All posts for the month March, 2016

High Springs to Palatka
Thursday, March 3

My room at the B&B was nice, one of the nicest in our entire journey, with windows on two sides, a plush king bed, and a large sitting room that I didn’t want to mess up by sitting in it.

And yet, as I am wont to do, I awoke in the middle of the night. I had left my bulky suitcase in Onyx, taking a fresh change of clothes in my backpack, and at 1:00 a.m. I decided that I’d forgotten to lock the minivan and that High Springs was full of wily teens who like to check whether car doors are unlocked and grab whatever they find. Don’t be ridiculous, I told myself, but an hour later this thought still kept poking at me. I contemplated going outside to make sure Onyx was locked, but I didn’t want to own up to actually believing this silliness. So I did the next best thing and held the fob under my chin — I’ve heard this is supposed to make the signal carry farther — and hit the lock button three times. The car was a couple hundred feet away, but I thought I detected a faint locking beep in the distance.

The B&B lady graciously accommodated the guys’ requests for an early breakfast. I opted to have my breakfast later, though, because I could tell she wanted me to, and I didn’t mind waiting till a normal hour. The men had a feast — ham and egg sandwiches, fruit, tomatoes (which I know are a fruit), who knows what else. I wasn’t paying close attention as I sat with them and drank coffee. They were happy with it.


The whole gang. This is one of my favorite photos of them.

After I saw them off I settled in for my own feast: bacon, tomatoes, a muffin, some kind of savory bread, and an egg and cheese casserole. It was great. I wish I’d been able to eat the entire thing. I wish I could eat it right now. I took the muffin with me in a little baggie and a week later found it smushed in the bottom of my purse. Gross.


Breakfast of champion

A leisurely breakfast can be intensely relaxing; it establishes the tone for the day while postponing all serious matters, helping to render them less urgent. And though I often have no truly serious matters to contend with, I usually feel like I do. I fed myself cheese and read a local paper while a CD of piano rags played in the background. My life was right.

Eventually the lady came in to chat. I’d felt wary of her before, thinking she was, not to put it mildly, an uptight killjoy, but we had a good conversation and I hereby reverse my impression. She had been a trial lawyer in Miami before deciding to buy the bed and breakfast, and I admire anyone who makes a dramatic life change in middle age. She liked the slow pace of life in High Springs, but she missed the urbanity and culture of Miami. I asked her about the challenges of running a B&B, and she said it’s very hard to go out because she always needs to be available if a guest locks himself out or needs help. And because she and her husband live in the house, she feels like she has very little privacy. She said she’s ready for a move in the way I talk about making changes to my own career — the way that indicates one is not yet at the point of doing anything about it. We also talked a little about my experience on the trip, and it impressed me that she intuited and sympathized with the demands of my role as handler. B&B lady, whom I’m not naming because I don’t want to make you feel bad with my initial negative impression: I like you and wish you luck.

My horoscope in the paper said that someone would question my integrity that day, and I immediately decided that it had to do with the olive oil store. The day before, after having two beers and many tortilla chips, I accompanied the guys into town for their bike store run. But I didn’t go to the bike store; I went to the olive oil store, because it was an olive oil store, and that meant samples. Upon entering I was offered a full tour, and during the tour I learned that the store had just opened the very day before. It was a two-day-old olive oil store, and the owner was an extremely sweet woman in her 60s who was still learning how to operate a cash register.

I had buzzedly sampled some very, very good olive oil and vinegar and wanted to take home four tiny bottles of different varieties. The owner said that the tiny bottles were due in the next morning before the store opened at 11 a.m. I told them I would be back. But as I left I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be back, because by the next morning I might not feel the same beneficent desire to support a new business and the same intoxicated need for olive oil I wouldn’t have any use for.

But the day’s horoscope was meant to make me a better person, I decided — at the time it didn’t cross my mind that this meant someone else would question my integrity, once I eliminated the olive oil store owner — so, after checking out of the B&B, I drove into town with the intention to waste time until 11 a.m.

High Springs has a railroad museum behind its police station, so I headed there first. It was closed. I walked around a bit and took a couple photos of churches:

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Then I wandered into other stores along Main Street, growing increasingly ambivalent about upholding my integrity. The stores were boring.

I wish I weren’t the type of traveler who values being on the road, being in motion, more than the stops along the way. When there’s a destination ahead, all I want to do is get there; I don’t like waiting or stopping. But so often I’ve whizzed by small attractions, fighting with myself to stop the car, sensing I’m missing out on something memorable. It’s a constant cycle of ambition, missed opportunities, chastisement, peace.


The world fascinates me. (Antique store, High Springs)

It turned eleven o’clock eventually, the way it always does, and I went back to the olive oil store. “You’re back!” the owner said. Integrity redeemed.

I asked about the tiny bottles. She said they were still in Jacksonville but would get there later that day. So I decided to buy a single smallish bottle of their Tuscan olive oil, which was just divine, and order other varieties by phone later, which of course I’m not going to do. I am intentionally not linking to their website because it is bad and you can’t buy anything there. The store itself is attractive and thoughtfully constructed and I hope it succeeds.

The short drive took me through Gainesville, birthplace of Tom Petty, and so I listened to his songs the whole way. As Petty has said in so many words, Gainesville isn’t so great. It struck me as congested and flavorless, one of the standard varieties of smallish American cities.

My route diverged from that of the bikers, so I didn’t stop to meet them along the way and made it to the Holiday Inn Express before one o’clock. The nice woman who checked me in had an intriguing and familiar European accent, but I couldn’t place it. I asked her where she was from. “Poland,” she said, and I felt ashamed of my ignorance, having lived in a Polish neighborhood for three years.

After settling in I made a quick drive out to the supermarket to pick up snacks. We were staying outside of downtown Palatka, and our part of town seemed quiet and just a little downtrodden. At the supermarket I hovered in front of the rows of beer, and another woman around my age soon did the same. She told me she was looking for New Belgium Snapshot (a wheat variety with an illustration of a vintage camera on the label) but they never have it in stock anymore. I told her to talk to the manager. “I bet they’d order it for you,” I said, wise in my knowledge of the workings of supermarkets circa 1997.

Next stop, pool time:


Matt has just told Tim to suck in his tummy for his beefcake shot

The water was cold, but that didn’t stop them from going in. Here, Matt shows off how he can kind of do a flip:

Sorry for the shaky camera, I couldn’t see what I was doing because it was so bright.

The evening’s early dinner took place at the Italian Latin Grill, a homey restaurant serving both Italian and, yes, Latin cuisine, run by a nice-seeming older couple. We drank glasses of wine. I enjoyed my plate of ravioli until I got full and gave the rest to Mark. It was starting to dawn on all of us that our journey was almost over, and we talked a bit about highs and lows — best and worst hotels, food, towns, roads.

Back at the Holiday Inn Express I recorded Tim’s reading from Crossing the Borderlands, which is not worth publishing but definitely worth keeping. It turned out to be the last one he did. We never entirely finished the book! I guess we have to redo it all again and get it right this time.


Hotel Art of the Day

07artLa Petite liseuse, ou Jeune bergère assise et lisant
(Little readers, or Young shepherdess sitting and reading)
1855-1861, Oil on canvas (print, of course)
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot
B&B, High Springs, FL

Hotel Art Score

10/10. I was surprised and moved to encounter this. In my first assignment in my first high school art class, the teacher had us copy this painting twice, once in color and once in brown sienna. I will always feel attached to this work because it touched off an era of curiosity, growth, and self expression. Never have I felt more encouraged to make art, and specifically to make art in the way that feels natural to me, than in Archmere’s art building.

Art Art Score

7.5/10. I’m not really able to look at this objectively, but I find it pleasing. I like the brightness of the whites, the stripes on the skirt, the tranquility of it. It’s modest and peaceful.

Madison to High Springs
Wednesday, March 2

I didn’t get the best sleep at the Best Western in Madison. I woke up early and cranky, annoyed at those @*$%! fat pillows and at having to use a 20-year-old bathroom with its ugly brown speckled sink and ugly old shower. Woe was me.

I went down to breakfast ahead of our scheduled meetup time and found Mark, Tim, and Matt already halfway through their meals. The Sullivans reverse the standard party arrival etiquette; it’s cooler to be at least 15 minutes early.

“Is your dad okay?” Matt asked me.

“Well, it’s still not even seven yet,” I said. Technically none of us was supposed to be here.

The night before, Chris Christie had stood awkwardly behind Donald Trump at a press conference, and Fox News — it still semi-astounds me that any establishment would make Fox News its default TV channel — was playing clips of the conference.

Dad arrived just as the others were finishing up. He expressed disappointment and surprise in Christie’s support of Trump and in the early birdism of his brothers.


The view outside my window was way better than my room; note swamp in the background

When everyone was in the parking lot prepping to head out, I received a sign from the universe that it would be a good day.


This big birdlike creature was hanging out by itself in a not particularly clean field next to the hotel. What a strange thing to see! I didn’t even know what it was at first (I’m terrible at identifying plants and animals) and guessed it was an ostrich. Matt jokingly proposed that it was an emu, and Wikipedia confirmed that he was right.

How could any day with an emu sighting turn out to be bad? Famous last words, I know, but I just had a feeling about this.


Despite the gloomy sky their future is bright


Hotel hallway shot featuring emu in its habitat

After the bikers departed I extended my hotel checkout time and partook in a conference call. Everything went smoothly because I was now operating on emu power. Here’s a secret thing about me: when I see a bunny rabbit out in the world, I think of it as equivalent to getting a power-up heart in a video game. It’s called bunnergy. I take energy away from the bunny when I see it, but not enough to deplete the bunny in any significant way. The emu equivalent of bunnergy was like a 10x power-up.

On the drive, which also went smoothly, I relistened to a chapter from The Acceptance World because of some technical difficulties, but it turned out to be fortuitous, because it was the chapter in which the concept of the acceptance world was explained, and I hadn’t really understood it the first time. You don’t care what it is now but I think many of you (is anyone still reading?) would enjoy this novel.


I met up with the guys around lunchtime. Just behind Onyx in this picture are some horse stables, and both Tim and Brian noticed them at different times and asked whether they used to be a motel.

Speaking of horse lodging, were going to be staying in a B&B that night, and it had a check-in time of 4 p.m. B&Bs, I’ve learned, are fairly inflexible about check-in times. The guys were going to arrive around two o’clock, so during our pit stop I decided to call the owner and see if we could check in early. I told her we really only needed one room by then so that the guys could shower. She seemed like a high strung sort of person and told me they couldn’t all shower in the same room. I said, “Well, not at the same time, obviously!” I’m not sure what her reservation was — maybe she didn’t want to mix up the towels? Too much water usage from one room? Anyway, she thought that four rooms would be ready by then, and that sounded fine.


A tree

I had to kill about 45 minutes when I got to High Springs. Fortunately High Springs is very quaint and walkable. The town’s population is about 5,500, but it draws visitors who like to scuba dive, canoe, swim, and fish in the nearby Santa Fe and Itchetucknee Rivers. It was about 75 degrees that day, and I would have been happy to canoe down a river, but I was just as happy to wander around the town.




High Springs Playhouse

I dipped into one of the many antique shops that line the main street and took my time looking at stuff, eventually finding an old card game called Flinch for $2. It was created in 1905 and is still being produced, though I’d never heard of it. My version is from 1951 and has great type.



The B&B was on what passed for a busy street in High Springs, and I initially passed it and kept driving to see how far the historic district went. Not far. I looped back, pulling up at two o’clock on the dot. I was met by the husband of the woman from my phone call, an amiably smug fellow who predicted that by the time the guys arrived I’d be sitting on the front porch enjoying a gin and tonic. This sounded very appealing, but it was not to be. Midway through the house tour — soon after I met the woman and witnessed a tense exchange between husband and wife about where to store the bikes, after which she disappeared to her office and he put his arm around my waist and told me conspiratorially never to get married — the gang appeared. They sweatily but patiently listened to the entertaining but long-winded house rules, their need for beer growing more palpable by the minute.

Everyone’s bike had had some kind of problem that day, so our post-ride snack session turned into bike tune-up time. I cheerfully ate tortilla chips and fetched beers as needed.


Working on bikes in the backyard

We walked into town to get some bike parts, then settled into our rooms until dinnertime.


Porch swing!

Dinner was at the just-right Great Outdoors Restaurant, which by five o’clock was already filling up. The atmosphere was great, the food was plenty good, and we all felt so glad to be outside on a warm night. A couple guys played country, Mark’s and my favorite style of music. Honestly, that was pretty good, too. Thanks, emu.



Back home for one of the last sessions of Tim reading “Conquering the Borderlands”

Hotel Art of the Day

Best Western, Madison, Florida

Hotel Art Score

7/10. The picture isn’t great so you can’t see the technique too well, but it’s got a nice illustrated style, and the background feels like an imagined mental space. The painting feels like a still from an arty animation. I like it.

Art Art Score


The miles we pedaled were not always easy. Something was always uncomfortable, whether it was a hot foot, or sore and tired legs,  or a blistered butt.  But I won’t remember the time on the bike because the rides were really just a way to get together with my brothers. The challenge was to ride from coast to coast across the country but the trip was about camaraderie and friendship and the feeling of total acceptance from your brothers (and niece and nephew). It was coming down to  breakfast in the morning ready to ride and asking Tim, “So, what’s our route today?” and then getting ready with our bikes and meeting for our departure morning picture (46 times) and hearing Beth tell us to be safe and replying, “Bye, Mom. We will!”  It was finishing a ride and having a few beers in Beth’s room while reliving the day’s adventure and  listening to Tim read to us from “Conquering the Borderlands”. All these memories may fade but I will always remember how these bike rides  strengthened my bond to my brothers. I love you guys.

Tim, Mark and Matt returned to Philadelphia on a late morning flight out of Jacksonville.  I slept in but Beth had to ride early to drive them to the airport and then return back to St. Augustine.  This was just one more way that Beth earned her money on this leg of the trip – I was really happy not to have to get up early.

When Beth returned, we had a light breakfast in the hotel and then did some sight-seeing in Historic St. Augustine.  We stated out spending a few hours inside the Castillo de San Marcos Monument and then walked through the many streets of the old town.  We ate a late lunch at the Prince of Wales Restaurant, an English style pub in the old town.  We looked for nice tee shirts but weren’t successful, and we tried to get into the Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine, but since it was Saturday it was all booked up for weddings, so we couldn’t get in except for a little peek.  About 3 p.m. we went back to the hotel, Beth did some laundry using the hotel laundry room, and I went back to my room to work on an exam I had to give to my Villanova University class on Monday evening.  We got together a little before 5 p.m. and went to Saturday night mass at the Basilica Cathedral, which was really nice.  Here are some photos of our day together touring Historic St. Augustine.

Beth at the old city gates of Historic St. Augustine.

Beth at the old city gates of Historic St. Augustine.

Photo of menu cover for The Prince of Wales Restaurant - Historic St. Augustine.  Sorry the shadows almost ruin the picture.

Photo of menu cover for The Prince of Wales Restaurant – Historic St. Augustine. Sorry the shadows almost ruin the picture.

St. Augustine Bay and open drawbridge on A1A.  This bridge reminded all of us of the old Causeway Bridge into Ocean City - it had a very similar architecture.

St. Augustine Bay and open drawbridge on A1A. This bridge reminded all of us of the old Causeway Bridge into Ocean City – it had a very similar architecture.

Altar in Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine, where Beth and I went to Mass on Saturday night.

Altar in Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine, where Beth and I went to Mass on Saturday night.

Rear view with ceiling of Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine.

Rear view with ceiling of Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine.

At dinner on Friday night, Beth asked all of us what we had learned about ourselves from completing the ride, which was a very interesting question.  Here are some of my thoughts on that question:

I really need a lot of sleep to keep up with everyone on the rides, and it helps a lot to not do any work to get that sleep.  I didn’t really appreciate this until the final leg of the trip.

Biking across the country has to be one of the very best ways possible to see the United States.  By and large, with only a very few exceptions, people were extremely frienndly, talkative, and interested in what we were doing.

Florida is one of the most, if not the most bike friendly states in the entire United States!  We almost always had a bike lane and drivers were always extremely courteous, whether or not we were in a bike lane.

I think I am tougher than I realized.  Again, it took the last leg for me to accept this (despite all my falls on previous legs) and I only realized it becuase I was so sick leading up to the ride, and also during the first and last rides of the final leg.

There are probably more things I learned, but I will close by saying that I learned it is great to have a goal and persue it whole-heartedly.  Which is why we’ve started looking for another ride to do, whether it is something local, the Pacific Coast route, or another cross country route across either the middle or northern part of the U.S.  So stay tuned!

As the sun rose on our final day of riding, I was still feeling the affects of some kind of food poisoning, which was causing numerous trips to use a bathroom during the night and into the morning.  Fortunately I did not have stomach pains, but I was not able to eat much for fear of losing it shortly thereafter.  I decided I could still do the ride, because a) there was no way I was going to miss this final ride, b) it was not going to be more than 50 miles or so, and c) I felt I could do a relatively short ride with little or no breakfast.  But then Beth remembered that she had some Imodium AD pills and I took them and used them.  Would you believe that was the first time in my life I had ever used anything like that? I am still amazed that those two tiny pills could possibly be so effective!  They really did the trick and made it possible for me to eat some food during the ride – so thanks again Beth!

The day turned out to be overcast, breezy and chilly, starting shortly after we left Palatka.  But I would not say we were ever really that cold during the ride – we definitely weren’t warm and comfortable either, but we were not overly cold.  I took just a few pictures during the ride and many more by the Atlantic Ocean at St. Augustine Beach and also within Historic St. Augustine.  Hope you enjoy them!

First stop on our final day of riding, somewhere along Rte. 207. It was cold so neither this nor our two other stops lasted too long.

First stop on our final day of riding, somewhere along Rte. 207. It was cold so neither this nor our two other stops lasted too long.  As usual (and fortunately for all of us) Tim is studying the map!

View of the St. Johns River from CR13. This was on our 2nd stop of this final ride.

View of the St. Johns River from CR13. This was on our 2nd stop of this final ride.

When Tim was planning the final day’s ride while we were in our hotel in Palatka, he was determined to find the best route to the St. Augustine Beach, which was not at all clear from studying the maps.  At the time I was ambivalent about actually riding to the beach and dipping our tires into the Atlantic Ocean.  But once we found the beach and performed our ritual of tire dipping, I was really glad we did!  It was actually nearly emotional, since it had taken us four years to complete the ride and accomplish the goal.  Here are some pictures on the beach.

View of the Atlantic Oceam from the St. Augustine Beach. It was almost hard to believe we had finally made it!

View of the Atlantic Oceam from the St. Augustine Beach. It was almost hard to believe we had finally made it!

The brothers dipping our bike tires into the Atlantic Ocean at St. Augustine Beach.

The brothers dipping our bike tires into the Atlantic Ocean at St. Augustine Beach.

Barefoot Beth on St. Augustine Beach - we all know we could never have dompleted the ride without her help! She was there for us every single day of all six legs!

Barefoot Beth on St. Augustine Beach – we all know we could never have completed the ride without her help! She was there for us every single day of all six legs! Thanks so much Beth!

Matt and Beth on St. Augustine Beach. Unquestionably, Matt was a great help in both Legs 5 and 6, readily taking the point and allowing us to draft behind him, thereby making it wasier for all of the brothers. Thanks Matt!

Matt and Beth on St. Augustine Beach. Unquestionably, Matt was a great help in both Legs 5 and 6, readily taking the point and allowing us to draft behind him, thereby making it easier for all of the brothers. Thanks Matt!

Bridge on A1A from downtown St. Augustine to St. Augustine Beach. When the brothers went over the bridge, we had no problems. But Beth got held up by the drawbridge opening.

Bridge on A1A from downtown St. Augustine to St. Augustine Beach. When the brothers went over the bridge, we had no problems. But Beth got held up by the drawbridge opening.

After the beach, we rode back into St. Augustine, disassembled our bikes, and checked into our hotel.  Beth and I went to a nearby Irish Pub for a late lunch and Mark joined us there soon after.  Then we walked around the old fort at St. Augustine, called the Castillo de San Marcos Monument.  Here are a few pictures of the Monument.

Castillo de San Marcos Monument in Historic St. Augustine.

Castillo de San Marcos Monument in Historic St. Augustine.

Mark and Beth walking around the Castillo de San Marcos Monument.

Mark and Beth walking around the Castillo de San Marcos Monument.

After we returned from our short walking tour, we met up and went out to dinner, after which we walked some more around Historic St. Augustine.  Here are a few more pictures from the rest of the day.

Beth and Tim at Dinner in Historic St. Augustine, after we took our bikes apart and walked around the old town.

Beth and Tim at Dinner in Historic St. Augustine, after we took our bikes apart and walked around the old town.

Matt and Mark at dinner in Historic St. Augustine.

Matt and Mark at dinner in Historic St. Augustine.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.

Statue of Ponce de Leon at Plaza de La Constitución in Historic St. Augustine.

Statue of Ponce de Leon at Plaza de La Constitución in Historic St. Augustine.

Plaza de La Constitución in Historic St. Augustine.

Plaza de La Constitución in Historic St. Augustine.  That’s Beth, Tim and Mark at the base of the Ponce de Leon statue in the background.

One of the best parts of the day, however, was when we returned to our hotel and had a few (Ok, a lot of) drinks in the hotel lounge.  Our main topic of conversation was the primary elections, which lead to discussions on Bernie Sander’s tax proposals, voter identification, the social security system, equal pay for men and women, and various other political issues.  It was never contenious and always friendly, and was both fun and informative at the same time.  We talked for almost three hours and we all really enjoyed it!



Dauphin Island on our first night.IMG_3137




The ferry ride across Mobile Bay.


Just like the one in Ship Bottom.







IMG_3151 The Gulf Of Mexico and the white sand beaches of the Redneck Riviera.


The last state border welcome sign.

IMG_3170IMG_3172 IMG_3171 Tim and I rode from Pensacola to Crestview.

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The Three Stooges back together riding from Crestview to Marianna.

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Our last day riding from Paltka to St. Augustine.

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We are getting closer as we cross over I-95.IMG_3327



Friday was the last day of the last leg of the brothers cross-country ride. Because we only had a little under 50 miles to ride, we left at 8:30 instead do 8am, and the extra time in the morning was really nice. Big thunderstorms had rolled through overnight, but the roads were totally dry by morning and we headed out of Palatka and over the surprisingly wide St John River into East Palatka with just a headwind to worry about. We had a few miles of 4-lane road to contend with, but it wasn’t too bad and traffic was pretty light. We made a left turn in East Palatka and started following the ACA route but quickly hit a bike path heading in the generally right direction and followed that instead! I love the isolation a bike path can provide, and this one went for mile after mile right through woods, swamps and farmfields with hardly any roads or houses around. Just awesome, and we again could ride side-by-side and chat.

The bike path ended just off the ACA route which we quickly rejoined for the rest of the way into St. Augustine. The route took us alongside the river, which reminded me of the back way into Ocean City from Mays Landing with its nice river houses which all must have beautiful sunsets and private docks perfect for a cup of morning coffee or evening glass of wine. Due west of St. Augustine we made one final turn east for a straight 15mi run into the city through more potato and cabbage fields before hitting some logging areas and the outlying residential areas as we crossed I95 and the US1. Kind of funny to cross these roads so far from home!

The City of St. Augustine is unbelievable with its historic streets, buildings and squares, a 16th century fort built of coquilla (a cement-like rock consisting of tiny pieces of shells), and a beautiful waterfront marina with a sea wall promenade along the picturesque harbor that separates the dirt from the barrier Amelia Island. We crossed the Bridge of Lions over to Amelia Island so the brothers could dip their tires into the Atlantic, and they were able to do so on a picturesque white-sand beach in the state park. A very fitting end to an amazing accomplishment.

We rode back into St. Augustine where we packed up our bikes in the Hilton parking lot overlooking the marina while we waited for our rooms to be ready. My dad and I ran our bikes over to a FedEx drop off and then returned to get cleaned up and meet up with my father-in-law who happened to be in town. We did a bit of sightseeing, had a wonderful dinner in old town, and then retired to the hotel bar for way too many drinks and raucous conversation on a wide ranging set of topics prompted mainly by the election coverage on the tv in the background. A fun night, and a pretty late one with most heading to bed around 10pm.

I went for a fantastic run this morning around town, and am on the plane now heading home. I’ll be interested to see where they go next because there is a strong sentiment that this tradition has taken hold of the Sullivans and will continue!

It rained last night and the clouds did not clear as forecast but nothing can dampen our enthusiasm for today’s ride. The ride started out a little tricky on a mainish road with a lot of traffic. After crossing a bridge over the St. John River (really wide) we stumbled on a bike trail that took us more or less in the right direction. Riding all abreast, we immediately started on baseball trivia. Name the starting lineup for the Phillies in the 1980 World Series-Game 1. Name the starting lineup for the 1964 Phillies. Name the starting pitchers on the 1964 Phillies and on and on. Yes this was definitely the trivia leg. It sure helped the miles pass by.

We had a headwind/crosswind most of the day but once again Matt did almost all the pulling. Thank God for young legs and thank God Steph shares him with us. We arrived in St. Augustine around noon. The approach from the west is a little rundown but the old part of town is spectacular. The narrow cobblestone streets remind me of Quebec City but a very different personality. Another neat place to come with Marcia and spend some time strolling the streets.

But I get ahead of myself. We headed straight to the beach at Anastacia State Park for the photo op of dipping our front tires in the Atlantic Ocean. I cannot describe the feeling of that moment. We did it. We survived without any mishaps. We thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. We all commented at some point how nice it would have been if Ted and Kevin made the ride. We are starting to talk about our next adventure ride. Maybe more family will be able to join us on future rides. Matt and I are planning to do a ride across PA from Erie to Media soon. Anyone interested?

I’ll post Final Thoughts when I get home. That’s all for now folks.

Tallahassee to Madison
Tuesday, March 1

The Home2 Suites breakfast bar offered the novelty of little wrapped sandwiches that could be microwaved and enjoyed. In normal life I eat a yogurt for breakfast, but when in Tallahassee I eat a sausage and cheese on English muffin in order to start the day with as many unneeded calories as possible. It was delicious, and it touched off a spate of Brad Pitt-style snacking that I’ve found impossible to curtail.


Today in hotel hallways


Tim has an angelic glow as he watches Brian and Matt affix a brake light to Brian’s bike


Matt has arrived to add a little color to the proceedings


Parting shot of the stylish Home2 Suites living room with unfortunate artwork

I made another Walmart stop before leaving town. The aisle with the big jugs of water was cleaned out, and I hesitated, trying to figure out which type of water to get, since the kind the guys usually get wasn’t there.

“Ma’am, look to your left,” a voice said. It came from youngish employee a few yards in front of me.

I have just now in sharing this realized I looked to my right in response. I thought he was telling me that there was a lot more water to the right, across from where I was looking. There was, but it was all in small bottles.

“No,” I said, “I’m looking for like, big…” I held my hands a foot apart to indicate big.

“No, there was a bird up there,” he said.

“A bird?” I looked to my right again, up at the high ceiling. I saw no bird, probably because it was to my left. “Crazy,” I said, even though I didn’t think it was crazy. You should see Port Authority, I thought, but I felt like I might have to explain too much. He started walking away but glanced back, I guess to see if I was going to say anything else. I felt bad for letting him down. He just wanted to share the bird moment with someone and I was too preoccupied to connect.


Today in pretty Floridian roadways

It was another good, though brief, drive. Florida, you’re so pleasant! Who knew! I timed my departure perfectly and arrived at the Best Western at exactly the same time as the bikers.

Our best lodging option in Madison was a Best Western. It could have been worse, but Best Westerns are my least favorite places to stay. They’re independently owned, so they’re very inconsistent — except when it comes to their pillows, which are of the dreaded puffy variety. Anyway, they usually feel stodgy and have weird furniture and outdated bathrooms. Madison’s Best Western was no different, though its warm paint colors tried to cover up its deficits.


Party time at the B.W.


Party aftermath

Dinner was at a decent Mexican place in Madison proper. I ordered an enchilada and a taco. I thought the taco would be soft shell but it wasn’t, and I accepted it with silent grace. The men all ordered dessert, but I abstained because my non-stop snacking from earlier had left me with no room.

We strolled around downtown Madison a bit after dinner. Small towns throughout America almost all seem to be in a transitional place; you can tell they used to be thriving, but at some point in the past thirty or forty years, things went downhill. Now many of them are slowly climbing back to viability, but they each need to redefine what viability means.


Best restaurant in town


Best courthouse in town


Snap to it

Hotel Art of the Day

05artWords That Mean Home
Mixed Media
Home2 Suites, Tallahassee

Hotel Art Score

1/10. This is an idiotic piece of crap and I completely hate it. The inclusion of the word “hospice” here feels especially thoughtless, though it might not have been intended that way. Juxtaposed against the “whimsical” paint treatment, though, it makes me think that the words were chosen almost randomly. The thing I loved about Home2 was that it was meeting a lot of needs I didn’t even know I was allowed to have as a traveler: it had a very effective blackout curtain, Kohler bathroom fixtures, a kitchen sink with dish soap, the aforementioned fridge and recycling bins. Everything felt carefully considered. I think this art is just a misstep; it’s got “groovy style,” with that wooden backboard and textured crackly paint, but it doesn’t have any humanity. I think I hate it so much because I’m afraid that stuff like this will proliferate in the culture until we’ve all forgotten what it feels like to have our hearts actually moved by a work of art. It’s a stand-in for real feelings, an avoidance of them.

Art Art Score

0/10. You heard me. I see that it’s signed but I don’t feel like trying to look it up.

I had my best night’s sleep at the Grady House B&B==10 hours. Even though I felt rested, my legs (and my butt) are feeling the effects of so many days of riding. If we were doing this coast to coast, a rest day would be in our immediate future.

A good (and uneventful) day of riding. We rode thru our third city in Florida–Gaineesville–home of the University of Florida Gators. We didn’t see any of the campus and not much of the city itself since we rode across the northern tier. The best part of the ride, and some said this leg, was a wide recently paved bike trail for about 12 miles. We were able to ride 4 abreast for the first time and continued our trivia games.

As I approach the final day, I want to thank my wonderful wife, Marcia, for all her support and encouragement to pursue this dream. I know it wasn’t easy for her to keep things going at home for the 6 plus weeks I was away these past four years. Please know I really appreciate it and I hope in some way I can reciprocate. Words just don’t measure my appreciation and love for you.

Another special thanks goes out to my assistant Debbie who keeps my office going while I am away. I have a tremendous confidence in her ability to know what will wait and what needs a little of my attention to keep things going until I return. Hopefully she got to take some time off while I was away. Not really looking forward to reengaging with the practice in a few short days.

Tomorrow’s the day. A short one, mileage wise, so we expect to arrive in St. Augustine by 1pm. Plan is to ride to the beach, carry our bikes across the sand (hopefully not as wide as Wildwood’s beaches) and dip the front tire in the Atlantic Ocean. Then we can celebrate!!!