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

1 comment:

  1. Sue,

    Today is your last day!!!!!! Thank you so much for always keeping us posted. What an amazing journey you have been on!!! I am so proud of you and impressed with your attitude throughout your journey!!