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.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
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?
Saturday, July 25, 2009
What a joy today was. I had opted out of the infinity number of 13-17% climbs yesterday on the Telimina Parkway, but I got to taste them this morning, maybe about 6 hills for a total of 500' of climbing in 12 miles. I didn't need more to get the picture. :)
I am continuing to savor the treat of staying at the Queen Wilhelmina State Park last night 2000' above the verdant valleys. Reminded me of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but in Arkansas. Such a delightful change from the Days Inn-type accommodations on an Interstate Exchange with Jake brakes growling into the night.
Our first rest stop at mile 33 was at the Big Fork Mall; we had "rested" there in 2006 as well. It was good to be back. I believe some of the items on the shelves hadn't moved in three years.
The terrain today was made for me/recumbents. Loved the fast descents with an immediate upswell. Played on the hills with Tom, Greg, and Lori--nice to be able to ride with them today. Usually they're long-gone ahead of me.
A couple nights ago the guys had a shaving party--their legs that is. I do believe there is only one hold-out in the male under 50 crowd. They claim it helps the bugs not stick to their legs. Hmmm.
Only 102 miles today so we were in early and were finished with dinner by 6:00. Maybe I can actually go to bed earlier tonight.
Friday, July 24, 2009
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.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I'm still remembering yesterday's ride with great fondness, maybe my funnest riding day. There were others that were more strikingly scenic, but as for pure fun, yesterday is the winner, so far. Quite a bit of steep climbing but they were all hills built for my style of recumbent riding--steep climb followed immediately by a fast descent that carried me up 2/3's to 3/4 up the next hill. Over and over and over again. Loved it.
Today was similar in distance and amount of climbing, but the hills were not as much my style, so more of a workout with less of the pleasure.
But, what was absolutely delightful today were all the sounds, Midwest sounds,I'd say. We'd ride through ranch lands and then into a wooded section, rich with deciduous trees that offered a vibrant orchestra in its tune-up mode--cicadas, birds, frogs all in full throat.
Road kill has shifted from deer, racoon, and an occasional porcupine, to armadillos, actually lots of them. Lon was recalling the fully rigor mortissed bobcat he found along side the road on a previous tour on this route. He stopped, took off his front wheel, scooped it up and stood it up on its hind legs along side the road. When the riders passed it later in the day, well, let's say it was the talk of dinner that night. Pretty funny. Reminded me that yesterday I'd seen a mail box that had been toppled. On closer inspection t'was not a mail box but a rigor mortissed deer.
My head is in a much better place today, too, thank goodness. I'm feeling full of gratitude for the gift of being able to ride this Tour: to be fit enough; to not be compromised by medical issues; to have the family support; to have the finances in place; and the time to be able to pursue this quest which seems to have an increasing focus on integration of whole life experience. Exactly how I will be called to share the wisdom remains to be discerned. I'm committed to staying open to learning more about that, and am much more accepting that at age 63.75 I am not supposed to be able to compete with men or women 20 years my junior.
Pictures today seem a little impoverished compared to the striking beauty of of OR, ID, UT, and CO. But, that, too, is the way life is.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I decided to ride alone today, not try to ride with anyone. If someone came up along side and was riding my pace, fine. But otherwise I'd ride my own ride having no expectations and making no assumptions. Seemed to work well.
Loved today's route, the hills reminded me of hills in Wisconsin near Verona and Madison where Mark, Jeff, and I did a bunch of riding before the transcon; also reminded me of the hills up by Stevens Point, WI and on the TOMRV route--the Quad Cities-->Dubuque, IA and back. Before we hit the hills we were back on Old Route 66. Interesting how the old and the new are juxtaposed.
Hills, rollers they're called, don't capture well on my camera and that constituted most of our scenery today. But I can offer you these pix, the like of which would not be seen around Chicago. :)
Thanks LB :)
On paper today's journey should have been an easy one: 105 miles, only 2,500' of climbing, and two Route 66 Museum stops, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It turned out to be anything but easy, at least for me.
First, my legs just had no energy, very sluggish. I tried to hang on to the wheels of Franz, Ellie, Melissa, and Jonathan. I did for the first 25 miles to Erick, OK where we paused briefly to capture the lore of the town in a photo.
After the photo op I couldn't hang on any longer and fell off the rear leaving me to battle the 30 mph head wind by myself. For some reason I was feeling particularly limbic today (emotional) so took being dropped quite personally. By the time I reached the 2nd rest stop at mile 54 I had nothing left, physically or emotionally, so opted to SAG to lunch, 18 miles up the road.
I did revisit the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, at mile 54. They capture the "stuff" that made up the lifestyle of the 1940's, 50's and 60's, oh so well. Would love to be able to spend a couple of hours savoring. After all, those are my formative decades.
The SAG plus lunch brought some life to my legs, but not my spirit. Rode alone to Weatherford, home of Astromaut Thomas Stafford and literally hundreds of windmills. Each of those windmill blades is probably 90' long, each windmill costs in the neighborhood of $1 million. In these parts it is common to be passed by a truck bearing the Oversize Load warning carrying one windmill blade.
For the first time on this Tour I forgot to bring my computer in to my room--left it in the motel truck. I considered it a good accident that allowed me to go to bed early and hopefully rest my body and my spirit.