Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Otis Redding Memorial Ride

A few days ago, my friend Jennifer Cain put the word out that she needed someone to take her place on the biking leg of a relay team at the Rock 'n RollMan Half IronMan in Macon on October 10th.  I've been doing plenty of training, and I would be riding that day anyway.  Therefore, I told her I would be glad to substitute for her.

The bicycle portion of the Rock n' RollMan will be 56 miles.  I needed to get a feel for a longer ride on my TT bike; 56 miles is longer even than the state TT championship, which is about 40 km (about 25 miles).  I had already planned to ride around 50 miles today, and I had a special destination in mind: the new Otis Redding memorial in Gray, Georgia.  I simply switched from my road bike to my TT bike.

I was glad that Robert joined me on the ride today.  He drafted me the entire way so that I could get the full effect of riding my TT bike.  I rode at a steady tempo pace; at the end of the ride, I was pretty tuckered out!  It was excellent practice.

The Otis Redding memorial at our turnaround point was the best part of our ride.  It lists some of the highlights of his life, and you can even listen to some of his hit songs.  One of my favorites is "Hard to Handle."  I first knew this as a Black Crowes song and later was delighted to learn that Otis originally sang it.


There's just something about where I live.  It's so beautiful, and it has produced all kind of literary, artistic, and musical talents like Otis Redding.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Crepuscular Ride

I get melancholy this time of year because summer is almost over, it's getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, and I just about can't ride my road bike after work. But getting to ride my cyclocross bike and seeing something like this makes me less sad:

This was last Tuesday.  Today I rode dirt roads again, soaking up the last bit of summer before the autumnal equinox tomorrow.

For the last several Sundays, my pastor Rindy has been preaching on change.  It all came out of a conversation she had with our youth group as she led them on a mission trip early in the summer.  One of the teenagers asked why things have to change so much.  Rindy has been preaching about the reality that although life is always changing - as it always has - God is always with us, and God's love never changes.  Therefore, we have no reason to be afraid.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. - Hebrews 13:8

In the modern theology of Rush in their song "Tom Sawyer":

He knows changes aren't permanent, but change is.

In recent years I have made a concerted effort to appreciate the beauty of each month and each season.  May and June may be my favorites, but what a delight to smell kudzu blossoms in late summer, notice the increasing slant of sunlight as fall proceeds, hear the upland chorus frogs and spring peepers in mid to late winter, and see the redbuds in bloom as spring approaches.

On my way home from work today, I stopped at a pick-your-own muscadine farm a few miles from my commute route.  It was my second picking of the season - the last one, too, because the farm will close for the year this Sunday.  With their musky fragrance and taste, muscadines are the epitome of late summer.  They give me something to look forward to even as I have to say goodbye to my favorite season.

Because of muscadine picking, today's ride was a little later than last Tuesday.  I put front and rear lights on my cyclocross bike before heading out.  I rode on the cusp of daylight/dark and summer/fall.  Truly, it was a time of transition and a uniquely beautiful moment.  I delighted in the crepuscular creatures I often see on my twilight rides: deer, rabbits, and bats.  They reminded me to live in and rejoice in the present moment.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Picnic Breakfast

This morning Robert and I had a picnic breakfast in our yard.  As much as I love picnics, I can't believe I had never thought to do this.  Credit for the idea goes to my friend Divya Tate. Divya, who was on my RAAM team crew, is head of Audax India Randonneurs.  She coordinated a group of randonneurs from India who participated in this year's Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) 1200-km brevet, the famous, epic randonneuring event held every four years. Divya and her rando friends had a breakfast picnic while they were in France last month, which sounded totally cool to me.

Divya told me that I had to follow their example and have wine at my breakfast picnic.  That would have been groovy with me, but I went with the classic American morning cocktail, the Bloody Mary.  I've tried tinkering with my own mix recipe, but I haven't been able to come up with anything better than Mr. and Mrs. T Bold & Spicy Bloody Mary Mix.  Just mix it with vodka.  I always garnish Robert's and my Bloody Marys with some fancy olives, like these that are stuffed with garlic.  Today I added some hot pickled okra to mine, too.  Robert isn't a fan of pickled okra like I am, so he just got olives:

The yogurt and granola parfaits didn't go as planned.  After years of making a particular granola recipe, Robert recently informed me that he really doesn't like it because it's too sweet.  Therefore, I tried a new recipe.  I think it would have been just what Robert likes except that I burned it!  I cooked it for the length of time that the recipe called for, but it was too long.  I should have kept a closer eye on it since it was my first time making it.  I hated having to throw it out, but at least my parfaits weren't totally doomed.  We happened to have some store-bought granola, which I layered with plain Greek yogurt in the parfaits:

I'll try the new granola recipe again soon, reducing the oven temperature and possibly cooking it less time.

Another new recipe was frittata muffins.  They were just what they sound like: mini frittatas cooked in a muffin tin.  I used fresh eggs from our chickens and added sauteed bell peppers and onions - delicious!

We also had pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants), which were specifically PBP-inspired. The last few issues of American Randonneur magazine have had a number of articles about PBP.  I remembered reading one that mentioned that pain au chocolat is good bike food that's easy to find at the PBP controls.  A Google search yielded an easy recipe that utilizes frozen puff pastry.  I used pieces of dark chocolate and brushed the pastries with an egg wash before baking.  Oui!

The rest of the menu included grapes and coffee for Robert and Earl Grey tea for me.  I felt extravagant having two cups of tea, but this was quite an auspicious occasion.

I spread out an old bedspread on the grass and brought out our well-used picnic basket.  We received the picnic basket as a wedding gift, and we are still enjoying using it after all these years.  What a great gift!

We couldn't have had a more beautiful morning for our picnic.  The temperature was in the 70s, not a cloud was in the sky, and birds and insects serenaded us from the trees still green with summer.  We even had a visitor to our picnic:

Maybe I can get closer to the food from this side.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Arrr!) and International Pie Ride Day

Ahoy, me hearties!  Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day (ITLAPD)!  Arrr!  This be one o' my favorite holidays.  ITLAPD occurs every September 19th.  It's extra epic this year because today is also International Pie Ride Day (IPRD).  IPRD is on the third Saturday in September and involves riding yer bicycle at least 15 miles and stopping somewhere along the way to eat a piece o' pie.  Shiver me timbers, pirates and pie!  Or maybe today it's pie-rates.

Me parrot wanted to come along fer the ride.  This morning I retrieved him from the attic.  Arrr!  One o' his eyes was missing.  No worries - I have a treasure trove o' googly eyes.  Also, when I got me parrot out o' the attic, I found some Jolly Roger flags - perfect fer festooning me bicycle:

Me parrot enjoyed the ride:

As much as I was looking forward to the ride, it got even better when me matey said he would come along.  Aye, I'm glad he decided not to be a landlubber.

By the way, what did the pirate say on his 80th birthday?  Aye, matey!

Our first stop was the Monticello square.  I scored some booty (okra and popping corn) at the farmers market and then joined Cap'n Robert at The Vanilla Bean, our local coffee shop.  He got some coffee and quiche, which counts as pie, particularly on IPRD.  I got some Earl Grey tea and the only type o' pie I saw in today's display case - lemon meringue.  Arrr, that was some mighty fine eats!

Cap'n Robert and I set sail toward Eatonton.  We rode on beautiful, quiet rural roads in Jasper and Putnam Counties.  One thing I love about living in the country and riding my bicycle is noticing various plant cycles each year.  Cap'n Robert and I discussed how now is the time we should be eyein' spider lilies.  Sure enough, we spied several along our way.  This be from Google, but ye can see how distinctive spider lilies are:

Ye know what a great thing about riding yer bicycle on ITLAPD is?  You get to say, "Carrr back!" and "Carrr left!" and "Carrr right!" and "Clearrr!"

Shortly before our planned lunch stop, Cap'n Robert suggested an impromptu stop at a Mexican market.  What merriment!  The market had a small restaurant and a store with a bounty o' specialty Mexican items: chilies, prickly pear cacti (aye, to eat!), Mexican breads and pastries, and queso fresco, to name a few.  We just had to buy something.  Cap'n Robert got a Mexican grapefruit soft drink, and I got some dried mango with chilies and lemon:

The market owner was a very nice buccaneer who obviously takes a lot o' pride in his business.  When he saw me take a picture o' our purchase, he offered to take a picture o' Cap'n Robert and me.  He suggested going outside to the rock fountain, which he had built himself:

Although this port wasn't originally on the route, it was a highlight o' the journey.  I'll definitely be dropping anchor here again.

It was only a few blocks to our lunch stop, Smith's Coastal Grill.  It has a lot o' seafood dishes in a Key West-inspired atmosphere - perfect for ITLAPD.  Arrr!  While I waited fer me grub, I had some Pumpkick, a fine seasonal grog.

Then I had some fish tacos, a Smith's Coastal Grill specialty.   Aye!

Now adequately fueled fer more swashbucklin', we headed back to the 'Cello.  We reveled in the fine day with the bright sunshine and cloudless, blue sky.  We noticed a number o' butterflies flittering about.  I told Cap'n Robert that a recent column by Charles Seabrook, a wildlife writer with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, explained that several butterfly species are migrating south right now.  We saw an abundance o' butterflies.  I could identify the cloudless sulphur.  Because I didn't stop to try to photograph any o' them, this be a photo from the Internet:

We also saw lots o' a smaller type o' butterfly that was an orangish-yellow, but I couldn't positively identify it from Internet photos.

I had looked forward to today for quite a while, and it didn't disappoint.  It warms the cockles o' me heart that these bicycle forays always turn out at least as fun as I plan and usually are even more fun.  I think it's a matter of attitude.  Today, though, it's pirattitude.  Arrr!

Friday, September 18, 2015

I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

Because of our schedules, Robert and I did Thursday Worlds last night instead of our usual Tuesday Worlds earlier this week.  As of yesterday, Worlds moved back from 6:00 to 5:30 P.M. due to the shorter days.  I quickly changed into my kit and walked out of my office right at 5:00.  When I got to my car, I realized that I had forgotten my cycling shoes!

My mind raced.  My first instinct was to go home and ride from there, even though I wouldn’t have much daylight by the time I got there.  I called Robert, who had been uncertain whether he would be able to get away from work in time for the 5:30 start.  I expected him to say that he wasn’t coming, which would have made me feel a little better about missing Worlds.  However, he was already at Mt. Zion (Worlds starting location).  Gaaa!  Obviously, it was too late to have him bring my shoes to me.  Maybe someone had a spare pair of shoes I could borrow.  He started asking everyone in the parking lot.  No dice.

When I arrived at Mt. Zion, I got the idea to call our friend Chad Madan, who lives only a few miles from there.  He was out of town, but he still was able to help.  He called his wife and coordinated with her to have his cycling shoes ready for me to pick up.  I drove to their house as quickly as possible.  I had forgotten to ask Chad on the phone what type of clips he has.  I figured he probably had Look Keo pedals, the most common type among road cyclists, but there was a chance he used SPD.  When I picked up his shoes, I was relieved to see that they had clips that would work with my Look Keo pedals.

I only had a few minutes to get back to Mt. Zion before the 5:30 ride start.  One thing I really appreciate about our group rides is that they start on time.  I had left my bicycle at Robert’s car instead of taking the time to put it back inside my car.  (I have to take off the front wheel to fit everything in my hatchback.)  I figured that I would have to pick up my bicycle, drive out to the fire station about 10 miles from the start, and ride backwards on the course until I met up with the group – not optimal, but the best I could do under the circumstances.  I got back to the parking lot at 5:32.  The group was still there!

I guess that because not everyone had gotten the word about the earlier start, the group was waiting for a few stragglers.  Within moments, I parked; put on my helmet, gloves, and Chad’s shoes; and was ready to ride.  I wasn’t even the last one!  I was so grateful for the group’s patience.  We pulled out about 5:35.

Chad’s shoes worked just fine, and they didn’t even look too clownish despite being a size or two too large for me.  I had brought my regular cycling socks, but I also had some thick socks that I had been wearing all day with my work boots.  I just happened to be doing field work instead of desk work yesterday.  The thick socks made Chad’s shoes almost fit.  Besides, they allowed me to channel my inner John Cozart.  John, one of my cycling buddies, has a trademark of wearing his dress socks from work with his cycling shoes.  The argyles are the most stylin’.

Chad is one of the strongest cyclists in Middle Georgia.  His shoes must be magic because I was able to hang with the group until the end last night.  Thank you so much, Chad!

Life’s the same I’m moving in stereo
Life’s the same except for my shoes

Sunday, September 6, 2015

On a Holy PATH

Bicycle rides are always fun, but trying a new route and having a picnic afterwards made yesterday extra memorable.  I rode to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit near Conyers.  Robert drove there and rode part of the way backwards on his bicycle to meet up with me.  Then, we rode on the PATH Foundation’s eastside bicycle trails, the Arabia Mountain/South River Trail network, which has an endpoint at the monastery.  We rode out and back along the entire length of the trail, about 20 miles each way.  When we got back to the monastery, we had a wonderful picnic by the lake on the grounds.

How marvelous not to have to get up to an alarm yesterday morning!  That doesn’t happen too often.  I had breakfast, packed our picnic for Robert to take in the car, and made a brief stop at the Monticello farmers market on the square on my bicycle.  Having scrambled a bit to take care of these preliminaries, I finally started to relax as I got into my cycling rhythm.

Georgia Highway 212 directly connects Monticello and the monastery, but it’s too busy a road for bicycles after crossing into Newton County.  Therefore, I created a route that roughly parallels Highway 212.  About halfway to the monastery, I started riding on roads that I had never ridden on before.  The county and neighborhood roads I chose were quite delightful, and I only had to ride on Highway 212 for three short stretches.  Robert joined me about 10 miles before the monastery.

I’ve ridden on other PATH trails, including the Silver Comet and the Atlanta Beltline.  I was eager to see what the eastern trails are like.  Unlike the Silver Comet, the Arabia Mountain/South River system doesn’t follow an old railroad bed.  That makes it relatively hilly compared to the other PATH trails.  As we rode, Robert and I thought it might have as much climbing as 70 ft/mile, but when we checked our data later, it turned out to be only about 55 ft/mile.  Our usual roads closer to home have about 50 ft/mile of climbing.  All of the short, punchy climbs on yesterday’s ride must have made it seem like we were gaining more elevation than we really were.

The route was beautiful, with shady woods, winding turns, and glimpses of rock outcroppings around Panola Mountain and Arabia Mountain.  These two mountains form part of same batholith (large intrusion of igneous rock) that includes the more famous Stone Mountain.  I was also intrigued by a land application facility that we passed.  Sludge, the end product from wastewater treatment, can be sprayed over fields, forests, or farms as fertilizer.  A tall fence with warning signs encloses the sludge field along the Arabia Mountain trail.  I’ll bet that a lot of people don’t even know what’s there.

With as many long rides as I’ve done, I don’t know why I brought along only one Clif Bar yesterday.  I guess I thought I would stop at one of the trailheads, but I didn’t read the PATH website very carefully ahead of time.  It turns out that there aren’t any concessions along the way.  Robert and I stopped at the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, thinking that they probably would have a Coke machine.  (A magic Coca-Cola, with its caffeine and sugar, sounded mighty fine.)  Alas, they didn’t, but I did get to refill my water bottles at the fountain outside.  As I stood there, I saw this glorious lizard camouflaged against the tree bark:

It was only a few more miles to the end of the trail in downtown Lithonia.  Having grown up in DeKalb County, I can't believe I had never been to downtown Lithonia before.  Robert and I rode around until we found a convenience store.  Magic Coca-Cola at last!  I felt noticeably better on the return trip.

After changing clothes back at our car, we went to the Abbey Store.  The monks make several food items that they sell in the store, including fudge and fruitcake.  However, I was on a quest for biscotti.  According to the monastery website, it's perfect for snacking or dunking with coffee, cappuccino, latte, tea, or sweet wine.  That sounded just right to go with our picnic, especially since I had brought a bottle of wine.

I went to checkout with my box of biscotti.  The brother at the cash register rang me up.  The total was $13.34.  As I pulled out a $20 bill, I mentally calculated my change: $6.66!  As the brother handed me my changed, I faux gasped.  He didn't really react.  I don't think the monks get too worked up over such things.

Robert and I had visited the monastery a number of years ago for our anniversary.  We took the time then to visit the chapel and tour the grounds.  I thought I remembered some picnic tables.  Sure enough, a nice volunteer in the Abbey Store said that there were some by the lake.  I had brought an old bedspread to lay on the ground if necessary, but a table made an even better setup:

We had roast beast sandwiches with horseradish and Muenster cheese on croissants, muscadines and scuppernongs that I picked myself earlier in the week, Marcona almonds leftover from our recent Vuelta a España dinner, and layered salads in mason jars.  Here's a closeup of the pretty salads:

The layers include lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, peas, pumpkin seeds, and a little mayonnaise and sour cream mixed with ranch dressing mix.  I always like to include a green vegetable in our picnics.  Often it's homemade hummus with crudite, but I wanted to do something a little different this time.

We had both lemonade and wine to drink.   The wine was Devereaux Rouge, made at Courson's Winery in nearby Sparta.  It was surprisingly good!  Good craft beer from Omaha, Georgia last weekend and now decent wine from Sparta, Georgia; as Robert said, the apocalypse must be nigh.  Well, there was that receipt from earlier...

I've found that some wines that might be a little iffy in our usual home environs can be delicious at a picnic.  Maybe it's something about being outside.  Regardless, as promised online, the wine was an excellent dunking medium for the biscotti.  The biscotti were just plain delicious on their own, too.  They would also make a really nice hostess gift.

Robert and I have been on a number of picnics over the years, but this is about the prettiest spot we ever selected:

Food for the soul.

The creatures around us provided entertainment.  Canada geese (44 by Robert's count) alternated between basking under the pines, swimming, and flying over the lake.  Some crows tussled with a hawk.  I'm not sure which type of bird it was, but one seemed to have a nest that the other was trying to get at.

Then there was the cute squirrel!

It obviously had been fed before, but I figured that it was better not to feed the wildlife.  Besides, I really didn't want to share my fancy croissants and biscotti.

Reluctantly, we finally packed up.  Since there was a definite spiritual aspect to the day, perhaps it's appropriate that we saw this church on the way home:

I'm guessing that I wouldn't be quite comfortable with their style of worship, but I bet Jesus likes it.  That's a great thing about God; God loves us whether we are Catholic monks, Loves & Huggers, perplexed Presbyterians, or anything else.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Find Your Park Ride

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the River Valley Regional Commission organized the Find Your Park Ride in southwest Georgia this past weekend.  Our group visited seven national and state parks by bicycle.  I loved it!  The 100th anniversary is actually next year, but the U.S. Department of the Interior provided a two-year grant to put on the ride, which means it will happen next year, too.  Double the party!

Robert picked me up at work in Macon midafternoon on Friday.  We drove to the Georgia Welcome Center in Plains, the meeting point for the ride.  As we approached Sumter County, we drove through one of the hardest rains we’ve seen in a quite a while.  In fact, traffic started backing up on the state highway we were on, probably because of flooding or downed trees or power lines.  We used our GPS to reroute via county roads.  When we arrived at the welcome center, the bottom was still falling out.

Fortunately, I had my river shoes with me, and so I waded through the flooding parking lot to the registration table inside, covering myself with a towel.  Without drowning, we managed to load our bikes and bags into the transport truck and board the bus chartered to take us to Florence Marina State Park.

Charter bus as viewed through our car windshield

Once we were settled inside the bus, we enjoyed a boxed supper provided by the Friends of Jimmy Carter.  I’m always up for a good, homemade pimento cheese sandwich!  Also, I would have been disappointed if we hadn’t gotten any peanuts:

As if we didn’t already have enough deliciousness, our ride organizers provided a keg of locally brewed craft beer.  Yes, there is some really good beer produced in rural southwest Georgia!  It’s from the Omaha Brewing Company in Omaha, Georgia, which is close to Florence Marina.  Friday night’s selection was the seasonal Doc Dweller, a German-style Berliner Weisse with a satisfying tartness.  Ja, gut!

The rain stopped as we headed west to Florence Marina.

Red at night, sailor's delight

Florence Marina is a hidden gem.  I wish we had had time to enjoy more of the amenities, ranging from boating to fishing to miniature golf.  Some people in our group camped, while the rest of us stayed in cottages.  Robert’s and my cottage was quite comfortable.  I’m always amazed that more people don’t take advantage of the terrific facilities offered at our state parks.

Robert set his phone alarm for 6:30 AM to give us plenty of time before our 8:30 AM ride start the next morning.  I awoke at 7:08, somewhat panicking because the alarm hadn’t gone off.  It turns out that our cell phones were picking up a signal across the Chattahoochee River from a cell tower in the Central Time Zone!  Fortunately, we still had plenty of time to get ready before the ride.

After a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy (thank you, Friends of Florence Marina!), everyone gathered in the parking lot by the clubhouse.  Living in Middle Georgia, I always get excited when I travel south and get to see Spanish moss.  How prototypically Southern it is draping over a crape myrtle:

The group headed out at 8:30 A.M.  Our first stop was about 10 miles away at Providence Canyon State Park:

We didn’t have time on this trip to hike the canyon, but Robert and I did so several years ago when we visited it for our anniversary.  Providence Canyon is an incredibly beautiful formation that actually shouldn’t exist.  That’s because it was formed by poor farming practices in the first part of the twentieth century.

Following rest stops in Lumpkin and Richland, we headed back toward Plains.  A few miles outside of town, we stopped at the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm in the community of Archery.  I thoroughly enjoyed visiting this site and getting a sense of how formative President Carter’s childhood was in shaping his future path.  Life focused around family and the farm.  Young Jimmy had numerous farm chores, helped run the family’s commissary, and played outdoors with his friends.  He went into the town of Plains for school, church, and commerce.  The Carters had a hard but good life during the Great Depression.  As President Carter put it, “The early years of my life on the farm were full and enjoyable, isolated but not lonely.   We always had enough to eat, no economic hardship, but no money to waste.  We felt close to nature, close to members of our family, and close to God.”

The Carters' farmhouse

The clay tennis courts where Jimmy Carter played.  He and his father Earl were both avid tennis players. Notice the windmill in the background.  Although it’s not the original windmill, it’s a replica, which was state-of-the-art for its time.  It brought running water to the Carters’ house for the first time in 1935.

 Jack and Rachel Clark were the Carters’ closest neighbors.  They were day laborers who were provided a place to live and earned a salary in exchange for their work.  Mr. Clark took care of the farm animals and vegetable garden.  Mrs. Clark picked crops and helped care for the Carter children, often keeping them when parents Earl and Lillian were away from home.  She also taught young Jimmy about the plants and animals around them, and she showed him how to fish.

Jack and Rachel Clark’s home.  I took it from this angle because it shows some yard brooms.  I was intrigued because I had always heard about dirt yards and the brush brooms that were used to sweep them clean.  This helped keep insects and snakes out of the house.

Then-Governor Carter in 1970, the year I was born.  I’ve always been proud that he and I have the same birthday, October 1.

Seeing President Carter’s boyhood home definitely helped me understand why such issues as economic fairness, racial justice, and environmental stewardship have been important to President Carter both in the White House and through his work at the Carter Center.

President Carter’s handprints, placed in this walkway in 2010

Next, Robert and I rode the last few miles into Plains.  It was so heartening to see all these signs from well-wishers all along the street in front of President and Mrs. Carter’s current home:

We finished the day’s ride at Plains High School/Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, which was also our lunch stop.  This historical site focuses on Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s humanitarian work since his presidency.  We didn’t have much time to go through the displays (good reason for a return trip) because I also wanted to visit the presidential campaign headquarters at the train depot.  But first, we had an important quest – peanut ice cream!

Robert and I rode our bicycles the couple of blocks to Main Street.  He was jonesing for some java, and so our first stop was at Buffalo Café.  Lo and behold, there was our friend Rexanne!  She’s from Macon, and she was having lunch with a friend from Florida.  How amazing that they picked Plains as their meeting point and were there at the same time as Robert and I!

After Robert got his coffee fix, we strolled a few doors down to the ice cream store.  There were several outstanding photo ops along the way:

Then we got the good stuff.  I'm actually not a huge ice cream fan, but this was mighty fine.

 We made one more store stop at the Plains Trading Post.  It’s the largest retailer of political memorabilia in the Southeast.  It’s not just Democratic, either.  It’s has just as many Republican items.  Also, there is pro and con merchandise for both parties – quite entertaining.  I especially enjoyed seeing these real (empty) cans of Billy Beer, which was produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The first time I visited Plains was sometime around 1980.  It was during spring break as my family was driving to Florida.  We were purposely going off the beaten path and didn’t even have a particular beach destination in mind.  We stopped at Billy Carter’s service station, where my parents had some Billy Beer.  He wasn’t there that day, but if I remember correctly, it happened to be his birthday.

Robert and I then headed over to the train depot:

As I looked at all of the displays, I could remember what it was like during the Carter presidency.  The 1976 election was the first one that I remember.

One thing at campaign headquarters that tickled me was a video of Rosalynn Carter responding to a reporter’s question.  The reporter asked if she and her husband would be able to handle the intense scrutiny that comes with being President and First Lady.  She responded that they are from a small town and are used to everyone knowing their business.  Ha ha – truth!

Then, it was time to board the SAM Shortline!  The SAM Shortline is an excursion train that runs between Crisp County and Sumter County.  Its name comes from its original route, which ran from Savannah to Americus to Montgomery, and from the line’s 19th century founder Samuel Hugh Hawkins.  I’ve wanted to ride the SAM Shortline for a number of years, and I was so excited when the Find Your Park Ride offered me the chance.  The SAM Shortline is actually a rolling park – how cool!

I wish there had been a “warts” after the “hog.”

Our group had a car to ourselves to make it easier to transport our bicycles.  We removed our front wheels and placed our bikes on the seats around us.  They enjoyed the ride, too:

The festiveness of the train increased even more with another keg from Omaha Brewing Company.  This time it was Nada-Banana, a German-style Weissbier with flavors of banana, vanilla, cloves, and other spices.  I’m sort of funny about banana flavored things, but I loved this, especially since I’m a big fan of the yeastiness of Weissbiers.

We crossed Lake Blackshear as we approached our destination, Georgia Veterans State Park.  Dozens of mayflies were flying around, and many alighted on our train window:

Good fishing bait

At the registration desk at Georgia Veterans, the check-in form asked for the make and model of my vehicle.  For kicks, I wrote “Marin Stelvio.”  None the wiser, the receptionist gave me a parking pass, which I hung on my bicycle:

Robert and I stayed in a villa.  It was quite nice and had a lovely view overlooking Lake Blackshear.  Like the previous night, some people in our group camped while others reserved indoor accommodations.  If we weren’t camping, our bags were delivered to the registration desk.  Except mine – oh, no!  After checking with the ride organizers, we determined that somehow my bag had been left at Florence Marina.  They had to drive all the way back over there to pick it up.  I felt badly about that, but there was nothing else I could do.

They estimated that it would be about 9:00 PM before I had my bag.  Robert kindly offered to let me wear some of his clean clothes.  I took a shower and put on his shorts, T-shirt, and shoes.  Everything was too big for me, particularly his shorts, which hung down to my knees.  Even his belt didn’t help.  So, I went for the gangsta look:

At least I can be thankful that I’m not married to a linebacker.

Eventually, I did get my bag.  (Thank you, Julio, Mia, and George!)  In the meantime, Robert and I had a relaxing evening.  We walked to dinner at the Cypress Grill (a restaurant within the park) and also had some time to read.

The next morning, everyone gathered for breakfast at one of the park pavilions.  Then, we rolled out a little before 8:30.  During the first few miles, we rode past some particularly beautiful pecan orchards:

Then, it started to rain.  I’ve ridden in plenty of rain, and so I really didn’t mind.  It let up before we got to our next stop, Andersonville National Historic Site (NHS).  Camp Sumter at Andersonville was one of the largest Confederate military prisons during the Civil War.  More than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here, and almost 13,000 of them died while in prison.  Today, most of the prison area consists of grassy fields, but there are also a number of relics and historical markers.  One corner contains stone monuments in memory of each Northern state’s prisoners.  The soldiers from a particular state tended to stay together within the guarded area.  The location of each monument marks where that state’s soldiers dwelled.

Wisconsin memorial

The Andersonville NHS also contains Andersonville National Cemetery and the National Prisoner of War Museum.  We spent some time going through the POW museum.  One thing I learned is that a person who is captured by enemy forces must be military personnel to be considered a POW.  This may seem obvious, but it’s an important distinction.  For example, most of the captives in the Iran hostage crisis in 1979-1981 were not members of the military and, therefore, were not classified as POWs.

One striking part of the POW museum is an exhibit that takes you through the experience of becoming a POW.  It starts with a wall from which dozens of gun barrels are pointed at you.  The museum keeps a good balance of depicting the realities of war and being a POW without being too graphic.  Because I was wet from the earlier rain, I got very cold as I walked through air-conditioned museum.  That seemed incredibly trivial as I considered the subject matter of the museum.

Our group had lunch at some picnic tables at the Andersonville NHS.  Throughout the weekend, various National Park Service rangers assisted us by loading gear, setting out meals, and just generally being friendly and helpful.  At Andersonville NHS they even had a raffle for us.  Each rider received a raffle ticket with his/her boxed lunch.  We had to go back by the gift shop at the POW museum to see if we won.  I did!  I received a water bottle and T-shirt, a nice memento of the weekend.

We had one more stop on our tour, Bison Valley Lodge.  This is a lovely event facility located near Americus.  The main attraction, however, is the bison themselves:

Note the shallow depression that the bison have made.  They like to wallow in such depressions, but scientists aren’t completely sure why.  Possible explanations are grooming, social behavior for group cohesion, playing, relief from insects and ticks, and cooling.

It was just a few more miles back to the Georgia Welcome Center in Plains and the end of our wonderful weekend.  Now that I’ve found my park by bicycle, I need to explore some of the other 99 Ways to Find Your Park: