Year: 2010

Day 32: Tallahassee to Madison

Started: Oct 23, 2010 10:43:02
Ride Time: 4:52:34
Stopped Time: 1:41:37
Distance: 69.43 miles
Average: 14.24 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 64.10 miles/h
Climb: 20438 feet
Calories: 2910

An easy and really pleasant day of riding today. My Warm Showers host Kevin had promised me one of my best days of riding, and he was good for his word.

He and his wife Susan are long-time cyclotourists and know the local roads of course. So they recommended a route that would take me to the nearby town of Monticello, where I could reconnect with the official ACA route. This would take me down canopy roads, heavily shaded by trees.

I didn’t set out until fairly late in the morning, after Susan had fed me an almost comically large bowl of oatmeal—on par with the bowl of pasta she fed me last night. Both of which I consumed gratefully, eagerly, and completely. I also got Susan, Kevin, and their son to take a spin on my trike. Kevin was a little reluctant, and wasn’t entirely sold on the experience. I really enjoyed staying with them and hearing about their own cycling experiences, and about Susan’s work on particle physics.

Once I finally did get rolling, I took it easy. I didn’t have a lot of miles to cover (by my standards) and was pretty sure my destination town of Madison was nothing I was in a hurry to arrive at (I was right). Despite that, I made good time. Arrived at the town of Monticello, which seems like a really nice place. It has something resembling the courthouse squares we have in Texas and seems pretty lively. I stopped in a bakery that apparently was the starting point for a local farms tour that was going on, so it was extremely busy. Had a sandwich and a sticky bun.

Got going on US90—that road again—toward my destination of Madison. A few miles along I came across four westbound Southern Tier riders, all college guys who have taken the semester off. They actually began their ride in Virginia, rode down to Florida, and just got on the Southern Tier route a few days ago. They were all riding pretty nice racing bikes that have been kind of jury-rigged to carry racks and panniers. I admit I was looking at their rigs with a bit of concern: those skinny tires don’t provide much shock absorption, and those low spoke-count wheels seem to be asking for trouble. And I didn’t even get a good look at their gearing, but I have to wonder how they’ll manage the five miles of 7% grade they’ll encounter out of Three Way AZ. Then again, they’ve made it this far already and they’re full of youthful vigor. I did not voice my concerns. We had a good chat and I told them a little about what they had ahead. They congratulated me on almost finishing, which in hindsight gives me kind of a funny feeling.

While we were chatting, another guy rode up on a hybrid bike. He said he’s planning on doing the Southern Tier next year and is getting in shape for it. I also think I overheard him saying he’s been riding 100 miles at a stretch and averaging 18 mph. I wanted to tell him to get a better bike, but I held my tongue.

The rest of my ride in to Madison was uneventful, as is Madison itself. Tomorrow will be a ~90 miler to High Springs.

Day 31: Bonifay to Tallahassee

Started: Oct 22, 2010 7:00:05
Ride Time: 7:15:19
Stopped Time: 2:07:49
Distance: 101.14 miles
Average: 13.94 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 35.09 miles/h
Climb: 2371 feet
Calories: 4339

Today was much like yesterday in terms of riding. Some time on US90, some on back roads to relieve the monotony. Riding conditions were very similar, though today felt a bit hillier—certainly hillier than I was expecting. I felt better on my ride today than I did yesterday, so that’s good. I have to admit that at this point, I’m mostly riding to get to the end, not to be in the moment.

Ending the day in Tallahassee has a couple of good points: one is that I found a bike shop where I could replace the rear-view mirror that mysteriously fell off my trike while I was riding yesterday. Recumbents really need them in a way that conventional bikes don’t because it’s almost impossible to do a head-check on a recumbent. The other is that I wound up with another set of Warm Showers hosts, Kevin and Susan, who are enthusiastic bike tourists, and have the first triple I’ve ever seen in person.

Tomorrow will be a short day, so I may bum around Tallahassee for a while before I get rolling. After that, two full-length days, and then a short ride to bring me in to St Augustine.

Day 30: Pensacola to Bonifay

Started: Oct 21, 2010 7:23:15
Ride Time: 8:00:49
Stopped Time: 1:51:32
Distance: 115.22 miles
Average: 14.38 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 32.45 miles/h
Climb: 2811 feet
Calories: 5496

Hello, my name is Adam, and I think I may be turning into a distance addict.

My plan when I started today was to finish in DeFuniak Springs, which would have been an 85-mile ride. A perfectly respectable distance. When I arrived, it wasn’t even 3:00 PM yet, and I felt like that was just too damned early to quit for the day. Plus the fact that for the first 70 or so miles of my ride, I just couldn’t get into a good groove. My legs felt heavy. This might be exhaustion, it might be that rotten fried-oyster po’boy from yesterday having an effect, I don’t know. Anyhow, when I got to DeFuniak, I took a break, changed maps (because it is the transition between Sections 6 and 7), and considered my options. The small,evocatively named town of Ponce De Leon was only 11 miles away—less than an hour—and Bonifay only about two hours. So I pressed on.

In fairness, DeFuniak looks like it might have been worth stopping at. The town is built around a small lake, with a ring road circumscribing it and some park land, ringed in turn by residences and some city buildings. Idyllic.

The day’s riding to that point wasn’t much to remark on. I could have stayed on US90 all the way from Pensacola; the ACA maps zigzag around on a bike trail and some country roads for a while, mostly to break the monotony, I suppose. US90 is actually quite good for riding, with a reasonably wide, smooth, and clean shoulder. But it’s a long straight line of nothing much. It also runs parallel to I-10 (my guess is that I-10 along here was laid along US90 intentionally), so the string of towns along the route still have interstate-exit traffic. I could often just see I-10 traffic through a row of pines.

At this point I have just under 400 miles to go. If everything goes according to plan (knock wood), I’ll be dipping my wheel in the Atlantic on Tuesday morning and be home the next day. I’ve been working out some of the tour-end logistics, and my old friend from high school, Forrest, will be coming up from his home in Miami to meet me at the end. Looking forward to it.

Only chased by one dog so far in Florida—in that respect it’s not so deep-south. But in another, it is: I’ve seen three instances of the stars and bars here so far, which is two more than I saw in either Alabama or Mississippi, and as many as I saw in Louisiana during the four-odd days I spent there.

Day 29: Bayou La Batre AL to Pensacola FL

Started: Oct 20, 2010 7:18:53
Ride Time: 5:12:50
Stopped Time: 2:55:29
Distance: 82.53 miles
Average: 15.83 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 75.99 miles/h
Climb: 3969 feet
Calories: 3973

A fast day. The mileage above is a little low because I paused recording for a couple miles before remembering to turn it back on.

I got rolling a few minutes later than intended, but I wasn’t worried about racing the sunset today, and the fact that the day was a little warmer when I got going didn’t hurt.

Made very quick progress as far as the Dauphin Island ferry, and then had a pretty long wait (Dauphin Island is “the birdiest small town in America”). The only vehicle ahead of me was a duallie covered in an Air Force graphics wrap. The two young airmen driving it were the support team for a memorial march by a few other airmen from Texas to Florida in memory of fallen comrades.

The ferry ride across Mobile Bay was about 30 minutes, and went past numerous oil rigs.

Once across, Fort Morgan and Gulf Shores were pretty much as I remembered. A lot of vacation homes up on stilts, painted in pastel colors, and a lot of condo towers, all lining the beach. More than a decade ago, I spent a couple of long weekends in one of those condos, owned by the parents of a friend. I’d had a tailwind as far as the ferry; now I was bucking a bit of a headwind but still making good time. But I was also feeling really hungry. I passed by a few fast-food chains that I wasn’t interested in, and came upon a clearly local seafood place.

Back in college, I took a trip to New Orleans and had a fried-oyster po’boy. It was one of the best things I’d ever eaten. This place had fried-oyster po’boys on the menu, and against my better judgment (deep-fried food just doesn’t make good fuel when I’m riding), I ordered it. It was awful. Complete waste. And now I’ve used up my cadmium and mercury allotment for the next decade. But getting some food in me—even bad food—re-energized me. I pushed on and made the Florida border, and then the edge of Pensacola in very good time. At one point I noticed that the ACA map seemed to be taking an unnecessary detour; i decided to try the obvious direct route. I quickly found out the reason for the detour: the direct route was a busy two-lane road with no shoulder. I turned around and got on the route like a good boy, chastened.

I had booked a hotel room for tonight through Priceline; unfortunately I didn’t research the location, and I’m in an anonymous interchange-land filled with chain businesses. Could be anywhere. The best I can say is that I’m well-positioned to continue with the route tomorrow, which will take me to DeFuniak Springs and the beginning of Section 7. Home stretch.

The Flora-Bama

The Flora-Bama

This place’s schtick is that it straddles the state line. At midnight, all the customers get herded over to the Florida half, because of the different liquor licenses.

Day 28: Poplarville MS to Bayou La Batre AL

Started: Oct 19, 2010 7:14:43
Ride Time: 8:02:46
Stopped Time: 2:04:11
Distance: 118.79 miles
Average: 14.76 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 97.53 miles/h
Climb: 12669 feet
Calories: 5850

The distance above is overstated by 2-3 miles because of a brief GPS freakout around mile 63.

Regardless, today was my second-longest day, right on the heels of my longest day. I’m feeling surprisingly good. My idea of what constitutes a long ride has completely changed. Before this tour, I thought of 50 miles as kind of long. Lately, I’ve barely gotten warmed up by mile 50 on some days, and my average speed will be faster past mile 80 than before. I’m hardly riding at a racing pace at any point, of course, and part of the reason for the speed increase is just good pacing, but it’s still interesting. It’s interesting for me to find myself having ridden 80 or 90 miles already in a day, stopping to check my bearings, seeing that the next town is 30 miles away with two or so hours of daylight remaining, and thinking “I can make that.” Admittedly, I could overdraw on that fund of confidence—a flat that late in the day could leave me riding in the dark, which I’ve tried very hard to avoid. But I do have a new level of confidence in what I can do with my body.

Anyhow. I made an early start from the home of my Warm Showers hosts, Steve and Tanya. Steve had left for work before I was even up, and Tanya was sleeping in a little after a long day, so I almost missed saying goodbye to either of them—Tanya caught me as I was headed for the gate.

Around 13 miles in, I missed a turn and wound up off-route and a little lost. Fortunately I was right at one of the “one-stop” stores that dot the rural south, so I stopped in there. Despite the early hour, it was like a social club in there, with a few folks installed on chairs and hanging out. Before I said one word, one of these characters said “Let me guess, you’re lost.” They showed me where I was on my map—I hadn’t really lost any distance, and could get back on route easily while avoiding some hills. They also showed me a couple of alternate routes I could take, and in fact I did take one that cut off a few miles but also cut off the last opportunity I’d have to grab a bite for about 45 more miles. Since I hadn’t eaten anything yet today, and only had five fig newtons as ready snack food, that might not have been the smartest idea, but I managed fine.

Pushed on through the De Soto National Forest. More tall pines. Compared to most of the country I’ve been riding through lately, this part of the ride seemed very remote. A little farther along and I was in what seemed like prosperous farm country, with a fairly high density of new, square, brick houses, with steeply pitched roofs designed to shed snow that will never fall on them.

Then it was across the Escatawpa River and into Alabama, which greeted me with the shittiest road it could muster. It was like riding a paint shaker that someone was occasionally hitting with a sledgehammer. Fortunately I turned off that soon enough and found myself on a very nice road that was a weird mix of suburban and rural. I’m guessing the area is being transformed into a bedroom community for Mobile or something.

After that, it was a short, easy ride to Bayou La Batre, where I am now. Somehow I imagined this town would be more of a tourist destination, but apparently not.

Only chased by one dog today. Either Mississippi dogs are very well-trained, or there is a very successful invisible-fence dealer around here. Many times over the past couple days, I’ve seen a dog jump up and run a few paces toward me, only to stop or turn around and run the other way. I vividly recall a Great Dane and his Yorkie sidekick doing exactly that. When I saw the big dog take an interest in me, I thought it was all over: even though I’ve been successfully out-sprinting dogs, there’s no way I would have won a race against him. So it was lucky for me he backed off.

Go-Go road

Go-Go road

A lot of the minor side roads in this part of the country have quirky names, often named after a local person—I remember "Clara & Clara Rd" for example. It would have been impractical to document even a fraction of them, but I had to grab this one.