"YOU CALL ME A FOOL,YOU SAY IT'S A CRAZY SCHEME"
It's true that we will have cycled over 4,000km by trip's end, and that some rigour had been involved. Lest we delude ourselves into thinking we're hardcore, however, we met up this week with two couples heading west whose itineraries were significantly more ambitious. In Bonifay FL, we had lunch with Paulina and Alexandre from Grenoble, France. They had landed in Miami, and were on their way to Los Angeles via San Diego, and thence Washington state, as time allows. Alexandre was pulling a trailer and both were already fit and lean, dressed even more stylishly than Barc. The mess of creamed chicken they ordered for lunch was unappetizing to see, but by now their palates must have been deadened. Haut-Savoie gastronomy this was not.
The next morning we met Dick and Jane from Boston, who intermittently drop everything in their normal lives and go on self-contained bike or hiking trips. Their bike tour this time began in southern Florida, was continuing west along the "southern tier" to San Diego, then north to Alaska a few months from now. By then I'll be back on my modified ripple chips diet.
Rolling east of Mobile, the landscape continues with the rolling highways of LA, MS, and AL, but as we approached Florida the road featured more frequent mid-forest causeways over marshes and floodplains. My hope is to see at some point a gator lazing in the sun as I observe from some safe, overhead distance, but so far it's still been largely turtles, herons, buzzards, and roadkill. While southern Florida is mostly flat, until Tallahassee we had to use granny gears working on some serious uphills...some as high as 300 ft. above sea level, relatively safe real estate when the ice caps melt. The biggest climb was up and into Chatahoochee, just east of a sprawling Florida "correctional facility": this hill would slow down any escaped criminals fleeing the work gangs we often pass on the highway. We wave, smile, and keep pedalling. Nothing to see...just move along, sir.
COLLARD GREENS WITH THAT, HONEY?
Best soul food of the trip was the lunch buffet in Chatahoochee: all-you-can-eat for $7.99 at WB's Sports Bar and Grill. Fried chicken, oxtail stew, beans, rice, boiled collard greens, sweet potato, cornbread, homemade cake. I unwisely had seconds on the chicken and greens...no crisis, but a reminder to never cycle on a full stomach.
BUFFET REDUX: IS BREAKFAST INCLUDED?
Chronic headwinds aside, the weather this past week has until now lacked the renowned Florida sun and warmth, the temperature dropping below freezing on consecutive nights after cool days forced us to layer stylishly for each day's ride, including gloves on top of cycling gloves. Our self-serving response in these chilly days is to research nightly the services of Best Western and its competitors. Requirements: two beds, ESPN, a relatively good price, and a breakfast that includes a "hot" option that at least mimics the high quality offerings of, say, a Waffle House. The "eggy" scrambled substances and sausage disks complement the hot coffee, filling our apparent need for an all-American start to the day, although waffles, syrup, donuts, or biscuits with white gravy seem to be the staples enjoyed in volume by our US fellow travellers. Barc has previously warned me about the dangers ("no upside") of my gesturing rudely to bad drivers crowding our road space...he's right, but some impulses are primal...but it was his recent, inadvertent bump of our neighbour's breakfast table and the consequent spillage of some of this man's Trix that caused our first cross-border crisis. This hollow-eyed fellow, last seen as an extra in Deliverance, was none too happy with Barc, to judge by his twisted face and his tense grip on his plastic spoon. Had he been slurping a higher-end delicacy--Froot Loops, say--we'd have been in real trouble. We now tread more carefully in the breakfast room, giving wide berth to wide girth.
THE KEY WORD IS SURVIVAL ON THE NEW FRONTIER
On the frequent occasions we stop for a coffee break or equivalent, it's common for people who approach us to
a) inquire about our route...You've pedalled all the way from Canada? (Rare follow-up: How do I get citizenship?)
b) point out that the stretch of road we're currently cycling is America's most dangerous, cyclists are injured or killed every other day, and drivers never watch the road because they're too busy texting or lighting their crack pipes.
We thank them politely for their interest, and wonder at their need not simply to wish us safe journey, but also to imply that we're completely insane, the pedalling dead.
Speaking of dangerous drivers needing our attention, Barc and I agree that school bus drivers are our biggest threats, as they consistently seem to want more of the road than they need or warrant: we issue a yellow alert each time one appears in our rearview mirrors. Our theory is these drivers have become unhinged by their repeated exposure to the worst behaviour of kids, classic examples of the bullied becoming the bulliers. They consequently see touring cyclists as potential victims even more helpless than they.
After the comparative comfort of tonight's St. Patrick's Day celebration in our Hampton Inn room (green peppers on the pizza), it appears we're just three days riding from Perry FL to the beach at St. Augustine, arriving tentatively March 20. Famous Last Words next time.
an unusually inane piece by Barc
WHO: An innocent biker
WHERE: A 60-mile stretch between Tallahassee and Perry
WHERE?: The Florida Panhandle
WHEN: St. Patrick's Day. March 17, 2017
WHY: Best guess: a profound chemical imbalance combined with a somewhat delicate startle reflex.
EMOTIONS IN PLAY
FEAR: A blue Chrysler 300 passes close enough to lick the passenger-side window.
SADNESS: On a cold, windy day, urine warms the inner thighs for a surprisingly short period of time.
JOY: A couple of miles down the road, a blue Chrysler 300 is parked at a rest area, the driver sitting behind the wheel. To drag her by her blue-rinsed hair to the swamp, stuff her into the waiting maw of Gussie the Gator, scuff dirt over the two tracks made by her sensible shoes, and brush my hands together smugly shows how much can be accomplished in a short period of time if you love your work.
DISGUST: There's only $43 in her purse.
DOUBT: Should I take the 85 cents in the bottom of her purse, or will the extra weight slow me down...
SURPRISE: Part 1) Gators are unreliable. Part 2) Some old ladies are strong, nimble, and stealthy. Part 3) Some old ladies clutch their key rings as they're dragged by the hair and stuffed into gators. Part 4) Some key rings include pepper spray.
ANGER: The Florida State Trooper takes the side of the 89 year-old grandmother of three, dismissing my dangerous driving/attempted murder charge as "sissy talk".
DISMAY: The old lady calls her three grandchildren for moral support. Moments later, three blue Chrysler 300's pull into the rest area.
SHOCK: The clear outline of a Canadian tongue print shimmers on the passenger-side window of the nearest 300.
AMAZEMENT: The granddaughter in the saliva-smeared car is my fourth half-niece, twice-removed. Her name is Patty.
REGRET: Family may be family, and no family is closer than ours, but she must pay for her crime.
DESIRE: To get it right this time.
CONCLUSION: You're no saint, Patty.