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 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 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 17 – Talimena Lodge, AR

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Today was a milestone in several respects: we crossed into Arkansas and it was the last really big climbing day. We’re done with the plains and have now entered the Ozarks, and boy did my legs notice! There wasn’t too much climbing during the first half of the day, but the second was spent riding in the Ouachita [Wa-cheet-a] National Forest on the Talimena Scenic Byway. The Talimena has some steep climbs ranging from 10 to 13 percent for several miles. The climbing is similar to what I’ve done at home on Wachusett Mountain, but there’s more of it, and I never rode Wachusett after 16 straight centuries! It turned out to be not too bad, and the scenery was beautiful! We’re spending the night at the very nice Queen Wilhelmina Lodge, which is in a state park. There’s a Keurig machine in the room! Makes up for some of the fleabags we’ve been in the past couple of nights.

A few random observations. Most of the day was spent in Oklahoma and we’ve all noticed how forested that state is, contrary to our expectations. Today we passed through pine forest, I think yesterday was more hardwoods.  And most banks are local: no Bank of America or Chase Manhattan, not even big Midwest banks like PNC or Fifth Third. All regional banks like the “Bank of Eastern Oklahoma” or my favorite, the Happy Bank (based in Happy, Texas). And lots of Payday stores. Some of this could be due to the fact that we are passing through rural areas, not major cities, though I got a glimpse of Oklahoma City in the distance the other day.

Today’s ride was 99 miles with 7,500 ft of climbing.

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Day 15 – McAlester, OK (Where?)

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This was another day of “rollers” through Oklahoma farmland and horse country. The horse below seemed to be posing for us! We also are noticing how many farms have operational oil wells. The farmers sell the mineral rights to an oil company, which digs the well. Amazing that this is profitable when oil prices are so low, but I suppose that the cost of transportation is a lot cheaper than Saudi Arabia or Alaska. Dinner was at a great rib place that seems to be a chain — I wish we had chain rib places. I’m noticing also that the locals’ accent is now definitely southern, and not Texan. We’re less than 100 miles from Arkansas, in fact we will be there tomorrow.  Arkansas!  That’s almost east!

The riding today wasn’t too bad for most of it, though we had headwinds and hills in the last 20 miles. Today’s ride was 114 miles.

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Day 15 – Purcell, OK

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A good day today! The winds coming out of Weatherford were coming largely from the south and were gentle, so wind was not an issue today. There were a lot of rolling hills but nothing terrible. We passed through lots of farm land and horse country — my impression of Oklahoma being some kind of dust bowl was certainly wrong! In fact, today I saw the reappearance of something I had forgotten about — trees! There were none in the desert, high desert, or plains. They cut down the wind too.

We’re staying at one of the fleabaggier hotels on the Tour and dinner came from Subway. We did manage to dine al fresco, though.

Today’s ride was 112 miles with 5,000 feet of climbing.

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Day 14 – Weatherford, OK

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We woke to hear howling winds from the east, the direction in which we were riding. And indeed, the first 25 miles or so of the ride was straight into a 20-25 mph headwind, accompanied by rain and, briefly, sleet! We rode in a peloton of about six, taking short pulls at the front, and we knew it wouldn’t last all day. The Oklahoma line passed, unnoticed and unremarked, somewhere around Mile 14.

By the time we reached Erick, OK, the rain had almost stopped and the wind was tolerable. Erick is the home of a museum dedicated to Roger Miller, author of the song “King of the Road.” I am told that Main Street in Erick sits on the 100th meridian which, among other things, was considered by area banks to be the demarcation line for the drought and non-drought areas. So farms to the west of Main Street could not get loans, but farms to the east could.

Much of the day was spent on historic Route 66 and we stopped briefly at two museums, the best in Elk City. The portions of Route 66 we are on are essentially frontage roads for Interstate 40. I’m told that frontage roads are more important in the west than in the east to keep slow moving farm equipment off the Interstate. (As you’ve probably figured out, “I’m told” is my shorthand for “I have no idea if this is true”).

The last half of the ride was sunny, even hot, with a tolerable headwind and what we call “rollers” for hills. We expect pretty much the same thing tomorrow, but more of the hills.

Today’s ride was 104 miles with difficult conditions in the morning.

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This one is for the map geeks that want to see where we are and where we are headed. The stars are each day’s stopping point.

Day 10 – Roswell, NM

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It rained overnight and when we got ready to leave the sunrise was beautiful. After breakfast we backtracked out of Ruidoso, which meant some climbing for the first 10 miles or so, but then several miles through rural farmland. Any serious climbs were over by lunchtime — the last bit of the Rockies! The afternoon’s ride passed through rolling hills in the high desert, though “Boy Scout Mountain” (above) loomed over us the whole time. There were serious headwinds so those “rollers” could have been challenging, I’m glad I was with a group. We rotated taking the lead and it wasn’t too bad. On the high desert you can see the weather that is heading toward you since it’s so wide open, and as we approached Roswell we were racing a big storm. We made it to the hotel, washed our bikes, dragged our bags to our rooms, and then the storm hit — we beat it by about half an hour!

I had to work on my bike when we got back so I missed the shuttle ride to the alien museum. My friends said I didn’t miss much! Tomorrow’s our last day in New Mexico, then on to Texas!

Today’s ride was 99 miles.

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