This year’s ATS was Friday November 4th through Sunday November 6th. The decision on the route this year was a “no-brainer”. After the success of last year’s Florida trip from St. Augustine to Cedar Key, it was only natural we reverse the trip this year and start in Cedar Key. And after having a slight headwind last year going east to west, what would the chances be that we would have a headwind when we reversed the route? Uh well… the chances apparently were pretty good, because not only did we have a headwind this year, it became so bad that we had to alter the route and daily mileage. The 2016 ATS will be remembered as the most grueling of our ATSs to date. With an average headwind of 20-22 mph – with gusts up to 27 mph – we were exhausted after both days, and limped into St. Augustine in the dark. But again – everyone made it! And our motto continues: NO ONE LEFT BEHIND!
The year was special in that the PFK ranks were bolstered by new cyclists. Our friends in the cycling club “Crankin’ Carbon”, under the able leadership of Ben Brown, provided the bulk of the new crew. But we also added Pat Teasdale of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Pat became a fast and true friend and we are insisting he go on ALL future trips! Mike Moore continued his loyalty in supporting the ride again and, although an excellent cyclist, doesn’t hesitate to drop back and “pull” when needed. Popular newcomers Cathy Alford and Lisa Plock rode well and were an easy mesh into the group; we are hoping this is the first of many, many ATSs for them. We thank our newcomers for not only adding a number of excellent cyclists, but all were really fun and great to be with. Oh yeh, and we again raised a lot of money for our PFK children with disabilities.
Dr. Jimmy Elder again blessed our trip before we departed for Cedar Key and we were once again blessed with safe rides for everyone. We took Friday to leisurely make it down to Cedar Key and we again stayed in condos at Nature’s Landing. The group was treated by chefs Eysel, Hughes, Parker, and Sherrer to paninis with chips with the chefs befittingly decked out in chef coats and bandanas (all of which, of course, made the food taste better…).
The trip from Cedar Key to Gainesville, as previously mentioned, was tough. Really tough. The planned 67-mile first day turned in to a 48-miler. But the sore muscles were quickly forgotten with dinner with tents and lights in the motel parking lot. We also had an array of specialty drinks from the PFK bar that helped with the day’s agonies! Chef Hawkeye again knocked everyone’s cycling socks off with his cheeseburgers. Dessert included “birthday cake” cordials – which were popular to say the least. Doc tried to somehow claim this was his belated birthday party everyone had forgotten.
Sunday came with continued significant headwinds but the day was nothing like Saturday. However, with the previous day’s mileage cut, Sunday’s mileage neared 90 miles. We still had the challenge of a steady 15 mph headwind and twice the mileage of the previous day. But again, we persevered. We all made it to St. Augustine in one piece but with the last several miles a little on the “dark side”. A special thanks AGAIN to Liz Singley who protected the rear group with an excellent all-day SAG.
The celebration in St. Augustine was spectacular with stuffed mushrooms and roasted brie with honey from Chef Doc and an unbelievable low-country shrimp boil from Chef Hawkeye! Chef Doc’s dessert of bananas foster flambé topped off the night. Needless to say, no one had trouble falling asleep Sunday night.
Many thanks to this year’s riders: Cathy Alford, Ben Brown, Mike Cargal, Barrie Clark, Jamie Cox, Rhonda Eysel, Bill Foreman, Chester Fort, Erin Golden, Ken Gunnels, Mike Moore, Jay Parker, Greg Parsons, Lisa Plock, Jimmie Robertson, Dale Sides, Jack Sherrer, and Pat Teasdale.
Our SAGs were, as usual, outstanding. Thanks so much to: Taylor Brown, VerDel Cargal, Nick Cox, Loretta Fort, Cathy Gunnels, Lori Hughes, and Liz Singley. And everything went smoothly under the able and watchful eye of our Social Activities Chair Lori Hughes. We now check Lori’s schedule first before we decide on an ATS date.
Stayed tuned for next year’s ride. Dale Sides promises to come up with a new route in the Mississippi/Alabama/Florida panhandle that will have us in all three states on the 2017 ATS!!