Thursday, September 20, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
I originally thought I'd never want to take another long ride; but now, I wonder.
I loved the experience. I saw a lot: the scenery and wonderful people I have already mentioned many times. I saw mother-daughter anoerexics and an elk skeleton in a roadside ditch, roadkill you don't see every day in Ohio. And I saw enough stars out west to remind me why they call it the "Milky Way."
I went to a barbershop in Tillamook, Oregon and saw last year's hair scattered across the floor. The barber looked somewhat the worse for wear, as well, but the haircut was $7 and I was anxious to get cleaned up before I boarded a plane the next day. There was a solitary customer waiting: an eccentric old man with thick goo in his hair and red paint down his nose and all across his chin. Trapped in my chair, and trapped by my habit of being polite, I listened with some interest to his rambling discourse. He explained that "friends," a group of teenage girls he had visited, had "done" his hair and painted his face.
He added that he had also run afoul of the police recently when neighbors complained he was talking to their cow. I suppose I could have "mooed" to show I was listening.
On this trip I smelled the oceans and the fresh cut alfalfa and lumber trucks with enough cedar logs to scatter moths across the continent. I smelled bacon and eggs in the mornings and ate like a cholesterol addict, and still lost weight!
I saw radial tire debris everywhere and dodged it constantly but not always with success. Pieces of exploded truck tire speared my tires at least five times and left me pumping up new tubes and cursing my fates. I cursed a lot less on my trip, though. I learned to relax a little and focus on elemental matters. Getting from point A to point B. When could I stop to eat? How much water was left? How many miles to go? When should I take my next sip?
I learned not to look up hill too far and just keep pedalling.
It was a metaphor for aging, I think.
I could wax poetic praising my new tire pump. I could describe nesting eagles in Oregon and forests in Colorado dying from beatle infestation. Often I felt like God was protecting me. But I would immediately have my doubts. One day I heard that a major bridge on I-35 in Minnesota collapsed; and God did not choose to protect the people there, who deserved protection as much or more than I.
I met a hippie biker who liked to get high whenever he rode. "There's nothing better," he explained, "than coming downhill when you're baked."
I worried about bad drivers--who might be "baked," or drunk, or hate bicyclers and who might want to drill me. Sometimes, when I stopped to rest, or eat, or pee, I wondered: could I cheat fate in this simple manner?
Could I, by stopping one moment and not another, avoid my fate--and let some sleepy driver pass who might have swerved and hit me? Could I alter my destiny? Perhaps, while I looked for a spot to "go" a drunk passed on--to kill someone else less lucky. I read that one of the victims of the bridge collapse was a nurse. She had been born in Somalia and fled that wartorn land to begin anew in America. She was riding with her two-year-old daughter when the structure collapsed suddenly around her.
What were the changes? Escaping war and dying amid the wreckage of a falling bridge on the far side of the world.
Then again, I know even at conception there are a thousand sperm racing for a single egg. If the wrong one gets there faster and penetrates the egg before "our" sperm arrives then none of us are "us" and we are someone different due for different fates and different bridges and different stops along the road. But in every case the last exit is the same and the sign we see read: DEATH. 1 MILE.
So I recommend we all enjoy the trip. Whether the smells we pick out are a whiff of a campground porta-potty or the perfume of a red-headed waitress, or burning rubber on pavement, or mountain flowers, take them in.
I saw a girl of six in a purple cowboy hat in Yellowstone. It was something I had never seen and I meant to take her picture. But she and her family headed down a different walk and I missed the chance.
I hope the girl in the purple hat travels to a happy end.
I had fun on my trip and recommend a similar journey to anyone so inclined. Several people have called me a "hero" and many seem impressed. I think all of them could do what I did, too
--but they don't yet know they can. I hope they make the trip, or some trip like it, before they're done.
One day, while I was gone, I called all four of my children on my cellphone. All said they were happy in life and I am pleased with how each has turned out. I like them all. Abby, 28, wants a copy of Herodotus for Christmas and I will oblige. Seth, 27, shares an enthusiasm for the Bengals and we lost our voices at the season-opener against the Ravens. Sarah, 20, is starting her junior year at Ohio State, and I rely on her to steer a mature course. Emily took her first job while I was away and got up early to train for cross-country.
Whatever fate awaits me, I have been lucky along the way. If I died right now, I would say my luck has held. The trip is the thing and I have been able to steer my own path.
One day, I took a side road and happened to meet my future wife. I could have turned the other way in that Hyde Park bar. I could have spent too long in the bathroom and not chanced to talk to Anne. I could have stayed home entirely and graded papers instead of going out.
Fate could have frowned and I might not have met her in ten million years.
That would have been the worst fate of all.
Friday, August 24, 2007
I would like to thank my brothers, Ned (r) and Tim (l) for their help. Ned dropped me off at the Atlantic shore. Tim followed my last two days in Oregon and got me to the airport in Portland so I could get home.
Both donated to JDRF and provided moral support.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Anyone interested in donating can make out a check to JDRF. Send donations to:
John J. Viall
750 Woodbine Avenue
Glendale, Ohio 45246
I keep a total and send them in afterwards. As of now I am approaching $13,000.
I am proud of having finished my ride. I am MUCH prouder of Emily and how she handles her disease. Her mother and I and her sisters and brother hope to see a cure for this illness in her lifetime.
Thanks to all who supported us. My most lasting impression is not the scenery--but the beauty of the human spirit. I could not have met more good people nor have been treated with more consideration.
As for the few drivers who shouted and called me "a......" and the like: get some creativity into
your rantings. How come such people never spout Cartesian logic when harassing bikers? "I think, therefore, I am." and the like.
That would be impressive.
My wife need no longer worry, because I have promised not to take another ride like this as long as she lives.
Then again...maybe I can take up whitewater rafting.
Gene Myers and I split up and went our separate ways August 11 and I hope he is soon finished and thrilled as I am today. I believe he will take great pride in having completed his route, just as any of us spandex-clad fanatics do.
As for me, I decided to cut back south into Oregon and save time. So I headed for Walla Walla, a pretty, prosperous college town. Then I pushed on to Umatilla across the wheat fields of eastern Washington. I saw a lot of local riders and enjoyed talking with them all. You don't find many depressed, negative people on bicycles. As always, I got good directions and was able to locate a bike shop where I could stock up on spare tubes.
And cursed be the gods--I racked up eight flats in a three-day period!
On August 12 I headed straight down the Columbia River Gorge, despite warnings that winds in the area come "howling" up the river. But it was the straightest route to the coast and I wanted to get home. By that point, 51 days into my ride, the only scenery I wanted to see was my wife.
Sure enough the winds blasted me all day and I averaged nine miles per hour and spent nine hours cursing into the gale. I camped free again on Army Corps of Engineers land near John Day Dam. Stars were out in full and the breeze continued till morning, lulling me to sleep.
The next day I was planning to swing south out of the Gorge and out of the wind--then heard the weather report on the radio. There would be, said the announcer, no real wind that day. So I kept going, down the Columbia, and was rewarded with spectacular scenery. Sometimes I rode along I-84. But there are large sections of Old Route 30 paralleling the modern road and 30, built around 1916, has great tunnels, challenging climbs, fantastic views, hairpin turns and drop-offs. Rowena Crest requires a climb of several miles but views are worth every drop of sweat. Crown Point, which I reached the next day, also requires a climb of many miles and provides a view to reward the effort in reaching the top--which is crowned with a wonderful visitor's rotunda. I talked to a variety of local riders and touted the joys of a trip coast-to-coast like a missionary. I also had an enjoyable conversation with Rabbi Deborah Schloss and her husband, who were kind in their comments about my ride and my desire to raise money for JDRF.
I should also mention the help provided by my brother Tim. The last two days he trailed me or got out ahead and took pictures and helped finalize details of my plane ride home. Last night we stayed in Forest Hills, Oregon, on Route 8. Then I got up early and rode the last sixty miles, through rich, rolling farm land and heavy forest, across the Coastal Range on Route 6, into Tillamook.
Suddenly, I was out of the last mountains and could smell the ocean--or--the cow manure. Tillamook is the heart of the Oregon cheese country. So there are a lot of cows. And a lot of cow waste. And a lot of cow odors.
Unfortunately, the town also sits a mile inland. So that meant riding three miles north to Bay City before I could dip my wheels in the Pacific.
And that, suddenly, was that. The ride was ended.
I said I could cross the United States and I did it.
One of my good friends asked before I started, "Why would you even WANT TO?" Others recommended I carry a gun. My wife feared I would be robbed. Almost everyone agreed going solo was a poor choice. If a car nailed me and I went flying into the woods--who would find me??
Well--how about bears? I can now say (since I am done and my wife need not worry) that when I was in Yellowstone I camped in unauthorized territory. I began looking for lodgings around 2 p.m. but camp sites and hotel rooms were booked. It was raining and cold. So I flaunted rules and pitched my tent a 100 yards from the road in a thick grove of pines. I knew I might be in bear country. So I bagged my food and toiletries and hung them in a tree. Then I lay me down to sleep. Round 10 p.m. some small creature of the woods skittered past my tent and startled me awake. Like a pioneer I soon fell back to sleep.
About midnight, however, a LARGE creature could be heard snuffing outside my front door.
I grabbed my pepper spray (which I carried to ward off human pests) and clicked the red button to "fire." I also gripped my bicycle helmet like a frying pan and prepared to wack at any claws that came ripping through my tent. I waved my flashlight about, inside the canvas, but thought better about opening the flap and antagonizing my visitor. Daniel Boone would have handled it differently, perhaps.
But I'm a sissy.
The beast soon wandered away and after overcoming my nerves I eventually went back to sleep. The next morning I found "scat" three feet from my tent. I have described this animal poop to several knowledgeable individuals and have consulted books about animals, their habits, footprints and bowel movements. Elk and deer leave pellets when they answer nature's call. And what I saw certainly wasn't pellets. Then again, elk don't always leave pellets in the summer. So it could have been an elk. Or it could have been a bear.
If it was a bear I'm glad he was a peace-loving, or even a vegan bear. And if I had looked out and seen a bear three feet from my tent I KNOW who would have been defecating in the woods!
So the bad drivers in big SUV's didn't get me.
And God's woodland creatures didn't get me, either.
Now I am happy to fly home to my family. I feel lucky and give thanks to Anne for allowing me to have my adventure and for being my steady companion and friend and fantastic mother all these years.
I also thank the many contributors to JDRF. It has meant a great deal to our family to have such support.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Now we are going to DO IT.
Well...I guess that depends...Gene had three flats in two days. I did my part by racking up FOUR.
Since last updating I decided I had seen ENOUGH beautiful country. So I hopped on the Interstate in Montana and rode I-90 for a day-and-a-half to pick up speed. On August 6, with a strong tailwind, I managed 120 miles, from Butte to Missoula. There were several large forest fires burning across the state at the time. So everything was masked in a gray haze. But still no trouble riding.
I think at this point my strength and endurance are excellent.
The next day I left Missoula and pedaled south to Lolo, then took the road to Lolo Hot Springs, up over Lolo Pass. I was worried about this stretch because I knew Lewis and Clark had trouble in the area when they crossed in 1804. The Pass, however, was not bad at all. It was a gradual uphill for thirty miles and then a good climb of four miles to the summit. Then it was downhill to Powell Junction, where I ran into Gene and stopped early for the day. Gene and I killed part of the evening at a campground lodge playing checkers. Neither one of us remembered the rules and I was almost sure you could jump your own men. Using this novel approach, I beat Gene soundly, until another camper set us straight.
On August 8 we rode down the Lochsa River, which carries a "wild and scenic" designation. It was fabulous. And the bonus: from Powell Junction to Kooskia, where we stayed that evening, it was 93 miles downhill! We enjoyed a swim in the clear, cold waters and this proved to be a great day.
It was fun to ride with someone else who could appreciate the joys and difficulties of this undertaking. Gene has been riding with a variety of people, himself. For a long time he paired up with Laura "Big Red" Santiago. Laura (who I met briefly when we all stopped at the same place for a meal) joked that her diet on the trip consisted of "lard, sugar and alcohol." Margaritas, she freely acknowledges, are her weakness. But she HAS ridden from North Carolina and you have to credit a woman in her 40s for the determination to even make the attempt.
As evening approached, Gene and I found a comfortable camping spot at the Kooskia City Park. The grass was soft and lush. The Middle Fork of the Clearwater River ran alongside. Our tents went up easily and soon we were asleep, dreaming of....what the....I awakened all too suddenly....it seemed to be raining!! Gene could be heard rummaging around with his gear, cursing softly.
It was clear sky when we went to bed. What the heck?
Suddenly a HUGE blast of water hit my tent. A downpour seemed to be beginning.
(Fill in the bad words here if you know me.)
I unzipped my tent flap and suddenly realized the park sprinklers were pumping away feet from my camping spot. Gene and I did some quick dancing in the rain and moved our tents, bikes and equipment to a new, drier location.
After hooking up with Gene I changed course so I could ride with him. We took Route 12 across the Nez Perce Reservation and fought our way against headwind to Lewiston, Idaho. Yesterday we got off to a late start, both fixing flats before we began, and I fixing a second inside of five miles. By the time we hit Lewiston we had dropped to around 500 feet above sea level. And then we paid the price for our easy ride the day before. We climbed back to 2785 feet at Alpowa Pass, just a few miles inside the Washington border. But what made this a killer was the wind. The Pass served as a giant wind tunnel and we got knocked back most of the way by 30-45 mph blasts. In places the wind almost stopped our forward progress entirely. It was the two hardest hours of riding I've experienced in the entire trip.
Fortunately, we recovered in Pomeroy at the Sagebrush Cafe. The food was fine and the "Brownie Delight" made the labors of the morning all worthwhile.
Last night, after 75 tough miles, Gene and I camped near Dayton, Washington, still on Route 12. This morning he took Route 124 toward Seattle and I followed 12 south, aiming for Portland. Gene was a humble, soft-spoken man and a pleasure to ride beside.
Monday, August 6, 2007
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Unfortunately, Katie let her enthusiasm carry her away and she revealed to me (and TO HER PARENTS) her secret for reading late at night: shoving a blanket in the crack under her door. Now Mr. and Mrs. Garcia will be checking regularly.
Phillip said he had seen a bear at Yellowstone while the family was there--but no one else was sure. Jessica was funny, too, and obviously a bright young lady. Bob should be happy every birthday. He has a fine family.
The next morning I took a picture of the Garcia's before I left. Dr. Rose and Sabrina were not yet in sight. Dr. Rose then arose (bad pun) and wished me luck. Last I heard as I cycled away, headed for Yellowstone, everyone was teasing Sabrina for sleeping late. She responded in an animated tone, "I'm not sleeping, I'm cleaning up the tent."
I spent part of the morning enjoying the scenery at Lake Jenny. Then I rode into Yellowstone, crossing the Continental Divide twice, requiring serious climbing. I stopped at one stream and discovered a beautiful waterfall just off the road.
A lot of young people were swimming there; some in bikinis.
My wife reads this blog...so I shall pass on to another subject...
I spent two days in the park, watching Old Faithful, taking pictures of geysers, the usual tourist agenda. As I was leaving by the west exit on August 3 I saw my first buffalo. So did a hundred cars filled with other travelers. We stopped to gawk and take photos. That bull was photographed like Paris Hilton on release from prison. There's one big difference though: the buffalo was probably smarter.
I pedaled out of the park and into West Yellowstone about 6:00 p.m. that night. I tried to find a motel room after three days camping (one night in the woods near Grant Village, which I settled on when all regular campgrounds were full). No deal: except one place which offered accomodations for $129 per night!
I'd rather be eaten by a bear.
So I began asking around--and ran into a bicycler, Doug Toctropf, who had ridden south from Glacier National Park. He was talking to a local man, Bill (I failed to get his last name). Doug and I discussed options...and Bill explained that he had a piece of wooded land five miles north of town. Said we could camp there. Then he thought a minute and offered beds at his house. "My boys are with their mother. You can have their rooms," he explained. Then he added, "I'm not much of a housekeeper. So it's one step above a frat house."
Still: that's three steps above a tent.
So we took him up on the offer. Bill isn't a cleaner--but he was fun to talk to and a philosopher. He and I shared notes on divorce and how it affects kids. He filled me in on local environmental issues.
Doug trims trees for a living in Virginia and loves climbing. He has a tatoo of a chainsaw blade on one bicep. Doug is a hippie trapped in the wrong decade. He once spent a year hitching round the country. Then he got picked up by a recently-released convict headed north to see his girlfriend and enter rehab. Unfortunately, the ex-con had the brilliant idea of stealing a car to make the journey. A police chase ensued. The car spun out and rolled. Doug rolled with it but suffered only minor scratches and decided to end his career on the road.
Doug and Bill were a pleasure to talk to. And if Bill reads this: good luck with the two boys, 12 and 14. He is committed to being part of their lives.
His license plate reads: TWO CUBS. It reminds him of the boys.
The last two days have taken me north. I passed Earthquake Lake on Route 287. It was created by a landslide of 80,000 tons of rock in 1959, triggered by the fourth strongest quake ever to hit the United States. I stopped to eat lunch at Cabin Creek Cafe and mentioned to the waitress I was riding to raise money for JDRF. She smiled and asked with a hint of hesitation, "Can I contribute?" Almost before I could say "yes" she was off to find her purse. She returned with $20, half hers, half from another waitress.
The gift was so spontaneous I was touched almost to tears.
Once more I camped that night in my own "roadside campground." That is: I found a good patch of trees along the North Meadow Creek, seven miles north of Ennis, Montana. So I slumbered peacefully to the sounds of the bubbling brook.
Today I rode north on 287 and 359, through gorgeous country. Twice I had to climb three miles or more. I hit Interstate 90 and rode west for fifty miles. I had to climb eight tough miles to get to Butte. But in Butte I am.
I've completed 3,300 miles. Only 900 to go.
I have loved the last few days for the scenery and the wonderful people I have met. One night I ate dinner in Dubois, Wyoming with Judy and Ron Hartwigsen and their grandchildren, Dan and Beth. Beth has been diabetic for three years, as I mentioned when I posted her picture, but she is a top student and her grandmother calls her "a warrior" because of her attitude in handling her disease. Dan is an avid reader and had interesting takes on many different issues.
Ron retires occasionally. Then he starts a new business and off to work he goes again. A fine family--and they paid for my dinner. Then they sent a present to my motel room. As always, any money I save goes to the JDRF fund.
The next day I rode over Togwhatee Pass and down into Grand Teton National Park. Just at the top of the pass was a beautiful lake and I spent an hour relaxing there. I also enjoyed a stretch of 17 miles down from the pass, requiring almost NO pedaling.
Grand Teton was beautiful; but in the afternoon it rained. I camped in the park and had the good fortune to share a bear box with the people in the next site. Bob Garcia invited me to share a steak and a meal with his family and it turned into two hours of absolute enjoyment. He was celebrating his 45th birthday and got spanked pretty good. Bob and wife Teresa have three children, Katie, 12, Jessica, 9, and Phillip, 6. They were accompanied by Teresa's sister, Dr. Lydia Rose and her daughter Sabrina, 10.
All were hysterical to talk to. Sabrina noted that it makes her mad to be shorter than her cousin, a year younger than her. Then she added, "I'm the second shortest fifth grader in my school. And the shortest kid has a genetic problem and can't grow any bigger!" Jessica is kind, however and doesn't rub the size matter in. Phillip handles life with all the girls with aplomb and you could NOT find a nicer family.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Strangers continue to be generous and kind. At the Buena Vista visitors center a woman gave $10 for JDRF. Then the ladies who worked there sent me to the Chafee County newspaper office and they wrote up a brief story about my trip.
When people see my picture circulation will double! (Or maybe not.)
The next day I dawdled before getting going. I tend to eat gigantic breakfasts and read the paper instead of getting out and riding. I followed Route 24 to the point where it strikes Interstate 70. Then I took a bike trail for several miles, meeting three teachers out for a ride. They were out in Colorado for a conference on teaching environmental issues throughout the curriculum. All three were friendly and I rode along slowly, happy to have someone to converse with. Robert, 39, and his wife are expecting their third child. Etna has worked in the private sector, usually for food/chemical companies but got tired of it and tried teaching--and loved her first year. Margaret was a third-year teacher from West Virginia. All seemed dedicated and we made an interesting quartet: one African-American (Robert), one Hispanic (Etna), one white woman (Margaret), and one geezer.
That would be me.
Rain stopped me that day. So I holed up in a motel. Since then I have been rolling. I rode 103 miles on July 28 ending up at Walden. Part of the route was gorgeous, following the Blue River. Then I hit a stretch of 62 miles with no stores--and made the mistake of carrying only two full water bottles.
I treated myself to a terrific prime rib dinner at the River Rock Cafe. Then I camped out in the city park.
The next day I did 97 miles and camped beside the North Platte River. I still haven't seen anyone going the same direction as me. But I met Robin Geary, a teacher from San Francisco, out for a 990 mile ride. Like me, she was going solo. She says her parents don't like it. So her brother suggested she tell them she was riding with "Bob and Ed," two "guys" she "met" along the way. We both laughed at that idea. I've been tempted to tell my wife the same thing.
Yesterday and this morning were a challenge. I had to cover the distance from Rawlins to Lander--about 130 miles--with some care. To sum up the terrain I can do no better than to quote a traveler on the Oregon Trail who passed the same way: "These everlasting hills have an everlasting curse of barrenness."
Frankly, I was nervous about this part of the trip. The entire route is sagebrush and without shade. You can stop at Grandma's Kitchen (32 miles from Rawlins), a store at Muddy Gap (46 miles) or a cafe at Jeffrey City (88 miles) and that's it. Them's the choices!
I happened to get a flat; and as I was fixing it up rode a young girl, Sarah Brigham, 22. She was heading down to Durango, Colorado, with her bike loaded and wearing a red and black tutu (which she made herself).
Now I'm in the library at Lander trying to ge this posted. They have a 1/2 hour limit on the computers. So I will have to take a break and add pictures later.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Scenery is routinely beautiful now and should be for the next thousand miles. Western Kansas and eastern Colorado were so empty that they had a eerie appeal--at least in mornings. In the early hours each day I could say, "This is great...I'm really doing this ride!" By afternoon, when it was in the mid 90's, and the wind had kicked up, my meditations tended more in the direction of, "What were you thinking when you planned this trip."
And of course: profanity!
I rolled into Colorado along Route 96. Twice, before Eads, and right after, were stretches of 50+ miles with NO place to get food or drink. I was nervous about running into trouble but got through in good shape and gained confidence as a result. I also started seeing more riders--but all headed east. It appears to me this is a business for young people. Most of the guys and the two girls I've seen are fresh out of college and riding before they settle into the working world for forty years. I met two brothers traveling east, Dan Devos and Mike (I think); they seemed to get along better than most brothers, and I enjoyed talking to them. I lost my map after I jotted down their information. I remember most of their blog address and will try to check it out if I can.
On July 23 I picked up a steady trailing wind and sailed along like a clipper ship, covering 114 miles, the longest one-day ride I've ever done. This carried me to Pueblo, Colorado. There I stayed in a motel used mostly for long-term stays. It was across the road from a Payday Loan office, which is never a good sign. I think I was the only person there who could have proved legal status as a citizen. But my immigrant "neighbors" looked like hard-working men and so have my respect. I was sleeping nicely, too, when the front office delivered an unexpected wake-up call at 5:00 am.
"Juan?" the clerk inquired. "No. Wrong room." I answered.
I hope Juan made it to work on time.
On the 24th I rode through Canon City and up into the mountains, camping near the Royal Gorge Bridge.
The next day I spent the morning checking out the bridge and adjacent park. This is the highest suspension bridge in the world, 1053 feet above the Arkansas River. It was fun to see but I was surprised to find it isn't really a useful structure in any normal sense. It's little more than one lane wide and shakes when even a golf cart passes over. Both ends are blocked by tourist attractions, a carousel, an ice cream parlor, a gift shop and more. So there really is no place to go, except across the bridge and back to the parking lot again and then on with vacation! It was impressive, though, and I recommend it.
Yesterday, I followed Highway 50 along the Arkansas River. The Arkansas is the fifth longest river in the USA and there were hundreds of rafts from dozens of companies. A gorgeous ride all the way; and my progress was slowed as I stopped again and again to look around and cool off occasionally in the water.
I was beginning to have serious concerns about my back tire which showed heavy wear. So I took a different direction and rolled in to Salida, Colorado in the afternoon. The people at Absolute Bikes treated me like riding royalty, switched out my tire, gave me three water bottles for free, and supplied a patching kit and two spare tubes.
Salida is a booming town. A local woman told me house values have gone up 400% in the last ten years. I had my fanciest dinner yet at the Dakota Bistro and the food was excellent (I only wish Anne had been with me). The salad was fabulous and I recommend the Steak Sundance and the Fat Tire beer. Salida is a town full of bike riders, especially mountain bikers, artist types and boutiques and reminded me of a smaller Boulder.
At dinner I spoke briefly with a family at the next table and told them I was riding to raise money for JDRF. They were kind and complimentary. When I finished eating and stepped outside to unlock my bicycle, Nancy Gould followed and pressed a donation into my hand. "I'm just so impressed with what you're doing. Really," she said. I thanked her, noticed the bill was a hundred, thanked her again with emphasis. As has been true many times before, I was deeply touched.
The willingness to help shown by strangers and supporters back home in Ohio has been awe-inspiring. Worth riding itself to see!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
I am now on the American Cycling Association trail; so I have run into six or seven bicyclers--all headed east, mostly thin and young. One gentleman was my age, 52, and he had his wife following in an RV. It has been fun to share notes on what to expect, problems and pleasures, aches and pains (at least I have aches and pains).
People continue to be friendly. I ate breakfast at the Copper Oven in Osage City, Kansas a couple days ago. They had breakfast burritos and cinnamon rolls that were among the best I've ever eaten. It was worth fighting Kansas' perpetual head winds just to eat there. On top of that, the owner heard I was riding for diabetes and gave me my meal free.
As always, any savings go into the JDRF fund.
Kansas has a stark beauty I enjoy; but many towns are dying. I passed through Hillsboro and found out their McDonalds shuttered its doors a few months ago. Same thing happened in Lyons--but Lyons is experiencing a boom these days with a new ethanol plant and other construction.
Most mornings I start late because I talk too long at breakfast with the locals. Extra bacon and conversation seem more appealing than getting back in the saddle. At one stop I fell into a discussion with a gentleman named Lyle Foureau. He mentioned he liked reading history. So I recommended Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, 1776 by David McCullough and a couple of other works. Lyle took notes and donated to JDRF.
I've camped out in the woods a couple of times and bathed in "Kansas bathtubs" (lakes along the road). Many areas of the state are still green due to heavy rains and Chase County had beautiful bluestem grass prairies. I spend a lot of time grungy and hot; but I can finally say I'm a little proud for getting this far.
Tomorrow I enter Colorado and hope to get my phone fixed in Pueblo.
A 78-year-old truck driver told me one morning about some of the sights in Kansas. It used to be you could go see the embalmed remains of a Civil War veteran, Samuel Dingle (I think was the name). "When I first saw him," he had a full beard and all," said my informant. "Then I went back a few years later and all his hair had fallen out. The parasites or something got him."
Well, I guess I didn't want to see Dingle anyway.
I am now a little more than halfway done with my trip (in miles anyway) and right about on schedule.
Still no flats, no mechanical problems, just hot and tired a lot.
I love my family and miss them very much.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Sitting in the library just now feels good...but outside it feels...not like Kansas...like Saudi Arabia. Lord, it's hot!
Most days, I bike about eighty miles now (531 in my first week back on the road). Sometimes not in the right direction, though. Once I got lost and went in rectangles round various corn fields, trying to figure out where I was actually going. Another night I went ten miles out of the way to find a state campground. The campground hosts, Mickey and Patty Smith gave me coffee next morning, and we ended up discussing Abraham Lincoln for most of an hour. I think Mrs. Smith said she dropped out of high school when young. But they both picked up an interest in our 16th president on their own and seemed to know as much as I did.
Another night, near Muscoutah, Illinois, I ran out of light and found myself riding into town as darkness was falling. A gentleman on a motorcycle pulled along side, put it in low gear, and asked where I was headed. When I told him I was riding for diabetes he reached in his pocket, pulled out a wad of bills, and reached them out to me. "Pull off two tens," he said, "for a good cause." I thought about grabbing it all but knew I wouldn't be able to make a getaway. So I took the money without stopping and he told me to have a safe trip and roared away. That night I had to camp in a cornfield again--but felt good about the kindness of those I've met on this ride.
Probably my best camping spot was one I stumbled on while riding the Katy Trail, not far from Columbia, Missouri. The KT is an old rail line (Kansas and Topeka) paved with gravel and good for bicycling. For twenty miles or so it follows the Missouri River, past cliffs pocked with caves. It was an enjoyable ride and I was soon able to pitch my tent ten feet from the riverbank. Once again I did the "pioneer shower" by jumping in the Missouri.
Everything looks good. I am in touch with nature. I can hear fish leaping and falling back in the water. I can hear geese overhead. A nice couple (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) comes over from a nearby campsite and offers a beer and informs me their family and friends are out on a boat and will be pulling in soon. Sure enough, the boat comes in soon after fifteen young men and women disembark. (They have a floating trampoline they are towing behind their vessel, which looks like fun.) But it quickly becomes apparent their main cargo is BEER. Not counting a LOT of beer they have already polished off!
The group offers me another beer, which I accept, and later a steak off a grill they set up...but soon it is dark and I need to rest up. So I decline the steak (having eaten at a buffet earlier) and turn in to sleep. At midnight my neighbors are still drinking and partying...and the sounds of nature are drowned out by, "F- this, and f-that." Indeed, the drunks apparently know only one adjective. As in: "f-ing beer! f-ing river! f-ing boat! f-ing steaks!" Thankfully, a storm rolls in with enough rain to chase them away...or so I imagine. A few of the "f-ing woosies" pack it in and go home. But the dedicated drunks ignore the downpour and keep on f-ing drinking. Finally, round 2 a.m. everyone runs out of alcohol and f-ing enthusiasm wanes and everyone (including me) drifts off to sleep.
Riding the next day was hard. And not to seem petty: but I hope the knuckleheads who kept me up had hangovers to die from.
Alcoholics aside, people could not be more considerate. I camped one night at Pere Marquette Park, near the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. There I met Ted and Jan Werner, who invited me to their trailer for breakfast. Jan wrote out a donation to JDRF and went further, packing lunch. Ted pumped up my tires--and I'm embarassed to admit how low they were: 25 pounds pressure in the front, 34 in the back.
Like riding on flats.
Missouri was beautiful and I enjoyed crossing the state. In fact, as soon as I passed the Mississippi (on a ferry near Grafton) I felt better, like I was making progress.
Yesterday, July 16, I rode 90 miles. I was excited at lunch to cross paths with a group of bicyclers headed east from Colorado to homes in Milwaukee. Leader was Ron Haggard, a middle school teacher like myself, and the group included another adult (whose name I failed to catch) and four young men, Ron's students. He has led several rides and had as many as 15 kids in his groups, and I think he said one year they rode from Florida to Maine. It was a pleasure to talk to people who could relate to what I'm doing. The four young men looked like they were in fine shape and I was impressed with their attitudes. They were wirey fellows, like Pony Express riders. No unnecessary ounces on these young men! Ron wished me luck, paid his bill, then came back and handed me $20 for JDRF. The second leader paid, came back, and donated, too.
I also admit I stopped one afternoon to visit a riverboat casino. A state law requires you to show ID and get a card which is inserted in the slot machines. This limits all losses to $500 in any two-hour period...so that the addicted gambler is...what...protected? Yeah, from losing the house all in one day!
I sat down at a quarter slot, put in my card, fed in a twenty and started gambling. There were no tokens to insert and no jangling when winnings came raining down in a tray. Only a light signaled "wins." So I started with a credit of 80 and kept hitting "play 3." Every so often I "hit" big, for 2 credits! My gambling career was soon over. It went like this. Play 3, lose. 77 credits left. Play 3, lose. 74. 71. 68. Hit 2. 70. 67. 64. 61. 58. Hit 2. 60. 57. 54. 51...rapidly dwindling to zero. It was as much fun as putting quarters in a Coca-Cola machine and watching nothing come out. And then doing it twenty-five times.
Heck with that...I wasted twenty dollars and was soon pedaling across America again.
Monday, July 9, 2007
She means the world to her mother and me.
Weather has been tough the last four days, nineties and humid. At least once a day I ask myself, "What were you thinking when you hatched this plan?" Other bits of wisdom include, "I'm WAY too old for this!" "If a bus hit me, I'll be out of my misery!" "Maybe someone will steal my bike!" You get the idea.
The people I meet continue to be kind. Passing through Brookville, Indiana, I stopped to eat at the China House where locals told me the buffet was outstanding. (Correct.) As I chained my bicycle to a pole a gentleman named Ken Litchfield approached. "Are you the guy I saw on the news last night?" he asked. Like a defendant on a television drama, I admitted I was. Ken reached in his wallet and pulled out $20 for JDRF. Then he ran down the street and got his camera and took a picture for the local paper. He said he'd try to get a story posted and drum up donations.
Meanwhile, Anne called me to say that one of our neighbors donated $500 and so I'm fast approaching $11,000 raised.
I logged 80 miles on July 6, 83 on the 7th and 82 on the 8th. One night I camped in a cornfield after washing up in a stream.
The next day a preacher named Lester Solomon talked to me in a Dairy Queen in Seymour, Indiana. After hearing my story he took my hand and said a prayer for my well-being. That's the first time I ever prayed over ice cream. But I appreciate Reverend Solomon's kindness and prayers can't hurt.
One morning I passed a field and noticed all the cows were watching. Cows don't get out much and I imagine they're bored a lot. So I was something to watch, to give the brain something to work on, sort of like watching television for humans. I wonder what they were thinking. How sophisticated is the bovine brain?
Cow #1: Creature with shell on head. Not threat. Need to poo.
Cow #2: Human moving fast. Hope he crash.
Cow #3: I envy that rider his freedom. These other cows are morons. Oh well, nothing to do, except chew the cud.
I slept at a motel my second night out of Cincinnati. They had an exercise room and an eliptical machine. I decided I would pass.
On July 8 I met a fellow named Jack L. Hamilton, who asked a lot of questions--what was I carrying--any mechanical problems--what did I do for food--where did I stay--was it hard to ride alone. Jack's fiance, Theresa, was with him and she has a diabetic daughter, now 34, diagnosed her senior year. "I tell her all the time I think there will be a cure in her lifetime," she said. I agreed, and thinking of my own child, choked up.
The next couple of hours I rode hard--thinking about Emily.
That same afternoon I ran across a nice couple from Bloomington. They mentioned a friend who rode cross country with his sons, to raise money for cerebral palsy. This was years ago and one of the boys suffered from the disease, and used a recumbent bike. Again, when I'm plowing up some hill and feeling sorry for myself, I remember a LOT of people have steeper hills to climb every day.
Right now I'm a mile from the Wasbash River, and ready to cross into Illinois. A fellow in the library tells me it's 97 degrees with humidity at 77%. Based on how I've been wilting today, I believe him.