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


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


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

Who's on Tour

States/Countries Represented On The Southern



















































Gender/Age Breakdown





































Thursday, September 21, 2006

More Day 11 and 12 Pix

The 2 odd bikes on the tour--I'm on the right, and Steve with his fixed gear bike on the left.
Poor shot of the NM state line sign which was actually a few days ago.
These are the yellow cones are bikes are trained to stop at which signify a rest stop. Boy, we love 'em.
A close up of the old gas pump at the Shamrock station on historic route 66.
Lon and Bisiti early one morning. Even Kirk will not be able to resist Bisti.

Pix From Days 11 and 12

BigTexan Hotel in Amarillo, home of the free72 ounce steak.
The horses came to visit us at one of our rest stops.
Another shot of the Big Texan Hotel.
The Hereford, TX Train Depot.

Day 12 Amarillo, TX-->Erick, OK

Day 12 Amarillo, TXà Erick, OK
Departure: 7:34 a.m.
Arrival: 3:00 p.m.
117 miles
1,500’ climbing
Departure Temp: 57, real feel 40
Arrival Temp:

We’re on Central Time now, home time for me. Since we’re on the western edge of the time zone the sun didn’t come up until 7:34, hence the later start.

We awoke to unbelievable winds. The local stations were predicting steady winds in the 30’s with gusts up to 50-60. I was really nervous not sure how in the world I could fight those winds for 117 miles if they were head winds. Well, the wind gods prevailed and it was a tailwind for the most part. So it was another 117 miles at a 20 mph average. Quite an artifact, though. I was in my large chain ring most of the time, coasting often.

One of the things I learned about strong winds is it is important to point downwind when you pee along side of the road. Probably more than you wanted to know, but hey, it was an important learning.

Much of our route today was on Historic Route 66. Some fun cafes and museums along the way, which I didn’t take the time to enjoy. My loss. Of course many of the little towns that thrived pre I-40 are now nearly ghosted. One such town is Texola, OK. The reported population in 2000 was 47. I can’t even imagine what growing up in such a place would be like.
Tomorrow we’re off to Hinton, OK. It is so tiny there is no restaurant for us to eat at so PAC will be barbecuing for us.

Day 11 Clovis, NM--> Amarillo, TX

Departure: 7:05 a.m.
Arrival: 1:30 p.m.
110 miles
Departure Temp: 55
Arrival Temp:

Today proved to be another “recovery day”. Winds, strong winds, prevailed from the west, southwest so we veritably flew out of NM and into TX. This will probably be the only time in my life that I will turn in a century (100 mile ride) with a 20 mph average.

I thought yesterday’s topography (NM) would be similar to today’s (TX) but it was, indeed, different. NM had shaggy prairie grass while the expanse was sprinkled with those brillo pad-esque bushes. Texas was just plain flat. And the stench of cattle, oh my! If the cattle weren’t in the feed lots they were being whisked down the highway (US Route 60) in cattle trucks. Even the county roads are marked, e.g. FM 3333. FM refers to “Farm to Market.” I renewed my commitment with the cattle to remain vegetarian. One of the towns we passed through was even named Hereford!

Trains, oh my goodness, the trains. I have never seen so many and so long. It makes the trains that run through Des Plaines, IL pale in significance. As soon as one 100 car-train passes, the next comes rolling through and sometimes they are going in both directions at the same time. Never ends. I guess training is alive and well for the BNSF in the West.

Riding through the little town of Canyon I saw the Happy Bank founded in 1908. I wondered what it would be like to be at a convention of bank Presidents and CEO/CFO’s. There would be representatives from Chase Manhattan, LaSalle, Citibank, and Happy? Hard to take that guy/gal seriously, I would think.

Our cue sheet indicated we would be descending into a canyon for 5 miles at a 10% grade. We would then need to climb out of the canyon to get to The Big Texas Restaurant and Motel, the home of the free 72 ounce steak; free only if you can eat it, a baked potato, salad, and shrimp cocktail in 60 minutes. I was pretty intimidated at the thought of a 50-60 mph descent and then climbing out of that for 5 miles. I was prepared to ride in the SAG wagon through the canyon. Made sense to me to conserve my legs and immune system for the next 2,000 miles of the trip rather than blow it out on one canyon. But, as luck would have it we were routed around the BIG canyon and only had a fun descent and easy climb out. So, win-win for all.
Tomorrow we’ll be in yet another state, Oklahoma. Erick will be our first of four stops with the Sooners.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Day 10 Pix

C'est moi.

Day 10 Roswell, NM-->Clovis, NM

Departure: 7:05 a.m.
Arrival: 1:45 p.m.
107 miles
1000’ climbing
Departure temp: 44
Arrival temp: 81

Today was an awesomely sweet day. We call it a recovery ride. 107 miles of flat, flat, flat, Kansas-like grazing prairie. If that wasn’t good enough, we had a steady 15 mph cross or tail wind. Many of us were cruising down the road at 30-34 mph for significant periods of time. It was pretty hard to get lost, too, as we were on only one road, US Route 70, for 106 of the 107 miles.

There were several stretches where different ones of us were riding in big packs. The terrain was simple enough that conversation was easy even at 30 mph.

Most of us are holding up well, body-wise, although some are having biomechanical problems, especially those who have some asymmetry things going on, like one foot bigger than the other, or one leg shorter than the other. Then there’s the sunburned lips that are inevitable (but painful), and sunburned faces and legs. Sunscreen helps, but…

We passed through Portales 20 miles outside of Clovis. Their marquis on the outskirts of town was “12,000 friendly people and 3 or 4 old grumps. Makes me wonder if there’s an annual vote for who the 3 or 4 grumps will be for the next year. J

Our hotel is situated in a place were there are no eating options other than Mickey D’s and a truck stop with a Deli. So, about half of us ate in the HI dining room which actually turned out to be a fun thing. Lots of table hopping and good story swapping regarding the routes or living with a roommate.

We have lost two riders, meaning they packed their bags and went home sometime late in the first week. It was just more than they were ready for. PAC and riders worked with them to reduce their goals of riding every mile across the country and make it a training ride by riding something every day, but to no avail.

Tomorrow we enter Texas after only seven miles. Amarillo is the destination with much anticipation for the restaurant experience that features a 72 ounce steak. Ugh!

Day 9

Departure 7:05 a.m.
Arrival 2:30 p.m.
97 miles
1,600' of climbing
Departure Temp: 41
Arrival Temp: 81

The most significant feature of today was riding out of altitude. I mentioned yesterday that many of us were having problems with altitude one way or another. Most were having mild to severe bloating/fluid retention issues (one person even went to the hospital for some IV therapy). Since I hammered the hills yesterday and was barely even aware of the altitude I had no fear and trepidation about today. One thing I'm learning while on Tour is performance one day is absolutely no predictor of performance tomorrow.

It was cold (41 degrees) and out of the hotel parking lot we were faced with an 8% grade ascent. The minute my foot hit the pedal I knew I was in big trouble. The thin air, the cold, muscles that weren't warmed up, and muscles that had worked hard the day before ground me to a complete halt. I made it to the first ridge of the first climb (there were 3 big climbs out of the valley) and absolutely could not breathe. I had to stop for 5-6 minutes gasping for breath while the other riders seemingly sailed on past. When I/we weren't climing, we were descending 8-10% grades in either the cloak of early morning darkness or blinding sun-rise depending on which side of the mountain we were on. That makes seeing scree on the road difficult and us difficult to see for morning trucks and commuter traffic.

The morning was a challenge for all of us, but each had his/her own stories of why and how. Dennis, one of our Alaskan riders, still thought it was summer so was riding in short fingered gloves, a short sleeved jersey, and riding shorts. This time he readily admits he was COLD. When he passed through the little town of Capitan he found a local roasting chilis on some kind of a kettle drum. He stopped to warm up over the grill and was the benefactor of some chillis and a plastic bag to put under his jersey to break the wind. Another rider hit speeds of 47 mph going down those descents with the vision limitations. Way to scary for me, for sure.

With my slow start I was quickly at the back of the pack, sort of a lonely place to be. Since there was some confusion on the route card some riders were backtracking. By the time I got to the first rest stop at mile 24 there were 5 of us who rode together to lunch. Basically from the 1st rest stop to Roswell was a slow descent from the starting elevation of 7,300 to 4,000. I began to feel better physically as we continued to descend and actually finished quite strong, but the morning took its toll.

All of us are beginning to get a return of our kidney function and, therefor, beginning to loose the bloating in our tissues.

Roswell is, of course, the home of the UFO museum 3 miles from our hotel. PAC shuttled those who wanted to go to and from the museum which is in an old movie theater. Everything about the museum has a 1950's feel to it. None of the people I talked to came out a believer.

The country side today was, as usual, beautiful--rolling lands with cattle grazing, horses corralled, and families of elk. Almost as holy for me as the corn and soybean field of the midwest.

Tomorrow appears to be a flat day to Clovis, NM.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Worthy Annecdote From Day 7

We would be leaving Springerville, AZ early in the monring and entering NM very shortly where the time zone would change to Mountain Time. We were instructed to turn our clocks to Mountain Time before we went to bed and as we would be leaving Springerville on Mountain Time. Since I was using my cell phone as my time piece and my alarm clock, changing the time zone wasn't going to be a happening thing until we actually crossed the time zone line. I got quite confused about what time I should set my alarm for so ended up waking up my roomate, Julie at 3:15 a.m. Pacific Time quite in a panic that my alarm had not gone off at 4:00 Mountain Time. She assured me we still had an hour of sleep. Since not a soul was in the parking lot, I fitfully tried to go back to sleep.

Well, my story was one end of the confused continnum. This was the day I SAGGED to lunch so was in the van when the caravan was literally pulling out of the parking lot. All the riders had left 45-60 minutes earlier. Just as we pulled out one lone rider, Gary, emerged from his room into the parking lot looking for breakfast and everyone else. He had not gotten the message about the time zone change thing.

Someone jumped out of the van and grabbed him a couple of Danishes; someonelse pumped up his tires; someonelse threw hihs gear bag into the van; and someonelse outfitted him with a route card and he was off. He caught the last rider at mile 20, the next rider at mile 30 and began passing a slew of riders at mile 50. One heck of a strong rider.

I think we are all better equipped to handle the next time zone change a little more efficiently.


More Day 8 Pix

This is the rest stop at the top of the 800' climb. Inide the back of the van are all kinds of useful things like water, gatorade, advil, electrolyte supplements, Hammer Sustained Energy to be added to our water bottles, sunscreen, etc. Snacks are on the table under the shelter.

Day 8 Pix

Dan A. and me near the lava fields.