Monday, September 24, 2007

SIR Fall 1000K

Wow. We (Joe, Mike, and I) rode our bikes 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) in three days. These weren’t just any miles either. These were through the Cascade mountains, over several mountain passes. There was 30,000 feet of cumulative climbing – 12,000 on day one, 10,000 on day two, and 8,000 on day three. Did I mention the wind? While we started day two with a nice tail wind along the Columbia River towards The Dalles, towards the end of the day there was a nasty head wind through Portland. When I first contemplated doing the ride I had looked at the last 1,000 K ride that SIR (Seattle International Randonneurs) had put on and saw that 5 out of 11 ride rs DNF’d (did not finish). I now understand why.

We did have a few mechanical issues that could have ended the ride early. Right after darkness fell on day one, as we started up Curly Creek Road up to Oldman Pass, Mike began to have drive-train problems, with his chain coming off every 50 feet or so. This was on a steep incline. He found a combination of front and rear chain rings that kept the chain on, but made it a much tougher climb. Not that it needed to be any tougher. When we finally made it to the Sandhill Cottages in Carson at about 10:30 PM, Mike was able to determine that he was missing a chain bolt and the remaining ones were lose. Tightening the bolts and a zip tie solved the problem and he was back in business for the next day. On day three, about 13 miles from Toledo out in the middle of nowhere, I looked down and noticed my front chain rings were wobbling as I pedaled. Upon investigation, the crank arm/chain ring was loose and required a 10mm allen wrench to fix. Of course that was one that I had taken out of my bag to save weight – and neither Mike nor Joe had one. We went on, hoping that the assembly would hold until we made it to Toledo – perhaps a gas station would have a 10mm allen wrench we could use. We made it to Toledo. Now this is a small town – there was one small store open (before 9 on a Sunday morning). It happened to have a bit of everything - gas pumps, (micro) mini mart food stuff, fishing tackle, and, yes, a NAPA auto parts section. Not a big selection mi nd you, but it had a nice short handle metric allen wrench set. I was back in business! We were fortunate that we did not have any flat tires.

We were also lucky health wise. Not to say we didn’t have our aches and pains. Mike had knee issues that I think he solved with wrapping his knee with a head band to keep it warm. Joe had sleep deprivation that was battled with coffee. My feet and butt hurt big time. I had ridden cross-country earlier this year from LA to Boston – 3,400 miles in 32 days – without anywhere near the level of discomfort. Thank goodness for Ibuprofen.

We were rode the ride as a “pre-ride” – basically checking out the route sheet to make sure it was ready for prime time, finding out what stores might be available 24/7, and identifying construction or other issues that can only be seen “on the ground”. Mark and team had done a great job – we didn’t run into any major issues. We did come up with some tweaks. On day two the route had “top of climb” on NF-44 (Road 44 Summit – elev 4,800) well before Government Camp. It was disheartening to then see the “Chain up area ahead” sign on OR-35 on the way up to Bennett Pass (elev 4,659) and then Barlow Pass (elev 4,153). Our consensus was that day two was the toughest day – while it had less climbing than day one (10,000 instead of 12,000) and fewer miles (215 vs 222), day two had a ride into the wind through Portland and around Government Camp that was much tougher than the day one head/cross wind between Packwood and Randle.

Weather worked out well for us. While the forecast had mentioned the possibility of a few showers at the end of day one or start of day two, we didn’t have any rain. While day three was cool, it wasn’t cold. We were fortunate. The outlook for the regular ride isn’t quite as good as what we had, but hopefully it will turn out okay.

What a ride. While the rides up were often slow and tiring, there were some great descents. The Skate Creek descent on NF-52 from the summit (elev 2,500) down to Packwood (elev 1,100 feet) was quite a rush. We were fortunate to ride down during daylight – at night it would be quite different because of the many dips and bumps in the road.

Eating was a challenge. Getting enough calories and drinking enough fluids on rides like this are critical to making it to the end. The motivation goes if you run out of fuel. You eat and drink what you can carry plus what you can get at stores along the way (corn dogs and bananas are my top choices), but riding the backwoods there aren’t always many choices. On day one between Randle and Bingen, almost 100 miles, there were no open stores when we rode through. I had checked the hours at Northwoods (45 miles from Randle) two days earlier when I drove through. He said the hours were 8 – 8, but when we got there about 7:00 PM they were closed. It will be a SIR manned control on the regular ride, so that won’t be an issue. At least the rest rooms were open and there was a hose available for water. Fortunately I had pre-positioned a bag of groceries at the S andhill Cottages in Carson, so we were able to have some soup for a quick dinner and then bagels/bananas for day two breakfast. We weren’t so lucky for breakfast on day three. There was a Denny’s in Kelso, but it would have been an extra four miles or so. At 4:30 AM we did find a nearby McDonalds with a 24 hour drive-thru, but when we rode up they said no bikes. We tried to argue, but to no avail. So the Flying K gas station min-mart got our business instead – a Lunchable and a granola bar wasn’t quite what I had wanted, but it did the trick.

In Eatonville on our return leg Joe and I were at a Shell station waiting for Mike when two SIR riders drove up (Bob Brudvick and Chris). They had just finished the Cascade Bike Club’s High Pass Challenge that went along much of our day one route from Packwood and then along NF-25. It was nice to chat with them. They updated us on where Mike was, as they had talked with him a little ways back.

Drivers were mostly good, but it seems there are always a few rotten apples. I was shot with an air gun shortly before Sandy, Oregon. The shock was worse than the sting. There were a few obnoxious drivers between Eatonville and Buckley on day three. Joe got so mad at one that he tried to chase him down …fortunately for both he didn’t catch them.

Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my! Okay, we didn’t see any of those, but riding through several national forests and places like Elk Pass (elev 4,094) and Eagles Cliff gave us plenty of opportunity to appreciate the wildlife. Coming down from Oldman Pass (elev 3,061) at night as I waited for Mike and Joe (I didn’t know this, but Joe’s GPS had fallen off and they were looking for it back up the road a ways) I didn’t see anything, but my imagination had all sorts of bears and cougars lurking a few feet away. I saw a group of buzzards pick at the carcass of a deer in eastern Oreg on as I ground my way up towards Bennett Pass (elev 4,659). I heard the grass rip as a cow tore away a mouthful to munch on. An owl flirted away at dusk. Young males postured and howled at each other as we rode past a bar in Portland’s St.John’s area (okay, not traditional wildlife, but definitely wild).

As I write this I’m flying over part of the ride on my way to San Diego. It is quite impressive to see the distance we rode and many of the roads and towns from 36,000 feet up. What took us a day and a half to ride (Redmond, WA to Government Camp, OR), we flew in about 45 minutes. I don’t recommend flying the day after finishing a 1,000 K ride, but at least I was upgraded to first class. It helped lessen the pain.

The week before the pre-ride, on the Mt Baker 200 K ride, I had asked several SIR riders what advice they had for a newbie about to embark on their first 1,000 K ride. It was all helpful, but the best advice came from Mark Thomas – enjoy the ride. I did !


Monday, May 28, 2007

Orcas Island Family Ride

On Memorial Day Weekend we went on the Orcas Island Family Bike Ride, staying at Moran State Park Group Camp. We've done this off and on for many of the past 15 years or so. Not everyone is an avid biker, so we really appreciate it when all the girls are willing & able to make it. For Dorothy, the ride is a real joy, as she gets to be out and about on her Trike. It is a challenging ride for her with her MS, but the electric assist makes it possible. We stop in Eastsound to have lunch and recharge the batteries, but apparently didn't recharge them enoungh, as the batteries die on the way up the big hill. Dorothy manages to walk up the rest of the way, then lies down by the side of the road to recover. Geoff tries walking his bike and the trike up, then decides to take advantage of the trike's basket to carry his bike. Makes for a bit of an adventure, but by shuffling around, we all make it to camp.

After arriving at camp it is time to relax, Laura, Jessica, Tanya, Sarah, and Dorothy enjoy the sun and the lawn.

On Sunday, Tanya, Sarah, and Geoff head up Mt. Constitution. We make it in good shape. At the top Sarah suggests we emulate the "Expose yourself to Biking" postcard (raising our bikes while standing au natural) ... we opt for a more sedate version ... see below.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Day 32 Keene, NH to Amesbury, MA

Mixed emotions.

Today is our last day of riding together. It has been such a wonderful experience that it is disappointing for it to end. When we finally get close to the coast and can see and smell a bit of the ocean it really starts to sink in. We've made it. We rode coast to coast ... over 3,400 miles ... 110 miles a day for 31 riding days. Wow. What an accomplishment.

We ride together to the beach, dip our wheels in the Atlantic, and take our pictures.

It is another several miles to get to the hotel and we even have a police excort to take us there. That's cool. But Dave, Jerry, and I decide to get a ride with Dave's wife, Sandy. The rest of the day and the banquet are nice, but oh so anti-climatic.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Day 31 Amsterdam, NY to Keene, NH 125 miles

Another three state day – New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. A tough day. 122 miles scheduled … a few more ridden due to a few missed turns along the way … and a lot of climbing. Roughly 7,000 feet of climbing. With all that climbing there were some great descents … at one point I was going around 48 mph … wow. We were tired when we got in. We left at 7:00 AM and arrived after 4:00 PM. It was warm … around 80 when we got in and through much of the afternoon. It was a gorgeous ride though. Vermont was very pretty.

We had dinner at Chili’s right after we arrived …rap was at 6:00 PM and we didn’t want to wait until after that was over. After rap, where we went through many of the details for the last bit at the hotel and banquet, we went to the nearby grocery store for ice cream. I had a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt … cutting back since we’re nearing the end.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Day 30 Livingston, NY to Amsterdam, NY 121 miles

Breakfast was at Denny’s whenever we wanted to eat there … it was open 24 hours … with load at 6:15. I got there at 5:15; Jerry and Jeff were just finishing up. The waitress was organized and efficient … a welcome change. Before loading I went over my tires and found 7-8 pieces of rock/glass that I pried out. We were able to get on the road shortly after 6:15, then ended up at the hotel in Amsterdam before 3:30. I rode with Jerry and Dave again … not a particularly fast day, but a nice riding day. The temperature started out cold, but ended up close to 70.

After we arrived, we asked about an ice cream place. Someone from the hotel … with quite an accent … gave us directions that we were able to make out just enough to follow. 2.5 miles away, up a hill, we found a diner that had decent ice cream and shakes. I had a cherry pineapple shake that was pretty good.

After we got back I cleaned up the bike and picked rocks/glass out of the tires … found three or four pieces. We had dinner at the hotel. I had a burger … no desert … trying to start to cut back on the eating a bit.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Day 29 Batavia, NY to Livingston, NY 121 miles

I rode today on my own. I was the first to leave from breakfast at a Bob Evans restaurant, and in the first group to arrive at the motel at the end of the day. I had a slightly pulled groin muscle, so I loaded with the early group, which enabled me to leave directly from breakfast. Otherwise I would have had to load after breakfast, then leave. It gave me a 15-20 minute head start.

The muscle only hurt if I tried to accelerate quickly, which needs to happen at times when riding in a group. By riding on my own I controlled my acceleration, but was still able to ride fairly fast. I enjoyed riding on my own, at my own pace. I even stopped and took a couple of pictures!

After arriving at the hotel, I had a sub sandwich. After rap, Ken, Dan, Jerry, Bill, Dave, and I went to the Colorado Mining Co for dinner, then stopped at an ice cream place for desert … had a cherry shake.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Day 28 Dunkirk, NY to Batavia, NY 85 miles

We didn’t start riding today until 7:30 AM. We had breakfast at 7:00, then loaded and left at 7:30. It was a disjointed day … basically two rides of just under 45 miles each. At about half-way we stopped at the bicycle museum, which was very interesting … in its own way. The museum has also sorts of old bikes, including copies of the first bike and then originals of many of the early bicycles. We had a tour given by the guy who runs the museum. He told of how the development of the bike contributed to many developments … the first US factory was electrified by Edison, how Henry Ford took the assembly line principles from the first US bicycle factory, and how women’s lib was advanced by the bike … the showing of ankles and women riding unchaperoned having an influence.

Towards the end of the first half I pulled a groin muscle somehow, so I ended up taking it easy and going on my own the second half. It was a bit cold and, at times, rainy. With 12 miles or so to go, while I was riding on my own on Highway 20, I looked up and saw an oncoming car fifty yards or so ahead of me, on it’s side of the road, but out of control, half on and half off the road. It spun out of control, rolled onto its side, and then ended up back on all four wheels off the road about fifty yards behind me, on its side of the road. I turned to go back to see if folks were all right. Another car pulled up and the driver came out, the driver of the wrecked car came out and was asked if we needed to call an ambulance. She said yes and the other driver relayed the information to the 911 operator. The front seat passenger of the wrecked car came out of the car. He had blood on his head, but it was probably from the person in the back seat. He turned and tired helping the person in the back seat, who was seriously hurt … he hadn’t been wearing his seat belt and was in an odd position. He had probably broken his right leg, which was bent under him, and may have been injured by yard tools, such as a rake, that were in the back seat. A sheriff arrived very quickly. I left as I hadn’t seen what caused the accident and wasn’t in a position to contribute anything – Logan and Brian had just arrived on scene.

As I headed towards Batavia, I was unnerved. A couple times, oncoming cars passed each other a little ways in front of me. It freaked me out. A little while later, the ambulance raced by. I was glad to get the hotel and put the ride behind me.

For dinner, Ken, Bill, Jerry, and I walked to the Holiday Inn and had Italian food. It was decent, but not remarkable.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Day 27 Niles, OH to Dunkirk, NY 137 miles

Today was a good day for riding, with the wind behind us much of the day. It started out cold … 39 degrees, but warmed up a bit after the first hour or so. I was very cold for the first hour, as I wasn’t wearing my tights. I hadn’t picked them up from the clothes bin yesterday and the clothes bin disappeared overnight. I had thought it would show up by the time we left for breakfast, but it didn’t, and so I was cold. I could have worn my heavier tights, but didn’t.

Breakfast was about a mile from the hotel. AJ and Dave took the wrong turn out from the hotel and got about 7 miles before they realized they were going the wrong way. Fortunately for them Shane found them and gave them a ride back … it was already going to be a long day, an extra 14 miles wouldn’t have been appreciated.

We left Ohio, crossed Pennsylvania, and entered New York today. As we entered PA, we met some bikers following the underground railroad from Alabama to Canada … on a self-supported tour. Impressive, but I’ll pass thank you. There was an organized bike ride going on in Erie, PA as we rode through it, so we saw lots of other bikers.

Dave, Jerry, and I were the first to leave, the first to breakfast, and the first to the hotel today. We don’t stop and smell the roses much, but it is nice to have a bit more time at the hotel at the end of the day.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Day 26 Wooster, OH to Niles, OH 95 miles

We had breakfast at the hotel this morning … or more accurately in the bar above the hotel lobby. We left a bit late today, Dave was slow getting going. He thought load was a bit later, so when he opened his hotel door, Jerry and I were on our bikes outside it, ready to go. We took his bags to the trailer while he got his bike ready. We weren’t the last to leave, but people were surprised to see us still there.

A few miles into the ride, Jerry stopped to take off his jacket. We stopped a hundred yards or so ahead to wait for him, just around the next corner. This was in the countryside … no trees, wide open spaces, so we could see him clearly. While we were waiting for him I decided to take my jacket off too, and when I was done we looked up and … no Jerry. He zipped off to catch up to us, but missed the turn. Fortunately Mike saw him and went after him in the van. Mike said that he didn’t know where Jerry was going, but he was getting there quickly!

After we arrived at the hotel in Niles, we rode our bikes a mile and a half to a great ice cream stoe and I had a black cherry shake. It had multiple real cherries in it … no way would they fit through the straw. Very good! Having had desert we then went to dinner at an Italian place across the street from the hotel. As it was only five o’clock, we were able to take advantage of their early dinner special, which went from 4 – 6. One of the choices was any pasta dish for 8.95. I had lasagna, then an order of linguini. Pretty good deal until the bill came. One of the learnings from the bike ride is the lack of accuracy on restaurant bills. Our bills were all mixed up and the second go round was not that much better. While some of our bills had the pasta at 8.95, mine was the full price. The waitress got so confused and defensive that I just left it as is and overpaid.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Day 25 Marysville, OH to Wooster, OH 108 miles

We had two choices for breakfast … at the hotel at 6:00 or at the Waffle House for a full breakfast at 6:30 … and load was at 6:15. Of course we chose the 6:00 and left right at 6:15. Normally Mike would have said we couldn’t leave until 6:45 or so, but he forgot and we didn’t ask for clarification. So Jerry, Dave, Jeff, and I were way out front and the first ones at all the sags and at the hotel. We expected to miss the second sag, which was lunch, so we had stopped and were eating a small lunch at a convenience store when the van drove by … so we were able to have two lunches. After we got in we went to another convenience store and had an ice cream and beer.

The ride was very Northwest like … cool and damp. A little drizzle and initially right around 50, warming up to the upper 50’s. It was clear we weren’t in Kansas anymore … definitely not flat today. There were a few tough rolling hill sections.

After cleaning the bikes off and a bit of doing odds n ends … I completed my Code of Ethics training for work … we ordered pizza for dinner as there wasn’t anyplace other than McDonalds around the motel. Of course we topped it off with ice cream from the gas station.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Day 24 Richmond, IN to Marysville, OH 105 miles

Another state bites the dust.

We finished off Indiana this morning and entered Ohio. We’ll be crossing Ohio for the next few days.

Today was a relatively standard day … 105 miles, but cool and overcast. It had rained during the night and we did get a few drops on us during the day, but we basically stayed dry. We had eaten breakfast at the hotel starting at 5:30 AM, then left by 6:30. It was a nice, quiet ride through country roads. Wind was okay today, only in our face for a few miles and a bit of a tailwind for part of the time. We were in the hotel by about 1:30, then found where the DQ was and headed there for a quick snack.

After having Shane adjust the front derailer and attending rap, we went to Philly’s for dinner. It was the restaurant right next to the hotel. They had all you can eat Spaghetti and 19 or 20 of us went there. We overwhelmed them. The service was very, very slow … I’m sue we would have eaten more if they had been faster. As it was we were there for 2 ½ hours. I only had two helpings of spaghetti, but then I had a great desert to top it off … four scoops of ice cream, topping, on a brownie. Pretty good !

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Day 23 Lebanon, IN to Richmond, IN 105 miles

We had breakfast at the hotel today, then went and visited the Roark bike factory. It was interesting enough … and amazing to see how expensive bikes and bike components can get … a $1,200 aero bar for example … but I was glad to get back to the hotel and get on the road … although not until a little before 9:00 AM. It was a good ride … no tail wind and a bit of a tailwind (mostly from the side though). We got in a bit before 4:00, stopping of course at DQ.

I stopped at a bike store in Richmond and bought a chain and a water bottle. Then had Shane install the chain. I noticed a bit of a wobble in the bottom bracket … the cranks are on tight, so not sure what to do. I have my fingers crossed that it will hold out okay.

For dinner we went to an all you can eat buffet that was next to the hotel. It was pretty good.

I looked at Mike’s web site … he does a great job at it, but he got his facts wrong for yesterday … he said Jerry and I missed the sag stop, but we didn’t. No big deal though.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Day 22 Tuscola, IL to Lebanon, IN 121 miles

We had a more normal day today and fortunately didn’t have to fight the wind very much … and even had a tailwind for 20 miles or so. The rest of the way it was a cross wind where drafting didn’t help very much but the wind wasn’t an issue so it was okay. After we loaded the bags Dave, Jerry, and I asked Shane if we could leave … he said yes, but before we could get out of the parking lot Barbara caught up with us and said no, we had to wait until 6:50. We ended up leaving at about 6:45 … 9 or 10 riders had already left by then, but we caught up with them and ended up being the first ones to each of the Sags and to the hotel. Not that we were the fastest, but we don’t take as much time at the stops. Once we got into town we checked in and then went to DQ. By the time we got back to the hotel the van had arrived and we helped unload the luggage.

After doing a bit of laundry in the sink, I went to the lobby to work on the computer … no internet in the room. A reporter for the local newspaper was there and interviewed me as well as a couple other riders …he is going to e-mail me the story.

After rap we went to dinner at the Steak n Shake. The expression on the waitress’s face was priceless as she took my order – Chile 5 way (Chile over spaghetti), baked beans, cottage cheese, onion rings, and a large banana shake. After dinner we stopped at White Castle and I had one of their double Jalepeno burgers (they’re small).

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Day 21 Springfield, IL to Tuscola, IL 77 miles

Today was a very short day … 77 miles. Would have been a snap except it was into the wind. We didn’t start till 9:00 AM … a mother’s day break for Barb. I slept in a bit. Woke up at 5:20, then forced myself to go back to sleep until 6:30. I spent the extra time checking my tires and found several pieces of glass and two wires, one in the front and one in the back. Avoided at least two flats !

Dave, Jerry, Ken, and I left with everyone at 9:00. We struggled a bit with the wind, but kept on going. The ride was uneventful, generally on quiet county roads with little traffic. We passed a Mennonite buggy, but that was about it.

Tuscola has a DQ close by the hotel, so we stopped in before checking in. After mechanics time, where I checked on my chain and tires … will probably change them all in a few days … we ended up going to Subway for dinner, then DQ for desert.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Day 20 Quincy, IL to Springfield, IL 107 miles

Today we broke the rules … sort of … instead of going to breakfast and then stopping at the scheduled Sag stops, Jerry, Dave, Ken, and I left directly after loading our luggage. By leaving early we get more riding in while it is cool and calm … much better riding in the early morning than in the afternoon when it is hot and tends to be windier. We got clearance from Mike … reluctant clearance … and promised to check in periodically. In retrospect we made the right decision. While we still struggled with the wind, everyone else had more of it to deal with. We got in at about 1:30, got a shake at a Steak n Shake, a sub at Qizno’s, then went and ate in the shade by the pool at the motel. It was heavenly. Jerry’s son and daughter-in-law came down shortly thereafter … bringing some Wisconson beer and cheese. A very relaxing afternoon. As riders finished, they came by and joined us for a bit. I did some laundry in the sink and then dried it in the sun.

Tomorrow’s schedule has changed … we end up at a different place and have a shorter ride, so we don’t start till 9:00 AM. I’d much rather start at 6:00 AM, but oh well. For dinner Dave, Ken, and I head back to Steak n Shake. I have another Banana Milkshake, a Mushroom Burger, and Chile over spaghetti.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Day 19 Kirksville, Mo to Quincy, IL 97 miles

My chance to leave with the “early load” group due to my knee and, wouldn’t you know”, no early load today. Bummer. Oh well. I am the first to leave anyway and make it about 17 miles before folks catch up with me. I guess my knee wasn’t bothering me all that much. I pull into the first sag with the first riders there, then shortly after that join back up with Jerry, Dave, Logan, and Brian. We go the rest of the day together.

When we get into Quincy we find there are two DQ’s to choose from. Life is good. After we get into the hotel I do my laundry. Unfortunately there isn’t a laundry room in the hotel, so I walk back about 1.5 miles (each way) and do my laundry at a Laundromat. It is by a Bank of America branch, so while the wash is going I go over and say hello. The manager isn’t there; I talk with Shana Sparks.

After I get back we have a meeting and go over tomorrow’s route, then head out to dinner. We walk a mile or so to a fast food Italian place. Not too bad.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Day 18 St.Joseph, Mo to Kirksville, Mo 145 miles

Today was one of three “signature” days … one of the toughest days of the ride. Everyone had been fearing it at least a little bit. Long … 145 miles … and hilly … over 6,000 feet of climbing. But reality was it wasn’t too bad. Jerry, Dave, Logan, Brian and I rode together and I think we ended up averaging just under 18 mph and weren’t worn out when we got in. Sure, we were tired, but not beat. I hurt my knee a bit about 10 miles before the end, so I took it easy the last part and then iced it after I got in. I’ll leave with the early load folks in the morning to take it easy tomorrow, at least to start out with. How did I hurt my knee? I was racing down a hill, going about 40 mph, when someone started racing me to a city limit sign. Being (a) male, (b) parent of teenagers, and (c) in the midst of my mid-life crisis, I rashly took up the challenge and tried to beat them to the sign, straining the knee in the process. Oh well.

We stopped at DQ before the end of the ride, then ate dinner at the motel. It was supposed to be good, but they were out of most everything.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Day 17 Topeka, KS to St.Joseph, Mo 89 miles

It felt good to be back on the bike after a day off. It was an easy day … 89 miles now feels like a rest day by itself. After we got in we rode to Baskin & Robbins, then we had dinner at the BBQ place next to the motel. The motel was pretty good … they had pints of Ben & Jerry Cherry Garcia ice cream for purchase, so I was a happy camper. All in all, a pretty uneventful day.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Day 16 Rest Day in Topeka, KS FIRST HALF SUMMARY

I sleep in till 8:00. What a treat. After breakfast I clean my bike chain with Dave’s help, then read the paper. Take a nap, then check the tires, pulling out a piece of wire, then rotate the tires. The package Dorothy sent arrives with Brownies and a note. Another nice treat. Thanks! Ride my bike to Subway as a way to make sure the tires are okay after the rotation, then go to the Whirlpool. The hotel has a water slide, so I go down that a couple of times.

First Half Summary

Half-way there !

I’ve ridden from Costa Mesa, CA to Topeka, KS – 1,696 miles in 15 days.

While not once have I doubted my ability to make it all the way, there have been challenges that have made it an adventure. From mechanical issues that required the coordination of two bike stores and the assistance of a rider from a previous year in New Mexico, to dangerous weather conditions in Kansas, there have been times where the future was uncertain. The terrible tornado in Greensburg, Kansas, was only 25 miles from where we were in Dodge City. The next night, when we were in Great Bend, tornados hit several miles away. We were in tornado shelters in a number of different places in town. Shelters varied significantly, from an interior room at the hotel, to the kitchen next to the pots and knives at a restaurant, to the pillow aisle at Walmart. The next day we rode through strong winds and took shelter several times as storms blew past – in community shelters, barns, convenience stores, and farm houses along the way. One rider had to drop out due to health reasons and another has had two minor crashes, but overall we’ve come through the first half safe and sound.

It has been a pleasant surprise at how friendly and helpful people have been along the way. People stop and ask if we need help when we are changing flat tires (I’ve only had two so far;others had have ten or more), they’ve welcomed us into their homes to take shelter from storms, and given us rides when we’ve needed to get to a bike stores.

While I have always known that there is a wide range of geographies in our country, it is quite something else to actually see it all first hand. From the dry, desolate desert in California, to the Arizona mountains to the arid New Mexico and finally to the green plains of Kansas, there is tremendous diversity. While each is beautiful in its own way, I like the green of Kansas the best so far – more life and, in a way, more like home.

One of the slower riders – not that anyone is a weak rider who can average over 110 miles a day for 15 days, but a relative classification – broke the group into two categories, the studs and the duds. I’m pleased to report that I fall into the stud category, although probably a dudly stud.

I knew I would be eating a lot, but it is still odd to pull into town in mid-afternoon, order a milkshake or two and perhaps a sandwich, eat a big dinner a few hours later, then top it off a bit later with a pint of ice cream or some other desert. Of course this is on top of lunch along the way and frequent eating while on the bike. I know I haven’t gained any weight; hopefully I haven’t lost too much.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Day 15 Abilene, KS to Topeka, KS 108 miles

Today is a relatively short day, but it is on the hard side. While the terrain and weather are reasonable – rolling hills and overcast, our legs are tired from fighting the wind yesterday. Still, we get in at a reasonable time, about 2:30, and then ride to the bike store (another 12 roundtrip). We get to the bike store before the rest of the riders, so we have a good selection. I get a pair of tires, a new chain, and more Chamois Butt’r. The ride back from the store was a bit awkward, with the pair of tires slung around my neck. We stop at DQ for a shake on the way back. Mike checks my chain after I get back and says I still have some wear on it … it might last till Indiana.

We go out to eat at an Italian place for dinner … they have all you can eat pasta…and celebrate making it half-way. Pretty good stuff. There were ten of us … took two cab trips to get there. There was a grocery store in the shopping center, so while we waited for the cab to come back to pick us up, I picked up a pint of ice cream.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Day 14 Great Bend, KS to Abilene, KS 129 miles

It has been a long 24 hours.

Last night there were two tornado warnings where we had to go to the hotel shelter … along with the guests at a wedding reception. Others in the group who were elsewhere also had to take shelter. Some were at Walmart, where they were sent to the pillow aisle. Others were at Applebee’s, were they were sent to the kitchen by the pots and knives. Different approaches. While tornados did touch down a few miles south of the hotel, the only damage was to our nerves; the only loss was our sleep.

Jerry did manage to get a dentist last night; he went through the phone book and dialed the home numbers of the dentists. He explained the situation to the first one he got through to, who said to meet him at his office in 15 minutes. He will need more work at the end of the ride, but he should be good for the next 3-4 weeks.

In the morning a thunderstorm is going on as we get up, so we leave the hotel an hour or so late. We ride through a bit of storm debris and get rerouted due to flooding. During the day we are told to take shelter, as a large storm is coming. Jerry, Dave, Ian, and I were riding together and go up to a farmhouse, where they invite us in. We only stay a few minutes before Shane knocks on the door and tells us there is a window of opportunity and we can make a run for the next town … about 20 miles away. We thank our hosts and dash off. It starts to rain as we are a few miles away and Jerry stops to put on his coat, but sends us on, as he’ll be able to catch up. We make it to the town and find the lunch sag just as it starts to pour … very, very hard. Jerry hasn’t caught up … he had a flat … but pulls in 10 minutes later. After lunch and waiting a while, the storm lets up and we head off again. After 15 miles or so we get waved over to a convenience store and are told to take shelter again. Eventually the whole group is there and we wait for an hour or so before being sent off. We don’t get rained on much the rest of the way, but continue to fight strong winds and flats. We get to the hotel after 6:00 PM and are beat. We learn that a tornado touched down somewhere along our path today.

After a quick change we head over to Pizza Hut and have dinner – all you can eat salad bar and some pasta. As we are about to leave Brian comes over and chats. We learn that Dave ran into a dog and was sent to the hospital immobilized … hope he is okay. On the way back it is storming again and Jerry, Dave, and Bill get a ride back with a pizza delivery guy. I walk/run back, stopping at a store to get a pint of ice cream and a Gatorade.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Day 13 Dodge City, KS to Great Bend, KS 86 miles

We wake to the news that a tornado has struck the town of Greensberg, some 20 miles from Dodge City, killing 8 people. The forecast is for a windy day, with severe weather possible later in the day. Mike calls us together in the morning for a talk about the weather and the plans for the day. The suggested sight-seeing trips for the day are now off the agenda … the idea is now to get from here to there as quickly as possible in order to minimize exposure to the storm. Mike sends us off earlier than planned.

Jerry, Dave, Brian, Logan, and I ride together almost all day. It is a short day and we ride at a solid pace, averaging 18.5 mph in spite of a strong cross wind (15-20 mph) that makes riding a bit tough. We are quicker than normal at the sags – and we’re usually fast. We make it to Great Bend before noon and head to a Brahms (sp?) for ice cream before checking in. After checking in we head to the bike store – which is closed – and then to Subway. When we get back to the hotel, the luggage has arrived, so we take ours to our rooms, shower, and then take our chairs outside and eat our sandwiches. Jerry and Dave head off to Walmart to look at cameras; I head to the local Laundromat to do laundry. I check out e-mail, tomorrow’s route, and tomorrow’s weather as the laundry does its thing. The news is blaring about the tornado, which totally leveled Greensburg, and the current severe weather watches/warnings. I’ll be glad when the next few days are done and we get away from this weather pattern.

At breakfast Pam talks about numbness in her finger, which reminds me that the numbness I have in my arm/hand may be ride related, not necessarily the onset of MS or ALS. Don’t know if I’m being paranoid … as I read through the ALS symptoms I see several that are a possibility, so the idea that the numbness is just ride related is reassuring. Still, I won’t be truly reassured until after talking with Dr. Kita.

At 4:00 PM we get our briefing for tomorrow. With the weather conditions, the outlook for tomorrow is very questionable. Mike says this is the worst set of conditions he’s seen in the 40 odd rides he’s been with. After getting the briefing, we head out to dinner at Applebee’s, right next door. Jerry breaks a tooth and heads out to find a dentist. I take his ribs to his room in case he wants them later on. Hopefully he can find a Dentist on a Saturday evening! Back in my room, I watch the storm warnings on TV as I update the log. It shows a storm headed right at us! The hotel moved guests to shelter three times last night. Wow! There is a Tornado warning for this county for the next half hour.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Day 12 Liberal, KS to Dodge City, KS 82 miles

Today was a short riding day. After breakfast at the Pancake House, Jerry, Dave, Ken, Logan, Bill, and I set out – we were the first to leave. Bill dropped off after a few miles, but the rest of us stayed together the whole way. The first 36 miles or so were in the fog … it was very damp, with drops forming on our glasses, requiring us to wipe them off every little bit in order to see. Supposedly we went thru a town or two, but I couldn’t see them. I ran off the road twice – but not because of the fog. The fog lifted shortly before we got to the one sag for the day at the Dalton Gang hideout and Museum in Meade. Shortly after we got there a group of Mennonite school kids arrived and took the tour … they were dressed very nicely.

After the sag (a very early lunch) we continued on. Most of the day we had a cross wind and went at a very reasonable pace – around 18 mph. The last 20 miles we had a tailwind and what a difference – we started out at about 25 mph and ended at about 30 mph. I was grateful when I was in the front – even though I was going 26-27 mph, at least it kept someone else from going faster. The bigger tires on my bike (700 x 32 vs 700 x 23-25 on the others) make a big difference – at least that’s my excuse as to why I was dying and they weren’t.

We got into town and after a few pictures, checked in at the motel just before noon. After unloading the luggage and a quick shower, we went into town to the Boot Hill Museum and then lunch – good BBQ at the Casey’s Cowtown Club.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Day 11 Dalhart, TX to Liberal, KS 113 miles

With the time zone change it is still dark when we have breakfast at Hodie’s. Jerry and I are first to the restaurant and are ready to leave well before sunrise. We wait till we get the go ahead, after first light but still a bit before sunrise. It is a good, solid pace all day and the route is straight and slightly downhill, so we make good time, getting to the hotel before 2:00 PM.

After a Subway stop for a post-ride snack, I ride about 10 miles around town and visit the two Bank of America branches in Liberal… I had worn my Bank of America jersey today, so it was a natural.

I took my bike to the Mechanic’s Time to have the bottom bracket checked … just to make sure … and it was doing fine. Then we went to dinner at the Taste of China … it was close (across the street) and all you can eat.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Day 10 Tucumari, NM to Dalhart, TX 96 miles

We change time zones again today, but the clock in my room is already an hour ahead. Consequently, I get up earlier than I need to. Oh well. I check out the weather and can see the rain system headed our way, following our path. Looks like Seattle weather! After breakfast at the hotel, we hit the road, rain gear on, dodging light rain. It is an uneventful, relatively short ride (96 miles). We do get really wet a few times. Jerry has two flats; I have my second of the trip right as we pull into the motel. If you have to have a flat, that’s the place to have it!

After getting into dry clothes and situated in my room, we head to DQ. A Cherry Shake and a Dude Chicken Fried Steak sandwich. Pretty good, but I’m saving room for dinner. Then it is time to change my flat, check the tires, and clean the bike.

We have the rap meeting for the next day at 5:00 PM. It looks like its going to be a good day – basically downhill all the way, straight, dry, and with a favorable wind. Mike says just watch out for tumbleweeds. After the rap we head to Hodies for BBQ, then stop at DQ on the way back.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Day 9 Las Vegas, NM to Tucumari, NM 110 miles

It is cold as we ride to breakfast, but we are among the first ones there, so we order first, eat first, and leave first. It was true confession time – I told Barb that I was going to have to buy one of the ABB bike shorts because of leaving a pair at the hotel … I figure if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re missing out on a lot of laughs. Jerry confesses that he forgot to put his luggage on the truck and sign out, so Barb tries calling Mike to let him know, but Mike is now in trouble (Jerry is off the hook) as his phone is turned off.

Today’s ride is all on county roads. Two quick turns after breakfast, and then we’re on the same road for the next 106 miles or so. Hard to get lost. It was a great change of pace from riding on the interstate. Lots of headwinds, but a great day of riding.

We (Jerry, Ken, & I) get in first to the hotel. The hotel had a nice reception for us – juice, fresh fruit, cheese, & cookies). After munching there for a bit, we run over to A&W for a Root Beer Float (actually two medium’s). Then it is time to do the laundry and what do I find but the shorts I thought I had lost. I fess up to Barbara.

For dinner I join Bob, Bob, and Scott at the restaurant next to the hotel. I have a burger, fries, and salad bar. After dinner I e-mail some pictures and the log. I ask Dorothy to make an appointment with Dr. Ravits … my right hand and arm have been weak for the past few days, presumably a progression of the numbness I’ve had there for years.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Day 8 Albuquerque, NM to Las Vegas, NM 133 miles

Last night I had the first real good night sleep on the trip. Maybe it was the two beers I had with dinner or the fact that I knew I didn’t have to rush off in the morning. I still got up at 5:10 to get the luggage packed and have breakfast with the group, but after putting my luggage in the van I got to go back to bed instead of hitting the road. It felt strange being all alone in a strange city, with only my bike.

The bike store wasn’t scheduled to open till 9:30, but I got there well before 9:00 hoping that they’d get there early and could start on my bike that much sooner. The owner showed up around 9:15, but didn’t have the keys. She called the manager, who had overslept. He showed up a few minutes later and started opening it up. The burglar alarm sounded, then was turned off. My confidence level was dropping. He brought my bike in and worked on it a while, then we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to get fixed and the bottom bracket needed to be replaced. It was one they didn’t have in stock and so called another bike store to see if they had one. In order to find out for sure, they needed to know the size, but this store couldn’t find their calipers, so they called Co-Motion (who had built the bike), and determined which size. The second store had it in stock ! Major Relief. They put it on hold for me.

I rode over to the second store. They brought it out, looked at my bike, and said it was the right size but wrong type. Uh oh! They went back and determined they didn’t have one that fit. Several of the mechanics started discussing the possibility of using a different brand. They decided that wouldn’t work. The thought of panicking crosses my mind. They then realized they were building a bike (presumably for the store floor) that was my size/brand and decided to use that. A few minutes later it was together and I was back in business. Did I luck out or what?

Gregg D. came and drove me to about the mid-way point on the ride. What a lifesaver! I can’t thank him enough and he wouldn’t even let me buy gas for his trip. It was about a 45 minute drive out to where he dropped me off and it was nice chatting about biking and the ride experience. We soon saw some of the riders and so he dropped me off by the next exit. It was fantastic to be on the road again. I rode 8 miles and got to the second sag, which was lunch. While I had missed the scenic part of the ride, it was also the toughest. Several people were riding in the van today because it was so tough. At lunch I joined with Jerry and Ken, then we rode part of the way with Dave, Kasper, and Rob. When we got to Las Vegas, Ken and I rode through old town. It was an interesting little side trip. Dinner was a hot roast beef sandwich at Pinos, then topped off with Gatorade and junk food from the convenience store.

By then it was time to get ready for the morning and go to bed. As I get ready for the morning, I can’t find the bike shorts I wore yesterday. Darn, must have left them in Albuquerque.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Day 7 Gallup, NM to Albuquerque, NM 145 miles

Mike called today one of the three “signature days” on the tour. It was the second longest day in terms of mileage. Most were a bit apprehensive. I was too, although I wasn’t worried about finishing per se, just that I wanted to do well. We started out at 6:10, slightly before sunrise. I was one of the few with reflectors on as we went to Denny’s. Many of the riders had had a pre-breakfast at the hotel – cereal and waffles. I had a couple bowls of cereal (in addition to the last Taco from last night), then had hash browns at Denny’s. We headed out relatively early from Denny’s and made it to the first Sag, at the Continental Divide. I learned that the battery in the camera does not last forever, so no pictures from the Continental Divide or elsewhere on this day.

One of the disappointments from this day was that we couldn’t ride the whole way. There were 8 or 9 miles that we had to be ferried, as there was construction on the interstate and no shoulders to ride on … and no alternate routes. While waiting to be ferried, Shane checked my crank … it was wobbly again ! This was major bad news, as it really wasn’t something Shane or Mike could deal with … the outer connection was almost stripped. The good news was Albuquerque had several good bikes stores, one fairly close to the hotel. Mike was sure we’d get there in time, as they closed at 6:00 and we should get in before that. Mike had me call Greg for directions to the store. Greg was a rider from a previous year, who had helped out by making a bike store run for riders. He didn’t answer, so I left a message.

Well, some things just weren’t meant to be, and my getting to the bike store was one of those. After getting dropped off from the shuttle, we head off in a fast pace line … faster than I was really up to. However, I wanted to make it to the bike store, so speed was important and I kept at it. I gave up a couple of times, but each time the pace line ended up slowing enough that with another go at it I could catch up … barely. After 17 miles of that … a bit less than an hour, we got off the interstate and headed to where the Sag was supposed to be. The rest of the riders stopped, but Jerry and I went on. I had to get to that bike store! Jerry had two flats, but even then it seemed like we’d be okay, getting to the hotel slightly before 5:30. Greg was there and had just picked up the message. He called the bike store and learned that they all closed at 5:00 … it was Sunday after all. I still rode out to the store just in case they were open (Greg had talked to a different store), but they were closed. Greg offered to take me to the store in the morning, then drive me out to meet the riders wherever they were by then. Wow, what a life saver! It turns out that the bike store that is nearby is actually a dealer in the brand of crank/bottom bracket, so I’m hopeful that they can fix the bike shortly after they open at 9:30 and I’ll be back in business.

We got to ride on Route 66 a bit again today. That was a treat. It was a nicer ride than the interstate, but a bit sad to see how the businesses were hurt when the traffic moved to the interstate.

I had dinner at a diner with New Mexican fare … I had a Chile burger & fries. Not a huge dinner, but then I had eaten my way across the state. Besides breakfast, I must have had two corn dogs, a sandwich, a few carrots, four bananas, raisins, Shot Blocks, and a couple of Cliff Shot energy gels.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Day 6 Winslow, AZ to Gallup, NM 127 miles

Sorry Winslow, but I was glad to leave. It seemed like everything was broken or missing yesterday when we got to town and then breakfast was missing too! We adjusted to a continental breakfast instead of the full breakfast we were expecting at the hotel … some went to McDonalds or Safeway to augment the sparse pickings, but all survived.

Soon we hit the road. It was to be a road hazard day. There were cars, RV’s, trucks & cops stopped on the freeway shoulder along the way. Sometimes we could squeeze by on the shoulder, sometimes we dashed by in the traffic lane, and other times we walked our bikes around. There was the usual glass and tire parts … I got my first flat tire … two pieces of wire were embedded in my rear wheel. Then there were the dead animals … not sure what they were … and then a hippie. Somewhere between Winslow and Gallup, out in the middle of nowhere, there was a guy sitting on the freeway shoulder. As we rode up to him, we at first thought it was one of the ABB folks squatting down to take a picture as we rode by, but as we got closer it was a dirty, disheveled man just sitting there.

It was laundry day. Since I was one of the first ones there (okay, maybe fifth or sixth) I thought I’d make a dash to the laundry and grab it before anyone else did. Good idea, but someone else beat me to it. At least I was second in line. The downside of doing laundry was I couldn’t head out to eat when others were going, so I grabbed the Grande Meal from Taco Time, right next door. I topped it off with a couple of Klondike Bars, along with a Gatorade and a good start on my gallon of water.

The day ended with an evening briefing for the next day’s ride. Because it is such a long one (146 miles) and because breakfast is at a Denny’s 9 miles away, they needed to do it tonight instead of in the morning at breakfast.

One scary note, one of the riders, John Goodman, went to the hospital, as he was having trouble breathing and had been struggling the past few days. Gee … I’ve been having a bit of trouble breathing too … presumably because of the altitude.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Day 5 Cottonwood, AZ to Winslow, AZ 107 Miles

I should have taken a clue from the start of the day. At 5:30 AM Dave & I showed up for breakfast. The restaurant (Randall’s) had a closed sign in the window and no riders in sight. There were a few folks in the restaurant and the door was open, so we went in. It was the right place, but the wrong time. Breakfast wasn’t till 6:00. It had been at 5:30 each prior day and being creatures of habit, we showed up then … having failed to read the notice saying breakfast wasn’t till 6:00. oh well.

After breakfast, I quickly loaded my luggage in the trailer and got my bike ready. All set to go, right? Wrong. Left the Camelback and water bottles in the fridge. Had to go get a room key … had left mine in the room, since I had thought I had everything.

Now all set and on my bike ready to pull out. Jerry says he’s ready to go, but I point out he’s missing his helmet. A couple of minutes later we hit the road, still among the first to leave.

Today’s ride is amazing in terms of the contrasts. Cottonwood is basically dry and brown. Pretty red rock around, which becomes more pronounced as we ride to and through Sedona. Past Sedona, we ride through a gorgeous canyon … red rock walls, green floor, and a creek running through it. We climb and climb … pay back for yesterday’s fantastic descent. We make it to the top and look back at the road winding up the canyon wall. We see a few cyclists way, way down there. We head on to Flagstaff and lunch.

After lunch we ride on a bike path next to the famous Route 66, then onto I-40. We had joined a fast group of riders … basically faster than I’m up to riding. Initially I do fine, then when it is my turn to lead the pack I ride too fast, opening a 50 foot gap between me and the pack. I slow down to have them catch up, then Jud passes me and soon stops the line. We climb over the rail and there are 6 or 7 well watered bushes. We start up again and Jerry takes the lead. Someone tells him to slow down, then a few minutes later someone else says it is too slow and zooms out to the front. We go at a very fast pace. I struggle to keep up, basically lagging 50 – 100 feet behind. After a while Jerry drops back to try and pull me in by letting me draft behind him. I close the gap, but not all the way. Finally one of the faster riders gets a flat and I take the opportunity to catch up. The three fastest riders wait a bit, then take off. Jerry, Jeff, and I stay with him as he changes his tire. Eventually we take off again and eventually pull in to the rest stop for the final SAG of the day. The fast riders are still there, but leave shortly after we arrive. We pull out a few minutes later, and go at a more reasonable pace {19-22 mph). A few miles later we pass the fast riders, who had been stopped by another flat. Eventually we pull into Winslow … the first ones in, but it had been a struggle. It is apparent to me that my training was great in terms of getting me set to ride distances and good for climbing, but did not prepare me for speed.

After helping unload the luggage, taking a shower, and washing two pairs of shorts in the sink, Jeff, Jerry, and I head over to Safeway. I get my gallon of water and a pint of ice cream. The air conditioning in the hotel isn’t working and the refrigerator in my room doesn’t seem to be either. Good thing I ate the ice cream all up. The hotel wireless isn’t working and my Verizon connection is barely there … not fast enough to do any checking on tomorrow’s route or weather. Ken, Jeff, Jerry, and I head over to Subway and Safeway, coming back to the hotel indoor pool area to eat dinner … and my second pint of ice cream. Since it is actually frozen yogurt and only 670 calories per pint there’s nothing wrong with two!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Day 4 Wickenburg, AZ to Cottonwood, AZ 102 miles & 11,000 feet of elevation gain

We started with a buffet breakfast at the Golden Nugget at 5:30 AM. Mike went over the route sheet and warned us about the descents, especially the last one of the day. It is important to make sure everything is tight before you head down, as the bike can wobble and cause stuff to fall off at high speeds … not good. He gave the example of a jacket flying off and covering the face of the rider behind … very dangerous.

Jerry and I were one of the first to load after breakfast and then hit the road … at about 6:30 AM or so. The first 15 miles or so were pretty uneventful. We passed a few of the riders who had pre-loaded – Vic & Pam, and then Phil & Kate. We catch Phil & then Kate as we start up the first big climb … up to Yarnell Pass at 4,850 feet. We climb and climb and climb … over 8 miles. On the way up we get passed by a bunch of the faster riders. At the top the van is there and riders milling about, getting pictures, watering the bushes, and general chit chat. Jerry, Ken, & I take off. We stick with Ken for 12 miles or so, then we fade back as we ride across a valley. It seems to take forever, and was awfully hard. A few of the faster riders again passed us by. When we get to the first Sag stop of the day and look back, it wasn’t flat at all, but definitely up a long, long hill. The sag stop was a welcome sight! We have a quick lunch and then are off to the second big climb of the day.

By Prescott, four or five riders have again passed us by. We weave our way through town and a very confusing route through a campus to avoid a dangerous intersection. At the end of it we turn the wrong way … south instead of north. Could have been a major problem, but we catch it right away and head back north. Soon we get to the second (last) sag stop of the day …we get there just before Barbara pulls in. A few minutes later other riders pull in … they had stopped in Prescott. Refueled, we head off for the last big climb … up to 7,023 feet. It seems to take forever, but we make it … with three of the riders who passed us just before the top there resting. As I pull in by the 7,023 foot sign … I keel over. My foot got caught in the pedal … my legs being too tired to yank it out. Aside from pride, no damage was done. We take photos at the sign and head off down the mountain after checking the bikes.

Wow! What a descent. The faster three pull away, but Jerry & I are still doing 35 – 40 mph. A couple of miles down, Jerry’s water bottle flies out – fortunately not in anybody’s way. We round the bend into Verde Valley and gust of wind slows us way, way down. Scary. We go on to the town of Jerome … not just a hole in the wall but a town in the side of the hill. We stop and have a Haunted Burger … very good! Soon the place fills up with most of the rest of the group. We still have 10 miles to go and lots more descending. I don’t know if I’ve ever gone that fast on a bike. It was fun ! A bit scary too! We pull into the motel as Barbara is finishing at the front desk. It felt good to be among the first finishers (Jeff was the first one in) on such a tough day.

After a shower, I get my gallon of water, a Gatorade & Mounds bar, then go and start writing the journal. Later, it’s off to KFC for a Mashed Potato Bowl and an Odwalla smoothie.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Day 3 Blythe, CA to Wickenburg, AZ 117 miles

I got up well before the alarm again, got ready, then headed over to breakfast at Denny’s. We ate and got briefed for the day, then headed back to the Motel. Jerry and I rode off, the first ones out. We quickly made it to the I-10 and the bridge over the Colorado River. Warned not to stop for pictures at the Arizona sign on the bridge, we pressed on to the bigger one past the bridge. I never saw it, so we just kept on biking.

We made it in to the motel just as Barb was finishing checking in. I did manage to avoid unloading much of the luggage this time, primarily because my room was so far from the office/van, by the time I got back from putting my bike in the room the van was pretty much unloaded. After taking my luggage to my room, I checked my e-mail to see if Diane had responded. I had thought that she might have to go to the same meeting that Tracy was going to, but she had sent an e-mail stating that Tracy and her were going to make it anyway, as Tracy had decided he was not going to the meeting in Charlotte after all, so they’d be there at about 6:00. Fantastic.

I was hungry then, so went to McDonalds for two McChickens and fries to hold me over till dinner. Then I got my gallon of water and a Gatorade. After a while Tracy and Diane showed up and we had dinner at the Italian Mine Restaurant. The clerk at the hotel said it was excellent, but her definition must be different than ours. Anyway, it was great to see Tracy and Diane and really nice of them to come and see me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Day 2 Thousand Palms, CA to Blythe, CA 118 miles

I had a hard time sleeping through the night, waking up at 4:00 AM, then tossing and turning till 4:45 AM when I give up and get up. I get ready, then head over to Denny’s for breakfast. After breakfast I load my luggage, but set my bike on the lawn as I put the luggage in the trailer. Of course the sprinklers go on then, so my bike and a few others get wet. I grab the infamous pink pump and get my tires set. Mike takes my picture and posts it on the web site.

I head off, following a group of early, fast riders off into the sunrise. At the first sag, I am the first to hit the road, but soon am passed by Steve and Jerry. I speed up to keep pace with Jerry. One of my bar end lights falls out, so I go back to get it. I then catch back up with Jerry and ride with him through the Box Canyon … pretty, but dry and desolate. Jerry’s knee is bothering him. A group of riders catch up and then pass us. We pass a tour group of day riders headed the other way (downhill). Now why can’t all of our ride be downhill? We tag along at the end for a while, but first I, then Jerry drop back.

Soon Jerry and I get on I-10 and ride the shoulder for 24 miles. We are the first in to lunch, as the group that had passed us had stopped along the way. After a quick lunch and restocking, I hit the road. Jerry and then Ken catch up and we ride together. Jerry’s knee is bothering him more now. My bottom bracket starts wobbling. I panic a bit as I know it takes an 8 mm allen wrench and I don’t have one with me on the bike. Fortunately Jerry does. I tighten it 5 or 6 miles after lunch, then it starts wobbling again 7 or 8 miles before the sag. As we pull off to the sag, it gets worse, so I ask to borrow Jerry’s 8 mm allen wrench again … I can’t risk riding it the way it is. I make it into the sag and have Shane take a look at it. I tell him I had this problem earlier (800 miles or so), but it seemed to be fine after that. He tightens it some more and tells me to bring the bike in to the mechanics time that evening. Then Shane watches Jerry ride a bit and tells him his seat is too high, lowering it several centimeters. That seems to make a difference.

We ride on to Blythe. Just before we pull into town, we pass a cyclist on a self-supported ride, all loaded down, stopped by an injured snake at the side of the road. It looked like a rattler, but it was clearly injured and no danger to us, so we rode on. Finally we pull into the motel. One of the first things I do is sign up for mechanics time to have my bottom bracket looked at.

After a shower, I head off to the local drug store to pick up some Efferdent tablets. Not for my dentures … don’t have any. Mike told us they were a great way to disinfect our water bottles. Since I’ve been using my Camelback for water and the water bottles for sports drinks, my water bottles need to be cleaned. On the way back I run into Jerry, Steve, and another cyclist who are headed for the Sizzler for dinner. I join them. We all have Chicken Alfredo and lots of the all you can eat salad bar. Afterwards Jerry and I head to Dairy Queen. I have a Gatorade and a Mounds bar.

We head back and I take my bike in. Mike had heard of the problem, so takes a look. He decides not to take it apart, but to test it tomorrow and if necessary have me take it in to a good bike shop in Prescott on Day 4. They’d have the stuff to put it back together properly if there are problems taking it apart. Since it worked okay the last 17 miles, I think that is the best approach, but I’m still apprehensive. This means I swap out the tools I’m taking on the bike so I have a full allen wrench set … a bit heavier, but I’ll have what I need to deal with tightening the bracket if I have to deal with it on the road. Before bed it is off to get a gallon of water and then to KFC for a Mashed Potato Bowl.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Day 1 Costa Mesa, CA to Thousand Palms, CA

I’m too excited to sleep well. Besides waking up every few hours to get a drink of water and go to the bathroom, I finally wake up for good at 3:00 AM. I toss and turn till 4:30 or so, then get up and start to get ready. After breakfast at Denny’s, I take my luggage out, get my bike, put my helmet on and Dorothy takes my picture. She doesn’t point out what Mike does later, that my helmet is on backwards. At least the red reflector wasn’t turned on and flashing. I turn it around, but now it is my face that is all red instead. Mike has taken my picture and I can imagine everyone seeing my brilliance.

I say good-bye to Dorothy and a few minutes later we’re off on our adventure. As I ride out of the parking lot I’m amazed that it is finally here. It is a short ride to the beach where we partake of the ceremonial dipping of the bike into the ocean. Not being big on ceremonies, I leave my bike at the beach end, just taking my front wheel to the ocean and dip that in. After a quick photo session, then bathroom break, we’re off. I ride with Phil for a bit, then with Scott.

At the second big climb of the day, I ride up with Bob from Canada. From the Midwest, he hadn’t seen or ridden anything like this before. He did great.

One thing I learned from the day was having my camera in the back bike bag means I take no pictures. So, I adjust. I hang the camera case off a cable at the front where it is easy to get to. Hopefully that means I take some more pictures.

Two other things I have to deal with. My bike gloves fall apart and my Camelback valve starts leaking. Fortunately there is a bike store right across from the Motel, so I get a new pair of gloves and a new valve. I also get a new chain thing-a-bobby to give back to Mike. All is good.

Then it is off to Dinner at Denny’s with Ken. Dave is already there and joins us. Afterwards I stop at the gas station for an ice cream sandwich and a gallon of water. Must hydrate.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Prologue - Costa Mesa, CA

Dorothy and I arrive at Santa Anna airport Friday afternoon. My bike is in the last piece of luggage to come down the conveyor belt. Was I worried? … maybe a little. We get to the hotel about 5:00, then go to dinner at Outback Steakhouse and go to Trader Joe’s. I start putting my bike together. On Saturday I finish putting it together – one catch is somehow the chain gets some extra loops in it. Mike and Shane fix me up, but not before taking a picture of the chain for the web site (pictures at ). Dorothy has taken the bus to the beach to see about renting a trike, but it doesn’t pan out. I take my bike to a local bike store, where they replace the rear cable housing. After I get back I pull four shards of glass out of the tires. Dorothy and I take the bus down to the beach and have dinner at the Crab Cooker – pretty good.

On Sunday we start meeting more of the riders and have orientation. I am impressed and encouraged by the organization of the ABB folks … a good sign. It is nice to get introduced to the other riders … seems like a wide range of riders and I’ll do fine.