(Sunday) October 6, 2002
We rode so far today, that we rode off of the day's "turn sheet" and 15 miles into tomorrow's schedule! The total mileage for the day was only 85.0 miles, but our destination hotel had changed from a random hotel in Sylacauga, AL to Mariner's Adventure Camp, a children's camp (You know, a wooded outdoor camp on a lake like the kind you may have gone to as a child) on Lake Martin in Children's Harbor, AL. Very scenic and very rural, so that we can say that we know exactly what Alabama is truly like. Of course some of the riders thought that the day's riding had already given them a good idea of what Alabama is like. During the day's miles, we had a few rolling stretches of small hills, and we also had some typical southern style warmth. It reached around 90° with some humidity, making a few of the riders suffer a bit. I personally was loving the warmth, and would take it any day over riding at 58° with rain.
Sunset in Alabama
For dinner we did our usual group dinner at a local restaurant. One of the highlights of dinner (Well, other than the fact that the waitress gave us a huge plastic bag full of ice for our coolers) was the light show. The restaurant looked out over the lake, and a thunderstorm passed over during dinner. Very strong blowing rain, some very close lighting (with accompanying thunder), and just a lot of nature's beauty. The windows on the restaurant made it seem like a dinner show created especially for us, but I think it might have gone on even if we weren't there. :-)
(Monday) October 7, 2002
Sunrise on Lake Martin
One beautiful part about staying in a remote location versus staying in a hotel as we normally do is that when you awake in the morning, you do have a nice view out your front door. I awoke in the dark at 6:00 AM on this morning, and was down at the lake front with my laptop and both cameras (film & digital) about five minutes later. I sat typing up my Sunday ride log report while I was "waiting for the light". I was just about completed when I looked up and saw the morning light just appearing over the horizon. It was indeed a beautiful site, and after I had taken about 70 photos over the course of about an hour, the light started to fade into an overcast morning. The now overcast sky made me wonder if that was to be our sunshine for the day, as we have seen weather like this on a number of other days long the course of this ride.
As luck would have it, the sun that I got to enjoy was indeed the only sun we would see for at least the early morning part of our day. When we finally got to riding, the first sprinkles of the day were taunting us like a bully throwing sand our way. And when we hit the road shortly after 8:00 AM, we got a taste of what life could be like if it was raining for real. However the brief hard rain only lasted for about three minutes, and then it was done. A tailwind would be our compass today as we rode for 30 miles in about an hour and forty five minutes. When we finally stopped at that point, the sun came out and starting to warm us up. At this time we also found that we were too early to get to our event yet if we continued at our current pace. That is something that does not happen often, and the forced time to sit and relax was a nice treat.
The Dock at Sunrise
One thing that some of the team members (myself included) have discovered is that life as a constant stranger can be wearing at times. What I mean by that is that every day is a new day full of people that we have never met before. Yes, we do meet some very wonderful people, and we are very grateful to have met so many of them. But each and every day is mostly filled with no person that knows us before we get to an event. We go about our daily schedule with none of the conversations and connections and history that most people have in their normal daily lives. This can be liberating for some, but if you are used to running into someone that you know almost everywhere you go, this can be a bit of an adjustment. Not that it is intolerable, but imagine what your life would be like if no one knew you, and if every person you met was to be different tomorrow. Something as familiar as buying your "usual" at the corner coffee shop would never happen because they don't know you. But as I said, it is not something bad, but just one more aspect of life on the road that you don't really notice until someone points it out to you...
(Tuesday) October 8, 2002I can never quite get over the wonder that you see in the eyes of children when we attend an event at their school. They are so much like information sponges and are all smiles and questions. Today we had the pleasure of meeting an elementary school in Montgomery, Alabama. When we rode up they were waiting for us in the bus lane in front of the school. Lots of cheering for us and lots of very excited kids. Some of the team members lined up in front of the students, and of course I had to be different and sneak around the back and sit down in the middle of a group of fourth grade students. I guess they could figure out I wasn't in their class. (Was it the helmet that gave me away?) And I know some kids are more intuitive than others, but just a little while later I did have one very cute first grade student tell me I was silly. Me? Silly? I wonder where she would ever get that idea? :-)
The reason for our visit to this particular school is because one of their teachers is looking for a match for her bone marrow. We had been at an event the day before at the local blood bank, where all donors that attended were also given the option of being added to the National Marrow Donor Program registry, hoping that one of them would be a match. It is events like this that make things very real for so many people. They are oblivious to any of the Five Points of Life until it hits close to home with someone that they know. And our mission on this ride is to make it personal to everyone, regardless if they know someone directly, or just realize the importance of saving an anonymous life.
Today's ride brought us along our journey to the small town of Troy, Alabama. This is to be our last day in Alabama, and the people we met along the course of the day (as well as all throughout Alabama) made us feel very welcome. We arrived in Troy just in time to get sent to the local drug store for lunch at their lunch counter. Not that I was actually even hungry, but the food there was some of the best we have had in days! After a quick trip to the hotel for a shower, several of us had an appointment at WTBF, the local Troy radio station. Along the course of the ride, there have been a number of radio interviews, but all of them consisted of calling in to a radio station somewhere in the country. This radio interview was much different in that it was our first chance to all sit around several microphones live in a studio, with a radio personality (In this case it was Ralph Black, a very personable guy) and use our group camaraderie to make the most of our visit. We don't know that we reached the world, but we know that we reached a few people, or at least the people that called in with questions.
At the WTBF Studios
During a break in our interview for commercials and a bit of music (At which time I greatly surprised the DJ by knowing that Hoyt Axton wrote the Three Dog Night song he was playing), we had a chance to have a few photos taken with the local State Farm agents. State Farm has been such a great supporter of the Five Points of Life Ride in Alabama (As well as all along the entire course of this ride). The Alabama State Farm Agents took care of all of our meals for 8 days while we are in Alabama, they have been out to support us fully in person, and today the agents from Troy even donated blood! Talk about a company that doesn't just brag about community involvement, these guys actually put their money (and in this case also their arms!) where their mouth is.
Note: As of today I have taken over 1000 photos along the course of this adventure. The few images that you see as part of this log are just the tip of the iceberg. If you would like a higher resolution copy of any of the photos you have seen here (They are all greatly reduced from the originals to make them download much faster), feel free to send me an email (Be sure to give me the date the photo was used in the log).
(Wednesday) October 9, 2002I don't know if our day started with actual precipitation coming down, or if the air was just so thick with moisture that we simply collected it as we rode along. Either way we ended up with glasses covered with mist, and it was either go with the rain gear and be a bit too warm, or go without rain gear and end up a little bit wet and on the cool side. (As is normal for me, I opted for rain gear and sweating a bit underneath, versus being chilled by the cool moist air) On this day we had the deed before us to ride 90 miles to our destination. We had no events on the calendar for the day, so it was purely a riding day. Lot's of county lines to cross, and as we move farther south, fewer and fewer hills to traverse.
Today we also said goodbye to Alabama, and rode on into Georgia. We will miss many of the sites and unique slices of Americana that only Alabama has shown us. While this is simply another line for us to cross, this was significant to me in a number of ways. We are now only one state away from our destination of Florida (which we will actually ride into for the first time tomorrow). Since Florida is my home, I probably have stronger feelings about this part than some of the other riders. And since Georgia is a neighbor to Florida, it feels like I am in friendlier territory, or at least more familiar territory? The final difference in what state we are in, is that our clocks are now all set to Eastern Time, as the Georgia/Alabama border is the time zone line in this part of the country.
Welcome to Georgia
One new change to the landscape today when we entered Georgia is the industry of peanuts. Yes, we still saw cotton fields, but peanuts are a serious industry around here. Blakely, GA (Our destination city for today's ride) is part of the peanut industry, and once again we got to see something that we only knew about in theory being grown, harvested and hauled all around us.
Now granted, since we are no longer in Alabama, we no longer have the company of Tommy Frieson of the Alabama Organ Center. Tommy was our most gracious host throughout Alabama, and treated us like royalty. I can see why Alabama is reaching new levels of awareness with someone as sincere and dedicated as Tommy out there putting in the hours. Some people make it seem very little like work and a lot more like fun, and Tommy (as well as some of those crazy Wisconsin folks) is one of those people. Thanks for all of the help and support Tommy!
(Thursday) October 10, 2002Today's weather was almost an exact repeat of yesterday's weather. Overcast, misty riding, and a bit on the cool side all morning. However today's riding was much easier, save for the fact that the lead pack took one variation off of the turn sheet for the day during the middle of the route, and the second pack took it's own deviation from the flight plan. All turned out well at the end of the day, and everyone had a great ride. Today's distance was 93 miles, and the first pack (which I was in) averaged 19.1 mph over that 93 miles. Not bad for 4 riders just riding along at their own casual pace. Oh, and one significant part to this distance is that it is the last long distance riding we will be doing. From here on out it is just 40-60 mile rides, which is almost easy riding for us at this point.
Florida State Line
I personally got the pleasure of riding into my home state of Florida at the 70 mile mark of the day. It feels good to be home, even if we do make a slight detour through Georgia for a few days, before we end up back in Florida for the final time. It may be just me, but the roads seemed smoother and the drivers seemed friendlier, and the terrain is certainly more familiar. This is officially state number nine on our journey, and from here on out the weather should be warm and the hills should be pretty easy going.
This ride also ended with us being in yet one more state capitol, that being Tallahassee, the capitol of the state of Florida. A quiet city with your typical downtown area around the capitol building, with the ancillary governmental office buildings flanking it. From our hotel room you can see the difference between here and cities to the north. The tree canopy is thicker here, the architecture is more southern mansion style, and all of the people out and about are more likely dressed in clothing like shorts and sandals due to the warmer weather.
(Friday) October 11, 2002
At 7:00 AM, anything over about three blocks away didn't exist, or at least not from the view out of my hotel room window. If we were out on the rural roads we have ridden on over the past few days, it would most likely have been day three of the exact same weather pattern as we have been dealing with. However as our day was planned, we had an event at the Florida State Capitol a few blocks away in the late AM, and the riding was scheduled for the afternoon. This gave the sun time to burn through, just warm enough without being hot, and with plenty of sunshine to warm everyone's mood. In other words, a great day was there for the taking, and I took full advantage of it!
Florida State Capitol
Imagine a softly winding road with a canopy of trees over the top. Just enough curves and rolling terrain to move you along like waves on the ocean. Throw in a very slight breeze under warm and sunny skies, and you have the perfect day to go for a 44 mile bike ride. That is indeed how we spent our afternoon, as we ventured from Florida back into Georgia, maneuvering our way eastward towards the route that will eventually take us south into Florida once again. We ended our day in Thomasville, Georgia, our destination for an event on Saturday.
(Saturday) October 12, 2002
Thomasville Arts Festival
OK, stick with me here, as the day gets a little bit confusing. We started our day out at Thomasville, GA. We had a noon time event at a local blood center, which gave us time to see the city in the morning. As luck would have it, there was a small arts festival in town that several of us got to tour through. Some rather nice items, and to set the mood just right they had street musicians on alternating sides of the street every so often. This was a nice touch, and it made the festival complete. After touring the arts festival, and after the blood drive event at the local blood center, we loaded the bikes onto our large van and headed for Valdosta, GA.
Valdosta was to be our destination for the next day, but it got moved up a day for logistical reasons. So off we headed to Valdosta, arriving at our hotel by mid afternoon. We checked in, but the bikes stayed loaded, so that we could continue traveling to our next event for the day. (This means that we had to actually skip the section from Thomasville to Valdosta) Once checked into our hotel in Valdosta, we again got in the van to travel from Valdosta, GA to Gainesville, FL.
Once we arrived in Gainesville, we were escorted to the University of Florida, and led to the football stadium, as special guests at the UF/LSU football game. We found the presidents box to be a good place to watch the game for those interested, with plenty of food for those that were hungry. Once half time rolled around, it was time for us to make good on the reason we were in Gainesville. In front of 86,000 fans, we rode our bikes out onto the field. They showed our faces on the huge screen in the stadium, and announced the purpose of our attendance. And with that it was time to ride off the field, and shortly thereafter head back to Valdosta. It was a late night, and we didn't see the lights of the hotel until well after midnight. However, tomorrow is a day completely without events, so we can always rest then!
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