This trip was quite different than the first three years. The most noticeable was the amount of traffic. As we traveled along the Lewis and Clark Trail during the first 3 years, for the most part, traffic was sparse. Not so in our southern states. We were frequently subjected to heavy traffic. I was most surprised by logging trucks. I really hadn’t expected that. I guess I didn’t realize that Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi would have that much lumber industry. I was also surprised that southern Illinois, and western Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi were all quite hilly, with some really challenging ones. I didn’t realize that the foothills of the Appalachians extended that far west. Some of these hills rivaled the crossing of the Rockies and Cascades, at least as far as steepness is concerned.
This year we traveled 1649 miles partially through the states of Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida for exactly 30 days. Our average daily mileage was 56 miles a day. We had a low mileage day of 18.53 miles because of mechanical problems. Our highest mileage was 83.34 miles because there were no lodging opportunities between the 2 points on that particular day. Speaking of lodging, we stayed in more motels than we ever have during the first 3 years. We stayed in 1 cabin, 1 private home and 11 motels during the 30 day tour. The weather was hot and humid through the entire month. I believe that there was only once that the temperature dropped below 70 degrees during the night and it was frequently in the mid-80s most nights. This made tent-sleeping very difficult, especially for me. I’m sure this lead to the increased number of motel nights. Spokewrench didn’t seem to mind the heat nearly as much as I did. Daytime temperatures were always in the 90’s at least part of the day and it was very humid throughout the month.
Riding conditions were varied. In Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, we were frequently on county roads. This would seem the safest, but we often encountered heavy truck traffic...mostly logging trucks and dump trucks. County roads rarely have shoulders, so this was a source of stress for me. State roads in most of these states had wider shoulders but, particularly in Alabama, the shoulder was often covered with rumble strips making biking on them difficult if not impossible. In Florida, we lost the rumble strips but had a great deal more car and some truck traffic. Florida had a fair number of bike-only lanes and we found almost all of our bike trails in Florida. I always breathed a big sigh of relief when we were able to ride on both of those. On shoulders everywhere we were constantly avoiding bark from the lumber trucks, truck tire pieces that had exploded, frequent broken glass, dead snakes, and, most frequently, roadkill armadillos.
We had 3 flats during the ride. We each had a flat on our trailer. Spokewrench’s was due to wire from truck tires and mine was due to glass. The third flat was my rear tire (in the last 10 miles of the ride) from, again, truck tire wire. Spokewrench wore out his rear tire so we replaced both his front and rear along the way. We also replaced his trailer tires for a pair with higher pressure for easier pulling. (I had replaced mine before we left, and found them quite efficient).
Altogether, we have traveled from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean in the first 3 years and then from St. Louis to the Atlantic Ocean this year, completing a transcontinental ride the hard way…diagonally…northwest to southeast. This amounted to just under 6000 miles for the 4 year odyssey. Will there be more in future years??? Who knows???
Students: You have until Monday, August 13 to submit the answers to the 30 questions we have posed. Remember to send them to the email address where we make our announcements. Good Luck!!