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!

Today was a tale of two rides in a bunch of ways. Yesterday, we rode into High Springs from the north. There were opulent ranches and beautiful farms on a nice two lane rural road right up to the outskirts of town. After a wonderful breakfast at the B&B, we started riding east and left town. We immediately hit a four lane highway with a small shoulder polluted by gravel and debris. Traffic was whipping by, we were riding past ramshackle businesses and run down trailer homes, and traffic was heavy so the cars were rarely giving us more than a couple feet to spare. Not very enjoyable. Maybe 10 miles into the ride, we turned off the highway and started riding on beautiful country roads past amazing horse farms and cattle ranches.

As we came to our first stop right in between a couple of these ranches, I realized that this part of Florida is really the land of the haves and have-nots. The beginning part of the ride didn’t pass very many homes, if any, that you’d call middle class. It was either dirt poor or well to do, and often a very stark transition between the two. Very interesting.

It started out cold today (high 40s) but we ended the day sweating in the mid to high 70s and all went swimming in the hotel pool. We also had our first real headwind this leg , and it was mentally tough to push through. I was on the front for most of the day but really ran out of steam against the wind coming into Melrose. I really thought the last 30 miles were going to be miserable. We pulled into Subway for lunch, and I have to admit that I wasn’t excited about that at all. But I had a fantastic grilled melt sand which and felt totally rejuvenated. Maybe 10 miles later In Putnam we picked up a bike trail that ran for 15 miles and was the highlight of the trip for me. We rode the next hour side by side coming up with trivia questions and the miles flew by.

I got one last (I’m willing this to be true) flat tire on the trail but figured out the problem (shifted rim tape) and we’ve hopefully put the bad tire karma behind us. Tomorrow is a short jaunt into St. Augustine and it must be bittersweet for the brothers. I know that I’m incredibly proud of my dad, Mark and Brian for this unbelievable accomplishment and am flattered to have gotten to take part in these last two legs. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The Grady House B&B. Who would’ve guessed it’d have such a racy side!

Our first stop along the road in between two ranches.

My beloved bike path!

The rooms at the Best Western were definitely not as nice as the plush Home2Suites in Tallahassee, but the breakfast this morning was great! I was starving by the end of the day yesterday, so I filled up on eggs, biscuits, sausage and gravy this morning…plus a yogurt. I was stuffed but knew that we had a long day of 75mi plus to get through. The hotel was right on a frontage road that parralleled I-10, so our first 5 miles or so was along that nearly traffic-less road and we got to ride 2×2 which was a nice change.

One we got back to US90, we were again riding a busier road, but it had a descent shoulder. Mark was the first flat tire casualty (do you sense the foreshadowing?), but it was quickly repaired and we were riding again in no time. The scenery today was pretty bland and much more dry and dusty than yesterday, but we did have about 60 miles of tailwind which was awesome!

After a roadside lunch, Brian noticed a slow leak in his tire and we stopped several times the rest of the way to pump it back up. I was the last to flat and it happened with less than 10 miles to go. It was mysterious since it is a brand new tire and had no visible damage. I put in a new tube and made it to the B&B where it promptly went flat again. So, only my dad escaped the flat tire curse today. We chatted with the guy whose driveway we were sitting in as I fixed my tire, but I’m sure Brian will fill you in on that.

After checking in, we all did a bit of bike maintenance in the courtyard garden over beer and chips and then walked over to the bike shop in town to resupply. High Springs is a great little town that kind of seems to be just waking up from the 60s. Tonight we had dinner at a wonderful restaurant with outdoor seating and, Mark’s favorite, country music. Ok, MAYBE, not his favorite. But it’s mine, and the hot wings were hot, and the ribs were great. Happy happy happy. We were surrounded by tons of young families with little kids, all enjoying the night out. It’s hard not to wonder what life would be like raising kids in such a slower paced place.

Last piece of entertainment, but I’ll have to leave most of it to your imagination. The B&B where we’re staying has somewhat themed rooms. Beth assigned them with help from the owner. The proprietor described my dads as ‘testosterone challenged’ and mine as the ‘romance room.’ Perfect. He also took one look at me and asked Beth, “Who is the young guy?” My new BFF. The walls of my room are covered in interesting photos. Below is the ONLY one safe to share online, and it’s appropriately themed!

Our first rest stop. A train came by a short time after we left!

We found a nice park for our stop in Live Oak, and it had plenty of benches…but no bathroom. They’re not peeing, I promise.

The shade was welcome since today got pretty warm. Again, not peeing, I promise.

Yep. This is the safe one. Oh my.

Now I see why they have this as the pre-bedtime routine!

Nice to be back

Today was my first day of this final leg and boy am I glad that I made the trip. I’ve been looking forward to it for a few weeks since I finally decided that I’d be able to make it and booked my flights. But I’ll admit that I had some trepidation. I’ve been so busy with work and family that I hadn’t really trained at all. I rode my trainer a bunch of times and got outside for a couple of rides, but I haven’t ridden more than 30 miles at once all winter, so really I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up!

I arrived last night at about 8pm after a pleasant day of travel. My bike crate was already at the hotel since I’d shipped it ahead of time, so I put it together and turned in for the night. After a fitful night of sleep (I was inexplicably up every couple of hours) I was ready to start the day. We all ate breakfast together and then bid goodbye to Beth and rolled out from the hotel around 8am.

The ride out of Tallahassee was unremarkable except for the nice smooth pavement and bike lanes. I was, however, surprised by the rolling hills. There was nothing steep, but we faced rolling hills fir the first 30 miles until the road suddenly went completely flat in Monticello. I was quickly reminded how much more friendly everyone is once you get away from the northeast! Cars going past us crossed all the way into the other lanes to give us as much space as possible. The logging trucks doing so was especially nice! Cars going the other way often waved or smiled, as did people in their yards.

As usual, we stopped every 10-15 miles for a snack and so the brothers could make fun of each other. The breaks definitely help make the miles go by, and we finished our ride of a little over 60 miles right as Beth arrived at the hotel. After beers and snacks (and some phonetically challenged reading out loud…cough, cough…Dad), we all split up to rest for a couple of hours before heading out to dinner. Tomorrow is a longer day, so a good night of sleep would be really nice tonight! Here are some pics from today’s ride:


Leaving Tallahassee as the sun came up


The brothers


Swamps lined the road much of the way


Spanish moss


They’ve followed US90 since NM or TX, so kinda ironic to see this…

Chain lube

I don’t know if it was the fried catfish dinner or the lack of beer (Lucedale, where we stayed, is in a dry county – and yes, there was a lot of headscratching about how that happened and mental notes to make sure it never happens again), but the chainsaw failed to start last night and I slept like a baby since there was no snoring! Yippee!

The extra rest was great and came in handy today since it was the coldest start for me (27 degrees), and the first part of the ride was pretty hilly. My left knee has had enough riding for now, so the hills were no fun at all until the Advil kicked in. The cold was tough, but having sun instead of rain makes all the difference, and we had a great tailwind for good stretches of the ride today, making the 47 miles into Mobile glide by. We passed a lot of plant nurseries (tons of flowers and bushes coming to a Home Depot near you soon), a couple of sod farms, and a lot of open fields. Compared to yesterday’s ride which wound through a National Forest of beautiful long leaf pines, today’s scenery was comparatively boring but the ride was nice because we were entirely on back roads and only got chased but one dog (and even he gave up quickly without meeting Mark’s pedal). Just like yesterday where we rode across basically the entire state of Mississippi without a single stoplight, we had none again today until we hit the outskirts of Mobile.

We crossed a dam at the southern end of a big reservoir which had whitecaps from the whipping cold wind from the north and quickly rolled into the outer parts of Mobile where the speed of traffic picked up and the distance cars gave when passing dropped precipitously. Not at all unpleasant, but I would have liked to ride down along Mobile Bay instead which is the normal cycling route. We did ride past an impressive Univeristy of South Alabama campus (it looked brand new – and very sports oriented!) and then through some beautiful stately homes on Dauphin Street, the “Historical Row,” as we got to downtown and historic Mobile. It’s an interesting city with some really nice and revitalized blocks mixed in with tougher areas, and it seems like a city headed in the right direction to me. We rolled up to the Hampton Inn just before noon and were able to get an early check in which was great since we boxed up our bikes, showered and had a great lunch of burgers and beer.

Mark, dad and I drove to see how they could bike back out of Mobile to start the next leg and it became quickly obvious that there was no good option. It looks like they’ll want to start L6 at the foot of the ferry or just on the other side of the Bay to avoid a lot of headaches (hint, hint!). Dad and I hit the Free Mobile Museum next door to the hotel for a quick walk through and I wish we’d had more time. Oh well. We have obscenely early (6am) flights and I am dreading the 3am wake up tomorrow. But I can’t wait to see Steph and the kids in person. FaceTime has been nice, but hugs and kisses are way better!

It was 70 degrees when we went to bed last night, but we knew from the forecast that it was going to be in the mid-forties when we set off today. Nevertheless, opening that door this morning and feeling the freezing cold wind on my sunburn was still a shock. It had also started raining overnight and at times the rain was really coming down and was coupled with some very gusty winds.

After our short stint on the shoulder-less MS26 highway yesterday we knew that we needed to change the route the guys had planned to Lucedale (since that was what they were planning to ride the whole way!). We decided to instead follow the ACA bike route which would take us to Vancleaf about 30 miles south of our hotel for the night in Lucedale. Beth would then come get us and shuttle us up to the hotel.

We rolled out of the cabins at about 8am as usual in a steady drizzle that picked up as we rode the couple of miles into Poplarville for breakfast. We chatted with a bunch of local residents who all could not be more friendly or interested in the brothers crazy escapade as we watched the radar and waited for the heavy rain to pass. It has been really refreshing to me to see how friendly everyone here has been to us and to each other. Everything from the wait staff at Hardee’s make small talk with us and the other customers, the drivers who give us as much room as possible when passing after waiting for a safe place to do so, and the drivers heading the other way who inevitably wave and smile. It is nice to remember that life doesn’t have to be as harried as we make it I the northeast (and I’m as guilty of that as anyone).

While the people here are as friendly as can be, the dogs need to learn some tolerance. Mark gave one a swift pedal to the head today, but I’ll let him tell that story. In short, my head was on a swivel all day and we got chased several times. And I mean chased. Not run to the edge of the yard and bark. I mean dogs running down the road after us as we sprinted away. They seemed to mostly go for me and Mark and were tired out by the time dad and Brian rode past. You guys are welcome.

The cold today was tough since it dropped down to about 40 and seemed to just stay there right through the early afternoon. We had some light rain off and on in the morning but we eventually got to dry roads about 30 miles into the ride. There were a lot of rolling hills in the beginning but the road gradually flattened out, and it did finally warm up a little. But that was at about 55 miles in and we were all pretty chilled at that point. We were also then battling a very strong cross wind that literally had me leaning into it at times to stay on a straight line. We rolled into Vancleaf after 75 or so tough miles and hoppped in the van for the ride to the hotel. A hot shower may have never felt so good!

I have awesome pictures, but I’m catching flak for my editing/ technical issues so you’ll just have to use your imaginations. Yes, they really do look fine on my iPad…!

Pea soup

After a nice big dinner of gumbo and a shrimp po-boy, I still woke up hungry and knew that we had a long day ahead. So I dove into a gluttonous breakfast of eggs, biscuits with gravy, yogurt, and bacon at the hotel. I was stuffed, but ready to ride!

We rolled out of the hotel and into a thick thick fog. It made yesterday’s morning fog seem like nothing and it was a bit disconcerting actually because the visibility was so bad. The road was rolling hills and we made quick work of the early miles. By the first stop the fog had lightened considerably and by lunch it had burned off and the day had heated up. It eventually hit about 80 degrees and I got a bit sunburned.

Through Loiusiana we were on LA 10, and the road was full of logging trucks but had a nice wide shoulder of 7 or 8′ and the trucks often crossed into the opposite lane to give us an even wider bearth.  We crossed the Pearl River into Mississippi and the road turned into Route 26. Along with changing names, the new road also had no shoulder. None. Nada. Still full of logging trucks blowing past at 55mph, and now they were passing way to close for comfort! We decided to get off Route 26 ASAP, so we made the first possible turn and followed the suggested bike route the rest of the way. Taking the  back roads meant that we had to follow detailed directions and look for turn at certain  mileages, but it was really fun to see the backwoods and we saw only a handful of cars for the next 20 miles. We had a couple of dog encounters, but they were all pretty lazy and gave up the chase quickly.

We rolled into Poplarville after a 74 mile day and are enjoying a couple of beers on the porch of the great cabin where dad, Mark and I are staying tonight. All in all another great day, and the weather couldn’t have been better. Again the rain held off and we only got sprinkled on a few times. Tomorrow is going to be a different story…forecast says rain and a high of around 40. Wish us luck!


Round 1 of breakfast


The fog burns off as Brian and dad roll up on the nice wide shoulder


Rest stop as we hit Mississippi. The smiles mean we hadn’t noticed the disappearing shoulder.


Farm driveway on the back roads.


Not feeling so welcome…um, anyone see a shoulder?


The brothers


View from the porch


Our cabin for the night

Hello all, Matt here, long time reader, first time blogger. As you may have picked up from the other recent posts, I’m joining my dad, Mark and Brian for the second half of this leg. I flew into Baton Rouge last night after a day of airport delays, landed in intense fog, and was surprised to deplane into a brand new terminal (seriously, the fresh paint was literally still drying). It was close to 8pm and I still had to assemble my bike when we got back to the B&B, so I hustled down to baggage claim to see my bike case coming out third in line.  And it was intact.  Wow! Greatest airport experience ever.  And thanks TSA, I guess my distrust was totally misplaced – sorry…for now.  My dad picked me up and we drove back through the fog to the B&B.

Mark was still up, and my dad serenaded us with some of his famous reading out loud while I put my bike together in the living room of our small cottage. After that we set out our gear for today and turned in for the night. I was sharing a room with my dad and Mark had a room on the other side of the living room. After a few fitful hours of being serenaded by “chainsaw Tim’s” (yes, that’s his new nickname, feel free to use it) snoring, I gave up and slept on the couch. Oh well. Our 3 kids at home don’t let us sleep either, so it was par for the course. TRuth be told, he’s actually snoring right now napping in his bed!

After a quick breakfast, we met up with Beth and Brian, and headed out through the awesome trees draped in Spanish moss and out onto the highway. The first things that I noticed were the almost tropical smell in the air, and the amazing noise from the frogs.  They didn’t croak like the frogs we hear in our area, but almost chirp like birds – lots and lots of them at once. It was actually really cool! I was hoping to see a gator or snake but had to settle for the sound of frogs and beer cans instead. Brian wasn’t kidding when he said there were Bud Light cans everywhere. There was one every 100 yards in places and shockingly no any other brands were well represented. Mark and Brian counted the cans for a while but then decided to sing songs instead. Oh my. Music must not be in my genes, and that was confirmed when my dad’s decided that it was his turn to sing.  whatever it was that he launched into left nothing but quizzical looks on Mark and Brian’s faces.  They actually accused him of making it up.

Anyway, the riding today was great. The roads went through pretty varied terrain with the one constant being the watery ditches on either side the entire way. I don’t know if they are usually dry, but yesterday’s rain had filled them up and it spots we seemed to be riding on a causeway between streams. I’ve never been to this part of the country, so I enjoyed seeing the swamps (even without gators) and was impressed by the courtesy of the drivers (we’ll get to the exception to that later). I’m used to the east coast drivers in their constant rush and the number of drivers that waited for a safe area to pass and then went as far into the other lane as possible was refreshing!

We stopped about every ten miles for a snack, and only saw one set of historical markers, so we made good time through today’s 65 or 70 mile ride. At every stop my dad tried to convince us to take some dog-infested shortcut, but we soldiered on and weren’t legitimately chased a single time today. Only a couple of dogs showed any spunk and none of them actually came after us. Rain was a constant threat, but we only got drizzled on a couple of times. We had an annoying headwind for the last 7 or 8 miles, but the weather otherwise was very cooperative. In fact, just as we were checking in, it started pouring outside, so the luck of the Irish paid off in spades today! The only noteworthy exception to the courteous drivers was the numbskull that passed us and immediately turned right in front of me to get to Wal-Mart. Luckily, I saw her turn signal (it was right next to me as she started to turn) and put on my brakes in anticipation of her idiocy. Crisis averted!

here are a few pics from today:


The Spanish moss at the B & B.


I think my dad was letting go of some swamp gas here.



Louisiana scenery. Rolling hills. Ditch of water. Logging trucks. And three brothers having a great time together. Note the Share the Road with bicycles sign. And thanks Louisiana drivers for doing so!






Partial selfie!



The pouring rain that just missed us and will hopefully be gone by morning.