Week 7 Bicycle Ride Across America

Day 41, May 13, Gulf Shores, AL to Milton, FL, 67 Miles.

Late last night we had some excitement. At about 11pm the fire alarms went off in the motel. Paul and Keith were out of the room making phone calls to their wife and girlfriend. I went out in the hall to see if there actually was a fire. I saw no smoke and all the other motel guests were looking out their doors also. As I watched what was happening in the hall I noted that we could escape in either direction down the hall, or out our room’s first floor window. As I waited, the alarm stopped.

The fire officials had come, checked out the situation, and the fire truck could be heard approaching. As the truck got close, the lights and siren were turned off and it drove past the motel. A false alarm.  I’m glad the motel hadn’t caught on fire and burned up our stuff.

After spending over two weeks in Texas and a week in Louisiana, I realized that in the last four nights, we have spent the night in four different states. The Mississippi and Alabama coastlines are very short, so we only spent one night in each state.

A few days ago, I said we had the best riding day of the trip. Today was the worst. We knew we were going to get wet today, but we hadn’t planned on anything like what we experienced. We started the day with 77-degree weather and very little rain falling. As we began my sunglasses began fogging up and I couldn’t see, so I took them off. 

We were riding through another state park on a secluded bike path when we received an emergency alert on our phones. 

“SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING, DESTRUCTIVE 80 MPH WINDS. Take shelter in a sturdy building, away from windows. Flying debris may be deadly to those caught without shelter.”

A few minutes later it hit. Suddenly we were in very high winds and it started pouring rain. It felt like we were standing in the shower. We pulled over and got under a big tree. The area beside the paved trail became a river. Lightning began and we took a moment of rest. While we were waiting, we felt the temperature drop suddenly to the mid-60s.

After the lightning moved on and the rain lessened a bit, we started riding again. Soon we were out of the park and back on the roads where the bike lanes were flooded. We rode in the deluge, through large puddles where we could not see if any debris was in our path. We were also getting splashed by the passing traffic. Soon Carolyn came by with the car and we got in to get out of the rain. 

We put towels down to sit on as the water was running off us. We discussed if we would continue or stop riding. We had only ridden 9.7 miles. We were cold so we cranked up the heat. After sitting in the car for about 20 minutes, the rain lessened. We decided to put on more clothes and got back on our bikes.

As we rode along the beach, the beach warning flag was a red square standing straight out in the wind. The bridges offered no cover from the wind. We faced a 20-30 mph head wind for about an hour after which the wind lessened, and the rain was on and off for the rest of the day.

For the rest of the day, we were either dripping or damp. We passed several areas with lots of debris in the bike lane. It was clear that super high winds had recently occurred. Near the end of the day we spent six miles on a bike path. As we road on the path we encountered a small, downed tree across the path. The three of us grabbed the top of the tree and drug it off the path so we, and anyone who came along behind us, could get by.

When we ended our ride for the day, it was a half hour drive to our hotel. We showered and headed for the only nearby restaurant, the Waffle House. 

Tomorrow we expect more of the same.

Day 42, May 14, Milton, FL to Ponce De Leon, FL, 69 Miles.

Today was supposed to be a wet day in the morning and dry in the afternoon. Our plan was to stay at the hotel as long as possible, maybe even get a late check out, and start riding once the rain stopped. But the weather had other ideas.

When we awoke, the weather report had changed. It was clear in the morning and thunder showers wouldn’t start until about 1pm. So, we got on the road quickly to get more dry hours of riding. But the storm never hit. We had a cool and rain free day.

As we rode through the countryside, we saw lots of evidence that yesterday’s storm was a bad one. We frequently saw downed trees and road debris. 

Five miles before our ending spot, Keith got a flat tire. Carolyn had passed us a couple minutes earlier heading for the ending location. Today she would pick us up out in the boonies and drive us to our motel. We decided to call Carolyn to pick up Keith and his bike with a flat tire since we were so close to the end of today’s ride. Paul and I took off to complete the ride while Carolyn was in route.  

Since we were down to the last five miles, we put the hammer down. We took turns passing each other by turning up our motors to have some fun. I was limited to 60% of my top motor assist, since that is where I had the controls set. In the last stretch, Paul turned his motor up to 100% power and pushed it to the limit. I don’t think he had been on 100% power for weeks, since we had completed traversing the Rocky Mountains. It was fun racing at high speed, nearly 30 mph on the flats. 

Carolyn and Keith passed us on the road shortly before the finish line. They picked us up and we headed for the motel. Keith fixed his flat later that evening in the motel room instead of in the heat on the side of the road.

Day 43, May 15, Ponce De Leon, FL to Sneads, FL, 67 miles.

After breakfast we drove to the place where we ended our ride yesterday. We were expecting a sunny day and it turned out to be a great riding day. The terrain looked like the Willamette Valley in Oregon. 

When we got started, the map on my Garmin watch told me it was 45 miles until the next turn. I didn’t have to pay attention to turns for over two hours. The roads were straight and in good repair. We also had a 10-mph tailwind, so we had a great ride. 

I am feeling so much better riding these long rides. In the first several weeks I was totally drained and ready to stop riding long before we reached the day’s finish line. Since our last rest day in New Orleans, I have felt so much stronger. I now finish the 65+ mile day and feel like I could press on to 100 miles. It feels so good to head into the motel without the need to collapse.

We rode right up to the motel today, the only one for miles. There was only one restaurant open in town and of course it was Mexican food. 

Day 44, May 16, Sneads, FL, to Lloyd, FL, 67 miles.

Today was a great day. Sunny, 93 degrees and no wind. Northwestern Florida continues to be a sparsely populated area, once you leave the beach resort areas, with lots of farmland.

We rode through the capital city of Tallahassee today. This town got hit very hard in the storm we were caught in a few days ago. Thousands of people lost power from the tornados, wind, and heavy rain. There are trees and power lines down all over town. This place is crawling with lineman trying to restore power and tree teams cleaning up the downed trees. Parts of the city look terrible with branches and debris everywhere. There were seven tree trimming trucks from Ohio in our hotel parking lot when we returned to the hotel from dinner. 

After riding through Tallahassee, we rode another 20 miles into the middle of farmland. Just as we were leaving town, I got another flat tire, my fourth of the journey. We stopped to fix it, Carolyn arrived with the tire pump to get the tire back up to the right pressure, and we were back on the road. Once we finished our ride we drove back to Tallahassee to our hotel.

After checking into our hotel, I walked around the neighborhood and saw lots of tree and powerline destruction. Each house has a stack or two of tree debris in their yard ready to be picked up. One car had a large tree fall on it. Glad we were not here when that storm hit.

We went to a buffet for dinner and overate. After looking at the weather forecast, we decided to ride again tomorrow and take Saturday off. The forecast for the next three days is rain and thunderstorms, the worst of which is Saturday.

Only four more riding days left to reach the Atlantic Ocean.

Day 45, May 17, Lloyd, FL, to Live Oak, FL, 65 miles.

We awoke today with rain falling. By the time we finished breakfast, the rain had stopped, and we headed out. We only felt a few raindrops all day. It was a cloudy day that didn’t get above 88 degrees. 

Today we had two interesting dog encounters. The first was a big dog. I was trailing way behind the other two when this dog started chasing them. He finally pulled away from them and turned around to look at me. I was a bit worried because he could approach me from in front and easily reach me for an attack. He just watched me ride by as he trotted back home after his chase of the other two cyclists. He looked happy.

Shortly after that a smaller dog did the same and started chasing the other two ahead of me and didn’t notice me behind him. I did an experiment and turned up my motor and peddled hard to chase him. He was barking ferociously when I came up behind him and I started barking like a big dog. This small dog dropped his tail between his legs, started yapping like he was scared and ran away from me. I wish I had a film of that one. So brave as the chaser and so scared if he is being chased.  

While I was enjoying the days ride, I decided to push the envelope and ride my legs hard. Tomorrow will be a day off so I wanted to see what I could do. 

I did well for the first two and a half hours with my motor on the lowest setting. Then I got tired and had to turn up the motor to keep up. I recorded my highest wattage output of the entire trip. I felt good at the finish, and I think my legs can easily do 100 miles a day now. I am now in good enough shape to begin this adventure. 

We did not get a chance to physically prepare for this adventure before it started. So, we had to ride our way into good shape. Now that it is nearing the end, we are in great shape. This is the same thing that happened to me when Carolyn and I walked 450 miles across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. We prepared for a year, then took a ten-day cruise just before we started our walk. I finally got in great shape and felt ready for our walk during  the last half of the trek. 

Carolyn picked us up at the stopping point for the day and we drove to the motel. Tomorrow we will rest.

Day 46, May 18, Live Oak, FL rest day

Today we set our alarm as late as we could to not miss breakfast. Then Carolyn did our laundry as we laid around all day giving our legs a break. We watched the women’s collegiate fast pitch softball championships, and I caught up on some much-needed paperwork. 

During our rest the clouds burst open, and we had a very heavy bout of wind and rain. We were very glad we weren’t riding in the downpour. 

We felt well rested by the end of the day. According to my watch my recovery would be back to normal by the time we woke up the next day. Keith would also be fully recovered but Paul’s watch said he would still need an additional 11 hours before he would be fully recovered. 

We all got a good night’s sleep, ready for our final push to the ocean.

Day 47, May 19, Live Oak, FL to High Springs, FL 65 miles.

Today we awoke to another sunny day. Last night the weather forecast predicted possible showers, but they passed earlier than predicted. Now it looks like we will avoid rain for another day. We had our big breakfast and drove to where we left off the day before our rest day.

We got off to a fine start with an 8-mph tail wind for seven miles, then we turned 90 degrees to spend the rest of the day with a mild side wind. The entire day was spent in the country on the way to High Springs, which has a population of 5,300. 

We again passed through an area with extensive tree damage. The roads had been cleared but the sides of the road had a lot of debris. I’m sure these remote country roads will be the last roads to get the debris cleared.

We started early today which led to our earliest stopping time, 2:15, which is before the motel standard check in time. Fortunately, our motel was ready for us, and we were able to check in early. The reason we started early was so I could meet with one of my coaching clients who lives a couple of hours from High Springs. We will get to know each other better over dinner. It is always fun to meet clients away from the coaching environment. 

Dinner with them was a very nice end to week seven. Only two more days of riding left until we reach our ending city, St. Augustine, FL. Then we can rest our legs while we begin the long drive home.

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1 thought on “Week 7 Bicycle Ride Across America”

  1. I have enjoyed following your travel; good idea to end your adventure in St. Augustine! It is one of our favorite places to visit. The museum is interesting with a wide range of things to see, including crystal which my wife especially likes.


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