Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Group Photo in St Augstine Fl

Team Canada Wallace (right) Don (center) Terry (left)

Ken and I with bikes in Atlantic

Last night we were staying in a Armoury. It was a big gym so the sleeping arrangements were dorm style or “floor flopping”.  I have never been a fan of floor flopping as there is always some one up walking around or snoring or opening or closing doors or zippers.   So there we are all in the gym and after supper Bubba gets every one to sit in a big circle to talk about the trip.  Bubba talked about our trip and his cycle trip across America. I think the purpose of the talk was to reminisce about our trip and explain to us how hard the trip had been for him as a tour operator.
When we got up this morning we found out that Down Hill Bob who was one of the sag drivers had fallen last night and dislocated his shoulder. I understand that Bubba and some of the crew spent a good portion of the night in the hospital with Bob. He was at the armoury but he looked pretty tough. This is the second crew member that fell on this trip. Sunshine fell and broke her arm the first week of the trip.
This morning we had only 41 miles to get down to the beach so everyone was pretty slow getting started even though someone’s alarm went off at 5:55 Am. Ken was determined to ride all of the last day so I set off with him. We made pretty good time up to the sag stop which was at 23 miles. Ken’s arm was killing him by then and he really needed a rest but then just as we got to the sag stop the lady from the church came out and told us that we could not stop in the church parking lot. So we had to ride on. There wasn’t another stop until around the 40 mile mark where we stopped for coffee. By now Ken was holding his arm in the safety vest. However after the rest Ken was able to ride down the remaining 7 miles to the ocean (yes there were a few Bubba miles here today).
Once we were close to the beach everyone met by the “Welcome to St Augustine” sign for a group picture and then we rode down to the beach. Bubba was standing in the back of his truck taking pictures. At the beach there was the wheel dipping ceremony and lots of congratulations for everyone.
Tonight is the big wrap up dinner and celebration.  It is a big accomplishment. The group has ridden 2971 miles to cross the United States.  While this is my third time across, this is the first time for most of the riders.  I have to take my hat off to them for their accomplishment.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

High Springs to Palatka April 29 2012

Cruising the bike path

Wallace giving Don a riding lesson

Follow the arrows to camp

I was on the road by 7:50 Am this morning and it was already 700F. The sky was clear and it was looking like it was going to be a cooker. In the mean time the thing to do was to get some miles on before that happened. 

The first 30 miles rolled by before I knew it and I was at the first sag stop. There I picked up Don and Wallace. After the sag stop we turned on to a rails to trails bike path. It was really nice being off the highway. The trees were over grown the path and provided a lot of shade. So it was cool and the miles just clicked by. Before I knew it we were down at the second sag stop which was at the 50 mile mark at the end of the bike trail.  Ken had ridden the bike path and had checked out the local restaurants and recommended the Chinese place. So Wallace and I joined him for lunch. It was excellent.

After lunch Wallace and I go out there to do the final 30 miles which actually turned in to 35 and we found that the wind had come up and was now in our face. So we got together and took turns pulling into the wind. It was mostly down a busy highway. There wasn’t much to see and it was simply a matter of getting it done. I was feeling strong to day and Wallace was glad to have me with him as he has been suffering from some sort of stomach flu for the last few days.

Tomorrow is our final leg into St Augustine and is only 40 miles. I think there are a lot of people who are glad we are nearly done.


Madison to High Springs April 28 2012

Some of the roadside flowers

A 1955 Buick

A view down the roadside

Not all of them are in Teaxs
The ant invasion scared most of  the campers off last night and it was pretty gruesome. There were only 15 people at camp and about 9 of them had elected to move in side.  Then at rider meeting when the route sheet was handed out and it was apparent that there errors on the route sheet I thought there was going a revolt.  Lets just say it got nasty. 
This morning when I got up I was feeling more than a little nauseous. My hands and arms were swollen from all of the ant bites and my tongue was feeling swollen. I took a few Benadril capsules and jumped on my bike. For the next 45 minutes I was feeling light headed, but I could tell it was getting better.
There was an early morning fog and although there was reduced visibility. Riding though the fog was great as it was nice and cool. So when I got to the first sag I rolled right though it as I wanted maximize the cool weather.  By time I got to Live Oak the route sheet was off  by 12%. It was too early to stop for lunch so I kept rolling. The second sag was at the most important turn of the day so even though the route sheet is totally nonsense by this point it didn’t matter as Chandler had apparently marked the last part of the ride.
The wild flowers were out and putting on a real show.  There were lots of yellows purples and whites. There were whole fields of beautiful flowers. This made it a very beautiful ride.
A squirrel ran across the road in front of me when I was approximately 75 feet away and then stopped about 2 feet into the ditch. There was a very large tree about 15 feet form the squirrel.  When I was about 20 feet from the squirrel I started to bark. The squirrel was totally surprised and ran for the tree. When he was about 8 feet from the tree he made a huge jump for the tree but missed. The squirrel landed chin first and when head over heels. The squirrel did a couple of barrel rolls before he got it under control and shot up the tree. I laughed for 5 miles.

After I got in to camp I found out that three of the riders have left the ride as they have had it. They are going to take a room in town tonight and then ride on the last two days tomorrow. Then Bubba had a major fight with a fourth rider. I don’t know how it turned out. I saw the rider and I have to agree with the rider. I would seem to me that the customer is right and Bubba has no right giving a rider a hard time over her opinion on the quality of accommodations on the trip.
Two days left and less than 120 miles to go.  


Madison Rest Day April 27 2012

Here we are getting ready for the big canoe adventure

Floating down the Suwanee River

 No trip to Live Oak is complete without a stop to fill up here

Today was our last rest day of the tour. There are only three days left and less than 200 miles to ride. The place we are staying is a total dump (it may in fact be the worst of the entire trip) so most of the riders have moved on. They have either ridden the full 80 miles to our next stop or 40 miles down to Live Oak. It looks like there are less than 15 of the 35 riders who have stayed on.  Bubba had organized a canoe trip down the Suwanee River so I stayed on. 
The church retreat yard where we are staying was not sprayed for ants and they have invaded most of the remaining camper’s tents. I had made sure my tent was done up so I did not have very many in my tent last night and only had a few this morning. In the cleaning up process I did get a few fire ant bites on my left hand. The result is that my left hand is extremely swollen up, and quite painful. Of the few remaining campers quite a number have retreated into the church proper. The small church is now packed with campers. I think I have ant proofed my tent so I am staying out side.
The canoe ride was out of the music festival park in Live Oak so Bubba drove the riders and staff who were going down the 40 miles.  Several of us got in canoes and some people got into kayaks. The river was extremely low so the banks were very steep and the limestone along the banks was exposed. I have never seen the Suwanee River so low. In a lot of places there was only 10-15 inches of water.  The last time Don O and I rode the Florida Bike Safari the river was out of its banks and had flooded across the roads in a lot of places. It was a very beautiful trip. The trees over hang the river and the Spanish moss is hanging off all of the huge old oak trees. It was very peaceful and quiet on the river the only sounds were the birds singing. It was a wonderful trip. 
Of course no trip to Live Oak would be complete without a trip to the Dixie Grill so we stopped in there for a late lunch after the bike ride. I had the ham steak and for desert the coconut cream pie. It was a great lunch. 
I got my bike cleaned and am ready for the final push in to St Augustine.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tallahassee to Madison FL April 26 2012

Ken and I clowning with Ray Charles

Wooden bridge over beautiful Bayou

would up sleeping in this morning which really put me behind the eight ball. I didn’t set my alarm as I had thought that I would wake up in plenty of time. Normally it would not have been a big deal as it was only 66 miles. 
The reason that today was a problem is that we were going to ride through Tallahassee in a group. So I threw my gear into the bag and hurried off to get on my bike. In my haste I never put my route sheet on my bike, never filled my water bottles, and forgot to reset my odometer.  As a result I was in a fog as to where we were going and where I was all day. I knew that we were just riding down state highway 90 until the very end when we turned off to head up to our camp ground. 
The group ride was a total shambles as nobody told anyone the rules of the ride. Riders were passing each other on both sides and not staying in groups of two. The pace vehicle would speed up and slow down. The chase vehicle was not riding the center line but riding the curb so vehicles in the outside lane would crowd the white line. Some riders were braking while going down hill and thereby spreading out the group. Luckily no one had a flat. The group ride was 14 miles and when it was over we broke up an headed off down the road.
We rode through Greensville which was the birthplace of Ray Charles. There was a sag stop there so we all stopped and took pictures of the Ray Charles statue. There was a lady who grew up with him in Greensville sitting in the park. I did not talk to her as there were a lot of other riders talking to her.
I was going to ride down to our camp with Don and Liam but they got out in front of me and they were not going to let me catch them. I was riding as hard as I could but they held me off until we got down to Madison, where we hit some hills and I was able to ride them down on the hills. We all went in and had lunch in a local diner which was very nice.

Tonight we are staying in some sort of church retreat which is several miles out in the country. We were going to be inside but as there is no room inside we are in our tents for two more days. The women’s toilet is not working and only one men’s toilet so Bubba has brought in two porta potties. There is no shade, no internet, no beer as it is church property, and nothing to do. At least the tents are spread out. It looks like 60-70% of the riders have elected to find a hotel room. Tomorrow is our last day off.  Bubba has arranged some sort of canoe/kayak trip for tomorrow. Details are some what sparse. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Looking across the lake from the campground this morning

Ad for junk yard

View from the bridge across the Chattahoochie River

We did pretty good last night by avoiding the re-boiled jambalaya which was regurgitated as jambalaya soup.  A number of the riders who did not go out to eat were complaining to day of an upset stomach and diarrhea. I had the all you can eat ribs with Don, Liam, Ken and Judy.  After supper we retired to Ken and Judy’s hotel where we enjoyed fried pies which are a Texas treat. Judy had brought them out with here for a treat.
The ride today was only 57 miles down high #90. It is a very smooth highway which is not real busy however it is a four lane highway, so there is fair amount of traffic. You always have to be on your guard. The biggest complaint is that it is not all that scenic. I would have thought that there would be lots of country lanes we could have taken to get off the big highway.  There were a few hills to keep it a interesting, and the tail wind couldn’t be beat.
The last 10 miles I hooked up with Wallace and we found a few big hills which were fun doing some hill sprints on. Wallace can spin at 125+ rpm so he can really climb. I can’t make that kind of speed so I have to rely on putting the bike in a higher gear and pushing through it.
Tonight’s camp which is allegedly the last camping night is in a total dump. It would be hard to find a dumpier place than this one. We are right beside the highway and are camped around a swamp.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

DeFuniak Springs to Marianna Fl April 24 2012

Last night was cold but I don’t think it got below freezing as the camp ground people were saying.  I think it only got to around 40 F.  So I lay in my sleeping bag as long as possible waiting for the sun to warm the tent up. Breakfast was at 7:00 and was being prepared by the campground people so there was no rush.
The ride today was only 67 miles down State Highway #90. This highway parallels Interstate 10 so it isn’t too busy and it has a good shoulder except through the towns where the road has 4 lanes. It is in pretty good shape and compared to a lot of the roads we cycled on in Texas a down right dream to ride on. There were a few small hills so we enjoyed a little bit of climbing and a little bit of downhill.
The big surprise of the day came just after the sag stop at 29 miles. Ken who had been hit by a truck just 4 days ago and has a cracked scapula was getting on his bike. He had sagged out and so the two of us rode off together. Ken rode for 10 miles at a good pace.  It was great to see him on the bike so quickly. Our bike mechanic came along and Ken got in his car. I was totally amazed.

The route took us into the town of DeFuniak Springs where we saw Florida’s oldest library. There was a little lake there which is spring feed and is one of the few completely round spring feed lakes in the world. The road around the lake was lined with stately homes.  It was very idyllic and peaceful setting.

Supper tonight is going to be the over cooked jambalaya from a week ago which is going to be recycled into jambalaya soup.  Fortunately for me, Ken’s wife has shown up and they have a car as it looks like it is time to find substance else where. 
It is hard to believe that we are going to be in St Augustine in 6 more days. It has been a long ride however the end is in sight.  Back to real beds, eating off real plates and everything else we take for granted.


Monday, April 23, 2012

To day was a short day so breakfast wasn’t until 8:00 Am but everyone was up and around by 6:30 Am, including myself. The wind was still blowing from the north and we are headed almost due east so I was glad that it was only 53 miles.

The road was pretty smooth and there was a good shoulder most of the way. In places there was no should but they were short. The wind was mostly out of the north but the wind was really confused. It would be howling into your face one minute and a cross wind the next followed by a tail wind. There we a very little rollers by nothing really. 

I sat around at the sag stop and then went in for a big lunch and was still in by 1:30.  The campsite is quite nice but miles from anything.

We are also expecting cold weather. I had to go dig my fleece out this afternoon. It is forecast to freeze tonight. Hey! This the end of April in Florida it should be in the 80’s.


Dauphin Island to Milton April 22 2012

After our rest day we were ready for any thing. So we started the day off with a 40 minute ferry ride, and what a ride it was. The wind was howling down out of the north at 40 mph and the ferry was not going to go but when the ferry master hear that we would have a 90 mile sag and it would take two trips to get us around Mobil Bay he decided to go.
The waves were crashing over the deck of the ferry and everyone was hanging on for dear life. Bikes were sliding around and the riders were all huddled in the shelter of the wheel house. The only ones to brave the upper deck were Ken Liam and I. Ken and Liam told stories of working in off shore oil facilities and I told stories of fishing out of Prince Rupert.
After the ferry ride we had an 88 mile ride where the wind was howling at 40 mph from North which was our left hand side. It was almost impossible to hold a straight line. The first part of the ride was along the coast line and there were no trees for shelter. After about 20 miles we got into a lot of resort areas where on the ocean side there were lots of high rise condos and commercial on the other side. This lasted for approximately 20 more miles before we turned NE so the wind was now almost in our face. This was not a day to tarry. I kept grinding away as best I could. Sometimes it was only at 8-9 mph when there was a really strong gust and sometimes it was at 20 mph if there was lull. With five miles to go I got a flat. This was only my second one of the3 trip so I shouldn’t complain.  I was glad to get into camp as this may have been the toughest day we have had.
When I got in I checked out supper and it was the dreaded frozen meat balls in Ragu sauce. These are the really cheap ones which are spongy and make Spam tasty.  So Don and I quickly organized Web to drive the Canadian’s and Ken out for supper. We went to Texas Roadhouse which is a steak house. I had the 16 oz New York. It was perfect. Eating of a real plate with real cutlery and a real piece of meat was wonderful. 
Tomorrow is only 52 miles however the wind is still forecast to howl at us out of the North.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dauphin Island – Rest Day April 21 2012

Cannon at Fort Gaines

Local Art Fair

Gas Production Platform in Mobil Bay
Florida Soft Shell Turtle

We are having a rest day here in Dauphin Island which is a barrier island in the Mobil Bay. It is mostly beach cottages and long beaches. There is very little in the way of commercial development here. The island is the site of the last major civil war battle at Fort Gaines. In this battle for Mobil Bay, David Farragut uttered the famous words “ Damm the torpedoes full speed ahead”  

The island is also billed as the having the most birds of any place in the US. This is because it is a major wintering grounds for a lot of bird species. I believe it as the calipee at 5:00 am from all of the birds was unbelievable. Even though I was awake early I lay in bed enjoying the luxury of getting to lay in bed.

Although there is very little commercial development I still kept busy. I went to the local aquarium which although small did a great job of highlighting the Mobil Bay estuary. I went for a walk through the historic Fort Gaines. It was rebuilt after the civil war and was in service until the 1930’s. New guns were added and the walls were reinforced. I also went to a local art fair. It highlighted the local artists. I was very impressed with the high quality of the works which were on display.

The clouds and rain are suppose to have cleared out by tomorrow. We start the 88 mile day with a 45 minute ferry ride. The weather for tomorrow is calling for winds out of the North at 20-30 mph. This is going to make the day a challenge.

Early to bed will be the thing.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Vancleeve to Dauphin Island April 20 2012

Dauphin Island bridge
Red Neck Palace
Alabama State Line (notice the bullet holes)
The four amigos (Liam, Don, myself, Wallace

It was another 70 mile day today and after a breakfast of granola was off. One of the other riders was eyeing my granola and asked where I got. He seemed really disappointed when I told him I got it at Wal-Mart. I just couldn’t ride another day on frosted mini-wheats.

Liam and I were cruising together most of the morning and were making great time to the first sag. The road was almost dead flat and was a very good surface; however Liam was having trouble with his bike throwing its chain. When we got to the first sag Don and Wallace were there as those two have been setting the race pace the last few days. Wallace when into a bakery to get a cinnamon bun, and Don thought he would play a trick on Wallace and went around the corner. Wallace came out and asked where Don was I said he rode off. Wallace who had two cinnamon buns gave Don’s bun to me and then sat down. After it was obvious Wallace wasn’t going go chasing after Don came out of hiding, but I had eaten his cinnamon bun by then.

After the sag Liam and I rode on to the Alabama state line where there was a lot of riders taking a group picture so we joined in. Wallace and Don came up and the four of us rode on to lunch in Bryan together. Don spotted a high school fund raiser barbeque so we pulled in. It was barbeque chicken which was excellent, on top of which Don insisted on buying! Thank you Don.

After lunch the four of us cruised on down to Dauphin Island. I dropped back as I wanted to take pictures on the giant 4 mile long bridge to the island. There is a three mile cause way and then a huge raised span which allows ships to enter the inland water way. Once on the island the milk shake hunt was on and the four of us sat in a beach café sucking milkshakes and eating ice cream.

When we got to camp we heard the bad news. Ken has been hit by a truck. A delivery truck in its haste clipped Ken with its mirror sending him into the ditch and to the hospital. I am totally heart sick. News filters back that Ken has been discharged and is on his way to camp. He has a cracked scapula which is extremely painful but he is in good spirits and is hoping to ride some every day being that we are so close to finishing. Thankfully he is ok.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Poplarville to Vancleeve April 19 2012

There were a lot of trucks rumbling past our camp site very early this morning. They came down the gravel road leading to the campsite and then turned down into the trees. I am not sure what was down there but they started rolling at about 5:30 AM. I was awake and thought of getting up and going for a run but lay in bed instead. Finally at 7:00 am I rolled out and got ready to go.

The ride today was 70 miles on the cue sheet but I wound up with 4 Bubba miles extra on the odometer. It was a perfect day for a ride. The temperature was mid 60’s when we started out and never got over the low 70’s. We cruised down some totally deserted country road. I don’t think that I saw or was pasted by more than 10 cars or trucks all day. The road was excellent pavement and had lots of low rolling hills and lots of twists and turns. So it was an excellent ride. The scenery was low woods on both sides of the road and every once in a while there would be a few dwellings, with the odd ranch. Some of the ranches looked like they were big operations.

I left with Ken and Liam and rode with them most of the day. Liam and I had a bunch of fun sling shotting each other past other riders so that we could take pictures of the riders. I would draft Liam and we would speed past the rider and then take their picture. Then I would boast Liam past the riders.

We are in a nice like campground tonight which has some sort of beach where you can rent canoes and paddle boats.

A great ride day,


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Franklinton LA to Poplarville MS April 18 2012

Last night we were staying in the gym of a large Baptist church. It was dormitory style where everybody is sleeping on their air mattress in the gym. I am not very fond of these arrangements as there are always so many people getting up and moving around I never seem to get any sleep. On top of which I was situated right between two of the early risers. So I took a couple of Tylenol and hoped for the best. I got right to sleep which was luck as the alarm went off for one of the early risers at 5:45Am. Breakfast was being served at 8:00 AM. On top of which she wore her riding gear to bed so she would be ready faster. Go figure!

Today the ride was only 45 miles so with a couple of exceptions nobody was worried about getting out early. The rain storm yesterday cleared the air and it was a beautiful morning. Ken and I rolled out of camp towards the back of the riders and just cruised. I was surprised at how relaxed everyone seemed. Ken and I found a donut shop at about 18 miles so we stopped for a coffee and a donut. After coffee we joined Liam and rode with him the rest of the day.

We all stopped to take pictures of ourselves beside the “Welcome to Mississippi” sign. This is our sixth state on this journey, and Google maps gives us just 557 miles to St Augustine.

Most of the ride was down deserted country roads with almost no traffic and very nice pavement. Even though we had started very late we were in Poplarville where were staying by just after 12:00 noon. So we stopped in for lunch. I was getting hungry and the hamburger steak luncheon special really hit the spot. Poplarville proclaims itself to be "Blueberry capital of Mississippi"

Tonight we are staying at the Hacienda Ranch which is an RV park but it is really a nice one as there is a huge grassy spot for the tents. We are not right on the highway and it is nice and clean. What a great day for a fun ride.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jackson to Franklinton LA April 17 2012

To day was forecast to be a rainy day and it certainly was. The hotel which we were relocated to was actually 11 miles west of the campground so instead of a 72 mile day we had an 83 mile day. I know a lot of people were planning on getting away extra early but Wallace and I felt that it would be far safer to wait until there was full day light rather than risk an early morning departure.

I was out the door and on my bike just after 8:00 which was plenty early even though I was close to the last to leave. The first 10 miles took us back to the bike hostel. I went but pretty quick as I was cruising along with John. The rain was coming down fairly consistently but not real heavy. The rain was quite warm as compared to the rain which I am use to. I had on my rain coat and paddling gloves but no rain pants and it was just perfect. The first sag wasn’t until the 35 mile mark and I stopped to fill my water bottles but didn’t linger. After the sag the rain stopped and I took my coat off and it was perfect riding conditions as the sky was totally overcast. The second sag was at the 45 mile mark and I was getting hungry but the rain had re-started and it was now just hammering down. It look really bad so I figured that there was no waiting this one out so I pulled my coat back on and a shower cap on over my helmet and started off. With 38 miles to go it was going to be a couple of hours of heavy duty pedalling though a down pour.

It did in fact take almost exactly 2 hours. The road was rolling hills though a wooded area with little farms on both sides. It was kind of fun pounding though the puddle. I would have rolled in first today but I stopped twice to fix other riders flats so I wound up third. Not a bad day!

Tonight we are staying in a church which is inside and out of the rain.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Jackson – A day off April 16 2012

Louisianna State Pen

A historic Rail car now an antique shop

Audubon Historical sign

Oakly Plantation Home (the richest plantation home in Louisianna in 1805 when completed)
I lay in bed until just before 8:00 Am. Our camp ground had but one toilet which was inside the bunkhouse which had been given to two of the women on the tour who have been complaining about the lack of facilities. So I thought that by waiting until later I would not have to barge into their sleeping quarters.

When I got over there I found that everyone was busy packing up. We had been evicted! Cereal was out so get a quick bowl of flakes and get ready to ride were the orders. The first stop was to be the Audubon State Historical Site. I gobbled a bowl of flakes and a glass of orange juice and ran back to my tent to change into cycling gear and pack up.

The Audubon State Historical Site is on the Oakly Plantation which was stated in 1795 and was in the family until the in 1950’s when it was acquired by the state of Louisiana. It was on this plantation which Audubon did a lot of his famous wild life paintings. He had been hired as a tutor for the family children and to do family portraits. In his spare time he did the famous bird pictures which we are all familiar.

While doing the tour there was a tremendous crack of thunder and Ken said to me we better head back to the office and get ready to ride. Before we got to the office it started to come down but Ken said its ok this will last for 15 minutes before the big dump so we can wait then we have to go. Sure enough 15 minutes later it slowed so Ken and I jumped on our bikes and hit the road. It was 4 miles down to the motel where Bubba was putting us for the night. The first mile or so it was raining and the road was wet enough to dampen our shoes. Just as we cruised into the driveway of the motel the first big drops started. As we got off our bikes it broke lose.

Thrown out of a place with no toilets and one outside shower, with rain on the way and in tents which are very poorly suited for foul weather into a very nice motel, I guess things could be worse.