Day 3: Humble pie isn’t so bad

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Gainesville, FL (10 mi / 16 km)

I did not want to take a rest day at first. Nathan suggested that it might be prudent. He was right. We hung out with Sam and his roommate Adam. We talked about big life things and he cooked us dinner.  We chilled out and met up with our Gainesville cycling guru, Joel. He gave us tons of tips and took us to a bike shop. We did end up getting clip in (clipless/SPD) pedals, but not much else. It wasn’t the friendliest or most helpful shop we’ve been to.  We missed our Orange Cycle friends.  They’ve spoiled us. But Joel gave us the hook up and took us out riding on a “recovery” ride. Joel is an excellent cyclist. I am a novice.  The Hawthorne trail was beautiful, but there are a lot of hills.  A 10-mile recovery ride wasn’t quite what we had in mind. So I’m recovering as I write this.

Day 2: Is it going to be like this forever?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fruitland Park, FL to Gainesville, FL (~60 mi / 97 km)

We slept in and were on the road by about 7:45. It was already hot. But I think that we packed up at a record pace because the devil mosquitoes were eating us. (What is their purpose in the food chain?)

Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Where is the coffee?

We stopped at a Panera in the Villages: yes the wonderful retirement community. There were more golf carts in the parking lot than cars. Seriously. Coffee was the goal.

It was hot.

Highway 441 has many rolling hills. Which in theory is nice, but when on a bike with at least 25 pounds of gear and a backpack with 3 liters of water and a ukulele it is tough.

The morning was uneventful.

We found a nice little church north of Ocala and chilled out for a few hours. It must have looked sort of strange: we pitched our tent to dry it out in the sun with other random things that were soaked from last night’s rain and then we had our bikes unloaded the shade with us napping and reading for 3 hours.

It was nice. We decided to get back on the road about 4:45. The heat seemed to have dissipated some.


We were still 30 some miles from Gainesville. I kept on thinking of the YouTube video David after the dentist: will it be like this forever?

The hills were devastating and so was the heat. Every thing I swear was uphill.

We had to stop a lot.

Nathan’s brother, Sam’s friend Joel (follow that…Sam’s friend, Joel) is a bike rider and asked how many miles per hour we were averaging…like 20? No, we are in over our heads. More like 9 hopefully 10 miles an hour.

It took us seemingly forever to get to Gainesville.

We left Fruitland Park at 7:20 am and arrived in Gainesville at about 9 pm. It was awesome seeing old favorite places in my old collegiate stomping grounds, but I was too dead tired to appreciate much of anything.

We arrived at Sam’s apartment to applause and a little laughter. Apparently we looked a bit loaded down.

Day 1: Reality Check

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Orlando, FL to Fruitland Park, FL (58 mi / 93 km)

Note: Please don’t be bothered by the multiple changes from the first to third person. When riding a bike sometimes it will feel like an out-of-body experience in the Florida heat after 6 hours of riding. Also, I change tense at any point I feel like it. This is a blog. I figure it will be okay.

Things that have happened: list-ish version

We geared up and left by 7:20 Tuesday morning.

We took 441 for many miles.

The first 15 miles seemed easy.

Then it wasn’t.

Then we took a break and Amy forgot that her left foot was still in the strap. She toppled over on to Nathan and he toppled over on to the ground with Amy and her bike. And his bike. We got up and drank some water and had a snack.

There was lots of gross road kill.

There were many cars.

There at least was a shoulder.

We saw a Chili’s in the middle of the day. We took refuge. Weirdly we drank water (You know HH all day every day, 2 for 1) and had grilled chicken. (I really like burgers and fries)

We road to a park and chilled out in Eustis for 2 more hours during the heat under a pavilion. Old women were fishing and smoking. So were teenage boys. Though not together.

Amy pulled out her Z-Lite and feel asleep for a while. She wondered if they would make it to Lady Lake.

It did not rain, though it felt like it would.

We got back on our bikes and continued riding down 441. We had come about 35 miles at this point.

Nathan’s tire gets shredded by glass. Thankfully we had a spare tire with us.

Nathan’s new inner tube springs a leak 1 1/2 miles later.

We stopped at Noble’s Golf Carts some where outside of Leesburg. A nice older gentleman asked us if we needed some help. It was getting late so Nathan asked where we could pitch a tent. The man kindly replied, “You can pitch a tent most anywhere.” Then he told us about a state park just up the road. We headed on our way. We stopped at a gas station and filed up on water and as we were leaving our friend showed back up and said that he had gone ahead and told the park we were coming and inquired if we could camp there. We have found so many nice people along the way.

Lake Griffin State Park: aka Mosquito Heaven, our well… you know. No offense to the fun people that work there. They thought we were a bit crazy. By that part of the day we were.

Now things get fun.

We get to our campsite and are swarmed by the largest mosquitoes that I think have ever existed ever. We pitch a tent and decide that we have to get out of there before we get eaten ourselves.

We of course put all of our things on the picnic table and gently laid the rain fly from the tent over it. We threw out sleeping bags and sleeping pads in the tent and took off.

(Can you see where this is going?)

Food is the only thing on the horizon for us.

We bike 1/2 a mile down the road to this Italian place and order a pizza and garlic roles. About 10 minutes after we sit down we hear someone mention rain. Nathan then gets up to ride back to the campsite to put on the rain fly. But of course it is too late. It is pouring.

Classic. We pitch a tent and don’t put on the rain fly. It doesn’t rain, it pours.

I find this a little bit funny. Nathan, however, doesn’t. Come on, it is a little funny.

We wait out the storm for a good 45 minutes. Then ride back to our campsite. Absolutely exhausted. We pour a few gallons of water out of our tent. Lay out our emergency ponchos and sleeping pads, which are fairly dry from being rolled up, and don’t bother with the sleeping bags (they were in waterproof bags but it was too hot). We just prayed for no more rain.

Day one ends very wetly, but we are glad (mostly) for the adventure. And we are certainly glad that we are in this together. You have to have a sense of humor, otherwise, it’s over.

An extra day for rest and preparation

I’ve read that flexibility is an excellent character attribute to cultivate when embarking on a bike tour (and probably any type of long-term travel). I’ve also read that it’s important to listen to your body and not try to push yourself too hard. It was 10:15pm Sunday night, we weren’t done packing, and we wanted to get an early start to do most of our biking before the heat and rain of the day.

So, we decided to postpone our departure one day. Today would have been a beautiful day for biking – slightly less hot than it has been, and less rain than usual – but it was good to have the time to finish getting everything ready without rushing. I would certainly echo other advice I’ve heard – load up your bike and go ride it around to make sure everything’s OK. Amy’s bike shimmied a bit after it was all loaded, and required some weight redistribution.

The shimmy has stopped, and we’re ready to go! Here are some pics of the bikes fully loaded, minus our backpacks, and of sleepy Olive and Michael saying goodnight.

A few days left in sunny Florida

Those who are in Central Florida understand that “sunny Florida” only applies to certain locations at certain times of the day. We had an unusual week of solid rain recently, and the last few days have been a nice respite from it. Although I’m sure the rain is coming back, I hope it holds off on Monday so we can get a quick, dry, start.

Amy and I started taking a closer look at our maps last weekend, and found out that our 6.5 – 7 weeks won’t be enough for us to bike the whole way. Note to self… using Google Maps to estimate mileage from point A to point B is OK for driving, but not for biking, particularly when you’re going to use the Adventure Cycling Association’s maps.

But rest assured! We are still biking from Orlando to Banff. Since we’re on a bit of a schedule – attempting to be on time for the Bridges Conference – we’ll have to cut out about 1000 miles by train, in either one or two stints along the way. We’ll still be biking about 2500 miles (~4000 km) in 47 days, which averages out to about 65 miles (105 km) a day, depending on how many rest days we take.

Here’s our basic route. Note that this is just to show the main North and West turns we’ll be taking – the in between paths are the default travel-by-car results from Google Maps. Our bike routes will be quite different, but overall, you can get an idea of where we’re headed:

View Larger Map

Speaking for myself, I’m definitely feeling a bit nervous! Super excited, and nervous. It’s hard to tell the difference between those two things sometimes. Certain members of my family aren’t helping with the nervousness (Mom, we’ll be OK, don’t worry!).

A friend of mine suggested we watch The Motorcycle Diaries before we go, so we put it on the Blockbuster queue last weekend. Amy and I really enjoyed watching it yesterday. I love the portrayal of Che’s relationship with the outcasts of society – the poor, the sick, the lepers, the oppressed ethnic minorities. They are always in his mind and in his heart, and the injustice he witnesses stirs something inside of him that won’t let him go. And I love that he acts on these thoughts and feelings, sacrificing comfort and giving of himself relentlessly.

That’s the kind of man I want to be, though I often find myself only making it halfway there – connecting in my heart and mind, but lacking the follow-through into my actions. I think this adventure will be good for me. We’ve got another country to get to in 47 days! There’ll be no dawdling about…