September 20, 2005

Start: St. Augustine, Florida
Valdosta, Georgia
Miles: 188 miles
Route taken: Route A1A north to Route 16 west to Route 121 west to Interstate 10 west to Route 41 north exit at Valdosta.

This was my first turn west and the realization that I am heading home bothered me. Every trip must come to an end and there is a part of me that wants to return, but there was still a bit of sadness turning the bike to the left and coming off the east coast.

        My decision to take my time these remaining three weeks was for two reasons. The first was I haven’t seen a lot of the South and didn’t want to be rushed by putting some sort of demand on how far I had to ride.

        The goal was to go 200 miles or less and the second reason that wasn’t a problem was because of the heat. It is still summer in the South and despite being well past Labor Day no one has told the states of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana they are supposed to be cooling down.

        With temperatures in the low 90s and the humidity bringing it up even higher, riding about 30 to 50 miles at a time is about all I and Libertad can handle. She starts to really warm up and the air cleaner cover against my right leg starts to leave a little red welt. The seat feels like it is simmering under a flame and the insides of my thighs sweat profusely through my jeans.

        Taking a break is good for both of us and by going through small towns there is always a gas station to pull into and get out of the sun for a bit. I will top off the bike with super unleaded and pour a little water down my throat.

        It is Tuesday and the small back roads I have chosen are even less crowded than usual. That makes me smile. It’s too hot for deer or other animals to cross in front of me so I can relax a little mentally as a I ride and let my mind wander.

        Today’s topic of discussion while I ride is death. I had a friend die recently and have two other people close to me who are having health problems and it got me to thinking about my own mortality.

        My lifetime has not been spent taking care of myself as I probably should and it is starting to catch up to me. I ache more than I care to admit, nothing serious, though I have made it so. I did have a doctor tell me I needed to attend to a few things so I started doing that, but the road has been terrible from an eating standpoint.

        Each city has a specialty food that identifies that part of the region and I have noticed that none of these delicacies are very good for you.

        In Chicago it is deep dish pizza, though I never really cared for it, much preferring the think crust New York style pizza I consumed heartily while in the city.

        Wisconsin has bratwurst, Cincinnati has Skyline Chili, North Carolina has Eastern barbecue, Louisiana has Cajun food, Texas has its barbecue and Philadelphia has hoagies and cheese steaks.

        Not even drinks are safe in Georgia and most of the South. They have sweet ice tea which I am convinced is made with 14 tablespoons of sugar, water and a tea bag waved over the glass.

        Not exactly on the Weight Watcher’s plan and I have noticed I am gaining weight which doesn’t make me very happy.

        I have convinced myself that once I get home I’ll start playing ice hockey again and the weight will come off, but when you worked as hard as I did to lose some the weight it is disappointing to see it come back.

        Of course the simple answer would be not to eat as poorly as I am, but when you are riding it is difficult to find food that is healthy and to be quite honest my discipline has never been that strong to begin with.

        As I am discussing this in my mind I see a barbecue shack on the side of the road. I pull in and get half a chicken, cole slaw and baked beans with cornbread and sweet tea.

        I am going to have to play a lot of hockey when I get home.