Elevation gained: 2,208ft/Miles: 78/Total Miles: 284
A hint to travelers: When staying at the Tallahassee Doubletree Inn adjacent to the Florida Capital Building, you be asked whether you want an interior or street view room. The correct answer is: “street view”. I chose the former assuming it would be quieter. I lugged my equipment up to my room, stripped off all my clothes except my Lycra biking shorts and then threw back the curtain anticipating a nice view. Instead, what I saw was this…with the addition of a very surprised family (husband, wife and two children) getting into their car right outside my room. I’m pretty certain the children will require many years of therapy as a result of this incident.
The sky was cloudy when I awoke, so I checked out of the hotel and went out for some breakfast and to wait for the weather to clear. Instead, it rained…and rained and rained. It took me almost 40 minutes to navigate the streets of Tallahassee before I was able to get clear of the city. This place is terrible for cyclists. By the time I arrived at Quincy, a town 20 miles away, I was exhausted from the weather and fighting with cars and trucks for lane space.
I stood soaking wet outside a small restaurant called “Miss Helen’s trying to decide whether I wanted to eat there. Just then a woman walked up and told me to come inside (with my bike) to get warm. She was “Miss Helen” who along with her husband owns the restaurant. They were both delightful and very supportive of cyclists. They also serve tasty sweet tea. I know I will be hooked on this beverage before I leave the south.
While I ate my lunch, I picked up a copy of USA Today. It contained an article discussing how Florida leads all states in pedestrian and bicycling fatalities. In their defense, Florida state government officials attributed this to the dramatic increase in Florida’s population, it’s older demographic, and a number of other factors. I started to get angry reading the article as it was clear that none of the quoted officials have ever ridden a bike in their state. If they had, they would know that the real problem is that Florida doesn’t incorporate bicycles into their city planning. None of the towns or cities I have been in this week has had more than 10 inches of usable shoulder and bike lanes are almost nonexistent. I rode through most of Tallahassee on the sidewalks thinking it to be safer, but the sidewalks aren’t much better. Most appear to have been installed during the Eisenhower administration. Another factor not cited in the article is that Florida appears to permit automobiles to have tinted windows. As a cyclist crossing in front of car, you always make eye contact to verify that the driver sees you. It’s impossible in this state because everyone’s windows are darkened. But, enough of this rant, I now return you to your normal programming.
It was 1pm when I finished my lunch and looked at the map. My choices were to (a) stay in a hotel in Quincy, (b) ride 50 miles to Marianna, the next town with a hotel or (c) camp somewhere along the route. I decided to ride toward Marianna and consider camping if I found a good site.
The rain by this time had dissipated. The bad news was that it was replaced by a cold front that dropped the temperature into the low 40s. And, nature threw in another nasty headwind to keep the misery factor high. Yesterday, I was comfortable riding at about 13 mph. Today, it was more like 8mph.
At times, the scenery was interesting. As I rode over a bridge, I looked down to see a large Blue Heron and a Great White Egret. They were startled and both flew only a few feet above my head. Along many portions of the route, a swamp would be adjacent to the roadway. These looked ethereal with the grey moss waiving in the wind and the leaves on the black pools in mosaics of interesting patterns. But, in the end, this ride was miserable. As I rode, I decided that it was too cold to camp and made the choice to get to Marianna. I slogged away and it was after dark until I saw the city. I rode the length of the city (5 miles) looking for a hotel, but the only one I found was attached to a bar – an unlikely place to get a quiet night’s sleep. I asked someone about other hotels and was told to go back to the beginning of the city and take a side road toward Hwy 10. I did and after another hour of saddle time found a place for the night, but it added 10 miles of riding in the dark and cold. My lesson learned is that until it gets warmer, I need to plan on hotels instead of camping. And, this means doing better research as to where they are located. That’s what I’ll be doing for the remainder of the evening….that, and trying to get warm.