Florida Ironman

BTH 10-29-08 

Hello, everyone, from Hampden, Louisiana, which is a little east of Baton Rouge on I-12.  I’m on my way to Panama City Beach in the Florida Panhandle to watch my brother Scotty do the Florida Ironman on November 1st.  (I knew I should’ve done the RGBRAI bike ride a few years ago when I could have kicked his big-brother ass!  Shoulda, woulda, coulda!)

Anyway. . . . . I’m basically taking Superslabs I-10 and I-12 to get there quickly and easily, but, man, will it be boring!  If the weather is decent, I’ll return on a more scenic route and have a few interesting destinations planned to hold y’all’s interest.

As you’d expect, taking Hwy 290 and I-10 to get out of Texas is about as unscenic as it can possibly be.  In fact, while passing through Beaumont, I was thinking it’s no wonder Janis Joplin took drugs!  But it was uneventful and fast, which is a good thing.

Passed through some of the Hurricane Ike devastation when I got to the High Island and Bolivar Peninsula areas.  Made me sad to think of the human and wildlife loss in that sensitive coastal area. 

Immediately after crossing the Sabine River into Louisiana, there were piles of debris literally everywhere, even on the interstate shoulders.  Apparently that area must have been under water and they haven’t been able to clean up, what, two months later.   

While most of the route was scrubby, flat Gulf Coast scenery, it did cut through the Atchafalaya Basin, aka America’s Foreign Country, which is the largest river swamp in North America and interesting to read about.  For instance, they actually have black bears here.  In a swamp?  Who would’ve thought?   

My only touristy stop for the day was a quick visit to the info center.  I asked the two ladies working there — who, by the way, had wonderful Cajun accents — where I could go to get a good picture of the basin/swamp.  They said I’d have to stop on the I-10 expressway 18-mile bridge to get it.  Um, don’t think so!

So tomorrow I’ll stay on the superslab through Mississippi and Alabama and probably arrive in Florida midafternoon.  Tomorrow morning is supposed to start out much warmer than today.

Peace on the Road!

BT

BTH 10-30-08

Hello from beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida!

So much for it being warmer this morning!  I woke up to 37 degrees so didn’t leave Louisiana until the sun came up to warm the air.  Brrrrrrr.  Where did I get the idea it would be warm?

Really, there is not much to tell y’all about today’s ride because it was totally uneventful.  For once Lizzie arrived at our destination clean and shiny blue thanks to the dry, sunny weather.  She’s not even plastered with smashed bugs with it being so late in the year.

Found the condo here in Panama City Beach without any problem and it’s literally right on the beach.  This picture, taken from our balcony, shows the beautiful white sandy beach and blue waters.  The water was so clear we could see schools of stingrays and dolphins leaping out of the water from up here on the 15 floor.  The tracks in the sand are from the beach patrol.

Here is the sunset from our balcony.  Nice!

Sister-in-law Debbie, me and Scotty. 

Tomorrow I’ll be hanging out with my sweet nieces, who tested the old guy’s heart when they surprised him by showing up at the hotel.  Of course, everyone else knew they were coming.   See you in a few days. . . .

Peace on the Road!

BT

BTH 11-2-08 

Greetings, my fellow Americans!

Tonight I’m in Meridian, MS, and I have a lot to tell y’all!

So my brother is now an Ironman!  He and his friends all did extremely well and I’m so glad I was able to be there to cheer them on.  He says he won’t do another one and will scratch it off his bucket list, but he is going to get an iM tattoo on his calf. 

Here he is early in the morning before that totally insane mass swim start.  By the way, he came in fifth in his age group in the swim, beating a whole bunch of the pros.  It’s my job to give him a hard time, but I must say I’m impressed!

    

With the bike ride being 112 miles, the race course covered so much ground that we were able to hop around in the car and see him at several points along the way.  My silver hair shone like a beacon in the Florida sun, and Scotty and his friends were able to immediatly spot me in the crowd at each point.  Who would’ve ever thought hair could be so helpful?

This morning everyone said their goodbyes, I left the superslab behind, and headed up Hwy 331 into Alabama.  Most of it was two-lane highways, which is exactly how I like it, and some of it was downright beautiful.  It was interesting to watch the transition from coastal palm trees to fall foliage, with deep reds, oranges, and siennas.  Saw acre after acre of thriving kudzu, which is better known as the invasive plant that has eaten the South. 

By the way, you definitely know you’re in the Deep South when you see hand-painted plywood signs that say “Vote how Jesus would” and “Red Nose Pits 4 Sale” and the person next to you at the gas pump gives you a religious tract!

Alabama Hwy 80 was not as beautiful as the blue dots on the map led me to believe, but part of it includes the historic Selma to Montgomery March Byway; and, in honor of what could turn out to be a historic Election Day on Tuesday to say the least, I couldn’t go through Alabama without visiting the Edmund Pettus Bridge and downtown Selma. 

Of course, the Selma marches were so important to our American voting rights.   No matter what our political beliefs are or how we interpret those events of 1965, we all can agree to the historical significance that bridge represents.

Being in downtown Selma made all the news reels of  Bloody Sunday come to life, especially when I walked around and saw an old wealthy neighborhood with large beautiful homes only two blocks away from the bridge.  Can’t you imagine the emotionally charged tension building with that neighborhood so close? 

Here is the Civil Rights Memorial Park, which was at the foot of the bridge, where there were several plaques and statues.  Had a thoughtful conversation with a woman from North Carolina, who seemed to be intrigued about why a white woman on a motorcycle would visit this park, and we promised to e-mail each other on Wednesday after the election.  You just never know what type of connection you’ll make when traveling.

As I was leaving Selma, it finally warmed up enough to take the quilted lining out of my jacket for the first time; however, it also cooled off very quickly once the sun got low in the sky.  Guess it is November!  The good weather continues and a full day is on tomorrow’s agenda. 

BE SURE TO VOTE ON TUESDAY!

Peace on the Road!

BT

BTH 11-3-08 

Tonight I’m in Jasper, Texas, staying at the historic Belle-Jim B&B, which is right across the street from the Jasper County Courthouse.  I showed up at about 5:30 and David and Pat, owners, gave me a room and dished up dinner.  It doesn’t get any better than that!  If y’all have ever heard me talk about the annual Ladies Escape motorcycle weekend, this is where we always stay. 

Today was marvelous.  Headed west on I-20 from Meridian, and the scenery was quite nice for a superslab as it cut through the middle of Bienville National Forest.  A little past Jacksonville I turned south on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is a national parkway that runs through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.  I’ve been wanting to ride here for a long time, so it was a real treat.  Talk about peaceful and secluded!  I got to ride the 85 or so miles to Natchez, which is at the southernmost end of the parkway.  There were oranges and reds and the air had that sweet, clean smell of fall, if you know what I mean by that.  Here is Lizzie at one of the rest stops. 

This shows one of the cool bridges going over the parkway.  Unfortunately, there were few places to pull over so I couldn’t necessarily get the best pictures.  There wasn’t much traffic at all, but enough that you wouldn’t want to stop just anywhere.

By the way, the weather is still perfectly dry and sunny.  It actually warmed up enough to take out both liners and end up with a mesh jacket.  Also was able to take off the engine guard chaps, which help keep my dogs toasty warm.  Perfect temp.

Crossed the Mississippi River there in Natchez and worked my way over to Jasper, Texas, on various highways.  You know, some of the scenery was great and some not so great, but I enjoyed it all.  What counts is that I was rolling along and smiling mile after mile.  Your Biketrash is indeed a lucky girl!

Of course, I always feel a little excited when I cross the Red River or the Sabine River, and today was no exception.  The highways in Northeast Texas are fantastic and beautiful with a pine canopy — although today I was heading directly into the sinking sun and could barely even see the trees!  Got a lot of right-handed driving practice while the left hand was busy shading my eyes.

Best wishes to my friend Chris Duggan, who is running for district judge in Bastrop County tomorrow.  It’s rare for any of us to have the opportunity to vote for a more honest, fair-minded person than Chris! 

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!

Peace on the Road!

BT

BTH 11-4-08

Greetings from Austin, Texas!!!

Got home around 1:30 this afternoon and want to finish today’s journal entry before the election returns start coming in so I won’t be tempted to start some political rhetoric on y’all.  (Talk about a turd in the punch bowl!)

After one of Pat’s excellent home-cooked breakfasts at the Belle-Jim, left Jasper around 8:00 this morning.  Today’s route was not particularly scenic, but was fast and uneventful.  It warmed early, and I soon started peeling off layers.  Felt a few drops of rain about 30 miles from Austin, which is the only moisture I’ve seen the entire trip.  

By the way, today is my 31st anniversary of moving to Austin.  Haven’t ever regretted that choice!

This is the first vacation where I’ve combined the use of my little Asus eee computer with a Garmin Zumo GPS.  Fantastic.  I can plan routes anywhere in the U.S. without the internet and then download them onto the GPS.  It’s a cinch and I can’t imagine traveling without it ever again.  Two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Also tried out a pair of TCX Sunray Gortex motorcycle boots Desha gave me for my birthday and really liked them, although they do get warm above 80 and are definitely not a summer boot.  This is the first pair of real motorcycle boots I’ve ever owned and I was surprised — actually shocked at how sticky the soles are compared to a regular boot.  I was even able to back big ole Lizzie up on a bit of an incline because of those sticky soles.  Again, two enthusiastic thumbs up!

For only traveling 1,802 miles, this has been an interesting vacation with a lot of variety.  Got to see some of my family, the Ironman event, a little history, and a few parts of the country never visited.  You know, though, as great as the traveling is, it’s always good to come home to my wonderful partner and lovely home.  Ain’t that sweet?

But now it’s time to get to work.  That’s right, folks!  Your Biketrash actually has a few court-reporting-related paying jobs to do.  Don’t worry, though, because it definitely won’t become a habit!  Only a way to support the habit!

Thank y’all for sharing the ride!  LONG LIVE LONG RIDES!!!

Peace on the Road!

BT

P.S.  My friend who ran for district judge?  He’s now Judge Chris Duggan!

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