Today’s plan

I’m going to try something different to start this stage.  Who knows if I’ll keep going this way, but it’s worth a try.

Anyway, I think it might be interesting for my people to know the plan for the day.

Last night we arrived in LA and we will drive to Winnfield this morning and pick up the bike and gear we left in storage.  As soon as I verify that the bike tires are inflated and the chain is properly lubricated I will begin riding.

The great thing about beyond Texas hill country is that climbing is less sloped and fewer of them.  Often the momentum I catch going down one slope will be enough to get me almost halfway up the next if I keep pedaling and I don’t slow nearly so much.  My hope is that my mph will go up significantly over the course of the next several hundred miles.  The faster I go while expending the same amount of energy, the farther I can go.

The goals and minimums for this stage are as follows (though I won’t cover exact stops along the way for safety reasons):

89 miles – 62 min

104 miles – 76 min

106 miles – 78 min

72 miles – 73 min

98 miles – 78 min

90 miles –  73 min

108 miles – 74 min

80 miles – 73 min

0 miles – 72 min

You might notice that I’m aiming for one fewer days on the bike than I “must”.  If I don’t reach all my goals, there is an extra Saturday into which I can put those.  I can also, if I choose, make some of the days shorter but not others.  The minimum will leave me with just under 15% of the ride to complete in April, and if I reach my goals in the 8 days, I will smash my personal best rides in miles three times (the most I’ve ever ridden in one day was 102 miles), and the most I have done in 8 riding days by 142 miles – an average of not quite 18 miles per riding day.

Deep breath.  Things are about to get really interesting.  Keep me in your prayers.

 

Elm Grove, LA to Winnfield, LA

So yesterday when I said it rained – it didn’t rain all day. But as soon as I started to get dry, it would start to rain again.  That was the exhausting part.

I discovered that while riding in it was exhausting (and filthy – it took a lot of scrubbing to get my legs clean!), it also had a nasty effect on the roads.

Louisiana has a trail system that goes for many miles in between towns.  On a good day, I suspect you can ride through the lush green trees without seeing a road for hours.  Though it was a clear day, I would not call this a good day, at least as far as “trail riding” in Louisiana is concerned.  The GPS kept trying to make me get on the trails, but as near as I could tell, there was no trail.  Randy checked several times in the car, and where he could turn onto roads, they quickly turned into mud bogs.  So I stayed on the road.  But taking the trails would have been 6 miles shorter than the roads.

Ultimately I had to climb some hills that I hadn’t expected, and the six miles didn’t kill me, and we made it to Winnfield.  I got the bike cleaned up and the chain re-lubed and into storage, with a grand total for 9 riding days of 651 miles.

We got into the car and started driving home.  I crashed HARD.  About two hours into the drive I woke up and instinctively looked at the back of the car, where I saw – nothing.  Sweet Randy, upon hearing my gasp, taps my hand and says, “It’s in storage.”  I still panicked every time we stopped and I came out to the car and didn’t see the bike, thinking someone stole it or something, but eventually I just got used to it.

Folks – I have 1,227 miles left in my ride.  I have come 2,573 miles.  I will complete the next 1,227 in two stages instead of three, and barring unforeseen issues will be done before my 50th.

 

The Grub Sack, Scottsville to Elm Grove, LA

When we woke up this morning (Nov. 30) I had a message from my friend Lisa in Dallas – she was worried that I was going to be out in the weather, and there were severe thunderstorms in the forecast with the potential for tornadoes.

November typically does not have tornadoes, so while Randy and I didn’t have a plan in place for this event, we made a quick revision of our normal travelling plan such that he would leapfrog me at 5 miles out, wait half an hour and drive 10 miles, and then continue to leapfrog until the severe weather was done.

The Grub Sack is 12 miles from the Louisiana border, with some rolling hills, but not too bad.  The wind was coming from either side, but not steady, with gusts that made me nervous, but I was able to keep upright and not worried.  It rained all 12 miles.  I found out later that from the time I got on the bike to the time I hit the Louisiana border Harrison County (where I started) was under a tornado watch, but just over the border in Caddo Parish, LA they didn’t.  Either Texas is more cautious, or Louisiana doesn’t know how tornadoes work, but… either way I’m saying I outran a tornado.  I’m just that good.  😉  (in truth, there was never any real danger, though a small tornado did touch down in Harrison County that day, I was safe in bed when it did.)

The rain would stop and then restart all day.  Thankfully it wasn’t terribly cold, but 71 miles in I was exhausted.  I have been riding for 8 days, and have come 600 miles.  I took an ice bath, which frankly is excruciatingly painful, but helps the muscles not swell and allows them to release the lactic acid.  Then a warm epsom salt soak and I was off to bed.  One day more this leg.

 

Mineola, TX to The Grub Sack – Scottsville, TX 78 miles

This day there were a few good climbs, but none that I needed to walk on.  As it goes, I’ll take Texas hills over Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and New Mexico every day of the week.  We divided up the miles into three roughly equal lengths between Mineola and Winnfield and there was a little convenience store called The Grub Sack at Scottsville.

I was riding along with the trees all around (East Texas is prettier than West Texas, just saying), and passed a cemetery.  I’ve passed hundreds of them, to be sure – but about a mile up the road I could see a funeral cortege coming toward me.  I pulled safely over, took off my helmet, and as the hearse had tiny flags on the front, put my hand over my heart.  Several pickup trucks, seeing me pull over, followed suit, and we all stood honoring the deceased.  When all the cars had passed and people got back into their trucks, I was putting on my helmet and the gentleman who had stopped in front of me was running toward me in his cowboy boots and hat.  He wanted to shake my hand and thank me for showing the example and reminding him that he wasn’t in a hurry – that it was the most respectful thing he’d ever seen a cyclist do, and he appreciated it.  He wished me a safe ride and we were all on our way.

Guys, it took an extra 5 minutes, if that.  The deceased didn’t care.  I have no idea if anyone in the cortege cared or noticed.  But I know, and even if I had been the only person who stopped, that is who matters. What I’m doing doesn’t matter nearly as much as who I am, and I stop to show respect.  I help people if I see that need – on the bicycle or in life.  There is nothing so important that I’m doing for myself that comes before doing the right thing.

 

Garland to Mineola

Wednesday, 11/28 dawned dark and early.  We’d gone to bed around 7:30 after a quick shower in the Airbnb and minimalist dinner.  I still had 15 miles to finish of “yesterday’s miles” before I could start the Wednesday miles to be on track.

Dallas traffic at 3AM is roughly equivalent to Salt Lake traffic at 6AM.  Which is to say, perfectly maneuverable, but more than I would think, for sure.  I kept thinking, “what are you people doing out here so early?” Then I thought they were probably thinking the same thing about me.

Randy followed me until we were pretty solidly out of town and the road narrowed to the point that it became more hazardous for him to be behind me than it was to just trust that people could see me.  There’s a very long causeway through Lake Ray Hubbard – but it feels quite like a bridge from the road.  As soon as I passed Rockwall, TX the traffic died down to almost nothing, and it was a peaceful and calm day.  Saw a cottonmouth snake on the side of the road, but mostly snakes haven’t been bothersome. He was just sunning himself at the edge of a bridge, and for the most part if I avoid getting too close, the snakes haven’t been fazed in the least that I am riding past.  There were also a few armadillos and a couple of scorpions that looked blue from above, but I suspect they were black and reflected the sky they were so shiny.  If I’d been riding uphill I might have stopped to take a photo, but I don’t slow down for photos when I’m on a downhill, even if it’s only a little bit downhill.

79 more miles down, making 450 for this leg, and roughly 195 left in the plan.  I am getting tired and not really looking forward to another three days of riding, but epsom salts baths and the sweetest husband in the world rubbing my feet helps a lot.

 

 

Springtown to Garland

Today reminded me that there are thousands of miles of “nothing” between cities. And the cities are the dangerous parts of this ride.  I haven’t been riding through anything even close to this big since Albuquerque last year, and to call Albuquerque close to the same size of Dallas is like saying that a lime is close to the same size of a watermelon.  The greater Albuquerque area has roughly 887,000 people.  The greater Dallas area has roughly 7,000,000.  Salt Lake City is bigger than Albuquerque, but I have been riding for so long in the greater Salt Lake area (and it is super bike-friendly) that it is much less threatening.  And the greater Dallas area is more densely populated than either Salt Lake or Albuquerque.  But I digress.
Mom, you may want to skip this part.  Or at very least remember that I am still alive to type it, so it all ended well.

Work hours riding through Dallas/Fort Worth is a lot like riding through any city.  There was much beauty and lots of things to take in.  There is a beautiful pedestrian path that goes through much of the city.  Yeah, there are more cars, but for the most part they are in one world and I may as well be in another.

Side note: Texans take their football seriously. I rode past a football stadium under construction in Colleyville that both Randy and I thought was a professional venue.  Googled it and the Grapevine-Colleyville School District is spending $18M to renovate their stadium.

At roughly 4:30 (when I was through most of the greater Dallas area – into Garland, but with 15 miles or so left of riding) the landscape changed.  The sun started to go down, and what felt like every car on planet earth came to Garland.  I had no close calls.  Everyone was very polite, and I had some cute mini-conversations with drivers as we waited at traffic lights “together”.  But being surrounded by people jockeying for position and paying more attention to other cars than cyclists – which they aren’t used to looking for much less seeing – brought up a level of panic I have seldom had during the many days on this ride.  So I texted Randy and had him meet me at the nearby convenience store and we called it a day.  With 15 miles to go.

I did make those 15 miles up in the morning, with Randy following me through the streets of Dallas, at 3:30AM.  There were still more cars than I thought there would be, (seriously – what are y’all doing at that time of morning???) but it was an uneventful morning and I plugged away through the Dallas adventure.

Mom, again – I typed this with my own two hands.  No need to panic.  And Dallas is the biggest city I ride through, so it’s all done, as are more than half of my planned miles for this trip (as I have done 371 miles as of today)  I’m also more than halfway through Texas. This is a crazy and amazing journey and I’m having a blast doing it.

Megargel to Springtown

Started the day in a little town called Megargel. (Population 193 according to Google, and pronounced “Meg-gargle”.) We got there relatively early, so as we were getting ready to leave, we stopped in front of what used to be a church – and is now city hall.  We had barely stopped when a gentleman came walking across the lawn and introduced himself as Paul McQueen, the mayor. We chatted with Paul for a little bit and talked cycling (he being a cyclist himself) and how lovely and flat it was in West Texas.  Paul, it was so great meeting you and seeing the town!

Today was a little bit faster.  I did get some really good soaks in yesterday, so my muscles weren’t as sore as they were at the end of the day.  This evening we met up at Hard Eights (a pit barbecue place in the Dallas area) with Lisa Peters, one of my friends from high school, and caught up.  She had come to dad’s viewing 14 years ago, but I didn’t really remember that, so we decided it had been 30+ years since we had spent any time together.  She is awesome, and the barbecue was great as well – and not just because body was craving the meat I got to indulge in with somewhat reckless abandon.

Springtown is a suburb of Fort Worth.  The Dallas/Fort Worth traffic hasn’t become a problem for riding, and I have felt safe on the ride all day. It hasn’t become too hilly yet, either. Life is always pretty good on a bike.

Paducah to Megargel

Headwinds are ugly.  They suck the joy out of riding and the energy out of my legs.  But like Lance Armstrong said, “Winning is about heart, not just legs.”  It took 8 1/2 hours to ride 93 miles, where just the day before I made 86 in 5:43.  The wildlife, however, was incredible.

About 2 miles in and early in the morning I startled a wild boar (in Texas they call them feral hogs, apparently) that was foraging alongside the road.  The sun wasn’t quite all the way up, and in the early morning light, I couldn’t tell whether he was on “my” side of the fence or the other side of the fence.  He was roughly 30 feet away from me.  While I have seen a lot of wildlife and can generally avoid physical encounters with them by knowing their general nature, I am almost entirely unfamiliar with wild boars, so to say this guy made me nervous is a wild understatement.  He was probably 200+ pounds, and had huge tusks. I just knew that if he charged and decided he was going to take me down, I wouldn’t be able to get a call off to Randy or 911 before I was done for.  I kicked it into a lot faster gear, even with the headwind.  Which spooked him even more.  He got faster and faster.  Fortunately in the few seconds since he initially started running, he had passed a few fence posts so I could see he was on the other side of the barbed-wire, so I was a lot less nervous.  I slowed down a bit and just watched him run. (He did turn away from me after he got a little farther ahead of me)

Then there were the armadillos – some smashed, several not – which look like giant rats with body armor.  They avoid me, but I’m pretty quiet on the bike, so I can get within about 10 feet of them before they even notice.

Snakes are an interesting thing.  I saw cottonmouth, coral, rattler, and garter snakes this trip. When I posted about them on Facebook I got comments like, “this is why we all carry guns”, but I kid you not, I have never had a run-in with a snake where one was even remotely threatening to me.  They were just beautiful.  That said, I recognize that I have never been a 14 year old boy, so I understand that you give snakes a wide berth.  I’m in their territory.  No need to threaten them.

Blue herons, red-tailed hawks, and even a pair of golden eagles this day.

Things I learned today: the wind typically gets worse later in the day.  Starting earlier makes for shorter days regardless of whether it’s a headwind or tailwind.  And I am braver than I believe.  Always.

Thanksgiving Day, 2018 and Black Friday

According to Google maps Olton, Texas is just a little over halfway between Westport, Washington and Key West, Florida by bicycle, and Olton is where I began my adventure yesterday – Thanksgiving 2018.  We got to the gas station we had left off 9 months ago and I started riding around 3:30pm.  There was a little bit of cross-wind that made my ride time not my best (41 miles in about 3 hours 20 minutes), but I was pleased that I got a good start to the marathon of riding that will occur over the next 9 riding days.  Overall it was a pretty uneventful ride save 2 tarantulas, countless scorpions, several red-tailed hawks and an armadillo.

When we got to Aimee Jackson’s house to stay the night she had saved Thanksgiving dinner for us – she’s an angel.  We ate our fill of brisket, potatoes, cauliflower, home baked bread, green beans, and went to bed grateful for friends and safety and each other.

This morning was a totally different story.  We slept in a little bit, and I got on the road at just about 8:40AM.  The wind was brisk, but was at my back so I decided after 35 miles at 17 mph that I wasn’t going to cut that ride off any sooner than my body wouldn’t take anymore, even though the plan was only for 75 miles.  It was a lovely 56 degrees for much of the morning, but around 1:30 it jumped to 70 and sapped the energy and joy out of the ride.  I made 86.5 before I was done and we headed back.

So tomorrow will be 93 instead of 103.  Not too shabby, and we plan to get an earlier start so that I won’t have to cut it short when it gets warm again.  The wind is meant to have even stronger gusts in the morning, (up to 40 mph) so who knows?  Maybe I’ll be able to keep 93 under today’s time.

Probably beginning of the week I will take some GoPro video. I haven’t really wanted to because much of the time it is just pretty boring as far as views/sights.  But the hawks are beautiful, and I did have a few cute moments with the cows from Jones Ranch, who wanted to run with me as though I were riding a horse; and some horses who heard me singing at the top of my lungs and loped alongside the fence like I was serenading them.  Not sure how much sound the GoPro picks up, though, and without the accompaniment I suspect I’ll sound pretty random.  lol.  It’s been too windy the past two days for the drone, and most of the time there would have been too much electrical interference to make it worth even getting out.

So far it has already been a great trip.  127.5 miles in 24 hours is pretty great, and I’m enjoying the journey.  Big hugs from Paducah, Texas!  Mwah!

Halfway

As of September 3, 2018 I have crossed 1,905 miles of the route from Westport, WA to Key West, FL.

Today the format of this site changes, as well as the way I count miles.  I counted “up” for the first half.  Now I count down.  🙂

The “last day of the first half” was amazing.  I found a great epsom salts soak that includes Arnica and Eucalyptus that is very restoring, and when I got on the bike on Labor Day I couldn’t even tell that I had ridden on Saturday – and I’d gone 69 miles in the corner of Colorado.

Speaking of Colorado, what a day!  The first 20 minutes of the ride I got rain, hail, sleet, and snow (along with a good bit of wind).  Of course it occurred to me to stop, but it wasn’t miserable and there wasn’t lightning anywhere close-by, so I pressed on. At about 20 minutes in it was all over and I could hardly believe it had been so ugly just moments before.  It did take a few minutes to dry out, though, and as the day progressed, there were storms rolling across the horizon that did have lightning and thunder, but I had sun over me and Randy was pretty close-by, so I wasn’t worried about the lightning and thunder – I got to just observe the beauty of a series of great desert storms in late summer.

The last 55 miles of the first half were in New Mexico.  To be sure, New Mexico west of Albuquerque may be the flattest pieces of planet Earth ever.  But North of Albuquerque is filled with some of the longest stretches of hills I have ridden.  Oregon had some of the steepest slopes, for sure.  But New Mexico would have 2-3 miles of steady uphill.  The key to uphills – especially steady ones – for me is keeping my head down and plodding ahead.  On short rides I have “juice” in my legs for the long climbs to be able to stand up and charge them.  On long rides, the “juice” needs to be reserved, so I just keep pedaling, easiest possible gear, and ignore almost everything around me.  It wasn’t this trip, but I forgot to blog about it when it happened because I was so tired, so here’s a fun story:

I was plodding up a long hill in New Mexico on a Navajo Reservation – right around Cuba, New Mexico.  Which is to say, miles and miles from anywhere or anything.  There are so few cars on this particular road it felt very much like I was the only person left alive after an apocalypse, but I did see one every 20 minutes or so.  About 100 yards from the top, I hear the “blip” of a police siren behind me, and the officer said on his loud-speaker, “Ma’am, will you pull over please?” Well, I’m going between 3-4 miles per hour climbing.  I’m not going anywhere fast – and I’ve still got some climb ahead of me. If I stop before the top, I’ll have to walk it.  So I call back to him, “May I stop at the top? I promise I won’t try and outrun you when I get there.”  He laughed and said that was fine.

Turns out someone driving past saw me out there and knowing how far the next town was, got concerned that I was going to die out there in the desert because I was lost!  (I wasn’t lost, and my support car was just up the road a few more miles – but they didn’t know that.) They called the police because they didn’t want to scare me (I am quite obviously not Navajo), and they knew the police would take care of me if I was in a bad spot.  The officer had grabbed ice, water, protein bars, and other snacks from a convenience store about 30 miles back and had them in his car just in case I was in a bad way when he got to me.  I politely declined the food, but did refill my ice and water.

Fun times on the byways of America!