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.

Friday, July 6, 2007

In the Heartland

As you know by now we’ve been riding through the Midwest for about a week now, but the past few days are when I’ve truly started to feel like I’m in the Heartland of America. Tonight we are staying in Pittsfield, IL, which used to be the pork capital of IL if not America, but due to issues on hog containment, the industry has moved elsewhere, but the tradition of Pig Days has lived on. As I sit outside just off the town square I can hear live country music blaring from behind the signature octagonal courthouse where President Lincoln once stopped on his court rounds before his presidency. I have to say I’m kind of proud to be able to sing along with all the tunes that are pumped out of the speakers. It just feels like a truly great summer night in Middle America. I’m even enjoying the humidity a little now as its not overpowering.

Tomorrow we have a relatively short day, around 40 miles into Hannibal, MO which not only means crossing the mighty Mississippi, but also crossing into the boyhood home of Mark Twain, and the setting of The Adventures of Tom Swayer. Rumor has it Tom Swayer days will be going on, so we hope to have a festival to attend after a short ride to Hannibal, which is also a welcome change from the hours we’ve been spending in the saddle cranking out 80+ miles a day as of late. Today turned out to be just over 88, but was relatively easy since the head winds of the day into Taylorville were missing, it was easier to crank the pace line up above 20 mph.

I’m off to enjoy some of the great live music and the warm summer night here in Pittsfield.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Farm Country Galore

We’ve been riding through farm country and rural America for quite awhile now, but over the past two days the fields have gotten bigger as the land has flattened out the views are amazing. Most of the fields look really good, full of soybeans and corn, which is already far above my grandfather’s rule of knee high by the fourth of July. I talked to a farmer’s wife in Saymour, yesterday and she told me they were a little short on water, but things are still looking very good. The real benefit to riding through farm land besides the open spaces is the general lack of traffic. As it says in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” its better to take a road that parallels a bigger route as there is less traffic and the scenery is improved. The people are getting increasingly friendly, we’re in that part of the country where people wave when you ride by and say hi and ask questions when you stop.
Justine being a little scared of the wide open spaces.

David riding past corn and soybeans.

The above part of the blog was written a few days ago before we rode into Paris, IL. Yesterday we rode from Paris into Taylorville, where I'm currently enjoying my first day off. It was a beautiful ride across country roads, quite a bit of it in Amish country. There was virtually no traffic, but the going was still slow as we faced a stiff headwind all day and got caught in the rain both early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Final mileage for the day was 97.5 on my computer, which was the closing day on a 550+ mile week, my longest ever.

Here in Taylorville we are staying at the Christian County YMCA, which is a great place with plenty of space for us to spread out and wonderful warm showers. We unfortunately missed the fireworks last night, but a few of us spent a few hours with the townies singing karaoke, which was a lot of fun and a nice break from riding. Today is our first official day off, so most people are sleeping in, but Rebecca and I were up early so came to town to find free wi-fi and get breakfast at a great little coffee/pastry shop off the square here. The rest of the day promises to be relaxing and give us some time to catch up on sleep, swim, read and just hang out. Hopefully I'll have a little more to share about our rest day tomorrow.

Onto the Flats

We have been expecting to get out of the mountains and out into the flat Midwest for sometime now. I would have to say today was the first truly flat day, although yesterday wasn’t bad by any means. Today we rode from Cincinnati, OH to Saymour, IN, an 84 mile day, but the afternoon was flat as a pancake and temperatures were pleasant in the mid 80s. Everyone seems to be in very good spirits and the flat is a welcome change of pace.

A big shout out to our hosts in both Cincinnati and Saymour, Cincinatti was our first home stay, so we divided up into numerous different homes and got to sleep in real beds and have personal home cooked meals. A few of us went downtown to catch a Reds game or at least attempt to catch a Reds game, only 5 people actually went into the Great American Ball Park to catch the last 3 innings. Here in Saymour we are staying at the Immanuel Lutheran Church, which is a beautiful place and has an attached 1st through 8th school where we were able to shower. We were welcomed with a wide array of snacks including several kinds of home baked cookies. Geoff’s parents were also here to meet us along with Fox news, so its been an exciting afternoon, and as I write dinner looks to be shaping up in the kitchen, and I’m sure it will be amazing.

As always I like to include a few pictures from along our route. Today I didn’t take many as we were busy riding fast all afternoon, we averaged almost 20 mph after lunch. Yesterday I snapped some great pics though and they are included below.

The beauty of country roads with low traffic is that you can ride side by side and enjoy a conversation.

Sarah riding across the open roads.
Courtney and Alex enjoying a nice country road.

Brian enjoying the flats.