Thursday, May 30, 2013

Part 10 - the arrival

Well, in the last few days I've gone from facing some end-of-the-trip adversity (in terms of weather and camping conditions) to finishing my tour and achieving my goal. I've successfully made it from the atlantic coast to the pacific coast and it feels amazing. Here's how the trip has finished up:

Day 47 - today was brutal! I wanted to get an early start to try and avoid some wind, but it was to no avail. We left Brad's house at around 715 and had headwinds throughout the entire ride. Even when we changed directions it was like the wind was following us. It was nice today, though, because Cole broke some of the wind and gave me a nice break. We stopped for some food and a breather in Silver Springs and Dayton before finally making the 62 miles into Carson City, Nv - my first state capital of the entire trip. We took a 'rest' in Carson City and rode around checking out the Supreme Court building and the capitol building. We grabbed some snacks at a gas station and then headed on. Shortly, though, Cole and I went our separate ways as he's headed towards Lake Tahoe, then north and I headed a bit south to Genoa, Nv where I'm staying for the night. It was tough saying goodbye to another riding buddy, but I've only got a couple more days to go! When I got to Genoa I decided to hit up a local bar and grill for some food and to ask the locals about a potential place to stay for the night. The food was decent, but expensive, but I ended up meeting several great people! I met 'VW Tim', who informed me that Genoa is a small laid back town and no one will bother me if I sleep in the park just next door - he also gave me his number and told me that if I run into trouble to give him a call and I can crash at his place. So I've posted up in the park to camp and we'll see how it goes. I met another couple that live close to the top of my climb in the morning and they also gave me their number and address in case I run into any problems on the ride up. Speaking of tomorrow, I'll attack my final climb of the trip first thing in the morning up and over Carson Pass (8,573 ft). It will be a long climb in which I'll climb almost 4,000 ft in altitude. I'm shooting for a very early start, though, as it looks like it will be another windy day with a chance of snow or rain later in the day at the top of the pass. So, I'm hoping to get up and over before any of that hits. Otherwise, once I hit the pass it will be mostly downhill from there, eventually dropping back to sea level. I'm not sure how far I'll get tomorrow, but once I make it to the top of the climb I'll go as far downhill as I can go! ~240 miles to go!

Day 48 - about that very early start that I wanted.. Well I got the early start (around 430 am), but it wasn't really by choice. So I took VW Tim's advice and decided to camp out in the park in Genoa. All was well - my belongings were safe and sound in my tent with me, my bike locked up and no one was bothering me - until I was rudely awakened at 11 pm by the sprinkler system. I wasn't happy. Actually I feared for my life because I had no tent cover and wasn't sure how 'waterproof' my tent was. And this wasn't one of those gentle spraying sprinkler systems - it sounded like someone was hosing down my tent with a water hose. As the water pelted my tent I felt the wall to see how much, if any, water was getting through. Fortunately I found out that it was fairly waterproof. Unfortunately, though, my shoes were outside and my vent was open. So I grabbed my shoes and quickly placed them inside and closed the flaps on my door as best as I could. I stuffed all of my riding clothes into my sleeping bag and covered my entire body to stay as warm and dry as possible. I fell back asleep and at around 4 am I woke up, slightly damp and completely annoyed. It was a little chilly and some of the water had finally leaked through the tent. I forced myself to get up and start moving around, eating and changing clothes because otherwise I would have just laid there miserable and not made any progress on the days ride. I got up, put on all my layers and packed up. I figured if anything this would give me an extra head start on the day. I set out at around 430 headed towards Carson's Pass (8,573 ft - my final climb of the trip!). I was pedaling pretty slowly and fighting to stay warm. Fortunately, the simultaneous moon set and sunrise kept me somewhat entertained. Shortly into the ride I crossed into California, my 10th and final state and at some point today I believe I crossed the Great Basin Divide. With my shoes still wet, my feet went numb about 10 minutes into the ride. I climbed for about 2 hours before stopping at a restaurant halfway up the mountain for breakfast and a place to thaw out my toes. Once I hit the road again the sun had finally come out of its shell and it started to warm up a bit. I ran into a couple of cyclists that gave me some encouragement and words of wisdom about the upcoming climb and one of them even offered me a place to stay in Sacramento. I finally made it to the top - I was relived and ecstatic that I had finally reached the top of my last climb. I layered up and headed down the other side. On the way down I had a couple smaller climbs, but for the most part it was all smooth sailing downhill. Kinda. It started raining on me about an hour into my descent, but I was so glad to have the climb out of the way that I didn't even mind. I stopped for a couple quick snacks, and soon enough I was down to about 2,000 ft altitude. The scenery passing through Eldorado National Forest was beautiful. Eventually I made it to Placerville, CA where I'm staying for the night. Needless to say I'm exhausted and after last night / this morning I'm rewarding myself with a hotel room. Tomorrow I'll be heading 70ish miles to Davis, CA where I have a warmshowers host waiting for me. I'll have a bit more downhill early before finally reaching sea level and some flat terrain. The weather should be decent with little wind and hopefully no rain. 

Day 49 - I don't think I could have asked for a better day. I slept in a little after yesterday's long day and got on the road around 815. It started out a bit cloudy and chilly, but soon enough the sun popped out and it warmed up. I made it around 65 miles into Davis, Ca which just might be the coolest city I've visited on the entire trip. The downtown area is really nice and has more of a small town feel to it. Everyone is also very Eco friendly as well - a lot of people have solar panels and its been dubbed the bicycle capital if the world. The scenery on the ride today was pretty cool - not so much the natural scenery I've seen over the last couple weeks, but more of the man made city structural type of scenery. I rolled through Folsom, Ca and got a glimpse of the prison where Johnny Cash performed way back when. And I also rolled through my second state capitol of the trip, Sacramento. When I arrived in Davis I stopped at a bike shop to top off my tires with air and mingled around town before my warmshowers host, Nancy, called. I met her at the local co-op and we rode back to her house where I was able to get a shower and chow down on some delicious homemade veggie burgers. Tomorrow should be the final day of the tour. I should have a nice welcoming party waiting for me at the Golden Gate Bridge, as my friends Jeff, Bernadette, an Danielle are in town. The weather should be nice. I'm getting excited! 

Day 50 - today was the day. I woke up and got an early start from Davis after a very delicious, but underwhelming breakfast at my hosts house. I had about 75 miles to go to San Francisco and was trying to set my arrival up so that I arrived at the San Francisco-Vallejo ferry with enough time to spare. I stopped for a quick, but more filling breakfast in Fairfield then hit the road again. The weather turned out to be fairly windy, as I was getting a good bit of wind coming off the bay, but I didn't even mind. I arrived in Vallejo at around 1 pm and grabbed my ticket for the 2 o'clock ferry and the realization that I had finally reached my goal began to set in. The hour long ferry took us by some awesome scenery heading up to the SF bay - Alcatraz, some other neat little islands and a few bridges, including the Golden Gate. Overall the scenery today was really amazing. Before entering the bay area I passed trough several vineyards and apple orchards then hit some beautiful rolling hills leading into the bay area. When the ferry docked in San Francisco my map had me heading to the Golden Gate Bridge, but my friends who were awaiting my arrival had mapped out another route for me so that I could end right on the beach, or at least so I thought. I got in touch with my friends and got some of the worst directions I've ever had - we're laughing about it now, but at the time it wasn't so fun because I was exhausted and I ended up riding up Divisadero street which is apparently the steepest road in San Francisco. After spending about an hour or so figuring out my route to the Golden Gate Park (where they were waiting for me), I was on my way. Rolling through the park was beautiful and upon my arrival I was greeted by my friends Jeff, Bernadette, Bernadette's sister and friend, and Danielle. A prematurely popped bottle of champagne and an American flag were awaiting me. I grabbed a quick glass and made my rounds of hugs and high fives and we headed out to the beach where we took some photos and I finally realized my goal. It was an amazing feeling. Though, im not sure which was the better feeling - the feeling of accomplishing my goal, or the thought of being able to wake up in the morning and not have to sit on a bicycle seat for 6 hours. Nonetheless it was an amazing feeling and well worth the 7 weeks of hard work and effort. We soon headed out for dinner and drinks before catching a beautiful sunset by the Golden Gate Bridge. We then headed out to a farm in Pescadero, Ca where Bernadette's sister is working for the summer. We're sleeping on the rooftop of the owners greenhouse under a beautiful, wide open sky full of stars - I couldn't think of a better way to cap off my trip than with this amazing view and some good friends. I've got another friend, Remy, flying in tomorrow to visit. Once he arrives we'll all be hanging out and exploring for a few days before I figure out how to spend the next 2 weeks before my flight. It's been an amazing journey that I'll never forget. I've met some amazing people along the way and made some memories that will last a lifetime. I've tested my limits and learned so much about myself and many others that I've met along the way. This has been an amazing journey that I'll always cherish and never forget. Thanks to everyone for all of the support along the way.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Part 9

Over the last few days I've encountered some late May snow, traversed the Nevada desert via the loneliest highway in America, gone on a stealth camping spree, and lost a dollar on the Nevada slots. I'm down to my last 315ish miles and can almost smell the Pacific Ocean. Here's how they have played out:

Day 41 - all things considered today went well. We got a pretty late start because the bike shop didn't open until 9, but we were still able to crank out about 70 miles from Cedar City to the top of Frisco Summit where we're stealth camping just off the highway behind some bushes. The summit is about 14 miles to the west of Milford, Utah and is at 6,445 ft altitude. The killer today was the wind. Not getting an early start cost us some stronger head winds at about 15-20 mph. We tried drafting for a bit to help conserve some energy, but soon enough I was breaking the wind for Cole because his load was much heavier than mine. I didn't mind, though because it meant we were able to move a little faster. He likes to stretch his rides throughout the entire day whereas I like to get an early start, ride as far as I can get, and then relax for a bit. I'm not sure how long our partnership will last, but I'll enjoy the company while I've got it. The weather was a chilly 60ish today with the wind, but should be pretty nice tomorrow getting up in the 70s with potentially a bit of a tailwind. I'd like to get an early start in the morning and give us enough time to make it past Baker to stealth camp again. We'll have a climb first thing in the morning, but according to our elevation profile it looks like its one of our last steep climbs. The terrain today was all mostly long gradual climbs so it wasn't so bad. The scenery was nice and relaxing today, but nothing like the last few days. Also, we won't have services for the entire ride tomorrow so as of now were loaded down with food and water  - I can't complain too much, though, as the camelbak seems to be making a great pillow.

Day 42 - with a pretty early start we were looking at making it to Baker, Nevada for the day - a 70 mile trip. However, once we got to Baker and refueled we realized that Majors Junction (another 35ish miles) was within reach, but about halfway to Majors we turned directly into a 24 mph headwind. We battled it for a couple of miles and took turns leading before we finally stopped and sat down to eat and try and gain some strength back. We had already gotten in around 90 miles by this point and were about ready to shut it down. We walked about 100 yards up the road before I convinced Cole that it wasn't going to let up for a while and it would be best to just call it quits and camp on the side of the road. So we've decided to stealth camp once again. Except this time were not being so stealthy. There is no tree or bush coverage so we're literally about 30 yards off the side of the road out in the open for everyone to see. Fortunately, though, we're on highway 50 - the loneliest highway in America, so we probably don't have to worry too much about people bothering us. We're going to rest up here and finish up into Ely, Nevada in the morning, restock the bags and probably head out on another 70-80 mile section with no services. Other than the late wind, the rest of today's ride went really well. We had a good bit of descending today, which was nice. The roads are deceivingly long and straight - what seems to be about 3 or 4 miles of riding ahead ends up being around 10-15 miles of riding. The scenery, though, is really pretty - we paralleled the edge of the Great Basin National Park for a bit which seemed to be beautiful. It's starting to look somewhat like the Colorado Rockies again, just without the bigger climbs. I made it into Nevada, my 9th state, and crossed my 3rd and final time zone.  I've got just over 600 miles left and it doesn't look like it will be an extremely difficult ride in terms of terrain, but let's just hope the weather and wind cooperate. I'm enjoying the stealth camping because it makes for great adventure and it's cheap, but I'm wishing I had a thermarest pad to sleep on - the bedding out here hasn't been so comfortable - last night a dirt and rock mattress and tonight much of the same. The winds should be calming down tonight and hopefully staying fairly calm throughout tomorrow morning so an early start will be a must. 

Day 43 - today  went well. We woke up early and hit the road. The whole not-so-stealthy camping seemed to work well, as no one gave us any trouble. It was still fairly windy because we were in a valley, but we pushed through to Majors Junction. We stopped for a quick snack in Majors and fortunately the guy who owned the bar we stopped at had just woken up, so he refilled our water for us. We finished the climb from Majors up to the top of Connors Pass (7,722 ft) and then descended down into Ely, Nevada where we stocked up on food and water and grabbed a warm meal. We wanted to get past Ely because tomorrow's weather looks like it could get pretty windy. So after a little lunch at a casino we headed off - oh and yes I did play 1 dollar on the slots just for fun - I lost, but the guy next to me struck a thousand bucks just as I got ready to play. We had no plan past Ely, but to just get closer to Eureka where we may or may not be stopping tomorrow. We climbed up and over Robinson Summit (7,588 ft), descended down and climbed almost to the top of Little Antelope Summit where we're stealth camping for the night. We're about 2 miles from the top and pretty well hidden about 50 yards off the side of the road behind some bushes. It looks like it could get pretty cold tonight (down to the high 20s or low 30s) so I've got the layers ready. We're looking at getting an early start in the morning when it should be fairly calm - we'll be shooting for Eureka, and if the wind is cooperating then we may even make a run for Austin - that is if we survive the cold tonight. 

Day 44 - well we survived the cold, but it wasn't easy climbing out of the tent this morning in 30 degree weather. It got a little scary last night when we woke up in the middle of the night to a pack of animals of some sort howling, barking and crying for about 20 minutes within a pretty close radius of where we were posted up. Nonetheless, somehow we were able to get on the road early. It was pretty calm this morning so it was still a toss up as to whether or not we would stay in Eureka (35-40 miles) or head on towards Austin (90+ miles). We made it to Eureka after crossing Little Antelope (7,438 ft), Pancake (6,521 ft), and Pinto (7,351 ft) Summits. When we got into town we grabbed some breakfast, checked the weather and talked our options over with the locals. There was still a wind advisory in effect for today and tomorrow's forecast looks good so we've decided to post up here in Eureka for the night so we can get a bed and a shower - a nice change from the last few nights of roughing it. Let it be known that nothing beats a warm shower to wash off 4 days of sweat and sunscreen. We've racked up on groceries and water and have been resting up for tomorrow. We'll likely head to Austin, restock, then head out for another night of camping before we head to Fallon the next day. I'm down to 500 miles left and am counting down the days. In addition to my right Achilles bothering me, my left has now started bothering me. I've been resting and icing it today since we got in, so hopefully it will hold out this last week or so. 

Day 45 - today turned out to be a lot longer day than I anticipated - at least in terms of time spent on the road. We left around 630 this morning and rode off-and-on until around 6 pm. The winds were pretty brutal. What we thought was going to be a slight tailwind turning into a cross wind ended up being a headwind for most of the day. It wasn't so bad going up climbs, but coming downhill and in the valleys between climbs was tough - especially when you're the only one breaking the wind. Nonetheless, we were able to make it around 96 miles where we are stealth camping off the side of hwy 50 between Austin, Nv and Fallon, Nv just past New Pass Summit (6,348 ft). We also crossed 3 other summits today: Hickison Summit (6,594 ft), Bob Scott Summit (7,195 ft), and Austin Summit (7,484 ft). We stopped in Austin for lunch and restocked on food and water for the night. We're essentially out of the sections of hwy  50 with no services so we will actually be able to have a warm breakfast in the morning. We'll be heading into Fallon, Nv tomorrow (around 85 miles) and hopefully staying with a warmshowers host. Once we arrive in Fallon I will switch over to my final map set and will have about 317 miles to go. It must be peak time for cyclists to be heading out on tour because we ran in to 5 different riders today. My Achilles is still a little sore, but with the finish line in sight I'm able to pedal through it. 

Day 46 - despite battling some winds all day, today went pretty well. We got a later start than usual at around 730 and made it about 84 miles into Fallon, NV. It was mostly flat and downhill with a couple of small climbs. I broke the wind for the entire way yet again. I wanted to get to Fallon early so I made sure to set a good pace. We stopped in Cold Springs for breakfast, but other than that we rode pretty much straight through only stopping for water/sunscreen/bathroom breaks. Evidently we passed some salt wells just outside of Fallon, but they weren't too impressive. What was impressive, though, was Sand Mountain - a random sand dune in Nevada about 600-700 feet high sitting among the mountains - it's seemingly a popular place for riding atv's. Once we arrived in Fallon we grabbed some food at Safeway and hung out at a coffee shop until our warmshowers host, Brad, called. He has actually taken his warmshowers profile down because he is about to travel, but agreed to host us anyways. So, we'll be here in Fallon for the night then tomorrow Cole and I will likely go our separate ways when we hit Carson City. It's been fun having another riding buddy, but I'm looking forward to making it to San Francisco. I'm starting my last map set tomorrow and have around 315 miles left, so it's looking like I'll be arriving in 4-5 days.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Part 8

Over the last few days I've been able to really crank out some mileage, meet a lot of great folks (including a new riding buddy), and see some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire country. I've encountered some interesting changes in weather and am down to my last 800 miles. I expect to be in San Francisco within the next 10-12 days if all goes well, but we'll see how things play out.

Day 35 - things went pretty well today - I got in over 100 miles for the first time in the Rockies. I got rained on for about 30 minutes towards the end, but it was actually pretty refreshing. I basically climbed the first 50 miles of the day and descended the last 50. I climbed up Dallas divide to 8,970 feet, dropped back to about 7,500, then climbed back to 10,222 feet before descending all the way down to Dolores, CO 6,936 feet. Once I got to Dolores I made sure to stop at this bike shop that Dre recommended I go to - Lizard Head Cyclery. This looks like it might be the last time I get to stop at a bike shop for a bit so I wanted to get everything checked out. I met Nick, the owner, and he probably gave my bike the most thorough tuning I've had yet. Besides checking my gears and spokes he also rotated my tires and tightened down every screw on the entire bike. All of this was for free. I'm not sure why he didn't charge me, but he told me to save it for when I actually need it. When I asked him where I should stay at for the night he all but said 'my place.' So, I've scored yet another place to stay. I hung around the shop with him until he closed and then he, his cat domino and I all rode back to his place - and if you're wondering, his cat domino rode on his shoulders. We got back and his girlfriend already had dinner ready. I was able to get in a nice shower and some R&R. I could get used to this hospitality. Oh and quote of the night came when Nick was asking about my feelings towards wildlife: "are you afraid of wild animals? (Me: no) Ok good because we leave food on the back porch and leave the door open and occasionally we'll have a skunk or fox roaming around the house." I made sure to close my door when I went to bed.

Day 36 - I left Nicks at around 7 this morning heading toward Blanding, UT. I grabbed a quick snack and took off. About 2 hours in, I stopped for breakfast in Dove City. My legs were pretty shot from the climbs yesterday and the short, but steep, hills today didn't really help the pedaling. Nonetheless, I was set on making Blanding because it's the last town on route for the next 120ish miles and will be my last chance to stock up on food and lots of water. There wasn't too much scenery today until the very end - I saw some beautiful mountains in the distance that I'll be seeing more up close in the next couple days. I've heard that the upcoming scenery is among the best in the entire country, but I'll have to see for myself. As I was finishing up the ride into Blanding, a car passed me and the driver was waving like a mad man - I waved back and kept climbing uphill. Once I got to the top I saw the same car pulled over and the driver standing next to the car. I pulled over and ended up having about a 20-30 minute conversation with Frosty, a fellow cyclist extraordinaire. He said he saw me riding and wanted to know more about my trip and my story. He's ridden cross-country numerous times and is about to ride the great divide from Mexico to Canada for the 4th time. He's been touring for over 40 years and has covered over 150,000 miles - yes you read that correctly - one hundred and fifty thousand miles on his bike all through the US, South America, Europe, Antarctica, everywhere. Some of his stories were amazing. He writes for a number of cycling magazines and has written a couple of books. He gave me some pointers, motivation, and his well wishes and took off. I made it to Blanding and am relaxing before heading into the next 120 miles of nothing tomorrow. The weather looks clear and warm for tomorrow - I've got the sunscreen and water ready.

Day 37 - today was interesting for sure. From Blanding, UT to Hanksville, UT there is a stretch of about 126 miles with the only services/resources about 3 miles off route 80 miles in. The original plan was to ride the 80 miles with extra water and food and go off route to camp at the Hite Recreational Area where they have water, food and camping in the middle of the desert. However, I made sure to pack enough supplies to last the full 126 miles to Hanksville. I got started around 7 and was pedaling really well and the closer I got to Hite the more I debated just heading to Hanksville. When I got to the Hite turnoff I just went for it. I had been snacking constantly and had brought almost 200 ounces of water so I knew I could make it. It was about 90 degrees or higher and a bit of a risk but I was feeling great. About 30 of the last 50 miles were slightly uphill - I should have stopped to reapply sunscreen and refill my bottles, but I was pedaling so well uphill that I didn't want to stop for fear that my legs might not feel as well after stopping, so I waited til I got to the top of the climb to refill my water bottles with my camelbak and reapply sunscreen. It worked out perfectly. I made it into Hanksville - 126 miles and my longest ride yet. As I was about to pull in to a gas station for some ice cold liquids I heard a horrible crashing noise - I thought I might have popped a tire or run over a rock or something, but I kept going. I pulled into the gas station and relaxed with some ice cold water, Gatorade and milk. I started looking at my bike and I immediately noticed that my gopro was missing. In a panicked frenzy I got off the phone with my mom and hopped on my bike back up the road to find my gopro. Fortunately, it was still lying in the middle of the road, but unfortunately my mount has somehow snapped in half - I guess that's it for my gopro footage. I was lucky that this happened so close to town and I didn't completely lose my gopro. I'm interested to see how I feel tomorrow - hopefully I won't be feeling the wrath of today's 126 miles in the Utah desert heat. I'll be camping out for the night since the weather is nice and I'll be shooting for another 80-90 mile day tomorrow as long as I'm feeling well. The weather should be nice, but I'll be getting an early start to avoid some of the heat and wind. The scenery out here is breathtaking - no words or amount of pictures can describe this place, you just have to experience it for yourself. I'm down to only about 1,050 miles left to San Francisco and at my current pace could very well be there in the next two weeks!

Day 38 - well I think Mother Nature woke up this morning and said 'hey let's make Eric's ride today super hard.' I woke up early and wanted to get an early start to give myself a shot to make Escalante if I could. Well that didn't happen - I made it about 87 miles to Boulder, UT. It was windy from the start and I felt a little sluggish. I had some poptarts and crackers to eat before heading out and I planned on stopping for food in Torrey. It was very pretty rolling through the Capital Reef National Park, but other than that the scenery wasn't as spectacular today as it was yesterday, the gloomy weather today didn't really help either. I had a couple good climbs early that turned into long gradual climbs, but I wasn't pedaling well so it took a while to get to Torrey. After about 3 hours I stopped for breakfast hoping that would help.. It didn't. I felt really sluggish after eating, but kept pedaling anyways - I was set on making Boulder at the very least. After a couple miles I felt so sluggish that I just decided to pull off the side of the road and give it a few minutes to rest. I called my mom to keep me company for a few minutes. Well the break didn't really help and also knowing that I had some tough climbing ahead (10% grade) didn't help either. Every ounce of me wanted to either walk or hitchhike to the top of that mountain. It was a long climb that was being made worse by the increasing winds. I stopped a couple times on the way up just to give myself a break and to eat some snacks. Days like today are the days where you know that if you can make it through today, then you can make it through anything. I kept pressing on and finally made the top - 9,600 ft. When I got to the top I put on my long sleeves and gloves for he descent. A few minutes later I finally arrived in Boulder, Utah. This place is tiny - had I not stopped at a convenience store when I did, I probably would have missed the town altogether. I was exhausted and wanted food and a place to sleep. The weather and my exhaustion forced me to get a motel room that doesn't even have Internet service - what is this like 1990? Regardless I am going to be sleeping like a baby tonight. I grabbed some food and am about to call it a night at 7pm. Tomorrow looks like there is a chance of rain so I'm going to try to get an extra early start to try and avoid the wind and rain. I'm hoping to make it another 80 or so, but we'll see how it goes.

Day 39 - well after 9-10 hours of sleep last night I felt pretty refreshed today. I went to bed at 730ish and slept til around 5. There was a chance of rain today and I wanted to try and avoid it if at all possible. I headed out of Boulder down into the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument and it was amazing - my descent was pretty much a 14% grade with no guardrail and drop offs on both sides. I made it into the town of Escalante after climbing back out of the canyon and had some breakfast. I made another looong gradual climb out of town and met a Chinese cyclist heading to Virginia Beach along the way. I reached the summit and ran into a couple cyclists from Salt Lake City who were doing a quick, supported, weekend tour around the area. They were super nice and gave me some food and refilled my water. I descended down into Tropic where I ran into the same cyclists again and they showered me with food again - it was a touring cyclists dream! I got rained on a bit just before Tropic so I called my mom to check the weather and see if I had a shot at making this town called Ruby's Inn - and I did so I went for it. I made yet another climb and at the top ran into another cyclist on tour. His name is Cole and he's headed west then north from Denver to Portland. After talking and riding together for a few minutes we decided to team up for the next couple days and also decided to head to Panguitch, Utah for the day. In route to Panguitch we passed through Bryce Canyon National Park and that may have been some of the most beautiful scenery of the entire trip - the rock tunnels covering the road were amazing. We finally made it to Panguitch and grabbed some food and a cheap cabin at KOA - it was just as cheap as a tent space and there's a chance of rain tonight so it was a no brainer. He's about my age and has been stealth camping along the way. We're teaming up for at least the next couple days and heading to Cedar City tomorrow. 

Day 40 - today was tough. I was excited to get into Cedar City and finish up another map, but I wasn't expecting the challenge that we encountered. We left Panguitch and immediately started climbing. We knew the road at the top of the pass was closed so we knew we would have to detour. Once we got up to Panguitch Lake we got the directions and took off - we were told to take Mammoth Creek road and at the end turn right and it goes downhill to Cedar City from there. Easy enough, right? So we get to the end, turn right and go slightly downhill to this pizza place. I ask the waitress how far it is to Cedar City and she says 'oh about 30 miles. You'll get to the top of this hill right here and it's all downhill. It's mostly downhill.' Well after about 15 miles of climbing into a snowstorm, we finally made it to the top of that 'hill' and descended the last 16 miles into Cedar City. The crummy weather made for a cold descent, but I'm glad it was snow and not a super wet rain. We climbed for about 50 miles to just over 10,000 ft and ended up riding around 70 miles for the day. The scenery was great throughout, but the cloud cover and snow made be sights difficult to see up top. The streams going up the climb to Panguitch Lake, and the lake itself, were beautiful. When we finally arrived in Cedar City we went straight to the grocery store and racked up. We're posted up at a cheap hotel for the night and prepping for Nevada within the next couple days.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Part 7

Well it's official - that bubble that was about to pop on April 16 when I left North Carolina has officially popped. Since my last blog Dre has gone off on his own and is about 200 miles ahead of me at this point, and I'm trying to discover what it feels like to rough it on my own. I've been fortunate, though, to not have to truly rough it as I've had great luck in finding places to stay. I've experienced some interesting swings in weather and have seen some beautiful scenery. I've slowed my pace down slightly due to the afternoon weather trends, but have enjoyed the break from high mileage. Now that I've finished the Transamerica trail and begun the Western Express the finish line seems to be within sight, or maybe that's just a mirage forming in the desert that lies in the days ahead.. We'll find out..

Day 30 - it felt amazing to have the day off today. I'm sure my body has appreciated the break. I was able to get in a quick tuneup on my bike and hang out with my uncle for a bit. He was able to pick up the spare part for my pannier so I was able to fix that - I hope. Also, when I left NC I accidentally forgot to bring my bike mount for my gopro - fortunately my uncle was able to bring that down as well - just in time for the best footage of the trip. I grabbed some lunch with my uncle along the river walk here in Pueblo, then we explored town a bit - CSU-Pueblo, a bit of my route tomorrow and the Shamrock Brewing Company. After we checked out the town, my uncle dropped me off and headed home. I don't think I drank enough water today and I'm not feeling that well so I've fixed my pannier and am hitting the bed early, hoping for some great weather to welcome me into the Rockies.

Day 31 - well so much for picture perfect weather to welcome me into the Rockies - I got a bit of everything today - sun, wind, rain, snow and sleet. Things started off beautifully this morning in Pueblo, but the weather started playing games with me as soon as I headed up my first climb. It rained for about 5 minutes - just enough to scare me into putting my rain gear on. Then once I took my rain gear off it started snowing and sleeting - so back on went the jacket and pants. After about 20 mins it stopped and cleared up - I just left my gear on this time. As I approached my final climb for the day it started sleeting again but only for about 15 or 20 mins. I was hoping to make it into Cotopaxi today, but when I made it into Westcliffe the wind had picked up and the cloud cover towards Cotopaxi kind of put me in a bind. I grabbed some lunch and talked it over with some of the locals and the general consensus seemed to be that it would be best for me to stay here in Westcliffe (7,888 ft elevation) - so I've shacked up for the night. The weather is still toying with me, though - since I've gotten here its rained and cleared up on about 3 or 4 separate occasions. Tomorrows forecast looks pretty good in the morning so I'm going I shoot for a pretty early start and head for Salida, CO, or if I'm feeling really good (and the weather is decent enough) I'll look to get over Monarch Pass - the highest peak of my entire trip - 11,312 ft. Overall my first day of riding into the mountains wasn't too bad. My legs felt a bit heavy early and it was hard to get spinning at times, but after a couple hours I warmed up pretty well. I had a nice 2 mile stretch of 8% grade early that was tough but for the most part the climbs weren't too bad. The altitude made it tougher for sure and staying hydrated was a lot more challenging than I anticipated, but overall I think I fared pretty well. This was just day number one, though, so we'll see how things go tomorrow.

Day 32 - today was a great day for riding and a fairly easy ride to boot. It was a shorter day at about 45 miles into Salida, CO with the first half being slightly downhill and the second half being slightly uphill. I got an early start at around 7 am because it looked like a there was a chance of showers around noon which made me debate whether or not to cross Monarch Pass today, but I decided to hold off until tomorrow when the weather should be nice - actually it looks like the next several days will be nice weather. I saw some beautiful scenery today as I got deeper into the Rockies - the 'Sangre de Cristo' mountains were awesome. I made it into Salida around 11 and checked out a couple shops while I waited on my host for the night to meet me downtown. We rode back to his beautiful home that overlooks the town and has an amazing view of the mountains. I was able to get a shower and a nap and catch up on some current track and field news. My hosts Harry and Myra are awesome. I found them on warmshowers. They're going out to a dinner party for the evening, but are still allowing me to stay at their house and have actually given me a key to their car (a sporty looking Audi) so that I can run to town for some dinner - I'm not so sure I would be so trustworthy of a complete stranger with a car this nice, but to each his own - I'm grateful regardless. The weather looks nice for tomorrow so I'm going to get another early start and see how far I can get after the pass.

Day 33 - well I successfully made it up and over the Monarch Pass today. After about an hour of essentially flat riding it took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to climb about 12 miles at around a 6% grade and all of about 20 minutes to descend the 10 miles down the other side. In crossing the pass I also crossed my 2nd continental divide - the great divide. I got started a few minutes later than I wanted as I got caught up talking to my hosts before I left. I was set on making it to at least Gunnison, CO and in the back of my mind was hoping for Montrose. The late start and the winds that picked up after I crossed the pass pretty much decided for me that Gunnison was the destination so I cruised into town. It was about 67 miles of riding when it was all said and done. When I got in town I started asking around for the local hostel or any cyclist friendly lodging. Some people directed me to a local bike shop where one of the workers told me how to get to the hostel. However, across the street I noticed that a Catholic Church was letting out so I walked over and spoke with the priest and he is letting me sleep in the basement for the night - score! Once I got that straightened out I headed down to a Safeway grocery store and grabbed some dinner. I've since come back and have been lounging at the church fretting over how I'm going to map out the next few days. You see getting through Colorado should be fine, but I made the mistake of looking ahead and realizing that once I get to Utah I'll have some steeper climbs (6-15%) and several loooong stretches without services - the main one of concern being a ~120 mile stretch with the only services being 5 miles off route about 80 miles in. I guess it's a good thing I saw this early so that I can go ahead and be preparing for it, but at the same time now that's all I'll be thinking about. Anywho, I'm going to shoot for an early start tomorrow and am headed for Montrose or Ridgway. I'd like to get to Ridgway, but I'll see how I'm feeling. The weather should be nice - evidently the trend out here is calm in the mornings with winds and chance of rain picking up in the afternoons - so as long as I get out early I think/hope I should be fine.

Day 34 - Today's ride went pretty well. I got an early start at around 645 just in case I decided to shoot for Ridgway. I was pedaling really well from the start and felt good all the way to the finish. I ended up making it to Ridgway where I'm staying with another warmshowers host, Wyndham. This guy has seriously toured everywhere on earth except for the United States (Japan, Nepal, Australia, and all through Europe and South America). He and his roommates are super laid back and have a nice house with an awesome view of the mountains. The weather was perfect today - started out pretty chilly probably in the 30s, but got up in the 70s or 80s by about halfway through. I saw some amazing scenery along the Blue Mesa this morning and had a couple of sweet descents down the mountains - one of which I was able to catch on video. I met a couple of German cyclists (Anna and Martin) today as I passed through Montrose - they are heading east to New York from LA. We talked for about half an hour and briefed one another on the terrain ahead - I also now have a place to stay in Sweden if I ever make the trip to Europe. The only mishap today came when I found that the grocery store in Gunnison wasn't open yet, so I decided to grab a small sandwich and just hold off on breakfast until the next town and eat a full meal at the local restaurant - 45 miles later I found out that the restaurant was closed. Fortunately, though, I had some food in my bag so I was able to tide myself over for another 20 miles into Montrose. I also got some more (insert sarcasm) great cyclist hospitality today - with no shoulder to ride on, I was stuck riding in the road, and I guess someone didn't like that I had to ride in the road, so I got a middle finger over the seat out the back window, and because that probably wasn't enough he made sure to give me one more out the drivers window also. I waved and kept pedaling.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Part 6

Since my last post a lot has happened - I've had 3 more 100+ mile days, left the state of Kansas and entered colorful Colorado, gone thru a dust storm, stayed on a farm and an exotic animal zoo in two of the coolest cyclist friendly set ups ever, had my first wipeout, and completed my section of the Transamerica trail. I've reached Pueblo, CO and will be taking a day off to rest up and hang out with my uncle before heading into the Rockies. According to my map set I've got about 1,590 miles left to San Francisco and I'm well ahead of schedule. As I take my day off Dre and I are saying our farewells, as he will keep riding. I'm looking forward to my first full rest day of the entire trip so far. I'm already chomping at the bit to get back on the road, but I do need some down time. Any who here's how the last few days have played out:

Day 24 - today was a much better day for riding than yesterday. It was still cold and a bit windy, but no rain and clear skies meant it was time to hit the pavement. We were well rested from having most of yesterday off and getting a good nights rest in the sanctuary floor on the pew cushions, so we got an early start because we really wanted to make it to Nickerson, Ks - 105 miles away. Fortunately the weather held up and we were able to make it all 105 miles. It was a much, much tougher 100 miler than two days ago, as we were stuck fighting he wind for the majority if the ride. We stopped about halfway in Newton for an extended lunch break just to try and fuel up and save up as much energy for the second half of the ride as we could. In all, when we arrived in Nickerson we had been out for about 11 hours and spent 9 of them in the saddle. It was a looong day and my legs are definitely shot. We're staying at the only place in town which might just be the coolest place in all of Kansas - the Hedrick's B&B and Exotic Animal Farm. It's such a sweet place they have every animal imaginable - zebras, llamas, ostriches, giraffes, kangaroos, peacocks and so many more awesome animals. Tomorrows forecast looks cool and potentially wet again but we're really hoping and praying for the best. I'm already getting tired of Kansas and am ready to get to the Rockies, so hopefully we can get Mother Nature on our side and knock out some mileage over the next couple days. 

Day 25 - well so much for getting Mother Nature on our side - today was brutal. I would have thought that being woken up by a peacock at 7 am would have been a good omen for the day - I guess I was wrong. After yesterdays long day I was pretty sore and tired this morning and hoping for a break. However, we were battling 25 mph head/cross winds all day long and were only able to make it around 60 miles before calling it quits.  Nonetheless, Dre and I made it to Larned, Ks. We stopped for lunch at an old, and what appeared to be abandoned, house just off route and were able to get some shelter from the wind. I don't want it jinx it, but the forecast seems to be clearing, and warning, up. There may still be some wind, but it shouldn't be as bad as the last couple days. 

Day 26 - today was awesome. Dre wanted to get an early start so we headed out at around 730. It was a little chilly to start but the temp warmed up to a nice 65 by the end of the day. We started into a slight headwind that eventually turned into a slight tailwind by the end of the day. So it's safe to say that by the end of the day the riding was really well - 65 and slight tailwind. We actually made it a good bit further than we anticipated - about 118 miles into Scott City, Kansas. We were planning on only going about 90 miles to Dighton, but once we arrived in Dighton we were both feeling pretty good and it was too beautiful to call it quits then. We've stopped at a hotel here in Scott City and are looking to get out of Kansas in the morning - finally!! I'll also be glad to get to Colorado because once we hit Pueblo we'll have a lot more opportunities to hit up warmshowers hosts and hopefully some good camping weather and locations. Tomorrows weather appears to be similar to today's so we should be able to knock out another good chunk of mileage. I'm still eating about three times as much as Dre and am wondering how much longer he will last. He had a cup of coffee and 1 bowl of raisin bran for breakfast and a couple small snacks for lunch and somehow that sustained him for 118 miles today. 

Day 27 - today started out as a cyclists dream (cool with a slight tailwind), and ended as a cyclists nightmare (last 10 miles into a headwind and dust storm). We got another early start this morning and were shooting for our 2nd 100 mile day in a row. I was a little sore and beat up from yesterday, but once we got rolling I was able to warm up pretty well. We crossed into our second time zone just before our lunch break in Tribune, Ks and into Colorado just after lunch. We could really tell today that we were making some gains in altitude because the majority of our ride was uphill, albeit gradual - nonetheless a hundred miles of gradual uphill is bound to amount to something. The scenery entering eastern Colorado is much like that of Kansas but regardless it is a relief leaving Kansas knowing that we've got some beautiful scenery on the horizon. Despite the brutal weather and sore knee towards the end, we did make it about 104 miles to Eads, CO - about 4200 feet altitude. I had some mechanical problems today for the first time - a screw came loose holding my rear fender in place and it was rubbing my tire. We ended up taking my rear tire off and fixing it pretty easily, but had some trouble getting the tire and disc brake to line up well. We got it back on, but there is a bit of drag that I'll get checked out in Pueblo in a couple days. For the most part everyone I've met along the route has been super friendly and hospitable, however today I did get the ol' one finger salute for no apparent reason from a trucker headed in the opposite direction - so I guess not everyone along the route is too keen on cyclists. Per the recent usual, we're staying in the only hotel in town - Dre wanted to avoid the winds/dust storm and tumbleweed. We will actually be splitting up soon as he will continue riding through Pueblo and I will be spending some time relaxing with some family before I head into the Rockies. Tomorrows forecast looks really good - warm and wind free - let's hope that holds up.

Day 28 - After a couple hard days we decided to take it pretty easy today and I definitely needed to - my knee is getting pretty tight and sore. Regardless today was a beautiful day for cycling. We had very little wind and the temps got up to the mid to high 70s while riding. We made it to Ordway, CO around lunchtime and promptly grabbed some food at a local cafe - this was the first time that Dre had eaten all day with the exception of coffee and a cookie about an hour into the ride - essentially nothing over the course of a 60 mile ride. He claimed that the steak he had for dinner last night was enough to tide him over. We didn't move too far up in elevation today (we're at about 4,300 ft), but the Rockies are now in sight. Per the directions on our map, as soon as we got into town we asked for Gillian and were given directions to her house. She's from New Zealand and offers lodging to cyclists coming thru town. She actually has a sweet setup - on her farm she has 2 trailers/campers set up just for cyclists. Dre and I are the first cyclists thru this year so we got the grand honor of cleaning the only camper available - everything was strewn about and covered in a very thick later of dust so we were delighted to clean up and give the place a bit of our own feng shui. Gillian also hosts people on her farm doing work exchange and two new workers actually just arrived today - Ina from Germany and Hunter from Austin, Tx. Together we were all able to pitch in at the grocery store and get some steak, brats (bangers as Gillian calls them), and potatoes and grill out. After dinner we played a game called 'Mexican Train' - it's too hard to explain, but it was tons of fun. We've called it a day and are looking forward to heading into Pueblo tomorrow - it will be our biggest city yet (~106,000) and more importantly I'll get to have some r&r with some family before heading into the mountains. 

Day 29 - today was not my day. Before heading out Gillian made us some hard boiled  eggs for breakfast and we all said our farewells. What started out as a beautiful day in Ordway quickly turned sour about 2 hours into our ride. As we neared Pueblo the clouds rolling in gave me an ominous feeling about the last couple hours of the ride.. And my intuition was spot on. First I noticed that the screw in my rear fender had come loose again and was rubbing my tire and making some noise/slowing me down, but then our beautiful morning really started turning sour when a horrible thunderstorm rolled in and started dumping rain on us. Lightning was striking all around us, but there was nothing we could do but keep riding. Bad turned to worse when I went to cross a railroad track just before Boone, CO - yep, that's right, I had my first wipeout of the trip. As I approached the RR tracks I looked ahead to see which direction to turn after crossing them, when I looked back at the tracks and tried to get a good 90 degree angle to cross, I realized it was too late and I couldn't get a my angle and sure enough my tires slid completely out from under me on the tracks and concrete slab. I wasn't really startled when it happened, but some R rated version of 'you gotta be kidding me' may or may not have crossed my mind as I fell to the concrete/pavement. Fortunately, my bike was fine and I was wearing my rain gear so the impact that I took on my elbow and hip wasn't so bad. I stood up and shook it off quickly. When I took back off worse turned even worse - the impact snapped one of the clips on one of my panniers and it fell off - I quickly improvised and was able to fasten it well enough to make it the last mile into Boone. I got even more frustrated when I got about 50 meters down the road and realized that my sunglasses were missing - I had already passed 4 or 5 cars and knew that my glasses were toast - however when I got back to the tracks I was shocked to find my glasses perfectly folded and nestled right on the yellow line. I gathered myself together and headed into Boone. Dre and I stopped at a grocery store that also just so happened to be a hardware store - we found some zip ties and were able to fasten my pannier back on for the time being. While we were working on my pannier and fender the rain stopped so we made a beeline for Pueblo. When we got here none of the local bike shops had replacement parts for my bag, however I was able to talk a bike store up in Boulder, CO to spare me a part off of a bag they had on the floor. My uncle is actually planning on coming down to visit tomorrow anyways, so he will bring me the part and I'll go from there. It will be nice to see a familiar face and take a rest day tomorrow. On the other hand, since I am taking the day off, Dre will continue on tomorrow and we will be splitting up and heading out on our own after that. It's been a great ride across the Transam trail with Dre. I'll begin the Western Express on Friday and who knows maybe I'll meet a new riding buddy along the way. The weather looks rainy for tomorrow and clearing up on Friday. I've got just under 1,600 miles left to go to San Francisco and I can only hope that the Western Express is as great a time as the Transam has been. I've got about 4.5 weeks left to make it  - I'm looking forward to the adventure. Bring on the Rockies!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Part 5

Over the last few days we've battled with some of Mother Nature's elements - heat and cold/rain/wind. With enough sunscreen and water the heat is bearable, but with inadequate equipment (ie gas station gloves) the cold/rain/wind not so much. Nonetheless, it's all about the adventure and experience, and the lessons learned from them. One of which is to always be prepared for anything - even if it seems like the most improbable of situations (like cold/rain/snow/wind on May 2nd in Kansas) it will happen when you're not prepared because Murphy's law says it will. I've also gone on a food eating binge and no longer seem to get full. Well, I get full because there's no more space for food to go, but I never actually get that sense of satiety - so I'm usually snacking within 15 minutes after a meal. Anywho, here's how the last few days have gone:

Day 20 - today went really well. I was getting pretty dehydrated and sunburned towards the end, but it was much better than the last few days. The temperature started in the 60s and was around 84 when we finished. We got in around 80 miles today and finished up in Everton, Mo. We were planning on camping at this inn/camp ground that was on our map but when we called the owner it turns out they don't allow camping and it's 25 bucks per night. We decided to stop at a saloon (the shaved beaver saloon)  on the way to the phony campground to grab some food and it turns out that the owner of the saloon allows cyclists to camp out back for free - score! So we've pitched our tents, showered in the women's restroom and are posted up in the bar until the weather cools off a bit. Tomorrow we'll head out of Everton towards Girard, Ks - it will be about a 75 mile trek and the start of my 6th, and most dreaded state. There won't be too much to look at in Kansas except what lies about 20 miles ahead. On a positive note it should get pancake flat soon so maybe we'll knock out a few good mileage days if the weather holds up. It looks like the weather will be nice again tomorrow and then back to colder temps and rain for a few days after that. My leg is feeling better, but still not 100 percent. After a couple of easy days I'm still on schedule to arrive in San Francisco with time to spare. Hopefully all holds up over the next few days. 

Day 21 - today went really well despite not getting much sleep due to the 10 or so trains that passed by last night (the saloon was only about 20 yards away from the train tracks). We got a super early start around 7:15 central and headed for Girard, Ks. There was nothing in Everton for food or water so we were cautious so as to conserve as much water as possible after the saloon closed last night. We were both running a little low, so while it was early and on the cooler side we made a beeline for the next town (26 miles) for some food and water. We had a couple small climbs going into Golden City before breakfast, but after that it was all pancake flat. We finally reached Kansas today when we crossed the border into Pittsburgh, Ks. While in Pittsburgh Dre and I were both able to snag a couple new chains for our bikes and get a quick tune up before finishing the last 15 or so miles to Girard. I've needed a new chain for probably the last 500 miles or so, so it was definitely a relief getting that out of the way - my bike is riding so much more smoothly now - it's amazing. We finished up the last little bit into Girard, Ks where we'll be staying for the night at a b&b from our map. As expected, there's nothing in Kansas, and it looks like places to stay/camp could be few and far between - it looks like we'll be riding 105ish miles tomorrow in order to find something cyclist-friendly. It also looks like our good weather will be leaving us soon - thunderstorms and rain over the next couple days and temps dropping into the 30s. I'm not looking forward to the weather, but I am looking forward to some flat terrain as we go thru Kansas. 

Day 22 - despite not sleeping well due to Dre's snoring and the 80 degree room we were in, today was a great day. The weather turned out to be amazing (80 with a slight breeze), my bike was riding super smooth, and I rode my first ever century (about 110 miles after our detour). We headed out of Girard this morning on into the flats of Kansas to Eureka, Ks. The riding was great. It was nice to finally have a break from climbing. We were also fortunate today to get a slight cross wind and occasional tail wind to help push us along. Everything went well with the exception of the detour we had to take - there was some bridge construction on route just outside of Chanute so we had to improvise last minute and head down a dirt road and a major highway to get back on track. We made a quick pit stop for lunch in Chanute and kept on trucking. I discovered today that Kansas is good for 3 things: 1) reeallly looong straight roads, 2) tons of gnats and other bugs that tend to stick to your arms and legs, 3) and perfect conditions for chaffing. We arrived in Eureka and promptly found a cheap hotel. I hate spending money on hotel rooms, but today we were exhausted and the forecast is looking rough for tomorrow - temps dropping into the 40s and 30s with a chance of rain and possibly snow. It could get interesting. Since we've arrived I've gone on a binge - an entire rotisserie chicken, a bag of tortilla chips, a tub of salsa, 5 or 6 cookies, some fruit snacks and half a gallon of water - all that on top of everything else I've eaten today - an omelet, 2 sausage patties, 2 english muffins, strawberries and a banana, a granola bar, a Clif bar, another banana, 8 more cookies, and 90+ ounces of water/Gatorade/juice. I'm probably forgetting something, but nonetheless I've eaten constantly all day. Hopefully we'll be able to knock out another 80-90 miles tomorrow- weather permitting. We'll see how it goes..

Day 23 - we ended well short of our 80-90 mile goal today - a mere 19 miles. Today was rough and a pure survival day. We started out around 815 with temps in the mid 30s, winds around 20 mph and rain. We knew it was going to be difficult, but didn't want to throw in the towel without trying to get some sweat on it first. By 10 minutes in my hands were already numb and I knew it was going to be a long ride. About 10 miles in the winds had picked up to about 25-30mph (if not higher) and it became way too unsafe to be riding on a major highway. I was literally being blown into the middle of the highway and there was nothing I could do about it - even being blown into the road while leaning against the wind and turning my handlebars. On top of that, the fact that these conditions make you lackadaisical while riding doesn't really help with the whole safety issue. So, with inadequate gear, my hands and feet numb and barely able to stand because of the wind, I flagged down a truck and hitchhiked the last couple of miles into the next town, Rosalia. Somehow Dre was able to make it into town - he said his extra panniers on the front of his bike gave him a more stable ride with the wind, but with the bad weather he didn't want to be out there any more than I did - I guess that's the price I pay for only having rear panniers. I'm a little disappointed that I had to flag down a car and couldn't tough it out, but with gear that wasn't suitable for the conditions, the cold, wet and wind got the best of me - it became more of a safety vs pride concern and I'm confident I made the right decision. I'm extremely grateful for the guy to picked me up, too. He dropped me off at the local school in Rosalia and from there the superintendent and his staff helped me contact a local church that is letting us stay for the night. About an hour after we got in to the church we went across the road to the only restaurant in town and had lunch. While we were eating it started snowing and right then we knew that we had made the right decision to stay. The weather has since cleared up a bit and the forecast is looking better for tomorrow, so we're hoping to get an early start tomorrow and knock out either 50 or 100 miles, depending on the weather and how we feel. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Part 4

The last few days, whether it be due to weather or injury or both, have been rough, but for now things are starting to look better. I've had a bit of a problem with my Achilles tendon and have encountered some inclement weather, but I seem to be healing up and the sun's started to shine once again. We've covered some good ground across Illinois and the Mississippi River into Missouri and should be coming up on Kansas in the next couple of days. Here's what's been going on the last few days:

Day 15 - it was a cold and dreary day today. Yet another one of those days that you just want to be over with. The temperature didn't get over 45 until the last hour or so that we were riding. We hit 87 miles today to bring us to Murphysboro, Illinois. We met a group of 3 cyclists along the way headed from Virginia to Astoria, Oregon. Not too much to note today - Dre missed another turn but fortunately I was able to flag him down - I also had my first mechanical issues as my chain fell off my crank a couple times, but otherwise today was pretty uneventful. We should be passing into Missouri tomorrow.

Day 16 - today was a struggle. The last few high mileage days are starting to take a toll on my legs. My hamstring and Achilles are both fairly sore, so tomorrow will be an easy ride so I can try and recover. It was pretty windy today, but fortunately we had some warmer temperatures so it wasn't so bad pedaling. We crossed a very flooded Mississippi River today into Missouri and finished up in Farmington, Mo. Dre is still amazing me - he rode all 84 miles today on a 20 oz coffee, 5 scoops of peanut butter, a handful of dried fruit, and 5 fig newtons (he actually rode the first 50 miles on just the 20 oz coffee). I was also able to get in a much needed tune up on my bike today as we ran into our first bike shop along the route. We're staying at "Al's Place / Transamerican Trail Cyclers Inn." It's a hostel in the old Farmington, MO jailhouse. It's a pretty sweet setup - bunk beds, laundry rooms, showers and a full kitchen just for cyclists rolling through town. Oh and I can't forget to mention the Tyler Hamilton autographed cycling jersey hanging on the wall. Tomorrows forecast - light rain. Sounds like a great day for a short recovery ride.

Day 17 - today was the third rough day in a row - this time the weather was the culprit. It was about 50 degrees and rainy throughout the entire ride. On a positive note - we did have a 'shorter' day today - a mere 60 miles. I talked Dre into calling it quits early because of the weather and my ailing Achilles. Our original plan was to stay with some guy from our map, but when the locals suggested that we find somewhere else to stay we decided to post up in a hotel - somewhere with a bed and a warm shower after a cold day of riding. Today was our first day in the Ozark mountains and they actually aren't that bad at all - mostly just small rolling hills - not a while lot of climbing involved, but more like a roller coaster ride - you make one climb and your momentum
keeps you rolling over the next couple of hills. We came a bit south today into Ellington, Mo, but we'll be heading back westward tomorrow towards Houston, Mo. The weather is going to be cold and wet yet again, but hopefully back up in the 70s and 80s on Sunday and Monday - I can't wait. 

Day 18 - another tough one. I woke up around 4 am and could hear a monsoon outside. Fortunately, by the time we got started the rain had slowed to a very light drizzle. Unfortunately, though, my Achilles pain was pretty limiting. I made the decision early that I was going to cut today short and only went about 25-30miles. About 10 miles in I told Dre I just needed a day off for my Achilles. He wasn't sure he wanted to stop so short, so we then made the difficult decision to go our separate ways. He was worried about me getting into town safely so when I arrived I gave him a call to let him know that I had made it. Much to my surprise, about half an hour later he returned my call and informed me that he couldn't justify going any further with the weather being as inclement as it was on top of the mountain and he also felt bad for leaving me. So he turned around and came back - our partnership remains. I shut it down at about 1030 this morning in Eminence, Mo and have been stretching, icing, and massaging ever since. My leg is feeling better for now so I'm hoping it holds up. I'll continue to monitor it and make the stretching/icing a routine. It's been pouring rain all day since I stopped, but tomorrow should be a beautiful day to ride - back in the 70s with clear skies so hopefully my leg will be feeling better and up for a ride. I'm still ahead of schedule, but I'd much rather be out on the road.

Day 19 - today went much better than the last few days. The weather finally cooperated (somewhat - we didn't have clear skies all day, but there was no rain so I can't complain) and my Achilles felt much better, not perfect, but better. The sun finallly popped out around 2 this afternoon for the first time in 3 days and the terrain was excellent. We had a couple of decent climbs earlier in the day but for the most part everything was rolling terrain today. We are also staring to run into other cyclists as well - one headed east from Colorado Springs and another fellow, who were camping with tonight, Peter (from Germany) headed west to San Francisco. We made it about 80 miles today in to Hartville, Mo and are camping in the lawn of the Wright County courthouse. I may be speaking too soon, but tomorrow should be a great day for riding - 80 and clear skies - I'm ready for anything other than cold and rain. Tonight is my first night camping since my very first night of the trip and I can only imagine that it will go better than the first night, but we'll see. In the meantime I've gotta catch up on my stretching. Until next time..