Friday, October 06, 2006

The Day After

I slept till 8:00 this morning. The last month we were long gone by that hour. Kirk and I had planned a leisurely day at Tybee, the biggest thing on the agenda was trying to figure out how to pack my gear without exceeding the airline weight limit and without having to rent a car to help us get a box shipped back home with the extra gear. We got it all in with no problem. Had a low country breakfast at "The Breakfast Club" a block from the hotel.

I fell asleep at 11:30 a.m. and slept for three hours! Don't know when that has last happened. I think it might be one of several body transitions I go through in the next few weeks.

Barry Bergman, one of our riders, got a GI bug in Perry, GA and elected to stay back a day rather than having to SAG ahead. So today was his ride-in day to Tybee. Two other riders, Diane Rappaport and Steve Dieball rode out to the rendezvous-point from which we all rode in together yesterday. They rode with him into the hotel and Donna Allen, another rider, and her three kids had cheers and balloons for him when he rode across the threshold. Kirk and I had dinner with Barry and Diane tonight and the Sting Ray across the street from the hotel. We finished our meal just as the sky opened up with a big, big rain. How gracious the weather god was on us for 26 days.

One other coincidence of note. Barry was pulling out of the hotel in Metter to ride to Tybee when the PAC Tour trucks were fueling up at the gas station right next to the Waffle House and the Metter hotel. So Barry got to say farewell to Lon and Susan and a couple other crew who were helping drive the PAC vehicles back to Wisconsin, home of PAC Tour.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Couple More Final Pix





















PAC Tour women and the whole group.

I am a PAC Tour Rider

  1. I don't know what city I'm in without a route care.
  2. I have seen over 26 sunrises in a row.
  3. I shower with my laundry.
  4. I can identify the state by the roadkill.
  5. Eating breakfast in the parking lot seems normal.
  6. My bike stops at yellow cones.
  7. I dream about grasshoppers jumping on me and getting stung by flying bugs.
  8. My favorite TV show is the Weather Channel.
  9. I know that foods ending in---bar are one of the baic food groups.
  10. I can clean my bike in five minutes.
  11. I know who Bisti is and have fed her my sausage links that Dennys would give me even when I asked them to hold the sausage.

Day 26 Tybee Island Pix





Day 26 Metter, GA-->Tybee Island, GA

Departure 7:32 a.m.
Arrival: 2:00 p.m.
86 miles
1000' climbing
Departure temp: 61
Arrival temp: 86

Kirk and I had a wonderful "get caught up" dinner at Crabby Joes in Metter last night. It will be the last time we can eat outdoors for many months. Just one of many things that will come to an end after today, things like:
  • a different hotel room every night
  • never unpacking your duffle bag for 30 days.
  • washing out your riding clothes in the sink each night and hanging them to dry on the railings and trees outside your hotel room
  • peeing behind roadside bushes multiple times a day for 26 days
  • massages by Jonathan Jahant to keep our legs going for one more day
  • mixing up protein drinks and electrolyte beverages each night readying for the next day
  • eating in the likes of Huddle House, Waffle House, Dennys, and Cracker Barrel night after night
  • eating oatmeal in the parking lot served up in electric roaster pans that are plugged into the outlets in the crew's hotel room
  • drinking 2 liters of pop per rider per day
  • waking up in the night hungry and scrounging for food
How do you integrate something that has been such an intense focus for all of us for a year or more? How do you re-enter your own real world?

Well, back to doday. Today's ride was different than all the others. First, it was the shortest. Second, the rest stops came sooner with fewer miles in between. That meant that riders didn't get so spread out over the course. Third, the route was flat and the wind was minimal so mph was high. Fourth, we could all haul out because we wouldn't be riding tomorrow so didn't have to save some legs for tomorrow. And fith, we all regrouped at the 82 mile mark so we could ride the last 4 in as a group to the hotel. I took advatage of all those conditions and rode either with or ahead of the lead packs up to the regroup zone. That was a hoot. Loved it. My recumbent can fly on the flats.

The celebration on the beach is best told in the pix.

We banqueted tonight. There were about 40 family members here, more than at any other PAC banquet. It was great fun to meet the spouses and kids of the folks you've ridden with the last month.

Kirk and I will debrief tomorrow on Tybee and fly home on Saturday. Lots of efficient packing needs to be done to get everything back home without the advantage of being able to mail a box of supplies.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Day 25 Pix



Rolling hills on the way to Perry, GA.
















Crossing the Chattahoochee into GA.

Day 25 Perry, GA-->Metter, GA

Departure: 7:32 a.m.
Arrival 4:00 p.m.
Departure temp: 67
Arrival temp: 87
116 miles
2000' climbing

Sleep, sleep, I couldn't go to sleep. I think that's how the song goes from "My Fair Lady." My heart and mind were full--full of images, fragrances, sounds, rituals, routines, all of which I've written about; all of which will be coming to a close tomorrow. Today was our last "full" riding day.

I'm looking forward to re-reading my own blog to remember the many details of the journey and then creating a slideshow.

My concern about today was fulfilled. I sort of shot my wad, as they say, yesterday in my excitement to get into Perry to hook up with Kirk. Then, with only 3-4 hours of sleep and 116 miles to ride in temps in the upper 80's, well, you get the picture.

Getting out of Perry was a little dicey; by far the most "traffic" we've had all tour. After the first 12-15 miles we were on open roads, good roads I might add, for the rest of the day. We saw the likes of Danville, Allentown, Montrose, Dudley, Dublin (where Kirk went to grade school), Blackville, and finally Metter. I consulted at Parkside Lodge of Dublin back in the '80's and the town then was much like it was when Kirk was living there in the late '50's. It's all "grown up" now. Totally unrecognizeable. Even Kirk didn't see anything familiar.

Everyone is wearing down--body, mind, and spirit. Thoughts are turning to re-integrating with family and office politics and projects left untouched for a month. Heads are down as we ride; not nearly as much chatter on the bikes or at meals and rest stops. This is as it should be. Everything has its own rhythm and cycle.

I was listening to my iPod again today. Songs are randomly shuffled so I got to hear the grand finale to Mahler's 1st, which is one of my fav's with all the brass and percussion. The very next song was one of Bryan's bilingual (Spanish/English) tunes about naming fruits and food. I couldn't help but laugh out loud about the comic juxtapostioning. Then it occured to me that the tunes were a perfect metaphor for life. Sublime to ridiculous, celebration to loss, humiliation to humility, on and on. Life, too, is often on random shuffle--events often beyond our control.

Speaking of events beyond our control. The flying things that stung me 2-3 days ago, the ones that stung my stomach. Well, I am having one HUGE allergic reaction to the sting. My whole lower abdomen is one big welt, hard, red, and hot. Going systemic. How to get medical care in Metter? When the hotel desk clerk says that she's a medical student and would NEVER go to the hospital in Metter, well that pretty much says it. One of the vets on the trip had some Prednisone so I'm self-medicating until we can get to Savannah and get someone to take a look at it. I brought 9 inner extra tubes, 4 extra tires, myriad CO2 cartridges (to inflate tires when they flat on the road), extra clips for my shoes, spare shoe buckles, extra parts specific to my recumbent, an extra bike computer, lots of computer batteries, etc., etc. All, just in case. Also brought all my physical therapy equipment so I could keep my body tuned up. (I have called Deb, my PT, daily with my physical report and she has tweaked my exercises accordingly.) But it was a flying insect that got me. How do you prepare for that?? Guess it just goes to show I'm not in charge. A good reminder.

Tomorrow we ride off to Tybee Island, about 20 miles east of Savannah on the ocean. We'll have a little closing banquet there. All the bikes will be packed in their hard shell cases before dinner. Then we can rest. There will be a lot of sleeping riders on the planes heading home. This I know is true.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Day 23/24 Pix

Solme of those rolling hills that add up to 3,500-4,00' of climbing.
Just one of the many quaint places we passed. This one in Bundridge, AL.

Day 24 Eufaula, AL-->Perry, GA

Departure: 7:32 a.m.
Arrival: 4:20 p.m. (Time zone change so that was really 3:20 on the riding clock)
105 miles
3,600' climbing
Departure temp: 68
Arrival temp: 90

Well, yesterday we actually had 4,900' of climbing and the hills we were anticipating today were to be bigger. If there was good news in that it was that most of them would be behind us by the 1st rest stop at mile 26. They were big rollers, for sure. Some at a 10% grade, most at 6-8%. These continuous hills are something this Chicago rider had not had to reckon with before. But I can sure ride them with greater skill and efficiency now than 3-4 weeks ago. What will I do on the flats again? Hmmm.

We passed into Georgia at about the 3 mile mark while crossing the Chattahoochee River. I had decided to ride with my iPod today, the first time I have ridden with it the whole trip. I have ridden probably 90-95% of the miles across the country alone, hooking up with people at the rest stops and for dinner. But peddaling along I'm on my own. Hard to find someone who rides at my pace. Not fun to ride a lot slower and surely no fun to burn yourself out trying to hang on to someone's wheel who is outriding you. I decided I needed something to distract me from focusing on my fatigue and aches and pains. My iPod is a good distractor. The first few songs that came up in the random shuffle of the Pod were songs written and sung by Bryan, Daniel, Aaron's band, and Mya. I got REALLY choked up as I crossed into GA hearing the familiar songs and voices of family and reflecting on all the years of living, healing, gratitude, and grace that have made it possible for me to be two days from the finish line.

We ate lunch in Ellaville ( not to be conused with Elavil) :)). There was an option to ride an extra 8 miles or so to visit a Confederate Museum in Andersonville. I opted out of the "tour" because I was so excited to get to Perry and see Kirk. I was so excited that I picked up an extra mile per hour on my average the last 20 miles home!

We rode through Pecan groves and cotton fields today. The bugs weren't so bad today, thank goodness. My lip is still swollen and my stomach is a mass of red welts from being stung yesterday. Oh well.

Tomorrow we're off to Metter, GA. We'll pass through Dublin, GA where Kirk went to gradeschool. Shannon Burns and I actually did a century in Dublin back in the Parkside Lodge of Dublin Days. My, that seems like a lifetime ago. I think it was, actually.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Day 22/23 Pix

Ken Abrams celebrating the crossiing into AL.
Love Bug
Box Elder Bug

Day 23 Greenville, AL-->Eufaula, AL

Departure: 7:32 a.m.
Arrival: 4:00 p.m.
110 miles
4,700' climbing
Departure Temp: 70
Arrival Temp: 86

Well, this was a long day, not in miles but in time and what it took to get here. Seems like a lot of us were slow today. Could it be that having ridden 280 miles the preceding 2 days had something to do with it? Or that the 4,700' of climbing was compressed into the 110 miles? Or that we have been riding for 23 days without a day off? Probably all of those things.

The weather continues to be beautiful. Some are remarking negatively about the humidity, but I'm rather fond of it. Feels like home. Plus, the 3rd degree burn, the size of a jelly bean, I got on my lip Day 2 from sun and wind has finally begun to heal once we got east of the Mississippi River. I thank the humidity for that.

Yesterday and today have been the days of flying bugs. Some said they were Box Elder Bugs. Others said they were Love Bugs. The myriad mating bugs that bounced off my sun glasses, got stuck in my sun screen and made reading my cue sheet difficult didn't really look like either, but they were real, that's for sure. Today I had the stinging variety. Two stung my stomach at the same time, two others my shoulder, but the most painful one was the wasp-like creature that hung on to my lip while I was crossing a bridge on a down hill with traffic.

We had our first encounter with an unfriendly motorist today. A car full of males honking angrily, harrassing us verbally and throwing a beer can at one of the female riders. That's a pretty good record, though, for having traversed about 2,700 miles with nary and encounter.

Saw a few church signs today of note. One was named "The Last Chance Church of God." Another was the "Lilly White Church of God." I'm troubled by that theology. The last was kind of a cute sign--"Sign Broke. Message Inside."

Tomorrow is a day I've been looking forward to since the beginning of the ride. Kirk flew to Atlanta today; took the shuttle down to Columbus to see his Mom. They'll be driving to Perry, GA tomorrow, our destination. Mary will say "howdy" and return to Columbus; Kirk will ride in the SAG truck the last two days. It'll be so good to see him.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Day 22 Merdian, MS-->Greenville, AL

Departure: 7:02 a.m.
Arrival 4:38 p.m.
147 miles
4,700’ climbing
Departure Temp: 70
Arrival Temp: 90

Most of us thought of today as “hump day” meaning if we could make it through today we think we can make it to the finish line on Thursday. Then again, there have been surprises on the up and down side, so no rides are in the bag until we get to the hotel.

Sundays have been hard rides. Our 1st Sunday, the first day, was to El Centro, CA through the desert; the 2nd Sunday was to Socorro, NM 157 miles; the 3rd Sunday was the Telamina Parkway with ALL the climbing (that I avoided by taking the low road), and then today, the 4th Sunday was 147 miles.

Other than the long ride, today was marked by rolling hills on good pavement. After yesterday’s filling rattling, bone jarring pavement, today was a pleasure. Nothing too remarkable about the route. Kudzu was back in the picture; we passed signs to Vimville and Whynot. Glad I don’t live either of those places. Couldn’t even tell you if they were in MS or AL. (We entered AL at about the 20 mile mark.) We passed “Bob’s Best Burgers with a pest control truck in the driveway. Even passed a house, a nice house, that didn’t have any kind of a driveway. Not even tire tracks. Now how does that work?
Several folks were SAGGING today. We’re all getting tired and our bodies are beginning to show the wear and tear.

Off to Eufala, AL tomorrow.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

More on the Telamina

When everyone else was climbing the Telamina Parkway (see photo from Gene's Blog below), Dana and I were having lunch in this fine establishment, the only store of any kind in 60 miles!

Day 20 Winona, MS-->Meridian, MS

Kudzu

Departure 7:02 a.m.
Arrival: 4:36 p.m.
131 miles
2,900' climbing-5,000' depending upon whose altimeter you read.
Departure Temp: 56
Arrival Temp: 86

We have only 5 more riding days left on this tour. It has gone fast, but most of us are looking forward to the end. Our bodies are tired and we're beginning to long for loved ones, routines, and creature comforts, like Starbucks, for example.

Despite the length of today's ride it was relatively easy, the kind of ride I was looking forward to yesterday but didn't find. I didn't see any Kudzu (saprophytic groundcover) today. But what I did see were lots of pine trees and oh, the smell of pine and pine straw that brought back such fond memories. Memories that Grandma Mary and Grandpa Dan helped create with their South Georgia hospitality for the past 37+ years of our marriage. Memories of summers with the kids in Columbus, GA and jaunts through the woods to Cooper Creek trying to avoid the PI, PO, and chiggers. (We didn't do so well on the avoidance thing.) And, oh yes, the humdity is back. We've been in a drier clime for days now. I nearly forgot about the humidity of the SE, or even Chicago, for that matter.

We went through lots of little towns today: Poplar Creek, Kosiusko, Edinburg, Madden, Union, Little Rock, Suqualena, and Meridian. The dominant features of all these little towns were their churches, which were in abundance (mostly Baptist, but a few Methodists) and Little League Fields. You can tell a lot about a community by its structures.

The birds were full of songs today, so much so I had to stop and remember it was the end of September, not the beginning of June.

The downside of today was the pavement, depending upon what county we were in. Oh my goodness for 10 miles or more at a time our fillings rattled and our hands and feet were in continuous vibration as if we were manning a jackhammer. Quite a tribute to the bike tire industry and the wheels we were running that we rode through without mishap. I give two thumbs DOWN for chip and seal.

Tomorrow we enter Alabama, our last state in the Central Time Zone. We'll finally rest in Greenville after riding 150 miles. I don't want to think about it right now. Tomorrow will come soon enough.

Friday, September 29, 2006

More Day 20 Pix

Here are some great pix taken from Gene's and Ken's Blog.

Susan Notorangelo and Steve Sheerin cookin' up some lunch for hungry riders.

Sunrise over the MS River.

Breakfast on the buckets.
Early morning ride-out.
Crossing the Mississippi River from AR to MS.

Day 20 Pix

Randy Price, a great guy who has helped me with some mecahnical issues a couple of times.
The Belen P.O. to be retired as such 9/30/06.
This is me rolling along taken from the dashboard of one of the other recumbent riders.
Bridge over the Mississippi River at the AR border.
Circuit boards in the restroom of the Belen, P.O.

Day 20 Lula, MS-->Winona, MS

Departure: 7:35 a.m.
Arrival: 4:00 p.m.
115 miles
1,700' climbing
Departure Temp: 45
Arrival Temp: 71

Yesterday was a hard, long day for me given the head and cross winds.I was so hopeful for a good recovery overnight. But alas, I think the cumulative effort is making its mark and I'm not recovering as quickly as earlier in the trip. So today, that I had hoped would be a recovery ride, given the shorter mileage (115) and minimal climbing, turned out to be an effort.

The day was beautiful, again, weather-wise. I stopped to get a pix of the Welcome to MS sign and somehow fell behind the group. So all day I was riding either alone or in sight of only one rider. The pack of folks I was used to seeing at rest stops and passing back and forth along the road were no where to be seen all day. So, it felt a little lonely. Dana (one of the other recumbent riders) and I spent some miles together which was good as were the 20 or so miles I rode with Brett and Andrew, both Aussies, although Brett has been transplanted to RI.

Mississippi. Far and away the folks along the roads in MS have taken far more interest in what we're about than anywhere in the country so far. As many as 10 different vehicles pulled along side of us to ask about our beginning and endings. One guy was on a tractor (that didn't have any brakes) but really wanted to ask Dana about what we were doing. So he coasted his tractor to a stop. Dana's question for him was about the inherent danger of dragging an oil-drenched, huge rag behind his tractor that was set on fire to do a controlled burn of his stubbly, harvested cotton field in the high winds we were expereincing. He assured him it was not a problem at all. The fire would not jump to the green crop. Just in case you ever want to burn your cotton field, now you know.

Our first rest stop was in Belen, MS, nearly a ghost town of 150. A little, 84 y.o. lady came over to tell us she was so glad we were taking a picture of her P.O. because tomorrow would be its last day as a functioning P.O. I have a picture of it I'll share later, plus a picture of all the abandoned circuit boards in the restroom of this P.O. that also served as a general store. The inventory of this store was about 25 items, mostly baked beans.

The Huddle House was the only restaurant option tonight. My, oh my. Definitely not 'haute cuisine.

Tomorrow we're off to Meridian, MS.

Day 19 Pix

King Cotton
Modern-day cotton blaes
Cotton fields

Day 19 Pine Bluff, AR-->Lula, MS

Departure: 7:05 a.m.
Arrival: 3:45 p.m.
121 miles
750’ Climbing
Departure Temp: 63
Arrival Temp: 71
Winds 20-25 mph gusting to 30 head and cross winds

We were delightfully gifted at breakfast with a re-routing that would cut off 9.5 miles of today’s miles. No one complained.

To my surprise Arkansas is big into farming cotton and rice! I had no idea, which is commentary of my ignorance about my own country. The skies were bright blue and the sun bright, so through my dark glasses the fields of un-harvested cotton sparkled like diamonds. I stopped to pick up some cotton along the road for the grandkids. IL, OR, and AZ don’t have cotton fields. If we weren’t in cotton territory we were in rice paddies—miles and miles of both. A few soybean fields, too.

We crossed the Arkansas River which had a remarkably long bridge but that crossing had no impact on me compared to the crossing of the Mississippi at the end of the day. I have lived my whole life east of the Mississippi so crossing it felt very much like a homecoming. That our hotel was only ½ mile after crossing the Mississippi had something to do with my elation as we had battled strong head and cross winds for at least 2/3 of the day. No matter how hard I pedaled it seemed like I could just not make any head-way. I did turn in a 16.2 average for the day, however.

We are overnighting in the Isle of Capri Casino. It’s the only option around. Quite a sad commentary to see all these people glued to their chairs playing the slots, or whatever you call them. Many were obese; many were senior citizens; many were amputees, or on oxygen, or using canes or walkers, or motorized scooters. The clankety-clank of the machines was oppressive.Of course you had to walk through the casino to get to the restaurant. And then there were the signs all around that read: “Winners know when to quit.”

Tomorrow we’re heading to Winona, MS—a 114 mile day.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Additional Pix

I've pulled these shots from some of the other riders' blogs.

Jon J., Don F., Ned N., Ann D'A, enjoying a rest stop.

The climbing profile from McAlester, AR-->Mena, AR--the day of the big climbs (that I avoided by taking the low raod)
Climbing on the Telamina Parkway.


Gene's vista on one of the many ridge peaks on the Telamina Parkway. Gene is a very strong recumbent rider.

Day 18 Arkadelphia (Caddo Gap), AR-->Pine Bluff, AR

Departure: 7:35 a.m.
Arrival: 2:00 p.m.
91 miles
1,700' Climbing
Departure Temp: 53
Arrival Temp: 83

Another glorius weather day, just rolling along the hills and valleys of SE Arkansas. Signs of fall are in the air, and LOTS of Baptist churches--Free Will Baptist and Primitive Baptist. Don't have a clue what each of those is. But, we had lunch in the parking lot of a United Methodist Church.

This was the day of the dogs--lots and lots of dogs some thought it would be good fun to chase us. But they were harmless. It was also the day for lots of horse ranches and lots of different counties each demarkated by a change in road surface, some much more bike friendly than others.

Have heard on the news there is a new literacy initiative in AR. Apparently there is a 20% illiteracy rate here. I tried to look up what the literacy rate is for other states, but that was a hard figure to come up with. But 20% seemed high to me. Maybe some of you educators can weigh in here.

We passed the Voluteer Fire Department of Rolla-Lono. I gotta tell you the VFD building looked just like a self-storage locker. Doesn't give you a lot of confidence.

Pine Bluff is, by far, the biggest town we've been in for at least 16 days--55,000--but no Starbucks. :((

Tomorrow we enter the fine state of Mississippi, Lula to be exact.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Day 17 Big Fork Mall


Our first rest stop today--the Big Fork Mall, yes, that's its name, a Mall. It's all a matter of perspective, I guess.

Day 17 Mena, AR-->Arkadelphia (Caddo Gap), AR

Departure: 7:35 a.m.
Arrival: 2:00 p.m.
89 miles
3,500' climbing
Departure Temp: 48
Arrival Temp: 92

Another spectacular day--blue skies, sunny, crisp in the a.m. but rapidly warming by the 1st rest stop. The route was full of rollers that were fun to descend and climb; you could almost get to the top on the momentum from the preceeding descent.

Everyone was grateful for a "recovery day" after the big day of climbing yesterday. Lon rode the hills yesterday on his single-speed bike. He counted 31 hills that were steep enough that he had to stand and pedal 100 or more pedal strokes.

We left Mena in a swirl of falling leaves--the first signs of Fall we've encountered. Oaks were predominant along with pine trees of various flavors. The tree smells are all beginning to be familiar now. Sometimes it smelled and felt like I was in Southern Indiana, sometimes in South Georgia.

I don't know how the others legs are doing, but mine are full of lactic acid right now. Had a massage tonight which will hopefully move that LA around a bit.

Tomorrow we're off to Pine Bluff, our last stop in AR.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Few More Fun Pix


This is the map that sits near the van each night marking our progress across the country.

This is Dana holding up my bike at the AR border.

Day 16 Pix

Buffalo Valley Public School--grades 1-12 in Eastern OK.
A sampling of the knives featured at our lunch stop in Big Cedar, a town of 700. I never saw the town. I think this gas station was it.

Day 16 Paul's Valley, OK-->Mena, AR

Departure: 7:35 a.m.
Arrival: 3:50 p.m.
105 miles
3,500’ climbing
Departure Temp: 51
Arrival Temp: 81

Everyone had read the route card for today and those who had ridden the route before were freely sharing their experiences of the endless steep grades hill after hill. Most were wondering if they had what it would take to get to Mena. I had made a decision days before that I was not going to ride those 50 miles with the 13-15% grade, that I would SAG through that section. Then, last night Lon suggested I ride the valley route (Rt. 63) that was virtually flat (3,500’ of climbing vs the 7,250 along the top of the ridge). That sounded like a winner so I recruited Dana M., one of the other recumbent riders, to join me. We went ‘off SAG’ after the 2nd rest stop at mile 51.5.

Our ride was a thoroughly enjoyable one, in some ways one of the best. The weather was perfect—blue skies (again); mid-upper 70’s; good road surface; enough hills to make it interesting but not so many as to do us in; and minimal traffic. Those conditions afforded us the opportunity to take in the beauty of the Ozarks that surrounded us the entire route and the bucolic pastures with cows contentedly grazing instead of being penned in concentrated feed lots. Dana and I were good company for one another; acknowledged our entry into a new state with a picture at the Arkansas border (Did you know that Arkansas is the Nature State?); and continued to note that the most frequent road markings in these rural areas are for cemeteries and “school bus stop ahead.” I’d love to know how far these kids have to come just to get TO the bus stop and then how far they have to go to get to school.

Since we would be passing through several little towns on the way to Mena we expected to find some mini-marts, but alas there was only one gas station the entire 60 miles. We made it our lunch stop at mile 77. Susan Notorangelo had provided us with some tuna/cracker snacks and we had cached a small stash from the van just before we went ‘off SAG.’ Good thing because that gas station featured only hunting knives, ammo, bandanas, and huge cans of baked beans. I asked a guy on a motorcycle who was gassing up what the need was for such knives. He said, “We all carry knives or guns. You know, if you’re baling hay you need to cut some rope.” So way out of my life experience, for sure

The folks I talked with who came in before I went to dinner reported it was a great day on the ridge. I haven’t talked with the folks who came in toward the end of the group.

Tomorrow is our shortest day yet—89 miles—to Arkadelphia.

Day 15 Pix

This is the John Deere tractor repair shop that was opened for us for our 1st Rest Stop.
Lon and Bisiti, the PAC Tour mascot. She is an awesome dog. Even Kirk will think so.

Day 15 McAlester, OK-->Paul's Valley, OK

Departure: 7:32 a.m.

Arrival: 3:05 p.m.
100.4 miles
2746’ climbing
Departure Temp: 54
Arrival Temp: 68

Once again the weather gods smiled upon us. Blue skies, some sun and a lot of cloud cover. We seem to be traveling in this protected pocket of fair weather while the wily weather of the transitional season swirls around us.

That we were moving out of the southwest was oh, so apparent by the increasingly frequent deciduous trees and the prominent increase in roadkills. Today was won the frequency prize: lots of armadillos, an antelope, a jackrabbit, a turtle, raccoons, many possums both adult and babies. There were some live sitings, too--the scissor-tailed fly catchers (birds) were plentiful the last few days.

That we were still in a staunch Republican territory was also oh, so apparent by the signage along the road, e.g. “President Bush is a Christian; follow my commander.” And the house trailer across the street from the President Bush sign with a Confederate flag hanging in the window.

A show of delightful hospitality was the owner of a John Deere tractor repair shop who learned we would be traveling by his shop, which was positioned exactly at our 1st rest stop of the day. He came in especially to open his shop so we could use his restroom facilities.

At one point, about mile 62, we joined the RAAM 2001 route. That was cool.

We went through lots of little towns today: Stratford, Center, Pickett, Ada, Homer, Allen, Calvin, Stuart, Arpelar, and finally McAlestar.

Tomorrow is the dreaded day—111 miles with 10,000’ of climbing in 50 miles. The motel van will not travel the canyon, nor do trucks. Too steep. 13%-15% grade for 50 miles. I guess you could say I’m a wh00se (sp?). I’m going off SAG and taking a flat route around the canyon. Why blow out my knees and compromise immune system for a few hills. Makes sense to me.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tarantula

Took me awhile to retrieve this beauty, but this was one of the "animals" we saw on our route from Winslow, AZ-->Cottonwood, AZ on September 14th.

Day 14 Pix

This lovely statue adorned the main intersection in Cement, OK.
Even though today is Day 14, we're all hangin' out ready to load our gear which can't happen one minute before 7:30 a.m.

Day 14 Hinton, OK-->Paul's Valley, OK

Departure: 7:30 a.m.
Arrival 3:00 p.m.
111 miles
Climbing?? (I'll fave to fill in that gap later)
Departure Temp: 57
Arrival temp: 81

We had some new riders today--Gene and Dana who had done San Diego-->Elk City, OK in the Spring with America By Bike (ABB) and are now back to do the eastern half. Two couples on tandems from Plano joined today for the weekend as well as a couple of Donna's friends who are joining just for the weekend.

Greg A.'s wife and kids joined him last night for a visit in Hinton and are here with him again tonight.

Today was a glorious day in so many ways. First of all, just the gift of being healthy enough to ride 115 miles a day, day after day after day. And, as you can tell from the post: "Who's on PAC" the vast majority of us are not in our 20's and 30's!

Second, stormy weather has been swirling around us to the the N, E, S, and W but has left us untouched. We certainly don't take that for granted. PAC has some stories to tell of bad weather tours. We still have half a Tour to go, but so far...

Third, the route today was somuch fun--good sized rollers, the kind that get you up to speeds of 30 mph going down, that being enough speed to carry you to the top of the next hill with little effort at all. The sky was blue, blue, blue and the temps in the mid 70's.

It's true you can tell what state you're in by the roadkill. Today was the day for armadillos and snakes. I remember a collegaue of mine many years ago who tried to bunny-hop an armadillo, didn't quite clear it and ended up crashing and breaking his hip. Armadillos down here are a prevalent as racoons back home (IL).

We had a rest stop in the town of Cement whose population is all of 537. I can think of a lot of places I'd rather be buried than in Cement.

We also passed through Bradley, OK, population 182. It had two signs in the middle of town made on a board painted white with hand-painted black letters. One sign pointed North for the Rock Shop. One sign pointed South for the Cemetary. That was the town.

I did my laundry tonight at a truck stop, shared the washer and dryer with Larry. Wasn't too hard to spearate the Victoria Secrets from the Speedos. :))

Ate at Punkins tonight. Quite a local favorite with the best delicately deep friend catfish I have ever had!

We're off for McCallister, tomorrow, our last day in OK.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Day 13 Erick, OK-->Hinton, OK

Departure 7:32 a.m.
Arrival 3:30 p.m.
103 miles
2,170' climbing

After 2-3 days of strong, almost scary winds, today awoke with the promise of blue skies, early warmth (high of 81), and temperate winds. We felt blessed as tornadoes were predicted in Kansas and Ilinois, and lots of rain in the eastern part of Oklahoma. But fair weather was ours for another day.

We would spend most of our day on Old Historic Route 66 with visits to two museums one in Elk City and and one in Clinton. The commitment to preserve that piece of our country's heritage is oh, so evident. It's hard for me to determine whether they are stuck in the past or preserving the past. If you haven't seen the animated movie, CARS, it does a really good job of capturing what it was like to have been alive on The Mother Road and what it was like for the towns, communities, the people when they were ghosted by I-40.

After two days of riding on roads that were so flat and nary a turn, today we enjoyed so many turns the P fairy had to ride ahead of us and spray paint P's (P for PAC) and arrows on the road so we wouldn't get lost. (Lon actaully carries a can of spray paint in his water bottle cage and sprays the arrows as he goes.) In addition to the turns we had some fun rollers which provided some nice variation to the pancake flat of the past few days.

Hinton is so small there is not a restaurant nearby so BBQ was catered in for us. We ate around the pool at the Microtel. Hinton is a wealthy town because of its oil and because they built a "private prison" which they sold a few years ago for 45 million.

At dinner tonight two crew/riders were awarded their 10,000 mile jerseys--Sylvia Edgar and Ned Nicolai. Their names will go on the Red Lunch Trailer, as well. Also at dinner tonight two more riders joined us, Gene P. and Dana M. I'll have some company as they are both recumbent riders.

Today also marked the half-way point in our Transcontinental Tour both in the number of days and in miles. We hit that mark just before the last rest stop today at about mile 80.

Day 13 Pix

Lunch at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK
The Mother Road
Bygone times--Route 66 Museum Clinton, OK
Clinton, OK
Outside the Route 66 Museum in Elk City, OK