Sunday, June 12, 2011

Reflections after the Ride

> Reflections on A Ride
> "Whatever direction a relationship is headed, riding across the country together will accelerate the movement in that direction," said Hob and Deb, a couple we met who were doing just that. After having spent 56 days riding my bicycle across the country, I agree. Whatever direction my relationship with my friends was going, my relationship with my body was going, my relationship with God was going, the bike trip accelerated the movement. The ride was a metaphor for life.
> Friendships thrive on cheerfulness. Of course, almost anyone can be cheerful when everything is going her way. Maintaining cheerfulness through a flat tire, a detour on the route, or headwinds on chip seal makes a good riding companion. Patience, kindness, and self-control abounded among our companions. Friendship was a huge part of my ride. Eighteen of us lived in community. For the most part, we did what was good for the group; we looked out for the needs of others. We lived simply. I had few possessions with me but more than I needed. The reward of deepening friendships was the payoff. Unlike most of the members of our group, I had never dreamed of doing this ride until my dear friend Katherine asked me. She believed that I could do it, so I believed, too. Her enthusiasm and support sustained me through a year of training and two months of riding. I could not and would not have done it without her. Her energy, her helpfulness to me and others, and her perseverance leave me in awe. She remains my most remarkable friend.
> Nobody has ever called me an athlete. However, for a year, I used my body more intentionally than ever before. "Ride, eat, sleep, repeat," was the way one rider described our lives. I reaped the incredible rewards of breathing deeply all day long as I climbed mountains, rode through deserts and forests, sailed down long hills. The food was wonderful; the excellent diet gave me strength and stamina. Almost every night brought deep, refreshing sleep. Riding, eating, and sleeping all reinforced each other. As long as I kept pedaling it was all doable, so I kept pedaling. I learned not to fret; that steep grade, that tall bridge, that long stretch of construction would soon pass. Whatever was really bad did not last. Whatever was really good did not last, either. The sense of well-being is indescribable.
> In many ways, the whole trip was a pilgrimage. Although I have never experienced a retreat at an abbey, this may have come close. I spent my days in God's world. Katherine and I began each day by sharing our faith with devotions and Bible reading. As I rode, I prayed. I often made little repetitious prayers so say over and over -- my pastor calls them breath prayers. I sang hymns. Although I often started out the day anxious about the challenges that lay ahead, these prayers kept me calm. Being grateful helped a lot. No matter if the weather was bad, the pavement was rough, or dogs were chasing us -- we were grateful for the beauty of the earth, the hospitality of strangers, good health, road angels, friends, and the presence of God. Trust was essential. We could not do this alone. We trusted our riding companions and our guides for help. We trusted thousands of drivers who gave us room to ride. We trusted that God's grace was sufficient for every need.
> So now I am home. What do I want to do about it? I want to continue to live more simply. I want to live a more focused life by finding ways to distinguish what is important from the flood of information that surrounds me. I want to hold onto the attitudes that were nurtured on the road - cultivating friendship, using my body, being grateful in all situations, considering the common good, putting aside fretfulness, deepening trust, and praying without ceasing. My daily prayer is to find ways to encourage others to be more active so that they, too, will experience the benefits of improved health.

Reflections after the Ride

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 56 St Augustine, Florida!

In The End Is The Beginning!

We set off at sunrise, about 6:50 am., heading for the fire station at the western end of St Augustine. We had to ride the forty miles and arrive by 10:30. We were so pumped up that most of us arrived an hour early. We had a police escort through town to the beach where our friends and family were waiting. What a moment! What a morning! It defies description. It will be a long time before I stop smiling. It feels like tomorrow will be the first day of my life after the bike ride. We have a banquet this evening just for the riders. Dan and Katherine's husband Jack will fend for themselves.

Just for the record, we never experienced a drop of rain and I never had a flat tire. However, I should declare that I caused a flat on Katherine's bike this morning when I was pumping her tires. In a day or two, I will write about the experience as a whole and what it means to me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 55 High Springs to Palatka, FL

I Was Not Overdressed

The wisdom of the biking world suggests that if you are not chilly for the first ten minutes of your ride, you are probably overdressed. I made this rookie mistake many times on cold mornings in the desert. We left at 7:00 this morning and I definitely was not chilly. Nor was I overdressed. There was not a thing I could have removed. So I knew what was in store for us.

The day began with about forty miles through pleasant country side with lots of pine trees, pastures and fields of new emerging hay. After that, we turned on to a road with lots of construction, shoulders that had been scraped for repaving, heavy traffic, headwinds, high temperatures and high humidity. That was a challenging 25 miles. We rode through Palatka over a high bridge and coasted down to a nice Best Western Motel. We had a very special dinner of beef tenderloin, caramelized onions, salad, and tiramisu. expectations for food were very high and have been exceeded every day. A few ladies gave awards to everyone. It was all done in good taste so it turned out to be fun. We went to Tex's room for a pajama party. That was fun. I am up later than usual but it is the last night.

Tomorrow we ride 40 miles into St Augustine, then have a police escort through town to the beach for the family picnic. Oh my! It is all over but the shoutin'.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 54 Perry to High Springs, FL

We had a 76-mile ride through central Florida today. We are definitely out of the panhandle now. We started out through more woods. The trees blocked the winds and the clouds kept us from overheating, if not from sweating. After the trees, we encountered more agricultural. The egg megafarms were mighty unpleasant. The pastureland with cows, horses, or sheep were lovely. The roadsides were lined with wildflowers! A feast for the eyes. We rode on several miles of bike path adjacent to the highway. About mid-ride, we turned onto some backroads heading to Inchetucknee Springs State Park where we had a SAG stop. It was a lovely little treasure with a spring fed pond for swimming. I enjoyed looking at it while I consumed my peanut butter sandwich. Fortunately, I had bug spray or the mosquitoes might have consumed me. From there, we headed on to our motel, which is right out of the 60s. It is conveniently appointed, the AC works well, and we are all on the first floor. We are happy to be here. The roads in Florida continue to be fine - smooth, wide shoulders, clean, flat, manageable traffic volume. Florida gets the highest marks for riding from me.

It is hard to believe that we are so near the end. I am pondering what it has all meant to me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 53 Crawfordville to Perry, FL

A Straight Line

It would have been hard to get lost today. We turned left out of our motel, rode 54 miles and turned right into our motel. The road was straight, level, smooth, clean, had wide shoulders and only light traffic. We had a headwind that was mostly blocked by the woods on both sides of the road. We never passed a house or any other kind of building. Therefore, we encountered no dogs. It was a pleasant ride in all ways. I think I shifted a few times but not many. We arrived at the motel before our room was ready. Being slow riders, this was a first for us. We were thrilled! We feel like members of the club now. We went to a fine little Italian restaurant for lunch while we waited. When we left, the owner came out and said, "Ciao, y'all!"

The photo is the Wakulla River in the early morning. We were so lucky to spot two manatees swimming downstream. I was not quick enough with the camera but was thrilled to see them.

We are all all trying to process what this trip has meant to us. It is so hard to capture the essence of it in words but we all know that it has been an important milestone.

Ciao, y'all!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 52 Crawfordville, FL Rest Day

Bikers Celebrate Easter

Happy Easter! Eight of us celebrated Easter Sunday at Crawfordville United Methodist Church this morning. Two ladies chauffeured us and welcomed us in so many ways. We stayed for the potluck brunch. It was a nice service and we appreciated their hospitality...but I missed Broad Street greatly. I sat at the pool for a while this afternoon and relaxed all day.

On this Easter Sunday, I will mention, in no particular order, just a few of the acts of kindness that have made this ride so wonderful.

Don and Corliss who offered me water and encouragement on the ride to Globe, AZ
Jay at Gila Hike and Bike who corrected my pedal problem
Encouraging emails from friends
Fiona and Kathy Tex who have helped with dishes every night
Phone calls from Dan every evening
The man in the pick-up truck who helped me assemble the bike rack
Greta offering me her phone when I was getting roaming charges
The man at the Mississippi River who gave us water
Jack Jeter and John Feagin meeting us in the Texas Hills
My wonderful roommate Katherine who thought we could do this and led me along
All of you who have read this blog

I am so grateful for all of this and so much more!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 51 Quincy to Crawfordville, FL

This Our Hymn of Grateful Praise

The highlight of the day was a visit to Wakulla Springs State Park, a 6,000 acre wildlife sanctuary. It would be unimaginable to experience this bit of earth without grateful praise for the beauty of it. Cool water flows from a spring to form the Wakulla River, one of the last pristine rivers in Florida. The lodge was built in 1937. I walked through the park with Kathie this morning.

The morning started out with a foggy ride for 20 miles or so. Fortunately, the wide shoulders on the road kept us out of harm's way. Coping with dew-misted sunglasses was a problem. Eventually the fog lifted. After the state park, we made our way to the Inn at Wildwood, a lovely resort where we will spend our last rest day tomorrow, Easter Sunday.

Tomorrow morning about eight of us will be attending Crawfordville United Methodist Church. They have assured us that we will be welcome in our casual clothes. They will pick us up for the 8:30 service and have invited us to stay for breakfast afterward. Since none of us has Easter clothes, we have decided to wear our WomanTours bike jerseys, any pants that we have and sandals. After all, Jesus wore sandals. No make-up, no jewelry. I guess that leaves out the Easter bonnet, too. It should not take long to get ready. I could get used to this!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 50 Marianna to Quincy, FL

For the Beauty of the Earth

Oh my! It would be hard to overstate the beauty of the land we saw today. We rode 54 miles almost entirely on back country roads such as this gorgeous stretch of tree-canopied trail pictured. We saw huge moss-covered trees, fragrant magnolias and honeysuckle, fields with emerging cotton and peanut plants, pastures with horses and cows. The senses could not rest. We got to climb a couple big hills and were surprised at how easy they seemed. We entered the Eastern Time Zone about mid-morning when we crossed the Chattahoochee River, bringing us ever closer to the Atlantic Ocean. We stopped for lunch at a small Chinese restaurant where we enjoyed conversation with three customers and the server. It is so much fun to tell people where we have been and watch their reactions. The two men were orchid farmers. Mostly people take their leave by telling us to be careful of the kooks out there. Happily, that has not been our experience. We have met so many wonderful people. We are thoroughly enjoying Florida.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 48 Crestview to Marianna, FL

Cooperation on the Road

We began our last long ride at 6:30 this morning to get in as many miles as possible before the heat became unbearable. It was about 74 degrees and cloudy at that hour. Around noon the sky cleared, the temperature soared and the humidity made it feel like 93, according to and also according to our fellow riders. We rode 90 miles, almost all of it on US 90. We have followed that route much of the way across the country. In Florida, this highway is well-groomed and has a nice wide shoulder except in towns, where the shoulders disappear and traffic terrors appear. The terrain was full of little rolling inclines - at this stage of our ride, we could not really label them hills - but the ride is made easier when we do not need to pedal for a minute or two on a downward slope.

About thirty miles into the day, Lisa, our third SAG driver had a flat tire that was caused by a broken spoke. We could not repair it but kept everyone riding by doing a series of swaps. The end result was that I rode the last 34 miles on the bike that belongs to our cook. That was fun, but riding a different bike inevitably creates pressure in unexpected places. Use your imagination.

We had a bit of comic relief when one of our riders, Kathy Tex, ran out of water on the road. Her riding chum, Fiona, gave her the extra bottle that she was carrying. Kathy immediately dumped it over her head to cool off. Only then did she realize that the bottle was filled with Gatorade. I guess it's a Florida thing!

The Wound Ostomy Continence Nurses' Society has provided refreshments for us at our arrival and dessert for dinner twice in Florida. Thank you to them for their generosity! Katherine, my roommate is raising money to provide scholarships for nurses to enter this field.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 48 Pensacola to Crestview, FL

A Steam Bath Would Be Redundant

We are experiencing full Florida humidity! The temperature was not the problem. The highest I saw was 85 degrees, but we were dripping at sunrise. We departed the Gulf coastline today and headed into a more central route east across Florida. The ride was mostly lovely. City traffic with smooth roads and good bike lanes, suburban areas, country roads, and even an honest to goodness bike path. Really. Nothing but bikes and baby buggies! What a pleasure. Katherine and I rode along quite efficiently. About two miles before our lovely Hampton Inn we wheeled into a Sonic for our new favorite treat - a mocha java chiller. And since it was "happy hour" - I am not making this up - they were half-price. Needless to say, we were thrilled. Please note: according to Katherine's bike computer, we burned over 2000 extra calories today.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 47 Dauphin Island, AL to Pensacola, FL

The Last State

We left Dauphin Island, Alabama by way of a 45-minute ferry ride this morning. We landed on a lovely spit of land that ran between the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay. There was little traffic and lots to look at. After 20 miles we entered a city - I did not notice the name - and the traffic picked up but there was a nice bike lane. After 32 miles we entered Florida, our last state. We rode along a state park beach that provided no barrier for the wind. I found the headwind daunting but others moved into it. Katherine and I switched roles at the state line; I was happy to be driving the Subaru. Many riders stopped at a bike shop, so I stopped there, too. The SAG job was not challenging today. The smoothly paved roads were clean with wide bike lanes in both Alabama and Florida. Although the humidity was high, the temperature was in the 70s. We enjoyed our last margarita party this evening. I am certainly wondering how I will adjust to real life next week.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 46 Dauphin Island, AL Rest Day

A Day at the Beach

What could be more restful than a day at the beach? I started the day with a morning walk on the sand with waves washing over my feet and ended it by watching the sunset during an evening walk. I spent a relaxing day doing such things as enjoying a leisurely breakfast at a golf club, making phone calls, having dinner with friends, indulging in a bowl of ice cream with our roommates du jour, and organizing myself for the next few days. Ahhh! Will I be able to plan rest days into my schedule when I get home?

Day 45 Pascagoula MS to Dauphin Island, AL

A Bridge with a View

This afternoon we arrived at Dauphin Island, Alabama via a long and tall bridge across the Gulf of Mexico. The ride was great fun. We stopped at the top to enjoy the spectacular view of the island, the mainland, and the water. As we departed the bridge we and several others from our tour stopped at "Barnacle Bill's" for a fine seafood lunch. Katherine, the vegetarian is thrilled to be in seafood country. As we finished, two men entered the restaurant looking for the women bikers. They are following the same route that we are, although covering about 100 miles per day. They said they had been hearing about us for two weeks or more and when they saw the bikes lined up, they surmised that they had found us. Dave is retired and Matthew Is a young man who finds work in the places where he travels. John, the SAG driver appears to be retired, too. It turns out that they are from Yorkshire, England, about an hour from the home of Fiona's parents. It was so much fun to hear their enthusiasm for our country. We exchanged stories, took photos and traded contact information for half an hour or so and they were on their way. They intend to get to St Augustine by Friday. Dave intends to stay a while and hopes to meet up with us there. We were most surprised to learn that we had been sought after much of the way across the country.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 44 Wiggins to Pascagoula, MS


Seventy-four degrees and sunny, humidity 29%, winds behind us at five miles per hour, blue skies. Perfect is the only accurate description. Everyone was charged and ready to go after yesterday's storms. Our route started out through quiet country roads and the DeSoto National Forest. We were surprised to learn that a POW camp for German soldiers was located in the forest during WW II. The second half of the ride led us toward water. We crossed a tall bridge over the Pascagoula Bay that leads to the Gulf of Mexico. It felt like a roller coaster at Cedar Point! It felt like another milestone, too.

As we rode, I noticed churches getting ready for Palm Sunday and Holy Week. One Faith, One Hope, One Lord! I will miss being at Broad Street this week.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 43 Bogalusa, LA to Wiggins, MS

Gravel and Other Frustrations

The possibility of thunderstorms with high winds and damaging hail was forecast this morning. Having lived through this kind of weather in west Texas for a number of years, I set out with trepidations. A mile down the road, my flashing light fell off my bike. I retrieved it, but the batteries had popped out. Katherine did not have her usual "biking legs" today. That happens to everyone once in a while. We missed a turn that added three "bonus miles" for us. We encountered a detour sign, but a local advised us that "they ain't took them signs down but we could g'on." We were pleased until we arrived at the bridge with long stretches of gravel on both sides. Then the whole group was held up while the guides scouted a detour for us. After thirty miles, the wind came on full force. And amazingly, the van was sitting there; we jumped on. It was so much fun to get in early, start our laundry, and walk next door for a salad bar lunch, which, by the way, included chocolate pudding as a vegetable. (Would I put ranch dressing on that?) I just read about storms in Oklahoma and Arkansas but our luck continues. Not a drop of rain so far.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day 42 Hammond to Bogalusa, LA

Morning Ritual: The Peanut Butter Sandwich

Every morning begins with the ritual of the peanut butter sandwich. After breakfast, we gather at the snack table to collect a few snacks and make our power-packed pb&j for the road. As long as there is strawberry jam, I am not tired of this staple. It takes me about a mile to eat half a sandwich while I am riding. Today we had a short ride - I can't remember exactly when 55 miles became a "short" ride- so it was daylight for our sandwich making. Some days we launch at sunrise, so we make them in semi-darkness.

We had a beautiful ride through rural Louisiana today. The eastern half of the state is culturally very different from the western part. I am continually amazed by the luxuriant green plant life, such a contrast to the Southwest. We see lots of cows and horses, wheat and sorghum fields. We also see lots of dogs, often as they are chasing us down the road. Most of them really are not vicious, but even so they can easily cause accidents. Today two of our riders were trying to outrun dogs and ran into each other. They finished the day's ride, but one is sporting a lot of bandages and both cracked their helmets. Thank heavens, Katherine, the wound care specialist was driving the SAG car when it happened. She was able to care for them with a big bag of high-tech bandages that were brought to her a few days ago by a sales rep. Most helpful.

Tomorrow holds a forecast of rain. We have not had a drop of rain yet!

Day 41 St Francisville to Hammond, LA

A Long Stop and A Woo-hoo Day!

The ride from St Francisville to Hammond was 87 miles. It followed a rest day. Weather conditions were favorable. Katherine and I usually have split long days, sharing SAG duties, but we decided this was the time to go for the big one. The miles were clicking away until we came to a road that was closed due to a bridge being out. There was no detour indicated (Louisiana does not get high marks for their signage) so our guides scouted out a path for us, forcing us to bond during this Department of Transportation-imposed SAG stop. Eventually we were on our way with an additional five miles to ride. We were determined to do it and just kept pedaling our way along, stopping at a couple gas stations in addition to SAG stops. Morning turned into afternoon then into late afternoon - I never look at the time, and eventually we rolled into our Comfort Inn with 92.87 miles on our computers, too excited to feel as exhausted as we were. It was a beautiful ride, but we have no photos. We could not spare the time. I thought of riding seven more miles to achieve a "century ride," but I was afraid I would miss Linda's fabulous dinner, not an option I was willing to consider.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 40 St Francisville LA

Rest Day in the "Boot" of Louisiana

Aaaah! Rest days are wonderful. We slept ten hours last night and will probably take a nap this afternoon. Our B&B served an amazing breakfast. By lunch time I had not really worked up an appetite but made my way through a spicy shrimp po' boy with enthusiasm. Looking forward to another cafe au lait this afternoon! We are in the part of Louisiana that looks like the toe of the boot, about two hours north of New Orleans. It used to be known as the Florida of Louisiana because it was not part of the Louisiana Purchase but was part of Spanish Florida. There is little Cajun (Acadian) influence here. We have seen lots of pretty sights, although they are far different from the imposing rock and mountain scenery in the West. The live oaks are particularly impressive. Many of them are two hundred years old as their impressive root structures can withstand hurricane winds. I wish I could stop and take more photos.

Day 39 Lafayette to St Francisville, LA

Me and Mark Twain

Okay, it did not have all the drama of Mark Twain's life on the Mighty Mississippi but it was a real thrill to cross the Big River on a ferry this afternoon. It was a perfect day for biking. Cooler temperatures and calmer, more helpful winds than previous days made it quite pleasant. Katherine rode out for about 45 miles in the morning while I drove the Subaru SAG wagon. Then we switched and I rode that last 35 miles on my bike. We both enjoyed our rides so much.

St. Francisville is a wonderful, arty little town. We are staying at a B&B near downtown. It is quiet and lovely and the owners are most helpful. Four of us from the tour are here. The others are at the magical Butler Greenwood B&B about three miles away. It is a true southern plantation that has remained in one family and occupied as a home for eight generations, dating back to 1777. We were there for dinner. It is unbelievably lovely, but we happily returned to our lodgings appreciating all it offers.

Katherine has two friends who came up for an overnight getaway to spend time with her. They all had a good time catching up. They also found a great coffee shop and brought us cafe au lait. Mmmmm....what a treat!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 38 Lake Charles to Lafayette, LA

Curious Playmates

Shortly after I rode out this morning, I passed these herons gathered around a cow. That was a first for me, but I'm a city girl, so what do I know? I spent the next 20 miles listening to birds sing, hearing leaves rustle, and feeling the wind. The wind was the main topic of conversation today. We ran into a man who informed us that the wind blows like this for about a month every spring - about 20 miles per hour out of the south. Of course, we are headed east. It really wore us out.

We passed lots of rice paddies and farmed crawfish fields. After weeks of riding in the arid lands, it is surprising to see this much water. The country side was beautiful and the people were friendly, helpful and generous. For example, when I parked the SAG vehicle in front of a grocery store the owner came out with five gallons of water for our cooler and invited us to use the restroom. He also showed us pictures of his daughter's wedding. We are overwhelmed each day by these acts of kindness.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 37 Silsbee, TX to Lake Charles, LA

What a Difference a State Makes

We rode for 34 miles in Texas this morning then crossed into Louisiana. No chip seal! It sounds better than it was, however. The pavement was full of cracks and potholes. The repairs were not level with the roadway. Trash and debris littered the surface. The shoulders were almost non-existent. Throw in a headwind and high temperatures and imagine one very slow ride! Katherine and I finished the ride; not everyone did. We stopped around mile 60 to recharge at a Mini-Mart. We both drank a bunch of Gatorade and ice water. I bought a turkey sandwich and she ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This area is not hospitable to vegetarians.

The bayous were immediately apparent and so were the many bridges that spanned them. We crossed a drawbridge and a 1.2 mile bridge across the Calcasieu River. New challenges. We arrived at our Best Western in time for the margarita party to celebrate entering a new state.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 36 Cleveland to Silsbee, TX

The Strangeness of Time

This will be our last night in Texas. It seems like months since we hit El Paso, yet it has flown by. I am not sure how this could be.

We are in logging country now. We passed a large Georgia-Pacific operation yesterday. These big rigs are a little scary as they pass, but the drivers are generally polite and willing to share the road. Katherine and I split the day, each sagging a part. I rode my bike on the last portion. I am happy to report that we did not encounter chip seal until the final six miles. It was about as flat as a ride could be. I was in my middle chainring all day. There was wind but it was minimized by the trees. It was a very pleasant ride, if not quite as beautiful as yesterday's route.

After checking in at the motel, Katherine and I walked next door to the Sonic Burger for a Java Chiller, mocha flavored. I highly recommend this treat! They use real ice cream. It was SO good. Oy! My food habits have gone slumming! Fortunately, Linda's excellent, delicious, nutritious meals save me from myself. And really, we burn SO many calories. Elaine has promised me that if I am unable to get out of these habits when I return, she will let out my clothes for me. How nice to have a seamstress in the family,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 35 Navasota to Cleveland, TX

Oh, Toto! We're not in Kansas anymore!

The difference between West Texas and East Texas is dramatic! We spent the day riding through the piney forest area of Texas. Mmmm...the quiet, the windbreak, the scent of pine, the shade; it was all a treat for the senses. We spent about 20 miles in the Sam Houston National Forest. The ride was delightful. The roads were mostly smooth with just enough low rollers to add interest and create some downhills. The wind and the temperature were moderated by the high trees.

Katherine had a visit from two would care nurses at 7:30 am. They came to see her off. They brought a variety of wound care products. As it happens, I lost a toenail yesterday. It had been ailing since the second day of the ride. These ladies had the perfect bandage for me, and dressed the toe before I left. I am certain that my toe pedaled more comfortably all day as a result. This is the second time the wound care nurses have appeared at exactly the right time for me!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 34 Navasota, TX Rest Day

Chores, Terms, Idioms

Bikers' day off always includes laundry. Our "laundromat" is a less mechanized than what we have at home.

As I have ridden the last few days, I have been thinking of terms and idioms. Carol, our guide, refuses to use the term "flat" (she refers to it as the F-word.). We each came to this trip with a different concept of "flat" and of "hill." instead, she refers to "terrain features." Nice euphemism. I must say, we have mostly redefined the terms in our minds.

The most diverse term that we use dozens of times a day is "SAG." It started as an acronym for "support and gear." Let me explain this all-purpose non-word. Each time I use it, try substituting "support and gear." Maybe this won't amuse you as much as it amuses me.

SAG, noun
1. The vehicle that carries basic equipment, snacks, and water
Ex: The SAG will leave at 8:00.
2. The person who drives the SAG vehicle.
Ex: Lisa is the SAG today.
3. The location of the SAG vehicle
Ex: The first SAG will be a mile 20.

SAG, verb, intransitive
1. To serve by transporting water, snacks, and basic equipment.
Ex: Marge will SAG today. (Marge will drive the SAG vehicle.)
Ex: Alice will SAG today. (Alice will ride in the SAG vehicle. She will not drive it as she is not a SAG.)

SAG, verb, transitive
1. To transport a person a specified distance along the route
Ex. Lisa will SAG Marge out 20 miles. (Lisa will drive Marge and her bike the first 20 miles.)
synonym: to bump
Ex: Lisa will SAG Marge in 20 miles. (Lisa will drive Marge and her back the last 20 miles to the motel.)

Got it? I hope I have made all of this perfectly clear. Of course, it does not matter a whit.

Days off are really fun. We are headed to Wal-Mart where I plan to buy a new toothbrush. A biker's life is really simple.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 33 La Grange to Navasota, TX


Today was the perfect day in so many ways. Weather, road conditions, wind, temperature, traffic, terrain, scenery. We could not have asked for more. We started at about sunrise at 40 degrees. I was so glad I could pull out my arm and leg warmers, full finger gloves, and headband. I was plenty warm. The sun shone brightly against the bright blue sky. The minimal winds were headed the same way we were. The chip seal was smoothed out from wear. The rolling hills took us through a verdant oasis, or so it seemed after so many day in arid land. The icing on the cake was the fields of bluebonnets. By afternoon it was about 70 degrees. I enjoyed a root beer float near the motel. Life is really good.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 32 Bastrop to La Grange, TX

How Do You Photograph the Wind?

On Friday, I had the third pair of cleats put on my bike shoes during this trip. I had had a pair that lasted a year before the trip. The bike mechanic suggested I purchase cleat covers to keep the cleats from deteriorating and to make walking easier. Wonderful. This morning, I pulled out of the motel onto the highway wondering why I could not clip in. By the time I figured out that I was still wearing the covers, my adrenalin was flowing fast. My heart was warmed up way before my legs this morning.

We rode 16 miles through beautiful Bastrop State Park. It was 74 degrees and sunny and the pine forest was enchanting. About ten miles along, a front moved in; clouds formed, the temperature dropped to 63 degrees, and 25 mph winds picked up. The enchanted forest became a little scary. Add to that the fact that my bike started making a worrisome clicking sound, that turned out to be only a pedal clicking against my pump. The major factor in today's ride was the wind, but I could not photograph that. The rest of the ride was beautiful and fast, aided by strong tailwinds. It was one of my favorite rides so far.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Luis (left) and Nathan (right) and family, our road angels for Sunday, April 3rd

Day 31 Blanco to Bastrop, TX

Central Texas -Memories and Thoughts

Interstate 35 runs north-south through Texas, including Dallas, Austin, San Antonio all the way to Laredo. We traveled it so often when we lived in Austin. Today I passed under it on my bike. It felt like a huge leap forward. Too bad there was absolutely no photo op due to traffic. Then the bluebonnets appeared. The weather has been too dry to provide the prolific show that I remember, but I saw them all in my memory. Beautiful! Thank you, Lady Bird Johnson.

The ride was 93 miles today. The chip seal was not horrendous today, merely annoying. However, the winds were strong and really slowed me down at times. Also, the Sunday drivers were out in force. I suppose they had all been to church. Katherine and I have decided that we do not need to do the "REI" (ride every inch) ride, so neither of us finished the route. When we were trying to get our bikes plus one more on top of the Subaru, we were challenged by the reach. So Katherine hailed a family to give a hand. They were so kind and Luis and Nathan had three bikes up there in a flash. They were absolutely the only people in sight in the town of Lockhart. It was their first time to visit there. They were definitely our road angels today. Day after day, we are overwhelmed by the helpfulness and generosity of strangers we encounter.

My sister and her family

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011 Special Edition

So many of you have inquired about my sister Elaine. I thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers. She came home from the hospital on Sunday, March 27. Since then, her daughter-in-law Rachel has been staying with her. I talk with her on the days I have cell service. They have things set up so she can make coffee upstairs when she gets up allowing her to get cleaned up, hair fixed and make-up on before going downstairs. She and Rachel take two walks a day, weather permitting. She is taking a minimal amount of pain medication. When I talk with her, her voice is animated and strong. She is interested in telling me how she is doing and is equally interested in hearing about my travels. Both Rachel - a nurse, and Katherine, my roommate the wound care specialist think she is doing amazingly well. She gives me strength for every ride; surely her daily efforts exceed mine. She meets with the oncologist next week to set up a treatment plan. We are all so grateful for her healing, the wonderful care she is getting from her family, and her remarkable spirit.

Day 30 Kerrville to Blanco, TX

The Second Half

As we headed into the second half of our trip, it became apparent that we were headed into the Southeast and away from the Southwest. The sky was overcast all morning. For the first time, sweat became an issue. My skin felt clammy in the morning; I was dripping wet all afternoon. My clothes still dried fairly quickly outdoors, fortunately. The hills of the Hill Country were more manageable, less steep with nice downhills. If it weren't for the chip seal...well, I have nothing new to say on that topic.

One of the delights of this trip is meeting wonderful people. Today we encountered a troop of
Girl Scouts having lunch at a general store. Katherine told them about our trip. One of the leaders pulled out an iPad and found a US map to show them our route. One girl asked if we ever sleep. We took a photo of all of us making the Girl Scout sign, including Katherine and me, both being former Girl Scouts. From the photo, you may notice that we could all work on making that sign. And speaking of wonderful people, two of our former guides pulled in this afternoon, en route to San Antonio for the one week Hill Country trip. We were thrilled to see Michelle from Moab and Lynne from Pennsylvania Dutch Country and to have a chance to thank them for their encouragement and advice.

Day 29 Kerrville, TX Rest Day

Haircut to Holiness

We had a great rest day! We spent the day at Katherine's family lodge in Hunt, TX, about 14 miles from Kerrville. The day was chock full! We both got our hair cut - you can't imagine how welcome that was, although it has been about 25 years since anyone besides my treasure of a hairdresser, Molly, has cut my hair. I survived the trauma and think I can live with this cut for a month. By the time we got back, guests were beginning to arrive for the wonderful party that Katherine's husband Jack and her brother John put together. It was so much fun to be in the place that has meant so much to Katherine all her life, and to meet so many of her cousins and dear friends.

In the evening, we went on a tour of this amazing 77 foot, seven inch cross that was erected last summer in Kerrville. The artist (center) conducted this tour especially for us. Although this has been controversial, he clearly has felt called to this work and has documented his actions scrupulously. He has plans for gardens and more sculpture. The view of the city is magnificent.

With our jam-packed day, we got to bed much later than usual. Fortunately, we had slept later in the morning.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 28 Vanderpool to Kerrville, TX

Texas Hill Country

Our stay in Vanderpool was delightful! Our little cabin was charming and roomy. Linda, our cook extraordinaire, had a kitchen in which to prepare another fabulous dinner and breakfast. We ate inside. The weather turned beautiful again, after three overcast days. It was chilly in the morning but warmed up nicely.

The ride was gorgeous. I can understand why Katherine and Jack and LBJ and so many others love the Texas Hill Country so! We had a major climb about 15 miles outside of Kerrville. I was climbing as best I could then rounded a bend that was suddenly steeper. I made a snap decision that walking the short stretch to the top would not injure my ego. Katherine's bike computer registered it as a 14% grade. Katherine rode up. When we arrived at the top, her husband Jack and her brother John were there to greet us. What a surprise! After meeting many of our fellow riders , they drove down near us. We dropped off our bikes for service and cleaning and enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Mamacita's Mexican restaurant. Jack ferried us to their family lodge about 14 miles out of town. We settled in comfortably for laundry, coffee, and afternoon naps. Katherine's delightful and thoughtful cousin Ann invited us to her cabin next door for dinner. Our "rest day" will be pretty full with Katherine's family and friends. I must say, I am pretty excited about getting my hair cut. It's the little things!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 27 Camp Wood to Vanderpool, TX

Texas Hill Country

Vanderpool, TX, population: 20. Our group nearly doubles the population. We are staying in individual cabins complete with fireplaces and quilts on the beds. Very charming.

We are definitely in Texas Hill Country. The route included major hills. Fortunately, the temperature was in the fifties. In high temperatures, we would have been dropping. It was really fun to watch Katherine's exhilaration riding her beloved Texas Hill Country. The country is beautiful. The hills are steeper than most that we climbed in the Far West. It is nice to be surrounded by trees. I drove the SAG vehicle today. I made a lot of judgment calls about where the riders would need service and trying to find a place to park at those points. The town of Leakey had a nice gift shop. There were a lot of our bikes left outside and a lot of our money left Inside. More Texas hills tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 26 Bracketville to Camp Wood, TX

Camp Wood is a surprisingly pleasant little town with several restaurants and craft shops and a laundromat next door to the motel. The laundromat was the biggest thrill, made even better when Lisa, our SAG driver du jour offered to throw our clothes in with hers. There is a certain advantage to being among the oldest riders! The main agricultural industry here seems to be raising goats (goat ranching?) There are also a lot of sheep. We never passed through a town in our 48 mile ride between Bracketville and Camp Wood, but we did pass a lot of impressive gates to homes and ranch land. We saw many houses out near the road, something we have not seen in many days. Of course this means we saw a lot of dogs, too. I really like seeing those dogs when they are behind fences. I know they think we are intruding on their territory when they chase us down the road, but my perception is different. The winds were very light and favorable. The chip seal was as difficult as ever.

Day 25 Del Rio to Bracketville, TX

Texas Oddities

This line of mailboxes seemed odd since there was not a dwelling in sight in any direction. Who knows?

Today we experienced our first day of overcast skies. Overcast skies are odd in the West. Twenty-four consecutive days of sun would be more than odd In Ohio. We also had rain -- in the amount of .01 inches. How would they measure that? In an environment that has not seen a drop of rain since July, that is news.

We are definitely moving into big ranching territory. The landscape is still very dry, but we began seeing small trees and more variety of flora. There is a variety of fauna as well, mostly evidenced by the fetid carcasses. Katherine and I did see a javalena cross the road in front of us. It moved slowly but our cameras moved more slowly.

We have been riding on chip seal pavement for several days now. It gives me a lot of sympathy for jackhammer operators. We decided to make a list of all the advantages of chip seal. We are still awaiting the first addition to the list. Someone remarked that it was probably developed by the oil industry to decrease gas mileage. If I stop pedaling, my bike stops moving. We are all tired of chip seal.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 24 Sanderson to Del Rio, TX

The Morning of Many Sunrises

Our route today was 111 miles, the longest of the trip, so we were pacing around the parking lot waiting for daylight. When we launched the sun was still obscured behind a line of hills. Finally, a glorious sunrise emerged, then was obscured again by another hill. The effect was a half hour of recurring sunrises. I rode singing "Morning Has Broken," holding in my mind the image of the sun shining through the magnificent east window at Broad Street.

The day was long and ninety-three degrees hot in the afternoon, but everyone seemed pleased with their efforts.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 23 Marathon to Sanderson, TX

Barren Beauty

I had plenty of chances to take photos of Texas today and had a hard time choosing which to post. The environment is so entirely different from Ohio, but I feel a sense of kinship, having lived in this state for ten years in one of my previous lives. The land is incredibly dry in the best of years, but there has been no rain at all in the last six months. Even so, there is some green here and there, providing a startling contrast to the more neutral coloring of the mountains. The early morning light was particularly spectacular. We followed a railroad track all day today - happily, as the railroads follow flat routes. We saw a colorful train in the distance, interesting rocks, and the big ever-blue sky. The images evoked Psalms 8 and 121. Often I am just overwhelmed at having the opportunity to see the country this way. And by the way, our laundry dries fast!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 22 Ft Davis to Marathon, TX

The biggest news of this day is the beautiful Gage Hotel in Marathon, TX. It really gives the impression of an oasis in the desert. Our room is extremely comfortable and tastefully decorated with a buffalo skin rug, old cowboy photos on the wall, an iron bed frame, plaster walls and wooden doors and windows that look as if they came from an 18th century fort.

The ride was a pleasant 60 miles of "false flats" that really ran a bit downhill, a gentle breeze that pushed us along, cool temperatures in the morning, and more blue skies. We all enjoyed it!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 21 Ft Davis, TX. Rest Day

Day 21 Ft Davis, TX Rest Day

Oh, my! We were ready for a rest day! We were in bed at 9:00 last night and arose at 8:15 this morning. Most people went into town at 9am to do laundry; we decided we did not need to be that clean and opted for laundry in the tub and stringing it out to dry on benches, trees, improvised clothes lines, etc. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of pancakes and eggs. Our water bottles have been cleaned and sanitized. Our bikes have been cleaned and lubed.

I talked to my sister for half an hour. She sounded amazingly good. Her voice was strong and animated. Her sense of humor shone through. The physical therapist was encouraging about her readiness for recovery.

Yesterday was a rough day with a record six flat tires. Katherine had two - one at a SAG stop and the other one as she arrived at the lodge. She does have good timing. The tire shards ( pictured) that are left on the road shoulders are the culprits. They have exposed strips of steel that become embedded in our tires, eventually working their way through to puncture the inner tubes. We try to check our tires every night and pull them out with tweezers before the damage is done, but of course we do not always succeed. Flat tires are never fun but we have several women who are willing to help change them. We appreciate it so much.

Day 20 Van Horn to Ft Davis, TX

The route today was ninety miles, so Katherine and I split the day. She rode the first half and I drove the .SAG vehicle; we switched roles at the lunch break. (I hope you like the stylish hat.) Katherine rode 48 miles on difficult chip seal pavement. Picture gravel that has been glued down. This stuff really slows you down. Add to that a fierce headwind. I did not envy her! At the lunch break we turned on to a secondary road that headed southeast, so that now the wind was behind us. However, the next thirty miles were a climb to an observatory at 5,050 feet elevation. I must admit that my enthusiasm waned at times. I had to tell myself that I could go another hundred yards and then another hundred yards. But at other times, I was absolutely enthralled by the silence of the surrounding hills, the aroma of the flora, the touch of a cooling breeze heading downhill, the taste of dust on my lips. I was rewarded by a final ten-mile downhill. I arrived at our lodge at Davis Mountains State Park at 5:30, just in time for dinner. I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment for completing the second half. I am in awe of the women who completed the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 19 Fort Hancock to VanHorn, TX

We are in West Texas, for sure. This photo was from yesterday where we saw some agriculture. Today I rode alone and never stopped to take a photo. Believe me, this is barren land. Not even any agriculture today. Except for the mountains in the distance, it reminds me of Lubbock where I lived for five years - John's birthplace. I even saw several fighter planes overhead. I saw mostly flat land with scrubby brush. An amazing amount of nothing. I had a perfect tailwind that blew me along and allowed me to focus on my dear sister. The route took me for many miles on the Frontage Road next to I-10. I rode for 14 miles before anyone passed me in either direction
Physically, I feel good. I am definitely much stronger. However, I would not say I look so great. My eyes are ringed in white from sunglasses, my nose is red and my right ear has peeled too many times to count. I have a variety of scratches from unplanned encounters with my bike. The skin on my arms and legs is parched. My hair is a fright. I have not worn make-up in three weeks and do not care. Oy!
The re-entry may be difficult.

March 22, 2011. Special Edition

I want to update my wonderful followers about news from my sister. On March 17, a day off from riding, I called Elaine to catch up. She told me that she had seen the doctor for what she thought was a bladder infection. The doctor discovered a large mass in her abdomen. Many tests later, the knew that she had a large mass on her ovary; the doctor felt it did not fit the profile for ovarian cancer. However, they noticed a different mass on her pancreas that looked like typical pancreatic cancer. She absolutely turned down an offer for me to come home. Chris and Rachel, her son and daughter-in-law, concurred. She had surgery this morning. The preliminary diagnosis indicates that the huge mass on the ovary is a borderline cyst; they removed all of it. The small mass on the pancreas is totally unrelated to the cyst and is is cancer. The borders all looked clear in the lab, meaning that they got all of it. The surgeon feels that it will be labeled Stage one. Most likely they will recommend a course of chemotherapy once a week for three weeks then a week off. After completing that, she will have radiation. The doctor said they never would have found the pancreatic tumor if it had not been for the other one. It is so rare to find a pancreatic tumor this early.
Elaine learned all of this on St Patrick's Day, six years to the day after the death of her husband George, at the same cancer center where he was treated in Cleveland.
Needless to say, this has been devastating news. Chris and Rachel have asked me to continue riding and they will take care of Elaine. Rachel's parents are coming out from Philadelphia to care for the children so Rachel can care for Elaine. This wonderful group of women that I have known for only 18 days could not be more supportive. Katherine has been the best roommate, medical consultant and prayer partner that I could have hoped for.
For those of you who know Elaine, she does not feel up to having visitors bit I am sure she would welcome cards.

Day 18 El Paso to Ft Hancock, TX

Group Ride
We are now in the sparsely populated dry lands of West Texas. We rode only 45 miles today because the towns are not spaced out more evenly for us. We had good pavement with wide shoulders. We were advised not to rush to our motel as there would be little to do here so someone suggested that we ride as one big group. We stopped to see a mission and an art gallery - I would say we made the owner's day. We ate together at a nice little Mexican restaurant. Inevitably, a few members found their own path, but nine of us started and finished the day together. We were all rewarded by the sense of camaraderie we experienced. Dianne led us along at a nice steady pace that everyone could manage. Nancy and Lise rode sweep, meaning they followed along at the end.The crosswinds were strong by mid afternoon. Much of the land was irrigated by the Rio Grande, producing alfalfa, cotton, pecans. The land has a certain beauty but I did not hear anyone express a desire to live here, or even to extend our stay. What a way to see the country. Katherine had some junk mail from American Airlines when she arrived. It occurred to me that we could make this trip much more quickly using that option. However, it just would not be the same.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 17 Las Cruces NM to El Paso, TX

We have entered the arid and semi-arid lands of the Southwest east of the mountains. We have passed many pecan orchards (pictured), green chile fields, a vineyard, and some dry land cotton farms. We rode about 30 miles just to cross through sprawling El Paso. We are now on the east side of town in order to avoid rush hour traffic in the morning. Tomorrow is a 45 mile ride to Fort Hancock. Have you heard of it?? Nobody else has, either. We will be staying in a zero-service, zero-star motel. No cell phone or wifi. So no blog will be posted until the next day.
Today was an easy ride - perfect weather, smooth roads, early arrival.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 16 Kingston to Las Cruces, NM

Last night we stayed at the Black Range Lodge, where we were provided a wonderful B&B style breakfast. Therefore, we got a rather late start on our 88mile route. The first 26 miles were downhill with tailwinds, so we clipped along smartly. Then we turned, but the wind did not, so we pedaled into strong winds for 25 miles when we turned again. The riding was better at times, but not consistently. The day was long and tiring.
Lisa was our SAG driver today. She had a terrible, awful, very bad day! First, she had a flat bike tire this morning and she wasn't even riding. Then the SAG flip phone separated into two pieces. At the second stop, she backed over Alice's helmet that had been blown by the wind under the rear tire, Then she had a flat tire on the Subaru. When she tried to call for help, she had no cell service. So she spent a long time waiting in a forsaken spot with no restroom. She bore up admirably under this duress, but it was a trying day. We were all bolstered by another of Linda's fabulous meals, but were ready to turn in early.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 15 Silver City to Kingston, NM

Emory Pass
The Highest Elevation

Today we climbed to 8228 feet above sea level, the highest point on this trip. This was the hardest ride I have ever done, but the beautiful scenery along the way and the spectacular panoramic view from the top was more than worth it. It was just a matter of gearing down, riding slowly, making lots of stops, and hoping for a tailwind. Eva rode with me, and we caught up with Greta and Ruth part way up. We each had to stop when we wore out, but we stayed fairly close. I was positively euphoric when I reached the top.

Day 14

Day 14 Rest Day, Silver City, NM
Things that have changed

After eight straight riding days, we were so grateful for a rest day. God rested every seventh day, and I understand why. We had a quiet day of laundry, picking up our bikes, and grocery shopping. Grocery shopping on a bike poses some difficulties. We wore bike clothes that had many pockets and stuffed them all. Katherine hung my sandals on a string around her neck. Needless to say, we were quite a sight riding back up the hill.

After seventeen days of living out of a suitcase,I have made some changes in the way I view life. I have decided that two pairs of pants and three shirts are enough. I am sure I own way too many clothes, and other stuff, too, for that matter. In the past, I took only one Ibuprofen at a time, and even that rarely. Now I consider it part of my diet. Lisa, aka "Young Pup," calls it Vitamin I. I am annoyed most every afternoon by the over packaging of cups and soap in motel rooms. It should not be such an effort to penetrate these wrappings. I no longer pay much attention to my bike computer. I follow the mileage so I know when to turn. But I do not look at average speed; that is a joy killer. I do not look at maximum speed; that scares me. I do not look at number of riding minutes; it only confirms how I feel. I do not look at the clock. If the sun is in front of me, I know it is morning. If it is behind me, it is afternoon. If I am hungry, I know it is lunch time. It is pretty much always lunch time. Yeah for the simple life.