Wednesday, May 26, 2010

To the sea

We woke up to cold temps yesterday and packed up our tents. We grabbed breakfast at a gas station and waited for the sun to warm things up a bit. Once the ride started I was quickly climbing a short hill, which got the blood pumping and warmed me up a bit. A big downhill made my body shiver as the winds chilled me to my core. Next was the last climb of the trip. It was not too steep or too long and Delaware and I rode together, side by side. The roads were great and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. Spirits were high and we both randomly broke into laughter often throughout the day. If smiling could fuel spaceships, we would have made it to the moon. We stopped for really good tacos at lunch and we hit up two friends for a favor. Our buddies Matt and John, who live in hotels for work, were very generous and put us up in a really nice hotel in San Diego on marriot rewards points. With our bellies full and our sleeping situation covered we got back in the saddles. Most of the ride was downhill, but a headwind did slow us down. We got out of the mountains and rode through the hills for a bit. Eventually the streets flattened and the smell of salt water was in the air. A rough bike path led us to ocean beach park. We both stopped just short of the sand, to take it all in for a moment. I took off my cycling shoes and we walked our bikes into the pacific for a ceremonial dunking of the wheels and then ran into the sea. The water was cold, but the whole experience uber rewarding. The entire day was a bit surreal. Soon we were met by Sarah, a girl that we worked with in Yosemite many years ago. We threw our bikes in her car and she drove me to a pharmacy where I bought some footwear. The options were limited, the choices included aquasocks, faux leather slippers and huge or tiny flip flops. I went with the big flip flops and doritos. We met my buddy Xavier and his wife Michelle at the hotel. The hotel was super nice and we looked like homeless people, but once they realized we were the guests of such important customers, the velvet ropes parted, champagne fell from the heavens and we were quickly checked in. I put on my cleanest dirty shirt and we headed to dinner. A few margaritas and five years of catching up proved a great recipe for a good time.

Monday, May 24, 2010

And then there was one

The winds were crazy yesterday and every time I looked outside and saw the trees about to break in half I felt better about taking a rest day. I ate continental breakfast for about three hours before hitting the hot tub for a bit. I was going stir crazy in the hotel so I walked to the mall and did some laps. Del met me at the theatre in the afternoon and we caught the last matinee. A quick dinner and I was fast asleep.
We woke up late today and spent an hour eating breakfast and another hour packing up and getting our bikes loaded again. Shortly after hitting the road I heard a clunk on the back of my bike. I looked back and saw I lost my crocs that were bungeed on. I turned around and realized there was only one on the street. So when a bit of back tracking didn't turn up the other shoe, I tossed the solo shoe in the trash. Bummer. In the last two years I have now lost three single shoes. I know it's crazy right? I think I am going to start buying several pairs of the same shoes in case I lose one, and then I will just treat them like socks. Now I only have my cycling shoes which are not really up to the task of walking, but as luck would have it this is a bicycling trip and not a walking trip. I will pick up some flip flops in San Diego. Today the roads got rough. I mean really rough. My old bike would have crumbled under these conditions but the long haul trucker was up to the challenge. We stopped for lunch at the only place we passed, a deserted bar with a nice old man behind the bar. He threw together a coupled pulled pork sandwiches and offered some conversation. After lunch Del had a flat, but we quickly patched it and hit the road. The next 18 miles gained 4000 feet of elevation, our biggest climb of the trip. Climbing is a personal experience, it is slow and you have to find a natural rhythm to succeed at it, nevermind enjoy it. Today we each found our rhythms and crushed the last big climb, the problem was we found different rhythms. Del had the map and I was out in front. I was so busy watching a chevy blazer burning with 10ft flames on the othr side of the road that I missed the bike exit and continued on I-8 for another 10 miles until one of California's finest kindly escorted me off the interstate and pointed me to an alternate route. I continued west on the new route and stopped at the top for an Arnold Palmer(half ice tea, half lemonade). As I gained elevation, it got cold and I put on my long sleeve shirt. I hit the town where we planned to stop and soaked up the warm sun while I waited for Delaware. I really love long climbs, you forget about speed and your body focuses on the task at hand and eventually your mind is free to drift in and out of daydreams all day long. This was the last real climb and I wanted to turn around and do it again. We grabbed some huge burgers and a beer at the only place in town and pitched our tents just before dark. The low is supossed to be 30 degrees tonight, which already chills me to the bone (remember we have ridden in 100degrees lately. Tomorrow we finish the ride to the pacific and I have mixed emotions. Part of me is glad we are about to complete a long and hard fought battle on the bikes, but I have been out riding for 45 days and this has become the norm. When we run out of land going west, I dont really know what I will feel. It is always like this with great adventures, in the beggining they are hard and the end is so far off you just want progress and you can't wait to be done. Toward the endyou grow accustomed to the struggle, you have adapted and want to extend the journey. I experieced this climbing El Capitan too and in the end we are creatures of habit and I know I will quickly adjust to normal life again, but I feel the urge to squeeze in a bit more...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sand Dunes, Headwinds, and Marriot Points

Alright where were we? Oh yes, back on the Colorado river...There were two other cyclist staying on the river that were our age, which is rare, most of the people we have seen touring are at least 50. The two guys were grad students at NYU and they were traveling by bike for the summer while visiting some alternative energy sources, which is what they both study. They came over to our site with cold beer and of course it would have been rude to refuse a beer, so we downed that beer and bought some more. Down on the river we all sat in the sand and swapped stories about our trips and drank a few cold ones. Del and I called it quits after a few beers and we hopped on our bikes and rode to Wendy's. The other two guys were going to come but another camper offered them "a scotch" and poured them a full glass of scotch. We ate our food and headed back to camp, full and ready for bed. On the way back we saw the two guys swerving all over on their bikes heading to Wendy's. I woke up around 2am to the sound of a drunk couple fighting. Apparently the girl got lost on the way to the restroom and couldn't find the group again, so of course she was mad that her boyfriend didn't come looking for her. The campsite was pretty small and there was a fence around the whole thing, so I'm not really sure how she got lost, but none the less they kept me up for an hour or so.
When I woke up for good Del was showering, so I ate breakfast and started packing up my tent. Soon we were on our way, but the other guys were still out cold. Let that be a lesson to future touring cyclist, alcohol and touring don't mix. I assume they took a rest day. We had a good start and passed two cyclist heading east, all in the first 20 miles. We grabbed some extra Gatorade to put in our bags for the 60 mile stretch of desert. We soon encountered brutal headwinds and slowly grinded our way west. If cycling cross country is a war, this day would be the key battle that will change the direction of the war. The day was long and the west winds proved to be a worthy adversary. We stopped just before the dunes where they filmed star wars. The Place was a crazy hot spot for motocross riders and four wheelers. We met some locals and swapped stories before they headed back into the sand. While enjoying the last shade for many many miles a solo female cyclist from Alaska stopped to chat. She had never ridden more than twelve miles before she started and she left San Diego a week before to ride for awhile with no real destination. She was lucky to be heading East. because by now she had a 30mph tailwind. We said goodbyes and good luck and headed our separate ways. Within minutes we were in the middle of crazy sand dunes with no vegetation. The dunes were so wild, but the headwinds made for a painful sandstorm. The sandstorm had an exfoliating effect and I felt like I had fresh skin by the time the dunes ended. After the dunes the winds became really strong and we struggled to maintain 7 mph. This battle was far from over. In my head I composed several open letters to the west winds. The first was something like: Dear west winds, You will not defeat us, we will pedal all day if need be. I don't even acknowledge your existence. I laugh at your wasted efforts that only delay the inevitable... After a few hours the letter read: Dear west winds, you annoy and amuse me... by the end it read: Dear west winds, lets make a deal.
We hit Brawley, California only to realize there was no tent camping. We checked out a cheap hotel, but it smelled pretty awful and I could tell Del was not into it so we rode away. Our buddy Alan came through and hit a home run by booking us a great room at the Marriott with some of his rewards points! Alan is the most generous guy I know, but this was a REALLY nice gift. We quickly grabbed a few double cheeseburgers and put on our headlamps. We had 16 miles to go and an hour and a half of light left at best, no big deal right? Wrong, it had just taken us over 4 hours to ride 27 miles, so do the math. The winds were so strong that we could barely stay on the road and we were both absolutely beat, but if you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough, so we rode on. We managed to make it just after sunset and checked into an amazing room. We showered, sat in the hot tub, and then walked to Chili's and grabbed some dinner. We had been in the saddle riding for ten hours and ten minutes and only covered 111 miles, if that gives you an idea of how strong the winds were. We checked the weather and realized that our route for the next day had 60 mph west winds predicted, so we booked the room for another night and are taking a rest day today. We are only 120 miles from our goal of San Diego. The whole way here, every TV we have passed has been on Fox News and we have joked the whole trip that instantly after crossing in to California they would all be tuned in to CNN. The funny thing is that it happened, the TVs here are all on CNN. It is crazy how many things change when you cross an imaginary line.


Friday, May 21, 2010

California sunshine

The weather was great when we woke up and we split some banana bread and bagels for breakfast, packed up camp and were riding west around 6:30. Del is feeling better and we rode really well as a team today. We swapped turns in the lead and in two hours we we 40 miles into the day. We eased it up a bit a cruised into a McDonalds for lunch. A few dollar menu items and a ton of refills of powerade from the sofa fountain and we were feeling good again. By this time the sun was scorching and the headwinds were picking up, which was nice because they cool things down a bit. We were burning alive when we hit the bridge over the colorado river and the water looked great. We had been riding on I-10 but we had to get off to cross the river because bikes are not allowed. Riding on the interstate is both nice and scary. The trucks are hauling, but the shoulders are huge. The profession truck drivers are not the ones to worry about, but the motorhome retirees are the guys to lookout for. There are way less rvs on the interstate, but this stretch had a dirty shoulder littered with glass and tires. I got a flat from a nail, but quickly patched it up and continued. After crossing the river we found a campground and chased the shade. The campground is right on the river and we are heading down to take a dip. Oh yeah, if you didn't know, the Colorado river is the border to California, so we are on our last state! That's all for now, I want to take this all in...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nearly there

I left Phoenix feeling rested and ready to ride. We moved a bit slow getting out of the suburbs and back onto a rural highway, but the riding felt easy and it was not too hot yet. We stopped in the last suburb to grab a few extra tubes, because everything is sharp out here and I have had a thorn and a shard of glass pop a tire in the last few days. I bought some thorn proof tubes that are ten times as thick as a regular tube and we were on our way. The riding was slightly uphill and the heat was around 100 degrees, but our bodies have become machines. Most of the time I don't even think of pedalling at all anymore and my legs never get tired, the only reason we stop is for cold fluids. Hills no longer matter and headwinds have no effect on a machine. Today we rode 86 miles and I would have easily signed on for another 86 but we found a campground with horse shoe pits and stopped for the day. We decided to cut another day out of our schedule and up our daily miles to the coast. My friend Xavier sent me an email that he lives near San Diego and I am really hoping to see him and meet his wife. Xman and I were good buddies in college and I haven't seen him for years, since he moved from Colorado. We also decided we are going to take a few surfing lessons in California, so that also motivates us to move a bit faster. I feel like my body wants more riding than it is getting and I think I want to try to ride 200 miles one day when I get back home. The desert is hot, but we are getting used to it and we only have one more hot day in the forcast. We are eating less food, so maybe our bodies have adapted or maybe it is the heat. Anyway life is good on the road and I am already filling my head with ideas for the next crazy adventure, so stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Climbing partners, beer, guns and the best slice in America

I felt rested after a good nights sleep and I had almost forgotten about the really scary ride the night before. Feeling great we did the last climb before Phoenix and cruised into Apache Junction. Getting through the suburbs was a bit slower with all the traffic. At what may have been the busiest intersection of our trip I didn't manage to get out of my pedals and took my first and only fall of the trip. A bruise on my hip, a few scrapes, but mostly just damaged pride. The sun was hot and we were really hungry so we hit up In and Out Burger for a double double animal style, man I love that place and my mouth waters for a week before any trip out west just thinking about it.
We hit Scottsdale and detoured to camelback road to see a condo project that our friend Alan built while working for the company Del works for. The project was awesome! There was soil on every balcony and the flowers, plant, and trees growing everwhere. This place was a real treat to visit. From there we headed to my amigo Justin's house in North Phoenix. Justin had cold beer waiting and we were quickly relaxing with a few cold ones. Justin and his wife Jena's house was great. It is really well decorated and just feels comfortable. I have been to Justin's four times in the last year but never even for a whole day, so it was great to stay for two days and just hang out. I tried to take them out to dinner, but it backfired and Jena picked up the tab before I could get my hands on the check. We came back and drank some beers and watched Slammin Salmon on tv.
We woke up early today and I made banana pancakes before Justin's brother came over and we headed out to the desert to shoot some guns. No really, Del and I shot some guns. To clarify, I am terrified of guns and get pretty uncomfortable around them, but we figured we should go anyway. Justin and Eric showed us the ropes and both Del and I fired a glock and a 38 special. Even with ear plugs they seemed really loud. We took a ton of shots at a can, but never really got close to hitting anything. Del did shoot a branch off of a tree, not on purpose but still impressive. I am glad I tried shooting and it was an adventure, but it was not something I want to try again.
We ate some sandwiches and enjoyed the rest day. Justin headed to work and we went to wait in line at Pizza Bianco at 3:30 to try to get in when they opened at 5:00. This place is known as the best pizza in America and regularly has 4 hour waits. We arrived an hour and a half before they opened and there were probably 30 people on line. The place is tiny and has about twelve tables, but we were lucky and got in right at 5:00. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass was playing on the speakers and the atmoshphere was relaxed and comfortable. We had made friends in line and spirits were high. We ordered three pizza and got some strange looks. I butted in to another tables conversation about Neil Diamond and pretty some the whole resaurant was talking about how much we all love his music. The pizza was unreal and it lived up to the hype, every bite was a little taste of heaven. It probably ruined all other pizza for me but it was worth it. The hostess looked justvlike a girl in my class at dental school. The girl told me she was going to live In Phoenix for the summer with family, but I guessed it wasn't her because she didn't recognize me. As we were leaving I asked her if she had a sister and it turned out she was the twin of the girl in my class. What a small world. On the way out the people from Overland Park wished us luck and we headed back to Justinand Jena's to swim before bed. What a great stay, I love seeing those two and wish we lived closer. Good luck to Jena in the San Diego half marathon in a few weeks, I know you will do great! I had tried to meet up with another friend Nat, but just realized I missed both her calls, what a bummer. Back on the road in the morning and feeling refreshed and ready to ride.

Eureka, gatorade formula 1

With an early finish in Safford, we had plenty of time to eat a huge dinner at Golden Corral, which was not great but there was plenty of food. After eating dinner we bought some brakfast food for the morning, including gatorade formula 1. So the whole trip we have been drinking normal gatorade, which has the label formula 2 on it. The label advertises three formulas, one for before workout, two for during, and three for after workouts. Del and I had never seen anything other than formula 2 and I was sure that formulas 1 and 2 were actually just an inside joke from the marketing guys at gatorade. Finally we found all three in the same savers grocery store. The next morning we were up at 5am and one the bikes by 6am. The Gatorade formula 1 didn't seem to do anything, but at least we know it is out there. We rode a bunch of uphill and grinded our way through a few major climbs and then got really scared going down the other side. We were right around a hundred miles for the day and we were ripping down the steep grade at over 30mph. The shoulder was really small and the trucks were plentiful. The descent required full concentration and total confidence in our bicycles, thank goodness for my new bike. Constatly getting buzzed by semis was not fun and just as I was thinking that things could not possibly get any scarier, we saw a tunnel ahead. Oh sweet a tunnel without lights and I am wearing sunglasses, I guess i will just take them off right? Wrong, I was doing 35mph and the shoulder just ended. I could not see a thing in the tunnel and the winds were incredibly strong, but I could still hear the 18 wheeler behind me and I could see the lights of the cars whizzing past in the uncoming lane of the tunnel. Guided by the force, we both made it through alive. Then the descent got really steep and the shoulder came back, but was only 18inches wide. Air horns were the norm as out of control truck drivers nearly killed us while passing. With shattered nerves we exited into Superior, AZ and called it a day. We ate some cold pinto beans and tomatoes before heading to sleep.
Pictures from the trip.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The mighty Shipley and the continental divide

Picking up where i left off...Our host Bob Shipley was awesome. Shipley prepared a fantastic salmon dinner with vegetables, salad and dessert! I had my best night of sleep on the whole trip and woke up ready to climb the biggest hill of the trip. Shipley could not ride with us, because he volunteers to collect trash for his town, which has no trash service, before heading to his weekly volunteer firefighter meeting, before presenting some of his work at a woodworking show. Wow, he is busier in retirement than I have ever been. Shipley told us to eat anything we wanted so I grilled some garlic, cherry tomatoes, and olives that I added to feta cheese as stuffing for omelets. Shipley headed out and we started the climb. We finished in about half the time we estimated and took in the view of from the top of the continental divide, which was spectacular. The view from the top is always a bit sweeter when you get there with good old fashioned man power. We were over the hump, but not yet out of the hills. We made westward progress using a technique known as struggling. At one stop a crazy motorcycle guy told us we were going the wrong way, the winds always blow from the west. He then said "everone knows Arizona blows, Texas sucks and New Mexico is just stuck in the middle". We were about dead when we finished the day over 80 miles. I went into my tent before the sun went down, but I awoke within an hour to the voice of an old friend. My old buddies and roomies from college, Daryl and Fairon, were on the way to the grand canyon and drove out of their way to say hello and bring us delicious Chinese takeout!!! It was so good to see them both and it turned a really rough day into a great day. This morning Del and I realized that the campsite had no water and we joked about Daryl and Fairon driving past and giving us Gatorade. A few minutes later their car pulled up and out they stepped, arms filled with ice cold Gatorade and a breakfast feast! Then they drove ahead of us and took a bunch of pictures of us riding with their super fancy camera. Today was Daryl's birthday and I didn't even know until he was gone, what a terrible friend I am. Happy birthday if you read this.
Today was great, we had two big hills and just crushed them both on the way to Safford, AZ. My 82miles was done by 2:00pm. We only have nine days of riding left before the Pacific Ocean, seems crazy I know.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Start in New Mexico

Texas beat us up pretty badly over the last week, but we finally made it out and we are well into New Mexico. Riding yesterday with only a slight breeze was great. The desert sun feels extra warm, but we apply zinc twice a day and most of the time we don't rub it in in order to look extra cool. We rode fast yesterday because the headwinds were so light. I think we were trying to get in all the miles we could before the winds picked back up. We stopped in Las Cruces, NM to get some work done on Del's bike and to eat Cici's pizza buffet, all with white zinc cover noses of course. The desert is still really green from a wet winter and the scenery is something out of a postcard. We pulled into a campsite in Radium Springs after 87 miles of riding and we realized we barely had enough cash, including coins, between us to cover the cost of primitive camping, which was only $8. We couldn't find the primitive campsites and were too tired of looking, so we settled into a developed site and re-hydrated. Pretty soon the camp host came by and asked for our receipt, which of course was for a cheaper site. As luck would have it the host "Mud Hole" and his wife "Sunshine" were quite friendly people. We chatted for a bit and Mud Hole mentioned that he was towing a fifth wheel recently and the wind almost stopped his truck in its tracks. Then he went on to say that he wished he was on water so he could have tacked into the wind. We told him we had been dreaming about tacking on the bikes that day too. Mud Hole and Sunshine wished us luck and then they told us we were fine in the developed site for $8.
Today we started gaining elevation on our way to Kingston, NM. We are currently at 6200ish feet above sea level and we will start the riding tomorrow by gaining 2000feet in 8miles, yikes! Del is still fighting a chest cold, but he has been hanging in there and riding hard. We met our next host, Bob, on the road to Kingston and he rode the last 9 miles, uphill with a headwind, with us. Bob used to own a bike shop in Southern CA and moved to New Mexico 7 years ago. His shop specialized in touring bikes and he had toured a bunch. He is very hospitable and has offered to cook us salmon for dinner! I can't believe how lucky we keep getting meeting all these really cool people who keep taking us in and treating us like family. Staying with all these new friends has been the best part of the adventure. Most of them have personality traits that I have as well and they are living lifestyles that I admire. Tomorrow will be tough for an hour or two, but then it should be a total blast to ride down the other side of the continental divide. I smell salmon and olive oil in the kitchen so that is all for now.
Tomorrow is my nephew A.J.'s birthday so I wanted to wish him a good one and I will give you your birthday gift when I get home!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Goodbye Texas, hello New Mexico!

Texas really is as big as it seems and TX has been very good to us on this trip. We have met great people, rode past brilliant views, encountered gale force winds and possibly suffered from food poisening, that sounds like a recipe for a good adventue if you ask me. All things must end and Texas is no exception. Texas was huge, but we have been here too long. Yesterday we fought headwinds with gusts up to 40mph and we still managed to ride almost 80miles. Today we pedal the remaining 30 miles of Texas and continue into New Mexico, having completed the mental crux of the ride. We have around 950 miles remaining on our cycling adventure and I seem to be hitting the stage of the journey where I realize that it will all be over soon, which is both exciting and sad. But all things must end and like the westbound roads of TX our trip will run out too. But just as a new adventure awaits in New Mexico our lives will begin a new phase after the trip. Well the sun is shining, the winds are light and the pacific doesn't get any closer when I type these entries on my phone's miniature keyboard, so that is all for now, I am getting on my bike!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Can you tack on a bike?

So we are still in TX and getting creamed by headwinds. There have been severe wind warnings where we are for the last three days. Today has 20mph winds and we are riding straight into them. We have been talking a lot about sailing the last few days and I am wishing we could tack our way west instead of heading straight in. Note to anyone planning a bike tour, consider riding with the wind every day and just see where you end up. In other news I realized that I won't have any crazy ideas left after this trip so I threw out the idea of sailing to Hawaii. Del quickly suggested sailing from Miami to San Diego, but then we decided that we might get labelled as those weird guys that travel from FL to CA a bunch of different ways, so we settled on San Diego to Miami! Now we just need to learn how to sail...oh and a boat.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Telescopes and headwinds

Yesterday we gained some elevation as we rode up the highest road in Texas. The day started pretty relaxed and we parted ways with both the cyclist we met and thehippies we crashed with. We skipped breakfast and rode 25 or 30 miles to Alpine, TX. We stopped at 10amand sat outside pizza hut until 11am when the sign said the buffet opened. We were disappointed that the Sunday buffet is no longer available but we made do with the standard menu. Tons of water and a bit of stretching and we were off to Ft Davis, another 25 miles away. The scenery is beyond words, there are mountains in every direction and the desert is totally green. The last 10 miles were hot, i mean really hot, like cook an egg on thee pavement hot. We stopped at a small grocery store and got into the shade. Temps were very high and I was feeling pretty worked by the sun and the greasy pizza hut. A gallon of mint and honey ice tea did the trick. Feeling hydrated we continued the last. 15 miles up a steep mountain to the Mcdonald Observatory to meet our host. Our host John was really smart, he had tons of degree and a phd in geophysics. He also had ridden his bike across the country when he was in grad school. He wife was really great and she did our laundry and everything! John and Debbie live in a communitty on the mountain that only observatory workers and their families can live in. We hit the pool with their young daughter who was very personable and seemed quite smart, like her parents. We dried off while walking uphill a few miles to the telescopes. These things are huge, I mean huge, at one point they were some of the biggest in the world. We were thrilled to tour the observatory and John explained everything about how the scopes work. We met an astronomer and walked the catwalks outside the domes ofvthe scopes. The views from the highest point for miles were unreal. We had dinner and some whiskey before bed. In the morning the house was filled with beautiful music as John played the violin. We said goodbye and pedalled on to Kent, TX.
The only thing in Kent is a tiny gas station, I never even saw a house. We tried to get on the westbound highway, but we were shut down by 55mph headwinds. We were unable to move forward and had trouble staying out of the ditch. We called it quits and decided to take refuge under the interstae overpass. I saw a gust of wind push a bird into a wall. We are resting and hoping to ride in the dark when the forecast predicts 15 mph headwinds. Having a great time, this really is an adventure.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Is my new bike a time machine?

Fact, last night I probably ate two pounds of ground beef. Frito pie $3.00. What is a frito pie? Who cares I'm starving and it is only $3.00. Well frito pie turned out to be a pound of taco meat and a bowl of fritos. A good warm up for chicken fried steak right? Wrong. Very wrong. I spent the night rolling in my tent sweating, sure I had been poisened. To make it worse my tent was ten feet from a busy highway and trucks were whizzing by all night. I ended up wrapping a shirt around my head to cover my ears and tried to sleep.
In the morning del also felt as if he was fighting the urge to hurl all night. We met a cyclist in town that was headed our way so we rode with her and enjoyed a slow pace and a short 55 mile ride. We arrived in Marathon and Allie ran out of the cafe she worked at and told us to head to the place she lived and make ourselves at home. None of us had ever met or contacted Allie, but we headed to the compound she lived on. The place was a time warp to the 1960s and the hippies are alive and well. There are tons of adobe buildings and weird structures with all kinds of experiments on sustainable living. Solar showers, recycled water systems, solar hot tub and did I mention tons of hippies. But for now I have to go because there is beer to be drank and an in depth conversation about ufos that I am missing out on. I might spin a yarn about getting abducted by aliens and how the taught me how to grow organic produce in space... This is going to be fun.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Toothbrushes and new bikes

The next morning we ate breakfast at a grocery store in del rio. I was flossing and brushing my teeth in the bathroom when I realized none of the guys were washing their hands after using the toilet. I thought man that is gross and then I realized that I was flossing in a grocery store bathroom. So I guess that makes me the dirty, weird, maybe homeless guy that you want to avoid so badly that you skip washing you hands after a trip to the toilet.
The new bike felt awesome and I am so happy my dad came through and helped me out. The bike is way heavier, has tires that are over twice as big as my old bike and doesn't have sti shifters, but I am still faster on the new bike. I was crushing the hills and didn't even feel like I was working. We camped in a tiny town called Langtry and toured the judge Roy Bean exhibit(he was a crazy wild west outlaw that became a judge). Del and I headed the only business in Town, a really small gas station. We ate the biggest double cheeseburgers I have ever seen and drank about four cold bottled drinks from ice tea to v8. We camped at the community center and as luck would have it we were just in time for a free meal at the once a month town budget meeting. We drank all their iced tea and thanked them all before heading to bed. The soil was too rocky to stake the tents and the gale force winds contributed to a rough night.
We were up and on the road before 6am and rose in the pitch black for a bit before the sun finally came up. We lucked out with a tailwind and cloud cover for most of the day. We were done riding before noon and drank four or five gallons of iced tea at a cool cafe in Sanderson, tx. With a new bike and rested legs I feel unstoppable on the hills, which is a good thing because we have some big climbs the next few days.

Smooth pavement in the sky for a tired old bike

After the hills we rode a short day and found a campsite. In the morning I noticed I had broken yet another spoke on my rear wheel. The problem was that I was riding a really old road bike(that was pretty much worn out) and the frame would only allow really skinny tires. The skinny tires can't absorb enough of the impact of the bumps of the road with a load on the back of the bike. We rode another day into del rio and I was about done. I had spent a fortune keeping my bike rolling and still felt like everything was about to break. We got to the only bike shop within a hundred miles and my hopes were shattered. The shop was actually a carpet, tile, and bike shop. The mechanic was not inspiring and the shop only had about 5 bikes on hand, most of which were the same brands that walmart sells. They replaced the spoke and tried to true my wheel, but they had no idea what they were doing. When I got it back the wheel had three or four loose spokes and was probably worse that when I rolled it into the shop. Del and I both new that we were getting ready to head into 60 and 70 mile stretches with no services and we knew the wheel would not hold up.
The budget for my trip was shot by all the repairs and new wheelset. I started looking into oneway car rentals to head home. I was super bummed but i am getting ready to start dental school and money will be tight for the next four years. I didn't have the money to buy a new bike and my broken down bike needed a new cassette, new crank, new brake pads, new chain, new headset and new rear wheel.
Del rented a room at a hotel and I headed to the pool so that my fowl mood didn't ruin his trip. I called my mom and she tried to convince me to buy a new bike and offered to loan me the money. My dad flat out told me I should finish and he would buy the bike. I came back upstairs and del had talked to our friend Scott who had started calling shops in Austin to try to buy a bike, have it shipped and loan it to me for the summer. At that point I new I would finish. It was so nice to have so many friends and family behind me and I realized the money would work itself out. The next challenge was finding a bike and figuring out how to get it to del rio. Scott called and found a shop in Austin that had touring bikes built up and ready to go. The only problem was Austin was four and a half hours car. So I got up at 6am and wobbled to hertz, but when they opened at 7:30 they told me they had no cars to rent. On my ride to another car rental place my wheels pretty much quit and I got a flat tire. The second place had no available cars either. The third place had a cobalt and I declined the $40 insurance and headed to Austin via San Antonio. Five miles in a rock broke the front window. Sweet day so far. I made San Antonio and hit a few bike shops, but they didn't have any of the right bikes. I pushed on to Austin, but a wreck led to an hour of traffic not moving at all. I finally made it to Austin for rush hour and got to the shop after 6pm. The shop was packed and a really cool bike mechanic came out to help me out. He showed me all the bike he thought would work and I knew right away when I tested the surly long haul trucker. The bike is heavy, but tough and simple. The mechanic fitted me up and we finished an hour after close. I started stripping the few parts that i wanted off of my old bike and boxed them up. Just as my old bike looked to be heading to better roads in the sky, a hippy kid rode by on an old single speed and started chatting. I gave him my frame and he promised to turn it into a fixed gear and give it to a friend who didn't have a bike. It was after 8:30 and I found an office depot and shipped some parts home. Leaving Austin I realized I had not eaten yet all day, so I hit the drive thru and settled in for the drive back. The rental car place only had a drop box at the airport location so i drove there and made it around 1:30am. The airport was tiny, closed and five miles from the elks lodge where del was camping. Did I mention the drop box was locked inside the closed terminal. Finally I just left the keys in the cup holder, left a voicemail at the renatl office and put on my headlamp. I stopped at a 24hour mcdonalds and ate a few double cheeseburgers and eventually made it to the elks lodge and passed out. It ws a rough day, but I felt lucky to take my dad up on a bike and also felt lucky to have a partner that was cool with waiting around for all my bike problems and then waiting again for me to waste a day buying a new bike.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The hill country

Today was a battle. We rode 88 miles into a strong headwind through some of the hillest parts of the USA. We encountered a few hills over mile long with very steep grades and the wind did not make things any easier. On the plus side the scenery was beautiful, wildflowers and rocky hills as far as the eye could see. Things don't change very quickly while traveling by bicycle, but in the final miles the terrain almost instantly changed from hills and wildflowers to cactii and flat ground. We ate two full dinner plates at a small diner and are ready to sleep under the stars just west of the Texas hill country!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

God bless america and Texas

Today we said goodbye to Todd andstarted riding. Today I ate two full breakfast meals at a local Mexican restaurant, a ton if honey, a large container of blackberry cobbler ice cream, a few granola bars, a protein shake, Gatorade, pizza buffet, v8, strawberries and whole milk. We made it to a bike shop and got some quick maintainace done before they closed. Outside the shop a retired school teacher/carpenter started talking to us and offered a place to stay at his guest house. Of course we took him up on it and he drove us a few blocks to a beautiful craftsman style house he build by himself and gave us the key, shook our hands and wished us luck. we went in and the place is some cool, it looks like a house staged for a magazine. The interior is amazingly decorated in a really hip country style and the craftsmanship is much higher than any of the houses I have ever seen being built. He even built a cedar strip canoe that hangs from the front deck. When it rains it pours and it is raining sunshine now! Other updates I gigot to mention...I had poison ivy all over but it is gone today! I also sent my computer, iPod, and camera home and got an iPhone when my phone died. Updates should be daily now. Pictures to come, but I am still figuring out the iPhone. And a special hello to my nephew Matt jr. I heard you were sick, and if you read this I hope you are feeling better.

The stars at nightare shinin bright deep in the south of Texas

So it has been a little while since I updated and quite a lot has changed. As usual I will pick up wherei left off... So I woke up at an RVpark on the Bolivar penninsula feeling rested and ready to ride. It had rained all night and I had a fiesta in
my tent. Frozen gas station burrito, chips, bean dip and salsa all washed down with a quart of whole milk, umm boy. I packed up my wet tent and started riding late after chatting with some bird watchers and taking a look and hearing some bird stories. The ride was great with salt water views on both sides as I rode and down along the beachesof the hurricane wrecked penninsula. The rain was coming down hard, but it was warm and refreshing. Before long I was at the end of the road, so I put on my red stocking cap and boarded the Galveston ferry with my bike. A quick boat ride and I was pedalling on to mcdonalds to get online. For those of you that don't know mcdonalds has free wifi now, or at least they claim. Everytime I buy something to eat and get my computer out the wifi is down, not sure if they really have wifi, but it is a brilliant trick, because I have been lured in a bunch of times already. I called Del and we met and pedalled to the hotel. After checking in we walked about five mmiles and got his race packet for Sunday. We ate pizza buffet and called it a night. Danny, Jess and Taras drove down from KC and knocked on the hotel door at 3am. I let them in, gave up the bed at hit the floor. I woke up early and ate 15 bowls of cereal in the lobby before heading out to stretch. We rode our bikes to the race area and Danny checked in before Taras and I rode off to swinmin the sea. We soaked up the sun and salt water and talked about life before grabbing some beers on the beach. Taras is a a guy that you can't help but smile when you are around and I was glad to have such a great day. In fact that may have been the best day in a year. We met the gang at the new hotel and headed to dinner at a local italian joint. The company was great, the fod was fair and the waiter was happy, not bad! I slept in on race day and Jess came to pick Taras and me up to drive out and cheer on the cyclist. The guys both did really well, but the heat was bad and Danny ended up with a few bags of iv fluid after the race. The KC crew headed home and I rode to sonic to get dinner for Del and me. The next day we rode separate but both took it easy and I ended up backtracking to eat with Del. After dinnercwe were spent and didn't want to pedal to the campsite so I cruised up to a bunch of rvs in a city park. They belonged to a traveling carnival that had just finished In town. I spoke with larry the head carnie and that is how we came to sleep with a bunch of carnval people. The next day we rode toward Wharton, Txwhere our host lived. Our host's name was Roy and he is a great cyclist . I know this because met us 30 miles from his house and rode in with us and he kicked our butts. Did I mention he was 59! I would say that I would love to be that fit at 59, but really I would love to be that fit now at 29. Roy is the man. He lived in this amazing farmhouse with his wife Gail and the had a pet cow, a minature donkey named romeo, a killer garden and free range hens. The fed us farm fresh foods and got us drunk on free shiner bock, but the best part was their stories. Those two have been Everywhere, wow what cool lives! In the morning we ate the best breakfast I have ever had and Roy rode the fist 55 miles with us. That stay was a highlight of highlights. We cruised on until near dark for 100 miles even for the day. We camped at buchner stae park and slept well after a day of trying to keep up with Roy. The next day we decided to detour to Austin. We had nowhere to stay but we put the word out and soon a guy Del went to school with who lives in St. Louis sent an email to his company's Austin branch and within moments we were in touch with Paula a super cool architect that runs tons of long distance races. We showered at lance armstrong's bike shop and put on our cleanest dirty shirts before riding to Paula's office. We put the bikes inside and headed to a whole foods catered, open bar happy hour with a band!!! Life is good. We were leaving Friday morning, which was a bummer because both van Morrison and leo keotke were playing shows friday night, oh well maybe next time. We stppoed for breakfast at whole foods and got a late start. Scary highways out of the city led to the hill country. We rode to blanco, pedalled to a brewery, joined a beer tasting(free of course) and took the brewery tour. Thr Real Ale breweary has some killer beer and everyone wanted to know about our trip. After to tour we pedalled a little wobbly to camp to meet up with
my old roommate Todd and his son Atticus. It was awesome to see Todd and listen to some Joe Strummer tunes.