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!

A glimpse into the past, or is it the future? GRS/TA day 3

Cherokee Pass to Cape Girardeau

After having not slept well Sunday night and the massive climbing of yesterday, I fully expected I would sleep log a log, but it wasn’t to be. The wind was blowing and gusting something fierce all night and with it blowing the trees and my tent around, I had a hard time falling asleep and staying that way. After tossing and turning for hours with little shut eye, I finally resorted to ear plugs about 2:00AM. I wish I would done that from the start! I slept well from that point, so well in fact that I slept through my 5:00 alarm, which I had set to get a head start on the day and woke at 6:00.

The forecast for the day was for a warm one with stiff winds out of the south that would build throughout the day. I hoped to hit the road early to beat the heat and wind as much as possible. Losing an hour early on with the alarm thing bugged me, but it is small beans and nothing to worry about too much. I’m on vacation!

I quickly gathered and packed my things, with the intent to make breakfast in camp before I left. However, even with the wind blowing, there were a lot of little gnats buzzing around that where just too resilient. I decided to pass on camp fare and head to the truck stop a half mile away in Cherokee Pass.

Breakfast was a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit, a honeybun and a cup of coffee. Breakfast of champions!!! I ate it sharing a bench outside with an elderly local man, Dave. As I chatted Dave up (who wasn’t real interested in talking, but I forced the issue. Imagine that), a couple rolled up on their Harley that knew him.

The guy said, “well, how you doin Dave?” Dave’s reply was a sullen, “waiting to die”. I don’t know if I helped or hurt his demeanor! They asked where I was headed, I told them Cape and offered to race them. He said he would only do it for $50. I told him I would love the chance to race him, but I wouldn’t bet. 🙂

I rolled out of Cherokee Pass and enjoyed a fantastic ride to Marquand. The hills weren’t too bad, the morning was cool and the scenery spectacular.

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I stopped in Marquand for a couple pics of the river. I also did a “drive by of the historic log cabin in the park, then headed to the grocery store across the street for a Power Aide. I drank a bit, then strapped the bottle with the remainder in it to my rack for later.

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The highway from Marquand leading to Highway 51 has some big climbs on it that I had been anticipating. They definitely got my pulse rate up, but I made them without issue.

I then had a short 2.5 mile stent on 51 headed south. Unfortunately, that was exactly where the wind was blowing out of at a good clip and most of it was uphill. I made fairly quick work of it and made my left turn on to M, which leads to Scopus. This would be the first road of the trip that I had never been on.

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The miles clipped off easy and I started getting pretty hot. When I rolled into Scopus, I found the mercantile there and stopped for a break. I had a nice cream sand which and chatted with Elaina, the lady who worked there. She was nice enough and asked me where I was from and headed to. She thought the idea of me touring was neat, but said she has no desire to go anywhere at all. She has lived all her life in Scopus and doesn’t plan to go anywhere, not even on vacation! “It takes all kinds”, was what she finished with. How true.

I hit the road again and made my way to Burfordville, where I went to the covered bridge park to make myself lunch. I whipped up some oatmeal and had half a bagel with peanut butter on it. Feeling stuffed, I took off and headed toward Cape Girardeau.

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On the way, there were plenty of hills and the wind that had been forecasted was pumping along too, right in my face most of the time. I just put my head down and pedaled.

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I made it through Gordonville and on to Cape. Right away, I headed to Cape Bicycle to grab a new computer for my bike. Mine was a fairly nice one at one time. Wireless mounts with a heart rate monitor and altimeter, it served me well for about 3 years. Awhile back, the heart rate function quit. Yesterday on my way from JSI to Cherokee Pass, the rest of it’s functions ceased as well. It is quite demoralizing not to be able to keep track of your distance actually!

I spoke with Don at the bike shop, bought a very simple wired computer model and put it in my handle bar bag to install later. Leaving the shop, I was starving! My early lunch had burned off covering the hills and fighting the wind. It was just 2:30, which was way too early for me to go to my host’s house, so I went to Wendy’s for a late second lunch. I had a burger and fries with lemonade. Their lemonade is the bomb!!!

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After hanging out and cooling off awhile at Wendy’s, I left, called Judy, my host for the night and headed toward her house.

Flashback about a month ago. I had stopped by Cape Bicycle while working in the area. I spoke with Don and explained that I would be coming through on tour soon and wondered if he knew of anyone in town that might let me pitch my tent in their yard for a night. He gave me names and numbers of a couple people, but Judy’s was the first. Come to find out, Judy is a Warmshowers.org host and regularly hosts cyclists who are traveling through. I had heard many times about Warmshowers, but had never used it before.

Judy Cureton is a staple in the cycling community in Cape. She grew up in Cape and has been involved in the bike club there for a long time. There are many things that I could say about Judy and her storied life of cycling, but by far the coolest to me is that she rode in the Bike-centennial celebrating the bicentennial of our country in 1976!

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She told me the story of how after not having ridden as much since childhood, in 1974 she went to a bike shop in St Louis to buy a 10 speed because she thought they were really neat. It was at that shop that she saw the flyer posted about the upcoming bicentennial tour. She decide then that she was going to go. 🙂

This was the original Trans Am and what started the route that Trans Am riders follow today. About 4000 people rode, mostly in groups of about 12. It was a bike touring event that had never been matched in scope and size, nor will it likely ever be again.

My evening with Judy was spent discussing her many cycle tours (she has toured every continent except Antarctica), her beautiful home (designed by her grand mother and built in 1904) and her family. Judy has a daughter and 4 grand kids (in their teens and twenties) who live in Indiana.

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Judy gave me the grand tour of her beautiful old Victorian home. I even got to explore the attic and the roof!

One of the coolest things was looking at her scrapbooks from her cycle tours. The Bike 76 scrapbook had many pictures in it that looked just like my pictures from my 2011 trip, just 35 years older! What a treat for me to meet this lovely lady and get to share in her memoirs. Very, very cool and the highlight of my trip!

A side note of coincidence that I thought was really cool- Judy hadn’t toured or rode that much before her Trans Am, just like me. She was 38 when she went, just a year younger than I was when I went on my trip. She said that after her Trans Am, “I was hooked.” I couldn’t agree more. Judy has went on to have wonderful adventures by bike all over the world, be involved in the community in support of cycling and has lead a life doing the things she loves to do. She inspires me and I look forward to what is to come with my life and cycling.

Judy and I stayed up way too late chatting. She went to bed about 11 and I stayed up another hour catching up on Facebook and the like. A long day, but one I won’t soon forget. I made a new friend and I look forward to making the drive down to Cape to introduce my wife to Judy.

 

I take the road less traveled- GRS/TA day 2

Johnson Shut-Ins to Cherokee Pass

After the nice evening Sunday, the night turned cold. Much cooler than I thought it would. My sleeping bag is rated at 45 degrees, which actually means it is probably better suited for 50 and above. I’m pretty sure it got down into the upper 30’s overnight. If not, it certainly was below the recommended range for my bag. It was a long cold night and I was very cold. I even wore my sweatshirt, long pants and socks in the bag, but it did little good. I didn’t sleep much at all from being uncomfortable.

Once morning rolled around, I had little interest in getting out too early. Better to let it warm up a little. I ended up laying around until 7:30. Then I got up, made breakfast and took my time getting going. When it was all said and done, it was about 10:00 before I rolled out of camp. Still sight unseen of any camp attendants!

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Right out of the gate I had a pretty good climb going up out of the park. Not too bad, but it got my pulse up quickly. It wasn’t long and I came to the end of N highway. The Trans Am goes right and the Great Rivers south route turns left. Two roads diverge in a wood. I took the one less traveled. 🙂

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The ride to Lesterville was pure joy. Almost no traffic and the beautiful scenery of the Ozarks. The same could be said of the ride from Lesterville to Glover and on to Annapolis. There were some pretty good climbs and plenty of sweat spent getting up them, but overall, it was a treat to ride roads I hadn’t ridden before, even if I have driven them.

I stopped in Annapolis for lunch at the local general/convience store. A BBQ pulled pork sandwich and potato salad with a Power Aide hit the spot. Then it was off again.

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Just outside Annapolis, I followed the map and turned on C highway toward Cherokee Pass. I knew from driving this road that it would be a long, hilly ride. You know, you just don’t realize how big and steep those hills are in a car!

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There were lots of rollers, but nothing too bad all the way to the St Francis River bridge. I stopped for some pics of the river and Bullseye.

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Now the climbing begins. I knew it was coming. I went up and up, each turn bringing another stretch of road to the heavens. I thought it might not end, and finally I saw what I was looking for: the point where C turns to the left and N goes straight. I now had a reprieve!

With my turn to stay on C, I started down. BIG downhill! So big it was scary with a loaded bike. I went down for what seems a mile or so. So very nice to go downhill! Then I realized…. I will have to go back up.

At about mile 50 for the day, the up started. It was a very nasty, steep climb and it went on and on. Even more so than the stretch coming up from the river. Then when I thought it was over and I would get a little stretch of down, I would go up twice as far. When the day was done, I would see on my graph that I had basically 10 miles of upward inclination from the base of that nasty hill. It was hot, I was tired and I just wanted it over with for the day.

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Finally I saw my oasis, Pinecrest camp. Pinecrest is owned and run by the Nazarene church and is a beautiful facility. They were so very gracious to allow me to stay and I am thankful for it. I had a nice spot to pitch my tent in their RV campground and a great shower! Oh yeah!

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After rehydrated supper and resetting the network settings on my phone (if you have tried to reach me Sunday or Monday by text, I didn’t get it. Resend please!), I hit the sack. It was really noisy with lots of wind in the trees, but I hoped for a good nights sleep. What a day!

On the road again- GRS/TA day 1

What a day! I started the day off bright and early with a mountain bike ride with my buddies Ben and Lindell. We took off before 6AM and drove to Council Bluffs lake to do the lake trail. 12 miles of premium single track to start the day is the bomb!

We I got home, I finished packing and got ready for my son’s graduation at 2:00. I didn’t know how I would react to seeing my oldest graduate high school. Would I be a blubbering mess? Turns out, I was just beaming with pride. It’s been a rocky road at times, but I am excited to see what Mark chooses to do with his life. Way to go buddy! I love you!

After graduation, I changed clothes, threw my stuff on Bullseye, said my goodbyes to the wife and kids and headed out of town. Sing it Willy! “On the road again…”

After 2 1/2 years of not riding my bike loaded with gear, I had completely forgotten what it was like. A totally different animal to balance and steer. An added challenge is I am carrying more weight this time, mostly due to food. Feel free to crack a joke there. I am certainly carrying more weight around the middle now! But seriously, I have close to ten pounds of snacks and dehydrated food with me. The plan is to cook the majority of my meals to save money and practice for backpacking and bike packing on the MTB. More on that later.

I left Farmington and had a beautiful, uneventful ride to Pilot Knob. It was pure joy to be on the road! The only improvement I could see making would have been to have Jeneen with me. 🙂

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I found myself paying particularly close attention to traffic. Not to say that I ignore traffic on a regular ride around home, but this was more than normal attention. I remember reacting like that on the first few days on my 2011 trip. I’m not sure why that is.

Knowing that I wouldn’t have cell service at camp, before I made the turn off 21 to N highway, I called Jeneen to let her know everything was going well. Then I turned south toward Johnson Shut-Ins.

Along the short 15 miles from 21 to JSI, you will find some of the prettiest scenery in this part of the country. Rolling hills and streams make for great picture ops, but I missed them. I was hurrying to get to camp before dark. Hope to not be doing that anymore this week!

Also along that same 15 miles, I had a young guy in a truck holler obscenities at me and two separate people flip me off for no reason. All three instances were pick ups going the opposite direction with no other traffic around at all. I wasn’t impeding there way or in any way doing anything to disturb them. I can only assume they are locals that just don’t like cyclists on the road, or they assume that cyclists shouldn’t be on the road.

Of course the law states that cyclist are considered vehicles on the road and should be approached and passed just like a car. Passing should only take place when it is clear to pass and in a safe manner. Also a cyclist has the right to take the lane, meaning cyclists can ride in the middle of the lane if they deem it necessary for safety (bridge crossings, poor or no shoulder, to avoid debris that would be hazardous).

The reactions from those three were disappointing, but I have come to expect that from a few people in this region. Whether it is selfishness, entitlement or ignorance, I am not sure, but there are some that just have no regard for others. From my experience, it does seem to be an issue concentrated here. It saddens me really.

Back to the road. I rolled into the campground about 7:30 or so. There wasn’t anyone at the gate, I didn’t see a host anywhere and didn’t all evening. I had a pre-paid reservation, but it looks like I could’ve just rolled in, camped where I wanted and rolled out without a fee!

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My reservation was intentional and nostalgic. It was for Lot 409, where I camped with the English guys on my Trans Am trip in 2011. I pulled in, set up my tent before dark and scooted to the shower house to bathe. Afterward, it was back to camp to make dinner. My meal was two courses. The first was corn, rice and potatoes. The second corn rice and chicken Stove Top. That left me full and warm. Good stuff!

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After dinner, it was now dark and I walked about a half mile to the general store here in the park to catch their wifi and leave Jeneen a Facebook message. I met a couple there using the wifi as well. They are from Cape and questioned me a little on my trip (and my sanity, I think).

After telling them I was riding my bike for a week long tour, the guy’s first question was, “I assume you are armed with some sort of weapon?” I replied with a truthful no and proceeded to watch them be completely astonished. He had a large hunting knife and a side arm on him and was quick to point that out. I guess there is grave danger in our state parks.

Before he left, he said, “Be careful. There are lots of crazies out there.” I wonder if he was warning me about himself. As grandma said, It takes all kinds I guess. The armed couple left, I sent J a note and I then walked back to camp and went to bed, thoroughly ready for sleep!

Overall, it was a great first day on the road and I can’t wait to ride roads I have never ridden tomorrow!

Work is done… and work begins!

I should be knee deep in packing and preparing for next week. Not so much.

After finishing up my work day and most of what I needed to accomplish before I call it quits for a week, I got some yard work done and went to my least favorite place (Wal Mart) to pick up groceries for my trip. Now it is WAY too late to do much else, so I will make it happen tomorrow.

First things first tomorrow, my youngest son, my wife and I are going to team up to do the Farmington Sprint Triathlon in the morning. Nothing like a bit of sweat to start the weekend off! Brad is doing the swim, Jeneen the bike and I will be tackling the run. Just for fun. Should be a good time. I will report back about that later.

Tomorrow afternoon I have to get serious about meal preparations and packing my gear. I have meant to get things together for a couple weeks now and it just never happened. It’s crunch time now!

I will be camping 5 nights of my 6 day trip (with one night staying with a Warmshowers host), so I will be taking all my camping gear and preparing dehydrated meals for ease of use. The ingredients for my meals include things like oatmeal, Ramen, instant rice, instant potatoes and dehydrated vegetables.

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a few of my ingredients

Throw a concoction in a ziplock freezer bag, add a bit of boiling water and you have a ready made meal in just a few minutes. The bags pack light and small, for added benefits. It shouldn’t be too bad putting things together and it will make meal time really easy. I will fill you in on my recipes tomorrow. 🙂

Time to sleep!

I’M BAAAACK!!!

Wow! It has been such a long time! About two and a half years have elapsed since my last post and quite a bit of water has went under the preverbal bridge. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will say that I am dying to hit the road!

You might say, “What?! You haven’t been riding????” Of course I have ridden my bike! But I haven’t toured at all. Not even an overnight. That is about to change.

This Sunday afternoon I am setting off for a short adventure through Southeastern Missouri and Southern Illinois. It will only be for a week this time, but hopefully it will scratch my itch for a while.

I am combining a section of the Trans Am with a section of another Adventure Cycling route, the Great Rivers South Route, to form a 400 mile loop. Just a small tour to clear my head and enjoy the road.

Stay tuned for some changes on this website and my Facebook page (you can find it here). I will be adjusting some things to make it easier to navigate and add more and better content.

Sit back and enjoy the ride!

It is finished

Well, as many of you may already know through Facebook, I have finished the ride and I am now home. It was an amazing journey. Many highs, lows and in betweens. Some pain, both physical and emotional, but generally speaking, a great trip and something that I will remember for the rest of my life.

To start off, I guess I will recap my last day on the road. That was Tuesday. I started the day in Ashland, which is just north of Richmond. I was beat. Although I had just taken a rest day Saturday, both Sunday and Monday had been long days with lots of miles. I had a court date scheduled for Friday morning and a flight home for early Thursday, so I had been pushing to get the trip done with enough time to have a day to organize my activities and ship my bike home. So there I was, just 98 miles from the end in good shape to finish in my allotted time, but exhausted, sore and generally drained both mentally and physically. I was ready to get this thing over with and go home.

First things first, I decided to get a good breakfast. Just a little up the street was a Waffle House. Two waffles and a coffee later, I felt ready to tackle the day. I started fairly early. I was on the road by 8:00 and enjoying the change of terrain. Finally some flats!

Things went well for the morning. Although tired and sore, I was keeping a decent pace and tried to take a break about every 10-15 miles. Just often enough to get what I needed as far as nutrition and a rest, but not so often that I would extend the day too much. I also tried to keep the breaks to about 5 minutes. Gotta keep moving!

By midday, I had come about 60 miles and was feeling good about my progress, but I was really feeling tired. The breaks became longer. Not a lot, but I noticed.

When I crossed the Chickahominy River with about 30 miles to go, I felt like the end was in sight. I was on a bike path mirroring the John Tyler Highway and just past the river, the path turned south alongside highway 614 toward Jamestown. This colonial area seemed to be the beginning of the end for me. Not only in terms of nearing the end of my day, and thus the trip, but also in terms of my stamina. I had no desire to keep going.

As I reached the park surrounding Jamestown and then turned onto the Colonial National Historic Parkway, I began stopping at almost every roadside sign. They were very interesting and told the story of the early settlers and their plight with the Indians in the area, but the real reason for my stops was I wanted to stop. I was done.

I made my way slowly along the parkway and eventually to Williamsburg. My intention had been to stop and find something to eat and take a nice break, but I found no place to stop immediately along the route and before I realized it, I was out of town and headed toward Yorktown. With just 13 miles remaining, I decided I would eat in Yorktown as a
celebration.

After a grueling little ride with enormous amounts of traffic that gave very little room, I finally reached Yorktown! The route took me down through the historic colonial district right along the York River. All the way through the small village at the end of town was the awesome monument commemorating the surrender of the British in the Revolutionary War. It was amazing to see, not only because of the significance of the monument in regards to the history of our country, but also because my map said that the route ends at said monument. I was done with the Trans Am.

You might expect a sign or a banner or maybe someone standing there saying “you did it!”, but there were no such things. Actually, there wasn’t anyone there. Just me. I looked around hoping to find at least one person to ask to take my picture or someone to tell that I had just rode my bike 4555 miles across the country. It was a futile exercise. I was alone.

How anticlimactic is that?! It seems it was a great lesson. This trip wasn’t about the opportunity to tell anyone about what I had accomplished. It wasn’t about any sort of recognition that I might receive. It was strictly about a dream that I had and the completion of said dream and what it meant to me. As I stood there with my bike, walking around this beautiful monument and reading the inscriptions on it, I was humbled. My accomplishment of riding across the country obviously pales in comparison to what people had went through to fight for us to be a free nation. Perspective is key in the realization of
significance. I’ll come back to that thought.

After about 15 minutes, two young guys came running down the road. Out for a jog, they were talking and I felt guilty asking them to stop, but I did. They came over and took my picture and I told them what I had done. They said congratulations and went on there way, as did I. That was the pomp and circumstance! LOL!

Now I had a different journey ahead. Without the benefit of a set of maps to tell me what roads would be good to cycle on or where I would find eats, drinks or a bed, I needed to find my way south through Newport News and Hampton, over(and/or under) the James River and into Norfolk, where I would then need to find a way to ship my bike home and get myself on a plane to fly to St Louis on Thursday at 6:00AM. The trip would be roughly 35 miles, but I couldn’t ride my bike the whole way. Not only is it illegal to ride on interstate highways in Virginia, but you are forbidden from riding on the bridges and tunnels that cross the James River in and around the area. My choices were two, as I saw it.

One, I could ride back up to Jamestown and take the ferry across, then south and east through Norfolk and it’s suburbs to where I needed to go, totaling somewhere around 100 miles. With just 36 hours before I would be flying home and plenty of things to do to prepare for said trip, that wouldn’t work.

Two, I could call a cab and pay out the wazzoo to haul me and my bike to the area around the airport. I chose to pay out the wazzoo.

First I had to find somewhere to eat. After passing through Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown without eating, I was famished and started getting the shakes. I’m not a skinny guy and you would think my body would find something on this frame of mine to sustain itself, but it wasn’t working that way. I needed to eat and quickly.

The first place I found was a gas station along highway 17 about 7 miles down the road. I had the worst hamburger I had on the trip, a honey bun, a king size 3 Musketeers candy bar and a 20 oz Minute Maid pink lemonade.

That did the trick. By the time I finished everything, I was feeling much better and considered riding on south a ways before I called a cab. But it was getting late. It would be dark in about an hour and the main roads were way too big and had lots of traffic. Not a safe situation. So I called a cab. They picked me up in about 10 minutes and I was on my way to Norfolk.

The cab ride cost me $100. I thought I was going to gag when I had to pay the guy. I came to terms with it quickly. I was safe and done with the trip. Not long to go and I would be on my way home.

I stayed at the Econolodge-Airport on North Military Highway. It was cheap and the
closest thing I could find to the airport, according to the map on my phone. But the neighborhood kinda scared me. The motel didn’t have a lobby, just a bullet proof glass window with a slot to pass documents and key cards. There were no gas stations or restaurants in site either direction. Only a used car lot, a transmission repair place and a seedy looking bar across the road. I went ahead and got checked in, went to my room and didn’t come out. I ordered Domino’s delivery for dinner, showered and watched TV. I also plotted my next moves. I had a plan for the next day. Then I slept. I was out before 10:00.

The next morning I slept till 8:00, but felt tired still. My legs were achy when I got up, but things would get better now that I didn’t have to get up and push everyday. My plan was to ride about 2 miles down the road to an area I determined might be better. According to the map on my phone, there were several motels in the area and places to eat. There was also a UPS store within a half mile so I could ship my bike. I got my things together and headed out about 10.

About a mile down the road, I found a Sonic and stopped for breakfast. Then fought traffic and got to the general area I was looking for. It wasn’t a lot better than where I had been the night before, but a little. I decided to try and save a couple bucks and checked in at the Motel 6. I looked at the room, which was kinda clean, but smelled a little bad, then rode to the UPS store.

On the way out to Portland, I had disassembled my bike, boxed it and all my gear up very carefully and checked the box as luggage on the plane. TSA found it necessary to open up the box, remove everything and put it back not near as carefully as I had first packed it. To eliminate this issue and not have to drag the box around Norfolk and St Louis airports, I had determined that I would ship my bike UPS.

So I sat in the UPS store, disassembled my bike, packed it and most of my things (other than my tooth brush, deodorant, phone charger and a small backpack I had with me) in a box and sent it all off on it’s way to my house. It was about $50 more than I thought it was going to be, but better to pack it and not have to worry about someone unpacking it. Hopefully it makes it home ok!

After stopping for lunch along the way back, I went to my room and watched TV. I ended up falling asleep for a couple hours. Later in the evening, I walked down the street to a gas station for some snacks and drinks, then went to bed before 10:00.

Up at 3:15 AM, I gathered my things for the final time and went to the office to check out. For some reason,  as I stood there in the office waiting for my cab to show, I found myself singing in my head, “Now I… had.. the time of my life. And I’ve never felt this way before.” You know the song. It seemed kind of fitting. Finishing up this tour and all and now headed home. In just a minute, the cab showed up outside and I went to get in. To my surprise, when I got in the cab, I heard Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes singing! How surreal! I laughed out loud and had to explain to the cab driver why.  How cool.

We headed to the airport and I was WAY early! I got there about 3:50 and found out the ticket counters didn’t open until 4:30. I couldn’t even check in as all the kiosks were down as well. Hurry up and wait.

At 4:30, I got checked in and was able to go through security. I had a terrible breakfast sandwich and waited for my flight.

My flight out of Norfolk left at 6:00 and arrived in Baltimore about 6:50. My first trip to Baltimore was a short one. I got off the plane, hurried along from one end of the airport to the other and didn’t have to wait but about 10 minutes before I boarded my plane to St Louis.

I arrived in STL a little before 9:00, Jeneen picked me up(yea!) and we headed home. Lunch was Hunt’s. What a way to be welcomed home!

Now that I’m back, I’ve been reflecting on the trip a bit. It seems a little silly to try to compare the trip to anything. Yes, it is quite a feat, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. I didn’t find myself while I was gone. I didn’t have any great epiphanies. I did learn that I am capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for. I also learned that I am pretty strong. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. To keep going day in and day out when you are beat up takes strength. I don’t know if this trip will help me along my
way in life, but I do know that I will remember things about it always.

Probably the most significant thing I learned on this trip is to not take life for granted. I’m glad I didn’t wait until I was retired to go on this adventure, like I thought I might have to. We are on this earth for a very short period of time. Many of us shorter than we think we might be. Before I left on this trip, I purchased a RoadID. Its a wristband that has my vital info on it and contact info for my wife in case I am unable to tell someone who to contact in an emergency. The last line on it had space for a motto or quote. I chose “live like you are dying”. You know why? I am. We all are. Everyday we get closer to death. It’s not a bad thing, I realize. Just part of life. We all die, and while I have no idea when that will be, I do know that I am going to make the most of life while I can. No sense waiting. I’m going to run another marathon. I’m going to participate in an Ironman. I plan to hike/run from rim to rim of the Grand Canyon. I want to climb Mt Ranier. My suggestion for you? Go follow your dreams. That’s living. If you wait, you are just waiting to die. Choose to live.

Last days stats:
Mileage-107.28
Total-4555.20
Trip time-7:01
Avg speed-15.26
Max speed-29.79
Climb-2501

Big day again

So today, with about 230 miles left, I really wanted to make some good mileage and posture myself to be able to finish tomorrow. First things first, I was up and at em early. I hit the road at 7:30. And it was cold!

Right out of the box, I had to climb from Waynesboro back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I knew this was coming and it was welcome as it warmed me up. No longer cold when I reached the top, I looked forward to descending and having a fairly flat day. 

Well, that’s about all I had of flat. Just looking forward to it. I’m disappointed in the elevation profile on the map. Not even close. There wasn’t anything tall really, just roller after roller after roller. 

I stayed on the bike pretty well and kept the breaks to a minimum. Just trucking along. As the afternoon went on, the distance and rollers were getting to me and quite frankly, I was spent. If there had been a place to stay, I would have pulled up short and rescheduled my flight. 

But there wasn’t anywhere to go, and I’m glad. Last night looking at the map, I had thoughts of reaching Mechanicsville. I didn’t quite make it there. About 16 miles short, but I did make Ashland, which was my for sure spot. The place I wanted to make it to for sure. I rolled into town right at dark, about 6:15.

I still had a huge day and set myself up to be able to finish tomorrow. That just seems so weird to say. Tomorrow I will be done. Anyway, I have just 98 miles left. I’m going to cut this blog short and get to bed. I’m beat and it’s going to be another early morning. 

Stats:
Mileage-131.23
Total-4447.92
Trip time-8:43
Avg speed-15.04
Max speed-39.63
Climb-6384

Finishing up the Appalachains

I’m so glad I took yesterday off. Not only was the weather better today and I needed the rest, but it gave the snow a chance to melt to the north along the parkway. Yesterday would’ve been nasty and miserable, if not unsafe.  

I hit the road at 9:00, later than I wanted to, but it gave the temp a chance to come up a little. It was about 35 when I left. 

I tried to stay on the bike early and fight the urge to take breaks, even though I was cold. I had a big day planned and needed to keep moving.

That worked great until 20 miles in. I sold myself on the idea that I could take an early lunch. Better to sit down when it’s cold than when it warms up, or that’s what I told myself. So I had lunch at 10:30. 

I did a pretty good job of staying moving the rest of the day. I did take some breaks, but I also had quite a bit of climbing. The big one was from the village of Vesuvius up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Right at 2000′ of gain in about 4 miles. That’s steep my friends!

Once on the Blue Ridge, there was a few climbs, but the big fun was the views and the descents. Down I went into Waynesboro, where I intended on making today!

That puts me in pretty good shape for the rest of the trip. I should have just a few hills early on tomorrow, then mostly downhill, albeit an easy grade, to the coast. I’m about 225 miles from Yorktown now. 

Stats:
Mileage-99.53
Total-4316.69
Trip time-6:51
Avg speed-14.52
Max speed-39.11
Climb-6575

Time for a break

So here is the list of things I was thinking of for today:

-There was a massive storm system that is rolling through the northeast dumping rain and snow and causing temperatures to plummet.

-I’m in the northeast.

-Being in the northeast, I have come across the majority of the Appalachian Mountains, which has meant 44,000′ of climb over the last 700 miles.

-Having not taken a break in 9 days, I have been worn down.

Adding all those things together, I decided today was a good day to take off. I needed the rest and the weather is supposed to be better tomorrow.

So today I slept in, watched tv, took a nap, did laundry and took care of some bike maintenance. Tomorrow I’m off to cross the Blue Ridge and make some good headway. Should be just  a few more days until I’m done!