Welcome to my Trek Across America…
As a part of my 20th Anniversary as Pastor of Duncanville’s First Baptist the church offered me a gift making this long-time adventure dream of cycling across the country a reality. 20 extra days of vacation (4 weeks) was offered to go along with my regular vacation time which made “the ride” a possibility. Now, with over a year of daily planning, research and training, the “Trek” begins.
Beginning May 6 and ending on June 20, I will attempt this 46-day, 3021-mile, 8-state adventure. I’ll get to see, hear, and smell our good ol’ America from coast to coast. I’ll be following a well-established route call “the Southern Tier” of back roads and byways from San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL. I am so excited to experience nature and landscapes of all types. I’ll experience people and foods from a wide variety of cultures and do it all at a blazing 12 MPH. I am so looking forward to the solitude of the ride, a clearing and refreshing of the mind, and even the physical challenges.
Enjoy these regular updates and pictures. You can follow this same information by joining the Facebook group – Keith’s Trek Across America.
Day #1 is in the books. 53 miles from the Pacific Ocean to Pine Valley, CA
Not the picture perfect Southern California day, but a rainy, windy, cool to cold one.
61 degrees this morning and 48 at the final arrival. Pretty much wet and miserable conditions all day, but to quote Gomer Pyle, "...havin' the time of my life!"
Tough climbing today from sea level to 4000', from busy San Diego to beautiful mountains. A great first day!
Lesson of the Day: Everything may look flat on a map... but it ain't necessarily so.
A physically and mentally challenging day today... Cold! Cold! 39 degrees, windy and raining. The first 3 miles out of town were straight up it seemed, made even tougher by the snow flakes. It was a really hard morning of climbing. Soaked to the bone and very cold. It took a whole one hour lunch to stop shivering. I did dry out in the afternoon with the wind...directly in my face. A tough head and cross winds that almost could stop you in your tracks or blow you over, but it changed directions after descending about 2000' coming out of the mountains. Coming down the mountain was a thrill and high anxiety all in the same experience. 7 miles of steep descent and rode my brake the whole time - still going 30-35 mph with gusty cross winds that kept me praying and grinnin'. Then the new low point of the trip... not mentally or physically, but a real low point of the trip,100' below sea level. The Imperial Valley gave me favorable tail winds and push me to tonight's home in El Centro, CA.
Beautiful rocky mountains and then desert, lots of Border Patrol vehicles (2 stopped to check Vicki out while she waited roadside for me), an incredible view into Mexico and the border fence. One other special moment, the silence and solitude of a beautiful ride came to me this morning... perfect silence, with one sound... sleet hitting my jacket... oh well, there will be other ops in the miles ahead. A century ride tomorrow, 106 miles, but at least no major mountains... whew!
I'm doing just fine physically and in every way. Vicki has been a great support. Tomorrow will be her last full day with me. Thanks for praying!
What a difference a day can make. Yesterday the 30s, today the 80s. Yesterday the mountains and rain, today the desert and sun.
A good long day of riding today, 10 hours in the saddle, much of it with a direct head wind. But we won and feel really good still.
Tonight we are in Blythe, CA and on the state line of Arizona. Vicki got me across the whole state of California and not only was she such a help and encourager, but was just fun to be with on my adventure.
I couldn't believe the desert sand dunes we saw today. I didn't know we had this in the U.S. (this is the place of the Star Wars movie filming for the planet of Tatoonine) Also saw owls and a coyote today. We also rode through the Chocolate Mountains. They really did look like chocolate.
I've felt completely safe thus far on the trip until Vicki showed me a sign in our desert crossing that said "Bombing Area". I pedalled really fast during that section.
Woke up to a couple of downers this morning. Vicki leaving and rain again... so had to make a conscious choice about the day. I decided not to let weather rob me of even a single day of this great trip. So off I went. Believe it or not, I really enjoyed my rain ride. The clouds covering the mountain tops... beautiful. Plus... no sunburn.
Crossed the Colorado River and entered Arizona. A long wet uphill pull on I-10 was a bit tense with speeding semi truck, throwing their spray on me but finally got off on a beautiful desert highway and the rain subsided. A shorter mileage day of only 66 miles so an early arrival for bit of extra rest. How do i feel? Like James Brown! "I feel good!"
An early start with the Arizona sunrise, not necessarily by choice or desire (last night hotel - my only choice in Salome, AZ was quite the adventure) but turned out to be a great blessing. Starting with a 20 mile, straight as an arrow, beautiful highway of farms and wilderness through a valley between two mountain ranges, the Harcuvar and Harquahala Mountains. Super quiet, little traffic and just an overdose of God's presence everywhere.
I knew I was in the middle of nowhere when there was a yellow road warning sign that said, "Watch for Animals"... "next 80 miles"!
The valley flats turned to picturesque Saguaro cover deserts all the way into northwest Phoenix.
89 miles was a long day, but the early start also got me to my hotel early for an extended rest and relax at my hotel (clothes washing night in the sink - it doesn't take long to go through my 3 "outfits").
My bike is doing great. 5 days, 392 miles and NO FLATS! It is a bit harder now carrying everything on the bike. With my support vehicle I didn't have to carry it all... only a few emergency fix it things. When I'm on my own... I carry it all. With me it's 4 attached bags. The bike weighs 19 pounds. My bags and stuff... 25 pounds (front Handlebar Bag has iPad, phone, wallet, toiletries and miscellaneous cords and glasses, Under Top-Bar Bag has emergency repairs stuff, extra tire and tubes and tools, Top Bar bag is a tiny first aid kid and the Rear Bag is clothes, I strap my tennis shoes on top of it with a bungee cord, an air pump is attached to the frame and a bike mini-computer is attached to the handle bar) All that plus a couple of water bottles... put me at 45 pounds. It's a bit harder pedal with each pound. Weight is a big deal in cycling... whether it's the bike, the bags or what's on the seat. All the more happy about dropping 30 pounds in my training over the last year!
A different kind of day for Day#6 - yesterday one highway, 90 miles, all day. Today my most complicated "cue sheet" of the trip (A cue sheet is my daily turn by turn, mile by mile instructions, with reminders, notes and facts) The Greater Phoenix (6th larges city in the nation) crossing was 60 miles from Surprise to Apache Junction, so... lots of turns, back roads, with a 9 mile Arizona Canal Bike Path through the middle of town, some busy streets and some quiet neighborhoods. All that said... it's was a traffic antennas up and head on a swivel kind of day .
Son Chris flew into Phoenix this afternoon to pick up the suburban left there by Vicki. He will serve as my support for the next three day. A huge help and sweet times for this father.
Saw some cool things today... Arizona State University (got caught in some of it's graduation traffic), the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A's Spring Training Camps and lots of grapefruit and orange trees.
Let me go ahead and confess it - I was a bit of an Arizona outlaw today. I snuck into the Sun Devil Stadium and was kindly asked to leave and i stole an orange off a tree and ate it during my get-a-way... Well, not I feel a little better.
3 things that made me smile within the last 3 miles to my final destination for the day.
1. A street name that made me smile
2. A Dairy Queen sign that I just can't figure out.
3. A bow I saw in the road. Not funny in and of itself, unless you know I saw it in "Apache" Junction.
Another really good day. Some significant climbs tomorrow. Glad to have some support.
Today was a very challenging day of climbing and heat. Middle of the day (temps right at 90) there was an 11-mile up hill pull going from 2800' to 4800', but we made it. During the climb we did have a tricky tunnel experience (that I knew was coming from my pre-trip research) It was a 1/4 mile, narrow, 7% grade and today with a headwind. Chris pulled in behind me with flasher going - grateful for him. Even with a good rest before, I was totally winded after my slow motion "sprint", but we made it... without too much honking.
With a full week of riding completed, My confidence is growing. Having overcome some early bad weather situations, some significant accumulating mileage, several hard and high mountains and now heat. The confidence is really not in myself because I've felt nothing but small from the beginning, but I'm seeing more and more how big and great my God is. I feel very confident that "He is my shield, my glory and the lifter of my head" (Psalm 3:3) I came across a verse three weeks ago and of course made me think of my cycling trip. It's truth is so good. Psalm 147:10-11 says something like this... "God does not take delight or pleasure in the legs of a man... He takes pleasure in those who fear Him and have hope in Him."
Chris was a great encourager and helper today and we enjoyed an in the room pizza while watching an NBA playoff game. It was another great day.
Today's 82 miler from Globe to Saffard AZ was probably my easiest day so far. (can't believe I just used 82 mile and easy in the same sentence) It was long and hot (96 degrees) but the elevation profile for the day was relatively flat, a few good hills but also a few good coasts. The ride today was through what is called "high desert". 50 miles today was through an Apache Reservation, said to be one of the poorest in the nation.
A head wind came up this afternoon for the last 30 miles, but a famous cyclist ice cream shop "Taylor Freeze" (that was 10 miles from the finish line) kept me pressing on. It was worth the work. Ahhhhh.... Lot of cross country cyclist pics on the walls of this old school 50's style place.
589 miles done. 2432 to go. Tomorrow we exit Arizona and enter state #3 -New Mexico.
What a great start to this day, a cool morning, beautiful scenery, great road surfaces and hardly any traffic. Even an America the Beautiful moment of "purple mountain majesty" and "amber waves of grain" (see the picture below) The picture perfect ride morning set up for a couple of hours of prayer, praise, reflection and thinking about the days to come. It was a sweet time with the Lord. However... the day turned after lunch to 37 miles of brutal, brutal head and cross winds that must have been up to 25 mph and never let up. It, simply said, was just work and not a lot of fun. Very happy to roll into, believe it or not... Lordsburg! We entered New Mexico this afternoon. 2 states done, 6 to go.
Of course, the moms of my life have been on my mind today... My Mom, Momma B, Vicki, Katie and Cara Jane. They really are the best. What they have done in the past, today and will continue to go in the future is very special. They really do glorify the Lord in their rolls as moms.
Chris leaves me in the morning headed for El Paso (where he will leave the suburban at the airport for my other son Daniel to pick up Friday) to fly to Oklahoma City and then driving on to Longview to connect with his wife, Bo and Ellie. They will return to Norman next Sunday for their last day at that church, then on to Huntsville, AL. The Lord has provide a home there... all it needs is them. Special thanks to Cara Jane and kids for sharing Chris/Daddy with me during these days.
Tomorrow I am heading up... to 6200', then a day of rest.
Day 10 was a shorter mileage day (46 miles) but lots of climbing. To get to Silver City NM I had to climb to the 6355' (the Continental Divide), but the wind was helpful all day - unlike yesterday. The town sits at about 6000'.
A cooler day and thinner air had me in a jacket all day. I could tell the difference in the altitude and breathing. At times during the tougher climbs my breath was labored. As the boys from "down-under" might say... I was "puffed"
I saw some prong-horned deer today, roadrunners and something I've never seen before... a toilet-lined driveway. I'm seeing lots of cool stuff.
Rest Day tomorrow.
Day 11 - Rest Day - Silver City NM
There is an Ancient Greek saying, "You will break the bow if you keep it always bent." True... especially if the bow is on the verge of turning 60. I much rather think of today's rest day as what Robert Ludlem (one of my favorite writers, author of all the "Jason Bourne" books and movies) say in most of his secret agent and spy dudes situations... "Rest is a weapon". Yeah, now that better.
Today is a day of rest, reading and relaxing. And I need it. The body is a bit sore and pooped. So I'll enjoy the break from the bike and will also be excited to set out again in the morning for the next stages.
I hear my friend Denise W. has a few questions. Makes me smile to thing that a few folks are following and trying (very politely) to figure out the why and how of this crazy adventure of mine. By the way... Son Chris made me smile with this comment... "I don't want to ride across American, but i would like to be able to say that I rode across America."
Tires question - I bought some really good heavy duty tires for the trip. Standard tire on a bike are good for 2000-3000 miles. My trip is on the high side of that. These tire have an extra layer of protection (making them a little heavier) and I wanted that and I also got "thorn resistant tubes (a little heavier) but again the headache of flats is a reality of cross country riding. I've read of flats numbering from half a dozen to dozens. So far... (at the 1/4 mark) I've had none. I contribute that to really keeping my air pressure right (a mushy tire is more comfortable but also is easier penetrated by rocks, glass, wire, etc) and watching the road very closely. You can miss a lot of glass and junk just by paying attention. I do have with me an extra tire and 2 extra tubes and patching equipment. I hope I don't have to use them, but probably will at some point.
Water and eating question - I have 2 water bottles and sometime carry a third Gatorade. I try to drink a bottle every riding hour/hour and a half. Sometimes there are convenience stores/gas stations that i can stop and have a cold drink, usually enjoyed sitting on the curb with my bike. Some remote routes I have to be very strategic about drinking - my support helpers have been with me during the most desolate sections. I also try to eat a little something every hour or so too. I carry several power gel, bar, chewable with me.
FitBit calories burned (not sure it's totally accurate on a bike but in the ballpark) are usually between 4500 and 6500 calories burned a day. I read for my body size an estimated 40 calories per bike mile. I'm also eating like a horse. Starving at the end of the day. On shorter mileage days I'm not sure I'm even burning off my ice cream intake.
Depending on the day, but usually start 7:00-7:30 and arrive early afternoon. Can't arrive to early or the hotel may not let me check in. Arrival ritual has varied from a flop on the bed, to a first thing shower or (when available) a hot tub. Every day is similar but no two alike.
There is a tendency for me to fall into a "destination" driven goal or "just getting there" mentality, but I don't want that. I want to do less "measuring" and more "treasuring".
With high school and college graduations happening during this time of the year, I'm happy to announce that with the completion of this trip, I will be getting a degree from "Two Lane" University.
Today has been circled on the trip calendar for a long time. Emory Pass (8229') is the highest point of the Southern Tier route. Starting at altitude in Silver City and having some major ups and downs (over 4100' of vertical climbing) could I "pull it" off? The mountains were a big unknown going into this effort. Bottom line or maybe, top line... I made it. I big victory for me. Still with optimistic skepticism, I'm beginning to think this thing might just happen... but a long way to go.
In my "granny gear" (lowest/easiest to pedal) most of the day, there was much to see. I rode past the Santa Rita Copper Mine (the 5th largest mine in the world), several mule deer, some drastically changing landscape from all the desert days to pine trees and streams and no stores.
10 miles from the start this morning I was to get some lunch and supper food (this B&B where I'm staying and the only overnight option is in Kingston NM, population of 30, no stores or anything- and they don't serve supper). So I go to bed tonight empty in the stomach but full in the heart.
With my fascination with Mt. Everest and all my climbing today... the 23rd Psalm got changed... "The Lord is my Sherpa..."
The day after tomorrow I enter Texas... Yee-haw!!!!!
Turns out that morning's ride would be hard to beat. After a great breakfast, 33 miles of gradual descent, cruising though scenic country, beautiful sunshine, good highway, minimal traffic and a gentle pushing wind. I really felt like I coasted for 2 hours. A coffee stop at the Array Cafe turned into breakfast number two, with a hasty departure to get to lunch in Hatch, NM. Hatch is the "Chilis Capitol" of the... a guess, the world. After incredible chili rellenos at the "Pepper Pot Restaurant", I was good for the last 38 miles into Los Cruces.
Crossed the Rio Grande River several times today and rode through miles and miles of pecan orchards in various stages of growth. (I read last night that NM grows 67 million pounds of pecans a year - chew on that) I had no idea. Favorite wildlife moment today was a momma quail and about 10 babies that ran across the road in front of me today... so cool.
Another day of no flats. All the body parts are in good shape. Spirit is good and I don't go to bed without supper... YEA!!!!!
A sun rise start from beautiful Los Cruces, and Daniel's arrival for support, gave me the opportunity to pump out some extra miles today. A flat stage, with some more friendly wind, allowed me to cover a lot of ground today. Today was scheduled for 82 miles, but an early arrival at the intended destination, some more gas in my tank and the support Suburban, I decided to put in an extra 18 miles. (Then Daniel and I loaded the bike and back to the hotel. In the morning we will drive to my stopping point and start from there)This will really help tomorrow's stage that was to be a demanding 98 miles, but it just magically became 80. That will help a bunch.
This morning I found myself again going through miles of pecan orchards. Then into El Paso, seeing UTEP, downtown, the Mexico Line fence and then Daniel's smiling face at the end. His arrival and the Gatorade and water he delivered - got me through to the end. 'Another really good day!
Entering Texas today brought a new level of comfort and familiarity. Ahhhh..... Texas is 1/3 of the trip... for me... 17 days worth.
As I feel my legs getting firmer, I can also feel my heart getting softer. More on that later.
The "trek" to Van Horn was a tough ride today but incredible none the less. The morning was spent on some incredible, remote and beautiful desert roads that took us within 1/4 of a mile to Mexico. These two full weeks of riding now have certainly heighten all of my senses. Today I could smell the dirt and farms clearer, the color of the weed flower growing through the asphalt was brighter. The outline of the mountain against the sky moved me. The wonder of a dirt devil in a field or the miracle of a birds flight fascinated me. I wanted to stop and take a picture of everything. (this trip may take longer than I planned) John 1:3 says that all was made by Him. Well done Lord. With all I've seen in these last weeks, I've been reminded that He is to be applauded... and often. He deserves it. I can clearly feel my heart changing gears and I like it.
The remote roads later became hectic interstate (I-10) and frontage road mile. So... traffic loud but still beautiful. One 10 miles stretch was exceedingly hard today. The grade and headwind almost got the best of me. If Paul Sherwin, Tour de France commentator, would have seen me, he would have said I was in "a spot of bother".
Today I passed the 1000 mile mark (1021) leaving exactly 2000 miles to go. How do you eat and elephant...one mile at a time... sort of. Tomorrow the beautiful Davis Mountains, sometime call the Swiss Alp of Texas.
A pre-dawn start, followed by 11 hours in the saddle, finally brought us to the Indian Lodge of Fort Davis State Park. This stage of the Southern Tier (the established route of Adventure Cycling Association) is said to be one of the most difficult of the entire Trans-Am. I'm glad it's over.
The morning started with 20 miles of I-10 frontage road, then 17 miles on I-10 itself. These less than pleasant miles are the last Interstate riding miles of the trip. Yea! In California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas there were a few section of Interstate that are open to bike traffic. Bikes can only use them when there is no roads available. Riding on the shoulder of I-10 with 80mph semi-truck traffic is a bit un-nerving... glad I'm done with it.
From the loud and busy interstate to the quiet and sparse Hwy. 118 was a nice change... until I had to start riding on it! These next 48 miles into and through the Davis Mountains were amazingly beautiful, quite steep and very remote. On this highway is the UT McDonald's Observatory. It's location here is because it is one of the darkest places in the continental United States. (Stargazing was a bust with cloudy skies... plus I was with Daniel... Rats!) On this tough ride we did come across some wildlife... deer, pronghorn, jack rabbits, skunk and lots and lots of birds. We also came across more than 30 mountain goat... unbelievable cool.
Beauty everywhere... I continue to ride with grateful amazement.
Fort Davis to Marathon was a shorter mileage day today of only 59 miles. It started with another beautiful sunrise (seen from our hotel room door). Off with a 5 mile downhill coast that landed Daniel and me at a great breakfast cafe in Fort Davis, then off to Alpine. This was a sweet ride of 24 miles of beautiful open vistas of mountains and valleys, good road surfaces, and hardly any traffic.
9 miles past Alpine, Daniel and the Suburban had to depart for home, leaving me solo again and totally self contained. Daniel was such a good help for me and even better encourager. He is the finest of all son-in-laws... proven again this weekend by selflessly caring for me. Thanks, Daniel.
The last 20 miles were short, sweet, simple, and uneventful, except for one horrific moment. I'm riding along and notice a 6-ft snake slivering along beside me in the edge of the grass and asphalt. Scared me to death! 100 feet or so later I decided to be a brave boy and U-turn to try to find him in the grass and get a picture to prove it and identify it later. So, from far away on the other side of the highway (no cars anywhere) I begin to scan the grass for my distant photo. He's nowhere to be found, until I look up and find him about 3 feet away! He had decided to cross the highway and I almost ran over his middle. Yes, I screamed like a... well you know. I was able to dodge the nasty thing, and made my second U-turn, and hastily got myself on to Marathon, TX. No more snake pictures!
I'm staying at a really cool, old, historic place tonight - The Gage Hotel. It even has the internet and everything. I took a 45 minute shower... 5 for shower, 40 for clothes washing. Such is life on the road. My room looks like Vicki's laundry room on a Monday morning.
Psalm 8:3 says something like this: "When I take the time to look at the work of Your fingers... what is man that You are mindful of him." My looking has made Him seem bigger and more grateful that He is mindful of me...and you.
I've started the last two mornings with spectacular sunrises, but the start of the day in Marathon has them beat. The 12:30-1:00 AM flashing strobe light and squeaking fire alarm was a "stunning" start to the day. Making it worse, I didn't even have anything dry to put on for the exit (I had washed everything only a few hours before) so I slipped on the complimentary white terry cloth robes (one size does not fit all) and hit the hall with others, discovering an electrical issue that was "being worked on" for 30 minutes. Welcome to Day 18.
From Marathon to Sanderson, I was expecting mostly wilderness flat lands but was reminded early in the ride that I am not quite done with the hills. They are beginning to mellow out a bit (at least until I get officially to the Hill Country) but still today there was some climbing, but overall a drop from 4000' to 3000'.
Today's 54 mile route was posted as having "No Services" (no town, no communities, no stores). They were right! "No" means "No"! Except for one exception- a picnic table at Mile #20 that I took full advantage of.
Your prayers would be appreciated tomorrow. 115 miles is my longest day of the tour, with some expected wind issues. Thanks for praying!
Today start was early and cool (53 degrees). I was happy for the sunshine to warm me up a bit, and it did all day. 117 miles was my longest ride ever, add the many climbs, the extra weight carried, and remoteness... It was a tough day with lots of hours on a tiny bike seat. Lots of tired parts tonight.
Three notable landmarks...
#1 - in Langtry was a museum about the Wild West character, Judge Roy Bean, known for his harsh and hard justice. I thought there would be a place here to get something to eat... I was wrong. Langtry is jokingly called "a ghost town with a visitor center". It's not a joke it is true.
#2 - The Pecos River... I had no idea... this significant river and it's 273' high bridge was impressive. This river supposedly, unofficially divides West Texas from East Texas.
#3 - Just outside of Del Rio, Lake Amistad (Friendship) is on the border of Texas and Mexico. It is one of the top big bass lakes in the nation. Going over its one mile bridge (at mile 105 in my ride) I couldn't help but thing of my other hobby of bass fishing as I cycle. Working, sweating, and sitting on this skinny seat vs. relaxing, casting, and sitting on a big, cushioned seat... I think I might need to rethink by hobby choosing paradigm.
1334 miles of 3021 done.Shorter mileage tomorrow to let my body rest and recover a bit. The Lord continues to ride with me. He's a good riding companion.
After yesterday's super-long day, a leisurely morning (and even a late checkout request granted) allowed me not only rest but get my bike to a local shop for some needed repairs and tune-up. A mechanical incident yesterday, in the middle of nowhere, had me praying and improvising. The Lord game me a short term fix that allowed us (me and the bike) to cautiously limp into Del Rio. A bike shop (only a mile from my hotel) was ready to help me as soon as they opened their doors this morning and the bike was on the rack before I left the shop. The Lord gave me peace during the "pool side" wait. That was a blessing. All is well. The shorter ride to Bracketville just got started a little bit later than planned.
Once again God has shown Himself to be my Shield, Protector and Provider. Not just yesterday but many times over the last weeks of this trip. Romans 8:28 reminds me again that God has everything under control for me.
Heat played a significant rolls in the ride today. Starting at 2:30 (with only a 3 hour ride) the temps, full sun and wind were really felt. Today was a good reminder to start early each day and beat the worst of the heat. For a whole week now the wind has not been my friend. I wish he would come around soon.
Not a lot to look at today... Laughlin Air Force Base was cool with the training planes circling overhead and looked like they were doing touch and goes on the runway. Then 20 plus miles of mesquite tree dominated ranches. Sound of the day... my bike tires popping tar bubbles on the highway shoulder.
Saw a 30+ year friend tonight. Tony Gruben (a pastor in Uvalde) came over and took me to dinner. Better than that... he took my dirty clothes to wash and will bring them to me tomorrow night. Now that is love.
A pre-dawn breakfast at the gas station started my day. My breakfast taco had a fresh tortilla (made as I watched) and it was filled with eggs from about a week ago. I ate every bite. Morning drizzle and cloud cover made for a cool and pleasant ride. I had 30 miles (3 hours) of a beautiful country road where, literally, I saw more deer than cars. But the next 40 were much more challenging. Not all miles are created equal.
I think I officially entered the "Texas Hill Country" today and these Texas hills are serious, some up to 9-10% grade, but did survive the challenge. About half way through the day and just west of Camp Wood, I crossed over the beautiful Nueces River. I read that somewhere just east of Camp Wood, headed toward Leakey, I passed over an invisible map line known as the 100th meridian. This line is sometimes considered the middle of the country... oh my... half way!
Tonight's hotel is FULL of other "bikers", except they are all in leather. I'm the spandex kind... oh well.
Today's 73 mile elevation profile looked like someone's EKG graph. Turned out to be mine. This was another Psalm 121 day - "I lift my eyes to the hills... my help comes from the Lord".
Mist and heavy fog made the climbs and descents a little more dicey than ideal. Wet roads, wet brakes and fog on the tops of the mountains (with some times less than 50 yards visibility) kept me on my toes and took away all the great views of the morning. I was extra cautious today with front and rear flashing lights. 15 miles in and I was ready for a coffee break at a country store I came across.
More tough climbs yielded to a gentler afternoon following the Guadalupe River on into Kerrville... beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Boots on fence posts on both sides of the road for about a 1/2 mile made me smile. A bigger smile came when i got to join up with Vicki and the Hardys for a family/rest day tomorrow. My body is tired (11 days since the last rest day) but my heart is full.
Today I'm at the half way point (or within a 1/2 mile)! 1510 completed... 1511 to go. No report tomorrow... I'm on vacation.
Yesterday's rest day was a great day of family, pool, park play, picnic, and dinner overlooking the Guadalupe River. That was followed by a pretty significant storm of wind, hail, and rain. It was a great day. Seeing Vicki and the Hardys was good for the soul. A sweet FaceTime with the Bristers in Huntsville, AL topped off a great rest day.
After the rest day it was back on the road again, but not alone!Katie rode with me for the first 20 miles of the day and it was practically perfect- 70 degrees, no wind, and a beautiful route to Comfort, TX. We met the rest of the clan at a park, said our good-byes, and then I was off to Blanco, TX. It was a nice ride with some good hills and beautiful scenery.
Katie and I had an exciting moment when we had to go through a flooded road crossing. Some cars were turning back, some going through. I figured it was only 6" deep and the concrete was not too slippery... so we took off our shoes and socks and walked our bikes through. We didn't have any problems and it was a fun adventure that Katie and I will smile about in the future.
I'm definitely enjoying being back in Texas. You know you are home when within a mile you see a run-over rattlesnake, armadillo, and tarantula. I'm becoming quite the roadkill expert.
The Lord blessed me with another practically perfect bike day - temperature, scenery, road surface and no wind. I am so much enjoying our great Texas cycling roads. Today's ride began with challenging, but fun, "rollers". The rollers and ranches evolved into flats and farmlands of corn and cotton. Today was also my second "double-digit deer day" in a row. What a beautiful creature.
After today's long ride of 93 miles, I only 4 more stages of 90+ for the rest of the "trek". My final 5 Texas stages will be relatively short - averaging only 63 miles. So I will truly sit back and enjoy these East Texas miles as I begin to wrap-up state #4. I'm really enjoying going through lots of little towns and having little stores along the route these days. I'm stopping often and hitting the Gatorades frequently. Ahhhhh.......
Seems like everyday something unexpected happens. Today's first little town, Wimberly, had the main road through town closed. The historic Cypress Creek Cafe burned. When I arrived the road was closed, there were news crews, police and firemen, and lots of trucks doing clean up. The town was in a stir. A short detour didn't add any additional miles- thank goodness. Also saw another beautiful traditional Texas Courthouse in Lockhart.
It's no small thing... 1669 miles and no flat tires. Knock on rubber.
Day #26 - Bastrop to La Grange
This morning started with a scenic ride through side-by-side state parks, Bastrop and Buescher. Bastrop State Park was devastated by a forest fire in 2011 that destroyed 96% of the park. It is recovering well, but you can still see the results. The 13 miles in the park were both quiet and hardly any cars. The bad news was there there were some serious climbs in the parks. They were not real long but they were real steep. The brochure said up to 15% grade! I measured up to 12% on my inclinometer but the tears in my eyes toward the top of some of the climbs may have blurred my vision. These State Park people don't mess around. When they want to go over a hill - it's straight to the top, no wiggling around for them. They have no heart.
It was another crisis-free day with no bike or body problems, both are holding up well. Most would think that the physical problems of a cross-country bike ride would be legs, knees or your sitter. It sounds a little strange but those things are all without issue. You wouldn't think neck and hands would be the parts of concern, but to date they head the list. Though neither is a problem, sometimes neck/shoulder cramps happen and when the body core gets tired and I lean too heavily on my hands, my palms get really tired and fingers can go numb. All in all, the Lord has really blessed me with minimal physical issues. To Him I am grateful. -Keith
La Grange, TX to Navasota, TX
Another nice Texas ride of rolling hills, seeing hundreds of farms and ranches and thousands of cows. I passed lots of historic Texas spots today. (By the way, I'm reading on this trip Michner's novel, "Texas", and enjoying experiencing many of the places, rivers, and landmarks that I'm riding past). Went through Independence, TX today, the first sight of Baylor University and University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and Washington on the Brazos- (as opposed to Washington on the Potomac) the birthplace of Texas. Our Declaration of Independence from Mexico was signed here.
Another weird phenomenon happened today, my bike kept wanting to turn right as I neared Brenham... I couldn't figure it out. But later I did... it was the Blue Bell Ice Cream thing. I had a picnic sandwich lunch in Independence today at an old historic place, Lueckemeyers-Bentley General Store. They even made the facade of the store to look like the Alamo. My lunch buddy today was a chicken.
5 or 6 years ago I bought from the American Adventure Cycling Organization a series of maps for this Southern Tier route. The route was made up of 7 maps. Today I completed the 4th map, only 3 to go... Lord willing. As I entered Navasota, there is a statue in the middle of town to Robert de La Salle, French explorer of the 1600s (apparently he died here). Anyway, he canoed down the entire Mississippi River and claimed the whole Mississippi River basin for France and and named it all after his king - King Louis the 14th (Louisiana). Hummmm.... canoeing the entire Mississippi River.... maybe that's my next adventure. I'll run that by Vicki tonight.
Navasota to Cleveland... Texas
Today's 70-mile ride was over undulating roads through pasturelands and piney woods. East Texas' pine trees became much more apparent today. A lot of these miles were through the Sam Houston National Forest. I also passed close to my old stomping grounds of Huntsville and thought of many sweet friends and memories from those years.
I really pushed the pace today trying to beat the afternoon's predicted rain. It rained once today (while I was eating lunch - perfect) and sprinkled on me the last 5 miles. I thought I was about to get soaked, but I finished dry. Looks like it could pour anytime.
Crossing I-45 today, in my mind, officially moved me into East Texas and the South of the United States. Texas is so huge. West Texas seems to have more in common with the Southwest part of the country. East Texas has a bit more of the feel of the South. I'm not sure there is an official magic line for this crossover, but I-45 works for me.
Tomorrow is my last full day in Texas. I can't believe it. Only 16 more riding days!
By the way, she said "No" to the canoe thing....
Cleveland to Silsbee
After almost a month of riding, today was finally the first "flat" stage. Ahhhhh.... Central Texas' hills have passed and Southeast Texas highways have laid down to just a few ripples. With that said... today may have also been my "sweatiest" day. The good news is nobody ever drowned in sweat. The super humidity finally just became what it already felt like.... a downpour. Although the rain was heavy at times, but no thunder or lightning... so I plowed on. A kind man pulled over and stopped today and offered to load my bike on his trailer and give wet me a ride to town. It was easy to say "No, thanks" because I really was enjoying the rain ride. It was a refreshing change from the normal everyday miles. Because of all the rain today the IPad/camera and phone spent most of the day sealed in plastic bags inside of plastic bags... so not many pictures today.
I did cross over the Trinity River and rode through "The Big Thicket" Natural Preserve. The Big Thicket is an area (size disputed - ranging from a few miles across to 3 million acres) that is heavy forest described as one of the most biodiverse areas in the world outside of the tropics. To me it just looked like some really thick woods.
I thought you might like to see my typical view during the day and a reminder that this old body is not the only thing feeling worn out. Today was my last full day in Texas. I did a little reflecting on my 17-day pass through.
Texas in 100 words... El Paso, Border Patrol, Mexico, Mexican food, Daniel's support, Deserts, Desserts, Highways, Hotels, Windmills, Big sky, Hill Country, Rio Grande, Guadalupe, Sabine, Pecos, Davis Mountains, coffee and Gatorade, bicycle, Piney Woods, mesquite trees, mountains, sunrises, Kerrville Rest Day, Katie ride, flooded road, churches, road signs, sunscreen, heat, humidity, rest stops, wind, Marathon, Gage Hotel, ghost towns, roadrunners, buzzards, flat armadillos, longhorns, deer, hawks, BBQ, Vicki, blogging, washing clothes, pumping tires, doves, sweat, Del Rio Bike Shop, I-10, I-35, I-45, Amistad, water bottles, beauty, road kill, stars, Independence and Comfort, birds, Texas, rollers and coasting, ice cream, Central Time Zone, home!
Silsbee, TX to DeRidder, LA
Today's ride can be summarized with one word... WET! The first 2 hours (30 miles) were very cloudy, but dry. 3 miles outside of Kirbyville, the bottom dropped out, wind came up and lots of dramatic lightning and thunder. I gave it all I had to get to town to get out of the storm and I found shelter under the porch of some businesses that were closed on Sunday. It poured, with lightning for 2 1/2 hours. My soaked-to-the-bone body sat in its safe spot for hours. The temps dropped, wind blew, and being wet, I got pretty chilled and shivering. I knew I needed to get indoors, so l left my shelter seeking somwhere I could go inside. I found another store within 1/2 a mile and waited out the lightning there. Then back in the rain for the last 45 miles. It never stopped raining for the rest of the trek. I wrapped all my electronics well and they stayed dry, as well as most of my clothes, but still had plenty to dry out when I finally got to my hotel room. But, all is well, and even with the 2 1/2 hour rain delay (like the Rangers had with the Astros last Thursday night - the Astros won by the way) I survived and didn't melt.
I did cross the Sabine River this afternoon and exited Texas (I will be back!) and entered Louisiana, my 5th state (of 8 that I will visit) of the trip.
By the way, DeRidder is the town from which my Dad went to heaven. He was visiting his sister while Vicki and I (and my Mom) took a group from Duncanville's FBC to the Holy Land. He visited her office, sat down, and the Lord took him home. All that to say, I've thought of him much today and continue to thank God for how he blessed my Mom, my brother and me. Every thought of him brings me nothing but happy memories and joy
DeRidder to Bunkie - 101 miles
It's hard to believe that today marks the completion of one month on the road and the milestone of passing the 2000 mile mark. (Only 936 to go!) Today was mostly dry. I only had two hours of rain riding this afternoon, but it quit early enough for me to dry out mostly.
I'm excited to see Louisiana at 12 mph. Some roads today were a little rough, rough like the cobblestone roads of the Pari-Roubaix. (A classic 160-mile bike race in France), but overall doable. I experienced some of the classic looks I was expecting... pine trees, rice fields and swamps (with gators!) Smell of the day... honeysuckle - miles and miles of honeysuckle covered fences. It was great.
Unique to Louisiana is "parishes" instead of counties. Of course in Texas we love our counties, named after many of our Texas history heroes, but parishes are cool or at least the concept. In Louisiana the original "parishes" were areas marked out around the church/parish. The church was the center of and responsible for all the people of it's surrounding land. Anyway... I like the concept.
One more personal cool moment today. After a fancy lunch at a deli inside a gas station in Mamou, I loaded up, clipped in and took off and within 100 yards I saw the "Frank Savoy Cancer Center". He was my uncle, and a long time doctor in a town not far away. He was the doctor that brought me into this world, (of course, mom was there too). I was very blessed by this sweet surprise today and for his continuing influence on his corner of the world. May we do the same.
Bunkie, LA to St. Francisville, LA
It was another invigorating rain ride today, with an estimated 2"-3" inches... in my shoes. The past several days of significant rain covering the state of Louisiana had all the ditches, creeks, fields, and yards full of water. The frogs must have loved it. I got to hear their croaking for hours and at times today thought I might be joining them.
Because of an adding error on my part, this 95-mile day was in reality 100! (100.2) There is nothing cool about adding miles to most of my days but by .2 of a mile, I am now able to claim back-to-back "centuries". That is cool to me.
I saw some beautiful farm land today, crossed the impressive Atchafalaya River, and rode for 23 miles (on a backroad of a backroad) along a 15'-20' earthen levee. This levee protects flood endangered areas from the Atchafalaya, Raccourci, and Mississippi Rivers. Also, at one point, behind this levee was the Louisiana State Penitentiary - Angola, sometimes called "The Farm". It is supposed to be one of the most harsh prisons in the country and has a very colorful history. It is surrounded on 3 sides by the Mississippi River. I can't even imagine.
And last of all, today I crossed a very cool and significant landmark. I crossed the mighty Mississippi River on the relatively new Audubon Bridge (named after John James Audubon - famous bird painter who lived and painted in St. Francisville). Up until 2011 this was a ferry crossing. The nearest crossings are at Natchez, MS and Baton Rouge, LA, a 90 mile stretch. Just seeing the river you can feel its power and be wowed by it's size. It was very cool but a bit of a challenge for a height "sensitive" sort of guy.
Tomorrow is a Rest Day, number 3 of 4, and i look forward to it and need it
St. Francisville to Franklinton - 92 miles
Not one mile of progress was made yesterday, yet the body and mind certainly moved forward. The rest was productive. Thanks for your prayers.
Today's ride was sooooo nice. The weather, the road surfaces, the scenery, all incredible. Everything was so green from all the rain, and the cloudless sky was an unbelievable blue. Most of the day I rode in the shade. Tree covered highways made up most of today's miles. Lots of smaller highways which meant less cars and lots of quiet. Today's route was one of the more complex cue sheets to follow. I just counted... 14 different numbered highways plus other named back roads. I had to stay focused with lots of rights and lefts and frequent changes. It was fun and certainly made the many miles go by quickly. There were lots of beautiful homes and settings ranging from plantation homes, to the regular and not so special places - all kinds.
It's hard to believe that today was my last full day in Louisiana. With 3 long days (averaging 98 miles) it passed quickly. I really enjoyed my Bayou State miles and roads. It really is an interesting state- culture, accents, food, history, and more. Texas' history is complicated with us being proud of the "6 Flags" that have flown over us. Louisiana has us beat with their complex history having 10 flags to fly over it. Just brainstorming but maybe there is a Cajun theme park possibility--10 Flags Over... maybe not.
A few Louisiana special moments...
1. The food... frog leg (singular), boiled crawfish, seafood gumbo, shrimp, oysters. I didn't even begin to touch all the possibilities.
2. I was chased by 6 different Louisiana dogs... the one thing they have in common--they were all 1 mph slower than me. I'm fast when I'm scared.
3. Meeting Wes, another cross-country rider. We crossed paths in the middle of huge corn fields and chatted in the middle of the road for 5-10 minutes with not one car. He was an incredible physical specimen (a tri-athlete who had already traveled down the east coast from New England to Florida and now going to the west coast on the "Southern Tier" route - 5,200 miles) and a very pleasant guy.
4. I also stopped one day and watched a crawfisherman (?) working his many traps from a unique kind of boat. It was very cool. Maybe a possible reality TV show like "The Deadliest Catch".
Tomorrow night I will be in Mississippi. The next night in Alabama and the next Florida. Wow... I can't smell the Atlantic Ocean yet but it's coming... 749 more miles.
Franklinton, LA to Wiggins, MS - 69 miles
Last night's "hotel" didn't include a free breakfast this morning, so I was on my own. Everyday that starts with donuts and kolaches has the potential of being a great day... it was. I knew I was still in Louisiana when a "boudin kolache" was an option.
With an average mileage distance for the day, I was able to relax a bit and enjoy a leisurely pace and just watch the world go by. It was mostly pine-lined roads with more rolling hills than I had expected. The route paralleled the southern border of Mississippi until the state's foot goes south to the gulf. Passing over the Pearl River as I entered state #6 for me, I thought about my old great uncles (WWI and WWII vets) who lived on that river and took care of my "mam-ma" that lived in Columbia, MS. I saw signs to that place many times today. I couldn't physically go there but did in my mind - happy, happy childhood memories of this part of the world. I even went through Poplarville, where I lived as an infant while Dad went to Pearl River Junior College before transferring to University of Southern Miss. Even my final destination today, Wiggins, MS, is the birthplace and hometown of my grandfather (Mom's dad). I have roots here in the Deep South, and I feel it.
I just knew my "donut day" was going to be a good one.
Wiggins, MS to Bayou La Batre, AL
It was another beautiful ride day but got a little warm before it was all said and done. More hardwood and pine tree-lined highways and lots of swollen rivers and creeks from all the rain last week. Everyday has been a birdwatcher's dream - all day and everyday. It really is a good hobby for anytime, anywhere. If I had brought my good camera and lens, binoculars and bird books... well... I'd probably still be in California or Arizona.
I entered state #7 this afternoon - Alabama. Son Chris and his family now live in this great state. They will live in Huntsville for a year before their church plant in Auburn. I thought about swinging by for a visit until I figured out it was 375 miles away. Love ya' but... catch you next time, Bristers.
Today's final destination, Bayou La Batre, AL, has been through some tough days in the past. It was the city that experienced Hurricane Katrina highest storm serge... 16 feet. The two-story hotel I'm staying in would have been almost entirely under water. Hard to imagine.
Tomorrow I reach the Gulf coast and Florida. I can hardly believe it.
Bayou La Batre, AL to Pensacola, FL
What a great ride today. So different from any on the trip so far. It was long and tough with the heat, humidity, and wind (no more complaining about the wind after re-discovering this verse... Ps. 147:18b, "...he makes His wind blow..." - my bad!) but I still enjoyed it.
Today there were boats, a 3-mile long bridge to Dauphin Island, a 30-minute ferry ride across Mobile Bay, stilted beach homes, high rise condos, the Gulf and it's beaches, a 7-mile bike path, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, reaching state #8 of 8 (Florida), Pensacola Naval Air Station (home of the Blue Angles), beautiful, puffy clouds, Spanish moss in trees, sand on the road, the smell of salt water. Then top it all off with a DQ Blizzard. Awesome day.
Tomorrow I have my last rest day (#4 of 4) of the trip, then only eight more ride days of 493 miles (averaging only 62 miles a day) I don't want to jinks anything but with 2500+ miles... still no flats. I still can't believe that.
Pensacola to DeFuniak Springs, FL
Well certainly no Florida sunshine to be had today. Sprinkles to heavy rain all day today. With that saidon, rainy days I only get pictures when it's not. Zip-lock bags inside of zip-locked bags inside of hotel laundry bag and convinence store bags and everything still seem to be wet and nasty. All the bike bags are not water tight so I have to be over protective not to baptize everything.
Pensacola backwaters soon gave way to lots of little back to back towns and lots of wet road traffic. I was sprayed, slashed, and totally, utterly, and thoroughly soaked in the first 15 miles. I was thrilled to then hit a 5-mile bike trail that was wet but so nice - smooth and quiet. It took me to some "roads less traveled" and I then just enjoyed the rain. You can only get so wet then it's just time to enjoy it. The wet clothes with the bike breeze basically is like having "evaporative cooling" wear... burrrrr at times. Rain riding is sort of like the title of a country music tune... It's "A Beautiful Mess".
OK... here's the bad news today... because of a simple typo, not paying attention 100%, not consulting the map, trusting my instincts, trusting my memory, and following my emotions, I paid the price of 9 extra miles today. My notes said Indian "Ford" Road, not "Farm". It was raining too hard and I couldn't get out the phone or the map (I had a good excuse!) I thought that road name sounded right, (I've got a great memory... well maybe not so much!) The Lord did remind me that we do live with the consequences of our choices. I did get to see some beautiful stuff (the Blackwater River) and it was pleasant for a season, but I also had some bad experiences (chased by a - I'm not kidding here - a Rottweiler dog - I was so scared I had tears running down my leg) but God was gracious to get me back on the right path. Like with all poor choices, there was a price to pay... 9 extra miles.
So, at mile #88 today, when I was supposed to be done, the rain had stopped and the road and I beginning to dry out, two things happened... #1. I sincerely thank God for the spiritual reminders and truths He had shown me today in my prodigal route time. He is and was faithful and gracious to me. #2. It started to pour again... no, no, no, I mean really pour- like it hadn't all day... (and I only thought you could just get so wet). 9 miles, 45 minutes of biblical flooding kind of pouring... OK God... I get it. So, I don't want to talk about this any more. But I'm almost done. Only 7 more riding days left!
DeFuniak Springs to Marianna
After several cups of coffee on this leisure start morning, I couldn't help but chuckle when I sat down to review today's cue sheet. The first line: "Only one highway all day today." Surely there will be no wrong ways or extra miles. I made it just fine without incident.
Once I started today's ride I decided to make tracks. It wasn't raining, but the forecast was for significant storms likely with the building heat in the afternoon. So i decided to put the pedal to the metal. So far, the Florida roads and highways have been great, smooth, and fast surfaces (faster for some than others). Today's ride was through a pine tree forest, cypress trees in swamps, Spanish mossed oaks, and Lilly padded ponds - all uniquely beautiful.
The faster-than-usual pace turned out to be a pretty good workout combined with the super high humidity made it quite a sweaty day. Luckily, no one has ever drowned in sweat. I had to smile when I thought of comedian George Carlin's one liner... "Don't sweat the petty stuff and don't pet the sweaty stuff!"
I did make it to the hotel about 15 minutes before the ominous skies decided to let loose of its rain. So today I was dry from the sky but soaked from the skin.
2,679 miles done (+9 "bonus" ones) and only 342 remain until my "tire dip" in the Atlantic.
Marianna to Midway, FL
Today's miles were just a cycling treat. Great roads on and through beautiful rolling countryside. Add to that, the clouds and rain made the temperature almost perfect. Then with few cars and few towns, silence was golden. It was a great day even though only one hour of it was with no rain.
In Chattahoochee I was only a mile or two from Georgia, but there was no way I was going to ride to the state line just to add another state to my list - close was good enough. I also hit my 4th time zone today - Eastern. One other treat today was the purchase of a southern snack from a road side vendor - boiled peanuts. I had passed up too many opportunities in the last couple of states because I didn't want to carry the additional weight, but today the temptation was too great. Those 2 lbs I didn't mind carrying. By the way, I won't have to carry them tomorrow... at least not in a bag.
I've thought about this most of the day today.... Last night I was talking to Vicki and she asked, "What all did you see today?" I answered, "Nothing special." What a dumb answer. I blew it. I so wanted a "do over". What I meant was that I hadn't seen anything unusual, unique, funny or weird, but that was not what I said. I had seen so many beautiful things yesterday. Romans 1 says that all of God's creations show us Him and things about Him. Psalm 19:1 says that the heavens declare His glory and even the sky proclaims who He is. I should have answered (borrowing a title from George Strait song) "I saw God today!"
I know that I am now in Seminole Indian country (the Native American ones and also the Florida State University ones - only 10 miles down the road in Tallahassee) but let me give you a Sioux Indian saying... "All over the sky a sacred voice is calling." Yep!
If she asks again tonight... I'll answer better.
Midway to Walkulla Springs, FL
What a great, fun and easy day this was. It was the kind of Florida sunshine day that we all imagine. Today was the shortest ride day of my Tour de America, just 31 miles. It just worked out that way with distances and spacing of hotel availabilities.
After only 10 miles I was in Tallahassee (Florida's capital) and at the campus of Florida State University. It is a beautiful campus that I rode around in for a while and enjoyed a leisurely campus coffee break. I got into and on the football field, Bobby Bowden Stadium. It brought back some sweet memories of my 2006 Sabbatical when Chris and I prayer-walked college campuses across the south and up the east coast. I relived some of it today and prayed for his new college town church plant in Auburn. (We also prayer walked that campus 11 years ago, neither of us imagining that there was a Junior student there at that time, that would be his wife)
Out of Tallahassee was the greatest 15 mile bike trail ever. It was so secluded, smooth, safe and beautiful - I wanted to stay on it. If I lived here, I'd ride it everyday for my workout. It was great! Then just five more miles to finish my day.
My stay tonight is actually a lodge in a state park - Walkulla Springs State Park. It's very old, but very nice with a great restaurant (shrimp and grits tonight). This park is also very beautiful. This is the site of the making of the early black and white Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller and equally as cool, the place of the filming of "Creature from the Black Lagoon". (I'll latch the chain on my door tonight just in case!)
With the early arrival and gorgeous weather I even went on a little hike, a boat tour, and did a little bird watching. Yep... I saw God today. I also thank Him for several other special treats today. I got to see a manatee, some more alligators (from a safe distance), ice cream and oh yeah... dry shoes.
4 more ride days... just 247 miles to go!
Walkulla Springs to Perry, FL
Today's ride was another wonderful day in my trans-am quest. It was a simple route, smooth roads with wide shoulders and good weather. The highway took me again through forest, swamps, rivers, and creeks. The birds and frogs made some sweet sounds all day. On the map it looks like I'm done with the Florida panhandle and now moving away from the Gulf and moving toward the Atlantic. I also had a fantastic lunch with some other bikers. Another great day!
These last few days I have now allowed myself to start thinking about the end of the trip. I've mentally move to the place of not counting weeks or even days to go, but now counting hours. I now have less than 200 miles to go in 3 ride day. The trip is 93% done. If it sound like I've slipped into "numbers" mode - I have! Let me give you some more from the trip...
4 Time Zones
3021 Miles: (2824 completed/ 197 Miles to Go)
42 Ride Days / 4 Rest Days
72 Miles Averaged per ride day
8228'- Highest Altitude
-112' -Lowest Point
117 miles- Longest mileage day
31 miles- Shortest mileage day
17- Days in Texas
40.3 -Fastest Speed
68- Identified Birds (and others that I didn't know)
2 million- Bike Tire Revolutions (95" tire rotation)
Sorry to bore you with my love of numbers, stats, and lists, but trust me... there are others that you wouldn't believe and will never see. Still having the time of my life... but ready for family, home and church.
Perry to High Springs, FL
Today I went "Way down upon the Swanee Ribber, far, far away... Still longing for de old plantation, and for de old folks at home". Yep I crossed the famous ol' river today. It really is beautiful. A bit of trivia, Stephen Foster, the author of the song never saw it. He just was looking for a two syllable river name. It beat our the "Pedee"... good choice, Stephen.
Today was a mentally hard day. One, long, straight, flat road - 65 miles of forest and fields. They were beautiful, but only 3 little towns to break up the long ride. They averaged a population of 800. It was just a mental grind and my legs are starting to feel a bit "mushy" (tired and no zip). Physically, I felt a lot like a banana peel - flat, empty, and turning brown.
With only two days left in my special trip, it's time for a few "thank-you"s. A month and a half adventure doesn't come with a price. The biggest price was paid by my wife. She has taken care of all thing "home" and she has done it alone. She's pretty incredible. Thank you from deep places, Vicki. Special thanks to Katie for taking care of all these daily communications. She's never missed a single one and has "fixed" what I did write... to make it right! Chris and Daniel gave up time away from their families to serve, support, and encourage me during some of the very toughest sections of this country. Then thanks also to a church who gifted me part of this extended time away (a gift for my 20th anniversary at DFBC) and a special thanks to the other ministers, who carried an extra load of work and responsibility while I was away. And thanks to you all for the prayers, encouragements, and likes. They really made a big difference in getting me through another day and more miles. And always, "I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, I will recount it all..." -Psalm 9:1
High Springs to East Palatka, FL
I considered today my last full day of riding. Like the Tour de France (most of you know I'm big fan). Traditionally, the last day of that 3-week stage race is mostly just a celebration ride. Typically the overall championship has been settled (there will still be a sprint race at the end) and it is a leisure ride with lots of pictures, visiting with each other and simply celebrating the glory of finishing the huge race in Paris. Tomorrow is that day for me... a short, leisure ride with lots of reflection and personal celebrating. I will enjoy the last miles and then roll into beautiful St. Augustine, make my way to a beach hotel where my whole family will be awaiting me. That will be my roll around the Champs-Elysees, with Vicki being the beautiful Arc de Triumph.
This last full day was a great ride. There were some beautiful roads into Gainesville and a greenway bike trail through town. South of town another 15 mile bike path that was among the nicest I've ridden yet. I saw turtles and turkeys crossing the path. There are a lot of cyclists in Gainesville. Bicycling magazine says this city is one of the leading bike commuting cities in America (6.2%). With the Florida climate and these great roads, I totally believe it.
One last Gainesville salute, this is the birth place of... Gatorade! 50 years ago some university researchers invented this juice to help University of Florida athletes recover from carbs and electrolytes lost in workouts and sweat. It all started here. I'm sure I've enjoyed more than a 100 of them over these last 45 days. Today's Gatorades seemed to taste a little bit sweeter.
Today's ride really was a good one and for old time sake, for the last hour, (12 miles) was a Florida afternoon soaker. I knew it was supposed to come in the afternoon, I guess I should have peddled a little bit faster. The bridge over the St. John's River was my last conquest of the day.
If I say "The End is Near"... you all know what I mean... right? 44 miles to go for my imaginary "yellow jersey".
East Palatka to St. Augustine
Well…. I/we made it. It’s done. I can hardly believe it. Yesterday morning, with my entire family on hand, I dipped my front tire in the Atlantic Ocean. 46 mornings before I dipped the rear tire in the Pacific. What a satisfying experience to dream a big dream, develop a detailed plan to make it a possibility, pay the price of proper preparing and training and then execute that plan. A thousand things could have happened along the way, but the Lord was gracious to allow the completion of my Trek Across America. Thanks Lord for this gift.
The last day, a short 44 miler, was supposed to be a relaxed, contemplative, casual coast into the finish line, but… I woke up early and couldn’t wait to be with the family and found myself really getting after it on these last few flat miles. I had texted them an ETA of 10:30 and arrived within about 5 minutes of that. The whole crew of 10 were waiting and all dressed so nice. The kids had hired a photographer to document it all and then get some family pics. Perfect… everyone looked great except for sweaty, helmet hair “Pop”. There will be some great pics in the days to come. They will be treasured along with the other million in my mind.
I saw a lot of beautiful things along the 3,000 mile ride across our entire country, literally from sea to shining sea. It seems like “new eyes” made things more beautiful than ever before, probably due to the extended times of silence and solitude, clearing the mind and softening of the heart. Add to that the minimizing of stuff, the simplicity of life, and daily physical exertions - all adding up to some personal renewal. I saw beauty and the Lord everywhere. But today may have topped them all - to see the smiling faces of my entire family, with extend arms welcoming me "home" was the most beautiful sight of the trip.
I'm so blessed to now have a few days to spend with them before my return to Texas, home and church.
What a trip... I'll share some summary thoughts in the days to come. It has been good to jot down a few notes each day. They will serve me well to prompt the many other memories that I will treasure forever… God was so good and faithful to me to make this dream a reality. To Him be glory.
Oh yeah... one more thing... No Flats!