The end of an era

It is surreal to be at the end of our journey through England, Wales, and Scotland as the UK and world mourn and pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.

Announcement of Queen Elizabeth II’s death came just 24 hours after we celebrated the end of our bike journey. The end of our trip in the highlands of Scotland is not far from Balmorel, in Aberdeen, Scotland, where the Queen finished her 70 year reign. Her grace, resilience and equanimity during her lifetime of leadership is truly extraordinary.

We finish this trip on a remarkable week: the Queen’s historic reign ending, King Charles III’s reign beginning, and new Prime Minister Liz Truss confirmed by the Queen just a few days ago. Long love the Queen …and long live the King.

Standing in John O’Groats, a tiny village at the tip of Scotland, looking across the pounding North Sea on a day when headwinds gusted to 25mph, we felt enormous humility and gratitude. So many wonderful people. So much rugged beauty. So much history.

We pedaled 1,100 miles, climbed 72,688 feet, and saw just as many sheep.

I guess the Scots have to do something with all that wool…
We are ready to trade in our bikes for ploughs so we can compete in October along the North Sea.
Aye (yes)! Haste Ye back!
Thank you for driving carefully.
But maybe next time we should consider calling?

This trip was full of laughter, massive amounts of calories, more ups than downs (literally), and friendship. But as with every story, there are at least two sides. Barb, Jo, Kathy, and Cindy may have something to say about that.

Haste ye back!

Route 66

On the second day of this journey in the south of England, I stopped for the umpteenth time and stared at the sign posts pointing down winding lanes to names of villages I didn’t recognize. The tiny lanes zigged and zagged between tall hedges. A woman, taking a break on her porch, cigarette in hand, called out in response to my “good morning and we are lost!: “Dear, this isn’t Route 66, you know!” and she was right. We haven’t had a straight road in about 1000 miles—until today! Our penultimate day, we pulled out of Lairg (a town about 50 miles from the north coast), pointed our bikes north on a single lane path, and besides pulling over for the occasional car, truck, and motorcycle and work crew, we enjoyed wide open vistas for nearly 45 miles and didn’t turn again until shortly before we reached our inn, located on the dunes of the North Sea.

Today we travelled through the Heath and bogs of the highlands, and besides sheep, saw very few others.
Some people need everything explained.
This is the same road that trucks pass on!
Happiness is…
Jo wondered if they sold chips in Betty Hill on the North Sea. Her prayers were answered.
Meanwhile, more important thing were happening in the UK. We haven’t met a single person who is happy about the result, or the lack of proportional representation.

One more day pedaling along the north coast to our final destination in John O’Groats. Happiness is seeing this part of the world (and straight roads).

When they go low, we go high. And low. And high. And low. And…

Loch Lomand, 24 miles long, separates the Scottish lowlands from the highlands.
Barb cycling along the Loch Lomond, known by the song “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond”, first published in 1841. “O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye”. We asked a local if this song is popular. “Oh yea! At every wedding, we gather in a circle and sing this as the bride and groom leave.” He also said that weddings are held on Saturday, “as you may know that the Scots like to drink a wee bit, and we need Sunday to recover, and we nearly recover by Monday. He happens to work at the Ben Nevis distillery, located in the shadow of its namesake mountain. But he assured us he doesn’t drink while on the job!
Swooping along the lochs with peep holes for views, ever changing with the light.
When we are not pushing against it, we are propelled by it! And we are cycling by water everyday. Water and wind are a major source of alternative energy in scotland. We stopped at a huge hydro electric plant in Cruachan. Scotland has enough wind power to cover all its residential electricity needs in half the year! Most of it is from onshore wind. Yes, we know all
about onshore wind. Crossing a bridge between lochs yesterday we could barely stay upright.
The wind whipped up whitecaps.
To celebrate after her successful bridge crossing, Cindy found a use for the wee bottle of Scotch that Buddy and Bully gave her in Glasgow.
This stone is part of a poem created inside a lovely stone wall by a group of school children. They obviously were not allowed to write “scotch soothes,” something Cindy might have suggested.
Windy days do pose hazards for others, too.

Cycling through Scotland is to be surrounded by shades of green and alternating blue, gray, and violet sky. From the lakes (lochs), we biked up into the mountains to a pass with the lovely name, “Rest and be thankful.” We were especially thankful that the highway maintenance crew held traffic so we could safely ride up the pass on the single lane without cars whizzing past.

Cars cueing for the single-lane passage. When bike paths ended, we had no option but to cycle north through the lochs on the A82 with no shoulder. A scary endeavor. We sandwich Cindy’s trike among our bikes for safety and had all our lights flashing. If we could swim the lochs, we would.
From “Rest and be thankful” pass. Ahh.
Heading the wise advice to “rest and be thankful.”
Today I had a glimpse of the highland mountain, Ben Nevis, mostly hidden by the rain clouds.
Our rainy start today in Fort William was fueled by my first taste of black pudding and Haggis and tatties (potato pancakes) plus salmon, tomatoes, eggs, yogurt, fruit….
Guisachan Guesthouse‘s breakfast was made by the amazing Carmen and Phill, the kindest B&B owners in Scotland.
Taking the train up into the highlands seemed very appealing in the rainy weather after consuming a huge breakfast. I stood at a bridge with two blokes, rain dripping off our hoods, all of us keen on watching the train rush by. Then we tightened our rain hoods and waved a cheerio and headed up into the highlands on foot and bike.
The Scottish isles call.

A surprise sunny day in Glasgow earlier this week where a friendly Scotsman took our photo on one of many eclectic bridges crossing the River Clyde. We miss Kathy who is on the mend after an unpleasant fall injured her ribs. As she would likely point out, it also resulted in an early release from the hills of Scotland. She is healing, but of course, not resting, as she is preparing for another bike trip in Nova Scotia taking the high road again! Thank you Michele Obama (was she thinking about The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond?).

Food, glorious food!*

We entered Scotland on Monday night looking for a proper pub with music. No luck. Music is on Thursday’s in the “wee bonnie tooon” (town) of Moffat. We though we would settle for a green salad after our bread- and chocolate-fueled days. We ordered prawn salads. Here is the recipe: Scoop a “wee bit” of mayo- say two cups per serving -and add a generous fistful of tiny prawns. Coat until you cannot find the prawns. Mound on top of a few pieces of lettuce and decorate with two beet slices. Then take a “wee bit” of mayo – at least two more cups – and stir in some shredded cabbage. If you can see anything that resembles shredded cabbage, add more mayo. Mound onto the “salad” ensuring you leave a tiny green center. Raise your glass of local beer or hard cider with a hearty wish of Ith gu leòir! (Scottish Gaelic for bon appetit!)

Jo and Barb enjoying our Scottish pub dinner. Note that Jo chose half a pig instead of the Mayo special.
Wee is the most used adjective in Scotland. We had a wee climb fueled by our wee bit of mayo. We were greeted by a sign just a wee thirty miles into Scotland!
We are certainly not going hungry.
Jo and I picked up venison and vegetable flaky pies for lunch at the Village Grocers.
The nice ladies at the Village Grocers sent us off with a tray of apple crumble and chocolate cake. How could we say no? (Note to those worries about our cholesterol: do you see that bag of spinach? Our dessert chaser.)

At our Scottish breakfast this week, we asked Kiernan, our teenage waiter to explain an item on the menu new to us. We asked, “What are oat cakes?” Kiernan replied, well… oatcakes are… well…oatcakes.” Cindy queried, “So, are they pancakes”…”No. They are not pancakes.” “So, are they good?” (Conversation was flagging at this point…) Kiernan conceded, “They are not particularly popular.” I ordered them. They were two round discs with the consistency – and taste – of a cardboard bike box. I will not order these again!

We have learned to skip the “full English / full Scottish breakfast.” None of us is keen on haggis (sheep liver, heart, and lungs, stuffed into a sheep stomach), or black pudding (made with animal blood). Here is Cindy at a very posh breakfast in England). Although she is certainly capable, she did not eat all this food. We helped her.
We like to stop at churches. We especially like to stop at churches with bake sales. At the All Hallows’ Church in Mitton, England, we bought a lemon cake, apricot bars, chocolate-ginger-orange florentine cookies, shortbread they call “melties,” sugar cookies, and scones. I better stop there.
The church likely raised half their annual budget by the time we rolled away at 9:30am. The kindly minister, Rev Canon Brian McConkey, told us that there are only 30 parishioners remaining in that great big church. Once people get wind of the bake (and garden) sale, I forecast an increase in membership.
My mother asked me what we pack in our panniers. Cheese. Blocks of cheddar cheese. Lots of cheese. Every day we make piles of sandwiches. Not only do the bake-sale ladies love us, but the cows do, too. We have graduated from mellow cheddar to mature:)
What else goes in our panniers?
Chocolate, Blocks of Cadbury chocolate. Lots of chocolate. In the front handlebar pannier, for easy access, of course.
These lads and lasses descended on their local deli as they poured out of school.
(I suspect they might prefer being called something – anything– besides lads and lasses.)
Some comes in funny bags.
Given the number of crisps (potato chips) we have consumed, I suspect Tyrells will reach out soon to inquire about putting our charming smiles on their bags. Time for a Boomer brand update?
Our happy group with fish and chips (not to be confused with the chips above).
And did I mention bakeries? This one in Strathaven, Scotland, has been owned and run for six generations
by the Taylor family: 200 years makes it Scotland’s oldest bakery. We did our part to keep them going at least another generation!

Cindy stopped to ask these blokes (Buddy and Billy) for directions. She came back with a wee bottle of Glenlevit scotch. They obviously thought she needed a lot more than directions to finish this trip.

Food, glorious food (and drink)! Definitely not gruel.

* Thanks to Lionel Bart, British creator and composer of Oliver!

Mate/Bloke/Chap and Lass

In the busy market town of Bigger, Scotland, (this means there is more than a church, pub, and village store), between the green hills of Bloughton and the green hills of Thankerton, we met a group of mates/blokes/chaps getting ready for an afternoon bike ride. They were chatty and friendly and I asked them the question I have asked several mates/blokes/chaps who interchangeably refer to each other with these jaunty nouns. How do you refer to people who are not men? One immediately said, “My wife is a lady.” Not suggesting otherwise, I pushed on. One bloke, after a thoughtful pause said, well you could say “lass” and another, looking at Jo and me said, “well if you stretch it a bit…” I took that as a compliment.

Our new BFFs…
actually BMCs (Blokes/Mates/Chaps) from Biggar, Scotland.
Merian Webster provides an example of how to use Lass in a sentence, “She’s only a gawky lass now, but she’ll be a beautiful woman someday.”
Maybe if Jo and I wipe the bike grease off our legs we could qualify as a lass!

Actually, I think we will stick with the gender-neutral term “cyclist!”

We came upon a statue in the tongue-twister town of Ecclefecham heralding their local claim to fame, Thomas Carlyle. The description of his life does not even once refer to him as a bloke, mate, or chap. He was a CRITIC OF LETTERS.

Although Thomas Carlyle kicked around quite a bit in his career —he thought about being a minister and a lawyer – and ultimately was an “essayist, satirist, historian, teacher, and critic of letters…,” he had purpose. He wrote, “A person with a clear purpose will make progress even on the roughest road. A person with no purpose will make no progress, even on the smoothest road.”

Smooth roads are definitely overrated.

When not stopping to fix tires (tyres), or meet the locals, we are riding. And riding. And riding. Past sheep and more sheep, and cows and more cows, and green and more green. Scotland is spectacular.

I am ‘thankerton’ to be on this trip meeting BMCs with my fellow lasses (AKA cyclists)!

Wordsworth country

The “romantic poets” were inspired by the lush landscape of Westmoreland, Yorkshire, Cumbria and surrounding counties. The last several days’ green hillsides (emphasis on hills) seem exactly as Wordsworth would have viewed them- just not from a bike!

We have pedaled past the half way point – closing in on 600 miles. Today was a treat putting our “big” hill of the day behind us first thing in the morning. Coming down a steep pitch on a single track lane with a farmer driving up, is an experience.
Cycling through the Forest of Bowland was a spectacular ride. Where are the trees? Used as royal hunting grounds for centuries, the Forest of Bowland is primarily covered in undulating blankets of heather and peat across hills and dales.
Beyond Ingleton we cycled through the Yorkshire Dales before descending into the tiny village of Dent. ,
Jo in Dent, a lovely town that reminded me of a Swiss Village tucked in the Dee River valley.
We watched a farmer and his son herd sheep in the Yorkshire Dales.

Just as we were about to hop on our bikes after our castle exploration, this Tractor Parade emerged from a side road with nearly 200 tractors of every size shape and color imaginable. We were very glad not have been in front of them!

Weather forecasting stone. It works!

We are not far from Liverpool and the Beatles’ heartland. The Beatles (John Lennon) wrote Rain “about people who are always moaning about the weather all the time.” I like rain. The actual thing. And I also like the Beatles song. Each morning, when we poke our heads out of our B&B, the light mist and puddles that greet us seems perfectly lovely for a ride in the UK.

The castle (and all castles in these parts!) is surrounded by grazing animals completely unfazed by Hopton Castle’s (and presumably all castles’) medieval history and bloody English Civil War.

Castles and pubs. We have seen our fair share of both!

If you peer at this photo, you will see the name: The New Inn. We met this fellow in front of a the New Inn about to embark on a drizzly hike along the Welsh border along King Offa’s Dyke, built to protect the English from “the marauding Welsh” as he called them. I asked why it was called the new inn, since he had just told me it was likely built in the 1400s. He said, well, of course, there are older inns!! It also holds a pub. If it hadn’t been before noon, Jo and I would have liked to buy Kevin a brew and keep listening to his stories. He has centuries of them!

Rain is always followed by sun— even in the UK! Today we hollered the Beatles’ Here comes the Sun!

It was perfect weather for a lunchtime picnic before another climb!
And our first farm-fresh ice cream!
Even the cows perked up!
These cows came right up to me to check out my cheddar cheese sandwich. Maybe it came from a friend of theirs?
Now for the signs…
It seems to me whatever your age, young or old, or in-between, and whatever you are, human, sheep, cow, horse, duck, or anything else, a simple sign that says DRIVE SLOWLY would say it best. Aargh! When I saw this I nearly ran over Cindy on her trike!
Thank goodness, this sign doesn’t specify “elderly duck”.
And we are still searching for the right turn!

Keep Calm and Carry On

When I imagined this trip with its “civilised” mileage averaging just over 50 miles/day, I thought we would have heaps of time to stop at cute little cafes, enjoy cream teas (tea+scones+jam+thickly spread buttery cream) and roll into our quaint B&Bs in mid-afternoon with time to stroll through the village. Not on your life. So far we are averaging less than 10 miles per hour, with as much time standing with our bikes leaning on farm gates, wondering if we go left or right at the horse, sheep, or cow. The good news of this slow pace, is that it is easy to soak in the landscape.

Turn right at the sheep with the green markings; left at the blue!

Each morning, we leave right after our English breakfast (or bowls of yogurt after one too many fat sausage, thick slab of bacon, pile of baked beans, fried toast, tomato, and egg). We determine which way is north, and begin to hunt and peck our way, cycling on lanes that most often are the width of a small car that doesn’t mind scratch marks.

Too much of a good thing, Kathy?!
Heading to Cheddar from Stamford Peverell.
Who knew right after this bucolic scene we would need to cross a train track with a train barreling toward us!
This little fellow must have fallen out of one of the hedges!
What a lovely tradition. Every home has a name… usually something like Rose Cottage, Highview Farm, or Ivy Manor.
This house can’t decide!
Reminds me of a friendly argument I overheard yesterday in the grocery store in Wales between eight-year old identical twin boys. The first, “Mummy, are we Welsh? The other, “Mummy, are we British?” Mummy, “Youare Welsh AND British.” She didn’t mention that others have asked before and lost their heads over it! So yes, it is possible to be Welsh and British and to be a manor, a farm, and a cottage!

We feel victorious when we arrive at our evening accommodation in 10 hours. Some inns are lovely, while others offer local color like the one in Wales literally located across from “booze corner” (Welsh for pub)?!

As advertised!
Onward to England and the tiny Tudor village of Weobly where we are staying in this 450 year-old house.
Our lovely B&B host, Sian, with an equally lovely Welsh name, (pronounced Shawn) introduced me to her favorite breakfast sauce, packaged in honor of my heroine, Her Majesty, for the Jubilee!
The nearby St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church recently celebrated its 900-year anniversary!
A one-of -a-kind building, with the end frame cut from one huge split tree.
A different one-of-a-kind reminder that the sun will always shine.

So why are we doing this ride called the LEJOG (Land’s End to John O’Groats)?

My friends and I were charmed by our southern friend, Cindy, who rides a trike with a jaunty flag and says y’all even in England. She proposed this trip to our group. The five of us from five different US states met on our cross-country bike trip in 2014. This time we are riding 1,100 from the bottom to the top of the UK over 22 days (with two rest days), carrying our gear, attempting to follow a route through small Villages, and staying in Bed & Breakfasts.

We are better in our second act, not taking ourselves too seriously. But when we all said, YES, we certainly didn’t know that Cornwall and Devon are England’s Rocky Mountains!

Cindy rolling…
Jo and Kathy on the A30.

Cindy said that the LEJOG ride is famous. The four of us (and likely most everyone reading this) have never heard of this route, first walked by some blokes in the late 1800s. Since then, all sorts of people (Brits mostly) have done it, some naked! Given the temps, we don’t expect to become the next Calendar Girls (originally Yorkshire women who made a name for themselves as feisty philanthropists by delicately positioning flowers over their bodies, in a page-turning calendar that raised LOTS of money for a local cause).

Our gear would be a whole lot lighter if we went this route.

One local woman upon hearing that Cindy was our impetus for this particular ride said, “Let’s hope she doesn’t get a hankering to swim the English Channel!”

My colleague, Joe Coughlin, director of the MITAgeLab, recently published an article in Forbes magazine highlighting research that demonstrates that socialization is good for one’s health— and that women have perfected this healthy behavior.

So here we are eating Nutella sandwiches, laughing, and hoping that we will still be laughing after 22 days when we arrive in northern Scotland.

Always on the lookout for signs that make me smile, I wasn’t disappointed on today’s ride from Tiverton to Cheddar. After climbing ANOTHER mountain (17 % grade) we swooped down into farm country.

By the looks of this curled up kitten, these cats are NOT sleeping over raucous pubs noisy until midnight like two of our Bed & Breakfasts this week!
How much is it fresh?

12,000 feet of elevation? Yikes!

Land’s End, England to John O’Groats, Scotland

Last night our group of five tired riders stayed in a renovated Benedictine Abbey in Tavistock, Cornwall, built in the 10th century. Needless to say, with its thick stone walls, there was no internet and no posting! Not that it mattered as we arrived so late and exhausted from a terrifically hard day of riding: 60 miles and 6,000 feet of climbing in intermittent heavy rain with some grades of 13-15 percent!

Cindy on one of the many cart paths on our rainy ride.
Uh oh! Does anyone know if there is a bike mechanic in the next town? Success! We found Martin-the-Mechanic who didn’t have much business on a rainy day. He adjusted Kathy’s drive train in no time at all with a smile and a wave.

Today’s 60 mile ride offered an identical elevation gain of 6,000 feet. This is a habit we would like to break — soon! Today, in addition to the ubiquitous sawtooth hills with steep vertical climbs and drops, we started the day with a marvelous 6 mile hill in Dartmoor National Park. Just up, up, up at a steady grade amidst extraordinary flora and fauna.

We left Cornwall for Devon and entered the incredible Dartmoor National Park, with its lovely purple-hued moors.
Skittish sheep, wild ponies, and grazing cattle were all curious as we road by.
Thoughout the moors are reminders of ancient Celtic history with solitary stone crosses dotting the gorgeous landscape.

The sun came out and I had a lovely chat with the proprietor of a shop in Postbridge as we left the Dartmoor National Park. He told me stories of mysterious Bronze Age rock circles. And sold me postcards (!) and flapjacks, a locally- made fruit and oat bar that Barb introduced us to. Along with the blackberries growing along every hedge, we are eating everything in site. Of course, until the giant hedge cutter comes along!

Some of the hedges are like The Green Monster at Fenway Park!

It is quite an experience making our way down cart-paths, with wooden sign-posts seemingly pointing to everywhere but the places we are headed. Suffice it to say that we have gotten lost.

This is one road I am NOT ready to turn down!

It’s a long way down!

Land’s End, England to John O’Groats, Scotland

At the start of a long coast to coast ride, the ritual is to dip our bicycle wheels into the ocean signaling the start and end of our ride. Not on your life in Land’s End!

The Celtic Sea is beautiful, but treacherous.
It’s not hard to imagine why this coast off of Land’s End has been the site of so many ship wrecks over 100s of years.

We settled for a morning photo on the cliff at the iconic sign marking the beginning of our journey.

Our first official day started misty and windy as we left Land’s End and headed along the western coast of Cornwall. Even when the fog caused our visibility to shrink and the sea to melt away, locals we passed, emerging like apparitions as we slowly cycles down narrow lanes (barely wide enough for one car and our bikes), greeted us, “Good day, mate! Lovely day!”

45 miles down, and 1055 miles and lots more elevation to go! Our route is longer than the direct route to ensure that we avoid the motorways and maximize those narrow lanes and opportunities to get lost.
Tonight’s accommodations? The wind off the sea will dry our wet clothes nicely!

If you go to Land’s End, plan for rain (of course!)

Land’s End, England to John O’Groats, Scotland: laughing and pedaling with four friends

The train ended at Penzance which is where our bike trip began this morning, leaving from the Queen’s Hotel (!) on the A30 to that elusive southwesterly town of Land’s End. Riding on a narrow road past hedges and cows, signs pointing to spots for clotted cream tea in stone cottages, a light rain falling, mist coating our glasses: exactly as promised in any UK travel book!

Where’s Cindy? We arrived at the Land’s End Hotel ahead of Cindy still tangled in logistics.

I passed an entrepreneurial fellow, Mr.Matthew’s, who can surely build you a lovely made-to-order casket. We hope we have no need for his services.

And I am already so hungry after our first short ride that this see food and eat it sign hit the mark!!

If Queen Elizabeth could do it…

Land’s End, England, to John O’ Groats, Scotland: laughing and pedaling with four friends

Queen Elizabeth was a mechanic during WWII. At 18 she joined the army and trained as a Jeep mechanic and was mighty good at it, too, according to my 98-year old friend, Charlotte who paid close attention to the feats of her contemporary. This is not a surprise to the Brits. Even the Brits waiting in line at Logan International Airport to return home, eyeing my bike box, agreed that if The Queen could work as a mechanic I most certainly could assemble my bike (something I sheepishly admitted I had never done before despite my years in the saddle).

After clearing customs and retrieving my bike box at Heathrow, I parked myself in a corner, and two plus hours later (thank you YouTube instruction videos and my practice session with Ed), I victoriously wheeled my assembled bike onto the train into London.

Once in the hot and bustling city, I tracked down a bike shop open on a Sunday and, for good measure, asked a bike mechanic to check the torque on the handlebar and pedals (not wanting them to fall off mid-ride) and got a thumbs up! First challenge overcome! Today’s intention: I resolve to channel Her Majesty on this journey through the UK, and when in a pickle, remember her indomitable spirit, resolve, and and savvy. If HM can do it, (and I know she could ride a bike 1,100 miles through England, Wales, and Scotland if she wanted to) then I can do it. And she might just do it wearing a jaunty hat under her bike helmet and carrying her corgi in a bike pannier, too.

Successful train ride (in the time of UK train strikes) from London to Penzance where our group of laughing friends is beginning to assemble to make our way to that elusive southern point and dip our bikes into the Celtic sea at Land’s End.

Jo, Barb, and Kathy in Penzance discussing the weather forecast…more to come!

Goin’ home


I saw these signs a couple of thousand miles ago and couldn’t imagine the end in St. Augustine, Florida.  Some days I wished we had found the green “easier” trail, but then we wouldn’t have had half the fun we had!

What a glorious day in St. Augustine for the ceremonial dip of the wheels and a celebratory swim in the Atlantic Ocean in delightful 74 degree waters.


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Smiles all around, and patience at the drawbridge when the celebration ended.




Bike packing. The definition of a (crazy) friend is one who will help decipher the directions to pack and unpack a bike box!  (Craig, Chuck, Francie – THANK YOU!)



It didn’t seem that long ago when we were camping at this ranch in Texas adjacent to a barn with a new-born calf and out-houses.




Home to funny signs lining my driveway.  How did those get there?!

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You never know where you’ll find wisdom!  I will miss those bakery bathrooms.  These capture the spirit…



America the Beautiful

This week we biked through Ray Charles’s home town of Greenville, Florida.  Ray Charles sang a resounding rendition of America the Beautiful, a perfect backdrop to this week’s route through diverse landscapes in the Florida panhandle.



Thankfully, Florida doesn’t permit cyclists on the interstate, so we enjoyed lovely back roads and river crossings, including the beloved Suwannee River.  Scenes from the panhandle…







The Spirit of the Suwannee campground, on the other hand, was less tranquil. We happened to land in the middle of a huge electronic music festival right next to our camp site with live and LOUD music through the night!  The crowd seemed straight out of Woodstock.

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After the rains of a week ago, the weather has been dry and HOT – with temperatures up into the 90s, calling for multiple ice cream stops, especially on our century ride yesterday.

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We were treated to the best-of-the-best shipped from Cincinnati to celebrate Lou’s birthday!



The cows (near the Suwannee camp site) and critters (at Wakulla Springs State Park) found other ways to cool off.


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We wondered about this guy’s business model as the temps climbed!




I jumped off the bike trail along Tallahassee’s outskirts and headed into the city for an “off-route field trip” to visit the beautiful old state Capitol building along with a trip up to the 22nd floor’s viewing platform of the “new” Capitol. Florida boasts that it has the third largest Capitol building in the country after  Austin, TX (with its gorgeous, classic building), and the nation’s Capitol.  In this case, big doesn’t always mean beautiful.  There was a great view over the University of Florida, the Turlington Education Center (named after my fellow cyclist’s father!) and 60 miles in all directions.

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The old Capitol was charming and inviting, even if its occupants were slow to embrace change.



Wandering on the side streets of Tallahasee in search of the bike path heading east, I found some great street art, including a nod to today’s girl power.




My favorite street art makes me think.  I first saw this in New Orleans.  It’s fun to imagine how to fill in the blank. Now that I’ve almost finished crossing the southern tier of the U.S., I can’t help but think that there are a lot more states, countries and continents to cover, a lot more time to spend with family and new and old friends, conversations to share, and questions to keep asking…