Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day Eighty-eight, 090527 - Spring Hill, FL

Day Eighty-eight, Date Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Time in Saddle: 8:51
Distance for the Day: 90.53 miles From Old Town To Spring Hill
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3974.3
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 90’/61’, Highest: 124’ Accumulated: 144’
Speeds: Avg: 10.2 mph, Max: 24.1 mph
Weather: 65° clear, humid, warming to mid-80’s and partly cloudy
Expenditures: $23

Got up at about 5:45am, changed my clothes so I was now in *dry* clothes, broke down camp, and was ready to roll by 7am down this still wonderful bike trail, which even had its own bridges over rivers and covered benches for pedestrians every now and then. I came to an intersection in the trail, and wasn’t certain which way to go, so I broke out my GPS and notebook to find out exactly where I was, when a little kid came up, all curious and full of questions, so I spoke with him a bit, and then a couple more of his friends showed up, too. They were all waiting for the bus to take them to school, and I answered their questions, and gave the bigger boy my dysfunctional bike alarm (he asked what it was, and I told him I was going to throw it out, and he asked if he could have it). I let them all take a ride on the trike, and then their bus showed up, and they took off, and so did I, now that I knew where I was going. The trail was part of a state built and maintained system of paths that used to be railways, and as I mentioned were quite pleasant – well-paved, peaceful, and this segment was going my way. Unfortunately, it ended in Chiefland, and from there, I had to hop back on Hwy 27/19 (somewhere along the way, Hwy 27 turned into Hwy 19), south. By noon, I had stopped a couple times for a cold apple drink, and choco milk and cinnamon bun ($5), continuing down Hwy 19. I hit a 16-mile long section with two lanes going the same direction but no shoulder (I hate that). Fortunately, it was lightly traveled so cars and trucks could pass me fine – no problem, I finally hit a new section of road with 5’ wide shoulder, smooth and beautiful; the weather turned partly cloudy all day with large cumulus but no real threat of rain, yet; the clouds give me cooler shade when I’m under them, but in the sun it got pretty warm, and it was somewhat humid, but I could still get cool from breezes, so it wasn’t anywhere near 100% (whew!) In fact, on that new road, I pulled off to the grass on the side and put out some of my clothes, shoes, sleeping bag, and lay them out to dry for about 40 minutes. I got to the town Inglis, and stocked up on liquids ($9) as I was running short, and getting thirsty. In the evening, I stopped in at a Subway ($9)to get and eat half a sandwich, and then went up the road until it was just dark, before pulling into St. Theresa’s Catholic Church where I asked permission from some ladies there (just south of Spring Hill - N28 26.848’ W82 38.049’) (no knocking on neighborhood doors, this time) to throw out my tent. They said ‘fine,’ as long as I could be gone before 7am, when the pre-school kiddies showed up – not a problem. I set up on a cement walkway (it’s drier and just as comfortable); the air was very warm, still, and humid. I think one or two mosquitoes got me (not too bad). I put in my earplugs and went to sleep on top of my sleeping bag and air mattress – no tucking in, tonight!

Day Eighty-seven, 090526 - Old Town, FL

Day Eighty-seven, Date Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Time in Saddle: 9:08
Distance for the Day: 94.19 miles From Hwy 27 Forest To Old Town
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3883.77
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 50’/90’, Highest: 173’ Accumulated: 1188’
Speeds: Avg: 10.2 mph, Max: 25.8 mph
Weather: 67° overcast in the AM with some fog, clearing during the day to partly cloudy
Expenditures: $10

Woke up at 6:15am and broke down camp; I continued to successfully avoid mosquitoes, and was ready to go at 7:30am. I had a very annoying rash on the bottom of my left foot, which I itched to the point of breaking the little itch bumps down there – that hurt a little, but I put some Bactine lotion on it, and it felt much better. Just before getting to Capps, FL, stopped for some drinkables ($3), and had the 2nd half of my Subway sandwich for brunch. Stopped several times: once to fix my right brake cable which had been sticking because it had become fouled with dirt (I dripped water at the top end, and worked it so the dirt would come out the bottom end). I also stopped at a rest stop for a cold soda, and right after that it started to downpour. I hung out at the rest stop for a while, and met a fellow who was trying to walk from Perry to Tallahassee (a good 40 miles!) with nothing but the clothes on his back. I’ve tried doing this kind of thing, before, myself, so I can’t say too much bad about it, but it almost never works. The last I saw, the friendly and sympathetic rest stop attendant there was talking up people for him, to get him a ride. From then to 3:30pm the rain was pretty steady. I stopped once to rinse my shoes and socks out to prevent them from getting stinky, again; by 4pm the rain stopped, and I had my second *live* armadillo sighting, this time in overcast daylight, so I could see him pretty clearly. I passed right by him (he was in the grass right by the side of the road), so I stopped, and he ran and sort of *hopped* into the bushes. Cool!

In the town of Cross City, it was still lightly raining when I stopped at a Dairy Queen for a burger and choco malt ($7 - yum!). By the time I finished, the rain had stopped, and the sky became partly cloudy, with some late afternoon sunlight showing. I thought I’d check some homes in the local neighborhoods for a place to pitch my tent, and ran into a sequence of events that produced the most unpleasant situation of this trip so far. I went to one nice looking place; the lady there said ‘no.’ Okay, I headed for the next door neighbors, and while riding toward it, I saw a man and woman in a truck turn into a driveway across the street from my next intended prospect. He waved at me, and I waved back – all very friendly. I went to the next house and knocked and waited a minute or so – no answer. So, I thought I’d try the house where I saw the guy who waved. I go up to this not-nearly-as-nice place – a mobile home with some junk around it, and knocked on the glass door. I could sort of see into the living room of the house, but it was dark, and I could hear this woman *screaming* to someone else, “Come here – I need help!” in a rather shrewish tone. The voice further said, “Close it and lock it!” A teenage girl came to the door and shut it in my face. Hokay, guess I’ll just keep looking. I turn my trike around, and go out to the road, and a moment later, the guy who I thought lived at the mobile home pulls up in a different colored truck and stops me. He gets out and looks pissed. “What you doing, waiting ‘til I’m gone before going to my house?” I explained I was merely going to ask to pitch my tent on his property, and that I thought he was still home. He asked to see some ID, so I showed him my drivers license, and then he called it in for a check. This guy was wearing a John Deere shirt – how could he be doing an ID check? Of course, he found out I was “clean,” and I told him most of my experience with asking people to let me overnight on their property usually went pretty well. His wife was very upset (I must have looked like Darth Vader to her), and when she pushed the panic button, he got scared, too, but it seemed to be easing off, and he was beginning to understand that I was not even close to a threat, when the backup troops arrived. A police car, and some other government truck stopped. Out of the police car came this guy who I will call Mr. Pecs (on account of his big pectorals – none of these guys gave their names or showed any badges or ID) who looked kind of like Hulk Hogan with a crewcut in black shirt and shorts with fluorescent print – was this a policeman? He came on with pure attitude. The other two were somewhat mild-mannered, and seemed to defer to this buffoon as the pack leader, as he railed against me, threatening me with jail for loitering and vagrancy, saying I was lucky not to be shot and bloody from some of the property owners around these parts – all for knocking on someone’s door! I answered any questions he had in monosyllabic words, but showed no fear or any emotion, which I think may have frustrated him, some. The same trick I use with dogs. I did not refer to any of them as ‘sir.’ The other one, who was dressed in a green forest service kind of uniform, held his Mag-Lite flashlight up, even though it was still quite light, which police do when they want to look like they want shine their light on something, when they’re also in position to bop you one on the head – that was pretty funny. There were all kinds of things I wanted to say to these guys to make fun of the whole situation and their ridiculous manners, but fighting a case of false arrest with the possibility of charges of unnecessary and excessive use of force because I mouthed-off were not in my schedule. So, I answered their questions politely, and when they said “get out of the county or if we even see you, we’ll throw you in jail,” I got. One great thing the forest service guy did for me: he pointed out a miles-long bike path that paralleled the highway that I could take – much nicer than the zoom of cars rushing by on the highway, itself. I got my driver’s license back from Pecs, himself, left, and didn’t look back. I found and took off down the bike path, glad to be away from that bully and his yokels. All this, because some xenophobic woman, who is no doubt paranoid from watching tv all day (all that crime and violence), and had a husband who happened to leave for a minute, who was also a deputy police type person of some sort – wow! Talk about your perfect storm. I thought about reporting the incident to the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce but, since I didn’t get any of their names or ID, it would probably be pretty useless. I went down the bike path for about 5 miles in the increasing darkness, until I found a nice side access road I could hide on (N29 36.697’ W82 56.908’), set up my tent by about 9pm, wore my rain gear to escape the mosquitoes (no bites!), and tried to get to sleep. With that upsetting incident still fresh in my mind, I found sleep hard to come by, so I watched “The DaVinci Code,” instead (in my head, of course). I was looking forward to seeing “Angels and Demons” ASAP, and that helped to clear my brain for sleep.

Day Eighty-six, 090525 - Forest S of Quincy, FL

Day Eighty-six, Date Monday, May 25, 2009
Time in Saddle: 3:51
Distance for the Day: 33.82 miles From Quincy To Hwy 27 Forest
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3789.58
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 149’/50’, Highest: 192’ Accumulated: 1312’
Speeds: Avg: 8.7 mph, Max: 31.8 mph
Weather: 69° and overcast, clearing and warming to mid-80s
Expenditures: $25.25

Got up at 7:15am (a little late, for me), spent extra time securing my gear, and was ready to roll by 8:30am. Before taking off, completely, I used the method I thought up for adjusting the tilt of the front of the trike in relation to the back, and it worked. As a result, the problem I was having with a “noisy” geartrain also disappeared, and in thinking about it, it made perfect sense. If the front end is twisted out of alignment with the back end, the chain will of course be noisy. Great! I made it easily into Tallahassee by 10:30am, stopped at a mini mart to get a juice and beef jerkey ($9), and then pulled into the local university campus to try to find some free wi-fi, but everything was closed, because it was Memorial Day! I then used StreetAtlas to locate the nearest public library in the hopes that they didn’t shut down their wi-fi, and that it was free (without the need for a password), and found it, and the wi-fi worked! I spent some time handling email, and then left to find a restaurant where I could plug in to charge the battery, and to blog (Subway – yes!) ($9) I spent a few hours there, blogging, and found out they had free wi-fi! Oh, that was it – if all Subway’s have free wi-fi, with electrical outlets by their window tables, then I was going to patronize them to the ends of the Earth! Got some choco milke and cookies, and worked ($3.50). Unfortunately, by the time I was ready to start uploading stuff, their network went down, so I went back to the park out in front of the library (I found an electrical outlet, there, and still got a wi-fi signal I could work with) to upload it all. I finished at 6:07pm, and headed out of town to almost immediately begin to looking for a campsite. Yee-haww! I went into a Walgreens to get some Gatorade and found a new, plastic shoehorn (my metal one was getting very rusty) ($3.75). Found a good campsite off of Hwy 27 (N30 24.737’ W84 4.459’) off in the bush, just about 75 yards from the freeway on a dirt side road; must have been an access road for parks people, or something. There were a loud gaggle of herons off in the trees, and saw a thin crescent moon low amidst the branches of the forest I was in. The mosquitoes weren’t too bad, and I don’t think I got one bite. I set up camp and was ready by 8:30pm (the sun in this timezone and latitude seems to set around 8pm). The sky was clear, and I could see stars as the evening deepened: saw constellations Leo, Ursa Major, Auriga, and Saturn. Warm and humid enough to sleep on top of my sleeping bag most of the night, I listened to music on my iPod and saw *some* fireflies – I’m guessing they are pretty much all throughout the south; they seem to exist any place quiet and away from lights. How nice! We need to genetically engineer some to survive in the Bay Area’s climate – they are just too cool!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day Eighty-five, 090513 - Quincy, FL

Day Eighty-five, Date Sunday, May 24, 2009
Time in Saddle: 7:01
Distance for the Day: 66.52 miles From Chipley To Quincy
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3689.24+
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 0’/149’, Highest: 238’ Accumulated: 1506’
Speeds: Avg: 9.4 mph, Max: 31.8 mph
Weather: 69° mostly cloudy, some sun, turning to thunderstorms, heavy rains by late AM
Expenditures: $15

Got up at 6am (a little late!) and broke down and ready to roll by 6:35am. It wasn’t raining, but the last prediction I saw said 70% chance of thunderstorms for Saturday and Sunday, so I knew I was probably still going to get wet today, too. I started off, and soon enough, it started to rain a bit, but then quit. I stopped at the first mini mart to get a hot cocoa and Danish ($3), and then noticed how sour I was smelling, so at the next mini mart, I took a quickie sponge bath in the bathroom, and changed my clothes. However, the sour smell was coming from my feet, and I wasn’t prepared to handle that, yet. I figured I needed to wash my shoes, somehow, and change my socks and use better plastic bags to keep my socks dry. I stopped in the town of Marianna at 11am to get a Subway sandwich ($7) and a Laundromat to dry my sleeping bag and jacket. While in the laundry, I decided to do some blogging while waiting, and God let the taps open, outside: lightning, thunder, *torrential* downpours, the works. In thinking about it, since I was trapped here for a while, anyway, I thought I would throw my shoes and other laundry into the wash, and then dry everything except the shoes (shoes in the dryer aren’t such a good idea). I would then try the plastic bags in the shoes, again, to keep my socks dry while my shoes would dry out during regular use. The laundry attendant almost put a kibosh on this plan by stating, in a no-nonsense tone, I had to have shoes on while in the room, but I was able to get her to relent on this rule, as I had no other shoes, and this pair were practically to the point of being serious bio-hazards. It worked out fairly well: the laundry machine washed my clothes and shoes, and the spin dry cycle got the shoes to the point of being just “moist,” and the washing made them a lot less stinky. With good plastic bags, my socks stayed dry, so life was good. By the time everything was done and dry, it was about 1pm, and the torrential rains had moved on, and I could continue on without getting soaked, again. In fact, after leaving Marianna, it rained lightly for a while, and then stopped, and then cleared – how nice! I continued plugging away as the roads dried, and for a good long while, it was perfect. Beautifully smooth, level roadway with a decent shoulder, sun halfway down the sky in the afternoon, endless tall stands of trees on either side of the road, with birds chirping away, low traffic, and dodging little baby frogs every now and then. I thought of family and friends, movies I’d seen, and the trip so far. I also noticed a small annoyance: I was a little bit “sideways,” on my trike. I stopped, and tried to correct it, but didn’t get it right, yet. Further down the road, I figured out a possible way to fix it, and would implement the solution as soon as was practical. I stopped for drink and food items in Chattahoochee ($5). I didn’t like Chattahoochee very much: the road went shoulderless (as Hwy 90 seems to do when it passes through towns), but I had to go down a steep grade and then climb up a tough grade to get into town; stopped at the mini-mart, and saw a tattooed young father slapping his baby’s hand while he was changing its diaper in the parking lot, saying, “no!” as if it would understand what he wanted, and even leaving the place, it got tight in places with no shoulders, before I finally got a few miles away. Phew! Glad to be outta there. As I came closer to Tallahassee, I noticed that the last three small towns I’d been through had a *lot* of churches, had mostly black populations. Interesting. I also noticed I must have changed into the next time zone, as the bank clocks were saying it was an hour later than my watch – cool! The terrain began to change, too: there were now fairly large sets of hills to climb and coast, climb and coast. I didn’t mind – by now I can take ‘em with aplomb, but it was starting to get late in the day, and I would need to start looking for some place to camp.

It was getting to be pretty solidly neighborhoods and businesses, so was thinking I might have to pull into a church, when I saw this crumbly track up off the highway into this stand of trees. On a hunch, I turned up onto it, and followed a crumbly little drive that wound a short way to what turned out to be a rather large, single-story brick house on a large lot that was completely blocked from view of everything around it (N30 34.298’ W84 33.087’ – east of Quincy, FL). There were huge trees with Spanish moss draped on the branches, and the house itself seemed to be unoccupied. I walked around to the front door, and saw that it hadn’t been used in quite a while. And, there was an open carport. It had a strong smell of mold, so I didn’t really want to stay there, so I looked for and found an “okay” place to hang my hammock a dozen or so yards from the house. I set it up as the evening began to darken, activated my trike’s cloaking mechanism, and crawled into my hammock, mosquito-free. I brought my iPod with me, and listened to music as the sky darkened, the bats flew around, the stars came out, and the *fireflies* began to flash and streak, occasionally. This was the best firefly viewing since the Hellsite, only this time, I was well-secured, and not likely to be rousted by reluctant cops on the orders of nervous little old ladies. Everything was perfect, but then I saw a lightning flash, and noticed the stars were gone. Wuh-oh. Over the next few hours, the stars would come and go, and the lightning flashes became more frequent. After an hour of hoping the storm would miss me, I knew I couldn’t ignore it any longer, and got up, put on my shoes, went to my trike and got my ground tarp and rope, covered my hammock, got back in, shoes off. Then, I noticed my tarp was just a little off, and that my feet were exposed; if it rained, my feet would get wet. After procrastinating a while, I got up, again, put on shoes, got out, and adjusted the tarp, got back in, shoes off, and noticed that the tarp, no matter how well adjusted it was, would still let rain onto the hammock. Maybe if I secured it by its corners, it would cover the whole length of the hammock. Got up, etc. Secured the tarp by its corners, got back in, hmm, still no good. By now, the lightning flashes were happening every few seconds, and I could now hear the thunder associated with the brighter flashes. Knowing what a Floridian thunderstorm looks like, I decided to go to Plan C: take everything down as fast as possible, and run for the carport. So, that’s what I did. I did a quick and dirty breakdown of the hammock, groundcloth, ropes, stakes, and threw it all on the trike, and rolled the trike into the carport. I then methodically began securing the ropes, stakes, and hammock as cleanly as possible (not touching the ground), and was almost done when the rain hit. Good timing! I then laid out the groundcloth on the carport floor, put out my tent, and set it up, including air mattress and sleeping bag. By now, it was past midnight, and the storm raged on outside. I began to think about this house – might it be haunted? That’d be cool, if I suddenly saw a pale young girl looking out the covered veranda in a lightning flash. I gave myself goosebumps thinking of it, but never saw or felt anything, Demitol. The sound of buzzing insects and frogs that whole evening made a semi-loud white noise background, but I had my earplugs, was warm and dry, and went to sleep easily, hoping for disturbing ghost-induced dreams, but, alas, nothing I can remember.

Day Eighty-four, 090512 - Chipley, FL

Day Eighty-four, Date Saturday, May 23, 2009
Time in Saddle: 9:36
Distance for the Day: 88.58 miles From Milton To Chipley, FL
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3689.24
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 78’/0’, Highest: 209’ Accumulated: 1821’
Speeds: Avg: 9.2 mph, Max: 28.8 mph
Weather: 69°, thunderstorms
Expenditures: $9

I woke up about 5:30am, and got up, broke down, and was ready to roll by 6:15am, but it decided to downpour, so I waited another 15 minutes for it to let up some before starting out. This was a definite rain day. It rained pretty much most of the day, but let up some in the late afternoon. I think what I thought was my waterproof rain jacket isn’t waterproof at all, and is really just a moisture resistant windbreaker, because when it rains, it doesn’t seem to keep me dry at all. I found out a pretty good technique for being a little more comfortable, though: when I get really wet, I can stop and use my hand towel to dry off most of the water, so that I’m only moist, instead of wringing wet. This is a lot more comfortable, and worth doing every now and then. Unfortunately, my “plastic bags around the socks” trick didn’t seem to work, this time, so my socks got totally wet, plastic bags or no plastic bags. Since it wasn’t cold, though, it didn’t really matter. I plugged away the whole day, not stopping for much, except a hot cocoa and Danish ($4) and more trailmix and soda ($5). At 7pm, I stopped in at a house just off the highway and asked to pitch my tent on their lawn with my usual spiel (don’t need anything; will be gone by sunrise), and they agreed (yes!) (N30 46.580’ W85 35.153’) The clouds were broken up and it hadn’t rained for the last few hours, so I was able to set up dry, and by 7:27pm was ready for bed. Unfortunately, my clothes and sleeping bag were still moist from the day’s activities, but I was warm and mosquito-free, and quite comfortable. I listened to my iPod for a couple of hours, and then went to sleep at around 9:30pm. I noticed it showered lightly once during the early morning, but thanks to my new tent, it was not a problem. I really like that tent (or couldn’t you tell). (No pictures today - too wet to take out my camera!)

Day Eighty-three, 090511 - Milton, FL

Day Eighty-three, Date Friday, May 22, 2009
Time in Saddle: 3:12
Distance for the Day: 30.97 miles From Pensacola To Milton
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3600.66 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 60’/78’ Highest: 171’ Accumulated: 1227’
Speeds: Avg: 9.6 mph, Max: 26.7 mph
Weather: Overcast in the AM, rain in the afternoon, 70°
Expenditures: $12

I woke up at just before daybreak, got up and turned off the lights – Cho never came home. She finally showed up at about 8am – it rained a bit during the night, so she didn’t want to ride home in it, and stayed up all night visiting with her friend from out-of-town (she had *another* out-of-town friend coming in this evening – a definite surge in out-of-town guests in a short amount of time, for her!) I got up, and we had a bit of breakfast, and then I began another purge of unneeded items which included extra clothes, the bivvy sack, the “waterproof” booties, the bottle of campstove fuel (I gave that to Cho; I also gave her the sandals that Paul R of Lake Mead had donated to me – I found I wasn’t really using them). Thus lightened, I was able to fit things even more comfortably in my panniers, and that’s a good thing. I got all my gear packed, and loaded it onto my trike, but not before finding out the damage from last night’s curb incident: the port side steering control rod got slightly bent and abraided. I would have to see if the local bike shop could help me straighten that out. I thanked Cho for hosting me; we hugged, and I took off, but then came right back because a) I forgot to take a picture with her, and b) I forgot to give her the extra key to her house! She said it would be okay for me to go back to her workplace to work on finishing my Google Maps updates, so that’s where I went, and that’s what I did. I had to wait until about noon, anyways, before checking at Cyclesports to see if the letter with my SD card had arrived, anyways. I finished updating Google Maps (it’s a miracle!), and found out the SD card *did* arrive (finally) to Cyclesports. It only took the Post Office 6 days to get it there – their service has definitely degraded – there was a time not long ago when it would have made it in two or three days, but at least they finally did come through. Alright! Music for the road.

Got a Subway sandwich ($7) and some drinks and trailmix ($5) while heading up Hwy 90 out of Pensacola. While I was at Subway, I managed, with some difficulty, to upload the albums from the SD card to my iPod. It got to be close to evening, so I began to look for a good stealth campsite. It had started raining, so I was looking for some place covered, and found one (sort of) at 7pm. It looked like a home-based business right off the highway with a small carport at (N30° 37.800’ W86° 59.574’). I knocked on the door, but no one was home. I couldn’t quite tell if it was a home or not; if it was, it being Friday evening, the owner might just be out to town, and would be back later. I set things out to dry, and waited. When it got dark, I put out my ground cover and sleeping bag. At midnight, I got up and set up my tent (first time for use!), and slept mosquito free in perfect comfort. If it was too warm, I could just lie on top of my sleeping bag; if it got a bit cool, I could climb inside. It poured rain, but I was dry and comfy, and I guess that place was a business, only, because no one showed up the whole night. It was right across the street from a railroad, so twice that night, it seemed like trains were bearing down on me, but I’d go right back to sleep after they passed, no problem.

Day Eighty-two, 090510 - Pensacola, FL

Day Eighty-two, Date Thursday, May 21, 2009
Time in Saddle: n/a
Distance for the Day: n/a
Accumulated Trip Distance: n/a
Altitudes: n/a
Speeds: n/a
Weather: 70° in the AM, warming to 76° by mid-day, partly cloudy w/occasional showers in the afternoon
Expenditures: $9

Got up around 8:30am and made some eggs for Cho and myself. It’s been *years* since I fried an egg, and while they weren’t the prettiest things I’ve ever seen, her sunny-side-ups, and my over-easys turned out pretty good (not burned, not raw). Cho took a short test ride on my trike, just to see what it was like. I then took off for the library for more wi-fi, and she went to work. At the library, I prepped the photos for upload, and was able to do a couple of blog entries, but then the connection began to freeze, and I tried restarting several times, but it kept hanging, Demitol. Well, at about 2:30pm, I gave up, and left the library to call Cyclesports to see if the letter with my music SD card showed up (nope), and then went to go look for a hardware store. I found one, and had a duplicate key made up for Cho’s house, so there would be no chance of her having to climb through her window, anymore. I then went to visit her at her workplace, which wasn’t very far away, and gave her the other key. She suggested trying to set up my notebook, there, to finish my blogging. She gave me a tour of her building, and we found plates of shepherd’s pie set out for whoever wanted them (me!), so we had a free lunch. They work on AI and robotics around there, and it was all *very* interesting to me. I picked out a quiet place in one of the unoccupied rooms, and Cho helped me hook in directly to the network using a spare cable at an empty cubicle, and walla-walla! I was able to finish uploading the photos and was consequently able to make the rest of my blogs publicly available. How nice! What a difference bandwidth makes. I then began updating my Google Maps entries, and did that until 6:45pm. Cho mentioned there was going to be a music concert in a park nearby that would have pipe band music (bagpipes), which she found out I liked in earlier discussions, so I went over to the park and listened to the McGuire Pipe Band. They were sponsored by the McGuire restaurant Cho and I went to last night. After that, I headed back to Cho’s place; it got dark, and I didn’t have my headlight with me, and ran my starboard wheel up onto a tall curb and heard the edge of it scraping something metal on my trike! Everything still seemed to work okay, but I knew I’d done some kind of damage, even if it was only surface paint. I’d have to inspect it carefully tomorrow in the daylight. Demitol! I picked up some trail mix and drinks ($9) and made it back the rest of the way, fine. I decided to write some articles for the astro newsletter, so did that, and got to bed at about 2am. I left lights on for Cho – I thought she said she was going to be back by 10pm, and wondered what was keeping her.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day Eighty-one, 0905209 - Pensacola, FL

Day Eighty-one, Date Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Time in Saddle: ??
Distance for the Day: ?? miles From To
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3580.90+
Altitudes: Starting/Ending ??/??, Highest: ?? Accumulated: ??
Speeds: Avg: ?? mph, Max: ?? mph
Weather: ??°
Expenditures: $15

Got up around 8am, and Cho and I had a breakfast of buttered toast and cheese. She showed me how to use the cute little washer she had, which plays Jingle Bells when it’s finished (huh?), and she went to work. I did the wash while continuing to blog, and hung it out to dry when it was done. At about noon, I went out to get lunch at a hot dog shop ($9) and then found the library, where I handled email using the free wi-fi. I called the cycle shop to see if the letter containing the SD card carrying all my music albums had arrived, yet (no, Demitol), so I would have to try again, tomorrow. I finished up around 5pm, and headed back to Cho’s. She gave me her key, but had arrived back home before me (ack!), and had to climb into a window to get inside. No big deal, she said. We went out to dinner again, this time to McGuire’s Irish Pub – a large place that served large quantities of whatever you order. We got an appetizer of corn beef egg rolls (huh?), and we both ordered burgers and fries. By the time I was done with the egg rolls and fries, I had no room for the burger, and Cho had only been able to begin nibbling on hers, so we had them boxed-up and took them away. This time, Cho treated me. :-q We went to the Farmer’s Market to see some live music – it was a kind of small affair with a few vendors selling vegetables, eggs, wind chimes, paintings, trinkets, etc. Cho bought a few food items, we listened to the 3-man band play some pop tunes for a bit, and just enjoyed the pleasant evening temperature. Back at the house, I hit the computer hard, getting some serious blogging done, while Cho went to visit a friend who invited her out. She came back at about 11:30pm, and we chatted a bit about our cycle touring experiences, before she went to bed. I stayed up and finished the written blog at about 2:15am, and turned in for the night. Tomorrow, I would hopefully be able to pick up the SD card, prep some photographs, and load the blog entries to the website, AND see if I could also update the troublesome Google Maps route that gave me so much trouble, last time. Busy day, tomorrow. Good-night!

Day Eighty, 090519 - Pensacola, FL

Day Eighty, Date Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Time in Saddle: 6:27
Distance for the Day: 56.14 miles From Gasque, MS To Pensacola, FL
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3569.69 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 10’/60’ Highest: 67’ Accumulated: 781’
Speeds: Avg: 8.6 mph, Max: 28.2 mph
Weather: 55° in AM, warming to 76°, clear and breezy ENE 10-12mph
Expenditures: $110

Woke up at 5:30am to see a waning crescent moon and Venus in a cloudless sky. I broke down and was ready to roll by 6am. The headwind was still there, so progress was somewhat slower than I would have liked. I stopped at a mini mart to get a hot cocoa, Danish, and Gatorade ($9 – think I got overcharged, but didn’t think about it at the time). At 10:15am I crossed from Alabama into Florida (yay!), still along the Gulf Coast, and still headed for Pensacola. Passing through Alabama was short; it’s actually a lot wider, but along the coast, it’s only about 60 miles wide. Got lunch at Burger King ($6) with about 12 more miles before getting to Cho’s. I went on this route that took me on a brand new road that had no shoulders. The usual problems occurred with traffic on such a road as that, and it got me to thinking of “The Gripes” (my growing list of what’s wrong with this world from a touring cyclist’s viewpoint). The last note (to cyclists) isn’t really a gripe, but somehow, they seemed to fit in. Here they are, then, in all their glory:

Notes to Motorists: Don’t get mad at cyclists if the road has no shoulder and you get delayed a few precious moments behind us; blame the idiot who designed and built the road with no shoulder in the first place, or get mad at the weenie who insists on “protecting” us by waiting for an invitation from the Queen before passing; besides, unless you’re James Bond on the way to disarm a nuclear bomb, the World is not here to get out of YOUR way – deal with this fact in a mature manner; it’s okay to pass cyclists close – just don’t hit us, and don’t go so fast that the turbulence from your passage causes us to swerve; I don’t need you to go all the way into the opposing lane to show me how much you care, and wait until you’re a hundred yards in front of me, playing chicken with oncoming traffic, before moving back into the right-hand lane; in fact, with most passenger vehicles, I can share one lane with you – all you have to do is put your left tire on or just to the right of the centerline of the road, and you’ll still miss me by a foot; don’t be afraid – I’m a pretty tough customer; the more you poke along behind me waiting for the road to become six lanes (don’t hold your breath), that line of cars building up behind you is a lot less likely to treat me with as much respect; pass me by – closely but cautiously; a very few of the more sadistic of you think it’s funny to blast your horn as you pass by us – what can I say: you’re a moron, and I don’t mean that in a nice way.

Notes to Road Builders and Maintainers: Please consider cyclists in your designs for ALL roads; don’t utilize coarse material or make “textured” surfaces; NEVER install expansion joints – at least cracked pavement is random in direction and dispersal – much easier to take then regularly spaced gaps that act like water torture to a cyclist (ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk); do make shoulders at least 4’ wide; do use smooth asphalt; don’t use concrete; if you must, use *narrow* vibration strips (5-inches), and put them right next to the white line between the roadway and the shoulder – not inside the shoulder, itself; they don’t have to be continuous, either – make them with 10’ gaps between sets; a car feels a buzz, but a bicycle can shake to pieces or lose control on those strips; consider implementing a tax on truckers who use tire re-treads; the funds from said taxes to be used to clean re-tread remnants from the roads; they are everywhere, contain stainless steel wires that can easily penetrate even thorn-proof tires, and are a hazard; and how about cleaning the shoulders of the highways and freeways regularly, to take care of the trash, broken bottles, dead animals, nails, etc.; just where are my tax dollars going, anyways?

Notes to other cyclists: Don’t do it – don’t get angry, or, rather, don’t let it show – NO MATTER WHAT. You are in no position to vent. Any loud verbal response; any rude gesture, any in-your-face maneuver, could get you into real trouble. As in, *real* trouble. Road rage is a very real phenomenon, and anything other than a bland, generic acknowledgement (such as a slow wave of your hand) could spark it off, and make that on-the-edge nut-case behind the wheel of that highly maneuverable two-ton hunk of mass lose it. I know – I got a broken rib because I mouthed-off to such a motorist, once. Learn from my mistake by reading about it – not by doing it. Keep your anger in check. Use just one visual response to all input, friendly or antagonistic: a slow wave of your raised hand.

I hope you enjoyed reading those as much as I had compiling them. To continue my story: I finally made it to Pensacola, and found Cho’s home. She wasn’t at home at the moment, so I went looking for Cyclesports Bicycles in town to see if my tent arrived – it had. (Big YAY! No more hot, sweaty nights, fighting off bugs when the hammock isn’t an option.) Thank you Nancy, for FedXing it for me. Interestingly, I told my cousin, Nancy, the incorrect spelling of the street (I thought it was Talafox, when it was actually Palafox [and Nancy spelled it Talafax]), and FedX still delivered it to the right place. They are AWESOME! I jawboned with the guy there, and he told me about some routing options for heading down into Florida. I bought some extra CO2 cartridges and a lighter pair of gloves ($43) and found out where the local library was, and took off again for Cho’s. When I got there, I took out my tent and figured out how to set it up. I would also have to figure out how to pack it into my panniers, but didn’t anticipate that would be much of a problem (it wasn’t). Cho showed up around 5:30pm, and we chatted while I finished securing the tent, and brought my panniers inside the house. We went out to The Fishhouse for dinner ($52); I had the filet mignon, and she had scallops. Afterwards, we went back to her home, chatted a while more, and then she went to bed while I blogged until a bit after midnight. I’d only gotten about 5 hours of sleep the night before, so I wasn’t quite up for a heavy blog session. I had a good night’s sleep that night, on a real bed. Ahhhh!

Day Seventy-nine, 090518 - Gasque, AL

Day Seventy-nine, Date Monday, May 18, 2009
Time in Saddle: 6:06
Distance for the Day: 60.81 miles From Moss Point, MS To Gasque, AL
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3513.55
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 8’/10’, Highest: 135’ Accumulated: 1606’
Speeds: Avg: 9.9 mph, Max: 35.1 mph
Weather: 54° overcast, clearing to partly cloudy, breezy, warming to 74°
Expenditures: $17

I woke up around 7:15am, about when everyone else was getting up. I got my things together, and prepped my trike for takeoff. They would have offered me breakfast, but didn’t have anything really organized, but that was okay, I wanted to get an early start, anyways. I thanked them for their kindness, and was invited to drop by again, if I ever passed that way. With that, I left at 7:30am, and began the day’s ride up Hwy 90 towards Dauphin Island in the Gulf of Mexico. At 9:20am, I passed from the state of Mississippi into Alabama, and the sign marking the occasion said, “Welcome to Alabama the Beautiful.” Unfortunately, on one side of the roadway was a failed bar joint called the Blackwater Saloon, complete with a weedy, broken cement parking lot, bits of crap and broken bottles to grace the terrain, while the building across the street was an ugly cement block building with no windows called The Borderline Club, with a lock and hasp on the smudgy front door and a couple of run down looking mobile homes on the side. I hoped the rest of Alabama was even more beautiful than this, and pushed ahead. By the way: while Louisiana was almost totally flat, Mississippi and Alabama had mild “rolling” terrain, but nothing severe. I called my next Warmshowers host, Cho, and let her know I would probably get to her house sometime in the afternoon, and to leave me a message if she needed more info, or wanted to let me know anything.

Unfortunately, I missed a turn, and had to backtrack several miles once I discovered my mistake. I passed through the town of Bayou La Batre, and then on out to the coast. At a mini mart along the way where I bought some supplies ($7), I found out that I’d have to take a ferry from Dauphin Island over to Ft. Morgan, and since the day was getting later, I should hurry, as I didn’t want to miss the last one at 5pm. I could see a long roadway that was elevated above the waters out to the island, and a pretty high bridge to cross, but not too bad. When I made it to the ferry at about 3:50pm, I found out I’d just missed the previous one by 10 minutes (Demitol!), and would have to wait for the last one (5pm). Well, at least I’d make it over, today. I bought a hot dog and soda ($5) and hung out. They had some interpretive info boards out on a walkway by their pier, so I perused them to find out about the local flora and fauna. I chatted with a couple guys who were also waiting for the ferry, and eventually, it showed up. I waited for two cars to load on before riding my trike on board, paid the passage fee ($5), and we took off. The gulf waters were brown and opaque. All over the region, out to the horizon, I could see oil rigs sticking up from the surrounding waters. It was kind of ugly. Made it to Ft. Morgan in a half hour; got my bearings from StreetAtlas, and took off to try to get to Pensacola before it got too late, but it already was too late. With sunset coming on in 2 hours, nearly 50 more miles to go, and a headwind stiff enough to cause the fine, white sands along the road to drift across the surface looking like the bloody aurora borealis, I realized I would never make it. So, I called Cho up and let her know I’d be in sometime around 10am to noon the next day, and continued on for as long as I could before looking for a campsite; there were plenty of opportunities, to be sure. The road was beautiful: brand new, smooth, and had a decent shoulder. There were lots of nice shorefront homes along this narrow peninsula, and they were mostly elevated a good 15’ in the air. I thought it was kind of a waste, though, since the view was of brown water and oil rigs out to the horizon, but I guess waterfront property is waterfront property, and maybe it doesn’t always look like that. Most of it was new, some of it even still under construction, and there were lots of ‘for sale’ signs. Right about sunset, at 7:20pm, I found a small parking lot next to a public interpretive center for the wildlife in the area. There was an outside electrical outlet on the building next to the front door, so I plugged in my notebook and blogged a few hours. I put my headnet and jacket on to keep the mosquitoes off my face and torso, but a few still got my ankles as I worked until about 11pm. I then set out my ground sleeping stuff, but it was still just a bit too warm to completely cover up, so the mosquitoes kept me up a while, until I decided to wear my headnet with most of the rest of me in the sleeping bag. That worked enough to let me get to sleep. Can’t wait to get my hands on that tent, hopefully as soon as tomorrow. For the first time since Texas, I was able to see the stars, again, which made them seem the more beautiful for their absence.

Day Seventy-eight, 090517 - Moss Point, MS

Day Seventy-eight, Date Sunday, May 17, 2009
Time in Saddle: 7:26
Distance for the Day: 67.08 miles From Waveland To Moss Point
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3452.74 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 32’/8’, Highest: 38’ Accumulated: 247’
Speeds: Avg: 9.0 mph, Max: 18.7 mph
Weather: 70° no wind, mostly cloudy, rain off and on through the day
Expenditures: $6.75

Woke up at 6:30am a bit after sunrise, broke down and packed away gear, took a sponge bath, and was ready to roll at 7:12am. Stopped at mini mart at 7:50am and got breakfast and supplies ($5). Decided to take the more direct route along Hwy 10 rather than the more circuitous cycle route that StreetAtlas suggested. I’m still not sure I’ll have enough time to complete this journey, so will err on the side of speed, more often than not. It was a rain day, today. Thunderstorms almost from the get-go; one cloud-to-cloud strike that had no delay – flash/crack! Good thing I was wearing my earplugs, or I might have jumped out of my skin. At the first downpour, I stopped under the eaves of a building and ate the other half of my Subway sandwich while waiting for things to lighten up, a bit, which they did after about 20 minutes. At 10:35am stopped in Gulfport at the Flying J for a cold soda ($1.75).

Finally hit the Gulf Coast – another first for me – I’d never seen it, before. There was a four lane road along a touristy length of shoreline, but it was very busy and had no shoulder, so I had to ride the sidewalks between the road and the beach. Sometimes, the beach sand would cover the sidewalk, so I had to gather extra speed before hitting these patches of wet beach sand to make it over them and not get stuck. I saw jet skiers out on the water, tearing it up and having fun despite the bad weather. The rain was pretty steady throughout the day. I hit the town of Gautier, and then Pascagoula; didn’t really stop for anything in these towns as I was already fed, watered and supplied. While Gautier did have shoulders on their main drag, it was pretty nasty, made of this pebbly material that felt like cobblestones, to me. I would stop under things every now and then, if the rains got very heavy. I was a little concerned about a bridge over the Pascagoula River I knew was coming up, but I need not have been: it was beautiful, with a separate path from the roadway that was smooth, wide, and concrete, clearly built for tourists, with benches every now and then for pedestrians to sit on. Nice. I began heading for the next really long bridge(?) I couldn’t quite tell from the StreetAtlas map what it was, because there was a route line overlaid on the map, so it could have been open water, an elevated roadway, or a sandbar for all I knew.

By evening (7pm) the stealth camping situation was starting to look grim. The vast majority of roadsides in Alabama have a short grass slope down to a wide, marshy or downright watery ditch, and then an impenetrable stand of trees and vegetation. Maybe if I had waders and a machete I could do something with this, but of course, I don’t have these things. Also, the mosquitoes in those places must be as thick as L.A. smog. On the other side of the roadway, I saw a small restaurant building that wasn’t operating, and pulled up next to it to see if I could use its tiny parking lot. It didn’t look very good, but at the moment, it was all I had. I pulled out my notebook to check the map, when a car pulled up with a couple in it who said, “If you stay out here, you’re gonna get wet!” And then, “If you want, we live just around the corner – you can stay with us.” Yes! I gratefully accepted, and followed them a few hundred yards down the side road and into a gravel drive. Yikes! The place was, to put it gently, a dump! There was junk and trash all over the place, and the porch in front of the house was crammed with more “stuff.” (Was that “Dueling Banjos” I was hearing in the background?) They suggested I roll my trike onto the last remaining five feet of free space on their porch (six, after they pushed back a cart loaded with stuff) to keep my gear out of the rain, and then invited me inside. Double-yikes! The first room inside was a disaster area, with clothes strewn about on the few bits of furniture and on the floor, and holes in the drywall where lighting fixtures or switchplates should have been. They took me into a side room that was a little more livable – a smallish room with a 26” television hooked to a DVD player which had a couple of large speakers attached. I’m afraid all I remember was the guy’s name: Billy. His wife (who was with him in the car) and father were there, and they were watching the last few minutes of the movie, “The Last Samurai,” with Tom Cruise. They offered me a seat, so I sat and watched the end, too. I was offered some pot (no thanks – you go ahead), and a chili dog from the restaurant up the road (that’s okay – I just ate), and some fruit punch on ice (I’d love some, thanks!) Everyone else smoked cigarettes, but a fan blew most of the smoke out the windows, so it wasn’t too bad. Billy’s father then switched the DVD to “Batman Begins,” so we watched that, and after that was done, he put in the DVD, “Sin City,” another good one! During all this, friends, neighbors, and other family would drop in; three small children came as well to chat for a bit, and when they left, the little girl (Eva) gave me a hug and a kiss. What a little darlin’! I finally broke down, and ate one of the chili dogs (pretty good, even if it was kind of cold and soggy). After Sin City, around midnight, we chatted for a bit, and then they shut down the generator(!), lit up some candles, and I was shown my bed, just a mattress on the floor with a blanket and pillow on it, in a room filled with heaps of clothes and two other mattresses on the floor. Hey, considering I was about to lay out my sleeping bag and bivvy sack in the parking lot of a failed restaurant that faced the highway on a night when it could still break out in rain, this was quite welcome. My clothes were still somewhat soggy from all the rain, but I was warm, and would mostly dry out during the night. I lay my sleeping bag out on the mattress and had myself a good night’s sleep.

Day Seventy-seven, 090516 - Waveland, MS

Day Seventy-seven, Date Saturday, May 16, 2009
Time in Saddle: 6:01
Distance for the Day: 61.81 miles From New Orleans, LA To Waveland, MS
Accumulated Trip Distance: 3385.66 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 274’/306’, Highest: 427’ Accumulated: 1621’
Speeds: Avg: 10.2 mph, Max: 39.1 mph
Weather: 74° in AM, warming to a semi-humid low 80s by mid-morning
Expenditures: $6

Got up around 7:50am for almost 3 hours of sleep. Skipped breakfast, and began gathering my stuff together and packing it in preparation for departure. Ray and Emily gave my trike a tryout to see what it was like. They thought it was pretty cool, but the psychic in me doesn’t see trikes in their near future; they can tour just fine – even better – on just bicycles, and don’t yet need the comfort of a trike. We took pictures of each other, shook hands, and hugged, and I took off. Thanks, you two, for opening your home, hearth, and hearts to this over-ambitious cycling enthusiast. You helped me see what has now become one of my favorite cities in all the world, and for that I’m very grateful. And for your canine friend, Texas, I’d just like to say, “Good doggie!” Friendly from the start, he accepted me as readily as his owners, a trait he no doubt picked up from them.

I stopped a little ways down the road to check StreetAtlas for any nearby hardware stores, when Ray and Emily pulled up in their car and asked what was up. They gave me one last parting bit of info – an Ace hardware store on Magazine St. that wasn’t far off. Cool! I found it, and bought the rope I needed to be able to hang my hammock. I got talking with a local about my trike and trip, and *he* offered me refuge at his home just a few blocks away. I let him know I was already set and ready to leave town, but, wow – now that I don’t need it, they’re falling into my lap! I took off at 11am on the route StreetAtlas picked to get out of town and on-route to my next destination: Pensacola, Florida. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn, and started headed down a wrong highway, but recognized the error early enough to correct it fairly easily.

One surprise along the way out of New Orleans; I found the Cajun Encounters swamp tour outfit’s location, again. The first time I went, yesterday, I hopped on a tour bus and we took highways and freeways to get there, so I had no idea of its actual location. Imagine my surprise when I rolled up to it on my trike at 3:26pm! I continued eastbound on Hwy 90 towards in the heat and humidity; in the next 1.5 hrs I stopped 3 times to buy cold drinks; I got a Coke at a bar (I must have looked particularly overheated, as one of the patrons paid for me – that was nice), then twice more for $1.50 each. I also had my first run-in with deer flies – medium-sized nasty orangish buggers with an annoyingly painful little bite. I found that I couldn’t shoo them away (they seemed to swarm more if I did), but that I could kind of outrun them by pumping up to 14 mph, so I did that for a while, until I seemed to be out of their territory (mostly). By 4:10pm, I made the state line between Louisiana to Mississippi; my first time to the state of Mississippi! By evening, I found a stealth camp location behind a business building under construction. I was able to hang my hammock, so had a comfortable and restful night.

Day Seventy-six, 090515 - New Orleans, LA

Day Seventy-six, Date Friday, May 15, 2009
Time in Saddle: n/a (Still in New Orleans)
Distance for the Day: n/a
Accumulated Trip Distance: n/a
Altitudes: n/a
Speeds: n/a
Weather: 73° in the AM, warming and somewhat humid
Expenditures: $20

Got up at 7am and had corn flakes for breakfast. Ray was working at the local office, today, so fixed a flat on his bike and took off. Emily took Texas out for a romp and came back to do light housework and chores. I caught up on blog writing in the morning, and took off to see the local Audubon Nature Institute aquarium in the afternoon ($18). It was a nice, standard aquarium with the usual displays such as a walk-through underwater tube, large shark tank, penguins, jellyfish, seahorses, eels, and even an albino alligator (same as San Francisco’s new Academy of Sciences). I always enjoy a visit to the aquarium! I stayed until closing time at 5pm, bought some roasted pumpkin seeds to gnaw on ($2), and hung out, looking out at the Mississippi River, and watched the ferry load cars and people, and then head out across the river to the other side, about a mile away. Ray, Emily and I planned to touch base in the evening to make plans for dinner in the French Quarter. I got the message on my cell phone that they were already waiting in line at a restaurant they had been wanting to try that was pretty close to where I was, so I went over to meet them, there. They treated me, and I had Jambalaya (sausage and chicken in flavored rice), *and* they talked me into trying “crawpuppies.” These are small balls of crawfish, dipped in batter and deep-fried. They weren’t bad – not fishy at all; surprise, surprise! After dinner, we walked around through that ca-RAY-zee Bourbon Street area, and went to the architecture office Ray worked in to retrieve his and Emily’s bikes. We then went back to the restaurant to get my trike, and from there, we pedaled home. Man, that Emily *moves* on that bike of hers! As usual, I stayed up late blogging, while my hosts went to bed. Ray had a racquetball tournament in the morning, so needed his rest. I stayed up until 4:30am blogging. Whee!