Thursday, September 30, 2010
On Thursday 9/30, a rest day in Orange Beach, Alabama. We fixed a rear wheel flat on Ann's Surly Long Haul Trucker (affectionately known as Shirley) and caught up on journals/email. We also spent time on the beach watching several pods of dolphins swim by less than 100 yards from the shoreline. Ann swam out several times in an attempt to get closer to these remarkable creatures. It will be hard to leave the warm gulf water, beach, and the dolphins. At dinner this evening, our 80 year old waitress, Mama Dee was a wealth of information. She advised that at one time this area was thick with satsuma orange groves, a variety of mandarin orange. Sometime during the 1940's, a big freeze devastated the industry. Mama Dee also said tar balls from the BP oil fiasco made it to the beaches here and machinery combs the beaches at night to remove them. She is hopeful that no hurricane damage will occur this year to further exacerbate the problem. As visitors, we have seen no evidence of the devastating spill. We saw this worm fiddling sign a few days ago. who knows what worm fiddling is? How are the walkers doing? Are you having fun yet?
On Wednesday 9/29, we elected to ignore the advise given by Adventure Cycling to not ride Hwy 90 from Milton to Pensacola during rush hour. But, we were excited about seeing the ocean again. The traffic, as forewarned, was constant, fast, & furious. The 3 foot shoulder at least provided an illusion of security as we pedaled hard to reach quieter streets in Pensacola. Wow, it was a very stressful couple of hours. Lots of great scenery but it was tough to look around because we had to concentrate on holding our line and not wavering. As you climb up over those causeways with a load, that can be a challenge. Once we survived the experience, we were ready for coffee & a treat. We wandered around a much quieter downtown and happened upon Seville Square: a former group of tobacco warehouses now lovingly transformed into bars and restaurants reminiscent of New Orleans. We have a strong cup of coffee and beignets. Scenic Hwy 90 took us to 292 which became 182 as we entered Alabama. White powdered sand dunes became our roadside scenery with the blue waters of the gulf as a backdrop. Squadrons of huge dragonflies hovered above us. Ann had a surreal visit from a doppleganger who escorted us to our motel where the ride ended for the day. We hit the warm gulf water immediately with brown pelicans, gulls, and flying fish all around us. Tomorrow we rest.
After our delayed rain start yesterday, we had nothing but blue skies on Tuesday 9/28. We lingered over breakfast in Defuniak with a couple riding from Austin Tx to Jacksonville. It was fun sharing information with Paul and Barbara from Sacramento who are very experienced bicycle tourists. We also stopped at the post office before leaving town to divest ourselves of 9 pounds of "stuff" that we mailed home. We needed to lighten up! On the road, an SUV pulled alongside Norb. The driver shouted "Guten Morgan". Norb replied, "Guten Tag". The driver than began a rapid fire conversation in German while driving next to Norb. Norb could at least understand that the driver was asking where we were headed and replied, "San Diego". The driver became animated, pumping his fists, laughing, and shouting some kind of encouragement in German. Norb began wondering how this stranger could possibly know he was born in Germany. An "aha" moment happened: our CMN jerseys are black, gold, and red like the German flag. The driver assumed we were from Deutschland. A stop in historic Crestview for gumbo at Uncorked Bistro. I can share the recipe for anyone interested. It was the best ever and they were nice to share. While navagating a series of backwater swamp roads, bordered by beauty berries and hummingbird vine, we saw a sign "Bridge Is Out". A detour would have required biking on a road packed with red dirt and sand. Just the kind of grit we didn't want in our deraileur or the links of our chains. We took a chance and continued for the bridge. We came upon an enormous crane that spanned the width of the bridge and was surrounded by a work crew. The crew was gracious in allowing us to squeeze by. We rode 9 miles on The Blackwater Trail while mocking birds serenaded us from dense thickets of Sea and Wax Myrtle. We arrived in Milton, our last overnight in Florida, after a good and varied 65 mile ride.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
On Monday 9/27, we woke early to pouring rain and lingered at the motel until 10am before starting out in a light drizzle. This segment of U.S. Highway 90 has smooth pavement and clean shoulders that carry us west. We saw stands of birch trees with appaloosa marked bark mixed with the typical Florida roadside vegetation. Tall stands of goldenrod and purple primrose-like blossoms added color to our journey. We encountered no angry dogs but did pass a pack of 5 chihuahuas that paid little attention to our passing through their territory. It is doubtful the 5 of them could have taken down a grasshopper. We arrived in DeFuniak Springs at 2pm and registered at Hotel DeFuniak. This hotel was built in 1920 as a Masonic Lodge and is a beautifully restored gem. It is a comfortable, bike-friendly, and elegant establishment that is also reasonably priced. The DeFuniak area was first occupied by Muscogee/Creek/Euchee Indians. In the 1880's a railroad surveying party rested near a round lake in the heart of a virgin forest. They were so overwhelmed by the beauty, it was decided there would be a town built at that location. The town was named in honor of Fred DeFuniak who had held many high positions in the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. One legend has it that Fredrick won the right to name the town in a card game. We walked the Lake Circle. The spring-fed lake is reportedly one of two in the world that is almost perfectly round, the other being in Zurich, Switzerland. It is nearly one mile in circumference, 60 feet deep, and at 250 feet, one of the highest points in Florida. In this town of 5200 there are over 200 homes on the National Historic Registry that conjure images of an elegant past. The town's history is also immersed with the Chautauqua by becoming its winter home in 1885. Chautauqua, originally founded in New York strived to provide a combined experience of religion, education, the arts, and recreation. According to our Adventure Cycling maps we have ridden 428 miles. However, they do not take into account the additional miles it takes to find a place to eat/sleep. So our actual miles in the saddle are 447. Norb has an acronym for that: ASAM (Actual Saddle Ass Miles) DeFuniak Springs is also cause for a minor celebration for these 2 riders as it is completion of the first of seven maps that chart our course across the country. Yeah! As a reminder to all - all donations to the Miracle Ride go directly to help kids as we finance our own travel expenses.
Monday, September 27, 2010
We leave Chattahoochee on Highway 90 West and enjoy a long drop to the Apalachicola River. As we cross the bridge, a sign informs us that we are entering the central time zone. The skies to the north and south have banks of threatening clouds but we travel west beneath a sliver of blue sky. The forecast is rain so we anticipate getting wet at some point during the ride. The roadside vegetation is a mix of oaks, pines, cedars, and holly trees. The multiple shades of green are a pretty landscape for cycling. We encounter a very hilly 10 mile stretch on CR164 east of Marianna with no shoulders and drivers apparently training for the autobahn. Marianna (population 6,230) was the site of a bloody Civil War battle 146 years ago, almost to the day, we rode through this lovely town. On September 26, 1864, Union troops attacked this town. This was the deepest penetration south by Union troops during the War Between the States. Marianna was defended by volunteers and wounded Confederate soldiers who were greatly outnumbered. Although Union troops were victorious, the victory was not without heavy Union casualties. This battle is often called "Florida's Alamo". Ten miles from Chipley the rain catches us. Two big dogs also tried to catch us. A sheriff patrol car in the oncoming lane swerved over to position his car between Ann and the mutts. The dogs retreated. Talk about public service from law enforcement. What a deal! Although we arrived looking like drowned rats, the hotel had some nice rags with which to dry & polish our hot machines. Norb even scrubbed the less than pleasant looking scum from the insides of my sports drink bottle. What a guy!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
During breakfast at Jacob's Cafe in Tallahassee, the wait staff pooled some money together and made a donation to CMN. When people dip into their tip money, you know they have big hearts. It was an emotional moment for us. We cycled the quiet morning streets through the FSU campus where police were already stationed at barricades to control the inevitable traffic that today's football game against Wake Forest will bring. The stadium was very impressive and hearing the marching band practicing made us think twice about sticking around another day. After forging on, we biked mainly rolling hills on an overcast and muggy day. We stopped at Quincy Golf Club to mooch water and met Jim Folds who made a donation to CMN. On the outskirts of Chattahooche the hills got serious as we passed through an area called "Happy Town". This was and, seemingly still is, an African/American community. As we biked past the Happy Town store, a group of happy locals whooped, hollered, and waved. We checked into the Relax Inn, our sole choice in this small town positioned high above the Apalachicola River. A light rain became a downpour and the entire town was without electricity for about 2 hours. The community has a large state mental health hospital which, no doubt, is an anchor for the local economy. We discovered a song by .38 Special that seemed appropriate . Can't say this song was previously in our repertoire.
In Chattahoochee I'm not crazy. Chattachoocee I'm just lazy.
Chattahoochee found my home, Chattachoocee.
Who's to say who's crazy. It's easy to see.
All you gotta do is turn on your T.V.
All the people on the outside trying to be someone else.
I'm having fun here just being myself.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
It felt luxurious to spend the day off-bike and enjoying Tallahassee. We were pleasantly surprised by the cosmopolitan feel and the wonderful job they seem to be doing preserving and highlighting their history. Touring the historical state capital was informative and fascinating. We had lunch with a great crew at the Metro Deli. Since we had to keep our muscles loose, Ann took Norb in a few games of ping pong. The highlight of the day was having the opportunity to enjoy the event set up right outside our hotel, Downtown GET DOWN. The city puts on this happening the Friday night before every home football game at FSU. Food, music, and a variety of vendors line the blocked-off street. We had the extra treat of attending the event with our new friends Brenda & Karen. Oh, did I mention our glitter tattoos?
Friday, September 24, 2010
Yes the Beach Boys sang about this Florida capital city. Time to hit the road from Grace Manor but not until Brenda has served us a killer quiche. (yes, Norb is a real man, just check out those biker legs) It is a nice break from our motel continentals. We decide to deviate from our circuitous backroads route and take Hwy 90 directly to Tallahassee. We know from past experience that going off- route from the recommendation of Adventure Cycling Assn. is always a gamble as the road may look reasonable on the map, but not good for cycling. Our alternate plan worked great for about 20 miles when we lost our narrow shoulder and encountered lots of road construction. Ten additional miles of Greyhound buses and tractor trailers inching past us provided motivation to pull over and check the map. We found a much quieter way through the suburbs with trees shading the pavement & arrived at our destination about 2pm. Several people had advised us that the terrain becomes hillier on this stretch and they obviously knew what they were talking about. This city is arranged like a wheel on a variety of steep hills. This is home to Florida State University and Florida A & M University . FAMU, established in 1887, is the oldest historically black public university in Florida. In October the annual migration of Monarch butterflies pass through the nearby St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, roosting by the thousands before their trip across the gulf to Mexico. Perhaps we can see a few scouts. Saturday is a rest day after 6 days of riding and 307 miles, (but who's counting) so we will visit the bike shop for a minor adjustment, relax, and consider some local sightseeing options. Our hotel is within walking distance of the Capital Building and several historic points of interest. Thanks to all for your interest & support of us and CMN!
Thursday, September 23, 2010
We leave White Springs in an early morning fog. The sun is rising behind us like a "Red Rubber Ball" (go on, sing it) We cycle past tall stands of pine trees that filter the sunlight, creating bright spots on the forest floor. We ride through the streets of Madison Fl that are lined with historic homes and buildings. We spoke with a man who was rehabing a neat old boarding house. He stated that when "cotton was king" the Florida Legislature was controlled by representatives who were rural plantation owners. They made certain small rural towns, such as Madison, received ample funding to construct beautiful buildings such as the Madison Co. Courthouse. West of Madison we cycle through the Hixtown Swamp. Although we don't spy any gators, we hear the calls of pileated woodpeckers. Ann manages to spot 3 of these magnificent birds. We also pass an area covered with water lilies and trees full of snowy egrets. Hwy 90 takes us to Greenville, pop. 839. We arrive at Grace Manor B & B. It was constructed in 1898 as a grand hotel and later used as a boarding house until 1954. During Greenville's boom era, the town claimed to be the Plywood Capital of the World. Greenville is also the childhood home of R.C. Robinson, better known as Ray Charles. Brenda Graham, owner, prepared a home cooked dinner for us, yummmm. Brenda is a great hostess and we enjoyed singing oldies and visiting on the incredible wraparound porch.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Tonight we are in White Springs Florida and have ridden 205 miles since our start on Saturday. Last night we were in High Springs. Are you getting a theme here? This area is saturated with springs and caves. Cave diving is quite the sport. Eight billion gallons of water flow daily from springs in northern Florida. The air temperature continues to be in the 90's by midday so yesterday we visited Poe Spring Park for a refreshing dip in the spring that feeds the Santa Fe River that flows into the Suwanee River. that then empties into the Atlantic Ocean. In High Springs, we met Sharon Tugman who is living her dream of operating a bakery, The Secret Garden. She provided us not only with complimentary goodies but also made a contribution to CMN. Her son even tried to help me with a few computer glitches. Thank you both! A local legend, Naked Ed, had pearls of wisdom posted in the Great Outdoors Restaurant (terrific place) One such pearl - "It is nice to be important, but more important to be nice." After arriving in White Springs, we dropped our bags at the motel and rode to the historic Telford Hotel for a buffet meal of great southern cooking. Stephen Foster is the composer of "Way Down Upon the Suwanee River" Even though he never visited Florida, they have a park and museum honoring him here on the banks of that immortalized river. On the way back to the hotel, we were caught in a sudden thunderstorm which actually felt refreshing since the temp had reached 97.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
A great send-off in St Augustine! Friday night my nephew's in-laws were nice enough to drive down from Jacksonville and take us to dinner at Saltwater Cowboy, a unique place in the marshes where we could watch the sun set while enjoying some good food and even better company. Thanks Andy & Joanne! We decided to get an early start for our first ride in order to avoid the hottest part of the day. This has been a hotter than usual season in Florida. We had a great group of employees at our hotel in St Augustine: friendly, informative, encouraging, and they helped us get a great start. Thanks Sheri & Lydia! We biked through the historic district at daybreak. The usually bustling streets were quiet as we slipped past beautiful old buildings with so much history that it was easy to imagine seeing the ghosts of Spanish Conquistidors on horses pouring out of the narrow streets. As King Avenue became CR214, the sense of transitioning to a more rural enviornment was striking. It is a testament to the reality that Lyndon Johnson's dream of a greater society has yet to materialize. The air was calm, the roads flat and smooth with virtually no traffic. We saw flocks of white egrets feeding in fields, and swooping like white clouds to touch down on the ground. We pedaled along the St. John's River with water views and beneath old live oaks draped with Spanish moss. We rode through Hastings, the potato capital of Florida and on to Palatka for an overnight. We walked over the mile long bridge to stretch our legs and had a great early seafood dinner.