Medart to Tallahassee, Florida: March 30, 2012

The last day…I am both…sad…and glad. Just like any “vacation,” the last day is always “out there” until it is here. When you first arrive at your vacation destination the last day seems distant, but as each day passes the last day looms larger and larger. By mid-week, it starts coming into view until finally it IS the last day. What do you do on the last day? Well, there is packing to do, saying goodbye to new friends, making sure everything is ready for departure, and thoughts of returning to your regular life. The last day can be a frantic day and if you aren’t careful it might not even feel like a vacation day. In the days following when you are “back home,” you need to be able to focus on the memories of every day even the last day.

My last day of this vacation has little of that because the last day of a cycling tour means you are still full on. I have things to do and places to go. Home is not on my mind. I am still riding with fervent a desire to make this the best day…the fastest day. Will I ever ride to just ride? Yeah, when I am regularly riding 20+ miles per hour…I guess that answers the question…No, I’ll always ride for the high that only speed can give you.  If this is the last day, I want to put everything into it. I want that finish rush which better than drugs or alcohol can ever duplicate.

In September 2009, I rode in a charity ride and the finish line was awesome. There was a crowd of people waiting and they were there to cheer me to the finish line. No, I wasn’t the first across; actually I was probably around the 15th or 20th out of more than a hundred riders. Even the last rider got the same cheer. To me that welcome gave me the feeling of an Olympian winning the gold. That feeling can’t be duplicated. Of course it can be topped though by actually winning the gold!

With all that in my mind, I left at almost 9 a.m. with a desire to go as fast as I could sustain for 30 miles. Yep, the short route for me today. I felt as good if not better today than I did yesterday and with the knowledge that I would only be riding a short distance today I can pour myself into the ride.

Instead of estimating the number of riders I passed, I counted them today. It’s great fun to race against someone when they don’t know you are. The competition is not so fierce.

I didn’t stop for rest areas or anything…well, yeah, I did. I had to stop a couple of times. The first time was when Garmin was directing me one way and traffic control police were telling me another. Look at the map below left… At MM13 the regular route, the one I had loaded onto Garmin directed me to the right. The officers were directing us to the left. I stopped and immediately heard someone behind me yell, “Stopping.” As I said before, I rarely ride with others and forget to let others know what I am doing. I actually went about 10 feet beyond either turn. I apologized for my failure to notify, but they thanked me because they had missed the turn also.

I turned around and started toward St. Marks and then turned around after a few feet and did a “180.” I actually did this 3 times, i.e., I took the right turn and then reversed 3 times.

There was an officer in the middle of the street stopping cars to let the cyclists across. I was embarrassed by starting across and turning around three times, but she never said a cross word to me even though I did that maneuver THREE TIMES.  To be clear…I turned around FIVE times. It wasn’t until miles later that I realized where I was on the map. If I had looked at the printed map, it would have been clear to me.  The turn to the right was a 5-mile roundtrip jog to St. Marks and back.  This route was supposed to be 33 miles, but all the riders that came up at that time, including me, made it a 28-mile ride.  Most of them didn’t equivocate like I did which was good, I could count them again!

When I, at last, decided to stop turning around, I took off with 15 miles to go. Along the way, I saw Dave and Jo Ellen in front of me.  As I passed, I yelled out, “can’t talk now, I am on a pace to do a 16-mile average.” Dave hollered back, “Go for it.” I didn’t realize it until I had to make my second stop that Dave had latched on. First I had to navigate a bottleneck at the trailhead parking lot which slowed me down.  [This is the same trail we started on 6 days ago.] Then I, along with a lot of other riders, had to stop for a traffic light at a major intersection and that’s when I heard my name being called…it was Dave. I had attained the 16 mph average before these slowdowns, but I knew there was still one thing that was going to keep me from keeping that average. Remember the long descent on the first day, I suspected that it was going to be the opposite today and I wasn’t “disappointed.” I had to climb that descent today. At the bottom of the climb, I passed my last riders…number 114 and 115…at the bottom of the hill and I couldn’t see anyone in front of me to pass. I can’t say I flew up the hill, but I was pleased. It is a long shallow ascent of about a 4% grade.

I was home; well I was back to the starting point anyway…the fairgrounds. I lost a tenth of a mile on my average to finish at 15.9.  We, and I am including Dave and Jo Ellen, got there before the luggage trucks so we had to wait. The wait wasn’t long and we enjoyed our last ½ hour or so together. It turned out their car was parked about 5 cars over from where mine was parked. I found my luggage and was loading it into the car when I noticed my left front tire was flat. I also discovered I had left the front passenger window open. When I saw the tire I suspected some skullduggery, but quickly dismissed that when I discovered a lot of valuables in the car had not been taken. I called AAA and they were there well within the 45 minutes they promised.  My first stop on the way to Sarah’s and Abby’s was at McDonald’s for a Large Mocha Frappe!

Thanks for reading.  I guess my next post will be in June if I do the GOBA or Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure ride and/or July for RAGBRAI…Register’s Annual Great Ride Across Iowa.

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Apalachicola to Medart, Florida: March 29, 2012

Today’s route offered two options, a 65-mile route and a 58-mile route; however, smoke on the road changed those options.  I started riding today at about 8:45.  I was talking with a couple, Bob and Barbara, in the hotel breakfast area who were also leaving late.  I opened the conversation by asking them if they had seen the guy who had just walked out.  There is a rider who carries an oxygen tank with him on the ride. That is amazing.  Bob and Barbara are a bit amazing also.  I didn’t ask him his age, but he looks like he is in his late 50’s or even 60’s.  (Of course, Barbara looked much, much younger.)  I may be off on his age, because their faces have faded in my memory.  Why, oh why, don’t I remember to take pictures when I am not on the bike?

Bob has been riding almost his whole life and, naturally, he looks like a rider.  They are staying in hotels every night just as I did except they also stayed in a hotel 20 miles from Wewahitchka the night I stayed in a tent.  You may recall the reason I stayed in the tent that night is because I didn’t want to ride another 20 miles to the next town to spend the night.  That extra 20 miles may have done me in; however, it would have been great if I could have done what they did, i.e., do another 10 miles and make it a century ride.  I always admire people who go the extra mile or 20 or 30 or whatever it takes to do 100.  Even more admiration is due those who do double centuries or 200 miles in a day.  I should have started a long time ago…riding a bike, that is.  Bob did this century (one of many) the hard way; he rode a “fixie” on their 100-mile ride yesterday.  A fixie refers to a fixed-wheel bike which means it doesn’t have a freewheel.  This means it cannot coast.  When the bicycle is moving, the pedals are moving.  He also did all the “pulling” on their century; in other words, Barbara drafted on him for the entire ride.  Makes me tired just thinking about it.

When I finally did get on the road, I had quite a ride.  I felt fantastic and laid the hammer down.  I proceeded to pass everyone on the road.  If I saw someone in front of me, I couldn’t rest until I passed them.  Once you pass someone, you can’t slow down because they will pass you.  If you pass, you are committed! I was doing so well that I believe the slower riders must have left just before I did.   It was a foggy morning, everything was turned gray.  These pictures appear to be black and white photos, but I used no special effects.  Candy, Bobby’s mom, is a professional photographer so I look forward to her comments.  I couldn’t tell whether they were kayakers, but it appears they are both.

I estimated that I passed about 200 riders in the first 12-15 miles and only one person passed me.  I was “cooking” and the mix was good.  I got so caught up in the numbers that my estimate included anything that was going my way which included about 100 riders that were loitering around the first rest stop.  I didn’t stop so I counted them too. 🙂  For the rest of the ride, I continued passing; however, the “big boys” must have stopped for a rest stop and they came out to play so several passed me, but they were riding together in a pace line.

I am always so down on myself because of my slow speed, but I guess I’m not alone…there are a lot of other slow riders.  For having had so much trepidation about making this tour, I’m very excited about my results so far.

As I said yesterday, I planned to ride the long route today, but it was closed due to smoke on the highway…again.  As I was contemplating turning right onto the long route, someone said the road was closed.  I was so disappointed…yeah, right…had to do the 58-mile route. 

One more day and I am looking forward to tomorrow.  Tomorrow’s choice is between a 28-mile route and a 50-mile route.  I will probably do the shorter route because I am eager to finish.

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Rest Day in Apalachicola, Florida: March 28, 2012

As I mentioned yesterday, Dave and Jo Ellen were in a tent across from me last night in Wewa.  They did just the opposite of what I did; i.e., I stayed in lodging at all the over-night stops but one, Wewa, and Dave and J.E. (I wish I had thought of calling her J.E. when we were all together…has a certain sophisticated sound!) stayed in a tent at every stop but one.  We both stayed in a Bed and Breakfast, The Coombs Inn, at Apalachicola. It was really good that we were staying at the same place.  They are such a nice couple.  Dave is the V.P. of Sales for a document solutions company in Duluth, Georgia, near Atlanta.  At breakfast, we arranged to ride over to St. George Island this morning.  Poor Dave…has to work.  If my memory was better, I would remember doing that a long, long time ago.  I have been retired for 14 years.  Wow, it has been a long, long time ago.

As the title of this post suggests, this is a rest day; however, there are three options to ride today – all of them are round-trip out-and-back rides:  62-miles to St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park, 41-miles to St. George Island State Park, and 22-miles to St. George Island Lighthouse which is part of the 41-mile ride.  The short ride sounds like a rest day ride to me and it was the ride that Dave and J.E. had planned to do.  On the way out, being the gentlemen that we are, Dave and I let Jo Ellen take the lead.  She went at a blistering speed until Dave or I (don’t remember which) graciously offered to take over the reins and, you know, to slow things down a bit.  Gulf of Mexico waters.  I called the picture above right, “Nice Bridge” because it was flat!  Apalachicola in our rearview mirror.

While Dave was leading out, another rider came up and drafted on Dave for awhile.  I later learned this was Reggie who I met at the rest stop yesterday.  Reggie (on the left) took over and we were battling a pretty stiff headwind. We came to a bridge with a 4%-6% grade and I was in the back.  I wanted to attack the hill so I started with a high cadence and passed all three of them on the way up.  As I went by Reggie, he said something like “way to go Bro.”  I responded with, “you’ll pass me shortly.”  Psychic that I am – both Reggie and Jo Ellen passed me, but Dave didn’t.

Finally, I offered to take the lead and I would like to say that I dropped them all, but you wouldn’t believe me so I won’t. 

What a wonderful day…relaxing…nice breakfast at the B&B, and a good ride going over to the island. We rode into the St. George Island and found the rest area, but more importantly the Blue Parrot was across the road from the rest area.  At the Blue Parrot we were able to get a refreshing cold drink and food.  After relaxing a bit, I happened to think about the bridge climb and I said, “Dave, I am NOT a good climber…what does that make you?”  Of course, Dave claimed he was not in good condition because he had only ridden about 136 miles since last season.  Oh, Dave, if you are reading this you can take your turn and say anything you want in reply!  By the way, Dave, it occurs to me you must have some accounting background, how many people – other than accountants and lawyers – say, “136 miles” instead of about 130 or 135?

We sat at the Blue Parrot Cafe under an umbrella looking out at the ocean, enjoying the beautiful day.  We had a great time… talking…

 

They told me about a great seafood restaurant, Boss Oyster, where they ate last night.  It sounded good, so on the way back I stopped there for a late lunch.  They didn’t tell me about the playful seagulls that wanted share my dinner.  They are noisy when they squawk.  I think they were trying to tell me something.  In fact, I am sure I heard them begging, “Can you spare a morsel?” “C’mon, please.”  They fluttered all over my table and in my face picking up anything they could find.  Then after they consumed all my leftovers   I was told, nicely, “Please, don’t feed the seagulls.”  How could I help it?  They invited themselves.  Okay, so maybe I did put a few morsels out for them.

I rode back by myself while Dave and J.E. went out to the “play around in the water.”  Why not, we are at the beach!
I rode by the lighthouse and walked out to the end of a walkway. 

 

 

I wanted to go back before the wind shifted and got a “free ride”!  It was a wonderful ride for me.  I was passing everyone – taking advantage of the fact that they were just enjoying the beautiful Florida afternoon and I was racing them – they just didn’t know it.  I averaged more than 18-19 mph going back which made up for the 13 mph going out in the headwind.

This is the bridge I just rode over from Boss Oyster.  After eating at Boss’s, I rode slowly around the downtown area and had a nice lazy afternoon.  I looked for and found an ice cream parlor.  I couldn’t resist, I got a double dip and sat outside enjoying the ice crea.  Judy joined me and we shared a few notes about riding and the tour.  She told me she is trying to eat all the oysters she can while she is here; Apalachicola is known worldwide for its oysters which are harvested from natural beds.  Judy said she ate 6 on the half shell on St. George Island and later she ate 6 at another place.  We realized we had both been eating at Boss’s at the same time where she had consumed another 6 – not sure it that is a total of 12 or 18.

I, of course, told her about my 50-state ride.  She said she has a different sort of goal – she wants to ride in an event or tour in each state, but trouble is, she enjoys some of them so much that she keeps going back to the same ones.

I topped the day off  by eating a good spaghetti dinner with Scott who I met on yesterday’s ride.  I totally enjoyed our conversation.  Scott now lives in North Augusta, SC.  We started talking about centuries; he has done several centuries between Charleston and Myrtle Beach.  I drove those roads many times when we lived there from 1963 to 1972.

While we were eating, a lady from Cincinnati, Deborah Komar, who I had talked with at dinner last night came over.  Last night I had mentioned that I retired from the VA.  She said she had also worked for the federal government also and is now retired.  In my mind, I speculated which agency she had worked for because she didn’t say.  So I asked her and she leaned over and whispered, “the IRS”!  We both had a good laugh.  I told her Sarah had worked there.  She tried to remember her but couldn’t and I couldn’t remember when Sarah had worked there.

That is the reason she came over to talk tonight, she wanted to ask if Sarah made lemon bars.  I told her she does.  Deborah said she had a recipe titled “Sarah Varnum’s Lemon Bars.”  We had a nice conversation about Sarah.  She also said Sarah used to bring wonderful dishes to the birthday and going-away parties.  She remembered Sarah was a very sweet person.  But best of all, she remembered that Sarah had a picture on her desk of a handsome, debonair, wise and charming looking husband.  Okay, maybe I remembered a little more than she actually said.  As I said, I had a great day. 

When I got up this morning I could hardly walk; my left knee has been bone-on-bone for at least 10 years and was stiff and in pain.  I decided I would do the short rides for the rest of the tour.  But later, I began feeling so good that I decided to do the longer ones.  We shall see.

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Wewahitchka to Apalachicola, Florida: March 27, 2012

My first night in the tent wasn’t bad as I thought it might be…but I woke up at 2:03 a.m. and my excitement about RAGBRAI might have waned just a bit.  Ah, the curse of being an accountant in a digital age.  (You figure it out.) 

I have registered for Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) which is held in July.  This year’s event is their 40th anniversary.  (By the way, in case you are wondering about the Register part of the name, the Des Moines Register newspaper is the primary sponsor.)  Not only am I wondering about the tent part but everyone I have spoken with about RAGBRAI has made me wonder…long, steep hills and long distances…doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as Bobby built it up to me.  I have been led to believe that it is one long week of partying and most of the 10,000 plus riders are recreational riders.   I think it was Dave who told me on his first RAGBRAI ride he hadn’t prepared for it and when he got to the first city, he looked for a rental car agency.  He didn’t find one and he did finish all seven days of the event, but he was much younger then and even now much younger than I.  What have I gotten myself into?  Well, I get ahead of myself.  No need worrying about a ride in the distant future…I might have “passed through this veil of tears” by then…just kidding; remember I am planning on riding a “century” when I become a centenarian.  But I am afraid RAGBRAI will bring me to tears with or without the veil.  Enough already!

The day started with a long delay.  We were supposed to leave at 8 a.m.  There is no mass start each day on the Forgotten Coast Tour. Some start leaving even before 8 a.m. but we are supposed to leave between 8 and 9 a.m.  This morning was different due to smoke being on the route we were supposed to take.  We were told we could leave at 8:15 in a mass start with the “fast guys” in front.  I lined up with the “wanna-be-fast guys.”  When 8:15 came and went, we were told there would be another delay due to a bad accident on the new route.  You can see on the map our route was supposed to turn left out of the campground and back track on the road we came in on yesterday for a couple of miles and turn left on County Road 386.  Today there was a long ride of 61 miles and a shorter one of 54 miles.  I had planned on doing the long route.  (Easy to say in the comfortable environs of my motorhome!)  The new route turned right out of the campground onto State Highway 71 and joined up with the original routes in Port St. Joe.

Realizing the wait for the accident site to be cleared could be long, some of us found a table with shade and chairs to wait it out.  This was a good decision; we actually didn’t leave until almost 10 a.m.  When I saw groups of about 30 leaving, I made my way as close to the front as possible.  Those recumbents!  It doesn’t matter how slow I am, I still want to get off fast and to the front.  If there is a rider in front of me, something urges me to pass them.  Unfortunately, that “something” doesn’t give any assistance whatsoever.  A rider on a recumbent and I left at the same time, but it didn’t stay that way…I’m sure he finished the ride, but can’t vouch for it because he disappeared in the distance…and I don’t mean in my rearview mirror.  Along the way, we did pass where the accident had occurred.  There was only one vehicle there and it looked like it had rolled so there may not have been another vehicle involved.  I didn’t see any evidence of serious injury…hopefully there not. 

This one is dedicated to Dub and James.  I’ve mentioned Dub on my blog way back in May 2010 when I barely started on my quest. I went by to see him when I rode in North Carolina. He and I occasionally fished together many, many years ago.

At Port St. Joe, I started to turn left at a light where we joined the original routes; I looked to the right – not for safety’s sake – I was looking for a McDonalds and there, in all its splendor, the Golden Arches glistened in the noon-day sun, beckoning me to come.  I got my frappe… a large one…which weighed heavily for the rest of the ride…I should have gotten a medium.   See the riders in the distance on the left…I discovered it is much easier to make them closer by zooming…well, at least, appear to be closer.

Later in the ride, I stopped at a rest area which boasted small screened-in buildings with benches…it was too comfortable.  I sat down with a cup of cold water and with other cyclists to pass the time of day: Bill (different one than the Gator), Reggie, Lizzie, and Jim.  It was just a very relaxing way to spend a few (too many) minutes.  By the way, in case you are wondering why a roadside park would have screened in buildings, I saw a sign while there that announced Florida’s State Bird is the Mosquito.  And, believe me, there is no risk of extinction for mosquitos in Florida.

When I finally left, I followed the coastline – the longer route which due to the shortcut was now about 50 miles.   I came upon this beautifuls scene because Scott had stopped to take a picture of it…thanks, Scott, I would probably have just ridden on by.  I enjoyed chatting with Scott.  Shortly I headed out.  You know me, the consummate loner.

But tomorrow night, Scott and I…well, more on that in tomorrow’s post.

Where the short and long routes came back together, at about MM53, I heard someone say, “I’ve got your back door…”  Ah, that’s what you’re supposed to say when you draft on someone; maybe “my new friend” of yesterday might have warned me that I was going the wrong way had I used those magic words.

But I am straying from the more important point.  Do you realize someone is saying to me…ME…that they want to draft on ME…wow.  I really took it as high praise!  Dennis I shared the front for several miles.  About 2 miles from the end of the ride, Dennis wanted to stop at a convenience store to get a COLD drink.  I was eager to get to the lodging site, but I have to say that cold drink was refreshing.

When we started back on our ride, I turned off a couple of blocks before Dennis to go to the Coombs Inn.  The B&B was a nice surprise except for the fact that I was not in the main building which was about a block away.

I relaxed after washing my bike clothes – all three outfits – and hanging them all over the room to dry.  Then about 6 o’clock, I walked a couple of blocks for dinner with the Tour.

The dinner was great: baked chicken and some wonderful green beans and a good salad.  Best of all, the tea was great…thirsty!!  I don’t recall how much water I drank on the ride, but the tea hit the spot.  The Tour contracted with local restaurants, churches, and other groups who know how to cook “down home” style meals. 

On the way back to my home for the night, I stopped at the convenience store on the left and got some candy and Diet Pepsi…save calories wherever I can.  I had a nice evening reading my Kindle and relaxing and eating my candy and looking forward to tomorrow.

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Quincy to Wewahitchka, Florida: March 26, 2012

[NOTE:  I am actually writing these blog posts after the tour because I couldn’t carry my laptop with me so I have the benefit of knowing about my future days as well as today’s ride.  Of course, this presents problems because of my not being able to remember the names of riders I met along the way. I also want to apologize for not getting these posted more quickly. I have been very busy since I returned and also tired from the tour itself.]

Today’s ride was my favorite ride of the tour and may even be my favorite ride “of all time.”  I had a lot of trepidation about riding more than 70 miles and especially after having ridden almost 60 miles yesterday.  As it turned out, my worry was unnecessary.  I just felt really good from the beginning to the end.

My first decision was pretty easy.  There were two routes we could have taken, a 69-mile ride or a 100-mile ride.  I might have been more inclined to go for my first century today; however, the route was such that I would have had to commit to it at about MM14 (see right).  The 2 routes were the same except for the jog shown at the right; also, this loop was, according to the ride director, very hilly.  So, as I say, easy decision…

I met Bill, a Gators’ fan, as evidenced by his bike shorts which was proudly announced his rump.  We rode together for several miles and while we were together, a young rider rode past us at a pretty good clip. Bill said, “Let’s draft on him…and then quickly added, I’ve got third position.”  So I agreed and started drafting on “our new friend.”  Proper etiquette says one should announce their presence and get the permission of the rider.  To me it was just a lark and I didn’t say anything until I noticed “our new friend” started slowing down and casting backward glances.  I smilingly said, “I think he’s on to us!” in a voice loud enough for both “our new friend” and Bill to hear,  When I didn’t get a response from Bill, I turned to see Bill wasn’t in third position…he was nowhere to be found.  So I was caught!  I pulled up alongside “new friend” and started chatting.  We talked for about a mile or so and then I realized “my new friend” was no longer a friend at all!  The route had made a right turn (see MM12 above right) and I continued going straight for about a tenth of a mile when Garmin announced I was “off course.”  Unfortunately, that tenth of a mile was downhill so I turned around and climbed back up.  Honestly, I cannot imagine why anyone would make a turn and not yell a warning, “hey, you’re going the wrong way.”  Talk about proper etiquette.

I also met Jeff who had stopped to take a picture of an old tree which reminded me to also make some pictures.  I snapped a couple of pictures and was on my way.

I passed the first rest stop and would have passed the second one; however, I had been trading positions with a guy on a “bent.”  I had heard recumbents are faster than regular road bikes because of their aerodynamics and their gearing.  I later found out who this speed demon was (hey, he was passing me – he must have been very fast!); his name is Jim or Lee (sorry that’s what I was talking about in my preface Note above).  I think he is Jim; and I met Lee later.

Before I talk about Jim and our “trading positions,” I need to talk about the wheels on my bike.  They are actually made in Austin under the brand name of Rol.  The single most effective thing that one can do to a bike to make it faster, in my opinion, is use lighter and more aerodynamic wheels.  These wheels make me the fastest rider I personally know when coasting downhill.  I am serious; I have yet to find anyone who can pass me coasting downhill.  Actually, it is embarrassing.  Going uphill, I am often at the rear of the pack as.  Almost anyone can pass me when the road turns up…but when the road turns down, I just “walk away” from them as long as we are not pedaling.  I am sure part of it is because of my size (heavier weights fall faster).  I used to think it was my bike until Bobby told me it’s the wheels.  And, of course, he was right.  Those same wheels that I had on the Cannondale are on my Time bike now.  Whenever I am riding with someone I have to tell them about my wheels because I look like a smart aleck when I pass them going down and they then pass me going up.  As you can see, I am as happy as I can be…enjoying myself to the max…just doesn’t get any better.  Bobby says I may turn into a “junkie.”

Now to explain my statement above about “trading positions,” Jim (I have to settle on a name) was passed me going down a hill then I caught him when the hill started back up and then leveled off.  When I say, he passed me, I mean he really passed me.  There were two hills where this occurred and the second one was a pretty good downgrade.  Because of my compact 50/34 gearing, I can’t go as fast as I did when I had triple rings of 52/42/30.  (I’m not going to address the cogs…I see some whose eyes are beginning to glaze over.)  Anyway, I spin out at a cadence of 110 rpm which means my top speed with my gearing is about 35 mph.  After that a higher speed is dependent on the grade and length of the hill and any aerodynamics I can achieve.

Well, I was hitting about 35 mph and Jim passed me at a much faster speed.  We had to climb when we bottomed out on the first hill so I was able to pass Jim after hill leveled off, as you can see from the picture I took over my shoulder.  But the second hill, leveled off more quickly and it took me a long time to catch him and that may have only been possible because he was slowing down for the rest stop.

I pulled in behind him and my first words were, “I have to ask!  Were you pedaling on the downhill?”  He said he was and we talked a bit about the gearing and aerodynamics of the bent especially with the windshield.  Jim almost had me convinced to get a bent!

I rode right on by another rest stop and immediately up this bridge knowing that I would stop at the top to take some pictures…anything for an “excuse to stop.”  The picture at the right shows the riders from the rest stop are coming and the picture to the left shows they have passed me…gotta go

This picture is dedicated to James, my son, The Fisherman.  I was getting a little hungry about 45 or 50 miles into the ride.  I was hoping there was a McDonald’s in Blountstown, because I was “dreaming” of getting a large mocha frappe.  I came up on a rider and asked when we were going to get to Blountstown and she told me we had already passed it about 15 miles back.  I was devastated!  I immediately started hoping there wasn’t a McDonald’s in Blountstown.  Later that evening I told that story to several people I had met and someone said, there was a McDonald’s in Blountstown.  She said if I had looked up where we turned left about a half block away I would have seen the McDonald’s.  Unfortunately, I made the light and didn’t look up the street; I was intent on making my left turn.  I was looking for Blountstown and here I was right in the middle of it.  I was looking for a bigger “city.”  Oh, the pain, the anguish, the agony.  Maybe tomorrow!

Now my hopes turned to hoping there would be another rest stop of any kind.  I needed some nourishment.  I asked another rider as I was passing if she knew whether we had another rest stop and  she said she didn’t think there was.  Fortunately for me just a few hundred yards down the road I saw someone turning into the rest stop.  They had popsicles – that would have to take the place of the frappe – a banana and a little bit of candy and I was ready to ride.  They were going to have peanut butter sandwiches a little later, but we were there earlier than they expected and I didn’t want to wait.

Getting close now…gotta go…I think we were about 15 miles from our final resting place…for the day…not forever.  I was excited because I was averaging 15 mph.  About 6-8 miles out I had increased my average to 15.1, but I was getting tired and started slowing my pace.

I was really happy to see this sign, but not so happy when I realized the campground was south of town and we had another 5 miles to go.  About this time, I checked  my speed and realized my average had dropped to 14.9.  There is a big difference between any .9 and .0…look at all the gas pumps in the United States.  I didn’t want to end the day with an average of 14.9 so I started hammering it until I brought it back up to 15.0 mph.

I was also glad to see those campgrounds and the tents being put up.  I was more than a little elated that there were so few people there when I arrived. It’s not that I am so fast, it’s because I don’t stop very often…I just keep plugging away like the tortoise.

I was not glad that I had only drunk 1.5 bottles of water.  It’s a wonder I wasn’t dehydrated.  I found Padre’s meeting place and a place for my bike, then found cold drinks.  I drank 3 sodas and a big ice tea within a very short time.  I then showered and looked for a cheeseburger…and something else to drink.

My Home for the Night:  “FF.”  This is my first and only night that I will be staying in a tent.  From Wewa, the lodging sites were all about 20 miles away and I didn’t think I would like the idea of riding that far after riding 71.27 miles.  I wanted to experience the camping thing.  You have to understand that I didn’t sleep in a tent when I was young not ever.  I may have slept in a tent when I was in basic training in the Air Force, but I am doubtful about that…the Air Force?  Nah.  That’s for the Marines and the Army, not the Air Force.  As I said, I want to experience camping because in July I plan to ride in RAGBRAI and I will be camping every night on that ride.

The tent across from me belonged to Dave and Jo Ellen, a wonderful couple that I met that afternoon who allowed me to kinda hang out with them for the rest of the week.  I will talk more about them in the upcoming posts.

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Tallahassee to Quincy, Florida: March 25, 2012

I feel like this is the first real day of the tour.  The ride was supposed to start at 8 a.m. from Leon County Fairgrounds in Tallahassee and end in Quincy, 63 miles away.  Of course, Google calculates the distance to Quincy at 24.5 miles northwest.  But when the route starts out by going south it turns into a much longer ride.  The two pictures above are of the entire route with all options.  The picture at the left is today’s route which for me was a little over 59 miles.

 

I saw lots of riders leaving well before 8 a.m. so I took off about 7:55…not too early; however, I discovered that I had packed all my socks and the trucks transporting our luggage was already gone.  Fortunately, there was a vendor there which had bicycle clothing and supplies so I was able to get a pair of socks and get on my way.

The ride starts and ends at the fairgrounds and going out is much more fun since there is a long downhill run when we leave and magically it will turn into an uphill crawl when I get back in about 6 days.  I was glad for the downhill because it kicked me into gear right off the bat.  At about 10-12 miles, I was averaging almost 18 mph.  [Note:  Garmin didn’t record four of my rides; I think I know why, but it’s not worth explaining.  Because of the lack of an actual record of my ride, I have to depend on my memory for some of the distances and speeds.  Now, let’s face it, would you estimate low on distance and speed if it were you?  So you will just have to “trust” my faulty memory.  Besides, once it is recorded in my blog it is as well as being written in stone!]

I was a little surprised by the number of tandem bicycles and even more surprised by the large number of recumbent bikes (called “bents”).  The biggest advantage to the tandem is it allows two riders of unequal skills to ride together.  On that note, I think this is a good time and a great medium to make an announcement and perhaps gather some support from my blog friends.

If you have followed my blog, you may be aware that when I first started riding, I was very enthused and enjoyed riding so much that I set a goal to do a century on my 100th birthday.  I recently read that one is considered “young old” from 65 – 74; from 75 – 84 one is considered old; and those 85 and older are “old old.”  This September, I will be officially “old.”  So as I have started aging, I have realized that as I get older my feeble skill sets are becoming even feebler.

Nevertheless, I still plan to ride 100 miles on or after September 6, 2036…on a tandem.  To accomplish this, I am enlisting my three sons to assist me in making this goal.  Nathan, James, and Ron, you had better start your training now so you can ride a short 33 miles so I can sit in the back and coast while they are doing the pedaling.  I suppose Nathan will have do 34 miles since he will, at 69, be the youngest.  James will be 74 (my age today) and Ron will be 77.

Back to reality! 

I met Andy on a “bent” from Florida and we rode together for several miles.  When Andy dropped off, Tim joined me and we rode together for about 10 miles.  I had passed a girl who had a long braid hanging out from her helmet; I told her, “you need to let your hair down,” meaning ride faster.  About 30-45 minutes later, she did and she passed Tim and me.  Tim caught up with her and drafted on her then I drafted on Tim.  We had a pretty good going for several miles.

“The Braid” led for quite awhile until Tim and I took turns at the front.  Tim had told me he had a bad shoulder so when we came to a rest stop I thought Tim wanted to stop so I pulled in; unfortunately, he didn’t and I lost my riding partner.  At that point I was averaging more than 18 mph (see above) but, the rest area was setup about 2 miles back, or 4 miles roundtrip, and it was slow riding.  I lost about .6 mph on my speed and never got it back.  If it weren’t for that rest area, I might have averaged more than 20 mph!  Or, if the post was longer, I could just keep adding more superlatives…remember there is no official record of my speed or distance!  Esther is pictured at left.  The pictures below were taken from different angles  at the second rest area.  Beautiful setting.

 

 

Earlier when I was passing one of the tandems, we were talking about something that prompted me to say, “yeah, but you’re younger than I am; I’m 74, how old are you?”  Her husband at the front of the tandem said, “I’m 76.”  And Tim said, “I’m 77.”  You just can’t use your age as an excuse when you are talking to cyclists!

I lunched with Dave and Lee and I said something I had never said before about my 50-state ride.  I told them I had done something on a bike that they hadn’t done and they didn’t know anyone who had.  It was just a “cutesy” way to tell them about my Grand Adventure.  Well, I was wrong…kinda.   It turned out Lee knew about someone who had…ME!  He asked if I had a daughter that lived in Cincinnati.  Of course, I told him I had 3 daughters-in-law who lived there.  He said one of them had told him all about my 50-state ride.  We couldn’t figure out which one it was.  If this picture doesn’t make you want to get on a bike and just ride, you should seek counseling!  I will be happy to do the counseling…

The last 5-10 miles were very hilly and we had a headwind of 12-14 mph with gusting even higher.  That 18 mph shrunk dramatically, but if it hadn’t been for that stiff headwind, I might have averaged close to 25 mph!  When I arrived at the Hampton Inn I was tired but felt very good.  The campground for the evening was another 3-4 miles so those of us who stayed in the nearby motels rode a bit shorter than most riders.  We get to pay some of it back tomorrow morning.

I’m sorry I didn’t take more pictures; it’s been a long time since I have taken pictures on my rides.  I do wish I had taken some pictures of the tandems and bents.

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Tallahassee, Florida: March 24, 2012

I arrived last night at Abby’s house just outside of Monticello and stayed with Abby, Sarah, and “Ma.” 

Today, again with some trepidation, I checked in for the tour.  There are 600 riders registered for the tour and almost all of them are staying in tents.  I, along with a few others, am staying in motels in the overnight cities.  Looks like Time is on my side…Time bike, that is – Ready to go.

Today there are three routes to choose from: (1) an 18-mile hilly loop around the city of Tallahassee, (2) a 40-mile out-and-back ride mostly on a bike path to the city of St. Marks along the St. Marks Trail which was flat except at the start (and end) of the ride, and (3) a 52-mile loop outside the city which started and ended with hills.  To conserve my strength and because rain was in the forecast, I elected to do a part of the 40-mile ride.  I did get a few sprinkles of rain, but I had a really relaxing ride even though I got lost and went on the wrong route.

 

Two of the routes, and maybe all three, went along the same route for a short distance.  There were a couple of riders about a quarter of a mile in front of me and they turned left and I followed them.  After riding about 4-5 miles, I realized I was on the wrong ride.  I turned around and went back to the point where I turned left and should have turned right.  I finally found the bike path and just cruised along.  It really was a beautiful ride.

I pulled off the trail and into a park and just reveled in the moment.  Relaxing and excited and a little bit worried about my upcoming rides.

From the looks of the picture at the left, there were a lot of registrants who didn’t ride at all.

The moment of truth will come tomorrow when we will be riding about 63 miles from Tallahassee to Quincy. 

  

Posted in Adventure, Bicycles, Bicycling, Exercise, Florida, Friends, Touring, United States | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments