Ride for the Dream

Cycling From Coast To Coast

Archive for April, 2014

Day 38 – St. Augustine, FL ! ! !

by on April 10th, 2014

It’s done, in the books, checked off the list! We had a short 60 mile ride into St. Augustine today but were all awake well before dawn and anxious to hit the road. After going through our morning ritual of packing panniers, filling water bottles and checking tire pressure for the last time, we pulled out just after daybreak.

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Gretchen drove most of the way from Louisville last night but stopped 100 miles outside of town, driving the rest of the way this morning. We started earlier than she did and stopped for coffee a couple of hours into the ride to kill some time. Buck had some family coming in as well. We were in St. Augustine before 11:30 AM, met up with Gretchen and headed through downtown and toward the beach. Today was all about just getting to the beach and dipping the bikes into the water!

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After hanging on the beach for quite a while we headed across the street for our last lunch together, relived some of our our experiences and told a few stories. After spending pretty much every hour of every day together for the last 38 days, the trip was over and it was time for everyone to get back to their normal lives. Buck left for Atlanta after lunch. Baptiste found a youth hostel right in the heart of St. Augustine ($22 per night including breakfast), 8-10 people in the same room but they actually had beds.  Gretchen and I are staying at a hotel in St. Augustine Beach for the next few days before heading back. We came back into town this evening to meet Baptiste for a celebratory dinner. He is going to come by the hotel tomorrow and hang out for part of the day on the beach and then will be back on his bike headed for Miami (restless soul).

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I think I’m too tired right now to put it into proper perspective, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and feel lucky to have shared it with Buck, Baptiste and Ben. Thanks again to my family and everyone for all of their support and well wishes!

 

 

 

Day 37 – Starke, FL

by on April 9th, 2014

It was still raining this morning (fit my mood after watching UK lose to Uconn last night) so we waited around until 10:00 AM or so before we started riding, traveling 65 miles to Starke. We were about 120 miles from St. Augustine to start the day and were going to spread it out over three days (which would have been hard to go that slow), to allow for some family to get into St. Augustine before we finished. It looks like Gretchen (my wife) will be there tomorrow morning and Buck’s people will also be there mid-day so we are going to go ahead and finish tomorrow, probably around 1:00 PM. The storms have moved out so we should have a clear ride.

Donations to The Dream Factory are still coming in. Including checks mailed to their office, and online donations, the total is approaching $4,500. Many thanks to everyone who has supported me with encouraging emails, texts and phone calls and by donating to The Dream Factory!

I quit taking pictures of livestock a while back. There are only so many horses, cows, goats, sheep, etc. you can take pictures of as you roll through the countryside…….but, I saw a steer today with horns bigger than anything I saw in Texas, right here in Florida.

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Buck is heading to Atlanta tomorrow afternoon and Baptiste plans to hang around St. Augustine for a few days before riding down to Miami to catch his cruise to Spain. Gretchen and I plan to stay in St. Augustine for a few days as well to see the city and visit some family in the area. Ben is still riding and has made good progress since struggling through the hilly parts of the ride between California and Austin, Texas. He is a few days behind us but should finish over the weekend. I give him a lot of credit for sticking with it and riding the last half of the trip by himself.

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Day 35 & 36 – Tallahassee, FL and Live Oak, FL

by on April 8th, 2014

As I draw closer to the end of the trip each day takes on a little different perspective. In the beginning the distance seemed so far, and the daily “bites” so small, that I tended to just focus on the current day’s ride and maybe the next day’s destination without thinking much about the end of the trip. My body was adjusting to the mental and physical demands of riding long distances everyday, missing family and friends, something I couldn’t/didn’t replicate in training.  I didn’t have much extended bike touring experience (meaning I didn’t have any) and the farthest I had ridden my bike at one time before I started training for the trip was maybe 40 miles. I was used to the “grind” from running marathons in the past but doing it everyday all day is a different animal. It’s kind of self regulating, I think most people in decent physical shape could do it, just a matter of how long it would take.  We have now ridden 36 straight days taking only a couple of lower mileage rest days. It looks like we will finish without taking any days off which wasn’t really a goal, just kind of worked out that way.

The countryside and expanse are so enormous you feel very small in comparison, especially out west.  Cycling provides the time and opportunity to appreciate the nuances and enormity of it all.  The other “half” of the equation is the people you talk to everyday which has been a lot of fun as well.  If anyone reading this is considering doing something similar I say just make the time and go do it.

When traveling on a bike self supported, the normal conveniences aren’t available, priorities become very short term….constantly checking the weather, wind strength/direction, lodging/camping options, maintaining your bike and equipment, eating, hydrating, eating, hydrating, applying sunscreen, reapplying sunscreen, washing your bike shorts/shirts/socks, putting air in the tires, changing flats, chamois lubricant, ibuprofen (a lot in the beginning…not much now), and so on. You get into a physical and mental routine of getting up and doing the same thing every morning, knowing you have many days of exploring and riding in front of you.  I’m sure it’s a little different for everyone.  Baptiste is much less regimented in his approach and thinks we plan too much…..but at the end of the day his objectives and perspective at 29 and touring the world are different than mine or Buck’s at 64 years old.

Yesterday we rolled into Tallahassee, riding through Florida State’s campus and downtown after 66 miles and called it a day. The countryside through the heart of Florida is more picturesque than I had imagined, very green, large trees with some rolling hills mixed in.  We also crossed into the eastern time zone yesterday which was another mini milestone.  This morning we got started early with storms in the area and knocked out 88 miles by mid afternoon, stopping in Live Oak.  An hour or so later it started pouring and hasn’t stopped.  The storms are supposed to continue tonight and move out tomorrow then be clear for the next few days.

As it stands now I plan to finish Thursday mid morning in St. Augustine.

Here are a couple pics from the day, it was overcast so didn’t take too many.

Suwannee River

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Swamp area

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Day 34 – Marianna, FL

by on April 6th, 2014

The rain was all around us today but we were lucky and rode the entire 93 miles to the Marianna, FL area without getting wet. Paul rode the first 30 miles with us to Defuniak Springs where Ellen was waiting. They jumped in the car and got on with their 28th anniversary celebration and vacation in Destin about 30 miles away (where it rained much of the day).  It’s halftime of the Kentucky vs Wisconsin game right now……another nail biter.

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Thoughts right now are that we will finish Wednesday afternoon or Thursday mid-day unless delayed by weather. The pic below is the map of the route into St. Augustine. We finish riding into town on King Street where I assume we will find some water at the end of it to drop the front wheels in……will update obviously as we get closer.

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Dat 32 & 33 – Orange Beach, AL and Crestview, FL

by on April 5th, 2014

We left Biloxi early Thursday morning with the hopes of getting a jump on the traffic. The sun was just coming up as we crossed the causeway out of town.

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We saw our first Waffle House of the trip and stopped for breakfast (I don’t think Baptiste was terribly impressed). Buck had his first flat tire since El Paso where he installed some tube liners after a rough string of flats.  A few hours later we checked another state off the list as we entered Alabama. While we were stopped taking pics of the Alabama welcome sign, two French Canadians rolled up on their bikes.  Baptiste was thrilled to have someone to speak French with.

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We continued on to Dauphin Island where we took the ferry 3-4 miles (45 minutes) over to Fort Morgan and continued on 27 miles or so to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach for a daily total of 92 miles (not including the ferry ride).  The ferry only leaves every 90 minutes and we missed the 2:00 PM ferry by a few minutes and had to wait the hour and a half for the 3:30 PM departure time.

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After the big push on Thursday we started Friday just a few miles from the Florida border.  We started riding in some very heavy fog but it burned off after an hour or two as we rode toward Pensacola.

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The forecast was for rain this afternoon and we made it most of the way to Crestview before getting caught in the storm and rode the last 15 miles or so in a steady rain. We had another strong day with 86 miles covered. Buck continues to nurse his sore leg but seems to be managing.

The highlight of the day was meeting up with Paul and Ellen Wilson. They are headed to Destin for vacation but left a day early to come find me on their way. Paul is a close childhood friend (we grew up next to each other on Green Manor Drive). In addition to being an old friend, Ellen also does great work for The Dream Factory at the Louisville headquarters location. Tomorrow is their 28th wedding anniversary! Paul is going to ride with us for a few hours in the morning before Ellen scoops him up and they head down to Destin.

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We are well ahead of schedule with the mileage we have been logging the last couple of weeks. We have about 450 miles left and can see light at the end of the tunnel!

 

 

 

Day 30 & 31 – Bogalusa, LA and Biloxi, MS

by on April 3rd, 2014

We had an uneventful but longish 92 mile ride on “Day 30″ from Jackson to Bogalusa, LA. Buck has been nursing a lower leg problem the last couple of days but we haven’t really cut down on the miles. He thought he might have to take a day or two off but has been icing it in the evenings and it hasn’t gotten any worse. Bogalusa is just a few miles from the Mississippi border and when we headed out this morning we crossed into Mississippi almost immediately.

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We stopped 20 miles into the ride in Poplarsville, MS for breakfast and then made our way down to Gulfport and stopped in Biloxi on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast for about 82 miles on the day. This area was more or less destroyed during hurricane Katrina. Tonight we are staying in a casino hotel called the Grand Casino Biloxi (no gambling but we did put a hurt on the buffet). The following is a picture of the casino barge structure actually washed inland after Katrina.

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From what I can gather the casino was a barge and the hotel was on land. The rebuilt version is all on land. Here it is now.

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Nine years later the area along the beach looks good considering some of the pictures I have seen.

We ran into a couple motorcycle touring from Wisconsin and wearing Packers shirts.  The guy was a good sport and took a pic with my Steelers Terrible Towel (he then reminded me the Packers beat Pittsburgh in the Superbowl a couple of years back).

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Tomorrow we will likely end the day in Alabama.  We plan to head down to Dauphin Island and take the ferry across to Fort Morgan and then towards the Gulf Shores area from there.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 29 – Jackson, LA

by on April 1st, 2014

The weather was nice today and the winds were up but manageable. The road quality was also very good (and no dogs today!). As we got closer to the Baton Rouge area it was obvious that the demographics were changing with well kept homes and manicured lawns, etc.  We stopped midday in a town called New Roads which appeared to be a sort of bedroom community of Baton Rouge. It sits on a large lake called False River (….it’s a lake) that was dotted with upscale homes. False River has supposedly often held the state record for largest bass caught. We found a nice restaurant in downtown New Roads right on the lake and enjoyed a long lunch after putting in about 63 miles.  After lunch we rode an additional 25 miles to Jackson.

We crossed over the Mississippi River today (still in Louisiana) ….per Wikipedia, “John James Audubon Bridge, completed and opened in 2011, is a Mississippi River crossing between Pointe Coupee and West Feliciana parishes in south central Louisiana. The bridge has the second longest cable-stayed span in the Western Hemisphere and replaces the ferry between the communities of New Roads and St. Francisville“.

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Tug boat pushing coal barges on the Mississippi River

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After crossing the bridge and before arriving in Jackson we came across an Audubon historic site but it was closed on Monday.  I snapped a few pictures from the road though.

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A tree covered in Spanish Moss and some swamp land (we saw a lot of it today).

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Earlier in the day we saw a large field with what looked like hundreds of FEMA trailers left over from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (nine years ago). Clearly no plan for them, what a waste of tax payer money. It doesn’t look like they were ever used. Someone mentioned the insides were covered in mold.

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After arriving in Jackson we called the number on the front door of The Centenary Inn, a B&B in the 3-4 block downtown area. A very nice woman showed up 20 minutes later, opened up the Inn and gave us a nice deal on one of their twelve rooms. Baptiste slept on the floor as usual and Buck actually slept outside on the rear terrace (ceiling fan, covered roof, two couches, table). There was one other couple in the building but for the most part we had the place to ourselves.  She gave us free reign with use of the kitchen and laundry room as well. The Inn was beautiful inside and out.

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