17 December, Back Home

What began as a grand adventure ended abruptly on 6 Dec with the decision to drive back to Tucson so Louise and I could be with her mom, Dorothy Goodman, who was under Hospice care and declining rapidly.  It was the best decision we could have made, as it gave us time to say goodbye and allow Louise the chance to comfort her mother and help right to her last breath.  We will dearly miss mom, who passed away on 12/12/16, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron of the Americas. The link below is to Dorothy’s obituary.  She was cremated and is with us until we can arrange a family graveside ceremony in Pagosa Springs, CO in early July next year.

http://www.evergreenmortuary-cemetery.com/obituaries/Dorothy-Goodman-4/

dorothy-rose   A friend sent this picture of a Super Dorothy Rose, which is so representative of mom.  Such a fitting remembrance.

We have no regrets about ending our ride early.  In fact, we feel as though our adventure was complete, with over 2,000 miles of riding and a touch on both coasts.  At this point we are uncertain about if, when and how we will resume the ride and complete the segment from Navasota TX to Gretna FL, but we very much want to have a slow, back country trip through that area.  There is no telling what treasures we’ve missed, so at some point we know we’ll return to explore that part of the country.

Thanks again to everyone who followed along with us.  It was great fun to be in the saddle again for 20 plus days exploring a new pathway across the country and blogging away.  I cannot overstate how much I appreciate Louise’s support during this journey; we really do have a special partnership that only gets stronger through our shared adventures.

Day 24, 6 December, East Coast Touchdown, 2000+ done, But…

We put our feet on the coast at St Augustine today, but not before a good soaking outside of the city from a last sweeping front from the storm system that has hounded us.  Our stop in St Augustine was far too brief, as it is an intriguing and historic city dating back to 1565.  Louise had visited the city years ago while in the military, but I hadn’t had a chance to explore it, so that’ll have to be for another time.  Some of the city highlights include the National Monument of Castillo de San Marcos, Flagler College (a private 4-year liberal arts college) in the middle of the downtown, an old town area, lots of historic buildings with great stories to tell, and of course lots of seafood restaurants.  Because the roads in the area were pooled with water and have a bit of sand on them, my bike quickly got pretty coated with sand, which I worried would damage the gears.  As it was, when I braked I had a terrible scratching sound as the sand between the brake pads and wheel were grinding on the metal.  With showers forecast off and on in the area we opted to move a bit north and west to accomplish our biking goals for the day and managed to complete just 47 miles, but it did put us over the 2000 mark–yay!  Eventually we took the bike to a car wash and gave it a good cleaning to prevent further damage.  The driving around to avoid the rains and then set up for the return bike run really ate up a lot of our day.  We’re in Tallahassee tonight, which is just a few miles from where we would start riding westward back to Navasota TX.

We regret that we have to call this expedition a wrap as of tonight.  It has been great fun, very challenging due to weather, and another chance for us to work together on a grand project.  Unfortunately, Louise’s mom’s condition is declining and with such uncertainty we feel it best to get to Tucson directly for Louise to spend time with her mother and help her caregiver.  Mom’s caregiver is tremendously resourceful and with the help of the Hospice folks can manage, but we still feel it will be emotionally important, for Louise, her mom, and mom’s caregiver to try to be there as soon and long as possible.

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of this fun filled dash across the southern tier, offering encouragement and good conversation.  We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog as much as we’ve enjoyed putting our daily posts together.  It really makes it feel like this is a much bigger event than just two people plodding across the country, when we have so many friends vicariously traveling along.

Here are a couple images of our day, including several shots at the start/finish in St Augustine, Lion’s Gate, Flagler College main building, a shrimp boat coming in to harbor, me getting drizzled on in St Augustine and then soaked outside the city, and lastly, several interesting cattle with the most monstrous horns.

Day 23, 5 December, Rain, Rain Go Away

Let’s just agree that today is Metaphor Monday.  When we woke this morning the ground was wet and the forecast rain was expanding further east like a fog filling the lowlands.  As we stepped out of the hotel the air was as thick and heavy as the fruitcake Louise bought in Texas.  Our fun today could have been measured with a short string on a long football field.  Actually, not quite so bad, but still not our best day.  The weather forecast was as dependable as a politicians promise, since it had changed from dry, to rainy and even worse.  It was interesting looking at a local online forecast that included a “mosquito activity index”.  Yesterday as I pointed out some of the pests that inhabit this part of the world I failed to mention two of our favorites: mosquitoes, the spreaders of lots of nasty diseases, such as West Nile Virus and Zika, and the very pesky gnats that buzzed around our faces until we got to drier areas.  The overnight forecast for our area includes rain, thundershowers, and tornadoes…yikes!

After all that, we still managed 102.4 miles today over some diverse terrain, high humidity with 82 degrees and a vexing flat on my back tire.  As I worked on the tire it turned out to be a niggling little piece of wire that likely came from a shredded steel belted tire.  With some luck and a short ride we’ll touch down on the coast in St Augustine and surpass the 2,000 mile mark.  It sorta  seems like a hollow conclusion to the trip when we have to go backwards to complete up to 1,000 miles of trail we bypassed.

We enjoyed a phone call from Louise’s mom today in which we exchanged a few words and heard that she is taking nourishment and gaining some alertness.  Her caregiver and guardian angel assures us she’s doing as well as can be expected.  Brother Ben will visit in a day or two, so we’ll gain a second perspective on her status.  In any event, we’re converging on a decision to shorten our trip and drive back through Tucson to spend a couple days  with mom and help in any way we can.

Here’s a couple shots to capture some noteworthy points of the day.  At the start of the day you can see standing water on the ground.  Within an hour of starting my ride my bike was coated in water and sand from the road.  Louise notice the presence of peanut farming at the LPF site, which began to demonstrate a more prosperous part of the state.  You have to look closely at the bridge over the Suwannee River that was made famous in the song by Hugh Laurie and composed by Steven Foster about the Swanee River.  Couldn’t get that damn tune out of my head all day.  Louise gave us a nice pose at Ichetucknee Springs Park and then a couple riding shots and some cypress trees along our route.  There’s a fun little group of voting signs we saw alongside the road and I want to comment some on that tomorrow.  Finally, I spotted two armored residents of Florida on my ride today–a live armadillo and a gopher tortoise grazing alongside the road, not far from its sandy den.  Louise was so jealous of my critter sightings.

 

 

Day 22, 4 December, Restarted in Florida

After driving 665 miles yesterday from Navasota TX to Defuniak Springs FL we were able to set up to ride away from the spreading storm system.  It was an exhausting drive, as the rains in TX were at times light, then heavy and finally around Houston they became biblical in proportion for about 2-3 hours.  It was very tense driving on I-10 and 12 in the torrential downpour, as all the vehicles were traveling at 45-55 mph with warning flashers on and wiper blades at max speed.  The ditches were full and there was standing water everywhere.  Finally the rains eased and by the time we got to the east side of Louisiana they stopped, but the forecast was for rain to extend halfway into FL today.  We understand that Galveston had received record rains, nearly three times the previous record, so we fell our choice to move east was the right decision.

Our ride today started with a lost hour, because we crossed over the east coast time zone line right before Gretna, our start point.  So, we had to work a little harder to get our ride done today, which meant I pedaled until 6 pm to complete 104.6 miles to Madison FL.  All the usual suspects were present today, with swirling winds since we’re on the storm boundary, occasional hilliness, and tight roads.  For a state whose highest point is only 388 feet, it was surprising how much up and downhill riding  there was today.  Still, I enjoyed the ride very much.  Adding to our challenges, I inadvertently left my cell phone in the truck with Louise mid morning when I shed some clothing.   It didn’t take long for us to both realize we were not in contact, so I finally found a Pilot gas station that had a public phone and called Louise and told her where to meet me.  With her uncanny navigational skills she managed to turn left instead of right and drive into Georgia while trying to get to me.  Not hard to do, as were not far from the state line, but we did lose a little time.  I did manage to pedal about two miles around the gas station parking lot while waiting.  🙂  After that, Louise headed off to an oil service station in Tallahassee to change oil in the truck, while I navigated my way through the city and out the other side.

We have a few impressions from today to share.  As we passed through Greenville today Louise spotted a life sized statue and sign indicating Ray Charles was born here and that his blindness started at 4-5 years old and he was totally blind by 7.  If you’ve not been to Florida it is essentially a very large sandbox, with beautiful beaches along the coast lines.  All that sand makes a great home for lots of ants and palmetto bugs (a genteel way of saying cockroaches).  The area we traveled in today is away from the beaches, with little sign of industry and poor agricultural conditions, leaving timber industry as the most apparent business.  While there have been small pockets of affluence, we mostly saw rather poverty stricken rural homes and declining small towns.  Notable in this part off the country is a large number of small churches in the country and towns; mostly Baptist, but including most other Christian groups as well.  This year northern FL has experienced drought conditions and we’ve seen a lack of water in the low areas.  Hope the current storm helps to ease the fire concerns.

It has been distressing here and back in rural Texas to see the amount of litter in the ditches, as well as around many homes.  Despite promotional campaigns, like “Don’t Mess With Texas” and similar exhortations in FL, the rural and urban poor just don’t seem to care.  Not surprising, as my recollection is that the drive to clean up our environment has been a luxury of middle and upper income groups, starting as far back as the 1960s when we started having Earth Day events.  An anecdotal example of what I see as a poor person’s attitude toward trash is the amount of trash strewn around homeless encampments in major cities like Portland.  Perhaps some institutional incentives rather than hallow threats of fines are needed to deal with the problem, such as paying the unemployed to do more clean up around rural roads and neglected areas in our communities.

Tomorrow we push further east to put us within range of St Augustine on Tuesday.  There is some chance of rain and thundershowers for us tomorrow, but we should be okay.  Here are a couple shots from today.  An old school house in Gretna at the start, two random buildings–graffiti’ed shed and plantation style home, the new state capitol and old capitol, Spanish moss covered tree and me on a canopied street, palmetto trees, and Ray Charles statue in Greenville.

 

 

 

Day 21, 3 December, Change in Plans

The picture below pretty well tells the story.  We have heavy rain forecast for the area through Monday and probably will have water in low laying areas for awhile afterwards.  Our options include waiting until at least Monday to get going again, leap forward beyond the rain and work backwards, or call it quits.  In checking weather conditions along our route we need to get within 3 days of St Augustine to find dry conditions again, and that’s what we’ll do.  As soon as we can travel we’ll be on our way to Gretna FL to bike to St Augustine, then turn around and work backwards from Gretna.  Good news is I’ll get a day of rest, even if it means sitting in the truck for 11 hours.

Why this approach?  We have several pressures on our schedule.  First, Louise’s mom was entered into Hospice care this week (for the third time), so we are already prepared to scrap the remainder of the trip if her condition dictates.  We’ve already decided we’re traveling back home via Tucson so we can see her for a day or two, which means added days to our return plan.  Second, we have to be back to Camas WA by 25 Dec to meet our son at the airport, who is visiting for Christmas.  At over 3000 miles from FL to WA we’ll be tight getting back in time if we delay waiting on the weather.  So, we think our plan is proactive and gives us a chance to complete the journey, even if it is a bit unorthodox. Keep Louise’s mom in your prayers.  Thanks!

rain-shot

Day 20, 2 December, Here Comes the Rain

Rain loomed in our forecast for today, but luckily we only got a short bit of light rain during the middle of the day, which didn’t deter a couple hardy souls from the wet northwest.  The route and conditions today were pretty much a repeat of recent days, with rambling hills, wind in the face and tight road conditions on some of the rural roads we traveled.  In fact, I can’t recall more than 2-3 miles of level road out of the 100.2 miles we covered.  Through much of the day we were on roads with limited or no shoulders and while most drivers were patient and polite, several did pass pretty closely and one or two gave a honk of disapproval.  Even though the route we’re traveling is identified as the standard US southern bike crossing route, there is a decided lack of signage here in Texas to indicate bikes on the road or to remind vehicle operators to share the road.  Signage is so important to help acquaint local drivers of the potential for presence of bike in the area and other areas of the country we’ve traveled are getting far more progressive with biker safety, so I hope Texas will get on the bandwagon too.

Our first segment of travel was just outside Bastrop in Bastrop/Buesher State Park.  The 15+ mile park road was absolutely hideous, as they were doing lots of maintenance in the area and numerous hills had double digit grades up and down.  There had been several major fires in the park in recent years, which reminded us of the devastating fires in Tennessee.  It was a relief to get back on some Ranch Roads with slightly better conditions.  How’s this for a sign of the conditions?  It felt like I spent half the day like the truck in this sign.

img_6386

The terrain has been subtly changing over time and today we descended below 500 feet elevation and remained in a band between 150 to 400 feet elevation.  Instead of mesquite and brush we’re now seeing pine trees, live oaks, more farm fields for hay, and generally more open ground.  There are less deer around and a lot less road kill, so that’s a noticeable change too.  Around mid day we saw the first oil rig pumping and then saw a lot more sign of oil and gas business.  Louise spotted several classic longhorn cattle, which are always a treat to see.  In the area around Round Top we came across several communities with large antique show warehouses that appear to be used more in the summer months.  It was a classic sight out of the Antique Road Show program.  One place we saw had every old gas station sign you could imagine.

Local forecast for the next two days is pouring rain, thunderstorms and generally crappy biking conditions.  Don’t know yet what that means for our riding.  Could be that we’ll take a rest day or two and go from there.  Having lived in Texas and spent lots of time in this part of the state we know that when the rain hits it comes heavy and wouldn’t be safe for biking.  We’ll be cautious.  Down to two weeks remaining, we hope, so stay tuned and keep cheering.

Here are a few images from the day.  Quite the big bull, then two more longhorns, me pedaling uphill in Bastrop State Park, an oil rig, old gas station signs, and a classic Texas bar sign that said Beerz.

Day 19, 1 December, Rolling Thru Austin

Brrrr, this morning was very chilly with 32 degrees to start, so I was dressed snugly and shed clothes through the day.  The first half of our ride was a repeat of the up and downhill riding we’ve “enjoyed” the last couple days, but as we moved to the east of Austin the hills almost disappeared…ahhh.  Because we arranged to have dinner with Louise’s brother and sister in law, we planned a short day of riding and completed 77 miles by 2:30, which was very satisfactory.  Tomorrow we’ll continue east, with about three days left in Texas, then on into Louisiana, where we should hit the next big milestone–2,000 miles.  Tomorrow we should finish the 4th of 7 maps for the southern tier when we reach Navasota TX.  Be sure to check the Ride Plan for 2016 button, as we update that daily.

All across the hill country of Texas we have noticed warning signs by all the low spots in the roads warning of possible flooding during rain storms and there are normally flood gauges with one foot increments up to five.  In many places they designed the roads to cross rivers knowing that the roads would flood during rain storms.  Seems like such a bad plan to us.  Even though there hasn’t been any rain recently I encountered one dip in the road that had five inches of water running across it, so got a bit of water splashed on my feet and legs.  Just before we hit that low spot in the road we went past a home that had a large metal armadillo in the yard.  Louise stopped and got a photo of that and later saw her first roadkill, so had to get a shot.  We haven’t seen any live armadillos, as they are nocturnal, so this will have to suffice.  Once again today we did see lots of deer and had several run across the roads in front of us.

As we approached Austin the traffic picked up, yet many roads didn’t have bike lanes and it seemed like the drivers weren’t giving me much room.  After a couple near misses we finally opted to bypass a bit of the city riding and moved to the east side of the city and resumed riding.  While riding in the city I did pass three riders with all their gear packed on their bikes and they were headed west.  They seemed pretty cheerful and I didn’t have the heart to tell them about the hills facing them west of Austin. I have such great respect for those independent riders who plan a longer journey and depend on their resourcefulness to get through the trials of the trip.  Still, I wouldn’t trade places and give up my great crew chief, who takes care of all my needs.  Had a note from a young lady from the UK who has been following our blog.  Last year she supported two friends on a ride across the US and is reliving that experience through our story.  It is so cool that we have vicarious travel companions from all across the US, Denmark, Malaysia, Italy, Portugal, UK, and Australia.

The photo opportunities were a little sparse today, but here are a couple shots.  Louise took a few shots at a vineyard and others at a olive oil orchard, but sadly the shots didn’t turn out as hoped.  Below is me bundled up at the start, then a couple shots on hilly roads, one of which has a flood gauge at the bottom, a flooded road and a couple armadillo shots.