Saturday, August 2, 2008

San Francisco....We Made It!

It's been 5 days since we reached San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm in San Antonio, Texas at Sam's house and we fly back to Connecticut tomorrow morning. It's been a busy 5 days and I haven't had a chance to sit down to update my blog until now. I still don't have sufficient time to sit, reflect, and write about the entire experience and reaching our final destination.

Day 51 took us through the capital city of California, Sacramento, where we followed a bike path for about 45-50 miles. We spent the night in Davis California which is considered one of the most bike friendly cities in America. Every main road in Davis has a bike lane. We had a bit of a scare on day 51 as I took a small spill on my bike as we rode through an area where there was some construction on the road. However, the fall didn't slow us down and we were back and riding in 5 minutes.

Day 52 took us from Davis to San Francisco. We woke up at 5am to get a good start on the day. We had to ride 70 miles to Vallejo where we hopped on a pedestrian ferry that took us across the San Francisco Bay to the city. The ferry ride was about an hour long and provided us with a great view of Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the entire city of San Francisco. The ferry ride was one of the highlights of the day. The ferry ride was such an adrenaline rush - seeing the San Francisco landmarks triggered something inside of me, it finally started to sink in that I just biked across the entire country with Sam and Bob in a little over 7 weeks!
We exited the ferry and had a 6.5 mile ride to the Golden Gate Bridge and the beach where we eventually dipped our front tires into the San Francisco Bay. We reached the foot of the Golden Gate at about 4pm and stayed in the area until about 6:30pm. We celebrated, took a lot of pictures, and sat around to take in all the sights. We had to wait an hour or so for the support crew to catch up with us. The truck got towed while Mr & Mrs. Mangum and Andrea waited for us to get off of the ferry. They had to retrieve the truck and then catch up with us at the bridge and after a few wrong turns, they finally made it! San Francisco had a strong, cool breeze and we were pretty cold and tired by 6:30pm. We found a hotel nearby, showered, and grabbed some dinner at a local steak and seafood restaurant.

The next day felt so strange not having to get up and ride my bike. I missed it. The day felt more like a day off than anything. In the afternoon, we went back to the Golden Gate Bridge and walked to the middle amongst all of the other tourists, took some pictures, and then headed out of the city.

Five days later, it is still hard for me to wrap my brain around the entire experience. I am so thankful I got to experience the ride with Sam and Bob - they made every day a memorable one. I am also thankful for the help of our entire support crew, Sharon, Jesse, The Smiths, Mr. Mangum, Mrs. Mangum, and Andrea. Thanks to all of you for helping us achieve our goal of reaching the west coast and for helping our team raise awareness and money for the Living Waters Orphanage. It was a trip of a lifetime!

I can't wait for my next bike trip!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 50 - California!

I know I said we did our last 100 mile ride of the trip, but yesterday we rode 116 miles to reach Placerville, California. We crossed into California about 20 miles west of Carson City. We rode along a small back road and when we reached the state line we were all a bit surprised at the California sign. It was so small! We all joked about it and got our pictures taken. Check out the picture of me lying with one half in Nevada and one half in California.

Yesterday's ride was hard! We had our final day of climbing - we had to go over Kit Carson's pass, about 8,500 feet. As usual, we were all looking forward to the climb, but especially the descent. However, the elevations on the cycling map was a bit deceiving. It looked like once we cleared the summit, it was all downhill....wrong! Just as we started to go downhill, the road turned skyward again. The first time I thought, "okay, no problem", the second time I thought, "hmmm, okay last climb then downhill!", the third, fourth, and fifth time I thought, "Not again, stop toying with me!" I also thought about tossing my bike over the side of the mountain! Sam and I both agreed that we had not done that much climbing in a single day the entire trip. It was the toughest 116 I've done so far!

Ha, but we made it! We are about to head out to Sacramento this morning. I offered to buy the team breakfast, so I'm heading over to Chuck's Restaurant right now. Sam, Bob, and Andrea are preparing the bikes as I write this. Andrea is learning a lot about cycling. So far, I love California. I wish I had more time to fill you all in our how pretty the ride was yesterday (despite the agonizing hills).

Have a great day!

Day 48 & 49 - Carson City, Nevada

We rode from Fallon to the capital of Nevada - 112 miles. The ride was long with pretty much the same scenery we've been seeing throughout all of Nevada. Carson City sits on the western edge of the state and acts as a gateway to California. We took day 49 off from riding because Sam's mom and friend, Andrea, were flying into Reno to join Mr. Mangum for the last 3 days of our trip.

I rented a truck from Enterprise (the girl who worked there gave me a GREAT deal) and drove to Lake Tahoe (25 miles away) on Day 49 while Sam and Mr. Mangum went to the airport in Reno. Bob, being the great guy that he is, did our dirty laundry that afternoon (thanks Bob!).

Lake Tahoe was awesome! There are parts that are full of tourists and other parts that are fairly quiet. That evening, after dinner, everyone opted to see the new Batman movie. I'm not much of a movie goer, so Andrea and I head back to Tahoe. We stopped at a lookout to watch the sunset and ran into a group of people who had already claimed the spot. They were very friendly and took pictures of Andrea and I as we posed on the rocks. We told them all about our bike ride and the orphanage and they made a donation to our cause. This is just one more example of how many nice people we've met along the way. Andrea is the one in the picture with her arms stretched out on the rocks.

Now that our team is complete with our newest members, we are ready to hit California!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 47 - The Last Century to Fallon, Nevada

My morning started out very well. I had a big breakfast at the International Cafe in Austin at 6am. I had scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, hash browns, and a blueberry pancake shaped like Micky Mouse. It even had two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. I sat up at the counter and enjoyed my magical breakfast while listening to country music. My waitress was extremely perky and filled my mug with coffee about 3 or 4 times.

After all that food, we rode out of Austin this morning at 7:45am and biked 112 miles across the Nevada desert to reach Fallon. The first half of the ride was quite cool as we were higher up in elevation. Austin is a little over 6,000 feet and Fallon is over 3,000 feet in elevation. We had 3 small mountain passes to contend with today, but for the most part the roads were fairly flat. However, the afternoon ride was rather hot. The last quarter of the trek had us passing a nearby U.S. naval base air strip. I got to see jets taking off and landing all afternoon. We were passed by a few military vehicles carrying some pretty big missiles as well. The military has a series of bunkers where they test bombs and run training exercises. It is pretty easy to mistake the sound of a bomb for thunder.

Two other interesting sights are shown in the pictures above. One is a shoe tree - literally there was one random tree on the side of the road that was filled with thousands of shoes. People tied a pair of shoes together and threw them up in the tree. At the base of the tree there were also hundreds of shoes just lying on the ground. The other unique sight we saw was a huge mountain of natural sand, the only thing missing was the water. A little water would have been a nice relief from the afternoon heat!

We finished our ride today at about 6pm. I'm pretty tired, but overall I felt great throughout the entire 112 mile ride. It is our day of over 100 miles. Tomorrow is a shorter day, about 60-70 miles. I look forward to sleeping in an extra hour or so. Have a great night!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 42-46: HWY 50, "The Loneliest Road in America"

Well, as you can see from the title of today's blog, I am traveling down America's loneliest road. Luckily, I have Bob and Sam to keep me company (and our "Roadie", Mr. Mangum). We've been on HWY 50 since Baker, Nevada. You might also have guessed that either: A) I've grown tired of updating my blog (which is not the case!), or B) That Internet service along HWY 50 has not caught up with the 21st century. If you guessed B, then please pat yourself on the back. NOW, let me try to get you all caught up to speed on our journey over the past 5 days.....

Day 42 - Cedar City, to Milford, Utah (I made an error on my last blog...Milford in in Utah, not Nevada). The ride from Cedar City to Milford was rather short, we crushed 56 miles in 3 hours and 48 minutes (Go team)! It must have been the McLaughlin's french toast...delicious! The ride itself was uneventful, however, I managed to get myself into a bit of a pickle that night. For those of you who have been reading Sam's blog you are all aware of the infamous "Flat Tire Incident", but for those of you who haven't read Sam's blog please do (simply click on her picture to the right). I will not attempt to right my version of the story because what she has written is perfect. Enjoy!

Day 43 - Milford, Utah to Baker, Nevada. As we left Milford the next morning, we realized that we were literally biking into the desert as the sign out of town said "No Services for the Next 85 miles". We finally reach the bright lights and fast life of "High Rolling" Nevada....wait, am I in the wrong state? Nevada looks like Utah, except more desert-like with fewer rest stops (literally there are NO places to pee for miles on end). We once again get our picture taken with the state sign and after my initial excitement, I realize that Las Vegas and the sweet sound of slot machines are hundreds of miles away. Gambling isn't my thing anyway, and I'm more excited to see what these little Western towns have to offer. Baker was a nice surprise, we stayed at one of the two motels in town, the Silver Jack Inn, that also doubled as the town's restaurant, bar, and coffee shop. We hopped on our bikes the next morning to head for Ely, which is a booming metropolis of 4,000 strong. The ride to Ely would take us through a stretch with no services for 63 miles.

Day 44 - Baker, Nevada to Ely, Nevada. It took us 5 hours to cover the 63 miles to Ely. The road is considered the loneliest road in America, but surprisingly there is quite a bit of traffic. Along HWY 50 there are no houses, gas stations, or picnic areas. They even have a Passport you can pick up and get signed by each of the 6 towns along the route. They send you an official certificate stating that you "survived" HWY 50. Needless to say, I am working on filling my passport. The scenery is beautiful as well. A pattern has developed along our route. We see a mountain pass in the distance 10-30 miles ahead, we reach the base, we climb, we descend into another valley where the road stretches another 10-30 miles to the next mountain pass. All the while, there is desert, mountains, and clouds of all shapes and colors to look at. In most valleys you can do a complete 360 and see mountains in all directions. It's awesome!

Day 45 - Ely, Nevada to Eureka, Nevada....78 miles with no services. We completed this stretch in 5 hours and 45 minutes. Eureka is your typical "Old Western Town", it has a lot of history and a ton of character. At one time, it was a booming place when folks flooded the west during the Gold Rush in the late 19th century. However, the current population of Eureka is somewhere around 400-500. Many of the local townspeople talk of the town being haunted. It would certainly make a good set for a Hollywood horror film. The town has several small motels, several bars and restaurants (or saloons) that offer up slot machines and pool tables. We ate dinner at a place called the Owls Club and spent the evening there playing a few games of pool and listening to music on the jukebox. After a good night's rest, we headed out for Austin this morning...this time it was only 68 miles without services.

Day 46 - Eureka, Nevada to Austin, Nevada. Austin is a town just as quirky as Eureka. It is a town of 400 is nestled in the Toiyabe Mountain Range at about 6,600 above the desert valley floor. Our route took us over a the Austin Mountain pass at about 8,000 feet and our last two miles had us descending along a winding mountain road into Austin. The descent had me feeling as if I were not in Nevada at all. The mountain sides were a mix of emerald green, pale yellow, and a earthy brown. The sun beams were peeking their way out of some overhead clouds, cascading down, and illuminating parts of the mountain as we passed. We could also look down over the cliff to see our destination far below us. The road down to Austin reminded me of a spiral staircase, it was a lot of fun to ride! We found ourselves in a nice, cheap, clean little motel that caters to bikers of all types. Before dinner I walked around town, bought a T-shirt, and scoped out the ice cream situation. I also made a trip to the courthouse to have my HWY 50 passport signed. The weather the past two days has been cool and breezy, great riding conditions, however, the lady who signed my passport today warned that as we continue to head west, the weather will get much hotter!

Tomorrow we will ride 110 miles to Fallon. The team agreed to combine two days of riding into one so we could complete our last Century Ride of the trip (that is a ride over 100 miles for you non-cyclists). It looks like we'll have to get an early start to beat the heat, but from our days in Kansas, another 100 mile day doesn't faze us anymore. Woohoo, a 110 miles with only one rest stop 65 miles in....Bring it on!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Day 41 - Cedar City

Today Mr. Mangum woke us all up bright and early as he usually does, however, it was rather hard for me to get myself going this morning. Yesterday was a such a nice little break! We were on the road by 7:45am and heading toward Cedar City. Cedar City is a 59 mile ride from Penguitch, but the first 35 miles are all climbing. We took our time today, we biked at a slow leisurely pace up the mountain. We were all feeling a bit tired and felt no reason to rush our ride since it's the shortest ride so far on our trip. Sam was being harassed by some big nasty horse flies. Sam really hates what she calls "rude" bugs. One was giving her a really rough time, and she wound up and swung at it. The force of her swing must have knocked her off balance because she tumbled to the ground. She was a good sport about it and we all had a good laugh. Bob and I don't seem to be targets for bugs, but Sam seems to have a bulls eye on her back (they can smell the fear).

The most interesting thing I saw today was a herd of sheep coming at me down the mountain. All three of us had to pull over to let the sheep herder, who was on horseback, his two dogs, and his flock pass. They were headed to a pasture down the road. There were cars stopped in both directions and from the reaction of the drivers, it seems to be a common occurrence in this area of Utah.

We reached the summit around 12:00 and had a nice long descent into Cedar City. I stopped and took a picture of Ashburn Gorge at Sunshine Point and we headed back down the mountain. We didn't even stop for lunch today which allowed us to reach Cedar City by 1:30pm.

Mr. Mangum had arranged for us to meet up with family friends for dinner. The McClaughlin's used to live in San Antonio 11 years ago but now live in Cedar City. We went over to their house where they grilled up some bbq chicken and Kerri made a huge bowl of pasta salad. Kerri and Allan have 6 children ranging in age from 15 to 2 years old. They were even nice enough to let me drive their ATV. It was a lot of fun riding it over some of the hills around their house.

It was a great day and an even better night spent getting to know the McClaughlin family. We are all heading over there tomorrow morning for breakfast before we head out to our 7th state....Nevada here we come!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 40 - Rest & Relaxation

Today we rested. I slept in until 8am! The day started out with a wonderful breakfast in town and then a trip to the bike shop in Cedar City (55 miles away and our destination for tomorrow). The best part of the day, and maybe the trip, was our late evening trip to Bryce Canyon National Park. We hopped in the truck at 7:00pm to drive 20 miles to Bryce to watch the sunset and explore while we could still see. My words cannot do justice to what I've seen tonight and neither will the was unreal! Bob, Sam, and I stayed until well after sunset and we were the last ones to leave the trail at Inspiration Trail head. The night ended with each of us sitting quietly, by ourselves, overlooking the canyon and taking it all in.

On a more comical note, while at Bryce, we decided to hit the truck and try to make it to another lookout stop to see the sunset, but Sam couldn't find the key to the truck. At first we chuckled, but as the sun was setting (and it was getting dark) the mood suddenly got more serious. Bob and Sam looked down below, and I hiked back up to the overlook to retrace Sam's steps. Luckily, I found the key sitting unscathed in the dirt behind two Japanese gentlemen sitting on a log taking pictures. As I made my way down the path back towards Sam and Bob, I pondered playing a joke on them...however, when I saw the slight panic in their eyes, I didn't have the heart to go through with it. As we all were once again relaxed, we climbed back up to the top of the trail to enjoy the last bit of daylight.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. I took 70 of them...this is just a small sampling.

Day 39 - Utah...where have you been all my life!

I just want to start out by saying that I LOVE Utah! I knew Utah had a lot of rocks, Mormons, and that it hosted the winter Olympics a few years back, but I never imagined how beautiful the landscape and the people are here.

Yesterday, Tuesday, we rode from Escalante to Penguitch, Utah. The 64 mile ride took us 5 hours and to our good fortune, we were finished unusually early, by 2:30pm. We had a rest day planned for today, Wednesday, which was much needed as all 3 of us were a bit physically and mentally drained.

Yesterday's ride was another beautiful trek. Our route meandered us over sheer cliff faces, hallowed canyons, rivers, and over two small mountain passes with steep descents. In the early morning hours, I hopped off my bike to tackle a big boulder I thought I could easily turns out that the boulder won that battle. I only made it halfway up...but if I wasn't wearing my biking shoes, I am confident that I could have conquered that boulder (see picture). We stopped for lunch in Tropic and were kept company by a little yellow lab we decided to call "Rex". Sam fed Rex, against my good advice, left over PB&J crusts.

Our ride was all down hill after lunch (literally). It was the most surprisingly beautiful descent we've had and I think it caught all of us off guard. As we made our way to Penguitch we had to pass through The Red Canyons. They are rock formations that are several brilliant shades of red. There are two rocks that have been hallowed out and the road actually passes right through them (see picture). We all ended the days ride on a high. The scenery could not have been more spectacular and we still had the rest of the day to relax and enjoy to ourselves.

Sam and I toured the town of Penguitch and met the nicest people! As we walked from shop to shop, people inquired about our travels and what brought us to their town. They were very eager to hear more about our bike trip and several folks gave donations to the orphanage. We had a great dinner a Cowboy's Cafe and watched a thunder and lightening storm roll through.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Day 34, 35, 36 (We Reach Utah), 37, & 38

Sorry to leave you all hanging like that after day 34, but my access to a computer has been very limited as we've been in remote areas. So, thank you for bearing with me and I'll try to catch you all up as best I can. We got Sam's bike fixed in a matter of minutes after the bike shop opened up in Montrose, Colorado. We camped at two very nice campgrounds on Day 34 and 35. We rode from Montrose to Telluride and camped 12 miles outside of Telluride at a campsite that was surrounded by big, beautiful mountains (and some still had snow). On day 35, we rode our bikes out of Telluride to Delores about 73 miles west of Telluride. It was a steady climb out of the Valley which peaked at Lizard's Pass a little over 11,000 feet above sea level. The views were well worth the effort to climb to the peak. We met several other riders along the way (we only got passed by on other cyclist...I'm guessing he was around 60 years old and he was SPRINTING up that mountain! I hope I'm that good in 40 more years - wow). We arrived in Delores, exhausted, but happy with our day's ride. We set up camp and headed into town for a dinner at the Naked Moose - great place!

On day 36 we rode from Delores, Colorado to Blanding Utah which was about 85 miles. We were all sad to leave Colorado, but at the same time, we were all excited to reach our sixth state. None of the riders on the trip have been to Utah and we are all excited to see what Utah has to offer. Something I find very interesting as I ride from state to state is the fact that I can notice a change in the landscape as we ride. It's easy to notice when you are riding a bike - we rode from vast mountain ranges in Colorado where the air was cool and crisp and into the hot, arid Utah desert. I was able to see a marked difference in the landscape as we descended from the mountains in Colorado and crossed the state line. I think Utah is one of the prettiest states I've seen. The vast, rocky landscape is almost alien to me. There is a startling contrast between the beauty of the rocks themselves and the haunting sense of isolation they seem to exude. It is the first state I've been to where I'd be afraid to wander off too far in any one direction for fear of getting lost in a maze of rocky mountains, gorges, and canyons. This place seems timeless and pristine, very beautiful.

Day 37 we rode from Blanding Utah into the Glen Canyon State Park (84 miles) and spent the night at the remote Hite Recreation Area. To the east of Hite there are no rest services for 74 miles and to the west of Hite there are not rest services for 54 miles. Hite consists of a trailer that is convenience/grocery store and a gas station. Gas has been the most expensive we have seen, pushing $4.95 a gallon. The campsite couldn't have been more beautiful. After spending the day riding through gorgeous towers of rocks and canyons, we rode a mile off route down to a pristine lake where we set up camp. The lake had been completely dry only 3 years ago. You could see a white line imprinted on the rock walls across from our campsite where the water level used to be. It was only recently that the water returned to the lake. Besides ourselves, there was only one other group of campers there - a group of 3 riders also on their way to San Fransisco.

Today, day 38, we woke up early, eat breakfast and started our trek to Torrey, Utah. It was 54 miles from our campsite to the nearest town, Hanksville. We got to Hanksville a little after 1pm and stopped at the only place to eat in town, Stan's Burgers and Shakes. Stan's made the thickest milkshake I've ever had, I'm not even convinced there was milk in that shake, it had to have been 100% pure ice cream. Either way, it hit the spot. Unfortunately, I think we were all a bit weighed down after eating such a big lunch on such a hot day. We usually have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We were a bit sluggish out of the gate after lunch and around 5:15pm we decided to call it a day. Mr. Mangum picked us up in the truck and drove us 12 miles to our hotel. After camping last night and not being able to take a shower, we were all pretty happy to have a hotel for the night. We should be able to make up those miles pretty easily tomorrow as we only have a 64 mile day scheduled.

It's late and I need my sleep. I'm sorry I had to summarize so many days in such a short time and leave out some humorous details, but hopefully I will be able to share more of our daily shenanigans as we continue our journey to San Fran! Good night!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Day 34 - Bike Issues....

We are sitting at the Comfort Inn's continental breakfast waiting until 10am when the only bike shop in town opens. Sam's front tire is totally warped and riding 35mph down a mountain pass would not be a good combination. So while we wait, I thought I would let you all in on a link that brings up all of the pictures Sam has sent to her University's Alumni website. Check them out....they are awesome! Also, the UIW's website also has each town we stay in, local weather, and fun facts. A great site! You can click below under "Pictures" or plug in this website...

Day 33 - Back on Track

After falling behind 4o miles in our first two days in Colorado due to bike problems and hail storms, we are now back on track after biking 106 miles today to reach Montrose. Today was the perfect ride - we rode the first 43 miles in 2 hours and 7 minutes. Since we spent the night on Monarch's Pass at 11, 312 feet we had about a 9.5 mile descent from the peak. The temperature hovered around 45 degrees and there was little traffic on the road. We averaged about 35mph on the way down the winding mountain pass. The morning mountain air was crisp and almost cut through the layers of my dri-fit bike clothing, but more than anything it woke me up! It was refreshing and exactly what I had needed to start my day off on the right track.

We stopped in Gunnison which seemed like a big ski/golf resort town around 10:30am for a quick restroom stop. We ended up sitting in McDonald's scarfing down a mid-morning snack consisting of a vanilla ice cream cone, hash browns, and an apple pie (or two). We continued on our way to reach Sapinero for lunch on the banks of the Blue Mesa Reservoir. We dined on PB&J sandwiches, some turkey and cheese, all sorts of chips, cookies, fruit, etc and watched some sailboats glide across the crystal clear water.

We were making great time all day long despite the fact that we stopped many times for pictures. We landed in Montrose to find ourselves without a suitable campsite, so we are staying in a hotel for the night. We ate dinner at a local place called Rib City and then grabbed some ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. I must be packing away about 2-3 times more calories on this bike ride than I normally do. I only hope that I can go back to my old ways once I'm finished!

We have 2 more days of riding in the Rockies. Tomorrow we ride a mere 66 miles to Telluride, which I have been told is a hot spot for celebrities. I will keep you all posted on any sightings.

All is well here, I hope you are all doing fine too!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Day 31 & 32 - The Rockies

This is going to be a quick summary of the past two days. Yesterday (Day 31) we entered the Rockies after a quick trip back to Pueblo to fix a bike problem. That put us behind about 3 hours. We didn't quite make it as far as we'd like yesterday, but we ended up staying the night in Silver Cliff. We climbed about 4,000 feet yesterday which wasn't too bad and rode about 86 miles. My knees felt great and the altitude didn't effect me much. Sam and Bob did well on the climb and we were happy to reach Silver Cliff. I had a few favorite parts of the day, but seeing the Rockies up close with white fluffy clouds, ominous dark rain clouds, and cascading sunbeams all at once was a pretty amazing sight!

We grabbed some dinner at a local place called Pizza Madness and watched a beautiful thunderstorm roll in over the mountains from our seats in the restaurant. We all went to bed early...even Sam who stays up late most nights working on her blog. She passed out on the bed in her jeans and hoodie.

Today (Day 31), we woke up early and grabbed some breakfast in town at the Country Store. Breakfast was delicious and also came with free entertainment. There was an elderly gentleman sitting in the corner talking with anyone who would listen...he was a real comedian. The waitress said he was the village clown. He must be well liked around Silver Cliff, he was allowed to walk outside with the coffee mug he was drinking from at the restaurant.

We started off on a good pace. We had a decent from Silver Cliff to Cotopaxi which was about 23 miles north. Once we descended into Cotopaxi we followed a river for about 20 miles before we started our slow ascent 5,000 feet to Monarch's Pass. We stopped for lunch in a cute mountain town called Salida. While I ate my PB&J sandwich I watched two kayakers paddle upstream on a fast moving river right next to the town park. After lunch, I checked out an outdoor store that was having a huge sale...I was good, I only bought one thing.

The craziest part of the day was when we got dumped on by a hail storm. I was a head of Bob and Sam and couldn't see them when I met up with Mr. Mangum in the support vehicle. The hail got bigger and began to fall faster. Bob walkie-talkied Mr. Mangum saying he and Sam needed to be picked up. So I grabbed a sleeping bad and say under a rock while Mr. Mangum went back from Bob and Sam. I was there for about 20-25 minutes by myself watching the hail come down hard. I guess the people driving by got a kick out of seeing a biker squatting down on the side of the road with a blue sleeping pad over their head. A big white pick-up truck pulling a camper pulled over, rolled down the window, and just as I thought they were going to ask if I wanted to sit in the truck and get out of the storm, the lady with a thick head of silver hair pulls out the biggest camera I've ever seen and asks if she can take my picture. All I could do was laugh! A couple other cars pulled over and actually asked if I needed a ride. I thanked them and politely declined since I didn't know where the others were. They came back eventually, I changed into a dry shirt, put on a windbreaker, and we were all on the road again. We only had about 3 miles to the peak which was 11, 312 feet above sea level.

There were more storm clouds rolling through, so we took some pictures at the top of the pass, warmed up with some hot chocolate, and headed for shelter. It was already 5:30pm and all we wanted to do was get warmed up. We have about 40 miles to make up, but that should be pretty manageable for us. I got some great pictures today, not to mention a home movie of my time under the sleeping pad during the hail storm. I can't wait to share it all with you.

Have a great night!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Day 29 (Happy 4th of July!) & Day 30 (Rest Day)

We reached Pueblo, Colorado yesterday just in time to celebrate the 4th of July! We rode 107 miles in 6 hours and 47 minutes. The day's ride had us following Route 96 for another 107 miles...I think we've been on 96 for over 400 miles (since the mid-way point in Kansas). It was also our 6th straight day of riding over 100 miles. If you added up all the miles we've ridden since leaving Pittsburg, Kansas last Sunday, it totals well over 600 miles. We've been told by several people that Kansas is a difficult state to ride, especially going east to west, but it didn't seem to slow us down any. To me, it felt like we were a new group of riders - we were riding with a higher purpose. Despite some aching knees and other physical ailments, physically and mentally we all reached a higher level on the bike. 9 hours of sitting on the saddle was no longer a big deal for any of us. With great company, music, scenery, we pushed our bodies for a week straight. After falling behind a day in Pittsburg because of the bad weather, we all wanted to get back on schedule as soon as possible. We all looked at the maps and we reworked the route a few times. We chipped away at those lost 89 miles from the rain storm last Saturday and today's rest day definitely feels like a well earned break.

We averaged 15.7 mph on the day's ride, which is a great pace considering if was our 6th 100 mile day. There are three reasons I think helped move us along a such a good pace yesterday. The first is that with each day, we are all becoming stronger riders (as I mentioned above). The second reason is that we all knew we had a day off the following day and we wanted to finish the ride as quickly as possible (also Sam was really excited to see the fireworks). Lastly, I think the main reason we picked up our pace yesterday can be contributed to the fact that 3 miles west of our stopping point for lunch, Ordway, we could see the Rockie Mountains looming in the distance. The Rockies are stunning! I've never been to the Rockies and I can't think of a better way to see them than inching my way closer that beautiful range on my bike. It makes the experience that much more rewarding. I've been thinking about the Rockies since I dipped my back tire into the Atlantic Ocean back in Yorktown, Virginia and I can't help but feel a sense of accomplishment after yesterday's ride.

Our bike ride has brought the Mangum family into a small reunion of sorts. We are staying with Sam's Uncle Jack and Aunt Adelina in Pueblo. Sam has not seen her uncle since a family reunion when she was a small child about 20 years ago. She actually told me a story of her Uncle Jack last week on one our rides through Kansas. He promised her a penny for each Pecan she picked up in the backyard and Sam, being who she is, picked hundreds of them! Her story ended when Uncle Jack left the reunion and Sam was left unpaid for her hard work. Last night, without a word from Sam and as we enjoyed a great dinner on the patio overlooking the Rockies, Uncle Jack handed her $5 for her efforts some 2o years ago. It was priceless! Sam thought her uncle lived in Denver and it wasn't until yesterday that Mr. Mangum hooked up with his brother to make arrangements for us to stay at their house for the next two nights.

To top off a great reunion, a great dinner, and an overall perfect day, we spent the evening sitting on the back patio watching the neighborhood being lit up by fireworks for two straight hours. I have never seen a sight like this in my life. There were fireworks exploding in every single direction I looked. Uncle Jack's neighbors must have stockpiled fireworks for the past year! There was a constant popping and an explosion of colors. It was the best, and most random, fireworks display I have ever seen. Some of Uncle Jack's more adventurous neighbors were lighting them in the street and throwing them with their hands at the last minute. I didn't hear any ambulance sirens, so I'm guessing they are all okay.

Today we dropped our bikes off at a local bike shop in Pueblo. We need them fine tuned before we start our ascent into the mountains tomorrow. I must have jinxed my bike from my earlier postings, but since my tune-up in Pittsburg, my bike has not been shifting as smoothly. Unlike on the Blueridge Parkway in Virginia, the Rockies will be a series on long slow climbs. Hopefully it will be less stress on my knees than the Blueridge with its short, steep ascents. After the bike shop, we headed to Kinko's where I am now updating this blog. The rest of the day will find me eating a lot of food (apparently we are having Mexican for lunch) and resting my body! I cannot post pictures until I log on with Sam's laptop, but I will try to update my pictures as soon as possible so you can see how much fun we are having. Check out Sam's blog later today for updated photo's from the 4th of July celebration.

I hope all is well with everyone and thanks for your support!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Day 28 - We Finally Reach Colorado!

Wow... I can't believe it, I've always wanted to visit Colorado and now I'm here. The bad news is that it still looks like Kansas....flat! I know this scenery won't last for long. Despite the fact that eastern Colorado seemed flatter than what I saw in Kansas (I honestly felt like I could look to my left or right and see for a hundred miles), it was a great feeling to finally reach the state line. All three of us jumped off of our bikes and RAN to the sign!

We made great time today. We were on our bikes for a little under 7 hours and covered 108 miles averaging about 15.4 mph. The temperature today was unseasonably cool and there was a nice breeze that actually wasn't blowing in our face. For the first time I wore a long-sleeved shirt while riding. It reminded me of weather in Nova Scotia except it doesn't smell like fresh saltwater air in western Kansas or eastern Colorado, it smells more like cattle manure.

I got my first flat tire of the entire trip this morning. After 1,800 miles of riding on all types of roads, a staple from the hotel room floor punctured my inner tube. I replaced the inner tube and we were on the road in no time.

Other than reaching our 6th state, nothing too eventful happened. We rode on the same road for 108 miles, route 96 West. Towns and rest stops were few and far between. We passed another group of 3 riders, except they were carrying all of their gear with them on their bikes. Since we have a support vehicle with us on the road, the only thing I carry on my bike is my camelbak which holds my water, camera, and some snacks. I feel a bit guilty when I see those other riders carrying all of their belongings on their bikes, but then I quickly get over it and am thankful for the support vehicle. I don't even want to know what those riders think as we cruise on by them with our light racing bikes. We've actually been laughed at a few times. Most of the other riders have touring bikes which are a bit more sturdy, but our racing bikes allow us to go pretty fast. We've gone over 400 miles in the past 4 days and tomorrow we plan of riding well over 100 again to reach Pueblo, Colorado (population 20,o00) were we have a planned rest day. We'll definitely need the rest before we hit up the Rockies in a few days.

I hope everyone is doing well and thanks for posting your comments!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Day 27 - Our Last Night in Kansas!

We rode from Larned to Scott City (population 4,000) today. If it weren't for my Ipod, I don't think I would have survived Kansas. The straight roads allowed me to safely ride with my headphones in. I literally could see for miles ahead and behind me. We passed farm tractors and combines that had wheels bigger than me. They were huge! Apparently this is the peak of wheat harvest season. We rode 118 miles today in 7 hours and 30 minutes. It was a much better ride than yesterday. The headwind was not as strong which allowed us to ride on average about 15mph. The morning ride sprinkled us with some rain, but we never got poured on. Since it was so flat, I was able to see (for the first time) a rainstorm dumping on nearby towns. Luckily, we were spared. It was an amazing sight to see.

The best part of the day was getting off of our bikes at the 1,893.5 mile mark. I had my odometer set to make sure we didn't pass the half-way point without a picture. Bob, Sam, and I all got off of our bikes and placed them in the middle of the road (don't try this at home). Literally 5 minutes went by and NO cars came in either direction. We took a few photos and were on our way once again. My second favorite part of the day was when Mr. Mangum bought us all a mid-afternoon ice cream cone at the Frigid Creme. We pulled into Scott City at around 6:30pm showered up and went to dinner at the Broil and Bar Restaurant. I had breakfast for definitely hit the spot.

Tomorrow we will enter into Colorado. Rockie Mountains here we come!

Day 26

Day 26 had us riding 110 miles from Newton to Larned which took us 9 hours. It was a long day because we faced some serious headwind riding westward. It slowed our pace to about 10 - 12 mph. There was no room for coasting along on this day. Every pedal stroke demanded by legs to propel my bike forward. It was exhausting. The scernery was beautiful and there were some great sights along the way. It felt good to finally reach our hotel. As soon as I got off my bike I jumped into the hotel's outdoor pool. Sam was already in the pool, she wasted no time at all.

Day 24 & 25

Day 24 - We rode from Pittsburg to Toronto and stayed at Cross Timbers State Park. It was by far the prettiest campground we've stayed at. The best part was that we were the ONLY people there besides on other family off on the other side of the park. I set my tent up right on the edge of the reservoir. The day's ride was 108 miles and it took us about 8 hours. We were all pretty hungry when we arrived at camp, but we had to get out our camping stove and cook the food. We managed to throw together mac & cheese, baked beans, and hot dogs....gourmet style! We finished the night off with smores on the camp fire I made. For those of you who are wondering what Toronto, Kansas is like...think of Toronto, Canada. Okay, now picture the total opposite of that - one street, one store, and not much else.

Day 25 - We rode from Toronto to Newton which was a 98 mile ride that took about 7 hours on the bike. We stayed in a hotel since there was no camping available. We ate dinner at a Pancake House and met Jerry Lisenby who was a contestant on the 4th season of The Biggest Loser (a reality tv show where contestants try to lose the most weight). He was riding across country with his wife Lynn. We shared stories and traded contact information. I wish Jerry and Lynn best of luck reaching Oregon.

Day 22 & 23

I haven't been able to update in a few days. We had limited internet services. We got stuck in Pittsburg an extra day because of some bad weather (see Sam's blog for more information).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Day 21 - Fair Grove, Missouri to Pittsburg, Kansas

 much to share! I am in Pittsburg....Kansas (not Pennsylvania which is home to my favorite hockey team). Yesterday we rode out of Fair Grove, Missouri after getting up at 5:30am at our hotel in Marshfield and driving 15 miles west to the drop off point. Luckily, we got out of Marshfield just in time to avoid a local catastrophe. As I was eating my breakfast this morning I saw on the news that a levee had broken in southwest Missouri early this morning. There was severe flooding in Marshfield and we missed it by 24 hours!

Our ride yesterday was scheduled to be a long day followed by a day of rest today. On my planning of the itinerary I mistakenly inserted an extra day, which means we were able to take a much needed day of rest today without falling a day behind. We rode 103 miles in about 7 hours and 30 minutes. However, the day's ride got off to a very slow start and we rode 23 miles to Walnut Grove (yes, just like Little House on the Prairie) in 3 hours! The problem surfaced about 10 miles into our 103 mile ride. Bob's rear tire deflated, so we checked his wheel to look for anything sharp that might be puncturing the inner tube and found nothing. Bob replaced the inner tube and we got back on our bikes. As we approached our first hill, Bob's tire deflated again! Bob sprinted up the hill on foot in frustration. I inspected Bob's tire pretty thoroughly and found a teeny tiny stone that was very sharp embedded into his tire. We removed the rock, patched up the inner tube and set out again. We all held our breath and luckily the tire did not give us trouble for the rest of the day.

The other problem of the day was Sam's bike. It just wasn't shifting properly. By the time we got to Walnut Grove, 23 miles and 3 hours later, Sam was very frustrated. She mentioned that her bike was not shifting well, but ultimately thought that Bob and I were just riding really well and that she was the reason we were going so slow. That was not the case at all, Sam has turned out to be a great rider! I offered to switch bike's with Sam until our stopping point for lunch which was at the 63 mile mark in Golden City, MO. Since our bikes are the same frame size, I simply adjusted the seat height. After only one mile, I have no idea how Sam was able to put up with that bike for the past two days. It felt like I was riding my bike through the sand. Every pedal stroke took double the effort that I had to put in on my own bike (which I might add was riding like a dream). By the time I got to Golden City for lunch I was dripping in sweat, while Sam and Bob were looking pretty fresh (and somewhat bored by my slow pace). I scarfed down a few sandwiches and rested my legs. I was glad to be back on my bike, but felt bad for having Sam ride on her bike again. She did an awesome job and didn't complain once (haha...unlike me).

To be honest, I was not looking forward to the last 40 miles of our ride. I was tired, hot, and the beautiful rolling hills of eastern and central Missouri had turned into the flat lands which were baked by the mid-day sun and the whipping hot winds were blowing in my face. I think Kansas and I will have a love-hate relationship. I feel so exposed out there on the flat lands. I have never been west of Michigan, so this is new territory for me. However, I love the challenge of being out of my comfort zone and I look forward to making the most of what Kansas has to throw at me.

Okay, so you probably all think I was miserable yesterday. Yesterday turned out to be one of the longest rides of the trip so far, but I had a blast hanging out with Bob and Sam. The entire day I could not stop laughing. Despite Bob's silent rage as he fixed his tire for a second time in the same mile, we were able to keep the mood light and make each other laugh. The first time Bob's tire deflated we all pulled over onto the side of the road. The driveway we chose must have just gotten fresh gravel put down. As I pulled into the driveway and braked, my tires slid out from under me. The next thing I know, I am laying on my side laughing hysterically. Bob tries to help me up off the ground, but my feet are still clipped into my pedals. I wasn't safe at 1st base, but you could say I had a nice slide into the mailboxes!

Later on in the morning I was biking up a bike hill and Bob and Sam were behind me. As I stood up off the saddle, my left hamstring cramped up. Whenever I get a cramp like that I usually half laugh and scream, but I've never gotten one while riding my bike. I began to laugh and laughed myself off the road and almost into a ditch. It took all my energy to launch myself out of the tall grass and back onto the road. Sam and Bob thought I was loosing my mind!

I've found that when you are on a bike all day for 3 straight weeks, the littlest things can amuse you. Sam asked if I had any song requests. So I requested "I Would Do Anything For Love" by Meatloaf. Sam and Bob then belted out the best rendition I've ever heard by two people riding through the wheat fields of western Missouri on a bike. It was touching...not really, but it made me laugh once again. We played the song game for a good 15 more miles and hit just about every genre and decade of music.

The second half of the day's ride was flat. It was the first time I had ever been to a four-way intersection were you could look east, west, north, and south and see for miles in each direction. The corn and wheat fields were beautiful. It seemed like they were never ending. Bob and I got our picture taken in one of the fields.

We finally reached Kansas, our 5th state,101 miles after leaving Fair Grove this morning and about 2 miles east of Pittsburg. We jumped off our bikes to have our picture taken by Mr. Mangum who was eagerly awaiting our arrival. (side note, I could not have made it through the day with Mr. Mangum. On two separate occasions as I took my last sip of water from my camelbak, he was waiting for us at the very next intersection ready with ice cold water, Hershey's chocolate, and lots of encouragement - thanks!).

We hit up a local pizza place across the Pittsburg State University where we all cleaned our plates! We went to bed early and I got to sleep in until 8am. It felt good to wake up and know that I did not have to sit on the tiny seat today. My butt feels better already. It's 5pm now and I've had a very productive day so far. We took our bikes to the bike shop, we made copies of the last 5 sets of maps for each of us, I bought some new cds, and picked up some needed supplies at Wal-mart. Today is Bob's 24th birthday and we are taking him out to Chili's for dinner.

Tomorrow we ride from Pittsburg to Toronto where we plan on staying at Cross Timbers State Park. It should be another 100 mile day, but hopefully with Sam's bike working properly. I also hope the winds won't be blowing too strongly in our faces.

*Breaking News.....we went to pick up our bikes tonight (thanks to Roger who stayed 2 hours late on a Friday night to help us out) and you'll never guess who we ran into...Super Dave! Yes, he made it safetly to Pittsburg this evening. We all thought he might be ahead of us, but it turns out he was a day or so behind. He's doing well after ditching his hub trailer and some extra gear to make his bike lighter. We traded stories about dogs, Bob and Violet in Sebree, and random bikers that we both met along our travels. We also gave him some food to fill up on tonight. Dave, I hope you especially enjoy the Mac & Cheese! We hope to see you soon (call if you need anything).

Enjoy the photos!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day 20 - Houston to Fair Grove

After seeking advice from the locals for a good place to grab breakfast in Houston, we were directed to the Texas County Hospital which was half a mile from where we spent the night. All four of us ate a full breakfast for about 7 dollars...what a deal! We filled up our water bottles and camelbaks at the service station next door to the Inn, took a quick picture in front the the Horse Creek Inn with the owner, Pony, and were on our way to Fair Grove (70 miles from Houston). The ride to Fair Grove was a nice change from the past two days. It consisted of soft rolling hills with no real big climbs. The traffic on the roads today was very light and the largest vehicles tended to be farm tractors and combines.

During the morning ride, we stopped for a quick break in Bendavis to refuel on Gatorade and use the bathroom facilities at the local service station. Sam made friends with a couple named Brian and Diana who wandering from town to town looking for odd jobs wherever they could find them. They were such a nice couple that Sam had her dad give them a ride to the next town over. They even joined us for lunch and we got our pictures taken with them. I wish them the best of luck.

We stopped for lunch in Hartville about 33 miles into the ride. Mr. Mangum had sandwiches all ready for us in a shady picnic area next to a river. After lunch, Sam decided to jump in. She complained how cold the water was, being the good Canadian I am, I had to test the water temperature for myself. I took a good running start and did a pretty good cannonball off the bridge (see picture). The water was cool, but very refreshing! Bob joined us soon after. Waterlogged, the three of us jumped back on our bikes around 1:30pm to finish the day's ride.

The afternoon ride was very peaceful and gave me the opportunity to dry off. I saw many cows, goats, bails of freshly cut hay, clouds that looked like cotton swabs, a few Amish folks on horse and buggy. It was a prefect afternoon. We rode to Fair Grove where we were picked up by Mr. Mangum who took us to Marshfield where we are spending the night at a Hotel. While we waited for Mr. Mangum to pick us up, Sam and I bought some organic blueberries at the Fair Grove Farmer's Market. The woman who sold us the blueberries offered us a place to stay at their farm for the night. We were sorry to have to tell her that we had already had a hotel room waiting for us, but she gave us some contacts in Colorado if we need a place to stay. We've been meeting such great people on the road!

Tomorrow we ride 107 miles to Pittsburgh, Kansas. A long day, but we plan on getting an early start. Off to bed for me! I hope you all enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day 19 - Owls Bend to Houston, MO

We left our beautiful campsite this morning after a breakfast of pancakes cooked up by the Smith's. We rode from Owls Bend to Houston, MO (which is in Texas County). Today is their last day with us as they have to move onto Kansas where Laura will be visiting with her sister. Sam, Bob, and I rode 55 miles up some pretty hilly Missouri countryside through the Ozarks. It took us close to 5 hours total, but the day seemed longer because we got off to a later morning start. We started biking around 10:15am and by that time it was pretty hot outside. Sam broke another spoke on her bike right after lunch, that is the 3rd spoke she has broken this trip so far. Luckily, we were able to fix it ourselves and were back on the road 30 minutes later. Mr. Mangum was right there when we need him with our tool box and spare parts.

We got chased by the littlest dog today! I know I complained about the dogs in Kentucky, but this morning a mini little chiuaua ran after us like he was one of those KY German Shepherds. That dog barked and chased us a good quarter mile - he never gave up. I laughed so hard I all most fell off my bike. We rode into Houston around 5pm and are spending the night at the Horses Creek Inn which caters to bikers. They gave us each a complimentary beer and offered us fresh fruit in the morning for our day's ride. Everyone in the area has been telling us the hardest part of the MO ride is over for westbound riders and that the next two days are beautiful countryside with rolling hills. I hope they are right! My legs are definitely feeling the climbs from the past two days, but luckily nothing is really hurting. I think a good night's sleep in a real bed will do me some good.

Day 18 & 19

Monday we rode from Farmington to Owls Bend which was a total of 70 miles. It took us 5 hours and 3o minutes on the bike. We stopped for lunch with Laura and the kids at Johnson Shut-In's State Park. The lunch was much appreciated after a gruelling morning of rolling hills. We all thought Virginia was going to be the toughest stretch, but MO has turned out to be pretty challenging. The Ozark Mountains are not as high in elevation as the Blue Ridge Mountains of VA, but they are like a never ending roller coaster ride of hills. We ended the day at a beautiful campground in Eminence. Laura picked us up at Owls Bend because the campground we were staying at was about 15 miles off route. With all 8 of us crammed into the truck we made our way to the campground, but 5 minutes later Bob got a phone call and he asked Garrison and Laura to pull the truck over so he could make a phone call. As we pulled the truck over, a black pickup pulled in right behind us. Sam's dad popped out and surprised us all (except Bob who helped arrange the whole thing). It was a great reunion for Sam and her Dad!

Once we got to camp, our site was right next to a river. Sam and I sprinted to the water and ducked under the water right away. After being hot and sweaty all day on the bike, jumping into that cool river was one of the trip's highlights. We spent the night making camp, we eat a great dinner of pasta and meatballs cooked up by Laura, and then we ended the night with snores by the campfire. A great end to a long gruelling day of riding.