Day 27 – Tybee Island, GA

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By now, you know that we finished our ride at Tybee Island. I had expected a ride like the ceremonial entry into Paris at the end of the Tour de France, but it was still over 85 miles of riding on busy roads! We left early, before dawn, and there were few real challenges other than an unexpected road closure, and a police officer’s vague detour instructions (admittedly, he was kind of busy) which added about four miles. In general, though, we were like horses that could smell the stable and the speed kept increasing as we got closer to the end. We were going at a good clip by the time we passed under I-95 on the western edge of Savannah, and by the time we hit the causeways out to Tybee Island it was practically a sprint. Neither my legs nor lungs complained!

We were scheduled to “meet up” at the entrance to Tybee Island, and as I crested the causeway bridge I saw Kathy’s red car parked with the bike tour trailers. That was my first emotional moment of the day. I introduced her to my new bike friends and we all took pictures before the slow group ride to the ocean. My second emotional moment came when I saw the Atlantic, our goal for so very long. I knew the ride was over because, quite simply, we had run out of land to ride on! Many beachgoers a were surprised by thirty or so cyclists carrying their bikes to the ocean, but many eventually joined our celebration and helped take pictures.

It will take a while for the impact of this trip to fully settle in, but today it’s enough that I achieved my goal of riding from the Pacific to the Atlantic in a fairly short 27 days. No rest days, and I never got in the van, I pedaled every inch! The conclusion to draw from all this, I think, is not what a wonderful, elite cyclist I am. Quite the opposite: the right conclusion is that I’m an average, amateur cyclist who managed to raise the odds enough through training to achieve something that sounded impossible.

I could not have made it with out the support and comments from my friends, co-workers, and family (Kathy was the behind-the-scenes blog poster), and the training advice from Sarah Bresnick at Pedal Power Training Solutions.

Thank you all so much! Today’s ride was 89 miles, and we reached the Atlantic and the end of our journey.

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Day 26 – Metter, GA

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A relatively easy ride through rural Georgia brings us to the cusp of the end of our adventure. We battled a mild headwind almost all day. It wasn’t that bad, but it just reminded us that we’ve had almost no tailwinds. We were on heavily traveled roads today, which was a problem because I’m starting to zone out on the bike! My legs are fine, but I think my fatigue manifests that way. One of the organizers was telling me they are looking to re-do this part of the route and maybe even add an extra day to get the group on back roads.

The south has all kinds of homes, some beautiful, some not so much. This little town of Metter has a tree lined boulevard with some of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of parts of Westchester County, New York.

We end the tour tomorrow on Tybee Island, GA with a relatively short 86 mile ride to the ocean!

Today’s ride was 117 miles.

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Day 25 – Perry, Georgia

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The morning brought sun and fog, which made our entry into Georgia very beautiful. A large reservoir separates the two states where we crossed. The great weather continued through the day, though we had some mild headwinds. (I think we’ve had tailwinds only one day!) Lunch was at the Andersonville National Historical Site. Andersonville was a Confederate prisoner of war camp and is now a park and a national cemetery.

The organizers added four miles to our route today at the last minute to keep us off well traveled roads, but that took us around some hills. I’ll trade miles for climbing any day, but particularly on Day 25! Unlike most days, our last 20 miles was flat and pleasant.

Today’s ride was 120 miles. And we are in Georgia! Two more days of riding left until the Atlantic!

“Wailing Wall” – Andersonville NHS

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“Wailing Wall” – Andersonville NHS

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Day 24 – Eufala, AL

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Another day of rolling hills through rural Alabama, though the sun was out for most of the day and gave everything a better feel. We passed through small towns like Goshen, which has a big peanut market, and Clio, the birthplace of George Wallace and Hall of Fame Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton. Our interactions with dogs improved when a friendly Lab visited our first rest stop and tried to get riders to play fetch. We also saw a herd of cows running around a field, a very unusual sight. Apparently, when one feels like running, they all run. They ran over to check us out and although we stopped and tried to coax them closer, they got bored and ran away.

We are all marveling at the riding prowess of Gerry Goode, a 76 year old rider from Tucson (above) who kicks most of our butts every day. I rode in ahead of him today, to my surprise, but it was only because Gerry took a wrong turn. Gerry thinks I need a new bike. Who am I to argue?

My Achilles problem has gone away. My rear wheel hub seems to have worn out, but it’s been patched and should get me to Savannah. I’m riding at a steady, conservative pace, there’s still a whole state to go and no points for speed. So it’s looking good for a successful finish on Friday!

Today’s ride was 112 miles with 4900 feet of climbing.

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Day 23 – Greenville, AL

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Pine Apple, AL

More ups and downs through rural Alabama. My left Achilles’ tendon was giving me trouble the past two days so one of the trip leaders taped it in the “relaxed” position (toes down). That worked great for riding but I couldn’t walk! I’m no ballerina! No further trouble today, though.

We’ve certainly seen a lot of poverty as we’ve passed through rural Mississippi and Alabama, but one thing I can’t understand are towns that have simply abandoned their downtowns. Thomason, pictured below, is still a viable town but it’s downtown is just a bunch of crumbling buildings. The little town of Pine Apple is much better but maybe not too far behind. Is it because of malls, or Amazon, or both? On the other hand the small town of Greenville, where we are staying tonight, has a beautiful downtown.

Today’s ride was 129 miles with 4,200 ft of climbing. Our last “big mileage” day.

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Day 22 – Livingston, AL

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The weather forecast for today predicted a cold start in the morning, but then warming up significantly. For the second day in a row, however, the predicted warming never occurred. The sun struggled to get out all day but we never saw it. There were endless rolling hills today, I think we climbed and descended the same 200 feet all day! We saw fields of kudzu, which is invasive and smothering all the native vegetation. We rolled through downtown Philadelphia, MS, the site of the famous “Mississippi Burning” trial of Ku Klux Klan members for the death of three civil rights workers. One of our SAG stops was outside an abandoned hotel in Porterville, MS, which saw better days until the train stopped making stops there. Shortly after Porterville we crossed into Alabama, though there was no sign except a sign for a new county. We’ve deduced that since we are now traveling on back roads, mostly county roads, not state roads, the states are not bothering with “Welcome to . . . ” signs there. We didn’t see any for Mississippi either.

Today’s ride was 116 miles with 5,000 ft of climbing.

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Day 21 – Kosciusko, MS

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We continued rolling through rural Mississippi on a cold, windy day. Fall has certainly arrived. However, the wind rarely came head on, and there are more trees here as we get farther from the Mississippi River valley so it wasn’t too bad. I rode with Chris, Lynn and Jim Miller most of the day as we passed through more cotton fields and small towns. Near our second rest stop a road was closed but we were able to “portage” our bikes across. We stopped at the general store in the town of Ebenezer to use the rest rooms and met another friendly group of residents who could not believe we had ridden bikes there from San Diego. So far the quality of the roads in Mississippi has been better than anything we’ve seen since California, to my surprise. There’s still lots of cotton in the fields even though the weather is turning colder, I think harvest time must be right about now. And I’ve noticed that the dogs here still chase, but they don’t have their heart in it the way the dogs in Arkansas did. Kind of going through the motions, looks like they wouldn’t know what to do if they, in fact, caught us. More like the dogs I’m used to.

Today’s ride was 100 miles.

Day 20 – Indianola, MS

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We traveled largely southeast today, with a final 20 mile “left hook” north into Indianola. We first passed through eastern Arkansas farms where, for the first time, I saw cotton fields. We also passed by a large, semi-circular lake, Lake Chicot, that seemed like it was once part of the Mississippi River and oddly (to me) had cypress trees growing in it! Shortly after that, at about the 62 mile mark on our ride today, we crossed the Mississippi River! This is a milestone I’ve been looking forward to since San Diego, and it means we are about 3/4 done in terms of days and mileage!

Although this was a very flat ride, we struggled with 20-25 mph constant winds from the north. For much of the day it was a crosswind and, when we were on less traveled roads, we rode in a rotating echelon formation, where one rider rides to the side of and slightly behind the next rider, to get some shielding from the wind. Just after the Mississippi, we also rode briefly on a heavily traveled highway that made us more uncomfortable than any other road so far. The last 20 miles into Indianola were straight into that tough wind, so we rotated the front position.

Arriving in Indianola could have been an exhausting letdown but we were greeted by a parade! OK it wasn’t for us, but it felt like it was. It was the high school Homecoming parade and all I can say is that these folks take their homecomings and their football very seriously. We got lots of stares and waves and questions, and everyone made us feel very welcome. We all wish we had time to visit the BB King Museum, which several locals recommended.

Today’s ride was 109 miles, and we crossed the Mississippi River!

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And nearly forgot… it’s time for the penultimate map!

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Day 19 – Monticello, AR

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Another day, our last in Arkansas, spent traveling southeast. The area we passed through is heavily forested and I noticed that the trees are growing in straight lines. That means they’ve all been harvested and re-planted. In fact, we contend with a large number of logging trucks on the roads as we travel. The thick, uniformly round trunks are heading to be turned into dimensional lumber, the thinner, more irregular pieces are going to paper mills. Timber harvesting is a big industry here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few pension funds like the PRIT Fund are invested down here.

In fact, the economy of most of the country that we’ve passed through seems to come from extraction industry (mining in AZ and NM, oil and gas in TX and OK, and timber here), agriculture, or livestock. There’s not much manufacturing or other industry apart from what supports those activities, like feed lots and grain silos. If the South had gained its independence in the Civil War, is that what its economy would have been based on? Of course, I’m not seeing big cities. And every town seems to have an Edward Jones or Merrill Lynch office, which might indicate retirees.

There are a tremendous number of pickup trucks on the road and almost all of them are Ford, Chevy, or GMC. I saw just one Nissan pickup, and that was at a mall, and no Toyotas. And yes, a few Confederate flags, another jarring image.

Since Oklahoma, we’ve also noticed an increase in loose dogs that chase cyclists, not just in their yards like in Massachusetts, but into and along the road. We’ve outrun or scared them all off so far. They seem to be mostly terriers, though an Australian shepherd gave me a good run today. No Labs, I don’t think Labs like to work that hard for their meals.

We’re keeping an eye on Hurricane Joaquin, as all of you are too. Looks like it will clear out of the South before we hit Alabama.

We cross the Mississippi River tomorrow!

Today’s ride was 99 miles.

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