Monday, March 21, 2022

Spring Break 2022 Bike Tour Day 9 - Warm Springs to Atlanta

 And we're done!

We are in front of the surprisingly modest Amtrak station, waiting for Debra to come with the truck so we can load the bikes and hit the road. We spent the time having pleasant conversation with the nice lady hanging out there on her motorized wheelchair, who told us about the poisonous air by the station caused by lasers. She was very excited by the T-Bone.

Max was amazed by the Atlanta Falcons stadium, so he demanded to take a picture.

The state of Georgia apparently spent 1.6 billion dollars on this and had no money left over for bike lanes in Atlanta.

Atlanta really makes me appreciate how far we have come in the 25 years I have been riding a bike as an adult. Because in Atlanta, it is still the year 2000. "Why would you want to waste space on a street by making a lane for bikes? What about the cars?" Atlanta and its suburbs were shockingly bad. Somehow we made it all the way in to the center of the city without getting hit by a car.

We did have a wreck though, only three miles from the end. I saw a badly needed porta potty. I shouted "STOPPING" and slowed down and started to pull over, and Max plowed into me and dumped his bike. I noticed his cell phone skittering along the pavement ahead of me. "You couldn't stop because you were looking at your phone, weren't you?" "Uh sorry." No injuries, no damage. Luckily.

We got going early this morning, because Max wants to have an afternoon at home before school starts on Tuesday. Even though it was 37 degrees out. "We could wait an hour and let it warm up." "Tough it out, Dad."

Lunch was at Anthony's pizza in Fayetteville. It was tasty. 

Every single thing in Fayetteville is named after something from the Confederacy. It's a bit ridiculous.

Most of the day was on two lane roads like this.

The problem is once you get within about 40 miles of Atlanta there is traffic. Even on Sunday morning. The traffic started around Peachtree City, a massive planned community, where the planning did not include improvements to the roads in the vicinity. Around Fayetteville, 30 miles out, sometimes the road is a divided highway, sometimes not. Sometimes there is a shoulder, sometimes not.

At the airport, we picked up US 29 to get into the city, which was the only option Google Maps labels "bike friendly". It's not. It's three lanes, no shoulder. It's really bad. If it wasn't Sunday, this would probably not be an option. But we made it.

All in all this was a great bike ride. Highlights include:
* Rural back roads in Georgia
* Bike trails in Florida
* Southern Buffets

Max had no more flat tires once I bought him a pair of Gatorskins in Tallahassee. I haven't put them on his bike yet.

It added up to 520 miles in 9 days. We only had rain one afternoon.

Here is the Strava track.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Spring Break 2022 Bike Tour Day 8 - Americus to Warm Springs

Debra has rejoined us, so first thing Max has to share with her his newfound love of the Southern Buffet. This is at the Bullock House in Warm Springs, GA.

At dinner we were discussing how bad the rain was yesterday, and Max said he took a selfie during the rain storm.


It was a pretty tough ride today. 73 miles, 2800 feet of climb, no tailwinds, some headwind. On the other hand, the temperature was perfect, it was sunny all day except for a bit of drizzle in the morning, and rural Georgia is beautiful. We did two lane back roads all day. There was very little traffic on Saturday morning.

The Motel 6 from last night was pretty horrible. There was no coffee in the room. The lobby was closed (which may be a Georgia COVID thing) and so there was no coffee in the lobby. So this morning there was no coffee. I packed up the bike, without any coffee, and we rode a half mile up the road to the 3 Squares Diner, where we had breakfast. And I got some coffee.

It's a good thing we had a hearty breakfast, because there was not another restaurant for 55 miles. We had a snack at a gas station at 26 miles, and we thought there was a restaurant at 47 miles but it was out of business. So lunch didn't happen until after 2:00.

The upside was lunch was fantastic. We ate at Big Chic in Talbotton.

It doesn't look like much on the outside, or on the inside, but look at this yummy fried chicken and the mountain of fried okra!

So even though the last 20 miles had more and bigger hills, and our route turned west into the wind, we finished strong and happy. We were done just after 5.

We are staying at the Meriwether Country Inn in Warm Springs, which is a quaint historic town where FDR used to go to enjoy the springs to make his polio feel better. The motel is an excellent RDOQ low budget motel. It's clean, everything works, and there is coffee. It cost the same as the disgraceful Motel 6 last night, which had no coffee.

I decided the T-Bone makes great bike art in our room, so I took a picture.

Here is the Strava track.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Spring Break 2022 Bike Tour Day 7 - Camilla to Americus

We are drowned rats. Two hours of soaking rain to finish up the day, with nonstop lightning and thunder.

And we knew it was coming. At lunch, we could see the giant wall of clouds coming. And the massive orange and yellow region on the weather radar already at our finish town 30 miles away.

"Tough it out, Dad." says Max.
We did. We have good rain gear, so we were fine. Temperatures were in the 50s.

When we finished, pretty much all our stuff was wet. Max is using my old Ortleib panniers, but he still had some wet clothes. I had all wet clothes, and all my electronics got wet. I may have ruined the big brick USB charger I use to charge all my devices. Max's chargers stayed dry, so I can use his.

First thing was some quality time at the Motel 6 Coin Laundry, to dry all our clothes out.

I could have done better packing to anticipate the rain. Just having a couple garbage bags to put my clothes stuff sacks in would have made a huge difference.

I've been watching this storm on the weather forecast for the last two days, and I totally thought we were going to beat the storm, right up until it suddenly as already there on the radar at lunch today. "Tough it out, Dad." Max totally doesn't care. We do have good rain gear.

The day started really great when we realized there was this awesome donut shack right across the highway from our Days Inn.

I am particularly impressed by the talent and skill in the Decorative Arts at this donut shack.

It was all two lane back roads today for nearly 70 miles, just like this. It was very flat.

Much of the time, the road ran parallel to a railroad track with cool old trestles.

There are a lot of pecan orchards here. We rode through about 30 miles of pecan orchards. Giant ancient pecan trees with clusters of mistletoe in the branches. Acres of new pecan seedlings. 

Lunch was at a Southern Buffet. (surprise!) Max says it's the fourth straight day of lunch at a Southern Buffet. He thinks this is a great thing. He is very happy. 

Since it rained all afternoon, we decided to have pizza delivered to our room at the 6 for dinner instead of going out to a restaurant. This was a good plan.

Here is the Strava track.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Spring Break 2022 Bike Tour Day 6 - Tallahassee to Camilla


We are now in Georgia, where I am a gas station.

It was a beautiful day, temperatures in the 70s, and a light tailwind. The terrain is gently rolling hills, instead of the complete flatness of Florida. The palmettos have been replaced with towering longleaf pines.

It was a bit unpleasant leaving Florida. We rode on bike lanes and shoulders for 20 miles alongside US 319, a busy divided highway. And when we crossed into Georgia, the nice wide shoulder suddenly had a nice wide rumble strip right down the middle of it. There is about 18" between the rumble strip and the edge of the shoulder. This is not nice for people on bikes, Georgia. 

Luckily, we only had a couple miles on 319 in Georgia, and the remaining 40 miles or so were two lane state highways. No shoulders, but no traffic either. It was great. We made good time.

Lunch was at mile 44 in Cairo, a small town which was the childhood home of Jackie Robinson. I learned that today!

We ate at "Grits", which was a Southern buffet in a corrugated metal building. It was awesome.

Max can really put it away when he likes the food. This was another multiple trip to the buffet table day.

We are at the Day's Inn in Camilla, Georgia for the night. This is the nicest Days Inn ever. RDOQ of course.

There are only 3 motels in Camilla, and they are all right next to each other before you get to town and walking distance to nothing. So we took the panniers off the bikes and rode a mile and a half into town for dinner, which was at a place called Blades. I had fish and chips, which was good, and Max had a ribeye, which was cooked well done on one side and rare on the other, and contaminated throughout with juices from the summer squash on the side, which was described as "roasted vegetables" at the time of ordering. 

We hit Diary Queen on the trip home, so Max is happy regardless.

We did have a bit of a disaster getting to Dairy Queen though. Max wrecked his bike. It seems he wore his regular tennis shoes to dinner instead of his bike shoes, and while riding along, he forgot he was not wearing bike shoes and he tried to stand on the pedals. 

Always wear your helmet!

Max is fine, but that's because he was wearing his helmet. He head hit the curb, and his helmet has a big crack in it now. 

The helmet needs to be replaced, of course, but there aren't really any places to buy a helmet anywhere around here for the next two days except for Walmart. We are debating whether a $25 dollar helmet from Walmart is actually safer than a high quality MIPS-certified helmet with a crack. 

Here is the Strava page for today's ride.
And here is the Strava page for our ride to dinner.

Spring Break 2022 Bike Tour Day 5 - Perry to Tallahassee

 We are here unwinding at the very lovely AirBnB where Debra has encamped while we ride bikes. 

 This is a charming little cottage in the back yard of a nice house in the Magnolia Historic District. I think you might call it an "Accessory Dwelling Unit."

The ride today was super nice. 60 miles, all flat, with a tailwind. We made great time. We spent most of the day on the "Old Dixie Highway", which we were on all day yesterday as well. It looks the same as yesterday. Except it's down to two lanes now.

It's a long way between stops on this road. We went over 20 miles of no services whatsoever to get to this place for a badly needed snack break.

It has more shelf space devoted to fishing lures than it does for food for people. Also there are many Trump bumper stickers and other Trump merchandise for sale. And there are zip-loc bags of home made beef jerky next to the cash register. Which I bought. The jerky was absolutely amazing.

We had lunch at Savannah's Southern Buffet at the 40 mile mark. Max is now all in on Southern buffets. Plate after plate piled high with chicken and vegetables. It's amazing to see. He's normally a very picky eater.

The highlight of the ride was the St. Marks Trail, which is a rail trail we rode from lunch to the middle of Tallahassee, about 20 miles. This is one of the nicest trails I've ever ridden. It's smooth, wide, and beautiful. The cross streets have stop signs for the crossing traffic, and the trail traffic has the right of way There are many bathrooms and water sources. This is what all bike trails should be like.

We are past the halfway point. It's Day 5 of 9. And since I have been reunited with my truck (and Debra) for a night, I spend the evening running errands and doing chores.

Max had another flat tire today, this time it was a complete blowout because something took a chunk out of the sidewall on the rear tire. Both the tire and inner tube were destroyed. I always carry a spare tire when touring, and several spare inner tubes, but this left Max with no spare tire and only one spare tube. So the first errand was a trip to the bike shop.

Check it out, they sell recumbents. LOL.

This was a great shop. I got a pair of Gatorskins for Max, 3 new tubes, a fistful of CO2 cartridges, and a high quality set of tire wrenches. This means there will be no more flats. It's like when you bring an umbrella and then it doesn't rain.

The next stop was the laundromat.

Now all our clothes are clean and we are set for the rest of the trip.

Since I had spent all evening running around, and because I had a Zoom call scheduled for 8:00 that Debra didn't know about, she excused me from going to dinner with her relatives. Unfortunately, it turned into another Florida dining disaster, this time from Blaze pizza, who delivered me a cold pizza to the house in front of our AirBnB cottage, well after when it was promised, without the drink I ordered with it.  I called up to complain. They took the charge off my card, and said they would send me another pizza which also never came. I ate the cold pizza out of desperation.

Here is the Strava track.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Spring Break 2022 Bike Tour Day 4 - Cross City to Perry


The story for today is rain and how to have it not fall on you. The forecast accurately said it would start storming in the early afternoon, and then rain the rest of the day. That's what it's doing.

So Max and I decided we will knock out our short day of only 42 miles and be in to a nice dry motel room before lunch. 

Since Debra has left us to our own devices regarding lodging, I decided amenities were not as important as being cheap and near places to eat, especially since it would be raining.

So I start searching for cheap motels on Google Maps, and come upon the Regency Inn, for only $70, and it has "Mama's Italian Family Restaurant" actually in the parking lot, and the "Fusion Buffet" with both Chinese and Southern food on the other side. 

The Regency Inn does not allow you to book a room online, and I want to check in early due to rain, so I called them up.

I was totally delighted when the guy who picked up the phone has an Indian accent. Because mom-and-pop Indian owned motels are absolutely the best cheap motels. The Red Dot of Quality.

"Can I make a reservation for my son and I tomorrow night? We are on bikes."
"We have lots of rooms, you can just show up."
"What time is check-in?"
"3:00. What time do you expect to get here?"
"Around noon, we are planning on getting in before the rain starts."
"No problem, just show up."

I was so happy!

So we were on the road by 8:30, with light rain and a nice tailwind. Here is the only picture I took during the ride:

There was no need to take any more pictures because it looked exactly like this for the entire 40 mile ride. Except there was an occasional egret and we saw a wood stork one time.

We had a snack at the gas station, which was after 16 miles. We were zipping right along, looking good, and then Max had a flat tire. I fixed it, and then six miles later, Max had another flat tire. This is not good when the rain is coming. On the second one, I pulled two different bits of wire (from the steel belts in a shredded tire) out of the tire, fixed it again, and we kept going. 

The wind was picking up, which meant the rain was coming, but which also meant we were able to maintain a 17 mph cruising speed, and so we made up a lot of the time spent fixing tires. We were in at 12:30, before the rain.

The Regency Inn looks really cool, but... There was no Indian guy there. There was no pervasive aroma of delicious yellow rice. Instead, there was a fat southern white lady. 

And sure enough, the motel is a dump. 

The door to our room barely closes. It smells funny. The lights don't work. The bathroom is in its original unrenovated form from the mid-60s because the shower tiles are the same as the house I grew up in. There are bugs.

I went out to the desk to see if maybe I just couldn't figure out how to turn the light on. (This happens.)
"What room are you in?"
"The light in that room doesn't work."
"I guess I'll stop trying to figure out how to turn it on then."
"Let me make a ticket for our maintenance man."

So while the motel was a disappointment, the restaurants on either side were the best of the trip. OK, that's a low bar, but the Fusion Buffet was decent, and the Italian place was really good!

Look at all the choices. Max was really happy, because he likes choices. 

So today was a good day all in all. Assuming we do not get eaten alive by bugs tonight. I have sprayed the sheets with Deep Woods Off.

Here is the Strava track.

Spring Break 2022 Bike Tour Day 3 - Gainesville to Cross City

 It was another super nice day of riding. 53 flat miles, tailwinds the whole way, nice roads, little traffic, and 20 miles of rail trail at the end.

Gainesville has a fantastic bike trail network. We had no problem getting around town. Most of it was riding several miles through the massive campus of the University of Florida. Max says there is no way he is going to college in Florida. 

Here is the scenic back road we rode for 7 miles outside of Gainesville. It was like this the whole way.

Our biggest challenge of the day was food. Not many things are open on Mondays, especially in rural areas.

Here is a sad young man waiting for his Hungry Howie pizza at the Marathon gas station in Trenton, Florida. 

Twenty miles later, we were at our finish town of Cross City. Since it was barely after 2:00, we got some ice cream at the DQ, and sat around eating it for awhile.

Our lodging for the nigh was an actual lodge. The Putnam Lodge, which was built 100 years ago by lumber barons.

This place was really cool. It's a beautiful historic building with a restaurant (not open on Mondays, of course), and a huge yard with gardens out back.

Even though the restaurant was not open, they did make me a nice Bloody Mary to replenish my electrolytes.

I sat in the garden, and made friends.

And I visited with the peacocks and chickens wandering about.

Debra had nothing to do with choosing this place. She is in Tallahassee, and we have been left to our own devices. The lodge choice does not reflect any brilliance on my part though, there is only one other choice, and this one is across the street from a restaurant which is open, and the other one is by McDonalds.

So we walked across the street for dinner to the Cypress Inn Restaurant, which was every bit as bad as every other restaurant in Florida. Ribeyes ordered medium rare and served well done. Max said his pizza at the gas station was much better. We have survived the Monday Food Desert though.

Here is the Strava track.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Spring Break 2022 Bike Tour Day 2 - Palatka to Gainesville

 It was a super easy 50 mile ride today. The roads were mostly flat, and there was a light tailwind. It took us a little over 5 hours with a stop for lunch.

It was freezing outside, literally 32 degrees, when we woke up, but we dawdled around the hotel until 10:30. By then the temperature was up to 40. Which is no big deal for us, we have been riding all winter in the 40s. We were prepared.

"There is no such thing as bad biking weather, only inappropriate biking attire."

The first 30 miles, to Hawthorne, was on State Route 20, a divided highway. This was a mixed bag. There was about 5 miles where we had to ride on a fairly narrow shoulder with rough pavement and a 65 mph speed limit. This was really bad, although traffic was light. It was Sunday morning.

But 20 is being turned into a beautiful new bigger divided highway with huge smooth shoulders and a bike lane. Where that transformation had occurred, it was really great. Most of the way was construction though, where you get to squeeze past plastic barrels with two way traffic.

But we had a few miles of the all time BEST CASE SCENARIO, where we rode on a brand new, just-finished highway that was not open to traffic yet. Win win win. 

Lunch was at PJ's Cafe, which was the only choice other than fast food. It was very run of the mill. Definitely not great. 

After Hawthorne, it was bike trail all the way to Gainesville.

And it was a really great bike trail, through forest and swamp the whole way. Gorgeous for nearly 20 miles. No potato farms.

My bike was claimed by a frog during one of our breaks though.

Our lodging for the evening was the Sweetwater Branch Inn, a bed and breakfast. The inn is actually a compound with a couple big Victorian houses, and many scattered cottages. 

And a pool and a hot tub.

Debra chose this place. And she didn't even stay here overnight, she left for Tallahassee right after dinner, so she could get right to work at her AirBnb there first thing tomorrow morning.

"Why did you get this fancy place if you are going to Tallahassee?"
"You will have plenty of opportunity to stay at the Motel 6 when I am not here."

We did have a nice afternoon soaking in the hot tub.

The sign in our cottage says this was originally the Union Academy, a school run by the Freedman's Bureau after the Civil War. The sign says many of the freed slaves who formed the community around the school moved here from the vicinity of Camden, South Carolina. It occurs to me they could have been enslaved by Civil War diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut.

We walked to downtown for dinner, at the Mojo Hogtown BBQ. The food here was pretty good, when it happened to be what we ordered and was actually hot. 

I can't believe how every restaurant we've visited here has been a disappointment. 

Here is the Strava page for today's ride.