Sunday, August 12, 2007

Business in the Front, Party in the Back

Its been awhile since I've written, due to being busy, and a lack of easily available internet. A lot has happened since the worse night in the world though. We've finally left Nevada, after a short but very productive build day in Sparks, Nevada. I spent the morning cutting and stacking rebar with the other two amigos and Sarah.

After our build day in Sparks we finally wished Nevada goodbye and rode to South Lake Tahoe just over the border in California, our final state. The ride out of Sparks was challenging as we had to climb over the Sierra Nevada's across Mt. Rose the highest year round pass in the Sierra's and a climb of 4,000+ feet.

The ride off the summit was a little chilly, but had amazing views of Lake Tahoe, a beautiful clear water lake on the border of Nevada and California.

The California welcome sign was more than a little disappointing as we rode 3400 miles and it was small, but David never to be discouraged showed his enthusiasm, by jumping for joy and beating me to the state line, something he swears he wont let me forget.

In South Lake Tahoe we stayed at the St. Teresa's Catholic Church Parish Hall, and enjoyed a day off on the shores of the Lake Tahoe. Mollitor learned the hard way that you shouldn't fall asleep in the sun when the pasty white part of your body is showing, and not just the super tan part that usually sees the sun.

Today brought my final sweep day with David Mollitor, and we rocked it like a mullet (see the title of the blog for an explanation if you don't get it right away). As for difficulty on a sweep day this was a very easy day. This morning we faced a short 1,000 foot climb to Echo Pass, then we rode down hill for most of the rest of the day into Placerville, CA. Above is a picture of Mollitor on our way up the major climb of the day, showing his excitement about the downhill run coming up and climbing the final mountain of the trip. We actually lost 4,000+ feet of elevation today and we'll lose most of the rest of it tomorrow as we ride into Davis.

The final 10 miles of the day were down amazing side roads near Placerville, past vineyards and orchards, and even a row of rose bushes that Sarah stopped to smell.

The trip is coming to a close and people are ready for the end, but I think the nostalgia will start to show in the next few days as we realize how far we've come and what we've been through as a group.

Only 4 days till San Fran.

A shout out to my wonderful mother who is currently driving all of my worldly possessions from Colorado towards my new home in Santa Barbara. Also thanks to all of my family and friends who have been so supportive on this trip.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The worst night ever....

Last night we slept in Lion City Park in Battle Mountain, Nevada. I was skeptical at the beginning of the day when the cue sheet said 'the park is located across the street from the casinos.' When we arrived in Battle Mountain, a small gold mining town, we rode past the park and visited with the local picnic people to find out the location of the local coffee/ice cream shop. Bakkers Brew had excellent drinks and we spent a bit of the afternoon there. As the day wore on we showered at the city pool after a quick dip, and then I stopped by the quilt show to see some excellent quilts. Then back to the park to cook chili for dinner on our camp stove. All a routine day you say....well it was until after dark.

We had noticed that the train tracks running parallel to the park were heavily used, at least a train an hour, sometimes 2. Of course accompanied by loud blasts of the horn as the tracks cross a major intersection at the end of the park. After talking to the locals we found out that the trains will run all night. DRAT. Come around 2 am or so I hear one of the trains, not too bad and I fall back asleep. This is when the real fun begins, ~4:30 am I wake up to water falling on my face, my first thought is 'CRAP its raining' that's when I hear the unmistakable hiss of sprinklers. I hastily jump out of my sleeping bag as does everyone else as we realize what's happening with screams of dismay. I use my thermarest as a shield and make it mostly dry to the cement pad in the center of the park. But at this point I realize all of my stuff and everyone else's is getting soaked by the still running sprinklers. After a few shuttle runs everything or at least mostly everything is rescued and pretty dry. Now slightly wet, very cold I climb back into my damp sleeping bag to fruitlessly attempt to stay warm and get a few more hours of sleep. Needless to say we slept in later than normal, were very cold and wet this morning and are glad to have a roof over our heads in Winnemucca tonight. Hopefully tomorrow will be better and maybe a little more scenic as the view of the high mountainous desert from I-80 is getting a little old.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Between a rock and a hard place....

Today as we rode deeper into the Silver State we started to encounter more and more of the signs that cyclists often dread. Such as:

And also a nice one as we left for the morning that said 'No Services for 57 miles' well the next exit for services was actually our exit for the night in Wells Nevada. As a result we are now out on the road with only the water and food we carry with few unscheduled stops as we make our way across Nevada. This is a little scary at first, but you learn to plan ahead and take a little extra snack and double check you filled your water bottles at lunch. Unfortunately planning ahead doesn't always work. Today as I rode down a part of I-80 that was under construction we narrowly avoided two very large ditches that had been cut across the shoulder, but the third one caught me a little off guard as it didn't have the small paved section, of the first two, nearest the road. As a result I had a few seconds to decide to either A) try to stop (not really a viable option considering speed and distance to the ditch, most likely resulting in a one way ticket over the handle bars) B) swerve into a lane of I-80 which I was unsure if it contained traffic or not or C) attempt to jump said ditch while on bike. I chose option C. Unfortunately option C didn't pan out totally as I had hoped. I gave myself at best 50/50 odds for clearing the ditch since it was just over 3 feet wide. My front wheel made it over easily, but my back wheel didn't quite clear the gap the result:

Needless to say that there is a large non reparable dent in my rear rim and I got to sit on the side of I-80 and wait for leader Jeff to save the day by bringing me a spare rear wheel. I would like to send thanks out to the nice driver who stopped his pickup and offered me a ride as I sat on the side of the road. Its not everyday that someone stops and offers you a ride, especially on an interstate.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Across the Flats

Today we rode across the salt flats of Western Utah to West Wendover, Nevada. I used to think that Kansas was flat, until I had to ride my bike across it, but Western Utah is FLAT in fact it is so flat that it is one of the few places that you can actually see the curvature of the Earth. Plus apparently crazy things have happened in Utah over the years for example:

An artist decided to erect a giant 'tree' along I-80 in the middle of no where. I use the term tree loosely as it is more of a giant concrete pole with some tennis balls attached. Most of the locals we talked too think the thing is hideous, but it stands still looming over I-80 and the salt flats.

Wendover/West Wendover sits on the Utah-Nevada border and as our destination of the day was packed with interesting things. Wendover has a long history in auto racing, gambling and the military. It is also home to a few major landmarks such as Will a giant cowboy who greets you at the edge of town.

Also a distinctive point of the city is the all important state line which in this case is actually painted on the road and the casinos really push to the edge of the Nevada line.

Another important step for the country that occurred in Wendover was the completion of the transcontinental telephone line. The last splice was made in Wendover and a monument to it stands today in front of the Montego Bay Casino:

As for the ride day, it was uneventful from the standpoint of scenery, just a lot of flat and salt, but the entire group was plagued by flats. Since we are riding along the shoulder of I-80 the little steel wires that normally make up the belts in semi tires before the treads litter the side of the road seem to want to return to a rubber environment and cause slow leaks that one often doesn't notice till a few miles later. Hopefully tomorrow will bring less flats as it is a 'short' day into Wells, NV at slightly under 60 miles. This also means a late wakeup call :).

Till Elko or so.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Park City, UT

It has been awhile since I've written about riding over the Rockies. We had a brief respite from mountain climbing with a few flattish days between Steamboat-Maybell-Vernal and Duchesne. Utah has been amazing with very friendly hosts at the Kingsbury UCC, and a beautiful campsite in Duchesne at Starvation State Park. We camped at Starvation State Park with a wonderful view from the group pavilion over the reservoir there. Yesterday we rode into Park City for a much needed day off. We're staying at the Park City Community Church which is an amazing church with a lot of space for us to spread out and socialize, perfect for our day off.

Although it may seem things have been ordinary since Steamboat it has actually been far from that. And to illustrate my point I have a few of the more unusual in photos:

On a day that had already been plagued with flats (Steamboat to Maybell) at lunch just before I was to leave the van itself had a flat. After a brief attempt by Dave Miller to fix it, Rebecca came to the rescue with AAA Gold and a nice older fella with a tow truck soon arrived to fix us up.
The following morning it was my turn to sweep with Mariah, and an early morning wakeup in Maybell put us on the road in a fog bank, but at the top of the first hill it seemed all worthwhile when I got to look back and see and amazing sun rise. From Maybell to Vernal was a mostly uneventful day, besides passing by Dinosaur National Monument. I opted not to ride the extra 15 miles to see the park as it was already a long day at 90 miles, but I hear from those who did go that the visitors center hosted some impressive fossils and that there was a dinosaur model you could have your picture taken on, which would have almost made the 15 miles worth it.

Riding sweep also started off a several day stretch for me riding with a different group of people than my normal three amigos (Dave, Dave and myself). I have to say one of the better efforts of coordination was watching Mariah and Carrie do a little more than draft off of Carys (see above photo). That is actually Carys physically pulling the two of them up a hill somewhere in Western Colorado.

Of course there is never a dull moment on bike and build, and the day between Vernal and Duchesne was no exception. About a mile and a half after lunch I came upon a group stopped by the side of the road trying to free a goat stuck in the fence. Apparently they had already freed one, but the horns on this goat and the impossibly small opening prevented the goat from moving backwards out of the fence. To make a long story short I rode back to the van, took out the cable clippers from the toolbox and then rode back to the stuck goat to cut him out.
Yesterday from Starvation State Park to Park City was arguably one of our hardest days on the bike of the whole trip. At 95 miles, with the first part of the morning into a very stiff head wind, then a long mountain pass (see above summit photo) and then two more small mountains at the very end of the day into Park City it was a long day. I personally arrived around 6 or 6:30, I don't really recall the exact time in the haziness that is the memory after a long ride, but the last riders rolled in sometime after 7.

One of the major perks of riding mountain passes is mountain streams, which yesterday many of us took advantage of midway through the ride to cool down and ease some of the pain in our legs.

Today is our first official rest day since Taylorville. I already got my hair cut and my next stop is the outlet stores here in Park City, then hopefully a relaxing afternoon somewhere outside in view of the mountains that surround us.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Over the Rockies

It has been a few days and we are now officially over the Rocky Mountains. Our big day came between Estes Park and Grandby, when we crossed Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park. The road goes over 12,000 feet and is the highest 'continuously paved' road in North America (it actually isn't continuously paved right now since about ~1/3 of a mile is in the process of being repaved). Riding over Trail Ridge was a beautiful day with great weather and views. I've included a few photos but in all honesty photography doesn't do the scenes justice they are something you need to live through.

Following our ride over Trail Ridge we rode from Grandby to Steamboat Springs, where we are now and where we built with the local Habitat chapter this morning. Grandby to Steamboat was also beautiful but in a different way as most of the ride is through a high mountain plateau, with very few trees, but amazing lakes and views, and as a bonus a wonderful lunch provided by my Mother.

Steamboat has been great and relaxing, getting to stay in a place for more than one night is always a treat and being off the bike for a day is an added bonus, especially when I still get to be out and about building.

Tomorrow we get to sleep in till 5 am, a treat for us, as the high country is cooler by about 20 degrees from many places we've been riding. We're headed to Maybell, CO, our last night in Colorado before rolling into Vernal, Utah the next day.

As always a few pictures:

Mollitor and I at ~10,700 feet on the climb up Trail Ridge.
One of the large but very tame bull elk we passed just after crossing tree line at ~11,500 feet.

A view while I stopped for the construction just before the visitors' center on the downhill side of Trail Ridge. As you can see it was a beautiful clear day with awesome views.
Finally a morning view between Kremling and lunch from our last ride day.

Till Utah or whenever I find free wifi again.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Into the Mountains

Today we finally made it into the mountains and along with beautiful scenery we also were greeted with much cooler temperatures. Tonight we are staying at a beautiful church set below some amazing shear rock faces in Estes Park.

Although many of the riders were nervous about our first day in the Rockies everyone shone and sweep was in by 12:30, an exceptionally early arrival. Estes Park is a very nice mountain town and our gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park which we'll ride through tomorrow over the highest continuously paved road in North America, Trail Ridge Road. We're a little apprehensive as the road is under construction but we are told it is ridable and with few other options up we go over the 12,000+ foot pass tomorrow.

I had a wonderful past few days getting to see many friends and family, including a wonderful lunch from my Wonderful Mother complete with home made salsa.

Right now the group is out and about with various people riding the tram, hiking, swimming, boating or in my case sitting in the coffee shop with David Mollitor, catching up on email, the Tour and enjoying a Chai milk shake.

Till next time,

And as always a few pictures to wrap things up:

David Mollitor 'Ridin' the Hide ' in Raymer , CO.

A view from our ride into Estes Park today.