BC: That's All Folks!
FC: A Childhood Dream Come True | 2009 Cross Country Bike Ride plus RAGBRAI
1: Introduction: A Childhood Dream Come True And then there were two ... After RAGBRAI 2007, we began to talk about riding from California to the start of the West-to-East Iowa ride, then continue until the Atlantic Ocean. This would fulfill a childhood dream of mine, from back when on a family cross country driving trip, we met two guys bike riding from LA to NY. I had just got my first 10-speed and was mentally ready at age 11 to embark on a similar journey. Well, now I'm 49 and finally getting a group to ride with me. I'm a social rider, so that's an important component. Brent, Joyce and I made a pact at the conclusion of RAGBRAI last summer to do the ride. Joyce, due to personal reasons, will not be joining us until we reach Iowa, but since she'll be with us from that point on, we can't give her too much grief about missing out on the first half of the ride. ;) Here we are at the start of the Lighthouse Century for 2008. It’s the only picture I have with the three of us. Shawna joins us for this photo on the far left.
2: In order to make the main trip a more reasonable time length, we pre-rode the miles from Capitola to Placerville, then begin the official trip in Placerville. We actually did a round trip this day from San Jose to Capitola and back, but we only counted the miles on the return trip. The ceremonial dipping of the rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean was quite fun, the mark of the official start of the trek! The trip had one significant event to break up the long climb over the Santa Cruz Mountains. A group of Harley riders passed us as we slugged our way up the 7-mile, narrow-shouldered climb. After 2 dozen riders had passed I thought to myself, (I would have mentioned it to my riding buddy, but the noise from the Harley's prevented ANY conversation) I should have counted the motorcycles, but there have been too many to start now. Well, the throaty mufflered machines continued to chug past for another 7 minutes. There had to be more than 150 in all. The 2-mile dirt path at Los Gatos Creek Trail saved us 7 miles of riding, which isn't so bad, but the extra 2500 ft climbing is tough. On a subsequent ride, we searched for another way around the dirt path, but that ended up being an even longer climb with 2.5 miles of dirt path with 3 creek crossings, mud in the brakes, etc | Day -2: CA: Capitola to San Jose Saturday May 16, 2009, 37 miles - Total so far: 37 miles Today’s Climbing: 4800 ft Cumulative Climb: 4800 ft
3: Day -1: CA - San Jose to Antioch Saturday May 30, 2009, 90 miles - Total so far: 127 miles Today’s Climbing: 3800 ft Cumulative Climb: 8600 ft | Four riders including Joyce, who will join us again in Iowa. Great first full day, some high winds. The highlight was the descent from Altamont Pass. We hit speeds of 50 mph (Dwight), 50.5 (Brent) and 56mph (John). We didn’t take many pics and John wouldn’t pose, so instead here’s a pic from the Sierra’s a view worth an advance peek. This pic is one of many that say, this is why I ride, it’s a great way to see countryside.
4: Day 0: CA - Antioch to Placerville Sunday May 31, 2009, 115 miles - Total so far: 242 miles Today’s Climbing: 4000 ft Cumulative Climb: 12,600 ft | It seemed like a lot more climbing, but my altimeter says only 4000 ft climbing. I think what made the climbs tough is that nearly all of the climbing was in the last 25 miles and it was pretty warm by then. Still we finished in 8 hrs of riding time and 11 hours on the clock. This pic (top left) was right after our first wrong turn. Nobody was in the mood for picture taking. We hit a dead end road. The map was wrong! It wasn’t our fault, honest! I climbed under a barb wire fence and rode ahead to see if we could blaze a trail anyway, but we were cut off by a large section of the Sacramento Delta. There was no chance of crossing that body of water. Joyce’s GPS found us a better route; I nearly lost the group while getting a weed out of the gap between my front forks and tire, which I thought was a slow leak because of the rubbing noise.
5: Day 1: CA/NV -Placerville to Carson City Sunday June 28, 2009, 117 miles - Total so far: 359 miles Today’s Climbing: 10,740 ft Cumulative Climb: 23,340 ft We thought it would be a tough day, but the climbing was 2000 ft more than expected. The high temps were taking a toll as well. While waiting at the top of a hill for the near sleepless Brent. A stranger from a passing car offered me a Gatorade, which I gladly accepted. I guess he felt sorry for me because I was lying down on the road in a shady spot. The first driver who passed by asked if I had fallen. "No, just resting. Doesn't everyone lie down on the side of the road?" A little food and some more electrolytes put us back on the road. OK, so the first day didn't go quite as easy as planned, but it was sure beautiful. Lessons learned: Don’t send the support team to the final destination on the day with the most climbing, bring more food, get some electrolyte replacement drink, wear shorts with thicker pads, not the 15-year old shorts. All work and no fun can’t be the rule though, I still had time for some barefoot bouldering.
6: Day 2: NV - Carson City to Middlegate Monday June 29, 2009, 111 miles - Total so far: 470 miles Today’s Climbing: 3020 ft Cumulative Climb: 26,360 ft We met our first cross-country Adventure Cycling Association westbound bike rider. Unfortunately, we were in a desolate section of NV about 20 miles west of Middlegate and there was no shade nearby, (probably no shade for about 20 miles). | So during the half hour that we talked I got a mild sunburn on my right leg. It was great to swap stories about what was coming up. Thanks Ben from NY for that chance meeting. Ben told us a great story about his first use of mace on a dog in KY. The visual of the dog continuing to run while trying to wipe the mace off of his face was quite amusing. Even though the climbing was not nearly what it was the day before, the heat was quite draining. Temps were 106F for the better part of the days riding. We’ve got to start riding earlier in the day! I’ve had some experience making jam from fresh picked fruit, but today I’ve discovered a new way to make apricot jam. You take a couple of apricots, put them in the back of your jersey and ride away from the setting sun for several hours with the temps ranging from 106 to 108F.
7: Day 3: NV –Middlegate to Austin Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 71 miles Total so far: 541 miles Today’s Climbing: 4832 ft Cumulative Climb: 31,192 ft | This was Brent’s hardest day, so we ended early, got some great sleep, had some good food and recovered well. I met two fun West bounders, one is fresh out of High School, and the other is 22. The quality of people around here is amazing. I had lost $50 in the restaurant where I had lunch with Nathan and Kyle, the West bounders. I drove back to see if I could recover the money and the waitress promptly handed the money to me, stating that a customer had turned it in as lost and found. “Hope the rest of your day goes better,” she says with a smile.
8: Day 4: NV – Austin to Eureka Wednesday, July 1, 2009, 65 miles Total so far: 606 miles Today’s Climbing: 3020 ft Cumulative Climb: 34,212 ft The second of our two half days. We split our planned Day 3 into two days due to heat, climbing, lack of sleep, and lack of our ability to get on the bikes in a timely manner. Not sure why it takes us so long to break camp and get some food for breakfast and for the road. Hopefully, we’ll get faster soon. The extra sleep has been real good for us. The past few days before our trip were quite full, so we started the trip at a sleep deficit, especially, Brent. | Day 5: NV – Eureka to Baker Thursday, July 2, 2009, 140 miles Total so far: 746 miles Today’s Climbing: 7144 ft Cumulative Climb: 41,356 ft Sore legs and butt are starting to take a toll on me. Brent is feeling strong again, all rested up from the last two half days. We at the eastern edge of NV now. Yahoo! Two states crossed already. Who would have thought that Nevada has 21,000 feet of climbing! It’s really hard to see in this picture, but along the sides of the road, people have written messages with rocks next to the wadi. The messages span several miles.
9: Day 6: NV/UT – Baker to Cedar City Friday, July 3, 2009, 137 miles Total so far: 883 miles Today’s Climbing: 6004 ft Cumulative Climb: 47,360 ft Did I mention my legs and butt were sore. Nothing like some good ol’ massage to take the soreness out of the legs, but the other problem remains. Fatigue sets in real fast on those gentle hills, especially when they are 8 miles long. I kind of like the steep short ones, just get the climbing over with. Tomorrow is our first rest day. Thanks be to God for that great idea! We’ll celebrate the 4th of July with the townsfolk of Cedar City. They have plenty of festivities planned. | Day 7: UT – Cedar City Saturday, July 4, 2009, 0 miles Ahhh! Rest day! The highlights of the day were taking a nap, feasting in Maggie Moo's ice cream, catching up on the blog and doing laundry. We never made it to the festivities, but it sure was nice to rest and take a walk, stretching the tired legs. It was a shame to miss out on the fun, but it was so nice in the shade after a week of 100 F days on the hot roads. It was the best rest day and we were about to start our toughest week of climbing and heat.
10: Day 8: UT – Cedar City to Escalante Sunday, July 5, 2009, 132 miles - Total so far: 1015 miles Today’s Climbing: 8878 ft Cumulative Climb: 56,238 ft We started the day with an awesome climb up a mountain that seemed like it would never end. The beauty was good enough to force us to stop and take pictures, which broke up the 20+ mile climb nicely. The climb starts at 6000 ft and ascends to about 10,500. This marks the beginning of Utah’s great scenic Canyons. The views are well worth the climbs. We climbed the road in the first picture to get to the ridge shown in the second picture in order to see the view in the third picture. The third pic really needs a 360 degree panorama photo.
11: Day 9: UT – Escalante to Hanksville Monday, July 6, 2009, 112 miles - Total so far: 1127 miles Today’s Climbing: 7000 ft Cumulative Climb: 63,238 ft | Brent had our first tire problem. His rear tire blew. The hot weather and rough roads seem to wear the tires quite fast. This was a smooth road and steep downhill. We enjoyed slingshotting around each other on the 40+mph descents. This is just one of the beautiful canyons that we traversed. The contrast between the deep red rocks and the whiter ones was as stunning as the signs of heavy water erosion. It was in this area that I wished we had a geologist along with us.
12: Day 10: UT – Hanksville to Blanding Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 126 miles - Total so far: 1253 miles Today’s Climbing: 8097 ft Cumulative Climb: 71,335 ft | Today it was my turn to blow a tire. Still no flats, except for the failure of our tires. This was one of the toughest days on the road yet. We passed thru no towns, 105F temps for most of the day. We really appreciated the frequent water stops from the support van, Thanks Mom & Dad. We drank more than 2 gallons of water today, each! I could actually feel the moisture of my breath as I exhaled, it was so arid. Did I mention there was no shade, either? Because there are no cities in between Hanksville and Blanding, there was no option to shorten the day’s travel. At times we felt so tired that it seemed that the walls of the hills were just closing in on us. Blanding was such a slow town that when we were late for arrival, to the concern of Mom. The local clerk noticed Mom’s concern and call the police and sent him out to look for us. When the cop protested, the clerk reminded him that he had nothing better to do. I thought we were in Mayberry RFD.
13: Day 11: UT/CO – Blanding to Rico Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 127 miles - Total so far: 1380 miles Today’s Climbing: 7187 ft Cumulative Climb: 78,522 ft | We passed by so few lakes that on hot days it was tempting to take a dip, no matter what the water conditions were, but the tough schedule of long miles each day, kept us plodding along with only short stops for pictures. I think this one is Lake Powell. What a blessing it is to have some green color back in the scenery.
14: Day 12: CO – Rico to Montrose Thursday, July 9, 2009, 85 miles - Total so far: 1465 miles Today’s Climbing: 3631 ft Cumulative Climb: 82,153 ft Slightly shorter day allowed us to enjoy the trip a little more. I had the local bike shop fix a nagging creak noise in my right bottom bracket. A problem that would resurface on the left bottom bracket in MO. While talking with other Specialized owners, I learned that this is a common problem that some plumber’s pipe dope will solve. I also heard some other solutions, but this seems to have taken care of it. Brent enjoyed a cool foot bath in a stream, mostly to make me jealous I think. | Day 13: CO – Montrose to Sargents Friday, July 10, 2009, 100 miles - Total so far: 1565 miles Today’s Climbing: 6318 ft Cumulative Climb: 88,471 ft We had to stop early just on the West side of the continental divide due to chest problems for me and food poisoning for one of our support team members (Mom). Threatening rain storms and occasional sprinkles made it seem like a good idea too. My chest | problems were a nagging tight muscle between the ribs 7 & 8 on the left side. It didn’t really affect my riding, except that it felt like a knife between my ribs whenever I would laugh, cough, breathe deeply, and pick up something heavy (like a water bottle from the cage). Talking and normal breathing were not comfortable either. But other than those things, I was fine. Still the miles passed relatively quickly, partly due to the quiet stream along the road. Occasionally, there would be a bridge to a residence. What a great welcome a bridge like this would be to come home to. Little problems like this made me realize how delicate a balance we traveled on and how much I appreciated my prayer support team. I later decided that the problem was just a spasm in an intercostal muscle between my ribs, but I feared that it might be pneumonia. I had had some trouble with coughing for the past few days, not enough deep sleep, and it was a little chilly. Even Mom’s food poisoning could bring the trip to a halt. I reflected upon pro athletes and how difficult it is to stay healthy and injury free throughout a season. I figured the best thing to do was to calm down and push through, afterall, what could happen, we just have the Continental Divide to cross climbing up to 11,312 ft and then it’s mostly downhill to Iowa.
16: Day 14: CO – Sargents to Pueblo Saturday, July 11, 2009, 135 miles - Total so far: 1700 miles Today’s Climbing: 6642 ft Cumulative Climb: 95,143 ft | First thing in the morning, we crossed a huge milestone, climbing the Monarch Pass, the Continental Divide and the peak of the Rocky Mountains! At 11,312 ft, we thought it would be a tough climb, but it was much easier than we anticipated. An easy 6% grade with only 7 remaining miles to ascend. | We had already climbed two of the nine miles to reach our campsite just outside of Sargents the day before. Later in the day, both Brent and I had to replace our front tires due to wear. We were fortunate to not have blow outs, but the tire warped such that it was not trustworthy, especially at high speeds. We met a rare eastbound couple who planned to overnight in Pueblo. They would not make Pueblo on the same day, but would be there for Brent’s rest day.
17: Day 15: CO – Colorado Springs (rest day) Sunday, July 12, 2009, 0 miles Total so far: 1700 miles Today’s Climbing: 0 ft Cumulative Climb: 95,143 ft | My folks and I drove up to Colorado Springs to stay with Sherm & Cindy, my good friends from back when we all worked at Fort Hunter Liggett. They were such great hosts, treated us to a great dinner and shared stories. It was also quite fun to meet their kids and family. Many thanks for the good sleep, steam shower and good times. Some analysis of the data that we’re tracking, mileage and feet climbing, shows that amazingly our mileage projections are spot on, while the climbing was underestimated by 20%. The ACA maps provide an elevation profile, but it’s difficult to sum the total climbing using that profile, even with generous fudge factors, we were still way under on the projections, each day. | It's all downhill from here, ... right?
18: Day 16: CO – Pueblo to Sheridan Lake Monday, July 13, 2009, 142 miles - Total so far: 1842 miles Today’s Climbing: 1786 ft Cumulative Climb: 96,929 ft Today was a long flat day of riding with many fun events along the way. One of the early towns, Boone, had a guy named Larry Taylor who was fixing up a place to be a biker hostel. A fun guy to meet, he liked to show off what he had done thus far. To give you an idea of his style, he had a cowboy saddle on a motorcycle. In Ordway, we found a great bakery, The Family Bakery, I can attest that the cinnamon rolls and apple fritters are the best I’ve had in ages. Our map did not show a hostel in Sheridan Lake, but we found a guy who let us use an empty house for $10. We got in just in time to avoid the rain from the storm, we fought the wind which was quite stiff. We thought it might be a tornado. We were so blessed to not have to set up a tent. We barely got inside before the rain hit. The wind was rough on the house screen door.
19: Day 17:CO/KS – Sheridan Lake to Bazine Tuesday, July 14, 2009, 142 miles - Total so far: 1984 miles Today’s Climbing: 1360 ft Cumulative Climb: 98,289 ft Another hot day of riding. Thankfully, the bumps in the road on the eastern side of Colorado disappeared when we entered Kansas. There are cracks in the road about every 30 ft or so. Those cracks have a small dip in the road, that really wakes you up. The shock gets transferred to your hands, butt or jars your legs and joints, Ugg! Glad to be in Kansas! Hey here’s one of those great cinnamon rolls that we had yesterday. We were blessed to have found Elaine Johnson’s Bicycle Oasis. It was a tough day of heavy headwinds, so the name of Elaine’s place was quite fitting. We ended our day’s journey about 8 miles early, in favor of a place to shower, eat and more comfortable tenting quarters. That was the easiest decision of the day.
20: Day 18: KS – Bazine to Lebanon Wednesday, July 15, 2009, 65 miles - Total so far: 2049 miles Today’s Climbing: 1304 ft Cumulative Climb: 99,593 ft We decided to make this an easy day, not sure what the main reason was. It could have been the storm, my sore left leg or a number of things. After a late start we rode into Alexander for some lunch. The last couple miles we drafted a big John Deere tractor. We took some fun pictures of the farmer that pulled us too. He was amuzed at us drafting his tractor. We piled into the van to drive the northbound miles, and to escape the bad weather, then got out on the northern part of Kansas and rode east to Lebanon where we saw the monument for the geographic center of the USA. A couple we met in town allowed us to put up our tents in their yard. Thanks John and Jeanie! We sat up with them in the morning and watched another storm. The thunder and lighting was quite exciting, we barely made it into the garage before the storm hit.
21: Day 19: KS – Lebanon to Marysville Thursday, July 16, 2009, 108 miles - Total so far: 2157 miles Today’s Climbing: 3188 ft Cumulative Climb: 102,781 ft A tough day to start, we awoke to signs of heavy thunderstorms and sure enough they hit before we could even get packed up. We tried to wait out the storm in the shelter of our hosts’ garage, but the storm looked like it was going to continue for too long so we drove 4 miles to the Geographic center of the USA, continental 48 states, then packed up our gear and headed off during a brief respite from the weather. Riding fast along the Pony Express route dried us off when the sun came out. By chance we decided to spend the night in Marysville, KS. While looking for a place to camp and shower, we stumbled upon some fellow RAGBRAI riders who ran the local fitness center. As it turns out they hire the same charter company as we have used for years at RAGBRAI. What a treat to find friends in a random city!
22: Day 20 KS/NE – Marysville to Omaha Friday, July 17, 2009, 49 miles - Total so far: 2206 miles Today’s Climbing: 1548 ft Cumulative Climb: 104,329 ft We finished up the eastbound portion of Kansas and then piled into our support vehicle for the northbound trek through Nebraska. We figured that we’re crossing the USA from West to East and therefore we can skip the northbound miles. In all we shuttled 140 miles north in two segments and 60 miles south on the eastern side of Iowa. With all of the extra miles we covered going north and south during the 6 weeks, this is a small distance to shuttle. We had grown so accustomed to being outside that it would drive me batty to be crammed into the van, even without all the gear. This was torture. Next week we would shuttle with Joyce in the van too. Wow, that’ll be cozy! This also marks the halfway point of our cross country ride at 2200 miles and over 100,000 ft climbing.
23: Day 21 IA – Council Bluffs Saturday, July 18, 2009, 0 miles - Total so far: 2206 miles Today’s Climbing: 0 ft Cumulative Climb: 104,329 ft Rest day! One of the things we enjoyed today was an extra large pork tenderloin. It was served on a slightly large hamburger bun, but was nearly a foot in diameter, hanging over the edge of the bun by a few inches on all sides. Due to my abnormally large appetite from all the bike riding, I was able to finish the whole thing. Even though I was quite full, in a couple of hours I was hungry again – as usual. Meanwhile Brent and our RAGBRAI friends enjoyed a short ride to the pedestrian bridge spanning the Missouri River between Omaha and Council Bluffs. | Party | Week!
24: The first day of the ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI) was an easy day, less than 60 miles. One downside was that I found no pie all day. Since this ride is a quest for finding the best pie, at least in my mind, this was disappointing, but I would make up for it the next day. Two highlights happened at our campsite. I was having a great time chatting with some new friends camped near me, when suddenly there was a twister, a funnel-shaped wind storm. This storm picked up about 4 empty tents and several other light weight items. Rod, (pictured on a later day) and I stopped talking and exclaimed, “Those are tents in the air.” It was so comical; I was looking for a cow in the midst of all the other debris, like tent bags and who knows what else. One tent had great up and down motion; it would nearly land and then shoot up 100 ft into the air again. The last trip down landed it upon the steeple of the church where we were camped. They had to bring a fire truck with a ladder to get it down. About the time they were bringing it down the owner of the tent showed up, so I had him pose for a picture as if he was holding the tent up in the air by one hand. The other big highlight for me was that our campsite host (a church in Red Oak) offered a music worship service in the evening. Rod, Randy, another biker and I were blessed and grateful to attend. For me, this would be the only corporate worship service that I would have for the whole trip. Worshipping in God’s creation is great, but there is also something special about corporate worship, especially with such talented musicians. It moved me to tears and I felt a strong urge to pray for a friend who had been hospitalized for 90 days. Upon my return home, I found out that she was released that same day as my prayers. | Day 22 IA – Council Bluffs to Red Oak Sunday, July 19, 2009, 57 miles - Total so far: 2263 miles Today’s Climbing: 3684 ft Cumulative Climb: 108,013 ft
25: Day 23 IA – Red Oak to Greenfield Monday, July 20, 2009, 75 miles - Total so far: 2338 miles Today’s Climbing: 5096 ft Cumulative Climb: 113,109 ft Somewhere along the route today I had some of the best pie. To make up for yesterday’s lack of pie, I ate 4 slices – yum, yum! Apple, peach-apricot, rhubarb and pecan were my favorites of the week, who knows when I had them, it all kind of runs together in my memory. Here are some pics of some great highlights typical of RAGBRAI, which stands for Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. Today’s pics are of a large unicycle of which there were four this year, the largest bull in the world (or maybe it was just in Iowa), and Miss Iowa, who also rode on a tandem with her father. I’m not sure why she wanted to have her picture taken with me. I said okay, but no ceremonial kiss. Now some of that story is embellishment, but the part about Miss Iowa riding on a tandem with her dad is true.
26: Mind if I cut through here? | Day 24 IA – Greenfield to Indianola Tuesday, July 21, 2009, 77 miles - Total so far: 2415 miles Today’s Climbing: 4470 ft Cumulative Climb: 117,579 ft The fun events of RAGBRAI were central to the planning of our route across the USA. They just do things differently in Iowa. Here’s a fun example: to accommodate bicycle parking for thousands of cyclists passing through small towns, the townspeople stretch a long rope or cable in the middle of the road. The bikes can be hung on this rope by the handlebars or seat post. Getting enough tension on a rope that is more than 100 ft in length can be a tough challenge, but not for a farmer. They just see this as a chance to showcase their new tractor.
27: Day 25 IA – Indianola to Chariton Wednesday, July 22, 2009, 44 miles - Total so far: 2459 miles Today’s Climbing: 2182 ft Cumulative Climb: 119,761 ft The little town of Milo, Iowa really put some effort into hosting the 15,000 bikers who passed through their town. Since this is the home town of the character from M*A*S*H’s Radar, they carried the theme of the show to great lengths, including the general announcements and décor. I received my first and only massage of the trip nearby the Triage tent. It was a great relief from a well-qualified therapist. Given any large group of people, there are bound to be some who really enjoy drawing attention to themselves. The group whom I saw at my breakfast table is a strong candidate for some prize. They were shooting for best costume, I suppose. Since they were also camped nearby me, I would witness their attire each day, because every day was a new costume. My favorite was super hero day. Captain America, Cat Woman and Robin can be seen here. Incidentally, the Captain also swam in his full attire in the local swimming hole on this extra warm day.
28: Day 26 IA – Chariton to Ottumwa Thurs, July 23, '09, 107 miles - Total so far: 2566 miles Today’s Climbing: 3388 ft Cumulative Climb: 123,149 ft RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) traverses the state from West to East, averaging about 70 miles per day. But on one day of the week, there is an optional extension loop which will bring the day’s mileage up to 100 miles. For many RAGBRAI riders, this is their first Century bike ride and so it’s a big deal to do the Century loop. For us, we just did a couple of weeks of century bike rides every day and we’ve got three more weeks of century rides to go. So do we need to do the century loop? Of course! How could we say, “Yeah, I rode my bike across the country, but I | couldn’t handle an extra 20 mile loop, that all of these rookie century riders somehow managed to accomplish.” Not a chance, I’ve still got some pride, I haven’t been that humbled yet! Joyce and I planned to ride together this day, but we spent most of the day trying to figure out who was in front of who, whether I should ride hard to catch up or pull over and wait for her. Here’s a pic of Joyce taken while we were riding alongside each other in a park full of lakes. After seeing so many hundreds of miles of corn and soybean fields, the lakes were quite fun to see. The other photo is part of the group of RAGBRAI riders with whom we camped. This group of people has been doing RAGBRAI for several years.
29: famine. There were two, no make that three places where the pie was so good that I went back for a second slice. The left picture shows my new friend, Rod. The lower picture shows two fellow bikers from a small group of RAGBRAI friends. We’re having a pow-wow and waiting for pizza to be delivered on the night before the start of RAGBRAI. Randy (below left), is a biker that also lives in San Jose. One of the Baylor boys (Matt) is seated next to Randy, a strong rider that despite my efforts, I could not keep up with. It must have been the extra 2000 miles that I rode, yeah that’s it. It couldn’t have been the 30 years of age difference. | Day 27 IA – Ottumwa to Mt Pleasant Friday, July 24, 2009, 75 miles - Total so far: 2641 miles Today’s Climbing: 2841 ft Cumulative Climb: 125,990 ft The easy week was wrapping up, so time to say goodbye to so many fun riding buddies, new friends and to the great state of Iowa. Soon we would be back to the trek across the country, foraging for food instead of feasting on the banquets of all you can eat pancakes, home-cooked lasagna, and most importantly, pies. I finished the week with 16 slices, but was hampered by two whole days of pie
30: Day 28 IA/IL – Mt Pleasant to Hamilton Saturday, July 25, 2009, 95 miles - Total so far: 2763 miles Today’s Climbing: 3120 ft Cumulative Climb: 129,110 ft Our last day of RAGBRAI and first day of the continuation of the cross country ride was filled with various emotions. Parting with fun friends, wanting to spend time saying goodbye, to rehash fun stories and to also get some miles logged riding south back to the TransAmerican route made for a long day. We were also reunited with my folks, who had done their own adventures during the week of RAGBRAI. Plus we were adding Joyce’s gear to the already crowded van. That was a bit of an ordeal. Since Dad and I were having a struggle about how much gear could actually fit into the van and whether or not our friend, Bob, would be able to haul some “less used” gear back to CA for us, Joyce decided to steer clear of the scene. When I finally got the van all packed up and the P’s were headed off for some rendezvous point up ahead, Joyce announces that she has one more extra-large duffel bag yet to put into the van. The van had already headed off down the one-way road, which was closed to car traffic due to RAGBRAI crowd control. This led to some short term panic, but Joyce was resourceful enough to flag down a quad runner who shuttled her and her bag to a point a mile ahead where my parents stopped to wait for her to arrive. Thankfully our cells phones saved the day on that calamity. Of all the bad things that could happen, that being the worst one that did occur, it was a pretty smooth adventure. Not such a great welcome for Joyce, but we welcome her despite the comedy of errors. Here’s a pic of the crowd of riders we were leaving in Burlington, Iowa. Actually, this just shows what’s left of the crowd. By the time we crossed the bridge, it was four hours past when I had arrived, so the bulk of the people had all packed up and left. This pic was taken from the bridge which crosses the Mississippi River and led us into Illinois.
31: Day 29 IL/MO – Hamilton to Louisiana Sunday, July 26, 2009, 116 miles - Total so far: 2852 miles Today’s Climbing: 3500 ft Cumulative Climb: 132,610 ft Our trek south to the TransAmerican route was also on a published route that the Adventure Cycling Association promotes. The route that we followed is called the Great River route, because if follows the Mississippi. We did a little back and forth between Missouri and Illinois. While this provided some great views from the bridges we crossed, it was a bit of a trial for Joyce who doesn’t appreciate the view from a suspended height, whereas Brent and I rather enjoyed hanging out on a bridge crossing to see boats, ships, trains and other things that may be crossing our path. It really is pretty amazing how much a bridge can shake when large vehicles pass by. On this day we had our longest “wrong turn” accounting for more than half of the estimated 30 miles of wrong turns during our 4300 mile journey. It was the first turn of the day and I thought there was no need to check the map, we all thought we knew which way was the right way out of town. The eight miles of wrong way was quite easy as the morning wind was so strong that day, but the return 8 miles was pure torture. After 16 miles of hard riding we were back to where we spent the night! At least they had a great pool at that location. Too bad we couldn’t just call it a day and spend another night there, do some needed laundry and hang out with that yappy dog who nearly met his maker. Some folks in a RV left their dog to bark away while they were out on the town.
32: Day 30 MO – Louisiana to Washington Monday, July 27, 2009, 91 miles - Total so far: 2943 miles Today’s Climbing: 3500 ft Cumulative Climb: 136,110 ft Two fun features of the short time we were in Missouri were passing through the hometown of Samuel Clemmons (Mark Twain), Hannibal, MO. We met the cutest couple of siblings who were play acting the role of Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher. They did such a great job of staying in character, no matter what questions we would ask them. We also enjoyed getting away from the cars for a while on the Katy Trail. We rode this trail for about 35 miles over a two-day period. It is a beautiful trail with good maintenance. There were two 100 ft sections where suddenly the hard-packed dirt covered with a super thin layer of gravel, became 4-inch deep gravel. It was a true test of ability to stay upright when suddenly plowing through the gravel. While in Hannibal, it was so hot that we enjoyed a mid-day treat of ice cream. We rested on a bench while eating only to be startled alert by the sound of what we thought was a nearby gunshot. Nope! It was Brent’s rear tire exploding. Even though we were in the shade, the excessive wear caused the tube to burst as the tire gave way to the high pressure of the tube. We found a distillery along the Katy Trail that had a display beer vat. Brent is here suckling up to the nipple of the vat.
33: Day 31 MO – Washington to St. Louis Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 65 miles - Total so far: 3008 miles Today’s Climbing: 2500 ft Cumulative Climb: 138,610 ft This was supposed to be our rest day, but instead we elected to ride the optional route to St. Louis, then portage in the van to a small town of Ozora, MO. That would put us exactly on schedule. The Great River route while a nice stretch of road was a little too much back and forth when our mail goal is to get back to the TransAmerican route without riding in the van too much. So we thought that a short 60 mile portage was much better than missing the great sights in St. Louis. The highlight of which was The Arch. We had some fun with the camera, pretending to be riding up and down the Arch. Where the Arch meets the ground, it is about an 80 degree slope. So we needed a little more gription to navigate that slope. The timing of entry into the van allowed us our second and final escape from foul weather. The onset of the storm was quite dramatic, typical mid-west style – huge gusts of wind, brief calm, and then heavy rain. I was about to take this picture of The Arch, when suddenly I had to hold onto my bike with both hands to avoid being blown over.
34: Day 32 MO/IL – Ozora to Goreville Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 111 miles - Total so far: 3119 miles Today’s Climbing: 4000 ft Cumulative Climb: 142,610 ft Ozora had the most humorous mis-communication of our trip with the hotel clerk who spoke almost no English. Although the sign stated that the free continental breakfast was from 6am to 9am, the clerk informed us that the manager would not awaken until 9am and he had the keys to the room which held the breakfast meal. Despite our valiant efforts we did not eat at the hotel that morning! Across the river we entered Illinois in Chester, hometown of the creator of Popeye. We had some good fun posing with the cartoon displays. Today we would say goodbye to Joyce, who elected to change her flight and fly back early. This type of cross country ride is not for all riders, the challenges, mishaps and what some would call adventure, can be frustrating for someone who likes to have things planned out. We sent Joyce off with a blessing and although we knew it was for the best, we would miss her. Here’s a pic of Mary, a westbound rider, who was such a joy to meet. How refreshing it is to meet riders who schedule their trip according to the spirit of the day. Additionally, it’s great to know that you can bike across the country and still look this good. A stark contrast to other joy-filled, free-spirited rider we met that same day. But I’ll save that story for tomorrow, because we rode with Bryce for a couple of days.
35: Day 33 IL/KY – Goreville to Sebree Thursday, July 30, 2009, 116 miles - Total so far: 3235 miles Today’s Climbing: 6030 ft Cumulative Climb: 148,640 ft We had long looked forward to staying the night in Sebree, KY because of the great service one of the local churches provides to cyclists who ask to stay with them. A home cooked meal with the Pastor and his wife is a great treat. Helping to fix the meal along with the other riders who happen to be staying that evening was especially fun. I think there were four of us, plus my parents, besides Brent and myself, we had Phil, and then Bryce came in later. Bryce captures the joy of riding and enduring hardship with a smile like no other rider that we saw. The spirit of youth barely begins to explain his enthusiasm for riding and life in general. As a college student with low funds, Bryce was able to cut expenses in a way that many would seem as a hardship, but Bryce takes in all in stride without flinching. After only three showers in 5 weeks, he still looked perky, even his one set of clothes that had rings of dirt on the sleeves and his riding shorts which no longer had elasticity due to being caked with salt from sweating. Now, I ask you, as bad as that sounds, do you think that has affected this smile? If you want some cost-saving tips, contact this rider. Note the box of a dozen day-old donuts and the orange flavored drink with enough bottles to buy it by the gallon. We were so entertained by this method, that we thought we’d supplement his diet from one of the local cornfields. We thought he might scoff at our joke, but instead he promptly put the corn in his front bag, with a smile noting the humor of our tease. Despite the heavy load Bryce carried he was able to crank out over a 100 miles a day. Thus he was one of the few riders who kept pace with our daily average. He was strong, but not as strong as this steer that we saw. And we thought Texas was home of the longhorns.
36: Day 34 KY – Sebree to Sonora Friday, July 31, 2009, 120 miles - Total so far: 3355 miles Today’s Climbing: 5700 ft Cumulative Climb: 154,340 ft After a great home cooked dinner with the pastor and wife of a church in Sebree, we set out on our first full day in the second to last state to cross, Kentucky. We had such a peaceful sleep, shower and laundry. What a blessing this church is to riders. KY definitely lived up to the reputation that we had heard so much about. The free running dogs were a hazard we learned to look for and approach in stealth mode. This dog was one of the more friendly ones. The ones that don’t bark can scare as bad as a car whose driver chooses to honk just as he pulls even with you. Thankfully, we didn’t have too many of those. Mary, our friend from a couple days before, nearly cried in memory of being chased by 21 dogs over a short 3 day span. Our stealth approach, then sprint-upon-being-seen method worked quite well. We had several laughs over the dogs; I won’t go into too much detail, but there were many funny events. There was the small yappy dog that Brent almost ran over, the dog that Brent chased away from Joyce, and the fierce big dog that nearly bottomed out in the ditch between the yard and the road. I’m not sure if we beat Mary’s record, but we also experienced a large number of unleashed dogs in KY. We only had one occasion to use the pepper spray, but by the time we used it, I was ready to use a weapon with much more power, if I had one. Since we are on a heritage tour, the expression Walk softly, carry a Big Stick, comes to mind. I forgot to mention that yesterday we had our only ferry crossing coming into KY. It was fun to cross the river with our support van. In this pic you can see my parents in their van. It was quite fun to chat with the boat crew while crossing. I was quite impressed at the way he could “rope” the dock with the massive chain. He would hold the barge fast to the dock by gracefully spinning the chain in a figure eight fashion. It occurred to me that this is just one of the many jobs performed routinely by workers across the country with such skill as to make it look easy. I doubt that he gets paid much for his work, but I also doubt that many people possess this skill. The realization of the great blessings that make up the USA; there are so many skilled people who humbly give their well-honed skills for a common day’s wage.
37: Day 35 KY – Sonora to Bardstown Saturday, Aug 1, 2009, 61 miles - Total so far: 3416 miles Today’s Climbing: 2800 ft Cumulative Climb: 157,140 ft This marked the second week of riding without a day off, so I took the opportunity to have what we called a half day of riding, only 61 miles. I cherished this day as it was also our last half day. Bryce and I rode together as Brent rode south to Maker’s Mark. Brent rode an extra 20 or so miles so that he could visit a local distillery. Bryce had a surprise visit from his girlfriend and her Mom. They kidnapped him and had him take a rare shower. It was only his fourth one for the whole cross country trip, since the Pacific! It’s hard to tell, but his shirt is much cleaner. The store owners at this Mexican restaurant were quite fun and were happy to show off the latest art project. It seems that my memory of the last week was not as centered on having fun, but on which way is the quickest to the East coast. So spending time with some restaurant owners who had a pastime activity of helping out under privileged kids was a nice dose of real world focus. Another piece of America that shows that there are many unsung heroes.
38: Day 36 KY – Bardstown to Berea Sunday, Aug 2, 2009, 113 miles - Total so far: 3529 miles Today’s Climbing: 5842 ft Cumulative Climb: 162,982 ft The TransAmerica trail is filled with points of interest and historical markers, which can make it difficult to see them all and complete our daily mileage goals. One such example is this log cabin, which is representative of the type of cabin Abraham Lincoln lived in while growing up. If I remember the sign correctly, this cabin was quite old, in the same era as Honest Abe, but not the actual cabin. Two works of mechanical art that we saw on this day were this old car and the bicycle. Food is quite cheap in this part of the country. I bought two freshly made doughnuts for 25 cents each. While eating them I saw this early model car for sale. I had to get my Dad to tell me what it was – I knew that he would know since it’s from his days of youth. This mechanical work of art in the shape of a bicycle was too interesting to pass up as well. | Day 37 pictures
39: Day 37 KY – Berea to Hindman Monday, Aug 3, 2009, 116 miles - Total so far: 3645 miles Today’s Climbing: 7240 ft Cumulative Climb: 170,222 ft Two westbound riders we met, whose names escape my memory, had homemade fenders. Impressive woodworking! (see opposite page for pics) This is our last full day in KY, and then it’s only one state to go! Kentucky turned out to rank third highest for number of feet climbed within the state. And this would be our hardest day in KY for climbing and miles. The climbs were not steep, just a lot of them, and thankfully all at low elevation. Throughout the day we stayed between 800 and 1500 ft elevation, summitting these short climbs a couple of dozen times during the day. The lack of rest days was definitely taking a toll, probably more mental than physical. While we were plenty motivated to stay the course; however, it was notable to me how grueling this mind vs. physical body endurance event can be. Our desire to reach the end was sufficient propulsion. Our rest stops were often culminated with the expression, “Let’s log some miles!”
40: Day 38 KY/VA – Hindman to Council Tuesday, Aug 4, 2009, 106 miles - Total so far: 3751 miles Today’s Climbing: 6920 ft Cumulative Climb: 177,142 ft We hit two bad storms this day and had some great sun between storms. We had such great weather throughout the trip, we can’t complain, but it makes a good story, so I’ll indulge. The morning storm had so many warnings given to us from the locals that we thought we should take note. We tried to stay ahead of the storm by heading out of town about mid-morning. We were less than a mile out of town when we decided we’d better head back because the winds were so violent and we feared being pelted by hail or blown off the road. We headed back to a gas station that had food, heat and shelter. When our support van arrived we took an hour nap, then decided that we should just ride in the rain, since the wind had subsided. I don’t think Brent slept much, but I was out like a light. Before the late afternoon storm hit we saw a memorial for the Unknown Soldier from the Civil War. Entering Virginia, the last State! was great cause for celebration too. This second storm was especially troubling to me because we had been trying to make up some miles each day, but were continually plagued by delays or mishaps, etc. I really wanted to catch up with Bryce who was about 40 miles ahead of us and riding the same number of daily miles. We thought it would be fun to ride into Yorktown together on the last day. So with the threat of another delay due to a storm, I was not interested in being deterred by the inclement weather. I was ready to do the 3-mile climb of 1000 ft with sheets of rain blocking our vision and traction, followed by a hairy descent. Fortunately, a local cyclist who was driving past in his car stopped to offer some unsolicited advice on our dilemma. He advised us against the descent into Honaker and referred us to a park in Council that had a large picnic covering (see pic) and bathrooms. We took his council and stayed in Council. It worked out splendidly, no tents, no fuss, no fee, no shower. Well, 3 out of 4 isn’t bad. Clean and dry suits me just fine – maybe we can catch Bryce tomorrow.
41: Day 39 VA – Council to Wytheville Wednesday, Aug 5, 2009, 90 miles - Total so far: 3841 miles Today’s Climbing: 6320 ft Cumulative Climb: 183,462 ft Our cyclist friend in the rainstorm yesterday turned out to be more than a Godsend than we first realized. His advice saved us from a possible crash on the highly technical decent on the downside of the hill. The combination of steepness, rain, tight turns and poor visibility due to the heavy rain could have been disastrous. Due to another small storm and lack of ability to find a place to shower further ahead, we opted for a motel that caters to cyclists. Not having a shower the day before really made the motel attractive. The motel also gave us a rag to clean our bikes and featured a 400-year old house across the street that had been converted into a restaurant. This was probably our fanciest meal during the whole trip. Brent and I found a happy medium between his increasing desire to celebrate our achievement and my desire to complete the journey. The balance was a good mix. The picture of the flower was one we had been seeing for days alongside the road. I finally found one close enough to get a decent close-up pic.
42: Day 40 VA – Wytheville to Troutville Thursday, Aug 6, 2009, 113 miles - Total so far: 3954 miles Today’s Climbing: 6363 ft Cumulative Climb: 189,825 ft Today we broke the 4000 mile mark, seemed like we had ridden forever and farther than I thought the trip would be. Just when I was thinking will the end ever come, I saw this sign. I was so delirious that it took me a while to catch the irony of the two signs together and how fitting it was of my mood. Thankfully we didn’t make a wrong turn here, I should think we would have fallen off the edge of the Earth had we gone farther than 1.05 miles down the Wilderness Rd. After all, why else would the distance measured be so precise? I back tracked mile just to take this picture. We picked up another west bound rider, who was quite strong and young. He worked so hard keeping up on the hills that we suggested that since he was planning to overnight in the same city as us, that he put his pantieers in my parents van. Then we could draft him! This worked out quite well. We also met Gertie, who runs this store. She gave us a small shortcut that saved us a couple thousand feet climbing. Even with the savings VA turned out to have the second highest number of feet climbed, with Utah being first. Pictured below are our new riding buddy and me standing outside of Gertie’s store, with Gertie inside. Talking with her, just lets you know the high caliber of people in this part of the country. She’s the friendliest gal, after 15 min, you just feel like you could talk with her about anything.
43: Day 41 VA – Troutville to White Hall Friday, Aug 7, 2009, 106 miles - Total so far: 4060 miles Today’s Climbing: 7317 ft Cumulative Climb: 197,142 ft One of the toughest climbs in VA was the climb to the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway occasionally crosses the Appelatian trail and features many scenic lookouts, which pictures hardly do the view justice, but I’ll post one anyway. The other highlight of our day was finally meeting the Cookie Lady. She has been hosting cyclists in her hostel and making cookies for them for about 30 years. Her signed guest list is about 15,000 riders. We spent about an hour in a small town trying to find her. It turned out we were only 100 ft away from her house, but she can no longer hear well enough to give directions over the phone. It was comical. Her cyclists really love her; they show their love by sending postcards and leaving things for other cyclists to use or eat.
44: Day42:VA– White Hall to Mechanicsville Saturday, Aug 8, 2009, 133 miles - Total so far: 4193 miles Today’s Climbing: 4767 ft Cumulative Climb: 201,909 ft The last long day of our trip had so many things to see that it was difficult to get our miles logged. Notably was this pic of Brent in front of this statue of Thomas Jefferson. The campus is the college that he founded or helped to found, University of Virginia. Sorry, I know I read the blurb then, but my brain was pretty fried and retention was not high for any of the events of the last week or two. However, I do remember the bagel shop that we found right after the college. Also, there was a farmers market right after that, which had some yummy nectarines. This pic of the Route 76 was also a Godsend. The eastern states had plenty of these signs which marked our route. I think they choose the number 76 because the route was established by the American Cycling Association in 1976 as part of the bicentennial celebration of our country and its heritage. After much searching for a place to camp with showers we settled for the local bike shop. Who were kind enough to not only let us camp in their back yard for free, but also let us have some bike boxes, that I needed the next day for shipping my bike back to CA on our plane flight. We rigged up a make shift shower with the garden hose. It felt great!
45: Day 43:VA–Mechanicsville to Yorktown Sunday, Aug 9, 2009, 87 miles - Total so far: 4280 miles Today’s Climbing: 1850 ft Cumulative Climb: 203,759 ft We met a strong rider who showed us the way to Yorktown. This was a huge blessing as my mental fatigue was affecting my ability to read the maps. Unfortunately, part of the route was on a cobblestone parkway. I was concerned about my new vibration noise, which turned out to be a vibrating cassette. Here’s a picture of our “angel guide” showing us a bike trail across a bridge with Brent barely in the pic. It was quite fun to finish the official cross country trek in historic Yorktown where the final battle for Independence was fought in 1781. They have a large museum in Yorktown that we didn’t have the energy to tour. We needed food and rest more than tourism. It’s great that the TransAmerica bike trail is numbered #76, cause there is so much American heritage along the route. The route was created for the bicentennial in 1976 and is ridden by several thousand bikers each year. We met cross country bikers nearly every day.
46: Epilog:VA – Yorktown to Virginia Beach Monday, Aug 10, 2009, 0 miles Total Miles: 4280 Cumulative Climb: 203,759 ft As much as we hated to ride in the van to Virginia Beach, we found out there was no way to bike there due to the roads being closed to bikes. Our buddy Bryce tried to go around an extra 30 miles, but still couldn’t do it. There is a bay in Yorktown, so we celebrated there too. You can see the Atlantic Ocean from Chesapeake Bay (it’s only a few miles) so our goal of riding coast to coast was still completed. The first picture is from Chesapeake Bay. The statue of Neptune is on the beach boardwalk in Virginia Beach. It was great to arrive at the Atlantic. I think I might have enjoyed celebrating more, if I wasn’t so tired mentally, physically and emotionally. This trek was tougher than any of the endurance events I’ve ever attempted. As the picture suggests, it was a supreme effort. I remain convinced that the absence of any breakdowns was due to the answered prayers for protection. Thanks be to God for protection beyond our knowledge and for all of my prayer partners: Mom, Dad, Michelle, Ellen, the Thomas family, many massage clients, my Bible study group. Thanks also to my chiropractic office for tracking our journey on a specially made bulletin board. A special thanks to Mom and Dad for their endurance in providing support. We could not have done it without you. Here's a pic of all the gear they carried for us. Thanks for the encouragement of our fellow cross country riders. It was great to meet all of you. I’m sorry that I didn’t get pictures of all of the riders that we met along the way. It was truly a highlight of the trip to stop and chat with the fellow cross country bikers. It’s a great club to be in. Elevation by State (in feet) *Utah 34,000 *Virginia 30,000 *Kentucky 28,000 *Iowa 25,000 *Colorado 22,500 *Nevada 21,000 *California 20,000 Missouri & Illinois 16,000 *Kansas & Nebraska 6,000 *These states were traversed in their entirety from west to east.
48: The Route
50: The States
52: Some of our Campsites
53: Some of our Fellow Cross Country Riders