Another border crossing today! We woke up in Eufaula on Easter Sunday with a big day scheduled, but upsettingly no town where we would be able to get breakfast/coffee for at least 30 miles. We called the state park where we were and asked if they knew any local secrets to getting our caffeine fix and they responded “yes, we have an Easter brunch buffet in the lodge.” Already halfway out the park, we pulled a U-turn and went to work on that buffet.
When we finally finished eating and got on the road, the first 40 miles were tough – more big time rolling hills with long, steep uphills and downhills that were all too short. In these scenarios it’s actually pretty nice when we’re in the middle of the forest, like we were this day, because at least we can get in a groove and just push the hills out. So that’s what we did, and 40 miles later we cruised into Columbus, GA, which means we crossed the border!
We stopped for some energy boosting frozen yogurt
And I saw this sign, which seemed fitting
We really liked Columbus! It’s this cute town with a decent size and a small college, so it had some spring to its step especially when compared to other places we’d recently been. We actually considered stopping our day and just staying there – our frozen yogurt did a number on our motivation – but talked ourselves out of it and pressed on.
30 of the last 35 miles were lovely. Just lovely. The hills smoothed out some, we had a shoulder to ride on (inexplicably, the entire state of Alabama has rumble stripped each and every one of its shoulders, meaning we had to ride in the road with the cars, but upon crossing into Georgia we were sparred such moronic road planning), and we genuinely felt powered by our frozen yogurt! But oh MAN, we did not know that our campground for the night, in FDR State Park just outside of Pine Mountain, was at the top of a mountain. Holy smokes, the last 5 miles were brutal. We cranked our gearsets to the easiest possible wrung and just grinded those last few miles out. It was not fun and we were riding against dwindling sunlight, but we finally made it with about 20 minutes to spare.
We KNEW we should have stayed at Pam and Guy’s house in Andalusia when we woke up the morning of the 18th, both because of the smell of homemade biscuits but also because it was raining, and was scheduled to do so all day. But because we had plans to get to Atlanta, we reluctantly headed out. 2 hours and 25 miles later, in steady-to-hard rain that soaked through our clothes, stiff winds and 52 degree weather, we shivered our way into a Burger King in Elba, AL to get some warm beverages. We were planning to make it another 55 miles, to another warm showers host, but as we sat there chugging coffees and hot chocolates and growing significantly colder, we started to formulate other plans. Then, Madeleine went from cold to freezing and shivering so much that she nearly vibrated right off her BK bench, and we heard our mothers’ voices in our heads saying “you’re going to catch a cold! Or pneumonia!” So, unimpressively, we decided there was no way in hell we were going to bike 5 more hours in the freezing rain and checked into the local motel, and spent the day and evening with nothing to do in Elba, Alabama.
Some of those rolling hills
The next morning we had some moves to make to make up for the miles lost the day before, so up and out we went, happy to riding in the non-rain. We soon discovered that eastern Alabama has a hill country of its own! Who knew? Man, those rolling hills are no joke and made this day far harder than we expected. I think it was about 85 miles to Eufaula (we stayed in a state park just north of there), and it took us all day long with basically no breaks.
Mad stuffing a PB&J on the side of the road
But it sure was pretty
We finally made it to camp, ate some soup and got some serious sleep after the long day!
We are cutting North towards Atlanta, where we hope to arrive on Monday, so today we headed back into Alabama. But first we went out to breakfast with Jeb, a tradition of his so that he can swap biking stories with the cyclists he hosts in the Methodist Church. It’s fun to be able to sit down with other people who have done trips like this because they understand what it is to live on your bike in a way that is hard to describe to others. We enjoyed another one of our giant breakfasts at the cafe across the street with Jeb, and just before 9am we peddled out for another day of riding.
Before we turned to the North we had to go East for about 45 miles, and low and behold, we headed directly into yet another aggressive headwind. We assume that somehow karma will even itself out and the world will do something really nice for us one of these days, since we’re putting in so much time with these freaking headwinds. It was slow going, and it was 2pm of basically non-stop riding by the time we turned North.
We went through miles of pine forest in Florida and back into Alabama which was really beautiful, and we had a shoulder for about half the day but not the other. Going this way took us off our Adventure Cycling Associationmaps, so we are now in the land that’s not used to seeing cyclists all fully loaded up with their gear. At one gas station this very nice and toothless gentlemen came up to us and inquired what on earth we were doing, and when we told him, he said “Damn, y’all are gonna be in the book of World Records!” We hope he’s right.
Pam, one of our hosts for the evening, regaling us with stories from their cycling adventures
Our home for the evening is very homey, another Warm Showers set up with Pam and Guy W. in Andalusia, AL. It turned out to be a very long day of riding, 95 miles in total, and we were really tired when we rolled up to their house. Pam and Guy are bikers themselves, so they know exactly what we wanted: a beer, snacks, a shower and then a hot and delicious meal. They’re a great couple who love to laugh and share stories from the road, and they also have the world’s largest variety of chocolate sauces that we heaped on ice cream afterwards. We spent a really fun evening cracking up with these two, who provided the most comfortable home we could have asked for for the night. Big thanks to Pam and Guy!
Pam and Guy, shown here with the amazing breakfast spread the fixed for us in the morning including HOMEMADE BISCUITS.
Ah, what life would be like if we had the road to ourselves
The biggest concern for cyclists is always how on earth the cars on the road are going to deal with the fact that we exist. Is there a shoulder for us to ride in, or is it filled with rumble strips that makes it unridable? Or maybe there’s no shoulder at all. Are you an open back pick-up truck with crap flying out? Well that’s annoying to us because we could get hit by your crap. Are you drunk? Because not only is that stupid and illegal, but it makes us feel iffy about sharing the road with you. These are only some of the topics that we think about when considering another day of riding our bikes on roads occupied by cars. So here is a brief How-To Guide for How to Drive When Cyclists Are Around.
Rule #1: Give us some room. Whether you have one lane or two, it is definitely DEFINITELY worth the effort to swerve a little to your left so that you don’t come within inches of our elbows. Interestingly, 18-wheelers tend to be the best at this because they’re driven by professional drivers. Most, though not all, swerve all the way into the other lane so they don’t get all up in our business. How nice! On the other hand, nothing is more terrifying than feeling a car whiz by and brush the hairs on your forearms. Cars, do you realize that we are unprotected? Do you know how much it would hurt to get swiped by a car and flung through the air only to land on our uncushioned bodies? Clearly that hasn’t happened to us, but my impression is that it would hurt. A lot.
Rule #2: Don’t Honk. It’s startling and it scares the bejeezus out of us. Even if it’s meant as a supportive honk, it makes us jump out of our skin which is disruptive because we need to stay in our skin in order to continue riding our bikes. And if you’re honking because you want us to get out of your way, then consider Rule #1 and go away.
Rule #3: Don’t shout weird things at us. Particularly outlandish and unnecessary name calling and obscenities. Is our environmentally friendly and impressive physical exercise really that offensive to your gas guzzling way of life?
Rule #4: Don’t pull out into our lane and then just sit there. Mostly because it’s annoying and it makes is have to swerve into traffic which is dangerous and could easily be avoided if you would just stop at the actual stop sign.
Rule #5: Don’t drink and then drive your car. Doing this impairs your ability to drive between the lines and avoid hitting nice folks like us. It’s also illegal and stupid and although it doesn’t seem to be as rare as it should be, it’s still illegal and stupid.
All that being said, most drivers have been incredibly gracious and courteous to us and every other cyclists we’ve met, so thank you for that! Keep on following Rules #1-#5 and maybe one day we can all be friends.
There is one bakery that’s open early on Dauphin Island, and needless to say we found it this Wednesday morning. After some cinnamon rolls, muffins and coffee, we rode to the ferry on Dauphin Island to cross over the Mobile Bay. A half hour later we were on the East side of the bay and riding on towards Florida.
Enjoying the fact that we were moving without having to sit on our bikes
It was a pretty unremarkable day of riding. 58 miles, completely flat, much of it right on the coast. It was beautiful riding along the gulf, all the houses raised up because of frequent flooding. So we peddled from beach community to beach community to strip mall to strip mall. The highlight of the day was the video concept that Madeleine came up with for our Border Crossing video:
Click the photo for our best Border Crossing video yet – with sound.
We stayed at a Warm Showers that night in Pensacola, at a local Methodist Church. The Director of Communications and Worship Arts at this church is a guy named Jeb, who biked cross country on the Trans America Trail last fall, and upon returning to Pensacola convinced the Church to let him use it as a Warm Showers host. It was quite spectacular. The Church is enormous and has multiple buildings, so we had an entire building to ourselves (which while living in a tent is extra special).