Bicycling!

Some would think I’m not really a bicyclist.  Actually I’m a die-hard bicyclist.  I quit driving in 2000 after having a second Ford product blowing up and remembering that if I took one more severe whiplash I’d look like Christopher Reeve.  My neck injury in a 1982 automobile accident is the cause of this diagnosis which I’ve ignored till 2000.

So let me tell you my experience of touring.  First off, my tour from Michigan to Florida.  I’ll cover my trip as well as the equipment I used for that trip.  Then, in a separate article, I’ll cover my trip from South Carolina to Michigan and back.  Lastly, I’ll cover my current bike and hopes for a future and hopefully final bicycle build.  Without further ado, I’ll start with the first of my bicycling articles.

In 1998, I lost yet another job and was not seeing a possibility of working again soon.  With the final check from a subcontracting job (not computer related), I purchased a reasonable bicycle (from Sam’s Club).  It was better than most from Walmart or the likes anyway, though not as good as the bike I once owned in California in my final two years in the Navy.

The bicycle I purchased was a Motiv.  I forget the model.  It was a twenty one speed mountain type bicycle with Shimano Altus components.  It really wasn’t all that much.  It didn’t have a rack nor at the purchase time did I have a set of panniers.  Those were purchased afterward at a local bicycle shop in my hometown of Three Rivers, Michigan.

From that point, I had to plan what I would take.  Since I was going to be pretty much homeless, I had to prepare for the trip with a minimalistic living style.  Of course I had a small tent and sleeping bag, but beyond that I had to have the bare essentials in clothing.  This amounted to four t-shirts, two pair of shorts, two pair of jeans, socks, and shoes for clothing (it was in the beginning of June that I left for Florida).  I didn’t pack much more than that because I had no room.  I was only running a rear rack and panniers for it.

Why Florida for my first choice of destinations you ask?  Simple.  My uncle god bless his departed soul had offered me two years before to come down to Florida to get further education at a branch of Florida Technical College where he’d become the only non-relative Dean.  The college was nationally certified and the head of it use to be Ronald Reagan’s Department of Education Secretary.  To me, that made this school a good bet.

The day I left Three Rivers, Michigan was a partly cloudy day that turned into a mostly cloudy afternoon.   I made good time the first day cutting across the northwest corner of Indiana and into Illinois.  My intention was to go visit my cousins in Pontiac, Illinois for a day or two before going on with my journey.  I made it into Valparaiso, Indiana before the bottom came out and rain ruined the rest of the day’s ride.  That night I spent a rather soggy nasty night under a park picnic area roof with the tent on top of a picnic table.  It was a rather stressful night to say the least.  By morning the weather had abated and I was off on my second day of travel.

The second day fared better.  I was finally able to make it to Pontiac where I was able to catch one of my cousins around and asked to stay a bit before moving on.  That turned out to be almost a week.  It was a time of discovery, learning, and re-association between myself and one of my cousins.  I still cherish that time I spent there and always will.  It was also a time of true relaxation.

After day two, days get jumbled together quite a bit.  However, I do remember rolling around St. Louis and down through and into Rolla, Missouri in about three days time.  I went this way in hopes I might meet up with a lady I’d talked to online.  Alas, it wasn’t to be so I continued my trek from there back to Kentucky and southward.  I pretty much followed the Mississippi after returning to the east side of it.  Crossing the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau, Kentucky, I continued from there through Tennessee avoiding Memphis altogether.

It wasn’t even a week after leaving Pontiac, Illinois, that I made it to around Montgomery, Alabama.  This was via Kentucky, Tennessee, and the northeastern corner of Mississippi.  I vaguely remember staying in St. Louis and Montgomery for two days each to do laundry as well as rest.  From Montgomery, I went through Dothan, Alabama via the southwestern corner of Georgia and into the Florida panhandle at Monticello, Florida.

From Monticello, Florida, I turned south and east ending my trip in Winter Haven, Florida where I visited my grandmother on my mother’s side for a week before my uncle picked me up and got me started at Florida Technical College.  I actually ended up in Jacksonville, Florida where I attended that college branch where my uncle was Dean of for a short time before going back south to open yet another branch.  I traveled from Winter Haven to Jacksonville via my uncle’s car so that doesn’t count as part of my tour.  In all, I spent thirty days on the road.  Of that, I spent twenty-one days riding.  I figured it out to be a shade over two thousand miles one way.  Average mileage per day ended up being around a century a day with on long day being over a century and a half.  Not bad for at the time a thirty-eight year old man.

Next up, my trip from Columbia, South Carolina to Centreville, Michigan.  Different bicycle and equipment for that.  Stay tuned.

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