My Route, More or Less (Red line, but starting in NY)

My Route, More or Less (Red line, but starting in NY)

Make a Difference

I'm pedaling for many reasons, the most important of which is to raise awareness and funds for Pedals For Progress. P4P is a non-profit that collects used bicycles and sewing machines in the US and donates them to poor people overseas. P4P combines my love of bicycling with my growing concern for those deprived of life's most basic necessities - sparked by a visit to the slums of Kibera in June '09 (pictures). P4P improves mobility and economic options for destitute people, opening pathways to greater dignity and opportunity.

Please make a donation, if you can (please write "TSQ2USQ" in the '...honor of' field). Remember, a bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses. :)

My Game Plan

I'm following portions or all of three routes mapped out by the Adventure Cycling Association: the Atlantic, TransAm, & Western Express. I'll cycle through thirteen states: NY, NJ, PA, MD, VA, KY, IL, MO, KS, CO, UT, NV & CA! I'm leaving on 4/17/10, and expect to return to New Jersey by mid June - back to my family, friends, & neighbors. I plan on cycling 5 - 6 hours per day, 6 days/week, usually starting in the early AM. My laptop and phone will allow me to work remotely most days, but I won't pass up opportunities to smell the roses along the way!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 29

Pueblo, CO

Slept well. Booked a red eye. Booked a car. Drove up to Colorado Springs to hike with Mark and Steph, two new mountain biking friends who I'll be riding with in Moab, UT in Oct. We did a great hike up a very steep incline, then ran down. I managed to keep up w/ Mark, who tore down the mountain. Had a great salad and beers at a pub in Manitou, CO. Headed up to Mark's place - which is kind of a private resort complete w/ rock climbing wall, driving range, and all sorts of outdoor diversions. We mountain biked in the remarkably beautiful trails around Mark's house, trailed by Mark's son Austin on his unicycle. The east facing hills were covered in lush grass and wildflowers; I seriously wanted to pitch a tent, and was sorry I left my camera at the house. Thanks for taking the afternoon off, Mark! Good times!

I'll probably come back for the next leg of my westward journey in late Sept / early Oct, just before my Moab, UT trip. Mark suggested I ride the Kokopelli Trail into Moab. Sounds like a *great* idea. Moab's not quite on my route to San Fran, but it's more or less due west of Lane County, KS, where I'll resume my ride. I s/ be able to figure out how to get back on route from Moab w/o adding on too many extra miles!

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Day 28

Today's Route: GPS DetailsLarned, KS --> Pueblo?! 330 miles (250 via Toyota).

The flats just wouldn't stop today. I'd already used both my spare tubes, and as the day progressed it became increasingly clear my patches were failing. It started w/ a tire that had gone flat overnight. I brought Slime Skab patches with me, an easy to use, peal and stick patch. I always found it to be a drag using the patches that require glue tubes. The only problem w/ the Skabs is they *do not work*. Sorry I had to figure this out in the middle of Kansas, with no on route or near route bike shop for 250 miles. Some asshole is making a mint selling this garbage. Bubble gum might work better. The amount of hassle he's causing bikers is monumental.

Shortly before leaving Ness City I decided I would keep heading West until my bike literally wouldn't roll. I was pleased with my sense of purpose and determination. I figured I could just hitch hike if necessary. People are very friendly 'round here. You can't call a cab, and many other services (bike shops) are in short supply. It's remote, and people have to rely upon one another. This was evident last night when I was fixing my flat - two drivers stopped and offered me a ride.

I fixed my tubes more than five times throughout the day, including before leaving my motel, at a truck garage before lunch, in Ness City after lunch, and a few miles outside the Lane County line, where I finally gave up the ghost - out of tubes & out of patches with one flat tire. Not that being out of patches mattered much; they only held for an hour or so.

So I hitch hiked for the first time in my life. I was incredibly lucky. On a very lightly traveled road, within 20 seconds of my having turned round to wait for an oncoming car, a Toyota crested the hill to the east. I stuck my finger out - my thumb of course! The driver - also named Steve - pulled over and asked where I was going. Pueblo, I told him. He was going there too. What luck! Thank you Steve. You're a good man. I hope you're enjoying time with your family!

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 27

Today's Route: GPS DetailsNewton, KS to Larned, KS. About 117 miles.

Great day today, until I got a flat 5 miles from my destination. 

I could not believe my luck when a detour caused me to stumble upon a *great* coffee shop Buhler, KS. Good cappuccino, excellent egg & avocado & sprout sandwich, freshly baked scone, and of course friendly staff. Wow! Just what I needed. I was absolutely astonished such a place could survive in a small town. Is there an enormous opportunity to bring quality food to KS, or was this an inexplicable exception? I also met a couple of friendly road workers, w/ whom I chatted, as a result of the detour. 

I rode through the Quivira Nat'l Wildlife Reserve today. What a delight for the eyes, and spirit. No more seemingly endless rows of monocrop corn & soy. No more fenced in cattle disrupting the Plains ecology. Just lush, visually stunning vistas of grass and flowers and birds. Despite the intense heat and a long ride, Quivira was absolutely restorative. 

I continue to see other TransAm riders, every day it seems. Four today. Rode w/ one guy, Dave, for a bit. He looked like Death as I approached from behind. Wearing all black, w/ a huge backpack, and looking eerie in the distance as the distortion from the road heat made it seem as though he was floating. 

My flat: It took way too long to fix because: my pump and CO2 dispenser were not working properly and the tub required multiple patches. I finally tossed it...and my spare tube's valve was too short.

As I rode the few remaining miles into Larned, it started to stink. I immediately spotted the culprit: a feedlot. How poignant. The environmental impact of eating meat motivates me to steer clear of it nearly always. The environmental footprint of the livestock industry is enormous. Meat requires ten times more land per calorie than plant based foods (10:1). Energy input is up to 54:1 in favor of a plant based diet. Resource ratios for water are similarly outsized. I could go on... Anyway, I'd like to see more landscapes like Quivira, and fewer acres overgrazed by cattle.

It also seems many truck drivers hauling cattle hate bikers: was buzzed by at least six of them today. I have to fight the (smelly) draft of their huge vehicles to keep on the road, and they know it. Most of the drivers are very considerate, though, many moving clear over to the opposite side of the road when they pass.

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Day 26

Today's Route: GPS Details. Eureka, KS to Newton, KS. About 75 miles. Hot. Again.

Today was tough. I was tired and a bit demoralized. For good reason. Of course I've been biking lots of miles .: tired. I've also found it very difficult to eat well, which is driving me nuts. If it's not fried, it's meat. If it's neither of those, it's sugary sweet. Short post today...gotta get some work done, and sleep.

Please donate to Pedals for Progress:

Day 25

Today's Route: GPS DetailsPittsburg, KS to Eureka, KS. About 110 miles. Crazy hot &t sunny.

I'm falling behind on blogging...just pics today.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 24

Today's Route: GPS Details. Marshfield, MO --> Pittsburg, KS. ~110 miles. 108 degree heat index.

It's Sunday, 9:12 AM, as I sit comfortably in the Pittsburg, KS, Starbucks writing this blog. I need some down time after yesterday's grueling ride, though this will be a short post as I s/ seriously be on the road pedaling. I couldn't resist uploading another gross up close of my skin, this time covered in bumps brought on by heat & my struggle to get to Tailwind's Bike Shop before they closed @ 4:00...reopening Tues AM. Well, I made it to KS, and the bike shop. John & Roger did a *great* job fixing my ride. It shifts better then ever, thanks I think to Roger tweaking my derailleur hanger so it was perfectly parallel w/ my rim. I recovered quickly from my overheating issue, and I met two cool riders from Oxford, England, Ed & Bethen. They were kind enough to hang at the El Charo Mexican restaurant and have a drink w/ me. We had a fun time trading ride notes before heading back to the motel and crashing.

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Day 23

Today's Route: GPS Details. Eminence, MO --> Marshfield, MO. ~110 miles. Heat, hills & hobbled bike.

Started the day off in a mild panic, thinking I might be stuck in Eminence 'till Monday, the next earliest possible delivery date for a shifter cable via FedEx. Yesterday I thought I had a bandaid solution to my broken shifter cable, which had reduced the number of gears on my bike from 33 to 3. When I set out to implement this solution before my ride I quickly realized shortening my chain might not be a great idea. It would have taken me from 3 speeds down to a single speed, albeit an easy to pedal on hills single speed (fixed gear?). Desperately trying to find a way to get my chain in an easier gear w/o losing more gears, I started messing w/ my rear derauiller limit screws. Bingo! I moved the lower limit way up the cassette, and was able to maintain three (easier) speeds. This was enough to get me out of the Ozarks, though to generate sufficient forward momentum I had to stand and pedal on all but the smallest hills.

I met only a few people today, focused as I was on putting miles behind me. On my way out of town I did have a pleasant conversation w/ a Nat'l Park Ranger - an interpreter - at the coffee shop. I also met Nile, "like the river", who was traveling eastbound, solo. He'd just repaired a blown out rear tire w/ electric tape & a folded up dollar bill. Necessity is the mother of invention. Nile's only 17. I s/ have done this ride when I was his age...better late than never!

I stayed in a $35/night motel, the Plaza in Marshfield, MO. Perfect for this trip: clean (except the carpet) & cheap w/ a bed & a shower. With luck and grit, I clear the Ozark hills tomorrow! Kansas beckons! FLAT!

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 22

Today's Route: GPS Details 97 miles from Farmington to Eminence, 91 degrees, 6,900 feet of climbing...on a 3 speed bike!

My rear derailleur shifter cable snapped early in the ride. This is the second time it's snapped this year. There's no bike shop for at least another 150 miles. I tried to have a replacement cable FedExed - thanks for the assist, Jim! - but it would not have arrived until late afternoon Fri. I want to ride tomorrow AM. My work around for tomorrow: disengage chain from rear derailleur, shorten chain, and leave it in a large ring in the rear cassette. That'll make it easier to climb the Ozark hills. Hopefully it can all be put back together properly when I get to a bike shop.

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Day 21

Rest day. I didn't ride, at all. I worked, and by the end of the day felt relieved to have cleared my plate of a few items. A few eastbound riders arrived late last night at Al's Place, and I had a pleasant dinner with their support car driver / "team manager"! Not much more to report...other than Al's Place & Farmington have been a welcome respite. Tomorrow I continue my ride across MO / the Ozarks, the only mountain range between the Appalachians and the Rockies.

Photo: Al's Place. Nice!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 20

Today's Route: GPS Details Rest day, sorta. Rode about 50 miles from Chester, IL to Farmington, MO.

I was going to stay in Chester, at the Stone House Inn, to rest my knee and get some work done. I was way backed up on work. The SHI looks like a nice place, with lovely views of the Mississippi River. However, Edward, an eastbound TransAm rider who I met at the FOE, told me of a great place to stay about 50 miles west: a beautifully renovated former jail in Farmington, MO. I went for it, and was glad I did.

Clearing another state - IL into MO in this case - is always uplifting. But crossing the Mississippi was truly a thrilling milestone. And arriving at Al's Place, the converted jail, was a relief. Great place, and a perfect town to stop & get some work done: it had a good coffee shop w/ wifi, and a good restaurant/bar, also w/ wifi. What more could I ask for? Oh, and there was a WalMart too...

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Day 19

Today's Route: GPS Details. Rode about 90 miles from Harrisburg, IL to Chester, IL, on the banks of the Mississippi and the MO border.

Today was...adventurous. It was at different times frustrating, satisfying, sublimely beautiful, nerve wracking, and exciting. It was a lot of other things too, but all in all, a memorable day! 

Frustrating: I stopped in a bike shop in Carbondale - the last bike shop until Kansas, to change my chain, a 20 or so minute undertaking. 6 hours and three bike shops later I was on the road! The new chain chain caused all sorts of drive train problems; I ended up putting the old one back on. No more proactive drive train maintenance until I'm back home. 

Satisfying: Longbranch Coffee in Carbondale. I'm eating everything in sight, and LB had a great menu w/ lots of vegetarian options...and smoothies! Throughout the course of the day I had coffee, a scone, two smoothies, hummus and a sandwich.  Yum! Probably the best food I'll have 'till I get to CO. 

Sublimely beautiful: A dramatic, seemingly 360 degree sunset. 

Nerve wracking: Getting a flat as darkness fell, with a pump that didn't seem to be working and an untested headlamp. Turns out only the gauge on the pump was not working...and the headlamp worked great! 

Exciting: Riding in the dark on unfamiliar country roads!

Oh, and I stayed in what would have been a tool shed were it not outfitted w/ bunks for TransAm riders. Accommodations were courtesy of the Chester, IL, Fraternal Order of Eagles. It was perfect because it was free, and I had access to a shower. The FOE is the place to be in Chester. A volleyball match was underway when I arrived. Sarah, the barkeep, told me I missed the following FOE sponsored events: mud truck show, and bikini bull riding. I did see Leno w/ musical guests KISS on the tube @ the bar, though. KISS?! Not every act s/ try for a comeback. 

Leslie, the Crab Orchard Lake picture is for you of course! I hope it brings back great memories. Thanks for all your encouragement! :)

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 18

Today's Route: GPS Details. Rode 143 miles today, from Falls of Rough, KY to Harrisburg, IL.

So I set out to ride 70 miles today, and ended up riding 143. I didn't even tear a tendon. I arrived at my day's target destination, Sebree, at 11:30, and felt it was too early to stop riding. During lunch in Clay, KY, about 20 miles outside of Sebree, I ran into a group of four other riders traveling East. While waiting out a storm, one of the riders encouraged me to consider a shortcut that would shave about 50 miles off Adventure Cycling's route to Carbondale, IL. The shortcut was flat, to boot. I couldn't resist. I felt up to it, and was psyched to save 50 miles and ride another 50, the distance to the nearest hotel on my new route. I was told the route was as flat as Kansas, and that I s/ complete it in just three hours considering the single pannier I was carrying. I figured six hours w/ time for eating, picture taking, bike adjustments, etc., but did manage in a little over 3. **Thank you Doug, Alex, Jacob(?), etc!**

So I arrived in IL a day early, via a bridge over the Ohio River. Crossing this large body of water was an exciting milestone. Next river crossing: the Mississippi!

Oh, I need to vent just a bit: the food is remarkably horrible in this area. No wonder Americans are so obese. Solving our nation's healthcare crisis requires little more than changing what we eat. Everything on the menu at today's lunch spot seemed to be meat, or fried, or both. That's right, fried meat. The days' special was fried steak. Seriously. As if feed lot fattened beef won't kill you quickly enough!? I ordered okra, breaded cauliflower, and a baked potato, food I generally enjoy. I shouldn't have been surprised when the okra and cauliflower arrived cloaked in a jacket of fried something or another. Fortunately it pealed off easily!

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 17

Today's Route: GPS Tracks. Rode 85 miles today, from Bardstown, KY to Falls of Rough, KY.

Today's ride began at 5:50 AM, before sunrise. My front and rear flashing LEDs provided visibility to motorists, but were not powerful enough to improve my visibility of the road. There was enough light to allow me to ride safely, but I do plan on rigging out a more powerful headlamp tonight. Riding in the morning is sooo much better than in the blazing heat of day. It's cooler, of course, and very peaceful. If a headlamp allows me to begin earlier in the day, I'll do so for sure.

Today's highlights include stumbling across a bourbon barrel factory. One of the workers let me in to poke around and take pictures. I also met another cross country rider, Christian. British, it seemed from his accent. What a difference from my April riding, when I hadn't met a single xc rider. Now I'm seeing several a day, a number of whom are traveling westbound. It's gonna be *hot* biking across the the NV desert. Most everyone seems to be carrying more panniers than I, and camping. I'm down to just one pannier, and I'm warming to the idea of camping. I plan on buying a tent in Carbondale, IL, the next sizable town through which I'll travel.

Today's 'kindness of strangers' events: a free ice pop at Lucy's convenience store, and a $9 cyclists' discount on my motel room.

Falls of Rough, where I'm staying tonight, is a lake resort. Lacking a boat and not wanting to bike miles to the lake or elsewhere, I'm left w/ little of interest to keep me occupied. I arrived at my decidedly run down motel at 12:30, benefiting from a time zone change. I've exited Eastern Std Time and now set my watch to Central Time. I'm feeling increasingly confident I'll reach Pueblo, CO; my Achilles are feeling fine so far. I hope it lasts. I'd enjoy being home, but I want to finish this trip w/o being forced off my bike due to injury. Pueblo's my near term objective. Now that my journey's been interrupted, there's no magic to completing it w/o further breaks. Unless the spirit moves me beyond Pueblo, I'll head back to Jersey from there, returning to CO later this year to finish the last 1,500 miles.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 16

Today's Route: GPS Details. Berea, KY -> Bardstown, KY.

I'm back in Berea, KY! Actually, I'm writing this from Bardstown after a day's ride. Great seeing Nick, Paul & Chynna at BC&T yesterday!

So my bike journey was delayed a few months due to what I first thought was tendonitis, but what turned out to be a torn Achilles tendon. Torn, not severed, so an operation was not necessary. It healed in a little over 6 weeks, but it took me 10 weeks to resume my ride because I was having so much fun back home. Parties at 220 11th, Dan & Mindy's E Hampton weekend, Jack Johnson concert, great night at MAD, and w/ few exceptions a fun something or another going on every day. It all became a bit exhausting, though, so I returned to where I paused my cycling odyssey, and I'm back on my Cannondale to San Fran. I arrived in Berea yesterday. My mother, Jim and I drove down together. Nice hanging w/ my mom yesterday evening, riding w/ Jim for ~ 15 miles this AM, and having company for the long car ride! Thanks mom & Jim!!

I had a great ride today. Met my first two fellow cross country bound riders this morning, Chelsey - not Chelsea - and Rita. Two cool grad students headed to San Fran. We rode together for about 10 miles and enjoyed comparing cycling notes. I met Matt a bit later in the morning. He was traveling solo, Eastbound. He's got the right outlook for a cross country ride - keep your schedule flexible and when faced w/ the decision to ride, or to stop riding and explore whatever it is that's piqued one's interest: get off the bike. Right on! Much of what's piqued my interest is back home, though. 

Some of my fondest trip memories are in Berea. In a sense, I'm glad my Achilles tore. Had it not I'd have passed through far too quickly. So will I take Matt's advice and hang in Bardstown tomorrow, maybe for a distillery tour? Nope. I'll ride about 95 miles tomorrow, then dial back to 70 on Sunday. I expect to be in IL by Monday, and MO by Tues or Wed! Can hardly wait to get to Kansas - flat as a pancake.

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