Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Spoke Curse Strikes Again

After a great breakfast at our wonderful B&B (Avera-Clarke House in Monticello), we set out for what we expected to be a 40-ish mile loop ride up toward Quitman, Georgia. It turned out to be a 49 miler, the last hour or so being too hot for comfort. I was pretty much wrung out by the time we finished up.

Maybe eight miles or so into the ride, I decided to drop back to see if maybe Steve and Debi were having a problem holding air in their rear tire. (They had a flat on yesterday’s ride and the tire was flat again this morning.) They were lagging way back, and Kathy and I were not riding hard. Something had to be wrong. As soon as we fell in behind them, it was obvious that they had a problem with the rear wheel; it was way out of true. Steve quickly identified the problem as a bad spoke. It was not broken, however. This time it was the nipple that had cracked! In short order, he did a great job of securing the spoke and truing the wheel. In my opinion it ended up more true than many intact wheels I have seen. There were no further problems and we completed the ride without further incident.

After lunch at a little coffee place called Starducks (really), Steve repaired the wheel. Below he re-inflates the tire after the repair. The location pictured is the breakfast room of our B&B.


Dinner tonight at Three Sisters was our best in Monticello.

In our down-time I have been reading Ghost Trails by Jill Homer, available through in either paper or ebook form, about her adventure riding her bike in the Iditirod in 2008. I found this 188 page account to be very compelling and I highly recommend it. She also has a blog here on blogspot called “Up in Alaska”. You can also find Jill’s book, and the Kindle version, on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wacissa Spring Loop

Kathy was back on the bike today for a 42 mile loop south from Monticello to Wacissa Spring. This was a real nice rural route with rolling terrain and lots of five to eight percent grades. At the end of the ride, she felt pretty good. In fact, her back felt better than it did yesterday, when she did not ride at all.

A couple of days ago Steve pointed out that Kathy has a great deal of motion in her upper body and wondered if maybe that was contributing to her back troubles. It seems a bit unlikely, as that is a pretty established habit and she does not normally have back pain after riding. At best, however, it is wasted energy that we would like to put to better use, so today we made some adjustments to her position to try to minimize the extra movement. Nothing we did made much of a difference, however. We’ll try a couple of other things over the next few days, but we may well go for a professional bike fitting for her after we get home.

Wacissa Spring itself was beautiful. We spent 30 minutes or so admiring the crystal-clear water and pretty setting. There was a group of young girls swinging from a tree or jumping from a high platform into the spring. Apparently the water over there must have been pretty deep, because nobody got hurt and they seemed to be having a great time.

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We had a delicious, if not ample, lunch at Tupelo’s Cafe on our way back from our ride. Later in the afternoon we toured the two Dollar Stores in town, a bike tour tradition. The best deal, hands down, was a Steve Martin DVD that featured a photo of Steve and a dog on a tandem bicycle on its cover. The Katzmans paid 50 cents for it!

In keeping with the bargain theme of the day, we gobbled down two 18 inch pizzas for $18 at the pizza place in town. This was certainly our least expensive dinner of the trip, but it was pretty good.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Leaving Antalachicola

As expected, yesterday Kathy was in too much discomfort to ride. Instead, we (Kathy and I) spent the day at CVS, the massage therapist, and in the car traveling to and fro a bedding store in Panama City where we bought a memory foam mattress topper. When we got back, the remaining three couples (Linda and Neil having already left for home) had dinner at Up the Creek Raw Bar, which is the place at which we ate on last year’s stay in Apalach. Was just as good this time around.

Today she woke feeling much better, but still not ready to ride. Debi was ready for a day off, so Steve and I went out for a fast 27 miles on the Katzmans’ tandem. The rear compartment is pretty cramped for me, but I was able to hang in there for the short ride. With the two of us on board we clipped along at 20 to 25 mph for virtually the entire ride.

I’ve neglected to mention that, at least currently, Apalachicola is overrun with ants. Everywhere you look there are huge armies of six-legged soldiers on the move. They are inside, outside, in the bathroom, in the dresser, in the streets, in the grass, in the gardens, on the trees, and IN THE CAR!!!

Today we left Apalachicola for phase two of our trip. When we arrived in Monticello, Florida, about 120 miles northeast, we got out of the car… and Debi cried out in horror! Around every door seal of the van there were thousands upon thousands of Apalachicola ants rushing back and forth! We were in front of a supermarket, so we hustled inside and bought a can of insecticide. Steve assumed the role of Terminator and systematically drenched all visible ants and all the door seals. When we got back into the car all four of us were swatting and scratching at now-imaginary ants.



Steve makes the traditional Victory salute.

Monday, July 13, 2009

We Swerve For Gators

Sunday, July 12

Today we rode a loop from Apalachicola to Port St. Joe and back. For whatever reason we ended up riding the 53 miles at a pretty brisk pace, right up to the time that Kathy’s back went from aching to spasm. She seems to be a bit better now and claims that she’ll be able to ride in the morning. We’ll see.


Highway 98 outside of Apalachicola


Highway 30A along the coast

We were on the road shortly after 8AM as planned. We headed west on 98 then took the long way to Port St. Joe on 30A. Route 98 has nice wide shoulders but 30 has none at all. It hardly mattered because there was barely any traffic until we got close to Port St. Joe… unless you count the five foot alligator who was cutting a perpendicular path across our lane of the highway as our train approached. It was pretty funny to see him suddenly switch into reverse and start backing up into the grass. Kathy and I were at the front, but word from the rear was that our prehistoric friend was hissing at them by the time the last bike went by. Linda was careful to point out to Neil that there would be no stopping to fix any flats if they were to get one! (I wish we had gotten some photos, or even better, some video.)

The plan was to find a cafe or little local place in Port St. Joe to take a break and get something to eat. We didn’t factor in the fact that it is Sunday and Port St. Joe does not have the tourist orientation of Apalachicola. The only places that were open were McDonalds and Burger King. Now, you would have to look pretty hard to find a group of eight people who are more antagonistic toward fast food that this one, so this was not a happy turn of events. In desperation, however, we pulled into Burger King. Harris was first into the buiding, but emerged quickly, declaring that the interior literally smelled like shit and that he could not eat in that environment. The others who had gone in followed shortly thereafter, and we moved next door to a convenient convenience store, where we took a short break.

Back on the bikes, we picked up where we left off, heading back to Apalachicola at around 18 mph – a straight shot on Highway 98. Just outside of town we stopped for lunch at the Red Top Cafe, across from the Best Western where the Tour de Fred crew spent the night last year. Once inside I remembered that I had found the food to be just fair and expensive. I will say that they are consistent, as this year the food remained just fair and expensive. So far it has been the only meal we have had that was not very good or better. I should be more positive than that. The food in the restaurants in town has been remarkable in taste and creativity. Everyone has been very happy with their meals.

By the end of lunch, Kathy’s back was significantly worse. Earlier, Neil had passed on lunch and had ridden back to the house, promising to return in the car to pick up Linda. Kathy caught a ride back to the house with them and I rode back solo.

Tonight we had dinner at the pub in the Gibson Inn. We had a great waiter/screenplay writer, and wonderful food (again), this time along a primarily Japanese theme. Most of our group had sushi-style dishes of one sort or another, but I opted for a goat cheese and carmelized onion “pizza” and garlic fries. The fries were good, but the pizza, which was more like a round flatbread kind of thing, was really excellent. Many of us finished the meal with ginger ice cream, also wonderful. To top it off, it was very reasonably priced.

On the short walk back to the house, Kathy was clearly uncomfortable, so I am prepared to forgo riding in the morning if it should be necessary. Tomorrow we are planning to go back to St. George Island. We enjoyed that ride and want to share it with the Samuels.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Apalachicola: Day 1

Saturday, July 11

We arrived at around 7:30 last evening at the Raney Guest Cottage, where we are staying here in Apalachicola. It is a charming two bedroom house that we are sharing with our friends Steve and Debi Katzman. It is just a block from the downtown area where all the shops and restaurants are located, and two blocks from the river.

[Unfortunately, there is no internet here in the cottage, so my entries here will probably be posted a day late.]

We attempted to have dinner at The Seafood Grill, but all we got there was attitude in lieu of a table and food. We finally gave up and went a block away to That Place in Appalach, which was very good. I had by first taste of Sweetwater Blue beer, from a microbrewery in Atlanta, and enjoyed it very much. Then I enjoyed a second bottle very much.

(Last year Fred, Ray, Mike and I overnighted here during the Tour de Fred. We ate at Up the Creek Raw Bar, a few blocks from here. Fred and Ray enjoyed dozens of fresh-off-the- boat oysters there, but we did not explore the town to any significant degree. It still made an impression, though, so I suggested we do a few days of tandem touring here this year.)

As usual, I had trouble getting to sleep last night, so I finally took an antihistamine, which did the trick and then some. Kathy had to pull me out of bed around 7am. She had the opposite problem, falling asleep easily, but waking early. By the time I started moving around, she had already prepared coffee and oatmeal. I finally shook out the mental fog after about 20 minutes and swallowing a large cup of coffee.

We had hoped to be riding by 8, but actually rolled at around 8:30, which wasn’t too bad, considering we had to put the front sections back on the tandems, reconnect the cables, pump tires, etc. (Both tandems have S&S couplers to break down the frames for travel. By removing the front section of each bike we are able to put both tandems, plus four people and all our luggage in the back of the van. It works really well.)  

Our destination for the day was St. George Island, about 11 miles from Apalachicola. Of the 11 miles, approximately 9 are on long bridges! We had a little headwind on the way out, so we were not going very fast. The island has one main road that runs the length of the public part of the island. There is a nice bike path that runs right alongside it, except within the state park on the eastern end. We rode the path as far as we could to the west, about three miles, then doubled back and went all the way to east, and into the park. The park is all sand dunes, sea oats, and bird sactuary. A good deal of it is marked as nesting area, with signs warning people to stay out. It was really very nice. A slight overcast and the breeze, which continued to freshen, kept it quite comfortable.


View from one of the bridges between Apalachicola and St George Island.


Steve and Debi riding along the dunes in the St George State Park.

Once we turned around, the wind was behind us, so we suddenly found ourselves going 19 or 20 mph with little or no effort. In no time we were back at the main intersection with the road back across the bridges. We stopped for lunch at Harry A’s on St. George. The food was good, and there was a musician playing excellent light jazz arrangements of familiar tunes while we enjoyed our meal. There were only a few occupied tables, so we made a point of clapping. It seemed like he was playing mostly for his own enjoyment, though, and would have played just as well if there were no people there at all.


A few of the many beach houses on the Gulf side of St. George Island. Our tax dollars subsidize the insurance on these homes that are regularly destoyed by hurricanes.


St George Lighthouse


Harry A’s features a very large menu.

We were blown back into Apalachicola in no time. After getting cleaned up and resting a little bit we headed into town to do some more exploring. Actually the exploring was done primarily by Kathy and Debi. Steve and I located a shady spot, poached some wi-fi bandwidth to check our email, then sipped a couple of beers and talked for a while before wandering into a book store, where we located our women-folk. Kathy presented me with a carved wood figurine in memory of the successful Pirate Tour.


Complete with peg-leg and hand-hook

Our friends Linda and Neil Samuels and Debbi and Harris Samuels (who put us up the second night of the Tour de Seth/Pirate Tour) decided to join us for a few days of this trip and showed up this afternoon. They are staying next door at the House of Tartts. We all had dinner together tonight at Veranda’s. Another wonderful meal. Very creative menu, and our server, Rick, did a terrific job. I tried another microbrew, this one called Orange Blossom Pilsner, which was very bland. I followed up with Abita Turbodog from Louisiana, one of my favorites – a very tasty dark beer that I discovered last year on the Tour de Fred.