The miles we pedaled were not always easy. Something was always uncomfortable, whether it was a hot foot, or sore and tired legs, or a blistered butt. But I won’t remember the time on the bike because the rides were really just a way to get together with my brothers. The challenge was to ride from coast to coast across the country but the trip was about camaraderie and friendship and the feeling of total acceptance from your brothers (and niece and nephew). It was coming down to breakfast in the morning ready to ride and asking Tim, “So, what’s our route today?” and then getting ready with our bikes and meeting for our departure morning picture (46 times) and hearing Beth tell us to be safe and replying, “Bye, Mom. We will!” It was finishing a ride and having a few beers in Beth’s room while reliving the day’s adventure and listening to Tim read to us from “Conquering the Borderlands”. All these memories may fade but I will always remember how these bike rides strengthened my bond to my brothers. I love you guys.
Dauphin Island on our first night.
The ferry ride across Mobile Bay.
Just like the one in Ship Bottom.
The last state border welcome sign.
The Three Stooges back together riding from Crestview to Marianna.
Our last day riding from Paltka to St. Augustine.
Thursday March 3, 2016, 68 miles (109 km) – Total so far: 490 miles (789 km)
After Texas, Florida is my second favorite state on the Southern Tier route. It has surprised all of us with its variety of scenery, from white sand beaches on the Gulf, to the rolling hills and farmland and its many pine forests and swamps with hanging Spanish moss. Its cities seem friendly and the roads are by far the best. This state seems to be the only state of the Southern Tier that consciously plans its roads with bicyclists in mind. The weather this week has been fantastic and the wind has been favorable almost everyday. Again today we had a bike lane for most of the ride. We also enjoyed riding a great bike trail which runs from Melrose almost to Palatka. It was fun to be able to ride 4 abreast and talk together. The only reason I like Texas more (and I’m really thinking about West Texas here) is because of the mostly empty roads and vast countryside and also the restored old railroad hotels that I would go visit again such as The El Capitain in Van Horn and the Gage Hotel in Marathon and the unique cities like Marfa and Austin and San Antonio. High Springs, FL reminded me of those places; a little town with its own identity and culture.
Today was a flat, quick ride. Gainesville was trafficy but the bike lane kept us out of harm’s way and we soon left it behind to enjoy more farmland and pine forest or swamp scenery. Matt likes riding in front and we ‘had his back’ all day. We are averaging over 15 mph every day. It feels good to finish our day’s ride before 3 and then have a few beers before dinner. Today we sat by the outside pool in the warm but breezy air. We even iced our sore bodies in the frigid pool water. We stopped for lunch in a Subway. Another flat was repaired effortlessly by Matt who is a great bike mechanic.
Wednesday March 2, 2016, 74 miles (119 km) – Total so far: 422 miles (680 km)
It’s after midnight now, and I fell asleep right after dinner only to awaken when the clock radio alarm went off at 12 o’clock and now I can’t fall back asleep so I will catch up with my blog post. Today was another perfect riding day made even better with a 10 to 15 mph tailwind. It makes you feel awesome to ride easily along at 17 or 18 mph without really pushing. It’s still hard work to be on a bike for 7 or 8 hours but with a tailwind it sure eases some of the discomfort. We had 3 flats today. I had one in the first 10 miles, then Brian had a slow leak, but he was able to keep pumping up his tire to finish the ride while Matt had a flat 5 miles from the end. We had to go to a bike store in High Springs for spare tubes and I got a new tire. I fell for the first time while riding on a sandy sidewalk through some road construction. It made a terrible loud crashing noise but I was only going a few mph and only skinned my knee and bruised my ego. But I got right back up and road on “fearless”. We again used Google bike directions instead of Adventure Cycling and saved about 10 miles. We rode 90 until Lake City and then rode on 41 until about 8 miles from High Springs, where we rejoined the ACA route. We are in a B&B called The Grady House. They have had other cyclists stay here in the past.
We walked a few blocks to dinner at “The Great Outdoors ” and enjoyed food and drinks and live music.
p.s. Nancy, if you are still reading this post I hope you realize that I titled it especially for you! Now go and Live Fearless, my beloved.
63 miles (101 km) – Total so far: 348 miles (561 km)
Stayed entirely on 90 East again today and had more smooth roads with a few less rolling hills than the previous two days but still had a few and also we had the first headwind, but only for the last 7 miles. All in all, a great day for riding. We rode through the birthplace of Ray Charles, Greenville, FL. We stopped to take a picture of his statue and I picked up another penny so I am 3 cents ahead so far. It was great to have Matt back with us again although we rode at a slower pace than he would have preferred. I cant believe that there are only three more days left to complete our ride. I will miss the time together with my brothers and niece and nephew. When I’m on the bike, I never think about the office. I am using all my senses and not only my eyes and ears. Sometimes there is wood smoke in the air that smells great and other times, an old smelly car blows exhaust that smells bad. You need a good sense of balance and thanks goodness Tim has a good sense of direction. And the sun sure feels good on your skin after a long winter. Yes, I will definitely miss this ride. The weather continues to be perfect for bike riding.
93 miles (150 km) – Total so far: 217 miles (349 km)
It was a tough day. Florida ain’t flat. Rolling hills all day as he stayed on 90 East the entire route. Starting temperature was 30 but it warmed up quickly and was 70 by the end. My left knee is killing me. Alive didn’t really help but I guess it would have been much worse without it. We saw lots of farms and ranches and churches of all denominations. Every river we crossed was over it’s banks and flooded from the storms of a week ago. Today we will ride to Tallahassee about 70 miles, depending on the route we take. Adventure Cycling takes a circuitous back road route but we may elect a more direct route and just stay on 90 East. Yesterday only had one dog chase.
64 miles (103 km) – Total so far: 124 miles (200 km)
Brian wasn’t feeling well this morning so he decided to have a rest day. I hope he feels better tomorrow. Today’s ride was fast and we were surprised after yesterday’s flat ride to encounter some decent hills and also enjoyed being chased twice by dogs. The day started at 45 degrees and we ended at around 1:30 in the afternoon with temp around 60. Sunny all day, too. A perfect day for riding.
We began with a 30 minute ferry across Mobile Bay. Only one car made the trip but there were 4 bicyclists. It was very cold when we landed on the other side of the bay so we did a quick ride through an old Civil War installation, Fort Morgan. The first 10 miles after the ferry were on a deserted 2 lane highway but as we approached Gulf Shores, the traffic increased. Overall, it was a very nice ride because we had The Gulf of Mexico beside us all day and we each remarked about the contrast in scenery from the mountains and cactus and ranches we saw out West. It was sunny with a mild crosswind and very flat except for a few bridges we had to cross. Most of the roads had bike lanes or sidewalks so we felt safe.
We heard some fighter jets from Pensacola Naval Air Station which we passed after lunch. No dogs today and luckily, no flat tires either although we accidentally rode over a long line of nails which looked like they fell off of a truck onto the shoulder. We couldn’t avoid them and it is was amusing afterwards as we each said, “Shit!” we realized what we were riding over.
Tomorrow is a 75 mile ride to Crestview, FL.
This morning I had to try the biscuits and gravy. They’re good fuel for riding. I had nutritional stuff too, like sausage and bacon and bagels with cream cheese. It’s great eating whatever you want so you don’t lose too much weight riding a bicycle everyday. But you know I can’t wait for Big Hols food again.
Today it was 27 degrees but sunny and at the end I think it reached 37. Remember the episode where Joey puts on all the clothes? That’s what I did this morning with all the bike stuff I own. I had two hats on, as well as four layers under my lime green windbreaker and I put plastic bags over my socks inside my shoes which were covered with bootties. I was fine but I would rather be too hot any day than ride in the cold.
We had one last dog chase us out of Mississippi but he was really just running with us and barking, not actually attacking. It’s happened enough that we can read the dogs now. The ride in Alabama was free of dogs. No excitement at all.
We have finished this section and next year sometime we will begin here where we left off and make all the way to St. Augustine, Florida. After the first few days, the ride improved or maybe it was my attitude. Having Matt helped as he loves to ride in the cold and nothing seems to bother him. We loved having him join the Brothers and I hope he can join us next year along with any other nieces or nephews. The more the merrier.
We spent a wonderful night in the swallow fork cabins and now we are 1 mile into our ride on Thursday morning sitting in a Hardee’s waiting out the rain. Everyone loved the shrimp spaghetti that we made on the salad that we had for dinner last night. Let me tell you it’s hard to enter a blog post on your iPhone and Hardee’s restaurant. But I wasn’t able to do it last night because there was no Internet and I had to test Beth on a name that tune contest of classic rock from the 70s. Let me tell you she knows her stuff. She even stumped me a bunch of times on old 70 stuff. Today’s ride might be the hardest one were going to attempt. Matt is amazed at how fast I can type while posting this blog. Alright let’s try to add some media into this post.