Accidental Century / Lake Seminole Taurist

From: Edward Reid
Date: 3/31/1993
Newsgroups: rec.bicycles.rides

I didn't mean to ride a century, honest. Joining the club is too heavy a load for me. I just wanted to ride around Lake Seminole. But it took 100 miles to get all the way around.

Lake Seminole is a Corp-of-Engineers-induced inundation concealing the far SW corner of Georgia, where it nestles into Florida. The lake's meager height of 77 feet above sea level conceals the mighty Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers joining to form the Apalachicola. The Apalachicola is the highest-volume river in Florida, draining most of Georgia and much of Alabama. All three rivers are navigable at this point, though river traffic is very light. US90 crosses the Apalachicola just below the dam. The lake is not particularly large, but the nearest bridges on the Flint and Chattahoochee are quite a way upstream, making the circle much larger than the lake ... unless you want to count on finding a friendly boater.

I start the day with an extra-large helping of my usual oatmeal with chocolate chips and roll out at 7:15. With a morning low around 50F, I start with jacket and tights, but they don't last long. The first descent doesn't cool me much even though I hit my highest speed of the day (36 mph). Halfway up the ascent I remove my jacket, and at a second stop a mile later, at the top, the tights go too.

"What?" I hear you say. You didn't think Florida had hills, and besides why is the descent first. Well, there are a few places in Florida where you can climb a little, and one of those places is a narrow corridor along the east side of the Apalachicola River between Chattahoochee and Bristol. The relief is due to ravines 100' to 200' deep -- inverted hills -- cut through otherwise mostly level, 300'-high land. Some are rather steep -- there is a nearby spot where I've hit 45 mph, and I have to brake before reaching the bottom of that hill because the pavement ends. It's not mountains, but it helps a lot in preparing for mountain trips. This first climb was almost 200', the longest of the day.

First possum of the day.

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: To prove to the possum it could be done.

As I remove my jacket I remember my sunblock. Ah yes, I remember it well. I remember exactly where it sits on the shelf ... it's going to be hotter today than the thermometer says. I'm lucky; I'll only burn mildly and take half an hour off my life expectancy.

Another long climb, 150', into Chattahoochee and left on US90. Cross the Apalachicola on the wide modern bridge but then over the floodplain on the old narrow bridge. This would usually be the busiest stretch on the route, which isn't saying much. But it's Sunday morning and traffic is light, and drivers on this road are usually courteous. The rest of the five miles into Sneads is flat and the highway has wide lanes. Stop at the Sneads IGA for raisins, which we ran out of at home. The clerk is disappointed that I'm only going around the lake. I wasn't aware that people around here knew it was possible to ride a bicycle more than one day consecutively. Right on River Road, past Three Rivers State Park. The park, ironically, is on the lake, not on any of the three rivers for which it is named.

Wildlife summary today: 80% pancake possum, 10% armadillos, 10% vultures. The vultures prefer the armadillos, which have been served on the half-shell.

Drop onto a four-mile stretch which is dead flat, built on just enough fill to keep it above the western edge of the lake. This is the only part of the loop where I actually have a good view of the lake. The topography here isn't given to grand views. It's a botanist's heaven, but not a geologist's. There are also, on the lake and contrary to the above wildlife summary, numerous noisy waterfowl. Hunting season is over and fishing is the order of the day. The road turns and rises. A mile later I look down to the right and see a back arm of the lake. It's the last I'll see of the lake today. I recognize this spot as one where I turned back about a year ago. The next 55 miles will be on roads I've never ridden, including 40 miles I've never seen.

I chose the clockwise route due to the forecast of 10-15 mph NW winds. Clockwise means I have headwinds on the first stretch, but early in the morning the wind may be light. I hope for tailwinds on the stretch north of the lake, with mixed winds for the last third. The other direction would have given me tailwinds on the home stretch but headwinds on the Georgia flats. True to prediction, the wind is starting to pick up now, and as I leave the lakeshore there are fewer trees to block the wind. I'm starting to fight it. Still, even beyond the lake it's swampy, and the trees often return to shield me from the blow.

Still slower possums.

I come to the first paved road to the right and stop to consult maps. I haven't gone far enough to reach the bridge road. A few mile later there's a stop sign, then another with state highway signs -- this is it. I contemplate going a bit farther to log crossings of the Florida-Alabama and Alabama-Georgia state lines, which I've never crossed by bicycle, but that will have to wait for another day. A couple of miles to the right is Neals Landing, a Corps of Engineers park, where I stop to rest and snack. The first segment of 40 miles has taken me four hours, and the stop takes another half hour. The park is right on the Chattahoochee River, which is impressive here. It also turns out to be my last pee stop for five hours.

Just before noon I cross the bridge into Georgia. The change in the land is dramatic. In the first section of the ride the land was broken up by the ravines, and fields were small and separated by forest. North of Sneads was swampy lakeshore and just plain swamp, with a few pastures and fields. But east of the Chattahoochee River the land is more open, slightly rolling but lacking ravines or swamps. The fields are much larger, and center-pivot irrigation is ubiquitous.

I need to find a route. I brought along a Florida map, which I don't need, but forgot to pack a Georgia map, which would show a decent set of roads here (as I find out later, at home, too late). I was counting on finding a CoE area map posted near the road somewhere but didn't, not even at Neals Landing. The tailwind has indeed materialized, and it's tempting to just keep going. But I know the highway I'm on will turn north, so I take the first right. Though I turn south, the sign says east, and indeed the road turns east in a mile. The pavement is glassy smooth, the wind is beating my back, the traffic is measured in minutes per motor, the possums don't pong too bad, I filled my water bottles at the park, how much better can it get ... oh, I didn't fill my bottles, oops. A field of bright yellow flowers beams, obviously a crop, but I don't know what it is. A beautiful southern house, neatly detailed, clean and off-white, sits quietly with a porch caressing the three sides I can see.

Lake Seminole, with the two rivers feeding it, forms a crescent opening to the northeast. I'm headed from Neals Landing at the north point across the crescent opening to Bainbridge at the east point. I could follow roads down close to the lake just by going farther south -- I can't get lost, as I'm hemmed in by the lake to the south and US84 to the north, converging at Bainbridge. But I'm trying to keep it under 100 miles, so I'm avoiding detours, and anyway this road is just too good to leave. Unfortunately it's also too good to last, and a little over half way to Bainbridge I hit US84. I start to turn off on the first side road but the pavement is rough. Traffic is light on US84 and it's a four lane road, so it's easy riding if not as pretty. Fewer possums too.

I like cattle. I moo at each herd I pass. The game is to try to get them to notice me, and I generally feel I've done well if three or four turn their heads. I think my Bikecentennial tourmates called me the cowboy. I moo at a herd on US84, two calves and a cow jump and run, and half the herd follows. I moo again and two more cows jump, and the entire herd assembles and starts running beside me. I'm glad there's a fence between me and them, as about thirty cattle stampede through the field while they stare at me. Is my bright red Coolmax jersey something from their mythic memory? Have I established myself as their leader, master, god? They fall behind, though -- remember my tailwind -- even before reaching the fence that stops them. It's a good feeling to be recognized. I should go back someday.

I wish I had an umbrella for a sail as I wing toward the next turn. The Bainbridge Truck Stop provides water -- the temperature has probably reached 80°F, so I need the fluid. First store I've passed in 40 miles, since Sneads. I finally see the train I've been hearing for ten minutes -- thought I was starting to hear things. The train is about a quarter mile off the road and I've been outdistancing it (tailwind) except while I was stopped at the truck stop. Approaching the Flint River I can't see the railroad bridge, and for a minute I wonder how long the train has been on the other side of the river! Finally things clarify; as I climb the road bridge I can see the railroad drawbridge. In Bainbridge I make a wild guess as to where I should turn, and I'm right. I've been to Bainbridge, but never to the town center, which turns out to have a very pretty common square. I leave Bainbridge at 2:00 with 70 miles registered. The first 40 took four hours, but the next 30 barely took 2 hours. Did I mention the tailwind?

I'm getting worried. Sign says 12 miles to Faceville, and I'm sure it's at least 18 miles home from there. That puts me over 100, and the only shortcuts are on sandy dirt roads for which I am ill prepared. How can I avoid the dreaded century?

A couple of miles south of Bainbridge there's an open wooded area, recently burned. Tall pine overstory with almost solid dogwoods beneath, in full bloom. There have been dogwoods almost everywhere today, with a solid spotting of crabapples in the woods (the wild plums are almost through blooming) and the incongruous flash of azaleas in yards. I enjoy the dogwoods while I can -- the anthracnose, dogwood blight, has been reported in this area, and it's uncertain whether dogwoods in the woods will survive it.

Traffic is moderate on GA97 south of Bainbridge, I'm getting tired, and the wind is now a mixed bag. I soon stop to rest and stretch. With a glove off, I notice how dark the back of my hand has become where the glove doesn't cover it, and the color doesn't lick off. I push on another ten miles, as the traffic quickly diminishes, to the turn at Hutchinson Ferry Road, where I know there is an abandoned store with a wide front shelter. I stop, eat, drink, rest, try to nap a little, cool off, keep my skin out of the sun. I've reached the point that my digestive system just isn't working fast enough, and I need to give it time to do its stuff. About 45 minutes, in fact. 84 miles and looking bad.

A right would take me along the southern lake shore and back through Chattahoochee. A nice ride, but dangerously many miles today. I turn left.

Now I'm back on roads I've ridden, rewarded with a well-aged possum and the first serious ravine in over 70 miles. I feel tired, yet this climb seems easier than ever before. Fill water bottles at Hannatown Methodist Church, a known oasis. A right takes me into Florida and through Mt. Pleasant. I'm definitely well hydrated again. A known point marks me at least three miles over 1**. The last ten miles is more west than south, and the NW wind has not yet died down. The cyclometer reads 99.7 and I know I'm four miles from home, so I pull it from the mount, hoping to preserve evidence that I didn't actually ride 1** miles. There's only a couple of possums on the familiar home stretch. Arrive at 6:45, about ten minutes before official sunset.

Total: 99.7 miles (ouch! stop that! oh all right) not including the four miles with the cyclometer unhooked (ouch!). 11.5 hours including all stops, 10 hours riding and minor stops. Possibly 1000' elevation gain. Other bicyclists seen: one kid with 12" wheels playing in a yard. Please don't make me join the club.

i'm so tired, i'm so sleepy ... NO NO NO ... there's 100 cyclists beating on my door, each holding a milepost, face guarded ... no, it's a lie, i didn't ride at all today, i was reading usenet all day, check the postings, my skin is red because i poured beet juice all over myself ... help me, there's 100 mileposts beating on my door and each one has a cyclist in its hand, and that cyclist is me ... help ... help ...

Edward Reid (8*}>
eel: or nosc!blkhole!ed
snail: PO Box 378/Greensboro FL 32330

reply from Sam Henry 4/8/1993

In article <> (Edward Reid) writes:

..I like cattle. I moo at each herd I pass. The game is to try to get them to notice me, ... I moo again and two more cows jump, and the entire herd assembles and starts running beside me. I'm glad there's a fence between me and them, as about thirty cattle stampede through the field while they stare at me.

I thought I was the only one who did this. Drives my wife batty. She has been known to sprint off and leave me--don't know why she would get embarassed in front of a bunch of cows.

One does have to be careful, though. I once annoyed a bull during the wrong time of year. Turned out he was tempermental and jealous, which seriously impaired his sense of humor. I was worried, too. Don't believe what you have heard about **any** kind of fence when it comes to a bull and his cows.

sam henry
Wanna ride?