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Monday, October 23
I had the best sleep I'd had for several nights, because I now realized
that I should easily be able to reach Miami by October 30, the day I was
scheduled to arrive at the home of my friend Gerry. From Perry it would
be an easy two-day ride to Ocala, where I would take a rest day and catch
up on reports. There then would remain only about 300 miles ("all down-
hill"---just look at the map) to my destination.
The motel offered free "continental breakfast", which in this case was
very good coffee and miniature donuts. But I proved that even small donuts
can be filling if you eat enough of them.
Also having breakfast were a couple of fellows from Panama City
(Florida) who were travelling on motorcycles. We had a long conversation
about the relative dangers of our modes of travel. My main worry is being
hit from the rear---theirs is having a car pull out in front of them. That
is also a danger to bicyclists, but at least my lower speed allows me a
chance to stop. We agreed that eye contact is the best guarantee that
we've been seen, and that tinted windows should be outlawed.
I have been getting many more questions from people who notice the
bike than I did in the earlier part of the trip. This may be because my beard
indicates that I'm not out for just the weekend. In the early part of the
trip when people would ask where I was going I would say Albuquerque, later
in the trip I'd say Beaumont, but now I say Miami. "Wow!" is the usual
response (because, unlike Albuquerque and Beaumont, people know
where Miami is). It's always funny to see their reaction to the inevitable
follow-up question "Where did you start?" Even funnier was the next
question asked by a girl who worked in a Hardee's: "Is Seattle in Florida?"
I headed southeast on Highway 27, a four-lane divided highway that
is the main non-interstate road down the middle of Florida. The road
couldn't make up its mind: sometimes it would have a shoulder and
sometimes it wouldn't. But the motorists were generally in a cooperative
mood and I had no close encounters. After a few miles I stopped for
breakfast, and by mid-afternoon I entered Cross City. While biking
through town on a reasonably wide road a policeman passed me and
waved me over. He asked me if I was aware of the bike trail about 20
feet to the left of the street. I said no, and he then said that I was
welcome to continue on the highway, but "that bike trail goes all the
way to Fanning Spring." Well, Fanning Sping was another 13 miles,
and I wasn't anxious to ride on a highway with no shoulder, so I thanked
him and said I'd try it out.
What a welcome change. The trail was smooth asphalt, about 12
feet wide, and I had it all to myself. It obviously was a rails-to-trails
conversion. One old bridge had a riding surface of planks held in
place by countersunk bolts. As I left town the trail departed from the
highway and I had a silent ride. I slowed down so the pleasure would
It began to rain lightly, about the time I noticed I had a slow leak in
my rear tire. I'd thought of camping that night, and had passed many
inviting places to pull off the trail, but the combination of rain and the
slow leak made me decide to look for shelter. Every mile or so I'd give
the tire about 50 strokes from my pump and it seemed to be getting
no worse, so I was pretty sure I could nurse it into Fanning Spring.
The trail ended by intersecting the main street of that town, and a
couple of blocks away was a motel. On approaching it I noticed the
sign that told me they had cable TV, phones, air conditioning, and that
it was AMERICAN OWNED.
On my previous cross-country ride I'd seen this proclamation several
times. At first I wondered if there was some foreign conglomerate (some-
thing like a hotel Starbucks) that was taking over and driving all the small
motels out of business, but I soon figured out just what the sign meant.
A large percentage of the lower-priced motels are owned by Indians (Asian)
or people whose origin is in that part of the world. Most of these seem
to be family-owned, and with everyone pitching in perhaps makes them
able to rent their rooms for less than their competition. I've not noticed
any correlation between the quality of the accomodations and the ethnic
origin of the owners, so as a matter of principle I will stay in a motel that
claims it is "AMERICAN OWNED" only as a last resort. That has never
happened, since on seeing the sign I immediately know that there is a
lower-priced motel somewhere nearby. So I went into the office, asked
about their rate for a single, and was told it was $34 plus tax. I then
asked which way I should go to get to a non-American owned motel.
She looked down her nose at me, but pointed down the street. I biked
away, and soon was settled in a very nice room (that had cable TV, a
phone, and air conditioning) for $30 after tax.
There was no grocery store anywhere near, but I picked up some milk
(both 2% and chocolate) at a convenience store. That, together with a
Hardee's spicy chicken sandwich I'd gotten earlier in the day, made a
very nice supper.
Day 51. Tuesday,
I fixed the flat before dawn (another truck wire) and headed for Ocala,
once again on Highway 27. With election day approaching, the roadsides
are decorated with hundreds of political posters. I stopped for
breakfast and later for a tanking up on iced tea, and crossed Interstate
75 four miles before reaching the center of Ocala. I knew there were
some "coupon-motels", and one in particular looked appealing (cheap),
but I made the mistake of not pulling out the booklet until I'd overshot the
freeway by about three miles. I then discovered that the place I was
looking for was back near the interstate, and I'd seen no other motels in
the meantime. So I'd done about six extra miles of useless biking by
the time I pulled in to the Economy Inn. I looked at the room and it was
very nice, with a refrigerator, a 32-inch TV with a great picture, and lots of
space. The price of $33 after tax was reasonable, so I booked it.
Now to find some orange juice. Unfortunately, the nearest grocery
store was two and a half miles away, but since I was going to be there
for two nights I had to get some groceries. So I pulled off all but one
pannier, emptied the remaining one, and biked on a very light bike to
a Winn Dixie, a big grocery chain in these parts. There I got some
snacks, many cans of different vegetables, milk and chocolate milk,
bananas, and two 16-oz frozen orange juices. It didn't all fit in the
pannier so I had to bike back to the motel with a couple of swinging
plastic bags. But when I got there I was happy knowing I could survive
for a couple of days without even going out of the room.
Since Ocala has free AOL access I immediately started organizing
pictures to send to Barry. On checking in, the desk clerk told me that
local phone calls were 25 cents each. I asked if it was 25 cents regardless
of the length of the call and she said yes. No problem, since once I get
on AOL I can stay connected until everything is done.
I enjoyed my orange juice, accompanied by cream cheese on wheat
thins. For supper I had a variety of vegetables, after immersing the cans
in hot water until they were warm enough to open. I worked on reports
and watched bits of the Discovery, History, and TLC channels. I slept
Wednesday, October 25
Even though it was a rest day, I still was unable to sleep past 4. So
I did the final editing of my report on days 45 through 47, and got ready
to send pictures to Barry. Around 8 I connected with AOL, managed to
send the pictures after only one disconnection, sent the report to topica,
and then downloaded my rec.bicycles.rides and rec.gambling.poker
newsgroup messages. This last task took about 40 minutes, since I
hadn't downloaded any since Pensacola. I was connected for over an
A few minutes later I wandered over to the office for some coffee.
The owner was there, and we had a brief pleasant conversation. He
asked if I had a computer, and when I said yes he pointed to a hand-
lettered sign on the desk that said "No computers are to be connected
to phone lines". I asked how long that sign had been there and he said
"about three weeks". I said, "It wasn't there when I checked in yesterday,
and furthermore, I talked with the desk clerk about the length of phone
calls and was told there was no limit." He said that they only had four
outside lines, and that some people tied up these lines too long. He
looked at some report, and then said "You had a call this morning that
lasted one hour and seventeen minutes." I said that sounded about
right, and that I was likely to have another call that would last about
forty-five minutes. "But", I suggested, "I see your problem, so I'll make
the call between midnight and four in the morning." He said that would
present no problem.
I wandered a few blocks to a Waffle House, a franchise establishment
common in the south, and had my first and last waffle from that chain.
That made me decide to confine my eating to my room for the rest of
the day. In between snacking I managed to finish another report, which
I would send once I was sure Barry had received the pictures.
Having caught up on reports I decided to watch some TV. At eight
o'clock I was channel surfing when up on the screen popped the face of
a poker player I know. I immediately stopped punching the remote, and
found that I was watching the Discovery Channel's coverage of this year's
World Series of Poker, filmed at Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas this
past May. The hour-long program was an excellent summary of the final-
table battle, showing all the key hands that led to the winner: Chris
Ferguson, a PhD in computer science.
Day 53. Thursday,
Although I'd gone to sleep around 10, my internal alarm woke me up
at 2, and I tried to connect to AOL. Dialing 9 to get an outside line got
me a busy signal. Surely not all four lines are busy at this hour. After
trying a few more times over the next twenty minutes with the same
result, I put on my clothes and went to the office. There the clerk
checked and found that I'd been cut off from more phone calls because
I'd "exceeded the one dollar deposit" I'd supposedly left at the desk. I
said I never left any deposit, and didn't have to, because they had run
my VISA when I checked in and would finalize my bill when I checked
out, and I wanted to be able to make a phone call NOW. I was polite,
but I suspected that I was being harassed by the owner, and I let the
clerk know that I was going to make phone calls or the rest of his shift
would be miserable. He punched some buttons, I went back to the
room, and successfully connected and sent my photos. But my
adrenalin was flowing too much for me to get back to sleep.
I packed up and left at dawn. I'd finished most of the groceries so it
was necessary to find a place for breakfast. As always, I prefer to bike
for about an hour first, and the 15 miles to the town of Belleview was about
right. I saw a non-franchise cafe that looked inviting, went in, took a seat
next to a window with the bike right outside, and had a wonderful breakfast
that included home fries and biscuits. At the next table were a couple of
retired truck drivers, and during our conversation I was asked what had
prompted me to choose that cafe. My reply: "How could I pass up a
restaurant with the name Donna's Diner?" The place was obviously well
liked by locals, since all the waitresses seemed to know all the customers'
names. By the time I left they knew mine as well, although they referred
to me as "honey".
As I moved south the highway had longer stretches with an adequate
shoulder, and that cake was frosted with a stiff tailwind. The miles were
passing quickly, and even though I only needed to average about 65 miles
per day to get to Miami by the 30th, I realized that a wind shift on a later
day could make me regret stopping too soon on a tailwind day. So I
kept going, stopping only to fill up on iced tea and to take an occasional
The weather was beautiful, with temperatures perfect for biking. I
wanted to camp at least one more night, and thought that this would be
the night until I got my usual late-in-the-day slow leak. In the town of
Haynes City there was a motel, so I again decided to fix the tire in the
comfort of a room. I'd already bought some orange juice and was willing
to stop after 88 miles,although I could tell that I was good for at least
The motel looked like an "upper 30's" establishment, so it didn't
surprise me when the clerk said the rooms were "$45 plus tax". I knew
he wouldn't be firm so I countered with an offer of "$36, bottom line". We
dickered a bit more and finally settled on $38.40, subject to my approval
of the room. It turned out to be one of the nicest I've seen on this trip
(except that it didn't have a refrigerator) so the deal was done.
There are several advantages to fixing a flat in a motel room as
compared to the side of the road. If the leak is very slow a sink is a
big help. It's nice to be able to sit on a chair rather than squat on the
ground. And, after fixing what you think is the only leak, the inflated
tube can be set aside for a few hours to see if it holds its shape. So
between cleaning chores and sipping orange juice it was three hours
before the bike was ready to ride the next morning.
A Subway sandwich shop right next door fixed me an excellent
"veggie delight". The weather channel said that the low-pressure area
off the east coast would stay through the weekend. The counter-clockwise
flow around this low would supply winds that would allow me to coast to
Miami. There was good sleeping that night.