Caryl and Brian's World Bike Tour

Tallahassee, Fl to Pensacola, Fl

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Date: Sat, 13 Jan 96 01:02:00 UTC 0000

Hi folks,

Here's one cold newsletter for you, cold weahter wise that is. I'm going to try to upload the entire newsletter in one shot rather than two parts. It's somewhat shorter than normal, so hopefully it will go through OK. If anyone doesn't get the normal campsite listing at the end, please send me a message letting me know how much of the message you received.

To my GEnie sysop friends, I will again try to upload the newsletter to thr RTs at the same time I email. But, if it doesn't appear by Jan 17 at 5 PM please assume something has gone wrong and upload this emailed version. If you see the newsletter in the Rt and should it look not quite right it may mean I was disconnected in the middle of uploading. The best version is the one I email to you so it should be used to replace the Rt version if necessary.

Thanks muchly.


Copyright (c) 1996 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.

Chapter 12 - Dec 22 to Jan 4, 1996 Tallahassee, Fl to Pensacola, Fl - 4677 miles cumulative

We spent 6 very full days in Tallahassee with our dear friend, JT, mostly working on the bikes, tent, and my pannier. The bikes were an incredible challenge. First we had to decide whether to replace the rim or entire rear wheel of Brian's bike. After wandering around to several bike shops we found one, Rainbow Bikes, that had a real good price on new wheels. Let's put it this way, it would have cost more to rebuild the wheel than it was just to buy their new wheel. We decided to buy, but this started a whole chain of events that left us with a very bad impression with this particular shop. The wheel we got had a hub that fits a 7 speed cassette, just like our old ones. But the similarity ended there. The hub and rim manufacturers were different and the rim was for 36 spokes rather than the 32 we had before. But the hub was a better hub and having 36 rather than 32 spokes might mean longer life for the rim.

We took our prized wheel home and that night started tearing down Brian's bike. Now, remember that we had switched rear wheels to try to slow the crack growth. But when Brian and JT found the crack, only one, they forgot about the switch. That night in bed Brian suddenly said, "Was that your wheel or mine on my bike." We both realized right then and there both wheels were cracked and we needed another.

So the next morning, back to the same shop to get a second rear wheel. This one had a hub identical to our original ones and was slightly cheaper. Yet in the end we did spend about $200 on the two wheels.

All right, we went back to JT's thinking our problems were all solved. But that evening while trying to install the cassette we discovered that it just didn't quite fit. The hub was just a hair too long and the cassette rings wiggled. It needed a spacer. We also discovered that the plastic, pie plate chain catcher we had fit only 32 spoke wheels, not 36 spokes. Back to the same shop again (time no. 3) with old wheels, new wheels, and cassette in hand. They installed a spacer getting rid of the cassette wiggle, but they had only one 36 spoke pie plate. After paying the bill of about $5 we had to run over to another shop to find a pie plate.

All right, now does everything work right. No way. JT and I tried to put the new wheel on Brian's bike and found we had to pull the rear frame apart by hand to get it in. Also, after adding the spacer the cassette just seemed to be a little too close to the frame. So back to the bike shop (no. 4).

This time they discovered that we had accidently put one of the skewer springs on backward. This was entirely our doing, but JT sure felt embarassed. He felt that as our instructor in this process he should have caught this. But we feel that no matter how good you are, you still will make simple mistakes once in a while. As far as the distance between the cassette and frame, after looking at the bike with the wheel the bike shop folks declared that it was just fine.

OK, so we headed back to JT's once again thinking that the whole issue was solved. HA. When we added the chain we did, in fact, find that the chain rubbed on the frame. So much for no problem.. JT said that they would need to move the spacer to the other side and redish the wheel. Well, back to the shop for the 5th time where they proudly announced that they would have to move the spacer to the other side and redish the wheel. Sound familiar. But the most appaling thing was, they proceeded to charge us another $8 to do this. Now we bought the wheel on good faith expecting it to fit with no problems. Now we've been back and forth 5 times trying to get it to work, been charged $4 for a little spacer, and now they wanted to charge us even more. When asked about this charge, the mechanic proceeded to give us this long lecture about how if we'd brought the bike in to them in the first place we wouldn't have had to go through all this running back and forth and how the difference between a technician and mechanic is that a mechanic would make sure everything worked right. A technician would just sell you the wheel. Since HE had 8 years experience he was a mechanic, not a technician. Well, we were rather pissed and felt quite insulted by this guy's attitude. But we'd already put a lot of time and effort into getting this wheel and it was the Saturday before Christmas. This would be our last chance for a while to get a wheel as the stores would be closed on Sunday and Monday. We paid the bill, but went away feeling quite cheated. Believe me, I don't think JT will be visiting this particular shop too often. As he said, "This guy may be a good bike mechanic but he's not a good business man. He should have just fixed it."

In the end we went away with new wheels, brake and derailleur cables, a new tire, new bearings in the front hubs, repacked bearings in the headset (connection between the front wheel/handle bar and the rest of the frame), new chains, completely cleaned and adjusted bikes, and a lot more knowledge. Now don't get me wrong. It's not like we were completely ignorant in the ins and outs of bike maintenance. We've been changing chains, spokes, adjusting, cleaning, and changing tires for some time. Bearings repacking and cable changing were new to us and fine tuning the adjustment was new. I have to laugh when I think of how we were 8 years ago when we took our first coast-to-coast tour. We bought two new Schwinn touring bikes, loaded them with a hodge podge of equipment and took off. We knew how to change a flat tire and that was about it. We were so lucky the bikes were brand new. Otherwise if we'd had any mechanical failures we wouldn't have known what to do.

JT spent a lot of time with us and was incredibly patient with our endless questions. Over and over he showed us little tricks and tips for getting these bikes running smoothly. In exchange we provided several big dinners and a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings. It's your basic barter system. Somehow it seems that bartering works out much better than just paying someone outright. Bartering leaves everyone feeling like they've made a good deal and gotten what they want. No bad feelings, no feeling like you overpaid, no feeling cheated. Wouldn't it be nice if one could get everything through bartering.

We did manage to do something besides bike repair during the week we spent with JT. We got in a 50 mile ride down to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. We put on our 5 layers of clothes, knit hats, gloves and headed out for a 50 mile totally unloaded ride. What a treat to ride a 30 lb. bike rather than 100 lb bike for a change. The ride started with 16 miles of the flattest riding I've ever seen, the Rails-to-Trails old St. Marks path. Then we turned into the wildlife refuge. The U.S. government was still shut due to the budget arguments, but we just slipped around the gate and continued on. The road meanders through pine forests with short palms as thick as ground cover. Large manmade ponds, dikes, and levees along both sides create ideal nesting and feeding habitats for all sorts of birds. We watched the graceful flight of pure white herons to the funny running take-off of ducks. The road took us out to the old lighthouse where we stoped for lunch and an opportunity to dip the wheels in the Gulf. We diverted from thhe road on the return to take in some of the dikes. This was where we hit the jackpot as far as gator sighting was concerned. We must have spotted 10 gators ranging in size from a few feet to at least 12 feet. They were sunning on the beach, slinking through the water, or slipping noislesly from beach to water. They are incredible beasts and really exciting to see in their natural environment. They're fast when they want to be, but usually look like a lumpy green log.

We also had the opportunity to try some C&W dancing at one of JT's many weekly dance classes. Since I had so much previous experience with aerobic dancing, I was able to pick it up fairly rapidly. Brian didn't have that advantage. He's never spent much time taking dance classes where you have to memorize the steps, so he found it to be much more difficult. And we had a marvoulous dinner with two of JT's friends, Amy and Martha. Another bartering arrangement, bike maintenance lessons in exchange for calzones. They were great calzones.

On Christmas day our friend Jan Richards flew in for her Christmas visit with JT. So it was time for us to leave. The day after Christmas Jan drove us out of Tallahassee and then rode with us to the town of Quincy. Quincy, a small town just 20 miles north west of Tallahasssee has some of the most beautiful 1800s mansion like homes I've ever seen. Most were painted white and many had pretty greenery and red ribbons for the holidays. They looked like something from a Christmas card, cut out and put down in northern Florida. We ate turkey sandwiches on the grounds of the fabulous old court house and then said our goodbyes. For the first time in our travels since last June I actually felt pangs of loneliness as I turned to watch Jan ride over the hill and out of sight. I guess I'm finally starting to realize that this is a permenant change, not just a vacation. Friends are now people we talk to through the email and snail mail. It was tough to say goodbye to a real person.

As we rode west the temperatures plumeted. Geez, this was supposed to be Florida, you know, warm, sunny days on tropical beaches with swaying palm trees. Yet we were spending every night since reaching Tallahassee at or below freezing temperatures. We're beginning to feel rather cursed, weather wise. From snow in the Rockies in late July, to over 100 degrees in Nebraska, to an essentially nonexistant fall, and freezing weather in Florida of all things. And everyone along the way telling us that this is highly "unusual". The weather does take its toll. We find that after awhile we can't stand staying outside night after night in the freezing weather. Our nightly uniform of 5 layers of shirt, 2 layers of pants, knit hat, gloves, and two socks, makes us feel like giant teddy bears who can barely move. We love living outside, but hotels sure are nice on the freezing cold nights. We survive in campgrounds by building large camp fires each night and we spend each day with extra layers of clothes.

I am always amazed at the variety of people we can meet in such a short time. The day before New Years eve as we rode into the town of Crestview, a white Jeep Cherokee pulled on to the grass in front of us. Naturally we wondered what was going on. As we approached, a young woman with long straight brown hair, a nice smile, and pleasant greent eyes called out to us. Turns out she had spent a lot of time in Monteray, Calif and was big in to biking. She had seen many long distant bikers following this route and this time she decided to stop. She exclaimed how she thought this whole bike touring business was "soooo cool." She asked the usual questions of where we started, where we were going, and how many miles per day we travel. But then she asked a few more questions that showed more concern, she was a weekend home care nurse, so concern for others is a major part of her career. She wanted to know about the traffic and the carbon monoxide exposure. We assured her that we usually stay on small back roads and thus avoid all the traffic and poisons. We were riding on Rt 90, a federal route going through the panhandle of Florida, for a few days only because there really was no other good east/west road in this area. Now Kathleen seemed like your average, everyday, middle class working adult supporting a house, car and other self imposed debts. She envied our freedom from these responsibilities, but would never want to put herself in our position.

That very same day we pulled into the Holiday Traveler's camp, one of those rather dingy, run-down campgrounds that have many live-in tenants, lots of cats, and just a few spots reserved for RVs that drop in for one night. These are the campgrounds you don't find in the KOA, AAA, or other high class travel papers. Facilities are limited, a bathhouse that is usually in pretty bad shape, and sites with hookups, broken picnic tables if there are any, and stuff piled up around all those permenantly parked trailers. Just as people tend to fill up their houses, people in RV parks fill up their trailers and al the surrounding space.

These people are among some of the more, how should I say it, colorful we've met. Usually they're at the bottom of the economic ladder and just barely getting by. Families with yung children, couples just starting out, and single adults just down on their luck. John Cox living in a Sears type cabin tent in the Holiday Traveler's camp was one of those down -on-his luck types. A small, wirey man with close cropped hair he was just a little too fidgity and nervous. His bloodshot eyes would dart about just as his conversation would jump about from topic to topic. We realized all too quickly that something was not quite right with this guy.

John had come down from Mississippi and got a job from his friend, also living in the campground, to do some roofing reconstruction in the wake of Hurricane Opel. It's sad to say, but natural disasters do have a very beneficial impact on the construction industry. While here, John also took part time jobs with practically every restaurant in the area. I suspect his nervous, fidgity behavior wound up getting him fired more than once. We could tell that money was real tight for him as he kept telling us of all the good restaurant and grocery store deals, "Just up the road is a dent store. Ya know, a place where they sell dented cans. Me and my buddy went there and bought $60 of food. Probably 40% off." All through thi we felt like we were being pestered by a very frisky puppy. He went on and on about all sort of different subjects and even when he tried to go he'd think of something else to say. One of those people who just wouldn't know when to stop.

We learned later that night a probable cause for his strange behavoir was the alcohol and drugs he used. His friend came by to blow some steam after having had a big argument with John. "He wants me to call him Chief White Cloud. I tell him I know John Cox. I like John Cox. I don't like this Chief person. I'm gonna go right over there and tear down his tent. Actually, my tent. It's my tent, my sleeping bag, all of it is mine and I'm gonna take it all back. I don't like this smoking pot stuff. I can handle going out for a good drinking, but non of this drug stuff." Evidently they had gone out bar hopping, and I do mean some serious drinking. John decided he wanted to go the next step, pot. But his friend didn't want to have anything to do with it. Funny how people consider abusing alcohol to be acceptable, but getting into pot or other illegal drugs is not. This 10 minute conversation gave us a whole new insight into John Cox. He obviously is the type of person who would take and take, basically becoming a leech on you. The only way to really help a person like that is to force them to be on their own. Unfortunatly they often will simply find a new sucker to take care of them.

We spent the New Years holiday in a motel in the town of Crestview. Rain pelted the windows as we gladly stayed inside all day working on some tent and sleeping bag repair projects and watching football. The tempeatures had warmed up for a short while, but cold artic air was on the way once again.

After one full and event filled month we fially made it to the western most point of the Florida panhandle, Pensacola. Pensacola is an old, old city dating from close to the time when St Augustine was first created. It started as a Spanish fort and grew from there. We were told that Talahassee was selected as the state capital solely because it is midway between the two major Florida cities of that time, Pensacola and St. Augustine. From a hotel on the north side we took 2 busses to the downtown area, one to the transfer station and the other into town. The main downtown region boasts those beautiful 2 and 3 story buildings with those wonderful cast iron decorated porches that are a trademark of the southern CreolAnd beautiful southern homes that seemed to primarily be the offices of lawyers. We couldn't believe the number of lawyers having the most beautiful offices.

In the historic Pensacola village there are three museums that we found most interesting. The museum of commerce included representations of several store fronts from the turn of the century. The museum of industry explored three of Pensacola's industries, lumber, railroad, and fishing. The gem of the three museums was the Florida State museum. Most of it was modern day attic, stuff piled up, put of stands, and behind glass with bief descriptions that tell nothing about the character or history of Pensacola. But, that's the way museums were done in the early 50s and they just left it that way.

What we really liked was the Coca Cola exhibit. Pensacola is the proud home of one of the earliest Coka bottling plants, Hygeia. So, naturally the museum included a bunch of antique Coke artifacts, bottles frm the beginning to now, dispensing machines, and advertising junk. The antique bottles showed some really significant changes in technology that we take completely for granted nowdays. The first coke was bottled and served in Atlanta, GA in 1886. At that thim the inventor was not too confident about the future of the product or the bottling technology, so he literally gave away the bottling rights. Actually, this was probably an interesting way to really get your product sold. At that time each bottler used their own bottle designs rather than one common one. Some had paper labels which allowed the same bottle to be used for multiple drinks. But, most had the Coca Cola name molded into the glass.

Early on bottlers had trouble keeping the fizz in the bottle before it was opened. Some of the experimental bottles really looked expensive to produce and difficult to open. There was one that had a valve like rubber stopper. Another had a lead ball that you pushed into to bottle to drink. The ball was captured by the shape of the glass. They also had one of only 3 of the first test common bottles, the one with the swollen middle. The original design was actually quite fat. But the bottlers quickly discovered the fat shap didn't work well with their existing equipment. So, making it a little skinnier, we wound up with the ever so famous and immedialty recognizable coke bottle. From now on when we go to store and pick up a bottle of anything I'll have a lot more appreciation for the design and thought that went into creating that particular bottle shape.

Appendix A - Route

Rt 12 from Havana to Quincy Backroads to Chattahoochee Rt 90 to Sneads Back roads to Marianna Rt 90 through Chipley, Bonify, Argyle, Crestview to Holt Backroads to Milton Rt 90 to and around Pensacola Rt 292 to Big Lagoon State Park


Appendix B - Camp sites, 5


JT's house 4 nights, Three Rivers State Park ($), Florida Caverns State Park 2 nights ($), Holiday Traveler's Camp ($), Super 8 Motel Crestview 2 nights ($), Knights Inn Pensacola 2 nights ($), Big Lagoon State Park 3 nights ($)

($) indicates fee camping


Copyright 1995-2011 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.



We'd like to thank my father, Charles Johnson, whose diligent mail forwarding and other logistical support make this journey far easier than it could be otherwise.


Wendy Strutin Riedy for archiving the newsletters on her WWW site,

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