Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Neglect seems to be a theme in my life lately and this blog is no exception - time to dust out the corners, vacuum up the spider webs and get back to spinning my life story.

Though I haven't been writing much lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking and cogitating.  The tour is one of those watershed moments where "before" and "after" are rather sharply demarcated.  So re-evaluating and readjusting my life were very much on my mind and it has been a quagmire of sorts, trying to figure out what I need to do, what I want to do and how much of it is under my control.

Some parts of my life were rather neglected in the intensity of my preparations for the bike tour - I almost forgot how to knit a sock, the spinning wheels and spindles have collected dust, and while Kim the Magnificent has kept my house in spit and polish order, the outside of the house and the yard were really deteriorating fast.

So.  The demolished carport was replaced by a shiny new one, a deck has been added to make going in and out of the back door easier and safer (standing on icy concrete steps while trying to open the door, hang on to grocery sacks and maneuver around the dog was a scary proposition).  The trim and soffits have been repaired and replaced with vinyl and aluminum without losing any of the details or charm of the original wood trim - I was holding my breath, but my contractor did a great job.  The yard has been cleaned up - bushes trimmed, stumps removed, pruning done.  Looks like someone who cares lives here now.

My fiber pursuits have been asserting themselves again, with two baby blankets and three pairs of socks off the needles recently and two sweaters waiting in line.  I haven't fully integrated spinning back into the rotation yet, but it's coming.  And sometime in the next couple of weeks, Kim and I are going to tackle the attic and finallyfinallyfinally get it organized so I can move around and work efficiently.  Once the looms are set up, my friend Jane has promised to come help me relearn how to weave - anyone want a dish towel?

The last thing I need to do is take myself in hand and take care of my health.  Weeks of heat, followed by weeks of rain have slowed down my biking to almost nothing. I need/want to get back to the kinds of miles I was doing before the tour, whether I have riding companions or not, whether this is my preferred kind of riding or not.  Just DO it.  I've also gotten caught up on all those not fun, but necessary screenings and treatments that make sure I don't die of something preventable or treatable.   Flu shot, shingles vaccine, blood pressure maintenance and screening tests are all done now.  I am in good health but I could be in excellent health if I worked at it a bit, so that is what I plan to do.

And just to get things kicked off in the right direction, tomorrow morning I will be sending in  my registration to WomanTours for the Atlantic Coast tour in spring of 2015.

Fall in Missouri, Maple trees on fire.
New Trim - bird proof/wasp proof

New deck, to be painted when the wood cures.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Moving into Fall - finally.

The deck is done.

 And I'll be able to paint it as soon as the wood cures.

The trim is done.

And should be maintenance free for like, EVER.

My allergic reaction/asthma flare is over.

My husband's burns are healing rapidly.

So.  I am on my way to New Mexico and Texas to visit family.  I'm hoping for a nice trip, maybe a little cycling, a lot of hugs and good times.  By the time I get back it should be perfect cycling weather in Missouri.

Monday, August 26, 2013

More Fun on a Bike

In spite of blistering heat and one week of non-stop rain, the Fun on a Bike program continues.  It's small, but keeps adding members one at a time.  It is such a thrill for me to be able to share what I know and what I love about cycling.

After the rains stopped

It's also fun to make new friends who enrich my life, widen my experience and reward me with smiles because they are having Fun on a Bike.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back in business - the long version

After the tour, my fingertips were quite numb.  All my fingers and just the tips.  My instinct was to blame it on injuries from a head on car collision more than 20 years ago.  In the crash ( I was driving) I was kind of wrapped around the seat belt with my left side receiving most of the forward momentum.  My neck and shoulder were painful for a loooong time and triggered many a severe migraine.  I did everything I could to prevent/ameliorate that pain - mostly by trying to prevent any movement that made it feel like my neck was going to simply break in half and my head would fall off.  Stiff neck?  I had it.  I cultivated it.

Over the years I learned many ways to stretch and massage my neck and shoulder to make it somewhat more flexible and relieve the tension.  And when I started riding a bike, I was very very careful to find ways that would keep my neck and shoulder from tightening up and causing pain and/or immobility.  My whole bike setup was geared toward that and I thought I had been pretty successful.

But one day as the tour crossed into Arizona, not just my neck and superficial shoulder muscles were tightening up, but also the muscles that ran underneath my shoulder blades.  The whole left side of my chest was tight and getting tighter, making it difficult and painful to ride.  And that's when Carla the Wonderful entered my life.  Carla was a fellow rider and is a physical therapist from Brazil.  As I joined a group of riders under an underpass on the shoulder of I-10, I asked Carla if she could help me.  Her magical fingers worked their magic and I was able to ride another 30 miles or so that day.  A few days later, after another aborted ride, we were roommates and she showed me ways to stretch the tight muscles and then get them moving into better positions.  She saved my trip.

When I got home, I asked my doctor for a referral to a physical therapist who specialized in geriatric sports medicine.  He checked my medication list for side effects, sent some blood for B vitamin levels and referred me to a sports medicine doctor.  The sports medicine doc checked for carpal tunnel, elbow issues and thoracic outlet syndrome, and since I didn't appear to have any of those, HE sent me to physical therapy.

I have been going for about 8 weeks now and I have most of the sensation back in my fingertips.  We have worked on stretching out all those muscles I had put into "protect the neck at all costs mode', and strengthening the opposing muscles.  I have gained strength and fexibility in my shoulders and a wider range of motion - my posture is better and I think I might even be taller.

So, back to the handle bars.  The trekking (butterfly) handlebars were chosen specifically to give me a more upright posture and more hand positions on the bike.  They worked to a point, but my hands were usually flat on the bars with thumbs pointing at each other.  Getting a different hand position meant moving them out to a width wider than my shoulders.  Clearly, they weren't the final solution, but what was?

I'll spare you the details and frustrations, but finally I have gotten a setup that I think will improve my postion on the bike and preserve all the progress I have made with my international crew of physical therapists. 

This is how the handlebars look now.  Bullhorn bars upside down and flipped backward with bar end shifters modified to be thumb shifters.

And this is the new hand position.  Hands at shoulder width, elbows flexed, shoulders and neck relaxed.  I did have some hand numbness on my 20 mile ride this morning, and I will probably fiddle around with the positions of the components, but I think this is going to work.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Proof of concept

Now that my physical therapy is making such improvements in my form and function, I am back to rearranging the bike in earnest.

I got the idea of using a bullhorn bar after seeing Judi Soule's bike on the tour.  This is her setup.

Turns out that my components won't fit on this diameter bar, and no matter how many places I searched and how persistent I was, I couldn't find a handlebar the right diameter.  Enter consultation with machinists and my husband was able to grind out the center diameter of my components to fit the new handlebar.  This is the current setup - just put in place to figure out if this riding position was really going to be better for me.  

This puts my hands at no more than shoulder width apart, gives me a neutral wrist position, and doesn't put stress on my elbows or shoulders.  I haven't been able to ride very far this way because of weather, but it feels very natural and comfortable.  Because of the shape of the shifters I can't get the components in the very best positions - we'll solve that problem by using bar-end shifters mounted on Paul Thumbies.  That combination should give me almost unlimited possiblities for shifter and brake positions.  It will also be a lot cheaper and easier than starting over with a new bike.

Pictures of the final configuration as soon as the parts come in.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fun on a Bike

Last night was the second installment of Fun on a Bike.  This time three people showed up, along with my friend Sally, who is piling up the miles since starting to ride a bike in April.

We started with "do you know how much air your tires need?" and "do you know how to get air into the tire?" and went on from there.  There were two "mature" women and one younger guy on a 22" fixie.  I am hoping that the group will grow and that everyone will be able to find someone to ride with.

Because it was a small group, I was able to address many of their concerns - "what kind of bike", "what makes one bike different from another",  "how do I stop without falling over?"  It was fun for all of us and we will meet again in the same place next week for further exciting adventures.

Note to self - "you have a camera on your phone ---- USE it."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Progress is slow, but it IS progress

While I was on the tour, I had some problems with my hands going numb.  My friend, Carla the Wonderful, was able to help me make some position/posture changes that helped with that, but when I got back home, my fingertips were still numb.  All of the fingers and only the fingertips, left hand more than right.

My primary care doctor ruled out medication side effects and Vit B deficiencies and referred me to a sports medicine doctor who ruled out carpal tunnel, elbow problems and thoracic outlet syndrome.  He referred me to physical therapy and I have been seen there twice a week for about three weeks now.

So I was right.  The problem is in my neck/shoulder and is probably a result of the head-on collision I was in some 20+ years ago.  And now, what to do about it.  As therapy progressed, a lot of the tight muscles stretched and lengthened, but when they did, it put me back to where I was after the accident - my neck felt very fragile and my head seemed very heavy.  I felt like I had to balance my head on top of my neck or it would just fall off.  That was the feeling I had all those years ago and it made me feel insecure.  

My physical therapy assistant, a very nice young man fresh out of school, hit the nail on the head.  He said "You traded flexibility and function for stability" - give the man a gold star!  That is exactly what I did.  I worked very hard at keeping my neck and shoulder positioned in such a way that I didn't get the nerves all riled up and develop a migraine.  The headaches were debilitating and I did everything I could to avoid them, because at the time there wasn't much available to treat them.

So we've gone from about a 50/50 split between stretching/relaxing the tight muscles and developing their antagonists to more of a 25/75 split.  It seems to be working very well.  As my muscles develop and my posture/position improve, I feel less insecure and the stretching/relaxing goes better too.  Annnnnnnnd, this week I am starting to get sensation back in my fingertips.  Big sigh of relief.

I am trying to make some changes to my bike too, but that isn't going quite as well - stay tuned for further developments.  But there WILL be more bike tours in my future, count on it.

Gratuitous wildflower pictures from my Sunday morning ride.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fun On a Bike

Yesterday I spent time at Ladies First - a women's health fair put on by the local hospital with participation by a variety of businesses and health services.  I was there to promote our Fun On a Bike program.

This program is not a bike club or even a very organized group, it is just a few people who love cycling trying to get other folks to drag their bikes out of their sheds and garages and get them moving again.  Each meeting will include a fun ride on the bike path and some kind of presentation on things that most people have to learn by trial and error - how to inflate your tires, how to check your brakes, how to shift gears and when, the benfits of cleaning your bike every once in a that.  I am hoping to make it fun so more people will come.

Last night I enlisted the help of others and we had 7 bikes of various types (two on trainers so people could try it out), a display of helmets and some flyers promoting the program.  Sally Stasney and Shirley Smith, fellow members of the local bike club participated by talking to folks that came by and telling them about the various bikes and about how much FUN we have riding them.

It was a great evening for people watching too, but it made me sad to see so many unhealthy looking people.  I estimate 2/3 to 3/4 of the people there (including me) were overweight, many were morbidly obese.  Especially disturbing was seeing so many obese children.  

We must do SOMEthing to help our population be healthier, Fun On a Bike is my contribution. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tour de Corn

Saturday is the Tour de Corn ride.  This is NOT a race.  It is held in the bootheel area of Missouri - the area is part of the Mississippi River flood plain and is therefore FLAT.  It is also HOT.  For the little town of East Prairie, MO it is a major event and everyone in the community participates.  

One of the things that impressed me last year is that even though they have a pretty much captive audience, the town businesses do not try to take advantage of the influx of visitors - menu prices are the same as they are all the time, prices on gas, water, food and other supplies stay at their non-ride levels.  They welcome the business that the ride brings into the area, but they aren't tempted to take undue advantage of it.

The entire community supports this event, which benefits a variety of charities.  People stand along the roadside cheering, they make cookies for the SAG stops, they man the SAG stops,  they provide comfort and encouragement, they even change their driving patterns as roads are closed or partially closed for the ride.

Last year was the first time I did the ride and I rode 67 miles, which was a personal best that stood for a loooong time.  This year I am post Southern Tier and my feelings are quite different.  I had originally planned to do another Century, but I will be traveling with a less experienced rider (planning to do the 35 mile ride) and she will have to wait for me to finish.  The weather in this area will either be HOT, or HOT and STORMY - last year the temp was in the high 90s by mid-afternoon.  And I won't have a riding partner.    The 65 mile ride poses the same conditions.

People asked me before and during the tour how I thought the tour would change my riding after it ended.  I, of course, had no idea - I figured I would either hate cycling and never do it again or I would want to do more and more of it.  It isn't that simple.  

What changed is how I think about cycling.  I now have nothing to prove, to myself or others.  I have done a century.  And a whole big bunch of metric centuries.  I don't need to do it again just to prove I can - I proved that.  What I am finding is that I am no longer doing any riding that isn't FUN.  I am willing to work hard to achieve new goals but that effort and achievement have to pay off in pure enjoyment.

 And now it comes down to the ride on Saturday.  If I think I can have fun doing the 100, I will.  If I think the 65 is more fun, I will do that.  What I am thinking right now though, is that I would rather ride with Sally and enjoy her achievement of a personal best - it would be FUN.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

Pictures to follow if I can get my new phone to cooperate.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My new calling

Today a local clinic had a FIT 4 ALL AGES festival.  It featured 5 and 10K runs, information and  goodies from a variety of vendors, barbecue and a fire engine.  And for the first time it included a 5K fun bike ride and free bike helmets.

I got so busy passing out and fitting bike helmets that I completely forgot to take pictures!  Some people had been riding without helmets, some people didn't have a helmet that fit, some people had no idea how to wear it properly.  Some people didn't even ride bikes, they just like free stuff.

This was the first year a bike ride had been included so we had no idea what to expect.  Turnout was fair and we had 3 groups go out for the 5K ride with a guide to help them with safety tips, etc.  My "group" was a lovely family of 5.  Dad had a trailer on his bike for the 3 year old, the baby was in a seat behind his saddle.  Mom rode her own bike and the four year old rode her pink Barbie bike while wearing a tutu.  All had their new helmets on.

This coming Thursday will be the first Bike Incubator (not its actual name) ride.  It is an activity we have started to get more people having fun on their bikes.  It will take place on the local bike trail and is designed to give people who are new to biking or just coming back to it a non-intimidating place to start.  Several older women today expressed an interest in coming - I can't tell you how much that warms my heart.

Each time we will have a focus on bike maintenance, bike safety, riding tips or something else that de-mystifies the culture and vocabulary of biking.  It is not designed to take the place of a bike club and we will not be organizing formal "rides".  It is just a place where people can get together and share the joys (and struggles) of cycling.  We expect/hope that it will spawn several groups with similar interests to start organizing their own rides and/or motivate them to join the local bike club.

I hope this goes well and that I can participate in more activities like the one today.  Since the tour, my own rides have been less than satisfying.  It feels good to ride and I enjoy it, but there is just not the satisfaction I got on the tour.  It took me a while to figure it out.  I really enjoy going from point A to point C, no matter how far apart they are.  Turning around at the halfway point (B) and going back isn't nearly as much fun, even though the distances are the same.  Sigh.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Lessons learned

These thoughts are based on the tour experience, but some of them can be generalized to all life experiences.

You can do more than you think you can, but you have to try.

Know your limitations but don't be afraid to try going outside them, just choose the when/where/why wisely.

Accept the trip you are on - don't try to make it what you expected or wanted it to be.

Realize that everyone on your tour is on a different tour from everyone else on your tour.  Each person has their own expectations, needs, problems and goals and they may not match yours.

PACK LIGHT.  Then take out at least one third of what you packed.  Honestly, no one cares that you only have two t-shirts.  Unless you go off on your own, there will be no restaurant or venue that won't let you in wearing shorts and a t-shirt - or bike shorts and jersey for that matter.  You and your tour mates will be hauling those bags in and out of the trailer and up and down stairs for two solid months, they seem heavier every day.  

Be open to new experiences, new people and new foods - but hold on to the things that make you comfortable and happy.

Take pictures and keep a journal/blog - it is amazing how quickly the towns/states/hotels and rides start to blur together in your memory.

Do it.  Do it NOW - tomorrow might be too late.

Friday, May 17, 2013

NOT the end.


Front tire, Atlantic Ocean, May 2, 2013
The tour is over, but it is most definitely not the end of its effects - those continue to reverberate through my life in many ways.  I am a different person now and that is sometimes an unsettling feeling. 
Unsettled is the best word I can find to describe myself right now.  I want more out of my life, but I am not quite sure what "more" means or how to go about it.  I am making steps into bike advocacy in my local community, I am signed up for a century ride at Tour de Corn, I am enjoying the few miles I have put on the bike since I got it back on Tuesday and I am still plotting handlebar adjustments/alterations that would let me do long distances without my hands going numb. 
But.  The "bubble" has popped.  No longer is biking the ONLY thing I have to do all day.  Of course I realized that aspect of the tour would end in St. Augustine, but now I am struggling a bit with how I am going to fit riding into the rest of my life.  I don't know that I am willing to settle for the old routines but I don't have new ones in place....yet.  The 200+ mile weeks will probably be very rare and I'm not sure that's okay with me. 
The real issue isn't so much the miles, but the quality of the experience - I got spoiled on the tour with a plethora of riding companions, some (most) of them stronger than I, some more my speed.  Now I ride mostly by myself.  Cycling is interesting in the way it is a solitary experience that you can share with others.  It is also like a lot of other fitness activities, having other people participate is motivating.  The routines of the tour were also helpful - you got up, put on your riding clothes, packed and loaded your bag, got your bike ready and once the snack table was out, you could start riding.  That routine won't always work here, so I will be developing new ones.  I am hoping that my community activities will lead me to more riding companions as well as making this a more bike friendly town.
One thing I know for sure.  EVERY dollar I spent on this tour was well worth it.  I continue to see the value in new ways every day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


This is my fourth day back at home and I still feel a little unsettled.  After two months in a bubble, my old life doesn't seem to quite fit me now.  The question seems to be whether the life changed or I did.

I am picking up old routines and not quite sure that I really want to go back to them, yet the routines of the road weren't complete either.  So.  I go about dealing with the mountain of mail and magazines, the clothes and suitcases that need to be put away, finding the things that aren't where I left them, and trying to figure out exactly what I want to change about my life.

This two month experience was pretty all consuming in spite of maintaining contact with the world at home.  Stuff happened in both places but one didn't necessarily affect the other.  As far as the cycling went, I became a better, stronger rider and I'd like to think I also became a better, stronger person.  How that manifests now that I am home remains to be seen. 

I do know that I want to do more and be more and engage outside myself more - I want to get off my duff and participate more in my community, being a biking advocate will become part of that.  I want to work harder at being the strongest, healthiest person I can be.  I want what I have done to matter, both to me and to others.

I will encourage everyone I meet to do SOMETHING BIG.  To take risks, to be bold, to stretch their limits - it doesn't have to be cycling, there are lots of ways of stepping outside yourself and seeing things in a different light.  DO it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

We end as we began.....

On the beach, in the rain.

We had a delightful ride this morning - 40 miles to the St. John's fire station - it was cool and misty, everything we saw was lush and green.  Some of the road ran along the St. John's River.

The fire station was a great place to meet up and we took full advantage of the opportunity to take pictures.  I don't know if it was specifically allowed, but we climbed all over the fire truck like a bunch of 8 year olds.  Pictures as soon as I  can load them.

Eventually everyone was ready, riders, guides and police escort.  The seven mile ride was increasingly wet and rainy.  It was quite a thrill - even for old ladies - to be accompanied across town with lights and sirens.  We DID it!  As we crossed the bridge to the beach I was thinking that Nancy would have loved this.  And I was a little sad that there would be no one there to meet me.

It was quite a walk to the beach and the rain got harder and harder.  But when I turned around after dipping my tire, there was Emily and of course, where Emily is, Nancy will not be far away.  Now I had "family" too.  It was the perfect end to the tour.  After a picnic lunch, we got into various vehicles and made our soggy way to the hotel.  

Tonight will be the farewell banquet for the riders and tomorrow I will fly home.  It is over.  There will be much retrospection and introspection before I figure out what all this means to me and how, exactly, it has changed me.  That will be interesting, I am sure.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Down to the wire

Yesterday was a 77 mile day and had a lot of nice highlights.  The roads were flanked by fields and fields of beautiful pink, red, magenta, yellow and white flowers (pictures when I get to my computer) that were just breathtaking.  It was cool for the morning and that made things nice, though as it warmed up the bugs got more active. Most of the ride looked a lot like Missouri, but flat.

I had some Dolly moments, stopping to take pictures and read roadside markers and a few "this is your brain on Benadryl" moments too.  In the afternoon, we met up with Kieth again and it was nice to ride with him for a while.

It was also Wendy's birthday, so she got the birthday dinner she wanted (hot dogs with all the fixin's) and of course cake for desert.

I think we are all very concious that our little bubble is about to burst and spray us all back to the various places we came from.  Reentry will be interesting.

Today started out cloudy and stayed that way, with occasional spatters of rain - at least the cooler temps kept the bugs down.  Nothing remarkable about this ride, lots of miles, lots of trucks, lots of debris on the shoulders (when we had shoulders).  Very few turns and/or road changes though, so the cue sheet was short - not much to remember.  I have developed quite the taste for McDonalds wild berry smoothies - will have to try copying the recipe at home.

Tomorrow is our very last day.  We will ride to the fire station, get a police escort to the beach, have a picnic and dip our tires.  Later that night will be the banquet and then we disperse.  Not quite sure how to feel about that right now, but I will update when I get home.

Thanks to all of you for reading the blog, commenting and offering me your support and encouragement.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bring on the Benadryl

We are well and truly in the south now and we have the bug bites to prove it.  At dinner two nights ago pretty much everyone wound up with dozens of bites from "no see ems" - tiny little things that bite like mosquitoes but don't reach their full itch potential for several hours.

Last night Jan was my roommate and we were both awake pretty much all night.  Jan tried ice, I tried hot compresses and oral Benadryl.  I must have checked my bed at least 4 times to make sure I was the only one in it - more and more welts seemed to pop up as the night went on.  Jan got up and took a shower at 2 AM and I reapplied cortisone solution several times. 

No sleep and several doses of Benadryl are not the best preparation for bicycling so I went in the van today and raided Walgreens for topicals that will hopefully work better.

Three more days of riding.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


This is a rest day in Crawforville, FL.  Four more riding days left on the tour and my tablet has decided not to work.  At all.  

Posts will be made pending availability of hotel computers.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Almost like being home

Hills and wind were the order of the day.  The greenery is much like the Ozarks forests but the undergrowth here is palmetto palms.  It was a short day of 49 miles and I skipped a side trip to a state park so I could get in earlier and start with my "day off" chores.  I think I am starting to smell the barn.

Only four more riding days till the trip is over and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.  Tired of living out of a suitcase for sure, tired of sleeping in a different bed every night, MORE than tired of hotel breakfasts or eating scrambled eggs out of a paper bowl in the parking lot.  Hoping to never stare another waffle in the face.  Though breakfast at last night's hotel had a new feature - a pancake machine.  You push a button and a freshly made pancake comes out the end of the machine - quite cool, but I guess we are rather easily amused.

Part of my reluctance to having the trip end is that I feel I am finally (and about time) hitting my stride with the riding and I am enjoying seeing the miles pile up.  The other part will be parting ways with all the amazing women I have met on this trip.  Like any group that is together for this long, we have had our discontents and our squabbles, but it has really been an amazing experience to see the group dynamics in action.

I am looking forward to being back home and being able to get some major projects on the house done.  The carport, patio and getting the soffits and trim repaired and repainted will be first on the list.  My fiber studio needs some attention.  There is a bathroom to remodel and a porch to replace.  Then maybe some of the minor stuff that has fallen behind.  I think there is more than enough to keep us busy.  I also want to make some changes to my bike and do some local rides for fun.

I have spent 2 1/2 years concentrating on this tour and now it is almost time to turn my attention to other things - I am sure they will be just as much fun and just as rewarding, but in a totally different way.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Looks a lot like Missouri

Morning dawns on WomanTours

Today's ride was 54 miles and the Florida panhandle scenery looked a lot like Missouri, quite green and even hilly.  The hills are not quite like the ones where I live though, these are long slow ups, followed by brief downhills followed by long flat stretches - no way to gain much momentum (my knees hate me).

The cue sheet read "hard left then hard right".  The cue sheet should have read "hairpin left followed by sharp uphill with no shoulders and oncoming traffic doing their own hard left from a point where they can't see you. Shift down before turning left or risk a 'get off or fall off' moment."  Once you negotiate the hill the hard right is no problem.  It's the little things that make these rides exciting.

Contented cows eating breakfast

Not apple, not peach, but pretty to look at while I ate my Fig Newtons

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Crossing Florida

As we did in Texas, we are crossing Florida at its widest point.  Today we moved away from the gulf and rode in areas that looked a lot like what we saw in East Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.  Very lush green forests, some with ferns for undergrowth.  Mostly we had either dedicated bike lanes, bike paths or lightly traveled rural roads.  Mostly good pavement too, though we did get a stretch of chipseal - just in case we were missing Texas highways.

The weather and wind gods were with us today too.  It started off with warm sunshine, but just as we were starting to feel the heat, it got overcast and cool with an occasional rain drop.  And wonder of wonders - some actual sustained tail winds.  What a treat!

The I-10 bridge is in the foreground with the big up and over in the middle, we took the US90 bridge, the  flat one in the background (about 3 miles between them)

View from US90 bridge 

View under a small bridge under construction (see the rivet?) taken from the metal grating bridge it is replacing.  An unmarked river somewhere in a Florida panhandle forest.

Me and Barbara Kautz wearing our Army Strong jerseys - no, we didn't coordinate to wear them on the same day.  Barbara was an Army Nurse in Viet Nam

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Total change of pace

We started out this morning as usual, breakfast, load the trailer, snack table, get on the bikes and check out with the SAG.  But today was a tad different because our first leg was only 2.5 miles, then we got on a ferry that took us from Dauphin Island across the mouth of Mobile Bay onto a spit of land that connected back to mainland Alabama.  We got a fairly close look at oil and natural gas rigs, some interesting boats and even a dolphin that moved so fast no one got a picture of it.

For a while we had Bon Secour bay on our left and the Gulf of Mexico on our right - and wind right in our faces.  As we got farther onto the mainland, the wind decreased (somewhat) and we cruised through beach towns - which in summer will be FULL of sunburned people and lots of traffic.

Tonight we are in Pensacola, FL.  Annnnd, because Moira bribed me into riding with her in the SAG today, she will be riding (on bikes) with me tomorrow.  Everyone has a price, and evidently mine is a beignet and coffee.  Moira is from Scotland and I admire her for even trying to drive in the traffic here, she does well staying on the right, but some of our intersections are rather confusing.  When you are trying to read a cue sheet and drive at the same time, even more so.

Waiting to load onto the ferry

Bikes everywhere

Natural gas rig (we were told)

Ft. Morgan


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Margaritaville - or something close to it

We are in Dauphin Island, Alabama - ensconced in three bedroom/three bath condos with views of the gulf from front and back.  Pretty posh.

It was a 44 mile ride from Moss Point, MS (a suburb of Pascagoula).  The weather was perfect for riding, but the mild head wind made me feel like I was going uphill and I had shifted so far down to make it easier on my aching knees that I wasn't making much forward progress so I took the SAG for the last 22 miles.  That meant that I got to take more pictures.

Bridge to Dauphin Island

the approach is long and the bridge is not quite as steep as it looks here

the downside, looking at Dauphin Island

At every state line crossing there are pictures being taken - and pictures of pictures being taken

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wiggins to Moss Point, MS

A beautiful riding day today.  The storm blew through last night and we were greeted this morning with temps in the low 40s but bright sunshine and THIS

See that flag?  See that it isn't moving?  The only other time we have seen that on this trip was when it was pouring rain.  Of COURSE the wind picked up later in the day, but for one, brief, shining moment, there was NO wind, not even a little bit.

Today was much like yesterday.  We rode on wonderful back roads through forests with about 95 shades of green.  Very little traffic and a few roads that were spectacular - nothing quite like gliding down a smooth as silk piece of asphalt at 18mph under your own steam, no hills or tailwinds involved.

When we got into more populated areas we had some chasing dogs, the ones nipping at my heels were there before I saw them so there was no time to get off the bike, I just pedaled like crazy til I outran them.  Toward the end of the day (like at about mile 65 of 74) we crossed some high bridges over the Singing River and the Mississippi and some other river I no longer remember the name of.  The reason I don't remember is because it was in such poor shape that I don't even remember whether there was water under it or not.  The expansion joints had the biggest gaps I have ever seen, I didn't notice that they were also at different heights until I hit the other side - I later found out that four members of our group got pinch flats at that very spot.  

Nancy, Cher and I rode together again today and we had a lot of fun together.  We talked to nice people, we ate good ice cream, we stopped when we wanted to take pictures, we enjoyed each other's company and shared the lovely green lushness of this part of Mississippi.  Tomorrow we head for Dauphin Island, Alabama.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Again? What IS it with the weather?

The cold front that blew through last night dropped the temperature about 30 degrees.  It wasn't terrible when we left this morning, but we did need extra layers.  The problem is that the front isn't moving much faster than we are, so it never warmed up.

I got chilled watching/"helping"/kibitzing while Cher changed her tire this morning and never could get warmed up after that.  Cher, Nancy and I had a lovely lunch (shrimp gumbo for me) at a small restaurant in downtown Poplarville, MS.  It was really good, but as much as it warmed my insides, it didn't do anything for the temperatures outside.  When the ride stopped being fun, I decided to SAG the rest of the way.

The scenery was much like yesterday's, but with not as nice roads and more dogs.  The funniest of the dog encounters ( some riders had scary times, we did not) was when a tiny chihuahua started chasing us down the road.  When were past his property, he trotted back to the house with a smug "I guess I showed them who's boss around here" attitude.  He might have weighed all of 4 pounds.

Later, we encountered a wagon pulled by two mules, as soon as I get a picture, I will post it.

Special gift from VERY special people.

This is a picture of me wearing my brand new Adventure Cycling Southern Tier jersey.  It was a gift from Nancy and Emilie in Boston and it was waiting for me at the hotel when I finished my first Century ride.  What perfect timing!  The only thing that would have made the day any better is if Nancy and I had been able to do that century ride together.  I miss my favorite riding partner every single day.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hammond to Bogalusa, LA

Only 55 miles today and they were lovely.  The humidity is high here, so we started out cool and clammy  and as the day progressed got hot and sticky.  No complaints about the wind today, no matter which way it was coming from - it kept things drier and cooler.  I did get a bonus tailwind for a while though - at least I assumed that's why I was going 17 mph UPhill.

Everything was lush and green, in some places like a forested park, in others more bucolic.  We also had wonderful roads except for a VERY short stretch where they were preparing it for resurfacing.  Evidently, in Louisiana they enforce their "no passing with a solid yellow line" laws.  Or maybe Louisiana drivers have less of a death wish than the ones we met in TX.  A lot of drivers slowed to a crawl behind us in places too narrow to pass and then waved and smiled as they went by when it became safe to do so.  I never felt crowded over like I have on some other shoulderless roads.

There is wild weather expected in the middle of the night so we are not planning an early start for tomorrow.  We will cross the Mississippi state line about six miles or so after leaving our motel and will enjoy a margarita party after our 60 mile day.  Not quite sure when 50-60 miles became a "short" day, but they are quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

St. Francisville

This is a lovely small town with a lot of beautiful old southern houses - I am in heaven.  Some of us are staying in a B&B right in town called the St. Francisville Inn.  Very Victorian in architecture and decor, except for the jacuzzi in my bathroom that is big enough to swim in - or stock with trout.

Some of us strolled around town today, poking around in antique stores and other shops.  I found an old set of interchangeable crochet hooks that wanted to follow me home and then might have had a credit card accident in a store with a nice selection of linen clothing.  I reallyreallyreally didn't want to do laundry or clean my bike so I went out to lunch instead.

I felt absolutely wonderful last night after finishing my century, but today, my muscles are reminding me how hard they worked and how old they are.  Tomorrow is a 92 mile day, so I am going in the van and will clean my bike when we get to Hammond, LA.

Not too many pictures today, but this is our home away from home

Monday, April 15, 2013

!!!!!!!!!!! CENTURY !!!!!!!!!!!!

I DID it!!!!  101 miles!

Good weather (mostly).  Good roads (mostly).  And favorable winds (mostly).

I has a proud.  And a tired.  More tomorrow.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Family day

Took the van into Lafayette, LA today so I could spend as much time as possible with Granddaughter Ashley.  I had hoped that Michelle (daughter in law) and Amanda (older granddaughter) would also be able to get time away from jobs and other activities to visit with me too.  As an added bonus son Jesse arrived from  a job in Florida just about the time I did, so I got the whole package, along with Amanda's boyfriend Dustin.

We had gumbo at Landry's for lunch, then went to Crawfish Time for a crawfish supper.  We spent the afternoon just hanging out and visiting.  After supper, they came back with me and were introduced to the WomanTours troupe and got a look-see at the van and trailer and some of the arrangements we use on the trip.

I had a great time and need to make it down here more often, these young women are turning out so nicely and I love spending time with them.





Jesse, Judi, Amanda

Judi, Amanda, Ashley, Michele, Dustin, Jesse