Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Carrabelle to Mexico Beach - Jan 31

60.75 miles in 5:10. The plan was to go to Panama City today, which is about 25 miles further than I went. Why you ask? The damn wind, I answer! We have experienced this wild weather since we turned west, and the residual wind, out of the northwest, was only supposed to be 10-20 mph. I was headed in a northwesterly direction, and not only was the wind cold, but it spent most of the day closer to 20 than 10 mph. They say it got up to 60 today, and the sun was nice, but I dressed in layers, planning to peel them off one at a time. I peeled nothing off all day! I rode with long pants for the first time, a neck gator and full head cover, and toe warmers that fit over my biking shoes. By the end of the 60 mile battle, I was frozen and my legs were beaten. Pam knew the wind was rockin, so she really made the call to stop early. Thank you, wife, navigator and logistics technician! Temps are predicted to go into the 30's tonight-the coldest night of their winter, according to local TV. I knew we would eventually hit the colder air and the westerly headwind, but I went from an 80 degree day to a 50 degree day. It's time to draw on my Yankee roots, and get through the next couple of days, so we get to New Orleans on time to meet Bird and Giselle, and bonton roule at Mardi Gras.
The trip was actually quite beautiful, and we would like to be able to spend more time here some day. The view from our campsite was gorgeous this morning, the first time in 36 hours there, that the sun was out, with no mist or fog. We could see Dog Island for the first time, a bird sanctuary and uninhabited island, which was just a 25 minute paddle in a kayak, off shore. Barrier islands were visible any where I rode along the coast, including St George's Island, which is supposed to be one of the "can't miss" places, that we missed. From Carrabelle to Apalachicola , which was about 30 miles, US98 hugs the coastline, and the Gulf was at 'winter low tide'. The water was way out, which is what happens with a northwest wind in the winter, according to the locals.
Docks at Eastpoint

Docks at Eastpoint

We checked out this trail head yesterday.

Shoreline exposed by winter low tide


 The fishing towns of Eastpoint and Apalachicola, were bustling with oyster and shrimp boats and docks all along US98, and there didn't seem to be any tourism or resort activity at all-all fishing-no play in these towns. After Apalachicola, there was a stretch of about 20 miles of pine forests and heavy logging activity, off the coast a bit, but the wind was no less forgiving. The last quarter of the trip was in the towns of Port St Joe, St Joe's Beach, and finally Mexico Beach. The neat thing about Mexico Beach, is that they allow no chain stores or fast food stores in the town. It's very 60's, according to the locals. We met a guy there who collects seashells and makes things out of them. Not for profit, but for fun! He gave Pam a humming bird, a ring, and a turtle made out of seashells. We bought two really neat pelicans, made out of shells for 4 bucks.
How cool are these guys?!


One last thing I did want to mention, was the excellent riding conditions along US98. It was a rolling ride, which was surprising, being right along the coast. According to my Garmin GPS, I had nearly 1000 feet of elevation change today. I haven't been close to that very many days on this entire trip. Shoulders and surface have been great, and traffic has been very bike friendly and sparse. I give it my highest recommendation for bicycle touring! I agree, US 98 is an awesome road - it's a great road to drive with the shoreline in view and the towns are so cool.
The day ended with a beautiful sunset over the Gulf, and some of Pam's homemade chili. My feet are almost warm again.
Something Mike forgot to mention is that we are now officially in the central time zone!  I was here for hours and didn't realize it until I turned on the 5 o'clock news and it wasn't on yet because it was 4!  Seriously!  The time zone changed about 1 mile to the east of our campground - we are so close to the line that Mike's phone and the iPad are changed to CST and my phone is still on EST!  Go figure.

Also, tonight the temperature is going down so low that there is a freeze warning tonight and Friday night - all I can say is that I WANT TO GO BACK TO SOUTHERN FLORIDA!!!  The Everglades and the Keys are looking really good tonight.

Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico.

After the sun set on the Gulf of Mexico

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wind in the panhandle - Jan 30 UPDATED

Pam - Due to the huge line of storms rolling thru the south we decided to sit tight today and continue to roll tomorrow. Right now it's overcast and the wind is rocking but we won't get storms until later today.

So, as the day went on the winds picked up but the sky was blue so we decided to go out exploring in Carrabelle.  We did find an old lighthouse called Crooked River Lighthouse that had a nice park for kids with a big pirate ship.  

By dinner time, the winds were shaking the motor home, and when I stepped outside, the wind ripped the door right out of my hands!  A tornado did touch down about an hour away from us, but all we got was a storm with rocking winds and driving rain.  Yea!  Anyway, tomorrow we are heading towards Panama City with stiff northwest winds (that would be in Mike's face) and cold temperatures (that would be 43 in the morning and a high of 59).  Sure glad the motor home has a heater, poor Mike doesn't have one on his bike!!

Mike aboard the pirate ship

Pirate ship

Crooked River Lighthouse

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Perry to Carrabelle, fla Jan 29

85.2 miles in 5:50. Today was officially the day to start heading west. US19 north in Perry led to US98 west, which I followed to and along the Gulf shore. Weather was beautiful for most of the day, with high temps in the 80's . Keep in mind I said MOST of the day. US98 was a great road with great shoulders and little traffic. What traffic there was, was 75% logging trucks, triaxles, and motor homes, with very few cars. The trucks were very good about moving over a little, and their wind created a welcome draft when they were headed my direction.
I hooked up with biker my age for a few miles, and it turns out that he was training for a bike race from Banff, Canada to Mexico, along the Continental Divide, in June. That would be quite a grueling race, I would think. It is totally support free also, so they won't have a wife following them in a motor home like I do. Sometimes I feel like such a wimp. Anyhow, the guy might not make it to the race, the way he rides. He was riding along side me, talking, and wouldn't tuck it in when a car came by! We got squeezed by a pick up who couldn't move over because of oncoming traffic, and while he slowed and cussed at my new companion, his boat that he was towing, somehow, miraculously, missed him. The biker was busy talking trash and didn't know there was a boat. I yelled at the guy to watch the boat, and it missed him by inches. I envisioned the boat putting him down, and me running over him, because I had fallen back a little to let him in. Wow! And people wonder why I like riding alone! Anyhow, the guy got bored with me after a few miles and pulled ahead to do his training. Thank God.
Now, about the weather change. I've never seen anything like it. About 20 miles from Carrabelle, the sunny day was swallowed up by a wall of fog that came off the Gulf, and the temperature dropped from 83 degrees to 63 degrees in a matter of ten minutes! I came to the Ochlockonie Bay, and the bridge of about one mile, where visibility was down to .25 mile, and as I rode across the bridge, I couldn't tell if there was a rise in the bridge, and couldn't see the other side. I spent the rest of the trip just hoping vehicles could see me. The Gulf was just to my left, but I could see no water at all, just the fog. By eight o'clock, the fog was gone at the Ho Hum campground, where Pam had set up, very near the water.

The fog was so thick that it was raining from the pine trees!  
When I first got to the campground, it was hot, sunny and had a clear blue sky!  When I was finished setting up, I came out of the motor home and the sky was cloudy and there was a wall of fog rolling in off of the water!  Always an adventure!  Today's trip was awesome!  Driving along 98 was beautiful, tall pines all around, and the Gulf right next to me!

Our campground has a little pier out into the water, so I took a picture of our campground during the fog.

Wild and crazy day in Perry! Jan 28

Pam - Don't let the title fool you!  Anyway, we got to sleep in a little and woke up to a disgusting smell permeating the motor home!  At one point, I thought that we had a propane leak and then I remembered the note attached to our KOA brochure that talked about the "smell of money"!  That would be the paper mill that smelled for an hour or two, then the breeze shifted and all was good.  Mike and I went for a stroll thru the campground to check it out and we noticed that a lot of the campsites were occupied by youngish women with small children and license plates from out of state.  Later we found out that they were living there while their husbands worked at the pulp mill.  We stopped into the camp office so we could ask what there was to see in the area.  The girl replied: "Nothing!"  Well, we ended up walking up 98, checking out all the abandoned motels and discovered a small state park that was a turpentine and forestry museum.  It was pretty cool and we learned all about virgin forests, and second and third generation forests (we are in the heart of logging country).  There was also a "cracker homestead" to tour.  So we did find things to see in Perry!  I think Mike's highlight of the day was having a late lunch/early dinner at the Huddle House!

What can I say?????


Monday, January 28, 2013

Chiefland to Perry, Fla - Jan 27

62.25 miles in 4:08. We stayed in the Chiefland Wal Mart parking lot last night, and it was a nice, scenic, asphalt parking lot. I set out onto US19 again, and it was more of the same. Great small towns, great weather, great road, little Sunday traffic, virtually no wind.
This is most definitely logging country. I rode past the Georgia Pacific saw and chipping mill, followed the old railroad tracks which have been apparent yesterday and today, and even rode on a portion that was paved from the mill, to and through the local town. I saw lots of neat small town things like a real Dixie Chicken. ( it's a great song, google it). We ended up at the Perry KOA, which isn't gonna win any awards, but its nice. It has an outdoor jacuzzi, next to the pool with solar panel heating that isn't working, so it made for great kryo/heat therapy on my tired legs. A lady we met at the jacuzzi, called this area the armpit of Florida, and a piece of paper given to us by the KOA, warned us of the cabbage smell emanating from the pulp mill that sometimes wafts over the campground. We went out to eat at Pounceys Restaurant, and we passed on the peanut butter and honey sandwich with vegetable soup that was on the special board. We also missed 'swamp night', it was Saturday night, and it featured gator tail and a crawfish boil. We like it so much here we are gonna spend an extra day, to rest my legs and enjoy some nice weather before we continue the journey towards New Orleans.

Okay, so here is my 2 cents!  I feel like I'm in a reality show!  There are still some swampy areas with LOTS of old decaying mobile homes, shacks, pick-up trucks and lots of camo clothes! Oh, and it's also bear season down here!  Mike has seen 2 bears in the back of pick-up trucks and he forgot to take a picture of a bear and wild boar processing place!!  The town of Perry has many shutdown, decaying motels and businesses.  We figure that it fell upon hard times when I-10 opened up and traffic no longer came on 98 to get to central Florida.  What a culture shock coming from "fashionable Venice" to backwoods Perry!  The biggest shock to me is the weather!  If we didn't have reservations in New Orleans in early February, I would head back south! I could definitely spend more time in Big Cypress, Everglades or the Keys!
Of course I sang the song as I was driving along!



The Dixie chicken!  It was actually at a business that makes tombstones!  Go figure.

Spring Hill to Chiefland, Fla Jan. 26

83.2miles in 5:30. Beautiful, 75 degrees, slight headwind, very little traffic. Riding this stretch of US19 on the weekend may had been fortuitous, because this is logging country, and judging by the scenery, there are lots of logging trucks during the week. Many of them were loaded and parked, just waiting to roll Monday morning. The road was fantastic-newly paved, straight as an arrow, with a great shoulder the entire way. I saw other bikers that looked like they were touring, only they were headed south, which is probably the way to be going! I loved the towns that I rode through-we are back in small town America-places that you are through in ten minutes, even on a bike. Crystal River was especially nice, as well as Chiefland, neither of which I had ever heard of. Crystal River seemed to have manatees as their main attraction, as there were companies everywhere that specialized in swimming, snorkeling, diving, and boating with them.
We are back in armadillo and wild boar territory, as I saw one of each, dead along the road. We are also very close to the University of Florida(30 miles), but you would never guess it. Being Saturday, I saw lots of hunters. It is bear and boar season I would guess. I also had the opportunity to help a lady pump up her bicycle tires in the parking lot at Save-a-lot in Chiefland. (See picture). One other weird thing happened-I passed over Ten Mile Creek while on US19-something that I could do in Washington Pennsylvania. I also noticed the deciduous trees were without leaves, further proof that we are moving closer to the Arctic Circle.

Pam - The road was great for travelling in a motor home - smooth road, very little traffic but we are losing the "tropical look".  Not as many palm and palmetto trees and more bare trees as Mike mentioned - not so green anymore! : (
We spent the night in a WalMart parking lot (thank you WM) and it looked like a campground with 3 other rigs there with us!  Did not sleep very well since we were in "redneck" country.  Every young pup had a jacked-up, souped-up pick-up truck that they race through the parking lot (must be the cool thing to do at midnight!) and they were VERY LOUD!

This is an auto shop outside of Spring Hill - yes it is a dinosauer!
To the right of the road, we had an old train tracks following us.  This was a display of an old locomotive and coal car from the old Georgia Pacific line that no longer travels thru the area.



I helped this lady fill her tire.  She is riding her bike down to Lakeland , Florida (near Orlando) to visit her kids.  That can't be an easy ride!

Friday, January 25, 2013

A quiet day in Spring Hill - Jan 25

Jan. 25 We decided to take a day off and do nothing, but it turned into a day of Rv cleaning, and maintenance. Pam did laundry, and I put new brakes on her bike, sat in a reclining chair in the sun a lot, and spent time looking at all the pictures people were sending me from the snowstorm in Pittsburgh. We went to eat Chinese for lunch, and generally regrouped for a ride to the thriving metropolis of Chiefland, Fla tomorrow.

This is on the nature trail in our campground.   It may be January, but here in Florida, the foliage is still very green and jungle lush!


And so we are all caught up!!  Yahoo!  But I guarantee that we will get behind again when we get to New Orleans and Marti Gras!  Anyway, I am still working on downloading some video taken on our camera.  For what ever reason, the laptop/Picasa program doesn't want to accept the videos, so therefore we can't post them to the blog.  I have an idea that I'm working on, so if I ever get the videos off of the camera, I will post them all together (I hope).

The nicest bike trail I've ever been on... Jan 24

Jan 24... St Petersburg to Spring Hill Fla. So you say you never heard of Spring Hill? That's because we have begun a long journey up the west side of Florida, and we are now north of the majority of the fun and sun capital of the world. The trip was 50 miles and it took about 4 hours.
The trail that comes out of the front gate of the St Petersburg KOA is the Pinellas Trail. This trail runs north/south for 48 miles through a lot of traffic filled, urban areas. I rode on it for about 25 miles, and it is absolutely the best multi use trail I have ever seen. Each major road was crossed over by newly built, beautiful bridges, about five in all on the section I rode. There were very few places where secondary roads crossed that we had to stop, but there were a few. Unbelievably, a great majority of the roads that we crossed, the vehicle traffic had stop signs, but the bikers did not! I rode through the towns of Seminole, Largo, Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, to Tarpon Springs. The scenery was quite nice, mostly residential, and I made a few side trips, especially in Clearwater, to see the Gulf of Mexico. I also saw softball fields with mens league games(probably seniors) going on before noon! I passed a lot of parks with public restroom facilities , and most amazingly, walkers and bikers had separate asphalt pathways, separated by a grass medium strip! This was not always true, but it was in every place they could do,it. The asphalt was always smooth, not buckled by tree roots, as I had complained about in the Keys. There was one rough place, on the older northern end, but they were actually replacing it as I rode by.

Pinellas Trail

Once the trail ended, I popped out on route 19. Yeah, the very same US19 that runs through Washington, PA!  Towns of Port Ritchie, and Hudson ran together with a steady flow of road construction on the bike lane that I was supposed to be riding on! Rt 19 was a steady diet of pawn shops, Chinese restaurants, tattoo shops, mom and pop bars, strip joints, strip malls, consignment shops ( even for your car or Rv). In the places that had no bike lane, I gave up and rode the sidewalks and parking lots, which really slowed me down. After yesterday's dance with the traffic devil, I just wanted to get away from it. I'm ready for some more desolate,roads for a while, and I hope they calm down as we go north.

Venice to St Petersburg via Tampa - Jan 23

105 miles in 8 hours. This trip was everything I expected it to be. Nerve wracking, death defying, white knuckle biking at its finest! It started being a very round about trip, because I couldn't go across the Sunshine Skyway bridge, which is, by probably 50 miles, the shortest way to St Petersburg, which is where the only available campground was located. Pam loved the view, and one of the plans was for her to come in the Jeep and ride me across. Well, I knew that was the best way, but I didn't want to do it that way! I really wanted to just put the pedal to the medal and just go for it on the bike. I wanted to, I wanted to, I wanted to.... And really thought about it, but I knew I would get arrested. I guess the bridge is one of the most popular suicide jumps in the country, next to the Golden Gate Bridge, and when I looked it up on line, that's about all they talked about (besides the two times that part of it caved it). The security is probably pretty good, better even than the scenery would have been....damn.
The trip actually started out very calmly, on the Legacy Trail, which came highly recommended, and is part of Venice's award winning biking community. I did about eleven miles on the trail, which was nice enough, and ran to the southern portion of Sarasota. Not real scenic, and not what I like to do, but its the first trail I was on, on this entire trip. Is was a nice little distraction, but shame on the people of Venice and Sarasota for not cleaning up the piles of dog poop that polluted a nice trail. I also saw a crazy looking soap car derby type of a red bike, blowing down the trail. It sounded like a jet, but I think it was pedal driven. I could only see the drivers head, which was encased in aerodynamic clear plastic, barely above the shining red body of the missile like vehicle. Y'all watch out for that wildman!

This is where I hopped onto the Legacy Trail  by the old train depot.

After the trail, it was back to the very busy Tamiami Trail, US41, with no shoulders and 100% development through Sarasota, Bradenton, and Palmetto. These towns, especially Bradenton, were older, and not as nice as the standard set by Naples and other, more southern Florida towns. I went on a little side trip in Bradenton, to McKechnie Field, where the Pittsburgh Pirates have spring training. I couldn't get in, but it looked like there was a ton of renovations going on, and it looked like they better hurry up to finish before spring training!
Once getting out of Palmetto, after the split that would have taken me to the Sunshine Skyway bridge, US41 cleaned up nicely, new pavement and biking shoulders. If only the nagging north wind would take a break. It wasn't that bad though, and I headed through some industrial areas, with a huge factory with high smoke stacks, and two huge 'hills'. One looked like a garbage dump, and the other, a quarry of some type of white rock (phosphorus?) There was surprising little truck traffic. But the craziest drivers, that came the closest to blowing me off the road, were school buses about five in a row that were really too close!. I got into Tampa with about an hour to go before rush hour, and I was amazed at how I blew right through the center of town, with very little traffic, just some construction, which wasn't bad, but it would have been if I had been an hour later. With the help of two traffic cops, I was guided off my intended path of travel to Bayshore Blvd, which was a beautiful path along the bay that I had just traveled around. Everything that I went by over there, the two big 'hills', the big smoke stacks, were clearly visible as I headed south, towards St Petersburg, eventually. Bayshore Blvd reminded me of the trail in Key West where we watched the sunrise, on the east side. Joggers, bikers, and festival tents that were being set up for something, were all along the 5 mile linear park.
Then the fun began. I turned onto Gandy Blvd and a trip directly into the blinding sunset, at the same time that rush hour just blew up. Buses, traffic to the max, not expecting a bicycle on such a busy road at rush. The Gandy bridge was fantastic, about 4 miles long with a huge shoulder and bike path on the west side, but as soon as the path ended, (which they all seem to do down here at the weirdest places), I really thought I was gonna have to perform death defying riding at a speed that would get me another 15 miles before it got dark. I played the breaks in traffic caused by the red lights and flew into the sunset bouncing between stints on the road and the sidewalk, depending on vehicular traffic, and pedestrian traffic, choosing the lesser of two evils as I went. All the while I was on and off the phone with Pam(while riding, to beat the dark), trying to figure out where the campground was. Just as it was getting pretty dark, I finally found Seminole Road and the bike path that crossed over it, and led to the St. Petersburg KOA. It's staying light until almost 6:30 here now, thank God.
Two good things happened once I found my wonderful wife and our Rv. She had cooked a great meal of Swiss steak, gravy and noodles. It woulda been a shame if I woulda got run over and missed that! The other good thing is that I realized that after 105 miles, my lips were finally healed of the plague that has had a grip on them since the Keys. I spoke in a earlier blog about quitting the Chapstick habit, and I have. I give all the credit to vitamin E oil for finally healing them.

One more day in Venice

Jan 22---We spent the day checking out some local beaches, which were affected by the dreaded red tide, as well as a chilling north wind. We spent some time in he historic shopping district (eating, not shopping), and walking around. All through the town there were turtle and dolphin statues that were sponsored by different businesses and embellished by local artists.  Personally, I liked the turtles the best!


 We found Saint's boat , which was docked nearby, and tried to imagine living on it for five years like he did. It's obviously not that uncommon to live on a boat down here, as we've seen in several marinas while visiting down here.
While we were wandering around the marina, Mike  found a playmate, Blackbeard Duck!

 We then took a beautiful ride near the Gulf shore on Casey's Key, which was a very unique place. It is about five miles long and as narrow as it could possibly be. Beautiful homes were built in every available nook and cranny, and the road was amazingly narrow and twisting, with very few straightaways. Near the north end, there was a dead end street, where Steven King (the author) lives for part of the year. Close to that, was a little bar and restaurant called the Casey's Key Fish House, where we met all the guys again, for more stories and laughing in the tiki bar section. The plastic 'walls' were down because of the chill (65 degrees), so we really didn't get the full appreciation of the place and its beauty. As the sun set, there were crew teams coming in from practicing in the bay. The mango margarita was the house specialty.

L to R - Buzzy, Mike, Pam, Paul, Jay and Saint.

Naples to Venice 76.3 in 5:30

Monday, Jan 21. I bet you wouldn't have guessed we were in Italy! (Naples to Venice, get it? ) Actually we are still in Florida, just heading north on the Gulf coast. I'm still on US 41, and the road was pretty good. I jumped off onto business 41 in Ft. Meyers, and what a difference between Naples and Ft Meyers! Ft Meyers seemed older, and not built for tourists or snow birds. It had a worn down downtown, with a very visible homeless population. Naples, as described earlier, was booming, and it hid any older or run down areas from me, even as I rode all over over four rides in different directions. Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte were also normal looking towns, except with one area in Punta Gorda that looked worth investigating. The wind was blowing harder into my face as the day went on, so I chose not to take a side trip that I probably should have. I did, however, stop and visit with the Blues Brothers. ( see picture). The weather is once again pretty nice, but that north wind has gotta back off!


Upon arrival in Venice we hooked up with more old teaching friends from Peters Twp. who live here, or are in the process of moving here. St. Clair Gratz, who lived on his boat up and down the east coast before buying a house (where we all gathered), Paul Sutherland , a former technology teacher, who has been here for a few months, and is in the midst of doing many home improvements on an already nice home, as well as deciding which motorcycle club to join, Jay Greenberger, who was looking to buy, and Buzz Scott, who may end up here as well, but is officially in Pittsburgh, I guess. We all met at Saint's house after their tennis session and had drinks and conversation. Not much has changed with these characters over the years!

Extended stay in Naples

We decided, even with our strict schedule, to stay in Naples for the weekend.( that's a joke about the strict schedule). Friday we drove downtown to check out the historic shopping and restaurant district, and got yet another view of Naples. They have a fishing pier that is free to the public , and no fishing license is necessary. We had our first experience with the Florida red tide on that pier. We were walking along, and both of us started coughing at exactly the same time. We also noticed a dead fish floating under the pier. Somewhere along the line we saw a beach warning sign describing the red tide. It is a algae that can turn the water red, and it uses all the oxygen in the water, therefore suffocating tons of fish. I guess this is the time of the year for the annual outbreak. It is allegedly caused by fertilizer runoff, but there is a lot of political and scientific disagreement, sort of like global warming. All I know is that the dead fish were stinky, and it was catching in people's throats Evening plans included food and drink at Pelican Larry's with Barry.

This is a sign posted on the beach.


Saturday was supposed to be our day to lay on the beach in the sun, but there was very little sun, and the dose of Florida winter was still present. ( high of 70, lows in the 50's) We decided to cancel the beach, and I got in a 37 mile ride, riding east toward the Everglades, to check that out. Naples is limited by the Gulf on the west, and the swamp on the east, so there is no where to grow in those directions. It is a very long, linear town, not shaped like you would think. Near the end of my ride, at a place near Barry's office, we hooked up for breakfast at a place called 'Skillets'.

Sunday, we did go to the beach, even though it wasn't warm for very long, but we did get a chance to get into bathing suits, and watch other Yankees who thought it was a beach day. In the evening we went to Kim Bochampers Sports Bar, and met up with Barry and his former football coaching staff at a local college, Ava Maria, and other friends and watched the AFC championship game between. The Ravens and the Patriots.
We liked Naples, despite the heavy traffic and long red lights. It's a beautiful place, but its not for those who don't have money to spend. There is a lot to do, and Barry seems to be happy there, enough to plan on staying and retiring there.

Barry and Mike

Barry, Mike & Pam

Exploring Naples by bike and Barry

Jan 16 and 17-- Wednesday the 16th was a quiet day, we had a little socializing with the neighbors at the San Marino Lake Campground, and then met Barry at a beautiful area called Murcato, with restaurants, bars, live bands ( on a Wednesday), and most of it is outdoors. It is also surrounded by condos, where many younger people live, so it's a nice mix of locals and tourists

On the 17th, I got in a forty mile ride along the Gulf coast. Wow! What a difference from what I experienced on US41 on the way into town. The area was beautiful, with plush, green lawns, wide streets with bike lanes and bikers everywhere, tons of public beach accesses in amongst the gated condos, several golf courses. Landscapers were working everywhere, and fortunately, I had no desire to help at all! Bayshore Blvd. was a little hard to follow in places, but it made the exploring a little more interesting.
After beautiful weather for a shirtless ride, I got home, sat down in a chair to enjoy the sun, and to my surprise, felt a cool breeze. Within 15 minutes, the sky was overcast, and the temperature dropped 15 degrees into the mid 60's. What a slap in the face! It looks like we are gonna get some winter after all!

Midway Campground to Naples

Jan 15---67.25 in 4:07. US 41 is going to be a common theme for a while. It is called the Tamiami Trail, and I will be on it all the way, eventually to Tampa. Today the weather was beautiful, and the wind at my back. The road was great all the way to Naples, shoulders sufficient, and traffic light. I got the opportunity to count alligators again, and the count was 178. That's not a typo. 178 gators in one day!
Once I got to Naples, I turned north, but the wind was still pushing me. Traffic, however was crazy! Nothing but malls, shopping developments, Walgreens, Publix grocery stores, and banks it seemed. Traffic showed me respect for the most part,,and I tried to keep my speed up and be predictable. The campground was 15 miles north of Naples, so I got thru all the mess in one day.
Later in the day, we hooked up with Barry Fagan, a good friend from my Peters Township days, and we had a beer and caught up on news at a great beach side bar on the Gulf of Mexico called Doc's Beachhouse. The plan is to spend several days here, hang out with Barry, and see what Naples has to offer.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jan 14 A second day at Midway

Amid the possibility of rattlesnakes and alligators cruising our campsite at night, we were told not to take evening walks. We liked the place so much though, that we decided to spend another day in Big Cypress. We rode trails in the Jeep, and filled it with dust and mud, and checked out Everglades City, to get gas. We loafed a little and enjoyed the quiet, before heading to the Gulf Coast, with all the traffic, people, and hustle and bustle.

The Big Cypress visitor's center has a boardwalk between it and the road.  Here is the gang that hangs out 



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sunshine skyway bridge! Jan 23

Getting ready to drive across the Sunshine Skyway into St Petersburg.   Wind is whipping n waves are crashing and I'm going to have a broadside wind! Can't wait! View will be great but its gonna be another white knuckle trip!

Hey! I survived!  It was an awesome view!  What a fun way to spend my birthday!  Seriously, the wind wasn't really hitting me broadside as I went over the peak of the bridge, so I could concentrate on the construction that shifted my lane onto the shoulder!  There I was, 6 inches from the edge of the bridge - it did give me a great view!  I could see for miles and I got to see Tropicana Field where the Tampa Rays place baseball.  Once I was off of the bridge, I was plunged into downtown St. Petersburg with 3 lanes of traffic and a turning lane on my right - oh and don't forget a red light at the end of almost every block.  Needless to say, I was very happy to see the campground!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Homestead to Big Cypress National Preserve

Jan.13- I got an early start to ride Fla.997 on a Sunday morning, while traffic was quiet. This road is a route that goes straight north through agricultural country. It is not nearly as busy as US 1, but there are only a few roads out of this area, and I figured it was gonna get busy later on. There were no shoulders on this 21 mile stretch, and the fields of crops and commercial nurseries, full of flowering trees and shrubs, were beautiful. I was glad I was able to look around, rather than just focus on traffic.
When I got to US 41, which is one of only two roads across the northern Everglades to the Gulf coast, I ran into construction. Fortunately, being a Sunday, there were no trucks, but traffic was still constantly flowing. Four or five construction sights were working, so flag men were present, which means I was flowing with the speed of traffic through the work areas, which were one lane with jersey barriers. This is the kind of thing that Pam LOVES to drive the motor home thru also. Not really! I was doing sprint workouts, getting up to 25 mph, and holding it for half mile to one mile stretches, to stay in the flow of traffic, then resting and cruising in the areas that weren't being worked on. I passed the Miccosukee Indian Reservation as well as their casino. They also have a big presence giving airboat rides through the grassland swamps. My ride included seeing 107 alligators in the canal along the road, except for number 89, who was near the road where I was riding.  I was so busy looking in the canal that I came within 3 feet of hitting him in the snout! Some minor evasive action, and no one was injured.  Big Cypress seems to have more gators and birds than the Everglades, especially this time of year, when all the animals are condensing to the areas that have water. This is the dry season, and wildlife is more dispersed at wetter times of the year.




Swamp buggy

I did see a Florida Panther!


     Original plans were for me to ride about 104 miles to the Gulf coast, to Marco Island.  As I was traveling, I thought maybe Pam would stop early so we could do some of the things that were available through this stretch that I knew she wanted to do.  It wasn't long till I got a text saying that she had stopped in the Big Cypress Preserve, about half way across the Everglades, at the Midway Campground.  I ended up going about 57 miles, and it turned out to be a great decision to stop.  We headed back to the Reservation in the jeep, and took an airboat ride, including a 10 minute stop at an area out in the swamp that had a boardwalk and some Indian women making and selling traditional Indian stuff. We also got up close with some alligators, including one with injuries and scars around his eye caused by a fight with another gator.
The airboat is as loud as sitting next to a jet engine, and they gave us cotton to put in our ears.  The driver was good, and he did some airboat tricks, including serpentine curves and a few 360's just for fun. The trip was definitely one of the most fun things we've done.

At the old Indian village

Gator under the boardwalk


Airboat in the background


Look inside the gator's mouth!!




     On the way home we took a ride on a back road, called the Loop Road, and checked out some of the Indian homes, some more wildlife, especially at the bridges,  and a couple of areas that the park has set up for free back country camping.  We could actually get the motorhome to these sights and camp for free, with no hookups of course, but that's an adventure for our next trip to Big Cypress.

This was a sign on a National Park Campground bulletin board!