Salisbury Beach

Salisbury Beach
Thank You Katie, Mary, Caitlin and Brian

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thank Yous

First and foremost, I want to thank Mary. It hasn’t been easy living with someone who gets up at 4:30 every morning to ride his bike, then works a 10 hour day and comes home looking for dinner. I haven’t been much help for the last six months, and she deserves better. She’s earned some help from me and I pledge it.

Whatever I do, I am wired to be passionate about. But I wasn’t born with anything resembling athletic talent. I owe thanks to the teachers in eighth grade who put me in remedial PE because I couldn’t due a pull-up. And I owe a big thanks to coaches Fairchild, Jamison and Mercer in High School for encouraging hard work on the football field and in the shot-put ring. I think that they probably knew that when I goofed off in PE and they made me run laps, they were really rewarding me and not punishing me.

When I started cycling in my mid twenties, Don Peterson, the President and Coach of the San Jose Bicycle Club was a huge help. In spite of the fact that I showed no potential to go beyond being a mediocre Category 3 rider, he spent as much time with me as with any of his potential superstars.

But as far as preparing for this trip, there are three people who need to be singled out:

In my 40s and 50s, I became a couch potato, until I started swimming daily when I was 56. I lost weight, and redistributed the weight that I had, but I soon realized that I wasn’t as good a swimmer as I thought I was, until I discovered Terry Laughlin and Total Immersion. Terry’s teachings centered on mindfulness (“No Brain, No Gain”), and he breaks the art of swimming into several interconnected parts. After several months of determined drills, I emerged with a totally redesigned stroke, and made impressive gains for several years. Terry and I exchanged some e-mails, but I don’t imagine that he realized how profoundly his teachings impacted me. I celebrated both my 60th and 61st birthdays by swimming 15 miles.

One day, three or four years ago I idly picked up a book while waiting for my Jamba Juice smoothie. It was Chi Running by Danny Dreyer. After a couple of minutes I said to myself “OMG, this is Total Immersion for Running”. I bought the book and sent a note to Danny remarking on the connection and I got a nice note back from him (and from his wife Kathleen) telling me that he and Terry had realized how much they had in common and regularly shared training tips. I read both Chi Running and Chi Walking and, although I have not put as much mindful effort into running and walking as I have into swimming and cycling, the point had been made: every body part is connected and you have to think of what each one is doing in isolation to see the effect that it has on others. But I still had no idea that the teaching principles of Terry and Danny could be applied to cycling.

And finally, last fall when starting my preparations for Fast America, I saw a Physical Therapist, Curtis Cramblett (Revolutions in Fitness). After fitting me for orthotics, he showed me that the foot pain that I was having was not due to poor orthotics, but to swelling of my leg (residual from a blood clot after a foot operation about five years ago) and he recommended compression socks (which are now my signature fashion statement). He then showed me how improper compensation for various asymmetries in my body was leading to muscle aches; something in the way he was describing things prompted me to ask “Have you ever heard of Danny Dryer?”. He went to the bookshelf in his office (his garage) and pulled down Chi Running and told me that Danny was bugging him to write a similar book for cycling. The exercises that Curtis prescribed for me were a big help in preparing for my ride, even though they had nothing to do with the muscles normally associated with cycling.

Terry, Danny and Curtis: Thank you for providing me with the tools to reach my physical potential. I have no end goal; it is the journey that counts. When someone asks me “What do you think about while swimming 15 miles in a pool or riding your bike for 10 hours?” I can honestly answer “Lots of stuff” because of you. You have in common a passion for what you do and a selfless desire to share and teach what you know.

Of course there are others, like the staff of ABB, Mike, Karen, Judy, Jim and Jay; my colleagues at work and in the SS/L Cycling Club and my friends at SJBC (and in particular Phil, who is always full of advice); but I want to reserve these thanks for Mary and the teachers who have made me what I am.



Distance                                 3,472.75 miles
Time                                        224 hours, 8 minutes
Total Climbing                        109,467 ft. (20.7 miles)    (average of Garmin Connect & Strava readings)
Average Speed                       15.5 mph

Average Daily Dist.               112.02 miles
Average Daily Time              7:13
Average Daily Climb             3,531 ft.

Wind                                       Lots & Lots
Rain                                        Some
Heat                                        Western half
Cold                                        Eastern half   

Longest day (time)                 Day 4 Wickenburg to Cottonwood, AZ 9:20
Longest day (distance)          Day 28 Warren, OH to Dunkirk, NY
Fastest Day                            Day 11 Tucumcari, NM to Dalhart, TX 21.7 mph
Slowest Day                           Day 4 Wickenburg to Cottonwood, AZ 11.8 mph
Shortest day (time)                Day 13 Liberal to Dodge City, KS 4:08
Shortest day (distance)          Day 22 Springfield to Tuscola, IL
Magic day                              Day 19 Marysville to Warren, OH
Worst day                               Day 9 Albuquerque to Las Vegas, NM
Best Milk Shake                    (tie) Candy Shop in Batavia, NY and Sonic somewhere in Missouri

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

25 May 2011 Fast America Day 32

25 May 2011
Fast America Day 32

Amsterdam, NY to Keene, NH

Mileage:                     125.49 miles
Riding Time:              9:00     Riding Speed 13.9 mph
Total Time:                 9:45
Climbing:                    7510 ft.
Flats:                           0

Another beautiful day with lots of miles and lots of climbing ahead of us. Three of the slower climbers (myself included) left about 20 minutes early. The day started with a 9% climb right out of the hotel and I found myself in the lead on the road; and I was the first one in to the first SAG stop 40+ miles later. This was before the two long sustained 9% climbs through Vermont’s Green Mountains as we traversed Vermont from Bennington to Brattleboro.

We hit more climbing at mile 110 and I handled all of this without a problem. The 7500 feet of climbing was the most in about 3 weeks and it is clear that I am a different cyclist than 3 weeks ago. After 9 hours in the saddle, I sailed the last three miles downhill into Keene ready to do it all over again.

I met Mary in Keene, along with her cousin Barbara and family and my cousin Claire. Mary had reservations at a great restaurant (thank you for the recommendation, Katie!) and we all had a great time. Keene is far and away the nicest town that we have stayed in since Palm Springs and a good place to prepare to reenter civilization.

Tomorrow the beach. The day starts with some serious climbing (let’s see if I can do it two days in a row) and then it is mostly downhill after mile 40 or so. The day ends in a logistical whirlwind, as everyone tries to get their bikes all packed up for shipment and get ready for the banquet at 7:00 PM. Although the riding has been pretty much as I had expected, the emotions have been much more overwhelming than I had expected. I hope that the readjustment goes OK; I know that it will be difficult.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

24 May 2011 Fast America Day 31

Liverpool, NY to Amsterdam, NY

Mileage:                     121.56 miles incl. 2 bonus miles
Riding Time:              7:09     Riding Speed 16.9 mph
Total Time:                 8:00
Climbing:                    3003 ft.
Flats:                           0

Today was a beautiful day. I started out with about 9-10 riders and the speed was slowly notched up, including a heart awakening 9% grade right after the start. I soon found myself with the first group of five riders but I decided to sit up and let them go at mile 10. That was  mistake because I immediately forgot about a turn and got two bonus miles before I got on track. The rest of the ride was strong, and I feel good and ready for the climbing tomorrow.

Jay, one of the staff, got Little Chris last night, but they did not get to the hotel until 4:00 AM. Chris has a cracked vertabra and the doctors would not give him permission to ride, or to drive for that matter. He has relatives nearby and they will help him get home. We understand that he is very upset about not being allowed to ride. We concluded that since we had already done 3,000 miles, and cost-to-coast can be done in 2,500, that he gets credit in everyone’s eyes for completing the trip.

Which brings up a point – is this trip a goal or a process? For me, it is a process, which will end in two days. Yesterday I found myself daydreaming while I was riding about arriving at the beach. Tears came, unbidden, to my eyes. I think that they are tears of joy for the accomplishment, but more fundamentally, tears of sadness that it will soon be over. We took an informal poll last night at dinner – no one said that they wanted to do it again, but when asked: “Would you like it to continue another week?” everyone said “Yes.”

The ride today was along the Mohawk River, essentially the eastern part of the Erie Canal. It featured a long climb out of the valley to get ready for tomorrow’s climbs. It was about 10-20 miles N of the route that I have taken many times in the past by car, so I got a slightly different perspective.

I had dinner with my cousin Karen, who just got back from 100 miles of hiking in England. It was good to see her; she went through some trying times last year and I am glad that I could see her under good circumstances for us both.

Tomorrow I see Mary, after an absence of 33 days (the longest we have been apart in over 40 years). I hope we recognize each other.

23 May 2011 Fast America Day 30

Batavia, NY to Liverpool, NY

Mileage:                     122.07 miles
Riding Time:              8:07     Riding Speed 15.0 mph
Total Time:                 8:45
Climbing:                    4011 ft.
Flats:                           1

I had a wonderful dinner with Jini and Verne last night.

I am writing words in the blog today that I hoped I would not have to write. We had a serious accident on the road today. My siblings on the road know me as “Big Chris”. “Little Chris” is Chris Cullum, from San Diego. Little Chris is usually the first one finished with the day. He rides solo, and very competently, and we do not know him well since he gets dinner from Subway and eats in his room every night. This morning, I was the first one out of the gate, and the first person to pass me was Chris. Three or four others had passed me when I arrived in the town of Avon at about mile 23.

At that point, a road with a Yield sign merges from the right. My understanding (which comes from Ed, who was about 50 yards behind Chris at the time) is that a car came through the Yield and hit Chris head on. When Ed got there Chris was up and walking about, but his helmet and his bike are totaled, and his face was bloodied. The second driver on the scene was Mike, in our support van, and I understand that the driver who hit Chris kept saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t see him”.

Bottom Line: Chris spent the day in the hospital in Rochester, NY having a battery of tests. As far as we know, there are no long term injuries, and he wants to finish the ride. As I write this, an ABB person is picking him up at the hospital, and also picking up his new bike.

Moral of this story: I feel an obligation to anyone who reads this to preach safety. Since I was not there when Chris’ accident occurred, I cannot have any comment on it specifically. But please, when you enter an intersection, negotiate with the other driver(s) by trying to make eye contact. I am sure that the driver who hit Chris is extremely remorseful (she was very distraught as I passed her). But there is also the a_____e that deliberately pulled in front of me at the last instant a couple of days ago with the epithet “This is a road, not a bike path”. He probably thinks that he won because he put me in my place. But I slowed down (cursing him all the while) and let him win. Please pick your victories.

The rest of the day: I was on home territory today, as most of the route was on US 20/NY 5 which is the road that I took every weekend the semester that I worked in Buffalo while attending Cornell University. I don’t think that anything has changed in 40 years. The route skirts beautiful Seneca Lake in Geneva and we had lunch in historic Seneca Falls (cradle of the women’s suffrage movement). After lunch we took off towards Syracuse, through a beautiful park along the Erie Canal, and then along the shore of Onondaga Lake where we shared a bike path with lots of in line skaters. I even slowed down to enjoy the scenary.

One more day before tackling the Green Mountains of VT and the White Mountains of NH. One thing that I have learned counting down the final miles of the last 30 days is that there is always a motel at the end and not to get too impatient; 8 hours in the saddle is a long time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

22 May 2011 Fast America Day 29

Dunkirk, NY to Batavia, NY

Mileage:                     84.41 miles
Riding Time:              5:13     Riding Speed 16.0 mph
Total Time:                 5:45
Climbing:                    2529 ft.
Flats:                           0

As Mike suggested, I made this an “Active Rest Day”. I just took today nice and easy and still made it to the hotel in Batavia by 1:45, including a milk shake stop a mile from the hotel. The last four days of our trip are all about 120 miles, and the last two also have 7,000+ ft. of climbing, so this was a day to prepare for the home stretch. It was a gray day, constantly threatening rain, but only a few drops materialized.

Jim got me new pedals, but we concluded that my shifter is responsible for  my front derailleur problems; the shift to the large chain ring is now working perfectly, but it is very difficult to get it to go to the small one.

In other news, Lasse tied me in the flat competition, with his 12th, a “hotel flat” that he discovered this morning. You will note that the two heaviest riders are tied for the lead.

I’ll be meeting my next cousin, Jini, along with her husband Verne, for dinner tonight. I remember meeting her at her house in very rural Rochester on a snowy winter day years ago, when her kids had all gone cross country skiing out of their back door, and feeling jealous of her family’s lifestyle!

We made the news as we passed through Canton, OH on Day 27; Canton is the home of “Ohio Bob”, one of our riders. There are three good pictures, one of Bob, one of me in my San Jose Bicycle Club kit, and one of me completely out of focus as I am being out sprinted up a hill by Daryl and Manny:

Fast America Day 28

Warren, OH to Dunkirk, NY

Mileage:                     138.80 miles
Riding Time:              7:50     Riding Speed 17.4 mph
Total Time:                 8:30
Climbing:                    2732 ft.
Flats:                           0

Well, there was no reason for me to worry about 138.8 miles. What a great day! I said good bye to arm warmers, leg warmers, vests, jackets and full fingered gloves. We went due N to Lake Erie; the temperature threatened to get into the 80s,  but then we hugged the Lake Erie coast for 80 miles (NE) and the temperature dropped into the 60s. Not many hills and I maintained 18-20 mph for the entire time (you will note that the speed in the official stats is a little lower; due to navigating through a couple of towns with stop lights, etc.).

We left Ohio (terrible roads), went through NW Pennsylvania (pretty good roads) to NY where the shoulders are wide, debris and pothole free. Dunkirk is SW of Buffalo, not known as a garden city, but May on the shores of Lake Erie is very nice (January is not!).

Bottom line: a beautiful day, wire to wire (I’m in the bar, where I just watched Shakleford win the Preakness wire-to-wire. Thank God I do something safe like riding my bike; that looked pretty scary).

I took my bike to “Mechanics” for the first time tonight. I’m glad I did; I thought that Master Mechanic Jim could fix it up in 2 minutes but:

1.   The front derailleur is marginal. In order to shift onto the large chain ring, I have to overshift and the chain comes off (when it comes off on the outside, you can coax it back on w/o stopping). I’ve been putting up with this for awhile, but the tolerances are incredibly tight and we can see that the derailleur cage has rubbed on the right crank arm. I think that we have it OK until the Atlantic Ocean, but something will have to be replaced after that.

2.   For a few days, I have been aware that something is wrong with my right cleat/pedal engagement. We figured out that the part of the pedal that engages with the cleat has chipped a piece off. Jim is going to figure out if we can take a slight detour tomorrow to find a bike shop in suburban Buffalo to get new pedal(s) (we assume that you cannot buy just one!). I don’t know if I can take a detour on tomorrow’s incredibly difficult 85 mile day. That’s a joke, my motor’s in very good shape. Speaking of detours; several of the riders are mapping out routes to go to Canada and/or see Niagra Falls. They are complaining that tomorrow’s ride is too short.

My bike issues may seem piddling, but they do illustrate the rigors of this trip. Many of the riders have had worse; we’ve replaced two bike frames and several wheels. Make sure that you are prepared for the worst if you try this on your own.

The hotel (Clarion) is on the lake and out of my room I have a view of the marina and an endless expanse of blue. Life is good.

Note: Today was beautiful, but not quite magical: refer back to my comments on Day 26. Day 26 was magic. I’m a muggle, so I cannot conjure magic. If it happens every day, then it isn’t magic. Remember your magic days, and treasure them.

I’m in NY! On to familiar roads through Batavia, Liverpool, Amsterdam and southern VT. I can now count the days on one hand.

Friday, May 20, 2011

20 May 2011 Fast America Day 27

Wooster, OH to Warren, OH

Mileage:                     100.88 miles incl. bonus miles
Riding Time:              6:55     Riding Speed 14.6 mph
Total Time:                 7:35
Climbing:                    4027 ft.
Flats:                           0

I think that the new Chris showed up today, but he chose to ride an easy recovery day after the magic of yesterday. The terrain today was a mini version of Missouri.The weather was cool and beautiful and it was a good day to mentally prepare for the long day tomorrow.

Here are some pictures of the Roark factory and some BEAUTIFUL scenery from today (will give you a very good idea of the flooding in Ohio):

There were some beautiful stretches under a green tree canopy. The only problem with this was is that it created mottled light and it was extremely difficult to navigate some of the worst roads that we have seen the entire trip. There were some potholes large enough to swallow both the bike and rider. I made it through rattled but unscathed. We were also on a bike path for three miles with beautiful pavement.

The day did produce a first for the trip – and it produced it twice; namely, I got lost. The first time I was simply sailing along and I forgot a turn. A half mile later I woke up and said to myself- “Did I make the turn?” I continued another half mile until I was pretty sure I had missed it and turned around and got back on track. The second time, I guess there was a fork in the road in the town of Niles (which lets you know that it was the birthplace of President McKinley) and I took the wrong fork. When it came time to make the next turn, I could see that I was not where I was supposed to be. I interrupted a guy in his backyard, made friends with his dog, and got things sorted out. The extra three miles got my century; the ride was officially only 98 miles. I will have to be much more on my toes tomorrow, as we ride along the southern shore of Lake Erie.

I wondered before the ride if I would get stronger as the ride progressed. The answer is an unequivocal yes. Riding the 100th miles is no longer hard – it’s just another mile. You will also notice that I haven’t mentioned my foot in awhile. Once the weather cooled down that has not been an issue. The only physical issue I have is tingling in my left hand. Riding can be very hard on the hands; there is a lot of pressure on the nerves and vibration is absorbed in the hands. My left hand often goes numb during the ride, and that numbness is persisting afterwards now (makes it hard to type!). I am anxious to see if it goes away with a few days off the bike.

This was our last Friday on the road. And tomorrow, I feel like we enter our last state – NY (we still will have VT, NH and MA to go, but they are really small, so I am not counting them!).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

19 May 2011 Fast America Day 26

Marysville, OH to Wooster, OH

Mileage:                     102.87 miles
Riding Time:              6:07     Riding Speed 16.8 mph
Total Time:                 6:30
Climbing:                    3657 ft.
Flats:                           0

WOW! I didn’t have Wheaties for breakfast, so it must have been the antipasti last night: thanks Patsy! I got to ride with the Big Boys today.

I was one of the first riders out of the gate, and soon found myself with a fast group of four. The first ten miles or so, which were generally downhill, was just a good fast warmup and then we cranked it up to race speeds (24-25 mph over rolling hills). I didn’t take my turns at the front, but I didn’t go away either. I was thinking “This is insane; there are hills in the second half of the ride and I will be toast.” It didn’t amaze me that I could stay with the group on the flats, but there were lots of little rolling hills and it did amaze me how I took those. Typically, everyone else got out of the saddle and started throwing their bikes back and forth to sprint up the hill. I just stayed in the saddle and increased the pressure on the pedals. Frequently, I had to do what is called “soft pedaling” just spinning nice and easy so as not to lose rhythm as I crested the 6-8% hills, going easy so as not to go flying off the front. I briefly lost contact with the others on a long 9% grade, but easily caught back on afterwards. People began to notice that this was the New Chris; not the same as the Old Chris. We shredded the group and Manny and I arrived together at the first SAG stop at mile 33.

But I didn’t blow up. After a quick SAG stop a group of four reformed (shedding a few others on the way). We stayed together until mile 68, when we hit a series of 16% climbs (serious stuff). I could not stay with the leaders on the climbs (my guess is that I have lost 10 pounds, but that still leaves me at 220), but I arrived at lunch at mile 75 no more than 2 minutes down.

I never blew up! The final 28 miles featured lots of small hills, so I rode them by myself, but I was almost always in sight of the three or four people that I had been with, until we ran into a problem: the road we were supposed to take was under water (I should have stopped to take pictures, but that is hard to do when the adrenaline is flowing and you are on a roll). We made an impromptu detour and sailed into Wooster. Wooster is the first city where our hotel is in the middle of town (lots of good restaurants) and I was the first one in to the local milk shake joint (did I tell you all that a milk shake makes a fantastic recovery drink?). Five of us finished essentially together, about 20 minutes before the van, which meant that we got to unload the van.

I remember the night that I won my first race about 35 years ago (Wednesday twilight criterium – a local training race). I fell asleep feeling all aglow. I think that I will have that same glow when I fall asleep tonight.

We are in to the countdown – 10 – 9 – 8 more days. I’m scared of Saturday, which is the longest ride of the trip (140 miles). But maybe if I feel like this every other day I shouldn’t be – that’s two days from now – the new Chris should show up.

18 May 2011 Fast America Day 25

Richmond, IN to Marysville, OH

Mileage:                     106.26 miles
Riding Time:              7:23     Riding Speed 14.5 mph
Total Time:                 7:55
Climbing:                    2365 ft.
Flats:                           0

Today was cool and damp (as opposed to cold and wet). It started out looking like yesterday, but never got really bad. We did ride the whole day into the teeth of a gentle breeze, which was a relief.

The scenery is getting prettier and prettier. Green, hilly, nice homes. But you can see that the rain has been intense. Every little creek that we cross has become a wide muddy river. The fields are completely saturated; with lots of standing water. I am told that the corn should be a foot high by now, but it has not been planted yet.

On Day 23, I noted that very small variations in rider strength day-to-day made a big difference in relative rider performance. Here is what Ohio Steve said about me in his blog that day:

Not only was the wind giving me fits, for some reason my legs were dead. At one point before the first sag stop, Big Chris, 64 and the oldest rider in the group, was pulling away from me at a steady rate during a direct head wind on three mile long road. The next time I saw him, he was at Steak-n-Shake sipping a shake while I was just coming into Lebanon.

Of course Steve thought that he was having a bad day. I think that he was having a fine day, it was just my turn. Today was his turn. He passed me early on with two other riders in tow and instead of catching on to the last wheel, I just had to wave “Bye”.

The highlight of the day was meeting my cousin Patsy for dinner. I was hoping that, since she had a car, she could drive me to the best Italian Restaurant in Marysville. But the best Italian Restaurant in Marysville turned out to be 100 yards from the hotel, so we walked. We had a wonderful time and some real good antipasti, Chianti, and prime rib.

Why to people in Ohio put stars on their homes? As with the question about catfish heads on fence posts in Missouri, I have found lots of answers on line. They may originally have had a structural reason. They are found in Amish areas. They are good luck. Etc. One reference said that it was a modern fad moving to other states. Anyone who thinks they know the reason, please e-mail me!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

17 May 2011 Fast America Day 24

Lebanon, IN to Richmond, IN

Mileage:                     108.82 miles
Riding Time:              7:23     Riding Speed 14.7 mph
Total Time:                 8:10
Climbing:                    2108 ft.
Flats:                           0

I can say nothing good about today. It was pure misery.

We started early, with a small group of us visiting the Roark factory. Roark is a small aerospace metal manufacturer (we saw Inconel and titanium parts being built for jet engines and submarines) that also manufactures titanium custom bikes. Mike and Karen (staff members) both have them and love them. An interesting side trip, but it meant that the riding part of the day got off to a late start.

The Weather Channel said 10% chance of rain at our 9:00 AM start, and this was not a day to bet against the odds. The rain started the minute that we got back to the motel for the start, and it barely let up for the next 8 hours. The temperature was about 50 F, but felt much colder once we were soaked through, and again, with a strong N wind.

Because of the side trip that some of us took, the start times for the riders were spread over about 45 minutes, so we were quite spread out on the road. Even though I had started almost last, I was surprised to find at the first SAG stop that I was about the fifth rider to check in. The first issue that I had encountered was a closed road. I stopped and rang a door bell and asked if I could get through and the homeowner sadi “Yes, on a bicycle”. However, what she did not say is that when I got through I would find the connecting road completely torn up and impassable. One other rider and I managed to find an alternative route back to the road that we were supposed to be on, but I gather not everyone was so lucky. Some riders went ten or more miles out of their way.

Meanwhile, four of the faster riders had looked at their computer and the route sheet and said “We can find a better route”. So they called in after a few miles and said “Don’t look for us at the SAG stops; we will find our way to Richmond on our own.. Talking to one of them later, they also had not taken proper precautions with their route sheets and did not want to deal with soggy directions. They made it, but not without dealing with road closures on their own.

Dumb Move Number 3. The last ten or so miles through Richmond were on fairly busy streets, and at one point, there was about two miles of road construction where four lanes were squeezed down to two. Traffic was all backed up. After a mile or so, I said to myself “There is a very big wide sidewalk there; why don’t I just pull onto it via one of the driveways ahead and get out of this. (believe it or not, one motive was courtesy to the cars who were patiently driving behind me). I was already committed when I realized that there was about a one inch discontinuity in the height of the road and the lip of the driveway, that I was trying to take at about a 10 degree angle. When I realized this, it was too late for a bunny hop and I went down on the sidewalk. Minor damage to my clothing, my skin, and my ego.

I finally made it to the hotel registration where I was told “Hurry up and take your shower, the housekeeper has volunteered to stay late to launder your clothes. I felt like kissing her, but gave her a generous tip instead. The hotel had a bar and (sort of) restaurant, so I did not venture out again.

I just had a good night’s sleep and awaken this morning ready to do it all over again. The weather report is 10% chance of rain at the start, 30% at the finish, just like yesterday. There will be a headwind all day, but only about 6-7 mph.

16 May 2011 Fast America Day 23

Tuscola, IL to Lebanon, IN

Mileage:                     124.09 miles
Riding Time:              8:40     Riding Speed 14.3 mph
Total Time:                 9:10
Climbing:                    2822 ft.
Flats:                           0

The day started with 20 of the first 25 miles due N into a 20 mph headwind. I soon found myself with a four person paceline, and I hung out at the back; getting a free ride – it included our least experienced riders and I was content to go at their pace. But soon we were passed by two faster riders and I latched on to them. Once the route turned E, however, I was on my own for the rest of the day.

Rain threatened, but it never came. It was simply COLD. One of the challenges in this kind of weather is keeping my fingers warm so that they remain functional.

Rider Observations: There are a half dozen riders who are at about the same strength level as me. Now that I know them better, I can see interesting day-to-day observations. One day I am stronger, another day it is one of them. I think that this clearly shows the effects of getting proper sleep, hydration, food; and keeping a good mental attitude. Today, I was on top.

Dumb Move Number 2. Dumb Move Number 1 was trying to ride in the sand in Palm Springs. Today, at the Indiana border, I found a small group of riders stopped on the very narrow shoulder for the photo op at the sign. I grumbled to myself “Hey guys; pull off the road” and slowed to a stop for my own photo. By habit, I unclipped my right foot, and prepared to put it down; when I realized that the grass fell off steeply from the road shoulder and I could not reach the ground. I tumbled down the soft grass covered slope. No harm, but pretty embarrassing (see tomorrow’s blog for Dumb Move Number 3).

Indiana Two Lane Roads. If you ever ride the rural highways of Indiana – keep your eyes open and looking ahead. A small subset of Indiana drivers think that it is OK to pass at 70 mph in your lane while you are on the narrow shoulder two feet away. This has now happened three times, scaring the Hell out of me. More than one of our riders has bailed into the grass beside the road, while fantasizing about throwing their water bottle at the car and smashing their windshield.

I finished this long, grueling, day tired but happy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

15 May Fast America Day 22

Springfield, IL to Tuscola, IL

Mileage:                     78.46 miles
Riding Time:              4:58     Riding Speed 15.8 mph
Total Time:                 5:30
Climbing:                    1114 ft.
Flats:                           0

Mama said there’d be days like this. On paper, today was the easiest day of the ride – shortest and flattest. BUT – on the day that the opening stage of the Tour of California was cancelled because of a snowstorm, we rode on through 50 F weather in the rain. Once I’d warmed up everything was OK, but walking outside at the start and again after lunch (we cowered inside a convenience store to eat at the SAG stop) the 15 mph N wind just knifed through my jacket. Most of the ride was due E, meaning that the wind was a pure crosswind, but there was one two mile stretch due north at the end that was pure torture. It was also a precursor for tomorrow; a 120 mile day which starts out with 13 miles directly into the N wind which is predicted to be 18-20 mph.

But it was another good day for me. My average HR of 116 bpm was the highest since Day 2. I started out in an 8 person paceline, which soon sorted itself out to just five of us. After 16 miles, though, I wisely decided that the effort of concentrating on the wind and rooster tail of water in front of me at 21 mph was too much, and I pulled off and slowed down to about 18. The decision proved to be wise as a little later one of the riders (Lee) went down when he caught his tire in a seam between the road and the shoulder. I rode the rest of the day alone on beautiful car free country roads (but not dog free!). I did have a momentary scare, when I realized that most of the cross streets did not have stop signs in either direction. Visibility was two miles in either direction, but I am told that if I come back in two months, the corn will be ten feet high, and you will not be able to see a car coming into the intersections.

Yesterday’s off day turns out to have been necessary, as Clay used it to get a new bike. Remember Missouri State Road E? It proved too much for his Trek Madone, which ended the day with a cracked chain stay (Clay thinks that the crack may have started when he went down on Day 2).Judging by Clay’s performance today, the new bike is a winner. Shelley got a new bike on the Albuquerque day off so the America By Bicycle people seem to have things calibrated perfectly.

I have mixed feelings about the day off. I would have ridden20-30 miles, but the weather was just too awful, so I went for a 5-6 mile walk instead. Some people went to the Lincoln Museum, and gave it very high marks. But I just got caught up on my e-mail and was generally bored. I stayed up late last night (11:00) but still woke up 10 minutes before the 6:00 AM alarm this morning.

Safety: Mike facilitated an interesting discussion on safety this afternoon. It seems that a number of people are uncomfortable riding with more than one or two other people at a time. My opinion is that a number of the riders have very, very strong legs but limited paceline riding experience and, probably more importantly, they are unclear on their motivations for joining a paceline. Riding in an efficient paceline can significantly increase the average speed without burning anyone out. Some people want one for this reason, but others simply want to ride the same speed that they would solo, while using less energy, while others want to prove that they are stronger than the others. Because of these varying motivations, it is hard for an experienced person to coach the others, as happens naturally in the cycling clubs to which I belong. Mike is very sensibly trying to discourage people from riding with more than 2-3 others especially while riding unfamiliar terrain.

Roommates: The cost of the ride is a significant function of whether or not you want a single room. I have a single room because I snore loudly, and I read the instructions which said “Please do not sign up for a double room if you snore loudly”. Apparently, not everyone read those instructions. One roommate pair is under great stress because one of the guys snores and likes the room as cold as he can make it with the air conditioner, while the other is kept up all night with the snoring (Although ear plugs reportedly help) and tries to sleep shivering under a pile of covers. Anther pair consists of Oscar and Felix from the Odd Couple. The pair that seems to get along the best had a trial separation during the two days in Springfield; they simply each needed their own space. I can’t imagine sharing a room, because within five minutes of checking in, I have covered every available square inch with stuff, and of course I want the desk or table to do my blog.

Here are two more blogs:

(check out his Missouri Amish video; I exchanged greetings with several Amish during our time in Missouri)


Saturday, May 14, 2011

13 & 14 May 2011 Fast America Days 20 & 21

Quincy, IL to Springfield, IL

Mileage:                     106.45 miles
Riding Time:              6:33     Riding Speed 16.1 mph
Total Time:                 7:00
Climbing:                    2382 ft.
Flats:                           0

Another easy day. Maybe it’s not really easy and I am just getting stronger. 100 miles no longer feels like a challenge, although the last 20 miles of the 130 mile days are challenging.

The motel we stayed in last night did not have much of a breakfast, so that was scheduled at Mike’s Diner 14 miles up the road. It made for a great break, and the food was great, but I got very antsy waiting for an hour for the food. The terrain has changed a lot, with gently rolling hills, lots of trees, and the sound of birds everywhere. Alerted by the honking, I did see some geese flying S for the summer(??). Everywhere I turned, there were historical references, starting with several historical markers indicating that I was traveling (in reverse direction) the Potawatomi Trail of Death.

[Wikipedia) The Potawatomi Trail of Death was the forced removal by United States forces from September 4 to November 4, 1838, of 859 members of the Potawatomi nation from Twin Lakes near Plymouth, Indiana, to the location of present-day Osawatomie, Kansas, a distance of 660 miles (1,060 km). Typhoid fever and the stress of the forced march led to the death of over 40 individuals, mostly children.

My foot didn’t bother me until the very end. I finally took a short break under a tree about 15 miles from the end, where I met a self contained cyclist going the other way; he had started in Minneapolis and was headed to Kansas. He covers about 50 miles a day, but has to worry about finding food (we’ve gone whole days without seeing a store) and campground each night.

We went right through downtown Springfield, passing the beautiful State Capitol and then the historic train station where Lincoln began his inaugural trip to Washington, wondering if he would ever come back (he didn’t). He made this trip against the advice of everyone, as there were numerous threats to his life at the time. (pictures in link below).

Here are photos from Days 13 – 20. Note the Cyclocross Course where the bridge was missing and the ferry across the Mississippi.

Several readers have asked about the other riders. Here are some of their blogs. All of them use pictures more effectively than I do (and you can scan them very quickly) but mine has more of a story line. It’s interesting to me to see how our experiences are recorded through different lenses:

Eric (aka Manny) from Brockton, MA:   

Simon from Manchester, England:           

Lee from Richmond, VA                         

Mike’s blog has had some good photos of me on the last couple of days. I am easily recognizable by my compression socks.

I’m writing this on our off day in Springfield (Day 21) and I don’t think that I will make a separate posting for today. Either we are lucky with the rain or today is a portent of things to come; as I look at the cold wet weather outside my window. Temperatures are predicted in the low 50’s for our VERY EASY ride of only 80 miles to Tuscola, IL tomorrow. We had a democratic vote, and all decided not to leave until 9:00 tomorrow. I hope that we don’t become spoiled by being able to sleep in two days in a row.

Most of our hotels have a laundry with one or two machines. They are probably unused most of the time, except when 25 cyclists want to use them at the same time. I have been able to keep up with laundry and mostly just use two cycling kits, until the last four days. All of my cycling clothes and most of my civilian clothes were filthy when we got here and I was prepared to trudge a mile up the road in the rain to the Laundromat; so imagine my surprise when I got up at 7:00 AM and found the one hotel washing machine free. All my clothes are now clean;  I hope that they did not shrink. I was able to do the Friday WSJ Crossword Puzzle while waiting. Note: I think that I have lost 5-6 pounds, but have not seen a scale in a long time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

12 May 2011 Fast America Day 19

Fast America Day 19

Kirksville, MO to Quincy, IL

Mileage:                     97.42 miles
Riding Time:              6:32     Riding Speed 14.9 mph
Total Time:                 7:15
Climbing:                    3636 ft.
Flats:                           0

I got some answers to yesterday’s fish head question, but nothing definitive, so I’ll stick to the ride:

The Winner! Chris fought the state of Missouri and won.

As I said yesterday, cycling is fun. Sometimes things come together and you have a day that is exceptional. Today was one of those days for me. Perhaps it was the Margarita last night before dinner (it worked for Floyd Landis), but I wasn’t going to let the state of Missouri beat me and even though I was a contributor, I was tired of everybody whining about how hard Missouri was. Aided by overcast skies, which kept the temperatures reasonable, and a warmup over the first ten miles or so, I decided to attack every hill. Before each uphill, there is a downhill that allows you to build speed (if you set your mind to it), and I hit the bottom every time while freewheeling (coasting). The trick is to decide when to start pedaling again on the uphill, and in what gear. I became more and more aggressive, until I was cresting each hill in my large chainring at 15 mph; and I passed a few riders who had been climbing faster than me. Today was a day to remember- it wasn’t easy but I am not going to complain about it. Missouri ended with a fast downhill to the Mississippi River, and we had lunch in a little picnic area that we were told had been under three feet of water last week. I got to the lunch area just as the first group of riders was taking the ferry across the river, so I did not set any world records. But I did set personal standards for another hard day of climbing. If you study the Garmin record of the ride, however, you will discover that I took it easy on the last 25 miles in Illinois, most of which was into the wind.

Full disclosure: I am going to donate all of my winnings (for beating Missouri) to the State of Missouri to use for maintenance of State Road E. I really sharpened my descending skills looking for potholes at 35 mph. And I owe my bike a big apology for what I put it through, the vibration was intense.

Before I stop talking about Missouri: it seems that the dream home in Missouri is a comfortable prefab manufactured home, on five acres of grass. The lucky homeowner can then spend every summer day on his (or her) power mower neatly manicuring his lawn. I saw many people living this dream – in bare chests and sports bras.

We crossed the Mississippi by ferry at Canton, about 10 miles north of Quincy. Then rode along the East Bank, and marveled at some of the homes built on stilts over the water.

Illinois could not be more different (to a cyclist) than Missouri. I thought that the Mississippi would have banks, but no, the river edge just gently laps at the flat flood plain. Our tour guides routed us down a beautiful tree lined street of large homes, just three blocks from the standard city sprawl strip. Daryl and I found a frozen custard stand just before our motel, and had delicious blueberry milk shakes. The real treat was the book for sale at the counter. It was by the proprietor’s mother, and it told the story of the house that he grew up in as part of the Underground Railroad. As a young boy, the proprietor had pulled up a loose floorboard and discovered hidden tunnels. His mother devoted the rest of her life to researching how it was used by the Underground Railroad. You could feel the sense of historical pride as the frozen custard guy told his story to Daryl and me.

Quite a contrast to dinner in Cameron two nights ago. Ate at the Truck Stop across the street from the motel. I did not engage the counter girl in conversation about the cookbook for sale at the counter – The White Trash Cookbook. I will say one thing – The Kansas City strip steak I had was good; not sure if the recipe was in the book.

Two thousand miles under the belt and just had the best day of the trip! Another short day (just over 100 miles) to Springfield tomorrow. Springfield is our second and last rest day; I am already feeling sad – the end of the ride is in sight.

Editorial note: Some literature can only be completely understood if one has a degree in Dead Languages. So it pays to know your audience. I have tried to walk a line with this blog; so that it is understandable to everyone, but it still contains a few references that only the cycling nut would understand. So if you see a reference that you don’t understand, just ask your local cycling nut.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

11 May 2011 Fast America Day 18

Cameron, MO to Kirksville, MO

Mileage:                    124.52 miles
Riding Time:              8:46     Riding Speed 13.9 mph
Total Time:                10:10
Climbing:                    5793 ft.
Flats:                          0

Today’s blog starts with a question: Why do people in Missouri put catfish heads on their fences? Please e-mail me if you know the answer; I Googled the question and found lots of discussion but no answers. The people at the hotel don’t know what I am talking about.

I didn’t take a picture, but here is a link to prove that I am not making it up:

Long, long day in the saddle. I knew that there were a few people behind me, so I indulged myself after mile 80 with 3 or 4 stops to cool my foot off.

The day started out with some rain. The tour leaders herded us into the Conoco Station in Hamilton, MO (birthplace of James Cash (JC) Penney) to be safe from the lightning. This must be the Hamilton equivalent of Starbucks, because we met some nice ladies hanging out and it looks like we will be in the local weekly paper!

But the rain left, and in its wake it was a little cooler and less windy. But the terrain made up for the rest. He fastest riders finished about 2 hours ahead of me, but if it weren’t for my foot, I would say that I had a great day in the saddle. I’m definitely stronger. A number of the climbs ranged between 10 and 16%, and at least one rider (not me) walked a few of them. Check out the profile in the Garmin link – you can look at elevation, heart rate, or speed, and I think that will give even the non-cyclists among you an idea of how hard it was. Most of the day was spent going uphill in a 300 foot elevation band. The downhills were too short to do anything but prepare for the next uphill. As one guy said: “We spent 8 hours cycling in Missouri and 8:30 of it was uphill.” As we entered Kirksville, I did see a guy in Spandex riding the other way and he did give me a very quizzical look!

Very different evening in the Kirksville Days Inn. It’s a good mile into town or the nearest restaurant. So the staff took one group in the van to the steakhouse, and another to the Italian Restaurant. But a few guys ordered pizza and hung out at the Days Inn Bar. They were there when I left for dinner (by which time I had earned the nickname “Margarita Man”) And they were there when I got back. The bartender (4 days on the job) got a lot of experience with demanding people tonight.

People ask me why I cycle and I answer “because it is fun.” This hasn’t been the same kind of fun, but it has been a great experience. So far, though, no one in the group is saying that they want to do it again next year!

Tomorrow is a short day, only about 90 miles; the first 70 of which are in Missouri (and by now I know what that means). Then we take a ferry across the Mighty Mississippi and I am told we have a 20 mile uphill to where we are staying in Quincy, IL. I will then ceremoniously cross Missouri cycling off my bucket list.