Friday, June 29, 2012
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
My ride today from Givhans State Park to Andrews South Carolina was kind of boring. The road was lined with trees almost all day which kept me in the shade and a bit cooler but with nothing to focus my attention on I could have fallen asleep at the handlebars. I am real tired of Longleaf pine trees by now. That is the tree that has lined most of the roads since Alabama. They block all views of everything and it is like riding in a tunnel sometimes. At least the oaks when they are lining the roads will sometimes make a canopy that looks good with all the spanish moss hanging off them. There were only a few small towns along the route. Most of them had no services at all. I did stop at all the open stores along the way. It was Sunday so most things were closed as they have been throughout the South. I stopped sometimes just to talk to people in the stores because I was so bored. I obviously did not take much for pics today. It was also a short ride of only 65 miles of flat roads. I stopped in Andrews South Carolina because big black clouds were building in the sky and the next town with services like a hotel were over fifty miles further down the road. I needed the rest anyway. After a nice long soak in a hot tub I tried to stretch my legs out. I tried different ways of stretching but I am so stiff that I had a hard time stretching. I am going to have to figure out a way to loosen up because I am getting stiffer the longer I ride. I hope I don't just lock up when I eventually stop riding. I must also point out that it isn't me that does not make paragraphs as needed but rather Blogspot removes all my paragraphs and runs it all together for some stupid reason. I have complained to them but since there is no dialogue nothing has been done to fix the issue. My hotel is just a cheap crappy one but there is a TV to keep up on the severe weather that is in the area. I might be here for a couple of days or more before it drys out enough to hit the road again. After almost 4600 miles of riding my bike I could use the rest. Maybe I can even loosen up a bit before I am out of this little burg. From here I head to the beach and ride the Ocean Highway going North. The forecast is for high heat and high humidity left over from tropical storm Debby that is hitting Florida right now. More later....
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Last night I stayed in a hotel with a Chinese guy I met on the road. He is going to graduate school in Maryland and is riding his bike to Key West Florida. We shared the room and compared notes on our routes. In the morning we both left early. I rode on quiet country roads that had shade for most of the day which was a good thing because the temperature and humidity were both high again. I only rode 62 miles after yesterday's 120. The State Park was on a river and there were hundreds of people floating down the river in tubes and mattresses or whatever would float. When I arrived they told me there was no room to camp. I pleaded my case that there was no where else close for me to put up camp and the woman working as host told me I could share her site. I was eternally grateful for her offering to share because I would have had to camp on the road which is not always very safe. In the park, I had a nice swim in the river but did not float down stream. There was a copperhead snake in the campground which was beautiful but deadly and some campers killed it for the "safety of the all the children". I don't really buy that idea. I would have caught it and moved it but they would not let me so they killed it with a brick. Snakes are just not very popular with most people. I set my tent up and went to the bathroom for a shower. When I came back an armadillo had eaten a hole into my tent. The little rat might look cute in cartoons but I was pissed at it. Now I have a big hole in my tent and lots of rain in the forecast. Such is life. I sat around and chatted with a bunch of local South Carolina campers. They were all very friendly and nice people. We compared politics a bit just for laughs and mostly just enjoyed ourselves shooting the breeze of the usual things. They seemed to like hearing about my travels around the world. They pumped me with lots of questions which was fine by me. I had a beer with them and then I had to go back and sleep. I was very tired from my long day riding the day before. I slept well and hit the road early in the morning.
Friday, June 22, 2012
Today was a long day for me. I left my hotel at first light and needed the lights on my bike it was so dark. I rode the 52 miles into Savannah Georgia which was on a flat road with various amounts of bike riding space from zero space to 8 feet wide. It was warm but I made it to Savannah by 9:30 in the morning and had a nice cup of coffee and a sticky bun in honor of my friend Gary. I missed the opportunity to take a pic of the huge selection of baked goods just to make Gary suffer. After my relaxing break I rode around in the historic district of Savannah for about 4 hours and took a few pics. I thought I would have been taking lots of pics but there were so many tourists around that I felt stupid taking the pics. The few I did take I tried not to get any tourists in the shots but it was almost impossible there were so many of them. When I had seen enough of the squares and homes I rode down to the waterfront along the Savannah River. There was not very good access to the river front so I gave up and headed north on 17. To leave Savannah there is a huge bridge and I started up the ramp only to see the dreaded PROHIBITED PEDESTRIANS BIKES AND MOTOR DRIVEN CYCLES. I turned around and at the entrance to the bridge there were a bunch of people selling tours. I asked them about how to cross the river and they told me hundreds of bikes ride over the bridge everyday. The only time the police will stop them is in windy or stormy conditions. There was a cop that came by as we were talking and I asked him the same question and got the same answer. After our talk about riding around the country ended I thanked them all and headed up and over the bridge. The road was sometimes very good and most of the time there was very little shoulder for riding room. I had to trust all the big trucks and cars not to hit me. I am still here so they all let me ride in safety today. I rode another 60 miles to Point South, South Carolina. That made for a daily mileage of 120 miles today. Late in the afternoon 15 miles from my end I got a flat which I fixed and pulled another piece of truck tire wire out of my bike tire. I got back on the road and five minutes later had another flat from yet another piece of wire. While fixing it this time a bunch of police came by and started to hassle me by accusing me of calling 911 repeatedly. I told them I had not made any calls at all today but they insisted on checking my phone in case I was butt dialing they said. I told them my phone can not make a butt dial and handed my phone over. They checked it carefully and passed it around between them with each one checking and handed it back. Then one of them said let us see your other phone. I could only laugh at that. Like I could afford to pay for two cell phones. They finally left me alone when I said it wasn't me that called so you better go find who did they might be in trouble. After getting the tire repaired, I was back on the road but I was feeling tired and ready to stop. It was over 90 degrees and 90% humidity and I was starting to melt. I had to stop in the shade twice in the 15 miles to rest. At Point South I went into a McDonalds there and just drank filtered water and sat in the air conditioning until I felt ready to go find a place for the night. The cheapest campground was 29 bucks so I decided to get a hotel at that price. On the way to the hotels I ran into another biker from China and we talked for a while. We decided to share a hotel room which ended up better for us both. He was heading South and I was heading North so we compared notes for about an hour which worked out well. Just North of here there are severe thundershowers and high winds. I will have to wait until morning to get an update on weather to know what my plans might be for tomorrow. Until then...
Thursday, June 21, 2012
I struggled this morning with what route to take. I had some issues with the ACA route and I wanted to go through Savanah. In the end I chose to go for it without using a bike map and just took off in the direction of Savanah. I am just outside of town for the night tonight and tomorrow if the weather and things play nicely I will ride through Savanah then hook back up with the ACA route north of Savanah. I want to return to Savanah because the last time I was there I ignored all the architecture and the parks and the history. I would really like to spend about a week there but I can not afford to be in the big city that long so it is not an option for me. I will have to be content to just ride around and look at things and maybe take a pic or two. The ride today was very boring. The road was almost a straight line all day with no change in the scenery. It was longleaf pine trees and swamps with almost no breaks in the trees lining the road. The road itself was fairly good for riding with a narrow shoulder but very little traffic. Then after I past Jesup the road got worse as far as traffic and the shoulder sometimes vanished. I only took two pics today one of the road and one of some flowers in the swamp which I will need to post later. I was mostly just in a riding zone and not site seeing at all because there was really nothing to see but the trees. I ended up stopping in Hinesville because my legs suddenly started to cramp up. The heat in the nineties and humidity over 90% combined with me pushing myself maybe a bit to hard are the likely reason for the cramps. They were so bad that I ended up just checking into a hotel that just happened to be right where I had to stop riding. I tried just resting in an air conditioned McDonalds next to the hotel while I played on the net but the cramps just kept getting worse so I hobbled over to the hotel and checked in. After a hot soak in the tub and a lot of water and gatoraide I do feel better now. I was not dehydrated because I was drinking a lot of various things. I just hope that tomorrow I do not have the same problems. I can not afford to be staying in hotels like this. Such is the life of a wandering biker.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Well I rested up in Florida for less time than I thought I needed. My weight went back up about five pounds. More weight gain would have been better but I will take the five lbs. I hit the road this morning leaving St Johns, near Jacksonville Florida, and riding North across the border into Georgia. Tonight I am camping in Folkston Georgia at the Okefenokee RV Park. The RV park is almost deserted with only two RVs in the camp. My ride today was almost all flat. I started out with about 40 miles of urban riding to get through and out of Jacksonville. Jacksonville Florida is the largest city in the world as measured in area, 896 sq miles. I crossed the river to get into downtown and that was my biggest climb of the day. Good view from the top of the bridge. All the traffic and stop and go lights were a bit irritating and the roads have a shoulder to ride on one minute and the next minute the shoulder disappears and you are in a busy lane of traffic. It made for a rather dangerous ride but all the drivers played nicely today so it was all ok. The first thing I had to do today was to replace my brake pads. I ordered the parts a few days ago and was at the bike shop first thing in the morning to pick them up and put them on. The shop was Champion Bikes on San Jose in Jacksonville and they were great to work with. The help was friendly and competent and they accommodated my time constraints without any problems. I was on the road right after they finished. My route took me through some sketchy areas of town. There were people sleeping on the streets and some people were calling out at me to sell drugs and stuff but I had no problems riding through even with all the rundown buildings and boarded up businesses. I have lots of experience in tough parts of towns after living in Oakland California for so long. The roads got better as I left the more populated central area of town. There was a nice wide shoulder for most of the way out of town but it sometimes just disappeared without warning. Bikes are the lowest priority in road safety. I navigated all the areas easily and the drivers were good today. Unfortunately it only takes one bad driver to ruin your day. My luck held out today. After leaving the urban sprawl the traffic thinned out and the shoulder was more consistent. I just rode along at about 17-18 mph and sang to myself as I went. I took a break at a McDs to use their wifi for a minute but then was back on the road. I did not take many pics today. After crossing the border into Georgia there was a nice wide shoulder BUT BUT BUT it was impossible to ride on because the entire shoulder was rumble strips which just jarred my entire body and bike to bits. I would need a bike mechanic and a dentist if I had to ride on that shoulder. Instead I rode on the right edge of the main lane. It went ok because all the drivers were polite today. A couple vehicles came a bit too close to me but I never felt like I was close to being hit. I took the long route to go through the Okefenokee Swamp and that road was fine. I did not take a single pic of the road there or the swamp. I just forgot to. I have ridden through so many swamps now that I don't notice their beauty anymore unless I make myself think about it. I will try to do better tomorrow. Folkston is a railroad funnel. There are about 70 trains going through here everyday. There is a rail museum which I went to and there are picnic tables and things lined up so people can sit and watch the trains go by. There were about 15 people doing just that today and the lady in the museum told me they get huge crowds on some days. I am sleeping close to the tracks so I hope I can sleep with all the noise. More later...
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I have been resting up in St Johns Florida near Jacksonville for three weeks now. During my cross country ride I lost a lot of weight and I wore my body out a bit so I stayed here to try to regain some weight and let my body heal. It seems to have worked for me. I have regained about five pounds. My leg that I injured when I had a seizure and fell on the side of the road about a month ago is feeling much better now. I no longer feel like there is a tear in the muscles any more but it is really stiff when the day first starts out. I have tried to stretch it out and massage it to try to get it feeling better but it hasn't helped very much yet. I will continue to try to stretch more often on the road this time. I am packing my bags and lubing my bike today. My laundry is clean and I have things packed where I think I will remember where they are when I need them without having to unpack everything all the time looking for stuff. I stocked up on inner tubes in case of flats and I bought a new higher quality air pump than the cheap one I had to buy at Walmart. This one actually will pump the tire all the way up unlike the piece of shit plastic one Walmart sold. I have some food packed up so that I am able to live more frugally for the rest of the month. I don't have any money coming in until the third of July so I am cutting it close with my funds. All the bike repairs and new pump and tubes added up to over $200 which puts a crimp on my spending. I am lucky that Nancy has let me stay here which has saved me a lot of money in living costs. I feel very calm as I get ready to ride again. The last couple of weeks I have been having pain problems and the daily bike riding seems to help lower the pain. I was going to rest another week but due to the pain I am hitting the road again a bit earlier than I had planned. I would have liked to regain 15 to 20 pounds but the five pounds will have to be my cushion now. My plans are still up in the air as far as my route. I studied the ACA maps which I followed very closely so far and compared their route with other options and all it did was confuse me. There is a new route being built called the East Coast Greenway. It is only about 25% finished but some of its routes look tempting to me. I might end up doing some sort of combination of the two. It is kind of daunting to try to choose a route that isn't already a proven bike route because if you make a mistake in choices and end up on a route that just is not good for a bike it can be a lot of backtracking to get back to a better route. Bikers need better maps that show shoulder width and things like that on the maps. The ACA maps have all the right info but they often seem to have random choices for routes and sometimes go a long way off route just to go past a landmark or for whatever reason. Sometimes I just want the shorter more direct route as long as it is safe for a bike. Google does bike maps now but they are irritating because they end up with too many route changes and they get hard to follow. One google route I checked yesterday had 42 turns in a 30 mile ride. That is uncalled for in my opinion. I will just take my chances and ride some combination of intuition and map information mixed with lots of questions from locals. Such is the life of a wandering biker....
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
It is still raining heavily here near Jacksonville FL. I have been resting here for just over 2 weeks now and I have stopped losing weight. I am still eating like 6 big meals a day in the hope that I can build up a bit of reserve for my ride going up the East Coast. The last 2 mornings have been dry enough for me to get in some decent rides. Yesterday I road 48 miles toward the beach but turned around before I got to the beach because the clouds were building up quickly. I made it back to the house just before a heavy downpour. Today I rode 54 miles in the direction of downtown Jacksonville or JAX its airport code. I almost ran over a snake on the ride today. I have already killed two snakes by running them over before I could stop but today I managed to stop in time to get out my camera and grab a couple of pics before the more than five foot long rat snake slithered back into the longleaf pines along the road. The last four or five snakes were too quick for me to get my camera out and get pics but today I scared this one into curling up as I skidded to a stop about three feet away from it. I took a few pics as it uncurled and slithered back into the longleaf pines. Look at the pic above to see how well they blend into the leaf litter on the forest floor. There are also lots of turkeys, wild pigs and deer around. Vultures are circling overhead all the time. I see a lot of roadkill armadillos but have yet to get a good pic of a live one. One of these days I will see one with enough light and time to get a pic. I want to go gator hunting one of these days to get some pics of wild gators. I am getting more and more ready to hit the road again but it is raining for hundreds of miles up the East Coast which is the way I want to ride. AS soon as I see a break in the weather I am going to scoot up to Virginia. After Virginia my plans are not set in stone. I might go North or I might turn West on the Bicentennial trail. We shall see...more later...
Thursday, June 7, 2012
I get asked why did I want to ride across the country more than any other question along the route. I am not sure I am able to properly answer that question because not even I know for sure why I wanted to push myself to ride over 4000 miles for no apparent gain on my part. I think a bit of history is in order here for others to maybe better understand what got me on my bike. I was a healthy active 40 year old man with a family and a good job when suddenly I ended up in the hospital. I was in agonizing pain and after several surgeries I was sent home on a stretcher and told by the doctors to take all the morphine I wanted for pain control because there was nothing else they could do for me. I could not walk or even get out of bed. I was told I would never be able to walk again. In a few months I was able to use a wheelchair which I hated. To say that I was depressed from my sudden disability would be a severe understatement. Then my wife at the time told me she did not want to spend the rest of her life with a cripple and she took my kids and left me alone. There was nothing I could do about it. I had no money, my body was a mess and my brain was even worse. I got screwed over in the divorce and ended with almost nothing. I was suicidal from having my kids taken away from me and actually made more than one attempt to take my life but was not able to do the job for various reasons. I was eventually able to stand up and walk a few paces. Then I bought a dilapidated old house with a big death stain in the living room thanks to the previous owner that died in the house. I proceeded to try to remodel it into a disabled accessible home. It took me years of work and I had to call in all my favors from my friends to get the house done. I was still in extremely high pain and very disabled physically and my depression was still at the suicidal level. I had to take life a day at a time and often a minute at a time to stay alive. I decided to sell the house and take the money down to Mexico and blow it in a few months trying to enjoy myself and then when the money ran out, I planned on killing myself. There was only one flaw with my plan. While I was relaxing on the beaches of Mexico I started to get healthier by the day. My body and more importantly my brain started to get better. My depression was lifting. My mobility started to go up also. I pushed myself to walk on the beach. At first it was hard to just walk to the beach but with determination I started to walk along the beach every day. I got better and better physically and I started to actually get a little bit happy. The change surprised me. I was caught off guard that I was no longer suicidally depressed and stuck in a wheelchair. That isn't to say that I was no longer disabled. I still had very high pain and a very limited ability to walk. I was able to walk about a block a day and I stopped using my wheelchair completely. I spent the next seven years trying to heal while living in Central and South America from Costa Rica to Argentina. Then one day I came back to the U.S. and I got stuck here when Social Security told me I could not leave the country again until I was 62 and a half years old. I was resigned to live in the states from then until now. The problem with that is that it is impossible to live in the states on the amount of money I get for Social Security. I tried to do the best I could but it was impossible to survive without the help and generosity of my friends and family. I ended up owing everybody that I knew for something or other. I felt like a parasite with no self pride in anything. Then my health started to slide again. My pain went back up to unbearable levels and my mobility went down. I was close to living out of a wheelchair again when I discovered that I could still ride a bicycle. I could not walk but I found I could ride all day long and it actually made my pain go down. I started to ride a lot. I started to get fit. My weight went down and my pain was more manageable. Then Social Security and the counties started to mess with me. The made me feel like a total parasite again. My depression was again spiraling down the more they harassed me. Social Security will lie to people and try to trick them into making a mistake so that they can chop them off the rolls. They are the lowest, meanest people I have ever encountered in my life. They prevented me from seeing doctors for almost a year. My pain meds were gone and I was again suicidal. I made a plan to go jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. I was mulling over my last arrangements before my suicide when I suddenly decided to just take off on my bike to points unknown. Back in my twenties I almost rode my bike across the country so on a whim I just decided to do it now before my suicide. Using a credit card, I went out and bought a touring bike and loaded it up with what I thought I needed, bought some maps and three days later I was on the road from San Francisco. I used the Golden Gate Bridge as my starting point and even considered just jumping that first day of my ride. Instead of jumping, I took off and started my ride. Fifty seven days of riding later, I finished my cross country ride. At the end of the ride I was happier than I have been since before I got disabled twenty years ago. I lost weight, got invigorated with new energy and a new reason to live. My depression is much better and at this time I am not always suicidal. I still can not live on my Social Security check so I still have issues. I had to borrow money from my family to be able to buy food for the last week of my ride. I am not sure how I will survive in the near future. I don't really have a plan. I do have some hope. The long hard ride showed me that I can push my limits and overcome many obstacles. Trying to find the stamina to make it up those hills and mountains and to push on despite being extremely tired taught me I am tougher than I thought. If I can find a way to focus that determination I might still beat the spiraling demons of depression. This battle I have won but the war is not over yet. So maybe now you can better understand why it is difficult for me to answer the question, "why did I ride across the country" when people ask. All I usually answer is, "I just love to ride and it is about the ride not the destination." Enjoy life while you still are able to...more later.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Well I feel like I have stopped losing weight finally. I have been sort of resting up here in St Johns Florida for about 9 days now. My weight continued to slide after I arrived here but now seems to have leveled off and hopefully I will regain a few pounds before I hit the road again. I am still eating about six meals a day and they are healthy meals for the most part but I am going for high caloric foods. I am still eating a lot of protein, fruits and veggies and of course baked goods like banana bread. I have also been riding every day, usually early in the morning for about thirty miles but I have rode as many as 82 miles in a day. All my purchases I wanted to make have been ordered and lots of them have already arrived. I am still waiting for business cards, camera battery, memory chip, air pump and my maps for the next section of my ride. I have made four trips to the beach here. I would like to be there every day but I live about 20 miles from the beach. There is also a pool here in the neighborhood that I am going to start going to with a woman I met that lives just down the street. I met her in St Augustine the first day I arrived when I randomly asked her for directions to my cousin's address. She thought I was joking because it was her street and only a few houses away. The world is getting smaller all the time as far as I am concerned. That was quite a coincidence asking her. We have since become friends. Catahoula Coffee in Richmond CA sent me a care package that arrived today. Tim, the owner, sent me a couple pounds of my favorite coffees that they roast but he also sent a coffee press to make the coffee with. Thanks Tim, I will enjoy that. Last night we got some rain and I went outside to watch it. There were toads all over the lawn and driveway. Two different types of toads. One was the Eastern Spadefoot I think and the other type was the Southern Toad as far as I can identify it. There are over thirty types of frogs and toads here in Florida. There are also lots of snakes. I have yet to catch a snake out in the open with my camera in hand but with the high numbers of snakes around it is just a matter of time before I get a good set of snake pics. The snakes are always crossing the roads here. It seems like all drivers aim for the snakes when they are out on the road. Even the ones that are already dead people will swerve to run over them yet one more time. Humans just seem to have an instinctive need to kill snakes. I don't seem to feel that way. I love snakes and almost all wildlife. I respect them and their right to live. I just wish more people felt the same. More later...