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!

 

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!