What you should expect from a long bicycle journey
Bicycle touring for a sustained period of time is a…
It’s been an interesting few days; Bike parts have broken. Tornadoes have been active. Mileage has been minimal. Momentum has halted.
Day 47: Fort Walton Beach to Gulf Breeze, FL (35 miles)
Boxing day morning. “Just whatever you do, make sure you don’t head West”. That’s what Sue, the motel receptionist said, as I left FWB after Christmas. Sorry Sue, west is the way to California. Unfortunately there had been reports of various tornados, thunderstorms and generally extreme weather in nearby areas.
However, the adverse conditions hit on Christmas day, and other than high winds and cold temperatures, boxing day was clear and bright, and there were no more active weather warnings.
It was the coldest day so far for sure, and into the headwind it was tough. Sometimes the roads are conducive to pleasant / not-too-stressful night riding conditions. Today was in contrast to that, and with a constant and strong headwind, night riding wasn’t on the agenda. A super short day of riding, to end up at Gulf Breeze, and a camp on the waterfront.
Day 48: Gulf Breeze, FL to Daphne, AL (56 miles)
Faffed about with the stove to cook up some breakfast on the deserted waterfront, only to find out the lighter was knackered. No cooking breakfast then.
The riding was pretty good. Quickly over the bridge from Gulf Breeze into Pensacola. And soon outside of Pensacola were the first proper hills. A decent bit of leg burn. Days like this are always stand-out days, simply because of state line crossings. There’s usually a massive sign, a lot of the times even a ‘Welcome to’ Visitor Centre. No such thing here. The state line was marked by a river, and it wasn’t obvious at all. And finally it wasn’t ‘straight generally-flat roads through the woods’.
Entering Alabama meant vast farmland and rivers. A visual change, finally. That’s a relief. And then magic hour. Alabama has topped it – the most awesome sky so far. Here’s a cheesy photo.
Pulling in to the suburbs of Daphne, now in the dark, I ended up taking a short cut on what started out as a quality clay path through the woods. Very Blair Witch. It soon turned out to be what can only be described as a downhill mountain biking trail. Gotta admit, it was a lot of fun to be off-road and to add a bit of spice to the riding. Maybe not sensible or wise, though. But fun, definitely.
After that ridiculous endeavour I camped in the least subtle place so far. Essentially on a lawn about 5 metres off the main road. It’s funny how systems work themselves out. If you pitch up late, it’s generally safe to say no-one will bother you until the morning, so if you can be packed up early, well then you’re sorted.
Day 49 & 50: Daphne, AL
Very dark clouds looming over Daphne whilst packing up the tent. And a puncture on the back wheel. Sometimes it’s easy to tell if a day on the road isn’t gonna go to plan, and this was one of those times.
I’d passed a bike shop the previous night, which was probably less than a mile away, so decided seeing as the wheel was punctured, I may as well take this opportunity to get the bottom bracket replaced as it’s been playing up and is on it’s last legs, and the rear tyre replaced as it’s now about as thin as an inner tube.
In the bike shop, it was all going so well. The staff were awesome and the shop was great. Unfortunately we noticed that the rim had a crack in it. S**T! On closer inspection, it wasn’t just one crack, it was loads. Literally covered in cracks. Now last nights off-road escapades lasted all of ten minutes, so I’m doubtful that’s the cause. Perhaps though. I think in all likelihood it’s the toll of nearly two months of heavy weight loaded over the rear wheel. In any case, there was a days delay before having access to a new rim.
Conveniently, mother nature decided to POUR down. Welcome to Alabama. So being forced out-of-action, and in close proximity to the cinema, it seemed appropriate to catch up on films. Just a hint if you’re ever planning on doing something similar and solo stealth camping most of the time: Don’t watch The Hobbit before finding a spot to camp. Gollum will put you on edge. Well done CGI.
So not the best of days, with not much progress made, and major bike problems, but these things happen. I’m way behind anticipated schedule, and the budget has taken a solid hit because of the fix, so fingers crossed the next few days go a little smoother. It’d be nice to boost the averages, make up some ground and generally get back into the swing of it.