Freedom is an amazing feeling. For my good friend Michael Blackshaw, freedom came in the form of four wheels.
After 8 years without a vehicle, my friend Michael Blackshaw bought his dream ride in the form of a 1987 G30 Chevy 4×4 van. Blackshaw is the owner of a bike shop here in Orlando and regularly uses those two wheeled machines for his transportation. Between working full time at his shop and using only his bike to get around all those years, trips out of town have been somewhat hard to come by in his world. So when Michael called me around noon on a Sunday and said he wanted to take the van on an overnight trip somewhere around Florida I decided to jump in. I knew of a cool rock quarry north of Tampa we could check out before dark and it just happened to be about an hour away from a spring I’d been wanting to go to for years. With our trip loosely set, Michael pointed the van west and our journey began. It was apparent as soon as we got on the road how happy he was. Eight years without the freedom to pack up and go on an adventure translates to a smiling driver. Even with nonstop rain on the drive spirits were high. The weather was rough and didn’t let up when we arrived at the rock quarry about two hours later. We did our best to brave the elements though and kayaked between the two quarries for about two hours until it got dark. After a much needed meal we headed north to our next destination, Devil’s Den.
Devil’s Den is a prehistoric cave that houses a crystal clear spring up near Gainesville, truly one of the most unique places in Florida. Our arrival at the Devil’s Den campgrounds that night was after normal hours but luckily the gate was dummy locked and we were able to get in.
We parked the van as the only campers at the campground that night. We settled in to some beers and a few stories by the kerosene lamp before doing our best to fall asleep. The van actually sleeps two comfortably but the typical hot/humid summer weather never makes sleep easy. We awoke with the sun the next morning and waited for the cave entrance to open. Luckily still we were the only people there which gave us one of Florida’s wonders all to ourselves. For about three hours we swam, dove, and took photos in and around the cave. The experience was surreal. As you enter the cave the atmosphere changes completely. The air is about 10 degrees cooler than outside and the sound of dripping water echoes like a symphony through the natural amphitheater. The light was magical too, bouncing around differently every minute as the sun found its way through the karst window above. When two divers showed up around noon we decided to let them have the place all to themselves as well, effectively ending an epic 24 hour get away from our normal routine in Orlando. One of the coolest parts of the trip was seeing a good friend get so excited about his new ride. The van was a beast on some of the back roads we took and it also worked great for camping. A whole new world had just opened up for him and I think his weekend adventures are just getting started.
On the drive back to Orlando, an idea popped up about projecting some photos from our adventure on the side of his van. Since pretty much all the photos from the weekend were of the van and it just so happened to be white the idea seemed perfect. Exactly one week after our trip we came good on this idea and set up a projector giving a few close friends a live journal viewing.