The Plan: A leisurely ride home

Saturday February 14, 2009

Hello to any and all interested readers from your journalist, John Cruise. I am a retired 60 year old from Iowa City, Iowa with a need to travel. I began bicycle touring about ten years ago and whenever possible I turn any trip into a bicycling adventure. During Iowa's cold winters I try to spend as much time as possible in the southern states while cycling and golfing.

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Me and my Rans Stratus.



This trip is going to be very flexible. One certain thing is that I will begin my ride February 18 from the home of our good friends, Frank and Maxine, in Fort Myers, Florida. My Rans Stratus recumbent bicycle is in their garage where I left it on January 30 just before my wife, Cheryl, and I returned to Iowa City after spending a month in Venice, Florida. I do need to end up back in Iowa City around April 1.

I intend to start slow to build up some strength and endurance in the first few weeks. Since I also enjoy golf I plan to stop now and then, rent some clubs and play a few holes along the way. I'll be lodging in motels.

This will be my first long tour on the recumbent bike. I bought it last summer from a dealer in Ogden, Iowa and have been hooked on the cushy seat and comfortable riding position. It is slightly slower than my other road bikes and climbs harder. For this trip it should be fine since there are no long climbs between Florida and Iowa along my intended route. I will be carrying three spare tires because the 559c tires are hard to find and I wear out the rear tire of the recumbent faster than usual. It carries much of the rider's weight as well as the luggage on the rear rack.

I am an Adventure Cycling Association member and have bought most of their maps. There is a planned route from Fort Myers to Ormond Beach on the Atlantic Coast of Florida but I probably won't follow it. I really don't need to go to the Atlantic Coast and staying in the center of the state will reduce city traffic congestion. When I get up to the Florida Panhandle I will be on the ACA Southern Tier route from time to time. I prefer scenic, peaceful roads and following ACA maps is good for that but I am always willing to strike out on my own when the urge hits me.

To stay warm as long as possible I plan to head over to the Mississippi River at St. Francisville, Louisiana before turning north. From there I will head up to Natchez and use the Natchez Trace to work my way up to Tennessee. On the other hand I could head north from the Mobile, Alabama area following the ACA Underground Railroad Route. It would be shorter but colder, hillier and less peaceful.

I have a route generally in mind to go through Kentucky between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. I intend to cross the Ohio River either by ferry at Cave In Rock, Illinois or by bridge at Paducah, Kentucky. Somewhere along this northern swing Cheryl will join me with the Honda van for company and touring. She can bring some warmer clothing if needed as well as my golf clubs. She enjoys exploring on her own as I cycle. From the Ohio River to Iowa I'll improvise while considering wind direction and temperature during the latter part of March.

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Cheryl: my support driver, wife and companion. This was taken in 2000 somewhere in the Yukon on our way to Alaska. She drove and I rode. It was a trip of a lifetime.



My training: well, there has been none. I walked the golf course in Florida quite a bit and rode a few hundred miles but I have otherwise been waiting for this trip to get me going again. I expect to ride about sixty miles per day at the start and will pick it up a bit as the trip goes on but I no longer care about speed or distance. This trip is meant to be a healthy training exercise both physically and mentally.

I may ride 2,000 miles. I may ride less. In any event I will try to document the route and road conditions for other touring cyclists. I will keep you posted.

 

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Just for fun: this was an earlier version of me, about 57 years ago.

Packing Up: The things I will carry

Sunday February 15, 2009

It is a quiet Sunday morning here in Iowa as I assemble some of the items that I want to carry on the bicycle. I travel light to keep the total weight down and because I have learned that I need very little.

Electronic items along with USB cords and chargers are always a significant part of my luggage.

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My rack bag and other things.



The black bag that you see in the above photo is a rear rack bag that can carry everything I need during warm weather tours. On this tour I also have large seat back bag specifically designed for the recumbent bike as well as a specially designed handlebar bag. The extra bags will give me room for cold weather clothing, six golf balls, a few tees, a golf glove and a cap. I am carrying a bicycle lock on this trip so I can lock the bike up when I stop at golf courses. Till now I have never felt a need for a lock.

I carry a toothbrush and toothpaste, disposable razor, vitamins and supplements, a couple RX meds, and a sport drink mix. I don't need a comb, what hair I have left can be combed with the fingernails. I use shampoo or soap as shaving cream.

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Computer, phone, camera, MP3, maps and other travel items.



The cell phone is an important item. Mine is five years old but still works well. I have ruined two other phones on bicycle tours by not protecting them in heavy rain so I always have some plastic bags to shelter electronic items. I have an old Magellan 600 GPS unit that is with the bike in Florida. It works fine and gives me mapping backup when paper maps are unavailable. I particularly like it in the mountains because it provides very accurate elevations.

For entertainment I listen to recorded books on a small Sandisk MP3 player that has 4 Gig internal memory and a 4 Gig external card. I have it loaded with a half dozen books now and I can add or delete books on the road. When it is safe and legal I will listen as I ride. In Florida it is illegal to use headphones on a bicycle while riding on the road. I believe that it is legal in the other states that I will pass through but I don't use headphones in urban areas or if there is any other reason for concern.

The computer that I carry is getting old but still does the job: it is a Sony Vaio T series weighing just three pounds. The screen is only 10.5 inches and has had some water damage so it does not display everything as it should but it is good enough to get me by. I have totally disassembled the thing once to replace the fan so I have an exceptional attachment to it. During the trip I will always stay in a motel that has wireless Internet so I can easily research the route ahead and stay in touch with things at home.

I will carry ACA maps along with several additional regional maps of Florida. At night I use Google and Delorme maps on the computer. Google maps has a camera, street view feature that gives you the chance to actually look at many commonly used roads. I use this feature to get some idea as to whether the particular road has a paved shoulder and to judge the general width of the pavement. It is very useful.

Clothing is limited. I left a warm rain jacket and rain pants in Florida along with rain covers for my shoes. I also left a short sleeve jersey and a long sleeve jersey along with cycling shorts and cycling tights. I will have one Under Armor shirt, cold weather riding pants, gloves, golfing shirt, golfing slacks, two pair white socks, one pair black socks, and one pair of gray Adidas running shoes. I don't bother with special cycling shoes and I don't have golf shoes.

Bicycle tools are already with the bike in Florida. I will have three spare tires, about six tubes, a frame pump, small wrenches, tire repair kit, lube, pressure gauge, and miscellaneous nuts and screws. I will have a couple bungee cords and two water bottles. There is no need for a camel back since this is a cold weather trip and there are plenty of services along the route.

The bike itself weights about 33 pounds and the luggage will be less than 15 pounds. The real load is me. My weight crept up during the last year. This year I intend to stay very active and hope to see the extra pounds melt away.

 

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Another view from the past: Jerry and John in baseball uniform. Baseball was a very important part of our lives, and we were pretty good at it.

 

Day 1 - South Fort Myers to Wauchula: Off to a good start

Wednesday February 18, 2009, 86 miles (138 km) - Total so far: 86 miles (138 km)

Almost everything went well with today's ride. There was one mistake at the end. I downloaded my photos for the day, including those taken at the start in Frank and Maxine's driveway. I deleted one photo by choice but ended up accidentally deleting all of them. I can't recover them because of the way I have this little computer set up. Well, other parts of the trip are fine.

My stay with Frank and Maxine was great. I had lots of good food to start the trip and we talked on and on. The recession is very serious in south Florida and it is affecting everyone's life one way or the other. Maxine's son, Gary and his wife, Nancy, from Minnesota had been visiting and I had the chance to meet them before they headed out to the Orlando airport. They live near Stillwater and Gary commutes into the Twin Cities to his law firm. He is a marathon runner and looked very fit.

I loaded the bike and got started on the road at about 9:15 AM. All my bags are stuffed full so I wish I could reduce the load a bit. I have too much weight on the back end of the bike. I worry a bit about that wheel and hope it is well built.

It was slow going at first. It took almost 20 miles of riding to get through the urban congestion and out of the Fort Myers area. I went to the northeast and crossed the Caloosahatchee River on state highway 31. To get to that point I was able to ride bike lanes on Tamiami Trail, some bike paths and even a bit of sidewalk. Highway 31 had a nice paved shoulder 40 miles north to Arcadia.

Before leaving Fort Myers I stopped at a Wal Mart for sunscreen and later at a Taco Belle to get a Burrito Supreme to carry with me. There I had a nice short visit with a couple of the staff. They may look up this site to see how I am doing on the trip.

I entered Arcadia, 60 miles out, at 1:30 PM and after having a hot fudge sundae decided to go further north to catch a better motel. It was hot on the road. My thermometer once read 90 degrees. The real temperature was not that high but my instrument picks up heat radiating off the paved surface. I was pooped when I got to Arcadia but had a tail wind.

My legs were cramping as I did the last 26 miles. During that time I thought continually about 9 year old grandson, Jake. He was sitting on my shoulder and telling me: Grandpa, just do your best. That's the kind of thing he tells me after beating me at any sport. He is now so big, fast and strong that I have no hope of beating him at baseball, basketball or football. Golf and cycling are my only chance and someday those chances will pass me by. Oh, yes, I am out of shape having made no effort to condition myself for this trip. I will pay the price.

 

Day 2 - Wauchula to Dade City: A harder ride

Thursday February 19, 2009, 72 miles (116 km) - Total so far: 158 miles (254 km)

Overall I am in a good place, mentally and physically. I spent the first night on the road in a nice Best Western three miles north of Wauchula. I am now lazing around a luxurious Hampton Inn in Dade City.

I had intended to stick with budget hotels but for the most part they have been booked up. It is the busy season here and along this interior corridor there are fewer hotels. During the summer months they get little use.

The first 30 miles of the ride were very peaceful. I selected a route using one state highway and a long, quiet county road. My first stop was in the town of Mulberry.

 

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I was riding through orange groves. They are harvesting the oranges now and large semi trucks are on the road hauling oranges to processing plants. Almost all of them are made into juice.



It was so quiet along the county road that I let myself listen to one of my books for an hour or so. The only vehicles were occupied by folks who worked in the citrus or mining business. There are numerous railroad spurs here used to haul mining products but no trains. When I came through five years ago the trains were quite active. I think they mine phosphates here and I believe there has been some controversy about that. They also quarry rock and fill material that is being hauled to coastal cities. Every construction site along the coasts needs fill to raise the building elevations to the legal limit which I think is about 15' above sea level.

I left Mulberry at about 11:00 AM and went off my planned route to find a more peaceful, back country route to Plant City. I did manage to do that and my GPS proved quite useful in this situation. I made it to the edge of Plant City by noon and then the nature of the ride changed entirely.

Plant City is due east of Tampa on the Interstate 4 corridor. This whole area is very congested. I knew it would be difficult, but I have developed some patience. I had to get through the city and north of I-4 safely so I rode sidewalks and side streets for about five miles. Then it started raining.

I had considered staying for the night in Plant City but it was just a 48 mile ride there. When the rain began I was near I-4 on Highway 39 and rather than stop to reserve a room ahead in Zephyrhills I decided to just keep on riding. Highway 39 has been recently repaved and had a smooth 4' shoulder but lots and lots of traffic. The rain got worse as I rode along and by the time I got to Zephyrhills I was thoroughly soaked. Then as I had coffee at a McDonald's I was shocked to find all their motel rooms booked. It was just 2:00 in the afternoon.

I knew that Dade City had this Hampton and the night before it had rooms available but I hadn't written down the phone number so I called Cheryl to bail me out. She looked it up as I listened on the phone and made the reservation for me. It's pricey but when your ass is hanging out you will pay anything for shelter for the night. The 8 mile ride up Highway 301 was miserable with rain, heavy traffic and a skinny, skinny shoulder that sometimes vanished completely.

For the most part I have gone through the worst area. From now on the roads will be better and beginning today I will use 47 miles of paved bicycle trail. I have only a short ride of less than 20 miles to get to the Days Inn at the I-75 exit for Brooksville. I will stay there tonight and golf at Sherman Hills this afternoon. Tomorrow I will ride 90 miles NNW to Chiefland where I have a room reserved. That will be a long but peaceful ride.

We have some colder weather here. The high today will be about 62 degrees. The wind is strong from the north. It is lucky that I came this far in the last two days.

My legs need an easy day. My calves have been cramping some because of the lack of conditioning. The bike rides well on the straight and narrow but is awkward when I have to ride a real narrow lane or when I have a slow uphill. The only part of me that tires or hurts is the legs and feet. After about forty miles the bottom of my feet can get real sore and I have to adjust my foot position on the back of the pedals to get some relief. I should probably stop more often and walk it off.

I am doing well with everything except for worrying about son, Nate. I fear that he will lose his job and I regret that he may not be able to bounce back very quickly. No matter how old you get your children can be your biggest worries. It ends only with death.

Well that is a morbid but realistic thought. I also think about other friends who are dealing with difficult problems. Then there are many, many Americans who have special problems right now. It is worth some careful thought.

Well, here's hoping I can still hit a straight drive. I'll let you know.

Day 3 - Dade City to Sherman Hills Golf Course: A light day with golf

Friday February 20, 2009, 20 miles (32 km) - Total so far: 178 miles (286 km)

Today I put just 20 miles on the bike working myself to a Days Inn near the Sherman Hills Golf Course at the I-75 Brooksville exit. I had an easy, relaxing time. Since the Hampton Inn was so nice I stayed there until 11:00 AM checkout time.

 

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My bike outside the great Hampton Inn at Dade City.



It was a bit hectic on the road for the first 8 miles but then I picked up the Withlacoochee Bike Trail and had about 7 quiet miles on it.

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The beginning of the 47 mile paved Withlacoochee Bike Trail.

 

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Cattle feedlot in rural Florida. This state produces quite a lot of beef in the interior ranch lands. A Florida "Cracker" is an acronym given to cattle herders who cracked their whips as a way of controlling cattle.




I went to the golf course on my bike at 2:30 PM and rented clubs. After hitting a bucket of balls I played nine holes with Ted from Michigan and Tony and Joe from Brooksville. My score was poor but I hit a number of nice shots so I was happy. The three guys were younger and all were big hitters. They were pleasant to play with. Ted is recovering from cancer and has had a real tough time. I am feeling very lucky.


 

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My golfing partner, Ted, from Detroit, Michigan.

 

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My golf swing. Perry, I ended up with one more ball than I started with. I was just lucky.

 

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Birds feeding on the golf course.



Tomorrow I have a challenging ride of 95 miles to Chiefland so I want to sleep early and start early. I'm feeling pretty good.

 

Day 4 - Sherman Hills to Chiefland: I picked a great, quiet route

Saturday February 21, 2009, 95 miles (153 km) - Total so far: 273 miles (439 km)

Most of today went just great. There were three snafus that I will mention later but I did choose some really nice paths and roads. I never had any traffic to worry about. The roads were smooth and quiet.

One of the hardest things about each day is just getting started. Even though I have done tens of thousands of miles touring alone I am always fearful, always planning each day carefully to avoid any serious problems. Sometimes I am very tired and lonely but on this trip I am working hard to not let loneliness or fatigue get to me. So far I am succeeding.

 

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It was 30 degrees as I left the motel room. I went to McDonald's at 7:00 AM as the sun was rising. I was on the road by 7:30.



My fingers were freezing at first but the 30 degrees rose to the mid 40's fairly fast. I rode back to the Withlacoochee Trail and used it for the first 40 miles.

 

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At this early hour I had the trail to myself.

 

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There is an osprey nest on top of this cell tower. You can't see the osprey but I could see them as I rode by.



The first 40 miles of the ride did not go well. I felt sluggish and couldn't seem to get much speed going for me. I was troubled. I was worried. How would I manage 95 miles if I didn't feel good in the early morning portion.

At first I figured my problem was just the cold weather. I have found that it is harder to get moving in the cold. But it just got no better as I warmed up.

Finally, as I was approaching the 40 mile mark the bike was real erratic and I figured out that the front tire had a slow leak. I took my time fixing it while visiting with a couple older cyclists, one of whom was recovering from hip surgery and was very talkative. The tire was good at the start. It is just very unusual to develop a slow, undetected leak. Snafu #1.

On my way into Dunnellon I made a wrong turn.

 

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When you end up this far off track you know you made a mistake. It really only cost me a mile or so and my GPS helped get me back on track. Snafu #2.



On the south side of Dunnellon I found a great, very busy cafe. It was 11:45 AM when I got there and I was behind schedule but I ate at the counter and had a filling lunch. Then I rode county roads 38 miles up to Bronson. They were quiet and with fully inflated tires I felt strong and made 15+ mph. For cyclists out there, I used county road #336 and #337, a great cycling route.

In Bronson I needed a break, drink and candy.

 

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This lady and her helpers were washing cars for donations to Guatemala food relief. I enjoyed visiting with all of them as I drank, ate my peanut butter cups and let my legs recover. I also donated five dollars to the fund.



I had a nice finish to the ride here in Chiefland. There are lots of four lane divided highways with paved shoulders here in Florida and I was on one of them for the last 15 miles. I actually finished the day thinking I could ride a few more miles quite comfortably.


Then I ran into snafu #3. When I got to the Best Western they didn't have the reservation that I thought I made two days ago. I'll be darned if I can figure out what went wrong with it but I was lucky, they had some cancellations and they had a room for me. I asked for a first floor room and was signing up for it when another older gentleman came in asking if they had any first floor rooms available. His wife had health problems and couldn't handle stairs. There was no elevator. I was getting the last one. I wanted first floor because getting my long wheel base bike up stairs is pretty hard. The nice lady who was dealing with me said there were no more first floor rooms but as he was heading out the door I stopped him and told him he could have my room and I would go upstairs. So that is what happened and he was very thankful. It turns out that he was originally from the Quad Cities, Illinois side and had worked for McLaughlin or McGlothlin or some such well known business over there for all his career. Maybe the Thomas' or the Matherly's would know who he was talking about.

Supper tonight is a Healthy Choice dinner from the local grocery store. I had one two nights ago and they are very good.

Son, Nate, is in Mercy Hospital dealing with a serious bacterial infection that settled in his shoulder and required some minor surgery last night. I need to call him.

I am doing well. Tomorrow I will have a shorter ride up to Perry and then will be heading west across the panhandle of Florida. Chiefland is about 150 miles northwest of Orlando.

Day 5 - Chiefland to Perry: A ride into the wind

Sunday February 22, 2009, 66 miles (106 km) - Total so far: 339 miles (546 km)



Even though the ride was just 66 miles, I had a tough time. My legs weren't real strong, my left Achilles tendon is very sore, and the wind was against me from the northwest. Still, I am in Perry and quite content watching the end of a golf tournament on CBS. It could end with a playoff.

 

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This was my second Best Western of the trip. The price was good and the room was perfect.

 

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You can see that I had a good 4' paved shoulder on Highway 19, 98. At times there were lots of cars but I felt quite safe.

 

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I have been riding in the Suwannee River drainage area.

 

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There are some nice home sites on the west side of the river and I thought it might be a nice place to have a Florida home.

 

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I was happy to see this sign. I was bushed.



After a few hours rest here and a nice Healthy Choice dinner I am feeling very good. I did find a real good Budget Motel at $50. Tomorrow I head due west on Highway 98 but will ride about 60 miles to a small town with a budget motel on the gulf in Panacea. The bike is performing well. I'm looking forward to a nice trek along the coast.

Day 6 - Perry to Panacea: Heading west in the Panhandle

Monday February 23, 2009, 60 miles (97 km) - Total so far: 399 miles (642 km)

Tonight I am in the tiny town of Panacea, Florida. Like many small Panhandle towns, it is pretty run down. I picked the town because it had a cheap motel ($50) with wireless Internet and was 60 miles from Perry. I want to ride some fairly light days because my left Achilles tendon has a knot on the backside, a bruised look and some pain. I can ride by moving the foot around on the pedal, more forward than usual to keep from stressing the tendon. It isn't bad but I do worry about it getting worse.

 

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My rustic home for the night.

 

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The motel is owned by a couple who are about 45-50. The wife has lived here all her life.



The wind was from the north today and I thought that it would not bother me but I still had a slow day only getting about 13 mph. I didn't keep a good rhythm.

Highway 98 was a fairly good ride. At times there was little or no traffic. There is a large quarry/mining operation about 25 miles west of Perry and that generated a high level of dump truck traffic. I think they were hauling gravel and fill to building sites as far away as Tallahassee. I am now slightly west of Tallahassee and about 40 miles south of that city.

 

The only restaurants around here are closed because it is Monday. There are no grocery stores but they do have a Family Dollar store that sells some grocery items so supper is cottage cheese, some deli sliced turkey, crackers, and cookies. I also have a jar of peanut butter that I usually carry for emergencies. I don't have a microwave or refrigerator so some of the cold stuff will go to waste.

 

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Most of today's route was through undeveloped forestland. The St. Joe Company owns many of the forest tracts and it is involved in logging, paper milling and land development throughout Florida and very heavily in the Panhandle. Bruce Glasgow bought some of their stock about 20 years ago and I thought it was a great investment but with the bursting of the building bubble I'm sure the stock has taken a big hit.



Tomorrow I think I will ride 50 miles to Apalachicola or 71 miles to Port St. Joe. The weather and wind should be favorable and I will be riding along the Gulf of Mexico most of the day. I'm just a little worried about the tendon but I'm pretty sure that it will not be a disabling problem.

I don't feel as strong as I would like because I am still suffering from carrying too much fat and not training for the trip. I'll just have to take my licks and keep on going.

Day 7 - Panacea to Mexico Beach: Touring the Forgotten Coast

Tuesday February 24, 2009, 85 miles (137 km) - Total so far: 484 miles (779 km)

Tonight I feel particularly good. For about half of today's ride I had a good tailwind and perhaps that is the reason.

Up at 7:30 I hit the road at 8:30. My room was cold so it was hard to crawl out. During the night I had to put on clothes to keep warm. The heater was a small portable electric unit that just couldn't keep the place warm. Otherwise I slept well. It was 38 degrees outside.

There was no coffee or breakfast to be had in Panacea so I chewed crackers as I rode, as much as my stomach could handle and headed down the road 28 miles to Carrabelle where I found a nice cafe on the west side of town.

 

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This was Al's Cafe and I had a long visit with the owner. In 2005 during Hurricane Dennis the cafe had one foot of water in it. It sits about 300 yards from Carrabelle Beach.



I was feeling tired when I got to the cafe but a good omelet and toast along with a 45 minute rest really turned things around. By the time I headed west again I felt good.

It was another 23 miles to Apalachocola and I got there pretty fast. It was a good looking town and I had considered stopping there but felt too strong to quit for the day, and I had a tailwind. So on I went.

 

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A view of the gulf from Carrabelle Beach. It was a bright sunny day.

 

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Most of the homes along this Forgotten Coast were seriously damaged in 2005 but they have been repaired or rebuilt. But, new development and real estate sales are at a standstill.



It was a pleasant and fast ride between Apalachacola and Port St. Joe but I was fatigued when I got there and planned to overnight in Port St. Joe. I stopped in town at a bank to break two hundred dollar bills to smaller bills. Convenience stores don't like taking large bills. The bank tellers were friendly and I learned that I had already passed by the only good motel so I decided to ride another 10 miles to Mexico Beach. I had the energy and got into this town at 3:00 but it was really 2:00 because I just passed into Central time. I was still feeling strong but didn't want to do the next 20 miles to Panama City because it would put me in heavy traffic during a busy time of day.

Supper is microwavable stuff, crackers, peanut butter and some leftover cookies. It is adequate but nothing to brag about.

No word on the big business deal......SG is keeping me hanging and I will not forget it.

My Achilles tendon hurt more today, particularly when I had to put more pressure on it climbing over the bridges. It had me worried for awhile but this evening it feels better. I intend to press on.

I had planned to do a short ride into Panama City or Panama City Beach and take a partial day off but I feel too good right now to do that. Right now I hope to ride to Destin, about 80 miles, or Fort Walton Beach, about 90 miles. That would put me in Pensacola on Thursday night instead of Friday night. I have ridden the route before and know that the first 30 miles tomorrow will be a bit tricky but after that I will be okay.

For cyclists, I want to say that riding Highway 98, the Coastal Highway, has turned out even better than I hoped. Traffic is not bad and the road is almost always safe. There has been a shoulder most of the way west. East bound cyclists would have a bit more trouble because they are still rebuilding the shoulder on the gulf side where the road was seriously damaged by Hurricane Dennis. I think the road through Tyndal AFB tomorrow may be troublesome and Panama City is not easy but it's not bad for experienced riders. Overall, the road has been greatly improved during the last ten years.

The bike continues to ride well but sometimes it seems pretty heavy and slow. I'm pretty sure that I would move a couple mph faster on one of my other bikes.

 

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A view from my patio here in Mexico Beach.

 

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There was one ten mile stretch east of Carrabelle with no shoulder. However, traffic was light and the scenery was enjoyable.

 

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Something from the past: My Dad and my mother in late 1971 with my daughter, Jennifer. I feel happy looking at the photo and remembering how hard we worked back then and all the dreams we had for the future. Some worked out well, some didn't. Jennifer has been a big winner and great delight. We are blessed to have her and all of our family. The older I get the more this means to me.

Day 8 - Mexico Beach to Fort Walton Beach: Busy traffic but a good tailwind

Wednesday February 25, 2009, 90 miles (145 km) - Total so far: 574 miles (924 km)

Last night I got a good rest at the El Governor Motel on the beach.

 

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I had a nice sunset to view from the patio.



This morning I felt pretty good physically and mentally. I was able to get on the road at 8:30 and the ride through Tyndal AFB turned out to be very enjoyable. Then I had 35 more difficult city, busy traffic miles getting through the Panama City-Panama City Beach area.

All the way through the AFB I had a great shoulder. I lost it as I went over the long bridge into the Panama City area. I used business 98 and regular 98 to get through the never ending, sprawling city. The road choices were good and mid morning was a good time to pass through but it was still a bit stressful.

 

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A view of the road and the gulf.

 

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I left the motel having eaten just a sweet roll and a muffin. At the 32 mile mark I stopped for a couple burrito supremes at Taco Belle.



At the 49 mile mark I left Highway 98 and took County Road 30A along the coast through the pricey communities of Seagrove, Seaside, Santa Rosa and others. The road is narrow and scenic and they have built a bike path along it. I rode the path to keep everyone happy but hated it. It was slow, bumpy and used by slow bike riders and pedestrians. I have been through this way several times and the expensive real estate has expanded since last time but it actually bores me now. I wish I had kept to the main highway. The bumps really hurt my sore Achilles tendon.

I made a second rest stop at the 67 mile mark and headed off to Destin where I planned to stop. However, arriving in Destin I felt real good and had a tailwind so I decided to go on to Fort Walton Beach to an economy motel, $40, that I had used about 7 years ago. It was a good choice. I have a great room at a price about half of what I would have paid in Destin.

The tendon hurt worse today. I don't think that it will ever stop the ride but I need to be careful. I don't know whether I should wrap it. I will do some computer research.

Pensacola is about 45 miles away. I'm thinking of going an additional 30 miles to Orange Beach-Gulf Shores, Alabama. I'll wait to see how I feel. If I do the 75 mile trek tomorrow I can cross Mobile Bay by ferry on Friday and make it to Pascagoula-Moss Point, Mississippi on Friday night. I will take a day off or a very short day when the weather goes against me.

I am well.

 

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Typical housing along the shoreline in the Seagrove area.

 

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Another seaside view.

Day 9 - Fort Walton Beach to Gulf Shores, Alabama: My last night on the beach, now in Alabama

Thursday February 26, 2009, 74 miles (119 km) - Total so far: 648 miles (1,043 km)

It is late afternoon and I feel good. I made a reservation at this Best Western on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama early this morning. I rode 74 miles and got here at 2:30 PM. The rate was $80 since this is still off season and the weekend has not yet started. Actually, it is lucky that I have pushed ahead of schedule because if I were here tomorrow I would have to stay a minimum of two nights or find another place. I use Tripadvisor.com to find recommended motels and this one fit the bill for me.

 

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The waves are rolling into the beach on Gulf Shores so I have my deck door open listening them. Cheryl would really enjoy the sound.



This morning I was in good spirits and my body felt strong. The left Achilles tendon was in reasonably pain free shape though it didn't feel comfortable walking on it. So, I took off at about 8:00 with just a sweet roll and headed down Highway 98 towards Pensacola.

 

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Highway 98.



There was a decent bike lane all the way to Pensacola but traffic was heavy and the 39 miles into that city felt harried. There is a long four mile causeway, bridge to cross at the end and I was glad to get though it all and safely into town.

 

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A view of Pensacola Bay and the causeway from my rest stop in Pensacola.





The route through Pensacola was fairly peaceful with a bike lane and moderate traffic. Then I got to the Perdido Key area. I just took my time and enjoyed the ride.

 

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A view from the top in the Intracoastal bridge. Lots of pricey real estate in the distance.

 

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Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are full of these high rise condo buildings. I wouldn't hire the architect who designed this one.



Years ago I envied people who owned these condos in the sky but now, I'm not sure I want what they have. It seems confining and lonely to be in one of those boxes up high. Actually, these little islands with all the expensive real estate are pretty desolate places.

Well, tomorrow I take a ferry across Mobile Bay and then head northwesterly. I need to chart a safe route to Natchez where I can ride the Natchez Trace north to Tennessee. I really don't have that figured out yet.

Tonight I will have a restaurant meal. I didn't eat much today. My left Achilles tendon survived. I have been real careful with it.

 

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An old photo from years gone by. I will leave it up to you to guess who the people are.

 

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Not a flattering photo but this was me resting in Pensacola. Too many of the photos today were blurry.

Day 10 - Gulf Shores, Alabama to Moss Point, Mississippi: Meeting interesting people and heading north

Friday February 27, 2009, 65 miles (105 km) - Total so far: 713 miles (1,147 km)

The best thing I can report tonight is that I feel good. I'm freezing my left Achilles tendon on a pile of ice as I write this note. It has remained a problem but it is the only physical or mental ailment that I have.

Last night I had supper at a Waffle House. As I left I noticed that the only car in the lot had Iowa Hawkeye plates on it so I turned around and went back to visit with the only other couple in the restaurant. It turned out that they were from Williamsburg, just 30 miles east of Iowa City. He was a retired teacher and they have been vacationing in Gulf Shores for the last seven winters.

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I actually thought that it was ironic that there are so many Waffle House Restaurants in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores right next to million dollar homes and condos.



I hit the road at 8:00 AM. It was a very pleasant 22 mile ride west to the Fort Morgan Ferry. On the way I met a cyclist from Ann Arbor, Michigan who has ridden RAGBRAI every year since 1993. He was surprised that I have never ridden it. Maybe I will reconsider when one or more grand kids can join me.

 

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The peaceful road to the ferry.



This area was hit by hurricanes in 2004-2005 but it looks like all the recovery work has been completed. However, trees don't recover in so short a time.

 

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Broken trees.



I had a 45 minute wait at the ferry landing so I lubed the chain, pumped the tires, visited with lots of people and got a few photos.

 

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This is a drilling platform, natural gas, not oil in this location.

 

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A local grandfather took this photo for me. His grandchildren are in Colorado Springs and he thinks it is real cold there. I assured him that the front range of the Rockies was really not a bad place in winter months.



The ferry ride itself took about 40 minutes and that gave me a chance to visit with another Iowa couple from Des Moines. The wife was a retired elementary teacher in the Des Moines District so we talked long and hard about that and educational issues. It was quite obvious that we had a Republican talking to a Democrat but we got along great. They are headed home in their pickup.

 

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The folks walking below were the Des Moines couple.

 

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After getting off the ferry I had a very pleasant ride to Bayou La Batre. On the way I stopped at a rural C-Store and visited with another patron there. He was in his 50's and had spent most of his working life on the water. He does 28 day shifts in a boat that supplies and services the numerous oil drilling platforms off the coast of Louisiana. I asked him whether he could have a family life with a job like that and he said that he had been happily married 29 years and had raised three children but all in all he was happiest when he was on the boat. I asked about the tropical storms and hurricanes and he said that when the big storms come through they would just head their boat out of the direction of the storm and then go back to work as it passed by.

I left my motel in the morning with only a sweet treat for breakfast. I stopped and had a big lunch after 42 miles at a very good Mexican restaurant in Bayou La Batre. After lunch I had a 23 mile ride to Moss Point and the last 15 miles were rugged because the shoulder along Highway 90 in Mississippi was horribly rough.

 

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Passing into Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union.



I know that I need to rest my Achilles and get it healed up better but I want to ride 65 miles up to Wiggins, Mississippi tomorrow. It will be Saturday and the logging trucks may be off the roads. Then I want to continue north on Sunday when I know the trucks will be taking a day off. I will just try to take some easy days. Now I need to plan some routes. Storms will roll through in the morning.

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A nice slice of my life, Zach, almost three years ago. We're reading the comics.

Day 11 - Moss Point to Wiggins: Hills, headwinds and rain

Saturday February 28, 2009, 70 miles (113 km) - Total so far: 783 miles (1,260 km)

It was a hard ride today and now I intend to take a day off. Tomorrow is Sunday and generally it is the best day of the week to be on the road but there is a strong cold front coming down from the north. They expect snow in northern Mississippi tonight. In the morning it may be below freezing here in Wiggins and the wind will be from the northwest at 20-30 mph. So I will let my tired body catch up and hope that the left Achilles tendon does some healing.

I woke up this morning feeling sluggish and strongly considered laying over in Moss Point but when I saw the forecast for Sunday I figured I better ride on Saturday or I would regret being trapped in Moss Point an extra day. It was a good choice.

The wind was against me most of the day and I had plenty of rain but I just took it slow and kept moving. I made one brief water stop at the 15 mile mark.

 

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This gentleman is a retired deputy sheriff. The wind blew my bike over while I was in the C-store and he helped me pick it up and gather everything together. The rain and wind got nasty at times.



Last year I rode part of today's route when I was headed west on the Southern Tier. Today I chose some new back roads to avoid a bad section of highway where I almost had a serious accident last year. After leaving the C-store I had 55 miles of quiet roads with no services. The last 25 miles of roadway was a very course surface. My thinner tires didn't handle it very well.

The bike has continued to hold up well. There have been no mechanical problems and just the one flat tire. Still, I haven't decided whether I like it or not. The two of us are sluggish going up hills and fighting the wind. Maybe I just need to get stronger.

 

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I do like having the three bags to carry my belongings. In the front bag I keep my tools, my glasses, camera, food and extra drink. I like being able to access things in that bag as I am riding.



During the last 25 miles the roads were so quiet that I actually wanted some traffic. Here in Mississippi everyone, I mean everyone, let their dogs run loose and many of the homesteads would have four or more dogs. I just ignore them and let them buzz around me like gnats. They bark, growl and chase but are all too lazy to do much more.

 

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These guys were just curious.



After drying everything and cleaning up I iced down both Achilles tendons for about 45 minutes. If I have shoes on I can walk normally but walking around the room barefoot I am hobbled on the left side. I have read several Internet articles about the problem and continue to think that pedaling on as I have been is okay. Taking a complete day off and then riding some short days is in the plans and that may bring some improvement.

Cheryl is busy at home on various projects. She will join me in Tennessee or thereabouts in about ten days. I will take my time as I head north and hope to play some golf somewhere, somehow. I need to do some research on that.

My spirits are good and I have a fine Best Western motel room here in Wiggins. Business problems remain and there are always other worries too but overall I am happy and appreciative of what I have and what I can do. I'm a lucky guy.

 

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Days gone by when we were all younger, adventurous and happy.

Day 12 - Resting in Wiggins: Windy and chilly rest day

Sunday March 1, 2009

Today I have simply given the body time to recuperate. It seems to be working well. I am surprisingly hungry for not doing any work.

My only move from the motel room has been to get food and shop at Wal Mart. I bought some heel lifts for my shoes and they seem to make a difference. Tomorrow I will see if they make a difference on the bike but I don't see how they can have an impact for that unique use.

My spirits are good. Tomorrow will be another cool, windy day but the winds will be lighter than today. I will do a short ride up to Columbia, Mississippi.

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My riding buddy, Jake, about 2 years ago.

Day 13 - Wiggins to Columbia: A cool winter day in south Mississippi

Monday March 2, 2009, 62 miles (100 km) - Total so far: 845 miles (1,360 km)

The cold front that came down from the north on Sunday gave those of us in south Mississippi a sunny, windy and very cool day, at least very cool for this part of the country. It was 30 degrees this morning so I waited until 9:30 to start riding.

Early in the ride I made a wrong turn. I was following some very quiet, very wiggly country roads. I meant to turn on a road called "Lee Road" but a half mile before it was a road called "Tom Lee Road" and I figured they were one and the same. I was wrong and figured it out with only an extra five miles of riding involved. My GPS map helped me get on the right track.

 

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This is where I was lost and a bit bewildered. There were no cars or trucks on the road so that should have been a clue.



The country roads were very, very quiet and the drivers that I did meet on the road were all friendly wavers. I stopped once to ask directions from a farmer who was fixing fence. He had a long beard and unusual speech while also being helpful and friendly.

The rural roads are rough and tiring. I wish I had thicker tires on the bike to smooth out the bumps. I also had a northwest headwind all day long but luckily it was only about 12 mph.

I took just one short rest stop in the small town of Lumberton. After losing time on my wrong turn I wanted to push ahead to Columbia so I could get in town before 3:00.

It may be much warmer down here but it is still the winter season and everything is pretty brown and dreary looking.

 

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These trees looked like pecan trees to me but I could be wrong.



Logging saw mills and paper mills are active all over this south Mississippi land. The forests aren't pretty but they are prolific.

 

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Looking at scraggly pine trees gets boring after awhile. But, the trees do help knock down the winds.



There are quite a few logging trucks on the road but traffic is light so I didn't get in their way. I did have one pickup truck give me some verbal harassment today, no big deal. I do get lots of attention because of the unusual bicycle.

Here in Columbia I picked the cheapest of the three available motels and it was a good deal. Owned and operated by the "Patels" it is clean, comfortable and stocked with everything except a good TV.

My Achilles were barking as I pedaled on the rough roads. I'm icing them now and feel real good otherwise.

 

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Circa 1983.

Day 14 - Columbia to Brookhaven: I'm tired

Tuesday March 3, 2009, 60 miles (97 km) - Total so far: 905 miles (1,456 km)

Southern Mississippi can be a bit boring during this winter season and cold weather, hills and rough roads are a bit demoralizing, but the people here are even more friendly than folks in the Midwest. Racially there seems to be a mixture of about 50% black and 50% white, all of whom are equally nice to me.

My bike gets a lot of questions here. This is an economically poor area so they don't see lots of cyclists passing through and they don't see expensive bicycles. One gentleman assumed I had manufactured the bicycle myself.

The two races seem to coexist well. In the stores and restaurants I constantly see the people intermingled. They ride in cars together, eat and shop together. It does still appear that at Wal Mart or McDonald's the managers are more likely to be white than black but that disparity seems less dominant than I have seen in other parts of the country.

The southern accent gives me trouble. I have a special problem with many of the black speakers. I try my hardest to understand what they say the first time and hate to ask them to repeat something but often I just have to do so. The Indian lady who checked me into this nice Days Inn this afternoon was harder to understand. Then I heard her hollering at her husband in their language and I knew that neither of them were fluent in English but they are doing a good job keeping this property looking good.

The innkeepers are telling me that the motel business is suffering. Their occupancy rates look terrible to me. I always check the parking lot early each morning to see how they are doing and unless they have lots of touring cyclists taking up rooms they are really hurting. If they have significant mortgage obligations they can quickly get in trouble.

Today I chose a pretty quiet, peaceful country route. Half of the time I had a rough road surface. Much of the land is still scraggly looking forests and there are logging trucks on the roads but I continue to get along with the rural traffic quite well. I have become so used to loose dogs that I don't even look at them, I just keep pedaling.

Today I tried to take some photos of the different country homes, some nice, some not so nice. I didn't do a great job of it because I didn't feel very strong or comfortable much of the day and just wanted to finish the ride. Overall I was just slow and my body felt sluggish much of the day. The little hills on the route seemed more difficult than they should have.

 

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A nice country home.

 

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Not such a nice country home, not such a good photo either.

 

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The most common country home.



As I head further north the land seems to be more fertile. There are cattle, horses, and goats to be seen, no cotton or tobacco fields yet.

Tonight I am resting well and looking forward to reaching Jackson, the state capital, tomorrow and then I will be on the Natchez Trace.


 

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Granddaughter Olivia. What a darling she is!

Day 15 - Brookhaven to Jackson: Better weather and a nice day

Wednesday March 4, 2009, 60 miles (97 km) - Total so far: 965 miles (1,553 km)

I am safe and sound here on the edge of Jackson near Interstate 20 and Interstate 55. The day was fairly uneventful. I first rode Highway 51 parallel to Interstate 55 for 35 miles. The first 22 miles were pleasant with a smooth surface and light traffic. Then I had 13 miserable miles of narrow road and bad traffic with lots of trucks. Mississippi does not pave any part of the shoulder and there are many places where going off the pavement would take a car or bike down a steep bank into lots of trouble.

The last 25 miles was on mostly country roads with a rough surface but favorable traffic and nicer views. The land south of Jackson is largely cut up into acreages for city folk working in the capital city.

It is warming up and I am having sunshine day after day. I am now two miles from the Natchez Trace and I will ride it for the next few days, maybe all the way to the suburbs of Nashville. I am tired so I might take a day off.

Tomorrow I will stop in Kosciusko, best known as the home town of Oprah Winfrey. However, I'm not sure that she likes the town or that the town folk have a great love of her. This I have learned from two previous visits.

No great photos today. But proof that I am alive:

 

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I did make an interesting stop at a C-store in Crystal Springs. There were about a dozen people in the store and I was the only Caucasian. The store had a restaurant operation that sold huge amounts of fried chicken, mostly for carryout and the women of the town seemed to make this a regular stop. They all jived with each other and seemed to have a great time. I just got a sports drink and took a nice rest while watching the action. But it oh so hard to understand the conversations because of the very southern accents.

Oh yes, my Achilles tendons are doing significantly better.

 

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This photo had to be taken around June, 1968 just before I left for Vietnam. These are my maternal grandparents with their seven grandchildren, one wife, one fiance and one great grandchild. My grandmother was 60 at the time and grandpa was 63.

Day 16 - Jackson to Kosciusko: Into the center of Mississippi

Thursday March 5, 2009, 80 miles (129 km) - Total so far: 1,045 miles (1,682 km)

Riding conditions were very good today with a level road and a tail wind. The road surface was quite rough the last 30 miles but that was the only negative.

I arrived here in Kosciusko about 2:45 after leaving my room this morning at 8:15. First thing was a McDonald's breakfast with an extra sandwich for the road. One of my quirks is that I can carry an Egg McMuffin in my bike bag for five or six hours and still eat it.

The town is named after Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the Polish officer who served on George Washington's staff during the Revolutionary War. He served well here but was even more heroic in helping Poland free itself of Russian Rule in the 1790's.

Traffic around Jackson on the Trace was not bad. Then when I got north of the city it was quite peaceful all day long. Despite the really nice riding conditions I had some slow, saggy hours when I felt tired. Interestingly enough, I felt strong the last 30 miles.

I am staying at a $45 Best Value room in a motel I have used twice before. The room is quite good except for a worn mattress. Supper was at the Mexican restaurant next door where I ordered two meals, one to eat there and one for takeout being my breakfast tomorrow. There are no restaurants along the Trace. I like eating at Mexican restaurants because that is where the common people are and the workers always hustle. The food is great but I probably need to avoid too much of it except when cycling hard.

 

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The Natchez Trace Parkway as I entered it this morning.

 

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The Andersons, a nice couple I met at a rest stop. They grew up near Columbia and Brookhaven, two towns that I have passed through on this trip. They now live in Columbus, Mississippi where they take care of children in a children's home. They enjoy their work.

 

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A view of the Ross Barnett Reservoir, a large body of water north of Jackson. The reservoir was created by damming the Pearl River, a river that runs to the Gulf and is the border between Mississippi and Louisiana in the south section of the states.

 

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Some historic information on how our government kicked the various Indian tribes out of their lands east of the Mississippi River during Andrew Jackson's Presidency. BTW, that was the last time when our Federal government was debt free.

 

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I met just one other cylist on the Trace today. A woman was riding a recumbent bike similar to mine heading south. She didn't slow down and I was slow to flag her down for a conversation. She wasn't hauling gear of any sort and I didn't get her story.

My bike continues to endure. Only one flat in over 1,000 miles. No other problems.

Day 17 - Kosciusko to Houston: A note about touring and a nice day on the road

Friday March 6, 2009, 75 miles (121 km) - Total so far: 1,120 miles (1,802 km)

Honesty is the best policy so here are some thoughts and explanations about this tour. This event is similar to running a marathon. I get anxious about the start. I have some very pleasant times on the bike when the body feels good and I am not yet lonely. Then I have some very tiring times and some lonely times when not riding. The body wears down and mentally I wish I were somewhere else. I wish Cheryl were here. I miss other family and friends.

Well, none of the above was unexpected. I knew from last year’s tour that I would have these problems. I knew that they could be worse because I had not been conditioning myself physically for the trip. To counter the problems I have been determined to ride shorter days and that has helped quite a bit. To deal with the loneliness Cheryl and I decided that she would join me after three weeks because that seems to be the magic amount of time for me to be on the road alone. I really look forward to seeing her next Tuesday evening in Tennessee. I also write this journal to stem the lonely feelings.

The ride is doing me good. I have gotten stronger and I have trimmed some excess weight off my frame. Still, I need to learn to accept a slower pace. It seems that I now average 12-15 mph when I think I should be doing 14-17 mph. I also need to learn to stop more and to eat more as I ride. One problem along the way is that I have seen most of the sights and roads that I am using on this trip and I haven't been inclined to stop and look around more. That is a mistake because there certainly are museums and other interesting things that I haven't been in before. I need to just change my attitude and take the time.

Well, back to the tour:

It was cloudy as I left Kosciusko this morning but the sun soon came out and I had a warm, sunny ride. For the first 33 miles the pavement continued to be rough and cracked. That made for about 65 miles of poor pavement. It's not horrible but it slows you down and shakes you up even on a recumbent bike.

 

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I had a nice visit with these two wandering sisters from New Hampshire and Vermont. They have been traveling together seeing the country for the last 8 months. They take their time and stop to do the hikes and see things close up. It was uplifting to visit with them.



There are no services on the Trace except at the Jeff Busby campground area. I was carrying three water bottles with me but I knew I would need more since the temperature got up to 80 and it was a long stretch. As a warning to other travelers I must report that the store and gas pumps are closed there. The only good thing is that the park service keeps the restrooms open and there I was able to top off my water supply for the balance of today's ride.

From Jeff Busby north the pavement smooths out. I made much better time.

Today I did take a little more time to get off the bike and eat some snacks that I carried with me: a couple breakfast rolls.

 

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I was lying on top of a picnic table when I took this photo of the sky through the bare trees above me, just to remind myself of the restful moment.



Traffic continued to be light. There were motorcycles but no other bicycles today. I do continue to think that using the NTP to ride from south to north in Mississippi is the best possible cycling route.

 

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The Old Trace is still evident in many spots. It feels like a sunken ditch.

 

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Old Trace.



Tonight I am in a small motel in the town of Houston, Mississippi (population 3,000) and it is a nice surprise. For an old place with no curb appeal I have a great remodeled room with all amenities except a coffee maker. The Wal Mart is next door and supper and breakfast will be found there.

I am feeling strong but will probably do a short ride to Tupelo tomorrow to get some extra rest and to plan my move north into Tennessee.

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A touch of the home front left behind, temporarily.

Day 18 - Houston to Tupelo: A short day on the Trace

Saturday March 7, 2009, 40 miles (64 km) - Total so far: 1,160 miles (1,867 km)

Life on the road is good, especially when I take time to goof off. The Holiday Terrace Motel on the east side of Houston has fair curb appeal but it was a great place to stay. My remodeled room was just as nice as a Hampton Inn. I got up early and walked around smelling springtime coming to north Mississippi. It was 60 degrees at 6:30 this morning.

I drank coffee, ate a frozen lasagna meal and doodled on the computer for several hours. I didn't want to leave until just before 10:00 because I planned to ride only 40 miles into Tupelo. I called Cheryl to see how her previous evening had gone and to plan for her trip south. She has kept busy with some good projects and has had plenty of family and friend time so I think she hasn't missed me too much. I look forward to seeing her in three days.

The motel has 30+ rooms but it appeared that only 5 or 6 were occupied during this night. The owners live in a building up front that contains their office, living quarters and a Chinese Restaurant. Hopefully they can limp along because it is obvious that they have invested lots of money in remodeling the units.

I rode back to the Trace and slowly pedaled to Tupelo. I had time to burn and my legs are somewhat depleted so I forced myself to do a lazy ride, and I enjoyed doing so. The pavement was great in this area. There are gentle rolling hills. Traffic again was quite light except around Tupelo where local residents tend to use the parkway for commuting.

Even being lazy it took just a little over two and a half  hours to get to Tupelo. I came to the Hampton Inn here because I had decided to pamper myself since today was being treated as a rest day.

Late in the afternoon I went to a Waffle House for dinner. There I met three local men who wanted to visit. I don't hesitate to tell people about my trip, not because I want attention but because I think that hearing about something like this is interesting to many people and inspiring to some. For them to see an ordinary yokel riding long, lonely miles on a bicycle is something to think about and tell their friends. One of the men had a friend who is trying to get set up to design and manufacture a line of recumbent bikes.

I have asked three different people about the recession. All three say that Tupelo has not noticed it yet. Interesting!

People in Mississippi make much less money than people in all the other states but they seem content, they seem happy. They are friendly. They have churches all over the place so they must believe in God and believe in worship and kinship in a church community. I have a new found admiration for all of these people: black, white, Hispanic or Indian.

My plan for the next three days: tomorrow I will ride 75-80 miles up to Pickwick Landing in Tennessee. Pickwick Lake is a reservoir formed by damming the Tennessee River and is a modest recreational area. Fishing, boating and golf are leading activities. About two years ago I made a late fall trip here to play golf for three days. It was a good trip but I hit some cool, wet weather at that time. I played golf at a state owned and operated golf course.

I found a very good budget motel at Pickwick Landing called the Stone Brook Inn, $45 per night. I will take a room there and probably stay three nights. Then I can play golf on Monday and Tuesday while waiting for Cheryl to join me late Tuesday afternoon. I called the course and they have rental clubs available.

After Cheryl joins me I will begin riding north along a Tennessee designated bike trail that eventually goes north to Dover, Tennessee. We will take some time off to tour. I want to drive over to Nashville and see the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's historical homestead. Jackson did some horrible things to the Indians. He was also a very strong leader.

 

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I always wanted to be a cowboy.

Day 19 - Tupelo to Pickwick Landing, Tennessee: Happy to be in Tennessee

Sunday March 8, 2009, 75 miles (121 km) - Total so far: 1,235 miles (1,988 km)

Now it's time to stay three nights in this nice Stonebrook Inn here at Pickwick Landing while playing golf on Monday and Tuesday. Hopefully Cheryl can set her navigation system to this destination and find me on Tuesday afternoon.

Even with the time change I woke up early this morning and was determined to leave Tupelo at 8:00 but at breakfast I saw a guy about my age sitting in the corner working on his computer and wearing a ball cap with a big gold "I" on it. I had to find out if he was from Iowa. As it turned out, he was an Iowa alumnae and lives in Wisconsin but makes it to Iowa City about five times a year. One of his old friends was a lawyer in Iowa City for many years that I did a fair amount of business with and another of his old friends is an Iowa alumna who practiced law in Wisconsin for his career but has now retired to Iowa City. All of these guys have a more positive image of Iowa City than I. This fellow has been spending his retirement years doing things like herding cattle on trail drives in Texas as well as other business and professional things. It was very pleasant to visit with him.

I did get on the road at 8:30 and had 43 quiet miles on the Trace. The pavement was excellent, the sky was cloudy, the hills were many but not steep and traffic was light. I left the Trace about five miles west of the Alabama state line and rode Highway 25 north through the tiny community of Tishomingo and then the town of Iuka. In Iuka the restaurants had a lot of Sunday, after church business and I ate at a busy Subway.

 

 

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Highway 25 was a decent bike route with reasonably light traffic and a two foot paved shoulder. However, this was a Sunday. On a weekday it would be a little more troublesome with truck traffic.

 

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Burial mounds in the distance.



My thoughts today were, in part, on getting into a new state, Tennessee.

 

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It felt good to see the Tennessee state line.



I am in good spirits, particularly because I have two days off the bike ahead of me and Cheryl will join me soon. I look forward to playing some golf and hope the weather holds up well for that. I have been lucky to have warmer than usual temperatures the last five days. Throughout the entire trip so far I have had favorable winds most days. Otherwise I wouldn't have gotten this far, this fast. I have been lucky but I have made some of that luck with careful planning.

 

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It also turns out that I was lucky to have two smart, resourceful, hard working, strict parents. "Spare the rod and spoil the child." There's no doubt that the Cruise children were not spoiled. Doing a trip like this takes perseverance and discipline. These are things I got from Mom and Dad. I have to be thankful for that.

Day off: Just scoping out Pickwick Landing and resting

Monday March 9, 2009

Very little to report: I simply spent the day resting, exploring some of the Pickwick Landing area on the bike, and catching up on eating.

Cheryl is due tomorrow.

Day of Golf: Eighteen holes at Pickwick Landing Golf Course

Tuesday March 10, 2009

About two years ago I made an off season trip to Pickwick Landing to play golf. So, I knew the course and knew what to expect.

 

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This is what a fairway looks like when the grass is totally dormant in the winter here in Tennessee. It actually plays okay as long as you stay in the fairway. If you get out of the fairway you are playing on some pretty dry, rough ground.



Cheryl was on her way to join me. She spent Monday night in Peoria and had 500 miles to drive on Tuesday. I played 18 holes during the middle of the day and had a rough start. It was sort of disorienting to play on such a brown, barren landscape. It felt like being on the moon and I had a hard time guessing how far I was from the flag after my drive. I did only lose one ball but since winter had killed off most of the foliage it was easy to find my most errant shots.

 

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One of the few holes where I made a par.

 

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My ball is on the green but it took me three putts to finish, so a bogey.



Here they water the greens in the winter but the surface is very unusual. Still, I did enjoy the golf.

Cheryl arrived at 4:30 PM and we had a find dinner at a local seafood restaurant. It was very nice to have company again.

Touring with Cheryl: Off to Nashville

Wednesday March 11, 2009

The great weather that I have had ended this morning. A strong cold front is coming down from the north and we are getting rain in Tennessee. With the rain and cold in mind I decided to put the bike in the van and tour by van over to Nashville with Cheryl. We are spending two nights here to see a few interesting features.

We meandered over to the city and used the Nashville Trace for a good part of the drive. We went 12 miles east of the city to visit the Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson, our 7th President. Jackson was the last President to serve when the budget was balanced and the country had no debt.

 

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The Hermitage was worth seeing. His plantation had about 1,000 acres, 150 slaves and this fine mansion that has been very well preserved. Jackson was President from 1829 to 1837 and then died in 1845. He was a tough guy.



Jackson was the first President who wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and J.Q. Adams all came from landed, aristocratic families. He was born in 1867 and during the Revolutionary War he ran messages for the troops as a boy because he could make his way through the back country undetected. One brother died in the war, his mother and another brother died of illness during the war. He hated the British. He hated Indians. He never knew his father and was an orphan as the war ended.

To say the least, he was a very controversial character. The Democratic Party was founded during his campaign for the Presidency. The term "Jacksonian Democracy" is still well known and often used.

 

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Here he lies about a hundred yards from his home. I think I would like to be buried in my back yard too, even if it hurts the resale value.

 

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Cheryl was there, listening and learning.

 

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Jackson was quite sociable. Lots of friends and relatives are buried near his tomb.



Tomorrow it will be rainy here in Tennessee and the high temperature will be about 38 degrees. So we are staying here another day and will take a Grayline tour of the city.....old Opryland etc., etc., etc. Cheryl likes to do tours and I usually enjoy them.

Cycling of some sort should resume when weather improves. I like being "leisurely."

Home in Iowa City

Friday March 13, 2009

On Thursday Cheryl and I enjoyed a tour of Tennessee with the Graylines folks. A guided tour is a good way to pack a lot of education into a short amount of time.

Nashville is actually a pretty exciting city to visit. Music is its most outstanding feature. I didn't realize that the music recording and publishing industry was so deeply embedded in the city. It truly is the music capital of America. The area that they call music row consists of 50 square blocks of studios and offices devoted to the music business.

There are so many aspiring musicians in town that they actually pay restaurants and bars to perform. They get enough tips to cover the cost and hope the exposure will somehow give them a leg up in the business. So we were able to enjoy live music at 6:00 in the evening while we had dinner on Thursday.

Friday morning it was 32 degrees and raining. I had planned to go back to Dover, Tennessee to ride the Trace between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake but with cold, rainy weather and some business problems on my mind I decided to just head back to Iowa City in the van.

For cyclists I want to mention that there is a Tennessee designated bike route that begins at Pickwick Landing and goes north about 130 miles to Dover. TDOT has a map and directions on its web site. I have ridden much of it on previous trips and it is an enjoyable ride. ACA follows a good portion of the same route with part of its Underground Railroad route and the ACA map is a very useful resource.

Illinois has published a series of nine bicycle maps dividing the state into nine sections. Due to budgetary problems the maps are hard to find and are not kept up to date but they are some of the best state bicycling maps that I have found in the last ten years. Using the Illinois maps you can find many safe bicycling routes through that state.

I have also ridden the Trace road before and have crossed the Ohio River on the ferry at Cave-In-Rock so I didn't mind passing that by on this trip. Weather-wise it would have been better to delay the trip north a couple weeks to let things get consistently warmer.

Well now I will catch up on some work, tune up my bikes and plan some more riding. This year I hope to get in a good western bike trip or two.

Best wishes to all.

 

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A view of the mall with the state capitol building in the background. We were surprised to see so many parks, monuments and historical sites in Nashville city center.

 

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A country music group playing at the Legends Corner near the Ryman Auditorium. Until 1974 the Ryman was home to the Grand Ole Opry and is still used by the Opry in January and February. All the stars from Roy Acuff to Elvis to Dolly Parton to Garth Brooks etc., etc., etc. have spent time here.

 

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I don't drink whiskey any more but an exception had to be made for this one occasion.

 

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The Cruise children cleaned up and pressed for some auspicious occasion. Behind us is the first house I lived in. It measured 20' by 24' naturally there was no running water or bathroom. My brother and I killed all the grass outside the front door. Boy did we dread those winter trips to the outhouse. My father built the house himself one winter while working at the Joliet Arsenal after WWII.