Monday, May 17, 2010

Final Post

A few statistics (in order of accuracy):
  25 riding days
  148:38 hours
  2779.36 miles
  18.7 mph avg.
  91,877' climbing
  79 rpm avg cadence (704,522 pedal strokes)
  55 cokes
  70 bananas
  90 oreos

Other fun numbers (at least for the biking geeks):
Fastest day (speed):
    95.8 miles / 3:34 hours / 26.8 mph avg. / 1904' climbing
    Tucumcari, NM to Dalhart, TX
    (also the shortest by time and distance)

Slowest day (speed):
    104.17 miles / 7:03 hours / 14.8 mph avg. / 8624' climbing
    Wickenburg, AZ to Cottonwood, AZ

Longest day (time):
    135.89 miles / 8:09 hours / 16.7 mph avg. / 7803' climbing
    Albuquerque, NM to Las Vegas, NM

Longest day (distance):
    144.34 miles / 7:40 hours / 18.8 mph avg. / 5630' climbing
    Chickasha, OK to McAlester, OK

After seeing so many churches in the middle of quite sparsely inhabited places, and given that I have at least 40 registered followers of my blog (and Lori tells me many more), I am seriously contemplating the possibility of starting my own church. I'm sure I could buy one fully furnished for cheap down South, but the old mantra location, location, location kicks in. It should probably be an iChurch with a phone application to match so you can log your prayers any time anywhere. I'd just have to ask for you credit card number just to validate your age...

Now, a couple of days after the end of the ride, the questions pile up: Why did I do it? Did I learn anything? Would I do it again? Why? If you'd bear with me while I observe my navel, I think I have a couple of things to say that may touch some of you. First, my navel is not much different than that of others, that is, anyone who wants it enough, can accomplish great feats, the trick I guess is in wanting it enough to pay the price. Unfortunately for some the price is higher that for others, but that is the nature of life. Now this begs the question, was this a great feat or just a great indulgence? I think it was both. I have the privilege of having the means and the health to do it, hence I can indulge. I also pushed myself physically harder than I have ever done it and that also meant pushing myself mentally; believe me, there were some days that I wanted to just ride on the van to the next city, and there was at least one day that I just wanted to go home. Hence, the great accomplishment.

I have to say that I am lucky enough to have found a concrete and challenging goal and that I went for it wholeheartedly. That taught me a lot about myself and in truth, it feels really good. Best therapy ever.

On the other hand, I also got to see how some of the other 95% of the country lives, what they eat, where they shop, were they live and were they used to live. While writing the blog I often used the hotel's computer which is usually located within earshot of the reception desk; it was typically past 8:30pm which in those towns is way late and there is close to nothing happening. In those quiet moments, I got to hear the receptionist's private conversations on the phone (they were all loud). Even though I could only hear half of it, what I heard was usually very agressive and mean. Sometimes it was a mother scolding her kid or husband, sometimes it was bitching to a friend about somebody else. In most cases the manner was quite violent. It really makes me thankful for all the hours of therapy, Zen workshops, yoga, aromatherapy, massage, etc. that we have invested in our relationships with ourselves and with others. Sounds very New Age California B.S., but boy, I would not like to be on the other side of any those conversations. That was a cultural shock.

Thanks to all for being there. Once I started the blog and I realized that I had to keep it up, I was forced to observe a bit more carefully each day as it went by and I think that helped me get a lot more from the experience than I would otherwise have. I guess the traditional travel journal served the same function.


PS. How lucky, by the time I got to the hotel and saw this...

...I had already shipped my bike home; there it goes...
not really, but how cool is the view from our room!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 27 (last day)

104 miles / 5:27 hours / 19.13 mph avg /  710' climbing

TRIP TOTALS: 2879 miles / 153:53 hours / 18.71 mph avg

Breakfast: yogurt, banana, orange juice, oatmeal.
Snack: 2 bananas with nutella, oranges, 2 oreos.
Lunch: sandwich, 2 bananas with nutella, coke.
Snack: yogurt, strawberry shake.
Dinner: salad, chicken with rice and veggies, chocolate brownie with ice cream, strawberries and cake.

Sorry this comes a day late, but yesterday was quite a busy day. We started early as usual with an amazing sunrise.

Although we managed to keep the morning routine going, knowing this was our last ride had the air a bit charged. The jokes were all about it and there was a bit of both excitement and sadness at the same time. I know this looks like a mess, it is organized chaos...we load our luggage into the trailer, then check our tires and get ready to roll.
(Karen and Mike supervise the chaos)

As we rode off into a very pleasant morning it was clear to that a 100% humidity was something I'm not used to back home. My glasses fogged in the first 3 minutes so they were useless for most of the day and we were drenched in 15.

Many rivers and a lot of Spanish Moss later...

...we arrived at Savannah where I got to see some of the fabled streets and houses you read about. Yes, we passed many abandoned ones (not this one though), but I didn't get to photograph them, traffic was heavier and I had to pay attention this time...

A couple of miles before our final destination, we stopped to regroup and take the obligatory pictures, but most importantly, to give us the chance to arrive all together, proud and happy.
Here is the entire group sorted by size...yes we are goofy that way: Reem, Russ, (Hawaii) Mike, Jim, Dick, (Bermuda) Mike, David, Paul, Randy, Jay, Richard, Scott, Nico, Per, Wolfgang and Brian. Missing from the picture are our beloved Barbara, Mike and Karen who make all this possible.

As I rode in my eyes got teary as I saw Lori cheering for us.

Finally the Atlantic, after 27 days, 4 tubes of shammy butt(er) and an infinite number of calories later I was there.

And Lori was there all the time. I was the only one to get a care package every day even though Lori was traveling accompanying my Mom on her tour for the last 3 weeks.

After dipping in the ocean, which was really refreshing after the hot day, four of us had to get back on our bikes, ride back 2 miles to were the van was parked, load the bikes and drive to a bike shop to have them shipped back home, then drive to the hotel. Lori got a ride to the van and then we stayed together the rest of the day. We finally made it to the hotel. As I was done with the cheap hotels (granted, in some places there was simply no better option) I booked us a couple of night in the Hyatt by the river. Check out the room...
...and the view...
That orange thing was eye level with us as it passed a few yards away from our 5th floor window. After a 20 min nap, we were ready for the farewell banquet were we had our last meal together, said our goodbyes and acknowledged to each other and our few guests what an amazing accomplishment this trip is. Then we had our cake...
...and we ate it too.

After my first night with Lori in 18 days, I woke up still sore and limping, happy and sad that the adventure is over. We had lunch with Carey, the daughter of our dear friend Toby, who is studying art in this wonderful city of Savannah. She then pointed us in the direction of a museum, how very civilized! If it wasn't this hot (or if could get used to it) Savannahwould be a lovely place to live. It is full of life, history and nice beaches with the relaxed feeling that brings.

I am now a very proud bearer of the mark of the rider. None of us, no matter how much we tried were able to escape it.
(bike glove tanned hands)

As my skin fades to its uncharacteristic white, the mark this trip has imprinted in me will remain forever.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 26

100.8 miles / 5:08 hours / 19.66 mph avg / 2598' climbing

Breakfast: 2 waffles, muffin, sausage, eggs, orange juice.
Snack: banana, oranges, 1/2 moon pie with a sip of RC cola (southern delicacy).
Lunch: sandwich, oranges, oreos, coke.
Snack: Ice cream Sunday at Dairy Queen, 6 chicken nuggets, 6 marshmallows.
Dinner: salad, linguine lobster carbonara, chocolate cake a la mode.
Snack: yogurt.

It was certainly hotter today! Richard (from Florida) was finally in his element although he said it was a bit cool in the shade. The ride started with another nice morning, but the humidity fogged my glasses in the first 10 minutes.

Here is me!

The legs, knees and butt are all good so I rode a bit harder today. It was fun. At the first snack stop, we were treated to Moon Pie and RC cola, it seems that it is a Southern delicacy. As Jay described it: Moon Pie is sort of a fire-less poor man's Smore. After passing a few more abandoned buildings...

...we stopped for lunch at a farm house. The owner has graciously allowed the America By Bicycle group to stop here for the last few years. We were told that he is VERY politically incorrect and thus very funny so we were all looking forward to meeting him, but unfortunately it seems that he passed away.
It was so nice to have a shade and a cold drink. Here is another view...
This old cattle/horse carrier provided perfect cover for peeing...

Now for some potty talk (skip this section if you find this topic unappealing): The Goodriches were right about the binding nature of bananas and what the sheer amount I have been consuming would do to them. However, since I am over 40 now, I have become lactose intolerant, hence the yogurt, chocolate milk and all the ice cream. I have found a way to balance The Force. The remaining issue was how to deal with the flatulence: I have a single room and while riding, if I adopt the appropriate position, I get an extra boost every now and then. By now, you can imagine that the group is well acquainted with each other and certain behaviors (i.e. belching, farting) are not an issue provided that we are riding.

We finally made it to Vidalia, our last stop before we finish this epic adventure.

And for those of you going to college soon, look at the possibilities offered here at the Southeastern Technical College. Wow this is so cool: Great career choices, warm weather, the occasional tornado or hurricane and Moon Pie.
(Knitting, Jewelry, Cake Decorating)

I can't wait to see Lori tomorrow. Then a good night sleep without having to wake up so early. I seriously don't know how some salespeople can live out of a suitcase going from town to town eating fast food. If  you are biking across America is and wonderful adventure, otherwise it sounds pretty shitty to me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 25

99 miles (should have been 97, but I missed a turn) / 5:15 hours / 18.9 mph avg / 2760' climbing

Breakfast: oatmeal, bagel with cream cheese, orange juice, one egg.
Snack: banana, ice cream, oranges, 3 oreos, coke.
Lunch: sandwich, oranges, banana, oreos, coke.
Snack: cookies (Lori sent them!)
Dinner: salad, fish with overcooked veggies, hot-out-of-the-oven-muffins, coke, banana split and a hot fudge Sunday (from Dairy Queen).

Boy it was hot today, but the roads were nice and it was a "short" ride, my legs, butt and knees were fine so I made good time and I was done with shower, laundry, dip in the pool, some stretching before RAP (the time when they let us know about the route and details for the next day).

I'm not sure if you have noticed, but I am starting to eat a bit less. I have come to like eating like it is my last meal and I'm not sure I can go back to normalcy in a single day, and if I don't, I'll start to look like some of the locals we have seen around, you know, those that overflow their chairs.

Today's ride started on a 10 mile very nice an shaded bike path along the river.

It was beautiful and sooo nice. Just take a look a Randy's face, we were all very happy to start the day like this.
The bike path brought us right into Fort Benning, a huge army base so we got to see our share of tanks, soldiers jogging in the morning humid heat, officer's housing (much nicer than the soldier's barracks), the standard pristine golf course (paid by your tax dollars, but regardless of whether I agree or not, if your job description includes being shot at, I guess some perks are warranted) and the unnerving cracks we heard as we passed the sniper's shooting range (what can be more entertaining than brightly colored slow moving targets to spice the tedious morning practice). No photos here, we were warned that it is better that way, you don't want to make them nervous, they have weapons, we have spandex which makes them even more nervous. Fortunately nobody asked and we didn't tell.

After that and a bit of highway, we rode mostly through farmland. It is so green here that ivy and Kudzu (a vine that grows over everything not moving fast enough).

We got to see some more confederate flags...

...your standard road hazards...

...and this time we were unexpectedly showered as we rode by, hopefully with relatively clean water, but that is anybody's guess. Five minutes later we saw another one of these contraptions (they are everywhere), but the liquid coming out of it was olive green, I wouldn't call it water...

Of course we passed many abandoned houses and I just couldn't stop myself...

Two more days and I get to see Lori. I really miss her. Hard to believe, two more days and this adventure will be over. But wait, that means no more fast food, no more hotels and living out of a suitcase. That doesn't sound so bad. Even though I am ready for a rest, I know I'm going to miss this anyway; the effort has taken a toll on our bodies (the youngest of us is 35).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 24

114 miles / 6:21 hours / 18 mph avg / 3481' climbing

Breakfast: 2 waffles, eggs, sausage, orange juice.
Snack: banana with nutella, 2 oreos.
Lunch: sandwich, banana with nutella, coke.
Dinner: pizza, coke.
Snack: chocolate milk.

Today was a hot day. My legs and knees are working fine which a relief as you can imagine. Several of the roads were quite rough so my butt and my wrists hurt. There is always something to complain...In any case, it was another good day. We can sense the end now and there is a strange mood in the group. Not a bad one, just a wondering of what happens next. For me is the anxiety of not being able to answer the question; it is certainly not a complain, having options is quite the luxury.

Today I managed to stop and smell the flowers. There was a dead snake nearby so it wasn't particularly pleasant, but at least they looked nice.

The road took us through bridges...

More old barns...

And many more abandoned houses (sorry, I can't stop thinking about them)...

As we approached Tuskegee (more on it later), it became more populated with the corresponding contrast of scenery. I am really not sure what this was. I looked like a junkyard for household items, go figure.

Before lunch we passed through Tuskegee. Google it and you'll find out about the University and the Black Airmen that served in WWII. I only took decades for the government to acknowledge them and they finally did when most of them had died of old age.

The town welcomed us with a sight of the University. I managed a couple of shots of the beautiful buildings:

And a couple of the surrounding old houses reminiscent of the plantations times.

As luck will have it, we had lunch at an abandoned old store.

And then we finally arrived at Columbus, GA. It is a happening town compared to what we have seen these past couple of weeks.

With it own abandoned buildings. This is an old YMCA and as David put it, they don't build marble buildings anymore.

And here is were Russ and I had pizza. It is a gutted out old building used for partying and hanging out. We had live music while we ate (not great, but live nontheless).
(Russ holding his head, we were tired and hungry)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 23

118 miles / 7:00 hours / 16.9 mph avg / 5633' climbing

Breakfast: waffle, oatmeal, orange juice, muffin with sausage and egg. The delicious banana bread that Elizabeth sent me did not make very far; I made the mistake of sharing some of the half that I hadn't eaten and it all went in about 15 seconds.
Snack: banana, 2 oreos.
Lunch:1 1/2 sandwich, 2 bananas, oreos, coke.
Snack: Gu.
Dinner: Capresse salad, green salad, bread sticks, fettuccine Alfredo (double portion) with chicken, coke, shake.

Today was a hard day for me, it started ok, but about 5 miles into it, the back of my right knee started to hurt. I guess there was some strange compensation going on from the cramp I had on the quadriceps. The following 60 miles were an exercise on careful attention to body mechanics and determination (i.e. stubbornness). I rode it alone so I did not get tempted to pace somebody else. It all worked out fine since by the lunch stop at mile 73 I was pain free and I was able to finish the ride comfortably and happy (I was going fast and that makes me happy). All this means that I did not take many pictures, I was really concentrating...

It has become increasingly strange to me that I seem to see way too many churches. Yes, I know this is the Bible Belt, but how many churches can you really have? And given that we rode mostly on rural country roads, how many people does each church get? Just to show you, here are a couple.

Notice how the county puts signs announcing the church. Other signs read "Slow Church Ahead" which I tend to read as "Slow Church, Ahead" (notice the comma and I didn't get a picture of that one).

The sign in front reads: 
"A woman that fears the Lord is to be praised" 
(draw your own conclusions)

Today we were plagued by dogs. From the small yapping ones to a three legged pit bull that can run 20 mph. Scary, but only when they get in front of you, mostly we yelled at them or sprayed water to scare them enough to let us through. We also managed to see some freedom of expression examples. I really felt a connection with this one.

And your typical political signs: Elect such-and-such for Sheriff, etc. But I think Tommy might want to reconsider his candidacy:
Superintendent of Education)

And lastly a couple of old abandoned buildings. I guess what intrigues me is how come they are left behind. Does anybody own the property anymore? Is the property so big that they just build another house someplace else that I didn't notice?

And I am really starting to like old barns too. Some are still in use.

I have seen what happens to more modern housing when it is abandoned and it ain't pretty. No charm, I guess in 50 years someone might consider them charming, but I don't really think so. Just imagine what this beauty will look like when it finally perishes.

I forgot to mention that we passed many houses with tornado bunkers on their yards. They look like bomb shelters (and I guess they could be used as such in a pinch), but I didn't stop for a photo. Lets see if i can manage one tomorrow. More apologies, I did not get a picture, but I also saw what happens when a tornado hits: Think "house on a blender" and mature trees tossed around with abandon, roots and all in some cases, lots of broken branches, as if the forest had a bad hair day.