjoys a few quiet moments. Photo: Alain Denis