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David Freeze: Productive pedaling as trip winds down

Editor’s note: David Freeze is riding from the West Coast to the East Coast along the southern border. Email him at david.freeze@ctc.net.

Day 39

The most productive day so far, or at least it felt that way. I wanted a bigger mileage day to offset some of the hurricane delays. It is quite enjoyable for me to follow one road for several days and we’ll continue on U.S. 90 East for at least most of tomorrow.

I left the Crestview Inn after an especially good sleep while a big series of thunderstorms rolled through. The room was perfect and I got the right price. Best WiFi yet!

Rolling early, I got a quick start because there was no reason to stop in the first 30 miles and the terrain wasn’t bad. I did stop at Defuniak Springs and get some fresh cookies and a couple of small tacos, nothing like the ones in New Mexico.

The early towns were Argyle, Ponce De Leon, Westville and Caryville, which just happens to be the Worm Fiddling Capital of the World. Who knew?

The next set were Benifay, Chipley and Cottondale. All of these early towns were easy but then I had to roll through Mariana with about 10,000 people. All of them seemed to be out driving at the same time on U.S. 90, which didn’t have a bike lane through town. That was tough.

Then the final set of towns included just a small stop in Grand Ridge, where three friends had hassles with their lottery tickets in the store. It took forever to get them out of the way, before I could roll into Sneads. This is a great little town, on Lake Seminole which I will see in the morning. It is apparently is huge and the funny thing is that Georgia is just right over the trees from my motel window. I am still in the northern part of the panhandle.

I am in the Seminole Inn, one of the few motels I have used from the Adventure Cycling suggestions. The Seminole Inn is perfect, very roomy, clean and has a Piggly Wiggly close by. Since I am almost sure that the ice cream sponsorship with the Y Service Club is good as long as the ride goes on, I let them pay tonight for Blue Bunny Premium Double Strawberry Whirl, a quart and a half size. Great stuff and already eaten. I also got four of the remaining 10 bananas. Still can’t find cut up watermelon in stores.

Worth visiting again will be Defuniak Springs where the whole town is historic and many of the buildings are placed right along Lake Defuniak which is the center of town. Marianna might be fun to see what everyone was rushing too.

Today was my first century ride on this trip at 107.6 miles and easier than some big mountains and super hot areas out west. Tomorrow, I am headed for Tallahassee, the state capital of Florida. Afterwards, only Gainesville remains as a large city. I certainly like the small towns best.

Earlier I mentioned USBR, the United States Bicycle Routes. Both those of Adventure Cycling and the USBR are posted through this area and I am staying on U.S. 90 East as long as I can, which the USBR likes best coming up.

I met James Dempsey tonight here at the motel. His wife is a traveling nurse, so they are staying here while she works. James loved the idea of my trip cross country and says he will follow it the rest of the way. The bike draws attention!

Time for a shower after a hard day. Looking to finish this trip strong.

Day 40:  An even better day as St. Augustine gets closer

Late last night, I was still trying to figure out a good place for tonight’s lodging. There was a list of towns ahead with nothing, and one well ahead that might work. I was doing all of this when I should have been getting closer to bed, but I called the Deerwood Inn and Campground. I spoke to the owner, Celina Adam who gave me some good insight. I had several challenges, but should never let that be a reason not to take on a good adventure.

My room last night at the Seminole Inn was so nice that I wanted to get to bed early, but that didn’t happen. I figured it would take 103 miles to get to Deerwood, just over six miles south of Madison, Florida, making the total 109. Also, today was the first day on Eastern Daylight Time, so I lost a riding hour. And I had to ride right through Tallahassee.

My only other option was a bed and breakfast in Monticello. Only problem was the owner didn’t really want me. I would have to get up too early and might bother others, she wouldn’t let the bike inside plus she made the price too high, especially since I would not get the breakfast. I probably made her happy by not calling back.

I was determined to make Celina’s Deerwood and the big miles before dark. It’s been said a few times that I got a double bag of determination early on. Leaving Sneads, my first town was Chattahoochee where I hoped to see Lake Seminole, but couldn’t. Then on to Gretna where I got two egg and cheese sandwiches that were terrible. I threw away the second. Next came Quincy with not much traffic for a town of 8,000.

The state capital, Tallahassee, was next. With about 200,000 residents and part of my ride past Florida State University, it took a little more than a very hard hour with constant hills and heavy traffic. Tallahassee rivals El Paso for hilliness, but what saved me was the nearly constant bike lanes or the symbol that cyclists could take the whole lane. I never got a horn or a bad comment.

Then was the challenging ride to Monticello, my favorite town of the day. I met Tina Dollar at the Shell Convenience Store. She at least made me think of chunking the very challenging day by telling me about their motel. But you knew I wouldn’t and did not. Monticello was the prettiest small town of the whole trip so far, with lots of beautiful older homes and a stately courthouse that sits in the middle of a traffic circle. I got several friendly waves before leaving. At least 10 miles of sparkling new asphalt made that segment very enjoyable and fast.

Next two towns were Greenville, where I fueled up, and then Madison, a beautiful town where I turned off U.S. 90 East for the first time in several days and took S.R. 53 to I-10 where Deerwood Motel and Campground are located. I got a great room in a busy place and pasta meal from Celina when she said she made too much!

The day was perfect, with only a slight headwind, helping me to make 109 miles by dusk. Darn near the way I planned it and a lot of prayers went into it.

For tomorrow, I will join up again with U.S. 90 and figure it out from there. Sometime during the day, I will put together a plan to likely finish on Monday in St. Augustine.

Thanks again for following along — one question today, how many rides over 100 miles have I had? I will look it up for sure, but I think around 20 after today, spread over all the rides since 2013. Every one is special!

Check back for the next update.

Day 41: Another strong day leaves completion in sight

For the first time, I slept from the time I lay down last night until the 5:15 alarm this morning. And my eyes didn’t want to pop open like they usually do. Yesterday just didn’t seem to end but it finally did just before midnight. It was still a nice night at the Deerwood Inn, especially after meeting Celina and Josh.

I considered jumping on the interstate at daybreak, figuring there wouldn’t be much traffic. I rode up the ramp and saw the sign that ended the internal debate. Essentially the same as what we have in North Carolina — no bikes or pedestrians.

I rode back to Madison on S.R. 53, then rejoined U.S. 90 East and struggled with road choice early. U.S. Bicycle Routes stayed with 90 so I did too as long as possible. It was the coolest morning probably since San Diego. I rode through Lee, a town that bills itself as “Little, but Proud.” Two stores made up the town, a convenience store and a Family Dollar.

Next came Live Oak, and Welborn, just before I left U.S. 90 behind for now.

I turned onto County Road 137 for 20 of the best miles since that first day in San Diego. All of it was lightly traveled,  nearly flat and just plain beautiful through mostly farming country. Next came S.R. 71 for the final ride of the day through Fort White and into High Springs, where I am tonight at the High Springs Country Inn.

One highlight of today’s travel involved me pedaling along that good 20-mile road. Not another vehicle in sight, but the one behind me blows a horn. I motion in an agitated way to go on around, and am surprised to find that it was a Florida Highway Patrolman.

I finally found the perfect overnight lodging. Here’s why: the room is great, spacious, priced right, comes with WiFi and plenty of ice, and is within about a tenth of a mile of a grocery, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Subway and a big enough convenience store. For the first time, I am not particularly hungry, even after 85 miles. I will still finish a quart and a half of strawberry ice cream though since the Y Service Club is paying for it.

As an added benefit, there is an outdoor concert across the road. I am going to miss this life on the road!

Here is the plan: I will have another usual day today as I head toward the St. Augustine Beach. Part of the day’s ride will include passing through Gainesville, a large Florida city. Then, if all goes well, I will actually dip the back tire Monday late morning in the Atlantic Ocean to officially end the adventure. I will get all the required photos, and head toward home. Good weather is still on tap through the period.

There is still fun remaining! See you back here tomorrow, when I hope to be sleeping 20 miles out of the oldest city in the United States.

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