Monday, June 30, 2008

June 30, Day 30

June 30, Day 30
Day of Rest (#3)
St. Joseph, MO
Dear All,

At the end of this short blog, we have a question for everyone out there who is reading. So, read on.

Well, our third day off in 30. We think we need it. As we described in an earlier blog, we spend the day off doing laundry, emptying suitcases and repacking, cleaning bikes, sending emails and taking a nap or two.
Several of the riders decided to give golf a try today. There is a little par three somewhere around this place and off they went at about 9:00. Most of us slept in to 7:00 and thought it was like sleeping in to mid day.

A couple named Sandra and Jerry Mogg from St. Joe had been riders with ABB some years ago and they volunteered to shuttle any of the riders anywhere they wanted to go during our day off, to get a haircut, go shopping or visit the sites. It was a wonderful offer.

For those of you who don't know, the Pony Express started in St. Joe and ended in Sacramento. They also have the psychiatric museum in this town as well. It was suggested that all of us would be prime candidates for an exhibit at the latter spot . None that we know of decided to visit.

We did visit the Pony Express
Museum which was quite interesting. We were unaware that the Pony Express only lasted about a year and a half before it fell victim to technology, the telegraph.

OK, here's comes the question. Some at the office have suggested that John's beard is such that they have decided on a new name for him; Papa Smurf. When first told of this, John asked “who's Papa Smurf?”. Ah, the Internet answers all so with a little surfing John was educated in all matters Smurf.
Attached is a picture of John as of this very moment alongside that of the good Papa who we assume has not changed in appearance recently. Now we ask ya, is there a similarity?

Tomorrow will be about an 85+ mile day and believe it or not in about three days we cross the mighty Mississippi. There still remains a question as to how we will get across given all the flooding (pontoons on the bike is a possibility), but we'll keep you posted.

Say a prayer for winds from the West since the hills in MO are tough enough without the wind to contend to.

Thanks for the good vibes.

Amy and John

Sunday, June 29, 2008

June 29, Day 29

June 29, Day 29
Topeka, KS to St. Joseph, MO
Weather: Temperature was pleasant; wind was howling
Mileage: 89 miles

Dear All,

We said goodbye to Kansas today. She certainly was a state of many colors. From the flat western portion with a lot of cows to the rolling hillsides and green on the eastern side. In retrospect, we guess that KS has its redeeming values it's just that on long days with the hot sun beating down on you it's sometimes hard to find those values.

We started the day typically with our leg over the top tube at about 7:00; a little later than usual because it was thought that today's ride was a bit shorter. After about 6 miles we took a left heading northeast and knew the day was going to be tough. The typical KS wind was right, smack dab in our face and at 7:00 in the morning it was already blowing a good ten knots. We were riding with about 15 other riders when we took the turn and there was a collective groan.

The group stayed together until John had a flat. We can't quite remember what number flat that is but we are guessing it is about no. 4 which given the average number of flats in the group is pretty good.

The terrain was different than yesterday. The climbs were much longer and with the wind ever increasing, much harder. At one point, the wind blew Amy off the paved shoulder onto the gravel. Only Amy's good bike handling skills prevented her from going down. The scenery was lovely with corn growing as far as you could see and as”high as an elephant's eye”. This part of Kansas really is quite lovely.

Around noon, we passed over the Missouri River which certainly seemed to be flowing with a vigor. About a mile further up the road, we left Kansas behind us and entered our sixth state-Missouri.
Amy rode with a group of riders three miles ahead of John who rode with Skip, an attorney from Las Vegas. The scenery was quite pretty as this point but the hills and the wind which must have been blowing close the 25 mph was making this day seem much longer than yesterday of over 108 miles. Amy missed the turn for the SAG stop and had to retrace her steps. This was not the day to add miles but part of the allure of bicycle riding is getting lost (we do it regularly).

At the SAG stop, everyone seemed “done in”, including John who decided to nap but to no avail since his eyes had barely closed before he was told to get up and get going.

On we went and at one point after seeing rolls of hay for days and days, Amy decided it was time to climb one. She is an adventuresome sort.

Finally, we rolled into the outskirts of St. Joseph, MO. We really did think we were close to ending the day but we missed a turn, climbed 3 more hills and came to a stop at a street that wasn't on our cue sheet. Again, lost. While trying to figure out where we were, a very pleasant woman, who had been working in her garden, came over to help. After her explanation, we were still perplexed so she climbed in her car and led us back to where we had missed the turn. This really is the “show me” state. We don't know her name but we thank her.

Within a few miles of the motel, a couple, Jerry and Sandra had previously ridden with America By Bicycle, had set up a SAG stop. The lemonade, which John is becoming addicted to, was delicious.

Tomorrow, a rest day. We both feel we need it.

We will try to think of something for the blog tomorrow.

Thanks as always for your continuing prayers and good vibes.

Amy and John

Saturday, June 28, 2008

June 28, Day 28

June 28, Day 28
Abilene to Topeka, KS
Mileage: 108.7
Weather: Iffy in the morning but great as the day progressed

Dear All,

OK, OK maybe were a bit off with respect to Kansas, at least the eastern part of KS. Todays ride although long was delightful and could have been in Western NY or PA. Rolling hills which required a bit of effort but unlike the mountains the hills weren't long.

The day started with overcast skies and as we rolled out of the motel the rain fell although not hard. But, because all of you good people have been praying just the right prayers to the weather gods, within an hour the rain jackets were off and the skies began to clear. The best rider in the group, George, from Frisco, CO, hates riding in the rain so much that most of us believe that he hermetically seals himself against the rain. It actually looks like he's heading out to clean up a toxic site.

At the 10 mile mark we were to cross what were described as Bad RR Tracks. What makes railroad tracks bad (for you non bikers) is that they are frequently not at a right angle to the road meaning that the rider goes over them at an an other than at a right angle. Trust us that's dangerous. We always try to adjust our ride to take the tracks at as close to a right angle as possible and we slow down. But no matter how cautious one tries to be RR tracks are still dangerous. We learned that today when three of the very best riders in the group went down, two of the HARD. Again, helmets proved their worth when one of the riders head obviously hit the pavement since there was clearly a ding in the helmet.

Our first SAG was in White City. Now it might be difficult for most of you to recognize that in eastern KS you can in fact be a City with only 800 souls residing in the place, but that is the case. As we rolled into “town”, Amy made the comment that the place looked a little down around the mouth with a number of boarded up building down Main St. (we thank it's not only Main St,, but the only street). Low and behold White City is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts with a growing population. Apparently there is a military base nearby and families are moving there wanting their kids to grow up in a small town. Well, they found one.

We rolled on with ever increasing steepness to the hills, but they really were sort of a welcome relief from the days and days in western KS where the road did nothing but go straight and never went up or down. Today there were curves in the road. Yup, real curves where you could actually lean you bike into a turn.

At one point we stopped for water and there was a small cemetery. There was one headstone that was just a tad unusually so John had to take a picture. It clearly represents the final resting place of a cowboy who died with his boots on.

At the 72 mile mark we stopped at a little cafe across from Lake Wabaunsee. Apparently this Lake is a spot that people from Topeka and Kansas City come to vacation. It's cute although by Western NY standards the lake is pretty small. We learned, however, from a local that the lake area was a German prisoner of war camp during WW II. The building across from our cafe was the mess hall and the smaller buildings were the barracks. Again, according to the local guy, the prisoners built a dam and actually increased the size of the lake. Pretty interesting.

As we came close to the 100 mile mark we found an interesting sculpture. As you can see it is a bunch of really messed up bicycles. We worried about the riders, but upon reflection we assumed that it was simply one man's attempt at art. Not bad.

The day ended with a smile on our face. All century rides are hard, but this is one we would do again in a heartbeat. It had everything.

Thanks for reading and your prayers (to the weather gods and for our safety). Keep sending the good vibes. Don't forget the comments.

Amy and John

Friday, June 27, 2008

June 27, Day 27

June 27, Day 27
McPherson to Abilene, KS
Mileage: 64.8
Temperature: Comfortable in the high 80's

Dear All,

Well today we left McPherson and on our way to Abilene we reached the half way mark of our journey. Not half way across the US (we passed that a couple of days ago) but half way from San Francisco to Portsmouth. As we left McPherson we came upon a Buffalo buffalo which we had to take a picture of. McPherson has a number of them scattered around town.

As we prepared to depart this morning the skies were dark and the lightning was flashing all around. We expected a soggy and uncomfortable day. BUT, those of you who have been praying to the weather gods seem to have forced them to overcome their initial thoughts and within an hour the sky lightened and the weather was great. Indeed, we had 25 mph tailwind for a good part of the day which meant that the effort on the bike was really minimal.

Before we go any further, we need to correct a statement from the other day when we suggested that it might well make sense to sell KS. The route today found a corner of KS that was lovely. Tree lined road with no traffic. It looked a lot like the country lanes outside of Buffalo or some of the wonderful roads in PA around Lancaster County. So, if the US decides to put KS on the market it should exempt from the sale County Road 304 around Canton, KS.

OK, on to today. We hit the half way point and had our picture taken by Forest, a great guy from Maryland. At the SAG stop the staff had put together some cupcakes and as you can see they were in the shape of ½.

At this point we guess it might make sense to give you some of the statistics that Gary, an accountant from Illinois came up with for the first half of the trip. You should note that some of these numbers are based on a WAG (wise ass guess), but they are interesting in any event. Note that we have not attempted to verify any of these numbers expect that the number of miles ridden is just about right.

>1,854 miles
>550,000 pedal strokes
>120 hours in the saddle
>61,783' of elevation gain

On we rode on this lovely road with the wind at our back and cruising at about 24 or 25 mph. It was delightful. It was one of those days that you think about when you think about long distance bicycle riding. John took a quick picture of Amy's shadow as she was cruising along. By the way, she's much prettier than her shadow.
Before reaching Abilene we stopped by a grayhound training track which was just outside of town next to the Grayhound Association. While neither of us are fans of the sport and are concerned about the treatment of these beautiful animals we did stop to take a look and saw some of the training. These dogs are fast, really fast.

We rolled into Abilene which we are sure you all know is the home if Dwight D. Eisenhower. We took a detour and visited his boyhood home, museum and Presidential Library. Pretty impressive. You may not know it but Annapolis was his first choice for college, but he was a couple of months too old when he passed the entrance exam. One has to wonder, what would have happened if he had been a sailor rather than an army man? As we wandered thru the museum we were in awe of the decisions that he had to make during World War II. As Amy murmured at one point “can you imagine making the decisions necessary during the War?”. No, we can't.

Tomorrow we head to Topeka, our last full day in KS. God, it's a big state. It will be a long day; another century ride (108 miles).

Say a prayer that the winds have a W in them.

Keep the good vibes rolling.

Amy and John

Thursday, June 26, 2008

June 26, Day 26

June 26, Day 26
Great Bend to McPherson, KS
Mileage: 64 miles
Temp: A balmy 92 degrees

Dear All,

We are posting both June 25 and June 26 today because the primary writer was under the weather. So, before you read on, go back and read the blog for June 25 Day 25.

We woke this morning at 5:45 and John decided to at least don his riding clothes. He hadn't had any solid food for almost 24 hours but was feeling a little better than the night before. He had a few bites of breakfast which seems to settle OK so he decided to give it a try.

Why has the United States kept KS? There has to be some foreign country that would be willing to take it off our hands. The road stretches on in front of you until it meets the horizon. Our “cue sheets” (our directions for each day) tells us that there is a town 10 miles up the road. On the horizon, we see a grain elevator, clear as a bell. That's the town! One grain elevator and, as Amy says, a couple of boarded up, out of business, businesses.

That's the reason there are so few pictures in this day's blog.
About 10 miles into the ride, John, who was feeling only mediocre, got a flat tire. Luckily, the SAG wagon showed up as John was about a quarter of the way through changing the tire. Andy, our lead staff guy, finished the repair job.

This may be the first time that we have really nothing to say about the ride. For 50 miles with temperature in the 90's, there was nothing to see or report other than the odd grain elevator. At one point, John said, “I think I hate Kansas.” The problem is we have 2 and half more days of KS before we arrive in Missouri. Ah well, KS does provide a good deal of the stuff we find in Wegman's so it clearly has a redeeming feature.
John had his first solid food this afternoon. Say a prayer it stays where it's supposed to stay.

Keep saying prayers for the wind direction to have a “w” in it. And, as always, keep those good vibes coming our way.
Amy and John
PS: Don't forget that comments are welcome

June 25, Day 25

This is Kansas!!

June 25 Day 25
Dodge City to Great Bend, KS
Mileage: 85
Temp: Really, really HOT

Dear All,

Well, time to get out of Dodge! On the way out, we found those same cowboys who were chasing those dudes we saw on the way in. Flor all of you who are thinking of taking a vacation to see the home of Matt, Kitty, and Festus, don't bother. The only thing that resembles the home of Gunsmoke is a pay as you go little museum with what resembles Front Street of the old Dodge City. We did see a gun fight and as expected, the sheriff won.

Today was a pretty tough day. Amy saw a time and temperature that read 102 degrees-John thought it was hotter than that. We tried to take pictures but KS looks the same in the beginning of day to the end of the day. The only thing that really changes is the wind. Sometimes it's your friend and sometimes your mortal enemy. Today, it was more like an acquaintance favoring us with a bit of a tail wind.

The first SAG stop put us exactly half way between San Francisco and New York City. It was at that same SAG stop that Amy narrowly escaped an on rushing train, or at least that is what the picture makes it look like. Not to worry, the train wasn't moving.

We stopped in a museum that had a replica of a KS Sod House. We are glad that that is not what awaits us after a long day on our saddles. In that same museum, we saw a bicycle that some idiot rode from NYC to some god=forsaken place in KS back in the 1800's. We don't think the picture does it justice but you should understand that this was before the day of derailleurs. This bike had one fixed gear. For those uninitiated that means no coasting. The pedals just keep going round and round. We're convinced that this guy simply got off his bike in KS and died.

John began feeling the effects of the stomach virus shortly after the SAG stop with 50 miles still to go. Luckily, Amy was feeling strong and she along with Sue, pulled him mile after mile. He just hung on their wheel.
By the second SAG stop, there was question as to whether John should proceed. But, he made it in by hanging on Amy's wheel. Upon arrival at the hotel, John took to the bed and remained horizontal for 15 hours. Amy, on the other hand, was feeling her oats. After riding 85 miles, she and other riders rode an extra 5 miles to see what was going on at the local bike shop.
John slept.

As the sun set, there was considerable doubt as to whether John would ride the next day.

Thanks for reading and those good vibes.
John and Amy

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

June 24, Day 24

June 24, Day 24
Garden City to Dodge City, KS
Mileage: 52
Temperature: Wonderful

Dear All,

Today was the day we needed. After two very tough ones, this was a blessing. Only 52 miles and good weather with only a modest breeze in the morning. We're back on track and the mental attitude is much improved after two very hard days.

Off this morning early so as to outsmart the KS winds, which are pretty crafty. As you can guess from the last two days, they tend to lull one into a false sense of security early in the morning when they are quite but then as the day goes on they get the last laugh. Not today. We beat 'em!! They even make signs about the winds. What the heck a “wind current” is we don't know but one has to be careful of them in this neck of the woods.

We left at 6:30 and put some serious distance between us and Garden City pretty early. Sue, a wonderful gal, had a flat, which John fixed in pretty quick order and then we were heading east again.

By the way, we forgot to tell you about our race yesterday. There we were pedaling along in the morning minding our own business when eight cows on the other side of the road started to gallop along side. Yup, we said gallop. We didn't know that cows could do that but there they were racing us down the road. These guy (or gals we didn't notice) can move right along. We're guessing that they were doing a good 15 mph for a 100 yards or so, but in the end it was man and his machine that won out.

On to today. We rode into a beautiful sunrise which the picture doesn't do justice to. It was really lovely. We've noticed however that as beautiful KS is in its own, the smell never seems to go away. It is as if God decided that this was the best place in the world to deposit all the manure he could find and let it be known that he found a lot of it. We passed by more cattle pens than you can imagine. We're guessing that the life expectancy of these animals is not terribly long.

About halfway into the ride we stopped at an historic area of the Santa Fe Trail. It was quite interesting. John noted that the description included the comment that many of the pioneers who settled in KS went absolutely bonkers (John's word not the word used in the marker) as a result of the constant wind. Makes sense to us.

As we entered Dodge City we came upon a bunch of guys “getting out of Dodge”. They waited long enough for a picture.

Dodge City itself was not all that interesting. There is a museum but it's pretty fake so we decided against going. Amy did, however, think that the stagecoach was pretty neat.

That was the day. It was really nice.

No WiFi tomorrow so we'll be off the air. Love your comments.

Take care and keep up the good vibes.

John and Amy

Monday, June 23, 2008

June 23, Day 23

June 23, Day 23
Lamar, CO to Garden City, KS
Mileage – 104.5
Temperature: HOT

Dear All,

Well, if we thought yesterday's 122 miles was the toughest so far, we were wrong. Really wrong. Today was clearly the hardest day of the tour for us. But, it was a day in which John has never been more proud of Amy. He's proud of her every day, of course, but today was really special. More on that later.

The day started early with breakfast at 6:00 and we were on the road by 6:30. Initially, the wind was not much of a factor with even a slight tailwind at times and as a result we rolled along with a pretty good pace by working with Audrey, a very strong young rider. At about the 15 mile mark, Amy had a rear tire flat and it took about 10 minutes to fix. We then proceeded to the first SAG without much to see.

We were among the last at the SAG due to Amy's flat, and since the wind was favorable we didn't linger too long. After leaving we rode a very short time before we found ourselves in KS, our fifth state. Amazing. We've ridden across four states and are now working on our fifth. A little while later, we found ourselves changing our watches since we were leaving mountain time and entering central time. Darn, that means one less hour of sleep tonight.
In Syracuse (CO not NY), we stopped for a coke and met a guy who was pedaling from NJ to WA. We chatted about the weather, the road surfaces, the climbs and bike equipment. It is what one does when one is on a bike all day and meets someone who is similarly engaged.

By the 78 mile mark the wind was coming from the east and getting stronger by the minute (we learned later that it was gusting to 28 mph). John had always believed that the prevailing winds were from the SW and that it was unusual for them to blow from the east. However, we are guessing that it blows from the SW at 100,000 feet, not necessarily at ground level. The word from some of the riders, who seem pretty knowledgeable, is that as the day progresses, particularly when it's hot, the winds will frequently come from the east in earnest. Today must have been one of those days.

The temperature was up in the mid 90's making the pedaling difficult and the wind was clearly making the day tough, particularly for Amy. No matter where she rode off of John's wheel she couldn't get out of the wind and given the fact that she's so small it was blowing her all over the place. It was, as we said, heating up as well. You know it's hot when Amy has to sit down by the side of the road and take her riding shoes off because her feet are burning up. Note that she is wearing red socks (that's not blood on her feet).

Despite the riding conditions, we did see some interesting stuff as the day progressed. Longhorn sheep and ruts from the pioneers trek along the Santa Fe Trail.
In addition we were told that eating beef keeps you slim. Somehow we believe that the latter piece of news might be contradicted by those who are not red meat fans, but at least in some parts of KS we suspect beef is king.

In any event, the last 10 miles were the toughest Amy has ever experienced. She had real trouble. She thought about quiting, but in the end she just put her head down and pedaled. She could have simply said “the hell with it” and waited for the SAG to pick her up. There would have been no shame is doing so. Over the course of the trip many may do so and it will be understood by everyone. Some days you just aren't as stong as others. Who knows, maybe we will as well some day. But, on this particularly day, Amy would not give in. She just wouldn't quit. As indicated at the beginning of this report, John has never been prouder of her.

Take care everyone. Thanks for reading and keep up the good vibes.
Comments, as always, are welcome.

John and Amy

Sunday, June 22, 2008

June 22, Day 22

June 22, Day 22
Pueblo to Lamar, CO
Mileage: Amy -122.4; John – 126.5
Temperature: No word other than HOT could adequately describe it

Dear All,

Whew!! This was one long day. What a great way to spend your 40th anniversary. Riding a bicycle side by side for 122 miles.

But there was sadness today as well. For those of you out there who think you can ride a bike without a helmet, THINK AGAIN!! One of our group, Bob from Wooster, OH is alive at this moment because of his helmet. Bob's a great guy who everyone in the group likes. He was riding with Larry and a little behind Larry when, for reasons no on knows, he went down. Larry indicates that it happened in an instant. Bob's head hit the pavement and cracked his helmet in two places and apparently had two large stones embeded in it. He has a conclusion and is now in the hospital in intensive care, but we are all praying that he will fully recover. Bob is a fine rider with many, many miles in the saddle. So, for those of you who think you can ride to the local store without a helmet or have children who ride with helmets while you don't wear one, we urge you to rethink what you're doing. WEAR YOUR HELMET WHENEVER YOUR LEG GOES OVER THE TOP TUBE!! ALWAYS!!

And now on to the day.

The day started really, really early. We were up 4:30 am, loaded luggage at 5:00 am, ate breakfast and were on the road by 6:00 am. The skies were clear and the temperature was in the high 60's. By the first SAG stop at 37 miles the temperature was over 70 and we were riding in short sleeve shirts. We had a groups of riders which changed from time to time during the course of the day. Luckily, the wind was calm thru the morning although it picked up as the day progressed. It became a cross wind which moved around to a headwind later in the day.

The scenery was less than impressive at the start but as the day progressed things became greener. It was clearly farm and cattle country. At about the 51 mile mark (still not halfway for the day) we saw our first cattle feed lot with a lot of cattle. The picture does not capture the smell which was something that we worked on riding away from.

By 11:00 am it was starting to seriously heat up. As you can see, water bottles were filled up as often as possible. The real problem is that within about 20 minutes after getting a refilled water bottle with wonderfully cold water, the temperature of the water in the bottle b9ecomes 90 degrees which is not the most inviting thing to drink. But, drink we most since one wants to avoid dehydration at all costs.

At the second SAG stop Amy used a cold Coke can for two purposes, first to drink and then to try to cool her blood supply. The first was successful, but we can't say the second use really worked.

Along the way we spotted what looked like huge loaves of bread from a distance. In fact, it was the way the local farmers put together their wheat or whatever it is that they bundled. The picture gives you some idea as to what they looked like.

By about the 105 mile mark we were getting pretty tuckered out. The temperature was now 97 degrees and the winds were picking up. The wind itself was hot which was an interesting feeling. A little like taking a hair dryer and pointing it at your head. Not such a pleasant feeling mile after mile.

We finally rolled into the Best Western Cow Palace which is actually a place where they used to auction off cattle in a huge room around which the motel put the guest rooms. The picture of Amy at our arrival really doesn't need an explanation.

The miles on our calculators at arrival read 122.4. Now, many of you may know that there are those who have ridden what is referred to as a “double century” which means 200 miles in one day. This is not something that either of us aspire to. However, you may also know that a metric century is 62.137 miles. Now, John figured that he would never ride a real double century but since he was close to a double metric century, he decided to take a short tour of Larmar, CO (not very exciting by the way) in order to actually ride a double metric century. His calculator shows the result. Amy rightfully declined to accompany John on the theory that he was “nuts”.

Tomorrow is another century ride (104+ miles). Yup, that's two centuries in a row. The forecast is calling for HOT and unfortunately the wind is scheduled to come from a direction that has the word east in it. The weather gods can be convinced to change their minds however, so a prayer or two along those lines would be appreciated.

Thanks for all of the good vibes and don't forget RIDE WITH A HELMET!!

Take care, all.

Amy and John
PS: Remember, comments are welcome. Just click on the comment button.