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.

Day 17 - Missouri

We rode out of Murphysboro, Illinois on out way to Farmington Missouri (our 4th state)! We had to cross over the Mississippi River to get from Illinois to Missouri. The ride to the bridge was difficult because we were faced with a pretty stiff headwind. We met Laura and the kids for lunch in Chester, Illinois (The home of Popoye) for lunch before heading over the bridge to Missouri. The ride across the Mississppi was awesome. Laura drove the truck behind us because there was no shoulder at all for us to ride on and we were afraid cars might not give us enough room. With all of the rain and flooding that has been in the news, we were lucky it didn't effect our route. As we rode over the river, we did seem some significant flooding. The water level was to the tops of trees and some areas and the river on the MO side had really overflowed it banks. As soon as we crossed into MO, Sam broke a spoke on her back wheel, which Garrison quickly fixed with the help of Lauara who backtracked with the truck to bring us the right tools. We stopped in Farmington for the night at a private campground. As we rode into camp, an magnificant thunder and lightening storm erupted. The best part was that I could see the storm develop throughout the last 3 hour so my bike ride. The skies in MO are so big!

Day 16 - Golconda to Murphysboro

Saturday we were driven from Marion back to Golconda to begin our ride where it was cut short the day before. We are now a day behind because of the rain, but we won't take our day off that is coming up at the end of the week. We rode 90 miles for a total of 6 hours and 27 mintues on the bike. We rode at a steady pace all day and didn't stop for lunch. Instead, we took several quick 5-10 minute short breaks and snacked all day long. Sam was stung by a bee early in the AM, but it didn't seem to slow her down at all. We stopped in Carbondale, the town 10 miles before Murphysboro to have our bikes tuned. While we waited for our bikes, we grabbed a smoothie in town from a local coffee shop and relaxed. With our bikes running smoothly, we continued on our way to Murphysboro where we were picked up by the Smith's and taken to our hotel for the night.

Day 15

We started out Day 15 ready to ride under overcast an overcast sky. We hoped we could get half of our riding done before the rain set in. However, 2 miles out of Golconda the rain started pouring down and we saw thunder and lightening. Our support vehicle, Laura and the kids, were right there to pick us up and whisk us off to Marion where we spent the next two nights. The day off turned out to be a relaxing afternoon and an evening filled with chowing down on good BBQ babyback ribs and ice cream! I encourage you to read Sam's Blog for further information (simply click on her face to the right).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 14 & 15 - Illinois and Rain

Day 14 - Yesterday we rode from Sebree, Kentucky to Golconda, Illinois. The total mileage was 85 miles. We had to cross the Ohio River on a ferry to get from Kentucky to Illinois. It was a great day for riding, sunny and breezy. We started out the morning riding pretty fast, we averaged 17mph for the first two hours into some strong headwinds. Everyone was feeling pretty good and enjoying riding fast. The afternoon went a bit slower as we had to cross the Ohio River on the ferry and then we stopped on the Illinois side to explore some caves in a town called Cave In The Rock. We made it to Golcaona and there were no campgrounds despite available so we stayed at local motel called Michael's Motel. Garrison cooked up some hot dogs on the grill outside the motel and Laura made us a great spread of pasta, fruit, and vegetable salads. We all ate outside on the picnic table and grabbed some ice cream from the local service station for desert.

Day 15 - We woke up to an overcast day and the weather forecast called for rain for the next 36 hours. We decided to start riding anyway and hoped we could cover some miles before the weather really got bad, but 2 miles out of town we hear thunder, saw lightening, and got soaking wet with some heavy rain. We decided to not risk riding in such bad weather and headed to Marion, Illinois for the night. We will drive back to Golconda tomorrow and ride to Murphysboro and stay the night again in Marion. Tomorrow will be our last night in Illinois and then we have to cross the Mississippi River to reach Missouri. There has been some serious flooding along the Mississippi River and Missouri has had several roads closed. We've checked out the local forecast and the flooding doesn't seem to be a problem along our route.

I'm headed to bed. We've got an early start tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day 11, 12, & 13

I'm in Sebree, Kentucky. We are with the Smith family and have been camping for the past two nights. Both campgrounds we've stayed at had no Internet service. Tonight we've made it Sebree and are staying at cyclist hostel at the local Baptist Church. Bob, the Church's minister, and his wife, Violet, have kindly taken us in. The basement of the church has three rooms for sleeping, a shower, and two bathrooms. It also has a game room, full sized kitchen, laundry room, and a lounge area. Violet cooked us all up a BIG southern meal of chicken stir fry, every vegetable imaginable, melon, corn bread (the best I've ever had), along with sweet southern tea, and ice cream sundaes. I think I might end up weighing more after this trip than when I started out!

On Day 11 (Monday) we rode 102 miles and spent 6 hours and 20 minutes on the bike as we rode into Bardstown for the night. The topography of Kentucky has transformed into never ending rolling hills. This has turned out to be somewhat of a blessing as Sam's knees have gotten better everyday. With the addition of Garrison to our team, we have picked up the pace significantly. Garrison is about 6'3" with a solid frame and can pick up some MAJOR momentum down the hills. What a great guy to draft off of in these Kentucky headwinds.

Day 12 (Tuesday) we rode from Bardstown to Falls of Rough, which was about a 98 mile ride that took us a 6 and a half hours. We actually crossed over into a new time zone, Central Time Zone. We actually stopped at a country store where we were told that at one end of the store your cell phone would read Eastern Standard Time and at the opposite end of the store your phone would read Central Time Zone. When I asked the store owner and his daughter what town I was in, they both replied that we weren't actually in any town - so I guess I was actually in the middle of nowhere Kentucky. We enjoyed a vat of macaroni and cheese for dinner at the campground that was prepared for us by Laura. We all went to be pretty early. The temperature cooled off at night and it was the perfect weather for sleeping in my tent!

Day 13 (Wednesday) we woke up a bit late today at 7am and were on the bikes by 8:30am. We only had 75 miles to ride to Sebree, which took us about 5 hours. We rolled into Sebree at 3:30 this afternoon expecting to meet Laura and the kids at the campground....except when we got into Sebree there was no campground. That's how we ended up at the Baptist Church. It was listed on my map as a cyclist hostel and we called the number. We've had some good luck. We are having a great time with Bob and Violet. We also met a young man named Devon who is riding from California to New England. He is also staying the night at the church and ate dinner with us.

I look forward to a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we plan on riding only 72 miles and staying at another campground. I doubt Internet service will be available. I will keep posting updates whenever possible. I hope you are all doing well and getting some nice weather (especially in Nova Scotia).

Good bye for now!

Cheryl (Setch)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day 10 - Hazard to Berea

After a full day of rest yesterday, I was eager to get back on my bike. I have to admit, I missed it. My knees felt great, and overall I felt refreshed and ready to ride hard. I knew today's ride was going to be a long day. We started out at 7:30am and pulled into the hotel parking lot around 6:00pm this evening. Today's ride was 106 miles and we spent 9 hours on the bike as we rode from Hazard to Berea. My butt is sore! Other than that, I feel pretty good. Bob is continuing to ride strong, but Sam's knees are giving her some problems, especially on hills. However, she rode hard despite the pain and we all finished the ride together.

The ride consisted of mostly back country roads where towns were few and far between. The roads were well paved and we were able to ride pretty fast this morning. The temperatures stayed cool in the AM, but crept up to low 90s by mid-afternoon. Since we had so many miles to cover in order to stay on schedule, we decided to forgo our usual hour long lunch break for a quick 10 minute rest at a gas station where Jesse and Sharon were waiting for us. We scarfed down some bread with peanut butter and honey and hit the road again. We would not see Jesse and Sharon for another 4 hours. The ride through the Kentucky back roads consisted of rolling hills and farmland. It was beautiful, but Sam's knees gave her trouble on the hills.

The day was almost perfect except for those damn dogs! I am not exaggerating when I say that we were chased by at least a dozen dogs. Dogs of all breeds, shapes, sizes, colors, and temperaments. Some dogs just wanted to come along for the ride, that was pretty cool, they were usually the little cute ones. Then there were the dogs that were looking for lunch and my leg seemed to be the most appetizing thing around. I saw my life flash before my eyes when I was chased by a BIG German Shepherd. Good thing I'm an efficient shifter or else that German Shepherd would have gotten a chunk out of my left foot. I was able to sprint away at the last second. There was also another close call by a dog that resembled the "Monster" from the movie the Sandlot. He didn't look particularly quick, however, I found out the hard way that he had an extra gear, which he used to try and catch me! I'm seriously considering buying some doggie treats to keep in my pockets as I ride, but I'm almost positive a big German Shepherd would not stop a high speed chase to snack on a Milk Bone. I usually end up squirting the dogs with my water bottle, that usually does the trick. Maybe I should just watch a few episodes of the Dog Whisperer on TLC.

Since it was Sunday, we pretty much had the entire road to ourselves. We passed a horse and buggy and few other folks riding horseback. Overall, a great day for riding. Tomorrow we ride 94 miles to Bardstown, Kentucky. Garrison Smith and his family are supposed to be joining us and releiving Jesse and Sharon of thier duties as our support crew. We'll miss Jesse and Sharon dearly, but we are excited to have the Smith's jump on board. Garrison will be riding with us for about 10 days.

That's it for now. Time for sleep!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bad Weather Rolls In....

Today we were supposed to ride 100 miles into Berea, Kentucky amd tomorrow was supposed to be our day off. But when we woke up bright and early for breakfast, we realized it was raining outside pretty steadily. We checked the local forecast, which predicted rain and thunderstorms into the late afternoon. We all decided the best game plan would be to rest today instead of tomorrow, and begin riding again tomorrow morning since it was supposed to be sunny with a high of 87. Our original itinerary grants us a full day of rest every 10th day, for a total of 5 days of rest for the entire trip. We basically just swapped today's schedule for tomorrow. I think in the long run it will help us all out as we continue to recover from the mountians of Virginia and the hills of Kentucky.

The plan worked out very well. I was able to get to the local hospital to get checked out by a docttor. I was given two prescriptions for an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxer. The pills will help as we ride our way westward out of the mountians and hills, and into the flat lands of the mid-west.

I spent the day relaxing, napping, and snacking, but I'm definately ready to ride tomorrow!

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 8 - Hello Kentucky!

I will miss Virginia! It was so much more than I had ever expected. I Loved the scenery, the people, everything about Virginia. Our stay at Breaks Interstate Park was 3.5 miles from the Kentucky border. We woke up early again, hoped on our bikes, and rode 6 miles to eat breakfast in Kentucky at the Rusty Fork in Elk Horn City (and yes the food was delicious, even in a haze of second hand smoke). Apparently biscuits and gravy are a staple at breakfast time in the south. I took the less adventurous route and stuck to scrambled eggs and toast.

Eastern Kentucky has a different vibe than Virginia. We were chased by 4 different dogs this morning. Apparantly people in KY don't beleive in electric fences or leashes. Luckily none of the dogs could catch me, and I didn't mind the change of pace, I sometimes enjoy interval training. Drivers also seem to be running late for everything. People in KY like to drive thier cars fast! The pickup trucks sound more like a fleet of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and it's really cool to have flames painted on the side of your sports car. As I rode through the countryside in KY, I could not escape the sweet song of the rooster. Roosters not only crow at the crack of dawn, but well into mid-day. Many of the houses and trailers we passed had at least one or two roosters roaming the yard.

This region of KY is a big coal mining area. The roads are very dusty with rocks and dirt covering the ashphalt. This made riding slightly more difficult. The people we've met so far in KY have been very friendly and helpful to us.

Today, we rode 92 miles and spent a total of 7 hours on the bike. We are spending the night in Hazard, Kentucky. Sam's knees started to really bother her, but mine were virtually pain free. We are averaging very good milage each day and with all these hills and mountains to climb it has taken a toll on our bodies. Today was a difficult ride because there were 3 very steep climbs up windy mountain passes. As usual, the descents were fun as we raced down the switchbacks only to find ourselves climbing again once we got to the bottom.

Tomorrow we have about 100 miles of riding to reach our next stop, Berea, KY. We plan on staying two nights in Berea, which includes our day of rest. The weather report is calling for rain, so we'll have to see what the conditions are like when we wake up. I can't wait to see what else Kentucky has to offer!

Days 6 & 7

Day 6 - On Wednesday we found ourselves riding 90 miles in 6 hours and 45 minutes from Newburn to Damascus, Virginia. Damascus has a population of 798 and is embedded at the bottom of a valley surrounded by the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creep Trail, and the Trans-American Bike Trail all intersect in the middle of nowhere. I think the town would make a great setting for a Hollywood horror film. The area had an eclectic mix of people, both locals and visitors. It seemed that every other house was a bed and breakfast. The town also included 4 bike shops, 4 outdoor shops, 2 places to get ice cream, and about 6 churches. Pretty much every business in town shut down by 7pm with the exception of the local pizza place. We were able to get a room at a Apple Tree Bed and Breakfast right on Main Street. Our experience at the B&B was one I won't forget anytime soon. All 5 of us slept one room that included one king sized bed, a pull out sofa, a cot that folded up, and a bathroom the size of a broom closet. I think we laughed ourselves to sleep that night. Bob sat down on his cot and it collapsed on him - it looked like it was trying to eat him alive.

Day 7 - We woke up early and ate a BIG breakfast cooked for us by Debbie and Les Smith at the B&B. They made us eggs, a cheesy hash brown casserole, fresh baked banana muffins, sausage, and fruit. I didn't know if I would be able to cycle after all that food, but we quickly worked off all the food we ate as we slowly climbed our way out the valley and on our way to the next destination, Breaks Interstate Park which was 76 miles away. The valley was heavily laden with fog, but it slowly lifted as we rode. Once we gained elevation, we stopped to look back down into the valley, but Damascus was still hidden by a thin veil of fog.

The ride to Breaks was hilly and included one very steep climb. Luckily my knees felt much better, not 100%, but good enough to climb the hills with only a little discomfort. The day ended with one last major climb into Breaks Interstate Park which overlooked a gorge that has been nicknamed "The Grand Canyon of the South" according to the park signs. The day's ride took us 5 hours and 50 minutes. We ate a good dinner at the park's restaurant and went to bed early.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Days 4 & 5

Day 4 - I apologize for not updating the blog yesterday, but our stop did offer up a working Internet connection. Yesterday, day 4, was a short ride compared to the miles we covered the first 3 days. We went about 50 miles, from Lexington to Troutville, and were finished by noon. This was a pleasant change and a much needed rest for all 3 of us (also for our support crew). My absolute favorite time to ride is in the morning. Yesterday morning was no exception. We wound our way a long a country river road through the western Virginia countryside. The smells are at times overwhelming, I don't believe I've ever smelled anything as sweet as the smell of honeysuckle, strawberry, and tobacco all in one breathe. These folks certainly know how to live. Everybody keeps their yards in immaculate condition. No matter the size of the home or the location of the property, you can tell Virginians really take pride in their land. My favorite part of the ride were the butterflies, they were everywhere and of every size and color.

My knees were achy in the morning, but were manageable. We met up again with our new friend Dave a long the river road. He actually knocked on some one's door to ask if he could camp in the yard and an old mountain man invited him in for the night and cooked him dinner. We rode to Troutville were we met up with Jesse and Sharon for lunch at a roadside restaurant. It was like eating lunch at Grandma's house. $2.25 for turkey and cheese sandwich, you can't beat those prices. After lunch, we got back on the bikes for the 3 mile ride to our hotel. It was good thing we kept the day short, my knees were telling me to stop and Sam's foot needed to be checked out by a doctor.

After we checked in and cleaned up, Jesse, Sam, and I ventured into nearby Roanoke to run some errands. It was very bizarre being in a vehicle and driving on a road at 65mph when I've been on a bike for 5-8 hours a day averaging about 15-18mph. We had a quiet dinner at the Three Little Pigs BBQ restaurant and then I spent the evening sitting poolside reading, listening to my ipod, and watching the sunset in Troutville over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Day 5 - Once again we got up bright and early. After packing, checking our bikes, and eating a solid breakfast, we were on the road by 7am. Once again, our die was similar to yesterday's. Plenty of rolling hills through the picturesque Virginia Countryside. I wouldn't mind owning a cabin on a hilltop somewhere in this region of the country.

As we move west, we find there are fewer places to stop to stay the night. Today we rode 70 miles from Troutville the Newburg. The next available place to stop is 35 miles along our route, but there were storm clouds rolling in and the local weather was calling for some hail. So we decided to call it a day around 3pm this afternoon and rest up our bodies for a long day of riding tomorrow.

Keep the comments coming - I apprecaite hearging from you all!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Blue Ridge Mountains

Today is a day that will be etched in my memory for years to come. The day started out like the past two mornings, we woke up early at 5am to get ready for another long day of riding. We finally hit the road by 6:30am, but shortly after we began riding, Bob's bike decided to be difficult. His front derailleur was lose and jamming into his chain. We called Jesse and Sharon who quickly picked him up and whisked him off to a local bike shop. Finding one open early on a Sunday morning can be difficult, but luckily a nice gentleman in Charlottesville offered his services 45 minutes before his shop even opened.

Sam and I continued on without Bob (we dearly missed him). The morning ride was spectacular. It was so much cooler than the previous day and as we rode through the rolling Virginia countryside we could see those distant Blue Ridge Mountains slowly getting bigger. At about 9:00am, Sam and I both really had to go the bathroom, but NOTHING was open. Every single country store was closed (I guess everyone was at church). The elevation began to drastically change west of Afton (population VERY small). After we made the steep ascent into Afton we were both desperate to find a restroom. We stopped at the local post office/country store, however it was closed. Luckily, a very nice gentleman by the name of Bruce Tyler who is an attorney in Afton kindly offered us the facilities at his local law office. After refilling our water bottles and taking a picture of Mr. Tyler, we were back on our way.

Once we reached Afton heading westbound, there were 27 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway standing between us and the next stretch of flatland in Lexington. The Parkway consisted of 3 major climbs, the steepest topping out at 3,250 feet above sea level. The climbs were tough, but the scenery was well worth the effort it took to reach the top of each peak. We passed (and were passed) by several other riders out for day rides and cross country treks like ourselves. We met a young fellow named Dave who was riding solo, pulling a trailer behind his bike all the way to Oregon (good luck Dave)!

The best part the ride by far was the 3 mile descent from the last ridge down into the town of Vesuvius. The descent was steep and fast! Cars were only allowed to top 20mph, but on our bikes we could easily reach speeds of 35mph. However, with the switchbacks it was impossible to go over 30mph unless you wanted to throw yourself off the side of the mountain. What a rush! We stopped for a quick water refill at Granny's Kitchen where Jesse and Sharon were waiting for us with the truck.

We now had an "easy" 18 mile ride into Lexington where we were stopping for the night. However, my knees thought the better of it. Years of playing hockey and beating up on my knees really took it's toll. Despite the pain, there was no way I was not going to finish the day's ride with my teammates. I pushed on, with the help of Bob and Sam, all the way to the hotel. Where I quickly grabbed two bags of ice and passed out on the bed before dinner.

Tomorrow should be a day of rolling hills and some more great adventures.

Good night all!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Breaking Records!

Two memorable events occurred today. The first was that our team successfully made the 95 mile trip from Ashland to Charlottesville logging 7 hours on the saddle. The second memorable event of the day, at least for me, was the fact that Virginia was the hottest area of the country today (beating out Miami at a mere 88 degrees). According to the local news, Charlottesville tied a historical all time high of 98 degrees for the 7th day in June. Also take into account the fact that the heat index reached above 110. The heat really took it's toll on me. Luckily, I was able to convince Sam and Bob to pull over at the Hitching Post Reststop around 3:15 pm for some cold water, ice, Popsicles, and Air Conditioning. We decided to wait out the heat and start up again once it got cooler out. We hit the road again at 4pm. There were a few occasions where I thought I might lose my lunch. I probably consumed about 5 liters of water (that's not including the Gatorade I drank).
Other than the heat, the ride was scenic for the most part. My favorite part of the ride was the 60 miles we did in the morning. We raced through the Virginia back country and saw some beautiful farmland. We biked through the Lake Anna region which was serene. It had a calming effect on me as the temperatures reached their record breaking points.
I look forward to tomorrow. We are thrust into the Blue Ridge Mountains after only two days of riding. Not only that, but this heat wave is not supposed to subside anytime soon. Water never tased so good...drink up!
Good night!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Yorktown, Jamestown, and 128 miles later...

We woke up at 5:00am and had breakfast at Rick's house. After a bowl full of granola, we headed back to Yorktown to dip our rear tires in the York River which leads out to the Atlantic. We mounted our bikes at 7:00am and headed out with Ashland being our final destination, a mere 95 miles away. The morning ride was beautiful! We started out on the Colonial Parkway and passed through Yorktown, Historic Williamsburg, and eventually Historical Jamestown, the site of the first North American settlement. Unfortunately for us, the directions in the Adventure Cycling maps were less than clear and we ended up turning around at Jamestown and rode all the way back to Williamsburg (a mile 9 mile ride) because we thought we had missed a turn. However, after speaking with a local, we were told that we indeed had been on the right track to begin with. What a disappointment, we would have to ride the 9 miles back to Jamestown. Not to worry, after an extra 20-22 miles of riding and finally finding the bike path, we eagerly tackled the remaining 70 mile trek to Ashland.
We met up with Bob's mom, Sharon, and Jesse at 2pm for lunch at an old country store a mile south of the Battle of Malvern Hill, which was run by Mrs. Stewart. She turned out to be quite the character and the sweetest old lady. After stuffing ourselves with Turkey sandwiches and Peanut Butter Sandwiches, we headed back out on the road at 3pm. The heat and humidity were quite much for this Canadian, but I was very good about drinking lots of water and gatorade.
Although hot and humid, the rest of the ride was pretty smooth. My legs felt great, but my shoulders began to ache halfway through the day and the pain only progressed to the point where my shoulders went numb. I'm pretty sure I can't raise my arms up over my head even if I tried. I'll have to do some tweaking of my bike seat tomorrow and pop a few Advil and hope the problem goes away real soon. Bob got a flat about 10 miles from Ashland, but with Jesse's help he was able to complete the ride.
After a big meal, I'm ready to pass out until tomorrow. We begin riding tomorrow morning at 7am and have another long day of 90 miles. We will not get lost this time!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thursday in Baltimore

It's 8am on Thursday morning and we landed ourselves just south of Baltimore last night. When we arrived at the hotel, we waited for Bob and Jesse to arrive. Then we ventured out to get some food. I stuffed my face at the Olive Garden and then slept like a log! The game plan for today is to drive the last 2 hours to Virginia and meet up with a Kent Alum who has generously offered to house us for the night. I also plan on eating as much as humanly possible today in preparation for the first day of riding tomorrow - bring on the carbs! As noted in yesterday's blog, I mentioned a mere 60 mile warm-up, however after a second glance at the maps, I realized that I had planned on us doing up to 95 miles on my most recent revision of the itinerary. A bit ambitious? I guess we'll see how it all goes tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It's been a crazy week preparing for our departure. There are so many small details to take care of before we leave. I've been running around all morning taking care of last minute packing, unpacking, repacking, and double checking. I had so many "to do" lists, but I finally consolidated them into one manageable list. All week, I've found myself stopping several times mid-task to take a breath and to get my bearings. It's difficult for me to wrap my brain around the fact that we are actually leaving from Kent today. We'll stop overnight in Philadelphia and complete our journey south to Virginia on Thursday. Friday will be our first day of riding - a manageable warm-up of 60 miles.
I have to admit that I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. I've slept maybe 3-4 hours each night all week in anticipation for the bike ride. I've only been to Virginia one time, for a 3 day hockey camp, needless to say I did not see much of the state. Unlike my fellow riders, I've never been west of Virginia to any of the states we will be biking through. I've spent much time thinking about the sights I'll see, the people I'll meet, but ultimately I am most concerned about reaching our goal to help the children of the Living Waters Children Center.
I hope to update my blog as often as humanly possible, but access to a computer is not always a given. I've got to go finish organizing my apartment before I leave. To my mom, YES, I will be safe (as always).