Questions for us about bike touring that we’ve done or about supporting Canine Companions for Independence?? You can reach us directly at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Thanks, Barb and Bill
Questions for us about bike touring that we’ve done or about supporting Canine Companions for Independence?? You can reach us directly at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Thanks, Barb and Bill
We have some more photos to show you from our fun meet ups yesterday with the Canine Companions Jacksonville Puppy Outing Group .
This trip was a learning experience as all travel is, and a challenging adventure for us, but most of all, it was a rewarding chance to help raise awareness for this great organization. The Canine Companions volunteers , graduates and staffers from west to east, who took the time to make contact with us and to help us in our endeavor, and who do such good work for the dogs and the graduates, really motivated us as we rode each day. Thank you all!
Lastly, for anyone who has been inspired to donate to this great organization which provides these highly trained assistance dogs to its graduates free of charge, please let us know your name and address so that we can personally thank you. Canine Companions will of course acknowledge your donation but we might not be aware of what you’ve done and we do want to express our appreciation too.
The photos of the Canine Companions “welcome committee ” at the end of our ride are from Tom and Janci, and then last night we were hosted at dinner by Jacksonville POG members and very active Canine Companions volunteers Tonda and Lee Hoyt. A lovely conclusion to a great day!
April 23, 2016
Palatka, FL to St. Augustine, FL
Day: 39.6 miles; Total: 3,134.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 300′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8646724
We packed up the bike panniers one last time and headed out across the St John’s River. Our route had us winding north and even west through farms, and then along the river, before heading actually east into our end point. We rode though the town of Hastings, the potato capital of Florida , and saw lots of potato fields. The western turns brought us out the the river with its nice homes and docks, and then we finally turned east.
We entered St. Augustine and joined the throngs of tourists on the streets, along with horse drawn carriages, tour trams and other ways to see this historic city. At the end of the official ACA Southern Tier route, there standing by the Bridge of Lions, was a wonderful group of local CCI folks and their dogs, cheering us on. It was just a perfect way to end this long ride to raise awareness for this great organization and we so appreciated their being there to greet us. Very exciting!
We gathered for a fun lunch and enjoyed making new friends! Thank you all for taking the time to come out for this!
We have one more piece of news that we received a few days ago. We are very excited that Regal, the puppy we turned in mid February before leaving on this trip, has been selected to be a Canine Companions Breeder. She will return to us and we will be her Breeder Caretakers . A new road awaits us all!
April 22, 2016
Gainesville, FL to Palatka, FL
Day: 57.4 miles; Total: 3,094.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,073′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8634281
Breakfast options for an early start in Gainesville were a McDonalds or Fast Eddy’s so of course we joined the crowd of locals at the walk up/drive up window for FE’s breakfast sandwiches ( mayo optional and tater tots were the vegetable option). Fueled up, we headed down a country road lined with small homes and went towards the start of the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail.
This beautiful paved biking and hiking trail runs for about 16 miles alongside a state preserve, and we rode under trees hanging with moss, past water features filled with frogs and birds, and no motor vehicles!! It was great riding. On the trail, we met two very interesting cyclists, Paul and Bill, who are teachers for an organization that supports folks with Parkinson’s. They both have the disease and are working to assist others in ways to do beneficial training and exercising. Their website is Parkinson’snetwork.org, so check it out if you’re interested.
When the trail ended, we were then going north, (?) back on a highway for a bit, then a very rural road with broken surfacing, and after several small towns, we rode onto another bike trail. This was the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail, and again a lovely place to ride on, actually getting to chat together as we rode along. It crossed over more field-like terrain and was nicely flat. When it ended, we rode the final 10 miles back on the highway with some shoulders for us. Logging trucks roared by and traffic was busy as we entered Palatka, and just as we saw the St John’s River where our motel was, the threatened rain began, but we were only in it for a few blocks.
We got in early, for us, and had time for a quick lunch and then laundry( so exciting!). Hard to believe tomorrow is the last biking day!
April 21, 2016
Itchetucknee Springs State Park, FL to Gainesville, FL
Day: 46.6 miles; Total: 3,037.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,447′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8623143
We got complementary coffee at the camp store and met the owner’s mom who told us about how popular this river originating from the springs is , when in full season. Kayakers and canoeists are on the chrystal clear waters now but come summer, it sounds like non stop tubing takes over. We headed out to go check out the Headspring and the Blue Hole, near the north end of the river, set in very pretty lush green forests.
We rode through the farmland and reached High Spring where we stopped for an early lunch. Like many of these small Florida towns, the central area is typically where the historic buildings are and where non chain places still continue. This downtown had a short few blocks that included Jim Gabriel’s nice Sante Fe Bicycle Outfitters, a bike shop where I got my tires pumped with his equipment and I also got to stroll around the farmers market going on by the old railroad station. Fresh produce, baked goods and nice local handcrafted items were for sale. In a small world coincidence, the first person I spoke with had lived near where we do in Marin County at one point. She had great looking breads for sale but too big to carry on our bikes. I settled for two small brownies for later- yum!
We were headed past luxurious looking horse farms into Gainesville ( home to the Univ of Florida Gators) and as we approached town, there were defined bike lanes and we saw other day riders. It’s nice not to feel alone out there on the road! We met Peggy and Cliff, experienced cyclists who have done some great organized tours, and they gave us very good advice on how to get to our downtown motel. Their advice got us nicely here, near the University, for tonight.
April 20, 2016
Madison, FL to Itchetucknee Springs State Park, FL
Day: 77.7 miles; Total: 2,990.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,964′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8610831
Breakfast at the Unity House B&B in Madison was delicious and fun, as we got to chat with both fellow guest Judy, from nearby Gainesville and also with our host, Linda who told us a bit about this charming small town.
Our route had us again on our friend, 90, for part of the morning and then we turned onto quieter roads, passing Suwannee State Park, and then roughly parallelling the river at a distance. I’m not sure Stephen Foster ever saw the river that was the subject of his song, and the spelling changed for ease of pronunciation we were told.
We rode past farms, very green hay fields and pasturelands and lots of timber operations. At one point, an odd map blip had us biking happily with a tail wind down a road the wrong way for a few miles, but we returned , into the wind of course, to the right place and relaunched.
We were going to be at a cabin place with no food nearby for dinner, so we got great house smoked BBQ and sides, southern style, at a small local place in the tiny town of Wellborn, about 30 miles from the end of our day. I love the fact that sometimes we have just chanced upon great local food in quite small towns. People are making some great things! We pulled into the Canoe and Cabins place in the north end of the river that forms Itchetucknee Springs State Park in the early evening, thanks to some windy riding, and we were very happy to see our basic cabin. Tomorrow we will go see the spring fed river here that is extremely popular for tubing and paddling.
We’re at a campground near Ichetucknee Springs state park. We rode about 78 miles, met some nice people and will be doing the blog tomorrow when we get to Gainesville. It’s getting dark, and we just enjoyed our take-out BBQ from a local place about 30 miles back so it’s time to shower and fall asleep! More tomorrow 😀🐾🐾🐾
April 19, 2016
Tallahassee, FL to Madison, FL
Day: 63.1 miles; Total: 2,912.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,959′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8594523
We left Tallahassee via the Florida State campus roads, then followed narrow busy roads on the edge of town towards the east. Fortunately the traffic finally diminished and we were riding on narrow but pretty quiet tree lined roads. Once we got away from Tallahassee, we were on Old St. Augustine road ( a good sign!).
Farms, logging activities, horse properties and plowed fields ready to be planted were the primary things we saw. In the forested areas, the canopy of trees overhead was beautiful, and the trees were full of calling birds and frogs were making lots of noise in the swampy tree filled waters near the road.
In Jefferson county, we stopped in the town of Monticello ( no, we hadn’t ended up in Virginia), and had a great lunch at Tupelo Bakery where they make a point of sourcing good ingredients from local farms. It was a great place!
The afternoon riding was back on 90, doing the roller coaster thing. We met a guy touring on his own all over the southwest, a couple who are re-riding the Southern Tier from a new direction and a local cyclist out for a day ride.
Tonight we are at a place in the small town of Madison, with a charming downtown area full of historic homes and buildings. We are staying at a B&B so it will be nice to learn more about life here tomorrow at breakfast. I’m always curious what sustains the economy of all these small places we ride through.
April 18, 2016
Marianna, FL to Tallahassee, FL
Day: 73.1 miles; Total: 2,849.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,031′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8581827
Nice weather for biking; sunny and not too windy. We rode primarily on rural roads off of 90 and saw some lovely scenery. At first, as we were leaving Marianna, Bill’s rear tire was impaled by a long rusty screw , so flat repair was in order. We spend most days riding over all sorts of unavoidable debris, from broken glass, sharp stones, gravel , wire shards, razor blades, etc etc so it’s not surprising that something gets to even our very reliable tires. Part of the deal…
We rode this morning on a very bucolic road that we learned followed what was called the Old Spanish Trial, foot paths originally used by the native Americans, then by the Spanish colonists more than 300 years ago. We went to Blue Spring, a state park where in addition to water sports, people (very experienced divers) scuba dive into long underwater caves filled with clear water. We saw big Grass carp in the water and there are manatees there as well.
On these smaller roads, we were seeing farms and more forestry operations. Later, back on 90, we passed through several towns before crossing the Apalachicola River, ( and into the Eastern time zone!) and to Chattahoochee, right up near the border with Georgia. From there we roller coastered on more rural roads and then made our way into Tallahassee. This is the state capital and home to Florida State University, and we are staying right across from the school. From materials we picked up, there is a lot of outdoor recreation here( Lake Jackson is just to the north of the city) and lots going on in town.
April 17, 2016
DeFuniak Springs, FL to Marianna, FL
Day: 56.6 miles; Total: 2,776.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,700′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8568289
DeFuniak Springs has an historic downtown area, with beautiful old homes, surrounding the round lake. The only other naturally round spring-fed lake is in Zurich , Switzerland. We’ll have to go see that one next!
Today was sunny, not too hot and still pretty windy. We remained all day on 90 through forests and occasional farms. We rode through more frequent small towns and the surrounding area had a number of state parks with fishing, hiking and birding. One called Vortex Spring even has a freshwater spring producing 28 million gallons of water daily, and there’s scuba diving in its caverns.
As we rode past a gas station in the town of Bonifay, we met two very interesting groups of cyclists. First, heading east at the stop light was a young couple who were touring , each pulling a trailer with their gear. One trailer was a roomy home on wheels for their lab mix dog who was along for the ride. He seemed relaxed and happy. They have been on the road since April of 2014 and they plan to ride in all 48 states. Other than sitting out two winters , they have been going continuously, and spending several hours each afternoon doing their work via computers. Talk about telecommuting!
Next, regrouping in the gas station, we met a truly inspirational group of wounded warriors and their support group of veterans who are riding 24/7 from Camp Pendleton ( Oceanside CA) to Camp Lejeune ( North Carolina) . They doing this cross country ride in teams of two, supporting veteran and wounded veteran, cycling and pushing for two hours, then rotating with another team til all the teams have crossed the country. 3,113 miles, time to complete the entire ride is 252 hours, with breaks in San Antonio, Charlotte and Myrtle Beach. Their website is w2e2016.org. If you want to be very inspired, check it out. You can read the bios of all the riders. We got a chance to meet some of them, including Pam, an Army vet who became a quadriplegic in a training accident and she is riding her hand cycle using the one hand she has partial use of. We also met her service dog Maui. I can’t imagine this round the clock relay riding- wow! Very inspiring!
April 16, 2016
East of Milton, FL to DeFuniak Springs, FL
Day: 57.1 miles; Total: 2,720.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,271′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8549460
Another note about a dinner…last night the only dinner option was the nearby Waffle House and so we went there. ( It was my first visit to one).For those of you who have not traveled in the south, and you are not familiar with this ubiquitous, reliable chain, there are more than 1,500 of these restaurants in the southeast. Started by two Georgia neighbors in 1955, they serve breakfast ( and other meals) 24/7 , 365 days a year. Michael Stern of Road Food fame, says they make his favorite waffles ever! So, below you will see Traveler checking out the waffle we split for dessert, after decent omelets, grits and basic salads for dinner. FYI, FEMA assesses the severity of storms using the “Waffle House Index”; if the Waffle House in the area is closed,that means there’s serious damage.
Our ride today was under unexpectedly chilly and cloudy weather. We basically spent the entire day riding into a pretty strong head wind on 90, aka the scenic route. It seems to run about 30 miles inland from the coast, going through forested areas. When it passes into town limits, unfortunately it loses its bike lane which is kind of a pain. When we got to a midpoint in the town of Crestview, we discovered a cute coffee house in the historic downtown,where we met some nice locals and had a good break. The town was hosting a car show and lots of families were enjoying the festivities.
Defuniak is known for its naturally round spring fed lake, surrounded by a park. We should pass by that tomorrow so we’ll try to get some photos!
April 15, 2016
Gulf Shores, AL to east of Milton, FL
Day: 67.1 miles; Total: 2,663 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,429′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8531156
Before I get to today’s travels, I have to mention last night’s dinner at a local place recommended by the guy at our motel. In addition to the more typical southern coast menu options here ( fried all sorts of fish and other things) , they served “swamp soup” which was a green brothy soup filled with chopped greens and some black eyed peas and other beans. For me, it was just what I wanted after a second day of biking in the rain and the perfect accompaniment to the grilled cheese ordered off of the “kids and seniors” menu. Ha! The hush puppies that came with everything were of course very good but now we feel we have done the hp thing for the trip.
Anyway, today’s riding was in cool cloudy weather but no rain. The first half of the day was pretty (head) windy but it tapered off later in the day. We rode along the coast for the much of the day, seeing both natural state parks and also development of course, with a mix of giant high rises and pastel colored smaller units. It doesn’t look like the Pacific coast! We came to Flora-Bama, with its bar made famous by Jimmy Buffet, and we entered our final state on this trip.
We rode a long entry into the Pensacola area through suburbs and then started hearing loud aircraft in the clouds above. Of course, we were nearing the Pensacola Naval Air Station, home of the Navy’s Blue Angels and where Navy, Marine and Coast Guard pilots start their flight training. It was pretty cool to be biking by this place where our kids’ pilot friends began their training.
As we got closer to the downtown, it was time for a stop and as we’re doing our usual Yelp thing of trying to find good coffee and food, local cyclist Ben stopped and suggested what turned out to be a great place, on a very cute shopping street.
We then continued east and north, first going along bluffs by the water and then going a bit more inland, through fairly busy towns. We were now riding on a road with actual bike lanes or at least shoulders and some of what we will ride in Florida, is part of a newly designated US Bicycle Route 90.
April 14, 2016
Fairhope, AL to Gulf Shores, AL
Day: 32 miles; Total: 2,595.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 601′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8517112
We planned on another short day because of the rain so we had a very nice relaxing time at breakfast, enjoying delicious food at our B&B, and having an especially nice time talking with Bob and Diann, the other guests at the inn. Finally we had to make ourselves get out on the road to actually go somewhere!
The rain had returned but though it was steady, it was not pouring and even better, there was none of the predicted lightening and thunder. We followed the scenic road that left Fairhope heading south along the water towards the Gulf. We passed more lovely coastal homes, , some cute local fish restaurants and the apparently famous Marriott Grand Hotel. We again couldn’t take photos because of the rain but we enjoyed seeing the sights.
The road made a turn to the east, we crossed the Fish River and came to the Weeks Bay Reserve and Interpretive Center. We stopped in the check it out and had a very interesting conversation with a volunteer and with the center’s education coordinator. This center is part of a national collection of Estuarine Research Reserve centers and here, field research is conducted and students and visitors can learn about the importance of these estuaries to the health of the bay and as the nurseries for the seafood industry of Alabama.
Back on the bikes, we made our way to the beach town of Gulf Shores. We are not quite at the water here but tomorrow we expect to get to see the Gulf and then start riding due east into Florida!
April 13, 2016
Mobile, AL to Fairhope, AL
Day: 27.2 miles; Total: 2,563.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 883′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8501331
You can see that our mileage today was pretty low. We wanted to see this town of Fairhope anyway and the predicted rain did indeed happen, so we were happy to end our day early.
After a hair raising entry into Mobile, our exit was much less scary, with our route taking us from our waterfront downtown location, through relatively quiet truck roads near the port and freight train yards, across a bridge with an actual shoulder and to a somewhat quiet road that ran parallel to more heavily traveled highways.
We crossed the water and rivers entering in Mobile Bay and then headed south towards the gulf , along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. We rode past the towns of Daphne and Montrose before arriving here in Fairhope. It rained most of the time we were biking so it was hard to take photos. It’s too bad because the homes and quaint historic towns are very pretty. Almost here, we took a long stop for coffee and to warm up, then the rain got heavier and we rode the last few miles getting drenched again. A hot shower and a dryer for our jackets set everything right again and even better, the rain let up so we could walk back to the main part of town to explore a bit. From what we’ve heard from locals, the town is working hard to maintain its historic charm, to promote all kinds of ways to be active and to keep the Mobile Bay environment protected. It’s easy to see why people like this area.
After an early dinner, we walked down to the lovely town pier jutting into the bay, saw gorgeous roses in full bloom in the park nearby and thought it was pretty cool that we were looking at water going to the Gulf! As we walked out on the long pier, ( like many things in this area, reconstructed post Katrina ) we got to see a dolphin playing in the water. Tomorrow we head to Gulf Shores, which is actually on the Gulf itself.
We spent this cloudy, slightly rainy day exploring the Battleship USS Alabama and strolling the streets in the historic quarter.
The battleship is part of a museum complex that includes aircraft and the WWII sub the USS Drum. It was fun climbing around on the ship, and imagining my uncle as a newly minted Naval officer on its sea trials and then first cruise into the North Atlantic at the early part of the war. It then went through the Panama Canal and joined the Pacific Fleet.
We later wandered around looking at historic buildings, before returning to our hotel to do some of the logistical planning for the next few days ahead. It’s been nice to have a rest day and we are enjoying some nice southern farm to table local cuisine.
Some photos from today:
April 11, 2016
Vancleave, MS to Mobile, AL
Day: 52.2 miles; Total: 2,536.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,779′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8479418
After a cozy night in the White Sands Campground, we feuled up at the nearby rustic cafe that specializes in biscuits. Seriously delicious! And then we were off to ride along the very wet Pasagoula Wildlife area. Relatively flat riding and other than a few farms ( even longhorns in the fields!), we mostly saw wet marshy forests with trees standing in deep water.
We were about 20 miles from the Gulf waters , and rode across the state line into Alabama and began riding into the outskirts of Mobile. Kind of a tense ride for what seemed like miles on roads with fast traffic and no shoulders and we diverted from the ACA map to get on a more residential / slower road. We finished our ride to the downtown waterfront area by using the much more sedate Dauphine St which is one of the interesting historic parts of Mobile.
Our hotel is near the water and after cleaning up, we took a nice stroll around Dauphine to check out the local color, and most importantly to get good coffee drinks and a late lunch. Tomorrow we are taking a day off the bikes to be tourists ( among other things, we want to see the USS Alabama which is a museum here. My 95 year old uncle is a “plank owner” on the Alabama, having served on it during its initial sea trials and first deployment in the North Atlantic in WWII. )
A couple of fun facts about Mobile:
Hank Aaron was born here, Jimmy Buffet went to school here and it’s called the Little Easy because of its resemblance to New Orleans.
From here we will go to a small town called Fair Hope, on Mobile Bay, and then it’s on to Pensacola!
About 70 plus miles of riding in some brisk headwinds today and we are at a campground with limited wifi and it’s now dark. So…we will do the typical post tomorrow but here are some photos from today. Tomorrow we are heading to Mobile Alabama where we plan to take a day off to see some sights. We will next write from there!
April 9, 2016
Amite, LA to Poplarville, MS
Day: 74.6 miles; Total: 2,407.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,046′
Map Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8453557
We left our busy motel( full of families with Jr. High kids going to a science competition – yay STEM!) and headed due east. Our first 25 miles were on a moderately busy two lane road with good shoulders and lots of trees.
Past Franklinton LA, we got onto nice rural roads with mostly good surfaces and bucolic scenery. We are still in both forests and farmlands, with very upscale looking places and others that are clearly struggling. Basically a southern version of those contrasts that we’ve seen all along the ride.
At one point along the pretty road, we came to a tiny store, the only place for miles. We stopped for our snack and got to chatting with the owner and a customer about an autism walk that had happen in the area earlier today. They were interested in CCI ‘s support for people on the autism spectrum and we had a good talk.
Later , in midday, we crossed the Pearl River and we were in Mississippi! After a brief stretch on a busy road not at all suited for bikes, our route took us off on 20 hilly ( yes, those things!) very rural miles to our stop here. Several uncomfortable dogs chasing us episodes made the riding a bit hairy, along with some sudden piles of deep gravel blanketing the road, so we were happy when that excitement ended.
We have some good shots of today’s ride, but our little B&B here in Poplarville does not do wifi so photos will have to wait. We may be at another wifi- challenged spot tomorrow but we’ll be back online after that.