We went on a little Bike Tour!
Steve and I just got back from a short (five night, six day) bike tour. We went with my long-time friends Regis and Cindy Hampton. I want to tell you all about it, but first I have other stuff to share.
Be patient, or just scroll down. That is the good thing about the printed word, you can just skip the parts that don't interest you.
When it has been over a month since I last wrote to you, there is a whole lot to share! But I am going to try not to bore you and just tell a few stories and highlight the bike tour because I know some of you will be interested in that.
Thanks for reading on...
Hard To Part With Stuff Holding Memories
This weekend the campground where I am parked by Inverness, Florida is having a park-wide yard sale. A lot of the residents are putting their stuff on my neighbors' yard and in their car port.
I had forgotten all about the sale and was heading for the gym when I saw some neighbors organizing the merchandise. I took over a pair of boots I bought and never used, a pair of old shoes, and then I went to my storage area and grabbed the two remaining chairs from my dining room set. The rest I had sold for a measly amount when I had sold my home in April 2022.
As I put them out, I vowed that if they didn't sell I would take them to the thrift store. Yet each time I look out my window as I work on the computer, I see them still sitting there. I think, "Maybe I should hang onto them." They tug at my heart, I don't know why.
Maybe it is the the time period that they changed to pretty colors that beacons to me. George and I had packed up our belongings in Wisconsin for the move to Florida. George was semi-retiring from running his business. We were about to venture on our first self-sustained bike tour. Both the bike tour and the bright colors had been dreams of mine. They were not George's dreams.
For some reason; was it the move? the life changes? ... maybe it was the un-detected dementia, or the new recumbent trikes we were riding. But for some reason, George had simply agreed to the move and the tour without a fight. When I mentioned that the dark wood wouldn't fit into our new lives in sunny Florida, he got into helping find a painter and choosing the colors for the furniture.
On the day before we left on our bike tour around Wisconsin, we had delivered the dining set and bedroom set to the painter. She was going to work her magic while we pedaled around Wisconsin. (You can still read about that tour on Crazyguyonabike.com)
If you go there, please give a small donation as a Thank you to Crazy Guy for hanging onto these touring journals for us.
The chairs had been a dark knotty pine like the rest of the furniture we had purchased after we were married. George's business was doing well for a time and we (being young and inexperienced with life) thought the good times would last forever. So we dumped a big load of money into buying good furniture. I guess we did ok because the furniture is still good, it just isn't mine anymore... except these two chairs and the memories they hold.
Today it is rainy and windy so maybe they won't get sold. Then I may just put them back in storage.
I was working at wittling down my belongings to get a smaller storage unit. Currently I am paying $164 per month to store a bed and papers and stuff. I have a goal to purge and pack tighter so that in March I can move the stuff into a smaller, less-expensive unit. Steve has offered to take some items for storage at his house.
It looks like it will be another year before I get a place. The housing prices are still high and going higher, though the days on the market has increased.
To Buy or Not to Buy
That brings me to another story I have not told you yet! I almost bought a villa in Windermere. I had it under contract and paid for the inspection.
It was adorably decorated (so me with a pretty garden and brightly painted walls). It had many updates so I would not have had to do much work up front to live happily and comfortably.
The inspection showed the attic ceiling had several stains from leaks, like the townhouse I sold. The roofs are tile and were "forever" roofs. But after 30 years the underlayment is brittle and the nails have rusted away in places.
The price of a new roof I learned is $22,800, and that does not include replacing all the stained plywood.
I checked into all kinds of home insurance. Even if the roof didn't have signs of leaks, they would not insure it. They now have a policy in Florida not to insure a roof over 20-25 years old. The roof on the villa was 26 years old. No insurance company would cover it long term. Some would provide a temporary solution until the roof was replaced.
After thinking about this and the headaches associated with home ownership, I backed out of the deal.
The big benefit of having a home in Windermere is the social aspect. Happy hours on the patio, walks through the neighborhood and chatting with neighbors, having a place to invite friends for conversation or a meal. Spontaneous drop-ins by friends. I miss that. My friends miss those spontaneous and planned gatherings.
I haven't found a way to have that in my tiny trailer. But is that all worth the champaign bucks on a beer budget?
In the meantime, Steve has offered his home as a place for us to jointly host dinners and happy hours. His neighborhood is also a nice place to walk and possibly chat with neighbors. I like his neighbors, they are active, smart and progressive.
Besides, I am still traveling over six months out of the year. Maybe I should wait until I can no longer do that.
Lots of Fun
2023 has started off with a whole lot of fun. Our friends Frankie and Dennis and many other snow birds have arrived. We have gone kayaking, rode lots of great bike rides, enjoyed good music events, yummy food and conversations, sunsets and starry nights.
We kayaked the Rainbow River with friends in January, went to several music events, some where I could dance with my dancing friends.
Steve and I went to the manatee festival and really enjoyed the music
We went two times to the Foggy Long Britches Music Festival held at the Sparacia Family Winery in Brooksville, FL. What a fun and great venue for the event. The first time we went with Steve's fun neighbors and the second time with fun friends, Debra and Glen, Jean and Keith. (It was cold both days!) We made plans to recruit camping friends and camp there for next-year's event. The winery is a Harvest Host!
The Bicycle/Tricycle Tour
If ever you do a bike tour, riding from place to place and spending the night, be sure to do it with positive people who laugh easily. Steve is great in that way and I had a great time on our first bike tour together. I think a couple times I laughed so hard the tears were running down my cheeks.
On February 4th, 2023 we took off from Floral City to bike our way down to Dunedin, Florida. This first tour in a more urban area was best done as a "credit card tour". That means we would stay in motels instead of hauling our tents and camping along the way.
We had the great pleasure to share the tour with friends Regis and Cindy who are also adept at finding fun and going with the flow.
What is neat about this tour is that it is practically all on trails. The picture below is from our short jaunt down the sidewalk along Highway 50 in Brooksville, FL. In this spot we had crossed Hwy 50 to go around some construction as they build a nice connector trail between the Suncoast Trail and the Good Neighbor Trail.
For you geeks that love details, the following is for you.
- We rode the Withlacoochee Trail and the Good Neighbor Trail to it's end in Brooksville.
- We crossed Main Street and went straight with only one little jog on back streets to the fire station in Brooksville on Hwy 50.
- We took the sidewalk and new connector trail that took us all the way to the Suncoast Trail where it meets Hwy 50. (There was a little construction going on as they are working on creating a nice connector between the Good Neighbor Trail and the Sun Coast Trail.)
- We rode the Suncoast Trails South to Starkey Park where we stayed in rustic cabins. There are showers and flush toilets nearby.
- We road out of the park to the Starkey/Pinellas Connector Trail that took us all the way to the Pinellas Trail. We finished our ride in Dunedin where we stayed at the Palm Court Motel which was clean and fun and easy to get to.
On Saturday, our first morning, we set out from Floral City. Less than six miles into the ride we remembered that the new food truck in Istachatah would be open on the weekend. So of course we had to stop to get coffee and support this new small business.
Steve and I managed to resist the many sweet temptations on display.
It was a 61 mile day. Very enjoyable when you are traveling one way and the weather is good.
No ride on the Suncoast Trail is complete without stopping and experiencing the wind chime tree
just South of Anderson Snow Park. Steve and I took videos. I sent mine to my daughter-in-law Mel. Steve sent his to his daughter Erin.
Later I started hearing a noise from the back of my bike. I finally got off and investigated and found that the connection collar on one side of my back rack had busted. Regis and I found a couple plastic ties and were able to rig up a temporary solution. A rule for bike tourists, always carry plastic ties and some tape (duct tape and/or electric tape). They come in handy.
We had to pack sleeping bags because our first night we were sleeping in the rustic cabins in Starkey Park. The instructions told us to check in at the office first. I checked us all in and got keys to our cabins. The ranger told us that tonight they were having a night sky program in the open field nearby after dark at about 6:30. Cool! How lucky can we get!
The lock and door knob on Cabin Four were loose and when I turned the key it just kept turning. I turned it the other way, it just kept turning. Steve waited patiently at my elbow while I fussed with it. Then I stepped aside and let him try. Within three seconds he had the door unlocked.
Steve and I joked as we entered the big cabin with two bunkbeds on each end of the room. "You keep your stuff over there. No crossing over into my territory!"
Later when I returned from the restrooms, Steve had used tape to mark the dividing line. I laughed and took a picture.
We had packed rice-a-roni and some veggies for our supper that night. I have a small backpacking stove I used for cooking.
Before we walked over in the dark to the field where the night sky activities were going on, Steve locked our cabin door.
The field was bustling with activity already. Cars were filing in and being directed on where to park. Lots of children were running in an area away from the cars tossing and twirling glow sticks and letting out shreaks of delight. In another area were different sized telescopes pointed at different objects in the night sky. We stood in line to see the moon. It looked the same, only bigger and closer. But pretty much the same.
We stood in a long line for a view of the sky through the scope of a telescope with a diameter that must have been two feet? I thought, "Boy oh boy, we are going to get a peak at a distant gallaxy with that one!"
But when it was my turn to look, I saw was one white blurry dot. Steve said that was all he saw too.
We were all tired and pleased with our day as when we returned to our cabin. Steve fiddled with the lock on Cabin Four much longer this time. I was worried we would be locked out. But, yay! He got it open.
The second day of our bicycle tour was much shorter. We were only 26 miles from our motel in Dunedin.
The connector trail between Starkey Park and Pinellas Trail goes by a Nature Preserve. We stopped in to look around and I took a picture of the porta potty.
The Nature Preserve store had some children's books and Steve bought a few for his daughter's classroom. They weren't heavy, but still, that is dedication!
The trail in places goes along a busy road. It was nice to be safe from traffic. Even the gator we saw in the wetland beyond this fence wasn't bothered by all the noise.
I contacted my friend Kathi who I have known since we first moved to Waukesha, WI in the 1980's. She lives part of the year in Tarpon Springs. She said she was free and could meet us for lunch in Tarpon.
It was great to see her. We had a great lunch and afterward she rode her trike with us to Wall Springs. She has been thinking about getting electric assist and I think was able to garner some knowledge and encouragement from Regis and Cindy who recently started using electric assist on their trikes.
I sent our picture to Kathi and my friends up north. That was fun.
When I make reservations for others I always worry about the accomodations and if people will be pleased with my choice. I had stayed at the Palm Court Motel before and had good and bad experiences.
I could have danced for joy when all my travel partners volunteered that they were very, very pleased.
The place was well maintained, clean and quiet.
Shortly after we had checked in and were unpacking our bikes, the owner came up and gave us coupons for the brewery next door. "A brewery next door!" enthused Regis. "Sue you done good!"
I did a little happy dance. How perfect! How convenient was that? Then to top it off, the brewery had a food truck out front with good food. We were in heaven.
The owner of the brewery is a chemist and matches the water chemistry of the place where the beer comes from... for example a beer from a village in Germany would start with the same water minerals and such as the source in Germany.
The bartender was generous with the samples, mixing different beers to share with us new flavors.
The next morning Steve and I rode to Honeymoon Island State Park. It was just a short bike trail ride from the motel!
The park was closed until eight a.m. so we went back to the causeway and watched the birds and fishermen catching fish.
Steve had never been to Honeymoon Island. We saw animal tracks in the mud, some jellyfish on the beach, and lots of osprey.
We saw lots of racoon tracks and in one muddy spot we found cute little baby coon tracks.
Regis and Cindy had arranged to meet up with our friends Ruth and Bill at a place in Dunedin for lunch. We ended up going to Casa Tina. The salads were huge!
Regis and Cindy wanted to explore more close to Dunedin. They went to a coffee shop and a brewery and did some birding.
Steve and I rode to Clearwater Beach. I thought this would take us across the Causeway Bridge. It didn't. We did a bridge to get to the beach, but it wasn't the miles-long causeway bridge that I haven't done yet.
After walking about three miles along the beach, we were back at the bikes. I was hunting on my phone for a spot to refill our coffee cups. Steve was fishing in his bag for something... coins?
He said, "Come on over here," he said as he walked toward the building at the start of Pier 60. Then he demonstrated some knowledge I didn't know he had. Smiling, I made a video
Then he guided me through choosing a design and making one of my own.
This will go in the box next to my bed where I have a soda rock from my time on Lake Superior this past summer and a shell with a pink flamingo painted on it from a walker who liked my cheerleading during the Pledge the Pink fundraiser in October 2022.
Below is a picture taken from the bridge on our way into Clearwater Beach.
Along the trail in Dunedin we saw a mural that included Rosie the Riveter. It is nice to see that the women and citizens that supported the war effort at home are also being recognized. Nice Job!
We took some backroads to get to an Ace Hardware to try to find a new connector for my bike rack. The back roads came to an end and we rode down the side walk for a while and then the bike lane for a while. Both were not pleasant but got us there safe enough.
While riding the sidewalk we were stuck at intersections forever. The red hand pedestrian signal would not change no matter how much we time we had to cross we had to wait until the next cycle of lights to cross.
Once when I got the white-man-walking signal I started to cross and a woman holding her phone and steering with her forearm started to turn right in front of me. Steve and I both yelled. If I had an airhorn would I think to blow it in time?
Remind me to tell you some time about my experience this winter riding my trike across an intersection while the red hand told me to stop. It involves flashing police lights, a policeman about the age of my granddaughter with cute cheeks I wanted to squeeze, and me smiling too much when "this is serious!".
On Main Street in Dunedin, Steve and I moved out into the bike lane. There was less wait at the lights, but people still wanted to turn right in front of us when the light was green. One guy yelled at us that we should be on the sidewalk.
Ummm. "Hey, we have a bike lane!"
Ahh well, we made it and found a much better way to get back to the trail than to take busy Main Street.
I love Ace Hardware. You go in, you have questions, they usually have answers or help you come up with a solution. They didn't have the kind of collar we were hoping to find. Instead we got some strapping with holes in it. We went out and Steve bent it into place and found where it should be cut, then took it back in and our Ace Hardware man cut it for us. Thank you Ace and thank you Steve! I now have a connector that should last through some loaded and bumpy miles.
Our last evening we searched for music at a bar, but could not find any within easy bicycle distance. So we rode over to Frenchies restaurant nearby. Debra had highly recommended it. None of us ended up getting the dish that she recommended. But it was all satisfying.
By the time we packed up and were ready to head out, Regis and Cindy were ready too. Cool!
We rode back to the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs and shopped a bit and then went to the springs to look for manatee. We saw some noses pop up. The water was not clear, so all we could see were their noses when they came up to breath. It was fun just the same.
Only four miles from Starkey Park is Starkey Market. We stopped there on our way to see what they had for food. Wow, they have a nice food truck with vegetarian options and there is also a beer/wine bar on site! We agreed to ride back to the Market for dinner that evening.
This time when I checked in, the ranger told us about the lock at the gate. He pulled out a combination padlock and told me that the lock at the gate gets sticky and demonstrated how to hit it before putting in the combination.
We were in cabins three and four again. I said to the ranger, "Speaking of locks, the lock on cabin four doesn't work, it doesn't catch but the key just spins."
He said, "Don't use the deadlock. That doesn't work. Just the lock in the doorknob."
"We didn't, but the lock in the door knob is the one I am talking about," I told him.
"Oh ya, I noticed that when we went in to clean it today. But we got it to work eventually," he said.
"What do I do if we get locked out after hours?" I ask, knowing that they go off duty at 6:30.
He gave me the number of the ranger that lives on site, but urged me not to disturb them unless we really need to.
Starkey Market was great. There were families there with children running around on the grounds. We got to watch dogs and kids and the colors of the surrounding fields turn tawny in the evening light as we dined on our salads and flatbreads.
As we were about to leave, Steve and I were returning his glass to the wine bar when we discovered there was a performer playing a guitar and singing in the wine bar! Live entertainment, and he sounded good! I hugged Steve in celebration. He bought another beer and I went and fetched Regis and Cindy.
We were all loving it. His name is Paul, shoot! I can't remember and he was so good we decided we would travel to see him play again. (I texted Steve just now and he had a note somewhere that said if you google Paul FM his facebook page will show up. Here is the link.
) Here's some videos
of him playing.
Anyway, a few songs in, we are really groovin' and the manager came up and asked if we were part of the wine club. The venue was closed to the public for a private wine club event. We had to leave.
We were bummed but made some jokes about standing outside with our noses pressed up against the glass looking in at the party and looking sad.
In twilight, our lights on, we took the trail back to our cabins for our last night of this tour.
As the ranger told us, the gate was closed and locked. Steve was on a two-wheel upright and was able to squeeze through a gap at the edge of the gate. Cindy and I were able to squeeze ourselves under the gate, tipping our heads to the side as we Fred-Flinstoned our way under the bar.
Regis's trike was too tall. So we ended up having to enter the code into the combination lock. It worked without fuss. Yay, we were back in.
I then started laughing. "The ranger had a lock to demonstrate how to get the gate lock to work. Why didn't they just change the lock at the gate? And if they knew about the bad lock on Cabin Four, why didn't they fix it?" The universe has many puzzles.
I told Steve that the trail back to our cabins goes right through the field where we had looked at stars on our way south. I was going to stop and look at stars a while on the way in. Steve, Cindy, and Regis rode ahead of me. When I got to the field I stopped and lay on the trail in the dark looking at the sky. In a minute Steve was riding back to join me.
He has an app called Stellarium. When we point his phone at the sky it shows us what stars, constellations, and planets we can see. We found the location of the green comet that was supposed to be zooming by our planet. Its last passage was 50,000 years ago. The app pointed it out, but we could not see it with our naked eyes.
Something Steve said made me start laughing. It was one of those laughs that just keep going and I would calm it down and it would start up again. I laughed so hard I peed my pants!
Back at the cabin four, Steve coaxed the lock open one last time. I went to the bathroom to change my pants, giggling. Cindy was in the bathroom when I got there and I told her about peeing my pants and she started laughing with me.
Later as we were settling in to sleep, Steve was making a pillow out of his clothes.
I said, "You can use the dirty clothes bag... but it probably smells like urine." And the laughs started all over again. Good thing I had an empty bladder!
Regis and Cindy were ready to go about 20 minutes before we were! We told them to go on and we would catch up somewhere.
On the Suncoast trail heading north Steve and I stopped to take a break and we noticed little puffs of sand shooting up from the ground. I had just learned the name of the insect that does this is a Sand Lion. It creates a pit in the sand with a slippery slope for catching ants. There were lots of them in the sandy pad where we were resting. We took videos.
We met up with Cindy and Regis at the Seven Eleven in Brooksville. We went to the Bistro on Main Street for Lunch. It was a long rest, the waitress was very busy and we had to wait a long while to get our coffee. Going with the flow, we rested.
After lunch I was getting slower. Steve stuck with me. We passed a snake on the trail. We took videos.
Later, Steve looked it up, it was a diamond back rattle snake, a young one.
Back in Floral City! Our Tour was a huge success weather wise and we had very few challenges. Regis broke out the whiskey we had a toast and rested a moment before Steve and I loaded up our bikes in my truck.
It was all good. It is all good. And future bike tours looks bright.
This was Steve's first bike tour, though he has done overnight kayak/canoe trips and backpacked. So he knows a lot about packing light and going with the flow.
Did I tell you I have planned two for this coming summer/fall travel season? We will be riding from Trempeleau, WI to Madison, WI in late August. Then in late September we are doing the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O canal. On both those trips we will be carrying out tents and sleeping gear.
Hows that for a couple of old folks going on 30?
I have not done anything about book three except think about it. Life is busy with fun activities right now.
In the meantime I have been invited to speak at my old neighborhood on March 17th along with several other authors. That has forced me to buy some more copies. If they don't sell for a donation amount to the Alzheimer's Society, then I will take them with me on my travels and give them away. That's always fun.
Here are the links to my author's page on Amazon. There you will find the first two published books in case you want to share them with someone dealing with a loved one with dementia symptoms. Remember that a portion of the sales goes to support Alzheimer's caregivers.