Saturday, May 30, 2009

May 30, 2009: Palatka to New Smyrna Beach

Today’s ride consisted of two very different segments. The first was from Palatka to the coast (Flagler Beach, to be precise). We enjoyed a following wind and cruised along at 17 to 19 mph with very low effort in the cooler morning temperatures. 

The second phase, the remaining half of the 76 miles, headed south with a significant west wind and higher temperatures. Our pace was slower, and parts of the route were on US1, which was less than scenic. I would hasten to add, however, that other stretches on the John Anderson road were exceptionally pretty, and we did a few miles on A1A, right along the ocean, which is always a treat.

The ride statistics: 76.9 miles in 5 hrs and 3 minutes on the bike (15.2 mph pace). Average temperature on the road was 84 and the high temperature was 97. It didn’t really feel too hot to me, but Colorado Boy was suffering a bit.

The day was made by the reception we got at “Camp Samuels”. Harris and Debbi have a lovely home on the intracoastal waterway and provided us with spectacular accommodations, dinner, and company. At dinner we had the pleasure of not just Harris and Debbi, but also mutual friends Linda and Neil Samuels! Kathy and I have tandem-vacationed several times with both of the Samuels couples. As usual, Fred quickly fit in and we had a super-enjoyable dinner conversation that addressed, if not solved, many pressing global issues. I especially enjoyed hearing more from Neil, who tends to keep to himself a bit in the larger groups in which we normally see him.

Harris and Debbi’s 23 pound mega-feline, Nick.
Camp Samuels from the rear
Fred quickly landed a little stingray from the Samuels’ dock with his collapsible mini-fishing rod.
Fred prepares to go the Survivor route with just the line, a hook, and a bit of shrimp.

Tomorrow will be our longest day of this tour at approximately 85 miles. I am hoping to actually get some sleep tonight before our planned departure shortly after six, so good night!

Fred Retorts: A little stingray? One of these things killed Steve Irwin! That dock is over six feet long. Of course, that section of the dock is about 12 inches long … nonetheless, I was careful not to get barbed, and I released the “big” guy right after I took his picture. I was feeling the heat today after the ride. I did, however, go stand out in the sun for another hour fishing. Could not resist. As Larry McMurtry wrote: I don’t fish for fish, I fish for peace. When I’m alone on the end of a dock,  a line in the water, and it’s just me, the puffy white Florida clouds, blue skies, and diamond-reflecting water, I am in Zen-land, fishing for peace (and fish).

Friday, May 29, 2009

May 29, 2009: Gainesville to Palatka

We had a very nice day. Today’s ride was a bit over 56 miles, which we covered in about 3 hours 40 minutes, with an average speed of 15.1.

We actually got going at around 6:35 or so. It was extremely humid and semi-foggy, so within minutes our glasses were fogged up. We pedaled easily from the hotel (Days Inn on 13th Street – adequate and cheap, but certainly not “nice”) to the head of the Gainesville – Hawthorne Trail. At that point I removed my sunglasses. Even with my nearsightedness, I could see better without them. The sign in the photo below marks the start of the trail, which we followed all the way to the far end, some 15 or so miles.

The trail is almost completely canopied with old oaks and other vegetation. We saw a variety of wildlife and several other early morning riders, about half of whom were friendly enough to return our greetings.

Although we made a couple of brief photo stops like this one, we did not take a real rest stop until we got to Melrose, about 30 miles and two hours into the ride. By Florida standards, the weather was quite pleasant – warm, but not uncomfortably so.

Unfortunately, the situation at work that I had hoped was resolved, caught up with me again while we were stopped in Melrose. I had to spend some time on the phone with the customer and with Kathy during our little intermission, and again after we arrived in Palatka.

Back on the road after our break, the GPS showed that we had over 30 miles to go. It wasn’t until we were within a few miles of our destination that it finally started giving accurate “distance to destination” readings. The original calculated route was over the road, so we knew that taking the trail would result in different numbers, but I was surprised that the actual route was over five miles less than the distance on the road.

After showering and doing our daily bike-wear laundry, we walked a couple of blocks to a recommended diner (I think it was called the City Cafe), where we had a leisurely lunch. We then walked the rest of the downtown area, ending up on a dock, sharing a covered, shaded area with a fisher-couple. For once, I was the one who struck up a conversation with the locals! Like Kathy and me, they are refugees from farther south, from which they fled as it developed past the tipping point. She endorsed our choice of lodgings and told us that the buffet at our hotel “should not be missed.”


Our hotel here in Palatka, the Quality Inn Riverside, is definitely a step up from last night. As implied by the name, it is located right on the St. Johns River. The rooms are fine and we took the advice to dine at the on-site restaurant, which was really quite good.

I am pretty tired, especially after three beers tonight, so that’s it for now. 

Fred’s Thoughts: I really liked the Hawthorne Trail. Cool, shaded, misty, and far away from traffic. We’d come upon open fields, and jungles of oaks, and lakes and swamps …. everything I liked about Old Gainesville. It almost seemed we arrived in Palatka too quickly. On the Tour de Fred, every time we got to the 55 mile mark, I felt like we were goofing off if we ever stopped there (we never did). But  today, it was kind of perfect: a short day for our first day. Then three beers at dinner and soft-shelled crabs at the seafood buffet. I couldn’t go fishing because I’ve yet to buy a license. But I brought a small pocket-like fisherman rod and reel that Christa gave me, and after catching (and releasing) a baby bass on Seth’s lake, I am determined to catch saltwater fish with it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Anchors Aweigh!

At long last the Pirate Tour is under way. Kathy drove us up to Gainesville this afternoon, not a moment too soon. I had a busy morning at the office dealing with an unhappy customer, which makes me anxious and unhappy as well. Anyway, with a little luck I’ll be able to put that behind me once we are actually pedaling toward our first port of call, Palatka.

The first chapter in our cross-country adventure was the Tour de Fred, at just about this time last year. It started in Little Rock, Arkansas and finished up here, 1,200 miles later, in Gainesville -- about a half-mile south of where I am sitting right now. We therefore pick up where we left off, stopping at Palatka, New Smyrna Beach, Palm Bay, Stuart, Boca Raton, South Miami, Key Largo, Marathon Key, and finally, our destination, Key West. The trip will be around 600 miles (just shy of 1,000 kilometers for our French followers). Our days will range between 50 and 85 or so miles.

I picked up Fred at the Orlando Airport yesterday. It is great fun spending time with him again. A little background: Like many of the world’s great idea’s, it is difficult to trace exactly how this year’s Pirate theme came to be, and how pierced ears with skull and cross-bones earrings came to be a central feature, but it is so. According to plan, I dutifully presented my lobe at a local mall’s Piercing Pagoda, where a nice young woman whipped out a nail-gun (adhering to all appropriate health and safety codes) and drove home a little blue titanium stud. In preparation for this trip, I replaced the stylish little stud with the fore-mentioned silver skull and bones a couple of weeks ago.

Fred, on the other hand, waffled and procrastinated, and finally quit discussing the matter at all about a month ago, which is the requisite healing time for a new lobe-piercing. I figured he had chickened out – a whole year having passed since his manly Tour de Fred (see previous posts), and with it the resolve to face pain and suffering head-on, or in this case, lobe-on.

Imagine my suprise when he settled into the car at the airport and I see none other than Jolly Roger himself winking at me from Fred’s left year. Suddenly I remembered a passing comment about superglue and I grabbed for his ear to check for a post protruding from the rear. Aaargggh! Sure enough, no post! The poser had actually cut off the post and SUPERGLUED the earring to his ear!!! Of course he has a hair-raising tale of a visit to a tattoo parlor with the best of intentions a few weeks ago, but jeeez, SUPERGLUE! By this morning the little skull had fallen off, but by the afternoon he had it glued back in place! I suspect he will tire of this shortly. On the other hand, hardly a half-hour passes without him emitting a most pirately “Aaarghh!”

More on the morrow, mateys!

Fred Replies: Arrggggg! It takes a manly man to superglue his ear. The first time I tried it, I couldn't get my finger off the pirate or my earlobe. There is some technique involved. It was pleasant to walk the streets of Gaineville after Kathy dropped us off and something like 35 years after graduation. The gnarled oak trees hung with Spanish moss and the streets with mists of steam from a recent rain. It's exciting and slightly anxiety-provoking (weather, cars, trucks, etc.) to be on the road again by bicycle! But arrrrggggg, I'm ready for tomorrow at 6:15 AM!