*Rode from Lake City, FL to Green Springs Cove- 68 miles
*Climbed a total of 941’
*Maximum elevation – In Florida!
*Total time on the bike – 4 hours and 41 minutes
*Average speed 13.6 mph (We stayed together the entire time.)
Ok so today we got it all. Wind at our backs, no rain, plenty of places to stop for food, shoulder the entire way, minimal traffic, and until the last 10 miles almost no climbing. (I looked at the 50 mile mark and we had only climbed 150’.) We were supposed to stop at 40 miles but the conditions were so good and it was only noon that we decided to go on. We could not have asked for anything to go better. At one point we hit chip-in-seal and even that was really good. It was perfect but for one small detail – tomorrow we are done. And this done is not done for now but done for the entire goal. I spent much of last night and this morning wondering how I will feel tomorrow. Will it feel great to have ridden across the entire USA with my Dad? Or will I feel sad because what we set out to do four and a half years ago has been accomplished. It seems really strange to think this but I am leaning more and more toward sad.
Tomorrow we only have 35 miles to go so today was really our last real bicycling day. Tomorrow Jeri and Mom are going to meet us at the end so tonight is our last dinner together. I know that we will see each other next week back in Holland. I also know that we will likely do some kind of bike trip next year. But for some reason this feels like the end. At the beginning of this year I told Jeri at least a hundred times that my only bicycling goal for 2010 was to get the ride across the USA done with my Dad. It seemed so cool 9 months ago, but now I do not really want it to be done. So tonight I feel a little sad. (Now there is some meat for my shrink to deal with at our next session!)
At times this goal has felt scary. At times it has felt like a burden. At times it has been fun. At times it has been painful. Through it all, however, I have been able to have time with my Dad that I have come to realize most people do not get. About once a week I listen to the song “Cats in the Cradle”. For a couple decades now I have listened to that song from both perspectives. I hope that I always have time for my kids and I hope that I always have time for my parents. There are many times that I fail to live up to this expectation. This trip, however, is not one of them. As I have pondered the accomplishment we will finish tomorrow I know that biking across the USA will NOT be what I am most proud of. What I will remember forever is not the miles but the time I spent with my Dad. That feels really cool!
I am sure tomorrow will be fun. Tonight I am going to add up all the statistics from San Diego to St Augustine. We will be done by noon and Jeri and Mom will be waiting for us (How cool is that!) Dad and I will shower and then the four of us will go out for lunch. At lunch I am sure we will talk about all these statistics, or the climbs, or the drivers, or the landscape. Then we will split up with Jeri and I heading back home and Mom and Dad heading down for a week in Vero Beach. It will be a little sad but it won’t take long for that touch of sadness to be turned into pride. Because we did bike across the entire USA!
*Rode from Greenville, FL to Lake City, FL- 62 miles
*Climbed a total of 1,082’
*Maximum elevation – In Florida!
*Total time on the bike – 5 hours and 5 minutes
*Average speed 12.3 mph
Before today I did not realize that a box of laundry soap and a pack of Ramen Noodles had as much in common as they do. As I have written in a previous journal I am pretty good at scavenging laundry soap. This continued at the Frog Infested hotel last two nights ago. While I had to actually buy a box of soap, I only used half the box. I then went to the front desk, got three pieces of tape, and taped the box shut. To top this all off I used the empty drink mix zip lock bag to put the half full soap box into my traveling case. See I knew we would need to do laundry again at least one more time. Last night I did not have to use any soap because Dad talked the owner of the B&B we were staying in into doing our laundry for us. (The apple does not fall far from the tree.)
So what does all this have to do with a pack of Ramen Noodles. I do all this stuff because I am cheap or frugal or Dutch or because I like the challenge. But I have been so blessed and I do not have to do this. I absolutely do not like to waste anything, but I do not think twice about picking up at the store whatever I think Jeri and I will use. Today the funny part of dumpster diving for laundry soap kind of slipped away when a man gave me a pack of Ramen Noodles at a gas station we had stopped at.
I had been riding ahead in the rain and got to a little gas station with a pretty good overhang. After a few minutes Dad caught up and we both stood there a few minutes taking a break. Neither of us needed food or water so other than using the bathroom we stayed outside. As Dad was pulling in a couple drove in and the guy got out and walked inside. On the way in he grumbled about the rain and that it looked like it was finally going to let up. The lady driving the car yelled out the window that it was tough to drive in the rain because their windshield wipers did not work. I did not think much of it and went on checking my e-mail or something. As we were getting ready to leave the man came out of the store and got in his car. Then he got back out and handed Dad and I each a packed of Ramen Noodles. Told us that he did not want us to go hungry. I thanked him for the Noodles and watched them drive away.
He did not want US to go hungry! We are riding bicycles that cost thousands of dollars. We stay in hotels that are $100 a night. We do our laundry every night! He did not have a car that had windshield wipers that worked. He gave me a pack of noodles. I checked my e-mail as he walked by. Don’t need my shrink to know that my priorities in that particular moment were screwed up.
We had a good day bicycling today. Had to make the decision at lunch to stop for the day or go on. It was only noon so we decided to go another 30 miles. Ended up at a great Holiday Inn with a Ruby Tuesday right next door. As I unpacked I took the pack of Ramen Noodles out of my handle bar bag and put it into my trailer. Absolutely no chance that that pack of Noodles will ever see the waste basket. When I used the other half of that box of soap I thought about the difference between wanting to be frugal and needing to. There is such a huge difference that I had a hard time even using the half a box that I had. Hopefully tomorrow my priorities will be in the right place at the right time.
*Rode from Quincy, FL to Greenville, FL- 69 miles
*Climbed a total of 2,411’
*Maximum elevation – In Florida!
*Total time on the bike – 5 hours and 43 minutes
*Average speed 12 mph
Well I got what I asked for – wind at our back, sunny, not much traffic. Obviously in this case I needed to give a little more detail when making my request. The traffic through Tallahassee was great as long as we rode on the sidewalks, which we did at 5 miles per hour. The wind was at our back but it was at like .5mph. It was sunny all day – very hot – 90+. And I forgot to ask for flat terrain – can you believe that we climbed almost 2,500’ in Florida? And the last thing I did not ask for but it seemed really obvious was no frogs. Ok, so I can understand that I should have been more specific on everything else, but asking to be spared from the plague of frogs just never crossed my mind.
Now for those who did not experience this plague there were no frogs killed. This was not due to lack of effort. I tried, but the little bastards were just too fast. I also did not run over any with my bike. Again I would have if I had seen any while riding. The plague actually hit last night around 10pm. I should have known to watch out because we heard a few of the frog scouts around 5pm while eating dinner (delivered Chinese food to the hotel lobby). They sounded like ducks. What frog sounds like a duck? A tree frog – slimy little green things that must be the inspiration of Kermit. (I used to like him as a kid. No more!)
Lights were out by 9:30pm and I was ready for a great night’s sleep. I had my industrial strength ear plugs in from Tractor Supply and I could hardly keep my eyes open. Then I heard “Quack, Quack, Quack, Quack, Quack”. It sounded like it was right next to my head! It was not but it was very close. (After taking out my ear plugs it sounded like it was coming from the air conditioner.) Mind over matter right? So I put my ear plugs back in and forced myself to relax. If the sound was always there, I think I could have done it. But no, the frog would quack for 3-4 minutes and go quiet for 5-7 minutes. Then he would quack for 5-7 minutes and then rest for 3-4 minutes.
At 11:30pm I gave up and got up. Took my Kindle and reading glasses out to the lobby in hopes to read a little. But first I was going to get rid of the frog. When I walked outside the sound was almost defining. The quacking was coming from every direction. There must have been hundreds or thousands of the little green bastards. Well, all I need to get rid of was one. Walked over to our room window (we were on the first floor) but there was not a sound – and no frog. I walked over to the next room and nothing there either. I stood there for 10 minutes – nothing. Went back and sat in the lobby which was only 15’ from our room. As I opened my book I heard a very distinct quack from the direction of our window. I peeked out the door and there he was. Sitting on the sidewalk just outside our room quacking away. I grabbed a breakfast tray (I planned to swat not squish.) and walked outside. I got the tray to within 5” of my frog when he jumped on the Air conditioner cover and crawled in! As soon as he was in he started quacking again and he had a partner. There were two inside our AC! What the hell!
Defeated, I went back inside and tried to read. At 12:30am I noticed that there was silence. When I opened the door everything was quiet. Not one quack. Where did they all go? I stood by our AC and even tapped on it – nothing. As I finally went to bed I decided that the Pharaoh from the Old Testament was one tough SOB. I would have definitely freed the Israelites after the Frog Plague.
*Rode from Bonifay, FL to Quincy, FL- 78 miles
*Climbed a total of 1,510’
*Maximum elevation – In Florida!
*Total time on the bike – 5 hours and 40 minutes
*Average speed 13.7 mph
Another day of bicycling and another day of rain. Some of the restaurant servers we talked to have told us that it has not rained here in 5 weeks. It only seems to rain where we are. Looking ahead it is sunny and looking behind it is sunny. Over head just a dark cloud with a little water. Oh well, if it is a little rain but nice shoulders and the wind at our back I will take it. (I am a little greedy though and would like it all. It would be nice to be dry, have a nice shoulder, and the wind at our back. Oh ya, and no traffic.) With all the rain I have had a tough time keeping my hair out of my eyes. This has never been a problem before because my hair was never much more than half an inch long. Since I have not had my hair cut since December of 2009 it is now covers my eyes when not pulled back. Why!?!? This is the common question from everyone I see. The idea started a year ago when it looked like Beau was going to get sucked back into the Army and ship off to Iraq. I thought I could let my hair grow and send him pictures to give us something fun to talk about. At the same time the lady who has cut my hair for a decade got too hard to schedule. While Beau’s tour was fortunately only 3 weeks in South Carolina, I had already started my hair cut boycott. So now what? I am going to keep going until it is long enough to put in a pony tail. Next week I am going to find a professional to help me deal with the in-between but my guess is it will take another year. I am sure people (including my kids) think I am slipping off the deep end. I try to assure everyone that I am not going through a mid-life crisis. I have a great wife, and great kids, and am healthy, and I love my job. I really do not think I am in crisis mode. 4 or 5 years ago I got braces. 2 or 3 years ago I grew a goatee. Now I am working on a pony tail. Don’t worry I am not going to do a face lift next. (I don’t think. Hahaha) One more comment – If this is a mid-life crisis then it is a lot cheaper and a lot safer than a motorcycle! (Maybe that will be 2-3 years from now. Hahaha) No one will ever know what Jeff will do next. You can count on me, however, to be on my bicycle tomorrow morning at sun rise riding toward St. Augustine, FL with my long hair blowing in my eyes.
Although it is Sunday I just did not feel like worshiping today. Sometimes I get up and just want to skip. It is not that I do not want to be around God or that I am mad or that I feel rebellious. I just don’t want to go and I do not want to participate. If I could just sit and listen, then maybe. But that is not likely so sometimes I just skip. (More work for my shrink!) Today was one of those Sundays. Being on a bike tour made it even easier. At about 10am, however, God decided that I needed to worship. Maybe it was the guilty feeling so I just went with it. The worship started really weird. It was very bright and pretty quiet. But as the service progressed it kept getting darker and darker. The darker it got the better the worship music. About half way through the music got really good and despite my earlier reluctance I started to participate and even danced a little. At the ¾ mark in the service the message was thrown in. Really short – If Jesus is your copilot then switch seats. That was it and then it was back to the worship music. By the end I was soaking wet and fired up to face the rest of the day. Fortunately I was able to track the worship songs. Here they are: Two steps Behind, Tough, Lonely is the Night, What a way to Want to Be, TNT, Indescribable, Whatever, Nothing left to Lose, Talk to you Later, You’ve got a Friend, Heat of the Moment, Have yourself a Merry little Christmas. (Now can you see why the worship today was so great? By the way my dancing started with TNT. Ok so worship is supposed to be with other people and I was all alone. The bright and quiet was the sun shining brightly and no traffic. The darkness was the rain clouds rolling in and dumping for this entire 3 hours. The message was picked up off Facebook at a gas station. The only post that showed up when I went to log on. The dancing was me getting my RPM’s over 95. And if you are wondering about TNT it is a classic performed by that age old Christian rock band ACDC. Yes God works through everything. It was a great day. We had a couple chances to stop early but pushed on for the 86 miles. Found a little hotel with a seafood restaurant right across the street. (Dad did the laundry and bought soap. Boy is he slipping from his roots!) We are tired but feel good that we are still 25 miles ahead of schedule. Geterdone!