Monday, November 29, 2010

We Did It !!!

Whooooppeee! We made it to St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast today (Monday) around noon, and dipped our front tires in the waves. Remember that we dipped our back tires in the Pacific? (See pic.)

And now we're relaxing in a beach condo all to ourselves, as yesterday we met a couple in Gainesville who graciously offered their weekend condo as accommodations once we arrived in St. A. It's cozy and lovely and the perfect way to end this long, LONG trip.

We met this nice couple on a bike path on Sunday morning (yes, they're bicyclists, too) and later discovered it's such a small world that the man graduated in the same class at West Point as Ann's cousin. Out of 1,000 entering freshmen, these two were roommates their first year!!!

We outran the rain on this last day of biking, so the first thing we did was (yes, kind of anticlimactic) eat lunch, since we hadn't stopped to eat. Then we went to the local bike store and arranged to have our bikes shipped home in a few days. They have lots of miles left in them. You'd be surprised -- they don't look beat up at all.

Of course we have mixed feelings about the trip ending, but we've been touring for over two months, and we were ready for it to be over.

"I'm just tired of putting on a helmet every day," says Ann. Of course, the beach condo is seven miles from downtown St. A, so we'll probably be using our bikes for transportation for the next few days -- but at least not fully loaded! We want to be tourists for a few days and see the famous 1672 fortress Castillo de San Marco.

After we decompress for a few days, we'll take the train to visit Bill's family in east Tennessee. And then we'll take the train across the country, arriving home around the weekend of Dec. 11-12. It will be hard to leave the pleasant 70-degree weather to return to the chill Northwest.

Thank you to all of you who supported us through this with your thoughts, notes, prayers, and crossed fingers!


Just wanted to share the news as soon as it broke. Damn, I'm proud of my parents!! --Shelly

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bonifay, FL to Monticello, FL November 25

We are within 3-4 days from St. Augustine, FL as we take a day of rest to enjoy Thanksgiving with Warm Shower Hosts, Diane and Maria in Monticello. We called about spending last night with them and they invited us to stay for Thanksgiving dinner.  On their farm they have raised Tennessee Walking Horses and more recently Boer Goats (meat goats).  Now they have chickens (40-50) and a rescue horse, as well as numerous dogs and cats.  There is a large pond which has alligators in it so we were warned to keep our distance from the waters edge.  Interesting place.

The last few days have been nice riding except for foggy mornings which have slowed us down a bit.  The live oak trees with the Spanish moss are just beautiful in this area.  It's hard to explain how magnificent the trees are if you have never seen one of the large ones.  As many as we have seen, every now and then we will see one that dwarfs the others. 

Our last few days of biking we have put in good miles, going between 72 and 77 miles per day.  The roads have been fairly flat and smooth, with either good shoulders or little traffic.  Apparently the holiday traffic stayed on the interstates.

As we are close to the end of our trip, we have bittersweet thoughts.  In one way we are definitely ready for the trip to be over, but on the other hand, we know the incredible experiences we have had along the way will be missed.  Of course we also enjoy the warm weather (80 day, 60 night) here as we are biking in shorts and tee shirts while we see snow and cold temperatures back home.

We didn't add any photos in the last blog so here are a few from past days.  Refer back to the last blog.  Seems like Ann should take more photos so Bill will be recorded more.
 Dauphin Island ferry crossing to Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Chilly morning.  Notice the white sand behind us.
 From the ferry we saw natural gas platforms in Mobile Bay.  No sign of the oil spill in the water or on the beach.
 Nice clean, warm beaches in the Gulf Shores area.  We can understand why folks go south for the winter!
 Bridge crossing the waterway between Alabama and Florida.  Even though we felt like Florida was our final destination, we have to bicycle 500 miles across the panhandle to St. Augustine.  At this writing we are about half way through this state.
 Here we are entering our final state.  Many more miles to go but nice weather to help us out.
 One of our favorite lunch stops, in DeFuniak Springs, FL, on a lake in the center of town.
 A 12 mile Rails-to-Trails bike path in Tallahassee, our favorite way to go.  Wish there were more of these.
 Warm Showers farm where we spent Thanksgiving Day.  We did not eat these gals, but gathered their eggs for breakfast. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Franklinton, LA to Bonifay, Florida Nov 22

Since we last wrote we were in Louisiana and now we have passed through Mississippi, Alabama, and are currently in Florida.  It seems like we should almost be done since we are in FL but it is still 450 miles to go.  We are enjoying the mostly flat terrain and are able to make more miles during the day so the time to reach St. Augustine will fly by.

To recap the last week, we stayed with another wonderful Warm Showers Family in Poplarville, MS.  Steve and Tanya live with three mules, 5 goats, 25 chickens, one rooster, three dogs and one cat.  Quite the menagerie!  Another highlight was coming to Dauphin Island, Alabama.  Islands call to us:  salt water, white sand, gulf breezes, warm sunshine, and ferry boats.  After crossing a three mile bridge over Mobile Bay, we stopped at a grocery store and and met Carol, who had just arrived on the island as a "snow bird" from Wisconsin.  She promptly invited us to spend the night at her house.  She and the island were so inviting, that we decided to spend the next day exploring the local sights.  We attended a Methodist Church Pot Luck (lots of local dishes) with Carol and enjoyed the entertainment of a local dulcimer group. The next day we took the ferry across the bay and continued up the gulf coast.  We have seen lots of oil cleanup crews along the beaches but no sign of any oil.  We biked several miles along the white sand beaches of the Gulf Coast then turned inland to continue the journey.  We have camped for the past couple of nights and found the heavy dew to be a new problem, with a soaking wet tent in the mornings.  Temperatures seem to be 55-60 at night and in the 70's during the day.  Not bad for November!

Unable to add pictures on this computer so will try to accomplish this soon.    It's looks like we will be on the road during Thanksgiving.  We send our wishes to everyone for a Happy Thanksgiving and we will look for some invitation along the way.    Bill and Ann

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kountze, Tx to Franklinton, LA, Nov 15

We are taking a day off in Franklinton to wait out the rain storm that moved through the area yesterday and last night.  Not since the Appalachian Trail hike have we seen such torrential rain.  We are glad to be in a hotel where we are warm and dry.

 So much has happen since our last posting but the best news is that we MADE IT OUT OF TEXAS.  That was a big day for us as we had been traversing the state for a 1000 miles.  We celebrated Veterans Day with a parade in Mamou, LA by riding along with the horses and three fire trucks.  In Morganza, LA there were motorcycles everywhere and people milling around a plaque in the sidewalk. Turns out it was a 40 year celebration of the filming of "Easy Rider" in that town.  We were interviewed by a local reporter who took an interest in our bike ride.  The next event we were looking forward to was crossing the Mississippi River which we did two days ago.  The crossing was on a small ferry that held about 20 cars.  During the trip across we talking to a local fellow who had been junior duck hunting with his two young daughters (10 and 12 years old).  He explained it's a special hunt just for young hunters.  They both had their own 20 gage shotguns.  Hunting is a big sport in this area, especially water game, as there are bayous and ponds everywhere.  He also explained that we were lucky to experience the ferry crossing as a bridge across the river is almost completed and the ferry will be discontinued.

The terrain for the last few days has been mostly flat with large fields of rice, sugar cane, wheat, or soybeans.  This is the time for the harvest of the sugar cane which means trucks carrying large loads of chopped cane to the factories.  Along the road we are constantly dodging the pieces as they fall off the trucks, but we like the sweet smell from the load.   After crossing the Mississippi, we started encountering hills again as this area is at the end of an alluvial plain from a glacier.  They are not nearly as steep as those in the Texas Hill Country but they are definitely hills.  There are many historical homes here from the plantation past when cotton was a big crop.

We have met people along the way including a Warm Showers couple, Perry and Lep, who hosted us recently.  They took us in Baton Rouge for a visit to Whole Foods which included a meal there.  We also picked up a much needed fuel container for our cooking stove.

In two to three more days we should be in Florida which will be another milestone for us.  That will include another ferry trip to Daulpin Island and rides along the coast. 

Here are some photos from the past few days to review our journey.

 Once we crossed the Texas/Louisiana state line, there was no more Spanish.  Now we see French influence.
 Rice fields are all along our route.  They have enough water for flooding the fields and growing lovely green rice.
 Veteran's Day in Mamou, LA.  We arrived just in time to join the parade.  We came up in the rear and were told by the few spectators that they liked us the best.  The parade was made up of 3 fire trucks and about 25 horse and riders.  This was our favorite.
 Lunch on the Bayou des Glaises in Moreauville, LA.  We enjoyed watching the local HS girls doing a photo shoot while we ate.
 Cypress trees in the waters of the bayou in Simmesport, LA, as the sun is setting.
 Lots of sugar cane is grown in these parts.  We see it growing and being harvested, as well as in the trucks passing us on the roads.
 Ferry crossing the Mississippi River at St. Francisville.  They load from the side.  Notice the clouds.  They were the beginning to the rain we are currently having.
We love seeing the Live Oak Trees with the Spanish Moss hanging from the limbs.

Monday, November 8, 2010

La Grange TX to Kountze, TX Nov 8

After leaving La Grange we were on a new map with no profiles for hills so we didn't expect any climbing but guess what, we still had "rollers" as we call them, to deal with for another couple of days then the terrain has really flattened out.  Now we can almost coast up the inclines that are in front of us.  For several miles we biked along "Antique Alley" or at least it seemed like that.  Round Top, population 70, is the capital for  antiques. We have also left the beautiful rolling country with huge Live Oaks lining the roadway and traded that for Loblolly Pine forest.  We have been assured by many people that pines will be the predominate trees for many miles to come.  Along with the pines are the presence of logging trucks that barrel down the road in great numbers.  We have been fortunate that many of the roads are sparsely traveled which gives the trucks room to avoid us.  Another term that we have picked up for the area here is the "The Big Thicket."  It refers to the incredible thick undergrowth that we see along the road when there is no pine forest.  It's a great place for the wildlife and birds.  A special area has been set aside for as a National Preserve.
We have had a couple of nice encounters with people as we have been biking.  On one occasion, we were flagged down by a person waving his arms and yelling for us to stop.  Turns out he was the owner of a weekend house that a biking club uses.  There were several bikers there who had just finished their ride for the day and were getting ready to eat lunch.  We were treated to lunch, lots of snacking goodies and some good conversation.  Then we left to get 30 more miles of biking before we called it a day.  Another time, two fellows driving on a historical tour treated us to cold drinks and snacks out of their car.   And finally when we arrived in Kountze today we were looking at our map when a car pulls up and asks if he could help.  Turns out he was the police chief of the town.  He had us follow him to the police station where he invited us to tent for the night on the lawn then took us to the library where we are now.  We will pass up the tenting and check into a motel, as the nights are still chilly, too cold for us to start chilled.  These little episodes make our day. We just read our comments and were pleased to hear from those who jotted a note.  Somewhere along the way, we will do an inventory of our biking gear for those interested just in case someone out there might want to follow in our tire tracks. 
Now for some photos from the past few days.

 We have seen so many classic Methodist Churches along the way.  And here is one good example.

Texas Longhorn posing for a photo.
 Ann biking into Round Top.
 Another view of the pretty town of Round Top, with the magnificent live oaks.
 We are coming into the small town of Thicket, near the Big Thicket National Preserve.
And another photo from Round Top.  We must have felt like taking a camera break.

Biking down a lane of massive live oak trees.  Sure is different than the desert.  After we finally got used to the wide open empty spaces of the desert, we now feel boxed in by all the trees.  Hard to be satisfied!

We expect to be out of Texas in 2 days!  One thousand miles in one state is enough.  But we still have 1000 miles to go..............will keep you posted.  Bill and Ann

Friday, November 5, 2010

Austin, TX to La Grange, TX Nov 5

We finally made it out of Austin two days ago.  Visiting Ann's relatives was so much fun we could hardly leave.  When we decided to make the move, a storm moved in with wind, rain and cold which made us stay a couple more days.  Thanks to Betsy, and Seth, our lodging was taken care of.  Austin is a great place to visit and ,we surmise, to live as everyone we met there was enthusiastic about the city. 

Seth took us on a short trip outside town to a rock climbing area where he spends a lot of his free time.  The Colorado river runs through the town and is damed up in several places creating lakes which offer lots of boating opportunities.  Along the river in downtown (Lake Austin) is a very nice biking/walking path which goes on for several miles.  It is the capital of Texas which adds to its prominence and diversity.  We were glad we took the time to visit our family and had a chance to get acquainted with the city.

Leaving Austin, we  battled a terrific head wind for much of the day.  At times we were almost blown off the road when the wind switched to the side.  We camped in Bastrop State Park, which is renowned for the "Lost Pines Area."  It is an area where there is a beautiful pine forest that should not be there.  There are theories as to why the pine trees exist, but the fact that they are there draws a steady stream of visitors.  The cold spell that came through Austin earlier was still around, and the temperatures dropped into the 30's which made for a chilly time cooking and sleeping. 

We had a hard time getting started this morning due to darkness and cold.  Tomorrow the weather is suppose to warm up a bit.  We need a shower and warm room tonight so are staying in a hotel in La Grange.  Tomorrow we hope to make a few more miles through what we understand is some beautiful country.

 Rock climbing near Austin, at the Barton Creek area.
 View of Lake Austin from Betsy's home.
 Marte (Betsy's daughter), Megan (Ann's cousin), Ann & Betsy (Megan's aunt)
Cayley & Seth (Megan's kids)
Biking on the hike/bike river trail in Austin

Close-up of American Beautyberry bush in Bastrop State Park

Monday, November 1, 2010

Brackettville, TX to Austin, TX November 1

 This blog starts out with a question?  Texas has a history of being a state that has had six flags during it's existence.  Six Flags Over Texas. Can you guess what they were?

We are in the big city of Austin, Texas, after pedalling through the "Hill Country" of Central Texas.  The road takes more ups and downs than you can imagine.  Just as soon as you climb one hill you can be sure there will be a down hill and then up, up again.  Although the official bike map we are following does not go through Austin, Ann has relatives here and we decided that was a good excuse to take the alternative route into the city.  It's a beautiful city that has lots of parks, bike paths, river walks, and friendly people.  Right now the weather is around the mid 80's but with a little added humidity which we are not used to.  Ann's nephew, Seth, hosted us last night and we all enjoyed a meal out in, what else, a Mexican restaurant.  This is the home of Lance Armstrong, of Tour de France acclaim.  He has a lot of presence here with his own bike shop which has his $10,000 bike in it.  The streets are full of bicyclers mostly just out enjoying themselves, but some seem more serious as they pass us like we are standing still.
The last few days have been pretty rough because of the many hills and narrow roads with little to no shoulders.  Still,we are slowing making our way across the country with only a few days more of Texas to go.  Interesting that our maps do no show any profiles of hills after leaving Texas.  Hummm, that must mean no more hills.  We'll see.
Okay, if you haven't figured the six flags out, here is the answer.  First, the flag was under Spain, then France, then Mexico, then Republic of Texas, then the Confederacy, and finally, the United States.  Quite a history.
Here are a few photos from the past few days.

Texas Hill Country with the ups and downs.  Ann is heading down, hoping for enough speed and momentum to get up the next hill.
Cute fence decorations, all kinds of cowboy boots. 
Lots of Texas ranches along the way.
Camping on the Guadalupe River.
Bill showing you a high is for keeping the deer and other wildlife inside a ranch for the hunters.
 Lone Star of Texas represents the Republic of Texas from 1836-1839.
 Four guys we met biking along the way.  We had good times talking, sharing adventure stories, and having a meal with them.  Since they are driving a support vehicle, they go faster than we do!  Only reason,,,,
Example of starting early in the morning to beat the heat.