Posted: Fri, 16 July 2004
JULY 16 COUNTRY ROADS TO WOOSTER
Our 9th and final "century" of the trip is now "in the record book." But believe me, NO records were set on this 104 mile ride from Marysville to Wooster, OH. There was way too much climbing for that. We were still climbing at the 98 mile marker; a total of 3780 feet of elevation gain was recorded on this "sweet little route." Five or six of the hills were very tough. Even with full speed momentum carried into the climb, it took all you had to get to the top. At some points it reminded us of those awful "rollers" in Missouri.
Road to Wooster, OH
Despite the hills, the ride was special. The roads were great, the scenery and the small towns of Ohio provided an abundance of interesting things to look at. It was a postcard georgeous day in the countryside. We rode on quiet backroads and country lanes and had plenty of opportunity to talk. In my case, Tom (IA) gave me an education on farming and crops.
Barn outside of Wooster
At the final SAG stop at the 75 mile mark a pizza shop provided a convenient lunch spot for many. Some even took time to watch Lance perform on TV in the Tour de France. Tom, Jerry (WA) and I went on to the small farming town of Hayesville where we had lunch - and homemade pie - at the cafe. The farmers don't quite know what to make of us. They probably wonder how we can take so much time off to BICYCLE ACROSS AMERICA.
Stools at the Cafe in Hayesville
Jerry and Tom in Hayesville
Sadly, during the course of the day, we learned that one of our teammates, Dale, had been hit by a car and injured in the town of Delaware. He was side-swiped by a car and thrown from the bike, suffering a broken collar bone. The car NEVER EVEN STOPPED! He is taped up and feeling better this evening. Another rider was injured in a fall yesterday and was unable to ride today. We continue to be extremely careful and safety conscious.
My cousin Betsy visited me this evening from Mansfield, OH. She attended route rap, met many of the gang and observed the biker "feeding frenzy" at the Country Kitchen buffet dinner.
This area of Ohio is home to many Amish people. We see them in towns and on the farms. Many tourists come here to visit Amish country. Smuckers and Frito-Lay have plants in the Wooster area ("Gateway to Amish Country").
Tomorrow we back off a bit from the back to back century pace...we ONLY have a 92 mile ride to Austintown.
Posted: Thu, 15 July 2004
JULY 15 BUCKEYE BILL
We rode our 8th "century" of the trip today; 105 miles from Richmond, IN to Marysville, OH. It was actually a great ride. The weather was favorable for a long bike ride: low humidity and not too hot on a sunny day, however we did have some wind.
Buckeye Bill and Mason
Our route for at least 70 miles was the Cardinal Trail Bike Route--not a bike path--but a series of state and county roads that weaved through the Ohio farm country. Just a few miles out of Richmond we had crossed the Ohio State line and changed our watches to Eastern Daylight Time--our 4th time zone.
Having lived in Cincinnati for a couple of years, I thought I had seen quite a bit of Ohio. The area we covered today was "back country," way off the beaten path; soybean and corn country that I had never seen before. That's what was so enjoyable about it. We could ride 2 or 3 abreast and talked. There was no worry about traffic, as we saw only the occcasional car or truck, and they gave us wide berth. The time (6 hours 50 minutes riding time) passed easily.
Our first SAG was in Covington at the 42 mile mark near the Stillwater River. In the 4 corner town of St Paris we stopped for lunch at the Main St Cafe. I'm sure they wished we hadn't! Twelve hungry, thirsty bikers caused them to run out of ice, chicken salad, hamburgers, lemonade and wheat bread. The 2 young waitresses were overwhelmed--they may have quit! We are always polite, but just TOO MUCH for these little diners which are our only option for lunch.
Meg entering covered bridge
The "new guy" Dale from Tucson rode with us again most of the way. He is an attorney with IBM and a CATEGORY 3 bike racer. Very STRONG! We also have Paul and Barb with us the rest of the way. They have ridden the Cross Country Challenge in segments and will finish with us. They ride a tandem bike and are very fast.
Rest stop at 90 miles
We entered Marysville this afternoon on some of the most pot-holed streets we have encountered, but we are told the town council has approved funds for repair. Marysville ("Where the Grass Is Greener") is home to Scotts Lawn Care Co. and the Honda plant where cars and motorcycles are made. I think the tax base will support some road repair.
Someone in our group insightfully mentioned that the conversations have changed over time. We've all been through the "introductory stages" and of course by now know quite a bit about each other. We now talk about what is AHEAD, instead of what we have seen, and what is BEHIND us. What we are going to do immediately following the wheel dipping ceremony in the Atlantic, and in the months and years ahead have become the topics. It has been an interesting and important transition.
We have another 104 mile day tomorrow...and a lot more to talk about.
Posted: Wed, 14 July 2004
JULY 14 HOOSIER HOOPS
Boy, what a good day off, a couple of great steak dinners, and a little wind at your back can do. We all felt great once we were back on the bikes--and flew the 73 miles from Indy to Richmond, IN. Leaving early at 6:30 am, we were in Richmond having lunch before noon. The bike ride itself was fun--good road, sunny morning, and we were all well rested. The first 10 miles were stop and go at traffic lights leaving Indy and its suburbs, but then it opened up with only the small towns providing diversions. Our average speed for the day was 18 mph--a pretty high number considering the number of stops.
We had no turns today--our only instructions called for us to follow US Route 40, "America's First Highway", now an historic National Road, all the way. It is America's first highway built with Federal funds whose purpose was originally to carry pioneers to the West.
We cycled through to Centerville, one of the earliest turnpike towns, where painted brick rowhouses stand close to the road. It is called "Antique Alley" as there are some 500 antique dealers doing business here--many in their B&B's.
Bikers visit market in Greenfield, IN
We passed through the towns of Pennville and Dublin, which was named for the "doublin" up of horses that was often required for a wagon to climb the steep hill near town. Some of the towns had American flags on every telephone pole in town, probably left over from the 4th of July celebration. A nice touch.
Some of the boys--Mason, John (ME), Tom, Steve, Doug and Ken (CT)-- stopped in Knightstown, "Home of the Hickory Huskers" basketball team. Remember the movie "Hoosiers" with Gene Hackman as coach of the underdog Huskers team that went on to win the Indiana state High School Championship. It was filmed in Knightstown and you can shoot a basket from the same spot where Jimmy made the game winner as time expired. Mason tried the same shot---HE SHOOTS.....HE SCORES!!
Coach Bill with Hoosiers
Richmond, IN, population 39,000,is called "The City of Roses" as it once was home to the largest greenhouses in the US. Many casket companies have now replaced the florists as the leading industry in town. It is located 70 miles from both Indy and Cincinnati, picking up the overflow from both communities.
The AbB Bear in Richmond
Meg writing her journal
Many of us wished "Bonne Fete" to our French friends who celebrate Bastille Day today. Last night we turned over to Gerard the task of choosing wine at Morton's Steak House knowing that it would be a good selection....from France.
Posted: Tue, 13 July 2004
JULY 13 MIDWEST REST
It was a beautiful, hot, sunny day in Indy for our REST DAY. We took advantage and leisurely walked around town. There is much to see and appreciate in this midwest city that I'm told was once called "nap town." Now it is a bustling, clean, vibrant city with museums, world class statues, brick roadways, indoor shoping malls, great restaurants and bank and insurance company sky scrapers. We have all been favorably impressed with Indianapolis.
War Memorial Park in Indy
This morning I had an important barber shop appointment with Winston,who expertly REMOVED MY GOATEE and gave me a haircut. It was TIME!
I then met up with Tim, Kathryn, Joe, Meg and John(ME) to walk to the various attractions and Memorials around town. We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and hit the mall for ice cream and some shopping. We had a very pleasant and relaxing day.
Joe and Tim at the World War II Memorial
Tim, Joe, John, Bill and Meg at the Hard Rock Cafe
TAN LINES: AN OBSERVATION
We have all developed tan lines that are unquestionably "biker specific." Of course it stands out more at the pool or hot tub, but even dressed for dinner (such as we are) it is obvious to everyone that there is something different about our group.
- Faces are brown--except for white foreheads, lines from sunglasses, and helmet strap lines.
- Even the air vents in our helmets leave tanned patches on our foreheads and heads.
- Forearms are brown down to the wrists where the biking gloves start--then white, except for the fingertips that are exposed to the sun.
- Knees and legs are VERY brown below the bike pant line. But when wearing shorter shorts the contrast is dramatic.
Tomorrow morning we are back on the bikes in the first of 4 long days in the saddle. We are rested and ready to go.
Posted: Mon, 12 July 2004
JULY 12 RACING IN INDIANAPOLIS
What a great day! This was one biking day that we all will remember for a long time. It was not only the ride, but all the places we visited that made for such an enjoyable adventure.
The weather was summer sunshine. The trip was a short one--only 64 miles from Crawfordsville to Indianapolis. AND we were riding into a REST DAY. This put us all in the right frame of mind...and the events of the day took over from there.
The first 30 miles to the SAG stop we stayed together in a group of 10. We rode through towns like Pittsboro, home to Jeff Gordon of NASCAR fame, and Brownsburg where we visited the Roark Bike Factory. Roark all titanium hand-made bikes are among the best and fastest in the world. Since the Roark Factory also makes some parts for the B2 bomber, their appropriate slogan is: "What we make flies". We had a tour of the small factory where we watched and learned how they make these racers to individual specifications.
Jerry, Mason and Tom at the Roark bike factory
We then moved on to Eagle Creek Park just outside Indianapolis. Cruising down the shaded roads of this large park, we turned and rode to the marina for ice cream and a rest stop. Joe and Doug rented a sunfish and sailed for an hour on the lake. When they didn't capsize in the first 15 minutes--as we had expected--we left for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Home of the Indy 500. As we approached the speedway, I thought there was a jetport nearby--the sounds of the cars on the track were deafening. Luckily, it was a practice day for the Brickwalk 400 NASCAR race. We rode in our bikes and sat in the stands and watched these cars zoom by at 180 mph. Ear plugs were selling fast at $2 a pair.
Joe and Doug sailing
Major Taylor was the first famous black cyclist, who at that time was not able to race for the US, but did race successfully for Austrailia. He is honored today by his namesake track in Indy: The Major Taylor Velodrome. AbB received permission for us to ride the open-air 1/8 mile banked oval track. Great fun, trying to move up the wall at higher speeds and then sprint down to a finish. We all took turns on the oval--some more daring than others.
At the Velodrome
There were 6 or 7 serious cyclists working out with their coach at the time. We spoke to the coach, Aaron Hartwell, a US Olympic sprint cyclist in the '92, '96, and 2000 Olympic Games where he received bronze and silver medals in the "kilo" or 1000 meter sprint. He introduced us to his wife, Mae Britt who was training on a Roark bike in a stationary apparatus and to several of the boys from the Canadian National Cycling Team. She had placed 3rd in the Women's World Championships and the boys were world class sprinters, all powerful looking athletes. We had an interesting discussion with Hartwell about the sport of sprint cycling. He impressed me as being at the top of his game.
The former Olympians
It was then into center city Indianapolis riding on bike paths along the White River. We passed IU Medical School where Dr. Dave trained, the RCA dome, the headquarters of the NCAA, and on to Monument Square, the Capital Building, and the War Memorial. What an impressive city. We rode along the canal which has been developed much like San Antonio and right to our downtown hotel. Bicycles and big city traffic are not always a good combination, but we all made it safely.
Lost in Indy
We had a lot of guests and family visiting our bikers at route rap tonight, including Lynn and Paul Bowles, my friends from Naples who came to visit. We had a wonderful dinner and evening together at Indy's famous St. Elmo's Steakhouse.
Tomorrow, I'll visit some of the sights we biked past today--and hopefully get some rest.
Posted: Sun, 11 July 2004
JULY 11 "BREAKING AWAY" IN INDIANA
Riding single file and moving along quickly after crossing the border into Indiana, I couldn't help thinking of the movie; "Breaking Away". Remember that Hoosier kid biking in the countryside near Bloomington, IN fantisizing that he was on an Italian cycling team, speaking Italian and loving his bike. I loved that movie...and could imagine his excitement.
It was a great 80 mile Sunday morning ride leaving the city of Champaign after a complete breakfast at Bob Evans. There is not a lot of traffic in any city or town at 7:00am on a Sunday morning. Champaign and the small Illinois towns of Mayview, St Joseph, Ogden, etc., on state route 150 were no exceptions. We didn't stop for 2 hours until the SAG stop in Danville--which has lost a little of its luster, assuming it once had it.
We crossed the Indiana state line and the Wabash River near Covington, IN, where we took our 8th state border picture. Tom, Jerry, David, Mason, Meg, Mike and I rode together to the SAG in Veedersburg. We took turns at the front and just kept up our cruising speed at mainly 17/18 mph. The terrain is flat, the crops the same as we have seen for days--yes, corn and soybeans. There were many small farms with green lawns and moist fields from recent rains.
We missed this sign on the way in
We were entering a small town on route 136 when we saw the town sign. It read "Town of Hillsboro--Home of 600 Happy People and a Few Sore Heads". I kid you not.
Wall art in Hillsboro, IN
The weather forecast had given a good possibility of scattered thunderstorms. We saw the ominous black clouds off to the south. The race was on--we had only 10 miles or so to the hotel, and we planned to beat the storm. Then lighting off in the distance. When the strong gusts of wind hit us, we knew we were going to get wet. So, about 4 miles from our destination we wisely pulled into SOMEONE'S driveway and garage--later welcomed by the homeowner--and watched the major thunderstorm pass through. We made a good decision.
Getting out of the rain
Crawfordsville, IN ("The Athens of Indiana") is a town of 15,000 "Athenians" who are proud of their most famous former citizen; Civil War General Lew Wallace who wrote "Ben Hur". Wabash College, the only all men's liberal arts college west of the Allegheny Mts., is located here as well as the RR Donnelly Co., a printer of books and magazines. Dick Van Dyke went to Jr High in Crawfordsville (this, plus TOO MUCH more info was given to me by the town postmaster who overheard my question to the hotel clerk and stepped in.)
Last night 6 of us broke with the AbB offer of another Chinese buffet and went on our own to a steakhouse. We ordered our steaks and were then told how this restaurant works. You pick out your own steak and then cook it YOURSELF on a big grill along with many others. We wanted to be SERVED, not cook, so we took plan B, ie THEY cooked our steak for an additional $2.50. When I ordered a bottle of beer--not knowing their policy at the bar, I said, "I'll pour it!"
Posted: Sat, 10 July 2004
JULY 10 CHAMPAGNE IN CHAMPAIGN
"You never know what is up ahead", that should be the slogan of this biking group. When you are on a 100 mile bike trip--as we were today from Springfield to Champaign, IL--you often meet the unexpected. Sometimes it's weather, or a problem with your bike (like flat #8), or you miss a turn and go a few miles out of your way...today, the road turned to mud and we carried our bikes through 2 construction sites. We then turned to the locals to help us find a detour to get us back on course. Of course it all worked out well, and we had a few laughs grumbling about all the mud in our cleats. I had so much mud on my shirt they called me "pig pen", like the guy in the Charlie Brown cartoons.
The Road Less Traveled
Dale and Mason cleaning their cleats
Shortly thereafter, Dan (CA) and I were riding together talking about the bike rides he has been on--many--and what his favorite bike trip had been (not including this one)... Answer: New Zealand with Backroads. Dan's sister had emailed Meg to mention a nickname for Dan. It was "DRC" his initials, which stand for Daniel Randell Crandell. That got a few laughs at route rap last night. Maybe Dan's parents didn't have access to the Baby Book of Names when Dan was born.
I had mentioned that Joyce (MA) has a trainer at the Carmichael Training School (Lance's coach). She told us that she would call the trainer and ask what we could all do to maintain our biking fitness level at the end of this trip. She called and got this answer: "When you reach New Hampshire put the bike away for a week and relax"... Sounds good. "Then", the trainer said "get back on it and RIDE TO SAN FRANCISCO!" Not a chance!
Gerard, our favorite Frenchman, celebrated his 50th birthday today. He said that in France one celebrates this milestone at a big party with the family, and that WE are like family to him. He bought several--actually many--bottles of Champagne (French naturally) and a cake which we all shared in the hotel lobby after dinner. Mason's girlfriend is visiting and joined us as well. Champagne in Champaign.
Gerard and Monique at Gerard's Party
The 103 mile ride today was like a composite of different segments. The morning speed, the mud and detour, great SAG stops at Lincoln's log cabin and at a cemetary at mile 68, the afternoon heat, the afternoon headwind for the last 20 miles---all made for an interesting ride. Not an EASY ride by any means--a century day never is--but we all had a lot to talk about when it was over.
We are staying in Champaign/Urbana, where the great University of Illinois is located. GO ILLINI.
Tomorrow it will be GO HOOSIERS!
Posted: Fri, 9 July 2004
JULY 9 THE CITY ABRAHAM LINCOLN LOVED
We departed Quincy at 6:15 am--an unusually early start--on a 101 mile ride to Springfield, IL. I felt tired this morning and my legs were tight and a little sore from the long days of climbing. I rode out of the parking lot with Tom (IA) and the fast group he normally rides with. These are the guys who we generally see in the hotel lobby as we arrive at the end of a day's ride. They have already showered, dressed, read the paper etc---been in for some time. I picked today--a century day-- to ride with them. Probably not too smart, but I wanted to see if I "could hang in there " and ride hard the whole way.
The Century Team
The only stops we took were the required SAG stops--and only briefly--not the social gatherings I am used to. The lunch stop came at the COMPLETION of the ride--not when we were hungry. I had no "photo opportunities" because if I had stopped to take a picture of the beautiful white barn sitting on a hill in the morning mist with an American flag painted on the side--I would have been left in the dust. (Sorry, You will just have to visualize it.)
I stayed with Tom all day. Meg joined us as well, along with Big Dawg and "fast Frank" for part of the day. The scenery was alternating soybean and corn fields as we rode on quiet country roads. I was totally focused on the road and on trying to maintain speed. We did have rolling hills again early, but not as steep as yesterday. It was getting HOT by noon, but we were approaching Springfield by then.
The State Capital Building
Today's ride was the fastest 100 miles I have ever cycled. Tom's computer said 6 hours, 8 minutes at an average speed of 16.3 mph. For once I was in the hotel lobby early and I was anxious for a hot shower, clean clothes and a newspaper. MY ROOM WAS NOT READY--it would not be ready until 4:00 pm! Just my luck.
The Old State Capital Building
The other tourists visiting Lincoln's law office in Springfield seemed to move away from Tom, Kenny, Meg and me as if we "may have needed a shower". We were still in our sweaty biking gear, but enjoying the educational tour. We also saw the Old State Capital Building where Lincoln gave his famous "A house divided against itself cannot stand..." speech prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. Lincoln's new Presidential Museum and Library nearby is almost completed, but not open to the public yet.
Abe with Bill, Meg, Kenny and Tom
I also had an interesting explanation given to me by Tom on the "de-tasseling" of corn. We saw a group in the field doing just that. They cross pollenate corn in that way to produce seed corn for next year's planting.
It felt good to get in early...and to know that you can do it. Tomorrow, I think I'll ride with the "scenic crew", maybe take some pictures---and enjoy the ride!
Posted: Thu, 8 July 2004
JULY 8 LAND OF LINCOLN
We rode out of Kirksville this morning with the town's newest celebrity. He was interviewed by the press last night at our hotel, and this morning the photographer showed up early to "shoot" action shots on the bike, and by the "Kirksville Welcomes You" sign. He even shaved for the occasion. It was Mason--and the press was interested in his charity bike ride for the Army Emergency Relief fund. Rightly so!
He and the rest of us quickly settled into the task at hand...a 97 mile ride to Quincy, Illinois through the "land of 1000 hills". We had all expected a flat day--only 660 feet of elevation gain we had been told. NOT SO, apparently that was last year's figure on the route. This year the route changed because the new bridge over the Mississippi River does not allow bicycle traffic. We were therefore diverted to different roads which added 25 miles to our trip and ran right through the 1000 hill country to the ferry crossing in Canton, MO. BIG DIFFERENCE-- We now had essentially a century ride with 50 miles of steep rolling hills. OH!, I forgot to mention that we had the wind in our face, it was raining, and much of the pavement was rough for a good period of time. We were not happy campers!
Our hilly route
Nine hours later we arrived in Quincy, Illinois ("The Gem City"), riding into town on historic Maine Street. Marvelous mansions on this tree lined street were built during the city's affluent period from 1850 to 1930, when Quincy was the most prominent river town in Illinois. A wide variety of architectural styles at 16th and Maine led the National Geographic Society to name it as one of the 10 most architecturally significant corners in America. Truly beautiful buildings.
Our rides and riding style have been a little different now that we are cycling during the Tour de France. We all watch what we can of the Tour on TV and talk about what they are doing. It makes our climbs a little more competitive. It makes getting passed a little harder to take. If a couple of people break out of our file formation or "peloton", it is usually not for long, as the peloton goes harder and eventually catches up. It is a little more competitive and a lot moe fun.
We stopped at a small feed store in Williamstown (at the 50 mile mark) tired and HUNGRY. They sell feed and seed and farm hardware, but we spotted a rack of candy bars while riding by. The store's sales figures soared today--and we got some helpful advice from a farmer. He told us about another road they all take to the ferry when transporting grain. With AbB's approval we had a quick route change--a few less hills, maybe a few more miles--to the river crossing. We will be riding 400 miles in 4 days, so a few less hills seemed important to us.
Crossing the Mississippi into Illinois
Crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois--our 7th state--was in many ways a milestone in our trip. We are in the midwest, moving fast, and with only 3 weeks remaining.
Dennis and Joyce crossing the Mississippi
With the bikes cleaned, a BIG Chinese buffet dinner under our belts, and a good night's rest, we'll be off in the morning for Springfield on another century ride.
Posted: Wed, 7 July 2004
JULY 7 LAND OF A THOUSAND HILLS
The topography chart of today's 82 mile ride looks like an EKG chart of an intensive care cardiac patient. Too many ups and downs! In this "region of 1000 hills" we actually climbed 236 of them today, accounting for 2600 feet of accumulated elevation gain. It was in every sense "a roller coaster day".
We rode on quiet 2 lane country roads that rambled through the Missouri farmland. Soybean rows and corn fields were common place. Many of the farms were owned by Amish people, as a large comminity has settled in this area. We saw a group of Amish men erecting a building as we passed by on our bikes.
After 2 flat tires (#6 and #7 for the trip) and being chased by by a big unfriendly dog, the day settled down to simply fighting the hills. (Thanks to Joe and Mason for relinquishing their lead at the time to lend a helping hand.) The hills just kept coming; racing down to gain momentum, racing up to get to the top. Some, of course, were worse than others,and we did have many great downhill runs (my maximum speed is now up to 35 mph--but slow in this league).
If I had encountered these hills prior to this trip, I would not have attempted them--certainly not for 82 miles--and I know I would not have been able to make it. Now, we all come to the realization that to get through them--you just DO them! One at a time-until you complete the day's ride. It is what the challenge is all about.
It was a happy crew in the hot tub at the Day's Inn late this afternoon, and later outside watching Vern and Brantley teach us "xylo" (a frisbee-like game).
At check in, I received mail that included a bag of yellow Lance Armstrong LIVE STRONG rubber bracelets. (Thanks, Louie.) This is a campaign to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation and its efforts to support young people especially who are living with cancer. You will see them on OLN network during the Tour de France being worn by the announcers and Lance supporters. They are cool. They are for a good cause--and we are all wearing them. Several bikers donated to my ACS Fund when receiving the bracelet. Thanks!
We are staying in Kirksville, population 17,000, a small town in Northern Missouri known as "The Birthplace of Osteopathic Medicine". The medical college is located in town along with 10,000 student Truman State College.
Tomorrow it's on to Illinois. We will be crossing the Mississippi River by ferry in a 97 mile marathon. We have gone 2256 miles in 32 days. Soon we will be closing in on the East Coast!