Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 24 - Garden City, KS to Dodge City, KS

Today was kind of a recovery day. After riding 225 miles in the past two days, we got a chance to sleep an hour longer and ride considerably shorter. Our route from Garden City to Dodge City was just 51 miles. I left the hotel with no intention of pushing myself or riding any faster than whatever I felt like. Today I felt like "slow."

There were a few notable scenes today. The morning was quiet, with high clouds for a few hours, and flat or rolling terrain. We joked that we really could take a bunch of photos today and just distribute them among our blog entries for the next few days. There was a definite "sameness" to the scenery as it passed by. Grain silos dot the landscape and are often the centerpiece to each small town we ride through. I recall seeing three or four of them today. One of the other riders referred to them as the "Kansas Skyline."

After our midway SAG stop, we noticed a sign on Hwy 50 indicating "Overlook 1 Mile." I noticed the absence of the word "Scenic." I discovered one mile later exactly why. As we slowed to a stop in the slight pullout to our right, we could look far and wide over the Kansas landscape. In the near distance, however, we were overlooking a feed lot. Thousands of cows stood in their own waste and gazed lazily in our direction as we traded taking photos of each other at this "overlook." It occurred to me that perhaps the sign meant 'here's something you can overlook... as in skip, miss, don't stop..."

One of our fellow riders, Meiri, 38, from New York City, shared with a few of us that these days in Kansas have caused her to confront a significant fear: Agoraphobia--the fear of wide open spaces. One of the other hotel guests overheard a conversation about her and said, "She has a fear of open spaces? And she's in Western Kansas?"

In Cimarron, KS, we stopped at the Clark Drug Soda and Ice Cream Parlor. This pharmacy/ice cream shop looks not much different than it probably did 50 years ago. It's claim to fame is that Oprah Winfrey stopped in here once. She even has a smoothie named for her featuring Sierra Mist and Orange Sherbet. I had a cookies-and-cream milk shake. It hit the spot. It was fun relaxing for a few minutes and chatting with the high school girls working the counter. As we left, a family was walking in. The grandma asked where we headed. "New Hampshire," I said. "From where?!" she asked. "San Francisco." "Wow, you got a ways to go!" the dad said. Hmmm. We're almost halfway.

In fact, tomorrow we'll pass the midway point between San Francisco and New York City. There's a sign indicating it's 1,561 miles in either direction. Our actually halfway point of this ride will be on our way to Abilene, KS in a couple of days.

When we entered Dodge City, we stopped for photos atop a small hill to stand next to the cowboy figures on their horses. Look closely at the photo at the top of this blog and you'll spot me. Tonight, we'll have dinner in Dodge City and take in the Long Branch Variety Show in the Long Branch Saloon, "where Miss Kitty and Chalkley Beeson, owner of the Long Branch, will entertain you. There's singing, comedy, as well as the famous Can-Can dancers." I'll probably stick with a sarsaparilla.

Tomorrow's ride will take us to Great Bend, KS for 85 miles. Great Bend is home of the Kansas Oil and Gas Hall of Fame and Museum. So, I've got that to look forward to.

For a few more photos from today's ride including me standing in front of "Ingalls Feed Yard" and from the LongBranch Saloon, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100267

For more about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org

Dist: 50.95
Time: 3:22:30
Avg: 15.1
Max: 37.0
Cumulative Miles: 1780
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 469 ft.
Max Elev: 3490 ft.
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 9%

Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 23 - Lamar, CO to Garden City, KS

Well, it might be a 105-mile day, but at least it's hot out! Two back-to-back centuries. Yesterday was a grueling 122 miles. So, today's 105 miles, by comparison, is a cake-walk. At least my attitude about it was better. Our day started out with a ride through Lamar. I never took the time to explore it last night. I don't think I missed much. Our route along Hwy. 50 took us again through several small towns. Gerard mentioned the town are spaced every 8 or 10 miles because the steam locomotives could only travel that far before needing water. I see some parallels there to our situation.

We rode through the towns of Granada and Holly and then at mile 33, had our first SAG stop at a Rest Area. Many of us were excited because this SAG stop featured facilities! I made sure to use them. The shade felt good and it was tough to leave as the sun climbed higher in the sky.

A half mile away, we crossed the state line and entered Kansas. The morning's joke was "Don't expect anything different when you enter Kansas." To be sure, eastern Colorado is basically considered western Kansas. Someone joked about giving Kansas back to England. We stopped and took our photos at the state sign and then pressed on through Coolidge, Syracuse, and Lakin. I did enjoy passing a prairie dog colony. The highway fence kept us from getting closer and feeding them. Probably would have been swarmed if we had.

About 30 miles after the state line, we crossed into the Central Time Zone. I stopped for another photo and to note the time. Looks like I just lost an hour. Does that affect my ride time at the end of the day? Do I have to add an hour to the stats? Shortly after the Central Time Zone sign, I noticed the terrain changed from very flat to a series of several rollers. Guess Kansas isn't always as flat as everyone says.

The other thing I noticed in this section is the abundance of grasshoppers. They were all over the road. Sean, my roommate, later commented that it was like "Grasshopper Slalom." I mostly tried to avoid them. I'm sure some of the other riders enjoyed hitting them and hearing that satisfying "crunch" under their tires.

In the town of Lakin, we had our second SAG stop. We were supposed to be at a Dairy Queen, which we were, but it had closed for repairs and now our dream of blizzards and ice cream was dashed. So we rode a block or two to Subway and had lunch. In the span of about 5 minutes, the 6 or 7 of us eating inside each walked outside individually and without fail each of us said exactly the same thing: "Wow! It's hot out here!" It was. Like 100 degrees.

I had been riding with Chris, Leigh, and Gerard. But, Chris had set a goal for himself to get a sub-five hour century (100 miles in under five hours. That's an average speed of 20 mph.) He took off. So Leigh, Gerard and I rode together and then to fight the crosswind or to beat boredom--probably both--we did 10 second pulls. Instead of a lead rider staying at the front of a paceline for a few miles and then dropping back so the second rider can pull, we rotated in a steady circle. As soon as one rider pulled in front, the third rider moved up to the front, then the lead rider dropped back and now the rider in the back began moving to the front. Imagine a clockwise rotation where no one stays in the lead for more than 10 seconds before another rider takes the lead position. It was intense and we were averaging 23-24 miles per hour. After 10 miles, we took a break.

Our final miles into town were no more scenic than any others. We passed road construction, cow feed lots, farmlands, and a Tyson food processing plant. We're in the Heartland. By the way, the Tyson plant is now hiring. Their billboard says "Get Your Career Started Today!" Anyone interested in a career in chicken nugget manufacturing?

When we pulled into the hotel, I was actually presently surprised by Kansas hospitality. I've got to give credit to this Comfort Inn's staff. They had bike racks positioned next to a table with oranges, water bottles on ice, and a hose for our bikes. At the front counter, they had freshly baked cookies, lemonade, and ice tea. Guess that makes up for the lack of scenery.

Tomorrow we have a blessedly short day of riding. Just 51 miles to Dodge City, KS. Dodge City features all kinds of Wild West activities, so I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun when we arrive in town. And, we'll be sleeping in because breakfast isn't until 7 a.m.!

For the two other photos I took today... (kidding, I took a handful more), visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100251
For more about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org

Dist: 104.75
Time: 5:32:54
Avg: 18.8
Max: 31.5
Cumulative Miles: 1729
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 724 ft.
Max Elev: 4150 ft.
Avg Climb: 1%
Max Climb: 5%

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 22 - Pueblo, CO to Lamar, CO

Today's blog is dedicated to those of you who have been waiting for this ride to turn a corner... "He makes it sound so easy... He's enjoying every single moment... Just wait, that'll all end..."

Yesterday, I spent a wonderful rest day with Susie exploring Colorado Springs, CO. She flew to Denver and drove to Pueblo. We visited the Focus on the Family Visitor Center, Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, and Old Colorado City. We even had lunch with a fellow Eastside Foursquare Church staff member, Michael Chenoweth, who was in Colorado Springs with some wrestling coaches. After a full day which was actually quite restful, I said goodbye to her this morning and headed east to find out what was so great about the Great Plains.

Today was our longest ride of the entire Cross Country Challenge. And once again, we discovered why it's called the "Cross Country Challenge" and NOT the "Cross Country Easy." The day started well. We left early enough to try to beat some of the heat. Our route was on Highway 50 all day. As we left Pueblo, we appreciated the cloudy sky that was keeping us cool. The wind was slight. Both of those attributes of the day would change soon enough. As the wind began picking up, we tried once again our double pace line.

We passed flat, green prairie and farmland. We occasionally crossed or paralleled the Arkansas River. We rode through small, Great Plains towns like Fowler, Manzanola, and Rocky Ford. Just outside of Manzanola, we passed our first of three cattle feed lots. I can capture the image with my camera, but there is no way to capture the odor. Be glad for that.

Our second of three SAG stops was in Swink. Who makes up these town names? After riding 62 miles, I was feeling good. It was mid-morning and the scenery wasn't bad. It lacked all that Western Colorado offered, but these quiet farms and pastures had their own enjoyable qualities. As we left Swink, the heat began to climb, the terrain flattened, and the winds increased. We had a headwind only a few times, mostly the wind was a crosswind coming from the south.

We arrived in Las Animas, CO and made a beeline for a Dairy Queen. We passed a Sunday afternoon flea market, kids running down the street, and people working in their front yards. We entered the Dairy Queen thankful for air-conditioning and cold drinks. While there, I commented on how great it was to blend in and not stand out in a crowd. Everyone in the place, dressed in jeans, cowboy hats, or "country casual", sneaked cautious glances at us in our bright, skin tight cycling apparel. A few brave ones asked us about our route and where we were going. One lady described herself as a homeschool mom and was genuinely interested in what we were doing. I handed her a flier and expect she and her kids will be reading this blog tonight. If so, "Hello!" Another family commented on how it was hotter last week. Really? It had to be 100 degrees out there.

After finishing our drinks, Jack discovered a flat. Guess that makes it a "DQ flat." After repairing the tire, he went to fill it with a CO2 cartridge and filled it too full. It exploded. He replaced it a second time while carefully choosing some colorful language to describe his feelings about it all. Then we hit the road. It was hotter.

Shortly after Las Animas, we passed a pickup truck with "Cross Country Runner Ahead" emblazoned on its tailgate. Up ahead we found two runners, Joy and Mat. They are Filipinos running from Los Angeles to New York over 120 days. They left LA on Mother's Day. They are running 30 miles a day. Actually Joy is doing most of the running. Mat recently had heart surgery and is running only a portion of the route. They are raising funds for a Philippines Tuberculosis Center and Heart Foundation. We took photos with them and rode away thankful we were getting this done in just 52 days. Wow. Impressive. I did a quick Google search and found some more info on them here. Read it. It's a pretty incredible adventure! I gave Joy one of my fliers and only learned later in the day their full story. I'll plan to get in touch with them by email and follow her cross-country adventure!

After leaving Joy and Mat, the road got hotter, the wind a little stronger, and the day a bit longer. Our third SAG stop was at mile 102. Everything is a little fuzzy, but I think we were at a country store, filled our water bottles, and ate a little food. We were counting down the miles now. Just 20 more. As we neared Lamar, we passed our third and largest cattle feed lot. So, what did we do? We stopped for photos. And to imbibe the great stench emanating from this vast facility. Let's see... add "Lamar, CO" to my list of cities I DO NOT want to live in.

We turned south and rode headlong into the southerly wind for the final mile to the hotel. As if someone had planned to pull every last vestige of strength out of us. Chris called the last mile to the hotel "interminable." I looked it up. It means "seeming to be or being without end; endless." Fair summary. We rode into the hotel and paused for a final photo to sum up the day. You see mine at the top of this blog. Welcome to the Best Western Cow Palace, Lamar, CO. Good times. Hot, sticky, malodorous, windy, good times.

Tomorrow we'll ride nearly as far as today, 105 miles, to Garden City, KS. And yes, we'll not only cross a state border and enter Kansas, we'll also lose an hour and enter the Central Time Zone. So, come join me in the fun as we begin our six-day trek across Kansas and the Not-Yet-So-Great Plains.

For more photos of today's interminable journey, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100243

For photos from a more enjoyable day--my rest day with Susie, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100229

For more about the Ride for Impact and to show your support or to at least offer something for the laughter you've experienced in reading today's tome, go to http://www.rideforimpact.org

Dist: 122.61
Time: "Interminable" or 6:53:21
Avg: 17.7
Max: 31.0
Cumulative Miles: 1624
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 1193 ft.
Max Elev: 5198 ft.
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 6%

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Day 20 - Salida, CO to Pueblo, CO

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” - G.K. Chesterton Today was an adventure. We left Salida, CO with 96 miles ahead of us to reach Pueblo, CO and have our second rest day. My wife, Susie, was meeting me in Pueblo, so I had an extra motivation to safely reach that city. But, my motto on this ride was and continues to be, "More miles, Better stories." So when Gerard, our ride leader, mentioned a side trip to the Royal Gorge Bridge that would add another 10 miles and an extra climb, I was all for it. Most of the other riders heard "18% grade" and said "No way." I thought, why not? Royal Gorge Bridge is the world's highest suspension bridge and is positioned 1,053 ft. above the Arkansas River. It's mostly a tourist trap with no real reason for being there other than to drain Colorado tourists of their vacation dollars. But, I love a good tourist trap. So, I again, was all for it.

Our route out of Salida would follow the Arkansas River for 40 miles. The morning skies lit up the the surrounding Rocky Mountain peaks as we navigated to Highway 50. Soon we were hugging the Arkansas River and watching every twist and turn it made past rolling green hills, smaller peaks, and then taller peaks in the far distance.

Within a few miles, we were in the Arkansas River Canyon. Steep, rocky canyon walls were on either side of Hwy. 50 and as the sun rose above them, they were illuminated with warm, summer light. I felt like I was taking a thousand photos. Every turn of the road revealed another perspective of the river, canyon, sandstone walls, and green vegetation. I managed to shoot several other cyclists' photos as I passed each one. The route was nearly all downhill for these 40 miles and with a tailwind. I gave in to temptation despite the incredible scenery and enjoyed rocketing through the river canyon at 25 mph while gazing at all the sights around me.

Our SAG stop was on the river in a small recreation area. Everyone was all smiles as we exchanged greetings and shared how much fun we were having. A few miles after the SAG stop, we turned inland and then crossed the river. The Arkansas River is one of the wildest rivers we've seen and its frothing rapids in places made this a popular whitewater rafting river. We saw busload after busload of weekend warriors getting ready to ride the rapids. As we crossed the river, we saw raft after raft heading downstream.

After crossing the river, we climbed a few miles in the hot afternoon sun and then I found the turnoff to the Royal Gorge Bridge. All but four of us kept straight ahead, but Hans, Sean our mechanic, Brian, and myself enjoyed the visit to the RGB. We rode our bikes across the bridge, taking photo after photo. We stopped for ice cream, then toured an Old West mock town. We went down the Incline Railway to the river valley to see the Arkansas River up close and gaze up at the bridge 1,053 ft. above us. After two hours playing tourist, we decided to hit the road again. Sean had left an hour earlier. Brian wanted to ride across the bridge one more time, so Hans and I left together.

We rocketed downhill into Canon City and soon noticed huge dark clouds several miles behind us. Hmmm. Looks like more adventure. The tailwind increased and soon I was flying toward Pueblo at 30 mph with little effort. I kept gazing in my rearview mirror and beside me to see how the storm was progressing. It looked like I was losing the race. Hans was now a couple miles behind me and the storm caught me. Wind and dust blasted my right side nearly throwing me off the bike. I turned into the nearest building I could find: The Penrose Trading Post--a junk shop.

I stood under a porch while the rain fell sideways. Within moments, Hans was pulling into the same parking lot. I screamed into the wind so he could find me. He had no idea I had pulled into the same shop. We waited out the storm after calling our America By Bicycle staff. The stopped by with water and food since the second SAG stop had actually blown away in the storm. Now the weather had moved northeast of us and the skies were relatively clear. We pressed on toward Pueblo.

Now our tailwind was really blowing. We sailed over the remaining 25 miles as the wind actually blew me uphill, coasting at 35 miles per hour. Hans and I smiled at each other when we stopped at a traffic light and realized how fast the wind was moving. We entered Pueblo's city limits, navigated the side streets toward our hotel, turned left and left again. The last mile of our ride, we were biking into the wind and discovered how good our fortune was. This would have been torturous if we had to battle this headwind all day. The hotel was in sight and as we entered the lobby, we shared our tales of adventure with the other riders--most of whom had arrived hours ahead of us. But, you know, I think we had a better story.

Tomorrow is a rest day and Susie has arrived to spend the day with me. We plan to relax and explore Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs and wander around town. On Sunday, we will hit the road for our longest stint yet: 120 miles to Lamar, CO. We've left the beauty of the Rockies and are now in the Great Plains. We'll pass our first cattle feedlot (I'll capture the image, but can't capture the smell), and we will pray for a tailwind.

For more photos from today's ride, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100214

For more about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org

Dist: 105.62
Time: 5:40:26
Avg: 18.6
Max: 40.0
Cumulative Miles: 1502
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 3321 ft.
Max Elev: 7419 ft.
Avg Climb: 3%
Max Climb: 18%

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 19 - Gunnison, CO to Salida, CO

"I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth..."- (Psalm 121:1-2) Today, I climbed a mountain. And, I reached the highest point of our Cross Country Challenge: 11,312 ft. above sea level. Today might have also been the highest point of my journey, experientially speaking.

Our departure this morning was through Gunnison's downtown where we stopped briefly at a coffee shop on Main St. for a second breakfast to supplement our hotel continental breakfast. It was a good day to have my first white mocha in quite a long time. I would need the caffeine to get me up and over Monarch Pass. That was our mid-ride destination. Monarch Pass is the highest point of Highway 50 between Gunnison and Salida, CO. The Continental Divide runs across Monarch Pass. And at 11,312 ft. elevation, I was concerned how the altitude would affect me.

The elevation profile for the ride showed about 30 miles of very slight incline until the real climbing began. From mile 33, we would climb nine straight miles and gain about 3,300 ft. That would be comparable to one climb on the hardest ride I've ever done, RAMROD: Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day. So, I had in mind that today would be a significant challenge and I was mentally prepared (read: "worried").

The initial 30 miles were not like the Colorado I've been imagining. It was beautiful, but not the Colorado prototype. We experienced green rolling hills, wide pastures and ranches. Sparkling creeks bubbled alongside stands of Aspen and conifers. Atop one hill was a flock of bighorn sheep and one solitary ram looking over all his ladies. He glared back at me when I took his photo as if to say, "You want a piece of me?" I did not, so I rode on.

At the first SAG stop, we pulled into Monarch Valley Ranch. I was at the back of the pack today due to lingering over coffee back in Gunnison. No worries. I was taking my time today and conserving all my energy for the long push up Monarch Pass. Just a few miles after the SAG stop was a country store in Sargents. I stopped to use some proper facilities (rather than the sagebrushes). While I was returning to my bike, two self-supported cyclists rolled up. This man and woman each had a mountain bike loaded with front and rear panniers, sleeping bag, and tent. I asked them where they had come from, "Oh, just the campsite up the road," the woman said with what sounded like a Kiwi accent. "No, I mean before that." I said. She explained they were on their last week of a four-month journey that started in South America, then Central America, and now in the States. Wow. That trumps 52 days. I wished them safe travels and continued up.

The iPhone once again provided the musical motivation to keep climbing. The sign announcing seven miles to Monarch Pass Summit also indicated that superb scenery was about to commence. And it did. Words don't do it justice, but I'll try. Blue skies with big, white cumulus clouds served as a canopy over tall conifers, stands of Aspen, golden rocky cliffs and outcroppings, and vast forested valleys below. As I watched my elevation steadily increase from 8000 ft. to 9000 ft. and then 10,000 ft., I noticed that the altitude wasn't affecting me nearly at all, or at least not like I expected. I was rhythmically breathing with a steady pace of 6.5 to 7 mph. The only negative affect was when I would take a pull from my water bottle and then have to catch my breath to get back in rhythm.

Soon, the summit was in sight. I could see the ABB van and trailer and then the brown and yellow sign indicating the summit and Continental Divide. I rolled into the parking lot and over to the sign. Others ahead of me clapped and shouted. I felt good. That was a significant effort, but I really felt good. And that surprised me because I had expected headaches, dizziness, and a pounding chest. But, none of that. God is good.

Each of us has considerable challenges ahead of us. Or maybe we're in one now. The summit seems so far away. And we're hunched over, straining forward, trying to make it through the pain, strain, sweat, and tears. But if you climb with your head down and only focus on getting to the top, I guarantee you will miss some of the sweetest, most beautiful moments around you. God is in the climb. He knows where you are and how hard you're cranking. But it's okay to pull to the side of the road, catch your breath and look around. Soak in the moment. Be present amidst the climb. Those who race to the top to get past the pain miss some of the most outstanding scenery. To quote one of my favorite movie lines, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."

Now, back to the story. At the top, I took the requisite photo with bike overhead in front of the summit sign. I was amazed I had any arm strength left. Some think I'll finish this ride with the physique of a Tyrannosaurus Rex: huge, powerful legs. Itty bitty teensy arms. Chuck and I took the tram ride to the summit and enjoyed the views of all the mountain peaks around us. The slight breeze at the summit felt good after climbing in the heat. I looked around the visitor center and had to buy the t-shirt: "I made it to the top - Monarch Pass, CO" with a bike graphic. I'll wear it proudly. Now for the descent.

The ride down was 18 miles of sheer fun. No effort. All wind in my face, gravity doing the work, and scenery rushing by. Salida, CO was in front of me. I caught a few cyclists from our group, exchanged stories, then went to check out historic downtown Salida. Hmmm. I could live here. I found a bike shop and a cafe next door so I enjoyed lunch on the outdoor patio overlooking the rushing Arkansas River. We'll be following this river for several days as it leads us to Pueblo, then across eastern Colorado and through Kansas.

After lunch, I biked to the hotel just in front of a thunderstorm. At the hotel, three girls were selling lemonade outside the front door. Now I was a marked man. Sixty-seven miles over Monarch Pass? I'm gonna buy a lemonade. I think they made a killing selling their sweetened lemon juice to all 30+ of us as we checked in. It tasted good. And so did this day. I like Colorado. And I like climbing mountains. And I really like descending them!

Tomorrow, we make a long 95-mile push to Pueblo. Then the rest day. The best part is my wife, Susie, is coming to visit for the rest day! I'll ride 95 miles to see her any day!

For more amazing photos from today's epic ride, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100207

For more about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org

Dist: 69.22
Time: 5:02:45
Avg: 9.0 uphill; 21.8 downhill
Cumulative Miles: 1395
Cumulative Flats: 5 (none today!)
Elev Gain: 4080 ft
Max Elev: 11,312 ft.
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 8%

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 18 - Montrose, CO to Gunnison, CO

Today was "scenery day" in Colorado! But I suppose every day in Colorado is scenery day. The weather was looking great when we got ready to depart the hotel. Unfortunately, my day started with what we call a "hotel flat." I woke up, checked my tires, and noticed the front tire was D.O.A. So, Sean our mechanic, did a hotel parking lot flat repair. About three others were in line for his services. We all had hotel flats. I guess you could say we were suffering from *flatulence*.

Our route was on Highway 50 all day. But it was a fabulous route. What wasn't so fabulous was the crazy headwind we had all morning on our climb to Cerro Summit. We were once again riding with the Bicycle Tour of Colorado cyclists. They didn't appear to be enjoying the headwind any more than we were. The only good news was that we heard the wind would diminish once we reached the summit... four more miles away. So, head down, legs moving, iPod music playing, BTC cyclists passing, and soon the summit was in sight. The best sign to see to indicate your nearing the summit is "Trucks Use Lower Gear Next 2 1/2 Miles"!

After a brief stop at the summit we descended into wonderful scenery. The lush green pastures, meadows, and hilltops were to the left and to the right. The Cimmaron River flowed by and farm houses and ranch houses dotted the landscape. We passed through the town of Cimmaron. I wondered aloud if I were to climb one of those hills and do somersaults all the way down, would that be a "Cimmaron Roll"? (I've been waiting all day to write that!)

We began climbing our second, longer climb. Fortunately, the headwind was gone, but the sun was hot and the elevation was higher. We were climbing up to Blue Mesa Summit, 8730 ft. One of the most amusing cyclists I passed was a guy on a Schwinn Stingray. The kind you had as a kid with a banana seat and ape hanger handlebars! He outfitted it with a rear derailleur, but I could still tell he was suffering up this climb. The price you pay for novelty. I filmed him with my camera and he said, "Schwinn be nimble, Schwinn be quick!" More power to ya, Crazy Schwinn Guy!

The rolling landscape with mountains and mesas in the distance kept my mind off the heat and climbing. It actually wasn't too bad, just slow. I was mentally preparing for tomorrow's climb over Monarch Pass at 11,000 ft. The altitude wasn't hurting me too bad. Some huffing and puffing here and there, but overall, I was doing pretty well. At the summit, I stopped at our SAG stop where both ABB vans were parked. Bob Lang from Virginia rolled up just after me. I call him "Young Bob." I'm "Younger Bob." He's in his seventies, but the guy is in amazing shape. He climbed both passes today all on his own. I'd be content to have half his energy when I'm his age. Give it up for "Young Bob"!

The descent from Blue Mesa Summit was were the scenery really became attractive. The rocky cliffs, vibrant green conifers, mesas in the distance, and bright blue sky with white, puffy clouds all coalesced to make a postcard day of cycling. Portions of our route were where "American Flyers" was filmed. If you're a cycling nut, you've probably seen it or at least have heard of it. It's one of Kevin Costner's early movies and about a cycling race in the Colorado Rockies.

From there, we rode to Curecanti National Recreation Area and Gunnison Lake. The sparkling blue water and the surrounding red cliffs, mesas, and blue sky just made me trigger happy on my camera. Too many great scenic shots. Soon we were riding through the Gunnison River Canyon and, if possible, the scenery got better. More cliffs, rocky hillsides, bordered by the Gunnison River. Fly fishermen were enjoying the scenery, too. As well as some bait fishermen in a motor boat. I took my time pedaling through here and soaked in all the scenes around me. I thought about my dad who would have so enjoyed today's scenery.

Gunnison was just ahead. Plenty of BTC cyclists were rolling through. They had another 40 miles and another climb to go until they reached their day's destination. I'm not at all jealous. I grabbed a photo of the Welcome to Gunnison sign and found the hotel just ahead of that. I sat on a bench outside the hotel, drinking some chocolate milk, waiting for the luggage trailer, and enjoying the fruits of my labor. I like Colorado.

Tomorrow is the big dog. We'll climb over Monarch Pass, cross the Continental Divide, and be at our highest elevation for the entire journey at 11,000 ft. Our destination is Salida, CO. Pray for good weather on the Pass and that the altitude doesn't hamper our efforts!

For more photos of amazing Colorado scenery, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100199

For more information about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org

Dist: 62.8
Max: 39.0
Cumulative Miles: 1326 ft.
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 4584 ft.
Max Elev: 8730 ft.
Avg Climb: 3%
Max Climb: 8%

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 17 - Grand Junction, CO to Montrose, CO

Today was all about sharing the road. For the last two weeks, we've been the only cyclists on the roads on this journey across the U.S. Not so today. We were joined by 1600 other cyclists on the Bicycle Tour of Colorado--a six-day cycling event covering about 600 miles of the western Rockies. It was actually quite fun to see so many other riders out there with us. At times, it was a bit like rush hour traffic, but for the most part, it made the day more interesting.

Our route had us on a bike trail for the first 12.5 miles that followed the Colorado River. It made for a very scenic start of the day. Most of us stayed together over the initial miles and then we spread out a bit. After a short climb to Highway 50, we merged with the Bicycle Tour of Colorado (BTC) crowd. We were climbing up another hill when a BTC cyclist caught me and started a conversation about America By Bicycle. We would have many similar conversations all day. We shared about the route, distance, our average daily miles, accommodations, and the like. It was fun to talk about the ride with another cyclist who could fully appreciate what we were doing and understood our motivation. Most people are at best perplexed when we talk about our ride. At worst, they think we are full-blown nuts. (Which we are...)

We enjoyed talking about the BTC riders at our SAG stop. Gerard had some witty comments he kept to himself like, "A tour of Colorado? How cute." or "Yeah, this would make a great training ride for the Cross Country Challenge!" My remark was, "You get a rest day after only four days of riding, huh? We rode for 11 days before we got a rest day!"

Fifteen miles after the SAG stop, we reached the town of Delta. It's known as the Mural Capital of Colorado. Just about every business has a wall-size mural on the side of the exterior. I enjoyed riding through the town, but chose to make a stop for refreshments in Montrose instead of stopping here. As I rode on, I thoroughly enjoyed passing as many BTC cyclists as I could. Just to prove the point that going all the way across the US is far superior than just a week's jaunt around a solitary state!

While on one stretch of Hwy. 50 while I was chugging along nicely at 19-20 mph, another cyclist caught me and said in a European accent, "We are both working too hard. You get behind me and we will work together!" I shrugged and caught his wheel and we tag-team drafted for a couple of miles. He was from the Czech Republic and was riding the BTC. I'm not sure if he lives in the US now or was just visiting, but I do know he was fast. I hung on for awhile and then saw another ABB cyclist and thanked him for the pull.

I had caught up with Grace who is one of the 12 riders only biking from Salt Lake City to Pueblo. As we chatted, I learned that she is Filipina and born in Manila. So naturally, our conversation centered on my three trips to Manila and the work Eastside Foursquare Church has been doing in Metro-Manila. Before long, we had reached the Montrose city limits and stopped for photos in front of the city sign. The rest of the ride into town was easy and we reached the hotel before the winds really picked up. The day was hot, but the riding was great. Enjoyable scenery and interesting conversations.

After the ride, we took a van to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. At 2700 feet deep and 53 miles long, this canyon is breathtaking. Its incredibly steep canyon walls and narrow opening allow very little sunlight to reach the canyon floor and Gunnison River, and therefore named Black Canyon. It was a great way to end a nice day of riding.

Tomorrow, we'll climb a little more and ride 63 miles to Gunnison. We'll share the road for one more day with the BTC cyclists and then we'll be on our own again.

For more photos from today's ride, please visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100189

For more information about the Ride for Impact, please visit http://www.rideforimpact.org

Dist: 74.06
Time: 4:56:37
Avg: 14.9
Max: 32.0
Cumulative Miles: 1264
Cumulative Flats: 4 and holding
Elev Gain: 2487 ft.
Max Elev: 5807 ft.
Avg Climb: 1%
Max Climb: 6%

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 16 - Green River, UT to Grand Junction, CO

Welcome to Colorful Colorado! Our ride today was long, hot, and colorful. We left Green River under blue skies and temps that were cool, but I knew it wouldn't stay that way for long. Our route was along I-70 for nearly all the way. As the day progressed, the temps climbed. By day's end when we reached Grand Junction, it would be 95 degrees.

Our scenery changed throughout the day, but we primarily saw Book Cliffs to the north and mesas or prairies to the south. The lighting was really great for dramatic photos on the road, so I took a lot of shots of my cycling friends. A couple of shots from the back with the sunlight silhouetting the riders in front of me turned out well.

The wildlife we saw that was not dead on the road (skunk, porcupine, snake) included lizards, antelope, prairie dogs, and birds. You had to look hard to spot them, but they were there if you glanced in the right direction at the right time.

We had two SAG stops today. The first was early in the ride around mile 25. But later in the day at mile 66, in the heat just before crossing the Colorado border, I was feeling the need for shade. I was grateful when I pulled up to the ABB trailer underneath a overpass with cool concrete to sit on and shade over us. We lingered there for far too long. But, it was good to catch a second wind.

After the SAG, we crossed the state line and entered Colorado. A bunch of us gathered at the large Colorado sign for photos. At one point, Gerard our ride leader, had a dozen cameras dangling from his wrists as he sought to get everyone's photo on their own camera. After the photo opp, we had a nice descent that was pleasantly interrupted by the "Colorado Welcoming Committee."

Sue, a local resident who has done a number of Cross Country Challenges and other ABB rides, greeted us from her parked car under an overpass where she was handing out Mr. Freeze / Igloo Pops for each of us. "Welcome to Colorado!" she cheerily said as we stopped under the overpass. It was a refreshing was to be welcomed to the state, and our first welcoming committee at that.

With just five miles to go to reach the hotel, Chuck, Leigh, and I decided to stop at a Wendy's for some refreshment. The rest was worthwhile. But as we were leaving, I noticed my rear tire was low. Yep. It's a flat. It's a "Wendy's flat." So we stopped at a nearby shaded park and changed the tube. That's number four for the ride. Not too bad considering a couple of riders today got three flats! Three just today! I-70 is a rough road to ride.

Tomorrow, we'll reach Montrose about 65 miles away. We'll see the Colorado National Monument--a large mesa range to the south--as well as the Grand Mesa, an immense tabletop mountain to the southeast. We'll be following the Gunnison River as it departs from the confluence of the Colorado River, which we followed for several miles as we entered Grand Junction. The other point of interest is we'll join paths with riders on the Tour of Colorado. There are several thousand cyclists in town on a 6-day tour of Colorado. So, we'll try our best to stand out in our America By Bicycle jerseys and make fun of them for only riding six measly days... we're doing 52!

For more photos from today, please visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100182

If you've been enjoying these blog postings, please consider supporting the Ride for Impact by visiting http://www.rideforimpact.org

Dist: 98.5
Time: 5:54:11
Avg: 16.6
Max: 40.0
Cumulative Miles: 1189
Cumulative Flats: 4 (pray for no more!)
Elev Gain: 3237 ft
Max Elev: 5089 ft
Avg Climb: 1%
Max Climb: 6%

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 15 - Price, UT to Green River, UT

If Father's Day means doing what you love to do most, I think I did that. It's Father's Day today. I miss my kids. I miss my wife. But, I had an awesome day despite not getting hugs and kisses from my family. I got to ride my bike! Today's route took us from Price to Green River primarily along Hwy. 6. The scenery was spectacular, but altogether different from anything else we've seen. In a word, southeastern Utah is "expansive."

We left Price under dark skies. The road was wet from early morning rain. We rode through Price and got on Highway 6. The scenery began with green, wide pastures. In the far distance we could see the Book Cliffs, a range of steep cliffs with sediment striations that looked like layered cakes stacked high. At the top of one rise, we could see sunlight breaking through the cloud cover and streaming beams of light onto the valley below. The weather improved quickly and most of the day we were riding under blue skies and scattered puffy clouds.

Early in the ride, I saw a single llama standing on a ridge as we passed. He was silhouetted against the sky as if he was surveying the road below and watching us make our way to Green River. As we rode along, I saw on the right about a hundred yards from the road, a lone antelope. I called to Chuck who was in front of me and told him to stop and look to the right. The antelope skittered away, but we could still see him on a low ridge in the distance.

Before a long descent, we had an amazing view of the valley below. Book Cliffs on the left, and a vast desert to the right. It was really breathtaking. I pulled over halfway through the descent just to take some photos and capture how incredibly vast it all was. When you live in a city or suburbs, you really don't have a concept for how much "spare room" our nation has. Riders in our group who haven't traveled through the west, are really amazed at the wide open space we are riding through.

At the SAG stop, we pulled into a turnout area with nothing but space and desert for miles in either direction. Cliffs and table rocks dotted the horizon. We loaded up on food, cleaned mud out of our cleats, and grouped up for a paceline to take us the rest of the way. Leigh, Chris, Chuck and I took turns taking long pulls with a major headwind for the last quarter of the ride. Eventually, we joined Hwy. 70E and had just a short few miles to ride into Green River.

After our ride, we had the option to drive by van to Arches National Park about an hour away. Eighteen of us were chosen to take the trip. We loaded into the two ABB vans and headed south. The red rock and steep cliffs were stunning as we neared the entrance. Our visit to Arches was altogether too short. We stopped in at the Visitor Center briefly then drove out to Delicate Arch. We hiked to a viewpoint, but the Arch was far in the distance. If time allowed, I would have hiked the 1.5 miles to see it up close.

We next went to Windows Arches and had the opportunity to hike right up underneath it. It's breathtaking to see these arches formed from erosion and weather over years and years. We stopped at Balancing Rock and then visited Park Avenue. I easily could have stayed several days in Arches. Next time, I'll make it a roadtrip with Susie, Kyle, and Bethany and we'll camp in the park and hike to each and every arch. But, for the short time we had, it was entirely worth going.

This was a great Father's Day. I'm so thankful for my kids and the wonderful young man and woman they are becoming. I'm proud of not just what they have done, but more so who they are. I miss the opportunity to experience this incredible country through their eyes and would love to show them all the sights I'm seeing. I look forward to seeing them at the ride's end, but I so appreciate their sacrifice to let me ride this adventure of a lifetime. Thank you Kyle and Bethany for making me a dad and making it so fun to be your dad! I love you both very much!

Tomorrow, we cross our fourth state line and enter Colorado. The hotel desk clerk says to expect a ride through "a whole lot of nuthin." Somehow, I think I'll probably find something there I like.

To see more photos from today including all the shots I took at Arches National Park, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100174

For more about the Ride for Impact and to support global relief and missions, please visit http://www.rideforimpact.org

Dist: 67.2
Time: 3:51:00
Avg: 17.3
Cumulative Miles: 1091
Cumulative Flats: 3 and holding
Elev Gain: 1164 ft.
Max Elev: 5766 ft.
Avg Climb: 1%
Max Climb: 5%

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 14 - Provo, UT to Price, UT

"It might be raining, but at least we have a headwind!" Today, I re-learned the importance of making the most of every opportunity. So many times, the quality of life is really dependent upon your outlook. When I set out to take on this Cross Country Challenge, I was determined to have a positive attitude and enjoy every moment. Today, that outlook paid off. As I reflected upon the day, I realized prior to this ride I was complaining and negative about some particular aspects of my life--not all of it, but a portion. But for the last two weeks, I've realized that by not complaining and keeping a positive attitude has made this ride exceptionally fun, even on the most difficult days. Today could have been a dreadful day, and unfortunately for some riders, it was. But, I had a blast!

Our day began riding south out of Provo under threatening skies. We had a very early start: breakfast at 5:00 a.m. and load at 5:45 a.m. This was to get us out and on the road before weekend drivers began challenging us on roads that would have minimal shoulder and a lot of construction. Our route out of town was pleasant enough riding past some rural homes, train yards, and businesses. But as we got onto Hwy 6/89, we noticed the terrible headwind. Just south of Mapleton, UT is a wind farm with about a dozen towering wind turbines. Our headwind must have been 40 or 50 miles per hour. I've never cycled in that kind of wind before. You had to put your head down, get your hands in the drops, and just power through it. It appeared as if the wind turbines were giant fans blasting us with air. Eventually we passed them and begin a steady, but easy climb up Hwy. 6.

If the headwind wasn't enough to deal with, construction was the biggest issue. Hwy. 6 is under a significant roadwork project adding two lanes to make it wider. In a variety of places, we were lifting our bikes over K-rails and jersey barriers or riding behind orange construction barrels. In many places, the road shoulder was minimal and most of it had rumble strips. (Cycling over rumble strips is at best painful, at worst disastrous.) But this is where the attitude adjustment comes into play.

We were riding through the most scenic parts of Utah I had seen since we entered the state a few days ago. Our course took us through the "Red Narrows", a section of Hwy. 6 that has steep red canyon walls and sweeping vistas. The climbing was fairly easy at 3 to 5 percent, but lengthy.

At a pullout, we saw one of the support vans and decided to stop. Michelle and Judy offered us some food and water. We lingered for awhile chatting. A few of us used the nearby non-existent restroom facilities (just behind a jersey barrier and out of sight.) Leigh came back to the van and commented that a mummified sheep was just beyond the barrier on the hillside. Well, gotta check that out! As you can see from the photo, this was the king of all roadkill. I thought back to being 12 years old and wanting a bison skull with horns to hang on my wall. If I had seen this pile of bones, I'd probably have taken the skull home. Gross, but hey, I was 12.

We left the mini-SAG stop and continued climbing. The sun was warming us up as we climbed through green rolling mountain sides and red or gray cliffs. A Union Pacific train came by pulling at least 200 empty cars. Later, I saw a second train going down the way we came loaded with coal. These were coal trains and we were entering coal country.

We had another section of construction where we had to bike along a dirt section of uncompleted roadway expansion. Our ride leaders suggested we would have to walk our bikes, but riding along the dirt was really no trouble. It was a cyclocross moment.

The official SAG stop was soon in sight and we pulled in. We were at the front of the group. More water, food, a chance to visit and make new friends. In fact, I made friends with a ground squirrel that was scurrying around. I suppose I could have shared some of my biker food, but really... how many miles did the squirrel do today? I deserved it more.

We left the squirrels, SAG stop, and finished our climb up to Soldier Summit. Elevation: 7,447 ft. The climbing was never too intense and the weather at the top was cooler, but not cold.
We stopped for a few photos and to talk with ride leader Gerard who was parked there. Gerard pointed out the dark clouds moving in from the south, so we moved on. We weren't more than a half mile on our descent when the deluge began. I put on my rain gear, but had nothing for my legs or feet and promptly got a good soaking.

The rains poured down on us while we tried to safely descend amidst the traffic, rumble strips, and splashing water. The rain started to sting. I decided to embrace it. This was fun! I wasn't going to melt, so just ride through it and enjoy the scenery. The rain eventually passed and we worked through another construction section.

At 52 miles into the ride, there was a store on the left that Gerard suggested we stop in and check out. The proprietor was a an old-timer who would share stories with us. I decided it was worth a stop. I'm beginning to get the gist of this ride... look for opportunities to experience America, not just ride through it. This was such an opportunity. Inside the old storefront was Dennis Finch, 78. Lived here in Colton, UT all his life. There used to be 200 families living here. Now it's just him and his wife. He's just running the store to stay active (he told me so about three times in our conversation.) His granddad (or was it great-granddad?) knew Butch Cassidy. Showed me the photo of the two of them. This storefront used to be over there by the tracks. They moved it in 1934. Here's the photos of the old town. Those buildings are all gone now. This is the only one. He's just running the store to stay active. I sipped black coffee while he regaled me with photos and stories, pointed out the elk and deer heads mounted to the wall. He shot one with a bow and arrow. One was shot back in the 1890s. He gets paid $0.50 a cubic yard for the road crew to dump the rocks they're clearing out to expand the roadway. He met a lady from Australia last year who stopped into his store. He's just running the store to stay active. If you drive over Hwy. 6 in Utah, stop in and say hi to Dennis. It's entirely worth the visit.

I left Hilltop Country Store and continued descending down Hwy. 6. I was now in Price Canyon and the scenery was outstanding. The high cliff walls, the railroad tracks, the Price River flowing by... I felt as if I was biking through a model railroad set. It was fantastic. I slowed down and soaked it all in. I stopped over the river and took more photos. I took my time riding through it looking left, looking right, and enjoying every moment. A few other riders went by and I felt like I had found something no one else was seeing. Maybe it took two weeks to really catch this, but the bike is the vehicle for the experience, not the experience itself. Gotta take your time and see what you're riding through!

I passed a coal processing plant, descended further down the canyon, and entered the little town of Helper, UT. Helper is named for the "helper" engines added to the trains to make the steep (2.4% grade) 15 mile climb up Price Canyon to the town of Soldier Summit. I stopped and rode through the historical Main Street. Brick storefronts, hotels, and restaurants appeared like time had stopped. It could be 1952 or 1897. I dropped in the The Western Mining and Railroad Museum and chatted with an old timer there. He's lived in Helper for 35 years. He knows Dennis Finch, too. He invited me to look around as long as I like and I would have, but I sensed rain was on my tail.

I left Helper and got back on Hwy. 6. The rains caught me and the deluge dumped once again. It was a fast ride into Price. I think I hit 30 mph as I raced the rains downhill into town. I saw the hotel, but also sensed my hunger. I turned left and rode into the Burger King first then went to the hotel. I heard lots of mumbling and grumbling when I arrived. But, I had just had an amazing day. So what if there's construction, a headwind, and rain? I'm riding my bike across America. This is a blast!

Tomorrow, we have a short ride of 67 miles to Green River. What I'm really looking forward to is an afternoon visit to Arches National Park near Moab, UT. It's too far to ride, so we'll take our two vans and shuttle riders there after we pull in to the hotel. I've never been to Arches and had hoped we'd have a chance to see it. Looks like it will be another great day! It's Father Day tomorrow. I'll miss my family, but I'll be thinking about them when I ride!

For more photos of today's ride including an afternoon visit to the Prehistoric Museum in Price (dinosaurs and mammoths!), visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100170

For more about the Ride for Impact and a chance to sponsor me, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org

Dist: 77.64
Time: 5:33:37
Avg: 13.9
Max: 32.5
Cumulative Miles: 1024
Cumulative Flat Tires: 3
Elev Gain: 3546 ft.
Max Elev: 7527 ft.
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 8%