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.

Day 14 Rest Day Silver City, NM

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day13 Lordsburg to Silver City, NM

Continental Divide
We rode some major hills to get to the Continental Divide today. So does that mean it is all downhill to Florida?? All of those high spots made good photo ops. Katherine and I started half an hour early so that we could stay with the group on the early hills. By the end, we got behind the rest of the group, but we were fine with that. Silver City appears to be an interesting little town. We rode our bikes to the bike shop after we got in, then walked back - uphill, of course, a mile and a half to our motel. But we found the most helpful bike mechanics who got my pedal problem straightened out in a jiffy, and will have Katherine's gear problem fixed up tomorrow. We continue to find the most pleasant, remarkable, helpful people everywhere we go.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

False Flats, Flat Tires and Rumble Strips

Day 12 Safford, AZ to Lordsburg, NM

Today's route was 78 miles, indicating a fairly flat road. Which appeared to be the case in casual observation. However, we were reminded again that perspective changes considerably from a bicycle. After quite a few slow miles on this supposedly flat terrain, we understood the concept of "false flats." Add to that insidious incline a rough road surface and a slight headwind, and we knew we would be working today. There was further frustration for the four women who had flat tires.

In the photo you will see a line of rumble strips. You know - those grooves that waken drivers before they run off the road. They serve an important safety function. I approve of them. They make me crazy as a biker. We cross over them many, many times a day. We prepare ourselves by lifting up off the seat and relaxing our arms. They jangle our bodies. But of course, many times we run onto them without meaning to, thereby jangling both our bodies and our nerves. Oy! Today we had little traffic, so I tried hard to make friends with the rumble strips. But they do test my patience all day long.

We celebrated our entry into New Mexico with a margarita party!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 11 Globe to Safford, AZ

The Road Less Traveled
What a relief! Today's lightly traveled route took us through beautiful land with breezes at our back and "friendly hills," meaning that many downhills provided us with enough momentum to get much of the way up the next hill. We spent most of the day on an Apache Reservation. One entertaining gentleman tried to hitch a ride with us. We started the day with a 20-mile downhill. It got hot later in the afternoon. The cirrus clouds were the first clouds we have seen since San Diego. Katherine and I were at mile 65, just three miles short of the Tastee Freeze, when we ran into gravel too deep for bikes, so our ride came to a crashing end. Neither of us could get unclipped from our pedals so we lay on the ground trapped under our bikes for a minute. Quite frustrating. Within a minute, an Arizona State official pick-up truck pulled up behind us offering help. We turned down the first-aid-I preferred the work of the wound care specialist-but when they offered us a ride to the Tastee-Freeze, we could not turn it down. When we got in the car, Katherine asked what branch of the state government they worked in. The prison system, we were informed. That was good for a laugh. They were definitely our road angels today. It seems we meet one or more every day. We took the time to enjoy a root beer float before the SAG driver carried us the last ten miles to the motel.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 10 Apache Junction to Globe, AZ

The word from our "map meeting" was: If you can do this day, you can do any day on this trip. Therefore, I planned to do this day. It was not a long day - only 49 miles. Beware those shorter days! They are usually loaded with climbs. This one included a pair of two-mile climbs, among others. The roads were in good condition but in places the shoulders were narrow to non-existent. There were lots of curves. There was a tunnel (shown in the background of photo.) The Sunday traffic included a full complement of motorcycle riders, who generally gave us plenty of room but made a lot of noise. I had to put my mind in neutral and set out, taking one thing at a time to avoid emotional overload. In retrospect, the day did not seem so hard. The climbs were all manageable by finding a comfortable gear and pedaling slowly. I chose my lowest gear, only because I did not have a lower one. But it was really fine. At 40 miles, the SAG driver came along to pick up another lady who was having shifting problems. I was having trouble clipping my shoes into the pedals, and traffic was picking up, so I jumped In the SAG car, too. I had climbed all of the hills by then, so felt that I had met the challenge. I hope that I am, indeed, prepared for any future demand.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 9 Phoenix to Apache Junction, AZ

Today our route led us to the eastern edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area. We started out through a residential area then into the exurban section. All riders were in by 2:00. I never took a photo, so I will talk about SAG stops. SAG stands for "support and gear." Our Subaru stays within about 20 miles of us, if possible. It gets harder at the end of the day, when it stays nearer the slower riders. The faster riders mostly go on ahead. The photo is a typical SAG stop. The first thing we do is fill our water bottles, then snack on fruit, snacks, energy bars, etc. We try to stretch a bit to keep the kinks out. Notice the bushes in the background. Use your imagination. You may notice that Katherine, my traveling buddy who is standing next to me, and I are both sporting black marks on our legs. This is grease from our bicycle chains. Shampoo removes it fairly well.

Tomorrow we head out of town. For several days, we have had mountains looming in front of us. I knew the time would come when we would cross them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blooming' desert

Day 8 Wickenburg, AZ to Phoenix, AZ

We started out this morning before the sun had risen over the mountains, making it very cool for the first half-hour or so. Road surfaces were good and winds were favorable, so the ride seemed fast. We were able to keep our speed up much more than yesterday. We passed through some desert but were soon into the metropolitan area full of strip malls, big box stores, and restaurants. In the first fifty miles, there were only two turns; Katherine and I missed one of them, thereby climbing a two-mile hill for nought. At least the corrective action was all downhill. We located a bike shop where I was able to replace the broken cleats on my bike shoes. The helpful mechanic improved the functioning of Katherine's gears and brakes. They also located a Verizon store where Katherine had her Blackberry worked on. We completed the 67-mile ride at 4:00 feeling quite strong.

The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurse Association held an ice cream social for Katherine. We bikers were invited. Nice treat!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 7 Salome, AZ to Wickenburg, AZ

Today the riding was extremely straightforward. The route took us out of our motel onto Route 60 for 55 miles until we arrived at our motel. No turns. No change of gears all day. It was cool when we started and very warm when we finished. The view had less variety than other days. Lots of cactus with lovely mountains in the distance on all sides. We passed a grove of pistachio trees early this morning. Katherine stopped and inquired of a farmer as we could not identify them. At about the mid-point we stopped at the Coyote Cafe for a milkshake, sweet potato fries, iced tea and water. We burn a lot of calories doing this! We also go through an amazing amount of fluids. Fortunately, our trusty SAG driver is parked about every twenty miles so that we can fill up with water and replenish our healthy snacks. She is always a welcome sight. So is the SAG Subaru station wagon.

Day 6 Blythe CA to Salome, Az

We crossed into Arizona almost immediately this morning. We traveled on a four lane highway with good pavement and wide shoulders, making for fairly easy travel. We had to be vigilant about road debris, such as gravel, shredded tires that contain nasty bits of steel, and bungee cords. Bungee cords everywhere. I kept wondering a out the loads they were intended to secure. Eventually we turned onto a well-paved, should led two-lane road. The quiet gave me time to enjoy the wildflowers and the omnipresent cactus. We had changed time zones, so it was late when we arrived at our zero stars motel. Though lacking most amenities, the shower refreshed me, dinner was good, and I am ready for bed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 5 Rest Day

Day 5 Rest Day, Blythe, CA

Bikers' day off! We assembled at 9am for a training session on bike cleaning. After our ride in the desert, this was crucial. It took a lot longer than we anticipated, but we all feel confident that our machines are ready for another 50 more days of riding.

It was a fine day in Blythe. The temperature was about 72 degrees and the sky was a deep blue without a hint of a cloud. We all feel more organized, having repacked clean clothes, arranging things to be more accessible, and helping us to be ready for the next day with little fanfare. I enjoyed getting caught up with friends and family.

We move on to Arizona tomorrow!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Day 4 Brawley to Blythe, CA

Today was a 90 mile ride to Blythe, through mostly level desert land. The wind was about 35 mph, either tailwind or crosswind. The morning was tough, crossing Dunes National Park. It was really hard to control the bikes. I thoroughly expected Lawrence of Arabia to emerge on a camel. The last 50 miles was much easier. At points, I cruised along at 20-25 mph -without even pedaling. Tomorrow is a rest day, then on to AZ.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day 3 to Brawley, CA

Not all downhills are fun! After five miles to warm up, we descended for ten miles, dropping 3000 feet. It was truly trial by terror. A six percent grade enhanced by strong, unpredictable cross winds. Yikes! We were bundled up for the cold temps. I was so tense that I got a crick in my neck that lasted all day. After that, the road was mostly flat with mostly a tailwind. The temperature was 82. One stretch of 15 miles or so had bone-jarring ruts. We were thrilled to say good-by to that. We rode 69.9 miles and are so glad to be settled in to a comfortable motel.

Along the desert stretch below, we encountered the Border Patrol trying to follow fresh footprints. It was sad to consider the heartaches that that scenario portends in so many ways.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 2 Alpine to Jacumba, CA

I feel great! Actually, I am amazed that I feel great after a day full of uphills. We climbed 4000 feet, including two 12% grade inclines. My average speed for the first 17miles was 5.6 mph. The last 14 miles went fast with a couple long downhills. Thankfully, the weather was good, the roads were mostly good and there was not much traffic. The photo is looking down a hill that we had just climbed, although it does not really capture the intensity.
Jacumba is right on the border. We passed the fence that separates the US from Mexico and saw lots of the white SUVs with green lettering of the Border Patrol.
It is surprisingly warm. Quite a shock for those of us who came directly from winter. We did see some snow on the shady side of the road. Most of us are already turning red or brown, mostly on our "southern" side. We're all using lots of suntan lotion.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Marge's well-cared for wound

Day 1

We gathered at the Pacific Ocean and dipped our rear wheels in the water. And we were off! We rode through San Diego on bike paths and roads. Within 15 miles, we were out in the hills that were filled with scrub trees and no buildings. Quite a dramatic contrast. The ride to Alpine was not as "Alpine" as the name suggests. We had a few miles of challenging climbs but it was all doable.

On the way to the Pacific, I somehow scratched my leg. I don't know where I did it, but a friend of Katherine's noticed it and was suddenly surrounded by wound care specialists (Katherine's friends) who sprang into action dressing this wound. I think it was overkill, but my timing was impeccable!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day minus 2

I arrived safely in San Diego yesterday with one bag. The other one took a detour and arrived about 10 last night. We picked up our bikes and will take a test spin today to be sure they are set up for comfort. I am still trying to organize everything, although I thought had covered that completely before I left. Keep it simple!