Days 1, 9, 12 and 20 were big days:
Day 1: The Dalles, OR--103 miles, 8,300'
Day 9: Vernal, UT--149 miles, 8,550'
Day 12: Buena Vista, CO--107 miles, 8,000' (Independence Pass)
Day 20: Talimena Lodge, AR--100 miles, 7,500' (Talimena Parkway)
From here to Savannah our days are expected to be shorter and flatter, music to my legs and feet being the Midwest flat lander that I am.
The cue card said nothing about off roading at mile 20. After a group huddle and discussion with a construction authority we proceeded. As I looked at us single filing through clouds of dust carrying our most prized possession, it looked to me like we were crossing some border, fleeing some oppressor, but the feelings were not congruent with such a march.
Per plan I had opted out of climbing the second 50 miles of the day all at 10-13% grade. That choice seemed congruent with my new-found peacefulness of not try to prove to myself that I was not 63+.
Three years ago on the Southern Transcon I opted to take "the low road" to Mena, AR bypassing the Talimena Parkway. While that worked well for me bike-wise, I missed the glorious beauty of vista after vista from atop the Parkway. Catching the views from the van was a wonderful treat.
And then, of course, we greeted a new state.
Brian Stockbridge, one of our riders who had planned to ride the full distance, had to leave in Amarillo. He was riding this Tour as a fundraiser for the Nevus Outreach Foundation. His son had died of this condition in 1997 at the age of 7. Since many had pledged a dollar amount per mile that we would ride, the rest of the riders picked up the mantle to finish the ride for him. Mark, from the Nevus Outreach in Bartlesville, OK, drove 200+ miles to meet us here at the Talimena Lodge, share the mission of the Foundation, and he bought us dinner!
Brian, we'll be riding for you, David, and all the others who are trying to manage their lives with a giant nevus.