Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It Ain't Over 'Til the Fat Lady Sings....... (April 28: Day 56--Palatka, FL)

The past week of riding in northern Florida has been phenomenal, with its gentle rolling hills, pine woods,  cypress swamps and smooth, well maintained roads.  It has been a true pleasure spinning across and down the panhandle, and into central Florida.  With these wonderful conditions, I achieved an all time personal best two days ago,  riding 54 miles at an average speed of 18.5 mph, and I could have kept going.  It was a glorious!   Today, however, the landscape is once again changing, with the pines and ferns giving way to the more tropical palmetto type bushes as we grow closer to the coast.  It  was also our last day of serious riding. Although we ride about 50 miles tomorrow, it will be more of a ceremonial ride than the serious riding of the past two months.  As such, the expectation of today's ride was that it would be as wonderful as the preceding days.

The morning greeted us with sunny skies and abnormally cool temperatures. Being a 74 mile jaunt, we started riding at 7:30 am to avoid the mid-afternoon heat.  Pam, (Auburn, CA) and I rode together.  I figured, even at a relaxed pace, we would be finished in about five hours, and with my saddle sores acting up again, I was happy about that.

Buzzing down the early morning street, the birds were singing, children played while waiting for the school bus and I was listening to The Sound of Music soundtrack on my Ipod.  The morning was perfect.  We cruised along like this for five miles until a loud thunk-thunk-thunk interrupted Julie Andrews singing "My Favorite Things".  Trust me, this thunking sound is not one of my favorite things! Something was hitting  a wheel; simultaneously, both Pam and I looked at our tires---Pam at her rear, and me at my front. One of us had run over something, and that noise was very foreboding.   Pam's  tire quickly deflated.

We stopped to change it, greeting each of our fellow riders as they rode by.....everyone had a comment, most offered to help and all were glad it wasn't them.  With five miles down and almost 70 to go, this is not a good way to start a ride.  Pam quickly removed her wheel and found a huge nail embedded in the tire. She removed it, then efficiently  changed the tube and reassembled the wheel.  Pumping it, the tire would not hold the air.....the spare inner tube, (the one she had just put on), was bad; she didn't have another one and mine were the wrong size.  Fortunately, being only five miles out, the van wasn't far away, and was able to bring us one.  By 8:45, we were on the road again.

Again, we moved at a good clip and the miles began to drop away. At one point,  I could see the silhouettes of half a dozen dogs milling around on the next rise, loose on the road. Anticipating the worst, I pulled out in front to shoo them away. (Pam is afraid of most animals).  They were pretty mellow, and didn't give much of a chase, but as I flashed past, two of them were laying on the side of the road, with the younger ones sniffing at them.  Sick at heart that the animals had been hit and left for dead, I turned around to see if there was something I could do. As I rolled up, the two prone animals lazily got to their feet to see what the commotion was. They had been sleeping on the warm shoulder of the road! My first thought was 'what lazy dogs', followed by 'whose dogs are these, anyway, and why are they running loose."  Well, with that problem averted, I caught up with Pam and we continued to cycle to the first 20 mile SAG stop, with me leading. As the front person, it is my responsibility to point out road debris and holes in the road to the riders behind me, so when I saw this 'thing' on the right, I pointed to it in warning.  The 'thing' turned out to be a pretty reddish colored snake, coiled and also napping on the warm shoulder;  I found out later it was a copperhead.

Still not yet to the first SAG, we were flagged and stopped by the Department of Transportation while they closed the road to pull out a crane that had gotten stuck in the mud. What else could happen this morning.....

The beautiful Florida roads I mentioned earlier.....they deteriorated on today's ride, to busy state routes, full of speeding lumber trucks and rough shoulders.  It was a long, rough ride, and my backside was really crying the blues.  At mile 60, I had to just take a deep breath and tell myself that I only had 14 more miles....just keep going.  Whew.....  Finally we arrived in Palatka, and stopped for lunch and treated ourselves to a beer!  We earned it today, and though it was our last serious day on the road, 'it ain't over until the fat lady sings'!

74 miles

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

So...... (April 27: Day 55--High Springs, FL)

'Some days you are ahead, some days you are behind. The race is long, and in the end, it is only with yourself"  ~~ Mary Schmich this journey draws to an end, I have stopped to reflect upon where I've been, what I've seen and what I have experienced.  To be honest, I had to flip back through some of my pictures to remember the earliest days; it seems like yesterday that we were all strangers at Dog Beach in San Diego and yet it seems like an eternity.  So......I ask myself,  "What have I learned??"

I have learned:
  • I can stay in a really nasty no-star motel and survive.
  • I can now blow snot rockets like a pro.
  • I learned that the only failure is in not trying
  • I learned there are many ways to look at a situation.  How I chose to see it determines if it becomes an opportunity or obstacle.
  • I have learned that the middle class seems to be disappearing, and there is a marked discrepancy between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'
  • I learned that I can change a flat tire.
  • I learned that tofu isn't as bad as I thought it was, especially when I am hungry.
  • I learned not to bring any snacks into the hotel room at night....I will eat them even if I am not hungry.
  • I learned, that for me, 'smelling the roses' is doing what I enjoy doing and might be different for someone else.
  • I learned to let go of the need to control.
  • I learned not to have expectations.
  • I learned to embrace and live in the moment.
  • I learned not to ignore my body when it sends me signals, or I will suffer later.
  • I learned AZO is great for killing the pain of a UTI infection.
  • I learned I can get away with not washing my jersey every night, but two days is the limit before people complain.
  • I have learned to believe in myself and trust my abilities; they won't let me down, but self doubt will surely sabotage me. 
  • I learned that it was a really good idea to bring my own pillow.
  • I learned to let go of judgment and embrace the unique gifts of each person; I learned that others may not be able to do this, and that is ok--there are lessons to be learned from that, too. 
  • I learned there are many ways to do something,and everyone has an opinion.
  • I learned to use the bathroom when one was available or do it in nature.
  • Sunscreen is my friend; margaritas are not.
  • I learned that you get what you spend when it comes to bike shorts.
  • I learned nothing is insurmountable if broken into smaller pieces.
  • I learned how to drink from a water bottle without breaking the rhythm of my cadence.
  • I learned how to climb ascents.
  • I learned that what may appear to be a shack to me is someone's dream house.
  • I learned the importance of a courtesy flush.
I am sure there are other things that I will remember that I learned....   Thank you for sharing this journey with me!

76 miles

Beltin' It Out in the Bible Belt

The deep South has long been known as the "Bible Belt".  There are as many churches here as there are pickup trucks.  I have seen  huge mega-churches to tiny little country churches, barely able to support themselves, judging from the state of their building. The most typical churches have been the two to three hundred member size. Almost all have marquees outside advertising upcoming events or with clever sayings and quotes.  I have gotten quite a chuckle from a few of them.  I have often wondered if they have a book from which they get these quotes, just as I have long wondered if the minister writes his own sermon, or if the main office (Heaven? ) provides him with a basic outline to follow.  At any rate, I have gathered a few of the sayings that the riders and I have seen on our travels.  Enjoy.....
  • How will you spend eternity--smoking or nonsmoking
  • This is a ch_ _ch.  What is missing?
  • Wal-mart is not the only saving place.  (Wal-mart was across the street)
  • Forgive your enemies--it messes with their heads (I love this one)
  • In the dark?  Follow the Son
  • No God--No Peace.  Know God--Know Peace
  • Why let the government take all your money; we only want 10%
  • Soul food served here.
  • "My last name is not Dammit!"--God

Monday, April 26, 2010

Me, Tarzan: You, Jane (April 24: Day 52--Wakulla Springs, FL)

The Shell Station

Our last rest day was spent in Wakulla Springs, Fl--no television, no internet, limited cell service, no truly was a day of rest.  Wakulla Springs is part of the Florida State Park system and is the world's largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. The tunnel system of the underground spring travels through eroded limestone passages; the ground throughout Florida is riddled with these springs and caravans. Scientist think they are all interconnected. Bones of mastodons and other prehistoric creatures have been found deep underground within the spring system, leading to the belief that at some time in its history, Florida was very dry, and the animals traveled into these caves, caravans and passageways in search of water. The water in the spring above ground is crystal clear, and one can see to the bottom of most of the river.  It is full of wildlife, including alligators that hang around the swim hole. Pam was taking a picture of the 'Beware of Alligator' sign, not realizing that 15 feet away, a big old gator was snoozing in the sun. She chose not to swim.......

Most of you have seen Wakulla Springs on TV but not even realized it.  It was the location for The Creature From the Black Lagoon and several Tarzan movies.  Karen, Frankie and I watched some of The Creature on the hotel's only TV, located in the lobby, and were quite disruptive to our tranquil surroundings with our laughter and mirth.  It was as silly today as it was when we saw it as youngsters.

Aside from watching the movie and swimming, we were able to go on a boat tour of the river, observing the wildlife.  It was beautiful and it was rather cool to recognize the terrain that we had just seen in the movie.

The Shell Station

Snowy Egret and Babies 

Frightened Bird

One of Many Gators

Yellow-Crested ?? on nest



39 miles

Chili Today, Hot Tamale

The weather has changed; from cold 40 degree mornings, we now leave in pleasantly cool weather, with the humidiy and temperature quickly climbing to uncomfortable levels.  As I tell my bike mates when they comment on my urgency to reach our next destination, I pedal out of desperation; I need to get out of the heat and sun as quickly as possible.  Being fair complected with strawberry blonde hair and freckles, the sunny skies can be quite hazardous for me. As my grandmother would have said, "I feel the heat", and, indeed, I do. I burn like a chili pepper and can quickly go into heat exhuastion if I am not careful. Like one eating hot chilis, I drink a lot of fluid and frequently.

Since the start of the trip, I have been very conscientious and diligent about slathering on the sunscreen...sweatproof SPF 100, mind you. On these hot days, reapplication occurs every 20 miles.   As such, I am as pale today, three days from the end of the trip, as I was in the beginning.  I have avoided obtaining the much dreaded helmet face....tan face except for the lily-white areas around the forehead,ears and chin, where the helmet and straps cover the face and white racoon eyes from sunglasses.  I do, however, have rider's hands, white from the wrist to the middle finger knuckles, then tan tips--picture heavy smokers and and their nicotine fingers, and you get the picture.
Another look unique to bicyclists is the helmet hair. Those with shorter hair actually have their hair poofed and dented where it has escaped or been smashed by  helmet vents.  Me, my hair just looks like a flat, sweaty mess, pulled off my face with a sweatband and gathered into a ponytail.  Upon taking off my helmet, a baby blue baseball hat immediately goes vanity siree.

I also have to say that it takes a considerable amount of courage to squeeze and shimmy into the spandex bike pants.  The truely brave wear a color other than black. Anyone that has been cycling with a bike group for any amount of time understands, and tactically obeys the cardinal rule of biking: 'Men don't say anything about the appearance of woman's hips or rearend in the shorts, and women don't make any comments about the men's gut or package.'  It does take real panache, however, to be in rural Mississippi, where the locals spit tobacco and wear coveralls, to enter a gas station/grocery store dressed those show-all spandex biking shorts... The men just look, but the women really give one the once over.  I am pretty forth right and take the offensive--I know I look 'odd' by their standards, so I may as well address the elephant in the room, (no comment on that please). I look them in the eye and say, 'It takes real guts to wear these things at my age'.  That never fails to break the ice and get a laugh; I don't know if my feelings should be hurt or not....

Then there are the bike shoes; I sound like a horse in them when I walk in mine, clippity-clop.clippity-clop. On the bottom of my bike shoes are clips or cleats that fit onto my pedals, physically attaching me to the bike. This is called 'clipping in'. Most of the riders on this trip have their cleats recessed into their soles of their shoes so it is easier and quieter to walk.  I did not want to learn to use a different type of cleat and pedal for this trip, so I kept the ones I have always used; they are fastened to to bottom and exterior of my bike shoe instead of being recessed.  It makes walking a bit difficult and is very noisy.  You can hear me coming a mile away; it sounds like I am tap dancing.

The purpose of clipping in is to be able to engage the large hamstring and butt muscles in rotating the pedal around instead of the weaker muscles on the front of the legs (the quadriceps).  In doing so, a rider pulls up on the pedal instead of just pushing it down.  It is a much stronger stroke and more efficient.

There are reasons for wearing all the other gear, too:

  • The spandex in the shorts actually help keep the leg muscles compressed, preventing the buildup of lactic acid; it makes the muscle more efficient. The area of the shorts that comes into contact with the seat, or saddle,  is lined on the inside with a chamois--what non-bikers call a 'diaper'.  A cyclist does not wear underwear under their shorts because they can be very binding and chafing. Instead, we rely on the chamois to reduce the friction that is produced by the repetitive motion of pedaling.  

Most non-cyclists are under the mistaken impression that a thick chamois or padded seat makes for a more comfortable ride; that couldn't be further from the truth.  The extra padding offers less support and often causes added pressure or friction points. Part of my saddle sore issue was caused by my shorts:the seams were not flat and the chamois was on the thicker side.  On short rides, they didn't bother me, but with the mileage on this trip, the consequences  were brutal.  {{OUCH}}  My new shorts have flat seams and light padding; they are extremely comfortable.
  • The gloves help pad the hand on the handlebar as well as providing a good grip.  Try controlling the bike with sweaty hands, and you'll quickly value the use of good gloves. Believe it or not, there is actually a special area on the thumb of the glove with soft material; this is for wiping your nose. I thought that was pretty gross at first, but have come to appreciate it. (By the way, I wash my gloves and shorts every night). 
  • The reason for wearing sunglasses may be obvious, but most riders also use clear lenses in low light; this keeps debis and bugs out of the eyes. (Wish there was something similar for the mouth; I've eaten my share of bugs on this trip). 
  • The helmet IS obvious, and everyone should wear one, no matter how short the jaunt; it protects our noggins. ALWAYS, ALWAYS ALWAYS wear your helmet...fastened tightly and worn correctly. Properly placed, it sits across the forehead, not perched on the crown of the head. Once in a crash, the helmet must be replaced.  Unseen, hairline fractures from the impact destroys it's protective properties.

So, as you now understand, all these 'fancy' clothes serve a purpose.  The only whimsical article a cyclist might wear would be the jersey, (or shirt), and quite frankly, for women, the styles are sadly lacking.  They are either drab and boring or too cutesy.  So aspiring clothes designers, take heed--WE NEED YOU!!!~

Thursday, April 22, 2010

90 on the 90 (April 22: Day 50--Marianna, FL)

Not much to say about today as it was fairly uneventful; we did 90 miles on US 90. We started at 6:30 AM to take advantage of the cool morning weather and I was finished round 1:30 --and that includes bathroom stops and a 45 minute wait at a gas station so I could get more sunscreen out of the SAG. (5 hours and 44 minutes of actual riding time, aka saddle time). Waiting for the SAG was worth it, though,  just to get a picture of the two; now this is the way to travel.

Early into the ride, I had stopped at a little Mom and Pop restaurant to use the bathroom and get some more water.  I've been chased by dogs, but never by a duck until I coasted in to park. This guy (girl?) flapped its wings and chased me as I got off my bike. I am not sure how threatened I actually was....

I scooted into the restaurant, where there were several older couples eating breakfast consisting of fried eggs and home fries.  (I say 'older' couples, but they probably weren't much older than me....I just haven't gotten used to the fact that I am a card-carrying AARP member!). As I left, with a full water bottle and empty bladder, the duck was gone, but I spied the source of her agitation.....

She had laid all these eggs in a flower basket by the door I had wonder she was upset.....Now, things that make you 'hmmm'--I wonder what the people inside were really eating.  I wonder what they thought they were eating!  Glad I only got water! And that, folks, was the highlight of the day, occurring at 9:30!

I thought Florida was perfectly flat, but today was filled with gentle hills; rollers of 5% grades or less.  I had once thought that riding on flat land was ideal, but I have discovered that it is quite boring and monotonous.  I am not sure I like the big climbs I experienced earlier in the trip,(--perhaps with more practice I would--), but I now know I do not like FLAT flat.  The gentle rollers of today were perfect--just enough to keep me awake, but not taxing enough to tire me.  I must admit, I was surprised by their presence; I truly was under the misconception that all of Florida was flatland, weren't you?

Time to sign off--dinner calls.  See you all (well, some of you) in 8 days!

94 miles

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Let It Be, Let It Be (April 21: day 49--Crestview, FL)

Today, I was reminded why I ride.  The weather was cool, the road surface was smooth, the traffic was light and the scenery was varied and beautiful.  It was an easy day to 'let go' and just be. During the past several days, I had gotten caught up in the petty minutiae of life.  This bothered me; that bothered me and I allowed these things, things over which I have no control,  to cloud why I was on this journey. I forgot what my intentions were for this ride. Today, I shifted my outlook and just let go, embracing the present moment....and my day was magnificent.  I savored the surroundings, enjoying the feel of the sun on my back, the smoothness of the pavement, and felt gratitude that I am physically able to ride through this beautiful country.

Dogs are such interesting creatures.  I laughed out loud today at a little chihuahua (hmmm-is there any other kind?); he made my day.   He chased me a long a fence, barking furiously; I have never seen an old, fat chihuahua move their legs that quickly. Totally oblivious to his size, the impossibility of catching me, and my laughter, he was completely committed to protecting his turf. That is determination, in the face of all odds.

I also saw a little person today on the bike trail; he was learning to ride a bike. On a bike, equipped with training wheels, he peddled slowly down the path, in spite of other riders buzzing past him looking curiously.  I am sure he wasn't oblivious to his plight as the chihuahua was, but he possessed the same determination and was committed to learning this skill.  Kudos to him.

As this ride draws closers to an end, I notice that the commitment to blogging and taking pictures is waning. I don't know if that is because we are getting tired, if the scenery has ceased to be unique and novel to us or if each day becomes more like than one preceding it. Part of the lack of picture posting has been the extremely poor internet connections, but I have observed that people now ride past opportunities that would have earlier demanded a photo.

I thought it ironic that a few days into our trip, we were in the desert, surrounded by sand, and now, with a few days left, we are once again surrounded by sand. We started at the ocean and will end at the ocean.
Day 4 Imperial Desert, CA

Day 48 Gulf Shore, AL

Dauphin Island, Al was a pretty little island; we had our rest day there a few days ago.  It was hit fairly hard by Katrina and the beaches at the point are eroding on the gulf side, and the sand is moving from one side to the other.  Houses are literally falling into the water.  Despite the work of 
Mother Nature, people keep rebuilding there.  Things that make you go 'hhmmm'.   

Here's another interesting bit of information.  A gentleman we met on the ferry was telling us about the gas rigs that are sprinkled generously around the waters of the island. He told us that the gas company buys liquid gas from China and ships it over here.  The gas rigs are actually for pumping the gas back into the wells in the ocean bed, where it is stored until the price of natural gas is favorable.  It is then pumped back out and sold.  Fact or fiction....hmmmm.  You decide.

I guess I have been away from water bound cities for a long time.  On my ride to Dauphin Island, I was stopped by a raised drawbridge.  Now, the drawbridges with which I am familiar, are split in the middle and raised accordingly. But on this bridge, I didn't see anything raised! I stood on the side of the street for a long time trying to figure out where the bridge was--clearly the middle portion was missing; I finally asked someone in the car next to me.  (I am pretty sure they thought I was an ignorant 'Yankee'.)  These days, or at least at this particular bridge, the whole center portion is raised straight up by counter weights, much like an elevator and the water traffic passes through. Very clever, but despite the cleverness, the raised bridge still created a traffic snarl. I must confess, one advantage of being on a bike is that  I was able to cross without having to wait in the long line of traffic.

The ride to Dauphin Island was full of intrigue and learning.  I stopped at an Alligator Farm in Pascagoula, Ms with a few others.  They raise the gators for educational purposes and are in the process of replenishing their stock.  The farm lost almost 200 alligators in Katrina--most are now  living free in the surrounding swamp, which is a protected wildlife preserve. (which makes the farm owners unable to retrieve them).  Gators make a hissing sound when agitated, and go into a type of hibernation in the colder weather.  Two of their four heart valves close, slowing their heart rate and respiration to an almost coma-like state.  By the way, gators have a sweet tooth and are partial to marshmallows. 
Me and Nubby, so named because another gator bit off his foot.

Katrina water line

Me and Lois (Karen Cooper's picture)

Alabama Swamp

Waiting for the ferry

Red sandy soil in Fl panhandle (is redder than in the picture)

Florida swamp

Enjoy--I need to go.....95 miles tomorrow.

56 miles

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Sniff Test

Riding across the country on a bike has permitted me to experience our roadways an entirely new way--through my nose.  The scents and fragrances that permeate the air are vast and varied, and can not to be fully appreciated in the cocoon of an air-conditioned car.

Cycling through urban areas often leaves me hungry and with drool dripping from my chin.  In the Arizona and New Mexico, I was often tantalized with the savory odors frying tortillas, onions and meat.  I was also treated to the pungent scent of fried chili peppers; these did not appeal to me in any olfactory way.  I found their smell disagreeable.  In the wealthy city of Scottsdale, AZ, it seemed that everyone was grilling steaks or hamburgers--so cruel...nothing to do but sniff the air like a coyote and imagine the succulent juices and taste. Cruising past restaurants and McDonald's also produces salivary spasms; what can I do but pull out a Powerbar and munch on it, pretending it is a mouthwatering, heart-clogging morsel of ribeye steak.  Donut shops are perhaps the worst offenders, throwing out the sweet succulent smell of frying dough, sugary glaze and coffee; a number of our riders do fall victim to them.  Yes, urban areas can be tough.

Out in the country, however, a totally different array of smells waif through the air.  The ride past the feedlots brought the nauseating stench of hundreds of cows, their 'byproducts', (okay, poop), and whatever was rolling out of the nearby smokestack--(it smells somewhat like beer hops). Rural Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi also had cow smells, but it was a pleasant country odor instead of the massive olfactory overload of the feedlots.  Texas provided many different nasal experiences: the delicate fragrances of the miles and miles of flowering fields: the piney smell of Christmas in the Sam Houston forest: wood smoke; goats (gag): cattle: horses: fresh cut hay, BBQ and sawdust. Crossing into Louisiana introduced our noses to burnt rice fields and fishy crawfish farms, but nothing compared to the stench of the Bogalousa pulp mill.  Louisiana was one stinky state; it has also been the dirtiest, with trash ( we're talking TVs and furniture) strewn along its less frequently used roads. Mississippi brought the smell of ol' man river, fish, horses and azaleas, while Alabama has given us our first sniff of salt water....

Once I leave this tour, I may become a crime scene investigator.  I have become an expert in identifying rotting flesh, without even needing to see the evidence  The roadkill has been numerous and as varied in victim as the terrain of the states through which we have traveled. (Question: What compels one to look at roadkill? Things that make you go 'hmmm'.)  New Mexico gets the prize for skunks; Arizona had a lot of coyotes: Texas definitely scores for deer and vultures: Louisiana roads showed us armadillos and Mississippi has a lot of squished frogs, toads and a few turtles. Fortunately, few domestic animals have fallen victim to the roadways; I guess those dogs that chase me are smarter than they look.

As I leave Alabama tomorrow and enter Florida, I wonder what potpourri of scents await me--Coppertone and Polygrip?

Yawn..........Like Watching Grass Grow

Y'all must pardon the lack of posts....between an extremely slow internet connection, many of us trying to use it and upload files, and my cheap computer with the cheap network card....well, I am not able to get on very often and am kicked off frequently.  Those with stronger cards rule the cyber waves....  I gave up power for price and size. Oh well.... I'll post when I can post.  I am going to hit 'submit' now and see if anything happens!

Friday, April 16, 2010

If I Could Talk to the Animals, Learn Their Languages....

Animals I have encountered the past few days....(be sure to double click on the pictures to open them all the way)

The Peacock in St Francisville

This is his backside--he uses the medium sized feathers to make his tail feathers shake.  It
sounds like a rattle when he does it.

Sleepy kitty in St Francisville

Ponies in a field of flowers

Skippy at the Global Wildlife Center. (We hitched a ride in)  He fell out of his mother's pouch when he was about the size of a newborn kitten; the staff didn't know to whom he belonged, so they hand raised him.

Very curious young horses--beautiful

Some kind of cloven footed deer--he thought my camera was something to eat.

Zebra to the same farm

Miscellaneous Pictures

Out of old comes new....

Out of new comes old

Azaleas--they are in full bloom right now--> beautiful

Angel in historic cemetery, St Francisville

Live Oaks at the Butler Greenwood Plantation

A Bit Patchy....

You men have it so easy.....none of this midlife change stuff....I'm talking hot flashes...power surges....  Whatever you choose to call them, they are a major disruption.

Imagine spinning away on your bike, and suddenly feeling like you've been put into a toaster oven.  Or how about being dressed in your cold weather gear, and suddenly sweating buckets.... The worst is constantly being awakened at night by them....first you're hot, then you're cold....over and over again.  Yes, you men have it easy!

Obviously, I am experiencing this, or was.  My doctor had given me hormone patches to even out these huge fluctuations.  I was reluctant to wear them and didn't until about the second week into this trip. It seems to be working--  the flashes have subsided to a large degree.  The trouble is, they fall off and I don't know it, or I forget to change them, then I start flashing again....

 I greeted one of my fellow riders early this morning with a chipper "Good morning!" to which she replied, "Boy, you're in a good mood this morning"  And I was!  Despite the smelly sleeping situation, (see the previous blog, "Smells Like Roses"), I was happy and ready to take on the world.  The mood swings and doldrums that had been plaguing me were gone and I felt like my 'old' self.  What had changed?

Thinking about it, I had put a new patch on last night:(the old one had fallen off--I don't know how long it was MIA)....could this replenishment of hormones be the cause of this morning's contentment?  Looking over the past few weeks, I began to see a pattern.... irritability, clumsiness, moodiness...all occurring around the time a patch change was due.  Patch PMS!!!

I pity those around me--I am afraid at times I may have not been pleasant.  For the most part, I tried to stay away from everyone and shift out of these moods, but would fall back into them. I must seem very unpredictable...happy, then moody, and back again.  I'm not going crazy--my hormones are.  Well, thank the Lord.  Getting older is NOT for sissies....

Smells Like Roses... (April 16: Day 44--Wiggins, MS)

Last night was spent in one of those 'close to no star' hotel...the Traveler's Rest. HA!   When my room mate, Suzanne, arrived, she immediately said "Oh, this stinks!"  She meant literally... She went on to say that it smelled like the bathroom of a third world country-- (Now she would know--she's rode her bike around the world in 2005)--like sewer gas.  I didn't smell anything.

I had a hard time sleeping last night....tossed and turned.  I dreamed that I was with a group of people and one of them really badly that it woke me up.  Looking at the clock, I saw it was just after midnight, and that the bathroom light was on and the door was open....and something did stink.  I figured maybe dinner was had 'disagreed' with my roomie, and that was what I smelling, (it's happened before...)  I got up and closed the door.  Not able to sleep, I stayed up and read.  The odor kept getting stronger and stronger.  Suzanne was right!  Sewer gases were escaping into our room.  Phew!  I tried to sleep, but every few minutes I awoke to the thought that the methane, sulpher and other gases were going to asphyxiate us as we slumbered.  I could see the headlines now:
"The Deadliest SBD on Record:
Women Die in Sleep As Sewer Gas Overcomes Them"

Finally, I did fall into a restless sleep, and woke before the alarm clock sounded.  Suzanne was up too and also commented on the odor. 
 "It's not me!" I proclaimed.  
"Well, it certainly isn't me!  I'm telling you our room is full of sewer gas!" she countered.

We opened the door to air the room out, and were hit full force by the overwhelming odor of Hell.......supher, methane, who knows what--it was beyond description.  Others milling around were making similar comments...'What stinks?"

Turns out that Bogolusa has a pulp mill.....that is what we were smelling.  They should rename the city Gagalusa!

 55 miles to Bagalusa, LA
52 miles to Wiggins, MS

Michael!! (April 14: Day 42--Hammond, LA)

Michael came up from New Orleans to see me while I was in Hammond on April 14.  He lives in the 'Big Easy" doing Hurricane Katrina relief work and leading teams of college students.  He looks wonderful!   He joined the us for dinner, and all too soon, had to return.  I am certainly proud of the wonderful young man he has become!