Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Last Transcon Blog Entry - I Hope You Dance

It has been very difficult to sit down and write my final words concerning the Transcon trip.  I admit, I struggled with depression when I got home.  I just did not want to enter back into "normal".  I longed to be back on the road riding to somewhere new.  I was glad to be home, but I wasn't.  Even writing this blog right now I long to be riding somewhere.

That said, I am back home and life is continuing.  I took it easy the first two weekends home.  I kept the mileage down and increased the intensity on the second weekend.  Of course, I can't stay off the bike for very long and did my first 200k yesterday.

I have struggled with having so much time on my hands.  For the 16 months prior to my ride, I trained.  Almost every Friday, Saturday and Sunday I had certain drills or rides I was to accomplish.  Fitting in "life" around cycling was a challenge.  Fortunately, David helped (well, did everything) around the house and I made time to go shopping here and there.  Now, it is hard to remember what I did before I started training.  I got home last Friday after riding just a short ride with Jim and had no idea what to do next.  I did go shopping, but got bored with it quick.  David and I have been cooking on Sundays after church, so that has helped the non-cycling time go by.  I also set up a Face book page.  My, what a time waster!

It is still hard to believe that I have accomplished something like riding my bike across the United States!  I am so excited that God protected us and was with us every mile of the trip.  I really appreciate that He opened my eyes to see so many wonderful and beautiful sights across our great Nation.  We are truly blessed. I crossed off the number 1 thing on my Life list!  That is so rewarding!  However, I struggled for several days not having any idea what I would do next.  Fortunately, I think I have decided to ride the "Circle Tour" around Lake Michigan - unsupported.  HA!  I have to have an element of challenge and adventure in everything I set out to accomplish!

So, I would like to challenge each of you that have been reading this blog, to reach for your dreams.  Stop making excuses.  Okay, getting a month off to ride your bike across America may not be possible in  your life right now, but you can start setting the foundation.  I could have used two years of training to have been fast enough for this trip - but I only had 16 months.  Start working toward your dream now.  Get in the best physical shape possible.  If money is keeping you from living your dream, start setting it aside.  Give up fast food and use that to start a small savings account. You don't have time - turn off the TV!  Still have kids at home?  Get them involved in something involving your dream.

I have always loved the words to the song "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack. These words from that song is my wish for you:

I hope that you still feel small when standing in front of an ocean.  I hope that you never fear the mountains in the distance.  I hope that you don't take the path of least resistance.  I hope you give the heavens more than a glance.  I hope that when given the chance to sit out or dance - I HOPE YOU DANCE!

  Me dipping my bike in the Chesapeake Bay

Vikki, Me and Ann

The group at the finish!

Thanks for reading and supporting me as I lived my dream! 
I hope you dance!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Afterwards - Day 1 Random thoughts while driving to Atlanta

I am now sitting in the car headed home via Atlanta. It is a very bittersweet trip. On one hand I am very glad to be going home, but on the other hand, I am struggling with the fact that my adventure is over. I loved every moment of this trip. Aaron Ralston, the young mountain climber who had to cut off his own arm to survive after pinning his arm against a rock once said, "Just because you are not having fun doesn't mean you aren't having fun!" Honestly, there were so few moments that I wasn't having fun and the few, I am proud to say, I was able to work through it mentally (the crying day) or jump in the van (the bad traffic day and the steep climb day). I truly enjoyed Every Fantastic Moment - one of my main goals on this trip. The first was to see America by bike and the other was to do it with a positive attitude enjoying the journey!

I succeeded! I remember how scared I was the last couple weeks before the trip. I would say that I was nervously apprehensive before the trip. I also thought that if I had "any excuse" travel insurance that I would have backed out of the trip. I worried - what if I can't do it? The return answer was what if you can? Well, I did do it and I am very pleased that I now have a large bank of memories to remember this fantastic trek.

Yes, I will do another Transcon. I am not sure when, but I figure there will be many more transcons in my future. I love touring and I love seeing the nation via a bike. You experience and live America seeing it in this manner. I will admit that I would like to do a semi-supported tour that may have to be limited to one or two states at a time. I would like to tour the state with less dependence on a set schedule and more time to visit the neat places along the way. Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota especially had so many things that I would have loved to have stopped to investigate - definitely more time at Mt Rushmore and we completely missed Yellowstone and all things Lewis & Clark. So, I will be planning state tours for the years I don't do transcons.

What were some of my favorite experiences?

Just riding every day. There were some mornings that I would have liked to have slept another hour or so, but there was never a day that I did not want to ride. Every day would be an adventure in itself and I did not want to miss it.

Dinner at night - getting to get together with a big group of other riders was one of the highlights of the day. I loved talking to each person to learn where they were from and why they came on the trip. We ended up with a fairly consistent group of dinner buddies and cutting up and joking and telling stories that would make you laugh until your stomach hurt.

Our crew was fantastic! They worked long and hard every day - even their ride days to support us. I really appreciate John Lake and Jim H for helping me get my bike put together on the first day. I will never forget Carl loading or moving bikes on the caravan during the rainstorm. He was soaking wet. Dave was the first crew member to figure out that my bike would fit on the caravan. He and Tim J both rescued me from having to walk up long steep hills. Then there was Veronica. Being roommates for a little over a week, she gave me insight into what the crew goes through - and it is hard work. I really appreciate her for anticipating my needing a sag on one of the really windy days - one of the ones that should have been easy that was actually pretty hard. I enjoyed my rides with her and was glad when she was our caravan driver. She also made the raisin toast with the most love!

The beauty around the corner - we live in a most beautiful country that changes around every corner. Seeing snow covered mountains peak out from around a bend was breath taking. Seeing the badger, prairie dogs, prong horn antelope, and even white tail deer thrilled me.

Montana was both my favorite and least favorite state. It was absolutely beautiful and we stayed on roads that paralleled the Clark fork river almost the whole time. I now have kayaking the Clark fork river on my life list! However, they were the absolutely hands down least bike friendly state. It still pisses me off that I was pulled over for not riding on the white line especially since there was not a shoulder on the road I was riding.

Did I train enough? Yes, I think I trained as much as I could during the 16 months I knew I was going to do this trip. Yes, I could have used more time to get faster, but that time did not exist. Now that I am stronger and faster (although still slow) I have a better base to continue to improve upon. My next transcon, I would like to be mid-pack fast so I would have time to take more pictures. I need to become a much better climber.

What would I change about my training?

I would have trained with more upright bikes. I think that training with the uprights would help improve my climbing skills. Or, I would have recruited another bent to train with that could have gone on the trip with me. Although Cynthia, the other bent, was on this trip, our riding styles were different and I was slower so we were not able to help each other very much.

I needed more climbing training, but I just don't think I would be able to improve on that in the time I had living in Mississippi .

What would I not change:

I am very glad I had Michelle Grainger as my coach. She understands ultra cycling and thus could anticipate what I was and would be going through.

Lon & Susan repeated that best thing for us to do was ride as many days of back to back 100+ mile days as possible. There were a bunch of these days that I sure did not want to do another 100 miles, but this was where the potential problems presented. I was able to acclimate to the heat, figure out how to handle heat rash, anticipate problems with my shoes and tires all because of the multiple days of riding. Knowing how to handle the problems before they cropped up gave me confidence that I knew how to handle them when they did. This was an area that I was very fortunate as none of the problems I thought I would have ever happened to an extent that I could not handle it.

Crossing with PAC Tour - yes, they advertise that they are the hardest touring company in America - and I believe it. Yes, I probably could have ridden every mile with America by Bike, but Lon and Susan know what they are doing and care. To see Susan in action shopping for what we would like at Wal-Mart or picking up fresh fruit at a road side stand I know she has the riders best interest at heart and wants to provide us with anything that would make us have a better trip. Lon is the same way. He can fix anything or suggest a better way to go about doing something. I will find it very difficult to do another Transcon without it being a PAC tour.

Something that I realized on this trip that I will take with me through the rest of my life is that "it is never all downhill from here"! You hear the phrase, "it is all downhill from here" sometimes as an assurance and sometimes as a joke. I convinced myself on several days that it was going to be all downhill or that a particular day would be easy based on its profile. The trip and life is never all downhill. This is not to be pessimistic, but just realistic and I am really glad that it isn't all easy or that it isn't everything that we expect. The Mt Rushmore day, I truly thought was going to be very hard to the monument and then literally all down hill from there to the motel. Boy was I wrong! The climbing was some of the hardest of the trip for me. The next day we were supposed to have the same climbing over 145 miles as we did on the 45 mile day. I just knew that it would be an easy day! Once again, I was very wrong. That day was hotter than previous days plus we were battling a decent cross wind most of the day. The next day should have been easier, but that was the grasshopper day. Needless to say, that day was not all downhill! On the other hand, we had days that should have been much harder than what they ended up being. So, I learned to judge a day as potentially difficult and not to set my expectations unrealistically. I am also glad that the days weren't easy.  I really enjoy the challenge and my blog/life would be boring without the occasional grasshopper story! I want to remember this as I go forward in life to respect each day and its individual adventures regardless of whether the day is uphill, downhill or full of little bumps!

Stay around another day as we will be driving to Jackson tomorrow. No telling what will cross my mind while we continue our drive home...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 30 - The Finish Line

If your dreams don't scare you they are not big enough!  This quote is from Spencer Klaassen in his write up of his Pony Express bike trip.  Yes, my dream scared me, but just a few hours ago all the hard work and discipline paid its dividends!

Today I walked in the sand and into Chesapeake Bay (or a river that leads to the bay) with my bike held high in my hands capping off the greatest 30 day experience of my life.  It is hard to believe that:
1.  I actually rode my bike across the United States
2.  The ride is over

The day started like all others except that David was my roommate!  He  took my bag out to the car instead of me having to load it in the van.  I originally believed that I would be able to ride leisurely to the meeting point and everyone would wait for the last rider to arrive and then head to the beach.  I was mistaken!  We were given a 12 noon time.  The fast guys would have to wait and us slower riders would have to get there at the appointed time or be left out of the final processional.  So, leisurely, it was not! 

It was still on the darkish side at the ride start and very humid.  I would still have to say it was on the coolish side though. My goal was just to keep someone in site and not get dropped too far back.  Although I have embraced being the last one in or the first one sagged, I did not want to be too far back today.  I was basically time trialling the ride.  There were times that I was breathing heavier today than any other day of the trip. The road was pretty decent rolling hills - just a few 5-6% rollers.  I was able to catch up with Cynthia and Jenae and ride with them some, but
 lost them at the second sag.  I did leave before a couple others, but I knew that they would most likely catch up with me before arriving at the meeting point.  That is when my cue sheet navigation skills came in handy.  For what ever reason, several of the groups of riders started making odd route choices.  I knew I was following the cue sheet so I just kept going.  At least 3 different groups made wrong directional choices.  So with 10 miles left to go, I knew I was not going to be last if I kept up my 15.5 mph pace!  Whoo Hoo!

The processional was awesome!  We lined up 2 abreast and rode 4 miles to the beach!  A lot of the cars passing would honk encouragingly at us as we passed by (you can tell the happy honks from the mean honks).  It helped that we were all in our matching jerseys!  Susan had a banner and tape for us to break as we entered the beach area!  We had arrived!  It only took a matter of minutes before we had taken off our socks and shoes and were trotting out to the bay with our bikes hoisted above our heads - or just cradled in our arms!

I did it  - I rode my bike across the United States!

Many people say a trip like this changes you.  I am not sure how I have changed, but it may surface along the way.  I do know that I have a deeper affection for the United States and its vast differences from region to region.  I will always remember the beauty we cycled through and the strong friendships forged over the last 30 days

Okay, now for the f word!  No, not that f word - Flats!  I became obsessed with tires and tire performance right before I left for the trip.  I had experienced 3 catastrophic blowouts using Serfa tires before leaving.  I liked them because I could change them easily by myself.  The other tires that fit my rims were much harder to change and it would take me 30 minutes or more to change them.  I purchased 8 heavy duty, not to mention expensive tires, for the trip.  HAHA - I had one flat!! ONE!!  I am still laughing about it!  It was on a Serfa tire with 600 miles on it.  I was only 2 miles away from the hotel, so I changed the tube out on the side of the road and then changed the tire again once I was in the parking lot of the hotel.  I was now using Continental 4000s.  Two days later, I change my other Serfa out for a Conti 4000 and I will never use Serfas again.  The Contis have over 2000 miles on them and they still look brand new!  Yes, they are harder to change, but they are fantastic on the road.  Some people were not as lucky.  Bob Lewis had 7 flats total, Ann had 5, Jeanae had a double catastrophic flat.

Injuries - we were very lucky in that department.  Last year on the tour they had 3 people fall and break hips.  We just had a hand full of minor accidents.  On the second day, we had 3 people go down in about the  same spot at completely different times.  Apparently, there were rumble strips hidden in shadows and that caused the 3 guys to go down.  A sore shoulder and road rash were the results.  I think we also had 4 more accidents caused by something in the road clipping a persons tire and taking them down.  The results of these were also road rash.  So, we were very fortunate that no one was hurt any more than this.

My issues - was I very lucky in this department.  "Issues" were the main reason I changed to the recumbent to begin with.  The last two tours I did I either cut my thumb or got a blister on it.  Not this trip!  While we were in South Dakota I developed my regular heat rash on my quads - it went away after two days.  Also during this time, I developed a very nasty heat rash on my back.  At first it completely covered my sports bra area and burned very badly.  After a few days it landed just across my mid back region and stayed there.  It still itches, but with Gold Bond powder, it continues to improve.  My tendon in my big toe hurt for a couple days.  And that is it.  The body is a very amazing thing.  I made it through 30 days of cycling with no problems what so ever.

What worked:  Food wise, steak and potatoes.  I rode my best after eating a good portion of red meat and potatoes and a salad.  I also did well with grilled pork chops.  The pasta nights left me too hungry to ride the next day with any energy. 

What worked: physically - massages!  At first I planned on getting them only once every 4 days, but then I found out how well they really work and got one every other day.  Jon would massage my quads, glutes and i t bands mostly and I would ride so much stronger and without general muscle soreness the next day.

What worked: bike food - Hammer rules.  3 scoops of SE and 1 scoop of Heed at every rest stop.  Also electrolytes, Endurance Amino and Anti-fatigue caps regularly.  I am now sick of bananas and pay days, but I would eat at least one banana a day and a pay day about every other.  My favorite afternoon snack was Lays Stacks - they are just like pringles and I loved them.

About to go to dinner will post more later!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 29 - Can you believe it?

Wow!  LOL!  Yes, I am using Wow again!  It was a great day today.  There were moments - brief ones, when I really wanted to get off the bike, but as the odometer ticked off mile 100, I was very glad I was still on the bike.  I can almost smell the ocean in Williamsburg!

I woke up before the alarm went off this morning.  As I laid in bed, I was thinking about todays ride.  I really wanted to ride the whole route, but we were going to be climbing over the blue ridge parkway which meant 2000 ft of climbing in the first 27 miles.  I wasn't sure how steep the climb would be but it looked like the climb would be about 7 miles and "steeper climbing" was the description for about 4 of the miles.  So, I could attempt the climb and if I fell behind, I would get sagged along an easier section that I could have enjoyed or I could sag right off the bat.  So, I decided to sag right off the bat.

Once again, the morning was cool.  I can't believe our blessing with our weather.  It was perfect.  As the rest of the country broiled in 100+ temps, we have pedaled along in cosy comfort.  It rained twice for less than 3 hours. Yes, it was a down pour both times with cyclist scattering thunder and lightening, but it wasn't an all day miseralble rain. Yes, it got hot - once or twice, but nothing like the 97+ degree 100% humidity of Texas on my last traing rides there.  We have truely been blessed with good weather!

Fortunately for me, Dave was the crew member in the caravan.  He dropped me off at the top of the climb so I could practice my now pretty decent descending skills.  PAC Tour's motto is "making good cyclist better" or in my case "making mediocre cyclists good" (that is pretty funny!) and they have certainly made me better at descending, riding a straight line, riding in heavy traffic, fixing my rear deraileur,  being organized and gosh, probably a whole lot of other things.  The first 7 miles were in the Shenadoah National Forest again.  The tree line roads were very beautiful and very cold as I was descending at 30 mph.  The next 93 miles were not so pretty.

For my local cycling friends, the picture is easy to paint.  Take Livingston/Lake Cavalier road for those of you who live in Madison or take Shiloh road for those of you in Brandon and double the hills in length and ride it over and over and over for 93 miles and that was todays ride!  So, we have houses of various ages and various need for repair spaced farther apart than a neighborhood but closer together than the farms of the previous days.  So, not much to look at.  The draw for the day however, was the almost perfectly asphalted pavement.  The traffic was at times heavier than I would have liked, but the road surface for 95% of the day was pristine!  Gotta love Lon for finding these back roads!

I did get to ride with Susan C today for a few miles. We were reminiscing about the first few days of the trip. It is hard to believe that it is almost over.  Everett seems so far away, yet it seems like we were there yesterday.

The other great thing about the day was having David waiting for me at the motel when I got in.  It is nice to have him as my room mate tonight - sorry Vikki - at least you can put your bag on the extra bed!  I know I will cross the country again one day in the future, I just don't want to be away from David for 30 days the next time I do it!

Tomorrow is the big day - we will leave for Williamsburg early and then have our dinner and after dinner program.  I will have seen America from Washington to Virginia in 30 days.  It is really hard to believe that I have accomplished my dream!  Please just don't let me wake up tomorrow and realize that I still work for NS2 and it is still 2009!

Top of the Blue Ridge Parkway in VA - where I started my ride today!

Barn of the day

So, is it Bum Pass VA or is Bump Ass VA?

Oh yeah, there was some corn on the route today too - only a couple days break from it.  BTW, since I just rode across the US, I noticed corn and soy beans.  So where are the rest of the vegatables grown?

Tomorrow we will ride to Williamsburg, VA and all I can say is Wow!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day 28 - Waving the White Flag

Today was another flagship day - crossing the Appalachians and boy it was not easy for this recumbent rider!

This morning was cool - to the tune of 50 degrees at the ride start and it was foggy again.  I elected to sag forward to the second sag stop since the first 30 miles had 4000 ft of climbing.  The total climbing for the day would exceed 10,000 ft.  Looking at the route card, I thought the section I chose to start with would be gently rolling and would get me warmed up for the big climb to the Virginia State Line.  Oh, was I wrong - gentle and Appalachians do not go in the same sentence.  I was climbing an 8% hill, or should I say bump in the road, at mile .8!  The only thing that kept my mind off of falling over was looking at the beautiful scenery.  The sun was shining through the trees and you could see the mountains that we would soon cross looming not too far in the horizon.  There was still a little fog hanging in the recesses between the mountain ridges.  Very peaceful.  We soon turned onto a little one lane road.  The road did have small gravel, smaller than a pea but bigger than sand, scattered over most of the surface.  As long as it wasn't deep, it did not pose a problem.  Otherwise, my tire could skid in it and cause me to fall.  As long as I was climbing, which was mostly at 4 mph, a fall would not hurt too bad, but if I were descending, a fall could end up hurting pretty badly.  So, I was more cautious on the downhills which robbed me of some momentum.  This section was very steep climbs of half a mile or more with switchback type rollers with really sharp turns and sudden pitches.  It wore me out!  Some of it was so steep, I had to just walk the bike.  I honestly did not think I would ever get off of this road and to the sag.  I think I was at mile 11 when I finally made it back out to the main road.  11 miles and it felt like I had been out there forever!  We had about a 4 mile downhill section and then we started another long climb.  This one jumped up to 7% in a big hurry.  I was able to ride for about a mile when it pitched a little higher and I just couldn't stay steady.  So I would walk for a little bit and then get back on the bike for a little bit.  This went on and I was prepared to continue this to the top when Tim J passed with the sag van!  Yeah!  I was never so glad to sag!  Although 7% doesn't sound too steep, I just couldn't keep it up.  So, I waved the white flag!  I surrendered!  Whoo Hoo!

I ended up sagging to the Virginia state line.  The climb was 7 or 8 miles and was steeper than my earlier climb.  Before I left the state line, I checked my stats.  17 miles, 8.5 mph, and 1765 ft of climbing - over 100 ft of climbing per mile - pretty tough.  So, from the state line we hit a really beautiful section of the Shenandoah National Forest - a very thick tunnel of tree covered road.

So, even though I did not get to ride as much of the climb as I wanted, I still feel that I did the best this flatlander could.  Steep is not my favorite, but it was very very beautiful and I am glad that I was able to climb as much as I did.

Congrats to all of the riders that did make the whole ride - it was not easy!

Foggy start in the  Appalachian Mountains

Barn of the day

View from the twisty steep pitchy one lane road.

Bob L at the top of the climb Tim J rescued me on

Tim J, a 24 year old mathematician and crew member from MN, at the Virginia state sign.

Blue butterflies

Tree lined Shenandoah National Forest

Tomorrow will be another climbing day - we will be going over the Blue Ridge Parkway and hopefully it will start to flatten out.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 27 - Are we all crazy?

Our ride today included a tour of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum - you know you have to be committed to do this ride - HA
The morning started out very nicely.  The temperatures were much cooler than the last couple days - probably back into the 60s at the ride start.  We started 30 minutes earlier than the past few days and had a beautiful pink and blue sunrise.  Today was also our first day back in longer hills.  It was really funny because after several days of averaging 15-16 mph my average plummeted to 12 mph.  As I was riding along I felt like I had been on the bike for a long time and I would look at my odometer and I had only gone 4 miles.  Then I would look down again and think I should have gone at least 12 miles and had only gone 8.  That went on for several more miles before I realized that I was back in the hills again.  These were really long but only 4-6%, so I was just really slow on them.

Our lunch break was on the grounds of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.  Pretty fitting for a group of cyclist crossing the US!  Susan N bought our tickets for the short tour.  Our tour guide had actually been a nurse at the asylum from 1966 until it closed in the 1980s.  She then became a tour guide after she retired.  Currently, the building is in really bad shape.  They are in process of raising money to restore it as it is considered a National Historic Landmark.  I think it was one of the first asylums to paint the rooms pastel colors to calm the patients.  To raise money, they also have ghost tours that are conducted at night and they throw a pretty big Halloween party.  It would be very scary to be in that building at night.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful.  We are all having mixed feelings about the trip right now.  In a way we don't want it to be over, but in another, we are ready to see our family and friends.  David left this evening for Birmingham.  He will stay with Ken and Brooke before going to North Carolina and then to Ashville to meet me on Sunday.  I am really excited about seeing him!

Morning sunrise in Parkersburg West Virginia

Gerry Goode

Barn of the day

Veronica in front of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum - the name does not seem politicially correct, but I guess people did not care about being politically correct back in the day...

A patient room at the asylum - notice the peeling paint

Scott, Ernie, Tom, John, Charles, Ann, Steve, Greg, Rick and Mike waiting for the next tour

Tomorrow we cross into our 11th and last state - Virginia.  The ride will be difficult with over 10,000 ft of climbing. I will probably sag forward at the start as I want to do the big climb to the Virginia state line and won't have time to do it without a small push.  So far I have ridden over every state line and I intend to continue that trend tomorrow.  It will also be my 28th consecutive day of riding.  I would really like to see how many days I can continue to ride consecutively - do you think David would let me ride on Tuesday?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day 26 Hocking Hills, Waterfalls and West Virginia!

Today we headed into the Hocking Hills of Ohio.  The morning started as usual but as I took my bag out to the truck I saw Ann T with her rain jacket.  I asked her if it was supposed to rain and her answer was "Yes, hard".  I always carry my rain jacket and probably 10 lbs of other stuff, so I did not worry about having to find it.  It was definately overcast but on the cooler side at the ride start.  Within the first 10 miles or so it started raining pretty hard.  I did not like it as we were riding hills and I had problems stopping at crossroads on the downhill.  I could not get my brakes to respond as fast as I wanted.  Eventually it let up. 

As I cycled through the small town of Laurelville, I stopped to check my directions and two Amish or Meninite men came out of a restaurant to ask me questions about our ride.  They had seen the other cyclist come through and just wondered where we were going.  They pointed me in the right direction and I was back on my way.

For whatever reason, I started going mental about the ride.  Pat, my buddy from NOLA, would tell me that I was thinking too much and I probably was.  I decided to sag at the first stop and I was 30 minutes behind the others anyway.  This was actually a good thing as I was able to take a short hike into Ash Cave.  It was a beautiful carved out area with a waterfall in the hocking hills.  The area was very forrested and had sandstone walls.  There were a lot of trees and ferns nestled in the carved out area along with a small brook.  As you walked deeper into the carved out area (not really a cave) you could hear the waterfall.  It was very serene.

At lunch, pb&j and pears, I was waffling about sagging all the way in to town.  Thanks to Cov insisting that I get back on my bike, I rode in and had a great ending to my day.  I did get to ride to the West Virginia sign which was hanging from a bridge in town.  I guess Parkersburg is like Texarkana - a city situated in two states.

The terrain finally changed from farmland (corn) to beautiful rolling hills. 

Walking to the waterfall and carved out area called "Ash Cave"

Sandstone forming the carved out area of Ash Cave

Waterfall at Ash Cave - okay, so it is just a trickle - it is still a waterfall in my book.

The waterfall is next to the tree in this picture - prettily camaflauged

Vikki and Chris at the 2nd sag - they both get lots of mail...

Crossing into our 10th state - Whoo Hoo!

Tomorrow we will continue into the Appalachian Mountains.  I will probably have to sag for time over the next couple days, but I will do my best as we roll closer to our goal of Williamsburg, Va.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 25 - Fantastic Day Mentally and Physically!

What a great day!  I was so at ease and relaxed today!

The day did not start out as well as it ended up.  As I walked out of the motel this morning with my bike, it was already hot.  I don't know what the temp was but the humidity had to be at 97% or more.  You could cut the air with a knife - and it was soooo still.  Fortunately, it was overcast.  I woke up not feeling very good - probably under caloried again.  I tried to eat some cereal and a cinnamon roll, but my stomach did not like them.  I continued to get ready, but told Veronica that I may sag today.  I went back into the motel to get my bag and grabbed a cup of yogurt.  I really did not want it, but I knew I need to get something in my stomach.

We rolled out and I was amazed at how good my legs feel.  I had my massage last night and I always ride better the day afterward - thanks John J! 4 miles into the ride I see a great barn.  I don't normally stop this early in a ride to take a picture, but I had to today.  My stomach was still very queasy, so I was nursing my Sustained Energy.  As  I rolled along, I realized that I was really rolling.  Todays route was a perfect recumbent route.  The hills were just the right size to power down and roll up.  Only a couple needed to be pedaled over.  Although I did not feel well, I was really enjoying the ride.  I had to stop a couple time for bio breaks which slowed me down, but otherwise, I was rolling right along.

When I got to the first sag stop, I was the last one in.  Lon indicated that Kirk and Priska were a few minutes ahead of me and that Bob K had to attend to buisness today and was not riding.  So, I told Lon I would sag if I got too far back.  He then told me I was doing fine on time (I was averaging 15 but stopped a few times probably putting me closer to 14 average overall) take my time and just plan on being in by 4!  Wow, that really made me feel good! 

The issue comes that when those of us who are on the slower side have a good day, typically the faster guys also have a good day in the same proportion so, we on the slower side are still slow.  But today, I was just going to ride and not worry about how far back from the main pack I was because I knew I was in the time limits!  So, I grabbed a banana and rolled out of the first sag!  For the rest of the day I stopped when I wanted to take pictures and really enjoyed the rollers.

As I was riding I thought about shoulders - not the ones that attach your arms to your body, but those that are on the side of good roads.  For the better part of the morning we had a good 4 ft shoulder.  Most of the tour, we have had good shoulders or we have been on really low traffic back roads.  Having shoulders really makes it much easier for a cyclist to ride.  We are out of the way of the traffic and don't have to worry as much about being hit by cars.  Mississippi does not have many roads with shoulders and that is a really big shame.  We could cycle too so many more places using roads that have slightly higher traffic.  I would love to ride to Leland to see the Kermit the Frog exhibit, but the roads to get there just aren't as safe.  Anyway, we lost our good shoulder just before lunch.  The traffic seemed to pick up and I was buzzed by 3 18 wheelers.  They just don't like to move over.  I then had to completely get off the road for one as he was going to mow me over even if I was riding just to the right of the white line - we still had a 6 inch shoulder.  So, it is amazing that I can ride my bike across the US on roads that 90% have shoulders, yet I can't ride 60 miles to Leland MS or to Yazoo City even as I consider the roads too dangerous. 

Okay, off the soap box about shoulders - I will listen to my Ipod (one ear only) tomorrow!

Hands down - barn of the day!  I know I appreciate everything American - especially our flag since I have been on this trip!

White barn with quilt design

Red barn with quilt design hidden by the tree

Different red barn with quilt - can you see the thick air?

Apple Orchard - or "archard" if you are from Maine (hey Kelli! Say hi to sag mom for me!)

LOL! Very fitting for Nancy's comments yesterday!

Rumer was right!  Grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, pears and a pickle.  You really don't know how good it really was!

Great Dog protecting his goats.  I was riding by and say the goats in the field.  I wanted a picture of them for Dianne.  The dog comes bounding out of the dog house in the back and the goats all run away from the fence - I got a really big kick out of it.
Also had a great dane run towards me a day or two ago.  He was a happy looking dog, but we were looking at each other eye to eye! Fortunately his owner called to him to come back and he minded!  It was pretty funny as he looked at me very curiously!

Headed to the Hocking Hills and to a new state tomorrow.  The next 4 days will be very challenging!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 24 - Easy Day to Ohio

Today we left Indiana and made it an easy ride to Ohio.  When we got up it was very humid and someone said we had a 40% chance of rain.  Did I say it was humid?  Susan N commented that it was only 7 am and it felt hot - its not hot!  We have been really lucky with the weather on this trip.  We had the one heavy rain day, but it was not as bad as it could have been.  The main weather blessing has been the temperatures.  Hopefully they will stay fair as 100 degree temps have been common around the country.  I can say with confidence that my last 4 training rides in Texas two weeks before this tour were harder than any 4 days of this trip.  The reason was the 97+ degree temps, heavy winds and chip seal that will rattle your teeth.  Cross your fingers that we will continue to have mild temps, favorable winds and smooth roads.

Anyway, today was an easy flat ride.  I just rode at my own pace - averaging 16 to lunch (and still riding at the back, not that it matters).  Today there was less corn - surprise!  It appears to me that the last several days we have had really big farms with really large masses of land to plant the crops.  I don't know if the land is owned by a corporation or by a family, but the crops were very expansive.  Now, it seems as if the crops or the land the crops are grown on is smaller with more farm houses separating the crops.  So I am guessing that these are most likely smaller family owned crops.  However, this did not translate into more barns.  Darn.

The highlight of the day was lunch.  Matter of fact, lunch is a highlight of most days!  It is always neat to see what Susan and the crew have fixed us each day.  Today was grilled chicken in a hot dog bun.  I ate mine with BBQ sauce.  Grilled chicken day may become one of my favorites.  My hands down favorite lunch is grilled cheese sandwiches (w tomato), followed closely by hot dog day.  I like hot dog day because I get a second dog to go and eat it on the road or in the motel room after the ride.  I also like burrito day, but those don't taste so good when you have a climb immediately after lunch.  Of course there is also hamburger day.  We always have a wide variety of veggie salads.  Today was cabbage and beet salad.  Yes, this is something I would have never ever tried had it not been on PAC tour, but because it is PAC tour, I ate it and it was good!  We had quinoa beet salad a week or so ago and it was good too.  Another salad favorite is something with carrots and rice noodles  - I really like it.  We almost always have chips and sweets, but I don't eat as much of those.  We have had sweet corn several days recently too.  It is sooooo good and fresh.  I have also had really good peaches and watermelon. 

Morning glory growing on a corn stalk - I would have taken more pictures of the morning glories as they were beautiful, but I got caught in the corn field as I took a "bio break".  Someone saw my bike and thought I was injured - nope, just couldn't find a better place to pee!

I think this is the barn of the day

Entering our 9th state - whoo hoo!

Sunflowers in a garden

More flowers in the same garden

Time for dessert!  A yummy chocolate/butterscotch chip cookie that Mark's girlfriend made.  As you can see I ate all of my beet and cabbage salad and all my chicken on a bun except that last little bit of bread.  We use sporks and paper plate holders every day at lunch - I do try and color coordinate my plate and spork!

Barn hiding in the bushes

Message board - every day we have to check the message board for any instructions.  Typically it will tell us what time breakfast will be.  As you can see - we weren't supposed to drink the water!  Fortunately, the boil water notice was lifted not long after we got in.  Notice breakfast is at 7 again - yeah - 30 more minutes of sleep!

Thanks again for reading and commenting.  I really do appreciate all yall (plural of yall!).  I really look forward to checking the comments. 

It looks like we have another shortish day tomorrow - only 94 miles.  This is the last of the flattish days - we will hit the Appalachians on Thursday.

Oh, BTW, rumor has it that tomorrow may also be grilled cheese and tomato day!  Yeah!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 23 - Emotions part 2

First, let me say Happy Birthday to my Dad - "Happy Birthday, Dad!"

Okay, I debated about blogging about the events of today.  I really want to be positive and have a happy blog, but at the same time, I want to show an honest picture of the trip and remember the emotions when I read back over my blog over the next umpteen years.  So, first let me say, I had a great day and rode well and feel great right now and I am having a blast!  However:

Warning!!!  Guys this is girl stuff - Stop reading here - it is sappy!

Warning!!! Mom, and everyone else who really know me - I am fine!

Today started like all other days.  I had my massage last night so I felt good when I got up and hoped that I would have a strong cycling day.  I got my stuff together, got my bike in order and was 3rd or 4th in line with my bag for the luggage truck.  The morning was humid, but comfortable. We started out and had light traffic for the first few miles - nothing too bad.  After we cleared out of town we all passed the Indiana sign and stopped to take pictures.  I was fortunate to be able to latch on to Paul's wheel as he was pacing Vikki.  I was able to ride strong with them for about 15 miles or so and boy was I on cloud nine!  I have been saying the whole trip that if I could just get the right conditions, I should be able to ride with the group on one of these flat days.  Then we came up on a detour as a road was under construction.  I was following Vikki and we both slid in a mud patch that was hidden in a shadow.  I did not go down, but it really unnerved me.  In the few seconds it took to get composed, I was off of Vikki's wheel.  So, I popped my gears to my big ring to hammer to keep up at the same time another group passed me.  Instead of going into the big ring, my chain falls to the outside of the ring onto my crank arm.  This has happened at least once every day since I have been on the trip.  Anyone reading this considering Q-ring - save yourself the money - they are awful.  I wish I had never used them!  I will take a hammer to them on August 11th!  Anyway, the adjustment necessary on the derailleur to make them work right is just to precise for a bike that is ridden for Randonneuring or trans-American travel. Maybe if you are a good mechanic, but someone who is not - Qrings are abysmal.  So, I have to stop and fix my chain and not only lose Vikki, but the second group that rode by as well.  Once again I am at the back of the pack.  Why today do I let this bother me, I don't know.  I have grown accustom to riding at the back.  I am okay, and very glad, that I am not under the pressure to ride every mile.  I have enjoyed getting each days ride in and if I do the whole thing great and if I don't then yeah, I get back earlier to get other things accomplished.  But for some reason  slipping in the mud, the chain and loosing the pace line really bothered me today.  I started crying like a girl!  I knew I had gone mental and kept trying to tell myself to think good thoughts.  All I could do was cry "Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana", which is a song Mike started singing on the third or fourth day of the trip at lunch and Vikki and I have been laughing about for a day or two.  Then I would cry more, then I would try and think happy thoughts.  I finally stopped crying but pulled into the first sag and Vikki was worried about me when she realized I had fallen off of the back of the pack.  So, when she asked me if I was all right, I started crying again.  All the girls tried to console me and who knows what the guys thought. I heard one of the guys ask if everything was alright and Susan C said it was just a girl thing.  That cracked me up.  Then, everything was okay again.  Just releasing the tears made me feel better.  Had I been at home I would have watched My dog Skip or Steel Magnolias to have a good cry!

Anyway - Jim looked at my bike and made a small adjustment.  It did not fix it completely, but it helped.  I rode on and ended up having a very good day. The route was fabulous.  Lon has done a fantastic job keeping us on back roads.  Although we are still ensconced in corn country, searching for good barns has kept me very interested in each days ride. 

Indiana - lost track as to how many states we have crossed - is this 7?

Neat old building with bikes hung as decoration

My favorite barn of the day - it is yellow although it looks white in this pic.  BTW,  the American barn is winning yesterdays barn contest.  Feel free to vote if you haven't though.

Soybeans in front of a barn

My foot! No, actually this is today's picture of corn - corn to the right and to the left!

Another barn

Tomorrow we head to Ohio.  It will be a short day with only 85 miles.