Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 11 - Averaged 15.6 mpg

Day 11 was long, 97 miles, but we had a nice tailwind for much of it which made the day much easier.  Even so, I was very tired at the end of the day and had a very sore knee.  

I probably biked the first 20 miles as fast I have ever ridden 20 miles, a little over an hour.  That is half speed for Lance Armstrong, but pretty good for me.  A tailwind really helps.  There is a range of riders on the tour.  Some very fast, some in the middle, and some that average slower speeds, but show up at the end of the day having ridden every mile.  The first picture is of three of the fastest riders who have been friends for years.  We call them the Three Amigos as they have ridden many miles together and generally are in a three person pace group that really rocks.  I was going between 19-20 mph today and they blew by me.  Ed is 68, Bruce is 65 and Dan is 59.

For most of the day we rode through ranch land with occasional breaks of irrigated farm land which was very green.  I was surprised with the very large dairy operations we saw, especially as we rode closer to Twin Falls.  Riders who were not used to “farm” smells may have had trouble breathing, but it had lots of memories for me.  The second picture is of some cattle who had just run over to the fence to watch me and another rider ride by.  The other rider is Nancy and next picture is of her as we had to ride a short mile on a road that was under construction.  

The last two pictures are of the gorge as we rode into Twin Falls.  It is an amazing view.  

Yesterday, I had my first sitz bath, today I tried an ice bath.  Several riders have been doing it and stated it has helped them recover for the next day.  It was not fun, but I think it helped.  One of the other riders said if I was not screaming, it was not cold enough.  Hope the walls were thick.  We will find out tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be our last short day for awhile.  Hopefully, it will go smoothly. 

Day 10 -- Averaged 16.8 mph

Day 10 may end up being the easiest day of the tour.  We only biked 52 miles and had a big time North Dakota style tailwind.  We left Boise about 8:00 AM just as a thunderstorm was moving in from the southwest.  We stayed just ahead of the storm and the wind from the storm gave us a big push.  The first picture is of the hills as we leave Boise and the second was of Boise from an overlook.  Boise was a very nice city and I am looking forward to going back.  The best part of the rest day was meeting Kim’s and my friends and former next door neighbors from Fargo, Tom and Becky, for supper.  We had a great time catching up.  It was really nice to spend time with old friends.

Even though I was at the motel before noon today, the day still went fast.  After checking in I had my normal recovery snack -- low fat chocolate milk and a dark chocolate Milky Way while I iced my knees.   Something I have never had to do before.  Then I stretched for awhile.  I usually stretch at night, but it is better to stretch at least a little right after the ride.  The director of the massage place, who obviously worked out a lot, suggested I take sitz bath after riding.  He said it would help with recovery.  One of the staff members had also suggested this.  Not sure what a sitz bath is, been long time since I had German as a freshmen in college, but I think it is German for sitting in a bath.  Anyway, I poured the salt the director gave me into very hot water.  The director had also said do not sit longer than 10-15 minutes.  I did not think this would be a big deal, but got out after 10 minutes. Glad I did because I think if I had stayed longer, would still be there looking like a bald raisin.

After that I went and ate lunch.  At 2:30 we had a workshop led by Mike the tour director (third picture).  Mike is a retired Air Force Captain and in addition to leading this tour, he has biked across the US several times and teaches bike safety classes.  This workshop was on changing a tire.  In a previous workshop the class timed him on changing a tire and he changed a back tire in 45 seconds.  I picked up a few tips but the main thing I learned is that it would be easiest if Mike just changed my tire.  

I cleaned my bike’s chain and then we had a meeting on tomorrow's route, something we do every day.  Then it was time for dinner.  It really gets to be a busy day. 

Tomorrow will be a long day, 98 miles.  Hopefully we will still have the west wind. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 9 - Rest!

Today was a rest day which I needed and I suspect so did everyone else.  I did some personal errands and had a massage.  The massage was excellent and hopefully will help for the next few days. Today was also a day of reflection on the first section of the tour.

Family:  All of my family came to Oregon to wish me off.  On different days, we also celebrated my birthday and Father’s Day.  The pictures are of Morgan and myself walking the beach in Seaside, Kim, Courtney and I in a restaurant in Seaside and our whole family around the table at Seaside including Courtney’s husband Jeff and Morgan’s girlfriend Christi.  Their being there for me at the beginning and their love and support means everything to me.  

Physically Challenging:  I knew this would be a physical challenge, but glad I did not know how much so before I started.  So far we have lost several riders either permanently or temporarily from the ride. One rider was lost the first day due to a bike accident.  He is not sure what happened, but he was riding by himself on a wide paved shoulder at a slow speed and just went down and broke his collarbone.  One rider went home for a few days to recover from allergies.  One rider went home due to saddle sores so severe he cannot ride for at least two weeks.  At least four riders have taken a day or more off due to knee problems, saddle sores or just plain fatigue.  Whenever any of us talk about the ride, we always start with “hopefully” we will be able to complete the ride.

So far, I have tipped over and scratched both legs and an arm, had sharp knee pain, my feet hurt as well as another part of my body.  Also, I was stung by a bee on the 116 mile day with about 16 miles to go.  I am thinking, “really” after 100 miles a bee stings me.  Anyway, it hurt like a *** but did take my mind off of other pains.  The good news is so far I am not allergic and for the rest of the day and the next I had a new interest and appreciation for flowers.  

Beauty:  I knew the coast of Oregon was beautiful, but I have been blown away by the beauty we have biked through from Astoria to Ontario.  We had day after day of breathtaking views and scenery.  

Smells:  On a bike, your sense of smell increases.  So far I have smelled the Pacific Ocean, the smells of Portland, car and truck smells, the smell of pine trees, clean fresh mountain air, sage, recently mowed hay, and flowers.  Also other bikers at a rest stop, not good, and myself at the end of the day, worse.  

Other Riders:  We have some amazing riders on the tour. Lucy’s continual smile and giggle, Bob’s 20 year survival from cancer, Terry at age 74 and Nancy at 68, Karina who after the stroke at age 10 has figured out every day is a gift and should be enjoyed, her boyfriend Jeff who is a very lucky guy, Jan and Andries who are brothers from the Netherlands seeing the US together on a bike, Gary who has his MBA, owns a business in WI, was born with mild cerebral palsy and walks with a limp but bikes every day, and others who I will mention in the future.  

Tomorrow we start the next leg.  Hopefully it will go well also. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 8 - Goodbye Oregon, Hello Idaho!

On Day 8 we left Oregon and entered Idaho on the way to Boise, a total of 64 miles.  Ontario, OR, is on the border of Idaho and the first picture is of me and the Idaho sign.  We rode in ranch land with occasional farms and ranch houses.  We saw cattle and lots of horses.  One black and white pinto was very cool as it was rolling on its back in the green grass.  For part of this ride, we road along a very pretty river and the second picture is of the river.

The third picture is of Tom from Seattle.  Tom is one of three riders who signed up for the first leg only of the tour and headed back to Seattle tonight.  There are several very strong or fast riders, but he was probably the fastest.  He would just rocket by each day.  He is an engineer who works for Boeing.  

As we approached Boise there were more houses and less ranch land.  It ended up to be a pretty tough ride as it was hot and the wind increased from the SE. Unfortunately, we were going SE.  

Getting into Boise I followed my usual routine -- eat, take a shower, eat some more, go to supper and eat some more.  Tomorrow is a rest day and I am ready for a day off.  I have done a lot of tough week long rides, but this was the toughest.  Time to rest up and start again. 


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 7

Day 7 was an easier day.  Its hard to believe that 85 miles was easy, but compared to the last two days, it was.  The really good news was I had no knee problems other than mild discomfort.  Icing and tylonol helped.  Hopefully, there will be no more problems. 
It was downhill much of the way and not much wind until the last 10 miles which really helps.  The route was actually 84 miles. However, as no surprise to anyone who knows me, I made three wrong turns. One did not make any difference at all, just turned too quick.  The second I was following other riders who missed the turn and so we had to double back, not my fault.  The third I turned right when I should have turned left.  Could have happened to anyone.  (The map said left; in future I will look at it.)

The first picture is of a small pass looking back towards Baker City.  The second picture is of riders coming up the hill to the pass.  

Most of the next 40+ miles was downhill.  Unfortunately, after riding on very rough road, the screws holding my bottle cage to the bike came loose and fell off.  I picked up and carried to the next rest stop, but had to wait 30-45 minutes before Jim, the mechanic, showed up and was able to fix it with new screws.  Jim is an outstanding bike mechanic. He spends most of the day repairing bikes.  Lots of things can go wrong on a trip like this, and he can fix them  all.  

The last 30+ miles into the Ontario was along a lake with high desert in the background.  The first picture is of me with the lake and desert in the background. The second is of three riders, Sharon on the right who is from New York City and just moved to the Twin Cities and Karina and Jeff who just moved to Maine and are taking a break between jobs and grad school to do the ride.  Karina is one of the most amazing people I have ever met.  She had an aneurism at age 10, almost died and was in a coma for some time.  She recovered, though she lost nerves in one of her legs and cannot run and walks with a limp.  She still has ridden every mile of the tour so far.  

Tomorrow we bike to Boise. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 6

It was another beautiful day, but very challenging, especially after 116 miles yesterday.  We did 80 miles today and went over 3 mountain passes. We climbed for 20 miles first through ranch land and then into a national forest.  Right before the first summit there was a lookout with a covered wagon.  The first two pictures are from the lookout -- a picture of the mountains behind us and several riders on the covered wagon.  The third picture is me at the summit.  After an intense decline the first rest stop was next to a little restaurant with great food.  I had one of the best chocolate brownies I have ever had.  Another climb through pristine forest next to a stream and eventually a babbling brook.  Actually, it was me that was babbling, the brook was fine.  The next picture is of the elevation sign with a rider in front of it. 

After the decline, another climb to the third summit was a killer for me.  I did not bonk, but could see it.  Fortunately, it was mostly downhill to the next rest stop.  The next two pictures are eating lunch and three riders with a view behind them. The riders on the left and center are Chuck and Julie from North Carolina.  Chuck is going back to work after Casper, WY while Julie is going all the way across.  The rider on the left is Terry who was born in England but now lives in Tuscon, AZ, and is our oldest rider at age 74.  For him age is a number, not a state of mind.  

Unfortunately, the day did not end well for me.  Though I have had knee aches in the past they have been minor. But, for the first time I had serious knee pain.  The mileage and mountain passes caught up with me.  The last 12 miles I was passed by several riders and one very quick snail.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be better. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 5 - Prineville to John Day Averaged 13.9 mph

Day 5 was the most scenic so far, and this is saying a lot.  But it was a long day, 116 miles, from Prineville to John Day.

For bicyclists, a century is like running marathon, though in my estimation, a marathon is much more difficult.  At the same time, riding a bike 100 miles or more in one day is very challenging and this day was no exception.  I have ridden a number of centuries over the years and this was one of the most difficult.  116 miles, two mountain passes, 5,000 feet of total climbing, some head winds and starting temperature of 39 degrees.  The only part of my body that is not tired is my ear lobes. 

The day started chilly with a long climb of 30 miles to the first summit.  It was beautiful with trees and an occasional ranch.  There was also a mountain stream next to the road, a pattern that followed most of the day.  The first picture is me at the rest stop at the summit.  The second picture is of Bob from Goleta, CA.  Bob is a professional photographer and has cameras mounted on the front and back of his bike taking a continual stream of pictures.  More impressive, he is a 20 year cancer survivor.  He had bone cancer and had his knee removed.  He bikes and walks with a metal rod in his leg.  

We then had a screaming decline into the valley and then the next climb started.  This was a very difficult climb with grades of 10-12% the last three miles.  Below are pictures of the summit sign and a picture of me at the summit.  

The second decline led us into a beautiful canyon gorge and at the bottom we had our third rest stop.  The pictures are from that stop.  We also biked by the John Day Fossil Beds which is special because it contains 40 million years of fossil records.  I want to go back and tour this in more detail.  We also biked by Native American pictographs.  

The final picture is of my bike computer. 

Tomorrow will be a challenging day with 80 miles over 3 mountain passes.  

PS  I must have been well hydrated as I quit counting “rest” stops after the first few, but I know I was in the low double digits.  Another rider told me if I had a bigger bladder, I would have finished a half an hour sooner.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 4 - Kah Nee Ta to Prineville Averaged 14.0 mph

Day 4, by tour standards, was an easy day.  But it was still a total of 60 miles with over 3,000 total feet of climbing.

As you would expect, hydration is a very important part of long distance cycling.  Once a rider gets dehydrated, it is very difficult to catch up.  I know -- I have done it a few times.  So far, I have been doing well in that department. I drink a lot of water at night and before I leave in the morning.  Of course, hydration leads to a lot of bathroom breaks.  On the road, another name for a public bathroom is a tree. In eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota, it may be a bush or very large weed.  Riders are discreet, but it's not unusual to see a bike off to the side of the road with no rider to be seen.  Fortunately, we are usually on low traffic roads.  

The route today was very scenic.  We were in high plains with few trees and a lot of sagebrush.  Looking over our back shoulder one could see Mt. Hood and off to the side, three snow covered mountains which I believe are called Three  Sisters.  Even with a tailwind for part of the ride, I was tired at the end.  A DQ next to the motel supplied me with a Chocholate Extreme Blizzard.  

Each ride starts with breakfast than loading our luggage on the luggage van.  The first picture is of two of our International riders after they have loaded their luggage.  Lucy is from London and Michel is from Quebec.  Lucy just finished college and is taking a break before either work or grad school.  She is a continually upbeat and happy person.  This is Michel’s second ABBike tour.  He speaks English with a thick French accent.  I am trying to learn to speak English with a French accent also. I think that would make me very cool.  No one is impressed so far.  The second is Jim and Jeff, two of the staff, loading the van.  

Tomorrow will be a very long day, 116 miles -- just short of twice as far as we road today.  It will be a challenge so I hope there's a DQ in the next town.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 3 - Welches to Kah-Nee-Ta Averaged 13.0 mph

Day 3, with a couple of complications, was one of most scenic days I have ever had riding a bike.  From Welches we headed up towards a mountain pass of about 4,000 feet at the base of Mt. Hood.  The mountain pass was the home to a couple of ski resorts.  The initial part of the ride was through thick forest that was right next to the road.  Every once and awhile it was possible to glimpse a cabin in the woods.  

After about eight miles the complications set in.  I noticed all the riders in front of me had assembled next to a support van.  When I pulled in to stop I was clipped into my bike.  A note -  most long distance riders have clipless  pedals which means the shoe has cleats that clip into the pedal which is great; however, if you have to clip out quickly, it can be a problem.  In this case, I clipped my right foot out not realizing I was leaning left.  I could not clip out and ended up tipping over in front of the group.  I was a little bloody, but not hurt, and very embarrassed.  I did say a few naughty words.  The group was very supportive, behind giggles.  The first picture is me getting bandage up by Barb, one of the tour support staff.  

We had to be sagged by a construction area which took some time.  The second picture is riders waiting for the sag ride.  Notice the trees behind them.  

Once we got close to the summit, we had a great view of Mt. Hood.  As we rode past the first summit and thereafter, there were a number of views.  The third picture is me with Mt. Hood in the background.  A side note, Mt. Hood has skiing all summer (the only resort in the US to have summer skiing) and we rode by one resort that had summer ski school.

Of all the bike rides I have done, this has had one of the most varied scenery.  We road through think forests of pine trees, raging rivers and streams, four different snow covered mountains in the horizon, and finally into high desert with sparse vegetation and red rock canyons.  We are staying at a resort and casino in Kah-Nee-Ta which is very nice. The last picture is me in from the of the resort with high desert in the background. The girl who took the picture could not believe I rode up the hill to the resort, not to mention 65 miles from Welches.  

I am very tired, but looking forward to another day tomorrow. 

Day 2 - St Helens to Welches, Averaged 14mph

On Tuesday, we rode 77 miles from St. Helens to Welches through Portland.  The first 30 miles was on a busy highway with a paved shoulder and I made very good time.  It was enjoyable to watch the fog burn off as I rode into Portland.  I was pleased and somewhat surprised  to get through Portland with no problems.  We had good directions and most of the time were on a bike path that followed the Columbia River.  The picture is me in front of the river.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I did make a wrong turn coming out of a rest stop, but figured it out right away.  Ok, actually the person I was riding with figured it out, but I would have also very soon.)

There are two brothers from the Netherlands on the tour who have biked in both the US and Europe and are very strong bikers.  All day they would pass me, stop to take pictures, and then pass me again. 

Once we left Portland we biked in primarily a wooded area with farms and houses with amazing landscaping.  We also had great views of Mt. Hood which is Oregon’s highest mountain at 11,239 feet.  It has snow year around and from a distance looks like a snow cone surrounded by greenery.  The second picture is of me still a long distance from the mountain.  I just found out it is a “sleeping” volcano with the last eruption in 1907 and is due in the next 75 miles.  I think I will leave a little earlier tomorrow morning than I originally planned. 

Since getting in early this afternoon, I have been mostly eating.  Hard to believe I biked 77 miles and gained 77 pounds for the day.  Tomorrow stars with a climb of 13 miles.  Will be quite a grind.  Then a lot of downhill. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 1 - Off to St. Helens, Oregon

The first official day was from Astoria to St Helens, about 70 miles.  It was a nice ride, but I was tired at the end.  Astoria is a scenic town on the the south side of the Columbia River near Ft. Stevens State Park where Lewis and Clark ended their journey to the West.  

The first picture is of me getting ready to leave the hotel parking lot.  For part of the route the river was in view and almost all of the route was very scenic as we rode through dense woods which were very lush with greenery.  This is normally true, but even more so this year with all the rain Oregon has received the past few months.  The second picture gives some idea of the wooded area.  There were a couple of serious climbs with some fast descents.  

The third picture is my fashion statement as my riding clothes matched my bike.  This was purely accidental, but pretty cool. I was tired at the end of the day and have not yet told my body we are doing it again tomorrow, expect a little longer.  I plan to break it gently to it tomorrow.  I am not going to mention there are 49 more days remaining.  

Tomorrow we ride through Portland to Welches which is on Mt. Hood.  My goal is to get thru to Welches without getting lost.   I do not have the best sense of direction.  Once got lost on a one way. 

Day 0

It is said that a journey of a 1,000 miles starts with the first step.  Well, the first step of my journey across America by bike started with a short ride today.  It is a tradition when starting a ride from one coast to the the other that riders dip their rear tire in the ocean - in this case the Pacific Ocean. When done, riders dip their front tire into the other ocean - in this case hopefully the Atlantic.  Below is a picture of me with my bike in the Pacific Ocean followed by me taking my first few pedal strokes.  I started in Sunset Beach State Park which is a beautiful park on the ocean just south of the mouth of the Columbia River.  I bicycled the coast of Oregon in the fall of 2003 and it is spectacular. 

It was about nine miles from the beach to the hotel for the night.  We had a group meeting to review the ride and various issues including riding habits and safety.  We also introduced ourselves and stated why we are doing this.  There were several who were cancer survivors and the ride was to celebrate living cancer free.  One man was told  a few years ago his weight was affecting his health, so he bought a bike and started riding. Since then, he has lost over 60 pounds.  For many it was a bucket list, others were taking a break from work or education.  For me, it is something I have wanted to do for many years and I look at it as a sabbatical.  I am very blessed to have an incredibily talented staff who make it possible for me to do this. 

Most interesting conversation was when I met a young landy from England. When she found out I am from Fargo, she was so excited she was jumping up and down.  The movie Fargo is one of her favorites and she wanted me to talk like the movie.  I said I was not very good, but I would put Kim on the phone one night as she is very good at talking 'Fargo.' 

Tomorrow we ride about 70 miles to St. Helens.