Trip Report: 2014 Bicycle Tour
Burton, TX to Key West, FL along the Adventure Cycling Association Southern Tier Route.
This page is a report of my solo bicycle tour in 2014. I followed the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) Southern Tier Route from Burton, TX to St. Augustine, FL. Then I took the ACA Florida Connector Route from St. Augustine, near Orlando, then Ft. Meyers, and then Ft. Lauderdale. Then I followed the ACA Atlantic Coast Route from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West, FL.
See the sidebar for information about the Adventure Cycling Association, the route, and my bike and gear. I camped and stayed in motels depending on the location, weather, etc.
Click any of these links to see:
- Photos from the trip.
- Photos of roadkill along the way that was requested by my friend, Anette.
- Written list of the roadkill (PDF file)
- List of the birds that I saw on the trip (PDF file)
|Day 31, Wednesday, February 26, 2014.|
|Crestview, FL to DeFuniak Springs, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 32.3/951.5, 3:29/4:07:03.
It was a rainy and cool day. I started at dawn so that I could complete today's ride before it turned much cooler and windier this afternoon. I beat the wind, but the temperature had dropped about 10°F to the low 40's by the time I stopped riding. It is expected to freeze tonight and again tomorrow night.
The rain and my bike helmet styled my hair in a unique way all by themselves.
Thanks to Connie, I got my Bibler I-tent from home via the U.S. Postal Service by general delivery here in DeFuniak Springs. I threw my 20-year-old, leaky bivy sack in the trash can.
I've now completed section 6 of the Adventure Cycling Association's Southern Tier Route. I am starting a new sectional map tomorrow. I am 425 miles away from Saint Augustine, FL and the Atlantic Coast.
|Day 32, Thursday, February 27, 2014.|
|DeFuniak Springs, FL to Falling Waters State Park near Chipley, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 45.6/997.1, 5:05/4:12:08.
The trees and flowers think that spring is starting. The weatherman must have forgotten because it was 30°F this morning and it is expected to be 28°F tomorrow morning here in the Florida panhandle where it shouldn't be this cold.
I was surprised to see llamas in this area.
I passed through Caryville, FL, population 411, and home of the Annual Worm Fiddlin' Festival. I axed the clerk in a convenience store in Caryville, "What is worm fiddlin'?" Despite living in the home of an annual festival dedicated to the activity, she had never heard of worm fiddlin'. Fortunately, the customer in line behind me knew and explained it to me.
Check out these two pictures and decide which might be the best place to take a swim (when the weather is warmer of course).
|Day 33, Friday, February 28, 2014.|
|Falling Waters State Park near Chipley, FL to Chattahoochee, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 48.3/1,045.4, 4:51/4:16:59.
I saw more signs of spring today, lots of redbud trees and a dogwood tree in bloom. To my utter amazement, I saw another squashed beaver on the roadside yesterday. This time I made sure to get a photograph of it. To see it, click here. To see the complete collection of my roadkill photos click here.
Yesterday, I talked to a young man walking along the roadside with a backpack who was WALKING across the country. He started in Virginia Beach, VA and was headed to San Francisco.
|Day 34, Saturday, March 1, 2014.|
|Chattahoochee, FL to Tallahassee, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 52.9/1,099.3, 6:03/4:23:02.
First thing this morning, I crossed over the Apalachicola River and entered the Eastern Time Zone. As I toured through Chattahoochee, I was less than one mile from the Florida / Georgia border.
I had my first puncture flat with these tires. I purchased these tires several years ago after a ride on the Caprock Canyons Railway near Quitaque, TX. On this ride, we both had multiple flats after riding less than a mile. We ran out of tubes and supplies to patch them. We walked back, each of us with both tires flat.
When I returned home, I found literally thousands of goat's head thorns in my tires. Every square inch of the surface of the tires had multiple thorns. I threw those tires away and purchased my current setup.
I currently have Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires that are super durable. They have an extra, thick layer so that any object that sticks in the tread must be very long to penetrate the tube. I use the Schwalbe tubes designed for these tires and add Slime. With this setup, I have never had a flat from a puncture until today. I have had two flats through the years caused by separation of the valve stem from the main body of the tube when the tubes got old.
My back tire is worn thin so that it no longer has any tread and is smooth and flat. I should have replaced this tire before starting my tour, but I didn't notice the degree of wear until after I had started. This tire no longer has the thick, protective layer that has been so successful at preventing punctures in the past so that a relatively small thorn today caused a flat. When I examined the tube, the Slime was already sealing the hole, I might have been able to simply inflate the tire, but I patched it anyway.
I was on a lightly traveled, back road when I had the flat. Three or four people, about half of those that passed by, stopped, and offered to help.
Ironically, Connie mailed me new tires yesterday that I'll probably get on Tuesday that probably would have prevented the flat today.
I stopped and watched a Cooper's hawk feeding today that seemed unperturbed by my presence. It would dive down from a large tree, grab a bug, and then return to its same perch. One time it landed about 20 feet away, directly in front of me.
I worked with Connie over the phone today at 10:00 MST to purchase our VIP tickets to the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival in September. The VIP tickets sell out in about an hour or two after going in sale.
I am in Tallahassee tonight and tomorrow night with a rest day planned for tomorrow. It's a college town with a population of about 187,000. It's home to Florida State University with an enrollment of about 41,000 students. It looks like there are several interesting things to see and do here.
|Day 35, Sunday, March 2, 2014.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 5.9/1,105.2, 0:45/4:23:47.
This was a rest day. I did laundry. I rode to an Indian food restaurant that wasn't open for lunch on Sundays. Then I rode to a bike shop that was out of business. The sites to see, museums, etc., either are closed or have very limited hours on Sunday. I think I'll stay here another day to do some sightseeing, get a haircut, and visit a bike shop all of which I couldn't do today because it's Sunday. My muscles are sore, and another rest day is probably a good idea.
|Day 36, Monday, March 3, 2014.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 7.1/1,112.3, 1:01/5:00:48.
I started the day by getting my hair cut. Surprisingly, I found a barbershop 2 blocks away from my motel whose web site showed it to be open on Mondays. When I got there, it was a black barbershop. The barber did a great job cutting my straight, blond (Connie would say gray) hair very short which is how I wanted it.
I found a bike shop and bought some new cold weather cycling gloves. I have worn holes in the fingers of my present pair. I was shopping for Slime for my tires as well and was told by the shop owner that bike shops no longer carry it. He said Walmart bought the company and sells Slime so cheaply that no bike shop can compete and so they don't carry it.
Then I went sightseeing. I spent several hours at the Museum of Florida History. It had an excellent "First Peoples" wing. It also had a large collection of gold, silver, and other objects recovered from sunken Spanish galleons.
I went to the Historic Florida Capitol Building. There was a big NAACP rally going on at the back of the building. Then I went to the 22nd floor Observation Deck of the adjacent modern Florida Capitol. It has an impressive panoramic view of Tallahassee.
I had late lunch at an Indian restaurant 1 block from the motel. It started raining in the midafternoon, just like the Weather Channel predicted.
|Day 37, Tuesday, March 4, 2014.|
|Tallahassee, FL to Monticello, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 43.0/1,155.3, 4:30/5:05:28.
It was a cold and cloudy morning. I followed the Adventure Cycling Association's meandering route to Monticello, FL. The first leg going south from Tallahassee used a great rails-to-trails bike path, the St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail.
I visited Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park . This was the site of the second largest battle in Florida during the civil war. Near the end of the war, a group of Confederate soldiers composed chiefly of old men and young boys successfully repulsed an invading Union army that intended to capture the state capitol at Tallahassee. Tallahassee was the only Confederate state capitol not occupied by the Union army during the civil war. The "Natural Bridge" is where the St. Mark's River disappears into a large sink hole and then reemerges ¼ of a mile downstream.
It's supposed to start raining this afternoon and then not stop for 48 hours. I beat all but a little drizzle by starting early this morning.
Have you ever seen a sign like this? What does it mean? I saw it along a rural road with almost no traffic and nothing that looked any different than the previous or subsequent stretches of road.
|Day 38, Wednesday, March 5, 2014.|
|Monticello, FL to Madison, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 43.0/1,198.3, 4:12/5:09:40.
The Weather Channel predicted rain all last night, all day and night today, and most of tomorrow. Fortunately, they were at least partially wrong. When I started riding today at about 9:00 AM, it was cool and rainy. It remained cool all day, but it stopped raining about 1 or 2 hours after I started riding.
I stopped at the post office in Monticello, FL to get my new tires, shipped there by my quartermaster, Connie. She is keeping me well resupplied. Monticello was founded around 1830 and is named after Thomas Jefferson's home. It lies in Jefferson County also named after Thomas Jefferson.
I saw this nice tribute to Ray Charles in his hometown of Greenville, FL. Below is a transcription of the plaque in front of the sculpture:
Ray Charles "R.C." Robinson
(September 30, 1930 - November 10, 2094)
The musical genius known to the world as Ray Charles was a native son of Greenville and known to his childhood playmates simply as "RC".
Shortly before his birth, Ray's mother, 'Retha Robinson, went to Albany, Georgia to stay with relatives. About one month later, 'Retha brought her son, Ray, back home to Greenville.
Ray grew up poor, and learned to play the piano from the owner of the Red Wing Cafe. At age 7, Ray's sight failed and he was sent to The School for Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, where he continued his education and learned Braille. During holidays and summers, Ray returned to Greenville to visit his family and friends.
Ray was 15 when his mother died and he was on his own. He began to travel and exhibit his musical talents. The rest, as they say, is history. Over the years, Ray returned to his hometown from time to time, referring to it affectionately as "Greensville."
The roots of Ray Charles' musical genius started in Greenville, developing into a talent embraced by the world. He pioneered soul music and is considered one of the most outstanding musical talents of the century. His influence is felt in gospel, rhythm and blues, jazz, rock and roll and country music. The singer, pianist, and bandleader was 74 when he died on June 10, 2004.
The life size bronze likeness of Ray Charles at the keyboard was created by Bronze by Cooley and stands as a permanent memorial to the legendary musician from Greenville.
|Day 39, Thursday, March 6, 2014.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 1.8/1,200.1, 0:12/5:09:52.
I am not in the town of Madison, FL but rather 5.7 miles off route to the south by I-10 where the motels are located. There is not anything nearby except a few motels and fast food restaurants.
I've been noticing it has taken more force to shift my bike's gears for a few days. This morning, Fortunately, shortly after starting out, I couldn't shift to lower gears at all.
I returned to the motel and figured out that the shift cable housing failed and jammed the system. I ordered parts from Cycle Monkey in California, the U.S.A. Rohloff service and parts center. I had Connie send some tools from home. These items should arrive tomorrow afternoon and then I can fix my bike and be on the road again Saturday morning.
|Day 40, Friday, March 7, 2014.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 0/1,200.1, 0:00/5:09:52.
The parts and tools arrived around 5:00 PM. I replaced the shifter cables and housings. The bike now works great. I'll be on the road first thing tomorrow morning
|Day 41, Saturday, March 8, 2014.|
|Madison, FL to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and Campground, Suwannee County, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 34.0/1,234.1, 3:14/5:13:06.
I had a good day riding. There was frost at sunup and then it rapidly warmed to mid-70's. After the first hour, I rode in a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. With new shifter cables and housings, new tires, and a well lubed chain, my bike worked perfectly and was a pleasure to ride.
I am camping at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and Campground, home of the Wanee Music Festival. Connie and I plan to return here in early April to see among other notable bands, The Allman Brothers Band. Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes have announced that they will no longer tour with the band after this year. They just completed a 14 night run of sold out shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. The Wanee Festival may be one of the last opportunities to see this legendary band. They have announced very few additional shows in this, their 45th and final year.
I'll be setting my watch forward 1 hour tonight to begin daylight saving time.
|Day 42, Sunday, March 9, 2014.|
|The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and Campground, Suwannee County, FL to Ichetucknee Family Canoes and Cabins near Fort White, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 40.8/1,274.9, 3:44/5:16:50.
It was another beautiful day for cycling, warm, sunny, little wind, great roads with little traffic. My daily average speed is increasing.
Ichetucknee Springs is where the Ichetucknee River begins as the water emerges from underground Karst limestone formations. The spring is in Ichetucknee Springs State Park about a ¼ mile from the private campground where I am staying. The campground owner suggested that I go see it. I thought it was a special, enchanting place. The water was amazingly clear and a beautiful blue-green color. There were thousands of fish that swarmed as an elderly lady there feed them bread. Some folks saw a manatee in the river not far from where I am camped.
|Day 43, Monday, March 10, 2014.|
|Ichetucknee Family Canoes and Cabins near Fort White, FL to Gainesville, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 43.1/1,319.9, 3:58/5:21.05.
Yesterday evening, I experienced a lesson in being seen on my bicycle. I was walking to my campsite at dusk. From about 300 yards away, my orange vest laying on a picnic table and my yellow pannier covers were easily seen when it was hard to distinguish much of anything else. This was without any light shining on the reflective strips.
Early in the trip, a motorist passed me from behind and then stopped in front of me and got out to talk to me about my trip, gear, and in particular, my panniers. He was planning a long distance bike tour and had been shopping for panniers. It was the middle of the day, but it was dark and raining heavily. I asked him if I was very visible on the road and he replied that he didn't have any trouble seeing me. Then he added, "I saw your panniers first". Since it was raining, I had my bright yellow covers on my black panniers.
I've been leaving the covers on my panniers all the time while riding ever since that comment in addition to always wearing my orange reflective vest. After seeing how much they stood out last evening even without any light shining on the reflective strips, I think I am going to wear the vest whenever I ride a bike even if it doesn't look very cool.
I thought this sign in last night's campground was funny. No cussin', but drunkenness is OK just if it's not excessive drunkenness. I should have asked what they considered excessive.
I received a very nice card and care package filled with goodies from my friends in the BSA OR today. It was greatly appreciated.
|Day 44, Tuesday, March 11, 2014.|
|Gainesville, FL to Palatka, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 64.5/1,384.4, 6:00/6:03:05.
Long ride for me today. I am now only 42 miles from the Atlantic Ocean in St. Augustine, FL. I took a lot of photos today, too many to show on this page. Click here to browse them.
Florida has bike lanes and paths everywhere.
It seems like you can ride anywhere and have your own space: major high traffic 4 lane highways, smaller highways, country roads, urban thoroughfares, secondary city roads, etc. These pictures I took today illustrate the case.
I liked this dew covered spider web.
I thought these clouds were picturesque.
I am staying at a motel in Palatka, FL with this great view of the St. Johns River out back.
I should be able to touch my wheel in the Atlantic Ocean tomorrow afternoon.
|Day 45, Wednesday, March 12, 2014.|
|Palatka, FL to St. Augustine, FL.|
Miles, Time (day/trip): 52.0/1,436.4, 4:39/6:07:44.
I started the day riding in heavy rain with water standing in puddles in the road. The rain only lasted 30 minutes and then it turned into a splendid, sunny day. I had a strong tail wind for the last 16 miles of the ride. I've reached the Eastern edge of the Adventure Cycling Association's Southern Tier Route.
St. Augustine is an interesting, historic city with many things to see and do. I am taking a rest/sightseeing day tomorrow to explore it more thoroughly.
I watched this barred owl feeding near Racy Point, FL. It seemed unperturbed by my presence and I was able to get quite close.
I liked this manatee mailbox decorated for St. Patrick's Day in Riverdale, FL.
I visited the 140-year-old St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. I climbed the 219 steps up a narrow spiral staircase to the top and enjoyed the 360° view of St. Augustine and the Atlantic Ocean. They sell certificates for completing the climb which I didn't purchase.
I took in the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park. It was pretty good small zoo. I saw lots of alligators of course. There are 24 species of crocodilians in the world and this zoo claims to be the only place that houses all 24. They also had an impressive bird collection. It had a large native bird rookery that was not enclosed. There were dozens of nesting snowy egrets. Some were doing courting displays. I didn't have the proper camera equipment to get any good photos. I just have my very wide angle phone camera. There were several serious looking photographers there with giant lenses documenting the action.