Sunday, March 31, 2013

Final Summary (Sun, 31 Mar)

What a fantastic journey and adventure this has been!!!  I’m extremely lucky for the opportunity of pursuing this dream cycling trip.

Thank You!: I’m blessed to have a strong and supporting family.   Thank you to my loving wife for her amazing support of my taking the time to do this ride and also to my two children for their understanding and love.  A huge thank you to my father who has helped me in every step of the trip and nearly every day over the past 1.5 months from planning to watching the weather and helping me determine my routes as well as discussing various issues (bike, route, sites, etc) along the way and helping me resolve them.  A thank you also goes to my friend Craig who picked me up in St Augustine and will get me to the airport in Orlando tomorrow, along with an appropriately sized bike box, which is key!  I also wanted to say thanks here to Steve Garufi ( for his inspiration in cycling cross-country twice (many of the stages I chose in the Western states were based on Steve’s routes).  Finally, thank you to each of you following this blog for all of your interest in the trip and following along with me as I pursued a really unique journey.

For those cyclists out there that find this information helpful and motivating to your future trips, I hope that I’ve helped inspire your trips, as other cyclists had done for me through their journals.  If you have any follow-up questions as you prepare for your trip, please feel free to email me at:

A few summary thoughts and pieces of information on the trip:

Cycling statistics:
1.     Full trip - Totals
a.     Total miles: 2,863 miles
b.     Total time on the bike seat: 200.8 hours
c.      Total # of riding days/stages: 38
d.     Total elevation climbed: 59,045 ft (2x Mt Everest!)
e.     Total pedal strokes: 744,936
f.      Total number of heart beats on the bike: over 1.5 million
g.     Total calories burned: well over 100,000
2.     Full trip - Averages
a.     Avg speed: 14.2 mph
b.     Avg heart rate during the trip: 125 bpm
c.      Avg miles per riding day (taking out touring day miles): 73.6 miles
3.     Single day records:
a.     Total miles: 121 miles (stage 35 – Panama City to Crawfordville, FL)
b.     Highest Avg Speed: 19.8 mph over 64 miles (stage 10 – nice tail wind – Lordsburg to Deming, NM)
c.      Most climbing: 6,030 ft (stage 1 – climb to Julian, CA)
d.     Most descent: 5,000+ ft (stage 14 – descent from Cloudcroft, NM)
e.     Flattest stage: 1.8 ft climb/mile avg (stage 36 – Crawfordville to Perry, FL)
f.      Slowest stage: 8.3 mph (stage 13 – climb to Cloudcroft, NM)

Some other notable statistics:
1.     Number of visits to the blog: well over 4,000 – thanks for everyone’s interest and support!
2.     Total flat tires (not bad given the rough roads of TX and all of the junk along the highways in the Southwest!): 7
3.     Number of rattlesnakes seen (dead or alive): 0 – I never did see one!
4.     Number of states: 8
5.     Amount of time I was rained on: just 1.5 hrs during the whole trip.  Absolutely amazing.  I was incredibly lucky with great weather the whole trip (maybe one day of snow in AZ would be the exception!!).  That is less than 1% of the cycling time in rain – wow!!!!
6.     Amount of road construction I had to ride through: almost none – I estimate about 10 miles out of the total of 2800+ miles – nice!!!
7.     Items I brought with me but never used on the trip: 1) raincoat (great!), 2) mace (I had plenty of dogs chase me, but none too close).  Basically, everything else I brought with me was used at some point in the trip.
8.     Number of motorists that honked at me in a way that suggested they didn’t like my presence on the highway: just 2.  (pretty good – I’d estimate 20k cars/trucks passed me on the trip)
9.     Number of motorists that were helpful (stopping when I had a flat tire or in most cases just moving over a few ft on the road as they passed me) – 100s.
10.  Most useful cycling item that many cyclists may not use today: rear view mirror (if you don’t have one – get one – they’re incredibly helpful).
11.  Highest elevation during the trip: +8,600+ ft (Cloudcroft, NM)
12.  Lowest elevation during the trip: -200 ft (near Brawley, CA)
13.  Number of items I forgot in my hotel room in the nearly 40 checkouts I did: ZERO!  (perhaps the statistic I’m most happy with…).

Awards I’d give to each State (applicable only to my trip/route/timing of the ride):
1.     California: Best breakfast and coolest motel room (Julian B&B – they won by far)
2.     Arizona: Most beautiful landscape (I like desert mountains)
3.     New Mexico: Best mountain climb (up to Cloudcroft)
4.     Texas: Roughest roads (by far – it shook my bike apart in ways that should not happen!...) and most “dead stuff” laying along the road
5.     Louisiana: Best motel location (in New Roads – right over an oxbow lake)
6.     Mississippi: Most logging trucks coupled with no riding lane (cyclist’s nightmare…)
7.     Alabama: Best “water crossing” = the ferry across Mobile Bay was really cool.
8.     Florida: Smoothest highways with most consistent use of bike/breakdown lane (by far over the other states)

For cyclists who may take the type of route that I did:
1.     I’ve included a summary of the stages here.
2.     Back on Day 0 I had also included a list of the equipment I brought with me.

Final thoughts: 

One of the most interesting aspects of the trip that I had not expected is the fantastic ability to see a broad swath of our beautiful country up close and personal.  Seeing it for sure, but also hearing, smelling it (for better or worse), feeling it through the bike every pedal stroke of the way and even tasting it (in the case of air near the TX oil fields).  The transitions in geography, climate, social characteristics, pace of human activity, accents, smells, sounds, humidity, sites, etc are incredibly diverse in the US.  The awesome aspect of seeing these on a bike trip is that you experience them in a continuous spectrum (as opposed to flying in/out of each of these areas) and get a great sense of how the transitions occur across the country.  In many cases these transitions are dramatically quick (e.g. the end of the lower Rocky Mtns in New Mexico, the southern accent appearing almost immediately when you cross the TX/LA state line) and others are more slow but in all cases you get to experience the transition in a very direct way – OUTSTANDING!! 

Keep inspiring and being inspired!  It was fun to have conversations with folks in hotels, restaurants, stores, along the road, and even kids in parking lots about cycling.  Answering their questions, talking about exercising, riding bicycles and hopefully in some ways inspiring each of them to take extra steps to do some new things in their lives, perhaps exercise a bit more as well and find new journeys in their lives to pursue.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day 38 (Sat, 30 Mar)

The final day – a spectacular ride into St Augustine today!

I rode from Gainesville, FL to St Augustine, FL today.  A ride of 82 miles and about 900 ft of climbing.  There were some fun, small hills for the first 20 miles or so riding East out of Gainesville.  As with nearly every other ride I’ve had in FL, the highways were quite smooth and always had a riding lane – awesome way to do a ride.

The route: After riding through Gainesville I hopped on Hwy 20 and then on Hwy 207 into St Augustine, FL.  I then rode on a few streets through St Augustine and then a few miles on Hwy 1A down to St Augustine Beach, FL.

The weather: It has been getting a bit warmer every day for the past week.  The Temps started out in the 50s in the morning, quickly warmed up and were in the low 70s throughout most of the day.  Again – SUNNY – the correct way to end the ride given all of the wonderful sun and awesome weather I’ve benefited from during the trip.  Winds were nonexistent in the morning and then a slight 10 mph breeze from the south just as I was turning a bit NE riding the last 30 miles into St Augustine.

St Augustine is a really cool city.  It’s the oldest in the US, having been founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and is quite majestic (pictures below capture a bit of this).  I spent about 45 minutes riding around St Augustine, dodging around all of the other tourists there and then took the short 5 mile ride a bit south to St Augustine Beach to officially close out the day and the full trip ride.

On to the pictures!

University of Florida Gators football stadium in Gainesville, FL.

An older part of downtown Gainesville - a city of about 125k people, and one of the premiere universities in the state of Florida.

Video: Typical road and scenery about 20 miles east of Gainesville - nice pavement and riding lane!  I was a few other local cyclists heading west on this stretch of highway.

Unlike western Florida, there are many lakes on the eastern side of the state.

Beautiful road and scenery!!!

St John's River (one of only a couple rivers in the US that flows North) near Palatka, FL and bridge (to the left of the picture) that I was just about to cross, still heading East!

Top of the bridge.

Getting close!  This was just after I turned onto Hwy 207.

Bull's Chips - not sure what that is but I was hoping its not what I was thinking it was (or something like that!).  There were a lot of potato farms in this part of FL.

Video: typical road and scenery along Hwy 207.

I-95: the final North/South Interstate to cross on the journey.

 Really cool bulls - check out those horns!

An awesome sign, for an awesome town and great ending to the trip!

Harbor near St Augustine.  The city is actually on a bay and not directly on the Atlantic Ocean (just a few miles away though).

Pretty spectacular hotel right in the middle of the city.

Original Spanish fort on the bay in St Augustine - Castillo de San Marcos.

Next two pictures are a wall that seems to have been built in the early 1700s by the towns people to help protect them from the English.

Video: drawbridge going across the bay just out of St Augustine and south on 1A to St Augustine Beach.  Called the "Bridge of Lions."

I spent quite a bit of time in Louisiana and Florida looking for alligators in ponds, along the highway, etc.  I never did see one - so I took this picture just outside an Alligator Zoo near St Augustine Beach.

Video: Hwy 1A within about 1/2 mile from the Atlantic Ocean.

St Augustine Beach - 3 blocks from the finish line!!!

The Atlantic Ocean and St Augustine Beach - DONE!!!  Safe, sound (mainly), and happy!

My good friend Craig (who lives in Orlando) and I at our hotel at Flagler Beach (about 20 miles south from St Augustine Beach).


Friday, March 29, 2013

Day 37 (Fri, 29 Mar)

I made it about ½ way across the main peninsula of Florida and relished absolutely perfect weather today.

I rode from Perry, FL to Gainesville, FL today.  A ride of 92 miles and just 400 ft of elevation gain throughout the ride, most of which was just west of Gainesville where there are a few small (micro?) hills.  I actually looked at the elevation gain at 34 miles into the ride and it was 7 ft, basically within the accuracy of the GPS system – that defines flat land!

The route: I started out on US Hwy 98, which I’ve now been riding on for quite a few days in FL, and then rode FL Hwy 26 into Gainesville.  Both of those highways are awesome cycling highways with very smooth pavement and a riding lane for nearly the entire trip – fantastic on the joints and quite easy to gain some very nice speeds while at the same time having the ability to enjoy the landscape throughout the entire ride.

The weather: Beautiful.  Totally sunny, again – I’ll say it again, I must be the luckiest cyclist on the face of the planet right now – fantastic weather.  Temps started out in the 40s in the morning but quickly warmed up and most of the afternoon was in the 70s.  For the first time I can recall in the whole trip I had basically no wind for many hours in the morning and then just a light wind of about 5 mph or so in the afternoon.

The ride started out as it ended yesterday – tons of pine forests for about 40 miles this morning with a few more homes along the way.  A bit redundant with all of the pine forests I’ve seen over the past 1.5 weeks, but then as I started to ride more easterly the landscape opened up a bit more with a few farms, cattle grazing, more small towns to ride through and a lot more hardwood trees than I’ve seen in, it seems like, weeks.  I’ve never been to Gainesville (I hear they have a big basketball game tonight – U of Florida vs FGCU) and so riding into the city of about 125k people was quite pleasant – small rolling hills, lot’s of hardwood trees lining the streets and what looks like a nice college town atmosphere.

On to the pictures!!  Today was “next to last” on the trip – big day tomorrow!

Similar to what I saw two days ago on Day 35, Perry FL was a big staging and training area for the US Army prior to WW II.  A touching quote at the end of what's on the sign.

Just south of Perry, FL - something different than pine trees!  In this case I was as surprised to see these guys as they were to see me!!

Open field with a small pond/swamp and trees (big one on the left) with spanish moss.  Again, something different than pines...

Not a lot of highways in this part of FL that run north/south - US 98 as I am calling it is actually 3 highways that all neck together onto this road for 40-50 miles.  At least it was a well paved set of 3 highways in 1!

Typical landscape along US Hwy 98 on the ride today.

And some riding video in the same stretch of Hwy 98.  Amongst other things you can see 1 of a few dozen logging trucks I was today (most going north with trees).

The one major river I crossed over today, just West of a town called Fanning Springs.

The one big turn for the ride today, that also marked my exit from Hwy 98 (I had been on for many days since entering FL earlier in the week).

A few horses (I've not seen many in FL) and I believe the first donkey I've seen in FL.  Nice - neither of which are pine trees...

Courthouse in a small town called Trenton, FL.

Nice building wall mural in Trenton, FL.

Video of the ride along Hwy 26.  Lots of colorful wild flowers along this highway (the reason I was pointing the camera down so often).

Colorful field with some spring colors and more wild flowers.

Most interesting sign of the day!

Huge trees with spanish moss.

US Hwy 41 runs from Northern WI (where I grew up) in Green Bay WI (where my wife is from) down south through Punta Gorda (my sister in law owns a condo there) - so kind of cool for me to pass over this major US Hwy - I needed to keep going East.

Quaint suburb west of Gainesville.

Passing under another major Interstate - I-75.  Also, just getting into some "fun" Gainesville traffic at rush hour - I always need to shift a few mental gears when this happens after hours of riding in the countryside - all of a sudden you have 100's of people driving past you trying to get home and they often times are not looking for cyclists as they're turning - time to be careful and observant as a bicyclist!

Made it - almost - still had 5 miles of riding in the city to get to my hotel.

Updated map!  So close - 1 more day!!!