crossing the country at 15 mph
Thank You! May 25, 2015
I want to thank all of my incredibly generous family, friends, coworkers, and collaborators for their donations and words of encouragement as I embark on this epic ride across the country. Your donations total over $6,000 to date and counting. My goal is to double the minimum and reach $2.00 per mile or $7570. I am humbled by all of the support I’ve received. Thank you!! I especially want to thank my colleagues in the Ayers Saint Gross Planning Studio for taking on and supporting my ongoing projects. Your leadership in my absence is very important to me and the firm. (I will plan to check in from time to time until you tell me it’s okay not to). As some of you know, I live attached to my iPhone. Traveling across the country and spending long hours on the bike could wear down its battery. To combat this, I received a donation of a Siva Atom Dynamo which will generate power while I ride to keep my iPhone charged as well as a removable battery pack. I’ve already done some test rides with it and it seems to work beautifully. I want to officially thank Siva for this donation and plan to report on its performance during the trip in all kinds of rain, heat, and cold. Powering the iPhone will allow me track the ride, submit this blog, and occasionally contact the office. This ride is certainly a bucket list item for me and a personal test of my physical, mental, and emotional stamina. I’m sure it will be inspiring to meet the people across the country who reach out a helping hand while we try to do the same for those stricken by MS. It will also be inspiring to experience the variety of landscapes across this incredible country. I will try to capture and share my experiences with you on this blog. Please check back occasionally and be sure to comment if you’d like. Thank you all again for your continued support! Kevin King
It's not too late May 26, 2015 Baltimore, MD
It’s not to late to donate to the ride. If your interested in making a tax-deductible donation, please visit http://biketheusforms.org/cyclists/detail.asp?cid=556 to access my donation site and to learn more about the ride. If you have donated already, thank you. If you’ve donated anonymously, please let me know who you are so I can thank you properly.
All Packed Up! May 31, 2015 Baltimore, MD
Well, tomorrow morning we head down to Yorktown, VA to meet up with the rest of the team. Today was final packing and making sure all my clothes, shoes, camping, sleeping, and cooking gear fit into the allotted 29″ x 15″ x 17″ cubbie in the trailer. I’m happy to report it fit, but just barely. I will repack again tonight and eliminate a few more things. Good thing I travel for a living and know how to travel light. I’m really glad I’m not lugging all of this across the country in panniers!
The Trailer May 31, 2015 Yorktown, VA
Today the TransAm team assembled, got our briefings on safety, anticipated daily routine, communication protocol , map reading, and THE TRAILER. The trailer is our rolling suitcase, backpack, grocery store, and restaurant. The cubbies on each side are assigned one to each rider with food cubbies in the front. All of the gear we donâ€™t carry on the bike goes in those two spots. As we progress across the country, we will likely camp and will be in and out of the trailer to set up our tents and food prep. The trailer is new this year and will be christened along the way. I will try to share a comparison photo at the end of the ride. Itâ€™s very exciting to be so near the start. We dip our wheels tomorrow morning then push off on our adventure headed west.
We dipped our wheels in the Atlantic this morning to begin our epic trip west to the Pacific. The TransAm team is the largest team to date with about 30 riders. The youngest are 19 and the oldest is 67. All have fantastic stories about why they are doing the ride ranging from “why not” to “I’m honoring my Mom, Aunt, friend, etc. who has MS.”
Wow! We must have made great time today. No wait, I’m reading the map wrong. Still in Virginia.
June 1, 2015 Yorktown, VA
One of the segment rider’s wife suffers from MS. She is wheelchair bound and half of his time is devoted to her care. He’s been a huge supporter of the ride over the years. Last year, the organization used proceeds from the ride to buy the family a wheelchair equipped van. It made a huge difference by giving the family mobility to help normalize their lives. At the end of the day, while the ride is incredible, we ride to help others. As of this morning, the TransAm team has raised over $150,000 and all of the rides have raised more than $400,000 to date. That’s an incredible amount of money but a drop in the bucket compared to the need. If you haven’t made a donation, please consider doing so. If you’ve already contributed, thank you and pass along the blog to someone who’s life has been affected by MS. Hitting the road and passing through Colonial Williamsburg.
June 1, 2015 Near Yorktown, VA
June 2, 2015 Glendale, VA (just east of Richmond) After biking 60 miles through 100 degree heat, arriving at camp, getting hot showers, eating a marvelous spaghetti dinner served by the Willis Methodist Church, and Mohawk haircuts (for those inclined), the skies opened up with a thunderstorm. Fortunately, the church is letting us sleep indoors. Their church hall temporarily looks like a combination of a bike shop and a homeless shelter, but we are thankful to have AC and a dry place to sleep. More rain tomorrow and an 80 mile ride through Mechanicsville, Ashland, and on to Mineral.
4 - 20's
June 3, 2015 Mineral, VA Today we rode from Glendale to Mineral, VA going through Ashland. The day began with us leaving the Methodist Church with a group of local cyclist who participate in MS charity rides. One member, who is in his 80’s, spoke about the local Civil War history before we departed.
We had a leisurely lunch in Ashland, said goodbye to our Methodist cyclists group, waited for the last few riders to come in then headed out on the next leg. While we were waiting, threatening clouds began to roll in and we were sure we were going to get wet.
The day began in the high sixties with some cloud cover. We stayed as a large group for the first twenty miles which flew by. Nice flat terrain and very little wind. A great start. We stopped at a Panerra in Mechanicsville and had our second breakfast.
The next leg was a little more than 20 miles (actually 28) plus it had more rolling hills. The changing weather brought headwinds with it and a cold front. As we reached the third rest stop and got off our bikes, it was downright chilly. We had rain jackets but not much thermal gear. So after a short break we got on our bikes to finish the final leg to Mineral. The exertion warmed us up again which was good.
The second twenty took us to Ashland. I was excited to visit as I had worked on a master plan for Randolph Macon College some years ago with Naomi Cataldo. I knew they had implemented some of our recommendations but I hadn’t seen them. The new Brock Commons replaced a dilapidated old union which faced one of the most beautiful college quads around. The new building is now the new center of campus. In addition to the new Commons, they built new housing around the football stadium, renovated an existing housing village and the science building, and built a new baseball stadium. It was gratifying to see our work implemented and make positive change on a campus that needed it.
We were supposed to camp out behind the local fire house but the fire captain allowed us to sleep in their large function hall as it was supposed to rain all night. It was nice to have a dry bed once again. We are thankful for their generosity. It’s likely that tomorrow’s ride into Charlottesville will be a little wet but it’s a short 50 miles with some climbing. All in all, the day was good as everyone is establishing a routine, starting to get their bike legs, and mastering reading the maps. On to Charlottesville.
June 4, 2015 Charlottesville, VA We rode from Mineral to Charlottesville today which is about 55 miles. A relatively short ride except the temperature dropped into the low sixties, the wind picked up, and it started to rain. Fortunately when you’re riding up hills, the human body produces a significant amount of heat. The trick to to have enough coverage to maintain without overheating. The real challenge came whenever we would stop. Since many of us just had our jerseys and a nylon rain jacket, we would get cold. So rest stops were quick then we were back on the road. Luckily I had two extremely patient riding companions who stayed with me on my relatively slow hill climbs. Rob and Jim are two of the most pleasant gentlemen I know. I am very appreciative of their support and encouragement. They are riding the Virginia segment. I will miss them when they leave the ride. As we were approaching Charlottesville I took Rob and another rider to see the the Monticello Visitor’s Center and Highland which is James Monroe’s estate. While we didn’t tour the properties, we did go up the entry drives. The Highland drive was spectacular framed by a continuous line of huge old trees. Tomorrow will be our most challenging ride to date as we will climb 3,000 feet up to the Blue Ridge Parkway then drop down to Vesuvius, VA. The rain and cold is expected to continue into tomorrow night. Hopefully it ends soon. Updates to follow. PS: I realized yesterday’s blog title may be misinterpreted. The 4-20’s were referring to the four twenty mile segments we did. Not marijuana. (Not at least until we hit Colorado.)
Mr. Jefferson June 5, 2015 Charlottesville, VA
I was sharing some of the history of UVA with some of my fellow riders who had never heard about how the campus came to be. Because we were so busy upon arriving in Charlottesville, no one was available to walk the Lawn. So after packing up and getting breakfast this morning, I walked across the street from St. Paulâ€™s church, where we spent the night, and walked the Lawn. The students were gone and the campus was quiet except for the construction workers restoring the Rotunda. Walking through the arcades and looking across the lawn reinforced to me the genius of his concept, the perfect proportions, the human scale, the beauty of the place, and the exquisite detail everywhere I looked. The stepped lawn at the 1/3 points deftly dealt with the gradual change in grade. The rhythm of the columns enclosed the arcades while maintaining a sense of connection to the Lawn. I was happy to spend a few moments in the presence of such greatness and be one of the last to leave for the ride. It was worth every moment.
Why We Ride 1
June 5, 2015 Charlottesville, VA
June 5, 2015 Charlottesville to Vesuvius
This evening we participated in a ceremony in which $25,000 was given to an MS clinic at UVA and $10,000 was given to an MS researcher also at UVA.
The dreaded climb. 3,000 feet in elevation change over 15 miles. We knew this day was coming and now here it is. Everyone was dreading today. The leaders who had done it before played down how bad it would be. We all assumed we wouldn’t make it.
A local restaurant, Maya, served us an incredible buffet dinner which was much appreciated before our big climb the next day.
We were all committed to do it however. The first 20 miles were relatively easy with a few rolling hills. As we approached the first rest stop we knew the easy part of the day was over. Then THE CLIMB began…….
The Cookie Lady's House June 5, 2015 Afton, VA
After our first rest stop we began our climb. The first landmark was the Cookie Ladyâ€™s House. The Cookie Lady was a woman who owned a house at the base of the big climb. When the TransAm Trail was established in 1976 she began to serve cookies to the riders. In return, the riders would leave mementos, sign their names to the walls, or write in her scrapbooks. She befriended every rider and the riders would often send postcards or other souvenirs back. Over time the house became a shrine to the TransAm experience. The Cookie Lady passed away a few years ago, but her heirs decided to maintain the house as a shrine. We visited the house and were amazed. Every room was covered floor to ceiling with bike related stuff. On with the climb.
The View Is Lovely From Here June 6, 2015
Blue Ridge Parkway And so the climb began…… We all anticipated that the climb would be steep. We took it easy on the first twenty miles to conserve our energy. I was riding with the last and most cautious group because I was unsure how I’d do with the first big climb. The good news was it wasn’t too hot, it was cloudy, and the climb really wasn’t too bad. The bad news is it was threatening rain and foggy. But it did rain. Which made any descent very cold due to the wind chill. Rising up to the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway we anticipated spectacular views. However, the overlooks were more subtle than usual. I understand they are usually a little more scenic. Oh well. Did I really say the climb wasn’t too bad? Actually it was empowering. On to the next climb into Blacksburg. Stay tuned for updates.
Flying Monkey June 6, 2015 Troutville, VA
After a easy day of rolling hills and a warm shower at a fire station, the team converged at a microbrewery in Troutsville called Flying Monkey. There was corn hole, outdoor seating, and lots of great beer. The team had time to relax, connect, and really gel. Good times. There's talk of a 5K run before the ride tomorrow. I'm doing breakfast instead.
Washington and Lee June 6, 2015 Lexington, VA
One of our rest stops today was in Lexington, VA at the gateway to Washington and Lee University. I took advantage of the brief rest stop to do a quick tour of the historic campus. The university sits immediately adjacent to the Virginia Military Institute which is referred to as the West Point of the South. Its large campus forms the eastern gateway to the town. Washington and Lee’s historic campus sits along a long ridge line which extends to VMI to the east and downtown Lexington to the west. My firm, Ayers Saint Gross developed a campus master plan for Washington and Lee several years ago and recently developed an update. I didn’t personally work on the project but my colleagues including Luanne Greene, Amelle Schultz, and Glenn Neighbors (among others I’m not mentioning) did. Walking the campus it is easy to see their handiwork. My impression is a campus with “a hundred special places.” Buildings old and new work well together unified by a common language of materials, scale, and proportions. The spaces in between are unified by brick walkways, common site furnishings, and a strong landscape pattern. I was struck by the beauty of the campus and its connection to historic downtown Lexington. Biking out from the campus we briefly saw the downtown and incredible collection of historic houses along Main Street. All in all, I came away very impressed by the campuses and the town and was sorry we didn’t have more time to savor all that the place had to offer on our 63 mile bike day. On to Troutsville, VA.
Blacksburg Bound June 7, 2015 Blacksburg, VA
We rode from Troutsville through some beautiful countryside on our way to Blacksburg. The terrain was rolling and gentle. We generally followed a stream valley between two mountain ridges. The sun was out but not too hot with occasional fluffy clouds and shade trees. It was a beautiful day for a 40 mike ride.
Wood Fired Pizza, Ginger Beer, and a Good Friend June 6, 2015
Blacksburg, VA The 40 mile day was super easy except for the last three miles which were a long, sometimes steep climb into Blacksburg. The MS foundation we are riding for is based in Blacksburg so staff and volunteers were on hand to greet us. At the end of the steepest climb there was a pull off with much needed ice cold lemonade and carb filled doughnuts were provided out of the back of a Subaru. Up the road a little further was another station with chocolate milk and cookies. It was here where we met up with Jesse, the 6′-4″ tall Bike Party Man. We rode with Jesse on our first day out of Yorktown. He has a bike outfitted with a marine battery, two speakers, and an iPod with a carefully
I am always amazed how she can be conversant on almost any subject while remaining modest. She just got tenure which is way overdue as she is a gifted teacher and designer. She graciously agreed to join the merry band of bicyclists for dinner. After Hoki House the team migrated to the Lutheran church where we got showers (thank you, thank you) and headed out to a farm where we were served wood fired pizzas and a variety of craft beers made on site. The beers ranged from a very bitter (but very good) beer called goose gose, one called brown chicken brown, and one which had hints of nutmeg and squash called Sasquatch Ale. Terry and I started with a tasting flight to experience the range. Our favorite was the ginger beer. Super light, bubbly, refreshing, and low alcohol. I’d recommend it highly.
selected playlist of dance and bicycle related tunes (think Queen’s Bicycle Race). Needless to say he’s a lot of fun to follow.
The menu consisted of hand made wood fired pizzas with fresh zucchini and tomatoes. They were crisp, light, and just right. They were balanced with a garden salad right from the field which was great to finally have fresh veggies.
Once in town we were directed to Hoki House where we were treated to free chicken wings and beer for lunch. It was good to have some solid food and
The evening was relaxing, beautiful, and delicious. A great way to end our first week on this epic ride.
some liquid lubrication. Blacksburg is the home of one of my great friends and former co-workers, Terry Clements. She’s a Landscape Architecture Professor at Virginia Tech and its newly appointed Program Director. She’s wickedly smart and one of the most articulate people I know.
Tomorrow we don’t ride and instead will work on a pair of service projects in Blacksburg. It will be good to rest and restore our legs in anticipation of the next ten days of hills.
Virginia Tech June 7, 2015 Blacksburg, VA
Today is our first rest / service project day. Since we won’t start our project until noon, I took advantage of the spare time to give myself a bicycle tour of Virginia Tech. It’s been years since I’ve visited the campus so it was nice to see it again. The campus is organized around a huge oval space called the Drill Field. Smaller quads and courts radiate around the campus framed by three to four story Hoki Stone buildings. Hoki Stone is exclusive to the campus as they own and control the quarry. Nearly every building is sheathed with the stuff in a muscular collegiate gothic style. Another interesting trait of the campus is the pathways which pass through buildings. These gateways link quads and are graceful transitions from space to space. There’s a really big one at the campus main entrance. The War Memorial occupies a sacred spot at the apex of the great oval on axis with the main entrance and is a somber reminder of the true cost of war. Not all of the buildings conform to the historic style. A new Art Museum is located at the main entrance adjacent to the College Town where we had lunch the day before. While hanging out in front of the Museum, I saw this large black “dog” lumber by. Upon closer observation it was actually a black bear running across the campus. Who knows what we will see next!!
Why We Ride 2
June 7, 2015 Blacksburg, VA
June 7, 2015 Blacksburg, VA
After touring Virginia Tech this morning I stopped by a restaurant named London Underground based on a recommendation from my local friend Terry Clements. She mentioned that they served Scotch Eggs, so I had to check it out.
The good news about the size of the team is we were able to split up into two groups and help two families which have been touched by Multiple Sclerosis.
Scotch Eggs consist of a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and bread crumbs then deep fried. It’s certainly not for those who are watching their animal protein intake. Two of these brown textured orbs arrived on a plate with a potato gratin casserole. Luckily we're burning thousands of calories per day, otherwise I’d never be able to eat like this. Having never experienced Scotch Eggs before, I really didn’t know what to expect. I have to say however, they were delicious. Highly recommend them to those wanting something different from the typical American breakfast fare. Good eats in Blacksburg. Thanks Terry for the recommendation!
The group I was in traveled to a farm where we helped Owen Wells and his family by moving a pile of wood to a brush pile and weeding their vegetable garden. The horses were curious and friendly and enjoyed eating the weeds we threw them. Owen has MS but still bikes to raise funds for MS research. He had planned to ride his recumbent bike from Yorktown to Blacksburg this year, but his doctor advised against it as the MS was beginning to affect his vision. Instead he met us in Blacksburg and rode into town with us. It was an honor to have him as part of the team and to help him today. Owen is on the left in the picture. Owen and his family graciously fed us lunch, let us play with Princess the Pug, and gave Octavia her first tire swing ride. All of us might be riding for different reasons initially, but when we have the opportunity to help families or give financial assistance to researchers and clinics, all of us ride because we want to give back. The hard work of fund raising and the ride have much more meaning.
Sad Goodbyes and a Warm Hello June 7, 2015 Blacksburg, VA
It’s amazing that with just a week, you build great friendships. Sharing a personal challenge with total strangers brings everyone together. You want the experience to go on and on. However, on this ride some are only doing segments and today we had to say goodbye to Kurt, Connor K, Chris, Rob, and Jim. They have been our cheerleaders, entertainment, sage advisors, and great participants on the team. They all will be missed. For me personally, I will miss Rob and Jim especially. They have hung with me on the hard climbs, always looked for me at the rest stops, and were great dinner companions. Thank you guys for your patience and help this first week. While we say a sad goodbye to our new friends we gain a new one today as Alex has joined the group as the intern leader. She says she’s new to biking, but I suspect she’s being modest. A few days ago we had a new member join the team. Nghi joined us on the day we climbed 3,000 feet to the Blue Ridge Parkway. While that day would have tested any mere mortal, Nghi made the climbs look like he was out for a stroll. We’re glad to have both Alex and Nghi join the group. Today is Linda’s birthday as well, so several team members are converging at a local bar to wish her well and say goodbye to our segment riders. Tomorrow is a new day as we begin a ten day marathon across the rest of Virginia and into Kentucky. Stay tuned for updates.
What a Difference a Day Makes June 9, 2015 Hayter’s Gap, VA
I’ve shared this blog with some of my fellow riders and have heard that some feel I haven’t adequately shared the challenge biking brings to each person. My view is each person faces their own individual challenges with a trip like this. There are the mental challenges of facing the distance or the “hill of the day.” There are physical challenges due to each persons biking experience and ability. Some are facing medical challenges. Two riders have been diagnosed with MS. One is on her second cross country ride. So, I feel that anything I share about my personal challenge wouldn’t compare to others. No doubt, this ride is a serious personal challenge for me. Which brings me to the comparison of yesterday and today in terms of my thresholds of personal challenges. After our rest day in Blacksburg we left Monday morning for an 80 mile course to Rural Retreat, VA. The day began with riding on a trail which took us out of Blacksburg. We got to the first rest stop and started to feel the heat.
emergency broadcast system which said a severe thunderstorm was approaching with possible hail. We grabbed our cell phones and checked the radar. Indeed the storm was coming and we were still eighteen miles from camp. Our restaurant group gulped down our meals and began to head to camp. As we were racing there, we saw the sky get darker and darker. Then it opened up with driving rain and high cross winds. On our way, we received a tweet saying we were being redirected to the Rural Retreat Community Center due to the generosity of the local community. We finally found the Center, but half of the group was already at the campground where we were originally scheduled and needed to be transported to town. Everyone’s dry clothing was in the trailer which was waiting for the last rider to show up. When it finally arrived at the Community Center all anyone cared about was getting their gear and getting ready to call it a night. I went to bed at nine, I was so exhausted.
By the time we reached the second rest stop, 12 MPH headwinds started to pick up with 17 MPH gusts. With the combination of the rising heat index, the headwinds, and the steep hills, everyone was getting exhausted. By the time we reached the third rest stop, some of us were wondering if we would reach the camp by dark.
Needless to say, it was a rough day.
As we were exhausted, some of us decided to get dinner at a little Italian restaurant across from the third rest stop. While in the restaurant, the radio switched to the
As we got up, some went to a local restaurant where the local weather forecast was on. It shared the good news that the temperatures would be mild, no strong winds, and partly sunny.
We knew today would be another eighty mile day with several steep climbs. If we had another day with high heat, beating headwinds, and steep hills, few would be happy.
We knew we had hills toward the last third of the day, so nearly everyone took it easy in the beginning. As we began the climbs, it was difficult but no where near what we experienced the previous day. The first climb was 1,000 feet followed by a 500 foot descent to the first rest stop. The second climb was 800 feet followed by a 1,500 foot descent to the second rest stop and lunch. The third stop was at the peak of Hayterâ€™s Gap which rose 1,500 feet over three and a half miles. While that may not sound that steep, just try riding it on a bike. At the top of the hill, there was a celebration as each rider reached the peak. There were snacks, Gatorade, and the beer cooler. Our stop for the night was in a church at the base of an 800â€˛ descent with an outdoor (and very cold) shower, beautiful grounds, and a pavilion where several team members set up their hammocks. While the climbs were challenging, the day was wonderful and restored our faith that we can actually complete this ride. What a difference a day makes.
June 10, 2015
The TransAmerica bicycle trail was initiated in 1976 to commemorate the bicentennial of the United States. The route was specially designed to begin in Yorktown, VA which is rich in Revolutionary War history. While there are shorter routes from point to point, the bike route strives to find a safer route, ride by beautiful places, visit historic sites, or pass through college towns. The state of Virginia installed special 76 bike signs along the trail which have been a godsend for directions while hurtling down the road on a bike. In 1996, the state celebrated the 20th anniversary of the route and placed special placards on some of the signs. 2016 will be the 40th anniversary of the TransAm and I'm sure it will be commemorated somehow. Maybe the signs will be updated. As we leave Virginia over the next few days, we will lose those route guideposts and will need to pay closer attention to our maps directions. I'm sure we will be able to master the maps.
June 10, 2015 Breaks Interstate Park, VA Today was a recovery day with a 45 mile ride. The weather was cool this morning as we left the bike hostel / church near Rosedale. I joined a group they have nicknamed “The Elders” who are a group of 50-60 year olds who are expert riders. Two have MS. Joe, who retired from thirty years at GE right before the trip, was diagnosed twelve years ago and told that by this time he would be confined to a wheelchair. Yet here he is riding across the country with a smile on his face. He is one of many inspiring stories on this trip. “Dr. Joe” is Joe’s best friend from grammar school days and a retired ER doc as well as an avid mountain bike rider from Wyoming. He’s a jovial, story telling, funny, and wiry riding machine. He’s also our defacto team doc. Everyone loves Joe. The other members include a West Point graduate named Matt who is 65 and while from the flatlands of Florida is one who is a fast and steady hill climber. He’s always wanting to get out of the rest stops fast to keep the momentum going.
Linda is from the Denver area and also has MS. She’s ridden the Northern Tier route across the country before and is on her second epic crossing. She’s very forthright, caring, and one to make sure the group is together. Another member is Jake who is a 67 year old retired college professor. He is bright, funny, kind hearted, and the fastest hill climber on the team. This morning we all started out together but Jake, in his usual tempo, sped ahead. He was out of sight in minutes. Our group goal was to find a local diner to grab breakfast. About 8 miles in we found a little place which promised a great start for the day. However, Jake was well ahead of us. We ordered breakfast, but overwhelmed the sole employee who wasn’t expecting 15 cyclists to show up at once. We enjoyed our meal, then headed out on the route. We reached the first rest stop, but Jake had come and gone. We rode on to toward the camp and stopped at an overlook at the entrance to the Breaks Interstate Park with an incredible view of a formation called the Towers.
I went down to the overlook and upon my return, the rest of the team had gone on to the camp. I rode into the park and noticed a sign for wifi connectivity so I pulled into the visitor center to get access. I was told the best spot to get a signal was back by the restaurant. As I approached the spot I could see a familiar orange MS rider jersey in the restaurant so I went in to say hello. To my surprise I found Jake sitting there comfortably with our newest rider Charlie enjoying the end of their lunch. Jake who must weigh about 140 lbs had just finished a huge slice of cheesecake and was happy as could be. Charlie is completing his last third of the TransAm segments. He’s ridden across Virginia before and rode from Pueblo to San Francisco last year. He’s riding with us from Kentucky to Pueblo over the next few weeks. Charlie is a former Marine, Scoutmaster, and has a gregarious personality. He fit right in instantly and was welcomed as our newest member. Having “found” Jake, he good heartedly claimed that the rest of the Elders had abandoned him. We reminded him that it was the other way around. If he wasn’t so damn fast, we could stay together as a group.
It's the Little Things June 11, 2015 Breaks Interstate Park, VA
Breaks Interstate Park is an 850 foot deep gorge wrapping itself around two rock formations called the Towers. The park straddles the Virginia – Kentucky border which is why it’s called an interstate park. It has mountain bike and hiking trails, numerous camping sites, a water park, and a hotel. On our visit we saw several families enjoying all the park had to offer. However, the best amenities for me and several of my teammates were the hot showers and a laundry. When you’ve been living out of a medium sized duffel and biking every day, these two items are incredibly important. After our ride to the park, I spent the afternoon in the restaurant enjoying lunch and taking advantage of the wifi service. I also thought it would allow the rest of the team to get showered and settled in before I got to camp. Once I got to camp and settled in myself, I collected my dirty biking gear as well as the shorts and shirt I had been living in for the past week and a half and proceeded to the camp laundry. There I found four or five other team members who were waiting for the one semi-working washing machine. They told me the beast had eaten their money but wouldn’t start. One of the group went to the camp store to see if someone could fix it.
I thought there had to be another laundry and headed down to the store to ask. Being told that the washing machine was the only one in camp and that the machine needed to be “jiggled” to get it to work, I headed back to the laundry building. When I got there, Angela, a teammate and bike messenger from NYC, told me a Ranger had arrived, stuck his hand in the machine, jiggled something, and got it going. Hurrah! After they finished their laundry, I put mine in, inserted my coins, but nothing happened. Hoping to replicate the Rangers “jiggling” I stuck my hand into the open box where the coins went in and the electronic switch was. Thinking it could be a short I jiggled the exposed wires without success. I then noticed a spring loaded knob on the side of the box with a flange on it. I reached in and pulled up on it and voilà the machine came to life. There was hope my clothes would be clean. I’m happy to say I was successful in getting my clothes clean. My bike jersey is now much closer to the color it should be, my shorts are now fresh, and most importantly they smell great. It’s amazing how on a trip like this, the little things like clean fresh smelling clothes make a huge difference.
Sleeping with the Dukes of Hazard June 12, 2015 Hindman, KY
We arrived in Hindman which is a small very hilly town on the western side of the Appalachians. The town has 710 residents, two pizza parlors, and a classic Main Street. The church where we were staying was right on the street at the base of a steep hill. I found that itâ€™s easier for me to camp out so I looked for a patch of grass to claim for the night. I was told that at the top of the hill was a parking lot where we could camp. I wandered up the steep slope and found a little side path going up the hill. At the top of the path was a small area enclosed with a short stone wall and a metal gate. It was the Duke family plot. I found the Dukes of Hazard! The good news was it was quiet and the view was great. After a night of sleeping with the dead, it was a great place to start the day.
Where's Jake? June 11, 2015 Hindman, KY
In Virginia, the TransAm route is fairly well marked with 76 signs. We were told not to expect to see these in Kentucky but were pleasantly surprised to see that Kentucky had their own version of the signs. However, they can be easily missed. We left Breaks Interstate Park relatively early this morning while the air was cool as it was going to be a hot afternoon. As we left the park and hit the first incline, Jake climbed ahead of the rest of the team. As he had done the previous day, he was soon out of sight. But he seemed to have learned his lesson as we found him a little while later sitting in front of a church patiently waiting for us. He rejoined the group and we were on our way again. But as before, on one of the first steep hills we lost sight of Jake again. The importance of knowing where the next turn is or at least looking for the 76 sign cannot be stressed enough. If you miss a turn, you could be miles down the road before you realize you’re off route. We were given fairly detailed maps with turn by turn directions. If you don’t have your map AND you miss a turn, you can be in real trouble. Well, Jake didn’t have his map AND he missed a key turn. Since he was ahead of us, we had no idea he was off route and neither did he. The Elders arrived at the first rest stop which was a dairy bar which served ice cream, grilled food and such confections such as deep fried twinkies, deep fried Oreos, and funnel cakes. But no Jake. Riding through the countryside cell service can be spotty. When we arrived at the rest stop we all checked our phones to see if we had any messages from Jake. There was one, but it was over an hour old. Jake said he was at a location which meant he had missed the critical turn and was wandering in the wilderness of eastern Kentucky. We soon learned that he had done a huge circle easily adding 25 miles to his route. We were able to find Jake again and happy to report he was fine. The day was supposed to be a 63 mile day but with Jake’s “bonus miles” he was approaching 90 for the day. Good thing that at 67, Jake’s an endurance athlete.
Joe and Jake
A Dog's Bite IS Worse Than It's Bark June 13, 2015 Berea, KY
We were warned about the loose dogs in Kentucky. They can range from the “it’s fun to chase you” to “I eat cyclists”. You never know which type you will come across. All you can do is try to pass as quickly as possible as you try to make sure the dog doesn’t attack. One of the riders is on a recumbent three wheel bike which means he sits low to the ground and is at eye level with most dogs. He is also a former Marine and can still easily do 60 push-ups at 63. We affectionately call him “Bob the Bear”. Given that he could be within striking distance of these crazed Kentucky dogs, we naturally worry about him. However, it seems that no matter how large or deranged these canines are, they stop in their tracks if they make eye contact with Bob. Nobody, not even dogs, mess with Bob the Bear..
The rest of us are not so lucky. As dogs run out to chase us, it seems that there is no safe speed or pedal cadence which discourages them. They will try to chase any of us. Sometimes they actually catch us. We’ve seen dogs grab one cyclists pannier. Another bit someone’s shoe. Today one bit two bikers. One cyclist was swiped by a dog but didn’t break the skin. Another rider was less lucky. The same dog gripped Dick’s leg below the calf and broke the skin. Given these dogs run loose, only God knows if they are rabid. Luckily other bikers and Dr. Joe were nearby and came to the bite victims aid. The dog’s owner tried to call the dogs away. He hopped on his quad runner and got the dogs to chase him. However he never once came to check on the condition of the cyclists. The van came and picked up Dick and his bike and give him a ride to Berea to get him checked out. I’m happy to report that Dick received excellent care, received several shots with antibiotics, and is beginning a rabies regime. We expect him to make a full recovery. When he returned to camp, he was greeted by the entire team who expressed love and concern. As we’ve come to expect from Dick, he’s still enthused about the ride and is back on the road with his new dog whistle.
June 13, 2015 Berea, KY We rolled in Berea, Kentucky after a beautiful day of riding rolling hills. We were glad to be out of the mountains as our climbs are now shorter and often gradual (it doesn’t mean there aren’t some steep hills though). We were in for a treat as the local bike group brought us sandwiches, chips, cookies, water, and Gatorade for dinner at our firehouse campsite. The representatives were graduates of Berea College which is in the center of this beautiful historic town. Berea College was founded in 1855 and was based on the ideal that every person deserved a good education regardless of race or gender. The college grew until the Civil War when it was shut down by pro-slavery supporters. After the war, the college reopened with a nearly half of its students African American. The college was forced back to a segregated model early in the 1900’s but established a second school to educate black students. The college was integrated once again in 1950 when the Kentucky legislature amended its laws.
Today, the 1,600 student college focuses on admitting students with financial needs primarily from the Appalachian region as well as international students from 72 countries. The college does not charge tuition and strives to make college affordable to those in need. The beautiful campus is the heart of the city. A small triangular town square is framed by a small row of shops and the Boone Tavern along one edge with the college along the other two. A large gently wooded central quad is the heart of the campus framed by beautiful red brick buildings. To symbolize the college’s commitment to sustainability, a recent addition to the campus is an Eco-village with a novel natural waste water treatment system, community gardens, and energy efficient buildings. It’s not surprising that the college’s sister institution is Oberlin. The college has fostered local arts and crafts with several festivals during the year and has a farmers market on campus. The result is a tight knit, relaxed community which strives to do the right thing by leading through example.
ROAD SIGNS! We Don't Need No Stinkin' Road Signs! June 14, 2015 Harrodsburg, KY
The TransAm route is monitored by the Adventure Cycling Association who produce the annual route maps. Generally, the organization tries to keep cyclists on low traffic, scenic, and historic routes. It’s difficult to know about every mile of the route and things do change, but….. Today on one map section, there were three critical turns which didn’t have a street sign or other road identification. Some people were able to determine the right route with minimal backtracking, but many of us had, what we call affectionately, “bonus miles”. Ordinarily the extra miles wouldn’t be an issue as we all like riding our bikes, but today’s heat index approached 100 and we had headwinds with gusts of 16-20 mph. One of the roads was actually a great descent but going out of the way over steep hills in the heat and headwinds wasn’t great. We feel that we should take up a collection so Adventure Cycling can install three 76 signs to make future cyclists life easier. We know they would have helped today.
Springfield June 15, 2015 Springfield, KY
Today was supposed to be a 94 mile day based on the ACA map. I noticed however, that the route was basically a half circle. Knowing my geometry, I knew that the circumference of a half circle is always greater than its diameter. So I figured there might be a more direct route connecting our origination point, Harrodsburg, with our destination, Hodgenville. Google Maps bicycle route map took us through Springfield, KY and shaved down our route from 94 to 65 miles on a 100 degree heat index day, so we decided to take the shortcut. As we approached Springfield, we stopped at a major intersection to make sure we were still on course. As we were there a black pickup truck pulled up and the passenger called out to us. He asked where we were from and why we were riding. We said our members came from across the U.S., from England, and we were riding from Yorktown, VA to San Francisco to raise funds for MS research. He introduced himself as Ashley Davis, said he had MS, and appreciated what we were doing. He also said he was on the Springfield city council and was trying to convince the Mayor to build a bike shelter with basic amenities to support not only our group but other cyclists who would pass through town on the TransAm Trail. We told him that cyclists would greatly appreciate that as we’ve already have several positive and negative experiences with our overnight accommodations. We also told him we were planning on touring Makers Mark Distillery. He mentioned that his mother, Sandra Davis, was the author of the Makers Mark Cookbook. Needless to say, we all became fast friends. He recommended a restaurant named Mordecai’s in town and sent us on our way. We rode into Springfield and found the town to be incredibly charming. The Main Street consisted a a collection of interesting pre and post Civil War buildings. This area is also steeped in the history of Abraham Lincoln’s early life. Springfield is also the hometown of football great and sports announcer, Phil Simms. We found the restaurant and had a wonderful second breakfast/ first lunch and we’re getting ready to pay our bill when the waitress came up and said some person had dropped in and said there was a group of cyclist coming to the restaurant and he wanted to pay the bill. That person was our new friend Ashley Davis.
Makers Mark June 15, 2015 Loretto, KY
One of the advantages of our “shortcut” today was we were dangerously close to the Makers Mark Distillery. While I’m not a whiskey drinker, when in Kentucky one must understand the art of making Kentucky bourbon. So we decided to make it our cultural destination for the day. I’m sure we were one of the few cyclist to show up for a tour in matching jerseys, spandex, and cycling shoes so they decided to give us free tours. Maybe they took pity on us. The grounds were beautiful. All of the buildings were black with red shutters creating a distinctive look. The buildings resembled barns and other sheds, some very old and some new but clearly it seemed that this was the origination point for the business. The tour was fascinating. The mixture of the grains, the fermentation chemistry timing, the distilling, the aging in charred oak barrels for six years, and the bottles hand dipped in red wax.
It was clear that the main production area for a national product was elsewhere as we saw later in the day when heading out of town. We passed a collection of over a dozen huge six story black “barns” which store 600,000 oak barrels of aging bourbon at any one time. The commercial fermentation process is done on an industrial scale with stainless steel tanks vs the oak fermentation vats we saw on the tour. The tour included tasting of four bourbons: white lightening, Makers Marks, a special blend called 76, and a new blend called Black Cask. Some of The Elders participated in the tasting and found it educational. Since we had another 38 miles to ride, those who participated claimed they “sipped” only. I didn’t notice any wobbly bikes so I suppose they were telling the truth. On our way to the gift shop, we were treated to Maker Marks Dale Chihully glass collection displayed above the walkway. It was truly amazing.
Harrodsburg June 20, 2015 Harrodsburg, KY
Harrodsburg is considered the oldest permanent settlement west of the Appalachians. It was one of many towns that played a role as a make shift hospital during the Civil War for wounded Confederate soldiers. The Main Street is a great collection of well preserved historic buildings and churches. The group camped in the Old Fort Harrod State Park which has a replica wooden fort which was built in the late 1920â€™s. It also had a huge Osage Orange tree. But one of its best assets is a great little Mexican restaurant named LaFonda which served incredible food and a unique margarita served with an inverted Corona called a Coronarita. Upon the recommendation of Alex Ball, one of our leaders, I decided to try one. It must be drunk carefully draining the equivalent of the beer bottle contents before pouring the beer in. The mixture makes the drink much more bubbly and sweet. It was well worth it.
Rough River Dam
June 20, 2015 Rough River Dam State Park and Resort From Hodgenville to Rough River Dam was supposed to be just 55 miles. The plan was to stay at a campground near the dam of this man-made lake then push on 73 miles the next day to Sebree. However, Linda found out that the campground had closed due to some construction on the dam and alerted the leaders to find another site. They found another campground on the other side of the Lake but it meant that the next day would have extra miles in a section of Kentucky which was still very hilly. So after a hot and humid day of rolling hills, I decided to go with The Elders to the original overnight location which had a hotel. It was the my first hotel night on the trip and I was glad I chose to go there. The site was beautiful with mature trees and right on the lake. The accommodations were in eight unit cabins which were large and had two double beds. Each unit opened out onto a balcony or patio overlooking the lake. The best part of the place was the restaurant which was serving an all you can eat buffet for $14! I think the restaurant lost money on us as each of us had at least two full plates of food plus multiple desserts. While having dinner, the skyâ€™s opened up and it poured. We were appreciative to be indoors but knew our riding colleagues were either still on the road or trying to set up camp. We learned the next day that the storm was so bad that the team took shelter in the restrooms. They ordered pizza and had it delivered to the restrooms as well. The team made the best of a bad situation, but told us the next day that we had made the right decision to snag a hotel. The campers had wet tents and sleeping bags, but were a little weary as they got back on the road. Everyone was looking forward to the upcoming rest day in Carbondale.
Illinois at Last!
Today we rode from Rough River Dam to Sebree, Kentucky a distance of about 73 miles. When arrived, we were hosted by the First Baptist Church of Sebree who fed us an incredible feast of homemade food and desserts!
Today we bid Kentucky adieu. We are happy to have the mad dogs, steep hills, improvised eastern side of the state, and the rain behind us.
June 20, 2015 Sebree, KY
The church is on the TransAm route and uses its location to hosts cyclists every summer as part of their ministry. They set up with showers, washers and dryers, and plenty of space for our group to layout our sleeping pads and get some much needed rest. In one room they have a wall with a huge map of the United States that has push pins all over it indicating where the cyclists were coming from. On another wall were maps of Europe showing international cyclists home countries. As a result, the members of the church and the cyclists get to share a meal together and understand each other a little better. We were all very appreciative of the churchâ€™s hospitality. Thank you Sebree First Baptist Church!!
June 18, 2015 Cave in Rock, IL
To cross into Illinois, we had to cross the Ohio River on a ferry. The road literally ends into the water. The river is so swift from the rain that the ferry approached the dock at about a 60 degree angle. This apparently wasnâ€™t the captains first landing as he nailed the landing with precision. We boarded the ferry with a few cars and made our way across. The landing on the Illinois side was similar to the Kentucky landing with an efficient docking. As we rolled into Cave in Rock the Main Street was lined with brightly colored bicycles. Obviously the town is a major destination for TransAm cyclists. As had happened nearly every other night, rain was expected. I decided to share a room with Randy and his friends from Milwaukee which was a great decision. The cabins were in the Cave in Rock State Park overlooking the river. The unit had a great balcony with chairs which was a good perch until the rain began. At one point the rain was so heavy, I could barely make out the trees across the river. Once again, I felt for the bikers who were still on the road especially after their rainy night. Tomorrow we head out to Carbondale which with the approaching storms and the distance, the team is a bit anxious about how the day will unfold.
June 19, 2015 Carbondale, Illinois Over the last few days, we were watching the weather coming out of the Gulf of Mexico and making its way across Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. We knew we would get hit with Tropical Storm Bill at some point. Well, today was the day. The Elders were joined by Fast Matt’s father (who apparently is as fast as Fast Matt) and Randy who is a strong rider from California. Matt’s dad, sister, and mother (who has MS) joined Matt at Cave in Rock. Matt’s dad planned to ride with him to Carbondale. Randy was visited by Heather and Dave from Milwaukee who met him at Cave in Rock and planned to ride a portion of the Carbondale ride and spend the off day with Randy. Heather also has MS. Both of them are great fun. I looked at the planned route which tracked southerly then arced northwest up to Carbondale covering about 85 miles. Knowing the storm was coming, I was hoping to find a shorter, more direct route, which tracked north giving us more time to stay ahead of the storm. The Elders seemed to be in agreement and felt pedaling out about 6 AM would give us a head start. We all got up early, packed up, met at the trailer, and pushed off. I was using Google Maps bike routing on my iPhone to help determine alternative routes when we felt we needed them. Generally the maps have been pretty good and accurate. Today however, we were riding through the Shawnee National Forest and as we discovered, not all of the roads are paved. We started out and got about 10 miles down the road before we hit our first gravel road. The road was in good condition, hard pack, and dry but we were unsure what was ahead.
The Elders were split on how to proceed. Should we push ahead on the shorter route into a bit of the unknown OR turn around and get back on the route. Half of us felt one way, half the other. Linda felt strongly that she didn’t want to go on gravel with her expensive road bike. None of us wanted to split up the group but some of us didn’t want the extra miles especially with the approaching storm. Linda made an executive decision and took off to get on the original route. Since it was unsafe to ride alone the two Joe's followed suite and headed off with Linda. Matt, Jake, Randy, and I decided to stay on the shorter route. As Randy said this whole trip should be an adventure into the unknown.
With the early start, the shortened route, and the paceline we were within 20 miles of Carbondale by 12:15 PM. We met Randy’s friends at a BBQ joint in Marion for lunch. The news was on the TV showing the position of Bill. It looked like it was right on top of us. I pulled up my weather app which said we had about 50 minutes before the rain hit. We gulped down our lunch and hopped on our bikes hoping to stay ahead of the storm.
Gravel roads on a road bike certainly qualifies as an adventure. We got on the gravel and found it to be passable but there were some loose gravel spots. After a few miles we were back on pavement and felt pretty good about our decision.
The road connecting Marion and Carbondale is state route 13 which is a divided 55 MPH highway. Fortunately, there is a wide shoulder and is sometimes striped as a bike lane. In addition, they were repairing the outer lane which provided a smooth base layer separated from the drive lanes with barrels. But as a construction site there was some gravel and debris. We were plowing along when within a few miles Randy ended up having three flats. On the last one we found his rear tire was chewed up and leaking air. We suggested that he contact Heather and Dave to pick him up and get him to the house for the night.
However, we made an erroneous assumption that was the only gravel we would encounter. A few more miles down the road, Google Maps directed us to turn down a road. Suddenly we were back into gravel with no way to tell when it would end. Even worse, the road had fresh loose gravel which made it even more treacherous. We carefully rolled where we could and walked where we couldn’t. We made it through and hoped that was the last of it. With the gravel behind us we found rolling hills and flats. The four of us formed a paceline where the riders are lined up close to draft behind the rider in front. The first rider takes the brunt of the wind and stays there for about five minutes before rotating to the back of the line for the next rider to lead. With this arrangement and a very nice tailwind we were chugging along at a reasonable 16 MPH. The whole time we were chased by the storm. We’d feel a light sprinkle then outpace the storm. We’d stop for a drink or a light snack and the sprinkles would catch up. We’d race ahead and do it again. We even had a little sun from time to time.
Just outside of Marion we came across a bridge construction project. As we rode across I noticed that Jake’s rear tire was nearly flat and he wouldn’t make it across the bridge. I pulled over, threw my bike over the guardrail, and ran back to grab Jake’s bike. We quickly repaired the flat and we were back on the road.
By now the rain was hitting us. We picked up our pace and rode into Carbondale. We found the host family’s house about 2:45 PM and were glad to settle in for the night. A short while later one of the first of the regular route riders came in. He shared that the rain was getting bad on the route but he was just skirting the front. Over the next three hours only about one third of the riders had arrived. The next two hours saw the next third but by this time the storm was on top of us and it was getting dark.
The radar map is from 4:30 PM. By now the lead van was beginning to pick up people. The visibility was very bad, water was backing up in gutters creating waves which would engulf riders along the curb, the wind was gusting, and it was getting dark. Most people carry lights but not everyone. It was frankly dangerous. Those of us at the house continued to be concerned but couldnâ€™t really do much about it. As riders dragged in soaking wet it was clear they were at their limits mentally and physically. Some were quietly trying to regain their center. Others were more talkative about their experience. No one wanted to be critical, but the question was raised if the leaders should have anticipated how the weather would unfold and work to get people on the road earlier or find some alternative route to get to Carbondale safely. Iâ€™m sure there will be more discussion to find a better protocol in these types of situations. We have heard that the routes from Carbondale to Chester and on to Farmington are flooded. We hope the leaders are working on an alternative to get us to our destinations safely and keep us on schedule as we have fourteen unforgiving days of riding ahead of us.
The Green's Generosity
June 18, 2015 Carbondale, IL
June 20, 2015 Carbondale, IL
After a long, hard, and frankly dangerous day of riding through Tropical Storm Bill, the team needed a respite.
Southern Illinois University (SIU) is located in Carbondale, Illinois and is clearly the heart of this historic town as its major employer.
Fortunately, the Green family of Carbondale opened up their house and took great care of the team. This beautiful close knit and loving family have been supporters of Bike the U.S. for MS for years. Members of the family have ridden some of the routes over the years. In some cases individual members have ridden several of the routes.
The 18,000 student campus was founded in 1869 as a normal school and today is a research institution with a graduate school of law and medicine. The campus is adjacent to the historic town in a park like setting. A small remnant woodland is in the center of campus with trails passing through. Campus buildings are dispersed around the perimeter of the woods in clusters. The original quad is on the east, a second quad developed after WWII is on the north anchored by a building with a distinctive tower, a residence hall cluster is on the southwest, and the sciences quad is to the west. The post war years saw a number of buildings built to accommodate significant enrollment growth including a classroom building which is about 700′ long! The building is built on a module with open air passageways through it facilitating pedestrian and bicycle flow across the campus. A pedestrian and bike bridge crosses the expressway connecting the East Campus to the West Campus. The East Campus has high rise residence halls set in a rolling landscape.
On those trips they understood the importance of having a good meal, a warm shower, laundry, and a roof overhead at night. So the family decided to offer that hospitality to the TransAm team each year as they ride through. The feast included smoked turkey, pulled pork, bean salad, and two types of coleslaw. In addition, they provided a keg of beer and a few bottles of wine. But the best part was homemade chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches! Pam Green deserves a medal!! Their large home easily absorbed the team with plenty of places for people to sleep. Their downstairs rumpus room was movie central with showings of Zombieland, The Departed, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Tomorrow is a rest day which is sorely needed. It will give members of the team the chance to get their bikes serviced and ready for the next 14 days as we push across Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and eastern Colorado on our way to Pueblo and the Rockies. Thanks again to the Green’s for hosting us for two nights and feeding us. We are in your debt!
The campus character changes as you experience it’s different quadrants creating a series of distinctive neighborhoods including the woods in its center, but once you understand its basic layout the campus is easy to comprehend.
June 20, 2015 Chester, IL Today we rode into Chester, Illinois home of the artist who invented the cartoon character Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpee, and Bluto. He based some of the characters on local people in Chester and the town is very proud of his accomplishments.
The Mighty Massive Mississippi June 20, 2015 Chester, IL
We left Chester this morning crossing into the state of Missouri but first we had to cross the Mississippi River. As a result of Tropical Storm Bill, the Mississippi River basin was flooded. We were even unsure if we would be able to cross as our route yesterday was diverted due to flooding. The normal flood stage of the river is 27 feet. As we approached the river it was at 40 feet and rising. It wasnâ€™t expected to crest until Tuesday evening. The flood level is no where near the record set in 1993 when the river reached 49.7 feet and took six months to fully recede. Since crossing the river is a momentous event, we requested a police escort to cross the bridge. All thirty riders crossed in mass looking over the rail to see the swirling brown water below. Once on the other side of the river, many of the riders stopped to pose in front of the welcome to Missouri sign. We made it across the river basin but noticed flood waters within a few feet of the road on either side. Once out of that we were in the hills on our way to the Ozarks.
June 21, 2015 Eminence, MO After a hot, humid, and hilly day we realized we were at the 1/3 point on our trip having biked over 1,300 miles since leaving Yorktown, VA 23 days ago. Eminence, near the Current River in south central Missouri was our destination. We celebrated by renting a cabin with real beds. Got a good nights sleep before hitting another hot, humid, and hilly 84 mile day. Hopefully the headwinds stay at bay again today. Tomorrow we hop on the bikes at 5:45 AM to beat the heat.
A Boy and His Wagon June 22, 2015 Hartville, MO
TransAm Racer June 22, 2015 Walnut Grove, MO
Today we got up really early to beat the heat and rode 80 miles from Eminence to Hartville.
Paul Gildersleeves, from Australia, and his friend are racing from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia, a distance of 4,233 miles.
It was a triple H day: high heat, humidity, and hills. We had over 5,100 feet of climbs which means we were pretty beat when we finally reached Hartville.
We ran into them on day 20 of their race. They are averaging over 160 miles per day and are completely self supported. The photo shows Paul with his bike and what heâ€™s carrying. Amazingly minimal!
At the edge of town was a grocer, so we pulled in to get something cold to drink and eat while we were trying to determine where we were spending the night. While waiting in front of the store, a teenage boy pulled up on his bike pulling a little red homemade trailer. It was a thing of beauty. He immediately gravitated towards us with our fancy bikes and clothing. Dr. Joe started a conversation with the young man. He said he hauls just about anything on his trailer including lumber! He described where the parts came from: the wheels and axle from a riding lawn mower, springs from two mountain bikes, wagon from a wagon, and the rest just scraps he put together. Even his bike was a little homemade however it lacked brakes. He said he stops the contraption by running it off the road or extending his feet to slow it down. He was very curious about us and guided us to a local cafe where we could get wifi. While Hartville didnâ€™t have phone service for us with AT&T, this young man proved that there was plenty of human services to go around.
This is the second year that Paul has participated in the race. Unfortunately for Paul, the race was won the day before by a racer who completed the course in just 19 days. Maybe Fast Matt should try it next year.
Rain Rain Go Away
June 24, 2015 Ash Grove and near Lockwood, MO We camped out for the night in the Ash Grove, Kansas city park. Our tents were rattled around 4:30 this morning with high winds. I looked up the weather radar on my iPhone to see a huge storm cell just north of us. It appeared to be tracking due east so there was hope it would just pass us by with minimal impact. We thought that getting breakfast before we left would give us enough time for the storm to pass so we had our typical big breakfast at a local diner named the Copper Grill. The food was excellent: omelets, french toast, eggs, pancakes, pastry, and coffee. After breakfast the Elders set out on our ride keeping an eye on the dark clouds to the north. About 20 miles into the ride we were well into farm country with wide open fields and the occasional farmstead. The whole time we were watching the clouds and seeing flashes of lightening off in the distance but noticed they were getting closer. As we continued to ride we were starting to come under darker and darker clouds. Lightening was now appearing all around us and we knew we were about to get wet. It started to sprinkle and the farther we rode the heavier the rain got. At one point Jake and I passed an open barn and I considered pulling over but I was still under the impression we were skirting the edge of the storm so I pressed on with Jake. Another three miles down the road, it was raining extremely hard and the wind had picked up. We were quickly regretting that we hadn’t stopped at the barn. We decided to look for shelter. I spotted a barn near the road with an open bay, but the gate was locked. We pressed on and saw a farmhouse with a covered front porch. We pulled into the yard and climbed up on the porch when we heard a woman’s voice calling out from the barn and a dog running towards us. With the groups history of dog encounters, Jake and I didn’t know what to expect. Was this going to be a vicious guard dog? The dog ran up to me and clearly was more interested in us as playmates rather than lunch. I extended the back of my hand, let him sniff, then petted his head. He was now our friend.
The owner of the house was a lovely woman who was born in Panama and until a few years ago lived in Southern California with her husband who drives trucks, their son, and two daughters. They moved to central Missouri looking for a new lifestyle where they didn’t have to worry about drugs, alcohol, or gangs. They wanted their family to stay together and live a simple life. While farm living isn’t a simple life, Rosaria and her family seemed to be making the best of it. Jake and I were soaking wet and our glasses were covered with water and road grime. We asked for paper towels to clean them so Rosaria stuck her head inside the front door and yelled something in Spanish. In a few moments her twelve year old son emerged with lens cleaning cloths. He was a little shy but very polite. It was clear he was a good boy in a loving home. The day was a little cool and the longer Jake and I stood outside in our wet clothes, the colder we got. Rosaria generously invited us into her warm home to make sure we were comfortable. I took off my wet shoes and the next thing I knew Rosaria was walking towards me holding a pair of flip flops. I felt bad that I was dripping water on her floor, but it was better than freezing outside. Their modest house was mid renovation with several simultaneous projects, but was very livable. There were several school projects on the dining room table as well as lots of school art projects on the walls. There was a beautiful picture of Rosaria and her husband on their wedding day standing in front of their wedding cake. She turned on the TV and flipped between the local news and the weather channel so we could assess the extent of the storm. At the same time I was looking for weather radar information on my iPhone. After about an hour, we noticed that the worst of the storm had begun to pass. We saw a few riders go by and felt we could press on. We thanked Rosaria for her hospitality and stepped back out onto the porch. The chilly air hit our damp clothes and we knew the only way for us to warm up was to get back on our bikes and get our heart rates up. So that’s just what we did.
Cooky's Cafe June 25, 2015 Golden City, MO
It’s truly amazing when you find a gem in unexpected places. After our run in with the rain, we made our way to Golden City, MO. With a name like Golden City, it can’t do anything except raise your expectations. The combination of the rain, waiting out the storm, and the last 15 miles created a desire for comfort food. I had a sudden desire for grilled cheese and tomato soup. We rolled into town and spotted the neon sign for Cooky’s Cafe. Between the classic sign and our hunger, we knew we couldn’t go wrong. As we approached the cafe we saw several other bikes stacked near the entrance and felt an even stronger desire to go in. As usual, when we roll into a small town we find few dining options. So we all tend to hit an establishment which is used to a manageable number of locals vs thirty sweaty spandex covered cyclists showing up. The result is we usually overwhelm the wait staff and the kitchen.
However, Golden City is one of the few towns on the 76 route in this part of the state, so the diner sees a lot of cyclist. As a matter of fact, a west bound self supported cyclist from New York named Robert showed up about the same time we did and he instantly became a friend. The good news is they had grilled cheese and tomato soup on the menu and it was just what I needed. But the really good news was they had pie. Not just a few pies, but lots of pies. They had so many pies that they used the napkin holder to list them. And not just one side of the napkin holder, but both sides. They had dutch pies, fruit pies, single crust pies, cooler pies, cream pies, and sugar free pies. After pursuing the list I chose a Dutch strawberry rhubarb pie, warmed up, served ala mode. What came out was a thing of beauty. Jake order a slice of peach pie and followed it up with a slice of butterscotch which arrived with a mountain of lightly browned meringue. The entire team was in pie heaven. Multiple orders of pie were being ordered, delivered, and devoured. If anyone left a bit of pie on their plate, the other team members would consume it. But the funniest thing was when Randy and Andrew got up to leave, they put on their makeshift rain gear: trash bags. They looked like the raisinetts getting ready for their act. In spite of the rain, Cookyâ€™s Cafe made the day great. It was definitely a gem in an unexpected place.
Why We Ride 3 June 26, 2015 Pittsburgh, KS
We rolled into Pittsburgh, KS which by comparison to the very small towns we’ve been in over the last week, seemed to be a large metropolis. The local MS group was expecting us and had arranged for us to stay at the Pittsburgh Memorial Auditorium. They served us dinner followed by homemade brownies, peach cobbler, and ice cream. The food and fellowship were greatly appreciated. The dinner was followed by a brief talk by Gina Peak who was diagnosed with MS over a decade ago. She has been a tireless advocate for Bike the U.S. for MS since its inception in 2009. She gets the auditorium for the MS riders each year to spend the night. Since she is such a huge Bike the U.S. for MS supporter, the organization has created the Peak Award in her honor. This year the award was present posthumously to Rhonda Thompson who had MS and had started biking to support MS. Unfortunately, while on a training ride, she was struck and killed by a semi tractor trailer. While her life was cut short, the service she provided will live on. Her daughter accepted the award on her mother’s behalf and gave a wonderful tribute. There were several local people who were at the auditorium to greet us and help prepare the meal. One person was Tommy John. Tommy was diagnosed with MS several years ago and while confined to a motorized wheelchair, he is one of the most cheerful people we’ve met on the trip. The day before he was in his wheelchair sitting next to the road waving to the MS riders as they went by. A few years ago when he got his wheelchair he needed a ramp to get into his house. Since he was low on funds he called Don Fraser, who along with Cassie Wertz head up Bike the U.S. for MS. They gave him a grant to pay for the ramp and arranged for a contractor to build it. It’s clear that the funds we raise have tangible benefits. Our ride meant so much to him and the rest of the local people affected by MS that they wanted to find a meaningful way to thank us. Likewise the team was thankful to have an air conditioned place to sleep and a warm meal. Thank you Gina and Pittsburgh, Kansas for taking such good care of us.
Goodbye Jake June 27, 2015 Pittsburgh, KS
It is with a great sadness and a heavy heart that we said goodbye to Jake today. After twenty-seven days, traveling nearly half way across the country, and much deliberation with his family, Jake decided to leave the ride and go home. Jake is a retired college professor who always had something constructive to add to the conversation no matter the subject. He was one of the founding members of The Elders, the bike group of 50+ year olds. The breakfast, lunch, and dinner conversations were always spirited with good natured humor, sarcasm, and political discourse. He was one of the fastest hill climbers of the entire team and always set the pace. Only Fast Matt could go faster than Jake and Jake was nearly twice Fast Mattâ€™s age. He accepted me into the Elders. He was a great riding companion not only to challenge me on my pace but also support me when I found the hills to be daunting. On a few days, Jake and I would punch out several miles. Often I would lead him off route, but we always found a way to get back on track. Over the last week, Matt, Jake, and I would often form a paceline and crank out miles across the hot, humid hills of the Ozarks in south central Missouri. It was great to ride with them as we were all able to maintain the same speed. Jake will be missed as a riding partner, but more importantly we gained a lifelong friend. Safe travels Jake. Hope to see you again soon.
June 29, 2015 Newton, Kansas This blog is for my wife, Laurie Newton-King. Today we rode into Newton, Kansas. It was important for me to get there as the day before, my rear bike wheel broke a spoke and cracked. I needed to get a new wheel and there was a great bike shop in Newton called appropriately Newton Bike Shop. I used a loaner wheel from the MS team and took off early with Randy and Andrew to ride 40 miles to get to the bike shop when they opened at 9 AM. As I rode into town I wanted to capture the “Welcome to Newton” sign for Laurie. I rode further into town and found the Newton train station. Which is a rather grand station. I also found the old Newton High School. And the new Newton High School. But I started to notice that nearly every business had the word Newton in its name. Including the Newton Vacuum Center. And of course the Bike Shop. However, the bike shop doesn’t stock wheels. Luckily, there was one more bike shop in Hutchison, KS which had the wheel. It was just 30 more miles down the road and slightly off route. It is also the last bike shop for the 400 miles between Hutchison and Pueblo. Ironically the Hutchison bike shop is called Harley’s Cycles. They still get calls from people trying to buy a motorcycle. I now have a new wheel, tire, tube, cassette, and chain so I should be golden for the remaining 2,000 miles to San Francisco. At least I hope so. Laurie, I hope you enjoy the Newton tribute.
The Cosmosphere June 29, 2015 Hutchison, Kansas
Before I moved from Kansas City to Baltimore I had the opportunity to visit the Cosmosphere in Hutchison, Kansas. So I was excited to be near the museum again so I could revisit as well as share it with my teammates Randy and Andrew. The Cosmosphere is a unique facility in that it has the largest collection of space artifacts outside of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. and the largest collection of Soviet space artifacts outside of Moscow. It sits on the grounds of Hutchison Community College. The Cosmosphere grew out of the planetarium that existed on the Kansas State Fairgrounds in 1962. A donor gave the community college a space artifact, but the college was unsure what to do with it. A board member noted that the Soviet Union was collapsing at that time and that it would be possible to acquire an extensive Soviet space artifact collection relatively reasonably. This led to the creation of curators who specialized in space artifact restoration. Today, the Cosmosphere is the only Smithsonian outpost in the state of Kansas and its curators assist the Air and Space Museum in restoring space artifacts. All of the objects in the Cosmosphere are either flown objects or flight ready backups. The only replica is a model of the first supersonic plane flown by Chuck Yeager. They are the only museum to have restored V-1 and V-2 rockets from Nazi Germany. The museum restored Gus Grissom's Gemini 7 Liberty Bell capsule which sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean on splashdown. The Museum also has the Apollo 13 command module which suffered a ruptured oxygen tank en route to the Moon but made it safely back to Earth. The list of other flight ready space artifacts is extensive including Sputnik 1, a lunar lander, a lunar rover, Mars Viking lander, an SR 71 Blackbird, numerous rockets, space suits, and space hardware. The museum even has a Moon rock collected during the Apollo 11 mission which was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. Randy, Andrew, and I arrived around 4:30 and stayed until closing at 7 but only got through about a third of the museum. There was so much to see and learn about. We all wished we had a full day to explore the museum fully.
What I found to be truly special about the Cosmosphere is it shows the incredible arc of history over the last 80 years which transformed advanced weapons of war to the ideals of discovery and exploration of our planet and beyond. The Cold War was about ruling the heavens. Today we have the international space station demonstrating that humankind can get beyond their political differences and work together for the betterment of all. The Cosmosphere is an incredible place and an international treasure. If you’re ever near central Kansas, I would recommend a visit. It’s well worth it.
Heat, Headwinds, and 100 Miles to Reach the Halfway Point July 1, 2015 Dighton, Kansas
Today we hit the halfway point in terms of days and mileage. We’ve traveled over 1,900 miles over 31 days since leaving Yorktown, VA. To get here we’ve climbed the Blue Ridge Parkway, rode over the Appalachians, made it past rabid dogs in Eastern Kentucky, crossed the Ohio River on a ferry, rode through Tropical Storm Bill, crossed the flooded Mississippi River valley, climbed the steep hills of the Ozarks, and crossed the windy Kansas plains. We still have 240 miles of hot windy flat land to cross before reaching the Rockies, but it’s amazing what we’ve accomplished thus far. I was not looking forward to today. We were expecting 17 mph headwinds and heat approaching 100 degrees. Yesterday, on the last twenty miles we hit headwinds and high heat and I suffered a bit of heat exhaustion where I had no energy to turn the pedals. If I had a similar occurrence today with a 100 mile ride, it would not be good. We started the day headed west from Larned where we had access to a swimming pool, showers, and a park where we could camp. We hopped onto our bikes at 5:30 AM and were greeted by a strong headwind for the first eleven miles of the day. It was a hard slog and rather disheartening. Fortunately we had a turn that took us north. What was a headwind now was mostly a tailwind. We rocketed through the next twenty miles close to 18 MPH to our next rest stop at Rush Center. We felt great. After the rest stop the course returned to its western tack and the dreaded headwinds. We rode fifteen miles and came upon Alexander which was supposed to be the next town. We expected at least a gas station with a convenience store so we could refresh our water bottles, get some Gatorade, or something to eat. What was there was a grain elevator, a vending machine that didn’t give change, and a rest stop with restrooms. We had to press on.
We continued riding west to Ness City, home of the “skyscraper of the plains” which is a three story Romanesque bank building which is quite elaborate given its small town setting. We had lunch in a little restaurant which caters to the local farmers. The special was tender roast beef served over Texas toast with mashed potatoes and gravy over it all. Randy and I took advantage of the special and were glad we did. After a satisfying lunch we were ready to get back on the road. We still had thirty miles to cover to reach our destination in Dighton. According to the weather forecast the winds were supposed to continually shift from the southwest to the northeast as the day progressed. By the time we finished our lunch, the winds had shifted to be more in our favor. We continued west at about 15 MPH which was a pretty good clip but about halfway to Dighton, our water was running low or was very hot. We noticed a historic marker and decided to pull over underneath a big shade tree. It ended up being a marker for the homestead of George Washington Carver who was an African American scientific genius who used sweet potatoes and peanuts to create over 500 products from paint, cosmetics, to medicines. What’s most amazing was he received his masters degree in 1896 and went on to become a professor at the Tuskegee Institute.
After our brief rest, we felt we needed to get cold water in our water bottles and went looking for a nearby neighbor. In this part of Kansas, the homesteads are few and far between. The ranch near the historical marker was gated and no one appeared to be home. So we headed down the road. About five miles further we saw a farmhouse which looked like someone was home. As we approached the house we heard a dog bark. Given our dog experiences in Kentucky we felt we should be cautious. Thankfully we were no longer in eastern Kentucky and the dog was quite friendly. The owner of the house came out and we asked her if we could get some cold water from her well. She graciously said yes and began to ask about our ride. She asked where we all were from and when I mentioned I was from Baltimore, she said that she and her husband used to live in Washington DC. She said her husband’s family farm was nearby and they returned to Kansas to lead a simpler life and be closer to his family. She said that they were enjoying it and found that it was a great place to raise their kids. We filled our bottles, thanked her, and headed on our way. With cool water in our water bottles, the last ten miles were a “breeze”. While I expected the day to be extremely challenging, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was one of the better days of the trip so far. As we head west and get into the Rockies, I’m sure there will be more great days to come.
The Grain Elevator July 1, 2015 Dighton, Kansas
It’s wheat harvest season in Kansas. An intense time when the farmers harvest and process their wheat using huge combines which automatically separate the wheat from the chaff (weeds, stalks, or other items considered trash). Most farmers these days belong to co-ops which manage the production and delivery of crops to grain elevators. The co-ops arrange for the rental of these huge combine machines as well as the labor to harvest the wheat and ship it to the grain elevators. I was having dinner with Randy Lear (the adventurer-instigator), Andrew (the little foreign boy) and Matt in Dighton, Kansas when Randy instigated a conversation with Toby and Susan (a local couple) at the next table. They were curious about us, where we had come from, where we were headed, etc. We asked about them, their background, what they did, etc. Both of them grew up in the area. Toby was a good baseball player and played for Kansas University (fellow Jayhawk) for a few years. He returned to Dighton and started working for the local Farm Coop who operates the grain elevator in Dighton. Randy started asking a lot of questions about how grain elevators work and Toby said “you guys want a tour?” Randy being the instigator-adventurer (or vice versa) said “Hell YES!” and we were on. Randy, Andrew, and I piled into their Suburban and we headed over to the grain elevator. We started our tour in the front office where two staff members were checking in a truck full of harvested wheat. A small sample of the wheat is taken from the trailer using a vacuum tube and put through a small scale shaker which separates out the wheat from the remaining chaff. The truck and trailer are weighed full of grain which will be compared to its empty weight once the grain is emptied to determine the net weight of the shipment.
Before there was the vacuum tube, a person would need to walk out over the trailer on the catwalk and use a brass sampler rod to get the wheat sample to be tested. The wheat sample shaker uses a series of screens which separate out the good wheat from the remaining trash. The good wheat is weighed and compared to the weight of the trash to determine the average percentage of trash. The weed sample is then poured into a moisture reader which determines the amount of moisture in the wheat. This can affect the net weight of the wheat and therefore the price paid to the farmer. For example, if the wheat were to come in especially wet the net weight of the wheat would be less per bushel and therefore the farmer would be paid less per bushel. The truck is then directed to the sally-port where the wheat is poured out of the bottom of the trailer through a grate to a conveyor belt which lifts the grain to the top of the grain elevator. The grain is directed to specific silos which can hold up to 25,000 bushels of crops. Each truck can hold 1,000 to 1,200 bushels of grains. The overall grain elevator can hold over a half million bushels of grain at a time. In 1993, there was a bumper crop of wheat which exceeded the capacity of the grain elevator. The grain was poured on the ground forming a huge cone which spread between the grain elevator and the seed plant. All of the wheat was used except that which was directly on the ground. The grain elevator provides a place for farmers to sell their grain directly. The grain elevator operator monitors the grain, dries it to a consistent level, processes new seed for the farmers to plant the next year, and prepares the grain for shipment to mills or ports where it is shipped out of the country. Once the grain is ready for shipment, the process of delivering the grain is put in reverse and it is loaded into trucks. The grain is gravity fed down through the silos to another conveyor belt which lifts it back up to the top of the building and then delivers it over an empty trailer.
During harvest season, tractor-trailers can be lined up waiting to be processed at the grain elevator. This process is repeated for wheat then corn then milo then soybeans then Winterwheat well into early winter. The processed grains are shipped out in between crop seasons. As a result the grain silo is busy year around. Whatâ€™s most amazing is that even at its busiest time it is basically staffed by just four people. We got to meet Jack and Joe who were manning the truck deliveries and Toby who manages the elevator. It was an incredible opportunity to learn more about these skyscrapers of the planes and their importance in the process of delivering grains to produce the food to feed the world. Now you know why itâ€™s called a grain elevator.
Leaving Kansas July 3, 2015 Tribune, KS
The TransAm route was laid out in 1976, nearly forty years ago. The route was specifically chosen to try to ensure cyclist safety as well as to frequent small towns along the way. Seeing the route today, I think itâ€™s safe to say that many things have changed in the last forty years. Or should I say things have changed extensively over the last 200 years. The portion of the route going through Kansas and eastern Colorado follow remnants of the Santa Fe Trail. This trail went from Independence, Missouri down to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The trail opened up the southwest quadrant of United States to settlement and was the main mode of transportation to this part of the country until the Southern Pacific transcontinental railroad was built in the early to mid nineteenth century. The railroad provided inexpensive transportation and led to the end of the use of the covered wagon trails. With rail transportation established, The railroads built towns approximately every 20 miles along the rail line to become commercial centers to support ranching and farming. As the automobile became more popular and accessible in the early twentieth century, roads were built parallel to the rail tracks giving access to the small towns by either car or rail. After World War II, the interstate highway system was built which paralleled the roads and rail but was offset from these former transportation corridors by many miles. New towns were established at major intersections which began to reduce the amount of rail and traffic on the original transportation corridors. I donâ€™t know this for a fact but I imagine that in 1976 when the TransAm trail was established, the small towns laid out by the railroads were still fairly viable with several local restaurants, shops, hotels, schools, and a base population of family run farms. Forty years later however, it is a very different picture. The family farm has been transformed into conglomerates and co-ops. Small-town retail has dried up as population has shifted to larger cities along interstate highways. Corporate retail such as Walmart, convenience stores, and gas stations have reduced the demand for mom-and-pop shops. Hotels have disappeared due to a lack of demand.
As a result, many of these small towns have become ghost towns with ruins of schools, shops, and Main Streets. As we have traveled west, we have found fewer restaurants and shops for us to get breakfast or lunch and support the local economy. This has been frustrating at times as we ride into these towns thinking that we will be able to replenish our water bottles or get some food. However, as we had an opportunity to meet and interact with people that live in these small towns, we have found them to be generous, friendly, and honest. They have opened up their churches, parks, and sometimes even their homes to help us on our journey across the United States. These people are the salt of the earth and live a value-based life that is dependent on the cycles of weather for their livelihood. As an architect and planner going through these towns, I see many opportunities for redevelopment. However it is less clear how a new economic foundation can be created to restore the towns back to their former glory. Maybe trying to restore them isnâ€™t the answer. People we have met along the way have chosen to live in these towns because their family came from there or they want to raise their children in a unique environment. Maybe they know something that we city dwellers have lost.
Creepy Carnival July 2, 2015 Dighton, Kansas
Our second to last night in Kansas was in Dighton in a city park at the edge of town. While Dighton had a grocer and a convenience store, it also had an abandoned carnival with a run down Ferris wheel, kiddy roller coaster, tilt-o-whirl, and a train. It looked like something from a horror movie. I expected clowns to emerge from the shed and invade our dreams.
Crossing into Colorado
Today finally arrived. We entered Colorado.
Tonight Randy (the instigator-adventurer), Andrew, and I went to the beautiful Riverwalk in Pueblo to see the annual Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza.
July 3, 2015 Colorado-Kansas State Line
Crossing the plains of Kansas where we came to appreciate an endless horizon line and a big sky, we always anticipated entering into Colorado and eventually hitting the Rockies. To celebrate crossing into the West, the trip leaders sponsored a breakfast cereal party next to the sign. Trix, Cap’n Crunch, Cheerios, Honey Grahams, Rice Krispies, Frosted Flakes, and Frosted Mini Wheats were on the menu. It was great fun. As we headed west, anticipation was in the air. It wasn’t long before the Kansasesque endless farm fields started to give way to sagebrush and a more rolling landscape before returning to farm fields. We knew it was a tease of changes in the landscape to come.
July 4, 2015 Pueblo, CO
The Riverwalk is a park built around the original course of the Arkansas River with a linear waterway loosely based on the San Antonio Riverwalk. It has a bandshell where the Pueblo Symphony Orchestra entertained the crowd before and during the fireworks. The pre-fireworks show featured Italian opera classics which the crowd seemed to like while the fireworks music tended more toward John Phillips Sousa. A parking garage forms the back edge of the park and bandshell. The top deck was used to launch the fireworks. It was a classic, red blooded American, family friendly event with food vendors, beer trucks, and train rides for the kids. It was a little telling that the lines for funnel cakes were long while we could walk up and get beers without waiting. This was Andrew’s first Fourth of July in America so we wanted to introduce him to the wonderful American culinary invention of funnel cakes, but the line was too long. We settled for kettle corn. Before the show, the announcer got up and said they had received a tweet from England saying “Happy Independence Day you treasonous bastards!” Andrew got a kick out of it and said in England they celebrate the fourth as treason day. It was nice to stay up past our usual bedtime of 8:30 as we have Sunday off before climbing into the Rockies. We need the rest after fourteen straight days of biking from Carbondale, Illinois to Pueblo. A distance of just under 1,000 miles.
Why We Ride 4 July 5, 2015 Pueblo, CO
Today we had the opportunity to help Lisa and her family with some backyard cleanup projects. Lisa was recently diagnosed with MS after suffering several symptoms including intense vertigo. After visiting several doctors, a neurologist correctly diagnosed her condition after looking at her MRI. Since that diagnosis, she has been getting the correct treatment and knows how to react when her symptoms reoccur. Lisa is a massage therapist and runs an animal rescue shelter. Her husband Ron used to own a reptile pet store and is very knowledgeable. Their house is a bit of a menagerie. They have five rescue dogs, a pet iguana as well as a ten year old tortoise named Alex. We helped them by weeding their back garden, planting flowers and shrubs, as well as building a brick terrace so Lisa could create a container vegetable garden that is high enough so Alex couldn’t reach it and eat it. One big surprise was Lisa’s mother was there and mentioned she was born in Wales. The coincidence is Andrew is also from Wales. They talked about how Welsh is still spoken there but is starting to fade a bit. It’s been a long time since Lisa’s Mom has been back and she speculated she wouldn’t recognize the place. Andrew agreed. Our team was happy to spend just a few hours to assist Lisa and her family who hadn’t been able to get these projects done. Lisa was especially thankful for these complete strangers who showed up at her house and gave of their time. It was great to make a connection with such a great family and help them just a little to make their lives more comfortable. It’s one of the reasons we ride.
The Importance of Destinations July 5, 2015 Pueblo, Colorado
Today we reached Pueblo, Colorado, the jumping off point for the Rockies. It is a milestone after biking for fourteen straight days across Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and eastern Colorado. Over the last weeks, the Elders developed a predictable routine. Each evening we would look at the next days ride to determine if there were places for us to get food or water, assess the weather for temperature, precipitation, and winds, and try to determine if we had any hotel options. We would make sure our bikes were ready before heading to bed around 8:30 or 9:00 PM. Since its been getting very hot in the afternoons, we would get up around 4:30 AM, break camp, nibble on some food, make sure our tires were inflated, and get on the road. Some days we were rolling by 5:30 just to get ahead of the day. We usually arrived at our end points around 2:00 in the afternoon then looked for the campsite or hotel. Along the way, we would break up the route into 15 to 40 mile segments depending on if there were rest stops, restaurants, or convenience stores. It’s amazing how our endurance has increased. A thirty mile ride is nothing to us especially if the heat and winds are in our favor.
With daily mileage ranging from 50 to 100 miles, the final destinations became important daily goals. The promise of a shower (even cold ones) to rinse off the road grime and salt was a strong incentive to push on and get there early so we could clean up before the large group arrived. Camping, while primitive, is predictable as you know what you will get and how you would set up your space for the night. Staying in a community center, church, or fire station (while offering protection from foul weather and air conditioning) was more of a group sleeping situation which had an element of the unknown. Arriving and finding that there wouldn’t be a shower or a working toilet was more of a challenge but fortunately those incidents have been far and few between. If we have access to working showers and toilets, no matter how primitive, they were always a welcome sight. Which brings me back to the importance of destinations. It’s similar to the saying about “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Looking at covering 3,785 miles across the country through a variety of terrain and weather, it’s important to always focus on the next stop. To have that destination in mind.
With daily mileage ranging from 50 to 100 miles, the final destinations became important daily goals. The promise of a shower (even cold ones) to rinse off the road grime and salt was a strong incentive to push on and get there early so we could clean up before the large group arrived. Camping, while primitive, is predictable as you know what you will get and how you would set up your space for the night. Staying in a community center, church, or fire station (while offering protection from foul weather and air conditioning) was more of a group sleeping situation which had an element of the unknown. Arriving and finding that there wouldn’t be a shower or a working toilet was more of a challenge but fortunately those incidents have been far and few between. If we have access to working showers and toilets, no matter how primitive, they were always a welcome sight. Which brings me back to the importance of destinations. It’s similar to the saying about “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Looking at covering 3,785 miles across the country through a variety of terrain and weather, it’s important to always focus on the next stop. To have that destination in mind. Crossing Kansas with its similar landscape for hundreds of miles, seeing the water tower of the next town five miles away, gave us a visual for our next destination and moved us along.
If we felt there was nothing ahead, it meant we had to rely on what we had on our bikes or what we could find. Sometimes these long stretches or arriving at a place and finding nothing was disappointing/aggravating but we always managed to get by. We would often form pacelines in which the riders line up very close to each other to ride in the draft of the rider ahead of you. The first rider accepts the brunt of the wind while those following are pulled along which conserves the riders energy. The leader would switch off and let the next rider take the lead eventually working through the entire line. However, when riding this close together, it means you must pay attention to the riders ahead of you. You want to maintain a close spacing which means you are looking at the previous riders tire more than what’s around you. You see a lot of pavement and not much else. In that mode it’s easy to miss the beauty around you. It gets you to your destination but misses the journey.
As I write this, I’m also thinking about the saying “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. My friend Randy (the instigator-adventurer) is having a trip of curiosity where he often pulls off the road to photograph an interesting abandoned building, or shoot off to find a place someone mentioned. He posts to Facebook constantly with very quick clever comments which capture the day nearly hour by hour. He is definitely enjoying the journey. It’s an adventure for him. The plains have an austere beauty that is as unique as any other landscape. It’s wide open nature makes us aware that the country is very big and we as individuals are a small part. As we enter the Rockies, the landscape will change once again. Our wide open endless views will be shortened and framed by trees and mountain peaks. I must remember that while the destination is important at the END of the day, I must also enjoy and revel in the journey along the way. I need to slow down, look up, and enjoy the journey.
Toto, I Don't Think We're In Kansas Anymore!
We had to say goodbye to Charlie Holbrooke today. We are very sorry to see him leave, but we knew this day was coming. He joined the group as a segment rider at the Breaks Interstate Park on the Virginia Kentucky state line and rode the segment to Pueblo. He had ridden across Virginia before and had ridden the Pueblo to San Francisco route last year. This segment completes for him the entire 3,785 cross country ride.
Today we got introduced to the Rockie Mountains. We left Pueblo this morning and biked thirty miles through the last of the plains before starting our climb.
July 5, 2015 Pueblo, CO
Charlie is an avid cyclist who has biked in many places across the country and around the world. He is a founding member of a bike club in Atlanta where he currently resides. To signify his membership he had a yellow caution triangle hanging off the back of his bike with the initials OFBC on it. It stands for Old Farts Bicycle Club. The members wives have a group called WOLFS which stands for Wives of OLd FartS. Needless to say, Charlie has a great sense of irony and humor. He is a former Marine which he has in common with Bob the Bear. The two became riding partners across Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas and shared similar playful and positive attitudes along the way. Charlie was a stable influence for the entire team and will be missed greatly. We did our best to convince him to stay with the team and ride with us a little longer, but he had accomplished what he set out to do and was ready to head home. Safe travels Charlie. Stay in touch.
July 6, 2015 Westcliffe, CO
We rose 3,300 feet in elevation from Pueblo to Silver Cliffe over about twelve miles. The average slope is about five percent which isn’t much, but it was constant over that distance. The total vertical climbing we did was over 5,550 feet. The great news is the landscape transitioned from farm fields to fields of sage brush and wild sunflowers to mesas to the foothills of the Rockies. We followed the Arkansas River up through a continuous valley to cross the San Isabel National Forest. After our climb we descended into a broad valley where the towns of Silvercliffe and Westcliffe are located. They are classic western mining towns with a few historic buildings. We arrived in Westcliffe just before it started to downpour. It rained so hard that the street gutter turned into a river. We stayed dry under a porch in front of a quirky antique store but started to get chilled as the temperature dropped. We heard about a great pawn shop up the street so we pulled on our rain jackets and headed to the store. The pawn shop had an incredible collection including a 1946 Wurlitzer juke box, stuffed buffalo, antelope, and elk heads, any gun you could imagine including an 1861 rifle that was the same make as the ones used by Custer’s troops at his famous last stand. He also had a collection of Lone Ranger TV show memorabilia which he had collected to play on the name of his shop: The Loan A Ranger. The owner of the pawn shop recommended we eat lunch at Chappy’s Mountain View Bar & Grill. It had terrific local beers on tap plus great burgers and fries with a Colorado twist. One dish was called the Slopper which is a burger and fries smothered in green or red chili, topped with onions and shredded cheese. I got the Bronco Burger which had bacon, blue cheese, and a special spicy sauce called Bite Me. The food was cooked over a wood fired grill which was the centerpiece of the restaurant. It was a great place to spend a few hours in a Colorado town.
Artsy Salida July 7, 2015 Salida, CO
We woke up at our campsite in Westcliffe, CO this morning after a rainy cool night. We were at an RV park outside of town where we were given a very small site. The tents were so close together that I couldn’t extend my tent rain fly completely. However, my tent stayed nearly completely dry.
For the most part, any of this is for those who are more experienced than me or Randy. We asked what we should start with and she recommended an edible but warned us that the effects can take several hours and to be patient. She suggested that we start by sharing a cookie and see what happens.
As we headed out, the sky was very cloudy and threatening rain. The air temperature was in the low fifties and the humidity was high. This meant it would be a cold ride today.
We both felt that if we weren’t with the bike group and in a different circumstance, it would have been fun to experiment but decided to forgo this opportunity. Not sure if there would be a time I would feel comfortable imbibing. I feel like I’ve grown beyond the need to do pot.
The rain over the last few days had been pounding the mountains ahead of us. We were supposed to reach the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass at the end of the day and spend the night at a campground on the other side. However, with all of the rain, the campground was flooded. Luckily, we had planned to pass through Salida which is a charming Victorian artist community and decided to shift our destination there and add mileage to the next day to get us back on schedule. The other advantage was we would start the next day fresh as we climbed to the Continental Divide. Salida is laid out on a simple grid with a historic downtown centered on a small park. The Main Street is oriented toward the mountains one of which has a giant “S” signifying either Salida or the high school Spartans. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. The locals enjoy an artistic community with a variety of stores with great signage (that’s for my ASG signage colleagues). As Randy, Andrew, and I approached town we saw a dispensary. That’s Colorado speak for a retail store that sells marijuana. We had heard of these but hadn’t gone in so we decided to see what it was all about. First of all, no one under 21 is admitted and they card literally everyone. We were introduced to our guide and escorted to an upstairs room about the size of a small bedroom. On the counter were six clear glass jars with what looked like dried flower buds. We were told these were buds from six different types of marijuana plants. The three on the left would mellow out the user at various levels, while the three on the right would deliver various levels of energy and excitement. These were intended to be smoked. Below the jars was a glass display case with all kinds of oils, additives, and vaps for e-cigarettes. You can’t smoke pot in public but the e-cigarettes don’t give off the tell-tale odor of a joint and can allow the user to smoke in public. Behind the counter were some edibles which included cookies and brownies.
Regardless, we needed to get Andrew’s bike serviced so we decided to combine a bike shop trip with dinner. We went to the Salida Bike Company who took in his bike late in the day and did what they could, but said it needed a lot of work. They tried to help but didn’t have the parts he needed. He could still ride it safely but the bike wouldn’t be its most efficient.
While waiting for his bike repairs, we sought out a local watering hole. We ended up at the Benson’s Tavern and Beer Garden where Bob, Randy, Andrew, and I were surprised to see the owner of the Newton, Kansas bike shop sitting at the bar. He had biked to town with his business partner to scout out a location for a new bike hostel. He had quickly scoped out the good and bad bike shops and was looking for ways to partner with the better shops to send customers to his new hostel. He was quite focused on his acquisition and made short conversation before dashing out the door to meet the owner of a building he was interested in. We bellied up to the bar and made quick friends with the very knowledgeable bartender. We noticed there were many locally made beers on tap and proceeded to get an education from her on each. After tasting a few beers and choosing our favorites we felt obliged to order food. Bob ordered the Green Chili Cheese Fries as an appetizer. What arrived was about one thousand calories of guilty pleasure. The fries quickly disappeared and we ordered burgers, fries, and another round of beer.
We returned to the bike shop to pick up Andrew’s bike and met a customer who had a rather dirty mountain bike with a partial pannier in the back and other panniers all over it. He was racing the Great Divide mountain bike trail which starts in Banff, Alberta and ends in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. It is a 2,768 mile very difficult course which tests one’s biking and survival skills. The cyclist said the reason he had only one pannier on the back of his bike was because a bear ripped it off while he was trying to get away from it. No wonder he looked a little dazed. He was no longer in the competition but wanted to finish the course if he could. As it ends up, Andrew is very concerned he might be attacked by a bear while camping in the West. We reassured him it was unlikely but he didn’t seem convinced especially after the cyclists story. Time will tell if he becomes lunch for a bear. All in all, it was an entertaining day spent in a quaint historic western town with good food and fun.
Misty Monarch Pass July 8, 2015 The Continental Divide
Today was a momentous day. We were crossing the Continental Divide. Before today, all the streams we saw were working their way to the Atlantic Ocean. After today, streams would flow toward the Pacific and so would we. To get to the Divide we would need to climb, and climb, and climb some more. All together we climbed 4,500 vertical feet over 28 miles in a nearly constant push. On top of that it was misty and a little cool. Views were rather limited which didn’t really matter that much as most of the time our heads were down as we worked our way up to Monarch Pass. While the grind was long, the grade wasn’t all that steep. Just constant. We came across some road construction and had to ride through base layers, relatively fresh asphalt, and oil. Let’s say that the bikes needed deep cleaning after that. Once we reached the top, there was a small shop selling all kinds of touristy crap with unfriendly staff and a small cafe run by a high altitude version of the soup nazi. She was obsessed that no outside food could be consumed indoors. They were also rather snarky about where we parked our bikes. Maybe they were oxygen deprived and had turned into mountain trolls. So, Sally Darr took it upon herself to set up the route leader’s cook stove on a ledge outside the store and make hot chocolate for the riders who needed to warm up. She restored our faith in humanity and simple acts of kindness. Her can do attitude, thoughtfulness, consideration for the cyclists needs, and effectiveness is a welcome addition to the ride. Regardless, this moment was incredible. We had ridden our bicycles from the Atlantic coast to the Continental Divide. It took a minute to sink in. We were at 11,312 feet above sea level. Over 2 miles up from where we started. Incredible indeed. We couldn’t revel in our accomplishment all day. We still had over 40 miles to go before the day was done. While it was misty going up the pass, we were expecting rain on our 3,000 foot descent. Those of us who had rain gear put it on because during descents we can reach speeds between 20 to 50 mph and the wind chill can be severe.
Randy brought a poncho and a jacket. The combination created a striking effect. We are always thankful that Randy has a sense of adventure and always finds humorous ways to express himself. Needless to say, we all made it down from the pass and into Gunnison for the night. It was a very good day.
Mitch and Linda's Gift July 8, 2015 Gunnison, CO
Linda and her husband Mitch met while studying at what is now called Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, Colorado. It’s a beautiful small campus with a private university feel. Both claim they spent more time on the nearby ski slopes rather than studying. Their son also attended college here and they got to know the local restaurant scene pretty well. Their favorite became 5B’s Bar-B-Q not far from the campus. Linda is on the Bike the U.S. for MS Board and is a huge supporter of the organization. She also has MS but has ridden the entire Northern Tier, the Pueblo to Telluride segment, and now the TransAm. She is one of the reasons we ride. Over the last three years, Linda and Mitch have bought dinner at 5B’s BBQ for the TransAm team to mark the important accomplishment of crossing the Continental Divide. We are very grateful for their generosity. We needed high calories after climbing Monarch Pass and the restaurant didn’t disappoint. One of their unique dishes was called the Stuckey Shaker. It consists of pulled pork, jalapeños, onions, coleslaw, and cowboy beans served in layers in a mason jar. Matched with a 90 Shilling Ale from Odell Brewing in Fort Collins, it was an incredibly satisfying meal. Thanks again Linda and Mitch!!
It's Hard To Take a Bad Picture July 9, 2015 Montrose, CO
Entering into the middle of the Rockies we were rolling through broad valleys under incredibly blue skies interspersed with sculpted cloud formations. The president of the firm I work for in Baltimore attended college in Boulder and commented that what he missed most was the true blue skies of central Colorado. I now know what he was talking about. The sky is a brilliant blue. It reminds me of some of the colors Renaissance painters used. The combination of the sky, clouds, mountains, and trees cannot be adequately described in words so Iâ€™m just going to include pictures. Even these cannot match the real thing.
Dallas Divide July 9, 2015 Dallas Divide, CO
Today we had a forty mile long, 4,500 foot climb to Dallas Divide at 8,970 feet. We must be getting used to these climbs. Slow and steady wins the day. The spectrum of the landscape we passed through was pretty amazing. All day long we saw the snow capped peaks in the distance, not thinking we would get as close as we did. We were surprised to see Dr. Joeâ€™s wife and her friend waiting for us at Placerville. We knew they were going to meet us in Telluride for a few days. Needless to say, Iâ€™ve never seen Dr. Joe bike a ride segment so fast getting into Telluride.
ToHellURide July 10-11, 2015 Telluride, CO
Today we rode into Telluride and a well deserved day off. Telluride is the beautiful made up place that is part old west mining town and uber rich playground. Most of the buildings have been built in the last fifteen years to a very high design and materials quality. Regardless of the new-old nature of the place, the effect was cohesive and very rooted in its history and place. The design guidelines and review are doing their job! Telluride sits in a valley surrounded by more fourteeners (mountain peaks higher than 14,000 feet) than any other place in the U.S. Telluride was a silver mining town that was so remote, it was called “To Hell You Ride”. It was shortened to Telluride once it became a ski town. The ride into town was a 2,000 foot climb before a descent into the valley. There are trails radiating out in nearly every direction for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking. In the winter the slopes are calling. In the summer there is some sort of festival each weekend (our weekend had the Ride Festival with rock acts). This is an incredible foodie town which is also home to the iconic local microbrewery Telluride Brewing Company. My new favorite is Face Down Brown with a great label on the can. We made it to the brewery where they had more different beers available than in stores. Very tasty stuff indeed. Randy, Andrew, and I had a great breakfast at The Butcher & Baker Cafe. The food was good but it was really good to have a velvety latte after many weeks on the road. The town is filled with beautiful houses. And a great Main Street. We stayed at a local church a few blocks off of Main Street. Pastor Pat very generously allowed thirty stinky cyclist to shower in the parsonage. We are indebted to him. He said he actually looks forward to our groups visit because there is such a wide spectrum of people and interests. They see it as part of their ministry. On the team’s day off, people scattered to take advantage of mountain biking down ski runs, hiking into the mountains to visit beautiful waterfalls, shopping and eating their way along Main Street, as well as cleaning bikes, doing laundry, or organizing their cubbies. It was a great place to rest, relax, and refresh before continuing west.
Lizard Head Pass July 12, 2015 Telluride to Lizard Head Pass
We left Telluride after a relaxing day off exploring the town, great food, some hiking, and the necessary laundry and bike cleaning. Some people did extensive hikes up into the mountains while others rented mountain bikes. The morning we left Telluride, we rode our bikes from the church to the gondola which in winter ferries skiers from Telluride to Mountain Village and the various slopes. The gondolas have built in bike racks which allowed us to get over the mountain without a steep climb. Once at Mountain Village, the Elders had (a very expensive) basic breakfast and headed out for the day. The big climb of the day was Lizard Head Pass on the western side of the Rockies. As we rode, we kept seeing these snow covered peaks off in the distance thinking we would never reach them. One thing that is interesting about the West is its very difficult to discern how far or close natural features are because to the uninitiated scale is foreign. The climbs in the west aren’t necessarily steep but they can be very very long. That was the case today. Fortunately we’ve been extremely lucky with weather. The air temperature was in the upper fifties when we left and didn’t climb out of the low eighties. Winds were mostly to our backs and relatively low. The sky was filled with white fluffy clouds against an incredibly blue sky. It was a perfect weather day. As we continued our westward climb, that snow capped mountain range kept getting closer and closer. We passed Trout Lake up in the mountains which formed a beautiful reflection of the peaks. At another point was a pull off where we could admire a view of the valley behind us and reach our closest point to the jagged mountains. We continued climbing and finally reached the top of the pass at 10,220 feet. We knew this was the end of the Rockies and the landscape would begin to change as we rolled down into the next valley. We rolled into Rico, an old silver mining town on our way to Delores.
All Hail the Hail July 12-13, 2015 Delores, CO
Our campground was three miles east of the small town of Delores. While the campground had showers and a laundry, we needed to go into town for dinner. As we were pitching our tents, the sky began to darken. We had become accustomed to spotty afternoon storms in the mountains. It was clear we would get soaked if we didn’t go into town soon. Some had already been to town and suggested a restaurant because it was “cheap and gave you a lot of food.” As it was a hard day of climbing Lizard Head Pass, calories were important. After Randy spent about twenty minutes restoring power to the trailer (which hadn’t worked in weeks) we decided to get some dinner. Thank you Randy for taking the initiative and leadership to fix the trailer. Randy, Andrew, and I headed into town and found the restaurant. It was a little dated and clearly needed the business. We sat down, ordered an entrée, and headed to the salad bar. By then we were joined by Sally, Dick, and Fast Matt. Our orders arrived but frankly the food was rather disappointing. We finished our meals and decided to go further into town at a microbrewery I noticed on the map. I’ve found that microbreweries are often some of the best places because they are usually newer, the food is generally great, and of course there’s really good unique beer. The Delores River Brewing Company did not disappoint. The atmosphere, food, and beer were outstanding. Their motto is “All Work and No Play is No Good at All.” They also have a great Inuit inspired logo. While we were having our beer, we noticed that another storm was coming in. The sky turned very dark and it started lightning. The next thing we knew it started to hail marble sized chunks of ice. More hail came down, and more, and more until the street was covered. We were glad we weren’t outside as Randy, Andrew, and I had ridden our bikes from camp. After the hail stopped, Sally, Dick, and Matt drove back to camp while the three of us decided to wait out the remainder of the storm by enjoying another beer.
Utah Border July 13, 2015 Blanding, Utah Well, one beer turned into another as several more storm cells passed overhead. The brewery had a wood fired pizza oven and was punching out beautiful thin crust pizzas. Since dinner was less than hoped for I ordered a white pizza with spinach. Originally Randy and Andrew said they werenâ€™t hungry, but somehow the pie disappeared while we listened to Randyâ€™s tales of adventure. We looked around the bar and noticed that on nearly every wall was a framed signed poster from different bands. The waitress said that musical acts pass through the bar on a regular basis and the bar produces a promotional poster for each one. Over the years a lot of bands had passed through. We can only imagine how rocking the place must be with a band playing in the corner of this small bar. By now the storms had subsided and we needed to head back to camp. Fortunately Andrew had a front light.
We left Delores and continued west toward the Utah state line. It was clear we were no longer in the Rockies as the terrain had flattened and returned to agriculture. It seemed we were back in Kansas again, but the road was smooth, the shoulder was wide, and there was very little traffic. In addition, the weather had cleared, the temperature was in the low eighties, and we had a slight tailwind. All was good. As we rolled over a little hill we suddenly saw a building on our right called The Last Chance. It was the last chance for those leaving Colorado to buy booze before entering dry Utah. The building was literally at the state line. I suppose it could also be the first chance for those leaving Utah to get a drink. Either way it was amusing to see. Utah had erected a large welcome sign at the border and as we had begun doing the team gathered under the sign to celebrate crossing into the next state. As we finished the celebration and started our ride we noticed something very important. The quality of the road had changed. What was smooth with a wide shoulder in Colorado was now more like a lava flow. The shoulder had shrunk and the edge was crumbling. It was not a great introduction to the state. The conditions didnâ€™t improve much as we pedaled on to Blandings. We were worried that this would be the norm. We will have the next week to find out.
July 14, 2015 Natural Bridges National Monument, UT As we rode into Utah we noticed that the landscape can change very quickly. Flat agricultural land morphs into rolling hills with rock outcroppings to sandstone cliffs to buttes to mesas to canyons. Often in the same day. That happened today. Around every bend in the road, our surroundings changed. Because of these unique and precious landforms there are numerous state parks, national monuments, and national parks to protect and preserve these fragile environments. The TransAm trail intersects or at least gets close to some of these places especially in Utah. Natural Bridges National Monument is one of the first of these places we will encounter in Utah. Randy, Bob, Andrew, and I wanted to see the park so we headed out early to beat the heat. As we left camp in Blanding around 6:30 the sun was coming up, the temperature was comfortable, and we had some cloud cover. The landscape changed into the desert with sandstone walls and canyons. It was so quiet, I could hear the metal expanding in the guard rails as the sun began to heat up the air. About 35 miles out we crossed Salvation Summit at 7,100 feet where Mormon pioneers were able to orient their wagon train to the Blue Mesa. From here it would generally be a five mile descent to the park entrance. We entered the park and dropped down into the valley to the visitors center. We tried to stay awake while watching a short film on the park, but with all of the biking, any time we sit still we tend to fall asleep especially in a darkened room. We were able to wake up and hop back on our bikes to see the bridges. The canyon was an ancient sea bed which has been carved into canyons by water. Due to the different densities and fissures in the rock, the stream tended to meander in tight curves. Over the years, flood waters would cascade through the canyons and scour out the rock at the river bends resulting in the lower stone getting cut away leaving a natural bridge above. These fragile shapes can span short or long distances. What makes these bridges special is the spans are over 100 feet long. The park has three such bridges close together.
Another landmark that is very visible is Bears Ears Mesa. Navajo legend has it that there was a beautiful woman named Changing-Bear-Maiden who was desired by many men. She refused them all. Coyote was very devious and convinced her to marry him. Her brothers warned her that if she married Coyote she would turn to evil. She didnâ€™t listen to her brothers and married Coyote. By winters end she had turned into a mischievous bear. To save her, the brothers had to change her into another form. So they killed her, cut off her ears and threw them away. Those became the mesas that are visible from Mesa Verde in Colorado and Monument Valley in Utah.
The Former Lake Powell July 15, 2015 Glenn Canyon, Utah
The landscape became even more wonderful today. It was alien and otherworldly while at the same time it was familiar as it looked like the locations for western movies. Lake Powell was formed by damming Glenn Canyon. The result was a huge water body extending over a hundred miles. The lake not only controlled the flow of the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon, it also generated hydroelectricity and spawned numerous resorts around its shores. Today, much of the Lake has been drained. I havenâ€™t researched why but I suspect decades of drought, water use agreements, and downstream needs has caused the water to disappear. When the Western Express bike route was laid out decades ago, this would have been a great stop along the way. Now it is dry and desolate.
Riding the Red Rocket
July 15-16, 2015 Hanksville, Moab, Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Monument, UT We were biking from the former Lake Powell through an incredible landscape of red sandstone buttes, mesas, and canyons. It felt like we were on Mars. It was a short day with about 60 miles total. About fifteen miles in I noticed a clicking sound coming from my crank. At first I thought I was hitting something like my pump with the crank arm, but the sound was more mechanical. I rode the remaining five miles to the rest stop and had Connor look it over. He rode it around a little (Linda thought the sight of Connor on my bike was hilarious as it’s a big bike). His diagnosis was it wasn’t a good sound but he thought the bearings had gone dry and some lube should get me back on the road. I hopped back on the bike and rode it for about five miles sound free. Then the sound came back. First with a few clicks, then more, then the crank began a slight wobble. It wasn’t good indeed. By the time I made it to the next rest stop it was creaking and wobbling a lot. At this point the bike couldn’t continue. Dick Darr’s daughter Molly had joined the team as a segment rider along with Dick’s wife Sally as a segment route leader. Sally and Molly had driven from Virginia with Molly’s bike on the car rack. She borrowed the bike from her boyfriend and rode the segment from Pueblo over Monarch Pass to Gunnison. Molly had to return to Virginia to participate in a wedding but left the bike. Fast Matt thought Molly’s bike may be a good temporary substitute but I was a little skeptical as I’m 6′-2″ with a 35″ inseam. When we reached the next rest stop, Sally was there with the bike so I asked her if she thought it would be okay for me to use the bike. She of course said yes and I took it for a test spin after raising the seat as high as I could. During my ride, Fast Matt, Dr. Joe, and Randy were working to take the pedals, bags, and seat off my bike. It was like having an Indy pit crew for my bike. Before I knew it, I was back on the road mastering the thumb shifters on Molly’s bike. I rode it for the remaining twenty miles into Hanksville. The bike was a joy to ride. I had forgotten how good steel bikes feel on the road. I rocketed into Hanksville on relatively flat terrain. Since the day was short, I was in town around 12:30. My bike needed serious service but I was unsure where the nearest bike shop was. I finally had a cellular signal and looked for the nearest Trek dealer. Up came two equidistant choices: Richfield or Moab. Clearly Moab was the choice to make.
When Sally and Dick arrived in Hanksville I sprung the proposition of a road trip and they immediately jumped on the opportunity to take me to Moab and as a bonus do a quick tour of Arches National Park. I helped excavate the contents of the car, got cleaned up, loaded my bike, invited Connor to join us, and hit the road. We took the bike to Poison Spider Bicycles in Moab which not only has a cool name but is a very cool shop.
I made it out of the park and ended up riding a little over 50 miles that day. Combined with the 20 from the previous day, I rode the Red Rocket a little over 70 miles.
We had a few hours before the shop closed so we made a bee line to Arches. As we approached we noticed that a storm cell was also headed to the park. While we were disappointed that we didn’t have full sun, the storm made for a unique experience of the park. At one moment it looked like Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments on top of a butte.
I’m also thankful for Sally and Dick who were generous enough to take me to Moab to get my bike fixed. Both are key members of the team. It’s clear they have a true partnership and are an inspiration to me.
As we drove around the park, the rain picked up and was quite intense for a short while. The result was waterfalls formed on many of the rock formations. It was a beautiful reward for suffering with the rain. We drove by Balance Rock, Pothole Arch, the Garden of Eden, and Double Arch shooting pictures from the car window. The rain finally began to let up, so Connor and I literally ran up to Double Arch for a closer view. It was worth it. Connor was giggling the whole way and kept saying cool! By now it was getting close to closing time for the bike shop, so reluctantly we headed back to town. When we got to the shop the mechanic had good news and bad news. The good news was the bike was repaired. The bad news was the rocking motion of the crank was grinding on the frame. When they opened up the crank, all of the bearings fell out on the floor. To repair it, they had to insert an epoxy filler between the frame and the bottom bracket. It would take a full 24 hours for the cement to set. That meant I needed to borrow Molly’s bike one more day. Capitol Reef National Park was on the next day’s itinerary. I was unfamiliar with the park, but was excited about seeing petroglyphs, riding through a beautiful canyon, and getting the legendary pie they serve at a restored farmstead inside the park. All were fantastic as expected. Up to this point the ride was on relatively flat or rolling terrain. However, as we left the visitors center, we had a significant climb. Since Molly’s bike was a little small for me, I wasn’t getting the leverage I was used to. However, I completed the climb strong
and was glad to have the steel frame.
I was so glad to have access to Molly’s bike. It saved me from having to sag for a day and a half. Thank you Molly!!
Hogs Backbone July 17, 2015 Escalante, UT
We left our Ponderosa Pine filled campground at 8,000 feet and climbed to 9,600 feet to a beautiful overlook. It was a great way to start the day. As we descended there was another overlook with spectacular views. We continued our descent into the town of Boulder and visited the Anasazi Museum which had a great selection of Native American contemporary pottery, turquoise jewelry, rugs, as well as smaller mementos. Most team members went to a beautiful little restaurant for a delicious (and somewhat expensive) second breakfast then proceeded toward the Escalante Staircase National Monument. The landscape changed back to the rugged sandstone canyons we’ve become accustomed to however we quickly found ourselves riding along a ridge line with steep drop offs on both sides of the road. As we rounded the bend in the road there was a sign warning drivers about the 14% slope ahead. We knew this was going to be an intense roller coaster ride. The views on both sides of the road were breathtaking. That is to say they were beautiful and frightening at the same time.
We did a rapid seven mile descent with lots of switchbacks, reaching speeds into the thirties as we dropped down to the Escalante River. Then began the steep climb out of the canyon. There would be more pictures, but I was hesitant to stop as there wasn’t a shoulder or pull offs. Trust me, the scenery was spectacular. The road wound its way up around bluffs rising up the same amount as we had just dropped into the canyon. The climb was rewarded with an incredible overlook of the entire valley. If you look closely at the photos, you will be able to see the road slithering up from the canyon floor. The day ended in the town of Escalante which was the starting point of the Hole in the Rock Mormon pioneer expedition from Salt Lake City to the southeast corner of the state. Their biggest obstacle was crossing the Colorado River Gorge. The Mormons literally cut a slot down the Colorado River Gorge to bring their wagons across. They were made of tougher stuff than we are today. But they didn’t have bicycles.
July 18, 2015 Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah Today was another day full of anticipation. The route came within spitting distance of Bryce Canyon and it would be a sin not to visit while we were here. On the way however, John Kim was in a bike accident and went down onto the gravel shoulder cutting his palm rather deeply. It began bleeding badly and his fellow riders used some tape to try to contain the wound.
Once there, it was a short hike to one of the most spectacular overlooks I’ve seen on this trip. We walked about a mile along the Rim Trail seeing different viewpoints of the canyon of red sandstone spires, hoodoos, and windows. The canyon is a unique location as all around it is a rolling landscape of pines and grasses. Along the trail, if you looked to the left you saw trees, to the right the canyon. Unfortunately, a storm was rolling in so we had to cut our visit short.
The Elders came upon the scene and Dr. Joe jumped into action. He assessed the injury and determined that John needed stitches. Luckily Joe had a small travel med kit but it was in the trailer which was four miles up the road. He thought he might need to treat John Kim right away so I rode ahead to see if I could get a signal to call the route leaders. At the top of the hill I was able to reach Stephanie who dispatched Connor in the lead van. Dr. Joe was able to wrap the wound enough that John felt he could manage biking to the van.
We jumped on the shuttle, grabbed our bikes, and made a beeline to our campsite fourteen miles away. On the way the skies opened up and the temperature dropped. By the time we made it to camp we were soaked and shivering.
We made our way to the rest stop where nearly all of the riders hung out while Dr. Joe set up a temporary surgical suite on top of a water jug. Eric is a nursing student and assisted while John was getting patched up.
It was an incredible day.
Needless to say, it made for a memorable event and John was able to complete the day’s ride. If Dr. Joe wasn’t on the tour, John would have required a visit to the ER and would likely have taken one of the vans off line and eliminated John from riding. We are once again thankful to have Dr. Joe’s expertise along for the ride. Now, about his hourly rate……. With the medical emergency over, Randy, Andrew, Dr. Joe, Linda, and I continued on the ride and entered Bryce Canyon National Park. We locked up our bikes, and hopped on the park shuttle all the way down to Bryce Point at the south end of the park.
Luckily, Connor’s family was visiting and generously provided pizza, cookies, chocolate cake, and beer for the team. We warmed up by a camp fire, fed our bellies, set up our tents, and slept well after an eventful day.
July 22, 2015 Utah to Nevada Today we transitioned from Utah to Nevada. Utah was a nearly constantly changing landscape ranging from the flat lands, to rugged canyons, to sandstone mesas and buttes, to the spires of Bryce Canyon. We are now rolling through the desert basins of the western edge of the state. Today was a repeating pattern of basins, faults, and peaks over a distance of 86 miles. We crossed three ranges: Frisco, Wah-Wah, and Half Summit. On our maps, the profiles looked steep but in reality the basins were extremely long shallow climbs punctuated with a steep rise up the faults then quick descents back down into the next basin. (Rinse and repeat.) Crossing the basins of nearly flat land over a distance of twenty miles between ridges, it reminded me a bit of crossing Kansas. Or perhaps more of an inversion of Kansas. In Kansas there was an 360 degree horizon of amber wheat fields which intersected an endless sky. The road was often straight as an arrow similar to your first lesson in drawing a one point perspective. Landmarks were grain elevators and water towers in towns spaced roughly twenty miles apart. These vertical elements were nearly the only things that broke the horizon line. In western Utah, there was the straight road and horizon line but the differences were instead of grain, the basin floor was filled with sage brush and the horizon line was connected to the sky by the fault lines or mountains instead of grain elevators and water towers. The sky was equally blue and filled with white fluffy clouds in an ever changing pattern.
The basins have a limited visual interest and given the time to cross them, one’s mind begins to wander. In some ways it’s a cross of meditation and forced distraction. My thoughts ranged from composing this blog, to music, to movies, to work, to family, to finishing the trip, among other random thoughts . Occasionally I would pass another cyclist or catch up with the Elders and have brief conversations. But most of the time, like most of the cyclists, I was riding alone at my own pace. It stuck me that the desert is an important element in the development of philosophy and most of the world’s religions. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Moses, and Abraham all had their times in the desert to contemplate their place in the world. I can see where separating oneself from the day to day grind is important to bolster one’s identity and come back more focused on what is important. Native Americans would send young men out into the wilderness to transition from boys to men. Riding through this environment, I can only imagine the challenge these young teens faced alone in this inhospitable place. Grit is defined as firmness of character; indomitable spirit; or pluck. Crossing the desert requires grit to get across. It also is an opportunity to contemplate, clear your mind, and think deeply about what you want out of your life. Everyone should have this opportunity. While I don’t think I spent enough time in the desert to reach meaningful conclusions, I can appreciate the power of the desert. We will be spending more time in the desert this week. I’m sure much more contemplation is in my immediate future.
July 24, 2015 Middle of Nevada Crossing into Nevada, we were introduced to the basin, fault, range landscape typology where fifteen mile long flat basins were punctuated by steep 1,000 to 1,500 foot climbs then steep descents back into the basins. The first day the winds and temperatures were moderate and made the ride rather enjoyable if not contemplative. The second day, the conditions changed. The ride was a short sixty miles, so we expected the day to be easy. The first twenty miles crossed a basin then had the typical climb. Ryan casually mentioned that the next basin was full of wind turbines and it could be a little windy. Ryan is an English professor and apparently has a gift for understatement. We crossed the peak and began our descent into the basin when we were met with a stiff headwind that nearly stopped us in our path and required us to pedal just to get downhill. From the peak we had a broad view of the wind turbine array which had row after row of these huge whirlygigs. After our descent, the road shifted due south directly into the wind. The sun was out and the desert heat dried us out. We were drinking our water like mad just trying to stay hydrated. It seemed like we would never get around the array. Plus we still had a five mile steep climb once we were out of the basin. What was twenty miles felt like forty. Luckily, Sally thought ahead and was stationed at the end of the array with ice cold water and snacks to restore us. Without her help, the day could have been much worse. Sally once again was our ride angel. Getting through windmill basin was only two-thirds of the ride. We continued to push on with the climb, windy descent, and arrival into Ely. It was one of the hardest days weâ€™ve had on the ride and we were glad it was over. To get through the day not only required grit, it required true grit.
The Old Goldmine July 24, 2015 Eureka, Nevada
After climbing a steep hill we had a fast descent down into the historic mining town of Eureka. It has a classic old west Main Street with a beautiful opera house, saloon/hotel, and courthouse. Randy had arrived earlier in the day and was itching to explore the abandoned gold mines around the town. As usual he struck up a conversation with a local who advised where to find one. We headed out of town up a hill and soon reached the top where the ruins of the old mine lay. It was evident that the area had been a mining site for a long time. There were several test pits around the site and evidence that one of the pits had been deeply mined. Old decrepit wooden buildings were literally falling in on themselves while other buildings dating from the 70’s were mostly intact. There was an old oak water tower that looked like it could still be used today. Next to it was a tall steel water tower which was the landmark for the mine. We explored the site for awhile and felt we had covered everything when I heard Randy call out to me asking where I was. He sounded very close but I couldn’t see him as I scanned around. When he called out again I realized his voice was coming from above me. I looked up and found Randy climbing the steel water tower. Fortunately he didn’t climb the leg with the ladder to get up to the catwalk. While the legs were most likely stable, the catwalk probably wasn’t. Randy being the instigator-adventurer, had no qualms about entering any building despite written warnings. It’s always an adventure when you hang with Randy. Gotta love the guy.
To Tahoe We Go July 26-29, 2015 Lake Tahoe, NV and CA
Randy and I rode into Middlegate, NV and had lunch with Bob as we waited for the team to arrive. Middlegate is a hotel, trailer park, restaurant, bar, gas station, and campground which originally was a Pony Express station sitting in the middle of the western Nevada desert. It’s the only thing in this part of the desert for twenty miles in any direction. This was a day that was highly anticipated by the team because of the monster burger challenge. The monster burger challenge consists of the participant eating, in one sitting, a burger made with three one-third pound hamburgers with four buns, onions, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, cheese, special sauce, onion rings, two huge olives, and a double order of fries. The prize: a T-shirt. Eight team members took on the challenge and, I’m happy to report, were successful, if you can call eating five pounds of fast food in one sitting successful. Most of the participants were young and invincible and I’m sure had little or no ill effects. While awaiting the rest of the team’s arrival, Randy, Bob, and I started looking at the maps and felt it a shame to be within thirty miles of Lake Tahoe and not visit. So, we put together a scheme to do just that. The Middlegate day was short. Only sixty miles. We were done with the ride and lunch by 1:00 PM. We had the whole afternoon ahead of us. The next day was supposed to also be short with only forty-eight miles to Fallon. We could tack the Fallon trip onto the Middlegate day and end up being ahead of schedule. We could then ride from Fallon to Carson City and if we felt up to it, ride up to Lake Tahoe. Then we would have an entire day in Tahoe to play. It seemed a reasonable plan. However, we were in the desert. The weather on our entire trip has been unseasonably cool. At this time of year, the average temperature in this part of Nevada is usually in the nineties to low hundreds. The expected high was in the upper eighties with a heat index in the low nineties. The winds were expected to be from the west with gusts up to twenty miles per hour. We knew it would be a challenging ride.
Some in the group were concerned about us venturing out alone but we were able to carry plenty of water and food plus we felt we were in good shape after riding over 3,200 miles. We felt confident we could make it. So we packed up and headed out. We had two climbs in the first twenty miles then we hit the salt flats for the next twenty. With nothing to stop the wind we were pelted. All we could hear was the wind as it scraped by our ears. The force against our bodies required hard pedaling the whole way. We are usually faster than Bob in his recumbent bike, but today he set the pace and we had a hard time keeping up with him. Damn his low profile and reduced wind resistance.
We regrouped and began our 1,000 foot descent to the Lake. At one point the view opened up and we could see the shimmering water beyond. It was a grand sight. We continued our descent and would stop at overlooks as we rode about fifteen miles along the southwestern quadrant. As we had climbed out of Carson City, the landscape changed into a thick pine forest. The trees were straight as could be and rose out of granite boulder outcroppings. The steep slopes cascading down to the bright blue water made for an inspiring place and very different from the forbidding salt flats. Randy has a friend who has a cabin on the Lake. He arranged for us to stay there for two nights as the payoff for two days of intense riding. Having a full day at Tahoe was incredible.
We knew however that Lake Tahoe was waiting for us. That goal kept us going. We finally reached Harmon Junction and refilled our water bottles, drank some Gatorade and iced coffee, then rode the last six miles into Fallon. We spent the night in a Super 8 and had no trouble falling asleep. The next day, the temperatures were cool and the winds had died down. We pedaled the sixty miles to Carson City on the mostly flat course with no trouble arriving at lunch time. We stopped at a Pollo Locco and decided to ride the last thirty miles to Lake Tahoe. Twenty miles outside of Carson City, we could see the western side of the Sierra Nevadas. We knew this was our last range to cross on our trip. To get to Lake Tahoe we had to climb 2,500 feet over ten miles after riding sixty miles. As we’ve learned in our previous climbs, slow and steady wins the day. So we climbed and climbed and climbed until before we knew it, we were at the top.
Our plan for the day off was to sea kayak and parasail but the winds on the lake made both impractical. So we had to find other activities. Bob and I have lost enough weight that our pants were literally falling off of us, so we decided to take advantage of the down time to visit a thrift store and buy new shorts. Bob grabbed the next size down but thought they looked big. He grabbed the next size down and headed to the dressing room. He was astonished to find he had lost 4″ off of his waist. I did the same and found I could fit in pants I hadn’t fit in since high school. If you want to lose weight, I highly recommend doing a cross country bike ride. Bob was so excited that he was back to his Marine pants size that he spent what seemed like the rest of the day calling his family and friends to share the news. With our new clothes we headed back to the cabin to contemplate our next activity. About our only option was to hop on our bikes and explore the area around the lake.
Emerald Bay is a protected cove on the southwest corner of the lake. It’s been used for thousands of years by the native Americans as a summer camp with plentiful hunting and fishing. In the twentieth century it was owned by a wealthy heiress who built a mansion on its shore. In the middle of the bay is a granite island on which she built a tea house on its highest point. Her servants would row her out to the island and leave her there to read, meditate, or entertain guests. The tea house had commanding views of the mountains as well as the inlet to the cove and the broad lake beyond. To get to Emerald Bay the road was cut into the hillside and rises appreciably with numerous switchbacks. As we climbed up the hillside we reached a high point when I realized we were riding along a ridge line that was only the width of the road. The grade dropped quickly on both sides. On the one side was Emerald Bay. On the other was Cascade Lake, another glacial lake. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic because there wasn’t any shoulder. We had to take the lane. It felt like we were on Hogsback again. From there we dropped down to an overlook of the bay. It was beautiful. On our way up to Emerald Bay, we stopped at Camp Richardson which is a family oriented beach and campground. Randy said that on weekends there are bands that play on the beach and it’s a great time. He also mentioned that the small ice cream shop had the best ice cream in the world. So on the way back we stopped to get some. We waited in line for about an hour. But it was worth it. We woke up the next morning and found that the winds had calmed so we called the parasailing outfit and got a reservation. We raced down to the dock and got on the first boat. Once out on the lake, they harnessed Bob and me up to the parachute, revved up the engines, and we gently rose off the back of the boat. They slowly let out the line and we went up about 1,000 feet for about fifteen minutes. It was an incredible unexpected bucket list adventure. Thanks again to Randy for being the instigator-adventurer and arranging to get the cabin, organizing the ride, and pushing us to parasail.
July 30, 2015 Kit Carson Pass, California Today was our last big climb over Kit Carson Pass in the Sierra Nevadas. It was a little bittersweet as it was the last one but also it marked the beginning of the end of the ride. Both have elements of sadness and accomplishment. As has been the case over the last few days, the scenery and views were amazing. The broad vistas across wooded valleys with the horizon dotted with mountain peaks made it hard to leave. Nigh rode from Carson City up to Lake Tahoe early on Wednesday morning. Nigh is an expert cyclist who loves to climb hills so the 2,500 foot climb out of Carson City to Tahoe was nothing to him. But we needed to return to the group so after cleaning up the cabin, Randy, Nigh, Bob, and I headed out. Randy lives in Sacramento so this area is really his backyard. He knows a lot of places to go and see so traveling with him was a new adventure. He took us up to Luther Pass on an old road that switch backed through a beautiful forest. While some of the sections were steep, it was worth it. Once we made it to Luther Pass we had a nice descent into a valley where we could get back on route and connect with the rest of the team. As an added bonus, Randy wanted to take us to a restaurant called Sorensons for pie.
As we approached the restaurant we saw many of our teammates pass saying they had stopped there as well. They all seemed full and happy so we knew it had to be good. Pies, huge fresh baked cookies the size of salad plates, beautiful scones, and homemade vanilla ice cream awaited us. Nigh had a great burger and fries as his second breakfast. I had the oatmeal pecan butterscotch pie alamode. It was completely decadent. On this trip, itâ€™s all about the food. And we caught Randy taking a nap. GOTCHA BIG GUY! Revenge is sweet. The road leading to the pass wound through hills filled with pine forests and alpine meadows. We continued climbing and began to see the peaks of the mountains behind us. The roads were generally in good condition due to regular maintenance by the DOT. However, maintenance is something that is ongoing. As we approached the summit, a road crew was repaving the last mile to the top. Flag men were monitoring traffic as only one lane was open. We rode up to the flagman and struck up a conversation. He asked that we follow the cars up so they could move on. At the appropriate time he gave us the okay and we were off. We had arrived late in the day and were riding on the finish course of the road. While the asphalt was soft, it was fairly ridable. About a third of the way up we noticed that our tires were coated with oil, asphalt, and small gravel. We felt like we
were pushing an extra fifty pounds up the hill. It was about that time that a piece of gravel stuck to my tire, rolled around and lodged itself against my brake stopping the wheel from turning. I had to hop off my bike and release the wheel. We knew the flagmen were waiting on us so we pushed along the best we could. About two-thirds of the way up we looked ahead and saw that the flagman at the top of the hill released the oncoming traffic right on top of us. We looked around to find an alternative path and our only option was to ride on the freshly laid steaming asphalt dodging a steamroller. We rolled across the volcano heat fully expecting our tires to melt. Needless to say, we were less than happy, but it wasnâ€™t the first time we had been nearly run over in a construction site. Once we got to the top we assessed our bikes. They were splattered with the road components and looked like the road. As we scraped off the gravel we looked up and saw an incredible view towards the mountains. Once we were over the pass we had a great descent down towards our destination. We passed lakes and an incredible canyon. Just when you think it couldnâ€™t get any better, it does.
July 31, 2015 University of California, Davis Today I had a chance to visit UC Davis one of the most bike friendly campuses and cities in the U.S. The campus comprises over 5,300 acres and is split up into precincts or neighborhoods. The historic core is centered on a large quad filled with native California and some exotic trees laid out in an informal pattern. The edges are framed by street trees forming a continuous canopy of branches and leaves. The campus is unique in how it handles circulation. Automobile traffic is generally at the campus perimeter with a few strategic corridors in the middle. What might have been roads at one time inside the campus have been transformed into twoway striped bikeways. Bike roundabouts handle conflicting flows where two bikeways cross. Sidewalks line one or both sides of the bikeways. The system is logical, providing easy access across this huge sprawling campus. I visited campus on a July weekday morning. There were relatively few people on campus. While the system seemed workable, I would love to come back and observe the campus while classes are in session especially at class change time. I wonder if there would be pedestrian-cyclist conflicts, if bike parking would be adequate, and if the sidewalks would be wide enough. I will just need to find an excuse to return. Bike access is emphasized in the town as well with numerous sharrows, bike routes, and dedicated bike paths. On major streets there are bike signals at intersections incorporated into the standard traffic signals. There is signage instructing cyclist to obey the bicycle signals. In addition, Davis is the home of the Bicycling Hall of Fame and has an incredible collection of antique bicycles as well as racing memorabilia. Their website does a good job of showing parts of the collection.
Arriving San Francisco August 1, 2015 San Francisco, CA
It has been an incredible journey. 3,800 miles, across nine states, from Yorktown, VA to San Francisco, CA in 62 days at an average speed of 15 MPH. Traveling with an amazing group of people who didn’t know each other on the day we started but are now linked by this shared experience was the real benefit of the ride. We all have made lifelong friends along the way. Each person probably has a special relationship with a few others who were of similar speed, skill, or riding preference. Some would ride primarily alone then meet up with others at rest stops or share a meal. Others would stay in a group nearly all day. The age range was in two basic groups: late teens to early twenties and above fifty (The Elders). To a certain extent the social circles were defined by this split but everyone got to know everyone else fairly well. Needless to say, all of the participants were highly intelligent, energetic, enthusiastic, friendly, cooperative, clever, interesting, and unique. To take on a cross country ride like this, you have to be driven (no pun intended). One of the riders, Dick Darr, deserves a special award. Right before the trip he was diagnosed with a heart ailment which required him to keep his heart rate low. He was given medication which capped his heart rate at 85 bpm. This meant he had to stay at a slow speed the whole way. Because of that he would often not be able to catch up to rest stops and was always the last to come in at night. But he was determined to finish. With minimal support in the beginning he kept on pushing. In Pueblo, his wife Sally and daughter Molly joined the team. Sally as a segment ride leader and Molly as a segment rider. Sally became our road angel. She would notice if we were cold at the Continental Divide and make us hot chocolate, meet us after a long hot and windy segment to replenish our drained water bottles and offer us cookies for quick energy, she drove back 17 miles to retrieve Bob’s bike flag, she and Dick drove me to Moab to get my bike repaired and loaned me Molly’s bike for a few days, among many other times she saved our butts. Thank you Sally.
Hanging and riding with the Elders, Randy, Andrew, Dick, Sally, and Bob I got to know and depend on people like never before. Their companionship along the way, the pacelines across Kansas, and patience as I struggled to climb steep grades in the beginning will not be forgotten. Dr. Joe wasn’t planning on becoming our team physician but his services were invaluable. He probably consulted with every rider ranging from saddle sores to stitching up a severe cut on the side of the road. Without him, there would have been at least a few ER visits and lost days for several riders. His sense of humor along with his great bedside manner reassured us about the minor things and dealt with precision on the major ones. Thank you, Dr. Joe for everything. Side trips made the ride special. Visiting the Makers Mark distillery in Kentucky with the Elders. Going on adventures with Randy to explore a campus, visit an old abandoned gold mine, and take a side trip to Lake Tahoe were especially memorable. The generosity of people along the way to fix us meals, open up churches and firehouses for us, and the occasional meal or beer tab picked up by people who felt we were doing something very important was greatly appreciated. The little things like a warm shower, a big breakfast, even finding a gas station in some of the ghost towns we visited were daily accomplishments or destinations. The occasional hotel with a bed, sheets, and a pillow were important relief along the way. Looking back through the thousand photos I took makes me recall how much land we covered. Some days the landscape would change by the hour. Other days you were clicking off the miles looking for the next town’s water tower.
Our ride covered flats, hills, steep hills, long climbs, rollers, fast descents, good roads, bumpy roads, bad roads, sun, shade, cloud cover, rain, hail, heat, cold, high humidity and bone dry. Each day we checked where we were going, the terrain, the weather and packed accordingly. Some days we needed layers. Others we needed more water or food. But we rode no matter what. Our bikes took a beating. Mine especially. I cracked my rear wheel rim and replaced my rear cassette and chain in Kansas, crushed my crank bearings and bottom bracket requiring extensive repairs in Utah, and beat up my rear dérailleur in Tahoe. I had five flats and went through three rear tires. But the bike made it across the country. And so did I. The reason I did this ride in the beginning was rather selfish. I wanted to see if I could do it. I did it at this time because I didn’t want to wait another ten to fifteen years when I retired. I was concerned I wouldn’t physically be able to complete the ride then. I didn’t want to ride it alone. That would be too much. Seeing the solo riders on the road loaded down with all of their gear was inspiring but not for me at this time. I needed to be supported on this first long jaunt. I wanted to find a group that had been doing this for awhile and supported a great cause. The money we raised will benefit many who are suffering from MS. The ride had its moments of frustration as well as times of inspiration and breathtaking beauty across this great country. I’m glad I did it. Some people speculated that at the end of the trip I would gladly chuck my bike into the Pacific. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Now I’m looking for my next long bike excursion.
Post Ride Ride August 2, 2015 San Francisco, CA
Well, not surprisingly, I went into bike withdrawal. I wanted back the freedom to move about the city and explore at my own pace. I had dropped off my bike at a bike shop to have it shipped back to Baltimore but they said they couldn’t get to it until Tuesday. So, that meant it was still intact. We decided that my wife and two sons would go to the Exploratorium while I zipped around Golden Gate Park. What a great ride. It was a great ride around the city. San Francisco is densely packed with mostly two to four story buildings on a grid which is draped over steep ridges. Some of the streets were crazy steep but they were fun to ride on. I’d love to come back and explore some more. It was with great sadness that I had to temporarily say goodbye to my bike. After 62 days it became a bit of an addiction. The freedom it offered to go explore a new place each day was thrilling. Not being sure we’d survive the roads, hills, weather, or traffic was the daily challenge. But the daily destination kept us moving. The changing landscapes were unexpected. The people we met, both good and bad, were interesting. Having friends ride with you made it all worthwhile. I already miss them.
Follow Kevin as he crosses the country on his bike from Virginia to San Francisco with 30 members of the Bike the US for MS team. Relive th...
Published on Jun 10, 2018
Follow Kevin as he crosses the country on his bike from Virginia to San Francisco with 30 members of the Bike the US for MS team. Relive th...