Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Fun weekend in Muskegon riding with Ken and Denise. There is truth in advertising. Michigan does, indeed, have great riding. We got in 192 miles in a day and a half.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 08, 2009
For 30 days I lived a very simple, structured life. I had two sets of riding clothes, two sets of after-ride clothes, a camera, smartphone, and laptop, Hammer nutritional supplements, a clothesline string and clothes pins. Less than 25 pounds for 30 days. Didn't want for more. My only credit card charges for over a month were for dinner. Twenty-seven of those dinners were at the level of Waffle House or below. Three of them were really high class, like Ruby Tuesdays or Cracker Barrel.
I was never more alive than I was these last 30 days--totally focused on the physical road ahead, but not the journey ahead. To focus beyond the next rest stop 30 miles out detracted from the present. Other times the focus was reduced to the radio tower on the left at mile 68.6 or the relay station on the right at mile 72.4.
People ask what in the world do you think about for all those hours, all those miles? It's a difficult question to answer because I don't think I think about much, but I feel a lot, a real lot.
I felt humbled and oh, so grateful to have the privilege to ride my bike across America. I would direct my gratitude specifically to the individuals who have given so much to make it possible for me to be able to ride today, praying specifically for their presence in my life and courage to live their lives with integrity and passion.
I felt wonder and awe as I glided across this magnificent country of ours--the great mountains some green, some barren, some white that have been there for millions of years and will be there for millions more just looking at us; rushing mountain streams, roaring washes, desiccated river beds; dust, tumbleweed, great rolling plains whose expansiveness defies measurement in units I can even comprehend; towns, like Groom and Conway that have been ghosted by "civil progress", kept alive only my those who nurture the Mother Road; all God's creatures only some of which I saw as road-kill along the way, but they were plentiful enough to remind me of the great diversity of nature and how arrogant we often become when we begin to think that we as a species, race, nationality, or gender are somehow more worthy than others.
I felt a daily anxiety ball in the pit of my being that I would not have the resources to climb or descend the next mountain, or go the full day's distance.
I felt inadequate as the fast group would over take me never to be seen again till dinner. That some of these riders were ranked by the US Cycling Organization, that all the women riders were 12-30 years younger than I didn't change things for me.
Sometimes I wore my old demons as a collar that squeezed out tears making it difficult to see and even harder to experience, the beauty and joy all around.
I felt the age of all my years, really for the first time. I actually believe my hair grayed by 10% on this trip.
It took me till about Day 20 to catch on to something really big. Yes, I was 3rd oldest person on the Tour and the oldest female. BUT, and here's the HUGE but, my bike weighed 15-20 pounds more than everyone else's bike--a blunt reality of a steel recumbent vs a carbon fiber or Titanium upright. I had HUGE nutritional restrictions that resulted in my being able to consume maybe 3,000 calories a day while others were easily consuming 6-9,000 per day. Those are pretty steep odds to overcome.
Wrestling with the demons was useless as they are ageless and rich with tenacity. It's counter-intuitive, but the only way to deal with demons is to accept them, call them by name, and keep pedaling, keep pedaling, keep pedaling, follow the white line, follow the white line, follow the white line. And at the end of the day, say thank you for a safe day doing what I dearly love, shower, share the joys, beauties, and challenges of the day with the others, try to eat something, and get some sleep.
A few things I know are true:
- In a few days, few weeks, my physical body will be healed by the tincture of time and rest along with returning to foods that can nurture and an activity level that can be supported by those foods.
- Sharing the journey with those who truly love me, those who truly were supporting me in their own unique ways, and those who are hearing about the journey for the very first time will help me integrate known gifts and discover others still packed in a zip locked bag in the bottom of my duffel bag.
- I will never be the same person I was when I left home on July 3rd, 2009. My hope is that others will be able to experience my growth and gratitude.
How long will it take to re-enter? Not sure. Maybe check the blog from time to time to see what else I've learned from this PAC Tour from Portland, OR-->Tybee Island, GA in 3,484 miles and 30 days, and 124,000' of up, ups, and upper ups.
That's the PAC motel truck bottom left corner
First order of business after the beach was to pack the bikes. We'll all need to do a very thorough bike cleaning once we get home followed by an equally thorough tune up given, not so much the wear of the miles, but the abuse of the rain. Then there was settling of our PAC accounts--tubes, tires, patch kits, wheels, bike box shipping, massages--showers for us, and finally time to visit with friends and family who had come to join us.
LB and Suzanne made a HUGE effort to be there for me. LB's flight was canceled, the rental car place was shut down by the time she arrived at the Savannah airport, and the first two cab companies weren't awake either. She got to Tybee about midnight. Suzanne began the 7.5 hour trip from Tampa to Tybee after she got off work; she arrived about 5:00 a.m. after a 3 hour sleep break at a truck stop. They had been at the Tybee sign only two minutes when I rolled up.
The last 10 miles from lunch to the Tybee sign were teary ones for me as I flashed through memories of the beauty and the challenges of this ride; my awareness that the probability of my doing another transcon is very slim indeed; my awareness of the huge surround of support I had with me along the journey: Kirk, Bryan, Katie, Daniel, Mark, Jeff, LB, Suzanne, church friends, riding friends, non-riding friends, bike mechanics, Rebekah's House, colleagues, people I knew and people I didn't know who cared enough to comment on the blog, and people I still don't know but who were out there supporting me in prayer and spirit, and not to forget the PAC crew and riders.
Susan Notorangelo's 45 minute slide show of daily pix from Portland to Tybee brought it all back, all of it. Wow! Hope I can get a disk. We each received a framed picture of us along the route, each had the opportunity to say a few words, and the map was auctioned off, Jonathan being the winner, to support Lon's and Susan's philanthropic projects in Peru.
Farewell hugs all around and then we dispersed to re-enter our former lives, but never to be the same person we were 30 days ago.
Crew: Beginning back, left: Alan Stokes, Rebecca Haldeman, Christopher Stegeman, Steve Shearin, Karl Stock,Franz Neuert, Susan Notorangelo, Lon Haldeman, Jon Jahant, and John Lake. Not pictured are Barb and Phil Bohaty who left us in Amarillo. Jon and John filled their shoes.
The day awoke with a mix of heavy heart and "let's get on with it". The heavy heart was no longer about the end-of-the-ride being near, but that one our riders had fallen hard 11 miles out from the hotel in Metter, GA on Day 29 on the wet road. He would we having surgery to repair the break in the neck of his femur about the time we would be arriving on the beach at Tybee Island.
Four trips to the hospital, three riders not returning, but having to go home, and one of them needing to have surgery seems like a high percentage of accidents among 17 riders--nearly 25%, and they were all very experienced riders!
It looked like the rain would hold off till we got safely in which was more than welcome given how very wet we had been for each of the last 7 days. There was not a "catch me if you can" sprint mentality today, just a focused, let's finish this job, and finish it well. Lunch came at mile 48 today, instead of mile 75-80. Funny to be eating lunch at 10:30 a.m. But, we needed to all be at the Welcome To Tybee Island sign by 1:00 so we could parade lap the last 4 miles into the hotel.
Through the parking lot, over the board walk, onto the beach, drop the bikes and jump into the ocean.
Then lots of pix of friends, the group, and lots of hugs from friends and families who had come to celebrate this incredible journey.
Dan and Brian Hofstra
Jonathan, Melissa, and me
Says it all :)
Sunday, August 02, 2009
117 miles and a relatively flat 2,000' of climbing today. The whole crowd was relaxed today, more relaxed than I've experienced us since Day 10 riding from Vernal, UT-->Rangely, CO. Rangely was the day we had but 53 miles. Since we'd arrived so early, the whole group lunched in the grass at the city park waiting for our rooms to be readied. That turned out to be a significant day for bonding. It was still early enough in the ride that whole-group bonding could still occur. The gap between the fast group and the slow group is great enough that after ride socializing tends to happen among members of the fast and slow group. But having had the Rangely day, with an added visit to the local Espresso bar (the last time we've seen the likes of such on the whole tour), pleasantly narrowed the social gap. Wouldn't it have been nice if it could have narrowed the riding gap as well?
That the route was relatively flat today also kept the group physically closer together. The day called for RAIN and that it did. Lost count of how many days, now, we've contended with the evil wet stuff. We all smell like mildew and our duffle bags smell even worse.
We're all definitely into the bittersweet place of being quite ready for this to be over, and yet the simplicity of our lives (no responsibility but to ride, wearing the same one outfit day after day), and the friendships made are sad to see come to an end tomorrow.
I can tell you one thing for sure: I will be quite pleased to experience restaurants other than fast foods found on Interstate exchanges.
Tomorrow will be sort of like the Parade Lap. An easy 58 miles to lunch and then another 25 or so to a rendezvous spot where we will wait till all the riders arrive. Then, the whole group will ride in together through Tybee Island; we'll ride through the hotel parking lot, over the boardwalk and out onto the beach of the Atlantic Ocean. Woo Hoo: 3,484 miles, 30 days, and 124,100' of climbing.
We all knew we would make it, but what it would take to make it remained an unanswered question until tonight. Yet, accidents can happen so fast, we are all committed to being hypervigilant tomorrow, taking nothing for granted.
Oh, the good news is that Melissa, who fell so hard on her hip about a week ago, has ridden the last two days. Woo Hoo for her. She is one tough rider.
Melissa (from AU) and me at the first rest stop on our way to Rangely, CO on Day 10.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
It's always been interesting to me to hear people talk about participating in PAC Tour as a Holiday (if you have English roots) or a vacation (if you're American). For me any of my cycling endeavors and adventures have all been very focused actions toward a quest in my spiritual development. The bike is simply the vehicle that carries me on the journey, a vehicle that I truly enjoy, I might add.
My first Transcon was in 2006 the summer I was still 60. That journey was a consummate celebration of healing from 11 years of functional disability from back disease and injury. Was crossing the country even possible for the likes of me? Every night on that Tour I went to sleep with an anxiety ball in the pit of my stomach wondering if I had what it took to be able to ride whatever was before me the next day. And I did, every mile, save for about 25 one day in the first week when I was fighting a cold.
Three years later, 2009, finds me closer to 64 than 63. It also finds me having ridden about 30,000 more miles and having completed four solo tours from between 500 and 1000 miles each. And, it finds me having added several significant food intolerances that have made fueling my body for 30 back-to-back 100+ mile rides a serious challenge.
The result: I have seen way more of the inside of the SAG vehicles than I ever imagined possible. It's sobering to confront the diminishment of my physical abilities, and yet I guess that is an age-appropriate thing. I truly believe that 50% of my diminished performance is a function of my age. The other 50% I truly believe is that I simply have not been able to fuel my self adequately given that all dairy, all grains but rice, and refined sugar of any kind are off the list. HAMMER nutrition products have been great, but not enough to fuel in the neighborhood of 6,000 calories per day.
There are two days left on this Tour. I will be interested to see how I integrate the spiritual yearnings and learnings over the next weeks and months. But for now what I'm gleaning is that, as I move into this next season of my life, the opportunities will increase for me to be humbled by my inabilities that were once strengths; I will need to ask for help more often; and I will want to say "thank you" for both the opportunity to participate in life and to whomever it was that reached out a hand when it was needed.
I pray that I will be able to live this next life-season with robust gladness and graciousness.
- Kirk grew up in GA so we were but 45 miles from his home when we were in Eufaula, AL yesterday and about 85 miles from his home when we arrived in Perry, GA today.
- 3 years ago on my first Transcon I flew up and over the steep rollers from Eufaula-->Perry because Kirk would be meeting me in Perry to ride the last 2 days in the SAG vehicle.
- This year from Eufaula-->Perry I rode in the SAG vehicle. I had absolutely no "go juice" in my legs. None. More on that later.
- 40 years ago today was our wedding rehearsal, which, of course, means tomorrow is our 40th wedding anniversary.
(A side note: when we were planning our wedding we considered Saturday, July 19th, 1969, but decided that date sounded loo much like a day you might go to the dentist. So, we chose August 2nd. Turned out July 19th, 1969 was the day all of America and much of the world was glued to the TV watching Neil Armstrong take the first human step on the moon. What a distraction that would have been for our wedding!)
- Today our route took us to Andersonville, GA for our lunch stop, home of the Confederate Civil War Prison Camp officially known as Camp Sumter. Since I was not riding I had a few minutes to visit the Museum, which is powerfully done, as moving as the newly opened Holocaust Museum in Skokie, IL. I would like to return sometime and spend several quiet hours in humility, horror, and with hope that indeed we have made a little progress in justice and respect for all.
The quote on the picture reads: "Then came the captives, weary, worn, and hungry from prolonged travel cooped up like beasts in freight cars. Down from the depot they marched among the jeers and jaunts of a gaping crowd. The gate opened. The stockade swallowed them."
12,913 of the 45,000 Union soldiers imprisoned at the Camp died of starvation and disease.
Playing a little catch-up here as it got too late last night to blog.
These last several days have been characterized by rain, lots of rain, but not scary rain, at least not the hours when we were out in it. Actually I have welcomed it because it would cool us off, at least for a little while.
We're definitely now in the land of kudzu, that overpowering vine from Asia. Here's what the Internet has to say about it:
Kudzu vines can make walking across the land nearly impossible, as it takes over all horizontal and vertical surfaces, both natural and manmade. Its dense vegetation obstructs all views and movement into the area. It kills or degrades other plants by smothering them under a solid blanket of leaves, by girdling woody stems and tree trunks, and by breaking branches or uprooting entire trees and shrubs through the sheer force of its weight.
I have discovered the sheer joy of pouring ice cold water into my riding shoes when my the balls of my feet are burning like searing anvils. Learned that trick from Karl. Yesterday I stopped at a "grocery" store in Oak Hill (reminded me of the Big Fork Mall) to buy a bottle of water. Poured half of it in me and the balance in my shoes. Started climbing going about 6 mph when this unbelievable wind came up that nearly laid the trees horizontal. With that my speed went instantly up to 27 mph through no effort of my own. Of course the rain followed the wind and my shoes were permanently soaked. Had I known, I wouldn't have had to buy a bottle of water. :)
We all got settled into Greenville before the sheets of nearly horizontal rain came. No problem. Gave us plenty of time to enjoy a real meal at Ruby Tuesdays. The haute cuisine of Ruby Tuesdays is measured against the bas cuisine of Eufaula tonight. Waffle House! That's my rotisserie chicken from Piggly Wiggly. Definitely not haute, definitely bas.
Today was not only characterized by rain, but some steep rollers the likes of which we'll see more of in the next couple of days.
If you're in kudzu country, you're also in church sign country. A couple notables of the last couple of days.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tomorrow will mark new territory for me. My 2006 Transcon was 26 days, 2,984 miles. Tomorrow will be Day 27. I do know we are all very tired, and our skin is taking a beating in places not exposed to the sun. At the same time, though, we don't want this magical thing we're all doing together to end: breakfasts in the parking lot, lunches along some road between Faith, Hope, Friendship, and Money (actual towns we've ridden through), bike cleaning and repair in the parking lot, followed by dinner at some off-beat Family Restaurant and story swapping of the day's beauty and challenges with dogs and weather. Soon we will scatter to all corners of this country, Canada, Australia, and the UK. But one thing I know is true is that many of us will see each other again on the road with PAC or on our own made-up adventure.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The weather report forecasted yet another day of storms and rain. It did, indeed, start out that way, but by late morning the rain had stopped and the mug of muggy Mississippi prevailed. My camera was double bagged in zip lock baggies so inaccessible for pix. I did snag some pix from Melissa's FaceBook that capture the sog of the day quite well.
Cycling in the elements is about managing fluids, electrolytes, sufficient fuel, (and the right kind of fuel), and heat and cold. Just two days ago I was wearing and ice sock trying to stay cool in the 105 degree heat with the humidity about the same. Yesterday and today it's been about trying to stay warm enough in the rain. Staying dry is out of the question. But rain jackets can help deflect painful rain drops or hail and help keep some heat in if the temperature drops.
On my recumbent I'm much closer to the ground than the uprights
so am much more likely to get a direct hit from the spray of the 18 wheelers. That was certainly the case today from the logging trucks and those carrying chickens to slaughter. I was poignantly reminded of the illustration in Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar In The World: A Geography of Faith in which she found herself following a chicken truck in North Georgia; the chickens packed in crates with a total absence of compassion for their lives or their exposure to the elements, be it wind, rain, heat, or freezing cold. Their feathers flew through the open wires in their crates and stuck to her windshield. And from all of that she was humbled at the sacrifice that the chickens were making that she might live. She didn't stop eating chicken, but her grace of thanks before eating took on a deeper meaning. Having no windshield on my bike, my body absorbed their feathers along with the spray of many 18 wheels.
Dinner tonight was a Chicken Salad from Subway from the Chevron Station feet from the motel. I gave thanks to the chickens who sacrificed much.
(As I write at 8:00 p.m., there is a raging lightning/thunderstorm dropping enough rain to amount to 2" in an hour if it continues to rain that long. Am thankful I'm inside.)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Yesterday's heat and humidity totally depleted me of energy and nutrition. Maybe it's the getting old thing, but I knew last night it would be hard for me to replenish/recover in time to ride 134 miles again today. When I awoke I knew for sure it would be wise for me to SAG to lunch, mile 71. What I didn't know when I awoke was that it had rained most of the night and that it was raining at the "get the bikes ready and eat breakfast in the parking lot" time. Sure sealed my decision to SAG till lunch. Good decision, too, as the rain rolled through in storm after storm all day.
I decided to ride from lunch in to Kosciusko, 65 odd miles; Melissa and I would mange the raindrops together. No more than 3 miles from lunch both of us went down independent of one another but at the same corner, our rear wheel slipping into a huge crack in the pavement. My tumble was routine--a little road rash and a hole in my shorts. Melissa's was potentially much more serious as she landed on her hip that has been replaced x2. She rode on for 10 miles and then decided to have it checked out. Fortunately the damage was not structural, just soft tissue. She's off the bike for maybe a week, and on crutches till she can weight bear again.
Meanwhile the rain came in monsoon like torrents followed by dry pavement and sunshine, over and over and over again. Jonathan approached the PAC Tour record of the number of flats in one day--7. Lon holds the record, though, 10 in 35 minutes on one of the Route 66 Tours.
Greg found his 11th license plate today. I believe he has one from each of the states we've ridden in, with some dupes. John's dog count is up to 51--the number of dogs that has rushed him, and we have the biggest dog rushing states yet to ride!
Pictures were scarce today as our cameras were zip locked in plastic bags. The forecast is much the same for tomorrow, although our distance is less--115 miles and 5,500' of climbing.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Yes, we entered Mississippi today, only two more states to go and 7 more riding days. Wow, hardly seems like 3+ weeks ago that we all sat on our bikes in the parking lot in Troutdale, OR, no one willing to make the first move to roll out and get this Tour underway.
The parking lot was still on the dark side as breakfast was at 6:00 and ride out at 6:30. Long day today, 134 miles with temps surely to be in the 100's and the humidity nearly the same. The breakfast benches were configured just a little differently today, they reminded me of a pre-school line-up of sorts.
Steve, from the Southern Transcon will be riding with us today and then will drive the 5 hours home to KY from Clarksdale, MS.
Sunrise as we left Pine Bluff
Today was particularly flat, topographically, but actually quite rich in experience. Road kill was plentiful: hog (not sure if it was domestic or wild), many snakes, raccoons, and, of course, armadillos. I was struck today with how frequently we cyclists smell death. Those riding in cars might smell a skunk, but the smell of death is not a part of a car passenger's experience, especially not these days when windows are sealed tight for climate control.
Climate control was the mo for all of us today. It's a tricky thing to balance fluids, electrolytes, and fuel on rides of >100 miles in high heat and humidity. Thanks goodness for Hammer Products designed to fuel and hydrate endurance athletes. I even broke out my Ice Collar today, an extra large men's soccer tube sock, which I filled with ice and tied around my neck. A fully stuffed sock would be totally melted in 10 miles. I'm sporting it at the "Welcome to Mississippi" sign.
The crop dusters were doing aerial acrobatics for us, I'm sure of it. As they'd disgorge their belly of airborne pesticide all I could think of was Agent Orange. I recommitted to buying organic and local.
We crossed the Arkansas River early in the day, a warm-up to the Mississippi River crossing at the end of our day.
Crossing Tom Sawyer's River at Helena, AR was anticlimactic this time around. In the 2006 Transcon we crossed about 7:00 a.m. with the sun rising over the river and no hint of traffic. And, I was flooded with a river of emotions anchored in finally being east of the Mississippi, where home had been (and still is) for me, all my life.
This year we crossed about 1:30 p.m. in the heat of the day and the heat of truck traffic. The nearly 1 mile long bridge has only a 12" shoulder which makes sharing the lane with trucks and cars anything but a relaxing photo opportunity. You just want to get off the bridge safely.
Churches are also plentiful in these parts, most quite humble in structure. This one made me chuckle.
St. Matthew Gum Bottom Baptist Church. I don't know what Gum Bottom means to them, but to me it meant cleaning the under side of pews of gum bored young'ns had stuck there for posterity.
Click on the pix to zoom in.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
You could say this was the Day of the Dogs--trailer dogs that is. On the phylogeny scale, trailer dogs are one step above feral and one step below farm. About a dozen came out to greet me, but my sweet talk strategy continues to work for me.
Weather.com didn't have good things to say about our weather for today. Serious thunderstorms were in the offing. When the temp at 6:00 a.m. was 78 and the humidity was 88%, we knew we were in for a scorcher and maybe rain wouldn't be so bad after all.
We did get some rain off and on for the first 30-40 miles; actually it felt pretty good. Greg summed it up perfectly: "You know you're in the southeast when you don't know if you're wet from rain, sweat, humidity, or Gatorade".
The roads today were not particularly picture worthy, but they sure were pleasant: decent road surface, no traffic, lush, but unremarkable, vegetation, and lots of churches, mostly Baptist of one flavor or another. This is Sunday and we were traveling through church-land during worship hours. Many of them had only 5 or 6 cars in their parking area, which was sometimes the grass. We passed through several little towns whose population ranged from 200-500, places such as Faith, Friendship, Leola, Rolla, and Grapevine. Always makes me chuckle: just how does my nutritionist expect me to find gluten free, corn free, soy free, dairy free, dye free, sugar free food in places the likes of these?
My friend, Steve Dieball from the Southern, surprised me and drove 7 hours from Smiths Grove, KY to Pine Bluff, AR then rode our route backwards 23 miles to meet us at our lunch stop. He'll ride the 134 miles with us tomorrow to Clarksdale, MS and will then drive back home.
Steve and I drove around Pine Bluff (in his car) and found the place to truly be in a state of decline. Don't know if downtown has moved someplace else, or if it is falling on harder economic times than other places. Lots of abandoned store fronts. One Sunbeam sign that is circa 1950 and a delightful sign on the old train station.
Not sure what my preoccupation with laundry is but here's another variation of PAC laundry.
I think maybe it's that our life on the road is such a time warp, a total detachment from our other life of family, work, civic, and social connections. Laundry is one of the few threads that bind our two worlds. Maybe?