Monday, November 17, 2014

St. Augustine

Phil just sent out a nice photo of the group dipping our bikes in the ocean from yesterday.

And one of Alisha and Mitch swimming.

My original plan was to have my bike box shipped to St. Augustine and then pack the bike on the day after the ride and take it back on the plane with me.

Packing the bike in the box is hard. It takes me about 3 hours to pack and about the same to unpack. The process is messy, and I ended up with a small amount of breakage, my tail light mount broke due to negligent packing. I also ended up with some other bits of damage including some bent cables which affected how the bike performed. Plus I still incurred the cost of shipping the box back home.

There would also have been the cost of shipping it to St. Augustine. About a week ago I decided that I would have a bike shop pack it up for me and have it shipped home. The cost of the bike shop packing is $50. Then there is the cost of shipping. I'm not sure of an exact price, but it will likely be between $150 and $200. I will know more in a day or so when the shipper contacts me.

So today consisted of dealing with the final logistical issues.

1) I need a ride to the airport. Alisha is on the same flight I am on and Jim is going to fly out tomorrow so a shuttle will pick us up at 6AM. Alisha made the arrangements and we will split the cost. Which is somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 total.

2) Check-in online for my flight. I got in the A group on Southwest so I'm happy.

3) Obtain a duffel bag so I can distill my stuff down to 2 carry ons and 2 checked bags. I rode down to Target where I bought a duffel bag that will do the job.

4) Drop my bike off at the shop. Since I rode past the bike shop on the way to getting my duffel bag I dropped my bike off on the way back. The bag has wheels so I stuck my helmet and other miscellaneous items that were attached to my bike in it and walked the mile and a half back pulling the bag.

5) Pack things up. When we got back to the Pirate Haus Mitch was in the middle of packing up the group gear and Jim and I were ready for lunch so I postponed packing.

We went to lunch at a pub that I had spotted earlier and had fish and chips. It was the biggest piece of cod I've ever seen taking up most of the plate. While I can't substantiate the claim that it is the best fish and chips in town with definitive sampling, it was definitely good. I'm not sure it was the best I've ever had, but it certainly was in the running. So while the claim remains unsubstantiated, the fish and chips at the The Prince of Wales in St. Augustine is very good.

After having a couple of brews and food we walked on over to the Castillio de San Marcos and looked at it.

We also spotted Max there with somebody he knows.

As we were leaving it started to rain. Shortly after we got back to the Pirate Haus it started coming down very hard.

When we got back the box with the Jerseys that we had ordered with left over group funds had finally arrived so I now have a southern tier jersey to wear.

I got my stuff packed into the required number of bags.

Max just got back from taking his bike to the shop. He got caught in the rain.

Hal was riding to Jacksonville to catch a train home. He was apparently waiting out the storm on the porch of a church from his last report.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Day 61 - Palatka to St. Augustine

The final day of riding is upon us. Only about 40 miles or so to St. Augustine and a few miles more to the ocean.

The plan is to meet about a mile away from our final lodging and all ride in together. Our goal is to get to the Pirate Haus where many of us are going to stay for the final night or two at noon.

The day started out fairly warm in comparison to other days, but we still needed cold weather gear. Breakfast at the motel and then hit the road around 7:30 or so.

The ride started out fairly uneventful, crossing the St. John's river at Palatka and then taking some side roads to the north.

At one point I found myself riding north on a road that on the map indicated should be more east west and instructions that said to turn right to get on the road with only a left hand turn as an option. I was either in the wrong place having missed a turn earlier or the map was fubar. I'm not sure which.

A quick consult with Google Maps and I realized that the main road that we would later be ricing on was less than a 1/4 mile away so I headed that direction and got on it. I'm not sure why one would want to avoid it, as it was very quiet, for a 4 lane divided highway, with a wide clean smooth shoulder.

I fairly quickly got back on route and continued on. Much of the day we rode on quiet roads with zero shoulder. At several points on the road heading into St. Augustine there were memorials for people who were killed on the road, including one for a cyclist. Which was a sobering reminder that even quite roads are dangerous.

When I arrived at our predetermined location several of the others were there. We waited awhile for the rest to arrive and then proceeded on down to the end location where several friends and facility of other riders were there to greet us. Some had cowbells as they cheered our arrival. Also among the group was Ron who had left us a few days earlier so he could finish sooner.

After a slight detour we found the entrance to the Pirate Haus and dropped our bags. We then proceeded across the draw bridge to the ocean where we dipped our wheels in the water, sipped a little champagne and took some pictures.

Afterward we rode back, got checked into our room, took showers and then headed out for our final dinner at the Columbia Restaurant  about 2 blocks from where we are staying.

Before dinner we all had to sign the release paper for Adventure Cycling which kind of signifies the end of the tour as far as they are concerned. We are now on our own, so to speak.

Dinner was good, we presented Mitch with a card and a tip that we all contributed to. Ron did the presentation. After that we did a dubious distinction award where each of us had picked a name from a hat and gave some small gift to the other person. Hal had drawn my name and got me an old fashioned compass just in case the electronic devices I had failed. I drew Daryl's name and gave him a patch kit for the dubious distinction of having the last flat on the ride and a bottle opener to go with the chair he had brought with him. The other awards were all pretty good as well.

Dinner was excellent.

After dinner we headed back to the hostel. Time to catch up on the blog.

Tomorrow I need to arrange transportation to the airport. Alisha happens to be flying out on the same flight as I am so she and I will share a shuttle. Jim is also planning to share the ride even though he is flying out a day later than us.

I also need to procure a cheap duffel bag so that I can combine some of my panniers and other bags together for checked baggage. And I also need to get my bike down to the bike shop to have it shipped out.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Day 60 - Gainsville to Palatka

Today is another fairly easy 50 mile or so day. It starts with a ride on a bike trail and also has a bike path on a part of it later in the day.

We started the day with breakfast at Tom's place. He had made muffins the night before and we had toast coffee and fruit for breakfast. It was very good.

The bike path was a very pretty ride, although it was a bit winding with a lot of ups and downs at the start, but fairly soon it got onto what appeared to be an old railroad grade with long straight sections with very little in the way of ups and downs. Fairly quickly I got to Hawthorne where I started looking for a place to have some more to eat.

I found a small little restaurant and went in. After ordering an omelet and coffee John and his wife showed up as well as Shelly and her friend Debbie who stayed with us the night before.

At breakfast I took this picture of what we have left to ride. We are down to the last 3 map panels and after today just a bit more than 1 left.

After breakfast we took off, Hal showed up about the time we were ready to leave and led our small group off on the rest of the ride. After a while John passed me and eventually Hal dropped back.

Shelly and Debbie were behind me for awhile.

Later on John pulled ahead of me and I lost sight of him until I noticed his bike at a Subway. I went on and fairly soon was closing in on Palatka, where we are staying at a Sleep Inn for the night. 

No more camping for the rest of the trip!

I arrived at the Motel where Patty, Pnil's wife and Chris, John's wife, were already there. As I stood there chatting with them Phil, Jim, Max and John showed up. We checked in and I'm sharing a room with Jim again.

We are doing another load of laundry, hopefully for the last time on this trip. At least most of my stuff should be reasonably clean when I go home.

The plan is to meet for dinner at 6.

Only 1 ride left. Our current plan is to meet at our final lodging destination at about noon drop off our loads and then ride to the ocean to dip our wheels at about 12:30 tomorrow.

It has been a long time doing this. At times it seems like this is all we have ever done, but we will soon be going back to our regular lives.

Day 59 - Ichetucknee Family Grocery/Campsites to Gainsville

Today we have about a 50 mile ride to Gainsville. We are staying with a warm showers host there. The instructions on getting there were fairly long so Mitch e-mailed them to us, but since I have no internet connection at the campground I don't have them. I do have a decent idea of the address though so hopefully that is enough.

The day started fairly cool, but not excessively so. The ride started on fairly quite roads with no shoulder and progressed to more busy roads with no shoulder. Finally we hit a somewhat better road with a good should and rode into High Springs where some of us stopped at a diner for breakfast.

It was good. They had a bunch of old posters on the wall. I found the "Did you wax before you ride" poster to be somewhat funny in the context of riding a bike.

The day continued with what is fairly typical scenery in this part of Florida.

We continued on into Gainsville where their street layout numbering system is very logical, but easy to get confused with since they number both streets and avenues ascending in both directions of a median. They numbers have the quadrant as a qualifier so you have numbers like SE 15th St and NE 15th St which are the same street not to be confused with SW 15th St and NW 15th St.

In any case once you figure out the system it makes sense, but it is easy to get confused if you are unfamiliar with it.

We eventually found our way to Tom's house where he had an excellent selection of local brews available and was in the midst of cooking cornbread for the chili that we were going to have for supper.

It was a pleasant afternoon and I was able to catch up with a couple of days on the blog while sitting at his dinning table.

His cat leo was quite entertaining and adept at getting outside where he was not supposed to be.

The location is in a wooded secluded area. Some of the group camped outside. I opted to sleep on the floor next to the fireplace where a nice warm fire was built just before going to bed. It was actually slightly warm most of the night, but by early morning the sleeping bag felt good.

It was one of our more pleasant stops.

We are only 2 more rides from the end!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Day 58 - Suwannee River State Park to Ichetucknee Family Grocery/Campsites

Today we go to Ichetucknee for the night and head a bit further south. The day is a fairly modest 58 miles more or less. However, there appear to be limited services along the way where a meal may be obtained.

The first part of the day we didn't even get back on to highway 90 which has been, at least for me, one of the nicest routes we have ridden. Instead we went to a farm road without a shoulder which while smooth, did have logging trucks, some power line maintenance and other things that made it less than ideal, but still a fairly quiet ride.

At the first major interesction I went about a quarter mile north to hit a convenience store and then got back on the road after having a bit of a snack and obtaining a Gator Aid for later in the day.

The road continued to twist and turn through what was sometimes what I like to call country slums. Where a number of obviously very poor people live.

When we turned south we went through a small town called Wellborn that had a nice little place called Bob's Butts BBQ, where most of us stopped for lunch. I had ribs, which were good. And by all reports everyone seemed to be quite pleased with the food. This was by far the best place on route all day to eat.

A bit later in the day we rode under some more power line work, which made me a bit nervous.

We eventually made it to the campground where we had 3 cabins reserved. I stuck my head into one of them, and the smell of stale cigarette smoke among other odors prompted me to put up my tent to sleep outside.

We had a recreation of the Hatch Green Chili burgers that we enjoyed at Sparky's in Hatch. They were very good and a close approximation of the real thing thanks to the efforts of Daryl, Dick and Sally and the availability of Patty to drive to the store.

A couple of people took a canoe trip while we were there which seemed like a good option. I decided against it because it didn't really seem warm enough to warrant a paddle on the water.

It was a pretty good day, but not particularly warm. It remained overcast all day.

Hopefully it won't be really cold tonight.

Day 57 - Greenville to Suwannee River State Park

Today we ride to Suwannee River State Park and camp. The night was nice sleeping in a good bed and a private room with it's own bath. I lucked out on that one. I would have gladly slept on the floor with my sleeping pad and bag to be inside where it was warm. The Grace Manor Inn was the place to stay in Greenville and I would say at least for me the best place we stayed on the whole trip.

In the morning I came downstairs and found coffee. Shelly was sitting in the sitting room drinking coffee. Several of us ultimately joined her before breakfast. The juxtaposition of our general daily routine and this particularly elegant location made for some quite interesting conversation.

Breakfast was equally good with a nice assortment of fruit and some sort of quiche.

The temperature was reasonable in the morning, but pretty cool. We have a relatively short ride today, just over 30 miles. Which for me is slightly annoying as I would like to be done with this ride so 30 miles seems like it should be combined with the next day which is only 54 miles or the previous day of 50 miles.

In any case the ride went quickly. We did have to stop to get groceries, less than halfway through the ride, but given the shortness of the day it was not an inconvenience.

I ended up with a bit of extra stuff in the cooler that I've been carrying and I ended up loading it a bit higher than normal. As I rode off I noticed that the back of my bike was wagging pretty hard. I guess that confirms that loading the weight low is a good thing to do.

We quickly arrived at the Suwannee River State Park which is a very pretty place.

Patty, Phil's wife has joined him for the rest of the ride. They had a cabin for the night which we took advantage of for our dinner. The cabins in this park are very nice.

Before dinner Mitch demonstrated how to build a beer can stove.

After dinner it was off to bed and hopefully a not too cold night.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Day 56 - Tallahasse to Greenville

Today we have what looks like about a 60+ mile ride if we follow the route. Google suggested a 49 mile alternative that stays mostly on highway 90, which we have been riding on a lot.

I awoke this morning not feeling very rested. It's weird, but I think the change in time may have had a psychological effect on my ability to sleep. I kept waking up and checking to see if it was light out.

Ron, decided that he didn't want to sleep in a tent anymore, so he went on ahead without us and will meet us again in St. Augustine. He is going to do the final bit in 1 less day than we are since tomorrow is such a short day. At this point I'm inclined to want to do the same, but it won't get me home any sooner so there isn't an advantage for me.

We got up packed up our bikes and then had breakfast in the motel, which was more or less the usual fare that one would expect.  I lingered a bit long at breakfast so quite a few riders had already left by the time I walked out to get on my bike.

I had every intention of taking the prescribed route, but somewhere between the front door and my bike I decided to take the alternate route that Google had suggested. It was kind of convoluted through town so I set my phone to do turn by turn navigation and set off. Some 10 miles of residential streets many with bike lanes and I was back on highway 90 where I was greeted with a very nice bike lane and was fairly quickly out of town.

As you can see in this photo the road was smooth, the bike lane was wide and clean and there wasn't really a lot of traffic.

The actual route that everyone else took went south of Tallaassee and wound around some before rejoining 90 at Monicello.

Along the way I saw this plantation style house.

The route I took was a nice alternative, but from what everyone said the longer route was quite nice with good road surfaces as well.

A few miles west of Monticello there was a section of a few miles with no shoulder. That part wasn't much fun but there also wasn't a lot of traffic and the drivers were considerate.

When I got to Monitcello I thought maybe I would get lunch. As I rode through town it appeared that they were cleaning up after a parade. I didn't spot any places that I really wanted to eat at so I rode on.

A few miles out of Greenville, our ultimate destination for the day, I stopped at a convenience store. As I was getting ready to leave I clipped in with my right leg as normal, but managed to tip my bike over and scraped my knee a bit. Not a big deal but it was kind of embarrassing, even though no one actually saw me do it.

A short ride into town where I found our lodging for the night, the Grace Manor Inn, I rode around town until I spotted a small diner where I had lunch. It was OK. Afterward I went to the Inn where the proprietor asked me to hang out on the front porch for awhile as she was busy cooking our dinner.

I did so and after some time others arrived and then we worked out what rooms we would stay in and then relaxed on the verandah.

Dinner was served at 6. It was by far the most excellent meal we have had on this trip.

We all felt somewhat out of place dining in such elegance. The house was originally built in the 1800's as a hotel and then eventually turned into a bread and breakfast.

Tomorrow, we have a short day, and breakfast at the late hour of 8AM.