This was my 5th year riding the Bike Florida week long tour. I was looking forward to this ride as it was going to a part of Florida that I enjoy – the rolling hills of the panhandle and the genteel laid back gulf coast. I was also going to some new places that I had always wanted to go to; Apalachicola and St Georges Island. It was to be a big loop ride starting and ending in the small town of Monticello; which is about 20 mile east of Tallahassee.
I got to Monticello on Saturday morning. I remembered it from 2 years prior when I had stopped there on a previous tour. It has the County Court house right is the middle of the small town rotary.
It was Sunday morning and I headed out alone. It was cool in the morning with partly sunny skies. I was a little late getting going. I had to lug my gear quite a ways to get it to the luggage trucks in the front of the school. We headed out west of town. I rode alone for most of the way. Saw and passed of cyclists along the way.
I got up early to eat breakfast so I wouldn’t have to wait in another monster line. It was an uneventful ride to Blounstown. I think it was 40 miles. We stopped at Torreva State Park on the way. Torreva is a type of pine tree. It was a very rough road into the park. So rough that I thought I would break a spoke. The park had a nice rest stop and an old plantation house that was on the Apalachicola River. The house was down a long hill so it was a climb to get up. Because of this, not too many went down to the house.
I ended up having a blast with them. The Karaoke machine didn’t have all the components, so Bubba started some dance music. I was first onto the floor with Julie, who was really good and had taken lessons. I ended up dancing till 11 pm with Julie and Morgan. Morgan had a blast as I showed her how to Two Step, Waltz, and Zydeco. The karaoke parts finally showed up at 11 pm and people got a chance to do some singing. It was hilarious. Bubba made just about everyone sing. Only about 8 of us stayed till the end. It was a very fun evening.
I left Blounstown at 7:30 am to ride the century (100 miles) with Larry. We had set it up the day before while I was waiting to go to Bubba’s party. Larry told me he couldn’t do an 18 mph pace like we did a few years ago in St Augustine. I told him that was ok and that I’d ride his pace. Larry said his friends (Cathy and Diane) were having breakfast in town and he’d like to catch up with them, if possible. We left Blounstown riding south at 18-19 mph. We rode a fast pace for the first 20 miles. It was warm, but cloudy. We rode through some nice rolling farmland. We picked up Chris who was riding alone. We were doing 18-20 mph and riding a good pace line. We cruised into the 1st rest stop (the century had its own loop / route at the start and would rejoin the main ride at mile 40). Larry asked if anyone had passed thru yet and they said two girls and a guy had just come thru. Larry figured that must have been Cathy, Diane, and Rob. So Larry says “let’s go and catch them”. So we headed out and started riding 20 mph. We got some pretty good tail winds and end up riding 24-26 mph. When we left the rest stop we picked up but 4-5 other riders, who were riding our wheels. It was still Larry, me, and Chris doing the pulling. Chris started to fade. I told Larry that I couldn’t hold this pace for 60 miles. I looked back and we had dropped every one. So much for a couple 50 yr old’s holding back. We did the next segment at this pace and then slowed a bit after mile 40. That’s when it started raining. It came down steady for a while just as we came into the third rest stop. I decided not to put on a rain coat. I was soaked but warm. The rain let up a bit and we just rode a more relaxed pace (16-17 mph) towards Sumatra. We had a slight head wind.
We got to Sumatra, which was just a stop in the road with 2-4 buildings. One of them was a restaurant that was our planned lunch stop. The restaurant was putting on a Fried Chicken dinner just for us. It was the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.
Once we got to the coast we had 20 mph winds. It was really unsettled weather. It was first a cross wind for about 3-4 miles into Eastpoint. The route then headed due south across a 4.2 mile bridge to St. Georges Island. It turned sunny on the bridge but the wind was the worst I’ve ever experienced. We’re on the bridge cranking in the high gears and only doing 6-7 mph on the flat. Drafting was useless. It took 30 mins to cross the 4.2 miles. Then we turned around and had a great ride with the tail wind. We were averaging 30 mph with the wind at our backs. We made it back across in 5 min. We had to cross another bridge to get to Apalachicola. We had a very bad cross wind that kept buffeting us. I had to really hold onto the handle bar to keep from being blown over. We made it across but saw a biker down on the bridge just as we came into town. The rider had hit a sign and went down. He looked pretty cut up and bruised. I was glad the ride was over. It was my first century of the season and I felt pretty good. Just after that, they shut the ride down due to the high winds and loaded everyone in trucks and hauled the bikers into Apalachicola.
Apalachicola was a small sleepy little fishing town. It’s the oyster fishing capital of the world where 90% of the FL oysters come from here. It looked like something out of Forest Gump.
This was a lay over day with a ride out to St Georges Island, which is 4.2 miles off the mainland. It was a nice day, sunny and in the 70’s. The wind had subsided. I headed out with Matt from Maine at 8:30 am. The bridges were much easier than they had been the day before. There was lots of glass on the bridges so I rode more in the traffic.
I rode back to the center of the island and had a stiff headwind for 8 miles. I saw Julie at the rest stop. She was decked out in a skin tight blue racing suit with a hood. It was the type you see Lance wear in a time trial. It looked good on her. I chatted with her for awhile and then went to get something to eat. I ate at the Blue Parrot overlooking the beach. It was so nice just sitting there looking at the beach. I had a fried grouper basket. It was there that I met Anne Boone from Atlanta. She was on the ride with her boyfriend. She was a real chatter box. She just came up to me and suggested I try the Key Lime pie. I introduced myself. Turned out we both new Larry. She had ridden RAGBRIA with him last year. This morphed into a discussion on dancing. I ended up giving her a quick dance lesson right in the middle of the restaurant. I would have liked to have a beer and just look out at the beach, but I knew if I did I would not want to get on the bike. I left after awhile to head back to Apalachicola.
I rode out alone. I had broken another tent pole as I was getting out of my tent so I needed to get to a hardware store to buy another piece of pipe. I was going to ride with Larry and the girls but I left early to get to a hardware store. I rode along Route 98 (Gulf Coast Highway) to Carrabelle. It was a really nice ride next to the water. It was sunny with a slight on shore breeze.
I then rode up Route 98 to get to Sopchoppy. It was kind of a lonely road. I rode into the center of town, which was not much; one block of stores and one stop sign. I ate lunch with some black ladies who were all dressed up in their best Sunday clothes (hats and dresses) and selling food to the bikers. They were all enthralled with meeting us and asking us questions. They all wanted to feel my bike seat and could not believe I would spend hours on such a narrow thing. It was nice sitting and chatting with these ladies.
I found my camp site about 2 miles out of town and set up under a nice shady pine tree. We had a nice meal of Jambalaya for dinner. We also had a worm grunting demo and had a rhythm and blues band play for us. It was a southern rock band and all of the songs sounded alike.
Back to Monticello
I ate breakfast with Julie and Morgan. Morgan thanked me again for such a nice night of dancing at Bubba’s Karaoke party. I headed out alone in the mist / drizzle. I was supposed to ride with JP but I missed him. I rode a steady pace. I skipped the first rest stop as I was anxious to get the ride over. I made it to the next one, which was off the St Marks bike trail. I refueled and rested but I was soaked and really really dirty from the road spray. I didn’t want to cool down so I headed out again. It continued to drizzle. I rode hard for the next segment doing a 19-20 mph. After the third rest stop, I let up a little bit. I had 20 miles to go to get to Monticello. It also started to get hilly. It stopped raining and got sunny and muggy as I cruised into Monticello.
Just as I pulled into the school parking lot, I saw Cathy approaching me. She had got in early and had obviously just showered. She was dressed in a really nice white sleeveless blouse and khaki shorts. She was walking to her car when she saw me and said “Oh, there you are!” I felt exhilarated from just finishing the ride and impulsively reached out with one arm and gave her a hug and a kiss. I caught her a little by surprise. I also realized I had just wrapped my road grimed, sun screened, sweaty, rain soaked, chest, arm and hands on her clean white sleeveless blouse. I probably left a lot of marks and stains. Oh well. I met up with Larry to say goodbye. Cathy and Diane came by and wanted him to go out to lunch with them. He wasn’t that interested. Said he needed to find Jack. They said “Oh you can bring him along”. Diana said “Oh Jim, you’re invited too”. No thanks. I wanted to rest, get some food, and then get on the road. So didn’t Larry. Said goodbye and that we’d see each other next year. This was the 4th year I’d ridden with Larry. We both ride the same pace and enjoy each others company. I ate lunch in the school with Frenchy from Lewiston, ME. He said he hadn’t ridden all winter and just finished a 400 mile ride with the rest of us. Frenchy is 67 yrs old!
Any way it was a great week and a great ride!