CHarkey’s ride across america 4. Fitness and roads


Day 6 feb 2 7 miles ret bike shop stay again in Tallahassee

Day 7 feb 3 52 miles 6:10 rain early,then hard to get out of city, hills, strong headwinds, staying in Sneads, Fl ( central time)

Running total 332 

Dear family and friends,

Still making progress. Today had some strong headwinds that cleared out the morning rain to present a beautiful 60 degree day. The combination of hills and headwinds kept my progress relatively slow. I still don’t seem to be getting in better shape, even though Sue D. told me I would get fit on the trip. Maybe I am a slow learner when it comes to fitness. See the example below:

Way back in 1978 my brother John and I heard about the city of Detroit offering their first marathon. At this time John was training for his first crack at running the Western States 100 foot race in under 24 hours to get a victory belt buckle. He was the runner in the family. He mentioned that he was planning on running that marathon as a training run for his ultra race. I was athletic, but not much of runner. I knew that I could easily run a mile  in eight minutes or less, so came up with a bet with John that I could also do 24 MORE miles at a 9 minute pace, which seemed really slow, without training. That pace would beat four hours to finish.

“ It’s just a slow jog” I thought. “ over and over”

The bet was on. I had to finish in under 4 hours. For heavens sake, the winners do it in just over two!

The start of the race was in Windsor, Ontario. You showed your ID to get your race bib. ( number) and that sufficed to get you back in the country as you ran under the Windsor Detroit tunnel into the US to start the marathon. I actually was keeping to my pace and was delighted when I reached Belle Isle, the island in the Detroit river where the finish line was. As I crossed onto the island I could hear the band playing and was ready to collect on my bet. What I didn’t know was I was only at mile 18 or so and had another 8 to circle the island before getting back to that finish line. By the time I finally dragged my sorry hurting self to that finish, the band had gone home and the organizers were starting to deconstruct the finish line construction. 

Training does matter after all! No winning that bet.

A year or two later, after much additional training, John and I both ran the Cleveland marathon. I finished in under 4 hours and was happy with my results. John had finished earlier, ran back to pace me in, and then ran another 30 miles back to his home in Medina. (John eventually was awarded seven belt buckles for finishing that 100 mile race in the mountains in under 24 hours seven times)

I gave up on the sibling rivalry of long distance running after that. Maybe some day I’ll try long distance cycling…


I was curious as to what the roads would be like on this trip, so now that I’ve sampled them I’ll share my experience. I’ll attach a couple of pictures showing the beauty and the beast of roads.

The bigger cities so far have made some attempt at bike lanes, but they often just disappear. If there is a sidewalk near I might jump on it to stay out of the traffic. That’s something I would never do at home, but safety over state law for me sometimes.

Adventure Cycling does a pretty good job of routing you to either roads with bike lanes or rural, less trafficked roads. Surfaces vary. Here’s a list of road surfaces from worst to best:

  1. Sand or gravel : sink in or slide, very hard and dangerous
  2. Bike lane doubling as rumble strip. I’m not kidding, rode a several mile segment of that a couple of days ago ( see picture). I think my fillings shook from my teeth.
  3. Chip seal: not horrible, but slow riding
  4. Old blacktop: can be bumpy and cracked, most common surface so far
  5. New blacktop: after all the others this can help me feel like I’m flying.


The biggest danger is of course vehicles. When there is a space to the right of the white line where I often ride. It is either a designated bike lane or just a space to stay out of traffic. The next danger is the road kill that often fills that space. Here I am, cruising along next to trafficin my little lane and then it’s completely blocked by a dead armadillo. I have two choices to quickly decide; to go out to my left in traffic or to the right in the soft sand. Conditions dictate.

Here’s the roadkill in order of frequency:

  • Possum
  • Armadillo 
  • Squirrel
  • Skunk 
  • Deer
  • Kitty

Fun fact: 

Florida is the roadkill state. In some states you can keep roadkill if you report it, etc. in Florida just help yourself. I don’t remember learning how to field dress an armadillo in my survival class!

One other danger is garbage to avoid hitting or cut a tire on.

There is the usual broken bottles, trash bags, fast food containers and beer cans.

Day before yesterday I rode past a used condom and soon after a pregnancy test kit. Lots of hours on the road to observe.

Nuff for now, I’m going to see if I can find a place nearby for dinner

Sending love,

Darlin Charley ( that’s what the front desk women called me, I kind of like it)

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