Wednesday, August 15, 2012


After getting harrassed to finish up this blog, I offer the following reflections with about two weeks of being off the bike.

First I wanted to check my expectations I posted at the beginning of the ride with reality.

The first week was not as hard as I thought, and my legs were never an issue on the entire ride.  What did come into play that I did not expect was the shouting and cussing that came from my nether regions and my hands.  The first contact point subsided to a loud whisper, and my hands did stop hurting but did continue to go numb.

I did eat at small diners along the way but with mixed results, but there were more catered meals at the campsites than I expected.  This was both good and bad, good in that I didn't need to spend the extra time traveling to a restaurant, waiting for the food, paying and getting back to the campsite, bad in that the food was whatever was served from really good, to mediocre.

Surprisingly I did not have any issues with the heat and humidity because the weather was favorable to this wimpy Californian.  Yes there were some hot days, and some humid days, but never the deadly combination and the vast majority of the days riding were not an issue.  However, and this is a big one, I did not expect the HEADWINDS that we experienced which really were an issue during the first part of the ride.

My expectation of a huge amount of flat tires was not met.  I had one.  And although it was a rear tire, there was no cussing and shouting.

I never had to set up my tent in the rain, just twice in sprinkles.  I did exit the tent at night for some reason, but never in the rain although there was some moisture before I got back to the tent.

I did meet a lot of wonderful people who were all very happy to engage with me and have interesting conversations, some were unsolicited and included everything from the persons birth to the current day of the week. I only had one encounter with a person who was disagreeable, but by the end of the encounter they were in a better humor. There were no propositions.

It was a great experience, but as I expected, not life changing.  I did get homesick for my family, but the amount of riding reduced the amount of time I was afflicted with this deadly disease.

Finally I did become friends with my fellow Big Riders, and as I suspected, nobody has invited me over for drinks.


This is a very large country!  It just doesn't seem fair that it takes 48 days to cross it with a bike but only 6 hours to fly back.  I could have saved a lot of time by flying both directions.

My training was adequate for the ride.  I was not the fastest rider nor the slowest, but I felt really good about my ability to complete the ride.  Riding day after day turned out to be more mental than physical, and it was helpful to know that physically I could meet the challenge and could concentrate on the mental.  I would also note that there were a couple of riders who came into the ride with little training who did very well.  But they were the exception to the rule and I would not recommend future riders coming in with a couple of weeks of riding.

My gear was certainly up to the task.  My work at REI allowed me to secure really good stuff, although some if it was certainly overkill like my tent.  Because the weather was very favorable, I did not need to worry about setting up my tent in the rain, and I could have gone with a simpler tent.

The people who were on the Big Ride were quite an eclectic group of individuals varying in age from 18 to 65 with concentrations in the 22-30 age group and 55-65 group.  I really enjoyed each and every rider and what they brought to the party, although I suspect I won't be invited to the party again.

This ride is very doable for most people and only requires the training beforehand, and of course 7 weeks of vacation.  If you looked at our group and were asked what we had in common, I don't think anyone would answer we were crossing the country on bicycles.

I know this is a surprise, but I really looked forward to the days off.  It was a time to be a tourist, and get away from the riding for a day.  It also provided me an opportunity to drink a beer the night before the rest day without the worries of becoming dehydrated.  I probably over thought this one as there were a couple of riders who were able to drink most nights and did not suffer as a result.

Thank you to all of the people who donated to the American Lung Association to make it possible for me to do this ride.  It really does feel good to raise money for a charity and be able to spread the message as we rode across the country.

The best part of the trip was the riding, the worst was getting up in the dark, packing up the gear, putting on the lycra and wool which was always damp due to the humidity, and eating a lousy breakfast.  I am very happy to now be sleeping in my bed.

I was asked if I will do the Big Ride again.  NO!  A great experience which does not need to be repeated.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Day 48, SUCCESS! Washington D.C.

BEST: Finishing the ride without contusions, broken bones, strange communicable diseases, and with my bike intact.

WORST: Dropping my sunglass mirror in the urinal.

MOST UNEXPECTED: See best above. Actually getting here is amazing.

First, I added pictures to the last three days to go with the stories. Second, I forgot to mention we had our riders dinner where Laura from Seattle presented awards to some of the riders and the support staff. Surprisingly, I did not win a major award. We did receive appetizers, one free drink, and dinner. I also ordered a fantastic peach crisp for dessert made with fresh peaches.

On to today. We still got up and loaded the truck at 5:45 so we could make sure we arrived in Washington D.C. by 10:30. Seemed like a bit of overkill. We did get there way before 10:30 after biking by the Lincoln and Vietnam memorials. The ride was 42 miles long on a slightly hilly course. After 30 miles, we got on a bike/running trail which was over run with users. This was probably the closest we came to getting hit by either bikes passing on the other side of the road, or runners swerving. It was pretty humid as well which made my closeup makeup run. As a result, there were no TV interviews.

As I mentioned, we arrived early in D.C. and were treated to a wonderful Greek lunch in the old Post Office building. We then waited forever until we were released at 12:00 for our ceremonial arrival about 2 blocks away at Freedom Plaza. I screwed up my entrance by making a wrong turn to go around the block instead of a hard turn to go through a human tunnel. We then received medals (not gold) and a certificate of completion. We also got a gift bag that for some reason included juggling balls. I guess next time we cross the country on bikes we are expected to juggle.

After a brief celebration, we followed the truck to our hotel to unload our luggage, then to downtown Georgetown to send my bike back to Fremont. Finally, we are done. Now it is time for sightseeing for the next two days before I go home to the couch, drink beer, watch the Olympics, and observe my weight go up to 200 pounds.

The pictures below include a picture of my arm sleeves getting thrown away after wearing after 45 straight days of riding (They did get cleaned every week) the very large Greek lunch, and a picture of a bike with one of last year's big riders.

I plan on writing a final posting after I get home to check in with my original expectations, and final thoughts, which would seem to indicate that I actually have some. I'M DONE!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Day 47, Poolesville, Maryland

BEST: The ride for today. It was a short 62 miles with rollers, and beautiful scenery. Plus we crossed over to our last state. I would say see the picture below, but I have no pictures until Day 45 when I add them to the post.

WORST: Having to get psyched up to leave the family and restart the bike portion of this trip. It didn't take long to get back up to speed unfortunately.

MOST UNEXPECTED: The bathrooms at our very sucky campsite at the local high school are locked. We have already had a volunteer to leave them a present.

After getting dropped off at the Gettysburg college where the Big Riders were staying, we went through the morning routine. The morning routine consists of getting your gear to the truck before the loading time, getting the truck loaded through a fire bucket line, handing out of the cue sheets with instructions from Charlton on what to look for, changes to the route, etc. eating a lousy breakfast, filling water bottles, last minute toilet stop, and then rolling out. Don't get any of this out of order, or you get in trouble.

Todays ride of 62 miles was lovely, with rollers, and although the humidity was in the 70's, the temperature was in the 80's. We crossed over the state boundary into Maryland with a state marker indicating Mason at the bottom of the marker. If you add Dixon to the first name, you will get that the state border is the Mason Dixon line. I am experiencing de ja vu all over again on the last several rides. Todays ride reminded me of Wisconsin. I think if you took my pictures and scrambled them up, I would not be able to tell you which state was which with the exception of Mt. Rushmore which is the state of Oregon, and the badlands which are in Texas. Close enough.

Breaking the ride down into 20 miles blocks still works, you only need to ride 20 miles until you get a break point, so your struggles are set at a reasonable distance.

We got to Poolesville at around 11:30 and after we unloaded the truck we headed to the local pool (25 meter pool) and swam to get out of the warmer weather. This is also where the closest shower is (1/2 mile) located. The bathrooms are located about 100 yards away and were open when we first got here, but some genius decided to lock them up this afternoon, so there will be big problems later. We have already had one big problem resolved, somewhere on this site, and I am not asking any questions other than where to avoid going.

This is the last night of sleeping on the ground, and I can't wait to pack up my tent tomorrow for a couple of nights in a hotel bed before heading home. The bed in Gettysburg was heaven! Currently we are all sitting in the shade of the truck as we wait for the sun to go down and the temperatures to drop. The current temperature is 86 degrees with a 55% humidity and is expected to become a frigid 74 degrees by 4:00 a.m. I am glad we were able to ride across this country with the reasonable weather we had. We were very lucky to escape the nastiness that other Big Riders had to suffer through. Pictures to follow.

Day 46, Gettysburg, day of leisure

BEST: The guided tour of the Gettysburg battleground

WORST: Having to go to bed early while the family got to watch the Olympics.

MOST UNEXPECTED: Finding out why the cannonball malt shop had its name, it had a cannonball from the battle in its wall. We had ice cream/sodas here twice before I figured it out.

This was a great day, although not really related to bike riding. We hired a guide at Gettysburg to drive our car and show us the battlefield for three hours. Very Very informative, she knew all of the monuments as well as all of the details of the battle. We also walked the town, at lunch, ate dinner, at the oldest building in town (1776), ate ice cream, went back to the room for Olympic viewing, and then I had to go to bed at 9:00 so I could meet up with the bike group at 5:30 a.m. for the next days ride. There are no pictures posted yet because my IPAD adapter crashed. I will be able to post pictures on Day 45, so come back for scintillating scenes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Day 45, Gettysburg

BEST: Come on, do you think there is anything better than meeting up with your family?

WORST: The bike rider I was riding with crashed on a railroad crossing just before we got to Gettysburg. Nothing broken, just scrapes and contusions, and she continued in to Gettysburg.

MOST UNEXPECTED: This would have been the best for the day, except of course for what the best of the day was, but an alumnus, Tony, cooked us hamburgers and marinated chicken for our lunch stop along with yummy salads. Then he met us in Gettysburg and brought us fruit, toppings, and ice cream.

Today we rode 101 miles! It was a difficult day, but after 41 days, I know it was easier than if we did it earlier on the Big Ride. The first 42 miles had a lot of steep climbs while the last part was more rollers, although some were challenging. The total climbing was not 8500 as previously noted, but only 6600 feet. Weather stayed a non factor at 87 degrees with moderate humidity. The only way the weather did impact us was with the crash. The railroad tracks crossed at a bad angle on the road, and the road had recently been rained on which added to the treachery of the crossing. Bad crossing, Bad crossing. Now that I have scolded it, I believe it will no longer crash bicycles.

The lunch stop was in a beautiful state park and overlooked a small lake. It was also well situated after the major climbing at mile 51, and just before a very nice descent of three miles. This was very important after eating a large lunch. I probably went down 5 mph faster with the extra weight in my tummy. We pass a town called Burned Cabins so named because if you can believe it, some cabins were burned down by the British army. Surprisingly, the cabins are no longer there for viewing, but the grist mill was so I took a picture of it. That's the grist of my story and I am sticking with it.

We finally got to Gettysburg at 3:30 and my family, team BMC, was waiting for me with signs. Very emotional moment! Much hugs and kisses, then a game of catch the plastic coke bottle after I had polished off the contents. Hut 27, blue, hut, hut, go long. I gathered up my clothes from the truck when it finally rolled in 45 minutes later, and we went to a hotel with actual beds with sheets on them. Out to dinner to the Appalachian brewing company for a couple of Dom Blonde beers and crabcakes, then downtown where I finally found maple walnut ice cream. I noticed they had phosphates on the menu, so I ordered a cherry phosphate after the ice cream. Back to the hotel where I think I was asleep after 15 seconds.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 44, Bedford PA

BEST: Six mile downhill towards the end of the ride with grades of 9%. Speeds in excess of 45 mph, and no required braking.

WORST: Getting to the top of the downhill.

MOST UNEXPECTED: Actually enjoying the days ride rather than suffering through it.

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man wiped out. I am sure that is how the quote goes. Another soggy tent take down, but the good news is that the sogginess came from dew and not the dam breaking above us. The ride started back on the bike trail of crushed limestone rock, and several riders in front of me missed the original turn. I went looking for them, but couldn't fine them, so onto the trail I went. Supposedly at mile 15 we were supposed to get on a new trail, but there was a detour around a closed railroad tunnel which added 1.5 miles. So at mile 16.5 I still had not found the new trail, and continued to mile 18 and figured I must have missed it. I turned around and went back about 2 miles when the first lost group caught up with me, and we figured out the cue sheet was just wrong. I got an extra 3.5 bonus miles.

Once we got off the bike trail, it was over hill, over dale, up and down the hills of PA. There was no rain, but plenty of warning thunder letting us know we better keep moving. Some of the group did visit the flight 93 memorial, but I kept going to avoid potential rain which I caught at the very end of the ride, just in time to set up my tent and have it stop. We had store bought half chickens for dinner with fresh corn of which I had two ears, it was that good. I trust it was for human consumption and not livestock. We are in another campground with no shade trees, but the temperature right now is very pleasant although somewhat humid. Nothing real exciting today, no broken bones or bikes. Lots of pretty scenery and for those of you looking for a new mailbox, I have included the old trusty tractor box picture. Tomorrow is the big ride, and I may not be able to blog tomorrow because when I arrive in Gettysburg I will be greeted by my family. As I mentioned in my preliminary blogs, my philosophy is family first, fun second, and everything else follows. This blog is not one of the first two, so although I may miss a couple of days in Gettysburg, be assured that I will catch up. My daughters may be escaping with some of the Big Riders who want to take them out; I hope they survive. (I am not sure if I mean my daughters, or the Big Riders)

There is a picture of a Big Rider changing a tire with much supervision, a view from the top of the big descent, a picture of the Rider wine pouch at the top of the pass, and attempts to show how steep the hills are in this state. They just don't believe in 2% or 4% climbs.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day 43, Confluence PA

BEST: Great lunch provided by BIG RIDE alum Fred Husak. Fred, his wife, and daughter entertained us with food and stories at Connelsville.

WORST: The flat trail I was looking forward to was mind numbing. No variety in scenery. Just stare at the picture of the riders on the trail below for three hours and you will get an idea of the experience.

MOST UNEXPECTED: We had meat loaf last night instead of mac and cheese. Meat Loaf! We are living it up.

The tents got wet again this morning with a very heavy dew. My tent weighs about 6 more pounds than when I started.

The ride was 89 miles with the first 36 in the hills of PA. After a check in, we got onto the YRT bike trail which was crushed rock that was supposedly rolled. It was good in some sections, grass growing in between directions in others, rocks, sticks, and this thing caused by trees and the sun called shadows. All of this combined to make staring at the trail critical to avoid smashing into something inappropriate for the bike. I kept thinking sticks and stones will break my bones. I expected a beautiful trail next to the river, but somebody put trees between the trail and the river, so all we could see was the trail, trees, and the posteriors of other riders.

We did go across a bridge that showed us the river and what we were missing. It was a very slow ride on the trail at about 14 mph, and with a slight upgrade the whole way. I suffered my first flat of the trip; so much for my perfect game. We also passed the 3000 mile point on the ride, but no paint on the ground to show this accomplishment.

We are in the Confluence campground just below a large fill dam. If I hear a roaring sound tonight, I will do some unique back bending to kiss my rearend goodbye.

Dinner was at the only restaurant open tonight, the Lucky Dog. I had an exceptionally good hamburger which filled me to the brim. There is no cell service in this area, but fortunately the Lucky Dog has WiFi so I biked back here after getting ready for bed when I heard this was the case. What sacrifices I make for this blog.

Tomorrow we have a choice of an extremely hilly day, or a very hilly day with a short section of the trail. I am currently leaning towards the latter choice as the ride into Gettysburg is 100 miles with over 8500 feet of climbing. The group is split on this choice with some very ambitious riders and some realistic ones. I will make the choice in the morning. My goal still remains to get to Washington D.C. without having to get carried in a stretcher.

The photo assignment was to take a picture of how I felt today. I felt relief that I am getting so close to the finish. Guess which shot below goes with this feeling.