On the evening of June 10th, having been home from Air Assault for less than 2 days, I hit the road for 10 weeks as a digital nomad. My friend Evan, who’s traveling with me through this summer, had one last class session to attend at the University of Pittsburgh. From there, we left for Soflete Headquarters in Hillsborough. Brian and Doug, the guys behind and in front of the camera, gave us a rundown on our equipment for a few hours. Then they sent us on our way with camera gear, an outline of who we were to visit, and some gas money.
Our first scheduled stop was with Anthony Radetic. Anthony is currently a professional racer for Sea-Doo, after time in the Army as a Green Beret. An accident while attending flight school left him without the use of his legs. His racing career takes him all over the world, from his home in Alabama to Portugal and India. He’s still a relative newcomer to the sport, only having started within the past 7 years.
When we arrived in Florida,we had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. Neither of us had any experience in motorsports at all. The only thing I knew about engines was how to change my oil. We immediately jumped in to help unload the trailer just enough to create a sleeping space on the floor, which was highly preferred to the front seat of my RAV4. Then we slapped down some backpacking mattresses and went to bed before a long day of racing.
Morning came early. We unloaded the ski out of the trailer with a 1,000cc ATV (this was the first time I'd ever driven an ATV). We surprisingly managed to get all the equipment out onto the beach without crashing into any cars or pedestrians. The amateur races were before Anthony's, and the shoreline was crawling with fans and other racers. A manatee in the water on the island actually delayed the race indefinitely. When it was finally time to get Anthony in the water for his race, it was a mad dash to get him set, followed by 30 minutes of racers zipping around the water at 70mph. Anthony’s cousin Eddie livestreamed the race and filled me in on the meanings of the different flags race officials waved. With the length of the course and the speed of the riders, it’s nearly impossible to determine who's in what place. Anthony found out that evening when the results were posted, that he'd achieved his goal.
The next day was even more rushed with two races in one day. Although it was slightly less hot, the races were nearly back to back, leaving little time for him to refuel and recharge, or even cool off after he peeled back the sweltering wetsuit and protective gear that riders wear. After trying to bring his body temperature down and refueling with some fruit, it was straight back on the water. Anthony found out during dinner that he had earned a spot in the top 10 for the weekend, which drew our time in St. Petersburg Beach to a close.
After leaving St. Pete, we were on the lookout for some activities to keep us going. While we had been busy, we hadn’t really been working to keep up any cardio capability. Much to our surprise, we found some mountain bike trails sans the gear-grinding sand. A fairly easy 3.5 mile loop turned into a 5 mile out and back when we reached a deeply flooded portion of the trail. The water was far too dark to see what was under the surface, even if you could see the Cottonmouths swimming across the top. However, it was a nice way to prep for what we had in store the next day.
The following day brought with it a high-speed tour of the State Parks that Florida has to offer. After a quick stop to the hospital (unrelated to our travel, we haven’t been that stupid yet), we headed towards Blue Spring State Park, the Winter Home of the Manatee. Blue Spring is exactly what it sounds like, a beautiful clear water spring that feeds into the nearby St. Johns River. A few hours of snorkeling allowed us to see teeming masses of fish, some upwards of 3 feet that looked like they could have taken a solid chunk out of me. That was just before we had to clear out of the water due to an Alligator just downstream. With an early end to our aquatic expedition, we jumped over to De Leon Springs to mountain bike in Chuck Lemmon Park. Surprisingly, trails here actually had features, deep drop-ins, ramps, and narrow passes on hills. Enough features that Evan is still pissed that I didn’t have a helmet on, but that’s another story. We ultimately covered 4 miles of trails; starting with an easier trail, Screaming Hawk, working our way up to the black diamond Raccoon Run. In a move that was probably better for my health, the park had closed the double black diamond, Wild Turkey, for mud washouts in a low lying area. We finished out the day with an unexpected shower at the bike wash station. Though this act would have no doubt upset the local constabulary, we just used the hose to clean ourselves after cleaning our bikes.
We’re currently in rural Alabama in the busiest McDonald’s I’ve seen in my life, on our way to stop back with Anthony for a day to ski some more. After that, we’re headed to the great state of Texas to climb and bike, as well as hunt with Roque Rodriguez. It’s been a wild first week on the road, sleeping on couches and floors as often as we slept in Walmart parking lots. If you’ve got activity ideas, or want to hang out along our Summer journey; send an email, DM the Die Living account on Instagram, stalk me down, or text my parents. If you’ve got a Die Living scheme to propose, we’re all ears. If you’re out making the most of your time, and embodying the Die Living ethos, we want to hear about it and come get a piece of the action.