Coast to Coast for the FFB: THE ONLINE JOURNAL

Welcome to our online journal brought to you by PocketMail!

Check back here daily to read about our progress in our cross-country bicycle tour to benefit the FFB.
Recent postings will appear at the top of the page. All posts have links on the right.
Please feel free to leave comments for all to read!

Be sure to check out www.biking4theFFB.com for more information about
the FFB, our motivation, retinal degenerative diseases, and more.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Day 47: Tribune, KS to Eads, CO (61 miles, 2184 total)


Colorado! We are now into our sixth state!

We woke up early this morning again to try to beat the heat and the wind. The alarm went of at 4:00 and we stirred our lazy bones out of bed. (From AK - my bones weren't lazy, they were dog tired.)

We were on the road and pedalling by 5:40 (remember, we just entered into the Mountain Time Zone, so as far as sunrise goes, this is not as early as the day before). After 15 miles of the straight and slightly uphill Route 96, we arrived at the Colorado border. "Welcome to Colorful Colorado," the sign boasted. Well so far, it is about as colorful as eastern Kansas, but that will change soon.

Just before the border, I stopped on the side of the road for AK to catch up. Standing there, I let my eyes wander west to the vast, flat horizon ahead. Soon, I heard the sound of something approaching me from behind at a very rapid rate. I knew it wasn't a car or a truck, but I quickly turned my head to catch a glimpse of a huge hare zipping up the road. He ran past me at a speed that seemed unnatural and then hung a left into a field and ran until he was out of view. It was amazing how fast he ws moving. AK claims it was a jack rabbit, but I think it was a hare, although I've nothing to base my argument on other than that I am sure that thing could beat a tortise in a race.

Three miles over the border, we came across the town of Towner, which incidentally does not have much of a town to offer. Because of Towner and several other tiny towns that we have visited, I have devised a new criteria for the country to use when determining if a place should be called a town or just a cluster of buildings. If you can buy something in a place for a dollar or less, then I am happy to recognize it as a town. A grain elevator all by itself is just a grain elevator, not a town. Sorry!

Out of Towner, we were suddenly hit with a stiff headwind. I slowed to under 9mph and was shocked to see such a wind at 7:30 in the morning. Since I was struggling in the headwind, I knew AK must be as well. I slowed to a stop to wait for her, and once she was back with me I had her "draft" behind me for several miles. She stuck right on my rear wheel and together we battled through the wind.

After about 5 miles we stopped for a rest and a chat with some "custom cutters" (harvesters) about their equipment and work. They showed us their auger that is used for loading grain from the field trucks into the silos. After that, we said goodbye and battled the headwinds another 5 miles into Sheridan Lake.

Sheridan Lake is a tiny town with a population of 66 and nothing more than a post office (yep, it's a town because you can buy stamps!). We were really hoping for a cafe to eat lunch in since at about 30 miles we were halfway to our destination. No such luck, but we did find a nice park with shaded picnic tables and cool water. We busted out the campstove and made everybody's favorite, Ramen Noodles. I've been carrying these packets since day 1, so I was happy to use them.

After our nice picnic meal, we both took naps in the shade. Since it was still only about 10AM, it wasn't hot and we were quite comfortable with the breeze keeping us cool (at least it is good for something). We stayed for about 2 hours in our little park before shoving off again.

Once back on the road we were surprised to see that the wind had completely died. We quickly zipped the next 8 miles to Brandon. We were both stunned that we had arrived there so quickly after the ten miles we battled for earlier on. At that point, AK informed me that her cyclocomputer had stopped working because the wire to the sensor had been severed. It's a quick fix with my tools at home, but not here. Anyway, we both agreed that we should not wait around for the wind to change its mind again, so we moved on.

It was interesting to notice that Sheridan Lake seemed to unofficially mark the end of extensive farmland and the beginning of the High Plains covered in sage brush and other seemingly naturally occuring plants. In addition, the air has become extremely dry. Sweat dries as fast as it can leaving us and our clothing caked in salt.

Out of Brandon, we zipped past the Big Sandy Creek (site of the Big Sandy Creek Masacre) and through Chivington. Soon we were less than 8 miles from Eads and we stopped for a rest. A very chatty sheriff stopped by and recommended a place to eat in Eads, the Purple People Eater-E.

Our Ramen Noodles had stopped fueling us so we charged on into town. By 2:30PM, we were happy to be sitting down in the Purple People Eater-E ordering chocolate milkshakes. We both agreed that getting up so early is a bummer, but it pays off big when you are finished with riding before the hottest part of the day. By the way, today was hot, but it was nothing like yesterday.

After that it was off to the local community pool for showers and on to the grocery store. We jumped at the chance to by fresh grapes and cherries and the girl who checked us out was wearing a Balboa, CA T-shirt.

Now we are back at the local city park which will be home for the night. We are too busy eating fruit to bother with the tent right now though. All our camping equipment is crispy dry in the arid climate. We have certainly seen our fair share of hot, warm, cool, cold, wet, and dry on this trip.

So, remember how we mentioned that the TransAm route was marked with signs throughout VA and we complained that there were only 3 in the entire state of KY? Well, KY has 3 more signs than IL, MO, KS and CO (so far) combined! There is not a single marker sign in any of those states. We take back our complaints about KY's seemingly limited markers; if we had only known.

By the way, sorry about the late post for yesterday's entry. We were so excited to share the news about our big century, but we only came across one phone (yep, that might help you imagine the kind of land and towns we are going through) and it was out of order. Anyway, it is our pleasure to share two days of adventure.

Jeff

Day 46: Ness City, KS to Tribune, KS (102 miles, 2123 total)


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my first century. In the world of cycling, a ride of 100 miles is called a century. Much like a marathon is to a runner, it is a badge of honor and pride to complete one. I finally did it! It is amazing to me to think that before this ride, the longest I'd ever ridden was 63 miles. I rode almost 40 longer than that today. Wow. Today marks Jeff's second century in his life too. It is a great accomplishment for both of us.

Kansas did her best to beat us up while we were at it too. We woke up at 4:30 in order to try to get a few miles in before the wind came up. At 5:45 we were on the road. The sun wasn't up yet but the wind was and the temperature was already 77 degrees. It was just our luck that we were treated to yet another day of winds from the south and west. Can we buy a break?

Our route took us due west for most of the day. After the tiny town of Beeler, we turned slightly to the northwest. I was getting prepared to ride a little tailwind when the wind changed and came directly out of the west. Great.

Our first town with services was Dighton. We took a long break for snacks and cold drinks. I was torn between wanting to rest my body and wanting to get more miles done. At this point, we hadn't committed to the century yet. We had an option to finish the day at 81 miles but it would mean another 80 or so miles tomorrow. A 100 mile day today means that we have rides around 60 miles for the next 3 days. That was a big incentive for finishing the century today.

After Dighton it was 24 miles until our lunch stop in Scott City. Jeff got a recomendation for a sandwich place that had fruit too. Count us in! The fruit was unbeatable and I drank so much that I filled up before I could eat my sandwich. Don't worry, I ate as much as I could. We stayed in the cool shop for an hour and talked to the owners and some locals. When it was time to leave, we we wilted at the door. It was so hot outside! The bank at the corner showed 101 degrees. At that temperature, our water bottles provided water warm enough to make tea in. It was hard to drink it but there was no option. We chugged away. About 10 miles later in the "town" of Modoc, we pulled off the road and walked up to a house to ask for water. We were greated by 4 dogs who couldn't decide if they wanted to be friendly or guard their house. A woman came out to help us and turned on the hose to fill us up. The water was from a well and was cold and delicious. We wanted to just douse ourselves !
but settled for sipping some extra once the bottles were full.

Fifteen miles and more heat and headwind later, we were in Leoti (pronounced Lee-oh-ta). We pulled into a convenience store and decided to take a long break in the hopes that the wind would die down and the heat would subside. The attendant there told us the heat had reached 108 degrees.

We bought big Gatorades and I filled a 32 oz. cup with ice. The only tables in the store were occupied by several seniors from Leoti. We asked if we could share and they made room. We talked to them for at least half an hour about our trip and then about farming in Kansas. We learned how the grain elevators work in detail and learned that as long as the grain is dry, it can be kept there for years. Holy cow!

We decided to go for the century and Jeff called ahead to Tribune to be sure a room was available. Camping after a day like this was not on my list of things to do. Even though it is high harvest time, there was a room so we were a go.

Back on the road, the wind had shifted yet again to the south. For many miles it blew very strongly and trucks shook us even more. Like I said, Kansas didn't want to give us today without a fight. Twenty miles from Tribune, clouds on the horizon started looking really threatening. Resting stops were abandoned and we dug in for some grinding. We did stop to celebrate the century mark. We each had one peanut M&M and hot water, then jumped back in the saddle as raindrops started to fall. We hustled into town and I rejoiced that the motel was just past the city limit sign. Finally, we got a break!

Oh, during our sprint to Tribune, we crossed into the Mountain time zone. That is number 3 of 4. Awesome!

Stats for today are so long that they are worth mentioning. We started pedaling at 5:45 am and finished at 8:15 pm (actually 7:15 but we are counting hours in Cental Time) for a total of 14 and 1/2 hours. Actual time in saddle for me was 9 hours 55 minutes (thanks to the headwind) with an average of 10.2 mph. Jeff's time in saddle was 8 hours 31 minutes for an average of 12.1 mph. As the terrain was flat to gently rising (we climbed to just over 3500 feet from around 2000) that means there was very little coasting time. That is a lot of pedaling for these poor legs, not to mention my rear end sitting on the saddle.

The plan is to wake up at the crack of dawn again with the hopes of being finished with our day around lunch time. That is Jeff's idea. Mine would be to sleep all day to give my body a break! No rest for the weary.

AKB

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Day 45: Great Bend, KS to Ness City, KS (64 miles, 2021 total)


Woohoo! We broke 2000 miles today!

We got a late start out of Great Bend today, and we paid for it dearly. We rolled out just after 8AM and within the hour the Southerly winds were already prominant. They continued to blast us with increasing speed as the day progressed. By 10AM, the winds were hitting us so hard on our left side that they were affecting us as though they were a headwind. They slowed us down to between 6 and 9 mph and a "low" mileage day turned into a long saddle-time day. We thought the winds were tough yesterday, well it turns out they were practically nothing as compared to today.

Out of Great Bend we made it through the town of Albert quickly, and by the time we passed Timken we were getting blasted with strong winds and ripping gusts. By the time we arrived in the town of Rush Center at about 30 miles, we were already ready for lunch. Rush Center marked the point where we rejoined the route and we will continue on Highway 96 all the way to Pueblo, CO.

Out of Rush Center, we continued through the tiny town of Nekoma with the wind getting stronger by the minute. Each gust shoved our front wheels to the right and we struggled to hold a straight line.

After a very long 13 miles we arrived in another tiny town called Alexander (which marks the end of our 5th map). We were exhasted and took refuge in the only cafe/market/store in town. It turns out this place is closing on July 1st, so the selection was very limited. The place featured a small kitchen, a huge fridge with only a handful of softdrinks (no Gatorade), several large tables, a laz-e-boy chair, and a box full of dirty magazines. I am not kidding.

Either way, we were just happy to be there taking refuge from the 100 degree heat and the wind. A woman stopped by the store and chatted with us. It turns out her husband is a profesional harvester. Towing their own combine, they travel from Texas to as far north as Montana (from Oaklahoma) during every harvest season. They stop in each state working as needed from May until December, and they make enough money for the year. It must be tough work.

We finally got back on the road by 3PM, and with 20 miles left the wind gained even more strength. Three miles from the town of Bazine, AK hit a wall and a point of exhaustion. After listening to her frustrations and discomforts, I gave her my best motivational speach. It is short, but extremely effective. "Well AK, these bikes aren't gonna ride themselves," and with that I got on my bike and continued riding. That got us to Bazine with 12 miles remaining before Ness City. We stopped in the best store the town had to offer. It turns out this was just a farmer co-op building with three vending machines inside. After a good 45 minute rest, we got back on the road. (From AK - Jeff's speech earned him a very scathing look and retort but it was all done in jest from both sides. I do wish that we could opt for shorter mileage on days like today but no such luck. If I have any advice to offer someone who is thinking of doing this trip, it is to give yourself plenty of time for rest!
ing and shorter days. Otherwise, you might as well do it RAAM style.)

The wind continued to blast us until we were about 6 miles from Ness City. At that point, the makings for a nasty storm appeared on the horizon, and the wind finally started to lessen, a bit. Fortunately, the storm never materialized for us while riding (it was slightly to the North), but by the time we arrived in town it was motivation enough to seek shelter in a hotel.

We stopped in a local convienience store for some basic food supplies. By chance, this store happened to be across the street from the only hotel in town (which if surrounded with a barbed wire fence, would be easily confused for a prison). The woman at the store recommended a good cheap resturant down the street, and after a bit of shopping we crossed the street to check into the slammer.

Soon we walked down the street to check out the recommended eatery. It turned out to be a small tavern that serves traditional American food, and rents porno movies. Again, I am not kidding. The place was run by a nice older woman that served me a cheeseburger and corndogs (we're "bad fer" some veggies right now). (From AK - I passed on the greasy options as the smell is making my stomach turn when I walk into these places. It is nothing against the cafes, but I'm craving less grease and more healthy. I decided to have cereal from the convenience store instead. At least it is not greasy.) We asked the woman about the "Welcome Home Old Settlers" signs on the way into town. She told us that every five years this town (with a population of 1500) has a huge celebration in which everybody that has ever lived here is invited to return. It sounds like a great way to keep the small town alive.

By the way, I think it must be a state law for every city in Kansas to have a Kansas Street. It seems to be even more common than Main Steet or 1st Street.

Tomorrow, we have at least an 80-mile day ahead of us. We plan to get up at 4:30AM so we can be riding by 6. We just have to do what we can to avoid the brutal winds that get stronger as the day gets later. So that's the plan.

Jeff

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Day 44: Buhler, KS to Great Bend, KS (72 miles, 1957 total)


After I slept like it was my job, we woke up in Buhler to be chewed on the most relentless mosquitos ever. As soon as we stepped out of the tent, they were all over us like flies on poop. I must have killed 25 before we left. I was wishing my sister Aimee was around because the mosquitos think she is a lot tastier than I am. AK said she barely slept at all because of the heat and the squeaky windmill that stood near our tent.

Speaking of Buhler, if any of you have not seen "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," you need to see it before I have you deported.

We packed up and blasted out of town ASAP to avoid the barrage of bites. About 20 miles later, we arrived in the town of Nickerson, which is yet another small town that gets by on the grain business. We could see their co-op grain elevator towering above the town for miles out. But even before we saw that, we spotted a trail of grain on the road that ran right into town all the way to the grain elevator. Apparently, a major portion of some unfortunate farmer's crop spilled all over the road when the gate on the truck did not close completely. It was amazing how much there was, and it was impossible to ride on.

In town, we decided to stop at a café for breakfast which turned out to be a great call. It was the best breakfast we've had in weeks, and we met a nice couple that gave us a donation. So for future cyclists, stop in the Sunshine Cafe in Nickerson for a great meal at a decent price with friendly service too.

After breakfast, we battled a few more miles of crosswinds from the south before heading north and riding an awesome tailwind for nearly 20 miles. Thanks to Dale's recommendation, we have decided to go off route for a day in order to ride a section of road with services available more regularly. So, turning north on the 96 (which actually joins the route again in Rush Center and then will take us out of Kansas in a few days), we blasted through Sterling and into Lyons before turning west through Chase and Ellinwood.

Each and every one of these towns thrives on the grain industry. Harvested and unharvested fields seperate each and co-op grain elevators tower above each town. Grain trucks shuttle grain from the fields to the co-op constantly this time of year. Every time one passed us, the 60mph smell gave a reminder of our Maker's Mark tour.

Except when we were riding a tailwind, we were blasted with an increasing crosswind from the south as we headed due west on the practically square-straight roads of Kansas. According to the Weather Channel this evening, at their strongest, the winds averaged 22mph, so who knows about the gusts.

Anyway, the wind forces us to ride leaning to the side and passing cars cause quite a problem with changes in the consistency. Even when you are standing still, the gusts can practically blow you over. As a result, AK suffered the first wipeout of the trip, albeit a slow one thankfully.

Just after pulling back onto the road after a break, a gust got the best of AK and forced her to the point of instability. She was barely moving forward, but still slammed hard onto her left side into the middle of the road. Luckily, no cars were coming, so we had time to quickly get her up. Other than a banged up elbow, AK is fine. Her bike's left shifter got smacked out of place, but surprisingly it still works fine; I just had to put it back into position.

Kansas is becoming flatter and flatter everyday, but with that comes more wind. The greenery that we wrote about a few days ago has started to vary. From one vast field to the next, the scenery changes from green to brown and back to green as the crops change. The fields are stuffed full of corn, soy beans, wheat, sunflowers, or cows. Each is amazing to see as they explode beyond the horizon, even the cow pastures have bovines as far as the eye can see.

I've thought of some names for my future pet turkey and chicken. The chicken will either be called "Grace" because that is what we will say before we eat her, or "Original Recipe" to distinguish her from the extra-crispy chickens. The turkey will be called "Stuffin'"

Jeff

Day 43: Cassoday, KS to Buhler, KS (71 miles, 1884 total)


Today can be divided into two completely different riding experiences for me. The first 40 miles were utterly miserable, the last 30 were comparitively enjoyable. So it goes, and each trying experience leads to a more memorable trip. Besides, if each day were a breeze, the trip would be boring, right? (I'll just keep telling myself that anyway).

We slept very well in the church and woke up early to try to get a few miles in before the wind picked up. Our oatmeal breakfast was welcomed after yesterday's experience (though I was still having a hard time getting things down). Before heading out, we stopped by the same country store where we heard about the church yesterday. Towns in Kansas are spread far apart and as a result, drink stops are few and far between. I wanted to grab a gatorade to drink later. There are 2 giant chickens that live at the store. Their names are Jim and Betty and we'll post a picture of them later. We got to watch them eat breakfast and I swear it seemed as if they were just trying to peck through the bottom of their dish rather than eat. I was asking all sorts of chicken questions and the woman working there finally asked me where I was from. Guess it shows that I didn't grow up on a farm.

A few miles down the road, we came upon a bull calf outside of his fence. He really wanted to get back in with his herd, and really didn't want to be out with us. He ran along the fence in our direction for a while. We weren't sure what to do, but at the next pasture, we saw 2 ranchers we had talked to the day before. We told them about the little guy but they didn't seem to care. It wasn't their calf, it was their neighbor's. Oh well, they were nice about it and we tried.

It was shortly after this that the trip soured for me. I haven't had much of an appetite lately and this morning nausea set in hard. That, combined with the heat and relentless wind, pushed me over the edge. I was miserable and really just wanted to bag the whole trip. Forget the bike. Give me a car, A/C, a bed, and 7 hours a day of NOT sitting on a bike seat and call me happy. I was a weepy basket-case by the time I caught up to a waiting Jeffrey about 5 miles outside of our lunch stop in Newton. We pressed on though.

We ate at a local and popular diner called CJ's and it was just what I needed. It was cool, but not so cold that we were left shivering in sweaty jerseys, and the food was great. We sat there for over an hour while I tried to recooperate. "Just 30 more miles," I kept telling myself. "Stupid August 7th deadline," the sassy part of my brain retorted.

With my first full stomach in days, we rolled out in the wind and heat again. This time was much better. As there was to be no town between us and our destination of Buhler, we stopped for groceries in Newton in case we were going to have to cook.

The land is starting to level off a bit. Eastern Kansas still has quite a few gentle rollers until you get west of Witchita (so we've been told). We are starting to see fields so large that they stretch to the horizon. The water tower for Buhler came into view about 6 miles before we actually got there. I was day-dreaming of cold drinks for a long time before it finally became a reality.

Buhler wins the Community Award of the trip so far. This small town is working hard to stay alive and it shows. The businesses in the downtown part are all mom & pop type stores and very well kept. We stopped in for pizza dinner at The Grape Vine and it was great! They have the best pizza we've had in a while. After resting and eating, it was time to find the city park to set up camp. Wheatfield Park is the heart of this community. It is very picture perfect with a large pond and several picnic areas, a pool, and various sports fields. We ran into the son of the City Superintendent who made us feel at home. We took a nice swim to relax our tired muscles and then showered too. Now we're sitting in the tent to hide from the mosquitos before turning in for the night. I'm sure I will sleep well tonight.

AKB

Note from Jeff: Yesterday at our lunch stop at Eureka, a couple of cowboys (complete with hats, spurs and the required poo on their boots) stopped to chat as they were leaving. We told them about the route and our plan for the day, and on their way out the door one of them said, "You're gonna have to pucker up down this road here, aren't you?" In near perfect unison we replied, "Oh yeah" as he walked out the door. I turned to AK and asked, "What does that mean?"
"I have no idea," she said.
"Yeah, either do I," and with that we went back to eating.

Does anybody know what that guy was talking about? We sure don't.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Day 42: Toronto, KS to Cassoday, KS (60 miles, 1814 total)


Today was awesome compared to yesterday. For the first time ever on the trip, we woke up in the campsite to a dewless morning. We finally got to pack up our tent and things when they were dry.

Since we skipped dinner last night, we decided to hit the café in town for breakfast immediately. That was a decision we would later regret. On the way back to the main road from the campground we spotted a pack of wild turkey. There was no mention of whiskey, in fact they didn't even gobble. We also came across a very grumpy crawdad in the road about a mile from the lake. I suppose he was grumpy for good reason, but all he did was stand tall and flash his pinchers like an LA gang member.

Soon we arrived in downtown Toronto. We stopped in the only local café which specializes in the best sub-par breakfast in town. It was quite a disappointment considering how hungry we were. I managed to eat all that was palatable while AK struggled to consume anything. Upon returning from the bathroom AK declared that I should not visit the restroom unless it was an absolute emergency. Unfortunately, the bathroom sink was what was offered up when we asked for water for our bottles. That said, the place it self was a nice picture of smalltown America (nevermind the food) as it seemed to be the hangout for local farmers to gather, drink coffee and talk about crops, the weather, tractors, etc. (We didn't see them eating anything.)

In search of decent drinking water and something to eat, we left town ASAP. Soon we arrived at a local gas station/market/café called the Lizard's Lips Cafe at the intersection of the 54 and the 105. The owner was eager to have us sign her guestbook (where we checked on all our riding buddies ahead of us) and offered us some cool water. She told us that the leader of the Race Across America (RAAM) had just come through town at about 8PM the night before. We had heard that the race was coming through Kansas, but we didn't know that we'd be riding on the same road.

For those of you that don't know, the RAAM is an annual event in which several individuals and teams race across the country from San Diego to Atlantic City. You would not beleive how insane these riders are. They make the trip in days (not weeks) and spend an average of 18 hours a day in the saddle. We have nothing to complain about, although we will ride about 1000 more miles than they do. For more information about the ride check out www.raceacrossamerica.org

Sadly we learned that one of the riders was killed in the event somewhere in CO. We don't know much about it, but I have a feeling that there is information about it on the RAAM website. Our thoughts go out to that rider's family.

As we continued down the 54 for nearly 40 miles, we encountered three RAAM racers each follwed by a support vehicle blaring music. It was really fun to see them and we pulled off the road to cheer them on.

By the way, both AK and I cannot get over how green Kansas is (so far). Although when we told a local this, he laughed and said, "ha, wait a week!"

Along the 54, we arrived in Eureka for an early lunch. I killed a big burger and fries while AK again struggled to eat because she was not feeling super and her chicken strips smelled and tasted like fish (probably fried in the same oil as the catfish). We took our time eating and finally rolled out of town over an hour later.

After another 22 miles we arrived in the small down of Rosalia. AK declared starvation and we stopped by the market/grill called the Old Hat for our 2nd lunch. The man behind the counter was very nice and AK declared his grilled cheese to be the best ever. (From AK - I really wanted to eat 2 or 3 of them but restrained myself.)

After chatting with the man at the Old Hat for some time, we eventually got around to leaving. We had 17 miles left until Cassoday and the best part is that we were going to be heading due north. All day long we had been blasted by winds from the south with slight westerly tendancies. Although it wasn't a full headwind it is tough to deal with as you tend to ride "slanty" and get blown around the road. (From AK - the 18-wheelers combined with the wind really impacted me today. I was blown off the road twice by trucks and 3 times by the wind with no cars around. I also chose to pull off the road a few times when I saw some larger trucks in my mirror. We are learning the different shapes of trucks and which ones blow you around more. Big boxy trucks fully loaded will throw you around a ton, especially when passing in the opposite direction.)

Anyway, we turned northward to enjoy a blasting tailwind all the way to Cassoday. I was blasting miles at about 25 mph for the longest time, and AK was not far off of that. It was an awesome feeling.

In no time we were in Cassoday and started looking for the city park that was to be home for the night. After finding it, we rode a bit further to a local market for some canned veggies to go with our Lipton red beans and rice. Inside the market, a nice local woman informed us that the United Methodist Church also accepts cyclists for the night.

Seeing as though the Methodists have been so very good to us on the trip, we couldn't help but knock on the Pastor's door. Soon, Jim was showing us around the church and welcoming us in. Woohoo, a real kitchen and no setting up the tent!
Once settled, we walked down to the park for psuedo showers at the hose spigot. The water was cold, but it felt great since we were riding in the 90's all day.

We have just finished dinner and now AK is in the process of repairing her 3rd flat of the trip (that makes 5 total). Her latest one was a really slow leaker, but nonetheless it must be repaired. We now have a tube with 3 repairs on it, and we have named it Patches.

Oh, I almost forgot about my story from yesterday of the postman in Walnut, KS. When we were in the post office, a woman came in and the postman addressed her and informed her he had been expecting her return to the post office since her visit earlier in the day. Confused, the woman asked how he knew this. His reply, "Because I'm psychotic." Now, we all know that there have been several psychotic postmen in the past, but I don't think any of them would admit it as readily as this man did. The woman did not correct him as it looked as though she had no idea what he was talking about, but I think the man meant to say he was "psychic"... But then again, maybe he was just being honest.

Jeff

Friday, June 24, 2005

Day 41: Girard, KS to Toronto, KS (90 miles, 1754 total)


Today was absolutely brutal. Both AK and I are feeling terrible and that turned our day into a rough one.

After a less than stellar night's sleep at the Girard city park, we packed up and rolled by 7AM. We stopped at 7:01 to fix AK's flat. At that exact point, we had a blasted a total of 0.06 miles for the day.

After a quick fix we were back on the road by 7:20. There was no water to be found at the city park so we had to stop by a local market to fill our water bottles.

On the way to the town of Walnut, I saved the smallest turtle yet. His shell was about the size of a child's fist. The little guy was such a road crossing rookie that he wet himself when I picked him up. "Nice one," I taunted, careful to let his little surprise leak all over the road and not onto my hand.

A few miles later, we came across the first live snapping turtle of the trip. Previously all we had seen was a big one dead in the road with a tire tread right down the middle of his shell. Since I had never seen a snapping turtle before, AK was trying to explain the difference beteen the snappers and the box turtles we see so very often. "They have a long neck and tail and their shells are flatter than the box turtle's," she instructed. "Did you notice that the shell was flatter on that one?" she asked. The image of the crushed snapping turtle flashed into my head, and I replied, "Yeah, now that you mention it, he was much flatter than the others." I was told to not be such a smartass, which is something I can be very good at under the right circumstances.

Anyway, the live snapping turtle was given the shoe and the slide off the road. The snappers are called "snappers" for a reason, so I wasn't going to risk being snapped. He managed not to pee himself and scurried off the shoulder. They seem to be much faster and less shy than the box turtles.

We arrived in Walnut rather quickly and mailed back our fourth completed map (woohoo!) and a bunch of junk we accumulated during our recent travels. It is always nice to shed a few pounds.

After Walnut, we rode for another 25 miles or so (with an increasing wind from the south) into Chanute. In Chanute we had a less than stellar lunch. The waitress informed us that the local health officials had informed the public that the tap water currently has a high level of bacteria in it. We weren't served water, but as AK pointed out, they were happy to serve us softdrinks with ice in them (freezing bacteria doesn't do anything to kill them).

After lunch we went to the local market to buy a meal for the night and two gallons of water to fill our bottles.

With tempuratures rising, we reluctantly headed out to Toronto. The problem with Kansas is that although it may be flat, the number of of places to stay and services (stores, diners, etc.) are limited and stretched between huge distances. It was too early to stop for the day in Chanute, but we were not eager about the remaining 45 miles to Toronto.

Just after we passed the town of Benedict, my stomach started feeling uneasy. It was weird, whenever I took a deep breath it was uncomfortable, I coughed, and felt the urge to puke. The deep breath thing reminded me of the result of long hours in an over chlorinated pool, but I never felt like vomiting then.

I told AK I was feeling ill and she said that what was left of her Bronchitus was making her feel very tired. With nothing else to do, we pedaled on.

We were treated to a few northward miles which was nice because we suddenly had a stiff tailwind. They never seemed to last long enough.

A few miles short of Coyville, I started dry heaving while on the bike. It wasn't very comfy, but I decided that I'd rather just get to Toronto than sit around on the side of the road. I decided that I'd stop if the dry heaves were to transform into the real deal.

Soon Toronto Lake came into view. It was swollen with 20 feet of extra water which we learned had severely limited the number of campgrounds around the lake. It's too bad, I'm a big fan of snorkel camping.

The last ten miles to the campground were the roughest. When we were finally about five miles away, a ranger from the Toronto State Park Campground stopped and gave us directions to the campground.

She told us to go about 2 miles down the road, crest a hill, and when you see the town (Toronto), make a left. Now, I should know better, but when she said that I imagined cresting the hill and getting a view of a thriving metropolis. Well, had I not known that the city limits of towns are marked with small green signs, I would have missed that left turn because there was nothing else besides that. Nothing.

Anyway, we finally arrived at our campground. $8 Bucks for the night bought us a spot near the overflowing lake (which might explain the swarms of the most annoying bugs ever). Exhausted and hurting, we were slow to set up camp and decided we were just too beat to cook. Fig Newtons and Ritz crackers were the featured menu items for the day.

We decided that we may need to take it easy tomorrow. We have an option of a 60-ish day or a 90-ish day. I have a feeling we'll be doing the short one unless we get the best tailwind ever.

Jeff

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Day 40: Pittsburg, KS to Girard, KS (15 miles, 1664 total)


Back in the saddle again! As Jeff has had the journal for the last week, it is my turn to do some updating! My trip to Charleston was exactly what I needed. I got to do some much needed off-bike resting and had a great time with Alecia and the rest of the crew. We ate way too much Low-Country food and slept in every morning. Luxurious! The only drawback is that I managed to catch a case of bronchitis from the plane trip. Where was my Airborne when I needed it? I got diagnosed yesterday in St. Louis so I'm on antibiotics and have tried to rest as much as possible. Darn the luck!

Our day started with the standard hotel breakfast, then it was back to the rental car and the 5 hour or so drive back to Kansas. Both of us were fighting to stay awake. Jeff is dealing with jet lag and I don't sleep well being this sick. We briefly discussed laying over in Pittsburgh but tossed that idea out the window. It is time to start bagging some miles again. August is looming ahead.

We turned the rental car in and then headed back to the bike shop where we left our bikes. After a week off I was really looking forward to getting back on the road. I think I am being infected with the touring bug. It is just so cool to be out here, to see everything that we are seeing, and to have all of the stories to share.

Everything felt great when I started out. My legs were ready to go, my new primo-shorts felt like heaven (and they should for the price), and the load felt lighter even though I am carrying more. I can't wait to drop by a post office tomorrow to mail back some extra items I picked up last week.

The 15 mile ride into Girard was a breeze. I am digging the flatter terrain. I was feeling so good, in fact, that I pushed it a little too hard in the first few miles. When we stopped to make our first turn and map check, all of a sudden my lungs felt like they closed up and I got very dizzy. Jeff grabbed my bike from me and I dropped my head below my knees. Given the state of my lungs I'm going to have to take it a little easier until I'm back to 100%. After that incident, the rest of the ride was uneventful. I only felt the wind in my face a few times. Come on tailwind tomorrow!

There were a few kids with a lemonade stand to our left as we rode into town so we stopped to have a cup. It feels like summer now! Tonight we are sleeping in the City Park. I do hope we can get a good night's sleep. Right now there is hip-hop blaring from the poolside and cars are driving by with conflicting "boom" coming from their windows. Yikes!

AKB

Note from Jeff: For future cyclists, the shop we left our bikes in is solid. Stop here if you need any work done:

Tailwind Cyclists
1511 N. Broadway
Pittsburg, KS 66762
620-231-2212
www.tailwindcyclists.com
Owners: Roger & Rebecca Lomshek

Day 39: Kailua, HI to St. Louis, MO (by plane)


Soon after Grayson and Beth dropped me off at the airport, I called AK. She is back in St. Louis and took the oppurtunity to visit a walk-in medical clinc. Bronchitis is the word, and she walked out with the antibiotics that will hopefully squash that big bug soon.

The flight to L.A. was much more comfortable than the flight to Hawaii from Dallas. The service has improved tremendously which was nice as I was fearing another uncomfortable trans-Pacific flight.

Other than the man sitting next to me reading "Do it Yourself Taxidermy", my flight from L.A. to St. Louis was uneventful as well. I arrived at about 11 and AK was there to pick me up.

She had already gotten us a hotel room and had dinner waiting for me in the room. We both agreed we had a nice break but we are eager to get back to blasting miles.

Jeff

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Day 38: Kailua, HI


The last full day in Hawaii! AK is travelling back to St. Louis today, but I've got one more day here.
This morning, I finally got the chance to get on the internet and read all my email that has been neglected since mid May. I had 154 messages and many of them were thoughtful emails from fans of the ride, the journal and the FFB. Sorry it took me so long to receive those notes, but I really do apprerciate them.

I also had the chance the breeze through the journal and read over the comments (since we don't have internet access, we don't often get the oppurtunity to read them). Thank you all for posting comments; it is really fun and encouraging to read over them.

After getting through my messages as fast as I could, Mac, Rochelle, Grayson, Beth and I all jumped in the car and headed for the north shore. As you might expect, the drive was very scenic and beautiful. We stopped in at Banzai Beach to check on the site of the famous Banzai Pipeline. Today, the surf was relatively calm, but from the texture of the sand and the slope of the beach one can tell that this is a place that can often get pounded by powerful mountains of water.

Next, we arrived in Hailewa (I'm guessing on the spelling) and met up with Nic, Rebus, Victor, Peter and Lynn-Wood. Nic and Rebus took us all to this fantastic lunch spot where I had a grilled mahi sandwich with ortega chillies on it. It was awesome, and the addition of ortega was brilliant. I love that stuff, and I declared that I think it could even improve a PB&J sandwich.

After we had our fill of sandwiches and a quick stop for Hawaiian shaved ice, all 10 of us headed for another beach known for its giant waves. Today however, Waimeha (again I'm guessing the spelling) Bay was calm and nearly perfectly flat.

Grayson, Beth and I headed out to do some snorkeling. Visibiliy was much better than last Friday, although I think there was more to see at that reef than here in the Bay. After being out for about 20 minutes, Grayson and Beth spotted a sea turtle ("honu" in Hawaiian). While inspecting that one, we spotted two more.

These creatures are absolutely amazing. They glide effortlessly through the water with slow gentle motions that can propel them much faster than we can swim (even with fins on). I was amazed at how little they seemed to care about the three of us in their habitat. Trying to give them plenty of room, they just seemed to swim closer to us. Perhaps they were checking us out as much as we were checking them out?

On the way back to the beach, we also stumbled upon another sea turtle within feet of the beach graizing on sea weed. Four turtles in one day makes for a great day at the beach.

Later in the evening, we all ended up on the patio back at the rental house. We sat for hours just chatting at having a good time sharing our last evening together as a group in Hawaii.

Laughter spread like the plauge after Victor tried to walk through the sliding screen door and bounced right off. The laughter amplified after I walked competely through it 10 minutes later. And we hit a point of pure hysterics after Beth tried her hand at walking through the screen as well. We obviously learn fast.

Since Grayson, Beth and I all are flying out early tomorrow, the night ended with saying goodbye to Rebus and Nic. It looks as though Rebus is going to do his best to get to the mainland in time to ride the last week of our ride with us. Both AK and I realy hope that will work out. It would be a lot of fun to have our good friend and motivation finish this epic with us.

Jeff

Day 37: Kailua, HI


Today was all about activities. The entire MacMurray family, my mother, Mac, Rochelle, Beth, Grayson, Gail, Nate, Victor and I all headed over to Waikiki for the day. It was super crowded, as I think it usually is at this time of the year.

The young crowd decided to rent surfboards for an hour. It was only 8 bucks for an hour of surfing so it was tough to pass up. It was crowded out there, (with toursits and locals) so I found a nice inside break with waves that were a decent size for me. I managed to catch several waves while the other beginner surfers had tougher luck on the outside. Meanwhile Mac and Rochelle were kicking butt on every wave (as they usually do). Soon they collected all the other beginner surfers up and brought them into the inside break to enjoy easier and less crowded waves with me. In no time, we had all caught at least one wave. After an hour, we were exhausted and headed for the beach.

On the way in we came across Nate, Victor and Rebus headed out on rental boards too. Rebus and Nic had joined the group after a night in a hotel with a spectacular view of Waikiki.

On the drive back to Kailua, we took the coastal route and stopped for some body surfing at Makapu'u. The waves were huge and powerful, so I didn't spend much time out in them. I'm more of a small wave type of guy.

The day was finished off with dinner with the MacMurray family and my mother. I had been so busy with wedding stuff that I did not have the chance to see much of my mom, so it was nice to spend that time with her.

Time has been flying by here. I'm aving a great time, but I am ready to get back to riding. AK has had a great weekend too, but she fears she may be getting sick. Hopefully she can dodge that in a day or so.

Jeff

Monday, June 20, 2005

Day 35: Kailua, HI


Today I woke up at 4:45AM and I was ready to roll; the time change was rough on me. After a few hours, all of us were up and we eaded down to the beach. The conditions were not super (it was pretty windy), but the water felt great.

After a few hours at the beach, we all headed into town to get lunch. I got myself the Hawaiian plate lunch, which was good. I was seriously hungry; the three breakfasts I had earlier in the day had long since stopped fueling my insane metabolism.

Rebus had orgainized a boat trip to some snorkeling spots for anyone interested. It turns out 42 of us were interested, so we all headed out to the boat. We got a nice tour of a bay, snorkled a reef, walked on a huge sandbar and cruised. We had a great time and even spotted several sea turtles.

After the boat trip, the large group went different ways. Rebus and Nic took care of last minute details for their big day and our small group of friends went out for a decent mexican meal.

Since our days have been pretty ative we all went to bed fairly early. Tomorrow is the big day and we are all excited.

Jeff

Day 36: Kailua, HI (the wedding day)


Today started early for all the bridesmaids in the wedding. Since the ceromony was at 10:30AM, they all had to meet at 5AM to get their hair done. The groomsmen, on the other hand, had to get up at 7:30 so we could get photos taken at 9.

Rebus, Peter (Rebus' brother and bestman), Grayson, Victor, Mac and I all headed over to the Haiku Gardens in our groomsman aloha shirts and kahki pants. Haiku Gardens is a beautiful venue near Kailua where Nic's parents were married nearly thirty years ago.

After a photo shoot, he ceromony was nearly ready to begin. We all took our places, while ukulele music played in the background. Soon everybody stood up when Nic entered the open-air chapel. She looked beautiful, confident and extremely happy when she walked down the aisle with her parents.

The ceromony was short, but very well done. In no time, Nic and Rebus were pronounced man and wife and they walked back down the aisle as bubbles floated all around them.

Next, it was up to the luncheon at the resturant overlooking the gardens and the majestic Hawaiian mountains. We indulged in appetizers (in Hawaiian, "poo-poos") including shrimp, cerviche and sushi. It was all really good. I ate more than my fill as hadn't had much breakfast.

Soon, Peter (the M.C.) took the mic and greated all the guests. Next, we were on to more fabulous food for lunch and shortly after that speeches and toasts. Both Rebus and Nic's fathers gave a toasts followed by Kim (the maid of honor) and Pete himself. All of there toasts were very thoughtfull and entertaining. I was next and made a comment that according to Costco Wholesale, I had already laid my claim to Rebus and Nic was avctually too late. This is because Rebus is listed as my spouse on my Costco membership and has been for years. I brought a renual form as a prop to prove it!

Anyway after me, all the rest of the groomsmen and several bridesmaids laid out some very thoughtful and funny toasts, and it no time Rebus and Nic were cutting the cake. By the way, the weather was perfect all day long.

The party ended at about three and we had a break until 5:30 when a BBQ with dancing was scheduled at Nic's parent's place. We had a few hours, but it seems as though just about everybody involved in the wedding (except for Nic and Rebus) headed down to the beach for a few hours to cool off and relax.

After a ton of body surfing, it was quickly time to attend the BBQ. When we arrived, Rebus had personalized Hawaiian beer mugs waiting for all the groomsmen. Of course, they were a huge hit. All of us groomsmen then let Rebus know that we had pooled a bunch of money to help him buy a Bike Friday. He has been drooling over these bikes for years and was seriously "bad fer one".

Anyway, the party featured more great food, Nic's uncle's band, and a lot of dancing. We all had a great time and I ate enough food to nearly pop (again).

At about 10PM, Nic and Rebus left the party to head over to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for the night. Shortly after than we all walked (being so full, I felt like I was waddling) back to our places for the night.

All in all, it was a perfect wedding. The ceremony was beautiful and seemed to go absolutely flawless. I am sure Nic and Rebus were very happy with it, and I know that the two of them are just happy to be married and free from wedding planning!

Jeff

Friday, June 17, 2005

Day 34: St. Louis, MO to Kailua, HI and Charleston, SC (by plane)


Well, my flight to Dallas went off without a hitch, and from there I was taking a flight to Honolulu. I still wasn't sure who was picking me up at the airport, so I called to possible candidates, Mac and Grayson. I got Mac's voicemail, and when I called Grayson he actually answered. "Where are you Dawg?" Grayson exclaimed in his usual but almost unaturally excited (yet very genuine) state. "Texas," I replied. "Where?" Well, it didn't take us much longer to figure out that we were on the same flight to Hawaii from Dallas. It took only a minute to track down Grayson and Beth, his wife of almost one year now. Grayson and Beth welcomed me to Dallas warmly and Grason practically crushed my ribs with his bear hug.

On the flight we did some barganing to all sit together. We ended up with the three seats together in the middle of the plane which are usually terrible, but we were happy to be seated together.

The 8 hour flight to Hawaii was brutal. Other than "Food for Purchase," American Airlines has moved away from serving anything to eat other than one bag of pretzels. I'm surprised they have to gaul to do that on a flight of that length. The idea of "Food for Purchase" is just ridiculous though. I guess the insane amount of money I paid for the flight isn't enough to cover the cost of some soggy, subpar, "five dollar" sandwich.

Anyway, I guess I wouldn't be so irritated about that if they had served us soft drinks and juices more than twice during the 8 hour trip. Litterally, the service from Dallas to Hawaii included two drinks, one bag of pretzels, occassional yet trash pick-up, and a lot of complaning from the flight attendants about how busy they were. Although, I still haven't figured out what they were really busy with. Since lately my body demands heavy hydration, this limited service was a bit rough on me. At one point I went to the back of the plane with hopes of getting something to drink. I was turned away and told that I'll have to wait until the service cart comes out and that the sooner people stop coming back to ask for something to drink, the sooner they'd get the cart out. Sheish! Talk about an industry that has changed a lot in the last ten years. It is all about paying more and getting less. If that is the future of airline travel then we all can look forward to feeling like cat!
tle, but at least grazing cattle can eat when they want. Needles to say, I am no excited about my flight back! Traveling by bike is much more comfortable.

Anyway, despite American Airlines' prison-like service, the day was actually very positive. When the three of us arrived, we picked up Beth and Grayson's bags and headed over the Hertz shuttle to pick up their rental car. The plan was to get over the the wedding rehersal ASAP by following Nic over to the location of the wedding.

The Hertz shuttle at the Hawaii airport was really funny since they litterally drive you 100 yards. "Hey, isn't that where you are taking us," I asked the driver as I gestured to the kiosk that was close enough for me to recognize Nic waiting next to. Yep, it sure was, but in no time, people had filled in around us making it nearly impossible to escape and walk over.

Hertz hooked up Beth and Grayson with a car that certainly matches their perfectly matched personalities, a bright-red, new Mustang convertable. Now, I don't mean that the Mustang matches their personalities, I mean that the fact that they rented the most fun car of anyone, and are absolutely loving it. They were so excited to take the top down, turn up the stereo to upbeat music and soak up their first visit to Hawaii. I jumped in the back and we had a blast driving over to te rehersal. "At least we don't look like tourists in this car," Grayson joked.

The rehersal was a bit hectic as the majority of us had just arrived and still wanted to chat and enjoy the moment of seeing everybody for the first time in ages. After sometime, the excitement level decreased and we were able to practice walking and standing.

Next, we all went to the two houses that were rented for all of us Groomsmen/Bridesmaids types were to stay in for the weekend. Nic and Rebus knew that it costs a lot for us to fly here and didn't want us to have to stay in a hotel as well. They rented these two homes that can sleep a total of ten and only ask for 20 bucks a person per night. That sounds much better than a hotel to me, and more fun.

Then it was off to the rehersal dinner, where we practice eating (which lately, I am very good at and need very little practice). On the way, AK called and she had made it it Charleston and is having a great time. It was nice to check in with her.

I had a great time at the dinner. People had all sorts of questions about the ride, the FFB, and everybody got a good laugh at my Lance Armstrong tan. Many people told me that that they really enjoy the journal which is always great to hear. The dinner/party was at the house the Bonnings are staying out for the week (which is awesome) and they hired a caterer too. They food was fantastic, and I ate steak, fish, salad and fruit until I nearly popped. It was my first meal of the day. Peter Bonning, Rebus' brother bought fancy hats for all the groomsmen and Rebus. I am not sure how to describe them, but they are all of similar style but each is different in fabric (plad, checkered, pin-striped, etc.). Anyway the party was great. Many thanks to the Bonning family for hosting us.

I also got to see my mother for the first time since leaving which was fun. She brought a bag of "real world" clothes that I packed before I left. She told me that Maggie, my cat that is staying with her for the summer, spent a lot of time sniffing and investigating my bag that must have reminded her of me. She misses me!

As if Rebus and Nic did not have enough to worry about this week, last Sunday, Nic's car was broken into and among other things, Rebus' wallet was stolen. What a bummer. They actually caught the guy in the act (it was broad daylight), but the guy still got away with a decent haul and jumped into a waiting car.

Anyway, we are having a great time here. Thanks for reading!

Jeff

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The shorcut revisited


In the interest of future TransAm cyclists, I have decided to include some more information about our shortcut from Sebree, KY to Carbondale, IL. The information may not be interesting to anyone not planning on biking the route.

We learned about this shortcut from an eastbound cyclist that had visited and signed he guestbook at the First Baptist Church of Sebree, KY. Chris "Something-or-other" (we couldn't read his signature) promissed a reduction of about 50 miles and flat terrain all the way to Carbondale. In the guestbook, he taped a map with the highlighted shortcut compared with the atual route and provided detailed instructions. His notes looked convincing enough, so we decided to go for it.

The shortcut has the rider taking the 56 west out of Sebree. With some rolling hills, the 56 arrives at the stateline of IL (the Ohio River) in about 40 miles. After crossing the bridge, route 56 becomes route 13 which goes all the way to Carbondale and joins the TransAm route.

The 13 is a road that is rather busy and full of big trucks, but an oversized shoulder the entire way provides plenty of comfort. The FLAT route 13 goes through Harrisburg (at approximately 60 miles from Sebree), Marion (at 89 miles) and then into Carbondale (at approximately 105 miles).

With the flat terrain, a very strong rider could potentially ride all the way to Carbondale in one day if need be. We stopped in Marion (where there are several hotels and resturants, but is otherwise not interesting). I noticed signs for camping at least three times along this route in various distances from Sebree. There are also hotels in Harrisburg and a good place to eat called the BBQ Barn (as a local how to get there).

Since it is a heavily travelled road, the chance of flatting is pretty high on Route 13. Make sure your spare tube is available; I got two flats.

There are some disadvantages to the shortcut though. For one, you won't be taking a ferry across the Ohio River. I was looking forward to that, but instead we took a bridge that can be busy. Additionally, you will miss a state park area of IL including Fern Cliff State Park and Cave In Rock Stat Park. Although missing these state parks means you are also skirting around the climbs of the "Little Ozarks". But by trading all that you'll probably gain a day and you'l ride on flat roads almost all the way through IL.

Jeff

Day 33: Pittsburg, KS to St. Louis, MO (by rental car)


We went to bed last night in the fine $38 a night Holiday Lodge in Pittsburg with the plan to sleep-in a bit before taking our bikes over to the shop at 10 when they open. It sounded like a great idea, but my internal clock just can't seem to let me sleep late. Even after going to bed at 12, I was wide awake at 6.

So, I decided that I better get up and out of the room rather than risk disturbing AK while she tries to sleep-in. Remember when I said she can get grumpy? Well I know what is good for me, so I am sitting in the lobby indulging in the complimentary "breakfast" and writing the start of this message. "Breakfast" includes coffee, some fake tasting OJ (I think it is Sunny-D), and a box from Wal-Mart that is labeled "glazed yeast rings." Yum! Well on closer inspection, these "yeast rings" are doughnuts. I can only imagine that is some attempt to make doughnuts sound more healthy, but actually makes them sound like some contagious skin rash. I don't usually like doughnuts much, but I need to give these "yeast rings" a try to see just how bad they really are. I'll consider it part of my regional food research...

Later...

... I was right, they were terrible.

We dropped off our bikes and stuff at the bike shop and managed to get Enterprise to pick us up at the shop.

From Enterprise, we drove to Wal-Mart to find some "real world" items. I needed a t-shirt, some choners (FYI: Underwear is a no-no under bike shorts; it is just something else to chafe your snesitive parts. As a result, I don't have many pairs with me) and AK needed a bag to travel with.

We grabbed some burgers for lunch and then tried to find a laundromat to wash our dirty biking clothes. We asked the owner of the hotel we had stayed in the night before. He told us to go down Broadway 3 miles and the laundromat would be across the street from "Country Fried Chicken." Well, we drove 3 miles and never saw a Country Fried Chicken or the laundromat. We stopped to ask another person and she told us to go back 3 miles from the direction we came! Well we finally found it, but we got a good laugh about our increasing sensitivty to the mile in comparison to many drivers complete lack of appreciation for the distance a mile covers.

Before leaving town we realized that we had nothing warmer to wear other than shorts and a t-shirt, so we stopped by a local Pittsburg shop called the Jock's Nitch. We scored some long sleeve Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, Kansas, of course) shirts for ten bucks and were ready to roll out of town.

Just as we were leaving we spotted Sid bikig into town! We stopped to chat with him for a few minutes and gave him a few tips about the businesses we visited around town. It was fun to run into him again.

Then it was on to St. Louis. The drive took us about 5 hours with plenty of traffic.

It was nice to have the chance to listen to the car's radio as it felt like ages since we last listened to music. At one point, AK nearly snarfed a mouth full of water all over the inside of the windsheiled. A variation on a typical radio ad was aired that made us both laugh hysterically. It featured the recorded voice of a listener praising the radio station. "I love listening to Alice FM. I have it on at the office, while I'm in the car, in the tanning bed..." From then on, AK and I heard nothing more of the ad, as we were laughing to hard and AK was struggling to recover from the near snarf. How much time must you spend in a tanning bed to mention it in your praise of a radio station? Someone please give that woman some sunscreen!

During the drive we contacted some friends in St. Louis. We were hoping to park our rental car at Jervis and Jodie's place rather than pay for long term parking. Since my flight was early, we had intended to stay in a hotel near the airport. AK's flight wasn't until 1PM, so she was going to drop me off, return to Jervis and Jodie's and take a cab to the airport. Well, it turns out that Jervis and Jodie live very close to the airport, so they invited us to stay the night, saving us the cost of a hotel. Plus, Jervis said he could drive AK to the airport. Thanks guys!

Anyway, it is strange to write about a day that doesn't include stories about riding.

I was really hoping to travel to Hawaii with a 2 liter bottle of Big Red. I wanted to share its delightfully painful flavor with all my good friends, but all my efforts to find it again went unrewarded. Not even Wal-Mart could produce; I thought they were supposed to be "America's store" or something corny like that. Well, with no Big Red at Wal-Mart, I'm not sure what America will do.

Jeff

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Day 32: Everton, MO to Pittsburg, KS (63 miles, 1648 total)


Kansas! We have officially blasted into our 5th state of the trip!

Well, after a great night's sleep out of the elements in the Everton B&B, all six of us woke up and got ready to roll. The house was stocked with breakfast items so we all helped ourselves as we packed. At about 8, AK and I were ready to go. Unsure of when and if we'd see them next, we said goodbye to all our new biking friends.

As we rolled out, Lucy, the little stray dog, followed us down the road. We didn't make it too far as a coal train came through town right as we were leaving. We stopped and waited for the huge train to pass. While we were waiting, Dale caught up to us and from there, the three of us rode together.

The first ten miles (or so) of the day included the last few climbs of the Ozarks. It didn't take long for Paul and Annemieke, the dutch couple, to catch up to us on their speedy tandem. They said that Sid had planned a late start for the morning to catch up on chores, so it was unlikely we'd see him again today.

Oh, here is something funny about Paul and Annemieke. The two of them ride a fully-suspended tandem mountain bike which is outfitted with front and rear disc brakes. Paul rides up front, so he is in charge of the steering, the gear shifting and the disc brakes. Annemieke rides in back and helps pedal hard to move the big bike. Now apparently, Annemieke does not like to go too fast, so they added third brake the she controls! So, ultimately, she decids how fast they go; I thought that was really funny.

We all arrived in the tiny town of Pennsboro at about the same time and continued on riding within a mile or so of each other.

Shortly after Pennsboro, we were officially out of the Ozark Mountains. Now, I must admit that I think the Ozarks are a wimpy excuse for mountains. Sure, there were a few steep climbs, but for the most part, these "mountains" were nothing more than gentle rolliing hills. They are nothing as compared to the tough Appalachians of VA and KY. However, that said, I could see how an eastbound rider might find them a bit tough as compared to Kansas, and if that is the case, the Appalachians are going to be a nightmare for them. AK kept getting mad at me for calling the Ozarks "wimpy." She said I was jinxing us and the Ozarks were getting steeper everytime I said that. Whatever, the Ozarks are wimpy.

The road became as straight as the eye could see with occasional rolling hills. The weather was perfect in everyway except for a stiff headwind that blasted all day. Being more streamlined than us, Paul and Annemieke powered their tandem ahead of us and arrived in Golden City way ahead of AK, Dale and me.

In Golden City we all met up again at Cooky's, a local resturant that specializes in pie. Dale, AK and I all had the usual lunch fare and then shared slies of pecan, custard, strawberry rhubarb, and bluegoose (blueberry and gooseberry) pie. I'm not a huge fan of pie, but these were all great.

After eating, Paul and Annemieke went to the local library for internet access. Dale, AK and I rode on knowing that the Dutch riders would catch us in no time with their wind blasting tandem (By the way, drafting behind them is a dream.). Dale is actually interested in buying a BOB trailer for the second half of his trip, so we traded bikes for the first few miles out of town. I was actually interested in trying his bike too; it was outfitted with the bar-end shifters that are so popular with bike tourists. Dale is now sold on the BOB and will trade his painners for one in CO.

After battling the headwinds, all five of us arrived together at a small store 7 miles from the KS boarder. We decided to all ride together to take photos at the Kansas border. Up until today, AK and I have no state border photos together and neither had anyone else, so we were all in.

We had read that the people in KS are very welcoming and supportive of TransAm cyclists and so far it has been true. While we were taking photos there must have been five cars that passed honking and waving supportively. Oh, and in MO's defense, the drivers there seemed to improve as we got further west in the state.

After the photos, we all biked the 5 miles into Pittsburg to the Tailwind Bicycle Shop. Roger, the owner of the shop has agreed to tune-up our bikes and store our stuff during our hiatus. On the way into town we met a local cyclist that told us that Tailwind is the best shop in the area, so we can be confident in his work.

Roger checked the chain wear on all of our bikes, sold Dale a new mirror, told us where the local motel is, recommended a local resturant and informed us that Enterprise Rent-a-car has a location in Pittsberg! What? When we called Enterprise the first time, they told us the closest location is in Joplin, MO! Well apparently Roger knows more about Enterprise than Enterprise does because there is a location here, and we have already transfered our reservation.

Next, Dale, AK and I took the Dutch couple to indulge in a fine American delicacy, all-u-can-eat Chinese buffet. They loved it! "We have nothing like this in Holland," they both exclaimed. After dinner we said goodbye to our newest friends and we all hoped our paths would cross again on the trip.

Now AK and I are in a cheap motel for the night. We need to pack away all our camping stuff for the week, and it needs to be dry, so we cannot camp in the local park with the others.

Tomorrow we will drop our bikes off at the shop, rent the car and drive to St. Louis to catch our flights on Thursday. I am flying to Hawaii for Rebus and Nic's wedding and AK is flying to Charleston for Alecia's bachelorette party. We will be off the bikes until next Wednesday. That is a strange thought, and although I will enjoy the break, I think I will miss my bike and the miles in a few days.

Our most devoted journal readers can rest assured that I will continue to update the journal through our hiatus. I feel that keeping tabs on the wedding of Rebus, our motivation for this ride, is quite applicable to this journal. So keep checking back daily!

I am sorry I haven't had any reports on regional soft drinks for some time now. I just haven't found anything new to me except something called "Peach Nehi." It has a label that is very similar to Big Red, so I am afraid to try it. Sorry, I'm gun shy.

My Lance Armstrong tan is in full force now. Although, our tans are a little more prominant on our left sides. Throughout the day, we get more sun on the left. I've started calling my left leg my "south leg."

Jeff

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Day 31: Marshfield, MO to Everton, MO (56 miles, 1584 total)


Today has been a day that exemplifies why people go on trips like this. It has been absolutely awesome.

To start, last night we went to bed happy to have such great company for the night. All six of us decided to camp under one of the large pavillions in the park. These pavillions are basically a large roof with no walls. Anne Katherine and I scored one of the large tables to sleep on (it was either that or the hard concrete) and opted to not set-up the tent.

We went to bed at about 10PM and were abruptly awoken at 2AM by a serious ruckus. A huge thunder storm was on its way into town. Lightening flashed in the distance as the wind began whipping around us. All of us got up and began racing to collect our stuff before the winds sent it out of the park and through town. It was a frantic scene. AK and I had to take turns holding down the sleeping bags as the other took care of the stuff. We opted to lay down our bikes on the ground rather than risk the wind blowing them down and breaking something. We also moved our table more to the center of the pavillion to avoid getting wet from the rain that had just started dumping (the stiff wind was carrying the rain right under and through the shelter of the pavillion). Once we got everthing settled, we grabbed our stinky green dragon tarp and pulled it over us and the sleeping bags because even in the center of the pavillion, we were getting drenched. Shivering, we hunkered down and watch!
ed the nasty storm pass. Rain whipped all around us, and thunder crashed above us as the sky flashed with every bolt. It was nasty. The scary thing is the idea of a tornado. Fortunately, it wasn't a tornado, but since I know nothing about those things, they are easy to fear.

Anyway, after the late night disturbance, we all were a bit late getting up. We finally were up by 7. After waiting out several potential storm clouds that darkened the morning skies above us (without ever raining a drop on us), AK and I were rolling by 8. We were the first to leave. Paul and Annemieke were taking it a bit easy as today is their 2nd wedding aniversary.

On the way out of town, we stopped at America's favorite store, Wal-Mart. AK wanted to try to find a long sleeve shirt to protect herself from the brutal sun.

Soon we were back on the road and were treated to a perfect morning ride. We quickly blasted the 15 miles into Fair Grove under blue skies. The terrain was rolling, scenic, and we were zurning. While saving my first turtle for the day, Paul and Annemieke caught up to us. It is fun to be on the road with buddies; I snapped a photo of them as they zipped by waving. I spotted Dale in the distance and prepared to take his photo as well, but a short while later I saw him dump his bike and run into the bushes. Nature had called, and I decided not to wait.

After a quick snack in Fair Grove, we headed on to Walnut Grove. The conditions were again perfect. It was beautiful, not too hot and decent terrain. I started to realize that I have really hit a biking groove and wondered if I will struggle to get back into it after the week break for Rebus and Nic's wedding.

In Walnut Grove we stopped for lunch at "The Dinner Bell". We have discovered that eating lunch in some of these small town resturants is cheaper or comprable to trying to "build" our own lunch at a market. Today, for a mere $4.25, I had meatloaf, potatoes, spinach, cottage cheese, and a dinner roll. You can't get a meal that good for that cheap at a supermarket!

Again on the way out of town we found Paul and Annemieke's tandem outside a store. Since it was starting to rain, we decided to stop in and say hi. After a few minutes, the rain stopped and we were all on our way.

AK and I arrived first in Ash Grove as it started to rain and thunder again. We ducked into a store and called ahead to the accomodations in Everton. Soon Paul and Annemieke arrived and since they planned to stay at the same place tonight, AK called back, and informed them that more people were coming. Since it was a special night for Paul and Annemieke, we all went to the local supermarket to buy food to cook for dinner at the bed and breakfast. Since we were only 7 miles from Everton, we could actually buy food that would otherwise be perishible. We left with the makings for sausage pasta, smores and brocolli. We figured the smores would be a good, easy, American-style celebration dessert for the Dutch aniversary couple. With still no sign of Dale or Sid since the morning, we all rolled on hoping they'd figure out how to find us. Paul and Annemieke stopped at a liquor store to get some beer and wine for the evening.

When we arrived in Everton, Ron Dinges welcomed us to his family's bed and breakfast. He showed us around the old house built in 1886. There are four bedrooms, two sitting rooms, two bathrooms and two kitchens. He told us to make ourselves at home and pay 20 bucks per bedroom. After the quick tour, Paul and Annemieke arrived and we all had a beer with Ron and the neighbor Gaelin on the porch. It was fantastic. Gaelin is a trucker and we all had a good time joking around with him. He even drove his big truck to the market to buy us ground beef and beer. Awesome.

A little stray dog (a beagle mix) that the Dinges had taken in visited with us as we relaxed on the porch. She is the first dog I've ever been around that actually listens to my commands. I was shocked, plus she didn't bark once, so I like her. We named her Lucy.

Eventually Ron headed back home to Ash Grove and told us just to lock the door in the morning. A few minutes later, Dale arrived and soon after that, Sid showed up. We were all back together again.

We decided to just cook up a big feast and share the big "aniversary dinner". After a lot of cooking we sat down at a real dinner table for a meal of sausage pasta, brocolli, tacos, hot dogs, beans, corn, and salad. We ate and joked until our stomachs hurt. Meanwhile a huge thurnderstorm roared outside and dumped down rain. We all rejoiced we were inside with good food and good company and not in the local city park.

Once all the dishes were done and we had chance to digest some food, AK fired up the smores. Of course, they were a huge hit.

Anyway, today was a fantastic day. We had perfect cycling conditions, always managed to miss the rain, were welcomed warmly by Ron, ate great food, told stories, ignored the storm outside, and we get to sleep in real beds. Even if a storm does come in at 2AM, we won't care!

By the way, I think there was a planned mass turtle suicide this morning as I pulled 6 out of the road before lunch.

Jeff

Monday, June 13, 2005

Day 30: Houston, MO to Marshfield, MO (66 miles, 1528 total)


So get this, in Missouri there is a town called Kickapoo. I am not making this up! How awesome is that? I can only imagine what people do for fun there. Other amusing towns include Huggins and Lickings.

While pedaling, I often find my mind wandering and I start to wonder about random things. Lately, I question one big issue, do turtles have rib cages, or do their shells serve that purpose? Beyond that, during times of the military draft, did Uncle Sam want Amish boys too? Anyway, Anne Katherine wants to write the journal tonight, so here she goes. ---Jeff

It is true that your mind wanders. I can't even begin to recap my random thoughts, but lately I have been singing all kinds of random songs - Disney, parts of church hymns, techno, country (I don't even LIKE country)...maybe I do need a radio! One line of a song leads me right into another one. I don't always sing out loud, though. The hills/mountains have a way of stealing my breath away.

Anyway, today was just glorious! Today was the kind of day that I pictured in my head when we planned this trip. It has made the bruises, sore muscles, sore bum, and achy knees worth it. It has made not getting a paycheck all summer worth it. I wouldn't trade away one minute of today.

We woke up dry in our hotel room and we packed away dry gear. Glorious! When we looked out of the window, everything was shrouded in fog. Had we camped, we would still have been soggy, not glorious. The fog burned off quickly though, and by the time we left the motel, the skies were bright blue and the temperature was perfect for riding.

We stopped in at (gasp!) McDonalds for breakfast as it was the only place we saw. After leaving, we ran into a Westbounder named Sid. We'd heard of Sid the day before while talking to a WB'er named Dale, who we'd heard about a few days ago when we paused at a resort on a moutain top. The TransAm cycling world is a small one! We heard from Sid that the park last night was a full house. He, Dale, a young Dutch couple, and 4 Eastbounders all camped there together. Though I'm sure they had a great time, I don't regret our indoor stay.

Back on the road, we were treated to mostly moderate rolling hills. So far, the Ozark Mountains don't have much on the ones we crossed further east. I am so grateful for that!

The skies stayed blue and the temperature stayed mild all morning. We saved lots of turtles and Jeff sprayed a few dogs. One just laid down right in the road and started wiping at its face. I was worried it might be hit by a car so I started yelling at it. It looked up at me and then sulked away. For our readers, if you worry about these dogs, please understand that these are not your pampered pets that sit indoors by your feet. These dogs are outdoor, sometimes mangy-looking animals that seem terribly neglected. Riding through these very rural areas and seeing the conditions that so many of these animals live in has pained me over and over again. I can justify spraying the dogs because, though I am sorry for their temporary discomfort, I would be infinitely more sorry if a dog caused one of us to crash or if we sustained a bite. Our safety is more important to me by far. (Plus, after getting it in my own eyes a while back, it doesn't last that long.)

At our first rest stop in a town called Ben Davis, we finally met Paul and Annemieke (pronounced Ana-ME-ka), the Dutch couple we'd heard about. Hooray! They were going to the same place tonight so we knew we'd be seeing them again. This was the only stop until lunch so we rested for a bit and talked with the store owner, Chuck. Ben Davis was named after apples that used to be grown in the area. The apples are gone, but the name stayed.

At our lunch stop in Hartville, we waved to the Dutch couple as they headed out. They are riding a fully suspended tandem mountain bike so they can really move. As we were leaving, we ran into Dale again. He was heading to the same place too so we were getting excited for camping company tonight! After lunch, we had a stretch of 26 miles with no marked stops (i.e. no cold drinks). The heat had turned itself up too so I was preparing for a tough afternoon. Not so! It was hot but not overwhelming. There was a stop (though the selection was poor and the man that owned it was odd and very hard of hearing - he made up what we said and responded with whatever he chose). Then we arrived in town!

We are camping at the Marshfield City Park. Paul, Annemeika, Dale, and Sid have all arrived. We sat around and shared stories all afternoon. At one point I said "Holy Cow!" and Annemeika loved it. That was an expression she hadn't heard yet. We have rotated through showers, cooked dinner, and laughed a ton. We all ate sitting on the concrete floor of these roofed structures that probably house livestock during the county fairs. Soon we will sleep on the tables. A little backwards, but anything goes on this trip.

Only two more days of biking before we get a week off. I can't even imagine how that will feel. I feel like I've just gotten into the groove of biking all day and I hope I don't have to break myself in again once we return to the road! At least we'll be out of the mountains.

AKB

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Day 29: Owls Bend, MO to Houston, MO (58 miles, 1462 total)


Today I felt like a kitchen sponge. I was damp or wet, but never dry and fairly stinky.

As we set-up the tent last night we noticed that there was a bit of mildew/mold on the rainfly. With the humidity, dew, and rain, things have been really wet, and almost never dry out.

Anyway, we went to bed after our Chicken-Helper, and I spent a restless night battling with asthma attacks. I am not sure if it was someting in the environment, something I ate, or the mold on the tent, but it felt like I barely slept.

When the alarm went off at 5:15, I was eager to get up just to end the battle with my lungs. It took us some time to get ready as I was trying to take it easy and the bathrooms were a decent walk away. Nothing that got wet in the rain the day before had dried since the humidity, fog, and dew hung around all night and well into the morning. We woke up wet and got dressed wet. I told Anne Katherine that I wish I had some Captin Crunch to put in my pants and make the Soggies go away.

We finally left camp at about 7:30 to enjoy relatively empty roads. The thick fog hung around long enough for us to bust out our "blinky" rear lights. We climbed out of Owls Bend a fair distance. Since the fog shrouded our view of the top of the climb, the end seemed like it would never come. With each pedal stroke, I pulled on my handlebars with the opposite hand. Water oozed from my bar tape with every tug. We were soggy.

We stopped in Eminence for a quick snack that turned out to be a quick second breakfast to supplement our oatmeal. We came across a Dutch couple on a suspended tandem towing a trailer. They seemed friendly, but looked like they were on a mission to blast some miles. They sure knew how to get that thing moving uphill.

After Eminence, we came across Alley Spring, the last of our stops along the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. It was there that we learned just how close we camped in Owls Bend to a spectacular natural spring called Blue Spring. We'll have to catch that one the next time around.

About seven miles later, we came across a lookout tower at the top of a climb. This thing must have been built before they invented the word "liability". It is a tower that provides a view from above the canopy of the trees. Made of steel, and wood, it was essentially a metal frame with a narrow wooden staircase that climbed about 20 floors to the top. At the top, you could feel the wind and our footsteps affecting the tower. The view was impressive, but we didn't stay long on top of this oversized lightening rod.

Next, we rode on to Summersville where we stopped for lunch at a resturant with a slogan on the sign that read, "The only resturant in town." That made the decision of where to eat relatively easy. Once inside, we noticed the menu stated, "The best burgers in town." Wait a minute! I suppose this is the best packet of Sweet-N-Low in town too?

Throughout the morning we were subjected to the "self propeled roller coaster" terrain we had read about. Compared to Virginia, the hills were small, but we did have a few steep ones. There were also a few speedy descents. On one I managed to reach 45mph without meaning to. On a good downhill, I can only pedal my bike to 40mph, so what I usually do is pedal up to just over 30, get in a speed crouch, and rest as gravity takes me all the way down the hill (and hopefully more than halfway up the next). After one steep downhill, I felt like I had gone pretty fast, so I checked my computer, 45mph. I told Anne Kaherine that I had just gone faster on a bike than I ever have before. She told me that I was not being safe, I agreed. Well, several miles later we had another steep descent where I broke my own record, and Anne Katherine matched it at 46mph. So, I guess we both can lecture each other about being safe.

Anyway, at lunch, we were happy to see that the map indicated no serious elevation changes between the lunch stop and Houston. Instead, we were treated to gentle rolling farmland and a thunderstorm.

About 5 miles out of Summersville, we were blasted with strong alternating cold and hot wind gusts. The skies darkened above us and we decided to seek temporary shelter rather than risk the dangers of a lightening strike. We pulled off the road and into the driveway of a farmhouse. We saw that they had a big open barn/garage that we could take cover in. As AK approached the door to ask permission, I was approached by a large barking and growling rotweiller. I put my bike between the two of us and grabbed my Halt can. Luckily the owner stepped out right then, called off the dog and gave us permission to take shelter in her garage. We waited there for about 30 minutes as lightening flashed and thunder rumbled above. Once the thunderstorm had pased, the rain began to fall more heavily. When we finally decided to get going it stared raining more. Of course it had to come when it looked like we might actually get a chance to dry out in the next ten miles.

Off we rode in the rain with thundering rumbling in the distance behind us. Once again we were happy to have the fenders on our bikes as there is a fine line between being wet and being filthy and wet.

When we finally arrived in Houston (in Texas County), we were soggy through and through. We had read that the city park allows camping, but we had also read that few cyclists get a good night's sleep due to trouble making teenagers loitering in the park. Since it is Saturday and the chance of loitering seemed high, and since everything about us was wet, we decided a motel would be a good call. So here we are in the Southern Inn. Everything that we can hang a wet piece of clothing on is occupied and the tent is hanging out too.

The good news, we gained a day on the guidebook in just three days of riding. With that kind of progress we should be able to make our August 7th finishing date in Oregon without a problem.

Tomorrow we head for Marshfield. Hopefully we won't get soggy.

This weekend marks my ten-year high school reunion. I am sorry to miss it, but this trip is tough to beat, even with the Soggies!

Jeff

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Day 28: Pilot Knob, MO to Owls Bend, MO (59 miles, 1404 total)


Waking up early in a motel on this trip is always hard to do. Actually, waking up at any time is always hard for me to do. Jeff gets up first and the only reason I drag my bag of bones out of the comfy pillow and sheet land is because I feel guilty about making us leave later. I always feel ok after I move around for a bit, but ugh, those 1st few minutes are the worst. (Note from Jeff: Anne Katherine can be rather grumpy in the morning. You best tip-toe if you know what is good for you.)

We ate oatmeal in the room before rolling out around 7:30. Our first stop was Elephant Rocks State Park. It was just 1 mile off route so it made the cut. Anything further than that gets passed by. When you pile on miles like we have been lately, side trips lose all appeal.
If you can't tell from the name, Elephant Rocks St. Pk. is full of giant rocks. These rocks are made of granite so they weather slowly. As the park opens at 8:00, we were almost the only people there. After about an hour (and tons of photos), we got back to the business of the day. The park was cool because it was marked with braille signs and various aids for the visually impaired. How fitting for our trip supporting the FFB! (Note from Jeff: We also cruised right through Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. It is supposed to have some cool stuff to check out, but we had to keep moving.)

The terrain remained rolling throughout the day. Though I do use my low gears frequently to take some pressure off my knees, I only really needed them a few times. So far, the Ozarks are definitley doable. The hot temps and humidity are what make them difficult. I mop my face frequently during the day.

Traffic was light on our way into Centerville where we stopped for a snack. We scored a very detailed and FREE Missouri map while there. It even has the backroads that we are traveling on marked on it. No state we've been through so far has had that available at the tiny-town gas stations we frequent.

After Centerville, we were traveling on SR 21. Not to offend anyone from this state, but we encountered more hostile drivers on 21 (and later on 106) than either of us has dealt with on this trip or any other EVER. From 18-wheelers, to trucks dragging giant horse trailers, to small cars, they all honked and some shook their fists at us. God forbid they have to move over a few feet or slow down for a minute. You'd think we were ruining their entire day.

Anyway, we stopped for lunch in the town of Ellington. Just as we were cresting the last few hills before town, the sky took on the ominous steel-grey color of a thunderstorm.
Our lunch stop was perfectly timed. We covered up the bikes and headed into the local restaurant for a great lunch complete with steamed veggies. It rained for a bit, then cleared, then went back to looking threatening. We had no choice but to move on. Our campground was another 15 miles down the road, and our late and dawdling lunch stop had kept us lagging around until 4:00. (We usually try not to stop for lunch until the majority of miles are behind us. This helps with the after lunch slump as well as the general psyche for the day.) (Note from Jeff: Halls Resturant, the place we stopped for lunch, featured one urinal in the men's room that, oddly enough, had its own stall with a door and a lock. All I could think of was that this must cause some confusion for the guy that had a bad plate of fried catfish and needs a place to blow chunks. No urinal-cake could mask that smell.)

Just a few miles into our dash out of town, the skies opened up and started to dump on us. The worst part is that those same horse trailer um, people, continued harrassing us with their horns. Please, we're the ones getting soaked out here!

After a steep, wet descent in which both of us were camped out on our brake levers (visions of my dad's accident was running through my head), we arrived wet and thankful at our campsite. The Powder Mill campground just outside of Owls Bend is directly next to the Current River. This river is fed by several springs and it runs clear and is perfect for wading. We can hear the sound of the water rushing by from our tent. The only drawback is that there aren't any showers to be had. Baby wipes shower it is, oh, and a brief walk into the river too. We didn't swim because we knew our suits wouldn't dry out.

After our river dip, we started getting ready for dinner. Jeff, who calls himself the Swedish Chef, is in charge of the camp stove. Tonight's special was Chicken Helper, made with canned chicken, and little peas. We've been lugging this meal around since before arriving in Sebree so it is about time we ate it. With a little pepper added it isn't so bad. We can see how Jessica Simpson was a little confused about whether she was eating chicken or tuna from the can because they don't taste too differently. Still, the chicken helper wins over the tuna helper. (Note from Jeff: Hands down, the Chicken Helper is ten times better than the Tuna Helper.)

Now, Jeff is looking for fire-flies/lightening bugs outside the tent and I am very thankful it isn't still raining. I'm sure we'll still put on wet gloves, helmets, shoes, and clothes in the morning but they hopefully won't be any more wet.

(Note from Jeff: Today I saw my first armadillo. Actually I saw several. I didn't have to worry about sneaking up on them and scaring them off as they all had tire treads down their backs. By the way, did you know that Combos are the official cheese fillled snack of NASCAR?)

AKB

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Day 27: Chester, IL to Pilot Knob, MO (79 miles, 1345 total)


Blasting into Missour'a! We are officially west of the Mississippi River and into our fourth state, and today we got our first taste of the Ozark Mountains.

The curse of the flats continued to plague us today. Early on in the day, AK flatted her rear on a staple-like piece of wire; it actually punctured her tube in two places. So, that is a flat everyday for three days in a row. We've got the jinx bad, and as result I spent sometime patching the tubes tonight.

We rolled out of Chester at about 8AM and headed for the river. The route took us right past the comemorative statue of Popeye, so we stopped for a photo before heading to Missouri. The bridge across to MO was big and shoulderless with one lane for each direction, so we timed our passing carefully and hoped for a patient driver to come up behind us. I was wishing for an Amish Buggy; I knew we could stay ahead of them and be fine as long as we could survive the heckling. Regardless, we lucked out with a sympathetic driver in a red pick-up.

For the 10 miles after Chester, we cruised flat farmland. As we approached the beginning of the Ozarks, we entered the town of St. Mary and AK scored her flat.

So far the Ozark Mountains seem pretty mellow. We've read that typically eastbound cyclists have more trouble with them than westbound riders. This is because other than the non-steep Rockies, this is the eastbound rider's first exposure to up-and-down mountains. Have fun with Virginia!

Speaking of eastbound riders, we passed a few today. They were not very chatty and not one of the three had a helmet. Smart move.

Anyway, the rest of the ride for the day was relatively uneventful. Throughout the day, Anne Katherine sprayed three dogs on vacation from Kentucky. (From AK - I had a tough day physically today and as a result, my patience for charging dogs was nonexistent. You step on the pavement in my direction, you'll get it in the face, dogs. Go back to Kentucky.)

We stopped in Farmington for lunch and headed for Pilot Knob. Adventure Cycling recommended an alternate route to Pilot Knob due to heavy traffic on the mapped route. The alternate was four miles longer, but we went with it anyway. Turns out the alternate had plenty of traffic too (especially on the 32 on the way into Bismark). Fortunately, there was a wide shoulder, but it was full of tire-flatting debris.
When we finally made it into town, we decided we came far enough to justify another hotel. Plus, storm clouds on the horizon made it an easy decision. AK called the only hotel in town to ask for directions; that was a waste of time...

Now, I am gonna take a minute to vent about something that has been driving us nuts. On numerous occasions, AK and I have asked locals in various towns how to arrive at their place of work. We usually say something like, "We are at the intersection of Route 21 and Route W; how do we get to your place." All too often, these people don't know where that is. It takes a lot of patience to not say something like, "There are only two highways in this entire town, how could you not know where that is?" But anyway...

After flagging down a cable technician to get usefull directions to the hotel, we were on our way. Soon we arrived at the Fort Davidson Motel which looks like it could have starred in National Lampoon's Vacation.

We are making great progess, but recently the daily mileage has also been tough on us. Today was a long day, but tomorrow we are going less than 60 miles to a campground. It is funny to say so, but that should be a nice break.

Anyway, today was a tough one, but we are still having fun. We've heard that the journal has experienced growing popularity. Hopefully our number of donations to the FFB have increased as well!

By the way, so far Missouri seems packed full of Chatty McChatersons. Today, we had more people inquire about our efforts than any other day.

Oh, we also heard a turkey gobble off in the distance today. Awesome. Since the beginning of this trip, I have decided that someday I need to own the following pets (in addition to Maggie, of course): one llama, one chicken, a turkey, and a small goat. A goat is nice to have for purely comedic reasons, and once you hear a turkey gobble, you've got to own one. And when I go on my next bike tour, I'll send them all over to stay with my mother.

Jeff

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Day 26: Marion, IL to Chester, IL (70 miles, 1266 total)


BLASTING MILES!

We went to bed planning to stop by some bike shops in Carbondale, so A.K. could see if she could find a pair of more comfortable bike shorts. Since the bike shops did not open until 10, and we were only about 17 miles from Carbondale, we decided to sleep in until 6:30 and take our time getting ready for the day. After a lousy complimentary breakfast, we got on the road at about 8:15.

Just outside of Carbondale, I managed to get a large staple lodged in my front tire. We had hoped we had gotten past our "jinx" of the flats the day before, but apparently not. Since it was already pretty hot, and we were so close to town, I decided to not pull the staple out. The tire seemed to be holding air well enough, and I knew that if I pulled it out, the tire would flat instantly. So, I carefully rode the last few miles into town.

We got into town at about 9:30 and found two bike shops across the street from one another. We got to work on fixing my flat and shortly after finishing, one of the bike shops opened early. The first store had a very limited women's selection, so we crossed the street to the next. After about 20 minutes, A.K. walked out with new shorts and we had a tube of Chamois Butter and freshly pumped-up tires.

From there we headed out of town towards Murphysboro on a really piece of junk road. It is full of pot-holes and divits that sneak up on you and do a number on your wheels. When we arrived in town, I asked a man towing a John Deere tractor where a good place to eat was. Right around the corner we found a nice little family resturant. We had burgers, lots of water and refilled almost all of our waterbottles (the water from the hotel tasted like dirt).

Speaking of the hotel in Marion, we got a great deal on the room thanks to A.K.. When we arrived I asked the man for the cheapest rate we could get. He quoted us 58 bucks. Meanwhile, A.K. flipped through a traveler coupon book sitting on the counter. Inside the catalog, A.K. found a coupon for 39 bucks and asked the man if we could use it. His response, "Well, you didn't tell me you had a coupon." Hey, thanks for the tip buddy!

Anyway, in the resturant we hashed out a plan to catch our flights from St. Louis next thursday. Thanks to our shortcut yesterday, we have found ourselves in a good position. We plan to compress seven days of riding in our guidebook into six days and arrive in Pittsburg, KS. From there we will rent a car from Joplin, MO and drive to St. Louis. We found a bike shop in Pittsburg that is willing to tune-up our bikes and store our stuff. Now, all we have to do is find a ride from Pittsburg to Joplin (~20 miles away). Anyway, having a plan put us in high spirits and we were ready to bike another 40 miles to Chester. Plus, we realized that we should have no problem getting back on schedule since we should be able to gain a day on the guidebook every week, so we were happy and ready to ride.

We chose to take an alternate route to Chester that took us along the Mississippi River Levee. It is a bit longer than the standard route, but it is flatter, so we were sold.

The route took us into Gorham where we mailed back our third completed map. Woohoo! From there we found ourselves on an empty farm road. For the first time since we started in Yorktown, A.K. and I had the opportunity to ride side-by-side and chat for miles. It was really quite nice. We rolled passed huge cornfields and wheatfields and saw only about 3 cars. I did have to spray three angry dogs that charged us though. Unfortunately for them, I perfected my aim in Kentucky. In fact, I think these dogs were from Kentucky. They all had fake looking tans and Slim-Jims.

The weather was hot and humid; we found ourselves running low on water as we rode along the levee. Unfortunately, this alternate route didn't take us along our usual places to find water, so we planned to knock on a door and ask for some.

From the levee we got our first view of the Mississippi River and Missouri! The river is brown and fast moving up here, and it was exciting to see Missouri. We will get into there tomorrow morning. Blasting through this state!

Eventually, we arrived in the tiny town of Rockwood where we hoped to score some water. We were happy to find a water tap behind the local post office. It was cool and refreshing, and we soaked it up.

We were 8 miles from Chester, and found ourselves climbing several hills in a row to get into town. By the way, every state seems to give us a series of tough hills just before we leave. It's like a "thanks for coming" gift. Anyway, as we climbed into town (which is the home of Popeye, by the way), I crested a hill and waited for AK. As she arrived, she pointed out some nasty looking clouds on the horizon that I had not even noticed. Up until then we have had blue skies all day. I said I needed food because I was running low on energy; she said we needed to get moving, now!

We biked about another mile and found a gas station. Inside, AK asked for directions to a hotel (she said this was not the weather to camp in) while I grabbed a Gatorade and a Snickers.

As we stepped outside, the wind whipped the door out of my hand. It seemed to come out of nowhere; when we entered the store it was calm, and we had only been inside a few minutes. It had gotten nasty in minutes, no rain yet, but it was very dark and windy. A.K. yelled the directions to the hotel a few miles down the road and we got moving as fast as possible.

I started feeling a bit scared; I'd never seen sudden weather like this before, so I pedalled like mad in the wind. I didn't want to leave A.K. behind so I kept checking on her in my mirror. She was right behind me, so I figured I wasn't going fast enough and I pedalled faster. I was going all-out and AK was right on my tail. I have never seen her ride so fast. She probably would have passed me if I wasn't in the way. Our bikes were blown to the point of near instability as we pedalled. A good samaritan in a car yelled to AK that he'd follow us to the hotel to make sure we made it. Finally, we arrived at the Best Western and a huge bolt of lightning ripped across the sky minutes later. Within 15 minutes the rain was dumping down. AK said that adrenaline had her pedaling so fast and had left her shakey. I guess I didn't know enough to be that scared.

We had planned to eat our Chicken-Helper that we have been carrying for days tonight, but due to the storm we had to settle for delivery. It was fabulous. We had pasta, salad and brownies and ice cream. Tip-top.

Once the storm cleared, we climbed into our first hot-tub of the trip. Spectacular!

Jeff

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Day 25: Sebree, KY to Marion, IL (89 miles, 1196 total)


Woohoo! We're in our 3rd state! Today was a serious mileage day again, and for the 3rd time, it is my longest mileage day on a bike ever. It took me just over 7 hours to complete today's ride, and let me tell you, after about 14 hours in the saddle in the last two days, I need some chill out time. No such luck. We still have tons of miles to blast and 4 days to squish into the others. Notice we are now 4 days behind and not 5 - we jumped off the Adventure Cycling route today to cut off a day of hilly mileage. We also figured out that by the time this trip is over that I will have ridden about a week longer than Jeff. He rides about an hour faster than me over about a 70 mile ride, so divide that into 4300 miles and you can see how my saddles parts be feelin'.

It took us about 40 miles to get out of Kentucky today but we have left the state behind! We talked about leaving our Halt cans by the westbound Welcome to Kentucky sign but kept them in case of emergency or accidental need to gas myself again.

Since we took the shortcut option, we had to forego a nice ferry ride across the Ohio River in exchange for a mad-dash bridge crossing. As we approached the river, we noticed construction and lane closure signs up. Not a good sign to either of us. As it turns out though, it worked to our advantage. There were temporary traffic lights in place at each end of the bridge. We knew they would be timed for cars and not bikes, so we strategized for a bit during our red light wait. We decided that we would let all of the cars on our end go, then pedal like mad to try to crest the bridge before the cars from the other direction did. Then, we would duck on the "safe" side of the barrels until they passed. It worked out so well that we even got to take pictures up there! We're geniouses.

Once we crossed the state border, we noticed three things right away. First, we got shoulders on the road, a big improvement. Second, we got rid of those blasted rumble strips that Kentucky loves to use. Third, we were innundated with coal trucks! We made it all the way through Kentucky without them and just when we thought we were all clear, slammed!

We did find one good thing about them though. When we ride on a shoulder and the trucks pass going in our direction, we get a burst of a tailwind. It doesn't last that long, but you can definitely feel it. It works just the opposite though when they go the other way. Once they pass, you can count to 2 before getting blasted with the headwind of their wake. Hold on to the handlebars!

Anyway, today started with the 5AM alarm. I am so ready to NOT wake up early after this trip. I'd like to do nothing but sleep for an entire day at this point! We were on the road by 6:20 and the weather was perfect. It was a little sweaty, but much cooler than the last two mornings. Finally, a break.

We both agreed today that, even though we were glad for a flatter shortcut, we will not miss the traffic of the roads today. Though they tend to be on the hilly side, the smaller, country roads are very pleasant to ride on. When traffic is flying by at 60 plus, you can't hear anything other than that noise. One plus side, less roadkill and stinking stench. I really wish I had windows to roll up sometimes.

Last night, Dave asked me how many flats we'd had on our trip so far. Famous last words, none. We knew we were jinxed right away. Though we have both thought how lucky we have been, we have never, ever mentioned it out loud to each other. Sure enough, since we talked about it last night, we got our first flat today. It took 1180 miles, but Jeff got the short stick. He flatted his rear tire because of a jagged piece of metal that was about the size of a dime. As there was no shade to be had, we teamed up to change it as quickly as we could. I was crew, he was worker-bee. We baked and roasted and then got on with the ride. No more, please.

Tan lines are really kicking these days. Jeff calls his the "Lance tan" because he thinks that sounds cooler than "farmer tan." (Note from Jeff: It is really not a matter of sounding cooler; the Lance Armstrong tan is an entirely different beast than the common farmer tan. Just ask Sheryl Crow.) I'm going to look really great in those bridesmaid dresses later this summer. Because we ride in the morning to mid-afternoon, the sun hits us from behind and above. That means the tops of our thighs and the backs of our calves get way more sun than our shins or hamstrings. We also get more sun on the left side than the right due to the Earth's summertime tilt. I tried to ride with my sleeves tucked up on my shoulders to alleviate some of the farmer/Lance tan action, but I missed the back of my left shoulder with the sunscreen and am now sporting a mean sunburn back there. I also have two stripes going down the sides of my face where my helmet straps sit. I look like I am wearing mak!
eup and forgot to blend it in. We called those people "base-faces" in high school. It is really hot looking.

It has been a long, hot two days so we ordered pizza to the room and Jeff went out to get beer and ice cream. We aren't leaving the room until tomorrow morning and we get to sleep in all the way to 6:30. I am anxiously awaiting tomorrow morning's trip to Carbondale. There are three bike shops there and I hope one of them has a pair of bike shorts that will feel good to wear.

I'm exhausted. Peace out.

AKB

Day 24: Rough River Dam State Park, KY to Sebree, KY (75 miles, 1107 total)


In an effort to beat the heat, Anne Katherine and I decided to get up at 5AM today. Ironically, as we went to bed we realized that because of the time change we would actually be getting up at our usual time of 6AM. Brilliant.

More importantly, we decided that we need to really make an effort to blast miles in the morning when it is "cool". That means no stopping for a meal until the heat of the day has set in and we can bask in AC. There is no sense in wasting the moring hours in a diner eating breakfast.

So we woke up at five to discover that we had been invaded by vermin in the night. Our trash from our dinner was spread all over the ground and there were paw prints on our small plastic cutting board. Luckily, the bandits only messed with our trash.

In the process of packing up, I fired up the camp stove for some oatmeal. We packed up everything, washed the cutting board, slurped down two packets of oatmeal each and rolled by 6:30.

Unfortunately, it was already pretty warm by that time and it was incredibly humid. About ten miles into the ride, we stopped for Gatorade (at 7:30) because we were already dripping with sweat.

We continued to make good progress through Fordsville, Reynolds Station, and Whitesville where we stopped for a snack and a trip to the grocery store. The snack stop was at a local convience store. When I paid for our goods I asked the woman at the counter to fill up one of my water bottles. "Sure," she said as she headed for the back with my bottle. When she returned she handed me a my bottle which felt unusually light. Looking in it, I noticed that she had maybe filled it a quarter of the way full. "Thanks," I said; "My pleasure," she replied.

I ended up going across the street to the grocery store to fill it the rest of the way. While in the store, we bought Chicken-Helper for the night's meal, and some more glorious oatmeal. The market was having some promotion in which they give a customer free gasoline for the year. "Did we win free gas?" I asked enthusiastically.

Onward we biked. At some point during a downhill section I zurned past a turtle stranded in the road. I only realized it was a turtle when I zipped past him at about 25 mph. Hoping and assuming A.K. would save him, I let my momentum carry me past him. Well, I hope the turtle chose to save himself and make a run for it because Anne Katherine didn't stop either. I told her she was supposed to stop because she is the animal lover. "It's a reptile," she replied. Well, perhaps if I had known they were mere "reptiles" (and therfore so low on A.K.'s list) I would have been finding turtles to put on the road. Sheish! Later on in the day, Anne Katherine claimed to have saved a different turtle. Maybe that one was less of a reptile.
(From AK - in my defense, I was also going about 25 mph when I passed the turtle. I did feel terrible about not saving it. The "its a reptile" comment was said in a smart-assed way because, in truth, turtles aren't animals, they are reptiles.)

Speaking of roadkill, I think the number one most common piece of roadkill in VA and KY is the possum. The second most common is probably a tie between snakes and turtles (thanks to A.K.). Foxes seem to avoid the mess rather well as we have seen only two.

Anyway, we cruised into Utica for a lunch break. It seemed like a logical stop since it was getting quite warm and we were only 25 miles from Sebree. By the way, we think people relish in telling us how hot it is or how hot it is going to be, etcetera. We killed some tanning salon pizza and loitered like it was our jobs for about an hour.

Leaving Utica was tough due to the heat, but we pressed onward. The terrain for the last 25 miles was mellow, but we did have a slight (but welcome) headwind. Finally we reached Beech Grove (8 miles from Sebree) where we stopped in for a cold drink at a local market/hunting supply store. I added another chapter to my regional soft drink research with Faygo. Faygo is a bit like the Fanta label in that there are several flavors of Faygo to choose from. I went with Black Cherry and rate it as "finishable".

Just outside of Beech Grove a woman in a car pulled alongside A.K. and asked if we were going to Sebree. When she heard that we were, she told A.K. that we were going to stay "at my church".

When we arrived in town, the woman found us again and had us follow her car to the First Baptist Church of Sebree. It turns out that this woman is Violet, wife of Bob, the Pastor (we didn't catch a last name).

The church has recently been remodeled and during the remodeling the Pastor and his wife opted to add a shower for passing cyclists. It turns out that Dave and Patty were already here enjoying the hospitality of the church when we arrived. Violet, Patty and Dave showed us around and then it was time for a hot shower.

After getting cleaned up, we chatted with Dave and Patty about bicycle touring (they have done a ton). Patty discovered a tip written in the church logbook from a previous visiting cyclist that describes a shortcut detour off the route to save time and hills. With our tight schedule, and Dave and Patty's encouragement, we have decided to take the detour tomorrow. If all goes as planned, it will save us an entire day!

Speaking of blasting miles, how about our 75 today? That is our longest of the trip yet and the longest of A.K.'s life! The best part is that we were not totally exhausted when we arrived. A.K. even said that she could have gone more if she needed to!

Tomorrow, we will blast into our third state, Illinois! Boy, I hope I can still get a number 5 tan, a lottery ticket and a Slim-Jim in the same store over there.

Anyway, off to bed again! I hope you all are still enjoying the journal. We try to keep it interestng. Let me know if you want me to send you some roadside possum jerky.

Jeff

From AK: Notes from the road #2:
In rural Kentucky, it seems that every time we ride into a new county, or if the road we are on changes direction in any way, or if someone just felt like it when they were nailing up the signs, mileage always starts over. As a result, we come across a whole lot of miles 1, 2, and 3, but not a lot of higher numbers. Then, all of a sudden, we'll see an 8 or 15. Sometimes the numbers count up, sometimes down. Bottom line is that they aren't good in the slightest for navigation or marking milestones.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Day 23: Upton, KY to Rough River Dam State Park, KY (53 miles, 1032 total)


Today was hot, hot, hot with a dash of halt. So it was cold in Virginia, then it started raining, and now Kentucky feels like full-on summer as the temps are soaring into the 90's by mid-morning. We passed a bank sign that read the temperature as being 79 degrees at 8:45 this morning. Ouch. The worst part is that we know that Kansas is going to be hotter! We were actually thankful for the headwind today since it took away some of the heat, not much, but some still counts.

We slept pretty well in the Avery (backyard) Campground last night. Things cooled off enough that I actually did get into my sleeping bag at one point, but not for long. It was warm enough that there wasn't much dew around when we packed things up. That may be the only advantage to this heat.

We biked the 5 miles back to Sonora, KY and stopped in for a forgettable breakfast. Then it was time to get some miles behind us. We hit two big milestones today. First, just west of a town called Eastview, we hit the 1,000 mile mark of the trip. We're in the 4-digits now! Second, we left the Eastern time zone behind us. It will now be Central time for the next few weeks of riding. The time zone change came just after we crested the 2nd steepest hill of this trip so far (or so we decided). I did make it all the way up this one without stopping or walking, but it was long for how steep it was! I don't think I would have been able to do it earlier in the trip. My legs are getting stonger.

As today is Sunday, we passed buggy after buggy of Amish families going off to church. They all smiled and waved at us. Though we did see one older couple, most of the buggies were full of young families with 4 to 6 children all dressed in their Sunday finest. We passed two young boys on foot and they gave me a good-natured hard time for lagging behind Jeff. (Note from Jeff: Very few souls have been heckled by the Amish and have lived to tell about it.) They all seemed like wonderful people. We will miss those homemade goods tonight at dinner!

A little further up the road, Jeff gave me the chance to save my first turtle. I almost didn't make it because, though I parked my bike as fast as I could and ran up the road, the pick-up truck barreling down the road behind me almost beat me to the punch. The second I picked the turtle up, he clamped his shell closed and didn't come out again. We named him Cliff.

About 30 miles into the day, we stopped at a family-owned country store for a cold drink and fresh sandwiches. The family was extremely nice and their young daughter warned us of the hills to come. That just never makes you feel good. Sure enough, it was the steep one she was talking about. Though it is tough going up, it always feels good to put those hills behind you.

I almost forgot, sometime in the morning I had to spray my first dog with the halt. I know I got one before, but this was a very direct hit that sent the thing scampering. Though I was glad to have all skin and bike parts intact, I did feel terrible about spraying it. For those of you that know me and my luck, are you surprised that I ended up getting paid back for it? Turns out my bottle leaks a bit and it dripped down into my handlebar bag and right onto the bandana I was using to wipe the profusion of sweat out of my eyes with. A little further down the road, I wiped my left eye and started burning almost right away. The best part is that I thought the halt was on my gloves so I took them off and then started dousing my left eye/cheek with water. I didn't figure out that it was my bandana until the SECOND time I swiped my left eye. Dog halted once, me halted twice. I think I'll reach a little more slowly for the bottle next time.

We stopped for more cold drinks and ice cream about 43 miles into the day. I saw that the place made milkshakes so I ordered my favorite, a chocolate milkshake. The thing is, I like my chocolate shakes made with chocolate ice cream. Otherwise, it is a vanilla shake with flavor added. I didn't realize I was getting a vanilla shake with chocolate syrup added in or I wouldn't have ordered it. Oh well, at least it was cold to drink, but I didn't like it much.

Rough River Dam State Park was our destination for the day and we got a fabulous tent spot amidst some very coveted shade trees. The first order of business was getting a bit of laundry done, but it turned into an all afternoon activity. First, we didn't have enough quarters for the $1.25 soap, $1.25 wash, and $.75 dry. There, of course, were no change machines around. Then, after trading dollars for quarters from a few people, it turns out there wasn't any soap in the dispenser anyway. Jeff had to walk the "little way up the road" which turned out to be more than 2 miles round trip to the store for soap and drinks (the drink machine wouldn't take dollars either). In the meantime, some KY teens swerved off the road to try to scare him. And we were just commenting earlier about how curteous the drivers around here have been to us.

The laundry was finally finished,
so we took cold showers (and started sweating again as soon as we got back outside). We did some map checking and I am bracing myself for a 75-mile ride tomorrow. I'm sure Jeff will be the one writing the journal tomorrow night.

Darn the luck, here we are in a campground on Sunday but there is no free food to be had. That breaks our 3-Sunday streak of eating like kings because people took pity on us. Instead, for dinner we had open-and-heat pouches of rice and Szechwan Chicken by a brand called Homestyle Express. It wasn't too bad but it did taste a little like canned soup poured over rice. Now it is back to camp chores and bedtime. We want to get an early start on tomorrow's day since we have so long to go and so much heat to deal with.

Item to note:
-In Kentucky, when you see a sign saying "Break in Pavement," what that means is that the road is torn up ahead but they'd rather put up a sign to tell you about it rather than fix the road.

AKB

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Day 22: Bardstown, KY to Upton, KY (59 miles, 979 total)


Today I ran over Amish horse poop. Being free from the burdens of modern technology, it squished under my tire in a manner all together differnt from it's city-slickin' counter parts. Instantly, I knew there was something special about this poop; it was so very pure, simple and of high quality. Yep, that was one special terd, until I squished it.

Seriously, today we biked into some Amish country. We were not really expecting it, but when a horse and carraige carrying two zipperless men past us in the opposite direction, we were pretty convinced.

Today, started with breakfast at the Hampton Inn (Thanks again Joe!). This was my first time staying at a Hampton Inn, so I didn't know what to expect, but that place has one fabulous complimentary breakfast. I had a sausage and egg biscuit, fresh fruit, oatmeal, sausage, eggs, orange juice and cranbery juice. Most of these complimentary breakfasts are a joke, but not this one.

While looking over the maps last night, I started feeling pretty discouraged about our progress. I need to be present and accounted for at Boulder on August 15. So we have that deadline, plus two breaks (of at least five days) for weddings in June and July. Being aware of that, I started feeling like we might run out of time (which would be terrible).

So, I knew we needed to start blasting miles, but there are some hinderances to that. Most come from our reliance on finding a (legal) place to stay for the night. Our guidebook suggested that from Bardstown we go about 38 miles to Hodgenville for the night. Well, if we keep having sub-40-milers we will never make it to Oregon on time, so I looked ahead on the route for the next place to stay. Unfortuneately, that next place was 95 miles away from Bardstown. So we were faced with a rather short day or a extremely long day. Those options are like the choice between Mountain Dew and crab juice, both are terrible.

Looking closer at the map, I found camping available at Upton, KY which is about 15 miles more down the road than Hodgenville, BUT it is 5 miles off the route. Frustrated, I closed the guidebook, folded the map in a half-assed way and set them aside. I discussed my concern about our time constraints with A.K. and together we decided that we would make a decision of where to go in the morning.

At breakfast this morning, A.K. took the time to count the number of days we had from today all the way up to August 7 minus six days in June for Rebus and Nic's wedding and six days in July for Alecia and Matt's wedding (six days is required to travel to and from plus all the duties associated with being in a wedding). That leaves us with 53 days as compared to the 58 days remaining in the guidebook to complete. So, we suddenly find ourselves five days behind schedule!

Obviously, we do not need to follow the guidebook exactly. We can (and will have to) start doubling up a few days of riding. Plus the August 7 deadline isn't strict, but finishing on that day only gives us one week to get back to San Diego, pull our stuff out of storage, rent a truck and haul it out to Boulder to an apartment that I hopefully already have. That is going to be tough. But it won't come anywhwere close to as bad as not finishing this trip. I am determined to finish!

Anyway, the point is that we need to make-up some serious miles and that notion is putting a bit of stress on us and at times, tension between us.

We left breakfast with the plan to ride as though we were going for the 95 mile day, with the option to stop in Upton depending on how we were feeling/doing.

The morning's ride took us through more bluegrass farm country, although we did first pass the Heaven Hill Distillery on our way out of town. A few miles out I rescued another turtle from certain roadkill death. Soon we found ourselves in Howardstown, just shy of 30 miles at 10:30AM. We were making great time, especially conidering how warm it was getting. We stopped in a small market for a cold Gatorade and on we went.

After many more farms and increasing heat, we arrived in Buffalo (11 miles down the road). We stopped in at a tanning salon, errr, I mean market for a bite to eat and another cold drink. Inside we soaked up the cool, air-condintioned climate. After some rest and a quick conversation with a man named "Junior," we were on our way again.

Onward we biked in the heat unitl we arrived in Sonora. Again we stopped for a cold drink and to make the decision about going for the long haul. Thus far, we had been making great time; I was still feeling good, so I was pushing for the long ride. Anne Katherine, on the other hand, admitted that she did not have enough in her to go another 45 miles to the Rough River Dam Campground. We opted to ride the 5 miles south into Upton.

The road to Upton was scarred with marks from the shoes of horses pulling carriages like the one we had seen several miles back. We passed a couple of Amish farms that were selling fresh strawberries, jams, baskets, and quilts. Bill, the owner of the local market here in Upton admitted to us that the Amish strawberries are much better than the ones he sells in his store!

Bill gave us directions to the campground and wished us luck on the trip. We bought a fistfull of broccoli from his store and headed to the campground. On the way, we passed a few Amish on the roadside selling freshly baked goods. The table full of breads, pies and cookies looked really good.

Soon we found the Avery Campground, which is really not much more than an oversized backyard with a lot of grass, a bathhouse, many shade trees, and equally as many hose bibs. We paid the woman 7 dollars to sleep in her backyard and pitched the tent.

Next, we decided to walk down to the Amish bake sale. I am so glad we did too. We bought two bags of cookies and a loaf of bread for $3.50! All of the stuff is wonderful. They were also selling fruit pies for only 4 bucks.

Upon returning to the campground, I promptly took a cold shower (it is still really hot) and A.K. took a nap. She has now been napping the entire time I have been writing. I think I'll wake her now so she can shower and we can get to cooking dinner.

Oh, I almost forgot, Bill the market owner told us that James had been here a few days before. It is funny how he may be about 100 miles ahead of us, but we keep hearing about him!

Adios,
Jeff

Friday, June 03, 2005

Day 21: Bardstown, KY - Rest Day!


Today was a great rest day, though we did a lot of sightseeing and not much resting! It rained almost all night last night and sometimes pretty hard, but the REI tent still kept the water out and the warmth in. Though the was no alarm going off, I still woke up at 6am ready to go. When I heard the rain let up a little, I dashed off to the bath house and back. I was going to do a little planning to try to get some sort of lose schedule for those who have been asking for it, but back in the tent, the patter of rain coaxed me to sleep in no time. Around 7:30, Jeff got up and started heating up water for an oatmeal breakfast. I got to eat it sitting in the tent. Does that count as breakfast in bed?

As we we were packing up, a couple on bikes with packed panniers passed by. Definitely bike tourists. They waved and we walked over. Dave and Patty are a young retired couple who sold their home, packed up their life, and now spend 3 to 6 months of the year touring this country and others by bike. They were heading a few miles down the road today, but we may run in to them again. You just never know!

After that, we really got down to breaking camp. It was sometime in the 9's, and we had things to do and see. First, we rode to Enterprise to pick up a rental car. Next, we biked to the hotel room to check in. The guy at Enterprise drove the car over to us and I gave him a ride back. In all of the confusion of de-BOBing the bikes, getting them inside, and taking the guy back to the car place, I managed once again to lose my wallet. What is going on here? Jeff has almost constantly been dogging me about losing it back at Monticello AND I can't tell you the last time I left a purse or wallet somewhere. Good grief. This time, I left my gloves and my wallet in my helmet in the bushes outside the front of the hotel. At least my stinky gloves were hiding it.

After we showered and decorated the room with all of our wet equipment, we headed out for lunch and our first sight-seeing adventure of the day, the Maker's Mark Distillery. I highly recommend stopping by if you are ever in the area. They offer free tours every hour and you get to walk through several parts of the distilling process. The first cool part for me was the room where they have giant vats of pre-bourbon in various stages of "cooking." It smelled like a cross between yeasty bread and stale beer, but in a good way. We were actually allowed to dip our fingers into the vats to taste the various stages. Don't worry, this is early on in the process and given later heat and alcohol content, it doesn't matter that our fingers touched the mashes. The second cool part was the bottling room. We got to see the plain, empty bottles get filled, capped, wrapped, labeled, and then hand-dipped in that telling MM red wax/plastic. Seriously, each and every bottle is hand dipped. Bac!
k in the souvenier shop, I had a chance to buy my own bottle and hand dip it. Way cool.

We left the distillery and headed towards Louisville. Churchill Downs was our next stop and we had to get there before the last tour at 4:15. We had asked a few people, and everyone thought that racing season was over. Wrong! We pulled up to a packed parking lot. Thanks to a guy in the lot, for $2 we got a box just to the right of the finish line, complete with TV. It was awesome! We decided to forego the visit to the museum in order to watch a few races. We even picked the winners for a couple of them, but being non-betters, we only had bragging rights amongst ourselves. I also tried a mint julep and really liked it. Jeff just got beer, per usual.

Back in Bardstown, we stopped by a drug store and then had to turn the car back in. Total mileage, about 130. At least the Enterprise shop was only a mile from our hotel. With the skies clearing overhead, it was a relatively nice walk back.

We ate at a Mexican restaurant that left Jeff missing the real stuff from Southern California. The best part is that the hotel front desk guy couldn't give us a recommendation for any places to go in town, and when we asked about the Mexican places, he responded with, "I don't eat Spanish food." Really? So how about Mexican?

Time has really slipped away from us and it is now very much past bedtime and we still need to figure out where we're going tomorrow. Jeff was calling for a 95 mile day. I told him he's nuts.

AKB

Day 20: Chimney Rock Campground, KY to Bardstown, KY (62 miles, 916 total)


First off, we'd like to apologize for the late posting of the previous entry. The rain caused some delay and then we couldn't find a phone to use along the roadside.

For the most part, it rained all night on us, and I am happy to say that my little REI Half Dome Plus tent did the trick. It kept us warm, dry and cozy all night despite the pitter-patter just above our heads. When we woke up at six, it really started to come down. We decided that we shouldn't wait it out, so we just made a break for it. We broke camp, packed up, ate some Fig Newtons and rolled.

About 5 miles down the road, we arrived in the town of Burgin. On the corner was a small diner. Since we knew the Fig Newtons wouldn't keep us going for long, we decided to stop. The place had great food and it was cheap too; for the both of us, our entire meal was under 8 bucks. I've discovered that my best morning fuel is oatmeal. I always seem to ride with more energy throughout the day when I have oatmeal; unfortunately, I hate it.

Anyway, we learned from chatting with the waitress that James was in the same resturant days before us. He must be blasting miles.

Just after breakfast, we stopped by a post office to mail home our second completed map. We finished the second map in Berea; we blasted through that one. We are now making good progress on the third map.

At some point in the day, we passed a mailbox that was painted to be completely like some NASCAR car, complete with sponsor logos and flames. It was pretty impressive. We've seen several impressive mailboxes over the miles. My favorites include the mailbox dressed up like a John Deere tractor (I've got a photo of that one) and the traditional mailbox mounted on a coil spring.

Speaking of mail, so far in VA and KY on these country roads, mail is delivered on only one side of the road. So no matter what side of the road your house is on, everyone's mailbox is on the same side. The mailman seems to drive his personal car with a few magnetic USPS signs on it and a yellow light on top. If the mailman had to deliver to the right side of the road, he gets in the pasenger side outfitted with a gas pedal and a brake pedal and sits over there while at the same time reaching over to the driver side to steer. It is sort of funny looking, but it makes sense. I noticed it about on the first day or so, and when I mentioned it to Anne Katherine, she was convinced that there were two people in the car each time. It wasn't until about a day ago (after seeing this about every other day) when A.K. finally realized that I was not full of it. They really could use some old-school postal jeeps out here... gold ones... Spray-painted gold ones... with fake cow-skin seat !
covers, 8-track players and a rear door that is fiberglassed shut.

Anyway, after breakfast we biked through Harrodsburg, Mackville, and Springfield in a light rain. It wasn't enough to warrant the rain gear, but it was rather damp and required frequent wiping of the glasses. Luckily, it wasn't very cold, so we gathered the powers of the Masters of the Universe and biked on.

The entire way to Springfield I sang two words to a song from a Simpsons episode... "Springfield, Springfield!" Unfortunately, those are the only words I can remember, but something tells me that Rebus can inform us all as to what the rest of the words are, which episode it is from, who co-starred in it, and other funny things about that episode.

Springfield was about 30 miles down the road, and it was the largest town on the route for the day so we decided to stop in and see what was going on. We stopped outside a resturant for a moment just as a woman with a big camera was stepping out. It turns out she was from the local Springfield newspaper. Her name was Becky and she took lots of photos of us as we discussed our efforts with the FFB and our website with her. She told us that she'll write a story about us that it should be online sometime this weekend. So since we don't have internet access you all can check on that for us; see what you can find.

Becky recommended the local resturant so we decided to stop in. We stepped in and discovered a packed resturant. It had to be a local favorite because the place was packed with locals from all walks of life including seniors, businessmen, nurses, bluecollar workers, teenagers, college students, etc. Plus, they all seemed to know each other.

Today marked a first for Kentucky. We came across our first two Route 76 Bikecentenial signs in this state, and they were about 10 miles from one another. So that means that so far, Kentucky is averaging two route signs about ever 300 miles. That makes for easy navigation!

From Springfield we biked past the Lincoln Homestead State Park and stopped in to see replicas of the logcabins that Abraham Lincoln's grandfather built.

Inside one of the cabins we discovered the smallest mice ever. These little guys were not afraid of us at all and seemed to hop around like frogs (they had oddly large back legs). I think they were a type of titmouse. They weren't scared of us at all and AK got so close to one that she touched it with her shoe! It backed off a few inches, but didn't run away.

Onward we biked through Maud and into our destination for the day, Bardstown. We are camping in the My Old Kentucy Home State Park Campground. The place is very empty and peaceful, plus I was able to get a beer with dinner, so I am a happy guy.

There is a lot to see around this town. It is called the "Bourbon Capital of the World" and the famous Churchill Down is nearby, so we were thinking that it might be a nice place to take a full rest day.

As we were pondering the logistics of how to go about the rest day (everthing to see and do is a good car ride away), Anne Katherine got a phone message from her father. He has generously booked us a rental car for tomorrow to see the local sights. In addition to that, he also booked us a hotel room. Awesome! Thanks Joe! Glad to hear you are getting better since the wipe-out.

Anyway, it is time to get to bed. We've got some relaxing to do tomorrow!

Oh, I almost forgot. I tried another new soda tonight. It's called Ski, and it's another "citrus soda". It is no Big Red, but it is nothing wonderful.

Jeff

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Day 19: Berea, KY to Chimney Rock RV Park (Herrington Lake), KY (40 miles, 854 total)


Jeff writing...
Today A.K. will write the journal, but before she does I have some important news to report from my regional soft drink research. Today something terrible happened; I tried this beverage called Big Red. It is quite possibly the worst soft drink EVER! Nothing on the label described what horrible flavor to expect. Besides, what does "red" taste like? Beyond that, what would a "big red" taste like? Well I'll tell you, it tastes like crap. But to be more descriptive, it tastes like bubble gum and melted Twizzlers served up in the most concentrated form. It is by far the worst regional soda I've come across in the course of my research; I had to throw away 3/4 of it. In the name of science, I invite you all to have a Big Red if ever given the chance. I think you'll be amazed at just how terrible it really is.

Ok, now back to A.K. and today's journal entry...

Thank goodness it wasn't my fault this time, but we woke up late. Jeff set two alarms last night and BOTH of them were set for PM. I think he was really just trying to sleep in. We had a ton of packing up to do, plus a big free breakfast to eat, so our departure was super late today. The hotel breakfast was super plush, complete with waffle iron for make-your-own waffles. Awesome! Even better was that, at checkout, we found out that our room was even cheaper than we thought it was going to be! $59 plus tax. We got a great deal all around. Except for the dry county part, I'd give it the highest recommendation.

Departure happened just before 10:00. Yep, can't let that happen again. Fortunately, the weather was fine, the hills were easy rollers, and we blasted out of that dry county...and into another one.

I pulled up alongside Jeff at one point and we watched a doe and her two fawns bound away from us through a verdant, hilly field. Jeff named one fawn Bink and the other Dink. As they jumped up the hill, he made the noises to accompany each bounce - bink, bink, bink...dink, dink. I know you had to be there, but it was funny. He has also decided that his favorite bird is one that chirps 3 times in a row - beep, beep, beep. I'm not allowed to immitate that bird since I didn't pay enough respect to it when Jeff first brought it up.

At our halfway point, we stopped at a very small country store for some ice cream. The day had been warm, but fortunately there was also a light cloud cover so we weren't getting scorched. Still, a Klondike bar and ice cream sandwich sounded too good to pass up.

The terrain continued to roll with an occasional steep pitch, but for the most part, the riding just flew by. Our stop for lunch was a gas staion/country store right on a busy road. When we pulled up, there was a truck and a giant John Deere tractor filling up. How many times do you get to see a tractor at a gas station in your life (if you're city slickers like us)? At first, we just bought drinks to go with our leftover pizza from last night. However, when the Big Red was so bad and the pizza was somehow soggy, we threw it all in the trash and opted for a hot lunch from the store. Just as we finished scarfing it down, it started to rain. Knowing we only had a few more miles to go until we reached our campground for the night, we loaded up and got to pedaling.

Chimney Rock RV Park is situated right on Herrington Lake and we chose an excellent tent site that would overlook the lake if the rain and rainfly didn't obscure the view. Given that we were hot from the ride, and that the pool was open and right near our tent, we suited up and swam around for a bit. After that it was $.25 for 6 minutes of hot water in the shower room. It was the first time I've ever had to insert a quarter before taking a shower in my life but it was a pretty good shower.

We chilled out in the tent for a little while listening to the rain and hoping it would let up. No such luck, so we donned the raingear and walked down to the Chimney Rock Marina. Jeff was wanting a beer and I was hoping for some hot food. Neither of us got what we wanted. Instead, we got some chips and a few drinks and sat at a table under a covered portion of the dock and listened to some slow jams on the loud speaker. The lake was super calm and it is bordered by high rock walls with houses built along the top. Given the height of the canyon walls, the houses do not have immediate acess to the lake, but they do have a great view. Though we would have chosen other music, the time chiling by the lake was peaceful.

Now, we're back in the tent just avoiding the rain and checking out the route ahead. Dinner is to be cold Chef Boyardee Ravioli out of the can as firing up the campstove seems unlikely in the drizzle. (We'll add the pictures as soon as we can). We saw a sign for Papa John's down by the marina - tempting, but do you'd think they'd really deliver to a tent located at Pool Spot 3? We don't want to splurge for it anyway. The Chef it is.

Time to bid this day adieu. Hopefully tomorrow's ride into Bardstown will be dry and cool.
AKB
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