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.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Holyoke, CO

Today was our first day off since Taylorville, IL. A day off for us is a treat because it means we get to sleep in, or at least try after all of the 4:30 am wakeup calls as of late I woke up at 6 am, so a little more sleep but not too much. I had the treat of having my family come and visit today since we’re in Colorado and I’m excited as I’ll get to see most of them again by the end of the week. In the afternoon we also had the opportunity to go visit the Double W Dairy just outside of Holyoke and bottle feed some of the calves there and get a grand tour of the place which was fun. I’ve included a few pictures below.

Yesterday was more of the same of what we have been riding through for the last week, long straight roads with a slight uphill grade as we climb toward the Rockies. Cooper’s parents generously provided both first and second lunch on our 100 mile day yesterday. Lunch was excellent with the first stop at a nice park in Nebraska and then second lunch around mile 76 on a dirt road not far from the Colorado border.

As you know state borders are a treat for us and yesterday was no exception as I was part of a large group at the border we actually had enough people to spell out Colorado in front of the sign:

Everything else has been pretty routine with early wakeup calls and long miles in the heat. Birthday wishes go out to Eric who turned 21 last night here in Holyoke.

A few photos from the last few days:

The two Davids in the classic dare devil in a random field near lunch 2 on our day into Holyoke.

One of the calves from this afternoon and me bottle feeding another.

A beautiful sunrise as seen from the bike after an early wake up.

River crossing somewhere in Nebraska.

The three amigos at the completion of our first century on the day we rode a full 118 miles.

Me at the geographical center of the lower 48 just outside Lebanon, KS.

Mollitor on the road in the middle of nowhere.

Also get well wishes go out to Mr. Mollitor, I hope to see you and Mrs. Mollitor in San Fran in August.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Alma, Nebraska

Internet along with cell service has been pretty spotty for the past few days. We've ridden from Wamego to Concordia to Lebanon (all in Kansas) and now to Alma, Nebraska. All of these towns are quite small, below 5,000 inhabitants for sure, Lebanon was the smallest with ~350. Right now I'm in the library in Alma to write quickly before heading back to the United Methodist Church where we are staying for the evening. The biggest change as of late has been the early wake up, we now rise bright and early between 4 and 4:30 and are on the road at first light some times before the sun actually comes up. I have a few great sunrise photos but they'll have to wait till I can get wifi to upload them. The milage the last two days has been fairly low, under 70 miles both days which is a welcome change from the 118 miles I and the two Dave's decided to do between Wamego and Conordia as we didn't want to ride 7 miles of dirt and the detour was much longer than the old man in the car told us it was. I'm also very excited because we're going into Colorado in 2 days. We'll be staying in Holyoke and having a day off there, so hopefully I can find some wifi and get a good long entry in with some photos. There is a line forming behind me so I have to go now.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Build Day III and Welcome to the REAL Kansas

So we've finished our build phase with Lawrence Habitat. Our last day was a little bit of a downer as the trusses didn't show up till the very end, but as you can see we did get them all up, which was amazing and required a lot of team work. We had hoped to hang the plywood and tar paper for the roof, but there just wasn't enough time. Instead we ended up doing odds and ends around the site including cleaning up the street, installing blinds, moving a stove, etc.

Above is the house after our 3 days of work, fully trussed up and partially painted. Below is some of our hearty build crew after a hard afternoon of work.

We took also took a group photo at the end of the day to show off our accomplishments:
Today it was time to get back on our bikes, and most of us were happy to be back on the road. I have to say my legs felt wonderful this morning after a three day hiatus from the bike. You always hear that Kansas is flat, which is a total lie, especially when you're riding a bike. We did numerous hills today, both paved and unpaved, but nothing compared to the Rockies which are fast approaching.
Being that we had a 5 am wake up this morning and rode pretty fast in the cool morning weather we hit lunch before 9:30, but the van was delayed so a group of us decided to forge onward and find lunch in St. Mary's around mile 60 instead of 40. Well as we rode on the back roads went suddenly from pavement to gravel, but no worries this has happened before and we figured it would only be a few miles tops. To make a long story short gravel became dirt and then worse dirt before we got a little lost and then found gravel and eventually pavement again. Strange things happen when you ride dirt such as seeing this sign:

Just in case you can't read it in the picture it says "Minimum Maintenance Travel at Own Risk." Not exactly the most uplifting sign to see when you're on a road bike. Gravel also means that you can't chalk the turns for those following you, today at one major turn Eric decided we needed to leave a clear mark and so we created a bit of a make shift arrow for our friends, who for the 2 that actually followed us and didn't reroute onto the smooth tarmac of US 24 was seen and followed.
Overall today we got to see a lot of the real Kansas, rolling open grasslands that border country roads, that don't always go where you think they should. I appreciated the day's adventure and am looking forward to a little more exploring on the back roads of the west.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lawrence Build Parts I and II

We are currently staying at the St. John's School in Lawrence, KS doing a three day build stint with the Lawrence chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The Habitat Chapter here is very active, with 2 houses under construction, and a big tract of land planned for 16 homes by the end of 2009. 7 of the homes are already finished and another 3 are scheduled to be finished by February.

When we arrived at the site yesterday morning the walls were framed, but lacked plywood to truly make a home. By the end of the day not only were they covered in plywood, but also wrapped in a tyvek like material, and siding was hung. Yesterday was very comfortable and cool, which was refreshing and good for working. This morning was drizzly when we got up, but by the time we arrived at the build site the weather began to clear and it turned into a mostly sunny day which was very warm. Today's schedule was supposed to include putting up all the trusses for the roof, but things were running a little behind schedule, and the trusses didn't arrive till just after lunch, which meant we spent the morning painting, moving tile (lots and lots of tile), and doing odds and ends on the neighboring home which is just about finished. Unfortunately once the trusses arrived we had a nasty surprise A) the trusses weren't all correct and B) there weren't enough of them. We took this in stride and put up the ones that were correct and then called it a day.

Tomorrow we hope to finish mounting all of the trusses and begin work on the roof before remounting our bikes on Saturday to ride to Wamego, KS.

Below is a photo time line of what we've accomplished so far here in Lawrence.

On a host note our accommodations and meals in Lawrence have been wonderful. The town is very compact and we are staying near downtown which is great as it allows us to get out and actually experience the town a little. Madeline who led last year's P2SF and helped planned the route has also been gracious enough to host us for two dinners in her parent's home as she is a Lawrence resident. This included getting to watch a stage finish of the Tour which was excellent for the few cycling fanatics in our group.

Another shout out to Julius Kusuma for the awesome pair of shorts he sent me and to all of you who send mail and care packages to the riders. Mail drop days are always a highlight for us.

I'll try to have pictures of the final progress after tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Heat and Roadkill

The previous few days of riding into Lawrence, KS have been HOT. We're talking mid to high 90s and very humid, this usually translates to a road temperature above 100, and when you're riding 90 miles it takes its toll. During one day in Missouri I actually drank 2+ gallons of water while on the bike and I peed a grand total of once. Some would say this means I didn't drink enough, but I felt fine and rode well the next day, so I'm not too worried. Regardless we drink through a lot of water and gatorade on this trip.

One thing you see/smell a lot of while riding is roadkill. When driving you don't really notice all the small roadkill, the birds, moles, rats, squirrels, etc. You may notice all of the racoons, possum and possibly skunk that grace the shoulder, but you miss the smaller stuff. On a bike you don't miss any of it. In fact when its hot you can usually smell the roadkill before you actually see it. Let me tell you days when the wind is blowing it is actually kind of nice because the smell is mitigated, even though you do have to spend the whole day riding into the wind, at least that always seems to be the case on our trip. Roadkill is just another one of those things that being on a bike lets you experience, along with the other more enjoyable sounds and smells. I feel I'm truly seeing the country now and living in it.

Currently we're in Lawrence, KS for a 3 day build stretch, which I'll write more about tomorrow or the next day.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Today was our first day really riding in Missouri, and although it was fairly short ~68 miles, it was hot and windy. We got up 30 minutes early as we do on days that are over 90 miles or 90 degrees, so Becca so kindly woke me at 5 am. We were on the road by 7 and the first few hours were quite pleasant even though we were on some busier roads. As the day wore on and it warmed up we began to face a decent headwind and the long rolling hills that are infamous to cyclists who ride in Missouri. I spent the morning riding with Sarah and we got to lunch around 10:30. I decided not to hang around at lunch too long and left sometime around 11 I believe. I rolled into our host town, Moberly, MO, around 1:30 to find it nearly deserted. In fact as I chalked the last turn a gust of wind blew an empty bottle across the road in a scene that was eerily reminiscent of an old western with a deserted street and tumbleweed blowing across the street.

Tonight we are staying in the Destiny center which is a religious club for young adults and is an amazing facility, which includes showers, a lounge room, pool tables, table tennis, air hockey, Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2, and of course the all important wi-fi.

In just 2 days we'll roll into Lawrence for our big 3 day build and a welcome 3 days off of the bike. I know I didn't have a chance to post pictures on my last blog due to a slow connection so I've included a few here.

Crossing the Mississippi into Missouri.

The above two pictures I took in Pittsfield on my way back from writing the previous blog. As you can see the night was amazing and the signature octagonal courthouse was lit up quite nicely.
An old barn on our way to Hannibal.
On our way to Hannibal passing through the Mississippi river valley.
The mighty Mississippi as scene from US36.