Thursday, April 30, 2009

What next????????

Well, it's over. Now what do I do???? For starters, get up early tomorrow morning, have some cereal and yogurt, then hit the road (driving) back to Vermont. First stop is my sister Kak's home for a visit tomorrow night and Saturday. We'll be home Sunday night, and pick up my furry buddy Brody on Monday morning. And NO, Six Loose Ladies, I will not plan to be in the store on May 9. Please give me a week at home (I will pick up the store computer and get stuff entered and squared away).

So, today, as usual, Elisabeth asked, "Anyone want to go for a bike ride?" and everyone was out and on the bikes slightly before the butt crack of dawn. We had 40 miles to cover (according to the cue sheet) before 10:30. I found myself in the lead at one point, and it was awesome to see a whole long string of bicyclists behind me! We made it 19 miles to the first sag stop by shortly after 8, so relaxed and took it easy the rest of the way.
The road was flat, with more farms and riverside homes, and then we were at the firehouse meeting place, or were we? The firehouse was at about 37 miles, but on the cue sheet it was supposed to be at 40. There was considerable confusion at first, but finally the firepersons confirmed we were supposed to be there, the female motorcycle cop showed up, and we started getting ready, lining up in twos. Two police cars joined the motorcycle cop and we were off, sirens blaring. It really was a fun 6 mile ride to the beach. We sailed through intersections with our escorts. At the same time, I was choking back tears thinking of dad and thinking of how happy I would be to see Peter. I can now understand why guys don't understand girls -- we cry when we're sad, and we cry when we're happy.

At the beach there was quite a welcome contingent of friends and family. I found Peter and cried for joy! It was so, so good to be with him again. Peter walked with me and Bessie to the edge of the water and I dipped her wheels in the Atlantic. After the perfunctory picture-taking, we had a nice picnic lunch of a wrap, chips, fruit, and a drink. Peter and I then went to the hotel, I showered, and we spent the afternoon wandering the old town section of St. Augustine. Saw enough to know that it would be fun to come back and spend a few days seeing the museums and walking the beautiful beach.

I'll add more in a few days when I'm back home and can look back on this experience a little more objectively.
Bike stats: 44.58 miles; 3 hrs. 17 minutes riding time; 2,011 total trip miles.

Food stats: Last night we had salmon, garlic mashed potatoes, spinach leaf salad, and assorted goodies from friends and family. This morning was cereal, yogurt, and a banana. Lunch was a turkey wrap, and some pineapple and melon chunks. Since the ride ended for me at the beach, I don't need to tell you the details of the dinner at the A1A Brewery restaurant (and no - I didn't have a beer -- I needed to stay awake to post this entry). I skipped the traditional end-of-ride banquet for riders.
Let's see -- when is the Northern Tier first half ride next year????

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Last night of the ride - in Palatka

Today was our last long ride of the trip. It's hard to believe that it is pretty well over. Tomorrow's ride will be a "token" ride. I started the trip out west riding alone, and after the halfway point started riding more consistently with Patty. Most riders pair up with others who go at a similar pace and personality. We have 3 trios, four duos, and three singles who ride alone or occasionally with others. Today the "duos" all rode together -- Janet Bee and Marni, Mary Jo and Donna, Elisabeth and Peggy, and Patty and I. We had a pretty noticeable headwind, so took turns pulling at the front. We didn't have a real paceline, but having someone at the front helped make the ride easier. It was a nice change of pace riding with these ladies and they were lots of fun through the duller part of the ride!

Didn't stop to see the 13 foot gator. Had some rolling hills and pretty scenery for the first half of the ride. Once we got onto SR100, the traffic increased. Still had some hills, but it wasn't as enjoyable because of the truck traffic. In one town we were told that the beautiful bike path we saw went quite a ways to Palatka. It didn't. A local bicyclist told us the plan was to run a bike path to Palatka, but it just hasn't been finished. So, after that pleasant interlude we were stuck on the busy SR100 for 20 more miles. It at least had a shoulder which was in pretty good condition. Once we got into Palatka, the shoulder filled with road debris and eventually disappeared in the town proper. Went over one high bridge right before the hotel, and Patty didn't hesitate one bit. We sang "99 bottles of beer on the wall" starting at 42 bottles and working backward by 2's to make it harder since we were pretty hot and tired. I'm so proud of her overcoming her bridge phobia.

When we arrived (a little before 2 p.m.), there were some families and friends at the hotel cheering the riders. That was great. We can feel the excitement of the last day building. Had lunch at the restaurant next to the hotel. There really wasn't much of an option over the last half of the ride until we got to Palatka. The food was really good and reasonably priced. Hate eating lunch so late -- I'm not hungry for dinner.

Bike stats: 78.2 miles; 5 hrs. 54 minutes riding time; 1,967 total trip miles. Yahoo!!! I'll make 2,000 tomorrow. Most riders (non-sag drivers) are over 2,500 and some over 3,000 miles.

Food stats: Last night had a spoonful of curried broccoli and chicken over a spoonful of noodles. Had cereal and a banana for breakfast. A protein bar on the road. Had blackened shrimp, broccoli au gratin, a couple of hush puppies and fruit salad for lunch. Don't know what Linda is cooking for dinner.
Called Peter and he was still on the road to St. Augustine (near the South Carolina/Georgia border). He's a saint to drive all the way to pick me up. Can't wait to see him tomorrow!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

High Springs here we are

The ride from Perry to High Springs was the prettiest ride yet in Florida. It was another pretty flat day. Lots of pretty wildflowers, cows, goats, and sheep along the way. Once we moved off the main road onto the back road to Ichetucknee Springs state park the scenery became prettier. The maps said it was a 76-mile day, but even with a side trip to the springs most riders were at the hotel (a throwback to the Sheffler hotel out west -- will do, but...) by 3 p.m. Another slight headwind day, but the slight headwind feels good in the heat!

The springs at the Ichetucknee Springs state park were really pretty. The spring closest to the parking lot is the one most people swim in. A spring further back was more isolated and elemental. Both are worth the visit, especially on a hot day.

This was my last sag driving day. The day included hauling an ailing rider to the hotel, riding interference at a spot where a pack of dogs were chasing riders, setting up 3+ sag stops, and backtracking almost 40 miles to find a rider (she had trouble with the cue sheet directions and wasn't where I could see her when I initially passed her), filling up the gas tank, and restocking the snacks and water.

I have enjoyed the sag duties most of the time. Everyone says they are so happy to see me. That may be the last time I hear that!!This group of riders has been so easy to sag because they usually change their own flats and ride together in predictable ways. Every now and then they got lost, but were resourceful enough to find their way home. Sometimes they would frustrate me by getting too far ahead of the bulk of the riders or too far back, which makes helping everyone more difficult, but everyone has to ride his or her own ride as long as it doesn't jeopardize the safety of the others.

Tomorrow is my last day-long ride of the trip. We'll travel to Palatka -- approximately 72 miles or so. On Thursday we have a very short day, with a police escort the last 3 miles to the beach in St. Augustine. Given how widely we tend to spread out during the course of the day, the trick will be getting everyone to show up at the designated spot by the time we have to assemble for the final 3 miles. Some riders will be there early. We have one rider who has been the last one out every day but one, and sometimes by 20 minutes or so. She will have to be up and moving quickly.

No bike stats today. Food: cereal, yogurt and a banana for breakfast. Had some oreos, half a banana, and a milkshake on the road. Had some curried broccoli and chicken over noodles for dinner. A rice krispies bar for dessert.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pedal on to Perry

Reluctantly left the Wakulla Springs Lodge and rode to Perry, Florida. This was an even easier rolling rest day than the previous easiest rolling rest day. Flat, flat, flat. And yes, Patty (with whom I was riding) had a flat tire. That was the excitement of the day. She has the worst combination of rim and tire -- it is impossible to re-mount the tire without using tire irons. And, I am the queen of pinch flats (which result when you don't use the tire irons just right). Ann, the sag driver du jour, came to our aid, and it took the three of us together, with Ann wielding the tire iron, to get the tire back on.

Any prospective distance riders reading this, please, please, please do yourself a favor and practice changing tubes with the rims and tires you will use on the ride. If you can't do it yourself, get to your bike shop and find a set of rims and tires with which you can work. Otherwise, you may find yourself alone, in the middle of nowhere, with no one to help you, and can't change it by yourself. Makes for a wasted day.

The route was not only flat, but, aside from one turn around mile 8 and one around mile 49, and a small curve in between 8 and 49, it was absolutely straight. It felt like we were in a tunnel with no end in sight. Not a lot of scenery either. Just miles and miles of trees, saw palmettos, and swamp. The small curve had a cow ranch and some bald cypress trees in a field.
We got kind of excited over the bright orange "Dip ahead" sign. We stopped to take a picture of the dip, which had been paved over so it really wasn't much of one. Had neat numbering on the road where some cores appeared to have been drilled or some such. Oh, well, so much for that road attraction.

Got into Perry around 12:30, so had lunch of grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, split orders of onion rings and fries, and tried swamp cabbage. Swamp cabbage is the core of small palm-type plants. The core is chopped up and cooked in bacon grease and cloves (Patty thought it had a clove taste). I think it is an acquired taste.

Will spend time this evening plying up what I spun yesterday, and then start spinning the last ounce of fiber I have. Have almost finished my stash of spinning fiber. I'm looking forward to getting home and using the wheel for a while and doing some rug hooking!
Bike stats: 51.68 miles; 4 hrs. 4 minutes riding time; 1,888 total trip miles.

Food stats: breakfast was scrambled eggs and a banana. Had some oreos on the road. For lunch see above. Am actually getting tired of eating!

Waking up in Wakulla Springs

The layover day in Wakulla Springs was fantastic. Went to sleep to the sounds of frogs and birds, with windows open. Woke up without a headache to the sounds of songbirds. Had a genuine sit-down restaurant breakfast of french toast and scrambled eggs. French toast is my second-favorite breakfast, after the breakfast burrito at the Blue Benn in Bennington. Noplace can beat the Blue Benn!

Decided to do the 2.6-mile nature walk. Was a little concerned that the first sign was a poster of the most common biting insects. Didn't take the insects long to find me, and I had no insect repellent. Walked briskly, wishing my speed-reading skills were more proficient when I approached signs explaining the plants along the way. Forgot about the other bane of early morning woods walks -- spider webs. Walked face-first into a big one that covered my head and glasses. After untangling myself, I found a long stick and waved it in front of me as I walked. After about 2 miles of this, I got tired of feeding the insects and high-tailed it back to the lodge via the paved road.
Took the boat ride again after my walk and saw more birds, incluidng a wood duck with very freshly-hatched ducklings paddling behind her. The guide had to spoil the moment by advising us that many of those cute ducklings will likely become alligator appetizers. The springs was the site of filming some of the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies, "The creature from the black lagoon" movie, and other scary movies. Spent the afternoon plying some yarn I had spun, and spinning another spindle full. Ended the day with a nice fried shrimp with fries and tossed salad dinner.

We begin our last week on the ride. Hooray!

Waltzing to Wakulla Springs

We had probably the easiest ride of the trip today from Quincy to Wakulla Springs Lodge. The lodge is in a state park next to Wakulla Springs and Sally Ward Springs, which are the source of the Wakulla River, which flows to the St. Marks River, which flows to the Gulf of Mexico. There is swimming at the springs and boat rides to see the wildlife around the springs and river. The lodge has a restaurant, which is handy because the next closest restaurant is 8 miles away! Tried to swap my bike for one of the motorcycles at this stop, but had no takers.

The ride was a mixture of rolling hills and flat, with lots of bugs. We've been eaten alive by bugs at dinner the past couple of nights, and at the sag and pee stops along the road. Lots of incentive to keep the sag stops short and keep moving -- incentive we really didn't need Saturday because we were told that check-in time at the lodge was 2:30. So, we didn't start rolling until after 8 a.m., but were still at the lodge before noon. So, had a nice lunch at the lodge restaurant, after which we were told some of the rooms, including mine, were ready.

Changed clothes and took the boat ride which was simply wonderful and relaxing. Saw ospreys, egrets, herons, moorhens, turtles, leaping mullet, and alligators. After supper we had a talent show/variety show. Some riders made up songs, some read poetry, some handed out awards, some did skits. I chose to watch. Didn't inherit any kind of performing arts gene.

So, will wrap up this post for now with the usual bike stats and food stats. Haven't slept well the last couple of nights -- sinus headaches from being out in the 90 degree and 90 percent humidity, then into 68 degree air conditioning. I can open the windows here and plan to do that to see if it helps. I noticed that west of Kerrville I had no headaches or arthritis aches. Ever since we hit east Texas, the arthritis is back and headaches too. I'm not the only rider who says the arthritis is kicking in now that we're in hotter, more humid weather.

Bike stats: 40.82 miles; 3 hrs. 12 minutes riding time; 1,837 total trip miles.

Food stats: Last night had a burrito. Had cereal with yogurt and a banana for breakfast. Lunch was a club sandwich with fries. Dinner was a barbeque sandwich with macaroni and cheese and melon, and some cake made by a friend of a rider.

Only 3 riding days left to go for me, and one sag driving day. I should just barely top 2,000 riding miles for the trip, about 900 sag driving miles, and about 240 miles of riding out bad weather or flat tire in the van.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quickly to Quincy

Today was a rolling rest day. 55 miles to Quincy. There was some flat, some rolling hills, and a couple of hills which had me reach for a gear I haven't used in a long time. Most of the ride was on back roads which were traffic-free and beautiful.

As we left the town of Chattahoochie (sp?), we ascended a long hill into the Florida Alps, or so it seemed. Had a report of a bicyclist who was bitten yesterday around mile 40 of our ride. The bicyclist's wife called Womantours to warn us --- could it have been Dan and Beth, who were traveling with Dave along much of the ride at the same time we were? (Dave told me on Dauphin Island that he had split up from Dan and Beth to go his own way.) We were told the local animal authorities picked up the offending dog and the owner said the other dogs would be kept indoors. We had no trouble through that part of the route.

Had a great lunch and wander in the downtown square in Quincy. Went to Miss Helen's Expresso Cafe d'Art and had a wonderful sandwich and some iced tea. Her place has local art for sale on the walls and was very, very classy. Next door was a gift shop which sold beautiful locally-made arts and crafts. There was also an art show with gorgeous paintings by Dean Gioia and lovely hand-turned wooden pieces. Had just a couple of miles from there to the hotel. In the short time we took for lunch and sightseeing the temperature felt like it rose to 90 degrees!

All in all, today was more like how I wish the entire ride could have been -- put in the miles early in the day and then sightsee. Unfortunately we haven't been able to do that most days because we need to put in more miles than can accommodate dallying.

Bike stats: 55.78 miles; 4 hrs. 10 minutes riding time; 1,796 total trip miles.

Food stats: Dinner last night was chicken in peanut sauce, rice, asian salad, and a cupcake for dessert. Breakfast was cereal, yogurt, banana. On-road snack was half a banana. Had a ham club at Miss Helen's with whole grain chips, a pickle, and iced tea.

Tomorrow we travel to Wakulla Springs and stay at the lodge there. There is no wireless internet at the lodge (and I don't know whether there is any cell phone coverage). We'll have a layover day there on Sunday, so I'll update the blog on Monday.

I'm now back in the same time zone as Peter, Brody, and all my Vermont friends!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My, my, Marianna

Wow. Today I drove the sag wagon on a 94-mile day and couldn't believe how fast everyone pedaled. I set up four sag stops and couldn't catch the lead group in time for the fourth! Simply didn't have time to stop along the way to take pictures. Really wished I'd been riding today!

Two riders took a bump up to the first sag stop in order to have time to visit DeFuniak springs along the way. Aside from those two, every rider rode the entire ride, and all but one rider arrived at the hotel in plenty of time to shower and relax before dinner. Two other riders even put in additional miles so they could do a century. The Florida heat must have baked their brains!!

The route was certainly conducive to an "easy" 90+ mile ride. Easy rollers and flat terrain, good shoulder, good road surface, friendly wind, but it was hot - in the upper 80's. The route followed US90 pretty much the entire way, except for a zig-zag at the beginning to get out of Crestview and a short stretch on SR71 in Marianna to get to the hotel.

Tomorrow we have a rolling rest day ride of 54 miles to Quincy, Florida. Will be nice to be "back in the saddle again."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cruising to Crestview

Had a short, easy ride from Pensacola to Crestview today. The ride started out on US90 and was very, very busy. We eventually moved from US90 to a bike path, and from there to some quiet back roads before joining back with a far-less-busy US90 for the final miles to Crestview. The ride had lots of rolling hills and good pavement. The wind was again favorable.

So, we arrived in Crestview around noon and the hotel kindly scrambled to get us into rooms (not all the assigned rooms had been cleaned). Some hotels have been very accommodating in that regard, while others just make us wait. The U.S.S. Intrepid veterans we left behind at the hotel were going to watch the Blue Angels practice this morning. They were lots of fun.

Not much else to report today. There wasn't any spectacular scenery and no notable side visits. A nice short, relaxing day to have before tomorrow's long day.

Bike stats: 56.43 miles; 4 hrs. 20 minutes riding time; 1,740 total trip miles.

Food stats: Had some grapes for dinner last night -- was still stuffed from lunch! Breakfast was scrambled eggs, hash browns, juice. Had some oreos and a Go Lean bar at the sag stops. Had a grande java chip frappuchino upon arrival and am getting ready to have a mandarin chicken salad for lunch.

Tomorrow is supposed to be 94 miles. Glad I'm driving the sag wagon!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pensacola - Florida at long last

This morning started with a short ride to the ferry and a ferry ride from Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan, Alabama. We biked along the gulf coast of Alabama initially on a newly paved, smooth, flat road with......our first tailwind in a very, very long time. We then entered a bike lane area and had pretty good bike lanes for most of the day. It made the day truly enjoyable.

We passed lots of high rise condos along the coast, crossed over into Florida, then entered the outskirts of Pensacola and pedaled through the city to the other side. There were a couple of rollinghills in Pensacola, but nothing to lose sleep over. Stopped at a bike shop and saw nice stuff, but didn't need any of it so didn't drop a dime there. They were happy to see us all, though, and hear our stories.

Today was a big day for Patty. She is afraid of bicycling over high bridges. Today she and I pedaled together over three of them. I tried to stay between her and the railing and we sang "99 bottles of beer on the wall..........." all the way over each. Actually we started the first bridge with "Mary had a little lamb" then went to "Row, row, row your boat" but decided neither was cerebral enough. By the end of the third bridge we were down to 57 bottles of beer on the wall. Patty got a well deserved standing cheer from the gang at the lunch stop. She and I celebrated with Midnight truffle blizzards at the Dairy Queen across the road from the hotel. The DQ overlooks a very, very long motor vehicle bridge over the bay. We figure that if we have to bicycle that bridge we'll have to restock the beer supply!

At the hotel tonight there is a reunion of sailors who served on the U.S.S. Intrepid. They were lots of fun while we were checking in. One of them in a scooter challenged us to a downhill race, but then decided it wouldn't be fair to us. Some of them are my dad's age -- not too many of them left.

Bike stats: 69.97 miles; 4 hrs. 44 minutes riding time; 1,684 total trip miles.

Food stats: embarrassing. Shrimp basket (fried shrimp, hush puppies, cole slaw) for lunch yesterday. Dinner was steamed broccoli and fries. Breakfast this morning was some scrambled eggs and a banana. Lunch was a shrimp basket (fried shrimp, hush puppies, cole slaw, and fries, and a taste of fried green tomatoes). Post-ride protein loading was the midnight truffle blizzard at DQ. Think I'll just have salad tonight!

So, on to Crestview tomorrow skirting north of Pensacola Bay and Eglin Air Force Base. We won't see any more large bodies of water until our last day when we ride to the Atlantic Ocean. The weather forecast doesn't include any rain for the next week. Can't believe we've been so lucky with the weather, other than the incessant headwinds. Only one bad weather day (rain, thunder, lightning) since we started.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Easy day in Dauphin Island

Today has been very relaxing. Woke up and walked for an hour and a half. Definitely need to get the walking muscles working again so I can get back to daily walks with Brody! Pedaled to the post office and saw some cross-country cyclists we have seen numerous times over the past month (Dave, Carl, Nathan, and two others). We'll be varying from the Adventure Cycling (AC) Southern Tier course in Florida, so may not see them again until St. Augustine as they are following the AC course.

Pedaled to both ends of the island (without cycle computer so that Kak won't have to ride her stationary bike extra miles). There is an old fort -- Fort Gaines -- on the eastern end as well as an Estuarium and harbor ferry. I was going to visit the fort, but just as I pulled in a busload of school kids pulled in too. Decided it wasn't worth the $5 entry fee to trip over kids all over the place. The east end (picture on the top above) is heavily wooded and grassy and the homes looked like they'd been there a while. Biked to the west end (picture on the bottom above) where there is a beach which you have to pay to use. There are no trees on the western half of the island and most of the houses looked relatively new. Almost all houses on the island are on pilings. I asked a building contractor how deep the pilings run in the sand. He told me 15 feet deep, and there is no concrete footing or anything like that around or below them. Sounds pretty unsecure to me -- especially in bad weather with tidal surges!

Took lots of pictures of the island today and then misplaced my camera. Fortunately someone found it and turned it in to the condo office. Thank you whoever found it! Got a picture of the bridge we had to cross yesterday to get to the island. It is about 3.5 miles or so long, with a very high center. Of course, we had a headwind all the way crossing it.

Lubed Bessie, had lunch at the Common Loon -- fried shrimp, hush puppies. Will go out for a beach walk in a few minutes, then get myself organized for tomorrow's ride to Pensacola -- Florida -- more margaritas!!

Two weeks from today I'll be home and playing with Brody. The ride has really gone by quickly.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Margaritas at Dauphin Island

We're on Dauphin Island in Alabama tonight and tomorrow night. New state means margaritas! The ride was a really short ride - 43 miles -- and I was on the island by noon even with a headwind. Bad weather was forecast for yesterday, last night, and today, but we didn't get any of it, just more quartering headwind. It is supposed to clear as the day progresses and tomorrow is supposed to be gorgeous.

The ride was pretty flat all the way to the bridge from the mainland to the island. Had a few dogs bark at us but nothing worrisome. Got here and had lunch at the Lighthouse Bakery. Had heard they were a good breakfast stop (for tomorrow morning), so as I rode in I checked with them and they said they would be closed tomorrow. So, I checked in at the condos and then went back for a fantastic omelette. Wanted to grab a bunch of goodies, but couldn't haul them on the bike without crushing them. Read some good internet reviews of the Best Li'l Oar House and The Common Loon restaurants. I'd like to get some good seafood tomorrow.

We're at condos which face the Gulf beach. Should be nice to walk the beach tomorrow. There are also lots of nature/bird viewing areas to check out too. I'll need to clean and lube Bessie the bike before I set out to do any sightseeing tomorrow. Also need to ply, wash, and dry some yarn I am spinning. There are six of us in this 4-bedroom condo which also has two washers. Of course, I'm accustomed to my single room. Guess I'll have to actually interact with people for the next day or so!! Hope they can handle it. Plenty of room in the condo for all of us though. The condo management has left a bag of rags we can use to clean our bikes. Smart move!

Bike stats: 50.05 (included some bikeseeing miles before settling in at the condo); 4 hrs. 13 minutes riding time; 1,614 total trip miles. I'll leave the computer in the room tomorrow while I sightsee so I don't make Kak angry by including any more miles on the official tally than necessary!

Food stats: Last night had pumpkin and spinach lasagna (really great), salad, and bread. This morning had eggs, half a banana, and half a donut. On the road had 2 oreo cookies. Had a smoked ham with mushrooms, onions, and swiss cheese omelette with toast. Linda is cooking supper tonight. We're on our own tomorrow.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pedal to Pascagoula

I drove the sag wagon today on our way to Pascagoula, Mississippi. It was a pretty uneventful drive today and all riders got in pretty early. The forecast was for increasing chance of rain and thunderstorms during the day, so we started earlier than usual and the riders made good time despite a pretty strong headwind.

Most of the ride was on pretty back roads, rolling at first, and ended on busier flat road. The only down side to Mississippi back roads is the occasional dog chase. Most of the time the dogs just want you out of their territory and if you use your deep, penetrating, commanding voice and pedal like hell the worst that happens is that they just run alongside until they run out of territory. Today there was a pack of dogs -- mother and good-sized pups -- which gave chase to all who passed and one rider said one of the pups was clearly aiming for her heel. Despite the fact that I have a healthy fear of being mauled, I prefer a country road with occasional dog chase to a busy road with no shoulder!
Tomorrow's ride is only 40+ miles, but the weather is supposed to be iffy (rain, winds). Think everyone will make good time looking forward to a beautiful layover day on the beach!

Bike stats: none. Food stats: cereal with milk, a few oreos, a milkshake. Don't know what Linda plans for tonight. Last night she cooked what started to be beef stew but ended up being beef with lentils and rice. Had biscuits and salad with it.
Hey, and Dauphin Island is in Alabama, so it will be margarita night again!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Winging our way to Wiggins

We left Bogalusa well after the butt crack of dawn and headed on to Wiggins, Mississippi. Stopped along the way for a tasty road treat. The route continued to have rolling hills all the way, with varying road surfaces, some great, some which made Texas' chip seal look smoothe. Our cue sheet said we had a short option and a long option. The short option spent much of the time on a busy two-lane road with no shoulder. The longer option had better roads but we were cautioned about dogs. Evidently the dogs in this stretch last year were bad enough to have the sheriff involved. We all took the long option (better to have a dog bite than be hit by a truck) and enjoyed the ride immensely, even though we did have a stronger headwind than the past couple of days.

Stopped at a drug store in Poplarville which had a neat soda fountain in the back. We had ice cream there at 10 a.m. and relaxed for a few minutes, and used the flush toilet. We're starting to see chigger bites on the ankles of those using the outdoor toilet facilities, so an indoor toilet was a welcome sight!

Saw more cows, had some horses trot alongside us, and saw these lovely llamas and cria (baby llama). As we were taking pictures of the llamas, a local person pulled up next to us and said they were Mississippi cows. Puhleese............ We may be girls, but we ain't that uneducated!

So, bike stats: 61.73 miles; 5 hr. 23 minutes riding time; 1,564 total trip miles. Yesterday my ride time was 4 hrs. 38 minutes. It is fun to poll people you are riding with to see what their odometers read at various stops along the way. It's seldom that any 2 people have the same reading even though they've followed the same route.

Food stats: Last night had roast pork, mashed sweet potatoes, and mustard greens and black eye peas. Linda made a "dump cake" (say that with a real southern twang) last night: a can of cherry pie filling, a can of crushed pineapple with juice, sprinkle a box of vanilla cake mix on top of that, drizzle a melted stick of butter over all that. Bake. It was great. This morning I had cereal and milk and a banana for breakfast. On the road had a package of fruit chews, a donut (thank you Ann, the sag driver), and a small bowl of vanilla ice cream. Had a personal pan pizza (ham and pineapple) for lunch.

We're supposed to have a good chance of showers tomorrow and Sunday, so I'm glad I'm on sag duty tomorrow. We head to Pascagoula tomorrow. On Sunday we go to Dauphin Island, Alabama, where we have a layover day on Monday in condos on the coast. The weather for the layover day is supposed to be good.

Two weeks from today Peter and I will be driving up to Virginia Beach for a short visit with Krakie Kaki (my older, but not necessarily wiser) older sister before heading home. Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bee-bopping in Bogalusa

Just when I thought we would spend the rest of the trip in boring flat land, Michelle's route gave us some nice rolling hills and pretty back roads. It was a beautiful day.

The scenery looked much the same as the last few days early on, but then at mile 20 we encountered the Global Wildlife park -- llamas at the fence. The park is a giant enclosure for various wildlife forms and they run 1 1/2 hr. rides through the park during which you can touch and feed the wildlife. As a bicyclist the trick was getting in, because once you delicately cross the cattle grates you are in open wildlife country. Imagine bicyclists being chased by herds of elk, llamas, antelope, whatever. Fortunately a park worker in an open vehicle was coming by and gave a couple of us a ride to the visitor's center where we could buy tickets for the 10 a.m. ride. Another bicyclist got a ride in with another visitor. Unfortunately for us, every school-age child in Louisiana and their parents showed up for that ride and they ran out of tickets just before we got to the cash registers. So, the park worker came and brought us out and we were back on the road again.

Further down the road we came upon the Uneedus Superdome!
The rest of the ride was less eventful and on gorgeous back roads with very little traffic. Thank you Michelle. Saw more horses and cows, and got barked at but not chased by dogs. By 1:30 I was in Bogalusa, even though I was really just dawdling.
Bike stats: Oops - forgot to bring the cycle computer to the hotel lobby (where the wireless works): 54 miles today; don't know how long it took; don't have the number for total trip mileage.

Food stats: Cornflakes with yogurt for breakfast. Had a banana, fruit chews, and a Powerbar Harvest bar on the road. Lunch was some red beans and rice, two chicken tenders, and an ice cream bar.

Tomorrow we cross into Mississippi, so it will be margarita night. Will be another short day too. Yahoo!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hi-tailing it to Hammond

Today was a long ride, so we left a bit early from St. Francisville. The ride began with some gentle rolling hills for the first 10 miles or so, bright sunshine, and mist rising from the fields and ponds. We rolled through farm country - cows, horses - and some forest. After the first 10 miles, it was back to flat.

Had a lot more homes along the way, and a whole lot more traffic. There was little or no usable shoulder for the first 50 miles or so. That made the traffic a bit more unpleasant. The last part of the ride, however, took us on roads that were less traveled and were really pretty. This was another new route for WomanTours and is not part of the Adventure Cycling route.

I didn't take many pictures today. The scenery looked pretty much the same as it has for the last few days, so didn't make much sense to stop for pictures. About the only times I did stop were for the sag wagon (3 times -- thank you, Carol), and a couple of visits to the woods to water the vegetation. The day was relatively cool and not enough wind to fuss about, and I drank a lot, so................... Didn't do a lunch stop because I don't wear a watch and really didn't know how I was doing on time. Besides, I really had a craving for a midnight truffle blizzard at Dairy Queen (darned TV ads) and was hoping I'd pass one. Didn't. Got in at 2:45, so changed clothes and went to the Cracker Barrel restaurant next door to the hotel and had a ham and cheese breakfast skillet. Won't want much for dinner tonight!

Bike stats: 88.63 miles; 6 hrs. 53 minutes riding time; 1,444 total trip miles.

Food stats: See above for lunch. Breakfast was a banana, scrambled eggs, a croissant, and some fried potatoes. Had a couple of bananas on the road and a Powerbar protein bar.

Tomorrow sounds like it might be a rolling rest day -- 55 miles to Bogalusa (one of Peter's favorite city names).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Relaxing in St. Francisville

Today has been a nice day to recharge the batteries. St. Francisville is a beautiful little town and the weather was perfect -- cool breezes and warm sun. Spent the morning walking around town. There are lots of neat old homes and churches and some fun gift shops to visit. The museum at the visitor center is also interesting. I really liked Grandmother's Buttons -- a store with neat stuff and they make antique-style buttons and jewelry. They have a website ( (which I couldn't get to come up on the computer), and they sell wholesale (hint Anne and Sandy -- really nice stuff for Six Loose Ladies??).

Had a nice sandwich at lunchtime at Magnolia's Cafe and saved half of it for dinner. Mailed some stuff and then spent the afternoon reading and listening to YoYo Ma and Peter, Paul and Mary on the MP3 player. What a relaxing afternoon!!!

St. Francisville is on a bluff over Bayou Sara. The bayou area is the home of the largest bald cypress trees in the nation. The houses on low-lying areas in Louisiana frequently are on structures which raise them above the ground. The trees have lots of spanish moss and also have "resurrection fern" on them -- in dry times the fern is dull brown and dromant, but when there is some rain it comes back to life and is green. Things are so different from Vermont!

Looking forward to getting back on my wheels tomorrow. I have only a few long days of riding left on the trip. I drive the sag wagon on the others. One of the disappointments of this trip for me has been the lack of interesting side trips and museums along the route. On the shorter days we would have time for them, but I haven't found them on the shorter days. Don't have time for them on the longer days. A few of the ones we have encountered have been closed on the day we passed through. I think that we're a bit off-season for some things too. Maybe when Peter and I do the Northern Tier (my 60th birthday year??) (Peter will drive sag) we can take more time for side trips and fun things.

Staying in St. Francisville

Sorry for the delay in posting this edition. Got in too late last night to update.

Yesterday's ride was a new route for Womantours from Lafayette to St. Francisville, LA. I think riders would agree that the route and roads were very nice. I was driving the sag wagon, so it didn't matter much to me. I did get a public broadcasting radio station in the car, and had air conditioning, so I was a pretty happy camper. Especially when the passing torrential rain storms blew through!

The route was, again, flat except for one bridge over the Atchafalaya river. We also had a 4-mile stretch over a bayou on a bridge which did not have any shoulder and had traffic whizzing by at 65 mph. So, the early batch of riders went across with the van and trailer following them. I followed the rest of the riders. It was really impressive watching them pedaling two-by-two in close formation. These ladies have become such good riders. They've ridden far more than I have, given my sag days and the few days I've ridden in the van, and the miles are reflected in their steady, strong legs!

The day ended with a ferry ride across the Mississippi. Last year the river was too high for the ferry to run, so the riders had to be shuttled in the van all the way to Baton Rouge and then back north to St. Francisville.

Today was flat tire day. One rider had a flat before she left the hotel. Another rider had a flat before the bayou bridge ride. Other riders found road debris in their tires before it became a problem. Shortly before the ferry ride one rider had to replace a tire as well as a tube. She had the notorious Bontrager rim, which we've found is not conducive to on-road tire or tube replacement. It is simply too hard to get the tire back on this rim. We tried and tried to roll the tire back onto the rim, and each time finally had to use tire irons to put the tire back on, which only resulted in two pinch flats. At that point, she and her riding partner decided to sag on in. Was nice for me to have company at the end of the day, but I know they would rather have cycled.

At St. Francisville we are staying in two separate places. The bulk of the riders and the van and trailer are at the Butler Greenwood B&B, which is an old plantation dating to the 1790's. The same family has held onto it all these years. It is a gorgeous facility, with many old trees and nice cottages and is located 2-3 miles from town. It doesn't have internet service or a real big breakfast and its location away from town means riders have to bike in to have lunch and dinner. A handful of us are staying at the St. Francisville Inn, which is in town and has its own gentle ambience as well as a great buffet breakfast and internet. Hard to say which place is better, especially since the kids from hell were in the room next door. Had to go to sleep with earplugs and the air conditioner running full blast to drown them out.

We're here for the day (and unfortunately I think the kids from hell are too). Tomorrow we're on to Hammond, LA on yet another new route for Womantours and I'll be back to pedaling. We were told tomorrow's 87-mile ride has some rolling hills, which will be a welcome change!