Thursday, April 22, 2010

10 lbs of crawfish and a new set of wheels

So picking up back in New Orleans...We stayed with Chris's friend Shawn and his wife Lauren. We put all our laundry in the washing machine and sat around in our swim trunks. Our hosts were super cool and treated us to dinner at a local seafood joint. Our clothes were not dry yet, so we looked a bit off eating in swim trunks, but we were so hungry we didn't care. Shawn and Lauren started by ordering 10lbs of crawfish for an appetizer and after a quick tutorial from Shawn we doing our best to put down our 5lbs. Just as we had finished the last of the crawfish the waiter dropped off our meatball po boys. The food was so good and we ate so much they had to roll us out the door and help us into the car. Back home we watched a few episodes of heli loggers and went to bed.
I got up early and realized that my wheel was really out of whack, I had ridden around 80 miles with a spoke missing and it had taken its toll. We could not find a bike shop that was open on Sunday and the few shops that are normally open on Sunday were closed to offer support to the half Iron Man race in New Orleans. I finally found a shop that was open and we back tracked 15 miles into the French Quarter to get my wheel looked at. The shop was a zoo because they do a huge amount of rental business. The mechanic said he could save my wheel and he spent about two or three hours truing it up and replacing some spokes. Finally we were on our way, but it was already afternoon and we had a long way to go to meet our next host in Baton Rouge. I had another flat and Chris ripped through another back tire shortly after leaving New Orleans. We rode hard but came up short and as the sun was setting the clouds moved in too. Lightning lit up the sky, but we stayed just ahead of the storm. We pulled in to what we thought was a campground, but was a trailer park in the end. We took shelter in a Wendy's and finally checked in to a cheap hotel for the night.
The next morning we rode to Baton Rouge where Del bought a new rear tire and I bought a new rack. We ended the day in Ragley, LA at an RV park that was run by the nicest old couple. They let us stay for free and opened the kitchen for us too. We dropped of our bags and rode our bikes another mile to a store. A few feet into the ride I broke another spoke and my wheel was instantly wobbly. We talked strategy and found a bike shop, but it was 20 miles away each way and completely out of route.
In the morning I rode the 20 miles alone and Del continued on. I broke two more spkes on the ride and had to completley remove my back brake because the wheel was so wobbly. Once I made it to the shop I was beat from trying to keep my balance on such a wreck of a bike. I bought a new wheelset and a tougher back tire and planned my route back to meet Del while the guys at the shop made some adjustments to my derailer. Basically the day was a nightmare, every time I rode ten miles I ran into a stretch of interstate that I could not ride on and had to back track. The guy at the shop gave me a shortcut, but it involved crossing the river via a railroad bridge. This seemed very sketchy so I backtracked some more. Eventually I ran in to a gym that looked like a bowling alley from the early 1980s with a bunch of free weights thrown in. The owner was wearing a fishnet tank top, a truckers cap, and cut of jean shorts. As unlikely as it sounds, the gym owner actually gave me directions that worked and eventually I met Del back at the TX border. I had ridden a ton of extra miles and was dead tired when we finally got to Orange, TX to meet our hosts for the night. Alison and Jane were our hosts and they are both intern educators at Shangri La Gardens. They cooked us a vegetarian dinner and took us to see a bluegrass session at an RV park nearby. We finished the night with some Pizza and hit the hay.
Today I was feeling pretty worked and quickly fell behind Del as we battled a terrible headwind. I stopped short of Galveston by about 25 miles and got a campsite. Del continued on and we are meeting up in Galveston in the morning. More pictures to come.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Living the dream

So it has been awhile since I was last able to update the blog. We have had a few milestones since the last update. First we finished cycling through Florida, then Alabama, then Mississippi and we are now in Louisiana. I will pick up where I left off. Back in Florida I had my first flat tire of the trip, The tube didn't really have any damage and I checked the wheel and tire for the cause but didn't find anything. I changed the tube and got back on the road. A few blocks away I had another flat, but again I could not find the source. Our host had told us there was going to be another cyclist staying the night and he would arrive a bit before us, needless to say we were really excited to chat with another rider. We were only a few miles from being done for the day and we saw another cyclist up ahead, so we put the hammer down until we caught up with him. He turned out to be a Native American rider from Arizona, who had ridden from Arizona to Key West and was heading home. He showed us some pictures and told us the same story about getting pulled on stage at an Oakridge Boys concert a few times before we parted ways. Our host for the night was a great guy named Joe. Joe and his wife are big time scuba divers and his wife rode her bike across the country last summer. I never got to meet his wife because she was back on her bike and riding across route 66 this summer. Joe and his wife are both retired from the Air Force and have lived all over the world. He had tons of diving stories to tell and his house was full of really great photographs that he had taken over the years. There were actually two other cyclists staying with Joe the night we stayed. One was from Houston and one was from Canada, both were tons of fun. The other two cyclist had come with cold beer and we all ordered pizzas. The Canadian played the guitar for a bit and then we cranked up the classic rock and enjoyed the cold beer.
The next morning we all took off together, but Del and I quickly passed and pulled into a grocery store for breakfast. We ate a bunch of junk food and headed over a long bridge to a very scenic ride. The scenic road was very skinny, about twenty miles long, and had ocean views on both sides. The weather was great and the scenery was unreal, but I got another flat. This time I realized that I had 4 or 5 really loose spokes. I tightened them up and wobbled down the road another 20 miles to a bike shop where they trued my wheel for free and wished us luck. We continued into Alabama and rode about 88 miles to a ferry that took us across the river to Dauphin Island, AL where we camped for the night.
The next day we rode across a long bridge to get off of the island and started the long day. We rode along the hurricane wrecked coast all day and after about 80 miles we stopped so Del could get online and check in at work. I did not get online because my rack failed as we turned into the parking lot. The aluminum mounting bar cracked in half and my bags were dragging on the pavement. Just then an older gentleman from Holland rolled down his window to tell me how pleased he was to see me traveling by bike, which is quite common in Holland. We chatted a bit and I asked if he lived here now and he said that he lived a few blocks away. I asked if there was a hardware store around to see if I could use a tester drill to re-drill the good half of my rack. He said that he would go get his drill and be right back. I was thrilled at the offer and when he returned we talked about bikes, airplanes and boats while fixing my rack. Turns out he is a sailboat distributor and also flies commercially. What a stroke of luck! About the time I finished repairing my bike Del had finished at the office and we were on our way for the last 25 miles before the sun went down. Unfortunately, my mechanical problems didn't end there. I broke a spoke a few minutes into the ride. With the sun setting and many miles to cover I just ripped it off and continued wobbling down the road. As the light was almost gone we witnessed a high speed chase on the other side of the road, I mean this guy was flying down the road with 15 cop cars chasing him. We made it to camp and called it a night.
Today we woke up early and hit the road in an attempt to hit New Orleans, by early afternoon. We rode fast and made it 65 mile to the french quarter for lunch and a cocktail. After lunch we biked around and listened to some music before heading on another 10 mile to our host's house for the night.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wet tents, bad Wi-Fi and a bra salesman

We awoke to damp tents and we had to wait for them to dry. We had a short day of 70 miles planned, but the legs felt good and the winds were at our backs so we cruised on 88 miles for the day. It was getting near dark and we stopped at our second McDonalds for the day trying to get online. The Wi-Fi actually worked this time and we were able to check our email. There was supposed to be a campsite 5 miles down the road, but the number was no longer in service. We searched for close campsites and realized that the closets one was 15 miles away and we only had about 45 minutes of light left. We quickly packed up and strapped on the headlamps. This was familiar territory for Del and me. We are always running behind and in our climbing epics we became very comfortable with headlamp travel. We jumped on the bikes and rode a few miles until, much to our surprise; we saw the original campsite with the bad phone number and pulled in. The owners were out of town, but we met a guy Bob that had been there awhile and he told us to throw a few bucks in the honor box and call it good. Bob used to be a bra salesman in Colorado and Arizona before he retired to travel the great outdoors. He had seen it all, the US, Europe, and South America. We had a good talk, a shower and hit the sack.
Hills. More hills. Even more hills. Subway. Dead tired and looking for a campsite within a few miles, we started making calls. The first call had tent camping for $7.60, and they had space. The site also had electric and water, as well as a shower house. The best part was we could have hit it with a tennis ball from Subway. We pedaled in and dropped the bikes off at the site. We walked a few blocks and bought some beer and headed down to dip our feet in the Chattacochee! On our side of the river it is Eastern time zone, but across the bridge we enter central time zone. Life is good.

Carnitas, an egg farm and 100 miles

The next day we were up and on the road by 9am. We had about 100 miles to cover and it was a struggle. My legs were stiff and sore and I tried to ride Del’s back wheel for most of the day. We pushed through a town with amenities and rolled the dice on our lunch stop. We ended up at a Mexican grocery store with three option: food that required a full kitchen, fried pork parts, or beverages loaded with sugar. Just as we were feeling defeated we realized that they had Carnitas cooked and ready to eat. We snagged a pound of meat, some homemade corn tortillas and a can of black beans sat down on the sidewalk to feast. Jake and Delaware 1, Starvation 0. Back on the road we ran into a couple on a tandem that had come from San Diego and stopped to talk and stretch for a few minutes. We struggled through the remaining miles and ended up in Monticello, FL, where we were trying to reach our host for the night. We had been calling all day but our phone said the network was unavailable. We eventually realized that we had the area code written down backwards and we finally we reached our host’s answering machine. We had no place to stay, the sun was setting and we were spent, so we did the logical thing. We went to Pizza Hut (thanks Aunt Jennifer)! When we finished it was dark and we called Danny and Jess to try to get direction to the place we were staying for the night (Big up to both of you for your help). The headlamps went on and we battled our way up a monster hill to farm. When Diane made it home we were chilling out on the padded seats of her golf cart. Diane is an administrative attorney and she lives with her partner on an egg and goat farm. Her partner Maria used to ride a lot before she developed MS, and now she hosts touring cyclists to get her cycling fix. We had a shower, some great conversation and enjoyed an episode of iron chef America before calling it a night.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The sun had warmed things up pretty nicely after McDonalds and we continued on our way. Just a few miles in we found the entrance to a really great bike trail that we rode all the way to Gainesville. The trail was probably 10 or 12 feet wide and after making a turn we saw a huge snake laying across the trail with only about six inches clearance on each side. We had been riding side by side and we were both caught off guard when we saw the snake. I was shaking my handlebars trying to decide which way to go. Just as my mind was flashing to Indiana Jones getting attacked by a huge king cobra, I realized that I was on the right side, which was the tail side. I sped past in the small gap and heard a thump and some rattling as Delaware took a detour into the ditch realizing he had the head side of the trail. He was instantly back on the paved trail and we continued on our way. Now when we hear a noise on the side of the road we can worry about snakes as well as alligators and rabid dogs. In Gainesville we rode past a Sam's Club sign and I asked Delaware if he still had a membership. As it turned out he has a business membership, so we cruised through and tried every sample in the place two or three times. We rode 83 miles into a camp site and called it a night. With plenty of daylight and little energy we were kicking ourselves for not picking up a six pack before heading to camp.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Well the adventure is under way. I finished packing on Thursday night and I am really glad I started early, because it took a while. Here is a picture of everything I decided to take, mostly just camping gear and a couple pairs of clothes.

Friday morning I woke up at 5:45 and got a ride to the Kansas City Airport. I had a brief layover in Nashville before heading to Jacksonville. From the Jacksonville airport a shuttle service loaded up my bike and we headed to the Pirate Haus, a pirate themed hostel in St. Augustine Florida where Delaware was waiting. It took about an hour or so to reassemble my bike and get the panniers loaded up. Delaware and I were on the road by 4PM and pedaling toward the beach for a quick dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

We squeezed in over 50 miles and made it to Interlaken, FL where we met a couch surfing host that made some sandwiches for us gave us a place to crash. Our host had three boys and the had every video game system ever made. We played a little Nintendo and Super Nintendo until it was time to go to bed. This morning our host had to leave early so we were on the road by 7am, but quickly realized it was freezing cold so we pulled in to McDonalds to check emails and wait for the sun to warm up a bit.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

And so it begins...

ad·ven·ture (d-vnchr)
1 a
: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks b : the encountering of risks
2 : an exciting or remarkable experience

In a world filled with IPods, laptops, cell phones, and video games we are so over stimulated with technology that we have completely lost the spirit of adventure. Video game bowling? Really? Are you serious? If Hemingway had sat at home downloading apps for his IPhone and playing video games do you think we would be reading his epic novel about tragically blowing a 300 game in the tenth frame on Wii bowling? Me neither. Sir Edmund Hillary said he climbed Everest because it was there. No reason other than to see if he could do it. Warren Harding spent over 45 days hanging in a harness while pioneering the first route up the shear face of El Capitan. I was born in the wrong era. I feel that I have been getting soft and life has become too predictable. I remember reading an obituary in climbing magazine about a guy that built a bicycle in Sweden and cycled to Nepal, where he climbed Mt. Everest solo, and then road home. The same guy was cross-country skiing across the northern ice fields and was stalked for four days by a polar bear. In an effort to survive he finally devised a plan to trap and kill the polar bear. What a life, what an obituary, what a man. This blog will chronicle my experiences in the pursuit of adventure. I'm not talking about dance lessons. I'm talking about taking it out and chopping it up, putting a brick through the other guy’s window. The crazy Swede inspired my next adventure- Cycling from St. Augustine, FL to San Diego California with a climbing buddy, my fellow champion of life, Delaware. Why ride across the country on a bicycle? I planned the ride just to see if I could and because Jacques Cousteau never sat around playing video games.