June 26, 2010
Couple rides bicycle from Cortland to Fla.
Mel King said he and his wife got the royal treatment from hotel staff when they heard how the couple travelled 1,376 miles to Florida — on their tandem recumbent bicycle.
“People look at us, ‘What are you crazy, are you nuts?’ They think you mean motorcycles,” he said. “(Hotel staff) brought the manager out. We got balloons on a gift basket. They have been loading us with stuff. It’s very, very, very nice,” he said.
The Cortland man, a SUNY Cortland psycholgy professor for 41 years and his wife, Debra Clark, a psychologist, rode from their Cortland home to Florida’s Walt Disney World in Orlando, in about a month. They left on May 19 and arrived on June 18.
King said he did it for the same reason a climber talks about Mount Everest: “Because it was there.”
“It was very hard. It was very, very hot. From Virginia on, day time temperatures got pretty (high) and a couple of places in Florida were close to 100,” King said.
The couple averaged 46 miles a day for the days that they rode, getting on their bike around 6 a.m. every day and most days pulling in for the night at 3 p.m. They stayed in motels every night. Some days they took off, allowing for rest. They have a blog of their trip on the Internet: melanddebbie.blogspot.com.
“Most of the time we were really tired, pushing hard. Go two to three hours, get something to eat. Go two to three hours, get something to eat. To me, the best part of the day was pulling in the hotel and getting in the shower,” King said.
King, 66, said his wife, 58, is in training, doing 5K runs and a half marathon. He, however, is coming off a leg injury.
“When we left on this trip on the 19th I had very little training. The first two weeks were training. If you know Pennsylvania, that was tough. We made it. We got stronger as we went on.”
This is the couple’s third long bike tour, including a stint from Seattle to Asbury Park, riding from the Pacific to the Atlantic. They have done three bike trips in Ireland, one in England and one in France.
The pair has a conventional tandem bicycle as well.
“We used to ride single. At the time, I was a lot faster and would ride one mile ahead,” he said. But a tandem bicycle solved that problem, allowing King and Clark to ride together. “That worked out well. It was a huge amount of fun,” he said.
King met a person who rode a recumbent bicycle on a tour. The bike allows a person to sit in a recumbent position, as if sitting in a chair. The seat is a foot and a half wide compared to a regular bike’s, which is like a knife’s edge, he said.
“You’re not leaning on arms and shoulders like a regular bike,” King said. He and his wife tried it and it was a lot more comfortable. They bought their own and have used a recumbent style ever since, in 1997.
“I can’t say it’s fun the way a good movie is fun, but it’s really cool to have done it,” King said of the Florida adventure. “A lot of people wouldn’t do it and certainly no one who is 66 ... I don’t know if we would do the same ride again but we will do something.”
“Pennsylvania was extremely hilly and very challenging to get through. That was hard. Virginia was pretty hilly,” King said.
DC was full of traffic. His favorite state was: “the last five miles.”
“As we got further South, everything got flatter and flatter and flatter. We didn’t have to do those climbs like out of Whitney Point, which was real hard.”
They used Google and Automobile Association of America maps, choosing roads like Route 11, 17, 301 and U.S. 1. They pulled a trailer for their gear. The bike and trailer are 15 feet long and King estimates they pulled 75 to 80 pounds of weight with their equipment.
Happily, the weather cooperated.
“We got sprinkled on twice, once for five minutes and the other for six minutes,” he said.
They found in the South, the weather heats up until its blistery hot and then storms break out in the afternoon. By then, the couple would be off the road.
“We got to the area on the 18th. We booked into a motel on the strip and came into Walt Disney World,” he said.
The couple are enjoying a hotel room at the Walt Disney world property outside the Magic Kingdom.
“Everything on the property is gorgeous. Now that we are here it’s vacation,” King said.
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