UTAH done and dusted.

As of this morning I have 119 miles remaining of the first half of the ride.

I have climbed a total of 53,103 feet.  That’s Mount Everest and Denali, with Mount Meron (the highest peak in Israel) thrown in for good measure.  This represents 79.5% of the climbing for the whole route, spanning four of the eleven states, and 8 major mountain ranges.

To say that this adventure has been easy would be disingenuous.  Easy wasn’t what I was going for.  But like most things, it is much more simple than it sounds.  Like the great line in Better Off Dead, “Go that way, really fast.  If something gets in your way, turn!”  riding a bike is pretty simple when you think about it.  Yes, it’s work to climb that much and to be hundreds of hours on a bike. Yes, there is logistical planning and financial planning and all of the mental rigmarole that goes into making something this big successful.  But the riding itself is literally a cliche’ – once learned, you never forget how to ride a bike.

So that is the lesson of the first 4 states – it’s work.  But life is work.  Keep doing it and you’ll eventually get there.  Work out the details and then go charge the day – and enjoy the ride.  Don’t over-complicate or overthink it. Just ride.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse

I’ll write about the final Utah miles in the morning, but I wanted to share this surprise while it is fresh in my mind.
Tonight we went to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Salt Lake City.  It has been years since we have eaten there, but Randy was given some gift certificates at work and we were wanting to celebrate, so this was a perfect excuse.

I move a little slower on long ride days, so while Randy hadn’t put the ride on our reservation, he explained why I was walking slowly to the table to our hostess, Anna.  She passed the information on to Lauren, our server, who asked for some details.  Then as is the custom at Ruth’s Chris, the manager Josh came to our table and checked on how the meal was, also asking about the ride – and if I would be going through Alabama (he’s from Mobile). So we explained a little bit, (and gave him this blog address, of course) and he said how cool he thought the whole thing was.  Lauren was readying dessert (berries and cream – oh, my goodness how delightful that was!), and he went away for a little bit.  He came back with an envelope he set in front of me – he would love for me to use it in his hometown Ruth’s Chris and report back whenever I get done with that portion.

So now my gift card is taped to my tracking map.  We will definitely be using it when we go through Mobile, Josh – thank you so much! Thank you to your team – everyone was delightful.

And if anyone reading this gets the chance, go to Ruth’s Chris!  Tell them the SLC team (at least the ones who served us – named above plus Austin) is the best!  Map

Colorado Border to Moab

As of today I am 45.3% done with the route, leaving approximately 179 miles (60 in Utah, 69.4 in Colorado, and 49.5 in New Mexico).

As well, I have completed a whopping 70% of the climbs.

Here are some gems from the day’s ride:

You will face giants.  Monstrous giants.  Today I climbed more than any single given day in my riding history, and that includes the day I rode from Lehi to Heber, straight up Provo Canyon.  That day I walked several times. There were several climbs in Oregon and Washington where I walked.  I have been afraid of this day since I figured out that it pretty much had to be in one day, even though I decided that I was “allowed” to do it “backward” (North West instead of South East). But I gave myself permission as well to just complete it.  Walk, crawl, whatever. Just get in and do the work.  I rested when I needed to, and didn’t walk a single hill.  When I exercised my tiny faith, the mountains DID. NOT. MOVE.  I did. Keep moving, and nothing can stop you.

Today was the first day (with under 200 miles left to halfway) that I thought, “I think I can do this!”  At the end of the ride were 14 absolutely glorious downhill miles, and I just got to play for 45 minutes (yes, mom, I’m still careful) while I soared down the beautiful hills of Moab.  But it wasn’t during those miles it first occurred to me. It was during one of the first 3 or 4 climbs (there were several shorter-ish climbs, with 5 real doozies) where at the bottom I thought, okay – just get to that mile marker I can’t read from here, and then I can walk. As soon as I passed the mile marker, I looked up again and thought, nah, I can make it another 30 yards before I walk.  As soon as I passed that spot I only had 20-30 more yards to the top, so I just kept going.  And nothing hurt.  Nothing in me said, “seriously, this is the dumbest thing you have ever thought of trying.”  And then a good downhill and I got to repeat the process on another climb. Even the 5 heartbreaking climbs – while slow – were almost fun.  So… let’s see.   The first (roughly) 163 hours of something are the hardest?  Keep going.  It gets better.

One super fun thing that happened began from a moment of anxiety – as I was coming into Moab, there was a stretch of road construction about a mile and a half long.  The road was narrowed to one lane each way, with no divider, and the construction was cordoned off with orange barrels.  Normally I will ride just inside those orange barrels, but they sat on the edge of roughly a two foot drop into gravel, so there would be no riding on that.  It is also one of the biggest weekends of the year for Jeep enthusiasts who like off-roading, so there were hundreds of “open” Jeeps with groups of fairly rowdy people in them. They’re never threatening to me, but that stretch of construction with the roads so narrowed made me extremely nervous.  The road wasn’t going anywhere, though, so I chose to just keep going, and decided that if I got cars trying to pass me too close I would get off the bike and walk in the construction gravel so as not to get hit.

So I was riding and there were no cars coming toward me from the opposite direction.  A few cars passed on my left.  Then a long line of cars were coming toward me when I was about 1/4 mile into the construction.  I looked behind me and there was an equally (or longer) long line of cars behind me.  So I slowed down to get off the bike, and as I started to slow down, the guys in the Jeep just behind me hit their CB broadcast and said, “Keep going!  We got you!”  Well, I’m going slow enough that wearing seat belts wasn’t really necessary for them anymore, so they were standing up and cheering me on as I rode on this beautiful new asphalt.  When the construction was done (really it was only a delay of about 4-5 minutes for them) they whooped and hollered like I’d just won the Tour de France, and all the subsequent vehicles passing me followed suit.  I felt a little like a celebrity.

I’m going to relax and watch a movie or something.  Will write more later.

Life is good.  Enjoy the ride!

Update – miles, and miles, and miles.

Okay.  So I’ve been more lax than I should have been while I was going to school as far as the blogging piece.  (on the other hand, I know how to run QA tests on the blog, so…)

But I have been riding.

March 31 we drove down to NM and I did 75 miles from Counselor to where we had left off in February, topping 1,600 miles on the route.

Then 4/14 we were up in the Boise area and I managed 35.5 miles of training ride.

Saturday, 5/5 d’Artagnan and I went down to NM again and I rocked out 57 miles in the scorching heat before I had to call it quits.  So I’m 1,657 miles covered on the route, with 248.2 to go between Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.  This weekend d’Artagnan and I are planning to whittle off just under half of the Utah miles remaining – or maybe we’ll do just over half.  Not quite sure yet.

Either way, I am narrowing the gap of miles between where we can drive to (I anticipate 4 more weekend drives) and where we will have to fly to do week-long rides.  If I can do 68 miles a day for 28 days, I can be done in 4 flying trips.  This is quite a journey, you know?

Life is good.

New Mexico, Texas, and Utah

Moab to Green River

Well.  That was fun!

President’s Day week we headed to New Mexico with the plan of riding from where I left off over Thanksgiving weekend near Taiban and going all the way to St. Jo, Texas.

Made it as far as Olton (just past the halfway mark) before the weather turned (without warning, thank you very much!) to crazy cold (18 degrees!) and on the second day of that with no end in sight on the forecast, we decided that rather than sit in the Airbnb for two more days, we would head home.  We took the cold with us, our host tells me, and the sun came out and warmed it right up the following day into the low 60s.  What are you going to do?  You can’t win them all, for sure, and you can only do what seems the wisest choice to make at the time.

However.  I did complete 178 miles of the trip in three days, from a little north of Albuquerque to where I left off, and then from Taiban to Olton, leaving 425 miles between Wellington, UT and the Shell gas station at San Ysidro, NM.

On March 5 I started a QA coding “boot camp” course that is pretty intense.  Just finished my second week of that.  On my way home from class this past Friday I called d’Artagnan and asked if he’d be willing to drive down to Moab yesterday so I could get some “on route” miles in.  (Randy had some school work to do yesterday, so couldn’t make it) He was game, so we headed out early yesterday morning.

Riding in the gym, while I always love it more outside on the road, has helped my ride stamina and patience.  I typically hate climbs.  The 50 miles between Moab and Green River (both in Utah) are pretty mountainous.  The ride had many downhills as well, but I climbed almost 2,000 feet – and 1,000 feet of it was in a 4 mile stretch.  Normally on the big climbs, I will go until I think I can’t go anymore and walk the rest of the way (see post from day one or two in Oregon – or was it Washington??? I can’t remember).  Didn’t get off and walk up a single climb, and some of them were tough.

So now I have completed 1,525 miles on the route.  375 to have half of the miles complete.

OH!  Almost forgot – the time frame has to be adjusted.  Since I will be in a new job, I’m not sure how flexible my time-off schedule is going to be for the first year or so, and the cost of doing the second half of the ride will be prohibitive to doing Saturday rides on route.  I will still post when I do training rides while I’m waiting for the next big chunk of miles, though. 🙂

What I MEANT to say…

When I said life comes at you fast, I had no idea what was just around the bend.

Last week I got laid off from my job at SoFi.  Not gonna lie, it stung. But looking around the room at the 35 other people in my department, I wasn’t the most talented, brilliant person in the room, nor was I the least – it wasn’t about me.  It was strictly business.

But that means that plans change again.

In one week I will be on my way to the next leg of this grand adventure; another 476 miles on the route to Key West in 7 riding days.

Which means lots of quick planning and adjusting of plans.  But ultimately it’s going to be perfect.  Then when I get a new job, I can plan on weekend rides between Wellington, UT and Albuquerque (making up the 405 miles I haven’t done yet through there on Saturdays).

I will miss my friends at SoFi but have no hard feelings for how it was handled, nor where it has taken me.  I will treasure the fun we had.  🙂  See you in a week or so!


Next Stage

Well, life comes at you fast!

Found out Friday I could have Memorial Day week or Labor Day week, but not both. So I did some scrambling and worked out that I would take Good Friday (March 30) and the week after off instead, dropping my prep time from 133 days to 77.

I did get to ride outside in January on Saturday. A quick not-quite-sixteen miles in the gorgeous cool sunshine. Riding in the gym is paying off, though. It was a lot easier to pump out the hills, and even increased my pace going up the hill over my average pace heading down the hill.

Life is good. I’ll be posting more videos sometime this week – d’Artagnan has been editing and adding music so it’s not quite so boring. 🙂

December 2, 2017

Price CanyonSo because I had 520 miles between Albuquerque and the Rest Area I’d stopped previously, Randy and I had discussed how to make those up.  The plan was to ride any day that looked clear enough with not much snow in the previous week or so, throughout the winter.  That is being revised after this ride, since it was super cold and there was ice on the side of the road that made me pretty nervous.  But I did get in 45 miles in Price Canyon, Utah – a stark contrast in terrain from just one week ago.

Seriously, east of Albuquerque is super flat.

Price Canyon is not.  From the Rest Area it is 8.5 miles to Soldier Summit, and it’s all uphill, with anywhere from 3-5% grade.  Then it’s another 8-10 before you hit the downhill.  The downhill is fun, to be sure.  But because I’d had an appointment that morning, I hadn’t started until after noon, so the downhill I was in shade 100% of the way.  At 38 degrees, the fingers were stinging they were so cold.

But the really interesting story is this:

While I was climbing in those first 8 miles, I was focused on the road ahead.  Often I get so intent on “that piece” that I don’t see anything but the white line on the road and the edge of the shoulder, and I’m focused on continuing to move and push rather than how much farther or how steep it looks – or how slow I feel like I’m moving.

This time – and I’ll stress I had been on the bike under an hour – everything hurt.  My hair was complaining that it was being pulled by something in my helmet.  The headwind was pretty harsh, and I was considering packing it in.  A few moments later I was prompted to “Look Up.”

Price Canyon is amazing.  (see pics – not mine – below) Yes, the view was worth it. But I would call the view a fringe benefit.  As soon as I looked up, the pressure on my shoulders and neck relaxed.  My hips shifted ever-so-slightly and allowed the stronger muscles in my thighs to take over the pushing and pulling I have trained for.

Here’s the thing: Life is just exactly that way.  When it’s flat and the wind is at your back, it flies by, and honestly, there is very little interesting to be said about it.  The beauty comes when you’re having to endure to the end up some rough terrain.  Stuff you don’t know if you can do.  And yes, it gets to be hard.  It’s also part of the joy in getting to the top.  It gets easier if you will Look Up.  Look around and see others who have struggled before you.  Look around and see how far you’ve come.  Look up to the Heavens and say a prayer for continued strength.  Look up and let the stress melt away.

Life is beautiful.  Enjoy the ride!

Castle-Gate-UtahFrozen Waterfall

Day after Thanksgiving and Saturday, November 25, 2017

Clines Corners SunriseGot up early in the morning and headed back out to Clines Corners – a truck stop east of Albuquerque, and where I started on Thanksgiving.

It was a lot chillier than the picture above seems to indicate.  I had several layers of clothes on, including two jackets and long pants over my cycling shorts, and it was a couple hours after sunrise that I took the one jacket and the pants off, and not until almost 11AM that I was ready to take off the lighter jacket.

The goal was Fort Sumner, 102 miles southeast of Clines Corners.  The wind for the first 40 miles was coming at me from my right hand side, but it wasn’t terrible.  Then I turned toward the East and the wind picked up to the promised gusts of 25 mph.  In the same direction I was heading.  I tell you what – there is nothing like riding 60 miles with a 25 mph tailwind.  At one point I unclipped my shoes and just coasted because my feet were hurting, and I still maintained 18.5 mph on the super-flat road for almost 10 minutes.  It was entirely pleasant… except that if you come unclipped, all your weight is on your rear end, and you’re not shifting your weight consistently, so the “sits bones” give you a reminder pretty quickly that you’re not meant to be on the bicycle for more than half of the previous 24 hours.  All in all, it was my fastest century (100 mile) ride at just over 6 hours.  Pretty great.

On Saturday we got up early again and headed out to Fort Sumner (who knew that Billie the Kid died and was buried there?  Not me!) with the goal of Olton, TX – 126 miles away (and the halfway mark on the route). At 14 miles in I knew I was in trouble, as every time I took a drink of water I got more and more nauseated.  I stopped and caught my breath at a historical monument, and kept going. At just shy of 20 miles the nausea caught up to me, though, and I texted Randy and had him come get me.  I suspect it was just exhaustion, as by the time we were halfway back to Albuquerque I was feeling some better – though, not nearly well enough to ride again.  So we “checked out” of the Airbnb we had stayed in, and hit the road home at a little after noon local time.  I slept several of the hours on the way home, and we got home just before midnight.

All in all, not too bad.  Not quite 180 miles on the route.  I’m pleased, over all, even though I was 106 miles shy of my goal.