TABR16- Day 19

After having eaten a ton and slept for about 12 hours, I woke in my motel room in Murphysboro still unsure of myself. Before I went to bed, I was seriously considering calling it quits. I was exhausted and simply done. After sleeping, I didn’t really feel any better. I was still sore, still tired and certainly not excited about racing my bike another 1200 miles. All that said, I couldn’t imagine quitting after having come that far. I had invested a huge amount of time, effort and money in the race. I couldn’t give up on that. I gathered my things, dressed and hit the road.

As I rode, I soon found that I frankly didn’t feel any better than the day before. Sluggish legs would be the flavor of the day. I tried not to worry about anything. The weather, wind, other racers location, the hills, the traffic- none of it mattered. I just rode. Fortunately I was going through an area that I really enjoy. I had cycled those roads on training rides quite a few times. Going by Devil’s Kitchen and Little Grassy lakes was wonderful. I was enjoying the scenery and rolling along.

I stopped at a convenience store in Goreville, lamenting that Delaney’s was permanently closed and I couldn’t have pie. I sat outside the store on a picnic table and ate while I people watched. After a short break, I hit the road again.

I kept on through familiar territory, riding past Tunnel Hill bike trail and on to Eddyville, where I made another stop. It was 2:30PM and getting pretty hot out. I ate an ice cream and refilled all my drinks. While I chilled inside the store, Michela and Stefano came in. The last time I had seen them was at Newton Bike Shop in Newton, KS. We said hello and chatted just a bit. The language barrier was sort of a challenge, so the conversation was short and limited. With them being there, the competitive part of me urged me to get going, so I moved on.

As I left the station and headed south on Eddyville Road, I really wasn’t looking forward to the next few miles ahead. With sluggish legs, the hills that I knew were there would be harder than I wanted. I took it easy on the flat parts and went immediately to easy gears for the hills and found them to not be as bad as I thought they would be.

My next stop was Elizabethtown for food and drinks at yet another gas station. I didn’t stay long and headed off again, through town and onto Tower Rock Rd for the pretty ride to Cave-In Rock.

Cave-In Rock is a significant spot on the Trans Am for a couple reasons. First off, it is the last town in Illinois. It is also the site of the only mechanized transportation that every TA rider uses- the Cave-In Rock Ferry across the Ohio River. The ferry runs from 6:00AM-9:30PM and historically has been a spot that can lead to a little racing excitement if someone gets there too late or too early. Although I didn’t really care, I was fortunate that I was there at 5:15PM, so I wouldn’t have to wait too long. When I came down the hill toward the ferry ramp, the ferry was on the Illinois side and had just unloaded cars, so I was able to ride right on.

On the ferry, I took the opportunity to sit down and chill. I leaned my bike up on the railing, sat down on the deck and pulled my shoes off to let my feet rest. The ride was short overall- maybe 10 minutes or so, but it was nice to just sit and watch the river go by.

Once back on “dry land”, I was in Kentucky! State number 9 and only 1 more to go!

While on the ferry, I had half expected to see dot watcher Michelle Hodge on the Kentucky side. Many times she will come out to the ferry to meet racers and welcome them to her state, but she wasn’t there. I rode the 13 miles to Marion and found Michelle and her husband Brian waiting for me near the center of town.

I had been waiting to meet Michelle for over a year. As a dot watcher, she has a pretty good presence on Facebook and we had gotten hooked up on there prior to my DNF of TABR15. This time around I wanted to be sure and meet the dot watching legend! She did not disappoint and had an Inspired to Ride poster she has the racers autograph. She had me sign as well andI’ll admit it felt pretty cool to get to be a part of her memorabilia. I thanked them for coming out to see me and then headed down the street a couple blocks to a Subway to eat.

I ate big at Subway and got cooled off. It was still quite early really at 6:30PM, but as I looked ahead, there wasn’t going to be much in the way of a place to stay out in front of me on the route for quite awhile and frankly, I wasn’t feeling like sleeping in my bivy. After eating, I decided to go to a little motel there in Marion and get a room for the night. I would then get up early and get a good start to the next day.

I ended my day in Marion with only 108 miles, but I was still racing. That was all that was important to me. I just needed to stay moving and finish this bad boy up.

TABR16- Day 18

When I woke up at the hostel in Farmington, I felt like I had been beat with a bat. I was not looking forward to getting up and moving, but knew I needed to. I had texts from several people. One was Dustin. He wanted to know what my plan for the morning was and was considering riding out of town with me. Another was from fellow Team Noah member Matt Johnson. He had the same plan- to ride with me. Before I could answer either, I had a call from Matt. He was on his way to Farmington and wanted to know what was up. I was getting frustrated in my exhausted, just- woke-up-after-5-hours-of-sleep-and-245-miles-the-day-before state. Folks were excited to see me and be a part of my race, but I wasn’t feeling it. I let everybody know that I was heading to The Factory Diner, a great little breakfast place in town, and they could meet me there.

Matt and his son parked their car near the hostel and were there when I came out to leave for breakfast, as was Dustin. We all rode over to the diner and sat down for some breakfast. Another local cyclist friend, Wayne Linenbringer, was there as well as Enrico. Enrico had slept in Ellington, then gotten up early and made the trip to Farmington. We all ate and shared stories. It was a nice meal.

After breakfast, Enrico headed across town to the local bike shop. The morning had gotten away from us a bit. Dustin, Wayne, Matt and his son all had things they needed to do, so I headed out of town on my own, but not before stopping just down the street to see my wife. The bank she works at is right on the route and she was outside waiting when I came by. I gave her a kiss and set off reluctantly. I honestly didn’t want to leave. I couldn’t stay and finish the race though, so off I went. It was 10:15AM.

The ride east from town is one I have done many times. Of course most every ride I have done through there ended with me coming back home. It felt strange to be setting off for the coast some 1800 miles away. I rode along mindlessly with dead legs that I had earned from the zealous ride the day before. There was no power in my pedal strokes and each hill felt steeper than the next with my jello legs.

About 20 miles out of town there is a hill that I affectionately call Turkey Mountain that is a mental boundary to me of my home area. On the map it is named Madden Hill, but the entrance to Turkey Run Estates is near the top so I call it Turkey Mountain. That is much more fitting I believe. As I rode up toward the crest of the hill, thinking about how I was leaving my home turf, a car came zipping past and then pulled over just ahead. It was my good friend John Robinson. He and I have ridden together a lot. In fact, I’ve likely ridden more miles with him than any other person. He had been stuck at work and decided that he just didn’t want to let the opportunity go by without coming out to wish me luck in person for the rest of my trip. It really meant a lot to me that he made a special trip to see me! We chatted just a minute and I headed on over the hill and eastward.

The ride to St Mary seemed quick. I stopped at the gas station there for some food and then rushed down the the hill a half mile or so to the bank. I was out of cash and in my exhausted state, I had forgotten to grab some at the bank in Farmington. Fortunately I caught them just before they closed- it is a very small branch that has limited hours and closes early.

After St Mary, it was up and over a couple hills before dropping down into the river bottoms for 10 miles along the pancake flat farmland that stretches out next to the Mississippi River. Right before crossing the river there is a gas station that I did not intend to stop at, but had to for a restroom break. It annoyed me to stop there as I wanted to stay moving, but it had to happen. Back on the bike, I crossed the river and was in Illinois. Only two more state lines to cross after that!

Right by the river is the town of Chester, known as the home of Popeye. The creator of the Popeye cartoon is from there and there are all sorts of statues and murals memorializing him around town. I skirted through the town quickly and didn’t stop, trying to stay moving.

As I rode out of Chester, I continued to feel sluggish. I just didn’t have any power in my legs. The prior day had really taken it out of me. I slogged along the rolling hills until reaching the relatively flat roads around Wine Hill. From there, I had my sights set on a gas station ahead where I had a planned stop.

When I rolled into Campbell Hill I found that station and took several minutes there to rest, eat and store up fluids. I was a bit frustrated that it was already 3:45PM and I had only made 67 miles. Granted the later start didn’t help, but my will to move was a bit broken with my tired legs. I once again reluctantly set off, contemplating what the rest of the day would hold.

I rode on, through the little town of Ava. I felt like I was struggling for every pedal stroke. As I rode, I was pretty dejected with my performance on the day and my lack of ability to bounce back after the difficult day before. I felt like I was fighting myself and decided that there wasn’t a point in beating my preverbal head against a wall any more. Murphysboro was ahead and I would get a hotel room. I rolled into town, grabbed drinks and snacks at a gas station, then headed to the America’s Best Value Inn for a room. I had only made 87 miles.

Once in the room, I ordered delivery pizza and gorged. Then I slept. I received a bunch of texts and calls that evening from friends wondering what was up. I answered vaguely. My day across Missouri had done some damage and I needed some recovery, but in retrospect, I have to admit that I was really not into the race mentally at that point. Going through my hometown was really hard. There are so many instances in a race like this that make you doubt or want to stop. Being that close to my own bed had made it even harder. I was close to quitting, but knew better than to make a decision when tired or hungry. I would see how I felt in the morning.

It’s been way too long

Here we are again. It has been 8 months since I last posted and obviously A LOT has happened since. It is funny how life click-clacks along and before you know it, time gets away from you.

When I last posted, I was smack dab in the middle of a week-long bike tour vacation through Southeastern Missouri and Southern Illinois. In an effort to immerse myself in the trip, enjoy my time out and not get too worked up about things, I ended up letting the blog updates for the trip slip through the cracks. I figured I would catch them up when I got home. Before I knew it, a month, then two months were gone. After that long, it just didn’t make sense to me to go back and do them. Over time, I keep telling myself I should finish it. So without further ado, let me quickly wrap up that trip for you.

I left Judy Cureton’s house in Cape Girardeau, MO on Wednesday morning, 5-21-14. I crossed the Mississippi River and headed across the windswept farmland of Southern Illinois to Golconda, on the Ohio River. Mileage for the day was 83.8 miles. I camped at Deer Run Campground, just south of town a couple miles. I was the only one there and it was a wonderfully quiet evening. The next day I struck out on the road and just north of Golconda, got back on the Trans Am and headed west for home. I stopped for the night after 79.8 miles in Murphysboro, IL. Originally I had planned on a shorter day, with a stop about 20 miles before Murphysboro, but I got there too early in the day and decided to push on. That left me with 86.2 miles home on Friday. I hit it early, dodging a rain storm and made it home by mid afternoon.

My little tour was a success in that I got to get out and enjoy the road, but alas, my thirst wasn’t quenched.

Soon after, the Trans Am tourists rolled through by the dozens. Every day, Jeneen and I would watch for riders. We met a few personally and enjoyed the company of some during dinner at some of our local restaurants. It is always a treat to hear stories of the road and offer a little bit of trail magic for folks when we can.

The highlight of the summer was the inaugural Trans Am Bike Race. This was an unsupported bike race along the Trans Am route from Astoria, OR to Yorktown, VA. Imagine Tour Divide, but on the TA. 43 riders lined up in Astoria and hit the road. First one to Yorktown wins. No entry fee, no prize money. All guts and glory.

Jeneen and I quickly became “dot watchers”. That is, someone who follows the racer’s progress on trackleaders.com. Each racer carries with them a small device called a SPOT tracker that sends tracking data to the website. As the racers neared Farmington, we got the opportunity to go out along the road and meet them. How cool!

Of the 25 finishers, I got to see 18 of them as they came through. I went out and rode with race winner (in 17 days!) Mike Hall (winner of the World Cycle race in 2012 and 2013 Tour Divide winner) for a few miles as he passed. What a humble and likable soul. I gave 3rd place finisher Ed Pickup a high five. Jeneen and I enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant with 4th and 5th place finishers Jesse Stauffer (first place American) and Julianna Buhring (first place female and record holder of fastest female to cycle around the world in World Cycle Race 2012). I also rode with race organizer and 13th place finisher Nathan Jones for about 20 miles. My interactions with the racers were something I won’t ever forget. Each of the TABR riders that I got to spend time with were so friendly and showed great sportsmanship. Kudos to them all.

As the month of June came to a close, most of the racers had not only passed through Farmington, but had finished in Yorktown. The month long storm of excitement surrounding the race and our following of it came to an abrupt halt and the only thing I could think of was how bad I wanted to be one of those racers.

The remainder of the summer, when not working, I was usually riding my MTB preparing for the inaugural OT100MTB. September came and I toed the line for my first ever MTB race. 100 miles of Ozarks single track might not be the way most people kick off their racing career, but I am not most people!

It was an awesome event! Great support, the trail was pristine and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. I rolled into the finish at BASS River Resort in just under 19 hours- slower than I wanted, but I finished. That was really all I was looking to do. It was a blast!

In October, I did the Trail of Tears century, a road ride near Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky. I hadn’t been riding like I should and this one was a bit of a slog. My only road century of the year, unfortunately.

Halloween weekend brought the OT100 endurance run. Crazy folks run the 100 miles of single track that we raced our bikes on back in September. No, I didn’t run, but I helped sweep the course, picking up temporary trail markers for the race. It was a great chance to get out by myself in the woods. I ended up riding 28 miles one day and 31.5 the next.

Prior to that weekend, my plan had been to bikepack the 60 miles of trail that I was going to sweep. In the end, the forecast called for temps dipping to a very unseasonable 20F or so. Without the gear to bikepack at those temps, I bailed on the idea and just went out for the day both days. It was a good decision!

Over the winter months I have been MTB’ing some, but mostly focusing on hiking and backpacking, namely changing from a ground dweller to a hammock camper. There will be more about this later. 🙂

So that brings me to current. I have some big things coming! I don’t want to belabor you with too much right now, but I will say I have committed to two big bike races as well as a few smaller ones and plans are in the works for big things in 2016 as well. All of it will amount to an amazing ride. I can’t wait! Stay tuned!

Keep steppin’

If I had to pick a word for the day, I would say it’s adversity. After coming up short yesterday, I had every intention of making up the extra 35 miles today to be back on my schedule. Unfortunately that meant it would be a 110 mile day. Add in the temps hovering in the 40’s most of the day, NE winds at 20-30(that means head winds) and rain, and things might get interesting. Oh, and I’ve got a nasty cold. But as grandma used to say, that’s no hill for a stepper. And look out, cause I’m a steppin’!!!

I hit the road at 8:00. Knowing I would need my energy, I had the breakfast of TWO champions. Chocolate milk and 2 packs of donuts! Then it was off into the rain.

Fortunately the rain only lasted for the first ten miles. The dryer weather was certainly appreciated and I was making good time. I made a short stop in Elizabeth Town for a Snickers and a Fanta, then made the last little push in Illinois to the Cave In Rock ferry. Once across the Ohio, it was state number nine, Kentucky! After this one, just one more to go!

Illinois had lots of rolling hills, and Kentucky has been more of the same. It makes for great views and keeps things interesting.

I stopped in Marion and decided on a gas station lunch. Just yesterday I sat too long in a cafe at lunch. Not going to happen today! So a cheeseburger, honeybun and orange juice and I’m ready to hit the road again pretty quick.

Although the afternoon went well and I stayed on the move mostly, I found myself in Dixon, about 45 miles from Owensboro, with only about 3 hours of daylight left. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem. Averaging 15 mph isn’t a big deal, but being ill, having a head wind and already having come almost 70 miles, I was questioning if I would make it. Then the rain started again. Joy. With no place to stay and no camping gear, my choices were limited to one. Get moving.

So I did. Things went well and the rain slowed after awhile, only to come back with a vengeance the last 15 or so miles. I rolled into Owensboro about 10 minutes after dark and found my motel.

After checking in and getting out of my wet clothes, I called Jeneen to let her know I made it fine. Telling her about the day, she thought it sounded miserable. I was honest in saying that I enjoyed it! I took the day as a challenge and conquered everything in front of me to achieve my goal. A good day!

Stats:
Mileage-113.33
Total-3518.86
Avg speed-14.35
Max speed-34.90
Climb-5724

Coming up short

When I went to bed last night, I hoped I would wake up and feel much better. When the alarm went off at 7:00, I did not. So I shut the alarm off and went back to sleep.

I woke up again at 8:20, feeling a little better, but still congested. After writing the previous day’s blog and checking Facebook, I noticed the time and realized I better get a move on.

I left the hotel at 10:10 and went across the road for a chocolate milk and donut breakfast at a gas station. Then it was down the road.

Just 11 miles in, I stopped in Carbondale. My head was all stopped up and I felt like crap. Some decongestant and an orange juice was what I decided might help.

The next twenty miles were really nice. Pretty quickly, I felt a little better and the ride itself was a great one. Gently rolling hills through state parks alongside a couple lakes and little to no traffic.

I stopped in Goreville at a little cafe for lunch. After finishing lunch, the waitress informed me that cyclists get free dessert! Yah! Pie was had and enjoyed.

When I walked out to leave, once again I noticed the time. I also noticed that I had about 80 miles to get to Marion, KY, where I had planned to stay. With just 4.5 hours of daylight left, I would have to really haul tail to make it. So I started hauling.

After whipping off right at 30 miles in an 1:20, I needed a break. I stopped at a station for another orange juice and a candy bar.

After the break, I came to grips with the reality that I should just find somewhere to stay closer. No need to push it and still make it after dark. So I pulled up 35 miles short of Marion in Golconda, IL.

Dinner was a new Mexican restaurant here in town. Unfortunately, the crappy little hotel I’m in doesn’t have ESPN, so no Monday Night Football. Boo. Maybe next week.

Stats:
Mileage-78.81
Trip time-5:00
Avg speed-15.71
Max speed-53.86
Climb-4520

Best day of the trip

Back on the road! After 17 awesome days at home, I hit the road again. It really seemed like longer than that and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Time didn’t drag at all. It just seems like a different lifetime that I traveled the trail from the west coast to home.

While at home, I spent some great time with Jeneen and the kids, visited with friends and family, rode the Ride the Rivers century in St Louis and attended my wife’s 20 year high school reunion.

As for the bike, I got new tires and tubes, new bar wrap with some gel inserts underneath and I had my back rack welded as it had broken in a couple spots. I also trimmed my load significantly. Realizing that I only actually used my camping gear about a half dozen times on the first leg of the trip (which is totally against my original intent, I know), I decided to leave all of that at home. My plan is to travel light and fast and finish this up quickly. I estimate that I am now carrying just under 20 lbs.

The reduction of gear also meant less storage space was needed, so I don’t have my panniers on anymore. Just my handlebar bag up front and my dry bag on the back rack. I’m unable to organize my things as well, nut the bike is lighter, better balanced and more agile. Much better.

So after a long morning of errands, finishing packing and saying goodbye, I finally set out about 11:00. Although it felt nice to be back on the road heading toward completion of this trip, I hated leaving Jeneen. I’m sure it is just my mind not wanting to leave, but I was having thoughts like I might not see her again as I road out of town. Big time dislike.

Realizing that I was being silly and the only solution was to ride, I resolved to put my head down and grind. It might take a couple days, but I would get back in the groove and be fine soon.

About 5 miles out, I looked up as a car passed and saw Jeneen, Madi and Brad drive by (no Mark as he was at a college fair). My first thought was that something was wrong and she had come to find me. But she hadn’t called, so I quickly ruled that out. Up ahead, as I topped the hill at Twin Oaks (locals know what I’m talking about!), there was my wife and two younger kids on the side of the road cheering for me and waving! It brought tears to my eyes. I stopped for what I thought was another goodbye and she surprised me by offering to meet me for lunch. We decided on Chester and I set off again, excited to get to see them in a couple hours!

With the combo of favorable winds, renewed spirit and my new lighter more aerodynamic load, I averaged 20 out the hills and wine country to Ozora. The bike no longer shimmies as it used to at about 40, so I was pushing  almost 50 on some of the bigger down hills and felt comfortable.

I stopped in St Mary for a candy bar and to refill my bottles. I called Jeneen and found out she was close as well. Onward to Chester!

Crossing the Mississippi River bridge was not near as bad as I thought it might be. I anticipated some trepidation, but it was actually quite serene. Jeneen and the kids met me on the other aide of the bridge cheering. So very cool.

We met at McDonald’s for lunch. I didn’t care if it was healthy or not. I was just glad to have them there. Afterward, we said our goodbyes again and I set off, happy and confident. So nice to spend portions of this day with my family.

A couple miles down the road, imagine my surprise to see our van pass me again! Jeneen wanted to see me one more time. Of course I offered for her to go get Mark and then come back and drive sag for me the rest of the way! Not happening, but that’s ok. With this last goodbye, I rolled down the road and couldn’t keep the smile off my face. I sent her a text joking that I was going to end up with all kinds of bugs in my teeth now!  She is so awesome to me and I love her so much.

Carrying on, I only had about 30 miles or so to my intended destination of Murphysboro, IL. Most of it went well, other than a stretch of 10 miles or so in the middle where I wasn’t feeling well. I think I’m coming down with a head cold. Boo hiss. Everything ended up fine and I rolled into Murphysboro about 6:00, plenty early enough to be able to get some food and get a room in time to watch the Cards win the pennant! World Series bound!

Thanks to my wife, kids and the Cardinals, today was the best day of my trip, without a doubt. I love you babe!

Stats:
Mileage-88.70
Total-3316.72
Trip time-5:13
Avg speed-16.95
Max speed-48.14
Climb-4261