Category Archives: cycling trip support crew

DAY 74 – May 13 – End of the Road, Stage 1

We spent the morning in the campground. Dave made phone calls while I explored.  From there we drove over to Ocean Springs Beach on Biloxi Bay.  I walked the beach, took pictures. and savored the shore.  It’s a nice town beach that was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina and restored.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unlike our usual routine, we did not drive back to the bike route. Instead we started driving north to Ohio. The reason why is that Dave got sabotaged by a sand fly bite  in Costa Rica.  It gifted him  a parasite and resulted in a leg wound that will not heal. After seeing three doctors, the CDC confirmed that it is Leishmaniasis.  The best course of action is to end Stage 1 of the ride and go home to seek treatment.

The plan is to return to where we stopped and resume Stage 2 of The Ride to Saint Augustine, Florida. This will happen when conditions and opportunity make it possible. Thanks to everyone who has been following our blogs and to those who have supported the ALS research cause. We will keep you posted when the trip resumes.

dave 5-12-13b

Unicycle Across the USA has been an amazing 2300 mile, life in the slow lane journey. I’ll miss our little road trip world. Talk about being in the Present!

DAY 73 – May 12 – Closing in on the Gulf

The route led us on more back roads, where the local people wonder what you are doing there. A quiet day without much traffic. It is Mothers Day and I started musing on the past – remembering different celebrations with my mother and grandmother.  Thinking about the old pictures where Munga (my grandmother) and her “lady friends” would all get dressed up in their finest hats and go out for  Mother’s Day. Munga is in back, 4th from the right.

mother's day ladies

Most of the route was through a National Forest and farmland. One  trailhead is the site of a P.O.W. camp that held German prisoners during World War Two. At that time the location would have been deep in the Mississippi forest close to nowhere.

I made a u-turn to go back and photograph a little road sign that jumped out at me.

IMG_0339

Dave rode his longest day – over 60 miles.  Total 2300 plus miles. time for another star!

stars 2300

When I search for campgrounds, the first place to start is the route maps.  I noticed one near the stopping point, but decided to look further on the Allstays App on the Ipad. I noticed  some near a body of water.  To my surprise, that water was the Gulf of Mexico.  After looking at the small route maps, I had no idea we were within 15 miles of the Gulf.  We enjoyed staying at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Davis Bayou Campground, near Biloxi.  Sites are $16 with plenty of room and shade.  The resident alligators stay in the bayou, but come out to sun for the tourists. I toured the park and surrounding neighborhoods on my bike to get a Mississippi ride in.

DAY 72 – May 11 – Franklinton, LA to Poplarville, Mississippi

Today was another back roads tour with a new benchmark. We crossed over into Mississippi.

IMG_0318

 

I’m enjoying  the lush aroma of the country – live oaks, pines, swamp, decaying plants, magnolia, honeysuckle and other flowers. The roads are a little confusing here and I had a near miss passing up the rider and a turn.  I noticed many of the local roads are male names i.e. Archie Leach, Bob Gibson, etc.

We are camping at Haascienda Campground in Poplarville.  The owners are from Bainbridge and went to Kenston High School.  More small world coincidences.

We got here early and enjoyed the quiet. I enjoyed not cooking in the rain.  The bad storms passed us by.

photo (13)

DAY 68, 69 & 70 – May 7, 8 & 9 – Louisiana Country Roads and a Plantation Visit

DAY 68 –  We spent last night at another casino RV park – the Paragon Casino in Marksville, a reasonable drive from the route.  Top notch site, with cabins and a pool (that I would have used had it been warmer out). It wasn’t busy during the week and only cost $20.00, including shuttle service for the gamblers.

Today I got my Louisiana bike ride in. I’ve not ridden much, but am making sure I ride at least once in every state.  I parked in Simmesport, on the Atchafalaya River and explored the town. Their  business is fishing and crawfish. The back roads in  this area are very pretty with well-kept homes with manicured lawns and gardens  and some large farms.  Not so many wildflowers along the road, but I’m noticing some gorgeous roses.

Eventually I caught up with The Rider on the new bridge across the Mississippi River near St. Francisville.  I had not seen him in 5 hours & caught up at 1:54 pm, close to our 2 pm quitting time. We crossed together.  The idea of crossing the Mississippi River symbolized another big benchmark on the trip.  Now we are really back east.

IMG_0240

The one campground in the area that seemed like a good prospect was full, so we drove an hour to suburban Baton Rouge to the Denham Springs KOA for our weekly layover day. We had a celebration dinner  at Don’s Seafood Hut for completing 2000 miles of the route.

DAY 69 – Layover Day – same routine as usual.  With one change – pool and hot tub J The KOA is large and resort-like. Unfortunately we were too busy to play putt-putt.  At the pool, I met a really nice family who now live in Augusta, GA.  Dad rode unicycles in the Mojave Desert  as a child. In the evening we went into a 165,000 square foot Bass Pro World. My fishing friends would have drooled.

DAY 70 – We drove a pleasant alternative route through the country to get back to the cycling route.  I headed into St. Francisville and enjoyed a private tour of Rosedown Plantation. It was built in 1835 and operated as a cotton plantation with the support of  400 slaves. Four unmarried granddaughters inherited the property. I thought this was unusual, but the guide explained it was common because of the shortage of of eligible men following the Civil War. And no way would a girl of that status lower herself to marry a yankee! The last daughter died in 1955 when an oil heiress and her husband purchased the plantation. She poured $10,000,000 of her own money into the place to restore it and open it to the public. Ninety percent of the furniture in the home were original to the family.  Now the state of Louisiana runs it. The neat thing about the tour is that you go into all the rooms and they only ask that you don’t touch anything. The grounds and gardens are beautifully maintained. The original owner kept a garden log for 60 years with indepth details of plantings and diagrams of where things were located.  The Live Oak allee was planted in 1830 before the house was built.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

St. Francisville is a lovely town with period homes and some unique churches. It is right on the Mississippi River. Before the new bridge was built, a ferry crossing was located there.  I stopped in to the Magnolia Café for some soup and wished I was hungrier. The menu looked great.

When I reconnected with Dave, it was almost 2:30 pm. And he had ridden 54 miles.  We are camped at the Hyde Park Campground outside Easleyville.  The best things I can say about it is that it’s convenient location is on the route and that it is peaceful.  No one else is here but us. It has seen better days.

DAYS 63 & 64 – May 2 & 3 – Support Crew Job Description

You may be wondering how I spend my time every day as we move slowly across the country. two months into the trip and I think I have it down. Here are the different functions performed by the members of “my crew”:

Shopper: Shop for groceries and other needed trip items. Keep three to four days dinner ingredients on hand in case there is no place to replenish the stock.- Do not buy more perishable items than can fit in the refrigerator. Almost every town seems to have a dollar store of some genre.

Bookkeeper:  Enter receipts into Excel spreadsheet to record our expensesf. Write down cash expenditures if there is no receipt.

Driver: Drive the support vehicle. Drop off and pick up The Rider on the route. Leapfrog when necessary. e.g. when there is no place else to go, when The Rider may run out of water, when the route is more dangerous and you want to keep an eye on how things are going. Don’t expect The Rider to do a lot of thinking at the end of his ride. That’s a mistake. He’s pooped – give him some slack.

Truckcamper Nanny: Get gas as needed and wash windows. Wash the vehicle when you don’t like the way it looks or want to touch it anymore. Vacuum it occasionally and sweep it out.  It attracts dust and dirt.

Domicile Kitchen Manager: Know where everything is. Organize the food box.  Organize the equipment/snacks drawer.  Pack and unpack the refrigerator. Keep cold beverages stocked. It’s like a puzzle that needs to be done constantly to keep up with it.

Bartender: Get the Rider a cold beverage once in a while.  Serve appetizers during Happy Hour. That’s worth a lot of points.

Cook: Prepare dinner everyday and pack in calories and nutrients for The Rider.  Negotiate Cook’s Nights Off and eat out (for your mental health – cooking gets to be a drag). Vary the menu so you don’t get bored to death.  Don’t eat as much as The Rider eats.  He needs the extra calories. You don’t.

Clean-up crew: Wash dishes, pots & utensils as best you can. Soap and hot water are good ideas, although that may not always happen. Clean the camp stove/grill. This is a yucky job.  Easy-off stove top cleaner works pretty well. Spraying the grill with PAM makes the clean-up easier. Line a dutch oven with foil when possible. A mesh dish bag helps drying. Get over it and use plenty of paper towels and an occasional paper plate, you are not killing that many trees. Pack up the stove after dinner to save time in the morning.

Photographer: Document the trip with photos. It’s good to get pictures of The Rider and share them with him (more points).

PR & Social Media Intern: Talk to people about your cause (if you have one) wherever you are, Hand out business cards to let people know about the trip. Engage campground personnel. Write a blog. Use Facebook. Send text messages.

Travel Agent: Find places to spend the night. e.g. campgrounds, rest areas, truck stops, motels, Walmarts. Check out restaurants and things to do in towns you pass through.  Get into the local culture and go out for ice cream or a drink. Support local businesses. Think of field trips to cool places.  www.TripAdvisor.com is a great resource because it includes user reviews.

Cheer Leader: offer moral support and listen. And listen. And listen. Tell your stories about your own day too.

Self-Entertainer: Find something of interest wherever you are.  There’s a story in most little towns, even if they are almost abandoned. Get some exercise every day, even if it’s a little walk. Do something for yourself (pedicure comes to mind but a Starbucks will do). Read with a Kindle in the daylight or dark after your rider has crashed. There’s a lot of truck time, but no excuse for boredom!

A journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it.

(John Steinbeck)

 

Dave Business Card (1)

DAY 36 – April 5 – Van Horn, TX

Relaxing layover day at the Van Horn KOA – the usual breakfast, laundry and blogging. The unusual – Dave’s tire was flat on the unicycle when we got up in the morning. Turns out it was another Goathead attack – the same sharp thorns that covered the bottom of my shoes last week punctured his innertube!

We ate dinner in town at another TripAdvisor-recommended place. Chuy’s is a a Mexican place that has the John Madden Haul of Fame.  Apparently he (sports announcer/former NFL player) does not fly to games, but travels in an RV. He has been a regular visitor since 1993 and was kind enough to mention them in Sports Illustrated and  Newsweek articles.  They have quite the shrine!

DAY 35 – April 4 – A Little Day in the Life of Support Crew

On days like today, it’s up to me to entertain myself. When I know the day is not going to offer much by way of interesting scenery or towns,  I look for little things to pay attention to. Starting with a cup of coffee at the Country  Store Cafe in Tornillo.  It’s the kind of place where they are happy to see anyone come in, much less someone who is not a local.  Very welcoming & good coffee.

Then there are always signs. These are  for our camp spot and the competition next door.

IMG_1476 IMG_1477

Fort Hancock is a town on the route that was originally the site of another fort manned by the Buffalo Soldiers in the 1870’s. II stopped to look at a little lunch counter in Fort Hancock in the old general store.  The counters and shelving were from 1895 and were stocked with miscellaneous old items that may have been in the store over the last 100 years. The young guy running the little lunch counter had been to culinary school and was trying to get a start in the town where he had grown up.

Most of the route followed close to the Mexican border and looked like this:

After The Rider stopped for the day, we drove 50 miles to the KOA in Van Horn.  Anticipating a layover day Friday, we wanted a good place to stay for at least 2 nights & this area has few choices.  KOA’s are growing on us because they are consistent: clean, reliable service, friendly, laundry facility & wifi. Dennis, the owner, gave us a great deal: $25 per night for a site with electric & water. We booked for 3 nights.

DAYS 29 to 32 – Leaving New Mexico

DAY 29 – Field Trip to Gila Cliff Dwellings

One of my goals on our journey was a side trip to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and this layover day was practically in the neighborhood. It is a 44 mile drive from Silver City to the National Monument up in the mountains north of town.  More dramatic views at 7400 feet elevation with hairpin turns and unnervingly sharp drop-offs.  A 2 hour drive with some photo   stops along the way.  After getting my National Parks Passport stamped at the visitors center, we drove to the one-mile loop hiking trail where the caves are located.  They warn you that it is an uneven path that rises 180 feet.  Not for the timid hiker, but worth the trek up a creek canyon to the trail along the bottom of the cliffs.  Falling would be a bad idea & I almost expected to see some backboards and rescue stations.

The really neat thing about this site is that you get to go into the caves and rooms.  I expected to be standing below and viewing them from a distance, so this was a great surprise.  Instead you climb up into the caves and walk through the remains of the dwellings. There are volunteer guides located inside to offer information and prevent visitors from climbing on the walls or getting stuck somewhere in a cave.

A prospector discovered the dwellings in the 1870’s and artifacts were looted before an archaeologist got there in 1884. By using dendrochronology (studying tree ring growth) on the remaining timbers, he was able to date the structures back to 1276.  Seven caves had 40 rooms. The inhabitants were the Mogollon people who survived by hunting, gathering and farming. By 1300 they had moved on. A lot of work for only  one generation living there.

In 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt set aside the land as a national monument to protect it.

What strikes me when I visit a historical site like this is how recently our culture has developed and how young the USA really is! I have seen  cathedrals in Vienna and Prague that were constructed in the 1200’s. We really are the new kids on the block.

After leaving the Cliff Dwellings, we drove further east back to where Dave would continue his climb of the highest peak so far in the ride. Our campsite for the night was another Forest Service camp, Lower Gallinas, that we had to ourselves again. Another lovely pine & hardwood site on a dry creek bed. It ‘s location is on the bike route at about 6700 feet. Translation: another really cold night.

DAY 30 – Leapfrogging over Emory Pass

It was 38 degrees when we woke up in the morning.  It’s hard to be enthusiastic about leaving a warm sleeping bag & camper to start the day.  But this was going to be the big day to cross over the 8238 foot pass and then down an 8 mile stretch to relatively flat (ok – rolling) terrain. The Rider was ready for the challenge.  He took his time and made it seem not so bad.  I enjoyed another day of staying nearby in case he needed to switch unicycles. The lookout at the top of the pass is worth checking out.  The day’s ride was 32 miles, which I think is impressive given the extreme conditions in the first third of the route.

There was one little town that stood out as different than it’s surroundings.  Hillsboro’s main street is mostly abandoned, but there’s an optimistic spirit about it that feels good.  It has a post office, the Barbershop Café and fair trade gift shop and Hillsboro General Store Café.  The buildings are painted brightly in whimsical colors and designs.  People here are trying to make it a place where you want to stop and spend some time and they are succeeding.

I picked up Dave 5 miles out of town and we continued on the route to Caballo.  We camped at Caballo Lake State Park, a bargain at $8.00 for a primitive site.  Before we got there we spent some time at the Caballo Tavern, where they turned on the big screen tv for us.  Another Marquette basketball game (that I really didn’t expect to be anywhere near a tv to watch).  This game did not have a happy ending.  They lost to Syracuse.  And my friend Scott Dann, a dedicated alum, gets a lunch out of it in June.

IMG_4208

DAY 31 – The End Of Our First Month of the Ride – Easter Sunday

This was the most unusual Easter Sunday I’ve ever spent. Our routine was like most days on the route, but I enjoyed talking to some friends on the phone while I had cell coverage.  I also went for a short bike ride with one long hill so I could say I rode in New Mexico.  I am running out of time  because we are nearing El Paso, Texas.

Dave made 47 miles, his longest day.  Most of the route went through pecan orchards and chili pepper farms.  After checking into camp, we went over to the Blue Moon Café to get something to eat and get out of the sun for a while.  This time we watched Duke lose to Louisville.  I’ve watched more NCAA March Madness on this trip than I have in years. It’s been fun.

We camped in another state park for $8.00 – Leasburg Dam State Park. Just off the route and  very quiet after the Easter barbeque crowd went home. I heard the coyotes singing in the distance. Great stars. And train tracks so close, the few trains seemed like they were going through the campground.

DAY 32 – April 1 – Fort Selden

Right outside the campground was a state historic monument, the ruins of Fort Selden.  After dropping The Rider off, I returned there to check it out.  A small museum and adobe ruins of an outpost created in the New Mexico Territory in 1865 to protect the settlers  and later the railroad workers.  The fort was made up of two regiments, one of which was the Buffalo Soldiers.  These were the first peacetime all black regiment in the U. S. army. I stopped by because I was interested in learning more about them.  To my surprise, there were no displays devoted to them and a conspicuous lack of any photos other than white soldiers.  All were about daily life at the fort.  Their claim to fame was that Douglas MacArthur lived there for three years as a child.

When the manager of the museum asked me what I thought, that started a really interesting conversation about what was lacking and why. No non-whites, no women, no Native Americans, no Latinos.  The exhibits were created in 1974 & reflected the racism of the local community.  He seemed like a good guy with lots of progressive ideas that he was slowly implementing to bring things up to current times.  The conversation was more interesting than the actual museum itself.  Plus they gave me a cup of coffee!

When I was walking around the ruins, I did a really dumb thing and went off the path. Soon I felt something in the bottom of my Crocs.  Goatheads are little cactus thorns like tacks that look like little goat heads.  I spent 10 minutes picking them out of the bottom of my shoes. And I thought rattlesnakes were the real  problem.

Tonight we are at the Western Winds RV park about 30 miles west of El Paso. Don’t stay here if you can help it.  It is a two star out of five and it’s only redeeming value is that it has Wifi.

DAY 28 – Silver City, New Mexico

Today I was a tourist and got to indulge my curiosity and need to wander.  I was very curious about the town because my friend Ginny lived here briefly in the 1990’s.  Silver City was number 11 on the list of top places to retire in the USA. And I can understand why.  An article in the New York Times, January 13, 2006 gives a good nutshell description of the city:

PEOPLE who live in Silver City like to say that their town of 10,000 offers “the real New Mexico experience.” Perched on the edge of the Gila National Forest in a high-desert wonderland of ponderosas, deep gorges and red-rock mesas, Silver City is a bit rough around the edges, especially compared with places like Santa Fe and Taos – but that’s the way the locals like it. The town was founded after silver ore was discovered in 1870, and soon transplanted Yankees built the large Victorian houses that still loom over newer structures in the historic downtown. The silver industry crashed in 1893, but the town was becoming a haven for tuberculosis patients – including Billy the Kid’s mother – because of the desert air and healing hot springs. (Billy himself passed some of his youth in Silver City.) By the 1900’s, TB patients started going there en masse. After 1910, large-scale copper mining began, and that continues to be the basis of the economy, making Silver City a place where miners, artists, ranchers and extreme sports types mix easily.

People were very friendly. A woman stopped me outside of the grocery store because she saw the sign on the truck.  She was a reporter for the local online county paper and had just lost a friend to ALS.  She was very interested in our story.  Later I was directed to a great little coffee shop called Three Dogs.  I had an excellent cup of drip coffee and a cinnamon nut roll that was a real treat.   I enjoyed the Silver City Museum and wandering around the historic district.  Very colorful southwestern buildings with Victorian and Art Deco touches. Lots of art galleries, shops, restaurants and bars.  it’s an interesting blend of outdoor-hippie-artsy-west. I visited two bike shops and enjoyed talking with the owners as I distributed our business cards.

The most unusual part of town is The Big Ditch.  It is now a nice park in a ravine with a stream running through it. Prior to a 1902 flood, it was Main Street! Copper mining had stripped away enough of the surface growth upstream of town that several floods destroyed the street and buildings with it.

I caught up with Dave a little after 1 pm. On the route I passed a huge copper mine, still a mainstay for local employment.  The Rider was tired after a grueling day pedaling up and down big hills, but he kept at it till 2 pm to get a head start on climbing the highest peak yet.  Later he took a little gas nap.

We went into town to visit the Gila Bike and Hike shop.  The guys were really interested in Dave’s ride. Next door is the Q Southern Bistro that I had checked out earlier to see if they would be showing the Marquette Sweet Sixteen NCAA basketball game.  They said yes, so we went there to relax, watch the game and eat dinner. They beat Miami 71-61! It is unlikely that we will be anywhere near a TV for the Elite 8 game this weekend, so I was happy to see this win.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

DAY 26 & 27 – Coal Creek Campground to Silver City KOA

Day 26 started only one mile short of the New Mexico line.  34 degrees in the truck at 8 am. Fortunately no snow. As we descended from the mountains, we traveled through an area that did not make much of an impression on me. Other than I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to live here. It was washed out, dry and had no real towns or services. We camped overnight at the Buckthorn RV park.  Not a place I would recommend if there were any other choices, other than it was on the route. On a positive note, it had a warm laundry room where we kept warm reading our Kindles in the evening.

Day 27, Wednesday –  we didn’t hurry to leave the truck as it was 44 degrees this morning. I dropped Dave off and found a nice little coffee shop & grocery store in  Cliff, NM, owned by a woman named Kim.  She made great coffee and had a little wood stove going, so I stayed a while to chat.  Good start for the day.  Soon, the scenery improved as we started climbing toward Silver City, New Mexico. Here, I could imagine living, but would miss the color green and water.  Another day of leapfrogging the rider, but back in the land of cell phone reception, which meant internet on the Ipad.  Makes the time go much faster.  Did a little more walking today on the road and on a trail out of our camp.

We made it to Silver City and are staying at the KOA, right on the route.  KOA’s are like MacDonalds – not unique or special, but clean and reliable – you know what to expect for your money.  This one is really very nice with Wifi and a community room where we are sitting indoors keeping warm and blogging.