Saturday, July 6, 2019

Every Which Way But Loose - The Plan

Recently I completed a 40 day ride around the Eastern half of the Country. I could have just rode aimlessly for 40 days targeting only the states I wanted to ride thru, but that is not my style. I have had 3 distinct riding lives, with this riding life I discovered scavenger hunts and Grand Tours.

Cancellation Stamp

First thing I do is select a primary theme for the trip. For this trip it was National Parks to earn my 6th IBA (Iron Butt Association) National Park Tour. Themes can be anything, National Scenic Highways, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, Route 66, Lincoln Highway, 50 Best BBQ Joints. It can be anything.  For the NPT, one must ride to a National Park, Memorial, Battlefield, Historic Site, obtain a Cancellation Stamp at the Visitor Center for 50 sites in 25 States within a year.

For resources, the National Park Service has information about all the sites the fall under the NP service. There are affiliated sites that also have STAMPS , which count.  is an invaluable resource for finding where the STAMPS are. I created a download of these locations to use in MapSource the mapping program from Garmin GPS's  for routing. The newer version is call BaseCamp.

Since I only needed 25 states, I decided to keep the routes confined to states to east of the Mississippi River, sort of. Not feeling challenged enough, I added in Lighthouses for the IBA National Lighthouse Tour. A primary resource I used for researching lighthouses was Lighthouse Friends web site.

Adding the lighthouses in, the selection is widened.  The icons are as follows: Log Cabins are the NP places from above, the yellow and red flag are Lighthouses, the red box with the diamond are places I figured I could view off shore lighthouses and get a picture. I created a base route using these locations

From the sites above I created a base route that would satisfy the 25 states for the National Park Tour and capture a bunch of Lighthouses, as well. This resulted in a 9,000 mile journey thru the eastern half of the US.

Next step was to figure out how many days using 250 - 350 miles a day, with 300 the being the targeted daily miles. I do not camp and purely a motel type person. I use for booking all my hotels and I ALWAYS book the next days hotel the night before or the morning of the days travel. Too many unforeseen events occur if you forward book your rooms and booking the night before/day of affords the most flexibility when traveling. This planning is NOT a 1 day sit at the computer and VIOLA you got the plan. I go thru many iterations of the plan, saving what I have done along the way.  This is a great way to make those winter days go faster.

Once I had the overall route, I then broke that into daily chunks. Using I find hotels that are along the route to satisfy the mileage for the day and then create a day plan. Below is a sample of a 3 days worth of travel. This is plan and not an absolute thus subject to change. The green icons are hotels.

Every year for at least the last 9 years I have participated in TeamStrange's and GLMC's Grand Tour. TeamStrange's Grand Tour is called States of Confusion, GLMC's is the Hidden GEM Tour.

The Flags
Adding the Grand Tour sites into the overall picture, the map looks like this. Looks abit overwhelming, but zooming into the daily routes, you can then pass the route thru the additional places to go. The Red Cubes are towns that have a GEM name contained in it. The faces are GLMC hidden gems, and the yellow hand bags are TeamStrange locations.

Once I have completed that process, the file is cleaned up of waypoints not being used by deleting them from the MapSource file. Cleaned up, its not so confusing  I have a plan. It essentially incorporate everything I want to accomplish.

One final step is to create a daily itinerary. I developed a little application in Excel to extract the data out of MapSource and see what the timing is like for each days routes. No point doing all this planning to arrive at a NP Visitor Center after it has closed for the day or the sun has set and there is no available light to capture that picture of the lighthouse.

In all my travels I bring my laptop with me to adjust routes, accommodate changes in plans either shortening the days miles or stretching the miles to make up some lost time. Another feature I use is the ability to connect to my home computer to enable copy files that I may have forgotten. I use GoToMyPC for this.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Airboat Safari

The big agenda item of the day is to head back out US 41, also known has Tamiami Trail to find us an airboat ride. The Tamiami Trail was for Tampa to Miami, construction started in 1915 and officially opened in 1928. We stopped at Gator Park just long enough for Crystal (aka Gator Girl) to get a really overpriced hat. There was just something about the place we decided to hit the next one down the road.

We ended up at Everglade Safari, bought some tickets, saving money on them because my National Park Senior Pass covered the fee for entering Everglades National Park.

We had to hang around a bit before we hit the water, so I wandered around and grabbed some snaps

We finally boarded and hit the Everglades on our quest to see wildlife and alligators. You would have thought we were in NYC boarding a subway during rush hour the way the folks clamored to get on the boat. We ended up in the back, which was all right with me. They did give us ear plugs for the ride, since the twin V8's powering the boat didn't come equipped with mufflers.

Our Captain did stop a few times to give us some history and background information on the Everglades. He did come to a particular spot, slowing for us to spot the obligatory alligator photo opportunity.

Once he got the alligator, he headed back in and the boat ride was over. I am guessing the ride was 30 to 45 minutes, which in the scheme of things was more than enough time. How long can one look at water, sawgrass and lily pads. Back at the dock Everglade Safari has a little show about alligators and you can even hold one.

After the show and the touchy feely session we headed into the lunch room for some fried alligator. Maybe that was what the farm was all about. All in all it was a great experience. From here we headed into Miami for some more sight seeing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Utopia Isn't Forever

Continuing with the story, we had breakfast (those hotel eggs are consistent across the whole country, don't think they come from chickens) , met Claire and Jim (a couple planning to move to Ft Myers), loaded up the car and headed to our first destination, The Giant Head of Beethoven. Gotta start this trip with some humor after the flight to get here. This was a waypoint from my National Dumb Places to Visit. So a little info

"Former pyramid resident Janice Lassonde provides these insights: "The pyramids were built by Austrian people as a Florida resort property. The Beethoven head was a joke amongst the Austrian originators of the Pyramids. They said that now that they had 'Austrian' pyramids, they now needed an 'Austrian' Sphinx to go with them -- thus the Beethoven 'Sphinx' was erected."
Source: Roadside

Next up is the Koreshan Unity Settlement Historic District.

The Koreshan Unity was a communal utopia formed by Cyrus Teed, who took the name "Koresh", the original Persian form of his name Cyrus. The Koreshans followed Teed's beliefs, called Koreshanity. Eventually, Teed took his followers to Estero, Florida, to form his "New Jerusalem" in 1894. The community was at its peak 1903–1908, when it had over 250 residents. There were apparently another 4,000 believers around the country. Teed had a vision in which he was to establish a utopian city of 10,000,000 with streets up to 400 feet (120 m) wide. Membership declined following his death in 1908.
The group built extensively, establishing a bakery, printing house (publishing their newspaper and other publications), the "World College of Life", a general store, concrete works, power plant (supplying power to the surrounding area years before it was available elsewhere in the region) and more. The colony was extensively landscaped.

Source: Wikipedia

The Art Building where folks did performances

Planetary Court, a boarding house for the VIP Koreshan Women. I guess utopia has different levels of Utopia.

The Founder's House

This is on the National Register of Historic Places. I have visited about 10 of these Utopian Society locations, even lived in one that used to be and the operative word seems to be USED TO BE'. At least these people just got to walk away, whereas some are there for "until death due us part"

Heading south down US 41, we pass thru Naples, FL for the next destination, The Naples Depot Museum, AKA Naples Seaboard Air Line Railway Station.

"The depot was constructed in 1927 when the Seaboard Air Line constructed its All Florida Railway to Naples. The station only briefly saw Seaboard Air Line passenger service in the late 1920s before the railroad reduced its Arcadia to Naples Branch to freight service only. Seaboard ended freight service in the 1930s. During World War II, the depot was home to USO shows for troops stationed at the nearby Naples airfield.
By 1944, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad bought both the depot and the Seaboard tracks to Naples and resumed service, making it one of the few railroad depots to have been operated by both the Atlantic Coast Line and the Seaboard Air Line independently prior to their merger. The Atlantic Coast Line's previous depot in Naples was located at the northeast corner of Radio Road and Airport-Pulling Road near Naples Municipal Airport, which was then abandoned.
The Seaboard brand returned to the depot in 1967 when the Seaboard Air Line merged with the Atlantic Coast Line which became the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. Passenger service ended in 1971 when national passenger rail was taken over by Amtrak. On September 10, 1974, the depot was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Freight service was halted for good in the late 1970s, and the adjacent tracks were removed in 1979."

Today it is a transportation museum, which we did partake of.

Source Wikipedia

Continuing south to Marco Island, we had a nice drive thru some very wealthy neighborhoods to our next destionation, Otter Mound Shell Wall.

A unique and noteworthy wall, built of one type of shell from the waters nearby. Not conch, but similar, I believe. Literally tens of thousands of shells went into the construction. Some say the Indians ate the animals in the shell and left the shells piled around. When my uncle bought the land, he built this landmark. The wall is not high (he may have done it to terrace the land) but the term still fits. He died when I was young so his methods and reasoning went with him before I realized the importance of it. Alan Otter, the builders descendent.

Source: Roadside

Across the street from the wall was this tree, which simply mesmerized me. I think it is a Gumbo Limbo Tree

Turning east on US 41S and heading for Miami, we made a diversionary right hand turn to Everglades City to visit 2 places on the historic register.

The bank (the green building) was the only financial institution for the coastal communities of south Collier County from 1926 until 1962. The pink building was constructed in 1927 to house a commercial laundry operation. The building has local significance as part of the original infrastructure and operation of the Town of Everglades, a planned community and company town developed by businessman Baron Gift Collier near the tip of the Florida peninsula during the 1920s.


Back up on US41 and heading further east we just had to stop a the US Smallest Post Office. This was a pump house for a tomato farmer. The building was placed into temporary service in 1953 when the general store that housed the US Post Office burned down. It still is in operation as a US Post Office.

Right down the road is this panther statue.

On US 41 is Big Cypress National Preserve. We hung a right off US41 and drove thru the preserve. We worth the diversion and not really adding a lot more time to our final destination. Scott having spent time in Florida in his younger years was able to spot alligators resting in the water thru the corner of his eye. Some snaps from the Preserve. We made a mess of our car, since we were traveling dirt roads.

There is an alligator in there someplace

One animals tease, another animals dinner.

Waiting for the Grim Reaper to show up

Just before we picked up US41 again we came across this place.

We ended up at our hotel around 8:15PM, having dinner at Scully's Tavern, featured on Triple D. Good food, fun atmosphere, no pic.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Doing what Retired Folks Do, Go to Florida

This whole trip started out as a casual conversation with our friend Scott, he had planned his vacation months in advance and said "Hey why don't you come with me". After some discussion what we were going to do, I found myself on Expedia making plane reservations. (I really hate Expedia interface for planes, maybe because we travel by bike so much) then set out to plan the trip to make sure we didn't just wander around southern Florida without purpose. Up comes Mapsource, load my files for Lighthouses, stupid dumb places to visit, National Parks, National Wildlife Refugees, Triple D locations, and southern states National Register of Historic Places which provides more than enough (it never seems like enough) places and opportunities to visit.

I never preplan lodging more than the next day while traveling on the bike, however since we will be motoring in a car, I figured planning each days hotels might be a good thing. I have been using for the last 3 years, mainly because I have become accustomed to their interface and after 10 stays you get a free hotel room which equates to 10% off and having achieved Gold status it makes me feel important. (not really)(really shows me that they give me these special prices which tells me I am overpaying for all the other ones)

After about a week on the computer, we have 7 days planned out, loosely. March 4th has arrived our flight to Ft Myers is scheduled for 8.25pm (what was I thinking)(it turns our I was a genius) to arrive in FT Myers around 12am. Scott was getting in at 4pm and we get the car, go the hotel and then pick us up at the Airport. So we wake up and there is 15 inches of snow on the ground, but I got plenty of time to break out the snow blower and then get to the airport. Scott shows up for a minute and then takes off to Framingham for the shuttle to Logan. The bags are packed, one with the electronics, gotta have electronics, GPS has been loaded with 7 days of routes, time to kick back and wait for Sky to pick us up and drive to the airport.

We left a bit early to account for the snow and traffic into Boston. We breezed in, I am thinking, this is too easy. Got that right. To our surprise Scott is still in Boston having had 2 flights cancelled on him and finally scheduled to leave after us. Since he had the car reservation, we told him we would meet him in Ft. Myers at his gate. Then there is an announcement, "Flight 245garble has been cancelled to Ft Myers". I knew there was a reason I don't like to fly. "Please proceed to the counter to make alternate connections". Well our flight is 2457 and flight 245 was the one cancelled, things are good. Fat Lady hasn't sung yet. So we sat smugly in our seats at the gate and then they announced that the flight was at capacity and they were looking for volunteers to check their bags, which we did. Not being seasoned travelers on planes we don't have those bags with the rollers on them, who needs them when traveling by bike. Then the next announcement comes, "the good news is we have a pilot and co-pilot, but we are trying to locate a crew which we must have." Then the next announcement, "the flight has been delayed because the plane coming in has been delayed, our departure time has been delayed to 12am". Then the pilot says "I have to fly before 12:30am or rules and regulations about how many hours we can fly kicks in, so if we don't find a crew by then, you will need another pilot". So glancing up at the clock every once in awhile, the hands are making their way toward 12. Right around 11:50 these 3 people show up and the crowd bursts in yelling and clapping. Captain says "Looks like we are going to make it to sunny Florida after all". As it turns out we will get into Ft Meyers right around 3am.

Scott was at the baggage claim waiting for us, they trekked over to the car rental place, I hobbled as I watched them in envy. Scott has the car and we head for the hotel, getting into the lobby right around 4am. The desk person says can I help, to which I announced my name, to which he said a bit late aren't you, to which I nodded. Up to the room, lights out, CPAP whoosing in and out, sweet dreams.

Crystal's alarm goes off at 7.30, mine goes off at 8, both are reminders for us to take our pills, and not about getting up. Both of us usually got no particular place to go.


Once something wakes me up that is about the same time the face gasket on my CPAP mask decides to let go and blow air into my eyes in fluttering fashion. I am up, I figure it is time to get Crystal and Scott up. We got places to go.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Riding Western Maine

Up pretty early to some pretty chilly weather in Lewiston, deciding to get underway later rather than sooner, letting the temps get up a little. With the extra time decided I would alter todays route to a shorter one eliminating a swing to the east for the China Post offices for Teamstrange tour. I have approached this tour kinda of half heartily and rationalized I could capture these spots on my way to Acadia in October. This brought down the miles from just over 300 miles to a more manageable 200+ miles. There simply isn't enough daylight left to do these miles with all the planned stops. With that said headed out right around 10am going north for the first stop in East Livermore. East Livermore is about 30 miles north of Lewiston. Looked up the town in Wikipedia and there is not much to say other than the following:

"East Livermore is an unincorporated village in the town of Livermore Falls, Androscoggin County, Maine, United States. The community is located along Maine State Route 133 and the Androscoggin River 22 miles (35 km) north of Lewiston. East Livermore has a post office with ZIP code 04228."

The post office is pretty cool and representative of PO's in Maine.

Got as far north as Farmington and turned south and west. In Wilton, ME stopped for this picopp, to give a folks and idea what this part of Maine is like. Wilton was the location of the first cotton mill in Maine and home to GH Bass and Company, the Bass Shoe folks. Having pretty wide feet, I used to wear Bass penny loafers in the 60's.

In Dixfield, grabbed this old house, now an antique store because it reminded me of another place in Maine that was on the National Register (this one is not) that had the same lean on the first floor as this one. The towns slogan is "The Only One" because they claim it is the only town with that name.

A little up US 2 (heading east) is Mexico, stopped for the Melting Pot tour as I entered. Ed McMahon (Johnny Carson sidekick) served three years as a carnival barker in Mexico, Maine, McMahon served as a fifteen year-old bingo caller in Maine. (Wikipedia). I was wondering why I kept hearing Beeeeeeeeee9, Geeeeeeeeee46

Across the Androscoggin River is the NDPaper mill in Rumford. ND stands for Nine Dragons, a China owned container board company.

West Paris, ME has the First Soapbox Derby hill built in Maine. That was good enough for me to stop for the sign because of the word First.

A stop in Denmark for Teamstrange.

"Camp Wyonegonic, founded 1902, is the oldest girls' camp in the country." (Wikipedia)

The next 2 stops were the Baldwins for the GLMC Grand Tour. This swung me out further east and south from where I ended up for the night. I briefly thought about eliminating these 2 spots, but a plan is a plan. The first stop had the Post Office clearly marked West Baldwin. On to East Baldwin post office, even further south and east.

Google maps clearly shows a Post Office, reality had the pictured Post Office, the problem was there was no East Baldwin to be found anywhere on the building. I was ticked that I traveled so far for nothing, especially at the end of the day. So I headed further east looking for a sign, any sign, there was NO FRICKIN SIGN. Turned around went past the PO and pulled over to the side of the road to see what the GPS had, NOTHING. I kind of did a 360 degree look around and low and behold I was parked right next to his sign.

Headed for the barn, the Saco River Motor Lodge in Conway, NH passing thru Fryeburg, ME. When I got there I asked the desk person for a good place to eat, which he recommended my last stop of the day. I had some of the best steak tips I have ever had and highly recommend the 302 West Smokehouse & Tavern if you are in the area. Watched the beginning of the Patriots game, got back to the motel and continued to watch the Patriots get their asses kicked by Detroit.

Today's route, right around 200 miles.