What this blog is about

Bicycle commuting, bicycle touring, bicycle racing; bicycle ADVENTURING.
To the grocery store, up a mountain, across the country or to the finish line--
it's all an adventure.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Hoosier Pass, CO

TransAmerica Bicycle Tour, Looking Back: Hoosier Pass, CO

In the West, climbs were in the styles of passes. You went up up up, saw an elevation sign, then went back down down down. Having a racing background, we were usually unfazed by "small" passes-- those that top out at 5 or 7,000 feet. But boy, in a small town-- people were sure impressed, if not confuddled (I made that word up).

"You're going to go up THAT on a PEDAL BIKE?!!"

"I wouldn't be able to ride A MILE up that thing!"

"You're NUTS!!"

In one little town, Virginia City, MT, is where we heard the worst of it. The whole town dropped their jaws at the idea of even THINKING of riding a bicycle up the hill just out of town. We started to become a little wary. This is the most we've heard about a hill. How bad could it be?

Answer: we got to the top and wondered if there was more. I had buckled in for a pain fest and it never came. We were up in 20 minutes. The MOST talked up hill of the entire trip was the smallest "pass" we had gone over.

BUT! Oh, ho! When we were in Frisco, CO, where bicycles permeated every street, people told us not to worry.

"Oh, Hoosier Pass? Yeah, don't worry about it. It's not that bad."

"Hoosier Pass? I ride up it after work. It's not a big deal."

Um, excuse me folks-- this is the HIGHEST POINT ON OUR ROUTE and you're trying to tell us that it's NOT A BIG DEAL?!!



And actually, it wasn't so bad! It was only the last 2 miles that got nasty with switchbacks. I had to attack them at race pace to get up. And don't forget that my bike and gear weighs at least 80 pounds instead of under 20 like my race bike. And each time I gulped down water, I had to gulp down some air immediately afterward due to the high elevation. And I did stop once to take a break, but I did ride the whole thing. Really, not bad. ;)

Windy Wyoming

TransAmerica Bicycle Tour, Looking Back: Wyoming

It is fascinating to learn that every state can leave a surprisingly dissimilar impression on each touring cyclist. When we were in Yellowstone, we met a charming Belgian couple in their early 70's who were riding the TransAm (so stop assuming that it's a trip for "young people"!). They had happily just left Wyoming. For them, Wyoming was a place of wind, endless sagebrush and little services-- and so it became their least favorite state.


video
And yes, it was windy.


And there was a lot of sage brush.


And there were very little services.


But I LOVED Wyoming!



video
I rode with the horses for miles.

I adored open space for miles.

The landscape was fascinating for miles.

Maybe it would have been nicer without the wind.

But, no really--  I love riding in elements. Wind, rain. The mind wanders on a long ride, picking up random things to ponder. Like that black tar line that shows up in patterns on the road. What is that all about? 

But when there is wind or rain or some other challenging element, it naturally narrows my focus. Soon what I am thinking about is riding, not about the last movie I saw.

And I like that.






Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's coming, it's coming!

TransAmerica Bicycle Tour Update

Wow, have I really not blogged since Kentucky?
I think I'm going to miss referring to my life by states.
"Oh yeah, that was Wyoming, remember?"

Well, suffice it to say that WE FINISHED! 

In the next week or two I'll be sifting through photos, sharing the stories that I had no time to post. I'll also try to create some more 'useful' posts that talk about practical points like what we ate, where we slept, what we carried and what not. Also, stay tuned for a grand finale slideshow! I'll be sharing a 20 minute version with friends, but will probably have to snip it down to 10 minute for uploading here on this blog.

Now.. I have 4,000 pictures to sort through.

And that's not really an exaggeration. 

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Touring Cyclist's Brain

My brain can handle the ever-changing and contrasting life of bicycle touring. I like to not always know where I'm sleeping that night, but having faith that I can 'figure it out when I get there.' I like eating what's available and meeting whoever's around. But the other day, we were leaving a large town after half a day of errands and my brain was on a full tilt whirl. It was like that one time I had 3 or 4 Redbulls while studying in college. Except without the Redbull. Then I got back on my bike-- and even though I had to exert brain power to safely navigate through traffic and find my way out of town-- I was suddenly in a place my brain knew. And I was okay again.

Here's a smorgasboard of events:


We had to drive to Lexington, KY to buy a new tire.


We're in Virginia!


We eat ice cream before dinner!
(and I have it at least once, sometimes three times, a day.)



We had McDonalds that morning.. and this for dinner.


And tonight, we are spending the night at a botanical garden.

And tomorrow, we go up 'VESUVIUS', by far the MOST talked up hill of the entire trip.
Says a cyclist, "it will probably be the hardest hill you ever climb in your life."
Current location: Lexington, VA

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thank You Posts

I've been thinking a lot about my Thank You Posts lately. Sometimes it seems that I am writing strings of Thank Yous which makes the touring life seem far more plush than it is. And then I think about those who have helped us, looking up this blog, seeing their Thank You after 5 other Thank Yous and feeling like their help perhaps wasn't needed. And then I skip a Thank You, because maybe the readers are bored of the Thank Yous, but I never forget how I never wrote a Thank You post for that one awesome home stay (i.e. Todd & Barbara in Frisco!) and then it just gets awkward to go back.

Basically, the dilemma is:
  1. appropriately thanking people
  2. without making them feel like their help was just a drop in a bucket
  3. and without creating misleading ideas about bicycle touring
  4. and not boring readers.
Hm.

Currently blogging out of Steve and Erica's place in Blacksburg, VA. (So close! ..yet so far away.)

There will be a huge backlog of photos, thoughts, reviews and more to come soon!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Snug Hollow

Okay, this is going to make us sound quite spoiled after posting about our stay with Greg and our hitch to a bed and breakfast, so here's a picture to make you feel sorry for us:



Oh, wait-- that's my free sundae at the Bluegrass Festival.








There! This is what our typical 'accomodations' look like these days. Good ol' concrete pavillion and the storm of the century goin' on all night. You're lucky if you can find a spigot and fortunate if you don't feel compelled to clutch your pepper spray all night. And food? We've now eaten at McDonald's TWICE in one day. The sausage biscuit is actually not bad. And the dollar menu is a real deal! ..anyway..


We were totally BLOWN AWAY when a good friend of mine texted me,

When you get to a town tonight
find a hotel, a nice one,
and call me with the phone number.

I wish she could have seen us. Our smiles just about blew off our faces.


We didn't mean to pick out SUCH a nice one, but Snug Hollow Farm-- "an organic farm with 300 acres of glorious wildflowers, creeks, abundant wildlife and the simplcity of country life.."-- was perfectly where we needed to stop. Berea was too early and the next town was much too far.. come to think of it, we realized that we would have to either fall behind schedule or strand ourselves in the middle of no services. The timing was incredible. And to top it off, she even bought us fresh-out-of-the-garden dinner, complete with wine, dessert and pleasant company.

We loved EVERYTHING about Snug Hollow.

  • Barbara, the InnKeeper, charming yet direct.
  • The house held an infinite amount of treasures to discover.
  • The property actually smelled like "fruit punch".. seriously.
  • A REAL dinner and a REAL breakfast.
  • Other travellers to meet.
  • We got to sleep in seperate rooms!
  • We stayed until checkout time.











THANK YOU,
Laura!

Our first night at a bed and breakfast.

We stopped in the Dollar General to look for pasta and a can of beans to eat that night. Mia laughed and grumbled, "we're never going to get out of here at this rate!" We had been making stops at just about every gas station on the road for just one moment of respite from the heat and hills.
I went to the restroom and walked out to find Mia chatting with a friendly couple in the store, sharing our trip and such, as we frequently do. I joined in the conversation and quipped, half-joking, "you don't have a TRUCK, do ya?"


"Actually, we do!"

Oh, it was WONDERFUL to watch those roads snake away behind us.



And then, to our surprise, we hopped out of the truck at a hotel.


"We want to put you up for the night."


And we were stunned.


And they were determined! The first two hotels were full, but we found a bed and breakfast up the road. A BED and BREAKFAST!


They even left us some dinner cash.



Look at that table! No bird poop!

Look at that bed! Full size pillows!


We have a lot of kindness to pay back.

Just when you need it.

We were in the middle of a homestay dry spell, since there have been so many convenient and free city parks to stay in ever since we entered Kansas-- but this caused us to be a bit stinky and tired for lack of laundry and soft ground. (We often pitch the tent on concrete under a pavillion, because there is often a storm to dodge.) I had forgotten, though-- that homestays always appear whenever you're in a pickle.

We were enjoying the 6' shoulder detour we took through Illinois so much, that we had sort of neglected to figure out where we were actually going to stay that night. "We'll figure it out," is sort of what we agreed upon. Fortunately, as we rolled into the outskirts of town, Greg and his cycling buddies caught us for a chat and we ended up eating pizza with them that night!


Greg and his wife were a ball to visit with, as was his crazy-happy dog Callie. AND his washing machine is AMAZING. It removed stains that I had deemed permanent!

Thank you!

Bluegrass & Pole Vaulting in Kentucky!

When we stopped to stay at the First Baptist Church in Sebree, KY..

it was clear that Bob & Violet had already seen a share of cyclists that summer:



These pins are from ONE summer only.

There is also another map of Europe and the world.





Guest registers are a great way to find friends you've met who are only just up the road. We've been trailing a day behind Paul for weeks now!



The walls bear evidence of frequent bicycle parking.



We were also so fortunate in our timing, that Bob and Violet took us up to the annual BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL! Bluegrass was BORN in Kentucky, so we were in for a good show.



"The Greencards," the 'funkiest' band, became our hands-down favorite. An Austrailian, two Brits and an American made a new Bluegrass sound that caused standing ovations. Carol, their lead, had wonderful stage presence and energy (and voice!) and a lovely green swishy skirt. After their show, we beelined to their table to buy a cd (two). We shared that we were crossing the country by bicycle and were tickled when Carol said we just made her day. She made ours!







I was also excited to find that there were elite pole vaulters competing! I had a real dilemma when trying to choose between listening to the music and watching the elite athletes. Live music. Elite athletes. Live music. Elite athletes. I love both so much!















Hot & Cool

Humidity is..

HOT.





Creeks are..

COOL.

Only 11 riding days remain, yet we still anxiously await the hardest part of our tour: the Appalachians. They are steep and relentless. Dogs lurk on every other porch. And the coal trucks are in a hurry to get paid.

Current blogging location: waiting for the fog to lift in Booneville, KY!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

An Unexpected Friend

After finishing the day's errands of eating and laundering, we rode to the town City Park where cyclists are welcome to camp. Soon we had a little friend following us, with her tongue happily flapping about.

She got some good rubs.

And begged to stay in the tent.

But after we saw her chewing at fleas,
we had to kick her out.
But she slept in the vestibule (space between the tent and waterproof fly) all night! It felt nice to have a little guard dog who would perk up if anyone came near our tent.

And in the morning, she was awarded with a few snacks.


And more good rubs.








What a cute dog she is!





If I had a trailer, I woulda taken her home with me!














KITTEN!

While sitting outside of the grocery store, Mia heard something that sounded quite like a kitten. It came from the parking lot, so she started looking around underneath cars when she realized that the sound came from INSIDE a car-- in the grill! If this car drove any farther, the kitten would surely die from the heat of the engine.

The owners of the car returned and showed little distress for the kitten, while we were determined to get him out. The husband pointed out to his wife that a dead kitten would really stink up the car, suddenly she was willing to wait while we poked and prodded the engine and crawled underneath..

and got 'im out!


KITTEN!

KITTEN!!

We tried our best to get the kitty to drink and cool off.


We took 'im inside to the air conditioning.




He kinda looks like a dairy cow or a mouse.


This guy wasn't even old enough to be away from mama.

Fortunately, we were able to give the kitten to a family experienced in animal rescue-- though I thought he might be comfortable in my handlebar bag. ;)

Good Riddance, Missouri




I would have really enjoyed Missouri. The Missouri held the Ozarks, a jagged mountain range, providing steep hill after steep hill after steep hill. I actually delighted in puffing my way up, only to win 20 seconds of respite before doing it again. But there was something unfriendly about Missouri.




We just weren't welcome there.



"GET A CAR!!!"


"Oh, so first you hog the roads, and now you hog the sidewalk?"


The roads are twisty, shoulderless and highly trafficked. And tons, hundreds?, of cyclists following the Adventure Cycling TransAm route ride these roads each summer, pissing off drivers by slowing them down.. until they decide to not slow down. Before Missouri, we had very few incidents of motorists driving too close or blaring their horns into our ears as they passed. In Missouri, we just began to expect it. It got so bad, that we took an ugly detour through Wal-Marts and burger joints, just to relax in a 6 foot shoulder.


We've never been so happy to see a new state!


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