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.