Tuesday, May 5, 2009

By far the highlight of the trip was awaiting me as after a 76 mile ride into Palatka, FL., my cousin Barb jumped out from behind a sign sporting a headband  with a Bee on top to surprise me, which she did!!!  Her friend Cindy, whom I had known since junior high school, was there too - I was bolled over to say the least.  I had failed to notice the 'Bee' posters that were on the bridge that I had just rode over and displayed all around the Best Western Courtyard.  Some history here... when I was in 4th grade, Barb founded the Busy Bee Mail Club in an effort to better cousin communications.  She and I were the only members until our spouses were admitted by marriage, then David and Eliza as birthrights (what lucky kids!!!)  Membership is granted only if you take a club name from any of the Winnie the Pooh characters.  Barb, President for life is of course Pooh, I am Kanga, though rumor has it that originally I was Piglet......Anyway, over the years, the club has played prominently in all family gatherings, with Pooh at the helm with elaborate decorations, bee oriented activities, food, etc.  She has even worn a full bee costume, which she was unable to borrow for this occasion.  It was so wonderful to have she and Cindy ( who has been hearing of the club all these years) there.  Also, one of our riders is named Bee, and she knew of the club on day one of the ride.  As of this writing, she is awaiting a presidential decision regarding the first non-Kehew family admission to the Club.....more as this develops.  Note the bee windsock prominently displayed on the hotel sign.  Pooh does not miss a trick!  
Mere moments after the initial surprise of Barb and Cindy showing up, my duct taped riding goggles were exposed, when Barb exclaimed in shock, 'Oh, look at your sunglasses!!"  More background....she has been a sunglass salesperson for years so this faux pas stood out even more to her than to the rest of our group.  These glasses should go down in Southern Tier history as most resilient, having stayed the course after just 2 applications of duct tape!
The President presenting Laurey with her prize for completing the Bee Facts crossword puzzle in the most timely fashion....she did have an edge on the rest of us as she is a beekeeper.  
In keeping with Busy Bee Mail club tradition, Barb brought us a Hive Cake, which she had baked in Michigan and carried on the plane to East Palatka for the festivities.
Little did I know what was awaiting me on the other side of the bridge when I took this picture....and I thought it was just going to be just another motel stay!
We rode through some major agricultural areas as we neared the coast, with sandy soil and irrigation/spraying 'birds' like this one.
We took a 7 mile detour to visit these beautiful springs in a state park, both of whose names are gone from the trip memory bank at the moment.  The water was 72 degrees, considerably cooler than the outside temp, and felt great.  We also rode for a few miles on a bike trail today.  Florida is to be commended for it's attention to bicycling - most of the roads that we travelled either had bike lanes, wide shoulders, good road services or all three.  Our old nemesis 'chip seal' was a rarity and we didn't miss it.
Despite lots of valiant attempts to capture the beauty and brilliance of the Sweet William that we dubbed the Blue Bonnet of Florida, it just is not accurately reflected in these photos.  It was lining the roadsides for at least 2 days, which was good, since they followed a 40 miler which was almost totally devoid of any signs of life save miles and miles and miles of straight road lined by Southern Pines.  Give us hills and funky convenience stores any day over the flat boring routes! 

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hey everyone -

The posts have fallen by the by in all the excitement of COMPLETING THE TOUR!!!  The last few days were a bittersweet emotional mix of excitement, anticipatory grieving the loss of having a 23 member family available 24/7 and trying not to project myself into the next day, year, moment.....whew!  I will get it all down when I have Mt Ascutney  to look out at from my dining room table, so dear readers, hang in there!  I'm headed home today from St. Augustine, to Burlington tomorrow for a visit with David and Eliza then I hope to wrap up this chapter of the blog next week - I still have lots to say (no surprise to those of you who know me well...)  What an exhilarating experience it has been!   More soon.....Peggy

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

As we were riding into High Springs shortly after mid-day, we spied these turtles sunning themselves as we rode across a bridge.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hello from Perry, FL!  After our arrival here today, the general consensus was that this was our most boring ride of the trip, thankfully only 50 miles.  We only made 1 turn and it was onto a road that had a great shoulder but went through Southern Pine forests with absolutely no houses or convenience stores for most of the trip.  The road was straight, flat and we had our friend head wind to spice things up a bit, including keeping us cool.  I found out after I got in that I had missed the highlight of the day, a pasture with some cows.  Tomorrow includes a spring where we can swim and lots of turns so we're hoping for good things.  We have only 3 more riding days, including our arrival THIS THURSDAY at the beach in St Augustine where we will dip our front tires in the Atlantic Ocean to complete the trip.  We are all beginning to prepare emotionally for the end of this amazing 2 months.  Some people from former tours are sending us e-mails about the difficulties of re-entry....hard to imagine having to consider what we will eat for dinner (let alone prepare it!), not having 23 interesting, supportive women around all the time to laugh with, talk bicycling, politics, and good reads with and not spending 5 hours a day exercising.  But we will also be basking in re-connecting with families and friends, sleeping in our own beds, not having to remember hotel room numbers and getting on with the post tour..... and of course, making plans for the next trip.  All the best to all of you out there - more when it happens.
We had lunch here at Poncey's but somehow missed the swamp cabbage.  Our colleague Patty reports that swamp cabbage is code for hearts of palm, which I'm hoping to have some of before I leave FL.
Below, Team Hill Country Bike Works, Kerrville and Fredericsburg, TX.  This was our last chance to photograph ourselves in our Texan gear, right before leaving Wakulla Springs this morning.  
We arrived early Saturday afternoon at the beautiful and tropical feeling Wakulla State Park, which included our last rest day.  
Our digs were in this beautiful lodge, built in 1934 and on the National Register of Historic sites.  
Wakulla Springs had a lot to offer for the likes of us.....the water is 69 degrees F all year round.  Three of our intrepid group actually braved the testosterone platform occupied almost exclusively by adolescent boys  for a leap into the springs!
The river boat tours were really wonderful and relaxing, so much so that a high percentage of us took them more than once!  We saw lots of alligators, turtles, Common Moorhens, Anhingas, Wood  ducks, Great blue herons, Yellow crested night herons and a couple of snakes sunning themselves on branches, and some deer.  A couple of the Tarzan movies were filmed here, also Creature from the Black Lagoon.

We had a talent show on our first night in Wakulla Springs which ended up really being a hoot.  My friend Elisabeth and I wrote AND performed a tribute to our chef and food prep, Lois and Linda, pictured below (Linda on L, Lois on R).  The lyrics are below also, and if you want to get the full effect, sing to the tune of  'Favorite Things' from The Sound of Music'.  And have fun, like we did.....

Lois and Linda, they feed us like champions, Dinner and breakfast, when we’re not at Hamptons

Using two burners, dutch ovens and grill, They work their magic til we have our fill.


When the dogs chase, when the bugs bite, when the hills are rough,

We simply remember our favorite foods, and then things don’t seem so tough!

Verse 2

Salads with goat cheese, cranberries and mango, Carrots and raisins, Oh the places that we’ll go!

Catfish and pesto and chicken pot pie, this food is awesome and we’ll tell you why,


When the dogs chase, when the bugs bite, when the hills are rough,

We simply remember our favorite foods, and then things don’t seem so tough!

Verse 3

Pea soup and corn bread, polenta and chili, Dump cake and ice cream, jambalaya with filet,

We love it salty and we love it sweet, because it’s certain that we ride to EAT!


When the dogs chase, when the bugs bite, when the hills are rough,

We simply remember our favorite foods, and then things don’t seem so tough!

I must offer a correction to the previous blog when I mentioned having seen what I thought was a Limpkin.  Au contraire!  Pictured below is what I saw, and it is an Anhinga.  Although many people in our group were quite familiar with them, I don't recall ever having seen or heard of them.  Their claim to fame is that they don't secrete oil to keep their feathers dry post being in the water, so must sit with wings spread to get the same effect.  Also referred to as snake birds, their necks stick out of the water when they swim, resembling a snake.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Here's my friend Ann, chatting up one of the local law officials.  I was riding behind her and she didn't miss a beat or touch the ground when she pulled up to his/her window!  She is doing this cross country ride for the third time (with changes each time, last done in 2001, pre-blogging) and is training for a double Century ride when she gets home... that's riding 200 miles in a day.  She is the other bird watcher on the trip.  Today I flagged her down on a busy bridge to check out a bird that I was sure I'd never seen before, sitting in a nearby tree a little too far away to identify without binos, or in this case, monos.  Luckily she had hers at the ready and we got a good look at what I think was a limpkin, still to be confirmed by the bird book.  We head out today for a short ride to Wakula Springs where we will have our last rest day.  With only 5 riding days left, our group is beginning to process the ever real prospects of life after the ride, talking about plans for the immediate re-entry as well as long term things, like get togethers.  It will be hard to say goodbye to these wonderful, amazing women who have taught me so much about so many things, and I'm so excited to re-unite with my family and friends and my home.  Oh, t'will be a transition to be sure.  At the very least, I want to take Linda and Lois home to continue with the meal prep, Elisabeth as a riding partner, etc, etc......
We crossed the Chatahoochee River yesterday, putting us back in Eastern standard time!  Although not a state line crossing, we used it as a very legitimate reason for a Margarita party before dinner.  We spent the night in Quincy, FL, a beautiful town with a lovely town square dominated by a gracious Court House building.  We spied a gaggle of bicycles outside of Miss Helen's Cafe and added ours to the lot and were revived by the AC, the food and Miss Helen.  Highly recommended if you're ever in Quincy.  And, there's an annual blues festival here coming up in May, outside on the green...very tempting.
These swampy bayous (if that is indeed what they truely are...) don't translate well photographically.  Perhaps it's the still, humid, steamy quality that is missing, but they certainly are beautiful, mysterious and must be teeming with life.
The weather is changing!  No longer are we donning our windbreakers for our morning departures and we have had fog delays for the last 2 mornings.   The humidity is way up there compared to what our bodies are used to and it is getting hot.  For me, this translates into a sloth like energy level, not the best when you've got miles to go before you sleep.  We're all drinking more, paying closer attention to electrolyte replacement and I'm learning new methods to keep cool.  Most of these include wetting down as many articles of clothing as possible, including gloves, arm coolers and bandana which I wear under my helmet.  We rode along Route 90 (which parallels Interstate 10 and we have been following roughly the entire trip on back roads) on 4/23 and stopped to take in the sights at DeFuniac Springs, FL, a town of Victorian homes sitting on a beautiful pond.  Someone remarked that it looked like the set of 'The Music Man' and I concur.  

This beauty sits on the small pond/lake in De Funiac Springs, FL and served as the southern headquarters for the Chattaqua Institute for about 40 years.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Here's a story from the 'it's a small world among cross country cyclists' archives;

We've met a few groups traveling both directions using the same Adventure Cycling maps that we are, so we irregularly meet up along the road, exchange stories and eating recommendations.  It can be weeks before we meet up again and in fact one of said travelers has been AWOL for over a month now.  I called a bike shop in Pensacola to make an appointment, explaining that I was doing a cross country trip only to have the bike guy relay that there was another such cyclist in the shop at that very moment.  Was it Scott or the Alaskans I asked?  No, he told me, his name is Brian.  "Oh, I know him too" says I, and the bike shop guy put him on the phone for a quick catch up on how it had been going since we met him in a barbecue in Blanco, TX, with a flat tire on a very hot day.  It was fun to pass the info on to the rest of our band of gypsies at dinner, but we're still wondering where Scott and the Alaskans are.....
We've left the FL coast and are inland, riding through pine forests (Southern Pine, I think - lots of clearcutting) and with a few actual elevations today.   Huge pinecones are now a common road hazard.  There is a lot of standing water and it has been more humid and hotter for the last few days.  Our trip clock is ticking - only 7 riding days left until we reach St. Augustine, one rest day remaining.
I've really gained a lot of knowledge about bike touring on this trip.  Things have really changed from trips I took with my parents in the early 1970's when hydration and attention to electrolytes were addressed with a water bottle or two and a bag of gorp (peanuts, M &Ms and raisins).  I had stocked up on electrolyte tabs on the advice of a neighbor who is a cyclist and carried 2 water bottles.  Our SAG is available at 20 mile intervals with water for refills as well as snacks with lots-o salt, sugar and protein ( peanut M & Ms, jerky, cheese sticks, fresh fruit and all manor of chips, cookies, things most of us would never eat if we weren't loosing water and electrolytes due to the exercise.)   I was feeling dehydrated the first week or so of the trip even though I thought I was drinking enough, and took the advice of my cycling sisters and picked up a Camelback, below.  It has saved the day!  The water is stored in a bladder (yes, really!) in the back with a tube that you can avail yourself to while riding, thus creating more and consistent opportunities to get that water in.  Some people use Gatoraid in theirs, and I recently tried some iced coffee which had the added caffeine boost - those miles just flew by!  At any rate, I love my Camelback and hear that it was invented by an EMT who got the idea from the I fluid concept.
Greetings from Crestview, FL where pelicans are not to be found, but they were so much fun to watch in the Gulf.  Their wing spans are at 6 1/2 feet and they move like squadrons in synchrony.  My brother Gordon asked me yesterday if I take more pics than are in the blog and the answer is YES!  As the trip continues, my riding partner and I realize that we are not stopping as often for such, some days just because there isn't much to photograph but on long mileage days we are at times reluctant to take the time.  This is a revelation to me, but with high mileage days, getting it done is sometimes more of a priority.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hello from FLORIDA, our last state, our goal, the big Kahuna!  It was really an exciting moment to ride across the state line and to have a sign to pose in front of was the icing on the cake.  We've ridden over 2600 miles, with only 500 remaining, hard to believe.  I'm starting to get excited to be home and hate to see it end at the same time.  Conversations about get togethers are beginning to creep into our chatter.   Post tour culture shock is looming....
This Coast Guard pelican shared a square in Pensacola with one from the Navy, Army and USMC.  We were riding through the town for the last 20 miles of our day.  Almost every street had a fabulous bike lane, so it was really pleasant, adding to the euphoria caused by the tail winds.  Florida has got it when it comes to bike lanes!
Once again, we just missed a Crawfish festival.  We're compensating by eating Gulf shrimp at every opportunity, no matter what the meal.
We rode 72 miles of some of the best riding yet today, the weather being near perfect with of all things, A TAIL WIND!  None of us could remember when we had last seen one of those, but we were sailing along  enjoying every increased MPH that it created.  We're all riding at very similar speeds now, so a big group of us ended up at the same restaurant for lunch, very fun.
This morning, we had a 3 mile ride to the ferry landing where we boarded a small ferry that took us across Mobile Bay.  It was really fun - a beautiful sunny morning and we relaxed with each other, took lots of pics and took in the oil drilling platforms that dominate the ocean seascape.  One of our riders is a retired geologist who worked in the oil industry so she once again was able to fill in the blanks about what we were seeing.  If any of you find yourself doing a group cross country bike ride, I highly recommend bringing a few resident scientists along, as Sherry has enlightened us innumerable times about all the cool rock formations we speed by.