Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Greatest Laundry Mat Ever!

BTW - Hello to Hugh and Stacey. I just learned to read the comments. You are welcome for mentioning you. If you would like to email a picture of you two biking, I would be glad to add it to that blog. Again great to meet you.

Beginning Day 6, Panama City, 9/30/08 - Mile 412

I woke up around 8:30 even after having an extra hour to work with since I passed through my first time zone. I have just a few things to accomplish today. Get my laundry done (I am out of clean clothes), find a place in Panama City Beach to stay (just 15 miles away), and enjoy the beach.

....so I walked into this laundry with my bicycle and the lady at the counter said sternly " uh uh, you can't bring that bike in here". I laughed and hope she would change her mind. She said, "I have been here 11 years, your bike will be safe." I respected her words immediately and parked outside. When I walked back in I told her, "you know if you would have said you were here only 10 years, I would have walked out and gone somewhere else".

So the Fresh Scent Coin Laundry turned out to be a great time for me. The folks inside helped me choose the right washing maching and one nice lady even donated some dryer sheets (letting me know the ones I had weren't sufficient for the job).

I made several friends, including Pastor Tommy. His church is on my way out of town. So I may be stopping by there on Wednesday night. He gave me a contact number in case I needed a lift anywhere. Nice to meet you Rev. Hope to see you again.

Hey Pastor Tommy... look what I found. Just as you described with the flags and all...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bring it!!! 115 miles clocked today!

A forgotten coast sunrise. Houses are scarce and emply lots and land are abundant.

I started early so I set out for today to be a record distance day. And the conditions were perfect on the coast. The wind was calm and much of the highway was new blacktop so my speed was between 19 and 22 most of the way. Weeeee!!!!

My average speed for the entire trip after todays ride is 16.2 MPH. When I left I was carrying 47 pounds plus my rack. The bike is holding up great. I was very concerned about the weight when I left, but i have adjusted nicely and feel confident about the bike holding up... "knock on wood".

So the ride was smooth all the way to Port St. Joe, a small town, but large enough to have a Starbucks (which I didn't stop at). I was starving and suspecting I had another flat too. So I stopped at the first place I ran into. Hungry Howies was a hasty stop because I was starving, but it was a lucky choice. I at a scrumption meat sub and a hearty greek salad with all the fixin's. I met Chuck, one of the co-owners and a couple of high school soccer kids (Hunter and TJ? - I forget - if you ready this correct me please) who were getting some grubs before practice. Everyone was so nice and made me feel proud of my journey.

I did have a flat too. Damnit! I forgot to check before I packed everything on the bike, which is about a 10 minute ordeal. So I had to unpack everything, change the tube and repack... an extra half hour gone.

36 milles away was Panama City. It was 5:30 and I was determined to make it. And I did with about a 30 minute ride in the dark through a very unfriendly bicycle town. Panama City beats out Tampa easy on the rude to bicycling list. I was for the 1st time concerned for my safety due to someone else's malicious intent. I was heading to Gold's gym anyway, I could use the aggression for my lifting workout. After 115 miles on the bike, i was spent. The workout was just an average effort.

There was no camping in Panama City that I could find. So the Days Inn got me for $65 (which came with all you can eat sour patch kids - a compliment at the front desk) and a continental breakfast. I talked with Cati ( I miss you) and went sleep.

This is typical along the Forgotten Coast. Gorgeous empty beaches!

This scence was gorgeous in person. Below me on the bridge were two dolphins playing with each other, leaping in a unique pattern sometime apart and sometimes in sync. I was in complete awe of this moment. I tried to capture the dolphins... but I am no camera man. Sorry.

Experience morning on the Forgotten Coast

Beginning Day 5, approaching Caribelle, 9/29/08, mile 297

I was basically squatting at Holiday Campground because I arrived after their offices were closed the night before. I pitched my tent right in front of the office at site #2 where I wasn't suppose to (I didn't know it at the time) and I was leaving before their offices opened. Before I rolled my tent up a van pulled up and a man elder man went inside. For those of you who know me, I won't even go into McDonalds to use that bathroom without buying something, so I was relieved to have some closure on how and who to pay. I walked into the office and told the man when I came in last night and that I owed someone some money. He said, "no you dun't, just dun't get run over." I offered my sincere thanks and moved on.

I bought new batteries for my red light rear flasher and pedalled away in the dark over the bridge leading west.

BAM!!!! at about 24 MPH i hit a 2X4 plank I didn't see on the side of the road. Honestly, I couldn't believe I didn't wipe out. My water bottles went flying out onto the road and my heart pounded through my chest. I stopped to check the bike. It was dark so i couldn't tell for sure but everything seemed in order and I retrieved the water bottles. As i rode on a ticking noise from the front wheel clacked at each revolution. The reflector in the wheel moved slightly from the impact I think. I don't think it is a problem. Panama City is 100 miles away and there will be bike shops there I can check out and get a tune up.

Sunrise was simply beautiful. Much of this land is untouched in its natural beauty. What an awesome ride to Caribelle.

At Caribelle, I stopped at a breakfast cafe called The 2 Al's Cafe and ate my first "exploded biscuit". It is much like an omelette with the biscuit as the eggs instead. Yummy. I approve!

Bridge over the Caribelle River

Early to sleep, Early to rise...

...well, after football and some more wine, I was in no condition to travel with my 47 pound pack in the dark. So I did it anyway (or course). But I wised up after just a few miles and decided to pack it in. Cati, who is obviously wiser than me, was already looking up vicinity campgrounds in a effort to put me down for the night. Thank you sweetie. I mean it!

A couple of miles down the road was the Holiday Campground. It was packed with RV's and the surrounding sound of laughter from folks kicking back with a can of Bud light enjoying life. This campground is just before a long bridge that opens to the gulf on one side and a bay on the other. So both sunrise and sunset are scenic visions of nature with a front row seat here. Gorgeous!!!
I was thinking about my buddy Junior as I was walking to the convenience store next door before turning in for the night. All of as sudden I had a craving for a moon pie (inside joke). Lucky for me they had them and I savored every nasty crumb of that chocolate mess before falling asleep.
I woke up at 2AM ready to take off. But lulled myself back to sleep...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Oh... I wish I was a love bug

This creature, also known as the honeymoon bug and the kissey bug must be the happiest creature in the world. Although I always see them from this position and NEVER kissing. In a days bicycle ride I usually find several of these bugs using my clothing as the honeymoon suite for their lovin'. Check them out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_bug.

The Forgotten Coast - starting with Panacea

Beginning day 4, Newport Florida, 9/28/08, mile 271

After turning west onto US 98, I could feel the climate change. Today was definitely a cooler day. Mild cloud cover not quite shading the sun and a treeline that was taller, looking over me. US 19 was broad leaf and palm like shorter trees with the sun beaming on me at all times of the day. US 98 was more like a tunnel of evergreen (not quite as dense like Seattle) that would shade me in the early and later hours.

About 25 miles after Newport I reached Panacea. If you know greek mythology, Panacea is the greek goddess of healing. And a lot of healing is being done in Panacea. As I saw the coast and took a couple of pictures, I was once again assaulted with billboard after billboard. This time advertising Hook Wreck Henry's dockside cafe. With all the booze and seafood eats and NFL football, there was a whole lot of healing going on.

I ate Scallywag (picture below). I guess its Florida's version of potato skins. It had cheese and bacon melted over oysters. It was scrumptious. But then I thought... did I taste the oyster? I guess I'll stick them raw or steamed. If I was cheese and bacon, I'll order potato skins.

Hook Wreck Henry's had an outdoor tiki bar and dj that was an exceptional mix of 70's and 80's with some modern remix.... He even played a game of guess the sit com going all the way back to Dennis the Menace (my favorite of course) Nice work dude!

After a few glasses of wine, the food and music... I doubt I am getting much farther today. You will know tomorrow. Football is on... signing out.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bear Country?

My first flat. I think I fixed it. I hope.
Beginning Day 3, 185th mile, 9/27/08, Cross City Florida

I camped at the end of the Nature Coast Trail. I had several animals checking around my tent during the night. Small animals like raccoons or maybe a fox. I forgot to pee around my tent. Cati says use ammonia but I think there is ammonia in pee???

While I was packing the tent up, the forest and wildlife service came to see what I was up to. The big fella with several chins in a Ford 3500 diesel stopped and I said "good morning". He said "keep is safe" or "I'm keeping is safe", which either have very different meanings. I went to grab my camera to take his picture and he was already using that government training to make a Y turn and beat it. I still can't say if he was telling me to be safe, or if he was protecting the people of Cross City from me and my bike.

I got a later start this morning. i really didn't want to get up. It wasn't nerves or fatigue. I was just plain sticky from needing a shower and my grubby self didn't want to move. So off I ride, hoping once again to find a gym for a workout and a shower. About 15 miles into the ride I find a convenience store and an RV park. I walked into the store and asked the clerk if the RV park had shower facilities. She had thin long dark straight hair with very dark lipstick and a gloomy persona. Until she smiled real big, completely altering her Elvira image and softly said, "they sure do honey, I run the place, you just go along and take a shower if you need one." There was a brown little building behind the store with restrooms and showers. In 10 minutes I felt like a new man .

Perry, Florida was ahead about 30 miles. And it was at least near 90 degrees today. Bicycling is cooling to the feel of the body, but you can tell by exhaustion when the heat is starting to beat you. As I was nearing Perry on my last sips of water, I knew I had come close to feeling beat down by the heat.

Huddle House is kind of like a truck stop I think. Its a 24 hour diner with a convenience store and gas pumps under semi size canopies. I think that makes it a truck stop. Beginning at 6 miles to Perry the Huddle House had a bill board every 1/2 mile so that if you weren't hungry when you were arriving, you would definitely be hungry by the time you got there. Well, I was hungry anyway and stopped for another 2 hour eat, rest and recharge. I can't say much about the food here... Stick to the family mom and pop restaurants I told myself.

Perry is junction town between going north to Tallahasee or west along the coast. Its 41 miles to Newport which I thought was out of reach for the time and energy I had left for the day. NOT!!! I had planned to stop at a camp called Ecofina but swiftly passed it and pedalled on.

Problem: This part of Florida has a lot more bugs than the north and south hwy 19. Now I am travelling toward the coast and at dusk I was swimming on the bicycle through swarms of knat size flies, and diving dragonflies (I think they were dragonflies, there were huge either way). So my choices were to stop and unpack my bug spray and put on my long sleeve neon yellow jacket, which would take about 10 minutes in the dusk knowing that I would be under attack the entire time. Or I could keep moving at 18 mph, a speed at which they seem to be unable to attack me at, but I take the occasional but down the throat while breathing. I had 10 - 12 miles to go, so I picked up the speed and rushed on.

Just before Newport, I found the Newport Park Camp Ground. It was dark and I rode my blinking LED light up to the office where Ed and Vivian Brown checked me in. For $15 I get to have a second shower and one in the morning also. Sold! I stopped and clock another 85 miles for the day.

Some one told me this was bear country. There were more bears in Florida than in any other state. I haven't seen any.

The Knight Rider

... so I take the directions, which were perfectly explained, from the waitresses at Barbeque Bills and I head to Fanning about 7 miles away. Directly to the right of a weigh station as promised was the trailhead to the Nature Coast Trail. It was dark already and I had just planned to find a place to camp on the trail (assuming I actually found it). But I couldn't resist. The trail was too wide and too newly paved and too flat not to give the lights and a night ride a try.

If you have never tried it, I recommend a bike trail in the dark. Its the change to nocturnal critters and unexpected obstacles, like spider webs and the occasional pothole, that prove thrilling. Plus, it just seems like you're travelling faster in the dark. Not too long on the trail I saw two little glass eyes staring at me. It was a beautiful sleek little fox. I had never seen one before. But he had probably seen plenty of bikers. His piercing stare seemed to say "hurry up and move along, you are holding up my evening hunt" A couple of miles later another set of glass eyes. An all black cat laying in the road facing me. It wasn't an adult or a kitten, but definitely a young cat. It only stared and never moved as I passed closely by. Mean anything to the superstitious?

I pressed on nearly two hours all the way to Cross City where the trail ended. 101 miles clocked for the day!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 2... 100 Miles!!!

Today was amazing! I woke up just before sun up, packed my goods and was on the road by 8:30. I had another 8-10 miles before completing the Suncoast Trail. When I reached the end I discovered a baron parking lot and just the Interstate aside it. Oh well I thought, "I am not going back"

I had to go north on the interstate, so I walked my bike across the tall grass median and pedalled on. There was a decent shoulder so I felt fine and in 6 miles or so I was back on hwy 19 heading toward the Florida panhandle.

I rode for about 90 minutes when I decided breakfast and a recharge of the phone and computer were necessary. Or if I ran into a gym, I would get a lifting workout in 1st. In a town called Homosassa, I ran into a greek family restaurant called Olive Tree. It reminded me of Leena's on 15th NE in Shoreline. http://www.yelp.com/biz/leenas-cafe-shoreline I ordered a Greek Omelette and downed several cups of coffee before I saw the homemade blueberry pie sign. And I ate that too! Blueberries are full of antixidants you know :)

Since i was rested, I motivated myself for a long ride until dinner (or a gym still, but I wasn't hopeful). 56 miles later I was exhausted in Chiefland and stumbled across Barbeque Bill's. Bill's is the kind of place where the service is just "sooooo sweet (southern accent a must)". They fill your ice tea 7 or 8 times an hour and everyone is just happy to be there. It's packed in this eatin' house too. Here is why. I got the special for the evening. Tasty sliced pork with homeade baked beans, thick fries, a largle slice a garlic bread and a completely fresh and healthy salad bar which included desserts. $7.90. Along with the great price, I sat at the table nearly 2 hours charging up my electronics (I always ask if its ok 1st). Finally, I got directions to a bike trail (one I had no idea existed) that turned my evening into a whole new unexpected adventure. I felt like I short changed the waitress after just a 60% tip. BARBEQUE BILLS.... "YOU ROCK"
Oh, that picture from the bridge. I took the picture because the scene was pretty. But just before I snapped the photo a semi truck went by me. I didn't have much shoulder to balance with and the force of the wind following the truck nearly knocked my over. And for a moment i couldn't regain my balance. WHY, cause the bridge was bouncing, like if you were in a rising elevator and some big man started jumping up and down. I don't know much about bridges but I took the photo and sprinted off before the next truck past me.

Ups and Down the 1st day

Beginning Day 2, 85th mile, 9/26/08, Suncoast Trail, Lutz Florida

All in all the 1st biking day was great! I travelled 85 miles (although I can't say all 85 got me closer to Seattle). Leaving Tampa was hard simply because Tampa is in no way set up for bicycling. And a lot of folks seem to think nearly grazing the bicyclist is cool. This normally wouldn't bother me but with my load weighing 47 pds (plus the rack) I was nervous.

I took the Upper Tampa trail which is really nice (when you can find). But it is broken up in pieces and i missed the connections a few times. By the time I reached the Suncoast Trail, i had already booked 45 miles for the day. I think it could have been done in about 35 miles.

The suncoast trail was amazing. 41 miles of 12 foot wide and nicely paved bike paths. Periodically there were picnic benches and even some cover with water provided in 5 gallon dispensers (much like a golf course will often do every few holes). There were bird sanctuaries and lots of little critters like that banana spider that I hope I never come face to face with. I met a nice couple along the trail at one of the rest spots. I didn't get there names but I did give them information on this blog. If you two read this let me know who you were. It was a pleasure meeting you.

I camped out on the trail. Something I imagine I wasn't suppose to do. But I rode for about 45 minutes in the dark and then found a cozy spot. This pictures below I took when I woke up.

You the Man RICH!!!

From Jon's work I went to my good pal Rich's house. Althought i don't see him too often, we have travelled to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Atlantic City, Costa Rica and Belize together with other buds. I took a break at his house and we went to pick up his little rugrat Jake.
Rich gave me a hammer and his Verizon Air card. What a guy. Now I can blog anywhere with the sattelite connection. Thanks Rich, you are the MAN!!!
I left Rich's house with Jake yelling "I love you Travis" Thx Jake, I love you too.

Leaving Tampa

100 miles and some ups and downs. But mostly ups. It was a cooler day then that past few in Tampa so it was a great day to start.

I rode just a few miles to my friends Jon's work. I have stayed with Jon the past two weeks loading up on calories, playing PS3 and drinking a few cocktails, in an attempt to put some weight on before the trip. He kept telling my a couple of his co-workers were worried about me so I thought it would be cool to meet them and say goodbye to Jon. Meet my newest friends in Tampa (Patti and Michelle). Aren't the sweet to be worried about me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Time To Quit Talking... And Start Riding!!!

Day 1, Mile 0, 9/25-08 Tampa, Florida

Anticipation is a thing of the past and my anxiety woke me up early today. It is time to start riding. I am so excited to start the bicycle computer at zero miles and head north up the suncoast trail. Check that trail out at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/westcentral/trails/suncoast.htm. It is about 20 miles to the trail head and the just over 40 through the trail. From here I will head over to Hwy 19 and find a place to nest for the night. Planning on a 100 miles minimum today. I hope to share some great pictures.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My tent and my fleece sleeping bag!!! I AM READY!!!

I found the coolest camping store in Tampa. It's called "Bill Jackson". Yeah, that is right. It's just some guys name. Anyway, I'll bet the store has been around for a long long time. Meaning that store probably existed forever ago, and the highway, car dealer ships and strips club have been all built around it in more recent times.

Regardless, Bill Jackson has nestled his store through the most impressive greenbelt driveway to a complete survivor junky's dreamland. I found the perfect single man tent and a better than expected fleece sleeping bag I can not wait to use.

My care package :)

I received the most thoughtful care package from the most special person. It came in the mail to my friend Jon's house in Tampa at the perfect time. I was talking on the phone with Cati when the doorbell rang. I was startled because Jon was at work and I was at his house alone. And when I opened the door the mailman was scurrying away to avoid being detoured from the pace of his route. I looked down on the porch and in front of me was a box with my name on it. The sender was my Cati and I immediately felt the warmth and embrace of her next to me, as if she was personally looking into my eyes and handing me the package in person.

Inside were homemade cookies and Whoopers (my addiction). There were freeze dried meals and matches, a 2 gallon water bag, some bio TP and other important items I may have overlooked in my preparation. For those of you who know me, I am the kind of person who seems to be able to plan poorly while surviving famously. So I am extremely grateful to have my care package that reminds me necessities I may need for the long haul. Thank you Cati so much for the amazing gift. I love it! You are a blessing to my soul.

I wish I was with you to prepare another GPE, like the 2nd picture below.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Riding Tampa

So I found a great bike shop in Tampa called University Bicycle Center. http://ridingbicycles.com/index.cfm. I didn't spent a ton on my bicycle and with the bike and travelling gear I was out of the store for less than $2600. I only have my tent and sleeping bag to buy. I am so pumped to get started.

I have ridden about 80 miles around Tampa so far. This town is quite the scenic gem. I rode down Bayshore which is a great trail along the bay. The views across the water of the city and bridges are incredible. Across the street are gorgeous homes.

Today I am heading for about an 60 miles trek to an adventure store called "Bill Jackson Inc". I hope I can find the tent and fleece bag I need. More pictures of today's ride to follow.

Last night we went to Leroy Selman's, a barbque restaurant. I caved and finished the evening with a huge slice of chocolate cake... again. The last picture is my buds Jon and Rich from Tampa.

Time to go ride and burn those calories.