Thursday, July 30

New Friends and Another State Under the Belt

About 30 miles outside Cedar City, Utah I ran into three compadres headed west - Mike, Jordan, and Jeremy. They are all from San Diego, California and left Yorktown, Virginia around the same time I got my start. We crossed paths in a small town called Minersville, and the three had planned to stop for the day another 20 miles or so in Milford, UT. I told them that I was pushing on beyond Milford, hoping to make Baker, NV by the end of the night, totaling the day's ride at 140 miles. Intrigued by the distance, the three pondered the option of continuing on with me as we made it to Milford. After 20 or so miles of sharing stories from our trips, the three decided to join me for the ride, quoting something about only living once.

Literally Milford is the last town before Baker, leaving a wide gap of mountains and valleys to get through before crossing the Nevada boarder into Baker. Before heading out to make the distance, we stopped at the local grocery, where we stocked up on food and water to beat the heat. I bought a chicken. For real. Not alive, of course, but one of those pre-cooked chickens in a bag you sometimes see in groceries.

We headed out into the desert heat, not sure what to expect and as Milford got further and further away, the clouds became darker and darker. Not quite what we had expected when plannign for desert weather, but the rain that quickly followed was preferred over the extreme temperatures we had thought we'd face. Then again, the lightning was a bit much (we even saw it hit a mountain and start a fire).

By Baker, it was quite dark (though we had gained an hour moving into the Pacific time zone) and we were very hungry. The chicken satisfied our needs at the time (we all picked it apart), but by 140, one's stomach is ready for more. Thankfully, in Baker, NV there was a baker. He ran the Silver Jack, and despite being closed, he was quite friendly to accomodate our hunger and fatigue.

Nevada has been like that the whole way pretty much - long stretches with little between. If you know your US highways, we've been riding US 50, which has long been called "The Lonliest Road in America." Though we've not had the milage up to 140 since, each day we've had to pack plenty of water and food, riding stretches of at least 60 miles before the next anything.

I've stuck with the three San Diegans and enjoyed their company. We've hit up a number of pools, libraries, and other fun spots along the way. At one library, I began to blog but was interrupted as Mike had his laptop charger stolen! After watching the library security tapes and identifying the kid, we jumped on our bikes to confront him at his usual hangout spot - the city park - but were not able to locate him. Mike was pretty upset about the whole thing, so I mostly trailed to make sure if the kid was confronted it would be done in a reasonable fashion, but like I said, no dice.

Tonight, we're staying in a Hampton Inn, curteousy of Mike's Uncle, who apparently flies a lot and has racked up some mad hotel points. Also, my friend Kevin has caught back up - we rode the end of Missouri and all of Kansas together (with Trevor and Will) before splitting up in Pueblo, CO when I had to start pushing hard for the coast. As I've gotten closer to the coast, I've been able to ease up a bit, which allowed Kevin to catch up, as to avoid an early arrival in San Fransisco (it's easier to pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere than in San Fran). Riding with company has again been quite the blessing and though I value the solitary, I prefer the company.

Whether you believe it or not, I'll be arriving to the Pacific Ocean in just three days! That's right - 3 more days. As we ride, it's insane to think how far we've come and how close we are. So much of me wants to recognize that it's already in the bag and consider it over, yet I know much can happen in just three days. As I ride these last days, I will try diligently to put myself before a computer and continue writing and plan a couple of follow-up posts once finished (to flesh thoughts out, give a more thorough account of my work with Sojourners, and other odds and ends stuff). Though the journey is not finished yet, I thank all of you for your support, encouragement, thoughts, and prayers while on the road. It's been such a blessing to read, hear, and learn of all the things you folks have been doing as I pedal. Know that I consider you just as much a part of this journey as the Mikes, Jordans, Wills, and Kevins I have run into along the way. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sunday, July 26


Utah was so beautiful! We're talking scenery of which I had seen nothing like before. Canyons and canyons, mountains and mountains, reds, yellows, purples, oranges, and a whole slew of shades of each. Frankly, gorgeous.

If you were following on Twitter, one of the most memorable days there in Utah was when I had to travel from a town called Blanding to Hanksville. It was 132 miles between the two and 74 miles west of Blanding, at the Hite Recreation Center at the North tip of Lake Powell, was the first and only gas station or service of any kind that I would find before arriving in Hanksville. What a day that was! But again, completely worth it as the scenery was breathtaking (so was the heat). I cannot wait to post pictures, its one of those you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it things. But perhaps the pictures wont even capture the beauty,

The next morning I rode to Boulder, UT, but not without first climbing Boulder Mountain. I'd have to say this was one of the hardest climbs as I thought I reached the summit what seemed like 14 times. I would climb, climb, and climb, and then see the road begin to level off, indicating the summit, and sometimes it would even begin to drop down, but it always seemed to go up again, and again, and again. And finally, when I did reach the summit, I had cows to worry about.

Utah was notorious for "Open Range" signs and cattle guards - which basically means the road goes through ranches and cattle pastures. There are no fences along the road. In fact, the road is just as much of the pasture as the pasture is the pasture. The only thing keeping the cows from getting into the small 50 person villages I traveled through were cattle guards, which are big metal bars across the street. The cows don't walk on them because the bars are spaced out too far for the cows to walk on without falling through (empty space below) and cars traveling have wide enough tires they don't affect them either. Now bikes on the other hand, that's a different story (lots of slowing down, sometimes even at the most inconvenient times, and careful crossings).
So back to the top of Boulder Mountain. I finally got to the summit but instead of just bombing the downhill, I had to dodge the occasional cow chilling in the middle of the road. And then, when I went over the last cattle guard (again, in an inconvenient place as no one likes to slow down when going downhill), I had deer to worry about. Apparently Boulder Mountain is quite the deer and elk habitat, as I saw the most deer I have ever seen in my life. Now if you're a driver, you know how deer on the side of the road have the option to turn towards the grass/woods/etc that they are already closest to, or that sometimes they can choose to cross the road completely and come in front of your car. This same scenario happened to me while on the bike.

I was cruising, getting comfortable with most of the deer hearing me in the distance and getting out of the way, when all of a sudden a buck decided to cross the road in front of me. I can still hear the hoofs scratching on the pavement, trying to grip, and I can still see the look on the deers face and the texture of its fur as it crossed but 5 feet before me, as I pressed the breaks fearing the worst. Had I hit it, I would have probably flung from the bike for who knows how long. I mean, think about how much damage a deer does to a car. Imagine a bike hitting one between 30 and 40 miles an hour. Could have been bad.

Once down the mountain I had the loveliest stay with a couple on a farm. Recovering from the near deer incident, I pulled into a gas station where I met Josh, a long haired and bearded mid 20 something man, much like myself. After a brief questions and answer session regarding my trailer, he asked me where I was staying for the night. After explaining that I wasn't sure, he invited me down to his farm. I quickly agreed and followed him a mile down the road to a beautiful red farmhouse with a green tin roof.

I met Jill, his love, Jill's sister Carly, and another friend (opps). Before dinner, Josh gave me a tour of the farm where I found they had 1/2 acre of veggies, 1 1/2 acres of oats, and another acre or so of root veggies (potatoes, squash, beets, you name it). Josh and Jill had moved onto the farm a year ago, working to help Boulder gain food independence along with other local farmers there, and were quite anxious and excited about their first year's yield. After the tour, Josh cooked up a chicken on an open flame outside and threw in some veggies that had been prepared by Jill and Carly, for a fabulous stir fry dinner of sorts in which everything except the chicken had come from the farm. We ate by candle light, sharing with one another about our life, dreams, and even theology (they hadn't been familiar with Liberation Theology and I learned a bit about Mormanism). After dinner, I retired to a hammock in the backyard.

Before falling asleep I noticed Josh and Jill had stepped outside and were approaching my sleeping quarters. I watched, not saying a word, as they passed me walking to the edge of the field where they grabbed hands and then began to run into the field. Their headlamps were lit and from my perspective it wasn't long before I could no longer see their bodies but only the shake of the light from their forehead as they got further and further across the field. The light grew dim and I assume they made it to the woods which housed a creek they drew their water from for the farm. So picturesque. Though I'm sure the two probably have their share of difficulties, whether the difficulties that come with laboring on a farm all day or the difficulties that arise in any relationship, it was nonetheless a beautiful sight to see, that at the end of the day, the two could run with such passion into the dark to be together. The only word that came to mind was pure.

I awoke the next morning to the sound of several roosters. The sun lit the valley where the farm lay, bringing those colors I mentioned at the start to life on the canyon walls. Thankful for a wonderful stay I made my breakfast and headed out, challenged to spend the day thinking about what food independence looks like and the ways in which movements like that are important to places like Boulder.

Leaving Colorado

My final full day in Colorado was quite an event. I spent the morning going up over Lizzard Head Pass, from Telluride (where I left off on this journey), and after a long downhill (we're talking miles here!) I made it into Dolores, CO. Before arriving, I was told Dolores had an excellent brewery that I had to check out, if anything for their Calzones, and seeing that I had a long day ahead of me the next day, I didn't mind calling it an early day in Dolores.

Once at the brewery, I got to talking with people about the ride ahead, how wonderful Utah was going to be, and of course, how hot highway 50 was going to be once in Nevada. After a Calzone and a live concert on their patio (some cover band that primarily played old 90s music), I was feeling it was time to find a place to lay my head, Talking with the bartender inside and a few other fellow bar sitters, I found that the local community center was the place for me - everyone kept commenting about how wonderful the grass was and how close the center was to the brewery.

I rode over, found the grass in the back, and set up camp for the night. That is, I blew up my sleeping pad, rolled out my sleeping bag, and crawled into bed - the evening was nice so no tent was needed. It wasn't long, I'm sure, before I was fast asleep, dreaming about the next day's ride of course.

Now, I didn't know it then, but afterwards what I found to be around 2am, I awoke to what seemed to be a glass of water being flung into my face. Not sure what had just happened, I pulled my sleeping bag tighter around my face. Again a glass of water. Completely confused I came out of my tunnel of sleeping bag and began to come to my senses when yet again, more water in the face. It was a pattern, slightly rythmic. And it was then that I realized why their grass was so lush - apparently at 2am the Dolores Community Center's automatic sprinklers come on.

I quickly gathered my things and relocated to a part of the yard that did not seem to be getting the rinse I had just received. I sat there a while, not sure what I was going to do before I decided that that part of the yard, though more visible to passing cars, would still be safe and I could continue my dreaming. Listening to the sprinklers, I began to fall asleep again. Within just a few minutes however, I re-awoke to find that the second half of the yard's sprinkler system came on around 2:30am, while the 2am set turned off.

Moving yet again, I re-located this time down by the river that ran behind the center, off of the luxury that was the green grass and onto what I'm sure housed spiders and insects of all sorts (loose decaying leaves from who knows how long). Oh well, you can't win them all.

Catching up...Soon

I'm not dead. I am alive and well in fact. I was hard pressed to find a library in Utah, and when I did, it was either a Saturday or Sunday or a Morman holiday, which meant they were closed. I'm now in Nevada, riding with three other dudes from Southern California. One of them is lugging this computer from which I write and I hope to crank out a number of posts within the next 24 hours... I do have a number of great stories to tell and will try my best not to forget. Please stay tuned.

I'm now in Eureka, Nevada and finished for the days ride. Tomorrow I'm supposed to hit a hot spring just outside Austin, NV. Should be fun. More on that, Utah, and the end of Colorado soon. Which also, if you hadn't put the pieces of the puzzle together, means I am NOT going past the Grand Canyon into Southern Cali, but straight West to San Fran. Expected date of arrival: Aug 1/2.

Friday, July 17

"To Hell You Ride"

Last night I summited the Dallas Divide (8,970ft) just at sunset which made for excellent views of the Mount Snefefles Wilderness range surrounding Ridgeway, CO. Before the climb, when actually traveling through Ridgeway, I ran into a group of six or seven high schoolers jumping off a bridge and small cliff into the Uncompahgre River. Needless to say, it wasn't long before I found myself joining their ranks for a bit of a swim, or as one of them called it, my "weekly shower." Once over the divide however, it was a great 13 miles of downhill of pure coasting. I relaxed, knowing at that point that Telluride was out of the question, and pretty much no-handed it the whole way down. Quite nice.

At the bottom was Placerville, CO where I set up camp at the local volunteer fire station. Right as I was getting into my tent, a group of firemen pulled up in a truck smelling of smoke. They quickly entered the station, and exited just as quickly, back to their truck, without saying much. I found out this morning that just North of me is a 1,000 acre wildfire that the guys, along with 25 other firetrucks and two sets of fly-over-water-drop things, were responding to. Pretty intense.

(Mount Sneffles Wilderness Range)

Got into Telluride early this morning instead of last night, as I had hoped. The title of the post, "To Hell You Ride," is a play on words which makes reference to the number of brothels once in Telluride. Apparently, it used to be a miner town and some of the first American skiing (so they claim) happened here as "alpine-savvy Scandinavians" wanted to get down the mountain faster on pay day to get to the brothels and bars.

Great little mountain town. From what I can tell, not much on the Brothel side - mostly just ski and mountaineering stuff (not that I looked for the other). I write from The Steaming Bean, a little coffee shop just off the main drag. I had planned to spend a good 4 or 5 hours here today, relaxing a bit, before heading out to Dolores for the evening, but within a couple hours I decided I'd take a zero day (haven't had one since my long stay in Kentucky). So tomorrow I head towards Dolores, and perhaps make it into Utah by the end of the day. On Monday I'll face a good 125 mile stretch of no services with the exception of one gas station 78 miles into it, so if I stop at Dolores tomorrow, Tuesday I will be able to crank that 125 out with ample rest. Should be good.
Random goat that, with a whole host of others, ran with me as I pedaled up over Dallas Divide. Check out the iris!
A shot of downtown Telluride. Reminded me of Yosemite, being snuggled in a valley of sorts, except a town rather than tourist park... though there were plenty of tourists to go around.
The same shot, but further down the road at sundown.
Some interesting bathroom art I found and thought I'd share.
Two of my favorite guys. Mitch, on the left, is skateboarding from LA to Virginia. When asked about his motivation for the trip, Mitch responded: I just wanted to make a movie... growing up in Hollywood and all." He rides with a camera attached to his wrist, catching video of which he hopes to turn into a film. Watch for it! Oh, and you can't tell but under his shirt is a heating pad of sorts which he sleeps with to keep warm. It's an applejuice bottle filled with hot water. Kyle, on the right, is from Berkley and is riding his own route through the western states. A solid dude, we enjoyed a great conversation with the lady in the next picture.
This is Linda. Linda is... well, not too sure. I think "far out" best captures her essence. Kyle and I spent an hour or two talking with her about her summer plans, which include a thorough study of the mountain to "freefall." Along with many memorable quotes, my favorite is the following (in reference to the free gondola ride up one of the mountains): There's only one way to fully enjoy the shit you do. And it doesn't involve public transportation. Earn your turns!

Wednesday, July 15

Up and Over!

As suspected, the gang of four parted ways on Monday after a great ride into Pueblo, CO. Eastern Colorado, up to Pueblo, is about as flat as Kansas, but more Western looking. Though I was without my three compadres, I was joined by my friend Jenny. Like Grace and Ash, I know Jenny from that camp in Minnesota where I drove boats. She lives in Denver and came down for the night where we camped just west of Pueblo on this beautiful lake/reservoir. Like so many others, Jenny prepared an incredible meal (one of the largest sandwiches I've ever seen!) but went above and beyond by bringing a few Fat Tires (appropriate, I know). We sipped them under the stars and caught a number of shooting stars. I said it then and I'll say it again, I hadn't seen stars like that since I lived in Yosemite National Park a couple summers ago.

The next day's ride took me to Salida, CO - a small river town located at the headwaters of the Arkansas River. There's a bike shop there and since I needed a part, I was shooting for a 6:59pm arrival. But by 6pm it was clear I was not going to make it in time and since it closes at 7pm, I called ahead to see what they could do for me. Apparently the folks at the shop run into this sort of thing pretty often, because the cashier had a ready solution before I could finish stating my problem. She ended up taking my credit card over the phone and hid the part in the flowers outside the store, where I later found them around 8:15ish. That was the start of the constant hippy-ness that I've been continually confronted with since arriving to Salida (not a complaint).

Today I woke up on the banks of the Arkansas River, just behind the bike shop, and headed out to tackle Monarch Pass, towering at just 11,312ft on the Continental Divide. The peak itself is 12,000ft but of course most folks don't build roads to the actual peak. I mean, what fun is that, at least make them work for it. Speaking of working for it - I sure did! It was a good 12 miles uphill at probably a 6% grade, not as steep as some of the Appalachian climbs, but still. For the most part, the climb was double laned, allowing the semis and RVs plenty of room to get around me as I clung to the 2ft-wide shoulder.

Once I reached the top, the view was breathless. Or maybe it was just me. Regardless, we're talking about a view yet unmatched on this journey. Folks at the top called me crazy, speculated on the strength of my heart, and asked all kind of questions. One woman, the one who made the heart comment, prepared me a sandwich even. Guess it's good for the heart...

So going up was great. Tiring of course, but great nonetheless. Going down. WOW! 10 miles of 35 miles an hour at the very least. I even caught up to a semi at one point. The whole lane was mine, as cars needn't pass since I was keeping up with them. Frankly, it was incredible!

Did the math, last 8 days I've gone 816 miles! Tonight I sleep in Sapinero!

Monday, July 13

Next Stop: The Rockies

Needless to say, Kansas flew by. We had gnarly tailwind the whole way through which allowed for us to pass the state in just four days. A couple days back, Kevin and I ran into Trevor and Will, two other cyclists that we had run into at the Rodeo back in Missouri, but left when the two of them had gone off route for a few days to make use of a hostel in Hutchinson, KS. Since running into them just outside Hutch, we've stuck together and have been riding four strong.

Trevor and Will just graduated from Philips Academy, back in the New England Area, and have proven to be great cyclists. If it weren't for them, I don't think I would have been able to find the motivation to make the long distance rides we've been doing. After putting in 200 miles in two days, Trevor and Will pushed me to make the next three days centuries as well. So in five days we put in over 560 miles. The trick? Some combination between later riding the usual, a strong tailwind, and of course, the help of the time change again - getting that extra hour is fantastic.

All in all, Kansas made for fabulous riding. Besides the tailwind carrying us through, we also noticed that the cars and semis are super friendly going way over into the other lane to pass. So friendly in fact that we pretty much rode four or three wide the whole way. I usually took the outside because I like to live dangerously... Actually, I took the outside because I was the one who would drop back when a car was making the pass. Since I have the trailer, it's easier for me to slow down and drift in behind the other three rather than have someone have to slow down the length of my bike and trailer. Serious, it makes sense on the road.

Earlier this week I had my three favorite rides. Each evening, around 6/7pm, we would put on our reflective gear, turn on our obnoxious flashing red lights, light up our headlamps and headlights, and ride into the night, capturing the greatness that is the sunset, a wonderful cool breeze, and great conversation. And of course, on a road where cars comes by in 30 minute intervals, it made for a great and safe time. Sometimes we'd even ride shirtless, which I would have to say is my favorite way to ride in the cool of the night.

Two of the days in Kansas, Will's mother and sister came up from Oklahoma City acting as the SAG wagon(Support and Gear) just like Grace and Ash were doing a couple days before. Again, I was showered with Gatorades, waters, fruit and snacks in all shapes and forms - it was fantastic! I would try to make my own dinner plans, as not to interfere with their plans, yet Will's mother consistently prepared food for me and Kevin, and practically forced us to eat... ok, maybe not force, but definitely insisted.

Last night, the four of us got hit by a huge storm - it was awesome! It was coming from the west and we could tell there was another city between us and the storm, so we tried to beat it there, but found we were nothing compared to the strength of the storm. It made sense, we again had a huge tailwind pushing us forward, but when our tailwind hit the force of the storm headwind, we had nothing on it. I remember seeing the speedometer change. 25. 22. 17. 12. We were hit square in the face with some really strong winds that almost knocked us over. After that, we turned our bikes around and rode to a bridge we had passed about two miles back. Once there, we huddled as the storm passed by, blowing dust everywhere until a bit of rain came. For the most part it was crazy lightning, but eventually cleared up allowing us to continue.

It's been great riding with multiple folks (for more than Will's mother's cooking), though we are all preparing our goodbyes, as after today we'll each be parting ways. Trevor and Will are riding the Trans American proper, so once at Pueblo, CO they begin to head north, riding into Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. And I'll be leaving Kevin soon because I have to keep a faster pace for the Rockies in order to make it to my brothers wedding early August. So we're all trying to make the most of our final days together, though they are all out riding as I sit in the library.

Today I'm in Ordway, CO. Pueblo, where I'll rest for the night, is just 50 miles further. I can see what appears to be the outlines of the Rockies on the horizon, though their image is so faint, I don't even think they would turn up on a picture. Regardless, tomorrow I'll be thick in them, working my way up to 12,000 ft. It's crazy to think, but in the back half of Kansas, we were all at a higher elevation than we were in the highest part of our route through the Appalachians. There we were, riding as flat as could be, yet we were actually gaining elevation the whole way. It was just stretched out enough that we couldn't even tell.

Oh, and about that twitter mention of hitting a dog. I did indeed hit a dog. This was just before running back into Trevor and Will west of Hutch. Most folks complain about the Kentucky dogs on the route, though I found them to be quite tame - if anything just loud and obnoxious. I can no add my piece and say that the Kansas dogs (actually just this one) are the problem. Usually you can hear the dogs approaching, giving you time to make a decision on how to react - take your foot off your pedal, pedal faster, grab your water to squirt at them, grab your pepper spray to get them, whatever. They usually start barking before they're near. Not this time. This time it was right at my feet when I noticed it. And it was not happy. Thankfully, I did have time to react, but my options were limited.

I had just finished my water, so the water option was out. The dog was too close for me to grab the pepper spray, not enough time, so the pepper spray was out. The dog was right there and I couldn't really pedal much faster to escape it, so pedaling was out. Instead, I unclipped my foot and cocked my leg for a kick. Just as I did that I caught sight of a second dog too. Trouble. It was as I unclipped when I also realized that the closer dog, unlike most dogs who run at your heals, was not going to remain at my heals but instead run in front of me.

At the same time my front wheel went over the dog and I released my cocked foot, kicking the dog out from under the frame, keeping it from taking the hit from the back wheel and trailer wheels. The dog spun a bit in the road and I found it difficult to reclip back in to continue pedaling. Before I could get going again the dog was back for round two, more vicious than ever. I braked and hopped off my bike to charge the dog, yelling loudly all the while. The charge scared the dog away, though I didn't get away without a scratch, as I slipped and hit a knee on the blacktop when jumping off the bike (my shoes have plastic bottoms) causing a bit of a knee bleed. I don't even know where the second dog was at this point, but my adrenaline was pumping so much I didn't care. "Bring it, Dog!" I was ready.

After realizing the dogs were gone, I looked up and saw that the owner, standing in his garden, had seen the whole thing - no thanks to him. I yelled that I was sorry for hitting his dog, but admonished him to do something about his vicious dogs (probably using language that wouldn't convince him anyway) and rode on, ready for a bear. No bears were ahead, just Trevor and Will. And then, as I said above, the next couple days were great.

Thursday, July 9

2000 Miles Down

At 1000 mile, my bike broke down. At 2000 miles, I just kept pedaling. See, here in Kansas, it's so flat you can't not pedal. Double negative, I know. But for real, there's no coasting for the most part else you just stop.

I got into Kansas with the help of my friends Grace and Ashley, and when they left, they were sure to leave me in the care of some other wonderful folks - Pastor John at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, just past Girard, KS. There Kevin and I met two brothers from Pennsylvania headed East (Mennonite even). Pastor John showed the four of us around the grounds of the church, amidst the laughs and smiles of some VBS attendees.

Not only did Pastor John and his wife offer use of their shower (the one I unscrewed the showerhead from) and washer and drier, but they also let us pick fresh veggies from their garden! We're talking fresh zucchini, squash, green beans, onions, basil, and plenty of other things I've never heard of.

We picked our share and combined it with the 2lbs of ground meat Pastor John gave us as well to make a gullosh (spelling?) of sorts. That with a loaf of bread, milk, lemonade, potato salad, and the air conditioning in the fellowship hall made for a great stay.

The next morning Kevin and I said our goodbyes to Andrew and Ken, the Mennonite brothers, and rode west, tackling 95 miles before finding a city park with free access to the public pool for the cyclists. After a dip and another shower, we settled in under another pavilion before a huge lightning storm came through. That storm lasted all night! When I awoke to a raccoon going through my stuff at 4am, the bolts were still flying. Since the bolts were west of us at that time, it looked like bombs were being dropped on the other side of the trees which outlined the park. The rain finally came around 7:30. We were awoken to find that because the wind so strong, we were beginning to get pretty wet even under the shelter. Thankfully, the windiest part ended and the storm passed, allowing us to get on the road by 8:30am.

After 75 miles, I write from the Newton, KS Public Library where I rest to put in another 30, bringing us to our first official century ride (Last night's was 5 miles short, but the thought of a 5 mile ride around town did not outweigh the joy I knew a dip in the pool would bring). Despite being flat, the wind is pretty tough. The wind is coming from the South, and though we aren't headed that way, it does make it difficult to ride West. Thankfully, we had a 20 mile stretch today that took us North. Kid you not, in just the change from West to North, I was able to increase my average speed by about 10mph. The thought is that the South wind will ease up around 6 and that we'll be able to make the last 30 miles easily. Here's for hoping!

Wednesday, July 8

Building a Preference for Showers

Some folks have asked about my 4th of July, and though there were no fireworks, there was plenty of Dr. Pepper and Chicken Salad. It all started at the end of the day, when Kevin and I got into Houston, MO. If you recall, Kevin is the new friend I met around the 3rd of July. He too is riding across the country (from Yorktown, VA to San Fransisco, CA) and is also from Indianapolis. We've been riding the same pace since meeting, though usually don't ride at the same time until the evening session (I get up early and leave, he sleeps in. I take a long afternoon break, he rides through the heat). Anyway, back to the 4th.

Rolling into Houston, we made a stop at Subway for directions and food. After getting both a free cookie and directions to the city park, we headed out for the free camping. As we began to settle in under the pavilion, a man walking his dog stopped to ask about our trip. He introduced himself as Mark and eventually invited us to come back to his mothers house to make use of the shower and get a bit of food.

After meeting his sons Derrick and Erick (a bit confusing), we learned Mark and his sons live in another part of Missouri, but visit Houston in the summer to see Mark's mother. Next thing we knew a bottle of Dr. Pepper, two glasses filled with ice, and two plates holding two chicken salad sandwiches and corn on the cob were set down before us. Instructed to eat, we did so.

After our meal, Mark showed us the bathroom, and apologized that the shower didn't have a showerhead; "I just like it that way," he told us. Having not taken a shower without a showerhead before, I wasn't sure what to expect, nor did I think about it much (if it cleaned me, I was plenty happy). But once I hopped in, I have to admit, I was forever in awe (or at least until I turned the water off).

The only experience I can compare it to is showering in a hose, except with warm water. The single stream hit my head and chest and it felt like I was completely submerged in bath water. In other showers, I've always felt partially submerged. But not this one, this one I was completely submerged, like a pool even! It was wonderful. So wonderful in fact, when I was at a hostel a couple nights later, I unscrewed their showerhead and did it again.

Tuesday, July 7

This Just In...

Last Friday, PBS's Bill Moyers Journal featured some of Union's finest - our President Serene Jones, Dr. Gary Dorrien, and Cornel West - speaking about the financial crisis.  This last semester I got to film a class they team taught - Christianity and the Current U.S. Crisis - which caught Bills eye.  So today on my break in Girard, KS I had a look at the PBS special and thought I'd share the link for those who might have missed it.  Enjoy.

There's also a transcript below the video for those without super fast internet like the Girard Library.

Some Say a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

So here are a 15,000 and change.

A group shot outside the Popeye Museum in Chester, IL.  I'll tell you what, I've never seen so much Popeye paraphernalia.

A common sight outside the local libraries of America.  Except, there's usually a trailer behind the black bike.
A bit of NYC in Missouri.  Preparation, pass it on.
Grace, Ash, and me at the Rodeo in Marshfield, MO.  My first Rodeo, I wasn't quite sure how to act.  I think I enjoyed the barrel racing and the bull riding most.  For real, we saw a guy get kicked in the face by a bull and spin upside down.  We're talking like a whole 360 and to the floor kick in the face.  Crazy awesome.  He wasn't the rider, but the guy who protects the rider once the rider falls off.  That is, when the rider falls off, this guy, kick in the face guy, steps in to take the kick so the rider doesn't.  Insane.
6:00 am is too early for some... Nah, she was fine.  The rides were super fast since my trailer was in that open trunk there.  Sadly though, Grace and Ashley are riding back to Tulsa as I type, which means the trailer (the weight) is back on.
The joy of having friends to ride with include conversation as well as someone else to take pictures.  Sometimes they turn out great.  Sometimes... well, enough said.  See the Gatorade in my water bottle cage?  Yeah, that's new thanks to Grace and Ash.
Grace and I finishing up this morning.  Got into Kansas just before noon and it's been both flat and not heavily trafficked.  I've really enjoyed it thus far.  Let's see how long that lasts...

From time to time we would drive to a restaurant off route, or perhaps a camping store for more JetBoil fuel.  With tubs of food, my trailer, and other spontaneous gear in the back seat it meant we went three wide in the front.
Cooky's was the home of the 30 different pies.  Sadly, when we arrived last night it had closed down for the evening.  Thankfully however, it opened the next morning at 6 am and was able to whip up some fresh Dutch Blueberry pie.  One word: Wowthattastedsodamngood.
This is Samson.  While Ash and I rode the morning session together, Grace drove ahead to take some pictures and found this guy.  Basically kidnapping him from where ever he was headed, Grace named him and after some time decided to put him in my front bag.  I actually think he liked it because once I started riding, he kept his head out of the bag much like a dog does.  Then we let him go in a river we decided to swim in.
A shot taken from the banks of the Sac River outside Ash Grove, MO.  Here we swam, freed our friend Samson, the turtle, and basked in the hot sun.  Fear not, no sunburn.
Doing some bicycle repairs outside a local gas station.  I've come to find that gas stations like these serve some of the biggest, yet cheapest, sandwiches I've ever had.  Mmm.
The past couple days with Grace and Ash have been so wonderful.  Here's a picture of us last night preparing to cook pizza on the JetBoil.  A couple of summers ago Grace did a NOLS program down in Baja, Mexico where she learned how to cook fancy foods on camping stoves.  The night before we had some tasty fajitas, and had planned to have peace cobbler after the pizza but ran out of fuel... too much good cookin' I guess.  Oops.
Ash being super camera savvy.
More super savvy pictures from Ash.

Monday, July 6

The Show Me State

Show me what? Friends.

Two nights ago I ran into a couple from London riding West. Quite an exciting moment as they were the first folks I had overtaken on the trip. Its not a race of course, but from time to time one still likes to catch someone. And besides, I had been trailing them for days. Riding a bit with them, they told me about a cyclists only lodge a bit further down the road. They were going to make the push to get there as they heard a storm was moving in and had their hopes set on some sort of pavilion or at least shelter to protect their tent from the rain.

I'll admit, even having a rain-proof tent, it's still nice to be able to pack a dry tent the next day. Though my trailer and tent keep the water out, if I put a wet rainfly into the trailer, it tends to keep the water in. Greg and Katie convinced me to ride the extra 12 miles - putting me at 90 for the day - and when we arrived at the lodging, we found the two were erred in their hopes and there wasn't any kind of shelter. Thankfully however, the Brits were also wrong on the weather, and the a.m. tent was as dry as the day before.

The extra 12 was no problem either really, it was taken with good company and allowed me to meet up with Kevin from Indianapolis. He too was at the cyclist lodging, which was really the yard of Herman Stein (of which I am still very thankful for), so we spent some of the evening swapping some stories of our younger years in Indy. The next day I was off before anyone else awoke, but sure enough Kevin caught me while I took my mid-afternoon break from the sun. He joined me a bit and we rode on together, without first stopping for a $5.95 buffet. The waitress there took to our liking and upped the value by giving us three free slices of cake and two sundaes to split. Mmmm.

Last night I rode into Marshfield, MO to find three wonderful things. 1 - A Rodeo. 2 - Grace and Ashley Ellison, brother and sister from Tulsa, OK. And 3 - The fajitas that Grace and Ashley brought.

I know Grace and Ashley from the time I worked at a camp in Minnesota driving boats, so when they said they wanted to join me for part of the adventure, I was pleased to have their presence. The plan is that Ash rides with me in the a.m. while Grace drives to the rest town, and then after lunch, a brief nap, and some good laughs, the two will swap places to bring us to our final destination for the day.

So for the next two days, I get to experience what it would be like to have a pit crew of sorts. All my gear is in their trunk (slack-riding), along with coolers of food and drinks, I get conversation, company, and even someone to take pictures of me while I ride. When I finished riding today, I was taking my shoes off when WHAM a Dr. Pepper was in front of my face. I know, soda isn't the ideal beverage for this sort of thing, but come on, you wouldn't have turned it down either.

They're pretty darn cool. My life is full of entertainment. This is definitely my favorite part of the tr... ok Grace is no longer reading over my shoulder. But seriously, I feel very fortunate. Though, I do dread the moment when the trailer is back on the bike, guessing that my body will be used to lighter weight by then. Tonight we ride into Golden City, where I hear there is a pie place with 30 different flavors of pie, each slice a dollar a piece.

Tomorrow I'll be into the flatland that is Kansas. Missouri has been an unexpected mix of terrain. The Ozark Mountains were much larger than I would have guessed, but great none the less. On the 4th, the roads through there were filled with folks traveling down to the river for canoeing and lazy-riverin' fun. The fireworks I did see were those I woke up to at 6am when a kid rode his bike past my tent, the flashes I saw on a neighboring radio tower, and that's about it. The town I stayed in had done theirs the week before (why, I have no idea).

In other news, and probably much more important, my eldest brother, Will, is engaged and to be wed August 5th! I know, pretty cool if you ask me too. Though, this poses a bit of a problem: Race to finish before August 5th or stash the bike a week from the coast and fly back for the week to only fly west again to finish the last week? OR ride through the Nevada desert instead of the Arizona desert and touch the coast in San Fransisco (avoiding Mission St. from the hours of 2-4 a.m. at all costs)? All this to decided and more. Either way, I will get to the Pacific. Regardless, if you see Will, congratulate him!

And serious, that's what Missouri calls itself: The Show Me State.

Thursday, July 2

Gateway to the West

I crossed Illinois in two days. Now, I stand at the gateway to the west - the Mississippi.

I woke up super early this morning after a full nights sleep behind a Lutheran Church in Carbondale, IL. Now, 5:30am probably sounds crazy, but seeing as I just changed time zones a few days ago, my body thinks its still on east coast time - 5:30 is basically 6:30am. This is a good thing, because in reality the heat starts to beat around 10:00/10:30am. So getting off to an early start allowed me to roll into Chester by 11:30. I figure as I continue to go west, and the time zones continue to push back the hour, I'll continue to get up at the east coast 6:30am... or there abouts. I mean, who wants to ride when the suns up in the desert? Not me.

As I said, I've stopped in Chester, IL to take my afternoon rest. I hadn't heard of Chester prior, but after learning it's the home of Popeye, I felt like we go back years. Yes, Popeye as in the spinach eating sailor-man himself - which makes sense after seeing all the barges on the Mississippi.

My first stop was the library. After checking e-mail, facebook, that sort of thing, I asked the library lady where the closest burger place might be. She told me about an all-you-can-eat-buffet that I apparently missed 2 miles back, and then pointed me next door to a Ma and Pa Cafe - my favorite. Walking away, I told her I may be back, seeing that I like to wait out the heat of the day, and she invited me to join the library for a movie at 1pm. A bit curious, I inquired a bit as to what kind of movie date this was turning into. To my chagrin, I learned that each week the library shows a movie for the youth in the area and this week's showing was Bedtime Stories - the latest Adam Sandler flick. I thought to myself, "How could I miss such a film?"

So, after a club sandwich and some fries, I was back to the library. I got back a little earlier than 1 so I took a quick nap outside in the shade. I awoke to van loads of children and mothers walking past, as my place for the nap was beside the entrance. Yay, movie time! I walked in to find a lot more folks had passed me by on the sidewalk than I thought. Everyone and their mother (not exaggerating) was there - most dressed in PJs (just the kids). I felt out of place, yet again, and sat in a comfy chair in the back. The next hour and a half were full of laughter, my own included, and the occasional black screen resulting from when a kid would stand up and walk across in front of the projector to get more popcorn. Yes, they even had popcorn.

All in all, good film. Though, I don't think I'll watch it a second time.

From here, I ride into Missouri (though part of Illinois is on the other side of the Mississippi, strangely enough) and run into the wonderful phenomena of abundant City Parks that allow cyclists to set up a tent within the park. I've run into this before but its been bare - most camping has been in folks yards as even the smallest towns back east had "No Camping" policies within city limits. Apparently Missouri and Kansas are great for this though, so I look forward to the no-hastle camping of which I am about to embark on.

My 4th of July I will be riding from Centerville, MO to Houston, MO. Houston has a population just shy of 2,000 so I'm bound to run into some fireworks. Hopefully they wont be sent in my direction. Which reminds me of a story.

One time I was in San Fransisco for the 4th. I was visiting with my friend Dave, but broke away to see another friend. The plan was that when I was finished hanging out with that friend, I would call Dave and he would come and get me. I called, but no answer. Well, I knew the general direction of where I was going, and since it was 2am, I headed that way. From 2am - 4am I walked Mission St. downtown San Fran. Each block I walked, a different group of kids would shoot bottle rockets at me, as I held the phone, despite having a dead battery, to my ear acting as if someone was on the other side. After not finding the place, I headed back through the gauntlet. A memorable 4th of July. Here's for hoping this one is not held in the same fashion.

Make sure you guys are checking out the music on the side - I'm going to try to put up a string of songs I consider prophetic/theological in some form or fashion. There's been a few already. Watch out, they might get nasty.