Monthly Archives: April 2009

Palatka, FL to St. Augustine, FL – 47 miles; 3,066 total miles.

And now the great adventure has come to an end.

We rode, mostly in one big group, in perfect weather.  Thr route took us quickly out of Palatka and into beautiful country roads.  We wore our WomanTours jerseys and paused for a picture at the SAG.

p4301001We cruised along the St. John’s River on the way to the firestation where we were to meet for our official escort into St. Augustine.

p4301006It was another photo-op.

p4301005Finally, we lined up for our parade.

p4301007The police cars took us the last five miles, with their lights flashing and sirens going.  We rode through the historic district, which was filled with people.  They cheered!  It was pretty amazing.

Our escort took us all the way to the beach, where our families and friends were waiting.

We carried our bikes over the sand to the ocean, to dip our front tires into the Atlantic.  I couldn’t resist picking my bike up.

elisabethWe posed for our official picture.

p4301022

Peggy and I posed for our own picture.

p4301024And then we had a picnic to celebrate.

p4301027This has been the most incredible journey of my life.  I am deeply greatful for the opportunity that I have had to see the country in this very personal way.  I am honored to have made the journey with 22 of the most amazing women I have ever known.  It is hard to believe that we were strangers two short months ago,  because we have now formed friendships that will last the rest of our lives.  We have been warned that “re-entry” can be difficult.  I know that tomorrow when I wake up, I’ll be ready to say, “Hey, does anybody want to go for a bike ride?”

Sisters of the Southern Tier, let’s ride together soon.

High Springs, FL to Palatka, FL – 77 miles; 3,019 total miles

We are really wrapping up now.

This morning Linda cooked us breakfast for the last time.  Tonight is the last installment of “roommate roulette.”  This is our last real riding day.  (Tomorrow is a largely ceremonial ride of only 46 miles.)

We are taking pictures of each other rather than of scenery.

p4290974Reeentry is not going to be so easy.   There is an exhileration that comes from facing and meeting a challenge.  We have been flooded with endorphins.  This is a high standard to apply to “real life.”

Partway into the ride this morning we crossed over I-75 and encountered, briefly, what I think of as “the real Florida.”

p4290969

We reluctantly passed up the free oranges.

It was Carol’s last SAG day.

p4290971

The “Three Musketeers” rode together, as usual.

p4290972

The first 40 or so miles today were pretty nice.  We rode through an area of small farms, and the terrain featured rolling hills.  I finally got a picture of an irrigator.

p4290970To my great relief, we were not chaseed by any dogs.

After 40 miles, the route deterioriated.  We turned onto a highway with a bad road surface and lots of debris in the shoulder (when there was a shoulder.)  A few miles in, a lady pulled up next to us in a car and directed us to a bike path.  “Does it go to Palatka?” we asked.  “I think so” she replied.  Think turned out to be the operative word.  The bike path was lovely, but we did foour miles of “extra credit” before we realized that it did not, in fact, go to Palatka.  It was back to the highway.

The ride in was long, hot, and crowded.  Seven of us rode together and took turns at the front.  Of course, we had a significant headwind.  The 2009 tour will be remembered as “the year of the wind.”

Arriving was excellent.  Lots of family members who are attending the closing ceremonies tomorrow have arrived oday, and we had an enthusiastic cheering section as we turned into the hotel.  Even the hotel welcomed us.

p4290975The bee hanging from the sign was placed there by Peggy’s cousin Barb, who surprised her by coming down to cheer her in.  Connie knew that her husband was coming, but she was surprised by her younger daughter.

It’s getting very real now.

Perry, FL to High Springs, FL – 76 miles; 2,942 total miles

Today was easier and more interesting than yesterday, because we seemed not as far from civilization.  We passed farms, and cows, and other signs of life.  Yesterday we might as well have been on the moon.  We also traversed an amazing corridor of wildflowers.  Sweet William is to Florida as the Bluebonnets are to Texas, to judge from today’s ride.  We passed acres of them, growing wild.

They ranged in color from pale lavender up to a bright red.

p4280949They were everywhere.

p4280954

And after awhile, they started mixing with Black-eyed Susans in a spectacular display.

p4280958

Of course, the disadvantage of being back in inhabited territory is that where there are people, there are dogs.  I had a dramatic encounter with a dog today from which, by sheer luck, I escaped without serious injury.  Peggy and I were riding along, and quite without warning two medium-sized dogs bounded after us, barking and snarling.  One of them was very fast, and cut around in front of me, lunging with open mouth towards my bike.  I instinctively turned the handlebar slightly and hit him from the side, rather than straight on.  He literally bounced off of my bike, and dropped back.  The other dog dropped back as well.  We pedaled fast, and were out of danger.  The kind of encounter that I had very frequently results in a downed rider.  Falling off of your bike in that situation can be more dangerous than a bite.  After hearing my story, several of my friends have told me of similar incidents in which the rider ended up with broken bones.  I feel very lucky!

Nancy was SAG today, and we met her shortly after the dogs,  heading back to warn the other riders. (The dogs had chased the group right in front of us, and they called her.)  Nancy spoke to the owner, and the dogs were brought in.  No one else was bothered.  I asked her to check on the dog’s condition, since I had not stayed around to find out if I had hurt him.  She said that he was limping.  Maybe he won’t chase so readily after this.

We crossed the Suwanee River today.  Of course, that called for several choruses of “Way, down upon the Suwanee River…”  We didn’t know all of the words, but we sang with great enthusiasm.

p4280955After crossing the river, we took a seven mile detour to go to Ichetucknee Springs.  It was beautiful, and the cool water felt great on a hot day.

p4280959We started by soaking our tired feet,

p4280960 But then several brave women went swimming in their bike clothes.

p4280966We even had a little impromptu water ballet.

p4280967

It was a great day for playing in the water.  Even the turtles thought so.  These felllows were resting on a log in the middle of the river that we crossed as we came into High Springs.

p4280968According to my calculations, we will pass 3,000 miles tomorrow.  However, one of my friends whose odometer is more reliable than mine, says that I am off (short) by 60 miles, and that we passed that milestone today.  In either case, WOW!

Wakulla Springs, FL to Perry, FL – 52 miles; 2,866 total miles

Today, for the first time on this trip, I did not get a “biker tattoo.”  A biker tattoo is the greasy smear that cyclists get on their lower legs as a result of incidental contact with their chains.  My chain is currently too clean to produce the tattoo, because Laurey spontaneously cleaned my bike yesterday.

p4260937

Team Hill Country posed for our official picture this morning.

p4270941I sort of messed up the picture by having the sleeves to my jacket on, but it was cold.  For about five minutes.  The day quickly warmed up, and the wind came up with the heat.    We are down to our last four riding days.  We were tired, and it was not easy to maintain a steady pace.  Remarkably, even Peggy was a bit cranky. (She had won an award at our variety show for her ready smile, and I had to threaten to rescind her certificate.)

We had nothing to distract us.  The road was flat, and straight.  We had two turns all day, so we couldn’t even stay engaged by paying attention to the cue sheet.  There were no convenience stores, no houses.  We didn’t even have the adrenaline rush of a good dog chase.

Nothing to look at but swamp.

p4270943

Because of the swamp, there were bugs.  We got almost all of the way across the country without serious bug problems.  They finally set in in Alabama, and really arrived in Florida.  We can no longer sleep with our windows open, because the no-see-ums get through the screens.  The bugs swarmed us so badly today at SAG stops that we basically just slowed down long enough to fill our water bottles, and then kept going.

For once the highlight of the day was not on the ride, but rather at the Hampton Inn.  The hotel honored us with a reception that featured wine, cookies, and fresh strawberried with dipping chocolate.

p4270945The other highlight of the day is that I have done the LAST load of laundry that I need to do before the end.  We have three days to ride, and I have three pairs of bike shorts. These milestones are making the end seem real.

Quincy, FL to Wakulla Springs, FL – 42 miles; 2,814 total miles

Today we rode through an area of Florida that had been predicted to have the national high temperatures today. Fortunately, our ride was short and there was a significant breeze (a headwind, naturally, but we weren’t complaining.) We rode for miles through the Apalachicola National Forest, past stands of familiar and strange pines.

p4250890

Shortly before our first SAG stop, we stopped at a service station and chatted with a l group of about 60 motorcyclists. They were members of several area clubs, gathered for a memorial ride to celebrate a fellow rider who was hit by a car an killed last week. They were very friendly, but I was struck by the fact that very few of them were wearing helmets!

One thing that was interesting about today’s ride was the “shade mirages.” When you are riding on a long, straight, tree-lined road with the sun high overhead, it it logically impossible for the trees to be casting shadows across the road. At yet, several times we all saw patches of “shade” across the road in the distance. As we rode closer, they disappeared.

Marilyn left early this morning, so that for one day she wouldn’t be at the back of the pack. We finally caught up to her shortly before the entrance to the park. She was stopped in the median, in full sun, eating a sandwich.

p4250891

We didn’t want to pass her, so all six of us lined up behind her and munched on things from our packs until she finished, and then she led us in.

Here we are at the entrance to the park.

In order the left, Carol, Donna, Peggy, Marni, , Mary-Jo, me, and Marilyn.

p4250893

We are spending tonight and tomorrow in the Wakulla Springs State Park, in a lovely lodge, built in the 30’s. The Lodge sits on the Wakulla River, and one of the attractions is a river cruise. Our captain was Luke, who has been taking tour groups on this river for 30 years. It is beautiful, and somewhat antediluvian.  A couple of episodes of Tarzan were filled here, as was the classic film “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

p4250898

We saw an osprey nest.

p4250902

Some gators.

p4250904

And some turtles hanging out with their gator friend.

p4250905

p4250909

There were beautiful birds.

p4250918

p4250920 p4250921

And lots of directionally-challenged roots.

p4260927

Despite warnings about the Alligator-infested waters,

p4260935Laurey, Carol, and Mari decided to jump off of the high-diving platform.

p4260929

Here goes Laurey.

p4260930

Our day ended with a variety show. Peggy and I had been working on our “act” for days. We were concentrating so hard that we almost missed an important cue yesterday, and would have gone several miles in the wrong direction if it hadn’t been for Ann yelling at us.

For our contribution, we composed some new words to the music of the song “My Favorite Things.” Here is our song, a tribute to our Chef Linda and our Sous-chef Lois.

Lois and Linda, they feed us like champions, Dinner and breakfast, when we’re not at Hamptons

Using two burners, dutch ovens and grill, They work their magic til we have our fill.

Chorus:

When the dogs chase, when the bugs bite, when the hills are rough,

We simply remember our favorite foods, and then things don’t seem so tough!

Verse 2

Salads with goat cheese, cranberries and mango, Carrots and raisins, For the places that we’ll go!

Catfish and pesto and chicken pot pie, this food is awesome and we’ll tell you why,

Chorus

When the dogs chase, when the bugs bite, when the hills are rough,

We simply remember our favorite foods, and then things don’t seem so tough!

Verse 3

Pea soup and corn bread, polenta and chili, Dump cake and ice cream, jambalaya with filet,

We love it salty and we love it sweet, because it’s certain that we ride to EAT!

Chorus

When the dogs chase, when the bugs bite, when the hills are rough,

We simply remember our favorite foods, and then things don’t seem so tough!

Not exactly talent, but heartfelt, nevertheless.

Marianna, FL to Quincy, FL – 51 miles; 2,772 total miles

We did not get bitten by a dog today. We were not bitten because of a random actsof kindness. Last night, a couple of independent Southern Tier cyclists were in our hotel. They noticed our van and spoke to us about our trip. They got out this morning ahead of us. (We had a “fog delay” and weren’t released until Linda could see across the street.)

At mile 40, the other cyclists rode past some aggressive dogs, and the man was bitten. In addition to taking care of her partner, the woman thought to call the national WomanTours office to get a message to us. The office reached one of our leaders, who called the local animal control unit and persuaded them to pick up the dog. The owner agreed to keep the other dog inside. A few miles before that point, Carol set up an impromptu SAG stop to give us the news. We rode in a group, with the whistles and “Halt!” ready. We had no problem.

Thank you, road angel. Your thoughtfulness saved 21 women from a really bad day.

Today was short, but with the heat it was not really a “rolling rest day.” There were some challenging hills, and very little shade. We crossed a bridge over a swamp right before the Chattahoochee River,

p4240871

Then we crossed the Chattahoochee near the dam. We are in the Eastern Time Zone!

p4240876

Luckily, we weren’t on the old bridge.

p42408771Highlights of today’s ride included a dead snake,

p4240879

A marker at the site of the original Quincy school

p4240880

And a variety of extremely long-needled pine that I haven’t seen before.

p4240882

And since it is really all about the food, an additional highlight was the lunch stop that we made at Miss Helen’s Café in Quincy.

p4240883

One of the neat things about small towns is that if the restaurant is called Miss Helen’s, there really is a Miss Helen. Here is Peggy talking with her.

p4240887

We are now down to only five more riding days until we reach St. Augustine. The arc of the trip has been really interesting. When we were starting out, it seemed like it would take forever. In the middle of the trip we built up momentum. Now finally we have arrive in the Eastern Time Zone, and our trip is nearly over. We are all “seasoned.” We are strong, the rides are not hard, and we have the routines down. We will miss each other very much, but most of us are eager to complete our journey and return to our “real lives.”

Crestview, FL to Marianna, FL – 94 miles; 2,721 total miles

Last night at the map meeting, CC said “You are probably not going to like this ride very much.”

Today’s ride was the “90 (miles) on 90 in 90 (degrees)” ride. We have come to a place with few road choices. In order to proceed East, it was necessary for us to ride on SR 90 today. For ninety miles. On a really hot day. Without a tailwind. In the Florida hill country. What’s not to like?

The ride wasn‘t actually that bad, it just tended to be boring. There were no photo opportunities to speak of, and the only things we could think of to do to avoid boredom were: singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” , commenting on the strange street names , (the winning name was Edification Lane) participating in a “Poker run” and, once in awhile, passing through small towns.

For the Poker run, we were dealt five cards at the snack table, and then could exchange all or some at the first two SAGs. I started out with a Queen-high flush (not a straight flush) that would actually have won the event. However, not being a good poker player, I traded my way down to a pair of fours.

I was riding with Jan B. and Marni today, and we were flying. We took turns in front in half hour rotations, and hopped off the bike and took electrolyte tabs whenever we changed pullers.

As the day wore on and we got hotter, we invented excused to stop. The Forestry Center? No problem.

p4230851

We all had a great time chatting with a couple of rangers. At one point Jan mutinied and insisted that she take her shoes off, and Marni took that opportunity to lay down on the ground.

We had lunch at the 76 mile mark at a small restaurant in Cottondale. I was desperate for some iced tea by then, and we had a great time chatting with just about everyone in the restaurant. The people are really friendly here, and everyone is amazed when we tell them that we have come from California.

Our ride today was 94 miles (we did a little bit off of 90 in addition to the 90 on 90.) Since 94 is so close to 100 (a “Century”) one of the women who has never done a century ride decided to just keep going. She is 60. Jan B. volunteered to go with her. She is 70. They did it! These are amazing women.

Another milestone today was the fact that Marilyn, who typically rides at the back of the pack, finished all 94 miles. Early on in the tour she would ride 8 hours or so, make maybe 50 miles, and then be driven to the hotel. She has gotten stronger, and set a personal record in finishing the 94 miles. We all cheered.

Since I am so short on pictures today, I have decided to tell you a little bit about our life “in camp.” Food is very important on a trip like this. We eat all day long, but we are always ravenous by dinner.

Fortunately our Sous Chef, Lois,

p4230852852

and our Chef, Linda are hard at work making extraordinary feasts.

p4230861

Tonight’s dinner was Peanut Chicken (Tofu option for Vegetarians) Asian slaw, steamed spring vegetables, and fresh pineapple.

p4230865

The food is served buffet style.

p4230864

We sit on plastic chairs, balancing our plates on our laps. No one minds.

p4230858

There is always dessert.

p4220843

On special occasions, there is a special dessert.

p4220845