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Day 30 - Gainesville, FL to St. Augustine, FL

For our last 62 miles in the saddle we started on another interurban bike trail that was once again one of the nicest trails / surfaces we have ridden on.  This dedicated trail took us through more “bayou like” terrain on both sides of the trail.  It was as if we were floating on a path above the bayou on both sides of us.  While we were zipping along at a good clip, we were all still looking for our second gator sighting.  About six miles into this trail we came upon a “trail closed” sign due to water over the trail.  We debated whether to turn around and reroute from the beginning or to ford the flooded trail.  Part of this debate included discussion on how deep the water may become and the chances that a gator would be nearby.  Not wanting to retrace our route won out, so we took off our shoes and socks and walked across the flooded trail.  We were all a bit apprehensive as we waded into and through this water.
After this early morning detour from our riding routine, we settled ba…

Day 29 - Live Oak, FL to Gainesville, FL

Today’s 85 mile ride had a bit of everything for us; we had heat, humidity, rain to begin and end the day, a slight elevation gain (1,800 feet) and we were chased by a nice dog that slobbered all over Joe, and by a domestic pig!  We also had headwinds early and a tail wind late in the day!  For the late afternoon hard rain (lasted about 15-20 miles) we had a country road with broken pavement that was hard to see and so bad we thought we might break a wheel.

None of this dampened our spirits when we made it to the scheduled endpoint, we tacked on an additional 20 miles to make tomorrow’s last day ride that much shorter.  (We voted and all agreed, this was the third worse day of rain that we have had on the trip.)

Late in the day, in pouring rain, coming into Gainesville, we were treated to “bike path” riding through a nature preserve on the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail.  (Rails to trails project.)  This path is about 20 miles long through “bayou type” countryside.  We all had our heads…

Day 28 - Tallahassee, FL to Live Oak, FL

The last two 80(+) mile days were easy breezy riding with Roy, Bob and Joe.  Today’s 75 miler was a slog; not because of the heat (90(+) degrees), humidity (95%(+)), road surface, terrain or rain, we didn’t have any of those on today’s route.  Today was a slog due to the 10-15 mile per hour straight on headwind, with gusts.  At no time today could we get into any kind of a rhythm, we just shouldered down and pushed for 75 miles.  (The only positive with the headwind was that it did seem to help a bit with the high humidity!)

We began on country roads, went to the highway with good shoulder riding and ended on a long, straight country road with a constant headwind.

It is our third to last day on the RAA and we all just wanted to get this day over with.  We talked very little, took very short breaks and then got back in the saddle to push against the constant headwind.

The only pictures we took were in the morning, before we had encountered the draining headwinds and at a stop about mi…

Day 27 - Bonifay, FL to Tallahassee, FL

According to my Garmin (GPS), we had our first dog chase of the day 360 feet into the ride!  Two black labs, a breed we really haven’t been chased by yet, gave us a quick warm-up for the day.  Our 82 mile ride with Roy was otherwise fairly uneventful.

We began and ended the day on the highway shoulder.  Throughout the day we had forays onto local country roads that were very little traveled.  At times we found ourselves riding 2 and 3 abreast chatting about the trip thus far and this allowed Roy and I time to catch up as well as Joe and Bob getting to know Roy better.  This was without a doubt the most relaxing day we have had on the trip.  Throughout the day we dealt with high humidity and heat (90%(+) and 93 degrees) as well as about 2,300 feet of elevation.  But none of these factors dampened the mood, they just reminded us of our tired legs from the higher than normal pace that we kept.

True to form, Roy has come up with a “business model” for Joe’s later use of the Sprinter van …

Day 26 - Pensacola, FL to Bonifay, FL

We had lots of pre-ride activity this morning.  Melonie came down to send us off, Joe’s college roommate, Don Schmidtke and his wife and daughters arrived for Don’s cameo ride and Roy Umlauf also came for his two days with us.
We started early and had to clip a few miles off and shuttle at the beginning to avoid the Saturday morning drivers having the sun and our backs right in their eyes.  We ended up with an 84 mile day with a little over 2,000 feet of vertical.

To begin we had some outskirts of Pensacola and “bike trail riding” for about the first 10(+) miles.  Thereafter we enjoyed another 10 miles of country roads before we said goodbye to Don for his cameo appearance on the RAA.  It was great to meet Don and his family and we all really appreciated them interrupting their beach weekend to allow Don to ride with us.

Bob, Joe, Roy and I rode on for the remaining 64 miles on back country roads and Hwy. 90.  We had a great shoulder to ride on and very courteous drivers for the most…

Day 25 - Mobile, AL to Pensacola, FL

Our day 25, 96 miler, began just at the outskirts of Mobile, next to the Battleship Alabama Museum.  We enjoyed a gorgeous sunrise just as we began our ride which was to take us across another state border into Florida later in the day.
We had a wonderful trail to ride along the highway out of town.  Alabama’s Coastal Connection Trail.  The first 10 miles had us riding next to highway traffic on a wide shoulder bike trail which took us over several bridges and raised highway sections just above the waters of the Bay.  This was really gorgeous pedaling in the morning.

From there the Coastal Trail took us up the coast past beautiful homes, cottages and bed and breakfast opportunities.  Each of us remarked that we would like to bring our wives back some time to enjoy this remarkable coastline.  We encountered more bicyclists on this trail than at any other time on our trip.

After leaving the Coastal Connection Trail, we had good shoulder riding which continued through and into Orange Be…

Day 24 - Wiggins, MS to Mobile, AL

We had a very early start (6:40 a.m.) to try to beat the afternoon rain and thunderstorm.

Even though neither Mississippi nor Alabama’s DOT’s believe in shoulders, we had the best day ever!  We had a wonderful day in the saddle – everyone’s legs are accustomed to 88 mile jaunts with 2,000 feet of vertical.  We enjoyed open country roads with no traffic.

We had lots of dog encounters which included further sprint training and water bottle sprays and our pepper spray was not utilized, yet.  Some of the dogs wouldn’t give up – we had a few that chased us upwards of 300 – 400 yards!  The really scary encounters are when the dogs don’t bark at all, they come up on us stealthy-like and we have to begin our sprint when we luckily see them out of the corner of our eye.
We crossed into our seventh state, Alabama, at mid-day with little fanfair, just the obligatory boarder photo and then back in the saddle to try to beat the impending afternoon thunderstorm.

We did get rained on this afternoon…

Day 23 - Amite, LA to Wiggins, MS

Another early morning rain soaked, “shuttle day.”
In the early morning, as we were eating the free breakfast in the hotel, we saw our route prominently displayed on the national weather forecast.  Not the best way to start our day.  We shuttled to our start point, waited for sun-up and to see if the rain would dissipate.  We checked the underground weather app and saw that there would be no relief if we started at our planned departure site.  According to the underground weather app we needed to go north and east to avoid the heavy rains.  We shuttled about 15 miles and then began our day of riding.  Our shortened route was only 72 miles, but it was well worth the shuttle as we avoided rain all day – the huge dump came just as we entered the Sprinter van to go to the hotel – nice timing guys!

Our early morning shuttle route put us on a highway with 6-8 inch shoulders and a rumble strip.  Bob and Med navigated the very narrow shoulders well (Bob, ex-motor cycle rider and Med, ex-gymna…

Day 22 - Opelousas, LA to Amite, LA

Today we experienced the tale of two rides. In the morning we had blue skies and open roads. In the afternoon we had really hard rain (I’m getting tired of calling it “a torrential downpour” … Let’s just say you wouldn’t let your dog go out in this rain for fear of losing him in a flash flood!)

So for those cyclists reading this entry, I have a question for you (and you have to pick one of the choices): In an 88 mile ride, is it better to get rained on early or late in the ride?

Our ride and Melody’s first day of her segments in the RAA was fairly uneventful, except Bob’s near catastrophic dog encounter 250 feet into the ride! Bob (usually the dog whisperer…) found a midsized dog who was having none of Bob’s sweet talk. Bob nearly missed losing a chunk of right side calf flesh early in the morning.

After Bob’s early dog encounter, because we were on roads with lots of houses, we were ever vigilant the rest of the day. We did not encounter anymore K-9s during the afternoon ride…

Day 21 – Merryville, TX to Opelousas, LA

88 miles of the flattest terrain we have ridden on this trip and perhaps the longest and flattest route any of us has ever ridden!  This was a tedious ride but there was no rain until the very end of the day!  Temps in the mid-80s with humidity in the mid to high 90s.  As long as the temps aren’t above 85, we seem to be acclimating to the humidity.

We rode on good to great shoulders and no shoulder roads throughout the day.  It’s interesting, the shoulders must be constructed or maintained by the individual Parishes (like counties).  For some of the less affluent Parishes the shoulders were really bleak but in other Parishes, it was like riding on a track.  Mid-day we encountered “no shoulder” roads with a head wind but thankfully the drivers in this area were very courteous and seemed to empathize with our head wind / no shoulder dilemma.  Thank you Louisiana drivers!

Bob wanted me to report that there seemed to be an awful lot of smelly road kill all day long.  He pointed out the l…

Day 20 - Livingston, TX to Merryville, LA

We had planned a 105 mile ride which ended up at 56 miles, due to severe weather.
The definition of demoralizing; lying in bed listening to several storm cells battering the hotel all night with heavy rainfall on the roof and that we could hear on the sidewalks below our third floor rooms.  The bright side is we weren’t out in it yet …

When I spoke with Joe in the morning he said he was up most of the night, “It sounded like someone was pressure washing the windows outside my room …”

Yes, weather was an issue today.  We drove to our designated start point and sat in the Sprinter van waiting for this sunrise and the rain to let up a bit.
For weather updates and planning, we are working off the web app, “weather underground.”  The screen shot we included here shows the rain fall that was sitting over us when we were waiting in the van, Bob scrolled out large to show me the only place it was raining hard in America was sitting right over us!

We shuttled through torrential rains, trying …

Day 19 - Gay Hill, TX to Shepherd, TX

Today’s ride which was only about 78 miles, truly had the widest range of road conditions and weather that we have experienced thus far.  The road conditions went from absolutely perfect wide open surfaces, where we were the only traffic, to, once again, heavily trafficked, poor shoulder roads with very impatient Saturday drivers.  The weather began ok, not great, at 82 degrees at 7:00 a.m. with 95 percent humidity.  Later in the day we suffered through three torrential squalls.  I say the weather was ok only in contrast to the projected weather which was to have been a downpour the entire day.

Ok, to the ride diary, we began in the Sam Houston National Park with wonderful forest vistas, great roadway and little to no traffic.  We kept a brisk pace trying to beat the rain / lightening that we could see on the horizon.  (We changed our route last night to avoid highway riding with poor shoulders and autos at high speeds – yesterday’s poor shoulders with cars / trucks at 70 mph.)  We r…

Day 18 - Cedar Creek, TX to Gay Hill, TX

Today’s 82 mile ride had a little bit of something for everyone, some of it was just not for us (cyclists) …

We began the day with 15 miles of pristine riding through two state parks, Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park.  This portion of the ride was magnificent, wide open, clean road with steep rollers and sharp turns.  As soon as we warmed up this was like riding on a roller coaster; a very quick pace and a lot of fun.  The country side featured magnificent pine trees among a portion of a burn site which has since grown back.

After the roller coaster ride through the parks, we rode on country roads with poor shoulders and traffic.  Neither we nor the cars / trucks on the roadway in mid-morning traffic enjoyed this portion of the ride.

After about 30 miles we came to Warrenton where we learned that we arrived on the first day of the Autumn Antiques Show.  What does this mean?  For literally 20(+) miles, we rode along a congested country road with antique shops, stores and ten…

Day 17 - A Much Needed Day Off in Austin, TX

Day 16 - Fredericksburg, TX to Cedar Creek, TX (we are now in Austin – just past mid-way and have a one day break)

Today’s ride, a 78 miler, was very similar to yesterdays; lots of large rollers, riding among ranches and ranchland.  We continued to ride among “exotics ranches” and saw many different types of deer and deer-like animals.  Early in the ride we encountered several herds of indigenous whitetail deer, some of these would follow along with us for a bit and then get tired of the chase.  One group of 5 or 6 deer shadowed us along the left and then bolted across the road right in front of us – it was truly amazing to watch these animals glide over a 5-6’ fence with no effort at all, bound across the highway in front of us and then leap over the right side 5-6’ fence.

After this morning’s ride through ranches and ranchland, we next encountered miles of rollers, some were high enough that we had to get out of the saddle to get up the front side.  (This was a 3,500 foot plus day!)  The remainder of the day was picturesque with us rolling along viewing ranches and ranch animals.

When we got cl…

Day 15 - Leakey, TX to Fredericksburg, TX (HALF-WAY LUNCH CELEBRATION at a Chick-Fil-A = when in Rome …)

82 miles of rolling hills through ranch land and at times what seemed to be the longest driveways ever!  We encountered very few cars today while traveling on Hwy. 39, which is a soft, little used chip seal highway that connects and runs through very large (miles not acres!) ranches and ranchland.

We learned about a different type of ranching last night from Tana and Wyatt McBride and today we got to see it in action.  This part of Texas looks a lot like the Serengeti grasslands in Kenya / Tanzania, Africa and the ranchers now practice “exotics” ranching with all manner of deer species and deer-like animals (think antelopes and gazelles).  So, today we rode through exotic ranches all day long and were treated to viewing herds of various “deer-like” and other exotic animals.  The best way to tell if it is an exotic ranch is the fence height as the fences around these ranches are between 8-10’ tall to keep the grazing herds inside.  After riding through miles of exotics ranches, we rod…

Day 14 - Del Rio, TX to Leakey, TX

88 miles of mostly easy rolling hills on fair chip sealed surface.  The weather was dry, cloud covering humid, from the past day’s rain.  We had to reroute this morning due to flooding on several of the roads we were scheduled to ride on.
A short detour in these notes; I have noticed that a lot of what I have been writing about centers around the route, road conditions and weather.  I apologize but we have found that these are the three things which impact us the most right now.  We all have our “individual bumps and bruises, aches and pains” to deal and these are also impacted most by the length of route, road conditions and weather.

Ok, back to the “road notes.”  Yesterday’s ride out of Del Rio was interrupted by two route changes when we learned that the roads we were to ride on were covered with “swiftly running water.”  Not wanting to be “that guy” on the local news who tried to ride through a “puddle” only to find out that it was five feet deep, we changed our route early in th…

Day 13 - Sanderson, TX to Del Rio, TX (Texas Hwy 90)

(For those movie buffs out there, these are the 2 towns No Country for Old Men was set in.)

The day began with heavy rain at the motel and no breakfast available in the remote town of Sanderson.

Today was the type of weather where you text your buddies early in the morning, “I’m out …”  But on the RAA, due to our schedules, “I’m out” is not an option …

We rode 55 miles of a planned century with headwinds (15(+) mph / with gusts that almost blew us over) and heavy / sideways rain.  For an area that gets an average of 15 – 20 inches of rain a year, today they received an inch of rain.

We started in the rain and ended in the rain, with local flood warnings in Del Rio, Texas (see video).
The best part of today’s ride; is that we enjoyed great vistas through the heavy cloud cover, coming upon the Pecos River bridge and 100’ (+) gorge.

Keenan let us know that one of the locals we met last night in Sanderson saw the Sprinter Van on the road today and stopped to let him know he had seen us r…

Day 12 - Alpine, TX to Sanderson, TX

Whoo Hoo!  After what seems like days of climbing, today it all paid off!  We descended about 3,500 feet gradually over the last 70 miles of a 94 mile ride.  The road surface was smooth and we encountered few cars / trucks.  It was a bit embarrassing at times; without pedaling, we could coast at almost 12-13 miles an hour just from the gradual decline.  We finished today’s near century in quick time in spite of the headwind (ever present in West Texas …) and hard rain for the last 20 miles.  Prior to the rain coming Joe stopped us all to point out a Scorpion.  I’ve never seen a Scorpion in the wild and was excited to see this little guy.
It is hard to tell from my photo but his stinger is about 1.5 inches long.  (We later learned from the hotel owner that this is a Vinegaroon; a Scorpion eater!)  So, I still haven’t seen a Scorpion in the wild but we have many more days for me to be able to encounter my first Scorpion in the wild.

Near the end of the ride we were wondering if we shoul…

Day 11 – Van Horn, TX to Alpine, TX

As previewed in yesterday’s blog notes, we decided to change today’s 100 mile ride on access roads next to the freeway, to a hillier but a bit shorter ride.  Our ride length went from 100 to 85 miles but with 3,800 feet of elevation including some 10-12% grades!  While this was a tougher ride on our legs, we all agreed, this was one of our favorite, if not the favorite, ride so far.

We rolled out of Van Horn early in the Sprinter van to get to our chosen course.  When we arrived we found our friend the dreaded “chipseal surface” from the day before but this road surface wasn't as poorly maintained.

A few miles into the ride we came upon a large Lynx on our right, next to the roadway; neither the Lynx or any of us had noticed the other until we were about 30 feet apart.  Then, the Lynx shot across the road right in front of us.  Bob remarked that it looked like the Lynx was embarrassed that we had snuck up on him.  Right after we about ran into the Lynx, we encountered a lumbering…

Day 10 - El Paso, TX to Van Horn, TX

As we began rolling, Joe remarked that this was our 10th day, that we were 1/3 of the way through the RAA and that today was the first day we did not have any guest riders with us.  Thanks Eric and Dr. Jones for interrupting your schedules to ride with us and the for the great fun you brought to the RAA. 

We will not have any guest riders (except Keenan’s time in the saddle) until Melody later next week and Roy the week after. 

El Paso to Van Horn again looked to be a fair to medium century ride – however, it did not turn out to be fair or medium....

We began rolling early from Van Horn and found the  best shoulder area to ride on that we have encountered yet.  Our first 20 miles (I tend to “chunk” the day into 5 or so, 20 mile sets) was smooth as track riding.  We should have known we would pay for this perfect pavement and smooth, fast riding later in the day.  At exactly 20 miles, just as the heat began to rise, we rode onto the most life-sucking chip seal surface that I have ev…

Day 9 - Hatch, NM to El Paso, TX

Today’s segment, a fairly benign 92 mile ride on paper, started with everyone feeling very well and rolling fast.  Another great sunrise and except for the fact that we were riding into the sun and this can be dangerous for following autos / trucks; the roadway was also less trafficked  and very well maintained.  During our second 10 miles into the day we saw Dr. Jones ahead with his bike turned sideways, when we rolled up on him, we saw that he had encountered our second rattlesnake of the trip.  This one was much larger and just recently hit.  Dr. Jones was busy removing the “rattler” from the snake’s tail.  “You can take the boy out of Texas but you can’t take Texas out of the boy …” 

For anyone reading these notes, if you plan to make this trip in the future or are just cycling in or across New Mexico, please remember that New Mexico has a now leash laws and their dogs have figured this out!  I will leave today’s several encounters  with very interested K-9’s to your imagination –…

Day 8 - Silver City, NM to Hatch, NM

This morning’s chilly (that’s right, it was downright chilly this morning, we dawned our Columbia cold weather gear!) ride began in the foothills of the Emory Pass outside of Silver City.
We had an 8-10 mile ascent with 3,300 vertical to begin the morning before a 16 mile descent down the backside.  At 8,228 feet above sea level this will be the highest point of our trip.  The crushing ascent was well worth the views at the top.

Once again we were treated to some gorgeous countryside.  (Although this time not as many photos were taken on the way up!)  Everyone survived the climb very well as we are definitely getting our legs under us after seven long days in the saddle.

Our descent was more fun for some (Bob) than others.  I had an average of 28 miles per hour for the descent – and I never saw Bob again after the first few turns!  We all enjoyed the scenery and chewing up 16 miles from today’s 93 miler, also a bonus.

We saw very large open pit copper mines, silver and gold mines; mos…

Day 7 - Thatcher, AZ to Silver City, NM

Today's ride took us through the Apache and Gila National Forests and across the Continental Divide.
We were treated to some of the most amazing vistas any of us has ever seen.  This area of the country is absolutely gorgeous as you can see from our early morning and later in the ride photos.

We traveled 64 fairly easy miles with approximately 3,300 feet of elevation gain.  We also enjoyed some wicked descents on the roads that were empty for most of the day (see photo of Bob, Joe and Dr. Jones - alone on the highway with nothing but a great expanse ahead - oh, and 3,300 feet of vertical to cover!) Each of us stopped multiple times today to take photos of the amazing landscape.  We also enjoyed much milder weather today, with the high at only 92 degrees.  (coming from the Pacific Northwest, I never imagined that I would have a chance to write that last sentence, "the high at only 92 degrees!")

Joe and Keenan wanted me to mention the "grasshopper carnage" which…