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.
Hello out there -

We spend 2 nights on Dauphin Island, AL. smack dab on the Gulf of Mexico.  As it turns out,  the island was the first capital of the Louisiana Territory.  It's a small, quiet vacation spot with a few great seafood restaurants and the weather was just perfect while we were there.  Our group was divided into groups of 5 who shared a couple of condos, which was fun.  Here are a few pics.

Monday, April 20, 2009

We rode down to the other end of Dauphin Island to a fabulous bird sanctuary on our rest day and were rewarded with a sighting of a pair of Summer Tanagers, and right close too.
Below is one of the many such church signs that we pass daily.  This one was seen on the way from Pascagoula MS to Dauphin Island, AL, a trip of about 43 miles.  We had delayed our start time until 8:00 AM due to predictions of all night rain and wind, but woke instead to gray, looming clouds and dry pavement.  We were all generally hot footing it to Dauphin Island and were in by noon, in time to all eat together at a great shrimp restaurant.  We rode through Forrest Gump territory fo sure today.  The route into Dauphin Island included crossing a 3.5 mile causeway and bridge, attracting ( as seems to be our lot...) a good stiff head wind.  Our tour is permanently putting to rest the theory that the prevailing winds blow from west to east and that this is the reason to ride that direction when biking cross country.  Most if not all of the cross country riders that we meet going the opposite direction are sailing along aided by a good stiff tail wind when we pass them.
The roadkill of the day award en route to Pascagoula was without a doubt, Mardi Gras beads!  They were littering the roadside in singletons and multiples, in every shade imaginable.  Here's my friend Jan wearing a set.  She didn't know until she saw this photo that it was a roadside treasure.
From Wiggins, MS we skirted a potential rain/thunderstorm prediction and rode instead beneath cloudy skies and high humidity.  A lot of our joints seemed to be complaining.  We again rode through tall pine forests, one of them with a recently burned floor, and a few spots were live flames and smoke were present!  One of the highlights of the day was a chartreuse orchid like bloom with pitcher plant component, not in the Southern Wildflower book.  We also had our first scary dog chase scene;  about 6 small whitish obviously related yapping dogs were laying in wait for us as we rode by in our @ 5-6 riding groups, swarming us with menacing barking each time.  Not only is being bitten one of the thoughts that comes up, but the confusion (we were yelling in our best albeit out of breath alpha voices, blowing whistles, swearing..) of being surrounded by dogs makes hitting one and being toppled another possibility.  We LOVE fences.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

And we are in Mississippi, ever so briefly.  We spent our first night here yesterday in Wiggins and are now in Pascagoula until tomorrow morning when we leave for Alabama.  My first day in this very green yet flat state started out to be the horrible no good day, what with forgetting to re-set my odometer which led to a wrong turn or two and being just slightly lost, with I might add, storm clouds looming and lots of loose, barking dogs on our new errant route.  Just when we had righted ourselves and were back on course, I had a flat.  While changing it, the last person in our group passed us so we were then LAST.....I'm trying to get over it about being last but I guess I still have some work to do.  Oddly, my father was frequently at the tail end of the cyclists, happy to ride with anyone no matter what their pace.  At any rate, an attitude adjustment was in order and we pulled it off!!  For the first time in the trip, we had 2 riding options, the longer route having some dogs with nasty reps reputed to inhabit it and the shorter one boasting heavy truck traffic and no shoulder.  This was really a dilemma, but we chose the dog route and nary a canine did anything other than look cute, so we were able to maintain our new positive attitudes.  We passed lots of huge old clear cut areas - we are indeed in logging country.  Also, it never rained!!  Being here now is the only way to approach a bike ride.  We're seeing lots of muddy rivers with cypress trees and Spanish moss, very mysterious looking.  Here's a pic....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hi Folks -

That's Bolagusa, LA.,  and our last night in this beautiful, mysterious watery state.  Have I mentioned that incredible bird watching opportunities await around each corner here?  Cardinals still compete with Mockingbirds for most prolific, and it's been awhile since we have interrupted a turkey vulture in the middle of lunch on the road.  We passed lots of very green roadside attractions, old structures that have been swallowed by vines wrapping themselves around each and every opening.  These 2 signs are the only pics I took today.  Not sure if you can read the smaller one on the second post, but it's The Ten Commandments.  We liked the juxtaposition with Lisa Marie's place.

All is well.  We are starting to be aware that our trip has an end and that it is going to happen within the next few weeks.  All sorts of feelings float to the surface about this, happily we have lots of alone time on the bikes to process it all.

Best to you all until the next post.

Below are but a few shots of the wonderful Butler Greenwood  B and B in lovely St Francisville, LA.  The house, built in the 1790's, has never been occupied by other than family, presently by the 8th generation.  The Live Oak trees were planted as acorns, also by the original occupants, and create a canopy that is magical.  We were lucky enough to spend a rest day there.  Below is the cottage I shared with my 2 other roommates.