Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 20 Crossing the Mississippi River

I am going to be making this short and sweet again, but today was a very good day!  I think it was one of my best cycling days of the trip.  My legs were loose and my hips were pain free.  Plus, we did not have any substantial hills on the way out so I did not get dropped as fast as I normally do and rode into the sag stops with others. 

The highlight of the day was crossing the Mississippi River.  Why this meant so much, I don't know, but I have always loved the Mississippi and have enjoyed crossing it by car in Vicksburg and the several different times on my trip to Wisconsin in 2005. The bridge over the river was nice and wide compared to the bridge at Greenville, MS/Lake Village, AR.  We also crossed early enough in the morning that there was not much traffic. 

When I got in this afternoon, Susan Reed was already here.  Susan and I met over email thanks to Rob Welch.  We have been emailing each other since March and she really helped me with tips to prepare for this trip!  She and I will cycle to Danville together tomorrow before she heads back to the Chicago area on Monday.

Rebecca H (Lon and Susan's daughter), Paul from Australia, and Mark from Indiana in the sag van after the rain yesterday. 

First view of the Mississippi River from Iowa. Yes, I know it looks the same in Vicksburg and New Orleans, but I just wanted a picture of it!

Mississippi River sign

Bridge we crossed over the river.

Riding on the bridge.

The group was almost all together when we crossed the river into Illinois - the land of Lincoln.  If you ever get to Springfield, the Lincoln museum is fantastic! I visited it on the way back from my Wisconsin cycling trip.

Today's picture of corn.  There are more soybeans in Illinois than there were in Iowa. I'll try to get a picture of them tomorrow.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 20 - Rain

Its going to be short and sweet today - I am tired and it is late.  It rained for the first time on the trip today. I dont have  any pictures and will write more tomorrow.

We will be crossing the Mississippi River tomorrow and we will be crossing into Illinois - our 7th state!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 19 - The road greatly travelled!

Let me start by saying I had another wonderful day!  The best part of this trip is that I feel I can ride as many or as few miles as I want each day.  I originally wanted to ride the whole day, but as the ride unfolded, I elected to ride in the van again until conditions improved. 

Today's ride started with a nice ride out of town but quickly turned to busy hwy 141 in Iowa.  It was one of my least favorite roads on the whole trip.  Think Natchez Trace width with no shoulder, stack 25-30 lake cavalier hills 1.5-3 miles apart on the road and then add somewhat heavy traffic including 18 wheeler traffic going 65 mph, then break up the pavement pretty severly in the tire rut so you have to ride truly on the middle of the road and have no where to go when traffic comes by.  The route had us on this road for 70ish miles - I lasted 23 before I elected to stop at the first sag.  I believe in enjoying every moment of this trip and the stress of riding on that road was not enjoyable! 

Checking with Lon, we would be getting off that road after lunch, so I sagged up with several others.  After lunch I was one of the first to leave again, so I had no pressure to ride in fast, so I meandered my way to the hotel just thinking and having a great afternoon.  We had a slight headwind, nothing bad, and the temps were mild.  I was only sweating on a climb.  Once again we were surrounded by corn and soybeans. 

My shadow in the early morning sun

Church in a soybean field

Wild flowers on the side of hwy 141 in Iowa

Praying Mantis yard art in Coon River Park

Ever wondered what to do with your old golf clubs?  Windmill of golf clubs in Coon River Park Iowa

17 yr old Greg and his daily license plate.  Greg has an eagle eye for the lost plates and finds at least one almost every day.  I think the most he has found in one day is 5.  BTW, this is Greg's third transcon and I am pretty sure he has done them all without his parents!  He is more mature than most 30 year olds I know!

Today's corn - the bio break view!

Tomorrow we head to Mt Pleasant, Iowa.  There is a chance of rain and most likely headwinds.  I would sure like to ride at least 100 miles tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 18 Favorable winds and really big rollers

What a fantastic day!  I am finally rested and have some power for the first time in several days!  I decided I would sag early and often again if my legs did not show up, but I felt fantastic leaving the motel today.  It is the second day I have not worn arm warmers at the ride start.  It was coolish, but humid - my kind of morning. Right out of the motel I noticed my legs felt great and I was already crusing at 16 mph.  The first 10 miles or so was flattish and then we hit really big rollers.  I was able to bomb the hills going down and get about 1/2 way up the next hill before having to throw it into the small ring and spin the rest of the way up. I was having a blast!  The rollers went from being really big to being really long.  At that point, the downhill would barely get you started into the uphill so I slowed down some.  The wind was either a light cross wind or a tailwind so I was not having to push against it. 

We were completely surrounded by corn fields everywhere!  There were some really nice houses tucked away in the cornfields, but corn was on the right and left of the road as far as the eye could see.  Green was the color of the day as when there wasn't corn there was soy and all the trees are green.

At lunch I decided to stop at 85 miles.  I felt really good and did not want to push the limits today. I also knew we had 3000 ft of climbing in the next 40 miles, plus we have 4 135+ mile days in a row coming up.  I am hoping to be able to ride all of them so I just rode in with Veronica in the extra car.  I learned today that just because a ride looks hard on paper, it doesn't have to be.  The whole group seemed to love the day!

Iowa - our 6th state!

Nice church was the first sag stop

Corn as far as the eye can see

Interesting outhouse in Oto, Iowa

One of a thousand farm houses - barn had a nice design

I have heard  of taking everything including the kitchen sink, but a bathtub?

We saw so much corn, I had to include another picture of it! 

Barn of the day unless you like the one with the design on it better - then it is the barn of the day.

Ricketts, Iowa - if you look close, the sign says it is the "middle of nowhere"!

Our progress so far!

Please pray for favorable winds and that I have the strength to ride the whole way for the next several days! Oh and pray that everyone stays safe!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 17 Recap of the last couple days

Ahhhhhh!  It is 5 pm central time and I have showered had my ice bath.  I am blogging now while waiting for my roommate Vikki to come in.  No, I wasn't lucky enough to get in early on my own - I did sag forward and I am really glad I did.  Today's ride was 115 mi and I did 58 of it. 

The last three days really took their toll.  I am still having the time of my life, but I really needed some rest time.

Catching up:

The Mount Rushmore Day was exhilarating, but somewhat stressful.  That day was the only day I went into with extreme nerves.  We had been told that the park was very hilly and there would be a lot of traffic.  There was an optional 30 mile ride through Custer National Forest that only the strongest riders chose to do.  My 45 mile route ended up having 3000 ft of climbing and the 70 mile route had 7000 ft of climbing.  I started stressing first thing in the morning and almost opted to sag to Mt Rushmore.  I was really worried about traffic and steep hills.  However, Mt. Rushmore was my pinnacle.  I had to ride my bike to Mt. Rushmore.  I wanted to see what it looked like and always remember the first glimpse of the monument.  So, I put my fear behind me and rode towards the park.  First, I stopped at the Crazy Horse monument.  I was really surprised to see how little has been done on this monument.  I guess I have seen pictures of what it will look like one day, but did not realize that only the Indians face had been completed.  I did not stay there very long at all as I wanted to spend more time at Mt. Rushmore.  And would you know, the ride in was relatively easy!  All the worrying for nothing!  Yes, it was hilly and there was some traffic, but there was a decent shoulder.  However, the best part was after cresting a steepish hill, I pulled over into a small parking lot to look at my cue sheet.  I noticed people taking pictures behind me so I turned and looked and OMG! there is George Washington.  It was like someone splashed cold water on my face! I have wanted to see Mt. Rushmore forever, and there was George Washington! I continued to cycle into the park and had a blast.  It is huge.  My only regret was not having enough time to really enjoy the park.  I would have needed 4 hours at least and we only had 1.5 hours.

My biggest mistake of the whole trip happened next.  With 20 or so miles to go, I made the assumption that "it is all down hill from here"!   I proceeded to get my butt kicked with the climbing.  Now, don't get me wrong, I loved almost every minute of it!  We were on a really windy back road with little traffic and it was just up and down - some of the hills got to 9%.  Thinking it was all downhill, this was a little demoralizing, but the road was beautiful countryside.

Continuing with my mistake of "it is all downhill from here", we started our longest day of the trip on Sunday.  We started an hour earlier at 6am instead of 7.  I thought, hey we are doing 3000 ft of climbing in 145 miles, that has got to be easier than 3000 ft of climbing in 45 miles.  WRONG.  Never underestimate an easy day on paper, because it may not be easy with weather conditions!  Sunday was a mixed wind day.  Sometimes we had tailwinds, some headwinds, but mainly crosswinds  I started out having  a really good day and made it to lunch early.  It was really neat riding through the badlands, as I had no idea what to expect and they were truly spectacular.  They are really hard to describe, but bam, in the middle of nowhere are these great rock formations.  After leaving the Badlands, the wind really started picking up.  I wanted to sag once I fell behind the back of the6pack by 30 minutes, but the back of the pack was waiting for me!  It was nice that they waited and it gave me the encouragement to continue.  I was exhausted when we got in at 5 - however, it was 6!  We crossed over a time zone when we entered Murdo, SC.  So we had to scramble to get everything ready for the next day and get supper.

Monday, we were still reeling from the time change. Once again, I originally decided that the day would be easy.  However, after Sunday, I knew better!  With only 1690 ft of climbing but a steady crosswind all day, it was a slog fest!  I sagged up one rest stop and that put me back at the back of the pack!  I should have sagged up two rest stops.  I was just slow, and the terrain was not much to look at - corn and grassland.  It started to get warm.  The heat did not bother me, but it took out several of our riders not used to riding in heat and humidity. The last 20 miles, the wind seem to ease some or I got a "second wind" and I finally  made it to the motel after 7 pm.  Getting in at 7 on a ride at home is not so bad, but here, you still have to get a shower, dinner, wash clothes and it was my night for a massage.  Yes, we get massages here from a crew member somewhat frequently!  I ended up eating Arbys at 9:30!

So, that brings us to today.  I told Vikki that I wanted to be in by three and that if I could not keep up, I would sag early and often!  I just needed a little bit of time off the bike this afternoon.  I actually thoroughly enjoyed the ride.  I intended on sagging at the first sag when I could only maintain 12 mph for the first 30 miles, but it seemed as if the van was already full. I continued to ride.  I felt good, I just had no  power output against the wind. Then, something caught my eye!  Badgers!  Oh, I was thrilled!  I love seeing wildlife and I had never seen a live badger before.  This made me start thinking about a book I read as a kid about a boy and a badger - Sterling North's Rascal.  It was a great book and I named my hamster after the badger, Rascal.  BTW, other good books to read even if you are not a kid are The Yearling and
Where the Red Fern Grows.  So, as I continue to slog away thinking about good books I read as I kid, I see the van!  Veronica realized that I was pretty behind the others and made room for me! 
WHOO HOO!  So, I rode in the van with her to lunch, grabbed lunch and headed out to her last sag - 20ish miles from the end.  I was now way ahead of the fast guys and no one in between me and the hotel! I could ride 5 mph if I wanted and no one would care. So, I rode at a comfortably slow pace and took pictures when I wanted.  I stopped at a gas station when I got in and leisurely cleaned my bike, showered and blogged!  What a great refreshing day! And to top it off I had a package from my friend Sharon Stevens from Plano.  She and I rode my last 4 day training weekend together.  Sharon, today was very much like our weekend in Italy - somewhat hilly, but not too bad, some wind but not as hot with much better road surfaces!

Yesterday's grasslands

Yesterday's Barn

Today's corn - apparently there will be alot of corn and soy over the next few states...

My real live and in person badger!

Hey Don - we are at an old Texaco!

Old school house - see the bell in the roof

odd mailbox

Today's barn

Looking forward to a new state tomorrow - Iowa!  Pray we get favorable winds!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 16 - the long and windy road

Hey, sorry, I have to keep it short and sweet.  I did not get in until 7 pm on a 121 mile ride (max miles was 145).  The wind wasn't that bad, but it did slow me down.  I may have not had enough to eat the day before and therefore did not have enough energy to push through the wind.  Anyway it was a long day.  I am still having fun, but tomorrow, I am sagging in to arrive at the motel by 3 pm.  I need to wash clothes, get a good meal and get to bed early again.  Maybe I will get lucky to get in early without sagging...

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 15 - Badlands and grasshoppers

I gotta keep it short again tonight as we just crossed into central time zone and we have another 140+ day tomorrow.

Things I learned on the bike today:

1.  Read the route sheet before judging the day.  If a route has 4000 ft of climbing over 145 miles it would not be hard unless most of the climbing is in the last 40 miles!
2.  If the t-shirt and route card disagree  - choose the one with the longest mileage and climbing
3. South Dakota is having a grasshopper infestation
4. Grasshoppers don't seem to like landing on you and more than you like them landing on you
5.  Grasshoppers hurt when they hit you in the face going as slow as 5 mph
6.  Grasshoppers really hurt when they hit you going 20 mph
7.  I don't like grasshoppers !

Today was our longest day of the trip - 146 miles.  It was very diverse.  We started pretty flat and rode through "grasslands", then traveled through the very interesting Badlands, and ended up with very rolling hills.  The Badlands are very interesting in that out of nowhere you have these really neat rock formations.  Some of them looked like thick biscuit dough droped into a grass field!

Crooked picture of grasslands


Rock formation in the Badlands

Badlands and sunflowers

More Badlands

Hopefully, I will have more time to blog tomorrow!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 14 Mount Rushmore!!!

I honestly can't believe it - I rode my bike to Mount Rushmore - that is crazy!  Here are some pictures - I will blog more later...

Crazy Horse

My first glimpse of Mt Rushmore - from the road coming into the park!

Me with Mt Rushmore in the background

Mt. Rushmore - Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 13 - Emotions

Today was another fantastic day!  All I can say is life is good!

Yesterday was a great day - a long climb to start with and then a bunch of rollers.  Cynthia (the other recumbent) and I were able to work together in a paceline for the first time and we were doing 18-21 mph for 20 miles or so.  The rollers then became pretty long uphills and shorter downhills so we ended up riding alone after lunch, but the day was really good.

Today we started with 30 virtual flat miles and easy rollers to mile 75.  The rollers turned very ugly after mile 75 and they kicked my butt!  I finished my third 100+ day in a row and 5 in the last 6 days!

I did become pretty emotional today.  My husband likes to say "with big events come big emotions".  He is so right on with this saying.  Think of the emotions that come with weddings and funerals, the birth of a child, etc.  Well, that is what I felt today.  It started with my sighting of my first pronghorn antelope. Several people saw them yesterday, but since I was in a paceline, I missed them. Just seeing these animals made me realize how lucky I am to be on this trip.  I have gotten to see things many people will never get to see.

As I was riding along alone, I turned on my ipod and started listening to my tunes.  One of my favorite songs by the Fray came on - Over My Head.  This is the song that I had stuck in my head on the Mineral Wells 400k in May 2007 - the write up is one of the first blog post I ever did - look at the 2007 history if you want to read it. Well, it occurred to me at that moment listening to the song, that yes, I was over my head on the 400k in 2007, but also at that moment, I realized that I am not over my head on this trip! I am in South Dakota on my bike!  I am riding with alot of different people every day and having a blast!  I am truly living my dream!  It is unbelievable!  This brought on a strong feeling of appreciation that just came blubbering out:

I have to thank God that I am able to do this trip physically and that I even have the desire to see the wonderful world He gave us. 

I appreciate my coach, Michelle Grainger, for pointing me in the right direction with my training.  Without her, I would not have had the constant motivation and drills to set me up to do this trip.

I am really grateful that Lon and Susan have made it their job to take people across America on a bike.  They are the greatest.  I got to go to Wal-Mart with Susan in Missoula, Mt and it was amazing to see her shop for us.  She would go down each aisle and talk about how much we would like this or that.  She really cares about what will make our trip better.

I am very lucky to have a great group of friends with different backgrounds that have supported me and helped me train for this ride.  Without this great network, I would have never made it to the start.  Dianne, Nancy, Doug, Pat and Steve especially - I owe yall a lot.  I would not be here without yall helping me mentally, physically and emotionally!

I really am glad I have the parents I have.  They taught me right from wrong and to be proud of everything I do. They taught me that you can have anything you want in life as long as you were willing to work hard for it.  I don't know if we will ever know where my long distance cycling gene came from but they had to give it to me somehow!  I really love my parents!

Finally, I really appreciate and love my husband, David.  He is the greatest.  I love him so much.  He supported my decision to come on this trip from day 1.  He never doubted that I could do it.  He cooked for me and took care of things I should have while I trained especially over the last 4 months.  He suggested that I go to Desert Camp to train which gave me a lot of confidence showing up in Everett.  There is a song I like by Dave Barnes called God Gave Me You and I think about David when I here it.  Part of the words are:
God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I have lost my way there are no words here left to say, it's true, God gave me you!

David has been there for me in my ups and down and on my days of doubts and I would not be on this trip, my dream, if it were not for his loving me and trusting me and believing in me.  I am the luckiest person alive for this reason alone!  So, with big events come big emotions - David, I love you and miss you!

Okay, back to the day.  The first part of the day was flatter green hills, but as we entered the Black Hills after lunch, the pine trees started popping up and once again you could smell a strong pine scent - Christmas in July!  We had a lot of train activity and got to hear several whistles. Most of the trains look like they were carrying coal as this is a big mining state.  The trains had engines on either end and sometimes two on each end.  No cabooses - I don't know why, but I will ask the other train fanatics to see if they know.  There were a lot of open fields - this is where I saw the pronghorns.  They were all over.  I tried to get a picture of them, but I don't think it came out.

Tomorrow we go see Crazy Horse and Mt Rushmore.  It should be an easy day.  I am only doing 45 miles so I can spend more time at the two sites.

Engine as a Caboose?

Early morning paceline

No barn today, but how bout some fresh veggies, eggs and aussie pups!

If you look really really close, in the middle of the picture, you can see the pronghorn antelope.  I will try and figure out how to blow it up so you can see it better.

My Bike with the South Dakota sign - I have a funny story to tell about why I don't have a picture with me and the sign - I will tell yall about it tomorrow

Field of black eyed susan and coneflowers

Entering the black hills of South Dakota - notice the trees.  My average went from 16.2 at mile 75 to 13.5 by mile 114! 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 12 Great Day really tired!

Hey, I had a great day today - 108 miles of rolling hills!  However, I am exhausted.  I need to go ahead and get to bed early so, I am keeping it short and will blog more later...

Barn of the day

Greg at lunch - he is only 17 and this is his 3rd transcon!

Spotted horse gas station and restaurant in Spotted Horse Wy

Field of Sunflowers near Gillette Wy - sunflowers are my favorite flower.