The story of a 9-year-old boy and his dad as they cross the USA by bicycle.
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|dep LA || ||3/04/03
|arr JAX || ||5/12/03
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Saturday, August 23, 2003
November Speaking Engagements
Will and I will be speaking at several locations in November:
November 6th, 7:30 pm, Wheeling Wheelmen, Wheeling, IL
November 9th, 5:30 pm, Bombay Bicycle Club, Madison, WI
November 12th, 7:00 pm, Fox Valley Bicycle & Ski Club, Batavia, IL
November 13th, 12:15 pm, Libertyville (IL) Rotary Club
November 14th, 10:00 am, Wheeling (IL) High School
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Honorary lap at the Northbrook Velodrome (and I really mean it this time!)
Will was honored this evening as the youngest person ever to cross the USA on the front of a tandem bicycle. Dean Schott of the Northbrook Cycle Committee presented us with a plaque in front of several hundred cycling enthusiasts before the pro races started. We then took an honorary lap, and got some speed up to attack the highly banked corners! There was a standing ovation given us as we returned to the start/finish line. We greatly enjoyed the evening, as the pro races were quite exciting.
Will and I are scheduled to speak before the Fox Valley Bicycle Club and the Wheeling Wheelmen, and I will be making a presentation concerning stressful careers and how cycling can help at Wheeling High School, all in early November.
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Honorary lap at the Northbrook Velodrome
The Northbrook Cycle Committee has invited us to their bicycle races this evening. We are told that they will honor us with a plaque and a lap around the track before the pro races. And we thought our fifteen minutes of fame were over!
The Northbrook (IL) Star has an article today describing our trip. Also, check out the Daily Herald.
(Late update: races were cancelled due to rain. Our honorary lap was rescheduled to the evening of August 21st.)
Monday, May 26, 2003
Back to normal life?
Two weeks have past since we completed our trip, and we've been home for just over a week. Will hit the ground running - he's back in the swing of things at school, and comfortable with his new baseball team. In his first pitching outing ever, they brought him in with the bases loaded and 1 out. He got the first batter to hit into a double play, and pitched another great inning. His teammates and their families have treated us like celebrities after reading the articles in the newspapers. Several people have told us that our ride was discussed on WGN radio as well as National Public Radio.
I have been back at the tracon for a few days now. Everything is fine here; the best part of air traffic is that one can leave for awhile, and upon return there is no huge pile of work to be done. The National Airspace System appears to have done fine without me. Unfortunately, I have a pile of mail about knee-high at home and about waist-high at my law office. Makes a guy think about loading up the bike and hitting the road again! I think I have become more relaxed in the past few months, and I definitely feel something different going on that is hard to describe. I'll have to figure it out.
We hope to add some kind of summary of our adventure in the near future. We also will begin producing a presentation shortly to give to school groups that will highlight things that we learned about fitness, teamwork, reaching for goals, and enjoying life.
Monday, May 12, 2003
--------------------WE DID IT!!!--------------------
Will's audio message
We intentionally got a late start out of Green Cove Springs as we only had 30 miles or so to the beach, and then another 5 or so to reach Lynn's cousin Tom and his wife Terry's house. Conditions were ideal; a light tailwind, flat roads. We had been calling "first one in (each state)" and decided that the first one to see the ocean would have the grand prize. As we neared Mickler's Landing Beach Park, I started to slow down to enjoy the moment, but Will was "chomping at the bit" to pull us faster. Our trusty GPS took us right to a long boardwalk that leads through the dunes to the beach. Will called the ocean first at about 100 yards and we both had huge grins as we disembarked to lug the bike into the surf. Although there were no marching bands or cheering crowds, there were many bathers. Most people looked at us as if we were nuts, but we didn't care one bit. We struggled through the soft, dry sand, and were able to roll easily through the hard-packed wet stuff. Although the tradition is to dip the front wheel, we decided to play it safe and dip everything, so that no one could disqualify us on some kind of technical loophole.
It is a wonderful feeling to have completed this ride!
The Chicago Sun-Times has an article today describing our trip.
Quote of the day: "To the athlete, traveling by human strength alone, the trans-American journey is just as much about knowing one’s self as knowing one’s country. The dramatic combination of physical endurance and continuous discovery makes it the ultimate rite of passage, whether by foot or bike." Nicole Adamnson
Sunday, May 11, 2003
The end is near
We checked out of the Starke Days Inn around 8:30. As we were climbing on to the bike, a guy did a U-turn and pulled into the parking lot, and said, “Didn’t I see you guys last week in Pensacola? I wanted my nephew here to meet you!”. We chatted with them for a few minutes. We enjoy it very much when people come up to us to talk, and are amazed when people see us twice hundreds of miles apart. That has happened at least 3 times.
We pulled into Green Cove Springs around noon. It was already 90o and very humid. We feel a little lazy when we check into a hotel this early, but we want to enjoy these last days. I would like to stretch this trip even longer, but tomorrow we only have 32 miles to go to Mickler’s Landing Beach Park, where we will dip our front wheel in the Atlantic Ocean 69 days after dipping our rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean. We anticipate celebrating the conclusion of this wonderful journey with great emotion.
We were hosted for dinner by Jacksonville Center FAA controller Robert Reddington, his wife Lisa and son Riley. Will had a great time swimming with Riley and we played a little golf before returning to our hotel.
Saturday, May 10, 2003
Another easy, but hot day. Again we hit the road early to avoid the afternoon heat. We were on some deserted back roads and didn’t pass any stores or restaurants until we arrived in Starke about 1 pm. We had another flat tire; actually a previous patch failed. One would think if a patch did the job for 2 weeks and 600 miles, that it would last forever. Not so.
We swam, went to church and then caught “Daddy Day Care” starring Eddie Murphy. We wanted to rush back to the room to watch the new Fox reality show where they choose the new ruler of Iraq :-).
Quote of the day: See yesterday.
Friday, May 09, 2003
Mayo to High Springs
We both gave Mayo “nays” in our vote to recommend this town in our report.
We started out at daybreak. Visibility was down to ½ mile in fog and haze, but improved by about 9 am. Our ride was typical of the last few days, with stands of pine trees on each side of a nicely paved road with great shoulders.
Will fished in the Suwanee River, but again came up empty-handed. We looked into going on a rafting trip, but we couldn’t make the logistics work.
We have seen many signs for “hot boiled peanuts”, and today tried them. They are served wet and the nut inside is soft like a cooked lima bean. They’re OK, but we can’t figure out what the big deal is.
When we arrived in High Springs, it must’ve been 95oF, with high humidity. We shouldn’t complain though, with what the rest of the country has been going through. We’ve only had about 3 partial days of rain over our 70-day journey.
We have planned out 3 more easy days to arrive on the coast on Monday afternoon. Each afternoon will end in a town with motels; although we have enjoyed the camping that we’ve done, it’s nice to crank up the air when we end our day at 1 or 2 pm.
Quote of the day: “Man it's hot. It's like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot.” – Matthew Broderick’s character Eugene Jerome in Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues
Thursday, May 08, 2003
Hold the Mayo (Cafe)
We had a relaxed departure from Perry this morning. Will wasn’t feeling well after doing many flips into the pool yesterday, so we decided to take it easy. We pulled into Mayo, Florida, around 1 pm as the temperature started to exceed 85o with about 90% humidity. Ideally, we would get out at first light on hot days like this and then find a hotel around lunchtime.
We had dinner at the Mayo Café. We give it zero stars (out of 10). Poor service and bad food are often the death knell for restaurants. This one had a great gimmick though, one that I have always joked about… “all you can eat, to go” (really!). Most restaurants would go out of business right away, but this one makes it work by providing horrible food.
Our current plan has us hitting the coast on Monday afternoon, then spending some time with Lynn’s cousin Tom and his wife Terry before hitting the road on Wednesday or Thursday in our Avis van to Chicagoland.
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
A rest day in Perry (our last?)
We took the day off today. Will finished his homework and emailed it to his teacher. We walked down the street for breakfast and some shopping.
Today was a good day to sit around and catch up with some details, swim, and make plans for the last 6 days of our adventure. We may actually have trouble stretching it to 6 days, as we can easily do it in 4.
It’s hard to believe that it’s almost over. We’ve been on the road for 66 days; far longer than either of us has ever been away from the rest of our family. We have mixed emotions about finishing. We are anxious to reach the ocean, anxious to see friends and family who have been following our trip, but sad that this adventure is coming to an end. We are comfortable with the slower pace of this lifestyle. We've learned to appreciate simple things: a little shade around noontime, a sale on cold Gatorade, a curb to sit on just a little bit higher than average, a window table at a restaurant with our bike leaning against the other side of the glass. We know that our lives will always be more complicated than this.
My former co-worker, retired O’Hare Tower/Tracon controller Bill Fick, and his wife Linda drove up from their home near Ocala to take us to dinner. It was great seeing them for the first time since Bill retired late last year. Bill and Linda report that retirement is treating them well.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
With a remedy for all diseases, we leave Panacea
We left Panacea a little late after eating breakfast and paying for our room in the adjoining restaurant. Our route was to follow the shoreline of Apalachee Bay before heading east into the heart of Florida toward Perry, the next town with lodging.
Our route again took us through endless groves of pine trees on a great paved shoulder, giving us plenty of clearance from the hundreds of logging trucks leaving the forest.
Several people asked us today where we were headed. They all seemed impressed by our response of Jacksonville, most of them without knowledge of where we had come from. One guy read our little sign and said, “LA is lower Alabama, right?”. After a brief discussion, he said, “I drove a truck from Los Angeles to Jacksonville once. That’s too far; I’ll never do that again!”.
We struggled into Perry after 60 miles of crosswinds. We are starting to wind down now, and would prefer 40-50 mile days, but our desire for a hotel room outweighs all else.
We will take off Wednesday so Will can catch up on some homework that we just received by fax. For those unfamiliar, we have a free account with eFax; they gave us a Denver telephone number to receive faxes. eFax then forwards the faxes as attachments to emails. If we were to pay the monthly fee, they would give us a local telephone number and hold off on the “junk faxes”.
Monday, May 05, 2003
Apalachicola to Panacea, Florida
With the extra hour granted us with yesterday's unceremonious entrance into Eastern Daylight Time, we were able to pack, eat and depart by daybreak today. We had a strong crosswind coming off the Gulf and we actually got splashed a couple times by the surf as we passed through tiny towns every 10 miles or so. The town of Carrabelle has a little gimmick going that has gotten it some pub. The Guinness Book of World Records says that Carrabelle has the "world's smallest police station", which is a telephone booth. They even had a squad car parked next to it.
We're enjoying this slower pace, and pulled into Panacea around 1 pm after 48 easy miles. We are staying in a motel with an attached restaurant that is closed on Monday. We were instructed to take a room key out of the mailbox and register/pay in the morning at breakfast.
Sunday, May 04, 2003
Rest day in Apalachicola
We decided to spend the day here rather than ride today. No good reason, really. Our room here is quite large and comfortable and there's a nice clean pool. We'll get out at daybreak Monday and hit it hard.
Apalachicola is a nice little town near the entrance to St. George Island, which apparently is a bustling resort. We rode around town today looking at shrimping boats (we're experienced shrimpers, you may recall) and other old, dirty boats that look like business. Half of this town is full of century old Victorians that have been meticulously restored, and the other half is full of broken down shacks.
We are still "winging it" on our route, as we departed from the Adventure Cycling route in Pensacola. So far, so good.
Quote of the day: "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else." - Yogi Berra
Saturday, May 03, 2003
Will's audio message
We left Panama City with the threat of scattered thunderstorms all day. We thought we could probably make it to Port St. Joe in just a few hours, so we took the chance. Even if we were only to get 25 or 30 miles in, it would be better than staying put.
We spent most of the time today on a newly paved 2-lane highway with great paved shoulders between tall, dense stands of pines. The weather improved and Port St. Joe didn’t have suitable accommodations, so we continued on to Apalachicola. We are in a nice, albeit overpriced, hotel here and had some great gumbo for dinner.
Friday, May 02, 2003
Fort Walton Beach to Panama City
We were on the road by 6:15 this morning and put in a quick 10 miles before stopping for breakfast. We had a tailwind and cruised along at about 15 mph as we talked about making this a longer day than usual. There was heavy traffic in Panama City and with the sun beating on our backs we started looking for a motel around 1:30 after about 70 miles. Although we are following the Gulf, US 90 in this area is usually a few miles off the coast and we rarely saw it today. We crossed a few long bridges today; we stopped to fish off of one for 15 minutes, and decided to walk over the one into Panama City on an 18" wide sidewalk. It was just too dangerous to ride with no shoulder and fast moving traffic.
We had oysters and gumbo with beer (root and Bud) for dinner at a great local place that was next to our hotel.
Our shirts are courtesy of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. Take a look at their web site or check out a brief description on our charities page. We have consciously avoided high pressure tactics; any size donation (even a dollar!) is appreciated. Remember, there are no fund-raising administrative costs and your donation will not go toward financing our adventure! Our other charity, St. Anne's Project Hope Ministry is also a worthwhile charity.
We are actually ahead of schedule right now and will slow down somewhat to pull into JAX on May 12th or 13th. We would stop here but we want to be ready to absorb a rain delay if needed.
Insignificant stat of the day: Number 1 hotel room assigned = 108; 2nd place = 109; 3rd place = 104.
Thursday, May 01, 2003
Hot and humid on the Gulf coast
We slept late today, ate a big breakfast (grits again; they grow on you!), hit the road around 9:00 and cruised through Pensacola and across a long bridge over Pensacola Bay. It was very humid and we perspired heavily, cooled somewhat by a 10 knot crosswind from the south. We rode through some very rural areas before passing Eglin Air Force Base and arriving in Fort Walton Beach, where we decided to spend the night.
As expected, we are getting many of the same comments over and over. We have heard "the drivers around here are crazy!" in virtually every area of the country, and everyone seems genuinely surprised that we have not been run off the road. Almost everywhere we go, we are treated with great respect by professional, over-the-road semi-trailer drivers. Unfortunately, it seems that dump trucks are all driven by young, angry men. They routinely try to squeeze us a little.
Our hometown newspaper, the Barrington (Illinois) Courier-Review, has an article today describing our trip. Take note: Will's legs do not really cause him pain and he can coast whenever he wants (he rarely coasts, though).
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
The Blue Angels
Will's audio message
We broke camp around 7:30 and wolfed down a quick breakfast at the McDonald's on the base, then hustled over to the Blue Angels viewing area on the airfield. The Angels put on a great show very similar to the one we saw the Thunderbirds perform last month in Phoenix. The pilots signed autographs after the show.
We headed for Bikes Plus in Pensacola, where we had our computer sent after its repair by Fujitsu. We bought a few accessories while picking up the laptop and headed into town.
We just learned that we are the subjects of a front page article in The Villager, a Houston-area newspaper.
Quote of the day: "I thought of that while riding my bike." -- Albert Einstein, on the theory of relativity
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
We are in FLORIDA!!!
We left Gulf Shores, AL, around 7:00 and headed east along the coast, past many hotels, apartment buildings and various condominium-type units. There was a great marked bike lane separated from the road by rumble strips. We crossed several tall bridges, many new since 1979's Hurricane Frederic. We stopped briefly to "high 5" each other at the Florida line.
Our plan today was to visit the Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola Naval Air Station, then continue into Pensacola and Pensacola Beach before retiring beachside. It never seems to work out as planned - we loved the museum and discovered that the Blue Angels would be doing a practice show Wednesday at 8 am. Plan B was set into motion: there is a great campground on base for military personnel. But who can resist a pleading ("not military, but 21 years FAA, ma'am") father with a cute 9 year old boy? The lady was impressed with our trip and called the commanding officer for approval, which he granted.
We met a native Hawaiian seabee who is based in Gulfport and taking a few days break here fishing in the Gulf. Ben Kohn invited us to go spearfishing for flounder with him after dark. We waded through waist-deep water with strong lights with small fish and crabs everywhere. Ben speared a flounder for Wednesday's breakfast.
Monday, April 28, 2003
Ferry from Dauphin Island
We departed Bayou La Batre (we both enjoy saying "Bayou La Batre") and rode through lush pine forests to the town of Alabama Port where we met long-distance cyclist Ron Fillingim, a retired Navy pilot and Dauphin Island resident, who gave us a brief tour and history of the island as he escorted us across the long bridge. The previous bridge was completely destroyed by Hurricane Frederic in 1979, and the new bridge is well built with a wide paved shoulder. We toured Fort Gaines and rode around the island for awhile before riding onto the ferry for the 40 minute cruise across Mobile Bay to Fort Morgan.
Mobile Bay is littered with oil rigs; there are almost 30 in easy view from Dauphin Island. The Bay is full of oystermen using rake-like tongs to pull up loads of oysters mixed with "other stuff"; the oysters are picked out and the "other stuff" returned to the sea.
We arrived in Gulf Shores, AL, around 2:30, got a beachfront room and headed to the beach for some swimming and were interviewed by Fox10 TV News. Gulf Shores is a typical beach/spring break type community and we're fortunate to have barely missed the ever-growing Spring Break season.
Quote of the day: "Damn the torpedoes - full speed ahead!" - Admiral David Farragut, during the Civil War's Battle of Mobile Bay.
Sunday, April 27, 2003
Shrimping on the Gulf
Will's audio message
We tried grits for the first time this morning at the famous Waffle House. Will gave them a thumb's down, while I thought they were so-so. We rode along the beach through Gulfport and into Biloxi, where we discovered an opportunity to go on a shrimping expedition. While this diversion was fun and worthwhile, it caused us to shorten our sights for an overnight destination. Originally we were hoping to get to Dauphin Island, but only made it to Bayou La Batre, which claims to be the Seafood Capital of Alabama. After learning how to pronounce Bayou La Batre, we had some fried (!) crab legs for dinner.
Tomorrow we plan to cross the 4-mile bridge to Dauphin Island, explore the 4-mile long island, then take a ferry across Mobile Bay to Fort Morgan.
Saturday, April 26, 2003
Gulfport was too cool to pass by!
We got another early start today out of Waveland, MS, and were planning to ride 70-80 miles to get close to Dauphin Island. We stopped at an Oceanarium in Gulfport after checking with the management and getting permission to bring the bike inside to park. Will was enjoying playing with the dolphins and sea lions so much that we checked into a beachfront Holiday Inn so that we could return to the Oceanarium, hit the beach, and get some good seafood. We were hoping to make Pensacola by Monday evening, but we just learned today that the Blue Angels (the Navy's precision flight team) will not be practicing there on Tuesday morning like we thought. We are both enjoying the Gulf and would like to extend our time through this area. Our original route leaves the Gulf near Pensacola, but we may amend it "on the fly". We haven't been on the planned route since mid-Texas.
Our computer is fixed and on its way to Pensacola. We plan to update the entries from the last week with pictures as soon as possible.
Friday, April 25, 2003
Diagonally through New Orleans and into Mississippi
We departed our hotel in Luling, LA, at 6:20 and took US 90 and neighborhood streets to the Jackson Avenue ferry across the Mississippi River into downtown New Orleans. We stopped at a bike store in the French Quarter and replaced our knobby Walmart tire with a slick, high pressure touring tire. (The new tire produces a rougher ride but is much faster.) Upon exiting New Orleans to the northeast, we passed the NASA Michoud Space Center where they build booster rockets. There was a very impressive booster out front from Saturn V.
We stopped to help a large (about 2' in diameter) turtle in his quest to cross US 90 and later came face-to-face (about 6' away) with an 8' alligator.
We finally caught sight of the Gulf of Mexico off the right side of the road with Lake Pontchartrain off the left; we were on a 2-lane highway with waterfront properties on both sides of the street. We saw some new roadkill... an otter!
We entered Mississippi and passed by the Stennis Space Center, where NASA tests rocket engines. We cruised into a Holiday Inn in Waveland, MS, after 75 miles.
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Weather day in New Orleans
Will's audio message
Severe thunderstorms all day today. We were prepared for the weather and will stay in our nice Comfort Inn next door to a library, which we need since our computer is in the shop. This storm produced some tornadoes and baseball-sized hail yesterday in Texas, but should just be heavy rain and high winds here.
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Morgan City to New Orleans through swampland
Will's audio message
Will and I left Lynn and Katie at the hotel in Morgan City and departed at daybreak. They left a few hours later and passed us on the highway as they headed for their flight back to Chicago.
We started our day on "old" US 90 alongside many shipbuilding businesses on one of the many waterways that lead to the Gulf of Mexico. The highway continued northeast through swampland full of alligators (we saw maybe 6), turtles and many cool looking birds. We again saw signs warning of black bears. At this point, we really don't need much incentive to find a hotel rather than camp. Maybe we'll be able to camp along the Gulf in Mississippi, Alabama or Florida.
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
New Orleans with Diane and Erv
We left the bike in our hotel room in Morgan City and drove to NO to meet Lynn's sister Diane and her husband Erv. Diane and Erv treated us to a great cajun lunch at Mother's, we walked down Bourbon Street and shopped at the flea markets along the Mississippi River, before driving back to Morgan City for the night.
Palindrome of the day: "A nut for a jar of tuna."
Monday, April 21, 2003
Tailwinds! Thunderstorms! Blowout!
Will's audio message
We got a great start out of Lafayette today and took advantage of the rare north wind. We had to stop 3 times to let thunderstorm cells pass by; one time we had to take shelter under a huge farm implement. We had an unexplained blowout of our front tire, and pulled into a nearby carport to escape another approaching storm. The homeowners there, Howard and Catherine Matt, were wonderful and drove us back into town to buy a tire at Walmart. We still need to find a bike shop, as this tire is qualified only for "emergency back-up" duty.
Lynn and Katie shipped our laptop back to Fujitsu for service. We will not be able to post pictures until we get it back toward the end of next week.
We met Lynn and Katie in Morgan City and found a little restaurant for a GREAT meal of crabs and crawfish.
Sunday, April 20, 2003
Easter Sunday with Lynn, Katie and the Judice family
Will and I are enjoying our visit by Lynn and Katie, and we had a great day today on a tour of the area given by Rex and Tami Judice and their 8 year old son Wyatt. We drove to a great park filled with herons, turtles and alligators, then went to visit St. Martinville, a wonderful century old town of huge old oak trees and churches.
Tomorrow Will and I plan to ride southeast to Morgan City. The forecast is for thunderstorms and wind out of the northwest. At this point, I will gladly ride through rain in exchange for a tailwind, as the predominant wind here is out of the south. Lynn and Katie will meet us in Morgan City after touring the Tabasco plant on Avery Island.
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Alligator, seafood gumbo and shrimp for dinner
Will and I departed Crowley around 10 am for our 3 hour ride into Lafayette to meet Lynn and Katie. A strong quartering headwind lengthened the trip somewhat, but we were still able to beat them to the hotel, since they had to drive from New Orleans after flying from O'Hare. We have a great 2-room poolside suite at the Comfort Inn that is indeed quite comfortable for the next 2 days or so.
This area is referred to as Acadiana, and is rich in Cajun culture. We had a fine dinner at Prejeans that included alligator, crawfish, shrimp and some very rich soups. All of the foods were substantially richer than we are accustomed to, and tasted great.
Our wildlife highlight of the day was watching a hawk swoop down and grab a live rat in its talons and fly right across our path about 10 feet ahead of us.
We plan to attend Easter Mass tomorrow and meet up with a fellow cyclist that we've been communicating with since the start of our trip. Rex Judice has offered to show us around the area.
Friday, April 18, 2003
Crawfish, turtles and frogs everywhere
We got another late start out of Lake Charles; we seem to be losing the enthusiasm required to leave right at daybreak. We never get to bed until after 10, despite being tired enough to go to sleep around 8 pm. We have much to do in our "free" time, such as bike maintenance, laundry, homework, responding to email, updating the web site, etc.
We tried to design our own route today. We learned from previous cycle tourists that US 90 was not as good as it had been. I bet we spent 3 weeks on US 90 before we arrived in San Antonio; it treated us well with low traffic volumes (I-10 is usually nearby) and good shoulders. Although I-10 is still nearby, US 90 is only 2 lanes with no shoulders and a little more traffic than we like. We manually programmed a route using the GPS software, but wound up on some dirt and gravel roads which were unacceptable. We worked our way back to US 90 and tried to hold the white line into Crowley.
We spent much of the day riding next to diked and flooded rice fields. We're told that they become crawfish fields between rice seasons. We saw many crawfish, turtles and frogs in the roadside ditch. Will badly wants to catch something to send home with Lynn. We saw many rats near the rice fields that would scurry around as we passed, and Will was glad his feet are 2 feet above ground level.
We stopped at a supermarket in Welsh and they were excited about our trip and took our picture. I find it interesting how people view us, as some people see this as a wonderful father-son vacation adventure, and others view us as homeless vagabonds. A man yesterday asked me if I was a "doctor or lawyer"; a woman today wanted to know if we were "moving" to Florida.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Adios amigos en Tejas; bonjour les amis dans Louisiane
We officially left the "Southwest" and entered the "South" when we passed our first Waffle House in Beaumont, Texas. The change had begun back in Liberty, TX, (40 miles west of Beaumont) when the small restaurants and roadside stands switched from "Texas Bar-B-Q sandwiches" to "Shrimp and Crawfish". We even started to notice some Cajun accents 50 miles prior to crossing the Sabine River on our approach to Louisiana.
Our ride today was pretty nice. Long, flat, straight highways with clean, well-paved shoulders, and a slight (5 knot) tailwind. We were cruising right along so we limited our rest stops; one day a few weeks ago we had a tailwind in the morning, but when we got back on the road after a long lunch, there was a headwind. We weren't going to let that happen again. We even passed up some batting cages that we could have used to tune Will's swing.
We are in Lake Charles, Louisiana, tonight at a Days Inn. Lake Charles seems to be a resort-type town with some large casinos and many hotels.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Will's audio update
We departed The Woodlands around 8:45, with Pete leading the way for about 15 miles. He had to turn back around 10, but we certainly enjoyed our time with him. We found that we shared many interests. We would've stayed for another day if we had more time.
We are finally in a flat area! This was the first day that we didn't need the small chainring! The sides of the roads for most of the day were heavily wooded. It's great being in an area with towns every 10 miles or so. We actually passed up a few mini-marts for the first time this trip.
The wind was strong out of the south, but we were eastbound for much of the day. We finally got a chance to take advantage of the wind when we came upon a golf driving range facing north. I hit a couple drives beyond the 300 yard marker and Will was booming them.
We stopped to fish again off of a bridge, but had no luck catching dinner. We stopped to sit on a bench at a Baptist Church in New Caney, and met the pastor, Bro. Ed Thierbach, who we enjoyed speaking to for a few minutes. Ed is a fellow cyclist, and a former Air Traffic Controller.
We found a hotel in Liberty that might have been OK back in the 60's when they stopped maintaining it. We could've continued for another 15 miles probably, but we're told there are no hotels until Beaumont, 40 miles east. We're tired of camping, and it was a little rainy today.
Song of the day: "Lollipop, lollipop, O, lolli-lollipop" (Only the words of the first line are known)
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
We're north of Houston
We left Hempstead around 7:45 am and were thrilled to find a flat road with a great shoulder and a crosswind. We had breakfast at McD’s, since Will is making a run for the car in the Winning Time contest. No car yet, but he did win a Big Mac and large fries. He claims to have a system that can't lose.
Pete met us with about 12 miles to go and led us to his beautiful home in The Woodlands. The Woodlands is a community with beautiful dense pines everywhere, golf courses and bike trails. We met some neighbors and headed out to dinner to meet my niece Michele, who is a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Houston and works on political asylum cases. We had a great dinner courtesy of Pete and returned to his home to talk. Michele is ready to start law school at CUNY in the fall.
Song of the day: "The 12 days of Christmas" (or 10 days, anyway)
Monday, April 14, 2003
LaGrange to Hempstead, Texas
We pulled out of LaGrange about 8 am and headed northeast guided by the GPS with its mapping feature. We had formed the route with the help of our new friend Peter Nolan, who was introduced to us as a Houston contact through the San Antonio Wheelman. Will and I programmed the route into the laptop and uploaded it into the GPS; the GPS can then give us a moving map and prompts for all turns.
The widflowers around here are spectacular, and we're told the season is almost over. We've seen huge fields full of red, blue, orange and mixed flowers. We came face to face with a snake at a picnic area, but he turned to take off before we had a chance to. Roadkill numbers were down today, led by a dozen armadillos.
Peter and his pal Steve met us around halfway on our trip to Hempstead and escorted us into town, then took us to dinner.
Sunday, April 13, 2003
More hills and headwind
Will's audio message
We left Lockhart at 7:30 this morning into a fog on seldom used country roads through areas of cattle ranches. The terrain throughout the day was long, rolling hills, and we pulled into LaGrange around 5:30.
We are now officially past half-way on our trip. We passed half-way on the difficulty chart a long time ago, but we’re pleased to have more than half the miles behind us.
Saturday, April 12, 2003
We love San Antonio
We left San Antonio bright and early escorted by George Rutherford (our hero), Debbie, and her daughter, Cassie. About 18 miles out, we had an explosive blowout of our rear tandem wheel. There was a 4” split in the sidewall that could not be repaired, we had no spare, and we were in the middle of nowhere. That tire had been specially ordered back home before the trip from our local bike shop. George made a few phone calls and Bike World, San Antonio’s largest bike store, delivered the exact tire to us in an hour! It pays to have friends in high places!
We continued to Gruene for a great Mexican lunch, courtesy of George; they then turned south and returned home, leaving us to fend for ourselves the rest of the day. Will and I continued to Lockhart to a so-so hotel, some laundry, and some TV.
Friday, April 11, 2003
A fine day in San Antonio
We are staying near the airport, so after breakfast we walked over there to visit my brothers and sisters at the tower. We had a great tour of the tower and tracon and enjoyed chatting with the controllers for 20 minutes or so; Will helped them work their way out of some jams during an inbound rush :-). We then caught a bus for the downtown area, and enjoyed the tour of the neighborhoods on the way.
The downtown area is really great. We first found ourselves at the famous "riverwalk", and took a 45 minute boat ride through the narrow twists and turns of the San Antonio River. The river is about as wide as a 2-lane country road, with sidewalks, restaurants and shops on each side. We then walked over to the Alamo for a self-guided tour, followed by an IMAX® movie "Alamo... The Price of Freedom". It was a good education about what happened there in 1836. We stayed for another film, "Coral Reef Adventure"; we try to catch IMAX® films whenever we can. We wandered around downtown before heading back to the riverwalk for dinner; it was starting to get busier down there with Mariachi bands, portrait artists, and many more riverboats. We ate dinner near a busy "T" intersection of the river that probably could've used a traffic light! It was fun to watch the action while enjoying our Tex-Mex fare, with a bottle of Lone Star beer (just so I wouldn't look out of place!). We took a bus back to the airport and enjoyed chatting with the driver.
We plan to depart the area tomorrow morning, bright and early, and will try hard to get to New Orleans before Easter. That will be tough, but we should be rested enough, anyway! And some people say that a good sports massage is worth a 3 day rest. We should be as good as new!
Thursday, April 10, 2003
The San Antonio Wheelmen welcome us to town!
Will's audio message
We left Devine at 7:30 am into unseasonably cold weather (about 40oF) and headed east on the route suggested by the Wheelmen to avoid the city traffic. We were about 30 miles into our trip when a pick-up truck passed us, then pulled over a few blocks ahead. A man got out of the truck, walked around to the back of the vehicle, opened the tailgate, put 2 Gatorades on the roof with some snacks, and said, "Hi Dave and Will!". George Rutherford (who completed the Southern Tier in '98) of the Wheelmen gave us a great welcome to the area! He then helped us get to our favorite physical therapy office, Spinal Dynamics, and Julie Barnett, PT, who so graciously offered to provide some sports physical therapy to us! The staff at Spinal Dynamics treated us like celebrities; we were treated to lunch, given massages and other therapy. Julie did a cross-country tour 2 years ago, and we are learning of this special bond between those who cross. Thanks Julie and staff! The president of the Wheelmen, William Hudson, tracked us down at Julie's office to offer his support, and visited with us for awhile. George then helped us find a hotel, and we've decided to spend another day here in town to check out the Alamo and the rest of downtown. Thanks George!
We learned of an incident last week in the area that involved a lion getting loose from a game preserve. The lion ultimately was shot by police officers when it charged at them. I guess being chased by pit bulls isn't so bad!!
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
We circumvent San Antonio
We left the hotel in Uvalde while it was still dark out to head across the street to Jack in the Box for breakfast. We were ready to depart at first light. About 5 miles out, we were chased by 3 pit bulls. I got the first one right in the face with the HALT! and he immediately broke off the chase. We were able to outrun numbers 2 and 3; numbers 4 and 5 were chained in the yard, presumably the meanest of the 5. We think that these people must have been breeders.
We later stopped in Yancey at an old general store run by a real nice lady who we spoke to for awhile about some local customs. One of her friends came by on his way home from the livestock auction with a Hereford bull and a donkey. The $1,000 bull was on his way to his new job as a daddy, and the $200 “guard” donkey was hired to keep the coyotes off the goats.
We rode by some exotic game ranches where one can pay a fee and hunt animals that are not native to this continent. Other ranches raise deer to be hunted on game ranches.
We arrived in Devine (on I-35 about 25 miles SW of San Antonio) at about 5 pm after 68 pleasant miles.
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
A little too windy to ride
We took an undeserved rest day in Uvalde today due to 35 knot winds and threats of thunderstorms. As it turned out, we probably could’ve put a few miles in, but we enjoyed resting and walking a few miles to check out the town. We played a little baseball to keep Will sharp as his team in Barrington is already practicing without him.
Monday, April 07, 2003
Del Rio to Uvalde
We departed Del Rio, which after a 2 day stay is more like a "home" than our other stops, at 7:30 and headed east. And we don't want to sound like whiners, but we had another 15 knot headwind. The terrain was manageable, with big, rolling hills. We stopped to watch some Air Force trainer jets in operation at Laughlin AFB; there were 3 in the pattern while we were there.
We have been stopping at the Texas DOT "picnic areas", which are every 50 miles or so. Today we met a couple with a motor home who came up to us and said, "We heard about you guys 2 nights ago at a campground about 200 miles east of here". Apparently our reputation precedes us!
We have been seeing the Border Patrol a dozen or so times every day for the past couple weeks. They seem to be pretty intent on doing their job right, but have never even looked at us twice. And we've finally figured out some of their tricks. We've seen tractor tires chained together in groups of 3 about 20 times on the south side of US90. The Border Patrol guys drag the the tires every evening to remove any footprints between the ranch fences and the road. Then every morning they drive along the area very slowly looking for footprints. We've been through 3 or 4 mandatory "Immigration Checkpoints" on US90.
We rode 70 miles today, which is more than we want to into a headwind, but we had no choice if we wanted a hotel. We could've camped, but a lady at lunch was talking to us about our overnight habits and she said, "You guys better be careful with those rattlesnakes! They're coming out now you know. My husband had to kill 5 of them yesterday." We try to be somewhat macho about this adventure; we both do things routinely outside that I would not have done a year ago if you paid me. But I'm not sure about this rattlesnake thing. And we don't really want to encounter some of these other things, either. Check out that wild boar (?) in the picture! It was the Inn of Uvalde tonight. Will wanted to camp, but I was able to persuade him to my way of thinking.
Will continues to be the ideal partner for this adventure! He's kinda tough to get up in the morning, but the rest of the day he provides endless entertainment and is just soaking up the educational benefits presented to him. He goes weeks without seeing another kid, and easily fits into conversations with adults. He sings and jokes all day long, and provides needed encouragement often. We will never forget this time together. I need to close this entry before I get emotional.
Sunday, April 06, 2003
Rest day in Del Rio, Texas
Will's audio message
We spent Sunday in Del Rio going to church, catching up on our internet duties, doing some laundry and resting by the pool. We also caught a movie at Will’s request.
We are in contact with some members of a San Antonio bicycle club who are helping route us through their area. We have decided to pass through or south of the city rather than go through the very hilly area between SA and Austin. We hope to rejoin our route on the other side of SA, and then continue north of Houston as originally planned. We are really looking forward to passing through towns every 10–20 miles, rather than every 50-60 miles between towns since we departed the left coast. It will be nice to drink something in the afternoon that hasn’t been cooking all day in the sun!
We hope to leave here at sunup tomorrow, but it is getting increasingly more difficult to figure out when the sun comes up. Over the last three weeks we have passed from PST to MST to CST to CDT. During this time, first light has ranged from 5:40 to 7:30 am.
Saturday, April 05, 2003
Comstock to Del Rio in the rain
This morning's weather: low ceiling, visibility about 1 mile in drizzling rain, 15 knot wind RIGHT IN OUR FACES! We had hoped to cruise the 32 miles into Del Rio by 11 am, but we were able to get there by 1. Sometimes I think we should change our title to "America at 6 mph". We went to the bike shop (the first shop in 450 miles!) and got a new chain and some derailleur adjustments. The bike shop mechanic said that there is a headwind coming down here from Van Horn about 90% of the time. I guess we should be happy that we had a headwind about 60%. We found a nice hotel to rest up on Sunday and prepared for the Marquette game on TV (we won't discuss the result, thank you). Will purchased a Super Soaker to help defend us against dogs, and we spent some time together in the hotel pool.
Songs of the day - some of the works of Rory Cooney.
Friday, April 04, 2003
88 miles today!!
Will's audio message
We left the Desert Air Motel in Sanderson (the best hotel value yet) at sunup after seeing the Weather Channel forecast for a tailwind today. We were cruising right along to Langtry, where we stopped to tour the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center. Judge Roy Bean was a colorful character who administered the law in the USA west of the Pecos River. He would sometimes hold court in the local saloon and was known to sentence the guilty at times to “buy a round” of drinks for everybody in the bar.
We departed Langtry after lunch and hit the long rolling hills toward Comstock with the 90oF sun on our backs and a headwind in our faces. We traversed some breathtaking river valleys and canyons on high bridges and pulled into the Comstock Motel around 6 pm after 88 miles, our longest day yet.
We asked the owner of the motel for a dinner recommendation and she immediately insisted that we take her pickup truck to a restaurant on the edge of town, which we did.
Thursday, April 03, 2003
Our finest day yet!
Our best day so far! We have been spending the past week or so around 4,000-5,000’ msl (mean sea level), and finally got to descend to about 2,900’. Almost all flat or downhill and a tailwind to boot! We could’ve easily gone way beyond Sanderson, but it’s our last motel for a couple days. We hope to get to Del Rio by Saturday afternoon.
This day was probably the most exciting otherwise as well. We stopped at a dry creek bed (so we can lean the bike up against the steel guard rail; not only is there no shade around here, but nowhere to lean the bike!). As we stood there (there’s also nowhere to sit), we heard a rustle in the desert scrub and turned to discover a javelina (an ugly, nasty, wild pig with horns and big teeth) charging at us! He stopped about 10 yards away as we both grabbed our cameras. We stared him down and he eventually reversed course and trotted off. While this was happening, I turned to see an F-18 about 1 mile north of us screaming eastbound at about 100’ agl (above ground level). We later encountered a herd of buffalo and a prairie dog.
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Marfa to Marathon
Will's audio message
Once again we followed US90 and the old Southern Pacific RR into Marathon. We camped out Wednesday night as about 4 thunderstorms passed through the area. Will slept soundly as I prepared to be blown into the next county.
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
The promise of a tailwind was an April Fool's joke
Will's audio message
We departed Van Horn at first light with the hopes of a 100 mile day, wind permitting. Unfortunately, the wind was right in our face for the first half of our day, and across our path for the rest of the day. We pulled into Marfa and stayed at a wonderful old hotel where the movie “Giant” was filmed (James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor).
Monday, March 31, 2003
Into Sierra Blanca
Will's audio message
We spent the day on the frontage roads to I-10, with a close eye on the re-build of the westbound lanes off to our right. Every day we seem to have an opportunity to watch something interesting as we pass through. We had to improvise a few detours of our own due to the construction. As we approached Van Horn we entered the Central Time Zone. We’ve passed through the Pacific and Mountain zones already, but we’ll be in the Central until western Florida!
Sunday, March 30, 2003
A nice day!
Every day there are problems to overcome. I woke up at 5 am to prepare for a 5:45 departure, but we waited for the sun to warm the area up to 40oF at 6:30. We suffered through yet another flat tire (culprit: goathead thorns), this time on the rear tire, the first one there. To repair this tire, we must: remove the panniers, remove the trailer, disconnect the drum cable, disconnect the drum arm, remove the wheel, remove the tire, repair the tube, re-install everything, hope for the best. I can repair a flat and be back on the road on my road bike in 10 minutes; we seem to be averaging closer to 30 minutes per repair on this trip.
We stopped for a Mexican breakfast and then at a Mexican church for a Spanish Mass. We were chased by another three-dog pack and just barely got away.
The weather was very pleasant and we made good time until a 14 mile climb toward the end of the day. The climb wasn’t overly steep, but took us about 2 hours to complete. We were waved through a Border Patrol checkpoint at the peak of the mountain pass, and rolled down 2 miles into Sierra Blanca. I believe we are as high as we will be for the rest of the trip.
Saturday, March 29, 2003
Lynn and Dave, Marquette University Class of '77
Marquette did what no team had done in three months, and what many people thought was impossible. Dwyane Wade and the Golden Eagles upset Kentucky 83-69 Saturday, ending the top-seeded Wildcats' 26-game winning streak and earning a trip to the Final Four in New Orleans. Cheered by a sea of yellow-clad followers, Marquette's surprising rout gave the school its third regional title and first since 1977, when Al McGuire coached the team to its only national title. If Wade keeps it up, the Golden Eagles might get another. He showed again why he's one of the nation's top players with a triple-double -- 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
Now it's on to New Orleans, where the Golden Eagles will face Kansas in the national semifinals next Saturday.
Only 96% of Texas to go
We departed El Paso today with 20 knot winds right in our faces. Our plan all along was to ride shorter days with headwinds or rain. We are committed now to ride dawn to dusk next time we've got a tailwind! Today we quit around 2:30 pm when we found an acceptable hotel (by acceptable we mean dial-up internet access and a TV that'll have the Marquette-Kentucky basketball game tonight) in the tiny town of Fabens, Texas. Spanish is still the dominant language by far; elementary schools have marquees detailing Spring Break without a word of English.
We have received word that Will's "wolf skull" may really be the head of a sheep. Nevertheless, we prefer the hint of danger associated with riding through an area with wolves, and have decided to stick with our original story.
Long distance cyclists will agree that there is a fine balance to the amount of pressure that can be absorbed by the feet, butt and hands. Too much pressure on the hands can relieve some butt pain, but cause nerve damage in the hands (and blisters). If one gets out of the saddle to relieve butt pain, the feet can start to hurt. I have tried to balance the three, but had numbing of the hands today. Part of that may be the headwind and the need to get into a tuck at times. Part of it may be that I'm an old man with a young man's load. I had an opportunity to ride the bike alone with no load recently. It felt like a rocket ship, and I suspect that it would've coasted uphill!
Tomorrow: The forecast for tomorrow's wind is more favorable. We hope to reach Sierra Blanca.
Friday, March 28, 2003
El Paso welcomes us!
Friday started out poorly. It was 40oF when we departed into a 30 knot headwind. We stopped to repair a flat about 2 miles into our trip, and actually thought about gliding downwind back to our hotel. We met Don Baumgardt, who publishes The Official Visitors Guide to El Paso, who recommended Crazy Cat Cyclery as a place for us to stock up on supplies before we head off into the Texas wilderness. When we arrived at Crazy Cat Cyclery, they were waiting for us and treated us like celebrities! Don had left us a certificate for a free night at a local Holiday Inn, and the guys at the bike store gave us free T-shirts and water bottles. We bought "thorn-resistant" tubes, and had them install "Slime" (a kind of sealant that goes into the tube), which further prevents flats into our front wheel and trailer wheel. This all brightened up our otherwise dreary day.
After checking in at the Holiday Inn and swimming in their indoor/outdoor (Will's favorite kind!) pool, we took a bus down to International Plaza and walked across the bridge to Mexico. We wandered around Juarez for a little bit and enjoyed a good dinner. Will enjoyed our attempt at shopping as the merchants competed for our attention; we briefly considered a longhorn steer skull (complete with horns, US$13) and a fake Rolex (US$25) before leaving emptyhanded. We donated our remaining 100 pesos to a poor woman as we departed. It was very clear that she needed it, and she was truly grateful.
En el español
El viernes empezó mal. Era 5oC cuándo nosotros partimos en un 30 viento contrario de nudo. Paramos a reparar una planicie acerca de tres kilómetros en nuestro viaje, y pensó verdaderamente acerca de deslizar a favor del viento espalda a nuestro hotel. Reunimos Don Baumgardt, que publica Los Visitantes Oficiales Indican al Paso de El, Que recomendó Gato Loco Cyclery como un lugar para nosotros a acciones arriba en suministros antes nosotros detenemos en el desierto de Tejas. ¡Cuándo nosotros llegamos en Gato Loco Cyclery, ellos nos esperaban y nos trató como celebridades! Don nos había dejado un certificado por una noche libre en una Posada local de la Vacación, y los tipos en la tienda de la bicicleta dieron nosotros libertamos botellas de camisetas y agua. Compramos "resistente de espina" tubos, y los tuvo instalan "Limo" (una clase de sellador que entra el tubo), que previene además las planicies en nuestra rueda anterior de la rueda y el remolque. Esto todo aclaró arriba nuestro día de otro modo triste. Después que verificar en en la Posada de la Vacación y la natación en su interior/al aire libre (la clase favorita de la Guillermo!) la piscina, nosotros tomamos un autobús hacia abajo a la Plaza Internacional y caminamos a través del puente a México. Vagamos alrededor de Juarez para un pedacito pequeño y gozamos una cena buena. Haga gozó nuestra tentativa en las compras como los mercaderes competidos para nuestra atención; consideramos brevemente un cráneo de novillo de longhorn (completa con cuernos, US$13) y una falsificación Rolex (US$25) antes de salir emptyhanded. Donamos nuestro es restantes 100 pesos a una mujer pobre como nosotros partimos. Era muy claro que ella lo necesitó, y ella estaba sinceramente agradecida.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
Another state behind us
Lynn and David left our hotel in Las Cruces at 4 am to catch their 6 am ELP-DFW-ORD flight. Will and I headed out around 9 am, our latest departure yet. We passed through the trendy La Mesilla area and rode through mile after mile of perfectly spaced pecan trees. We had a headwind that picked up substantially around 11; when we turned directly into it (about 25% of our day) we were slowed to a crawl. At one point, we were in our lowest gear going down a slight incline at about 4 mph. We actually had to walk a stretch downhill. We stopped for lunch at an authentic western saloon and Will was treated by several ladies as a celebrity. We fixed a flat tire on the trailer once again; the stock tire just doesn't compare favorably to the Conti Top Touring that we use on the bike (Continental doesn't make the size we need). As we approached El Paso, the wind turned to a crosswind and we found ourselves in constant sandstorms. The sand felt like a million pins sticking in to our arms and legs. At times visibility was reduced to about a mile by the sand and we saw tumbleweeds the size of Volkswagens cross the road ahead of us. Fortunately, we found a hotel immediately after crossing the NM/TX border and we hustled right in.
Our route through Texas is about 900 miles; we'll be Texans for about 19 days.
The Fox News in the Morning interview didn't work out; maybe we'll stop in San Antonio in a couple weeks.
Palindrome of the day: Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Down the Rio Grande to Las Cruces
We departed our cabin in Caballo about 7 am and headed south along the river. We crossed the Rio several times and it was not always Grande, resembling just a healthy creek at times.
We visited Hatch, NM, the chile pepper capital of the world. In a restaurant, all diners are asked, “do you want red or green with that?”. We had omelets for breakfast with green.
We saw our first roadrunner (beep! beep!) hustling across the road ahead of us, and were chased by about 6 dogs. The Halt! pepper spray does a nice job against the attacking dogs. So far, every dog has immediately turned back. We need to buy another can for Texas. We also came upon a dead longhorn bull in a dry riverbed.
Fox 32 in Chicago is attempting to coordinate a remote interview for Fox News in the Morning while we're in El Paso. If it works out, look for the interview on Friday morning on the local Fox station in Chicago between 7 and 9 am.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
We reach the Rio Grande
Have I mentioned that we are tired of climbing mountains? Well, we have finally put the biggest peaks behind us. Today we made it to Caballo, NM, where we are staying in a rustic cabin. The descent from 8,228’ to 4,500’ was just what the doctor ordered. We have some hills in western Texas (referred to locally as the “Texas Alps”) to deal with, but nothing anywhere close to what we’ve been through the past three weeks. Today’s descent wasn’t very fast as we were making sharp turns all the way down and the sightlines were very poor. As it turned out, we were glad we hadn’t disposed of our brakes. The edges of the road were mere inches from disaster; in some areas if we stopped on the white stripe we would have to dismount on the left side of the bike due to the closeness of the cliff edge.
Caballo is on the Rio Grande, just a few miles south of Truth or Consequences (or “T or C”, as we insiders call it), where we had dinner.
Will found a sun-bleached coyote or wolf skull, a possession that he cherishes.
Monday, March 24, 2003
Rest day 2 in Silver City, NM
Today we visited the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, which is about 50 miles north of Silver City at the end of the curviest, hilliest road I’ve ever been on. The 100 mile round trip took about 4 hours. The park offers a glimpse of the homes and lives of Indians who lived here seven centuries ago. The homes were made several hundred feet up on the side of a rock face and were often several rooms deep, connected by ladders and small doorways.
We later visited the Gila Hot Springs where David and Will soaked for awhile in natural 104F waters alongside the Gila River. The water at the source was much too hot to touch, but there were several pools that were progressively cooler.
Plan: Tuesday we’ll ride to Hillsboro, Wednesday to Las Cruces; Lynn and David leave us early Thursday to catch their flight out of El Paso.
Sunday, March 23, 2003
Rest day in Silver City, NM
Lynn, David, Will and I hung around the Silver City area today as Will and I enjoyed a day of recovery. Silver City was created in 1870 as a result of a silver boom and grew from a single cabin to over eighty buildings in ten months. We took a drive into the mountains to see the magnificent vistas, but the highlight of the day was our visit to the City of Rocks. Theory is that these rock formations were thrown thousands of years ago 180 miles from a volcano near Albuquerque; we all enjoyed climbing high on the vertical faces of the rocks that seemed to be balanced on end.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
We cross the Continental Divide
We awoke to low 20oF temps. We were both a little cold overnight, but it wasn’t too bad. Both of our bags are rated to 20oF, and we were dressed with long-sleeved wool shirts. We both stayed in our bags all night, but a little back-to-back contact provided some extra warmth. When I unzipped the outer tent fly, snow flew into the tent and we both felt like zipping back into our bags for a few hours. We had a goal of Silver City, and with another drastic climb toward the end, we knew that we’d have to get underway. Our Gatorade on the bike was frozen (note to shoppers: Safeway is currently selling 32 oz Gatorade for $0.75).
We are sincerely tired of climbing every day; our load is just too big. My quadriceps muscles are finally starting to burn around mid-day on. When we left the West Coast, Will would ask that I apply our drum brake whenever we exceeded about 25 mph. (The drum brake is a drag brake that can be set for long fast descents on a heavily laden tandem to prevent excessive speed buildup. A normal rim brake will overheat the rim in many situations and cause a tire to blow.) Anyway, I guess our priorities have changed. Will specifically asks that I not set the drum brake because he doesn’t want to waste any energy for the next climb. Personally, I think we should remove ALL of our brakes to save the weight!
We arrived at the Silver City Comfort Inn around 3, and were able to sweet-talk the desk clerk into a suite. Lynn and David arrived around 4, and we had a great reunion. Lynn and Will headed out for dinner while David and I discussed baseball in the room.
Friday, March 21, 2003
More of the same
We departed Safford at 6:30 am. We immediately re-entered the remote wilderness and started a long, slow uphill climb. With mountains on all sides, it is tough to find a horizon with which to judge slope. It was depressing as it appeared to both of us that we were headed downhill, but couldn’t get above 8 mph. A look back a little later showed that we had accomplished a substantial climb. The remoteness of this area can be illustrated by a billboard advertising a McDonald’s 100 miles away!
We saw our first jackrabbit this morning. It was probably 3 times as tall as the standard Illinois rabbit, and hopped away like a kangaroo. A retired Forest Service worker told us that there are mountain lions, antelopes, bears and whitetail deer in this area.
At times we can see in all directions at least a hundred miles. We can see what appear to be snow showers, thunderstorms and fog and watch each move across the sky. We were hit by a very strong thunderstorm at one point and hid for 20 minutes beneath an over-the-road type trailer that was parked by the side of the highway (without its tractor). Another rainstorm was headed for us in the afternoon, but we sped up and watched it pass behind us.
We later did some climbing on switchbacks up to 6,295’ msl; these switchbacks were so tight at one point that one could probably spit on the road below. The road distance was substantially longer than what the crow flies. Our GPS said that the Arizona/New Mexico state line was 14 miles ahead; when asked to calculate driving distance, the result was 26 miles.
We encountered a herd of about 10 antelopes in late afternoon as we entered New Mexico, and finally set up camp near Buckhorn. We will be asleep by 8 pm.
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Another beautiful day
We left Globe around 6:15 today in temps around 30F. We thought we were well dressed when we left but had to stop twice to add more layers. We had a nice, relatively flat ride through Peridot, Bylas, Geronimo and Fort Thomas, all very small towns that are part of the San Carlos Apache Reservation. These towns all seemed to be low-income, and some of the huts were barely habitable. Again there were great numbers of roadside memorials, perhaps one every two or three miles. There was also a very high volume of trash alongside the road including many beer bottles, despite most of the highway “adopted” by various groups.
We later cruised through Pima and Thatcher on our way into Safford, which is bigger than almost all towns we’ve seen this trip (2 supermarkets!).
We found ourselves beneath a pair of F-16 fighter jets maneuvering at high altitude for most of the day as we wondered what was going on in the Iraq conflict. Perhaps they were defending the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant, the nation’s largest nuclear plant, which we passed late last week just west of Phoenix.
All day long we were able to view the upcoming snow-capped Rocky Mountains, and they were very impressive. We look forward to seeing these up close, but fear the day we must climb over them! Tandems are notoriously poor climbing machines, and with our large load our speed drops to about 4 mph.
Friday’s goal: cross Big Lue Mountain (6,295’ msl and 54 miles from Safford) and see how far we can get after that. We’ll be camping for sure, so we can ride ‘til we drop.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Goofing off in Globe
Will felt ill on Wednesday morning, and since we had such a tough day on Tuesday we decided to spend the day in Globe and enjoy the sights. Globe is the home of perhaps the most significant archeological find in the southwest, the ruins of the Besh-Ba-Gowah pueblo. People inhabited this area around 1100 A.D.; the multi-level stone construction resembled jail cells.
We spent the rest of the day catching up on e-mail, wandering around Globe on foot, and figuring out how we can get to Silver City by Saturday afternoon to meet family. Initial plan: 78 miles Thursday to Safford, 54 miles and a climb to 6,295’ on Friday, and 62 miles on Saturday.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Climbing into Globe
Will's audio message
We spent Monday with Barb and Denny as we waited out a rainstorm. Will had a great time playing with their dogs, and it looked like the feeling was mutual. We got a message from Kerry Marshall (a cross-country cyclist ahead of us) that he was wet and cold heading to Globe on Monday; we don't mind wet or cold, but we try to avoid both at once. We were pleased that we made the right decision staying put.
We departed Apache Junction around 6:30 am today and rode almost non-stop to Globe, arriving about 4:30 pm. It was very cold crossing through a mountain pass at 4,600' and we briefly saw hail. Our day didn't seem overly dangerous, but between Florence Junction and Superior we probably saw roadside memorials to about 20 accident victims. Some seemed to be whole families from toddlers to grandparents. We wondered about the circumstances surrounding the accidents.
We continue to get people who can't believe that we've come from LA, and we get alot of "no way!" remarks when we relate our destination. It's fun watching the reactions of people.
We saw many impressive cactus plants today. Some looked to be over 20' tall, with 6 or more arms. We stopped at an arboretum to look at many different varieties of cactus, and Will and I decided to "raise" some at home when this is over. They don't seem to require much attention.
After "blowing off" Monday, we have to hustle into Silver City, NM, to meet wife/mom Lynn and son/bro David on Saturday. We must do about 60 miles per day, which is a long day in this type of terrain. We don't expect to have cell service or internet connections until this weekend. Wednesday's goal: Safford, AZ.
Monday, March 17, 2003
Most popular comment: "your son will surely remember this the rest of his life!"
Most popular questions: "what made you decide to do this?"; "where is your support vehicle?"; "do you have a gun?"
Flat tires: 5, all in one day (4 on trailer tire, 1 on front tire; Will is now fully certified in tube patching)
We are over 500 total miles now; although we are still tweaking our load (more things to be sent home with Lynn next week), we are starting to find our groove. Packing and unpacking is going more smoothly every day.
Will is happier than I've ever seen him; he is constantly singing, joking and playing. He volunteers his favorite "stories of the road" to interested adults. He personally gets (and returns) between 10 and 15 e-mails per day. He gets e-mail from kids around the world, often with a list a questions to be answered.
We have carried the right amount of water, but should've carried more food. We expected to see more restaurants. We've gone whole days without seeing a restaurant!
We sent back our baseball gloves, our kite, our sandals and more stuff. We just don't have as much time to play as we thought. The days are too short, and the oversize load was slowing us down, making it worse.
Will is forbidden from collecting rocks, even those that are "very valuable".
There is very limited opportunity to go fishing in the desert!
We are not seeing the wildlife we expected yet. We have seen some cool birds and some cool roadkill, however.
We are getting several hundred "hits" per day on our web site! We would like to see a few more donations to our charities, however. We are not going to push hard for these, but maybe some of our faithful readers can toss a buck or two toward either one of our charities. PayPal offers a free $5 for anyone signing up for a free account; why not sign up and donate the $5? Then you'll be ready to pay for that next eBay purchase with the touch of a button. Look for links on the left side of the page. Thanks.
Sunday, March 16, 2003
Rain all day
We went to church with the Kanitsch's and Sandy served up another wonderful breakfast. Brian and daughter Sarah then mounted their Santana tandem and led us down the river trail to get us started on our departure toward Mesa. We greatly enjoyed our time with the Kanitsch's and the rest day helped rejuvenate some of the sorer parts of our bodies.
Sunday's rain was heavy at times, and we stopped to seek shelter twice as cells passed by. We finally reached the Cubs' spring training site a couple hours after the game had been cancelled, and found about 40 fans waiting for home run king Sammy Sosa to emerge from the clubhouse. We waited for about 30 minutes as Will got autographs on his baseball cap from skipper Dusty Baker, Hall of Famer Billy Williams, and finally Sammy. We are spending tonight with former co-worker Denny Cunningham and his wife Barb. It is great to see them again.
Monday: wait out the early morning rain, then try to climb into Claypool, AZ, through some long, dark, uphill tunnels.
Looking back on this day post-journey: Will was sad to say good-bye to Sarah. We "lucked out" with the Cubs, since were would've been late anyway due to the heavy rain. Most of the fans were long gone when we arrived, allowing Will easy access to autographs.
Saturday, March 15, 2003
A day at the airshow
We had a great day resting in Phoenix. We stopped at a great bike shop for some new cycling gloves, some flat repair kits (Will repaired 4 flats on Friday, after we picked up some radial-tire wire in our trailer tire), and some miscellaneous items. We then spent the rest of the day at the Luke AFB airshow, featuring the USAF Thunderbirds. The show was great and there were many static displays, including a C-5.
Sunday's plan: Mass @ 8 am, ride to Mesa, watch the Cubs host the Colorado Rockies, then ride to Apache Junction to spend the evening with retired ORD controller Denny Cunningham and wife Barb.
Looking back on this day post-journey: Will grew quite fond of Sarah and enjoyed playing with other kids for a change. We drove over to the AFB together and we were able to park very close to the action due to Brian's recent Air National Guard activation. Less well-connected air show fans were parking miles away! Due to the mid-east conflict, there were many armed guards patrolling everywhere on the base.
Friday, March 14, 2003
We've earned another rest in Phoenix
We glided into the Phoenix area in the early afternoon, and stopped in Peoria to catch a couple innings of the Padres vs. the Royals. We are staying with Brian and Sandy Kanitsch and their family. Will is enjoying the visit as there are several children here with which to play. Brian was just activated by his Arizona National Guard unit and Sandy is a labor & delivery nurse at a local hospital. They are wonderful hosts.
Over our 60-mile ride today, we saw six dead coyotes along the side of the road (Will is convinced, however, that one was a monkey).
Phoenix drivers seem to be a bit more aggressive than we’ve encountered this trip, tossing some “brush back” pitches every so often.
Looking back on this day post-journey: We dealt with more traffic today than any day in the past, as might be expected. We passed by the Padres spring training game about the 8th inning, and parked alongside the fence and went in for a little bit. Will enjoyed the up-close look at the Royals bullpen. We made it to Kanitsch's using turn-by-turn directions provided by Brian.
Thursday, March 13, 2003
Quartzsite to Tonopah
Thursday was less fun than most days. Although we are trying hard not to rush, we worked a little harder today so that we could try to get into Phoenix for an airshow on Saturday. We pulled into Tonopah as it started to get dark and, after 76 tough miles, were delighted to find a sub-standard hotel at an inflated price. We were prepared to camp “in the wild” if necessary, despite signs that warned of rattlesnakes and scorpions.
Looking back on this day post-journey: Our hotel room was so small that we had to climb over a bed to get to the bathroom. We walked in the dark to a restaurant a few blocks away for dinner. We were the only patrons that were not smoking; there was not a "no smoking" area at all.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
California - been there, done that
Will's audio message
We broke camp in Palo Verde around 7 am to clear skies again. Our morning was uneventful, except for the vicious dog attack. There was an 8 foot concrete irrigation ditch separating the road from these dogs’ house, effectively forming a “moat” in my eyes. These three dogs accelerated to full speed in mere seconds and leapt across the canal to come after us. We had several choices: stop and fight them, spray water and doggy pepper spray at them, or try to get out of there. We chose to get out of there, with the meanest dog easily catching us and locking his massive jaws around a bag on our trailer. He later came up to try for some well-exercised calf muscle, but I was able to land a glancing blow off his snout with my foot. They all decided to turn back. Whew! Max heart rate achieved once again.
We finally crossed the river into Arizona at mid-day. Very hot afternoon again (90F), and it seems that every afternoon we climb, sweat, wipe our brows, drink and look for shade constantly. Will even takes a break from singing and swinging his arms around like a conductor. We finished off the day with a five mile descent into Quartzsite, a city that is home to thousands of motor homes during the winter. People are currently leaving and the city is at about half capacity. Quartzsite appears to be nothing but flea markets and RV parking lots.
Looking back on this day post-journey: We camped in a gravel RV park in Quartzsite and met fellow touring cyclists Paula and Rhea. They are in their fifties and taking a slightly slower pace than we are. We continued to correspond with Paula via e-mail until she arrived in Austin, her finishing point.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
United we sand!
As I write this journal, we are getting ready to nod off in our tent about 10 feet from the western bank of the Colorado River. Will attempted to catch dinner tonight, but was unsuccessful (you shoulda seen the one that got away!). We went into our emergency stash of canned “white chunk chicken” for dinner.
We started off the day by checking out of the Brawley Inn around 6 am. We immediately broke the rear chain, and that repair took about half an hour. Already we were falling behind our planned goal of Blythe, 87 miles away. A main difference in winter bicycle touring is the shortness of the day. Around 6 pm, it is simply too dark to ride safely, and the winter darkness falls quickly, without much warning. Palo Verde was a mere 67 miles away across a brutal stretch of desert; still reachable if we limited our rest stops.
We passed through flat areas filled with beef cattle; somewhat flat areas with alfalfa and other short, green crops heavily irrigated by canals; mountainous areas on both sides with rocky desert sand between; and dunes of white powdery sand. We climbed steadily but the hills were not steep. We climbed up a very steep driveway to a scenic overlook. The overlook was very scenic, helped by the filming of a Coors Light commercial in which 6 string bikini-clad women danced around in a beach scene with cameras overhead on tall cranes. The product was a special case that the beer comes in that will accept ice cubes to keep the beer cool. Look for the commercial this summer.
This spot on the Colorado River is just beautiful. The moon was directly overhead as we retired, casting just enough light into our tent to play checkers by. By 3 am, the moon had disappeared and stars were visible all the way down to the horizon. Will slept through a terrific sunrise coming over the mountains on the other side of the river.
Looking back on this day post-journey: Many people asked us if we usually camped "by the side of the road". We never had to do that, but on this day we travelled off-road a few hundred yards and camped alongside the river in a beautiful area. We heard coyotes howling all night; our food bag was hung from a tree to keep away from the raccoons.
Monday, March 10, 2003
Will is fine; let the games continue!
We went to our appointment with Dr. Gamboa this afternoon, and he proclaimed Will ready to continue our adventure. In hindsight, we probably could've left yesterday, but between here and tomorrow's goal, our bicycling map says: "SERVICES ARE EXTREMELY LIMITED BETWEEN BRAWLEY AND PALO VERDE. PLAN ACCORDINGLY AND CARRY AT LEAST TWO DAYS' WORTH OF FOOD AND WATER. BE PREPARED TO CAMP BY THE ROAD IF NECESSARY." There are snow plows that patrol our route to keep the road clear of blowing sand.
This area is somewhat unusual. The hospital emergency room is kept extremely busy by the "crazies" (a nurse's term, not ours), who ride the 4-wheelers through the desert and then flip them or crash them into each other at high speed. Since hydration is important in the desert, these guys are typically well-hydrated ;-) . We got to the ER about 2 hours before the helicopters started to arrive (1 pm) with the victims from as far as 100 miles away. The copters continued to arrive sporadically until about 2 am. We were given a private room just adjacent to the pediatrics ward since I was staying with Will; otherwise I would've requested a heliport-side room and a headset to talk them in!
Back on the highway, many of them pull special RV-type trailers that are normal RVs up front, with garage-like space in the rear filled with ATVs and dune buggies.
One of our nurses said that starting in May, the temperature regularly exceeds 110 degrees. As you might guess, this area is most popular in winter. There seem to be many "full-time" RVers that will leave shortly for more temperate climes, as will we.
Movie quote of the day: "So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one -- big hitter, the Lama -- long, into a ten-thousand foot crevice, right at the base of this glacier. And do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga...gunga -- gunga galunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consiousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice." - Carl Spackler, Caddyshack
Sunday, March 09, 2003
No surgery for Will!
Dr. Gamboa was able to rule out appendicitis, and he discharged Will from the hospital. We are going to stay in town another day for a Monday appointment with the good doc. We want to be sure that everything's OK before heading back into the desert. The medical staff at Pioneers Memorial treated us very well; nevertheless, Will was anxious to leave. We plan to take it easy for a day or two, then head east. We met Kerry Marshall, a cross-country cyclist that we've been corresponding with, as well as a bunch of riders from WomanTours, who are staying at our hotel. They all seemed to be amazed at the size of our load, but then again, they have support vehicles that carry their stuff.
Will and I are going out for a fine dinner tonight since Will's been limited to an intravenous glucose solution for the last day and a half.
Quote of the day: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain (1835 - 1910) Humorist and writer
Looking back on this day post-journey: The timing of Will's illness was good; the desert that lay ahead turned out to be quite desolate. If he had needed attention between Brawley and Blythe, we would've had to use a helicopter to get to a hospital.
Saturday, March 08, 2003
Will felt ill on Friday evening on our approach to Brawley, then exhibited some symptoms of appendicitis again Saturday morn. A quick cab ride to the Pioneers Memorial Hospital (Brawley, CA) led to a slow afternoon of blood and urine testing, and a CT scan of his mid-section. Apparently his appendix is indeed inflamed, and Will was admitted for observation. We will spend Saturday night/Sunday morning in the hospital for sure. That's all we have to report for now; check back here for updates.
Special thanks to all who have sent us e-mail and comments. Due to the increased logistical workload, our responses may be later than planned.
By the way, we got matching haircuts today (Will's idea!), and these are going to last for a while. Many people in Brawley speak Spanish only; we went into several stores that had no one that spoke English. We had to use sign language to communicate with the barbers.
Looking back on this day post-journey: Some people assumed that surgery would have caused a trip cancellation. Our friend Lois was prepared to make the drive out here from San Juan Capistrano to pick us up. We would've stowed our gear in Brawley and returned to SJC for Will's post-surgery recovery. I was expecting to continue our trip about a week later. I've always preached that we must be ready to adapt at all times, and this would have been just another obstacle to overcome.
Friday, March 07, 2003
A beautiful day, a great ride
Will's audio message
Julian is an historic, western town. We had a nice lazy breakfast in an outdoor cafe and departed around 9:30 am. We had an exhilarating descent from 4,500' to about 2,000' and enjoyed the beautiful scenery from the sides of the cliffs (one wrong move = 1,000' drop!), as we followed the switchbacks down the mountain. We stopped in Ocotillo Wells for lunch at My Desert Rose, and there were 5 or 6 firefighters there who took a great interest in our ride, and the fire chief showed up later with a t-shirt for Will as Will became an honorary member of the Ocotillo Wells Fire Department. This area is popular with "all terrain vehicles"; 9 out of 10 vehicles that pass us are pickups with 2 or more ATVs onboard. We finished up in Brawley, 73 miles from Julian; it felt great getting back on schedule. Our hotel in Brawley is not great, and our "local" internet access numbers are not local enough for our hotel phone, so we are filing these last few entries from the Brawley Public Library. Interesting note: we were kicked off the internet after 30 minutes despite no one else in the library! "Huh?" "Our limit is a half-hour, sir". We will update many of the past journal entries with images as our connection situation improves, although that may not be for a while. We feel lucky to find a 1950's vintage pay phone on some of these days!
Today's palindrome: "A man, a plan, a cat, a ham, a yak, a yam, a hat, a canal--Panama!"
Looking back on this day post-journey: As we were eating breakfast we watched a worker change the price of gas at the filling station next door on their old roadside sign. Regular gas rose from $2.14 to $2.44 as the prospects of war in the Middle East heated up.
Thursday, March 06, 2003
Yesterday was a "piece of cake" compared to today!
It took us about 5 hours this morning to cover about 15 miles. The climb was so steep that there were frequent "turn-outs" for slow moving trucks on the way up to allow faster cars go by, and a few "runaway truck lanes" for vehicles on the way down with brake failure to pull off and slow down. Our speed was about 4 mph, and we had to stop to rest every half mile or so. We picked up the pace after a nice brunch at the Lake Henshaw Restaurant. We climbed about 3,000' this morning, descended about 1,000' early this afternoon, and then climbed to 4,500' into Julian, where we found a nice "bed & breakfast" type inn just at dusk. Again, no phone, but they did have TV (12 cable channels!). We didn't really set a budget for this trip, but we're spending way more than we thought we would. Every room has been about $50, and it usually costs us about $10 to get out of each mini-mart with drinks and snacks.
We traveled through Indian reservations with very small casinos, more orange groves, many plant nurseries, and finally some cattle ranches. Will is having a great time, and provides words of encouragement to me when needed.
Experienced cycle tourists know never to believe a local for distance estimates or terrain descriptions. Today we talked to 3 nice Indians in the La Jolla Reservation who told us that it was "all downhill" to Julian. A better description might have been "all uphill"!
Looking back on this day post-journey: Our hotel in Julian was tucked into the side of a mountain. The stairs started right next to the road and were steep and winding. It was difficult to carry our bike and gear up, and impossible to get our bike around the corners and into our room. We locked our bike to the wooden walkway just outside of our room.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
Another really tough day of climbing
Everywhere we looked, there would be a mountain. And seldom did our road travel around a mountain. The only up side was that we got plenty of beautiful views as we crested the peaks. Our 150 lb bike/gear combo doesn't seem to want to climb like Lance Armstrong's 15 lb bike. Never mind that our rider weight is 300 lbs, and Lance is 145. And to think I used to complain about carrying a 50 lb block of salt down the stairs.
This really is a pretty area, though. There is very rugged terrain, with huge rocks everywhere along the sides of the mountains, followed by mile after mile of orange groves.
Looking back on this day post-journey: We stayed in a 5-room hotel in a resort that looked like it might have been popular 20 or 30 years ago. Our first night in an over-priced room with no phone or TV. We played a little baseball in the field behind our room.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Will's audio message
We got a late start on Tuesday after drying out from the overnight rain. The preferred bicycle route to the south goes right through Camp Pendleton, a United States Marine Corps base right on the ocean. The base has been closed to visitors since 9/11, and the only other route is on Interstate 5 ("the five"), the major road between Los Angeles and San Diego. Because of the circumstances, bicycles are permitted on the interstate to get around Camp Pendleton. We entered I-5 a little farther north than permitted, and were stopped by the California Highway Patrol after a high-speed (albeit short) chase in the weigh station. Two patrolmen and a sarge decided to help us get through the fence, down a steep hill, across the tracks used by Amtrak, down another steep hill to a state park road to use for about 5 miles until we got closer to the Marine base. It rained off and on all day as we climbed many short, but very steep, hills.
Insignificant stat of the day: 24 total "slug bugs" - Will 14 - Dave 10 - Will leads the series, 1 day to none.
Looking back on this day post-journey: We expected to be leaving our "comfort zone" as we embarked on this trip; that didn't happen. We were grinning ear-to-ear almost all day. We departed our planned route by about 6 miles to find a motel, the only time on the whole trip that we did that.
Monday, March 03, 2003
Will's audio message
We had a nice day today setting up the bike and visiting with our good friends, Lois and Ken Kertz. Lois worked as a nurse with Lynn at Bryn Mawr (Pa.) Hospital Emergency Room in the early '80s. Tomorrow's cities: San Clemente, Oceanside, San Luis Rey, Pala. Lots of steep hills are expected between Oceanside and Pala; wish us luck!
Sunday, March 02, 2003
We are off!
Well, we are underway! We are at FL350 in an A320 crossing Nebraska. Actually, according to our Garmin GPS V, we are at 34,511 feet above sea level doing 451 knots (or 519 mph; ask Will for an explanation of converting knots to miles per hour). My colleagues at the tracon asked the flight crew to take good care of us and Captain Shawn Murray sent a nice card back to us. We gave the flight attendant one of our cards to deliver to the cockpit. Several travelers heard the air traffic exchange on United's channel 9 and stopped by our seats to visit with us.
We discovered that we forgot Will's "headgear" from his orthodontist that he wears overnight. Lynn will mail it a few days ahead of us. We still have to figure if she'll mail it "general delivery" or maybe she'll coordinate something with a bike shop to hold the package for us.
It is really exciting for us to have started. We started planning for this trip 19 months ago; today seemed like it would never come.
Anticipation of new things everyday is a great feeling for us. Although we have done extensive planning and research, we will be on unfamiliar roads every day, riding through unfamiliar states. We will daily come across local customs that are new to us; we will be surprised at how some of these people live, just as they might be shocked at what we're doing. We expect to experience all kinds of weather; hot, dry deserts below sea level followed by the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies; the rainfall of a Louisiana spring followed by the heat of the Sunshine State.
Much of the excitement is in the uncertainty ahead. Where will we sleep each night? It could range anywhere from a tent behind home plate on a little league diamond to a poolside room at a Holidome. Will we have enough food and water onboard? For a two day stretch in eastern Arizona, we will need to carry two days' worth. We've joked about seeing old bikes along the side of the road with cyclists' skeletons draped over them, as vultures circle overhead.
Quote of the day: "I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain." - Red, The Shawshank Redemption
Friday, February 28, 2003
I worked my last FAA shift on Tuesday night and did my last stint as a Circuit Court arbitrator on Wednesday morning. I wrapped up the taxes and tied up some loose ends at the office on Thursday. We delivered some posterboards to Will's 3rd grade classes with USA maps with our route highlighted; his classmates seem to be excited about following along. We spoke again with Will's teacher, Ms. Battaglia, who has been very helpful. She will be able to send us some of Will's assignments by e-mail, and we recently signed up for a free eFax account. eFax gave us a phone number (1-720-920-0400) to receive faxes. They then convert the faxes into e-mail attachments and deliver them to our e-mail account. Dropping a short stack into a fax machine might be easier than scanning.
We've cancelled the "send-off" festivities for Sunday at O'Hare. I will be somewhat focused on the logistics of getting our trip started, and I don't think we really qualify as subjects of media interviews at this point. It will be fun to do these once we've accomplished something, but right now we're just a couple guys with big plans.
Friday, February 07, 2003
We've finished packing our two boxes and shipped them to our friends in California via FedEx. The original Bob trailer box (probably the sturdiest box I've ever seen) is full of trailer and camping equipment. The S&S box (which originally held the airline-checkable luggage that holds my single bike or most of our tandem) is full of bicycle wheels and assorted parts and gear. We'll bring 90% of the tandem with us in the luggage on UAL. When we get to California, we will pack our S&S luggage into the S&S box and FedEx it to Jacksonville to await our arrival. We'll throw out the Bob box in California rather than pay $17 to ship it to Florida. By the way, UPS ground was about 50% more than FedEx ground.
Sunday, January 26, 2003
Super Bowl Sunday
First of all, good luck to NFL MVP and fellow St. Joe's Prep (Phila., Pa.) graduate Rich Gannon of the Oakland Raiders!
We continue to prepare for our departure in five weeks. We have packed up our "Bob" trailer and about 20 pounds of camping equipment into the original Bob box. We will pack up our wheels in another box and ship them to our friends in the LA area. Then we will disassemble our tandem bicycle enough to fit into a standard airline suitcase, which we will check on our flight to California.
Our relationships with our charities are shaping up nicely. St. Anne's Project Hope is excited to be working with us. We have admired the work they do for years. And the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative is talking about planning a big send-off for us at O'Hare Field, complete with TV interviews and such! Each of these charities is deserving of a look. If you like what you see, think about sharing a little with them.
We bought a new Fujitsu laptop computer. It is 2.2 lbs., which compares quite favorably to the 8.2 lb. clunker we were planning to bring. Lugging an extra 6 lbs. for 3,500 miles would've added up to alot of work. It would've been especially noticeable during that stretch out west where we'll climb from 230 feet below sea level to 8,230 feet above! We're still working on connecting the laptop to our GPS, which we must do every couple weeks during the trip to load the enormous amount of data into the GPS for the upcoming stretch. The "serial to USB" adapter setup is not as easy as it sounds! This new computer also has built in wireless networking hardware, and it automatically searches for a wireless network in the area. We have a wireless network at home, and have found one at work. As these are becoming more popular, we hope to find them every so often on the road, maybe at libraries, hospitals and office buildings where we can get an internet connection for a few minutes to upload our journals and pictures. If not, we'll rely on the old standard telephone connection at hotels every few days. We can also update this web site from our Sprint cell phone (but no pictures that way).
Wednesday, December 25, 2002
Santa was good to us this year! William received several items for the trip: a "Pocket Parafoil" lightweight kite, an LED headlamp, and a watch/chronograph. His Pocket Fisherman is on its way from Ronco. We also received the coveted Garmin GPS V. This device will increase our level of safety (but decrease our level of adventure!) since it will drastically simplify our efforts to find campgrounds and hotels.Without this GPS, we would've "hoped for the best" at the end of the day, and scrambled for whatever accommodation was available. Some days we would've settled for something earlier in the afternoon rather than risk going forward. Now, we will be provided with all campground/hotel/restaurant info at the touch of a button. We will then call ahead to make reservations, with an accurate estimate of arrival time. We are currently setting up our route on a laptop; we will then download the data to the GPS. The GPS will provide a moving map as we cover our route, with audible turn prompts and heading/distance/speed/elevation information. Accuracy within 4 feet at times, which is more precise than a typical instrument landing system at O'Hare! Should be good enough for our purposes :-). Click here for Will's audio message. (Will's audio message is a BIG file; dial-up customers may prefer not to listen.)
Thursday, November 14, 2002
We finally installed the Continental Top Touring 2000 tires that took awhile to arrive after ordering them at our local bike shop. They were almost $35 each, but are virtually "bomb-proof". With our rear drum brake, panniers and the trailer, it can be a pain to fix a flat back there. We hope to minimize our tire and wheel issues with our 48 spoke Rhyno rim and Phil Wood hub; we've read story after story of rear tandem wheels failing in the middle of nowhere. This setup is heavy, but we're not looking to set any speed records anyway. We've also added a mirror for each rider, and a device to hold our Camelback in a position for Will to drink and for both of us to access our phone and cameras. This web page is getting some good hits now, including people checking in from New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, Iceland, Singapore, Finland, Germany, Japan, and France. There may be more; our "activity report" only shows the top ten countries!
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Lynn and I met yesterday with Ms. Battaglia, Will's 3rd grade teacher. She offered her support and will give us a detailed run-down of what Will is going to miss; she will scan her tests and e-mail them to Will for his completion. We didn't discuss exactly how our school was going to be involved in following our adventures. We hope that we can provide some educational benefits to any school that wishes to participate with us. Some ideas of things we might be able to provide: reports on weather conditions, descriptions of topography, collections of soil/water samples, interviews with people of different cultures, etc.. We could provide timely answers in any of several formats (.jpg, .doc, .wav, .mov) to questions presented us. Our trip may help some students with map-reading skills and the math required to determine daily goals and speed averages. If anyone is aware of any schools that might want to work with us, have them drop us a line.
The Adventure Cycling Association has picked up our web site for their listing of on-line journals. I recommend a visit to their site; they have a lot of good stuff there. This is the organization that has produced the maps that we will use. They have been making these maps since the '70's, and been adjusting and updating them since. The maps also have listings of bike shops, campgrounds, hotels, and other useful info.
Sunday, October 20, 2002
Transportation to starting point
We purchased tickets today to take us non-stop from ORD to SNA (John Wayne Airport). Our good friends Kenny and Lois Kertz have offered to host our departure point from their home in San Juan Capistrano. We paid about $190 each for round-trip tickets. Since the one-way fare was about a grand, we bought round-trips and we'll just blow off the return portions. Our flights are non-stop, and SNA is fairly convenient for our hosts. Right now we plan to arrive in California on Sunday evening, March 2, and spend Monday putting our rig together and tweaking the adjustments. Maybe we'll dip our tires in the Pacific on Monday, too, before we depart earnestly on Tuesday. Things are shaping us nicely; there's no stopping us now! We had previously purchased tickets for Lynn and David to fly to El Paso during David's Spring Break. My parents have graciously offered to keep an eye on Katie (whose Spring Break is later) during the visit. We should be within a day or two's ride of El Paso when they arrive; we thought we'd share a few touristy things with them before we put our heads down and head east from there. Click here for Will's test audio message.
Friday, September 13, 2002
Our preparations are going well. We could probably leave tomorrow if we had to. We've been preparing for our March 2nd departure for over a year already. We're still tweaking our final pack configuration. We decided to keep our food in an Ortlieb pannier so it will always be segregated from our camping gear. We will try to never bring food into the tent with us; bears and raccoons have been known to rip through a nylon tent to get to a Snickers bar. I think we'll store cold/rain wear in the other pannier, for easy access. The bag that's in the trailer is hard to get to during the day. So for now, we have the big yellow Bob trailer bag, with our tent and sleeping bags lashed on top; the two Ortlieb panniers; and some kind of bag that Bilenky (our bike builder) has promised that goes between the stoker seat and captain handlebars. Should be plenty of room.
We're considering a GPS purchase. A colleague of mine showed me his Garmin GPS V, and it's about the coolest thing I've ever seen. Besides being a foolproof navigation aid, it will provide info on restaurants, lodging, attractions, etc. With a couple clicks of a button, it will give us the way (directions, distance, time, etc.) to the nearest Chinese (or Italian, or pizza, or fast-food, etc.) restaurant. It may be indispensable with helping us find and secure lodging.
We're still working on some routing issues. We may cut east from Oceanside, California, and meet the Southern Tier route a couple days later, rather than continue south along the coast to San Diego.
Sunday, September 08, 2002
Pre-trip training, etc.
Will and I did the 50 mile version of the Harmon Hundred in Wilmot, Wisconsin, today. They offered 25, 50, 75 and 100 mile routes. It was fun, but hilly. We needed to use our newest granny gear (19.7") and we didn't even have a load! They had some great rest stops, with sushi, pies, cookies, sandwiches, etc. We stopped at a beach about a mile or so from the finish to swim for 20 minutes. We didn't rush at all, spent plenty o'time at the rest stops, and completed 54 miles in about 6 hours or so. We hope to keep a pace like that for our crossing, and it looks like we can.
We met Doug and Diane Jones from our church on the ride. They are just starting tandeming, but have already done some impressive trips, like SAAGBRAW, a 6 day trip across Wisconsin.
I'm a little out of practice for these century rides. When I did them more regularly, maybe 10 years ago or more, I would have been prepared with a few beers on ice in a cooler in the car for the finish. That would've been great today!
We also met Norm Hanson from the Barrington Bicycle Company, who has been great in helping me keep my bikes in top shape. He and his "roadie" buddies left the start about 30 minutes behind us, did 100 miles, and passed us on the last mile coming in. As Norm said, they were "men on a mission". I bet they didn't stop to swim.