October 16 – The day was uneventful until The Crew could not locate The Rider. It felt like I kept driving and driving, even after I left a phone message at 1pm, our usual meeting time at the end of a day’s ride. The mileage seemed like more than was realistic and still no return call. When Dave called, it turned out that he unconsciously road off-route. It turned out to be a short cut, but I was still ahead of him. So I turned around & drove back to pick him up. When I got there, he was having a lengthy conversation on the phone. It became apparent that he was doing a phone interview! You can read the story below.
Florida Caverns State Park is right outside Marianna, FL and we are staying 2 nights for a layover day. Nice campsites and a Blue Hole swimming area in Chipola Creek that I plan to check out. Park structures were built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in 1932.
October 17 – We were at the Visitors Center by 8:45am as directed, to get in on a cave tour. The park has limestone caverns that the CCC opened in 1932. The tour was about an hour, a 3/4 mile hike, the deepest part 65 feet. Our guide was very informative, probably a geology major j- he was really into it. The cave was much more interesting than I expected. It;s a limestone karst area and the formations in the cave were pretty awesome. I felt like a little kid.
The significance of today’s ride is Map 7. This means 6 out of the 7 maps of the Southern Tier Route across the USA are complete. The Rider rode 38 miles, the longest distance of Stage 2, for a grand total of 2566 miles.
I checked out De Funiak Springs, FL. A nice surprise along US 90.
Located between Pensacola and Tallahassee, DeFuniak Springs emerged in the 1880s as a railroad final destination resort. The founders engaged the Chautauqua Brotherhood association to help them design another Chautauqua-type institute in north Florida. It has a wonderful library (the oldest in Florida still serving the public), and a unique collection of Victorian homes that encircle the nearly symmetrical spring-fed Lake De Funiak. It is one of only two naturally circular bodies of water in the world. (Switzerland has the other one.) I’d love to be around for the Christmas lights on the circle or the home tours.
There are not many camping choices in this area, so I decided to return to Sunset Lake RV Park. It was a 26 mile drive, but I lured The Rider with their scheduled ice cream social at 5:30 pm. And their cyclist rate is only $12, so it all evened out. After a bike ride I hung out in the jacuzzi again. Everyone was so friendly there, that we spent the evening in the clubhouse and met some folks. People are usually curious & amazed by our story.
RV Park vehicles
Today’s ride was a shorter, more hilly one for The Rider. I spent most of my morning updating personal finance information on my laptop in McDonalds.
We arrived at the Sunset RV Park on King Lake near DeFuniak Springs, FL in early afternoon. Really nice place on a lake. Good facilities, including a clubhouse and a pool, and welcoming to cyclists. It has a real community feel to it. Plenty of time for a decadent afternoon at the pool. And the first jacuzzi for Stage 2 of the trip. Mid-October and The Crew is swimming outdoors!
Today’s route took us around Pensacola bay inland. The weather was hot, humid and sunny. This was true already at 9 am, when I enjoyed a cup of coffee at Bagelheads overlooking the bay after dropping off the rider. You put money in their honor jar to pay for your cup. The roads became less traveled as we left the beaches behind.
Eventually they became back, back roads in the pine forests. The Long Leaf Pines are tall skinny things with 8 inch long needles. Ship masts were made from them at one time.
I noticed wild bushes with dramatic purple berries. It’s name is Beauty Bush and it has mosquito repelling properties.
The Rider got more miles in than he wanted because when I called to check in with him, the call dropped after I learned that I was ahead of him on the route. I didn’t realize he was ready to be done, so I just waited where I was. It was a long, tiring ride that effectively wiped him out. Fortunately, we didn’t have to drive far to camp. Our campground for the night was just off-route, Blackwater River State Park, a popular canoeing fishing area. These two alligator signs discouraged me from swimming in the river.
The variety of poisonous snakes that lived there didn’t make the thought of hiking too desirable either.
I have to report that the Support Crew has been ecstatic the last couple days. They all think they are in a dream come true. The beaches just get better and better. And so do the Gulf shrimp!
Our second day in Gulf Shores was filled with layover day catch-up tasks and another afternoon at the beach. The difference in the beach today was birds and jellyfish. The Herons acted like pets, hanging around the inlet where the lagoon joined the sea. It was a popular fishing area – for the birds and the fishermen.
Walking down the beach dodging jellyfish made it a whole different experience. I wish I had counted because the total would easily been over 100. Some people on the beach said they could see them glowing green in the water the night before. Some were kind of pretty.
When I took my eyes off the jellyfish1, I spotted some neat sand sculptures.
This morning, The Rider got another early start on a hot, humid day. We headed to Pensacola & I took the time to walk on Orange Beach along the way. By 1 pm, Dave made it to his destination in town after crossing 3 bridges. Then we were off to another beach – Pensacola Beach. It has a National Seashore that the government closed, but a town beach access got us on to it.
What respectable beach lover could resist this? We swam in the clearest water I’ve ever been in. The bottom was visible at 4 feet. And the water was still warm!
Tomorrow the route takes us away from the coast, so as a last ocean-front hurrah, we ate dinner at Peg Leg Pete’s for more seafood. “it’s been real”, said our 20-something server as we left…shades of the 70’s!
October 9 – To the Coast & Dauphin Island – Today took us through little towns and salt marshes. The air smelled like pine and ocean – a winning combination, in my opinion. Fantasies of sunny beaches and fresh shrimp took over my thoughts. I met The RIder at Alabama Port on Mobile Bay. From there we drove the route over a TALL bridge to Dauphin Island. The island was the first capital of the Louisiana Territory.
We enjoyed camping at Dauphin Island campground by the ferry dock. I got my Alabama ride in on a really nice bike trail/lane that runs the 17 mile length of the island. It’s a great way to get a feeling for a new place. It’s a quiet island with beach house rentals and residences. Lot’s of fishing. I bought some fresh shrimp to stir fry for dinner. Yumm. We met a neat local boy named Marshall at the campground who is home-schooled. His family is in the bait and mullet businesses. They spend months on the road following mullet, purchasing and reselling them.
October 10 – Rider crosses bridge, the ferry & Gulf Shores, AL –
The day started with shuttling The Rider back over the big bridge so he could cross it. It’s the kind with low guard rails that gave me the creeps when I walked out on it to take some pictures.Plus it is 83 feet above the water! It is a real benchmark on the route. That day gave him over 2400 miles and he earned another star on the back window of the truck!
We just made the 9:30 am car ferry to Fort Morgan. Thanks to the Ferry guy who collected our money for only charging us for one person when he heard about the Unicycle Ride.
I toured the fort while Dave kept riding. “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead” (Admiral Farragut first said this during the civil war during the Union assault on the fort).
I met Dave in Gulf Shores shortly after noon. We spent some time on the beach, where the sand was like fine white sugar. We decided to make this stop a layover day for more rest for the Rider and beach time for the Crew. I walked and ran into a fellow Cleveland-Marshall grad, who was at the law school the same time I was. The campground we chose (Sun Runners – my favorite campground name yet!) was adjacent to their street, so we ended up stopping by the Margiottis’ home for a visit. Dinner was at a great local seafood place called Tin Top in Bon Secour, a place where you can’t get there from here. My goal is to o.d. on shrimp before leaving the area. Am now also addicted to gouda grits.
This morning we drove to Stage 1’s end point and the Ride resumed. The Rider was greeted by fans almost immediately after he started riding. Fortunately, they didn’t follow along very far.
He did 36.7 miles today – much farther than originally anticipated. The Support Crew grocery shopped, got gas, visited a library and two campgrounds. Then I kept driving and driving to catch up, wondering if I had missed him because the mileage kept racking up!
Tonight we are at the I-10 RV Park, off-route near Mobile. It has a huge Live Oak and cool butterflies. In addition to wifi & laundry facilities. Nice place.
We lingered an extra day in Boise and didn’t really leave till October 2. Two reasons: it took us “awhile to get around to going to the post office and mailing boxes home so we wouldn’t have to schlep river gear and extra warm clothes around the country. And two, I discovered my VISA had been “compromised” and that involved some extra time on the phone to make arrangements to get a new one mailed ahead to a post office in Gulf Shores, Alabama on our route. By that time it wasn’t worth leaving, so we enjoyed another evening with our friends.
Our route south took us through Wyoming and Colorado, where we managed to stay just ahead of the snow. We also had three good Walmart camping experiences.
We took our time, because Tropical Storm Karen was due to hit the Gulf Coast the same time we had planned to arrive. It was disappointing not to visit Rocky Mountain National Park (because it was CLOSED!!!) when we were so close. Instead we spent an evening with Dave’s unicycling friends Scott & Jody, who are training to be missionaries in Quito, Ecuador. A Facebook post reminded me they were in Colorado Springs and we were able to connect.
A KOA in Amarillo, TX had some interesting yard art. You can usually count on that at KOA’s.
The Ameristar Casino RV park in Vicksburg, MS provided another good casino camping stay – well-maintained, cheap facilities. Unfortunately, the Civil War battleground park was also closed (thank you very much, USGOV).
We got to the Gulf in time to go out for a seafood dinner for Dave’s birthday the day before he started riding. Our campground was Shepard State Park in Gautier, MS.
Friday, September 13 was the day we started another road trip and adventure. Part One: head west to Boise, Idaho to get ready for a river trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The highlight of the road trip for me was a stop at Lava Hot Springs, Idaho to spend some time in the hot springs spa that the state of Idaho operates. Wish we had these in Ohio!
We enjoyed a few days staying with “Sedivy Expeditions” friends and Eddy the Golden Retriever in Boise. Running errands, packing, discovering a new microbrewery and getting in a ride on the Greenbelt that follows the Boise River through town kept us busy.
After our friend Slick arrived from Virginia, five of us packed into Bill’s truck with a fully loaded trailer and drove to Stanley, Idaho. There we shopped at McCoy’s Tackle & Gift Shop, owned by our friend Jane and spent the night at her home. The temperature dipped into the 30’s, so we were happy not to be camping. Thank you, Jane! The next day we flew in two small planes to Indian Creek airstrip on the Middle Fork.
sign in restaurant
magnet on Jane’s fridge
Break on the drive to Stanley
Jane’s back yard view
Stanley from the airport
Trip group and stuff
The Middle Fork Trip was challenging, fun, cold, rainy & windy. Seventy-five miles through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness via two rafts and one cataraft. We never knew Idaho has a rainy season. It really doesn’t but it rained 8 out of 9 days on our trip. Lots of snow on the mountains along the river canyon, but fortunately none on us. Addie, the tarp, and wearing lots of layers saved us from hypothermia. My lemon drop toast one day was “to good friends who know how to live large under adverse conditions”. A little wordy, but a good summary of the trip.
Today is our last in Idaho. The next destination is near Biloxi, Mississippi. There we will resume Stage Two of the cross-country Unicycle Road Trip. Dave The Rower will become The Rider and I will resume my role as Support Crew. Final destination: 700 miles on the Southern Tier Cycling Route to Saint Augustine, Florida.