Monday, April 29, 2013

Atlantic Coast of Florida

From Greenville Florida, we road east to Madison.   Madison is a charming little town and the county seat of Madison County, the poorest county in Florida.  In the town park is the Four Freedoms Statue based on the four freedoms described by FDR,  freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.   Leaving Madison County, we crossed the Swannee  River and rode through the rural countryside, far removed from the bustling coastal towns and cities further south.  Along the way we passed many very nice homes and many which were in a pathetic state of disrepair.  The contrast was startling.  There were also many abandon old houses and cabins such as the two shown below. 

Four Freedoms Monument, Madison Florida
Swanee River
Rural Northern Florida 
Abandoned Cabin East of Tallahassee
Abandoned Cabin East of Tallahassee
Rural Farm East of Tallahassee
Central Plaza in Gainesville Honoring Bo Diddley
We spent one night in White Springs and one night in High Springs, which is a popular scuba diving area.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore either.  In Gainesville we stayed in the Hampton Inn in downtown across the street from the central park.  We were surprised at the number of people at the open air farmers market who appeared to be stuck in a 1960s time warp.  It was reminiscent of Berkley in the 60s. 

Spanish Moss on Trees East of Gainesville
From Gainesville we rode through a number of swampy areas with lots of cypress trees and Spanish Moss.  Our hotel in Palatka was on the St. Johns River and we enjoyed relaxing on a deck overlooking the river.  From Palatka we rode to St. Augustine, arriving on the hottest day yet on the trip with the temperature approaching 90F.  Having completed the cross-country portion of the trip, we took some pictures in front of the city hall and had a great lunch at a Greek restaurant.  That evening we explored the city on foot, had a celebratory dinner at the Columbia Restaurant, and walked along the outside walls of Castillo de San Marcos.  The next day we took a sightseeing tram around the city and toured Castillo de San Marcos, Flagler University, and Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church.  Henry Flagler was a founder of Standard Oil with John D.
Arriving in St. Augustine
Rockefeller.   He was instrumental in extending the railroad to St. Augustine and building a luxurious hotel, now the site of Flagler College. 

Castillo de San Marcos at Dusk
Flagler College

High Seas and Strong Winds at Jacksonville Beach
Sunday we headed north along the coast past massive mansions overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  We had planned to spend one night in Jacksonville Beach but rain and 30 mph winds force us to stay a second night.  Tuesday our destination was Callahan FL, about 25 inland from Fernandina Beach.  We rode north through the beach communities, took the ferry at Mayport across the St. Johns River and headed inland.  In Yulee at the intersection with I 95 we decided to spend the night at a Best Western, rather than continue to Callahan to another no name hotel with no non-smoking rooms.  From Yulee we rode through Callahan, took ACA’s Okefenokee alternate route, entered Georgia, rode past St. George, and into the Okefenokee Wild Life Refuge visitors center, where we saw our first alligator.  We spent the night in Folkston and had a short 30 mile ride to Nahunta on Thursday.

Ferry Across the St. John's River

After enjoying the wide shoulders on most of the Florida roads, entering Georgia, where there are minimal or no shoulders, even on the roads with heavy truck traffic, was a bit of a shock.  So far, so good.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Deep South

Mobile Bay from Alabama Port
After riding out a day of heavy rain in St. Martin just north of Biloxi, the forecast improved the next day and we rode to Bayou La Batre, Alabama.   From Bayou La Batre we rode to Alabama Port and south across the Gordon Persons Bridge to Dauphin Island.  Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island on the western side of the entrance to Mobile Bay and Fort Morgan on the eastern side were important Confederate defensive positions during the blockade of Mobile Bay.  We rode to Fort Gaines about a mile east of the ferry departure point but did not have time to tour it before catching the next ferry across Mobile Bay.  From the ferry we had a great view of Fort Gaines. We also saw oil rigs inside and outside the entrance to Mobile Bay.   On the ferry we had an opportunity to talk with a number of locals and learn more about Mobile and surrounding area.  We exited the ferry at Mobile Point and toured Fort Morgan.  The fort had multiple lines of defense with overlapping fields of cannon fire.  In many respects it was very similar to one of the forts we toured in France a few years ago.  

Cannon at Fort Gaines
Oil Rig in Mobile Bay
Ferry Ride Across Mobile Bay
Hank Exiting Ferry

Hotel at Orange Beach
From Fort Morgan we rode along a sandy strip of land with beach houses build on pilings 15 feet tall to allow a storm surge to flow under them.  Our hotel in Orange Beach was on the beach and we enjoyed cooling our feet in the Gulf after a long days ride. 
Cooling Our Feet in the Gulf of Mexico

Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola
Our ride from Orange Beach to Pensacola was uneventful.  In Pensacola, we took a day off to tour the Naval Aviation Museum.  Carolyn had been looking forward to touring this museum since we initially planned our route and thoroughly enjoyed the day.  
Blue Angel's Sky Hawks

Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola

Florida Coast East of Pensacola
From Pensacola we rode along the coast before heading inland, riding a few miles north of Interstate 10 through rural countryside, part of which was swamps and much of which was managed timber forest land where the undergrowth is burned off each year.  We passed one area where the undergrowth was burning as we rode by.

Hank and Carolyn with Al and Heidi Parker
We arrived in Tallahassee at the home of our friends Al and Heidi Parker on Thursday.  After spending a restful off day at their home on Friday, they rode with us out of Tallahassee to Monticello where we had lunch.  

Ray Charles Statue in Greenville
We left the Parkers in Monticello and rode to Greenville, where we stayed in a cottage behind Grace Manor B&B.  Ray Charles was born in Greenville and there is a statue of him in the town park.   Sunday morning thunderstorms were forecast for most of the day so we decided to spend another night in Greenville.   

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cajun Country

Texas Longhorn
After riding across most of Texas, we finally took a decent photo of a Texas Longhorn. 

Rice Field with Crawfish Traps
We took Saturday off in Deridder, Louisiana and on Sunday we rode to Mamou, past numerous rice fields.   This being Sunday in the Bible Belt, we had our main meal at noon, fried chicken at a gas station/convenience store/restaurant.  While at the gas station I asked about the traps in the back of an old pickup truck.  The traps were for crawfish.  For the next two days we saw crawfish traps in many of the flooded rice fields.  Mamou is known as the center for Cajun Music but on Sunday everything was closed.  The next day our plan was to ride to Simmesport but strong head winds blowing unobstructed across the rice fields slowed us down so we spent the night outside Bunkie and rode to Simmesport the following day.  On the road we passed through Chicot State Park, where we first saw cypress trees growing in a small lake. 
Cypress Tress

White Hall Plantation House
The motel in Simmesport was less than pleasant and we were glad to leave, walking across a bridge with no shoulders over the Atchafalaya River.  Much of the land east of the Atchafalaya River is protected from the Mississippi River by a 15 foot levy.  East of the Atchafalaya River we passed the White Hall Plantation, built in 1849, one of several on the route to St. Francisville. 

St. Francis Episcopal Church
We also rode past St. Stephens Episcopal Church and Cemetery.  The church and cemetery were consecrated in 1859.  The church was constructed of hand made bricks.  The stained glass windows were made in England.  The Confederate Monument was erected and dedicated in 1904.   At lunchtime we spotted a sign pointing to the Old River Landing on the riverside of the levy.  The simple restaurant was built on floatation devices and anchored by poles 20 feet high at the edge of the “Old Mississippi River”.   During one of the frequent floods along the river, the course of the river moved a few miles eastward.  Most of the structures along this section of the river are either elevated permanently or on floatation devices.  After a simple lunch and a delightful conversation with some of the locals, we continued on through New Roads and across the new bridge over the Mississippi River.
Confederate Monument at St. Francis Cemetery 
Elevated Trailer Along Mississippi River

Restaurant on Floatation Devices Along Old Mississippi River
Crossing the Mississippi River at New Roads
The ferry across the Mississippi River closed after completion of the new bridge.  The old Adventure Cycling route, which used the ferry, now bypasses St. Francisville, but we chose to stay in St. Francisville and visit some of the sites.  

Myrtle's Plantation House
The following morning we visited the Myrtle's Plantation, the site of several murders and thought by some to be haunted.  

Central Hall of Myrtle's Plantation House
Oakley Plantation House
In the afternoon we visited the Oakley Plantation House where John James Audubon worked as a tutor and drew some of his bird sketches.  Although often thought of as a naturalist, he actually shot the birds and used wires to position the birds for his sketches.  The house itself was very interesting, clearly having been built with louvers along the south facing porch for maximum comfort during the hot, humid Louisiana summers.  After a short ride to Jackson, we stayed in the charming Old Centenary Inn and enjoyed a steak dinner at a local restaurant.  The following day we rode past the Clinton Courthouse, built in1840.
Clinton Courthouse
Confederate Monument at Clinton Courthouse
Louisiana Logging Truck
Much of the route through central Louisiana is on country roads through the forests, some native and others carefully planted for timber. The lumber and paper appear to be the main businesses in rural Louisiana and we saw many logging trucks on the road.  Most of the logging trucks gave us plenty of room when they passed us but the road shoulders were littered with branches and small logs that had fallen from the truck. 

Guest Cottage in Poplarville
Our plan was to take Easter Sunday off in Bogalusa.  Unfortunately the motel and the area in general were less than pleasant, so we crossed into Mississippi and rode to Poplarville just ahead of a violent thunder, hale and lightning storm.  We stayed in a guest cottage behind a residence and were even invited by the owner for wine that evening.  We took the following day off and yesterday rode 70 miles to St. Martin, just above Biloxi.  Today it rained heavily in the morning so we stay at the motel, working on laundry, routes and the blog.  The forecast for tomorrow is improving so hopefully we can move on to Bayou La Batre in Alabama.