4/17/2015 Choctawatchee to Mobile, Alabama

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I camped next to a hospital and was able to charge my bike up overnight. I have been having some issues with the BMS- this is a circuitboard the manages the lithium batteries. I was hoping a full charge would fix my issues. The bike did not fully charge, and the battery was not balanced. I need to check out the BMS. Still, I can ride, so I keep on going!

What a lot of rain! Soggy camps are no fun, but at least it wasn’t freezing as well. Showers pass.
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The library in Defuniak Springs, by popular demand, installed this outlet right next to the bicycle rack.

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My favorite library so far, old wooden floors, a feeling of history, lake view.

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Sweet far-from-home Alabama.

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Later the rain begins in earnest. Cars drive slowly with their blinkers flashing, water builds up in ponds on the sides of roads, and cars and sensible ebikers pull off and seek shelter.

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What serious rain does to you:

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On the theme of Victorians, check out this beauty. What a history!

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I decide to spend the night in a hotel to dry out and try to sort out my BMS. I cannot repair it with the tools at hand, I need to take it apart in my shop and run tests and rebuild the resistors.

After consulting with my lead genius, Mechanical Mike, I decide to rent a car and come home, repair, and then drive back to Mobile to resume the Loop the USA tour. I have ridden 870 miles. I have broken it and know it’s weak link. I will fix this and continue.

To be continued….

Quincy to the Choctawhatchee river

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Here is why riding a Green Axle touring bike is not like riding a scooter or driving a car. Hills and Grades. When you are driving a car, you press on the accelerator to maintain a constant speed up hills and grades. On an ebike, you shouldn’t. Instead, you are on an energy budget, of say 300 watts. As you go up the grade, the controller will feed more power to the motor to attempt to keep the speed up. Don’t let it. Instead, downshift to lower gears until you are within your “energy budget” Mine is between 250 to 350 watts. You’ll slow down just like, ahemmm, a real bicycle!

Why do this? Because the number of amp hours your battery gas tank holds is directly related to how fast you draw them out. Maintain a low, even draw, and you will go much farther on the same size gas tank.

Of course, you must have patience for going slower up hills. All cyclists have that! So just let the motor power you on up a little slower!

News Flash! The city of Marianna Florida, in anticipation of the need, has constructed an ebike charging facility. This facility is designed to charge up to seventy five touring ebicyclists at one time, with picnic tables, a sheltering roof, and even a stage for those wishing to share their adventures. This is rapidly becoming a destination for those e-cycling the Southern Tier.
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There are so so many churches out here. Competition for believers must be fierce. I ride past two churches right next to each other. Both have big signs. The first sign says “True happiness is not dependant on things of this world”. The second sign says “Come pray with us and celebrate abundance.”

Richard TrueLove stops to talk to me in the library. He walked the exact journey I am now undertaking. He tells me the story I hear so often, the universal traveler story:

“When I left Miami I was bitter, really down on people and life. I traveled without money, without knowing where I was going to stay or when I was going to eat. Along the way I found that I am always taken care of.” (Richard called this his spirit family) I discovered how many really good people there are and got a deep connection to life. Nothing ever gets me down anymore.”

Passing a field of clover:
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I come across the Choctawhatchee river and know it is time to camp. A patch of blackberries. An old train tressel. Locals fishing. Dirt roads into nowhere.

I set up camp and go skinnydipping in the brown waters. I shower and make camp and kinda, well, stay naked! There is only me, and it feels natural to be naked in the woods… That’s what the grin is about I guess.

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My camp by the Choctawhatchee river.

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4/14/2015 Live Oak Fl. to Quincy, FL.

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You know, there are no more gas stations that actually work on cars. Every station I run across with bay doors for car repair looks like this:

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And all the ones that are open look like this:

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An long timer joined me sitting on the stoop of the above store and explained it to me: “It’s the fault of computers. When cars went from points to computers it got too complicated to figure out.”

Good an answer as any. And touring cyclists don’t have cars and we enjoy snacking, so it works for us.

While Cycling

While cycling
I follow my senses.
This quiets my mind,
and drops me
on the threshold
of the big emptiness.

My little toe crosses the threshold
and finds it isn’t empty.

I’ve been looking at the face of the clock.

Here live all laws of physics and math;
fibonacci curves, fractals, calculus.

The structure creation and destruction
of the beauty
my senses perceive.

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Ghosts from the past.

The Adventure Cycling Network routes cyclists through this town. To accomodate them, this library has installed a public bike repair station in front. Gerald Barns, whose company is painting the library to improve the community, models.

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4/13/2015 Branford FL. to Live Oak, FL.

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Last night I went to fairyland. It’s in a tall deep woods about 200 feet off highway 129 below Branford, FL. Darkness comes quickly in deep woods. I was busy writing, my tent world dimly lit by laptop light, when suddenly a green light buzzed the tent! What the heck was that? I shut my laptop off and was enchanted by a cosmos of fairy stars, flitting around my homestead.

I have never seen so many fireflies. I lay on the mattress and watched them go about firefly business in shades of yellow, blue and green before sleep took me. When I woke in the dark of early morning, they were still there.

“Way down apon the Suwanee River” I love seeing the actual places of songs and stories.

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My bike feels wobbly. Oh no, two broken spokes in the back wheel. I have been hitting some hard bumps. I resist the knoweledge. “Maybe I could just ride it today and fix it later.” NO! This is the perfect time, early morning, and the perfect place, a bike trail, to do repairs. An hour later and we are on the road again. This would have been difficult for a non mechanic. Be sure you have done this drill on your ebike before touring, you’ll want efficiency.

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I am writing this part from a public library in Branford. My bike is charging in front. I am using fast wifi. I am comfortable, wow, it’s been a while. Here’s the new drill: Use the offline Open Street Maps (OSM) to get to a small town, then use google maps to find and get to the library.

The farms further north are growng peanuts rather than tomatoes and citrus. 7-11 is now selling pecan cookies and pie. The stench of a chicken processing plant lingers for miles. Smelly trucks carrying listless white chickens stacked high in wire cages roar past. Small towns are filled with polite large people in loud smelly trucks. On the upscale backstreets Americas old Victorian style homes remember a different past, and on the poor back streets decaying single wides shelter those who have had limited opportunities.

Rain rounds out the evening.

4/12/2015 North of Gainsville

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An easy routine is emerging. I’ve made one general rule for ebike touring: Whenever you stop to eat, rest, shop or sightsee, plug in. Using dual chargers on the Green Axle ebike allows me to pump in almost 1000 watts of power when the battery is low, and as it fills, 750 to 500 watts of power. So for an hour of fast charge I get about three hours of run time. I can work with that.

Also, except for staying at my sisters house overnight, I have stealth camped every night. This means no overnight ebike charging. This has been a non-issue.

I do keep my cell phone and tablet on a charger night and day- they charge from the ebike battery. I start out the day with a full cell phone charge, but the battery level in the cell phone still drops all day as the GPS consumes a lot of power…..

Now that the nervous jitteries are gone, I find ebiking to be relaxing. The road unwinds through my senses leaving them alert, still. On a bike tour, the journey is the destination. And what is the destination? The aliveness, the present tense, the unfolding, the letting go, the simplification of living. Electric bike touring leaves me less fatigued and so more able to enjoy the subtler perceptions. Electric bike touring leaves me fully exposed to beauty and hardship. It’s not Disneyland, it’s adventure.

This easy routine means that I am not constantly checking my battery charge, nor worrying about finding an outlet. It is 10 times more difficult to find wifi than an electrical outlet. My big plans for lotsa communication are faltering.

Last night it rained. I marvel at the efficient design of tents. This thin piece of nylon is stopping the rain just a foot from my nose. The rain pats loudly. The electrical lines overhead pop and hiss.

Packing a wet tent and gear means an earlier stop the next night to give everything a chance to dry out. The tent screen, ground cloth and fly get draped over bushes while I shower and cook. In 45 minutes they are dry and ready for use. I like being in my tent. It’s a cozy, well designed portable home with great views.

There was no outside outlet, and this was my only food choice. The manager said “Sure, you can do that”.

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Part of every bike tour, and it’s no different on an ebike tour, is to stop for treasures on the road. This find was a stubby screw driver. Ten miles down the road I met a man riding his bike. The conversation turned to jobs and he said he was a handyman. So I gave him the screwdriver. Nothing wasted!

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4/10/2015 South of St Augustine a happy camper has a beach all to himself.

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Ninety One miles today, three hundred and one mile total so far.

My son Drew and I saw the leaning tower of Piza together. I saw tears in his eyes, and asked him why. He said, it’s much more precious knowing that one day it will fall.” And that is terribly poignant.

There are many splendid moments in cycling. Now the scenery is beautiful and my heart sings. But it can’t be kept, these moments keep drifting into the next moment, and soon I am in noisy stinky traffic again. This moment is here, it’s gone, there is a new one. I can’t hold it, can’t own it, can’t keep it. And that is terribly poignant.

Thank you sister Stacey for your hospitality last night. I know I eat a lot. I was wolfed from cycleing 50 miles into the wind.

Today I sail up the coast towards St. Augustine. The nervous jitteries are leaving. The frightened, over analyzing thinking is fading. I’m able to enjoy myself again.

I spend a lot of time today sorting out my GPS system. It is more critical when traveling by bike, because bike routing takes you through more turns as the streets are smaller. It is important to have a 2.1 amp USB charger. If you have one of the more common 1 amp types, the charging won’t be able to keep up with the usage and your Droid will fold.

I see an oportunity here in these abandoned boats!
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I saw this airplane and pulled into the local small town airport. It seemed unusual to see a crowd of young foreigners socializing in that environment. A young Chinese man offered to take this picture. It turns out that the USA is the cheapest place to learn to be a pilot, one third the cost of China, and these students come from all over the world.

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If you have never cycled here, this is what you are missing. Being on a bicycle, I can linger at the bridge apex taking in the view.

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This is what makes a very happy camper. This state park has luxury hotels on either side of it. This spot is 200 feet from the road, completely hidden. I went swimming, took a shower, I feel so lucky.

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Hidden from the road.

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Can you find the happy camper in this picture?
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The First Day

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Beginnings give me butterflies. I am apprehensive, worried. The unknown might upset these cozy dreams. I don’t feel prepared enough. But at some point, the ship must sail, and sail she did.

My son Drew (Fez) was there to give me a send off, I left feeling loved.

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I ran into my very cheerful friend Ray on the bike trail.

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I decided to ride at just 15 mph all day to try and lose the rushing nervous jitteries. Once in beautiful central Florida I rode through citrus and cattle and phosphate mining country. Sherpa took me 110 miles before we ran out of daylight. My math tells me Sherpa could have done close to 200 miles at that speed using pedelec. I charged him four times, only once for an hour:

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Here at a food store where I ate lunch.

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Here at a community center.

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Here at a park.

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And here at Publix while shopping for groceries.

Not a dime is spent on fuel unless you count mine. Sherpa is very well behaved, and a pleasure to ride. It seems to work well to charge Sherpa whenever I stop, and to choose stops where I can charge. I begin to feel an emerging rhythmn for the trip.

I am listening to gunfire from my camp. There are lot of rounds being fired rapidly. It makes me feel safe. I’m stealth camped in a 200 foot road-median-forest across from a police training academy, where they have their shooting range. This is the last place that a criminal would choose to roost, so it’s perfect!