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Archive for April, 2011

Suwannee Country

Suwannee River State Park, FL to south of Monticello, FL

Friendly horn taps: 1

Rude honks: 1

Miles: 54

Total so far:  325

Morning light looking up the Suwannee River

The Suwannee River is one of those that collects itself from the swamps.  It has a dark brown color to it from the tannin in the water that’s developed as a product of rotting vegetation – swamp water.  I am told alligators love the dark waters.  I am also told they do not like the colder, clear water springs that are found in these same rivers.  Sallie and I were through here three years ago and went canoeing up the Withlacoochee River.  It was in the fall, and still remaining warm, we swam in a couple of the cold springs.  No alligators — at least as far as we knew.

Wildflowers all over - nothing compares to the view from a bicycle

This is pretty country with rolling hills and large farms of horses and cattle.  Today’s ride took us through Madison and Monticello.  We are somewhat limited in our abilities to make miles and vary the ride to suit fair winds or foul by the distance between campgrounds.  Staying at Suwannee River State Park Campground last night for instance was only because we were able to get the last of two “first come – first served” tent spots available.  Such is the life of the homeless cyclist.

Lunch break in Greenville, birthplace of Ray Charles

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Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Tyler and Michah

We would like to say thank you from the bottoms of our hearts for doing such a remarkable thing. I was wondering if it is okay to summit 2 different entries. One for our 4 year old son who was killed & one for Micah our surviving son.  This is Tyler who was taken at the age of 4.

Tyler Lee Evans

And this is Micah: “Today my scars are leaving me a little at a time, but what people see on the outside is a lot different than what is on the inside.  The best friend I ever had did not survive the crash.”

Micah

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Ichetucknee, FL to Suwanee State Park, FL

Friendly horn taps: 1

Miles: 54

Total so far: 271

After the rain subsided last night, some northern winds brought in cooler temperatures and drier air.  This brought out the jackets in the morning, and an extremely comfortable ride.

Sallie in the ethereal light of moring in the timber

We approached a right hand curve in the road on County Road 137 some distance south of Wellborn.  As we got closer I could see skid marks that went straight on the curve into the trees, and I commented to Sallie, “That doesn’t look good.”  A little closer and I could see investigator’s paint on the asphalt, and then a pick-up parked off to the right around the bend.  The trees parted some as we neared and there was a family looking forlornly at the churned up soil and fresh injury to a tree.  I know that look.

I would have stopped if I thought for one second that I could help explain the unexplainable.

Before my mother’s death, she was in an independent living center.  I used to look into the ancient sunken eyes of others who lived there; those who might know those answers, hoping that in their years and wisdom someone could explain to me what we can never know.  Not in this life.  I have some very big questions for the next life.

Just a little way down the road, where we would not intrude, I took some pictures of the wildflowers as a reminder to myself to seek the beauty in this world while we can.

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Tomorrow’s ride will be dedicated to Charles Jackson Redic Jr.

On Febraury 16, 2008 I received a phone call that has change my life forever. My 26 year old college graduate, soon to be married, just made supervisor at Delta Airlines, preacher of the gospel, loving, compassionate, sweet memorable son was snatched in the middle of the night. He was wonderful, loving, charming and we will never forget you. A drunk driver who got on the wrong side of the freeway ended your life.

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Gainesville, FL to Ichetucknee Springs

Miles: 46

Total so far: 217

One never knows what awaits just down the road. We had an experience yesterday that was one of those precious times in life when you meet people and there is a connection, an immediate fondness, and as we parted company this morning, we know our lives are richer because of the encounter. The Browards hosted us in their home and in doing so, gave us a lift to our spirits that will carry us a long time. This day was so much better because of their kindness. We thank you.

I remain in awe of what the next turn brings, knowing that without moving forward, it would be such a loss.

A canopy of trees - the only way to ride

Riding was easy today.  There were threatening skies all around us all day, but regardless of the direction we pedaled we had a tailwind. Several people warned us of severe thunderstorm warnings that were up in the area, but we had no problems. We stopped at Ichetcknee State Park and camped, showered and arranged all our gear before the skies finally got down to business. What a great day!

As I write this the thunder continues to roll, the rain is dropping steadily, and there is a lack of wind and ferocity in this weather. That is a blessing. Others have not been so fortunate. We received word today about the terrible storms and loss of life in Alabama, and other areas of the south.

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Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Samantha Beaudette.

Sammy

Samantha Beaudette died on January 1st, 2006 due to the actions of a drunk driver.  The crash took place in Rhode Island on December 30.  She lost her fight at 2:19am on New year’s Day.

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Gaining Gainesville

Palatka, FL to Gainesville, FL

Friendly horn honks: 4

Miles: 65

Total so far: 171

We were up early for a forecast of some winds that might give us trouble, but we had a very decent ride and made good time.  I was particularly glad to see some hills appear on this section, as I find riding on the flats extremely tiring. That seems counter-intuitive, but riding hills causes one to shift positions frequently and engage different muscle groups, whereas riding the flats causes a cyclist to remain in the same position and cadence too long.  Prior to the hills today we had an overpass to I-95 and the bridge over the St. Johns River to break the stride.  That’s just not enough hills in two days time!

We had four friendly horn taps today, which was nice — one from an ambulance that was running lights, bumping their siren from about one quarter of a mile back.

Carl and Sallie sketching out the Hawthorne Gainesville State Trail

Between Hawthorne and Gainesville, there is a beautiful rails-to-trails bike path that runs something like 18 or 20 miles into Gainesville.  Near Gainesville, there was a trail crew working and a conversation with George Edwards led to an invitation to stay at the home of friends of his, Chuck and Judy Broward in Gainesville.  We took them up on it and enjoyed some genuine cyclist-to-cyclist hospitality at their home.

Our new best friend, Chuck Broward

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Judy Broward. We sure thank you for allowing two vagabonds to stay in your home!

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Tomorrow’ s ride is dedicated Cheyanne Ashley Russ.  Cheyanne was killed in a drunk driving crash in North Carolina on October 22, 2005.  Cheyanne was five years old.

Cheyanne Ashley Russ

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Palatka arrival

St. Augustine, FL to East Palatka, FL

47 miles

Total so far:  106

Sspanish moss drapes the limbs of live oaks near the shores of the St. John's River

We arrived in East Palatka after a fairly short ride.  Services in the area are scarce, as this is the only campground for many miles.  Today’s ride was entirely uneventful, except of course if I were to neglect to include the beautiful weather.

We had a wonderful lunch in a little cafe in Hastings where the locals got quite a kick out of us when we told them where we were headed.  There was one ancient fellow there having lunch with his friends and he says to me, “Sorry I knocked those bikes down out there, they tip over pretty easily.”  We had a good laugh over that one.  I told him he always pulls that one down at the local biker bar.

Setting camp in Palatka. Our rain fly's went on for the evening thunder storms

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Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Dawn Marie Paul Reynolds

“Our lives changed on December 8, 2009, and we will never be the same.  We lost a mother, daughter, wife, sister, and most of all, a best friend that will live in our hearts forever.  Memories are all we have.  Dawn was driving to work in Tennessee after dropping her children at school.  She was hit head-on by a driver under the influence of drugs.

Dawn left behind three beautiful children that were the love of her life.  This has been a horrible tragedy that our family thought we would never face and we can only pray that no one else ever has to.  Now we support MADD, want to help raise awareness and help stop drunk driving.

(I apologize — the image sent of Dawn was a .bmp file and it will not load here)

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Fernandina Beach to St. Augustine

59 miles

Total so far:  59

This is Bob, Sallie's husband. He's filling the role of being in charge of the command post in Fernandina, a vital function

Some times there’s just too much preparation involved in these rides.  Our equipment list is exhaustive, packing everything in four bags requires careful weighing and whatever can be done to remember where things are (I keep a list on the other side of my map case, and have to refer to it until about two weeks into the ride when I have it all down).

Regardless of all the prep, we left this morning and had a glorious ride down the coast.  The winds were up a little coming from the south-east (and of course that was where we were going).

Even with the wind and the resultant slower pace because of it, it was nearly a flawless ride.  Until that is, a

The starting point - Bob and Sallie's house in Fernandina

passenger in a passing car thought it would be cute to yell something out his open window as they drove by.  Of course this is meant to scare us, but we’ve seen that original trick before, so it’s just not scary once you’ve gone through the drill a number of times.

I have a lot of experience in dealing with rude passengers unfortunately.  Every cop has.  Most of the time you can just about bet if someone is likely to get out of control on a traffic stop, and begin challenging an officer’s qualifications with a speed measuring devices, knowledge of the law, etc., it’s the passenger.  That reminds me of good joke about passengers, but it’s far too early in this blog for that.  Remind me in a month or so.

It’s worth mentioning that we started out and rode a whole day south-east along the coast, when overall, we are supposed to be going pretty much north-west.  We will start our westward trek from here in St. Augustine — this is the beginning of the “Southern Tier Trans America

The flora of North Florida - it's what I always thought the South should look like

Route” on maps we use from the Adventure Cycling Association.  We will take it west as far as Mobile, Alabama and then go north for a ways on the “Underground Railroad Route” to Kentucky, then turn west on the traditional Trans America Route.

This is Jeff from Seattle. He pulled over on the road to speak to us. Jeff flew to Key West, is riding north to the Blue Ridge Trail, and then joining the Trans America route to return to Washington.

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Tomorrow’s ride will be dedicated to Abay Lattin

My son was a humorous, intelligent, determined young man. His life was music and he used his talents to highlight Phoenix, and AZ on a national level. He had returned to AZ. from New York to do a series of concerts over a 4 day period with his group Silver Medallion-He was killed by a drunk driver.
He will be greatly be missed by many.

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No miles, but good waves…

April 24

Tomorrow we begin.

This ride has been a long time in planning.   We were going to do this in the summer of 2009.  Life’s interruptions did not kill the dream though and the time is here.  There is a lull in my schedule that allows the leave I need.  Sallie is already retired, so we are free, we are trained, and we are more than ready.

The gear is assembled, we are packed and we will likely struggle with sleep tonight as the excitement and anticipation is almost overwhelming us.

 

It's not been all work for us though, we took a break and walked over to the beach for an hour's session on the boogie boards.

By the way, regarding my tweet today about the Texas Lotto?  No, I didn’t win, so we’ll be camping.

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Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Brenda Collins Newman
 

Brenda Collins Newman

My daughter, Brenda Newman and 7 1/2 month old unborn grandson Cian, were killed by a drunk driver just outside of Douglas, WY on October 30, 2008.  I hugged her that day before telling her to drive safely.  She always did.  She was struck avoiding a head-on collision by a drunk driver travelling 85 to 90 mph.  “I hate myself because if I had hugged her a few seconds more or a few seconds less they might be alive.”

Thank you and your sister for your efforts in bringing awareness to the tragic results of impaired driving.  -Deanna Hill, Cheyenne, WY

Brenda was a beautiful, vibrant young 37 year old woman who dedicated her life to her family, friends, and pets.  Brenda loved animals of all sizes including cats, dogs, turtles, and fish.  -Lesley A. Collins

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