Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Day 37

Tuesday - I guess the nice weather had to end sometime.  It was cold and overcast and rained off and on all day, and we had to fight a small head wind. A hot shower and dry clothes never felt so good.  It was nice sitting around a camp fire during the evening, though.

It turns out Illinois has a few corn fields:

Today's route.
Distance: 143.6 km
Elevation: +1949 / -1728 ft

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A Typical Day, Part 2

Some people ride alone, but most of us ride in groups of two or more.  I've been in a group of nine a couple times, but that really is too big.  It's a lot harder for motorists to get around such a large group and you'll probably need to stop more often, since you have a greater likelihood of someone having a problem with their bike, like a flat.  I think groups of three to five are ideal.  For days with lots of climbing it's harder to stay in a group because everyone takes hills at their own speed.

We are given a turn-by-turn direction sheet at the previous night's peloton meeting and all our turns are marked with big yellow C's on the road with an arrow pointing in the direction we need to go.  It's not too hard to stay on the route if you're paying attention, but occasionally riders miss the turn and need to be flagged down.  I don't believe we've had any ride go more than a couple miles off track.

Every 20 km or so we have a SAG (support and gear) stop setup by one or two of the volunteers.  They provide us with cold water, water mixed with electrolytes, fresh fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, and watermelon), a couple chairs to sit on to rest, and, on hot rides, towels soaked in ice water to cool us down.  They really are a great help -- we wouldn't be able to make it through the day without them.

We typically role into camp sometime between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm, depending on the length and difficulty of the ride and how many stops we make along the way.  The kitchen staff usually has a table setup with cold water, lemonade, and ice tea, as well as a few snacks like chips and yogurt.  We typically camp at a school or a park, though occasionally we've stayed somewhere more exotic, like a golf course and a winery.

Day 36

Monday - We started the week with another calm, cool, sunny day.  It was a long ride, but much flatter than last week's rides, which made it much easier.  There was a little confusion about the route, some last minute changes were made, and some cyclists missed some turns, but we all made it into camp eventually.  At the end of our ride, we crossed the great Mississippi River, leaving the rolling hills of Iowa behind and entering the (hopefully) flatter Illinois.

Tonight we're staying at Unity Christian School in Fulton.  They provided a great dinner for us of chicken, pork chops, and corn-on-the-cob, with pie and ice cream for dessert.  There was also a live band performing for us while we ate. It was definitely one of our better dinners.

Today's route.
Distance: 152.4 km
Elevation: +3480 / -3522 ft

Sunday, 28 July 2013

A Typical Day, Part 1

Breakfast usually starts at 6:30 or 7:00 am, but if you show up at the posted time, it's already starting to be cleaned up, so you have to get there early.  There's a bit of a struggle between early risers and late risers as to when breakfast should be, so the time tends to shift depending on which faction is currently the most vocal.  Usually there is hot oatmeal, cereal, a few different kinds of muffins, and some fruit to choose between.  We also need to pack a lunch for the road -- PB&J or tuna sandwiches, a variety of granola bars and cookies, chips, and carrots.  Before leaving camp, we need to get into our cycling clothes, brush our teeth, pack up our tents and sleeping bags, load our stuff into the gear truck, pump up our tires, and fill our water bottles. Most people roll out of camp between 6:30 and 7:30.

Day 35

Sunday - Today was a day for relaxing here in the park, catching up on our email and blogs, cleaning our bikes, and resting our bodies.  We were welcomed to New Life Community Chruch here in Iowa City for a celebration service at 5:30 pm and then headed back to camp where they provided us dinner.

Day 34

Saturday - We had another great day for cycling -- sunny and cool.  I actually had to keep my arm warmers on for most of the ride; I don't think it even reached 20 C.  We had a wind from the northeast, which was great when we were going east, but made it a bit of a struggle when we had to ride north.

Instead of eating breakfast at camp before heading out, we stopped at the CRC in Sully about a quarter of the way through the ride for a hot breakfast, which was delicious.

Today's route.
Distance: 151.3 km
Elevation: +4790 / -4957 ft

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Day 33

Friday - We had a short, pleasant ride into Pella today.  Just past the halfway point we stopped at the CRC in Knoxville for pie and lemonade.  We also officially passed the distance halfway point early in the ride

After arriving in Pella, we took a walk downtown.  I think Pella is more Dutch than Holland.  There were a couple of great bakeries, a Christian book store (note the absence of quotes), and a nice bike shop.  I bought a Dutch letter at the Vander Ploeg bakery which apparently they are famous for (it's an almond pastry, not chocolate), and then we headed down to a local "rehydration station".  It was a bit of a dive, but we met some others from our group there and even collected a couple donations to our cause.

After supper we had an outdoor celebration service put on by the local CRC.  It was a great time of singing and worship.

Today's route.
Distance: 81.6 km
Elevation: +2352 / -2500 ft

Friday, 26 July 2013

Just Do It

Day 32

Thursday - The members of the local United Church visited our camp again this morning to serve us a hot breakfast of biscuits with gravy, french toast, and eggs.  Altogether, I believe the church raised over $1000 from us.

We had another great day for riding -- sunny and cool.  There were a lot of rolling hills again, but it was probably a little flatter than yesterday.

For dessert tonight we had DQ ice cream cake to celebrate one of the rider's thirtieth birthday.

Distance: 118.9 km
Elevation: +3357 / -3528 ft

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Day 31

Wednesday - Today was a beautiful day for riding.  We had only a mild cross wind, and it was sunny but cool all day.  It was a challenging ride, though, with large rolling hills the whole way.  I thought Iowa was supposed to be flat, but Southern Ontario is definitely flatter than what we've been riding through.  Still, with the beautiful weather and landscapes, most of the riders enjoyed themselves today.

Along the way I met up with Marc and Rachel in a donut shop.  A local approached us while we were having a donut and coffee to ask what we were doing.  After we explained that we were riding across the continent to raise money to fight poverty, she gave us four dollars.  We definitely attract attention whenever we stop along our ride and are often asked what we're doing.

After dinner, the members of the United Church here in Diagonal offered us pie and ice cream as a fund raiser for their church.  I had a piece of pecan pie along with two scoops of home-made ice cream covered in chocolate sauce and nuts.  It was delicious!

We started riding June 24th and will finish riding August 24th, so today, July 24th, is the middle day of our tour.  Since we didn't ride for a few days in Arizona, we won't be reaching the halfway point in terms of distance until Friday, I believe.

Today's route.
Distance: 136 km
Elevation: +3528 / -3806 ft

Day 30

Tuesday - We had an abrupt awakening this morning just before 6:00 am.  A storm was coming and our tents were blowing over.  We had to rush to take them down and find shelter inside one of the buildings on the camp ground to wait for the storm to pass.  We headed out after it had died down around 8:00 am into a head wind and drizzle and what was looking like a hard, miserable day.  Thankfully, the wind died down and changed direction so we had a cross wind instead of a head wind and the sun eventually came out, so it ended up being a very nice ride.  We crossed the Missouri River into Iowa.

We're camping in a state park tonight.  Marc, Rachel, and I went for a nature walk for a couple hours.  We came across a couple overlooks with spectacular views and took photos of some of the wild life.


After our peloton meeting a number of us headed back to the overlook to watch the sunset.

Today's route.
Distance: 111.9 km
Elevation: +3528 / -3806 ft

Day 29

Monday - We had a short ride today, so my group left camp a little late and stopped in the town of Beatrice (emphasis on second syllable, not the first) at the halfway point for coffee and donuts.  There was a copy of the Beatrice Daily Sun there and it turns out we made the front page!

Today's route.
Distance: 84 km
Elevation: +1848 / -1751 ft

Monday, 22 July 2013

Day 28

Sunday - Although Fairbury is a small, dying town, it certainly gets a lot of train traffic -- about three or four roll through an hour on average.  Since the tracks go through the city park, sleeping has been "interesting".

Today we were hosted by the First United Presbyterian Church, and they were amazing!  The amount of food was unbelievable.  Originally they had agreed to host us for lunch if we paid for the food, then they asked we only pay for the meat.  When Phil, who handles the money for the tour, asked them who to pay, they told him not to bother.  They even gave us all the left-overs for our supper.  The pastor preached a special sermon related to our tour on the valley of bones story from Ezekiel.  Although wind can be a cyclist's greatest enemy, the same wind that gave breath and power to the bones works though us accomplish God's work, that is the Holy Spirit.

Every Sunday we clear out and hose down the gear truck.  My sweep team was responsible for helping this week.

Day 27

Saturday - Although today was a shorter ride than yesterday, we had to fight a head wind the whole way, which made it a long, tiring ride.  About three quarters of the way I came close to bonking (cyclist term for hitting the wall).  My legs hurt, my back hurt, my knees hurt, and I felt completely spent.  After some urgent prayer, a rest at a SAG stop, and some food, I started feeling better and was able to complete the ride.  I was riding with Marc and Rachel who graciously slowed down for me and allowed me to draft off of them.

This weekend we are staying at the city park in Fairbury, Nebraska.  It was a little eirie walking around the downtown because it was so empty and lifeless, particularly for the middle of a Saturday afternoon.  If felt like walking through a ghost town.  However, we found a nice Mexican restaurant, and a bowling alley where about thirty of us went for bowling and beer after supper.  It was a great way to unwind after a long, tiring week.

Today's route.
Distance: 122.1 km
Elevation: +3074 / -3470 ft

Day 26

Friday - We completed another century today.  It was certainly a long ride, but the wind died down for us, so it wasn't too bad.  Along the way, we were invited to Prairie Dog Presbyterian Church for baked goods, juice, and coffee.  They even had a sign for us welcoming us to the town of Prairie Dog.  We were also given a free ice cream cone at the Jiffy Burger in Smith Center, provided by a relative of one of the cyclists.

Not long after I got into camp, we were hit by a sudden thunderstorm.  A few tents were blown over or filled with water and many of the cyclists who hadn't come into camp yet got drenched.  I had just finished putting the fly on my tent when the storm hit, so all my stuff stayed dry, thankfully.  The nearby community center was graciously opened up to us for anyone who's camping gear was too wet to sleep in.  There was also a "Christian book store" just a block away where a bunch of us went for a "Bible study".

Today's route.
Distance: 160.8 km
Elevation: +3805 / -4473 ft

Day 25

Thursday - Our path shifted to the northeast, so we got a little bit of tail wind, which made for a great ride.  Every time the road curved to the left, I got excited and started biking faster.  Every time it curved to the left, I groaned and had to start fighting the wind again.  A couple times during the ride we had the wind directly behind us and we just flew -- that's the way cycling should always be!

For some reason, there always seems to be a line-up for the porta-potty at the first SAG stop:

Today's route.
Distance: 116.1 km
Elevation: +1009 / -1754 ft
Average Speed: 32.2 km/h

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Day 24

Wednesday - The cross wind persisted, but it didn't feel quite as powerful and we didn't have as many hills to climb, so we had a much easier ride today.  We've crossed from Colorado into Kansas and have changed time zones again.  I'm now only an hour behind Ontario time.

Today's route.
Distance: 108.9 km
Elevation: +521 / -1544 ft
Average speed: 26.9 km/h

Like a Boss

Day 23

Tuesday - We had much nicer weather today, but it was a hard ride.  The first half was spent on the interstate, dodging tire debris and fixing flats.  The second half was spent climbing and descending one hill after another -- up and down, up and down, up and down.  On top of that, we had to fight a strong, gusting cross wind the whole way.  The wind made our descents feel like level ground, level ground like climbs, and climbs felt twice as high.  The Sea to Sea website says we only climbed 1251 feet today, but I'm sure we must have done twice that.  I don't think all those hills were incorporated into that number properly.  According to some of the riders who rode in 2008, these kinds of rides will be the norm for the next few weeks.  I already miss the mountains.

Not a mountain anywhere in sight:

Today's route.
Distance: 125.5 km
Elevation: ??

My computer wasn't working this morning, so I don't know my average speed (and I don't think I want to).

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Day 22

Monday - We had our first cold, wet ride today.  It started raining soon after we left and remained drizzly, foggy, and cold for most of the morning.  About two-thirds of the way through the ride, we stopped at a cafe to warm up with coffee and a second breakfast.  The owner had to call in extra help because all of us riders completely overwhelmed her.  Shortly after we resumed our ride, the sun came out and the rest of the day turned out pretty nice, though still a little cool.

This may sound odd, but it seems strange to me tonight to look around the horizon and not see any mountains.  We've definitely left the Rocky's behind and have entered the American plains.

Today's route.
Distance: 120.4 km
Elevation: +2192 / -3132 ft
Average speed: 28.6 km/h

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Day 21

Sunday - It was good to have a day off.  We had a pretty hard week and my body needed a break to recover.  It looks like next week will be pretty challenging, too.  We may be leaving the mountains, but we'll be riding over a lot of rolling hills and every ride is over 100 km with another American century on Friday.

We worshiped this morning at the CRC here in Colorado Springs.  They invited us to participate in holy communion with them, which is the first time on this tour we've had that opportunity.  They did it a little differently than I'm used too -- instead of individual cups, they passed around a larger cup of grape juice which we dipped our piece of bread into and immediately consumed.  They also provided us a great lunch of sloppy joes with lots of desserts.

Sadly, one of the riders fell and broke her leg on the ride yesterday.  She's doing alright, but, obviously, won't be able to continue the ride.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Day 20

Saturday - We finished the week with a shorter ride, though it wasn't really any easier than previous days with a lot of rolling hills.  However, a number of the really strong cyclists finished the ride early so they could ride up Pikes Peak, which is over 14000 feet above sea level, 8400 feet over Colorado Springs.  They endured rain, hail, thunder and lightning, freezing cold, exhaustion, and elevation sickness, but five guys made it to the top including Marc and Joel, who I've ridden with and played euchre with (see photo from Day 12).  They each had a donut at the donut shop at the peak, but needed to hitch a ride down the mountain with two other cyclists who had driven up because the road was too slippery and unsafe to ride down.  Here's the picture I took of Pikes Peak at about the time they were reaching the top.  You can just barely see a funnel cloud that had formed just to the left of the peak.

We've now finished one third of the ride.  I've had a great time and met lots of great people and am looking forward to seeing more of this great and diverse continent.  Unfortunately, several riders have left the tour today since they were only joining us for the first three weeks, including my riding and euchre buddies Joel and Christy.  I rode almost every day with Shannon and Christy. Shannon lives in Kitchener and we met up a number of times before the tour for training rides.  Shannon and Christy were roommates the opening weekend in Vanguard University and became instant BFFs.  We often rode with others as well, but they tended to be much stronger riders, or weaker riders, so as often as not, we just rode with the three of us.  Christy was fun and very out-going and a blast to ride with (even though she often made us stop for coffee and/or donuts), and she will be missed.

Today's route.
Distance: 80.4 km
Elevation: +3311 / -2345 ft
Average speed: 22.7 km/h

Day 19

Friday - We had an amazing ride today!  We followed the Arkansas River down the mountain, riding through canyons where at times it was just the river, the road, and the railroad enclosed by canyon walls over 100 metres tall.  I thought this picture turned out quite well considering that I took it one-handed while cycling, but neither words nor pictures can really do it justice.

We started the day just outside Salida and my group took a detour through their beautiful downtown.  We stopped at a cafe for coffee and pastries and then rode a nice path along the river where people could stop to go swimming or tubing down the river.

Today's route.
Distance: 103.7 km
Elevation: +1975 / -4115 ft
Average speed: 29.3 km/h

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Day 18

Thursday - We had a really nice ride today.  We're in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains and spent the day riding straight across to the other side.  I don't think the road we rode down deviated by even a degree to the left or right toward the pass at the other end.  This is basically what we looked at for the first two-thirds of the trip.

We then went through a pass of about 1500 ft, not nearly as difficult as yesterday's.  The climb was pretty gradual, but the descent on the other side was pretty rapid which was an absolute blast!  I reached 73.9 km/h, which is a new record for me, but I'm a little disappointed now that I didn't hit a higher speed.  A number of riders surpassed 80 km/h!

At the bottom of the hill was a great little pub that served two dollar beers.  A large number of us congregated there to compare stories about the descent.  Sadly, after leaving, I had my first fall.  As soon as I put my foot in the pedal it clipped in (it usually takes me a few seconds to clip in) and I was still in my highest gear from the descent, so I couldn't turn the pedals.  Unfortunately, because it happened just after we left the pub, people started claiming I couldn't hold my alcohol, but I had only had one beer (remember, this is American beer we're talking about).  The only thing damaged was my pride.

The long rides we've been having are starting to take their toll.  My legs are sore and my butt feels bruised from sitting on a hard saddle for so long.  Thankfully, the next couple days should be a little easier and then I'll have Sunday off.

Today's route.
Distance: 128.9 km
Elevation: +1799 / -1894 ft
Average Speed: 26.9 km/h

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Day 17

Wednesday - Today we left New Mexico and climbed up through a pass into Colorado.  We had to do about 3000 feet of climbing over about 30 km to reach the summit, which was a real challenge, but the views were spectacular and the ride down the other side was exhilarating.

Distance: 124.7 km
Elevation: +3532 / -3756 ft
Average Speed: 25.6 km/h

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Day 16

Tuesday - Today was a challenging ride.  It was one of the longest rides at 140 km on a narrow two lane highway with lots of big hills and annoyed truckers.  In total we did almost 6000 feet of climbing.  To make it worse, I started the day with a flat tire and ended up wasting even more time looking for my sun glasses before leaving camp.  My group didn't get into camp until after 4:00 pm which is probably the latest we've ever been.  Still, I'm feeling good and with a good night's rest I'll be reading for more climbing tomorrow.


Distance: 142.7 km
Elevation: +5884 / -3784 ft
Average Speed: 22.3 km/h

Day 15

Monday - Because of fires in Colorado, we've had to take an alternate route for a few days, remaining in New Mexico a little longer before going north again into Colorado.  Today was a pretty easy day -- only 90 km, so my group stopped at a cafe about halfway for a second breakfast.

Tonight we're staying at a Winery which provided tours for us during the afternoon.

Of course, alcohol isn't allowed in camp so I had to pour that glass back into the tank.

Today's route.
Distance: 88.7 km
Elevation: +2923 / -2170

Day 14

Sunday - This morning we worshiped at Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Shiprock, New Mexico, who are our hosts for the weekend.  At one point during the service, most of the local congregation went up to the front of the church to sing some hymns for us in their native Navajo.  After the service they served us Navajo tacos, which consists of standard taco filling on top of flat bread that they baked just before the service and is eaten with a fork and knife.

In the afternoon, a few groups of us were shuttled to the nearby Four Corners Monument at the intersection between four states -- Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.  It was a fun little diversion, but it was pretty hot out and there isn't much to do there, so we didn't stay very long.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Day 13

Saturday - I completed my first American century -- 100 miles (160 km)!  When we rolled into camp, the American in our group said we were only at 99 miles, so we circled around on some nearby streets to reach 100.  I also set a new personal speed record during the ride: 73 km/h!

Just before we left this morning, Al, the tour manager, announced that yesterday's storm had washed out the road we were going to take so the ride had to be cancelled.  After he consulted with a local and with a state trooper, it was decided we could proceed with the ride.  Part of the highway was gone, but we were able to walk our bikes across the part that was still there.

After dinner, a group of us thirty-somethings (see picture in previous post) skipped the evening meeting (I hope none of the tour organizers are reading this) and got a ride into Farmington to find a place that serves pie to celebrate Rachel's birthday.  Although, they didn't have strawberry pie, which is her traditional birthday treat, we all had a piece of pie and sang happy birthday to her as the waitress came out with her strawberry cheesecake with a lit candle

Today's route.
Distance: 162.1 km
Elevation: +2541 / -4197 ft

Friday, 5 July 2013

Day 12

Friday - We are now passing through native (first nation) territory.  Last night we stayed in Zuni, a tribe of about 10000 who all live in town.  We stayed at the CRC mission school and was given a brief tour of the town by the principal.  It almost felt like entering a third world country.  She explained that the Zuni are concerned about preserving their traditions and resist development, which means those who do receive an education need to leave the reservation to use the skills and knowledge they have gained.  The Zuni used to do a lot of farming, but now the only industry they have is tourism and craft making.

Tonight we're staying at Rehoboth Christian School, another CRC mission.  A bus took us into Gallop where we witnessed a native ceremonial dance which they do every night through the summer.

Here is the group I rode with today:

Top row: Joel, Marc
Bottom row: me, Adam, Shannon, Christy, Rachel

Today's route.
Distance: 68.6 km
Elevation: +2448 / -2205 ft