From May 17, 2010

Florida... Is it really the Sunshine State?

Hello, sorry this e-newsletter is so late. Once we got back on the road on March 22, our schedule was filled to the brim. This e-newsletter will cover our 2 month stay in Florida, our Daytona 500 experience and our ride from Florida to North Carolina. We are currently in New Brunswick, Canada. You can follow our present location through our SPOT (satellite tracker). Just go to our home page and click on the globe.

Our last e-newsletter brought us through Key West, Florida. We had our Swedish friends, Ralph and Louise, join us for the record setting cold temperatures in Key West. This persistent cold and wet pattern was not going to change until March 18. Who's great idea was it to stay in Florida until the weather warmed up? How come we figured it would be super easy to get jobs in Florida? Always the optomistic thinkers but its not always reality. Florida was one of the hardest hit states from the recession.

Well, luck was with us for most of the time that we spent in Florida. First, through a traveling acquaintance, Carol Brown, whom we met in Thailand (but she actually lives in Weirsdale, Florida). She provided us with a home to live in whilst we did some home repair to the property. "We will work for rent" was our slogan. The job referral that I got from a fellow cyclist led to my part time job working at Greenway Bicycles in Ocala. I started to feel like I was assimilating back into reality of the working day life again.

We joined the Village Bicycle Club on a few occasions for a weekday ride. This was a hidden gem for us. We met so many fellow cyclists that had also done some touring and a lot of traveling. It was great fun to ride with all the different people and hear their stories. Coincidently, we discovered we have mutual friends with some of the "snow bird" cyclists. Linda, is a very close friend to our own friend, Wanda, from Cedarburg, WI. We also met Bob Gribble who is a good friend of Elmer Ranthum from Madison. Through the bike club the world seemed to get even smaller. We figured our new cycling friends would help us to maintain our fitness. However, over the course of 1 1/2 months of being stationed in Summerfield, this very hospitable and social group had invited us to dinner 11different times. We sure had fun but it didn't help the waistline.

My attending Rotary meetings also opened a lot of doors. The newspaper featured us in a travel article which then had us giving presentations at schools, travel clubs and a Rehab Center. Bud and Barb Mangels, Rotarians, went beyond the call and organized school talks for us and also just made us feel like we were part of their community. Rotary was also good for us because we were able to help with some projects that they had going on. We assisted at the chili cook-off and read to the kids at the elementary schools for Dr. Suess week.

Just by accident we had chosen a very popular place for midwesterners to take a mid winter vacation. Greg and Sue Franken from WI stopped to see us. Doug and Sue Burks from Decorah, IA spent the day with us while getting a little winter reprieve. Orlando was only 65 miles away and the mid winter Disney World vacations allowed us to meet up the the Kelly Reagan and Craig Chyles families. We bicycled to the Disney World area to meet up with them. We were able to go to the Kennedy Space Center. It was unbelievable to see the launch pads that have sent men to the moon and the Saturn 5 rockets were so huge.

The last "night shuttle" was to be launched while Kelly Reagan was still in Orlando. He drove to within 10 miles of the launch pad at 4:00 am. Jacky and I were standing out in front of our house in Summerfield. We were all anxiously awaiting this spectacular launch...when, at 4:30 am (10 minutes before it was scheduled to launch) we received a text from Kelly informing us that the mission was scrubbed. Wow, were we ever disappointed!

The Daytona 500 and the four days of speed week that we attended were like going to the "Super Bowl" of Nascar. Eric Clement, our friend from Cresco, IA, sent us a text asking us what we were doing Feb. 12 thru Feb 14. Our response was "what should we being doing?" His response was one word only "Daytona" Since neither Jacky nor I are Nascar fans we had to bone up on the Nascar venacular. The terms air dams, restrictor plates, buns drafting and spoilers were starting to have meaning. Our study included learning the current points that the leaders held and also learning the rivalries between drivers and teams. We were at the big time of Nascar.

Eric made everything very special. We met three other Decorah friends in Daytona, Marc, Dan, and Lee Allen. Eric made it possible for us to have pit passes (Pit passes provide you access to the drivers and cars. You are close enough to touch them.) We were actually walking through the cars as they were playing the National Anthem. It was amazing. Then it got even better when, in a pace car, we experienced the feeling of the 33 degree banked Daytona track. (This occurred once they were done practicing before the main pace car goes out before the race.) At 120mph the track got very narrow and seemed extremely rough. Its hard to imagine how the drivers can drive close to 200mph and three cars wide in the corners. Well things got even better yet! We thought we were going to watch the race in the bleachers but Eric said, "no, we're going to watch them from up there." And he pointed up to the luxury suites. We watched the entire National Race and the Daytona 500 from the Nascar luxury suite seven stories above the track. The whole track could be seen from this skybox. When I say luxury, I mean LUXURY! All of the food and drink you would like and our only job was to enjoy it. A super special thank you to Eric and Dan who got everything coordinated and made our first Nascar experience go over the top.

The time working at Greenway Bicycles at the Santos Trailhead was very therapeutic and a good chance for me to refresh my mechanical skills. Jacky was helping our landlord, Carol, with different projects to offset our rental commitment. We also did some yard work for others to fill our work days and earn some needed cash.

As in most trips of this length sooner or later you will re-meet folks that you had met earlier. Adam, whom we had met on the Alaskan and Yukon border, passed through and stayed with us for some time. Scott and Missy and their dog, Buckaroo, also stayed with us for a few days. It is always fun to see how their adventures are going.

March 22, 2010 we left Summerfield and headed north passing through Georgia on our way to South Carolina. We were surprised how depressed this state appeared. It was evident that it had been hit hard by the recession. We started to get into more hills and more pine trees as we entered South Carolina. Hills were welcomed as we have been in the flats since we were in Texas. Our destination was Anderson, SC where we would visit Kathy Freidl Krob. A three day stay with Kathy was highlighted by speaking at her school. It was comical when we asked the kids what country Koala bears come from and one boy said, "the zoo". It was also enjoyable to ride with her bike club and meet her friends. Special mention needs to be made for our stop at the Beacon Restaurant where I had fried gizzards-a-plenty which actually was a plate full of fried gizzards piled high with french fries and onion rings. They should have a doctor on call.

Now off to North Carolina. The next e-newsletter that we are currently working on will include North Carolina, Washington DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Boston, Connecticut, and Maine.

Stay tuned.

Ward and Jacky