Wednesday, April 29, 2015

We have arrived!

Our last. Everything was "our last". Even though I didn't want to think that way, it seemed to creep in. I woke up without the alarm at 5:30 and went to the other room for coffee. The other early coffee drinkers were there. We were all wearing our Coast to Coast jerseys together for the first time. When we left the Pacific Coast we didn't wear them because one jersey had mistakenly not been ordered. One jersey looked different though. Hmm. Rich, (who has an understated sense of humor) only halfway got the message that we were wearing the jerseys. Well, I guess it wasn't spelled out...

We started out into a cloudy day which was a blessed relief from the day before. The route wound around through the countryside. We reached our only SAG stop which was next to a beautiful little church tucked in under some large live oaks. No one seemed in any great hurry to leave the SAG stop.
Just before leaving we looked up and there were three Swallow-Tailed Kites! I stood there with my mouth open and didn't catch any pictures. We had been looking for them all through Florida and to see them on our last day, especially so close, was a blessing!
Just a short while later Dave saw a sign for a Swallowtail Farm. We stopped for a photo. The kites must regularly nest in that area.
Just a little further down the road we got another blessing. A wood stork flew overhead and landed in a tree in front of us. He stayed there while I took pictures of him and when other riders rode by and Alan stopped to get a picture. Alan is a Forest Service person and is always interested in outdoors flora and fauna. He said when he heard me say "endangered species" he wanted to see the bird. I didn't realize until I looked it up online today that the status has recently been upgraded to "threatened". In part this is because their territory has expanded from just being in south Florida in the Everglades.
In very little time we biked into Saint Augustine and arrived at the restaurant overlooking the Intercoastal Waterway. Many Coasters had taken over the upper outside deck of the restaurant.We also found Stephan and Stephen, other self supported riders traveling solo that we had met at different times in Texas. 
We finished lunch too soon. I wanted to just bask in the knowledge that we were so close. It seemed like time was moving too fast for me.
We headed over the Stone Lions bridge and headed to a McDonald's on A1A. And then we waited. It turned out that Captain Don, who was going to head up our parade of riders down to the beach had missed the turn....
Staff drove after our leader and brought him back. We gathered for some pictures at the "Welcome to Saint Augustine" sign with our flags from the five countries represented on the tour. Quite an impressive sight.
Then in single file, following Don and Dean, we rode behind the staff truck with Bubba standing in the back hollering that we had just ridden from San Diego to Saint Augustine across the country. Ed honked his horn at every car we passed and people sitting outdoors at the restaurants we passed were cheering. Quite a hoopla, but it was fun.
We reached the hotel and people who had friends and family saw them outside with cameras and signs. 
We went through the front door and out the back door and out to the beach. The funniest part of that was an enterprising young man who was renting beach chairs and shouting "aww you don't want to drag your bikes all the way down there. You're tired! You just rode your bikes a long way. You want to rent one of my chairs and sit down!"
And the it was all bedlam as we got to the water and people dipped their front wheels, traded cameras to record triumphant smiles. Friends were bringing flowers, staff was handing out champagne in plastic glasses. Really, really fun.

Everything after that was a bit anticlimactic. We cleaned off the sand from our bike tires using the outdoor shower. We ourselves took showers and headed to a restaurant across the street. The next few hours also went quickly. After dinner we gathered in the breakfast area for some tongue in cheek awards (Cecil, the most flats). We also received plaques with a picture of us on them and said a few words. I think mine were a bleh bleh since words escaped completely out of my head. I was in a sort of keyed up emotional exhaustion as shown in the last picture.
Our camp mascot, Cocoabean, doesn't seem too impressed.
Postscript: the following day both Dave and I were in kind of a let down funk. Dave reacted by sleeping a lot. I felt too keyed up to sleep and felt I couldn't settle the experience enough in my mind to blog about it. I went in and out of the lobby, wanting to talk to some of the folks that were still around, but not wanting to say goodbye either. Dave and I finally got a taxi and went to a movie just to immerse ourselves in something that wasn't too emotionally demanding. Today (Wednesday) I feel a little more together, not so scattered.

Also of note was the fact that on Monday, in the midst of all the celebrating, when Dave picked up the car from where it had been stored, he had a hard time getting the brakes to work and they shuddered violently. It turned out that they had rusted terribly in the warm salt air. The following day we got it to the dealer for a brake job which delayed our return home by a day. Not too terribly sad about that since spring has been very slow in northern Michigan. So we're unwinding in Florida for an extra day.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

2nd to last day (Revised)

Sunday, April 26 O'Leno State Park to Palatka, FL

Dave and Loren, 84 miles

During our rest day we had another casualty of the trip. This one was also not bike related. Beth got up to head for the bathroom/shower house in the middle of the night and missed the steps down from the cabin. She had two very sore ankles. She was able to bear weight on one, but not on the other. Her roommates helped her back into the cabin and in the morning she went to the hospital. The diagnosis was that her ankle bone was cracked and the other has probable torn ligaments and a severe sprain. She was able to walk slowly with crutches. Her broken ankle was actually less sore than her other ankle. She has decided to stay with the tour but her bicycling is over for the time being. A couple of the riders will take her home with her car and then continue home in another car.
On Sunday Dave remembered to attend the last devotional. I had programed it into my phone with a reminder. It reminded me, at 7 am which was the eastern time zone equivalent of the 6 am central time reminder in my calendar. I'll have to remember to un-smart my calendar if I cross time zones!
The day started out with cloudy skies. The air was very humid and sticky so I was hoping it would stay cloudy. We biked on nice shoulders and then got into Gainesville under a tunnel of huge live oaks in an area of ranches. (1st photo). We got to our SAG stop in a Starbucks and stopped for a snack. While we were there we had a cloudburst where it just poured. Since we were indoors we sat and waited it out. Other riders were not so lucky, but they found shelter in various areas, gas stations, etc. and waited it out. After about 20 minutes or so the rain stopped. We continued on our way and got on a very nice bike path that runs from Gainesville to Hawthorne, a distance of about 20 miles. At one point on our route sheet it told us to take the left fork of a Y that wouldn't be marked. We came to what looked like a Y (although not at the right mileage point) and were a little confused and asked a trio of guys about the turn. They told us it was further on and we talked a bit about our tour. The person that seemed to know the most about the trail had Harley paraphernilia on, so it seemed a little strange to see him on a bicycle.
By this time the sun had come out. We continued on the bike path which was shady and we knew it was much cooler in the tunnel of trees than the road would be. The trail goes through a state park, the San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park. There is also a spur trail that leads to the Payne's Prairie state park that we stayed at a few years ago. There were some phenomenal live oaks with Spanish moss in the state park. There were a few of those ancient oaks on the trail too.
We came out at Hawthorne and found a SAG stop waiting for us. I really like this aspect of a supported trip. I drank down an entire bottle of a water Gatorade mix. I had been pushing myself to take lots of sips of water on the bike, but it doesn't taste very good lukewarm. I also poured some over my head in a futile attempt to get cooler. It was too humid to evaporate very much.
Then we went out on the road. Even though we are creating a breeze for ourselves the asphalt absorbs the heat and reflects it back. We had a good tailwind but the only negative effect of a tailwind is that you go as fast as the wind so you don't feel a cooling effect. We had some rolling hills and I did feel some breeze coming down the hills. By the time we got to Interlaken I was sweltering. We stopped at the first place we came to and found Don and "Coach" sheltering from the heat. They were concerned about my overly red face. I drank a big glass of water and iced some pulse points in my neck and felt much better. The problem with being a slower rider is that we are out in the afternoon sun much longer than a faster rider. So that makes us better at endurance, right?? Anyway once we got started again it felt a little cooler. Maybe the sun had passed its zenith.
We got in just before dinner. We spent the time after dinner in a series of reminisces with the whole group and staff. Graham (from the UK) reduced me to hysterical laughter as he recounted several episodes. One of them involved our hilarious-in-retrospect night at the hurricane evacuation shelter where most of the lights are wired to be permanently  on.  Graham went to the kitchen and slept with his head under the sink. He woke up in the middle of the night thinking that his life had come to a new low as he gazed on the plumbing from underneath. He also told of an incident where in his groggy early morning state of mind (complete with sound effects of all the zippers on tents as other Coasters got up) he brushed his teeth with what he thought was toothpaste but instead turned out to be "butt paste". He warned all those that are keeping blogs that he'd better not see it on the Internet. Rich told him that he had just uploaded it to YouTube! By then Marianne and I were in tears from laughing so hard (as were several others).
Then it was off to bed and lights out at 9 PM as is usual on this tour. I was afraid that I'd be too keyed up to sleep on our last night, but I fell asleep quickly. I did notice that during the night Dave shifted positions frequently. He is having more shoulder pain again. He's an orthopedic doc's dream patient. We have specialty clinic near us with a different doc for every joint. Dave could use three of them. Hip, knees and shoulder.
We are very proud to have come this far. We are both happy to being close to being done but sad too.

The canopy of trees outside of Gainesville. 
Bike rack that was painted to show the difference between a venomous coral snake and a kingsnake. "Red touches yellow, kill a fellow". It's a dangerous world here in the south!
The bike path was beautiful!
Forgot to include this from our rest day. Linda created a traveling Madonna from items that she picked up off the road throughout the south. It was an appreciation gift to Bubba who said he would put it in his man cave. I'm sure it is easily the most unusual thing to adorn a man cave in the history of man caves!
Linda was dressed in things also found on the road. I had seen that wig hanging on a line at the girl scout camp in Louisiana and wondered about it. I kind of thought I would see it again...
Our last night in gym-type accommodations.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Nice ride through the north Florida countryside

Friday, April 24, Dave and Loren 77 miles
Madison to High Springs, FL
The route was less hilly and more countryside. We said goodbye to US 90 and got onto lightly traveled country roads. Since they were smaller roads, on some of them we could bike in the shade cast by huge live oaks. There were a lot of big horse farms and cattle farms along the way.

We stopped for lunch at Bob's Butts for lunch. First time I've had a pulled pork salad. Then as been happening frequently on this trip, the sheer number of the riders using the bathroom seemed to affect their septic. We were the last riders out of there and when I left the waitress was using the plunger...

Our overnight and rest day is at O'Leno State Park. It is a beautiful park with huge live oaks and a river that disappears! Yes, there are so many underground limestone sink holes that the river actually goes underground for three miles.

Saturday April 25, Rest Day. We paddled the Santa Fe River. This is the same river that disappears, although we were downstream. We paddled an area of the river that has springs. They are fresh coldwater springs. At every springs lots of people were swimming. We saw many turtles, no alligators though.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Day 47 and 48, Moving through north Florida

April 22, Wednesday  Dave and Loren 85 miles
Our route continues to be on 90 with nice shoulders. The surprise was how hilly it became during the afternoon. Tallahassee was especially hilly. Bubba routed us through the city on a zigzag path to avoid the worst of the traffic. The busy roads that we did have to take had bike paths. Now that the weather has cleared up it gets quite hot in the afternoon; it was 86. I found myself getting a little woozy and I realized that I had not been drinking enough. I forced myself to drink a full bottle of water and a Gatorade and that got me to the motel. It was great to just step into the shower rather than having to walk over to a shower house and try to keep clean cLothes dry and dirty clothes together while trying to dry off and get dressed standing on one leg. Why? Invariably there isn't a chair or bench to put clothes on and the water jets out into the changing area (if there is one)which leaves the floor all wet. That's problematic when trying to put pants on. Ah, but I'll miss it when it's done...

April 23, Thursday, Dave and Loren 48 miles.
Today was nice and short. We stopped in Greenville which is Ray Charles birthplace. It has a nice bronze statue of him so we all had our pictures taken there. Our destination town has a nice community college where we are overnighting in the gym. Bubba had a woman who knew Ray Charles come and talk about his early life, but also how she put herself through college and got a Master's degree while raising 5 children. Determination. She advised us to use the same determination to get up the hills!
Tomorrow a 77 mile route to High Springs and then a rest day at O'Leno Sate Park. We only have three more biking days left!

A welcoming sign at a bakery rest stop.

A cypress swamp at Lake Miccosukee.
We stopped at the Madison Post Office which has original woodwork. One patron stopped to talk to us and said the mural was somewhat controversial but they left it because it is historical.
The Florida and have been so friendly and talkative, maybe more than any other state we've been through. They all say "stay safe".
Even the fast guys get sleepy. "Rocket man" Jeff.
Lots of big old live oak trees and Spanish moss. The little town of Monticello.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Our last night in a tent!

We had a singer and Karaoke night Last night under the stars. Nice to listen to music outdoors. The rainy weather has finally moved away.
Our ride today was again on U.S.90. The road is smooth with great shoulders. The nice surface doesn't make for an interesting blog but it sure makes great riding. At lunch today in the little town of Chipley I saw a couple of DOT workers and told them how much I liked the road especially compared to the same road in Texas. Later we drove by the DOT offices. I suppose they would have thought me weird if I had gone in and told them how much I like the smooth shoulder but it would be nice to tell the decision makers how much we appreciate the added expenses that these type of roads take. The Florida drivers seem mostly respectful although the other day I had a twenty-something move in on me until I shouted at her. Dave said that he could see that she was texting.
Another rider posted his GPS reading that we have done 2600 miles. I figure I may have missed about 600 miles nursing my leg. I haven't figured it out exactly and my odometer seems to be overstating our miles each day but we've probably both ridden 2000 miles.
We've had better luck with dogs recently. No riders have had close encounters like we did in LA and AL. I have started wearing a whistle around my neck. My close encounter with a dog happened while I was leaving the RV park this morning. A woman had a schnauzer on a retractable leash which ran at me. She cooed to him "oh come here sweetie" while the thing was snarling at my ankles and she didn't use the stop button on the leash to keep him close to her. But I outran it and didn't look back to see if she was pulled off her feet by him. I have never met a schnauzer that was pleasant even though I usually think there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.
We rode through a couple of areas with overflowing rivers. Luckily a high pressure system has come in, lessening the humidity dramatically. Unfortunately it has led to snow at home but we sure appreciate it. It was actually chilly last night and we both pulled out our down sleeping bags.
Well, heading to bed. Tomorrow we lose an hour about halfway through the route to Tallahassee. We will be on Eastern time again. We have been in the Central time zone since Van Horn TX.

The oldest continuously operating library in FL in Defuniak Springs.
The rivers are overflowing.
US 90 is named after a former legislator who campaigned by walking from Key West to Pensacola.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Our 8th and Last State, Florida!

Sunday, Dauphin Island, AL to Milton FL, Loren and Dave 85 miles

We started our morning being woken up by crashes of thunder and torrents of rain. It was so loud that I didn't hear the alarm go off at 5:30 am. We had placed all our gear in plastic bags in our luggage which turned out to be a good thing since the tent had a lake in front of it when the rain finally lessened and we emerged.
As soon as breakfast was done we packed up and went across the street to catch the ferry. And again the sky opened up again and it poured. I had my seat cushion under my rain jacket to try to keep it dry.

Dave is talking to Don who has a prosthesis and has biked this whole trip. 
Don has been a Captain in the Coast Guard and the Captain of container ships. He had an experience with Somali pirates at the same time as the Mersk Alabama. (The movie Captain Phillips described the Mersk Alabama).
One of the bike tour participants is Udi. He is raising money to help Holocaust survivors  with medications and food,  as many of them are aging in poverty. He lives in Munich but grew up in Israel. His mother was a Holocaust survivor. His website is at 
We started biking on the long peninsula and dodged numerous deep puddles. This weather system has been producing storms one after another and the landscape shows it. However, much to our surprise, the rain held off for us for the rest of the day. By the time we got to the outskirts of Pensacola the sun came out. What a change! Steamy.
Pensacola had a nice bike lane through most of the town. We rode on a scenic area of bluffs overlooking Pensacola Bay and then ended up on U.S. 90 East. What a difference from the chip seal, random shoulders and disappearing blacktop that we had in the west on 90. In Florida it is smooth with mostly great shoulders and a smooth rolled surface. Nice riding! We rolled into the KOA just before dinner. After dinner I took a fast shower, made it back in time for the route meeting and went to bed.
Monday Milton to Defuniak Springs, FL Loren and Dave 54 miles.
Dave had an amusing incident  (to me, not to him). Marla warned us to check the light timer when we went into the individual combo shower and restroom as Cecil had the lights go dark in the middle of his shower. Dave said to me that he was going to remember to check the timer as he left me. However he forgot. The timer ran out after he took off his clothes. He couldn't see anything so he felt around the wall near the door where one would usually find a light switch. When he didn't find it, he opened the door slightly and asked Dwan if he knew where the switch was. Dean opened the door and went in, and the normally un-shy Dave was quite aware of the women that were outside on the deck waiting their turns in the bathroom.They finally found the light switch hiding under his clothes that were hanging on the towel rack. Who says a supported tour doesn't have hardships!

Milton to Defuniak Springs, FL 
Loren and Dave 54 miles 
Not much to say about the route today. Another day of expecting rain but instead we had just cloudiness which kept it cool and pleasant. This was in spite of the weather forecast of 100% chance of rain. With this stormy weather we have all become compulsive readers of weather forecasts. We compare forecasts and choose the ones that sound most favorable. And then the weather does what it wishes. And mostly it has been in our favor (cross our fingers).
Our shorter day felt easy. There were some rolling hills occasionally but that kept it from being boring. The area looks mostly forested with occasional cattle ranches so not highly scenic but it feels good to be riding
We are at a nice RV park. The RVers are in shock at seeing a tent city arise in their midst. Many of them wandered over to ask about our tour.
We had time to air out the tent, dry the floor and dry out the wet clothes. We don't wear a lot of rain gear, maybe a jacket, because the air and rain are warm. The air temp has been in the 70's.  Now let's hope it stays dry so we don't have to do it all over again.

A home that we passed on the bluffs of Pensacola. Is there a story behind this?
Our 8th and last state. 
We will be finished in a week!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Our 7th State, Alabama!

Loren and Dave 82 miles.
We woke up to wet pavement but it wasn't actively raining. We headed out into a weak sunshine. Because it was so humid I needed to take my sunglasses off because they fogged up on me.
The route was flatter than yesterday which was good for us. This was our first long day we were able to ride together since our various injuries started acting up.
We went over the Pascagoula River and along a delta of the river which was swollen to flood stage. The Passagoula River is the largest (by volume) undammed river in the 48 states. I saw three campgrounds that were under water! We were worried about our destination, Dauphin Island, which is low lying and looked like it was receiving torrents of rain.

We stopped for a picture at the Alabama state line.

Just after we took this picture it started to pour. You haven't lived until you are riding down a hill at 22 mph with raindrops pelting your eyeballs! My Coast to Coast Tyvek raincoat actually seems to do better at not getting all wet inside of it than my Goretex but it balloons out like a Pillsbury dough boy since the air runs up my sleeves in my recumbent position. Water also collects by my elbows so I would have to empty them out periodically!
We stopped at a gas station for subs. We were sopping wet and cold with the air conditioning while we were standing and waiting for the subs to be made. We went outside to stand to get warm in the humid air. 
By the time we left the rain stopped and after that it was a beautiful day. My clothing dried out quite quickly.
The land flattened out and we began to have a tailwind so the miles went fairly quickly. 
Above is our first view of the Mobile Bay estuary and shrimp boats.
The Pascagoula River at flood stage.
Just before starting over the Dauphin Island  bridge. I had heard there were crosswinds on the bridge but they turned out to be more like tailwinds. I also didn't feel nervous being up so high because there were tall sidewalls and the shoulder was wide.

I had to go up the hump in the bridge in my granny gear, but the ride down the other side was nice!

Rest Day April 18, Dauphin Island 
Unfortunately our rest day dawned with rain but we have a nice pavilion. This area receives rain in amounts second only to Seattle. We've managed to dodge a lot of it even though there has been a strong weather system that is stalled down in the south.
Dave and I walked over and visited an estuarium describing the marine life in the area with some neat exhibits. I touched a sting ray in a tank, (kind of slimy). The rain may stop later, there is also a bird sanctuary nearby.
A stingray.
A Cloud Jellyfish 
The underside of a stingray.
We are on the Gulf of Mexico.

Our beautiful tent site under a live oak. Unfortunately it's raining.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Country Roads and Pitcher Plants

Loren 70 miles, Dave 50 miles.
Last night, before we turned in for the night, a group of us went to the fairground arena that was part of the complex where the hurricane evacuation center. Some people were practicing roping skills on calves and bigger longhorn steers. A couple of the guys were National Champions and they were "showing the ropes" to some younger kids. (Sorry I couldn't resist, been around Bubba too long).
Later when we all turned in, which we do fairly early, at 9 pm, we found out what they meant by security lights, every row of the overhead lights had four or five lights left on. These are florescent light fixtures with three lights in each fixture. They are wired that way. Many people had various ways to cope. Several had headbands that served as eyeshades. I just buried my head in my sleeping bag. Some were unable to sleep and managed to find an office to sleep in.
Well, we survived and got on our way. In spite of an 80% chance of rain today, it didn't rain a drop. It was mostly cloudy and we really appreciated that since it is HUMID!
The route was mostly through the DeSoto National Forest so it felt very much like biking near our home. Lots of hills, rollers. We had 1898 feet of climbing but we also had 2164 feet of downhills too as we are descending towards sea level. We are on the outskirts of Biloxi which was hit hard by Katrina 11 years ago.
The water table is very high here. We saw areas where Pitcher Plants covered the forest floor. Pitcher Plants are carnivorous plants that digest insects that fall into their deep cavity. There were also the flowers of the Pitcher Plant that had an upside-down umbrella-like structure that also filled with water when the petals fell off.
Wikipedia says: "The insects are attracted by a nectar-like secretion on the lip of pitchers, as well as a combination of color and scent. Slippery footing at the pitchers' rim, aided in at least one species by a narcotic drug lacing the nectar, causes insects to fall inside, where they die and are digested by the plant as a nutrient source".
We also saw plants that we think are a variety of Sun Dews which have sticky hairs that trap insects. (Saw some fire ants trapped on those, ha ha). It's kill or be killed down here in the deep south.
We have encountered many unleashed dogs in LA and MS. They chase the bikes and caused one of our riders to fall today. One of our guys has a novel solution. He goes on the attack and rides at the dogs while he whistles loudly. He says it never fails to make them turn tail and run. If the owner is home he yells at them too for not leashing their dogs.
One of our riders is going to go home this weekend. He is the rider that fell last week. He had some vision problems that contributed to the accident and he needs to heal from a surgical procedure to hopefully correct the vision issues. He has ridden over 500,000 miles and said that of his 9 cross country trips this was the most fun!
I did the whole route today. My leg felt fine although it is swollen. I think I may have bursitis. The swelling only goes down when I elevate and that just swells up the knee. Then as soon as I stand up it settles in the calf again. But, tomorrow I will try a knit compression stocking that I ordered. I bought an adjustable one yesterday and it just gave me a heat rash because it was made of neoprene. I'm taking the nurse practitioner at her word that unless it becomes painful I'm ok to ride.

Dave spent part of the day on the phone working out a mix up in his prescription so he SAG ED for twenty miles. He hopes to do the whole distance tomorrow.
Tomorrow we enter our 7th state, Alabama. We will camp on Dauphin Island on the Gulf of Mexico and also have a rest day there as well.

A Baptist church group of ladies fed us lunch just out of the goodness of their hearts.