D50: Cordele – Fort Valley

D50: Cordele – Fort Valley

71km – 9H37′

After driving 8 km we went through a town with nice name of Vienna, then the town of Fort Valley at the end of the sages.  In between the two, we see fields, farms, a few woods and stands of trees.  The scenery continues to be rural for our third day in Georgia.

The north-west wind is rather brisk this morning.  Serge put on a second layer for the first time since March 6th, the day we left Miami.  It’s chilly! During the day temperature ranges of 20°C are finished and Serge isn’t winded in the morning.  His body regulates better and does not overheat.

We have not had so many direction changes in a long time.  They break the monotony of long straight lines, even though Serge really likes the long and straight.  At km 58 we reached US 341, with heavy traffic this Sunday afternoon.  The drivers seem to be in a hurry because they exceed the speed limit.  Here there are no kilometers, only miles so, once again, I need my calculator as I do for gallons and liters and pounds (Lbs.) andmm kilos.  On this US 341, the speed limit is 55 MPH, which makes 89 KPH, but the majority of the vehicles drive faster.  What the dickens are the Sheriff and the Police doing?  There are 2 vehicles patrolling in Fort Valley!

The countryside is beautiful in the spring sunshine and we are sorry to see that very often the roadside is used as a garbage dump, in spite of signs saying « Do not Litter, » occasionally with a $500 fine.  It does not seem to keep people from throwing beer and soft drink cans, bottles and fast food wrappers on the roadside.  Sometimes the quantity of stuff is huge.  Either the road maintenance is less efficient than in Florida or in Georgia people are less concerned by the matter; both I suppose!

After yesterday, which was unusual because it was longer than normal due to the fact that we split it in two, we were both tired.  Serge was really fatigued when he reached Fort Valley, probably because there was a head wind at the end of the stage.  It seems that there will be the wind from the same direction tomorrow.  We will stay on US 341 without changing direction, North West, in order to reach the South-West of Atlanta Tuesday evening.

D49: Sylvester – Cordele

D49: Sylvester – Cordele

71,12 km – 9H39’71,12 km – 9H39′
A stage in two parts
Serge doesn’t like to run at night, so why leave at 6:51AM in the thick of night and in the midst of a pine forest that only makes the picture darker? Well, Serge has a conference scheduled at 3:30 pm and he has to be in front of his computer with broadband and “Skype”. We organized this stage to enable Serge to have a Skype connection with a conference room in France where some 100 people are waiting to hear from him.
Serge has no intention of limiting his day to a 59 km run at 3 PM, so he decided to take to the road again at 4:45PM to finish the day. I had trouble understanding reason but after all, it was his decision. So here we go, 1H30 to cross the city of Cordele. It is the 2nd city we have crossed today, after Sylvester this morning.
We are in Georgia heartland and yet we are approaching Atlanta, a metropolis of 5.5 million people, more than half the population of the entire state (10 million). It is comparable to Miami and its suburbs to give you an idea of size. That puts these two cities in the 8th and 9th position of the most populated cities in the USA. However, there is a major difference: the density of the population is 2 to 1 in the two states. There are 119 inhabitants per square km in Florida and only 69 in Georgia. You can understand why Georgia seems so quiet, especially on the less travelled roads.
So until we get to the big city, we are enjoying rural tranquility and I dozed off between two feedings. We feel the fatigue and the sun has come out, which makes us feel sleepy at the beginning of the afternoon. So, we open our eyes, remain awake and concentrate of the day’s objective.

D48: Quitman – Sylvester

D48: Quitman – Sylvester

71km – 9H49′

Deep South
(Thanks Lee for prompting this title)
Serge began in a rural setting, surrounded by woods, with few vehicles and Tall Oaks Road was very pleasant until Moultrie. He crossed the town at KM 40 without any problem and it did not make a memorable impression on us. After Florida, which is highly touristic and attracts many American retirees due to the climate, this part of Georgia does not appear to attract tourists. I have to say we drew some attention and questions: Where are you from? Oh, you’re Europeans…
This morning at the starting line I had new Serge. If you look at the photos you will see that he has a new look: cotton T-shirt because the UV and the sun are not so strong and Serge’s skin began to react negatively to the chaffing of his back pack, perspiration and yesterday’s rain. He wears his favorite red bandana, which matches his t-shirt (very spiffy) and he has put on his new Pro Touch 1.0, flashy green running shoes. You can’t miss them on the road. My only regret, he did not shave off his beard! We finished the day on Route 33, heading toward Sylvester, which we will cross tomorrow. We continue to head due north toward Atlanta. The temperature did not exceed 23°C, very reasonable for running 10H.
Serge really enjoyed himself today, as you can see from his video. He did not say that some dogs got loose from their owners and ran around his legs. Even though Serge loves dogs, he is always wary of them because he doesn’t want to get bitten in the calves.
Today I bought an American scale because the European model went home to Normandy. Tomorrow Serge will start the chore of “weighing in,” and now the verdict will be in pounds, not kilos.
Here is a math problem for the students:
Service or filling stations sell gasoline by the gallon and not by liter (like the bottles of water we buy)
1 Gallon = 3. 78 liters
1 Gallon = $1.89
How many dollars for 1 liter
Bonus question: 1 euro = $1.10
How many Euros for 1 liter

Thanks go to those of you who are strong in math; you will help me do my accounting!

Anecdote: the price per Gallon in Florida: de1.89 to $2.09
The price in Georgia: de $1.74 to $1.99

The price varies from state to state and from one brand to another.
Diesel fuel is more expensive than gasoline by 10 to 20 cents
The price of accommodation varies too:
In Florida we spent an average of $95 per night (prices ranged from $80 to $130) and Miami is more expensive. Florida is a real money pit for the pocket book.
In Georgia prices for accommodation range between $60 and $100 with the average being $75
For gasoline and accommodation, Georgia is less expensive than Florida. That is the good news for the day.
Did you know, sheriffs are elected by the citizens and not appointed, which was another preconcieved idea I had (see photos).

D47: Lee- Quitman (GA)

71,7km – 10H03′

On the road to Madison… and Georgia

After crossing the town named Lee, we head due west and arrive in Madison.  We thought we saw Ray Charles’s childhood home but no, it is in Greenville, to the west of here.  We turn north toward Quitman and Georgia.

 Madison is a lovely little old-fashioned town, with a few old houses built in the 19th century.  Yes, the USA is a young country that some may turn up their nose at, saying that there is nothing to see; however, in this region there are buildings that are beginning to be old because they date from the time of the Civil War (see photos).  As we leave Madison it begins to rain and we can hear thunder in the distance.  It’s a gloomy day, the temperature has dropped to 22°C and we can breathe easily, which is nice.  We are almost like our little duck, happy to be in the refreshing rain.  So, it’s in the rain that we cross the state line between Florida and Georgia.  Since there are lots of children who are following us, I will let them tell me how many States there are in the USA.

At km 61 of the stage, we cross Quitman for 2 km and all of a sudden we are back in the country.  Since yesterday there are lots of cultivated fields, which is a comparative change from the southern part of Florida.  This evening Serge stopped near a farm, which smelled very strongly of manure.  The smell is overpowering and there is no doubt about it, it’s rural.  Serge admires the pink flowers that grow in front of many of the homes.  I don’t know if you have noticed on the photos, but it is not unusual for towns to have a crest or a motto.  Quitman’s is “City of Camellias,” which explains these bushes that add color to the scene and make a change from the predominantly green road between today’s two towns.

Serge is tired and tells me so at the end of the stage, when he walks a lot but enjoys it. In Georgia the mosquitoes have arrived.  Where have they been?  We wonder if in Florida they don’t spray insecticide on a wide scale because it was humid but there wasn’t the shadow of a mosquito.  At km2 in Georgia they appeared.  Is it a coincidence?  I will probably never get an answer to this question.

Serge is in bed after having eaten well.  He went to bed without looking at his e-mails or tomorrow’s route; too tired!

D46: Lake City – Lee

D46: Lake City – Lee

71,1km – 9H41′

Like a Wednesday

These past days it’s always the same at the start, a period of heavy perspiring, then weak legs.  And this condition  even though Serge starts out in “warm-up mode,” walking and trotting, in the hope that it will prevent this unpleasantness; but no, it’s not so.   Serge thinks that his body just has to eliminate the heat accumulated the previous day and one night is not enough.  The internal radiator of Mr. Serge seems to be stuck!  So, a swig of Coca Cola, a bit of sugar and another day starts, with two towns to cross: Lake City at km 10 and Live Oak at km 44.

In Lake City I ran errands in one of the big super markets, where bottled water is less expensive than at filling stations (up to ¼ the price) and where there are brands to choose from: distilled water, purified water and spring water, which I compare to mineral water and which is usually the most expensive.  I buy the spring water because the others tend to taste of plastic.  There is locally produced carbonated water, Perrier and San Pellegrino.  The brand for flat water is Evian.  It is only in large stores that one finds such a large selection.  Since we will not be going through large cities in the coming days, it was the time to stock up.

In Live Oak, at the junction between Lee Avenue and US 90, 3000 km were clocked.  The time for a photo and off we go.  Serge seems to have a train to catch…  I take this opportunity to say Hi to Lee, who started translating my texts into English when I arrived on American soil, just like the old days.   I find our exchanges just as pleasant and stimulating.  Thanks Lee!

Once through Live Oak, US 90 is boring and the weather is sultry, which weighs on the brain.  Then, when the train passed the smile comes back because we adore American trains, primarily freight trains, which are very long and usually blow their whistle at us when they pass.  We have time to watch them go by because they are so slow.  There are almost no passenger trains, due to the distances, and people take the plane.  The moral of the story is that a train passing can make you smile.  There is no such thing as small joys in life!

After the orange groves, the lakes and the world of horses, here we are in the midst of a nest of churches.  Church goers have a multitude to choose from and their churches are legion here.  There isn’t a street or road that does not mention a church.  There is something for Adventists, Roman Catholics and the majority is Baptist.  I have just satisfied my curiosity about the Baptists and learned that it is not a religion.  I fear I would bore you, so if the subject interests you go have a look on Internet.

D45: Archer – Lake City

D45: Archer – Lake City

70,6km – 9H37′

Bad day today?

I spent my day at the swimming pool, under a parasol sipping iced mojitos, while sprayed water cooled the air.  The alarm rings and I realize it is 6 am and still dark.  I don’t have time to ask, but I do just the same: did you sleep well?  Yes, we slept like babies in Gainesville, at our hotel next to Route 175.

Now that you know how we spend our mornings, I will go to the next phase, the race.  The mist disappears quickly and a burning sun takes it place and will accompany us on this new day.  The temperature climbs to 41°C at the beginning of the afternoon.  It goes without saying that Serge finally put on his hat, and as usual he has applied a spray sun block twice and a thick layer of anti-chaffing cream at km 45

Comfortably seated in my air conditioned car, in the shade of a line of trees (what a blessing these trees are), I follow him for 5 km.  Serge advances with his head down and a face which says “I don’t have good vibes and I’d like to end this day.” He confirms this to me at km 60; no need for a long conversation because we have been a twosome for so long.

Yes, Route 41 is not unpleasant and there is only one change of direction, which Serge did not appreciate, at km 30 at High Springs (a pretty town).  He is limp in the morning and we don’t understand why because he is rested and has eaten well.  There is improvement and then Serge tells me that he has no “legs,” then he has a headache… he just does not feel well.  It doesn’t worry us because everyone has the right to have a bad day.

Tomorrow we will spend the day in Florida and on Thursday we will cross into Georgia.  Neither of us knows that state but everyone knows its capital: Atlanta, where the Olympic Games took place in 1996.  It is also the home of Coca Cola.  It is where Thomas and René will join us, in just one week.

A Hello to Nico, who seems to think there are signs of spring in Chicago.  Sunday he watched a film and I let you guess the name: Forrest Gump.  There are two things that the fabulous Tom Hanks says in the film: “Mama says I’m special” and “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get” (those of you who are following Serge have seen a video on You Tube where he gives those quotes….)

See you

 

D44: Belleview – Archer

D44: Belleview – Archer

70,5km – 9H37′

Start today on US 27, which takes us to Ocala.  The traffic is heavy toward Gainesville and I’m glad I chose to go around that city in order to reach Lake City tomorrow.  As we leave Ocala at our 20th km, we continue on US 27 North but there is a complete change of scenery.  We are in the middle of prairies and woods and there are lots of horses.  One ranch follows another and they are all very luxurious.  The stables are more like sumptuous homes than lodging for horses.  This region seems to be a sanctuary for our equine friends and we see some grazing in their pasture.

As for Serge, he had trouble recovering from a state of weakness where he perspired heavily and his legs were weak.  The situation improved at the 25th km.  It’s a long time but Serge isn’t discourages because he knows that it is only momentary and part of the game.  Several puddles remain from last night’s storm but the earth quickly absorbed it all and my car didn’t get stuck in any mud.  At Williston, km 55, Serge took a small route 41, which he did not like because he cannot see cars behind him going out to pass another car and sometimes they do not see him either.  For that reason he prefers running on the double two or three lane highways.  We are demanding and prefer divided highways.

Serge continues to drink 2 gallons of water during his run (1 gallon = 3.78 L).  He does not drink any specific energy drink because he finds that in the long run they are not easy on the intestines.  He always adds coffee to his first morning feeing (today he had a double ration of coffee and muffins) and a small bottle of Coca Cola for the last two refueling of the day.  He adds a bowl of soup at the end of the morning.  In the evening and at night he generally drinks about 1 liter of liquid: 1 beer (33cl) and the rest water.  He does not drink beer every evening.  He started drinking beer in the USA because American beer, like the coffee, is rather weak so it’s easy to enjoy.

Another day has finished normally and Serge tells me “it was unbelievable”.  What was?  This morning I didn’t bet on the time I would take to run a certain number of km!

 

D43: Minneola – Belleview

D43: Minneola – Belleview

71,3 km – 9H38′

A long Sunday foot race

Florida went on daylight savings time tonight so we set our watches one hour ahead, which brings us closer to France with only a 5 hour time difference.

Serge and I have organized our nomadic life on the road as best we can.  In the morning, Serge gets breakfast while I shower.  He eats his daily kiwi and squeezes his citrus fruit (+ the juice of one lemon for his sweetheart).  Then he does the dishes while I connect to Internet and he finishes getting ready; most important his feet, to which he applies a good coat of anti-chaffing cream.  He adds a small reinforcement under the sole of his shoe because the incline of the road puts stress on his right ankle (it has been weak for some years). Finally, we move our daily accumulation of stuff: 3 bags, the breakfast cooler box, our valuables (computers, small back packs with the money and our papers…).  We head for the starting point, Serge turns on his tracker and off we go for about 10H on the road.

I am alone in the vehicle and because Serge wants to refuel about every 5 km (in spite of the heat he has not reduced the distance), I manage my time.  Twice I left him alone for 2 to 3 hours but we don’t like to be too far from our “Boss Runner” because the morning refuelings are important since it is at that time that he eats the most.  Sometimes in the afternoon he can suffer from hypoglycemia, especially when it is hot like it has been these past days. As he explained in one of his videos, to have something to look forward to every 5 km is good for the morale.  So I run errands and fill the tank of the car between two refuelings.  The urban areas we cross make this very easy.

In the evening, at the end of a properly calculated stage, thanks to the software, the race stops and Serge turns off  his watch and his  tracker and we head for the motel or hotel (I will explain the difference another day but we prefer motels) which I reserved a couple of days in advance.  For that, the Smartphone equipped with a SIM card with internet is very useful.  Thanks go to Nico, whose US bank account enabled us to have this mode of communication.  It is very useful in view of our nomadic lifestyle in the USA.

In the evening we have organized our life so that once we are in our room everything is well organized and timed so that Serge can go to bed quickly and sleep to recuperate.  Sleep is a sound investment for Serge, who loves to sleep well, even when he is not racing….

It is cloudy this afternoon.  A few drops of rain fell at the end of the stage and then there was a real rain storm.  It has made things a wee bit cooler.

D42: Dundee – Minneola

70,81km – 9H37′
Today we did not feel like taking pictures and making videos because Highway 27 was uninspiring. A long line of shopping centers, full of crowds this Saturday and a succession of brick walls that separate this very wide highway from residential areas went on for miles. Some of the communities are more luxurious than others. There is a name on each community and there are plenty of flowers, even though the homes are so close to each other that they almost touch. The more up-market communities are gated and there is more land around the homes, which are all different.
There are also lots of golf courses, private and public. Today the citrus orchards have almost disappeared. We are leaving the heart of Florida to head north.
At the beginning of the stage, crossing Haines, the small city enter was deserted and we understand why. Life is concentrated on the giant 2 x 3-lane US roads, which widen to 5 lanes at intersections. To the delight of Serge, there is even a lane for pedestrians. All of a sudden, the situation was so comfortable that Serge was almost sorry to leave US 27 at the 60th km. We will be back tomorrow. Great! As for me, this incessant traffic, the noise and constant need to be alert are not a pleasure. I like the quiet of the small roads, but that is not for tomorrow.
The « Highways » are the large national roads. The « Interstates, » which we never take because they are prohibited and too dangerous, are equivalent to French autoroutes. The majority of these “Interstates” are free but some become toll roads when they approach large cities.
Serge is in good shape. His legs are good and his muscles are not too painful. When he leaves in the morning he doesn’t seem to be suffering. He trots along quickly in a state of contemplation, when that is possible. He is in his race.
Tomorrow along our route there will be more lakes and water.

D41 Sebring – Dundee

D41 Sebring – Dundee

70,61km – 9H34′

The land of oranges is humid

Serge is bothered by the heat.  He went to bed last night at 7:30 pm and at 10 pm he awakened in a pool of sweat.  His body was boiling hot and he seemed to exude the heat which he had accumulated during the day.  This is something Serge often experiences; a problem of body temperature regulation. He perspires little or not at all, urinates a great deal and at night he seems to be feverish.  From  10 pm for an hour he applied an ice pack first on his diaphragm, then on the back of his neck, then on his head and finally on his legs, before falling asleep until 5:30 am, his normal waking time.  In the USA it is easy to find ice because in the motels there is almost always a self service ice machine.  In the morning I prepare a pack for our small ice box.  In filling stations you can buy bags of ice because Americans are used to having ice in their drinks, in plastic XXXL containers.  Ice is always served on flights by American companies and you have to specify without ice, otherwise you get it automatically.  Serge drinks room temperature liquid at home so he always says “no ice please”.  But at this precise moment, with or without ice, it is really hot and humid, which leads Serge to believe that it is hotter than normal, because he has more difficulty with damp heat than dry heat.  This evening the Internet weather information indicates 85% humidity, as opposed to 58% expected tomorrow. So today the temperature was 34°C and with such high humidity it gave Serge trouble.

The terrain was tough on the legs, with a succession of hills and deceptively flat stretches.  During the first three stages in Florida there was a positive ascent of between 60 and 70 meters, which is almost nothing.  Today we neared 400 meters but with continuous up and down. Serge complained of adductor/groin pain.  He first experienced this in 2001 and it plagues him from time to time.  The wind was at his back all day.

We are literally bathing in oranges.  I don’t know how many tons are produced and if the fruit is harvested all year long but the sight is impressive.  No doubt the sight we will remember most in Florida is oranges.  After Brazil, Florida is the biggest producer of orange juice and I have read that this year the harvest was better because the fruit is larger so there is less loss.

There is a multitude of small lakes in this area.  Often the towns bear the name of the lake: Lake Placid yesterday and Lake Wales today. Many of the very small lakes are not even on the map. These are freshwater lakes and we have seen a lot of pumps used to irrigate the plantations.  The noise is infernal in their quiet countryside.

The end of the stage takes place on Scenic Highway and there is a great deal of traffic after Lake Wales.  As usual, Serge will eat nothing after the 55th km.  Mamie, I can reassure you that today Serge wore his hat and ate well during the day.  He must have heard you.  And this evening there is an XXXL T-Bone steak on the menu, with French fries. As far as his appetite is concerned, all goes well.

Route for Saturday, March 12th: Etape 42