Sunday, August 16, 2009

Transcon Pix

I've organized my pix from the transcon by state plus a set of individual pix of the riders and some memorable signs seen along the way.
 Portland Mosaic
Here's the link to flickr

Or, you can click on the mosaic.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Re-entry

How does my body, how does my spirit , how does my mind stop something as big as a 3,500 mile, 30 day transcontinental bike ride just because I dipped my wheel in the Atlantic? How do I walk away and re-enter my real world?

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.

Tybee Island Doings

Ocean Plaza Motel
Ocean Plaza Motel2
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
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.

Day 30_August 3rd-->Tybee Island, GA

Welcome to  tybee
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.
Riders almost there
riders here
Through the parking lot, over the board walk, onto the beach, drop the bikes and jump into the ocean.
At the beach
Greg running
Then lots of pix of friends, the group, and lots of hugs from friends and families who had come to celebrate this incredible journey.
Bob
Bob
hofstras at beach
Dan and Brian Hofstra
me at beach 2
Me
Melissa, Jonathan, and me
Jonathan, Melissa, and me

group2
Says it all :)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Day 29_August 2--> Metter, GA

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, Susan at first rest stop
Melissa (from AU) and me at the first rest stop on our way to Rangely, CO on Day 10.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Holiday or Quest?

me9 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.

Flat1
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. me8

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.

Day 28_August 1-->Perry GA

Route
Today was memorable on many accounts.

  • 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.

Andersonville Prison2
Prisoner burials
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.

Day 26 & 27_July 30 & 31-->Greenville and Eufaula, AL

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.