Tag Archives: bike touring

Version 0.12

December, 23 2018

I’m leaving Pensacola today, and having my last coffee and breakfast at Polonza, a bistro that serves some of the best coffee in north Florida (and to my knowledge the only town or city serving great coffee until one gets to Jacksonville (it can be found in Tallahassee but it’s a bit of a secret)) as well as an excellent breakfast and lunch. Spent the morning down at Palafox Pier overlooking Pensacola Bay trying to photograph reflections in the lens of a distance viewer, as well as gulls, pigeons, and the occasional pelican gliding on the sea breeze. Difficult, difficult birds are to catch, most especially if one is trying to place them in a specific area of a landscape, or even just wishing to have a horizontal horizon in the picture.

Like trying to nab a fly with chopsticks.

Just had a long chat with Taylor, the head barista here. Turns out he used to work for Perc in Savannah, Georgia, and we met briefly some years back during my last bike tour. Absolutely crazy that. “It’s a small world” is such a cliche phrase, and some might say it’s overuse, but if it fits it fits, right? The specialty coffee world is even smaller still, and that makes it easy to meet and make lasting friendships and acquaintanceships. Here’s to another.

Being on this bike trip I’ve begun to realize ever more concretely what it is I want out of travel, and mainly that is to find a good place to stay for a while and explore, and to explore from, and NOT to be constantly on the move. Yet bicycle travel is often about being on the move. Too, it may be difficult to stay in one place for long if one’s desire is also to be frugal, particularly in my case as I love cities so much. Yes, there exist Warmshowers hosts, but one can only stay for so long without being a burden. So, find another! Not always as easy as it would seem! Well then what about the natural world that I profess to love so much? As long as one has food and water for days, and doesn’t mind being dirty and smelly for extended periods this is great! Of course if you happen to be near a river cleanliness and drinking water is less of an issue, assuming the water source hasn’t been polluted or fouled in some way. I guess all this is really just to say that I’m happy to spend my Christmas, and perhaps some days more, on Dauphin Island at a host’s while he is away, which, while not allowing access to the inner keep, does have the desirable amenities (latrine, power, wifi, water, shower) out of doors. I’ll likely be in no hurry to hop back on my bike again.

Something else I’ve discovered that I want when I travel is flexibility. What that means to me is the ability to get where I want when I want in a relatively short span of time (within reason of course). The bicycle can be an excellent tool for this, at least in comparison to a slower means of travel such as running or walking, but it’s still rather slow, methodical, and, being human-powered, requires a fair bit of effort and energy, so that even something like a “short” five mile detour (which becomes a ten mile roundtrip) to visit some place or thing of interest can take a lot of daylight, as well as energy. This may be all fine and good for some, especially if planned for, but may prove to be impossible as a spontaneous side quest to one’s main objective for the day. So I’m beginning to think I’d like a motorcycle. And maybe one with a sidecar in which I could securely fit my bicycle because I’d still like to get in miles recreationally. As well, the bicycle could be used as a means of transport for various so-called side quests while leaving the motorcycle at headquarters (campsite, motel, whatever it is). The benefit of traveling by motorcycle is increased flexibility because higher speeds, and being able to pack one’s saddle bags a bit more full without suffering the great inconvenience of pedaling a bicycle with additional weight. Granted, there are drawbacks as well: insurance, cost, repairs, fuel…. But this is all just speculation for now….

Version 0.07

Tallahassee, Florida. The first days of sunshine I’ve had since the day I left Jacksonville. It’s a relief for sure, even if I don’t feel like I’m getting much rest being here. I suffered a flat rolling into the city, about seven miles from downtown. The end result was near to a couple hours of pushing my bike and finally getting a ride from a Warmshowers host with whom I am staying tonight, the fifth of December.

The following day was spent making phone calls to various bike shops asking about tubes before I found one who didn’t have what I was looking for, but promised what he did have would work with my particular wheel size. So far, so good. However, on installing the tube I discovered that my very expensive pocket pump no longer pumps. That is to say it is now an expensive, useless piece of garbage. Good for shoving up someone’s ass, to be sure…. Well, an email’s just been sent, so I should be able to get it warranty replaced. The question is then, when and where.

I’ve met some fabulous people and eaten at some excellent places since being in town though—sunny weather, sunny people?—one of whom is an ex-pro cyclist with the features of a bird of prey, an attitude to match, and a razor-sharp focus who runs a 501(c)(3) called The Bicycle House. The premise behind it is to get transportation (bicycles) to the poor, homeless, poverty-stricken of Tallahassee, and then to provide a space with tools, parts and the like to service their bikes and to educate them so that they can diagnose and service their own bikes when a problem arises. The second aim of the organization is to create a sort of club house atmosphere in order to bring together the disparate members of the community around a common thread—that being that bicycles are the best form of transportation—in order to create a unity, and to bridge the divide between the poor and the not-poor.

Running any kind of non-profit is a difficult and at times thankless job, particularly when those people, the haves, mainly see their bike as a means of recreation because they own a car, and less as a utilitarian tool, that is a mode of transportation, a way for a person to support his/herself, and possibly a family, at a job across town while not bleeding out money in the form of a car payment, gas, insurance, and repairs for what would most likely be a junker. The entire enterprise is a tricky affair, even disregarding attempting to bring together these people for whom a bicycle is seen in such different lights.

He’s currently moving into a new warehouse in the same industrial park as the current one, and I’ve given him a bit of a hand. Hundreds of bicycles in different states of disrepair piled into a U-Haul and driven thirty yards to the new building, unloaded, and the process repeated. Add to that the piles of wheels and sundry other items and it becomes a seemingly never-ending task—Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill. But he’s motivated and determined, of that there is no doubt, so I’m confident that he’ll achieve his goal and get the place open again. What he really lacks is hands to regularly contribute to speed the whole process.

If Tally lacks in one thing, it is a great cafe serving great coffee. But it does have one man, Journeyman Coffee, doing good stuff—Coffee on the Porch, as it’s called—even if that good stuff is primarily at his house and lacks a regular schedule and is pretty much comprised of a group of only six or so individuals. I was in contact with Jason for some time via Instagram, so when he notified me that he would be hosting that event the Saturday I was in town, I knew I had to go. And was I ever glad I did because as it turns out my new pump took much much longer than I anticipated to arrive.

That Saturday rolled around, and I had just spent my first of two nights in a pretty crummy hostel located on the west end of FSU, after spending my first four nights in Tally with a few different, great, Warmshowers hosts. Coffee on the Porch was only to last a few hours as it’s more of a coffee tasting and round table discussion and, as I mentioned, takes place at his house. Not at all a proper business venture. Just a casual thing that is donations-based and really just for fun and the mutual sharing of a passion Well, anyway, I arrived about halfway through and missed a few coffees, but got there in time for a bombshell of an experimental coffee that had been harvested, natural processed, roasted, then re-fermented in a Russian imperial stout with raspberries for four months before being dried again and finally roasted. Unreal! Crazy banana and berry flavors, and a sort of funkiness (in a good way) that I couldn’t place that was reminiscent of alcohol and the sort of earthiness one tastes in a wet-hulled Sumatran coffee. It was GREAT. And this experience wasn’t even the best part of the coffee tasting. I made a new friend there. We ended up talking bikes, bike parts, bike-packing, and coffee for a while, then arranged a meet-up at Ology, a brewery in the area for later that evening. This was where I met his girlfriend, now also a good friend, and my guess would be that with her consent I was invited to stay at their place. This ended up being a serendipitous piece of luck (or fate) partly because a friendship was born, but also because it took over a week for my pump to arrive, and so I was spared the fate of having to decide between buying a cheap pump and going on my way, or spending more money staying at the filthy hostel, OR potentially bouncing around between different Warmshowers hosts. I certainly spent more money staying in Tally longer, but it was well worth it, and would still have been had it been necessary that I stay longer still. As it was it was a rather sad departure, but I left with a confidence that we’d get together again somewhere, sometime.