Posted: Sat, 26 June 2004
JUNE 26 REFLECTIONS FROM PUEBLO
For the past three weeks I have written daily about my experiences and those of others on this cross country trek. I have told the details of our incredible rides. It is an amazing adventure with many challenges and rewards. I have met great people...and am thoroughly enjoying the experience.
BUT, I have not forgotten why I am here. I am here to ride in memory of Betty's life; to reflect on our life together, and to find some peace in her loss.
I ride each day for those cancer victims and cancer survivors whose names you have given me. These names are written on the parchment scroll I carry on my bike every day.
I honestly think about my mission for being here...daily.
Along with you, I am proud to be a part of this successful effort to raise substantial funds for the American Cancer Society. Thanks to all of you for your great support!
Together we are making a difference.
Posted: Fri, 25 June 2004
JUNE 25 SCENIC RIDE TO PUEBLO
We loaded luggage at 6:00 am and pedaled off to the Pancake Patio in Salida for breakfast. It was another chilly morning so we wore our windbreakers and leg warmers or tights--these to be set aside at the first SAG stop.
The ride today was 96 miles to Pueblo, CO on Route 50. We dropped 2200 ft in altitude over the course of the day. After yesterday's climb we liked that.
Leaving the Rockies behind
The mood was particularly upbeat, as we were heading for a rest day in Pueblo. I rode with Joe (TX), Joyce (ME), John (MA), and Tim and Kathryn (ME).
Rt. 50 from Salida to Cañon City, is designated a "Scenic Byway." What an UNDERSTATEMENT! I don't think one could find a more stunningly beautiful and captivating stretch of roadway anywhere. National Geographic would be hard pressed to capture its natural beauty. As we rode single file through the deep rock canyons and ranch lands on this 2 lane road, there was often quiet as we took in the scope of our surroundings. We seemed to speak only to say, "WOW!" or "Look at THAT!"....and of course, "car back, car back," warning each other of cars approaching from the rear. We stopped at a pasture where several horses grazed. The unquestionable leader of the pack approached us, as did the others. They came close, but were suddenly spooked and galloped off. The leader kicking up his heels and running zig-zag like you see with young colts. Just playing!
Frisky horses at play
We saw a couple of mountain goats that had come down from the rock ledges to feed on the grass near the road. They too ran off--almost straight up the rock cliff--to another group of goats, including young, higher up the ledge.
When leaving Salina, we followed the headwaters of the Arkansas River. This relatively small run-off river gained volumn and intensity over the next 50 miles to the point where it became a white water recreation center. Numerous rafting expeditions set off from the river banks as we passed by on our bikes. It was a photographer's dream setting. You couldn't get enough. We were in no hurry despite the long distance we had to cover. We knew we were leaving the Rockies....and we savored the moments.
We stopped for lunch at a diner in Cañon City. From that point on the ride changed dramatically. The highway became 4 lanes, traffic got heavy, the landscape was flat and brown, and the mountains were behind us. Black clouds appeared off to the north--headed our way. The wind picked up substantially. We knew we had to out run the storm. It was a heads down hard pull 30 mile ride to Pueblo over a rolling landscape. We were not looking at scenery, we were knocking down miles. Tiring! It was mainly Joyce and I covering together these last miles. She is a remarkable biker who trained under the Chris Carmichael School method (Lance's coach). It showed. We reached the motel just ahead of the rain.
We are not the only "guests" in Pueblo this weekend. Over 2000 souped-up hot rod cars (and their drivers) have gathered here for a show at the Colorado State Fairgrounds. We have seen these cars for days on the highways, all appear to be in A-1 condition.
Four of our biking crew leave us today. They have completed the "Western States" tour. All the best to our buddies: Jeff, Willie, Fred and Jim. God speed.
Jeff and Tom - Father/Son Team
Tomorrow is a rest day. It is most welcome!
Posted: Thu, 24 June 2004
JUNE 24 COLORADO ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
Today's ride for many reasons was a high point in our journey across America. We reached the summit of Monarch Pass, the highest elevation point of our trip at 11,312 feet. We crossed the Continental Divide. Many of us met personal goals by this achievement, all of us were up to the challenge! There was joy at the top!
The climb to the summit was an awesome undertaking. We climbed nearly 4000 ft today. The longest and toughest was a 9 mile climb. "Brutal" is the word that comes to mind. It seemed to last forever, as we climbed at 7 mph. The road wound endlessly around the mountainside exposing a rock wall on the left and a deep drop-off canyon just to the right of our bike path--often unprotected by guardrails. Breathing became much more difficult at this elevation. The legs held up--it was getting enough oxygen in the thin air that was tough.
The trip from Gunnnison to Salida was only 66 miles--all on route 50. The first 33 miles were as picturesque as we have seen. I rode with 2 Iowa Hawkeyes, Tom and Jeff, as we passed magnificent, massive ranches with fenced in herds of cattle or groups of horses grazing. Picture postcard views in all directions. A bit chilly early, it warmed to a beautiful sunny day (again). After we had climbed the 9 miles to the summit of Monarch Pass, the last 20 miles of today's ride were downhill. And I mean downhill. The first 10 miles down from the summit were so steep (again mostly without guardrails) as to be almost scary.
A funny thing happened to me early in the nasty nine mile ascent. I was ATTACKED. First by two of them that came scurrying out of the sagebrush at the side of the road. Then by a single culprit from the left side of the road. They were small prairie gophers, I think, bent on an assault on my bike. Strange.
At the top of the summit, I felt as proud as the winner of the polka dot jersey given to "the best climber" in the Tour de France. It was that kind of moment. The reward was worth the effort. Michelle of AbB was at the top and gave each person a hug or high fives as they came in, and then took a photo at the Monarch Pass sign. A nice touch.
At the Summit
We came into Salida one-by-one following the long downhill. Salida, CO ("Heart of the Rockies"), a town of about 6000 residents, boasts that it has the largest indoor hot springs pool in America. It is where the Arkansas River starts its journey to the Mississippi, and "where the rugged individualism of the American West remains untamed." Don't you love those Chamber of Commerce writers?
We had a pizza party tonight. It was a happy group.
P.S. Hello to Daco Waudenberg in the Netherlands, a Cross Country Challenge rider in 2003. He sent an email of support and his recollection of one of the ride segments. Several 2003 riders are following us on this website. Welcome.
Posted: Wed, 23 June 2004
JUNE 23 A HARD DAY AT THE OFFICE
Motel flat---not the best way to start a day. A "motel flat" occurs when a slow leak in your tire results in a flat tire by morning.
With today being one of the 3 longest climb days of our trip, I was anxious to get going early. At least to breakfast. We were told about the strong headwinds that occur each morning in this area and to therefore eat early and depart about 8:00am. We all descended on Jo-Jo's Country Diner and ate big breakfasts with the truck drivers. They talk to us...and are amazed that we BIKE this route from Montrose to Gunnison and through the Monarch Pass.
The route today "featured" long (7+ mile) climbs into those promised headwinds all morning. Total elevation gain today was 4,790 ft; not as tough as the Donner Pass/Truckee day, but close.It was a lot of slow hard work! You only feel good when you look back and see what you have accomplished.
We stopped for chocolate bars in a small store in Cimarron (population 5). At the higher elevations the landscape was lush and green. Beautiful "Colorado Goldenrod" wildflowers bordered the highway. We saw large ranches with herds of beef cattle grazing....and always the mountains.
Tim and Kathryn in Cimarron
Again we experienced highway construction on route 50. This time for a section of about 2-3 miles where the traffic moved only in one lane alternating direction. The DOT told us they would not allow bikes on a one-way highway freshly tarred and stoned. We would have to be transported the 2-3 miles in their trucks, 5 or 6 at a time. WHAT! BUT WE ARE BIKING EFI (every fantastic inch) CROSS COUNTRY---WE CANT' RIDE. Ride we did, but at the end of the day, Mason, John (ME) and I biked 3 miles downtown to a bike shop "to make up the mileage". We are on track.
We stopped for lunch at the Gunnison Lake Resort. Sounds fancy. It's an RV resort----not a Ritz Carlton. We had microwave chimichungas and chocolate milk and got back on the highway.
The ride into Gunnison ran side-by-side with the Blue Mesa Reservoir for 20 miles. A long narrow lake which provides irrigation water for Arizona. Just outside of town we passed through the Gunnison River Canyon with high rock cliffs on either side.A great finish to the day.
Bill and John and Mike
Gunnison, a real western town of 5000, has celebrated "Cattlemen's Days" for the past 100 years and is now home to Western State College. The Gunnison airport receives skiers headed for Crested Butte, about 35 miles from town.
Today was Joyce's 50th birthday. At Mario's (lasagne) restaurant tonight her husband, Dennis, had arranged for a cake. The whole restaurant joined us in singing Happy Birthday! She said her greatest present today was being told that as a cyclist "she was one of the boys".
Fred (MI) received the award tonight for his quote when asked what he was going to do everyday after he leaves the tour in Pueblo, CO. He said "I am going to read Bill's website every morning, relax, and watch the soaps". Right on!
Posted: Tue, 22 June 2004
JUNE 22 HELP FROM A HOMETOWN GAL
Loading luggage bright and early in Grand Junction
Sue, a hometown gal from Grand Junction and one of our fellow riders, was a big help to all of us today. She is a friendly, helpful "take charge" young lady and is a cardiac nurse at the hospital here. She plotted and marked a 17 mile bike trip for us through the parks and along the scenic Colorado River bank as a detour to AbB's more direct route. We could take either as they came together eventually. Most of us took the Grand Junction Bike Trail. What a pleasant ride on a beautiful, sunny Colorado morning.
Our ride then followed Route 50 East through the Escalante Canyon, the towns of Delta, Olathe, and into Montrose, CO ("Home of the Black Canyon"). It was 70 miles in all. There were 2530 ft of elevation gain with gradual climbs and easy downhills. Everyone loved today's ride. We were in the mesas and foothills of the Rockies, but I kept saying, "I want to see the Big Boys." By the halfway point in our ride "The Three Sisters" of the San Juan Range of the Rockies were visible in the distance. The locals call them "fourteeners", as in 14,000 feet of elevation. Colorado has 54 fourteeners!! They are not only snow-capped but snow covered they are so high. Beautiful mountains ....getting closer each day.
SAG Stop At Escalante Canyon
AbB suggested the quaint town of Delta as a lunch stop. It would be the pefect town setting for a Hollywood movie needing a Colorado town locale. At a red light in town, I went into the Visitors Center and received directions to the best Mexican restaurant in town. We (Mason, John (ME), the Marinos (MA) and Steve (CO) had our fill in this crowded, authenic lunch spot. (Why do they drink so much agua? they wondered...)
Colorado River and Mesa
We also had a few laughs about our "run-in" with the highway construction crew. In the widening of route 50, a new lane has been paved----currently off limits to cars, but accessible to us and protected by barrels from traffic.We always loook for the safest option on our rides. We chose the new lane. WRONG CHIOCE! A crew woman jumped from her truck, yelling, arms swinging, demanding we get off the new road. We did, immediately, of course. Mason's impersonation of this "crew lady" is priceless!
Cruising into Montrose, we stopped at the bike shop (new tubes) while Tom (IA) stopped for lunch. He ended up being interviewed by the local paper about our cross country challenge. We were told the Black Canyon located at the edge of town is "the deepest and narrowest canyon in the world." We have the choice of biking to it tomorrow--adding miles and elevation to an already horrendous climb day. Maybe.
How are the Yankees doing? Is there really a Presidential campaign underway? We wouldn't know...we're busy.
Posted: Mon, 21 June 2004
JUNE 21 CROSSING INTO COLORADO
"If the wind had been at our backs, we would have been in by noon," has been one of the most frequently heard comments among our group. None of us have yet experienced a tailwind. My biggest concern anticipating today's ride was the heat, as yesterday at noon it was 97 degrees in this desert region. Today, cloud cover kept the heat in check, but we had some wind in our face all morning.
It was a long day on the bike---94 miles from Green River, UT across the border into Grand Junction, COLORADO, "the Oasis of the Grand Valley" (isn't it amazing that all towns have their slogans?). We experienced 3150 feet of elevation gain as we rode the whole day in the bike lane of I-70. We also have some great downhills each day....I don't want to leave the impression that all we do is climb.
Mike, Mason, John and Joe entering Colorado
There was not much beauty in the desert landscape today. Leaving Green River we had the Bookcliff Mts to the North; named by their similarity to books stacked on a shelf, and we could see the red-rock formations of Arches National Park way off in the distant South. As we entered Colorado and Mesa county ("Mesa, Mountains, Memories") we saw the colorful ridge of mesas running parallel to the highway.
I had not previously mentioned that I was the only biker not to have a flat tire. With over 60 flats in the group so far, I felt lucky. I was telling the boys today about the kevlar strip I have between the tire and the tube on my bike and how it had to be preventing flats. POW!, flat tire in the front. John (ME) helped me fix that. Two miles later, POW!, flat tire in the rear. Thanks again, John for your help. I'm just one of the gang now.
Sign on I-70
Entering Grand Junction, we rode along the bank of the Colorado River. The Rockies do not yet appear menacing, but we can see them, and we know that over the next several days they will challenge us.
I have mentioned that Joe (TX) rides a recumbent bike, sitting in a seat that looks as comfortable as a reclining chair. Uncomfortable after 94 miles on my conventional bike seat, Joe said, "You know what we recumbent riders call your conventional bike seats? Ass Hatchets!" I thought that was right on the mark today.
Joe on his recumbent bike
The contests and award presentations continue: goatee contest, spring chicken award, nick names etc. It's fun! My white goatee is no longer "a starter" and I look like a homeless bum--but so does everyone else. I am staying with it for awhile...unless the Salvation Army picks me up.
Posted: Sun, 20 June 2004
JUNE 20 A FATHER'S DAY SURPRISE
The early morning rides out of these small Western towns is always a special part of each biking day. It is so peaceful. The only active people it seems are the AbB bikers, ablaze in multi-colored jerseys carving through the traffic-less streets. We stop at red lights in empty intersections looking at the store fronts and fast food joints. We have done this for 15 glorious days of good weather (what's a litttle wind?). We know we are lucky.
The route today took us 67 miles East on route 6 and 191 to Green River, Utah, "The Desert Treasure" according to the Chamber of Commerce.
The "Father's Day Surprise" was announced to us at last night's route rap, so we all had a reason to get to the motel early. Jim, David, Mike, John and I "pushed" and we had the bikes in the barn at noon! It was a fast day through changing landscapes. First, we had fenced ranch land on both sides of the road. Then it changed to a barren desert-like scene with eroded sandstone mountains, stratified to give a Grand Canyon appearance. I thought it captivating and unique, but it was nothing compared to what was to come.
The motel had made box lunches for all of us, since we were in no-man's-land, and our only stop would be a SAG. We had lunch at 9:30 am, only 2 hours into the ride because of our speed. At the SAG, I noticed several peoople on their cell phones calling "Dad." Jim (FL) marked Happy Father's Day in the sand and had me take a picture to be emailed to his dad. As I rode I thought a lot about my father--and all he meant to us. I also thought about Betty...of course.
The big event of the day was the "surprise" offer by AbB to take us to Moab, UT in the vans. Moab is the mecca to mountain bikers and a big tourist attraction. Located here is the PHENOMENAL Arches National Park. What a beautiful monument park to the forces of nature. We hiked 3 miles to the "Delicate Arch" (seen on Utah license plates). We took pictures of the incredible red-rock formations. It should be the 8th wonder of the world!
Arches National Park
Under the Delicate Arch
Willie (CA) has compiled some stats of our first 2 weeks of the journey:
- Total miles to date: 1041
- Total elevation gain: 34,700 ft---about 7 miles up! (An UNADVERTISED SPECIAL of AbB is that the total elevation gain across the country is over 96,000 ft)
- We have spent 80 hours "in the saddle".
Since the beginning of our cross country trip on June 6 we have seen and done so much, with so much more out there in front of us.
Posted: Sat, 19 June 2004
JUNE 19 PROVO TO PRICE, UT
Remember the great ride I talked about yesterday; fast, together, flat, finished at noon? Well today we paid the price on an 8 hour 75 mile ride to Price, Utah.
Four miles out of Provo, Tim (ME) had 2 flats, Mason (TN) had 2 shortly thereafter, and there were others along the way. The flats often come in two's as a result of the glass, steel sliver, or thorn that punctured the the tire not being detected when the tube is changed. If the cause is not removed, a second flat results. Falts take up some time....and so does a 20 knot headwind! We were really up against it this morning. One gust knocked Mike (NJ) right off his bike as we slowed to cross over a road.
Once we got into the canyons of the Wasatch Mts. we had protection from the wind. Also, the wind seems to diminish as the temperature rises. The flats and the wind put us behind schedule. We knew it was going to be a long day.
At "route rap" we were told we would have an aggregate climb day of 3380 ft. Basically, we climbed the first 38 miles until reaching Soldiers Summit at 7500 ft. The last 38 miles into Price were downhill. At the summit we had a pelting, stinging rain which lasted only briefly.
Our ride was on route 6, a nice scenic road through the rock canyons of Utah....if you are in a car. On a bike---it's a different story. The bike lane was very narrow and had deeply cut rumble strips placed in the MIDDLE of of our lane. We had either a guard rail on the right of us or a precipitous drop-off. Hitting the rumble strips caused jaw-jarring shaking of the bike, so we rode in a 1 to 2 foot wide path most of the way.
At on rest stop/observation area the parking lot was bordered with Jersey barriers to prevent people from going over the cliff. Mason noticed a RATTLESNAKE curled up in a space between 2 of the barriers. (Yes, we have pictures).
A "new guy," Jeff (a CPA from Iowa), joined our group in SLC and will ride with us to Pueblo, CO. He is the son of my friend and contemporary Tom (IA), who is riding all the way. Jeff is another young buck who immediately moved to the head of the pack. YOUTH!
CLARIFICATION: A note to the wives and girlfriends of my fellow riders: When I mentioned the other day that "the concensus of the guys was that Dr. Dave's daughters were gorgeous," what I meant was that only the staff and I thought that. CERTAINLY, none of the boys mentioned it to me, but some of guys told me it might need clarification since they were getting some questions from home.
One of the highlights of today's ride was a stop ...desperately looking for food...at a roadside store in the one building town of Colton, UT. The 73 year old mountain man there got talking ot us about "what the town used to be like." He brought out a scrapbook of ancient pictures; one showed his grandfather with Butch Cassidy who grew up in town before he began his outlaw career. We were all mesmerized by his tales. Only in America!
Colton, UT Storyteller
Posted: Fri, 18 June 2004
JUNE 18 PEDALING TO PROVO
Last evening, John (MA), Doug (AZ) and I took a cab downtown to see the sights of Salt Lake City. We were favorably impressed in many ways: the wide boulevards surrounding Temple Square, the clean public areas blooming with flowers, the crowds of Mormon families dressed "for church" (temple) and of course the majestic Mormon Temple as the main attraction. We had dinner in a nice atrium restaurant on the top floor of what was once the Utah Hotel ("the grandest hotel in the West"). I asked if they served beer--WRONG!--as we were in what is NOW the Joseph Smith Building where Mormons trace their ancestry. The lemonade was good.
The Mormon Tabernacle, a dome shaped building with world class accoustics and organ, sits beside the Temple. We were lucky to be there on a Thursday evening, as that is when they open to the public the rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (with full orchestra). They also record for the longest running radio show in America (75 years), a scripture and choir hour. They practiced singing "The Lord's Prayer". AWESOME!
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Today's Events: We all knew they had it in them, and that it had to happen sooner or later. So right from the get-go this morning "the scenic group" of young bucks made their move to the head of the pack, and stayed there all day. Maybe it was the break day that fueled them, but whatever it was it made for a great day. We rode fast and together right up to lunch.
First, we rode in a single file of some 20 bikes through the industrial parks and suburban neighborhoods of SLC, bunching up into a peloton when we could. Somewhere near the back of the group, I couldn't help but feel that we finally loked like a cycling TEAM, and not a bunch of bike riders. Everyone was together and on pace. The weather was clear, warm--perfect!
At the SAG stop, Joe (TX), who rides a recumbent, was wearing a bike shirt with the Lone Star State flag on the front. Since he rode at or near the front for hours, I asked him what was up. He said, "When your wear the jersey, you are representing." I loved it!
Sandi, one of last year's riders, met us at the SAG with buckets of cookies and brownies. She posed with for a picture with "Big Dawg," a friend and strong rider who works on a tug boat in Valdez, Alaska ushering oil tankers in and out of port. He works 2 months on-2 months off. The working months he remains on the boat 24/7.
Sandi and Big Dawg at the SAG
We passed several mink farms, numerous small farms with a few horses and a hay field, a military installation, and the town of Orem as we headed for our destination--Provo, Utah.
In Provo we rode through the Brigham Young University campus. What a setting! It sits right at the foot of the Wasatch Mts. We rode looking at those mountains the full 64 miles of today's trip.
Brigham Young University
We were all happy to be off I-80 and onto country roads with people and houses and farms instead of TRUCKS.
When we hit Provo at noon and spotted a Macaroni Grill, we pulled in for an "upscale" lunch of pasta on the patio. We were also being chased by a pit bull dog at the time. The dog helped us make a quicker decision of where to eat.
All in all it was a great ride day.
Posted: Thu, 17 June 2004
JUNE 17 REST DAY REFLECTIONS
Getting up a little later this morning on our first day off, one of the first things I noticed is that I don't look good in a "starter goatee." But what the heck, we are all in our little "biking cacoons" for 52 days, separated from the real world and responsible only for cycling to the next destination. It is much like a rejuvenating sabatical for the mind and soul.
Upon reflection of the past 12 days, I have these thoughts (random at best):
- Why, if you place 20 men together in a challenging situation, will 10 of them shave their heads?
Mason removes a 28 year old pony tail
- In personal discussions with fellow riders, I've learned that many have more important and sometimes searching reasons for making this trip. It is not just, "I like to ride" ...and I like that.
- From what I could see in Nevada: Mainly the wrong people gamble.
- You can"t drink too much water.
- The younger generation has a lot on the ball.
- Truckers generally are very friendly people.
- Three square meals a day are not enough when long-distance cycling. Snacks, snacks.
- Biking is not quite as much fun when your knee hurts.
- Good people support good causes.
- During a ride day, it is not what time you get in to the motel that counts, it is what you experienced along the way.
- Each day has provided a challenge beyond what I expected.
After lounging around today (some went to a movie, had a massage, we all cleaned and lubed our bikes, Mason gave me computer lessons, etc.), a group of us are going downtown for dinner and to visit a rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Back on the road tomorrow.
Mike and I clean bikes