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Monday, February 28, 2011

Another Perfect View

I'm settled into a Georgia State Park campsite. The sky is blue from end to end, though the report is for rain. I'm ready, if one can be, but doubtful. It is just too pretty.

My new neighbors, who just moved in, offered me a glass of wine, so the quick and easy friendships of the road begins again. And as I write (but stopped) the camp host came by to be friendly. She and her husband camp host in the winter and RV travel the rest of the year. And now some small aggressive birds have come to visit.

Today I sadly left Greater Brunswick where I quickly and powerfully made friends with a variety of great people. My time there seems fresh in my memory and so long ago as I have resumed my journey. Tomorrow 50 plus miles to Douglas, GA.
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Mountain?

This is a cropped view from my porch. Do you see the mountains in the distance raising above the lake? That lake is the Atlantic Ocean and the mountains may just be this afternoon's fog getting ready to roll in.
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Saturday, February 26, 2011


This morning the St. Simons Island was fog bound. I spent much of the day inland in Brunswick without the fog but when I returned the fog, albeit lessened, was still hanging around.

I walked out to the beach where the fog was most dense. As I approached the shore the gulls walked away to give me birth. None flew, just walked. Standing in the pleasant but cool and wet air, staring out into the cloud felt almost ancient. I saw and heard the waves but not much more; the world beyond removed from human reach, maybe from the gulls' reach too.
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Brunswick, the Synagogue

Last night was all it could have been. Using "Gates of Prayer" I lead services for about 80 or so Jews and non Jewish guests. Really good energy and I only tripped a couple of times. Really good energy that flowed into today's Shabbat morning Torah study. Judaism means a great deal to the members, not more than it means to my congregation, but with an intensity born out of the knowledge that they are small in numbers and that they represent a long tradition in Brunswick. The building pictured above is way old and way beautiful. Painted "stained" glass windows set in beautiful wood. Many windows. Thick pillars of wood hold up the ceiling, which is a complex design of diagonally wood. A high Bima with central amud/lecturn.

Lucky me.
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Outside the Door.

In this grassy churchyard on St. Simmons Island a young dynamic Episcopal priest, John Wesley, with strong help from his hymn writing brother, created the Methodist Church or so I was told. Across the road are the remains of Fort Frederica from which the British built up the Colony of Georgia and held back the Spanish from their fortified stronghold of St. Augustine, just some miles down the coast. I was gifted with a brief gracious tour of the island. And I left out the amazing remnant of the oak forest and the lighthouse with a view of that bridge.

Last night I enjoyed dinner with a couple. He's from right here and she's from Louisiana. Their daughters live in Atlanta and south Florida. There is a world down here that does not revolve around New York the way my galaxy does. Not better nor worse, just different. A different American Jewish Community.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Night Cap of Torah

Holle and Richard took me for dinner tonight. About halfway through the meal we began to discuss Torah. We talked. We practically closed the place down. Isaac, Rashi, Moses, Peninah, Rebecca flowed in and out. Oh yes and God too.
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The View from the End of a Perfect Day

I did not ride today. Well no more than a couple, three miles to have an afternoon cup of coffee. Last night at dinner the issues was raised of playing golf. If I did then I could skip that nasty (but beautiful) bridge with a clean conscious and ride the ten miles in a car with Mr. Bicycle in the rear. I would also enable my host Jay to play in his weekly game rather than transport me and my guilt over the bridge in the SUV.

What a hoot. After a fruit, coffee and muffin breakfast, we went on a blustery day to play an unbelievably pretty links course, that is a course by the sea. This one built in the early 1900's for a collection of rich folk with names like Morgan and Rockefeller. And I, who have not played in at least five years, held my own. Then the drive over that bridge, a lovely burger lunch till I arrived at my Ann Arbor congregant's place from where I took this picture.

But back to my host and my second informal meeting with Brunswick Jews with whom we ate dinner. Like going out with old friends. And my host Jay, a new friend. Gentle, wise and thoughtful.

And there is still the evening ahead.
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tomorrow's Top of the World

The biggest bridge in Georgia.
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The Pony Express Oak in Front of Sue and Hal's Home

"Do you like steak?" Asked the at ease voice on the phone. My first "congregant" meal in Brunswick (actually Waverly). My first coffee with several members for dessert. My first night in Georgia and I was comfortable.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Real Food, Real People

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This morning I said goodbye to Peter and headed back inland and then North into Georgia. The last few days have been some amazing cycling. Glorious vistas. Beautiful homes. Great weather. The place to be, but a bit homogenized with the rest of America.

This morning I'm eating breakfast in the heart of Georgia. The waitress actually sat down in the booth to take my order and asked for a bite of my pancake. This is an orange and green diner called Steffens. This is the south.

On the other hand, my friend Amir, with whom I bike in the summer, called just as I as I was on the bridge that separates Florida and Georgia. Some people hate technology just because of its intrusive nature. I love that I could receive a call from Israel, in the middle of almost nowhere. And the google mapping app has been my guide.

Halfway to dinner and I'm smiling.
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jacksonville Beach

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Camp Beautiful Florida

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A Short Haul Trucking

Legged with a reconfigure bike, Peter and I set off for a short 30 mile ride through the island marshlands of Northern Florida. Spectacular vistas and birds.

Last night we camped at a weak county park. The ten ad price should have been a sign. Bad personal grooming facilities without a tree in sight. Our neighbors to the left played AC/DC "all night long." On the right they arose a 3:00 am, I think to go fishing. They did catch my attention.

But in truth I am just complaining for fun. Last night's dinner was terrific and included local reptile. And today's ride was glorious. Our Florida State site tonight boasts two 70 foot tall trees equipped with hanging moss. Dinner will be at the ocean. I'm getting ready to ship home my cooking supplies. The local food, especially the breakfasts, have keep the cooking to a minimum. And it still gets dark pretty early which impacts cleanup.

Tomorrow it's 50 miles to the edge of Brunswick Georgia, my next working stop.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Proof of Goodness

The last two days have been beautiful but hard. Yesterday I had my 7th flat and I decided that the cause was the weight on skinny tires without the means to keep them inflated at 120 lbs. Maybe I'm wrong but today, with the help of Two Wheel Tango in Ann Arbor, I found Bike Fitters ( in Ponte Verde, FL.

I was down on myself and Ralph and Kim built me up. They fixed the bike with strong fatter tires. They did a complete tune up and chain cleaning unasked. They charged me only for the parts minus 10% and threw in the gas cartridges I picked up. They are princes. The world is good and kind. And I am ready for tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the scenery has been spectacular. Since Peter joined me each day has been just scenic. Blessings abound from humans and God.
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And Kim.

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Ralph of Bike Fitters

Ralph and Kim fixed me up good. Great people, great service. Worth the trip!?
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Friday, February 18, 2011

The Beach at Flagler

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Peter at Breakfast

We stopped along the way, of course. Outside the ocean, inside the carrot cake.
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

6 Flats and Two Blown Tires Later

The last 48 hours may have qualified me as a bike tire mechanic. It was like changing a baby with lower GI distress. Yet the cycling is going great. I get to places on time and in good spirits. And I've been meeting some very nice folk in bike shops.

And the people I meet in general have been wonderful. Last night after I wrote about the glories of fried peanut butter, I went over to thank the fry meister and his wife. Over coffee we talked. It would be an invasion of privacy to share the content but let me just say I was moved in a variety of ways. Life is about struggle and joy and love whether you are RVing from Delaware or a rabbi cycling from Ann Arbor.

This morning Butch, who I has never seen before, took my picture and I have placed it on the blog. Later in the day he wrote me that our brief encounter was a gift. I agreed.

On a less extraordinar note, my friend Peter flew down to Daytona to join me for a few days of cycling. We met at the end of my day for fish and a beer. More good times.
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The Very Helpful Ranger at my First Starte Park

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Mims Forida

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Oh and I forgot

The fried peanut butter that just arrived.
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Oh, a small addition.

I forgot to mention the fried goodies my neighbor just brought over. And she called me darling.
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Today Could Have Been Better.

After a good night's sleep and a cup of coffee, I headed out early, 7:15. And I took a lovely picture and within 20 seconds I had a flat. And then another. (And yes I pulled out the metal piece.) And by the time I pulled into a Google maps found bike store I needed a tire as well. And then again, a lovely bike store with an ego boost for me.

And then there was the cycling chief of police for Coco Beach I met at a porta-potty. And folks I met at the RV park.

What can I say? A great day.
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The Morning Ride Begins

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Little Night Music

I spent the evening in the company of Canter Pat Hickman of Melbourne, FL. We talked shop together and then more shop with her educator and youth advisor. Then we watched Glee and kveled about our kids. Like everywhere I've been, the welcome has been real and rich. I just hope that any input I gave serves her well. Such a delightful person. And her husband! He collects, restores and sells lots of stuff including early recorded music devices. I heard an non-amplified, big horned, record player that was beyond loud yet clear and stunning in its fidelity.

And Pat told me the ground shakes at her house when a blast off occurs at nearby Cape Canaveral. Wow!

What a terrific experience.
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A Mid-Day Report

Last night it was 42 degrees. But before I turned in(to a popsicle) for the night I met my neighbors, two Rhode Island women with a very cool back of a F-250 truck camper. The meeting. The talking. Life is good.

Today was a big day with only a mile or so to go. And I wanted to get a hunk out of the way before breakfast. Hit the road at 7:25 and yes it was cold. At ten I stopped for the classic American breakfast served by a particular sub-genre of the classic American breakfast waitress, the one who calls you
"Hon." OK, nothing special you say. But she also touched my arm when I ordered. Could breakfast be better? And the potatoes were again excellent, though the toast lacked toasting.

Now at the end of too many miles I stopped for a coffee at Starbucks. BTW (by the way) one can measure a trip like this one counting Starbucks or MickyDees or Lowes or or or. Not exactly local. God bless her, the barista gave me a scone with a missing corner. Life is so good.

Now I'm off for an evening with Cantor Pat Hickman and her youth group. I'm going to teach them the Chaim Rockman cycling prayer. It's somewhere in the beginning of Isaiah ch. 40. Lower the hills and raise the valleys.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

A Second Wonderful Ride

Well yesterday was great and so was today. 75 degrees and a lesser head wind. But that is so not the story. Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Well I did brush my teeth. I was on the road by 7:30. At 8 I pulled into a what looked like a good breakfast place. I turned the corner and looked up and saw a Dunkin Donuts. Wow, was I dreaming? DD is not my idea of a good breakfast, one of the 4 food groups, along with Italian, Asian, and Steak.

The classic American breakfast: eggs ( my love is soft scramble), potatoes, optional meat, toast and coffee. I ordered grit instead of potatoes, this being the South, but my waitress suggested that I consider the potatoes, which the cook makes with onions. You got to love an American breakfast waitress, all genuine friendliness, I think. And instead of toast, she suggested a biscuit. Calories, fat and protein, and a bike.

Back on the road I covered 40 miles by 11:30. So I changed my sleeping plan from a County park to a private campground 10 more miles up the coast. (Tomorrow may be 60 to 70 miles.) Another new world. A village, a city, a community of RV'ers with showers, washing machines and grocery store. And piles of Canadians. Who knew that Florida lost the War of 1812?

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The First Day. May They All be as Sweet.

75 degrees, can't argue.
15 mph head wind, a cause to complain once.

The French cafe I wandered into, unbelievable.  Real French pastries, great coffee, quiche and cheap.  Of course, the other cyclists seating next to me began a conversation that ended in cycling together up the coast.  What a wonderful mode of transport, lucky finds and good company.  Then up to Deb and Bob Merion's parents (see the pictures) for a meal with a bed.  Again great company and delightful digs and dinner. 

People are so kind and generous and cycling provides the opportunity for the warm give and take.  Today, just my first day and already filled with the joy of touring.

Milt and Margy Merion

My hosts tonight.
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Jupiter Vista

Just resting on the Merion's porch.
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

The First Gig, whew.

Today, I led services at the senior apartments where my mom lives.  On one hand, a piece of cake: An abbreviated service for elderly Jews.  Om the other hand it felt like Yom Kippur.  In a week I have grown to love these people, my mom's friends, steeped in wisdom and learning, open to what I have to offer but not uncritical of it.  People who want a Me Shaberach after an Aliya and appreciate the blessing, who say kaddish with pain and wisdom and who with knowledge sing both Hatikva and the Star Spangled Banner with full voices.

Well all went well.  Lots of Jews with good feelings, including when we dedicated a Torah in memory of my Dad.  And when it was over it still felt like the High Holy Days.  Lots of powerful positive energy.

And then the kiddish.  Thank God for South Florida.  Smoked whitefish salad, real lox with capers, terrific challah and rugulach like you don't see every day.  In case you don't know me real well, I have a weakness for food and so will this blog. 

A great start to my trip.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The (Real) Reason I Bike

Today was part of a couple of days' pattern.  I rode 20 miles as the map above shows.  I enjoyed some wonderful interactions with people I met where my mom lives.  The residents are amazing and the staff delightful.  And I took a few things off the bike in the ongoing effort to lighten the ride.  Who needs a chair anyway?

But the today's moment of delight was at the half-way point of today's ride.  Unexpectedly I came upon a fruit and other stuff market called "The Boys."  I threaded the bike between a parking lot crowded with cars like the a freeway in slow-mo driven by lower-case elder folk.  Inside the scene continued.  Scores of folk now driving shopping carts in a in slow-mo dance.  I wandered through the bakery, the cheese department, the fruits and vegetables and, in the coffee area, I picked up some Turkish.  And from the cooler I grabbed a quart of fresh OJ.  Biking is permission for a little gluttony.  And I was thirsty.  And it was delicious.  And only 12 miles back. 

A Svelt Bike

A less loaded bike on my mom's porch.
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Ferblungent Cyclist and his Dieting Bike

This morning I woke up to respond to my mother's words of yesterday (and to my own concerns).  The bike was too heavy and too top heavy.  Four pairs of socks became two.  Three shirts became two as well.  Six BVDs when four will do?  Less toiletries.  One cooking stove will be enough.  Suddenly five bags, four panniers and one over the rack became four panniers, with the sleeping gear stowed within, not on top.  Less weight and lower on the bike.  I rode 12 miles and felt more secure and a bissel quicker.  Life is good.

Before the ride I was invited to attend a Yiddish class at my mom's place by the teacher who is also the person in charge of the Shabbat service I will lead this coming Shabbat.  What a treat.  We began singing "Hatikva" and "Got Bentch Amerike."  A woman who claimed to know nothing and could not read the song sheets hit every word and note of the several Yiddish songs we sang.  Our leader read a terrific autobiographical story about non Jew who grew up in a part of Jewish Brooklyn.  He was both the Shabbes Goy and the envious outsider.  His family loved bread ends and Challah is the bread with nothing but "ends."  We played a "Guess the Meaning of a Yiddish Word" game, but the class knew better definitions than the printed sheets.  What a treat to be in the company of such knowledge and wisdom and modesty and gentleness and age.  Though treated with rabbinic respect, at 57, I felt 12, a kid at the grown up table.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Fully Loaded Bike or You Don't Always Get What You Want . . .

I arrived in sunny Florida.  How do you argue with 80 degrees and cotton-ball clouds with palm trees blowing in the wind?  (Other than the hope that the winds are to your back.)  Picked up my mom and enjoyed real New York pizza.  Coming home my mom encouraged me to put the bike together.  I might of waited but she was right, I needed the focus.  Two hours later my machine, she looked mighty fine.

Well at least I thought so.  My mom saw the loaded beast of burden and decided that the whole trip needed to be canceled.  To be honest, I was also a bit concerned and took the bicycle down to the parking lot for a lap or two to see I could really ride the thing.  You betcha I could.  Yet this did little to appease my mom, who thought I should rent a car for the three months, stay in hotels, eat in resturants and just maybe walk away (or rather fly away) from the whole bad idea.  I would not say that the weighted look and weighted feel of the machine was filling me with confidence either but the mom vote is in: Don't go. 

Will I give up before I start?  No way.  Will I shorten the daily milage?  We will see as I test out the bike.  Might it be that I will give up along the way?  I'm not much of a quiter, but have I bitten off a lot. Wow, the challenge is before me.

We agreed to go through my stuff, all five bags, plus chair, tent, and sleeping gear and see what might be lost.  My friend Amir says that I never pack any thing I need, rather I always pack two of everything I need.  Tomorrow begins the lightening.

No Snow, Radial.

The loaded bike on my mom's porch.

the adventure begins

I'm between flights in Charlotte, NC. When I boarded my first flight I realized that I had left my shoulder bag at the gate. Whoa! I jumped up checked around me, saw that the plane was still pretty empty, with even the seats folded over. I ran off. But wait I know I did bring on my bag. Wait, wait, Bob. Wake up. Good thing too since running off the plane at 37,000 feet is even a worse idea than biking 2k miles. Well I guess a little fear of the unknown is a good thing. I did kick my bag to test it for solidity.