Saturday, July 6, 2013

Newcastle, WY to Rapid City, SD

Apologies in advance for being so lax in updating this thing.  All my other teammates are doing such a great job at posting photos and stories, I'm getting a little lazy.

Perhaps it's for a reason, though.  This past week has been tough!  We started this week traveling from Billings, MT to Hardin, MT.  The day was quick, just a mere 56 miles through some mild rolling hills and, before you knew it, Jeff squared (Erickson and Sloan), Tom and I were sipping down iced lattes at a cafe in the small cowboy town.  Really though, the day was over and done by 10 am.  At home, there's a good bet I wouldn't have even been up by then.  Having this ride schedule really puts into perspective how much more productive I could be if I really wanted to.  After setting up camp at the local KOA campground, the riders took a dip in the pool, played cards (I learned a new game, Spades!), ate a delicious dinner catered by Beyond Basil and tried not to let the relaxing day get too deep into our systems.

The next was a bit of a struggle, riding 86 miles from Hardin to Sheridan, WY.  Some days on this ride are just difficult, and for no real reason.  This was one of these days.  The terrain wasn't particularly difficult or long, but when you're mentally off of your bike before you even start, getting back into the groove is nearly impossible.  Needless to say, most of us on the ride were grateful to get to the Sheridan KOA, get in a shower, and call it a day.  In a bit of bad luck, I came back from my shower to find my (loaned) tent looking a bit ragged.  It turned out that the poles had broken, and it was in my best interest to just get a new one. Looks like this ride is getting me outfitted for a long time in the future!

The next day was the day that everyone on the ride was dreading a little bit. The longest day of the ride, 113 miles, from Sheridan to Gillette, WY.  It was a long day, and we were all really tired by the end.  That being said, we had heard terrifying stories about how that day had gone from previous years, so conditions could have been much worse.  We made it through with hardly any head winds and manageable temperatures, so call us lucky.  I'm still pretty proud of making it through that day, though.  113 miles and 4,665 feet of climbing! It's a big accomplishment.

Riding to Newcastle the next day was another simple day.  Only 76 miles with rolling hills.  Nelle and John had pretty jazzy outfits on that day because it was the fourth!  Newcastle did the day up quite a bit as well, there had to have been a fireworks show being put off on every block in the town.  The festivities went on late into the night, and by late I mean 11 pm.  Those who were rested enough to stay up said that it was a great show to see.

The last day of riding had to have been one of my favorite rides to date!  The beginning of the day brought crazy hills, but we rode into the Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park.  We got a great descent out of the ride, it felt like it never ended but it was about 10 miles of pure, twisting downhill through some of the park's best views.  We tried hard to find a buffalo during the ride, but unfortunately came up short.  Today was a rest day, so everyone was in good spirits by the end of the ride.

Tomorrow, off to Kadoka from here in Rapid City!   The forecast says we may have some pretty killer headwinds and thunderstorms for most of our 102 mile day.  Ahem.  Wish us luck!  I'm crossing my fingers for amazing pie and coffee at the finish line.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Days 10-11: Missoula to Townsend

Hello again from Montana! Today is 75 degrees and sunny, with low winds. Montana has been treating us well, to say the least.

I have to say that yesterday was the best day on this trip to date.  It started out beautifully; we all ate breakfast at the dining hall at University of Montana and started rolling out at our typical time, 7 am.  The weather out of Missoula was the best: 65 degrees, a little cloud cover, still with that dewy morning texture. Perfect. The ride was almost another 100 miles, but I decided that, regardless the distance, I was going to take my time and enjoy this one. Its amazing how much more quickly you arrive at your destination once you take your mind off of actually getting there.  The first two hours passed like 30 minutes.

The weather and scenery kept up the rest of the ride.  Me and another rider, Olivia (we have matching bikes, its pretty awesome) were in good spirits since we got to test out her new riding speakers for the first time.  Listening to Eye of the Tiger makes long, 11 mile climbs like the one today pretty epic :-) I'm sure those speakers will come in handy once the Midwest comes and brings with it days of cornfields.

The highlight of yesterday, however, was definitely the food that accompanied our stay in Avon. Holy. Cats. I can't even. The local restaurant from Avon catered dinner and breakfast, and you could tell that everything was homemade, pprobably from a centuries old recipe since nobody really lives in Avon. Spaghetti,  french bread, gigantic blackberries, and WAY too much ridiculously good pie. Homemade biscuits and bacon cooked medium (the best way, kendra) for breakfast.  Oh and more pie for lunch of course. Yum. Ill be dreaming of that pie for months.

In more broad accomplishments, today we reached our highest point of the entire ride! Wooho! McDonalds pass came in at 6325 feet, and also marked the continental divide. It was a 11 mile climb up and then a screaming 12 mile descent down. We peaked in at 41 mph on our bikes. It was scary, but a lot of fun.

The divide marked the beginning of a change of scenery from the majestic Rockies to the high plains.  The elevation may decrease, but were in for some mighty winds.  Last year, they reached 40 mph in Wyoming.  Woof.

Off to a nice dinner after our short 60 mile day.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Almost there..

I'm a little more than halfway to reaching my donation goal of $6,500 for the American Lung Association!  If you or anyone you know would be interested in donating to this great cause, please do.  It would help a great deal to me, the ALA, and all those who deal with lung disease. 

Information on online donations is located in the box that says "Click to Donate" on the right side of this page.

Thank you again for being a part of this with me!


Days 6-10, Spokane, WA to Missoula, MT

Big News - We've made it!  To Montana, that is.  It's not Washington D.C., but it's close(r) to the finish.

The ride out of Spokane after our rest day marked the biggest accomplishment we've had to date.  Seeing the big "Welcome to Idaho" ignited a small, albeit excited, celebration amongst our team.  Only a few miles from our lunch stop that day, we all felt it important enough to stop and take a little more time to snap photos, text loved ones back home, and let out a few little shouts before continuing on through our second state of the trip - Idaho.  One state down!  There is still a ways to go, but it feels good to be able to start making check marks.

One I can say about the last 3 days of travel is that the scenery has been unexpectedly spectacular.  I wish I could post photos, but my lack of cameraphone knowledge is a bit of a hindrance.  The area shifts quickly from the scablands of Eastern Washington to an arena of mountains, completely covered in a lawn of pine.  We followed the Priest River most of the way through Idaho to our first (and only) stop there in Sandpoint.  Sandpoint treated us well, with beautiful scenery as well as a luxurious stay at the Sandpoint Health Club.  The owners of the club were gracious enough to let us camp out in their backyard and have the entirety of their facility at our disposal.  Really, the whole thing.  After a day of biking, the hot tub, full pool, sauna, steam room, and showers were real luxuries to our bodies and minds.  We were even given use of the HydroMassage machine, with mixed results. 

The takeoff from Sandpoint marked our short-lived jaunt in Idaho as we crossed the Montana border about 30 miles in to our ride.  Somehow, our arrival in Montana seemed a little less celebratory, as we have a long road ahead of us here.  I counted, and Montana will be our home for a good nine days, the longest stay in any state on the ride.  I have heard, however, that Montana is the favorite AND the most beautiful of all the states, so perhaps this is a blessing. 

On a personal note, yesterday was a big day as it marked the completion of my first century ride!  We rode 103 miles from Thompson Falls, MT to here in Missoula, where we are taking a well-needed rest day.  I'm pretty excited :-) I must say that thinking about the first 100-miler brought on a bit of anxiety.  The longest I've ever ridden outside of the ride had been 60 miles, so 100, almost twice the length, seemed daunting.  Not to mention I had ridden in the sag van for about 30 miles the day before to Thompson Falls because of some shooting pains in my left knee.  However, once breakfast was eaten and everyone had started off on the road, the anxiety mellowed and the ride became exactly that- a ride. Just like any other.  Regardless, I can check one more thing off my Big Ride "list".  If I complete all the boxes, does that make me a legitimate rider? 

If I could write more about our journeys, I would, but a three-page blog post just seems a little much.  Tomorrow we push off from our dorms at University of Montana on a 99 mile ride to Avon, MT.  One more day in Montana, one more day closer to D.C.!  Also, one more day closer to Madison, because a rest day at home sounds pretty amazing right about now. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Days 3-5, Vantage to Spokane

We made it1 today we are in n Spokane,  WA and I am very happy to say that it is our first rest day. And it didn't come a day too soon.  I can definitely feel the effects of really pushing yor body every day. My lower back and shoulders are pretty tight, and so are my legs, especially.  The two outside fingers on my left hand are pretty numb too, but I've been told that that's a totally normal symptom of riding on your top bars for too long. It'll go away, eventually.

Now all of the team is safe at rest in the dorms at Gonzaga University.  Were all pretty excited to be sleeping in comfy beds for the next two nights and to have time to really bond and enjoy o ourselves.  I say that this day couldn't have come at a better time because the last two days have been pretty crummy. Halfway through the ride from Vantage to Odessa is when the rain began, and it hasn't really let up since. Yesterday was especially bad, the rain didn't let up for all 77 miles from Odessa to Spokane and it got down to a pretty frigid 39 degrees. Needless to say, I was unprepared for such weather and found myself scrambling for scraps of warm, using plastic bags as hats and socks,  some latex gloves as rain barriers. It may have looked pretty silly but we all ended up in warm showers here, so it was worth it.

Everyone in the area has been extremely kind to us when they hear of what our team is doing. In a coffee shop in Odessa,  some regulars asked us all about our trip, and immediately invited us back to their town for their yearly festival.  You can tell they're excited for people coming to visit. In Davenport a physical therapy clinic refused payment for treatments done on a couple of our injured teammates.  Overall,  people can be pretty great and generous.  Its really nice to see up close.

Tomorrow we're off again and will find ourselves in Sand Point ID. Our second state! I can't believe weve made it 350 miles already. We have a ways to go!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Days 1-2: Seattle to Vantage, WA

I want to write a witty, well-crafted introduction to this blog post, but honestly,  I'm way too tired to use my creativity.  So, on that note, holy shit. I'm tired.

Yesterday kicked off this 2 month-long Tour de America with a short send off from the people from the ALA. Hands were shaked, good will was given, and general good vibes were in our s
S small, dimly-lit 7am parking lot. Its no surprise that the whole group started with a huge bang. Whether it was the strong coffee or the combination of lack of sleep and adrenaline,  my teammates and I quickly found ourselves blasting through the streets of Seattle,  eager to arrve at our first destination.

During my time in prep for this event, I've gotten great advice. I've also gotten a great deal of praise for even attempting this feat. Needless to say, when a friend or colleague would reassure me that I would finish this, I believed them. Yesterday came as a bit of a shock for my ego and my suprisingly feeble body.

Our first day was a long day, 94 miles up a mostly low-grade hill, 5 miles of which was slightly more graded.  I'm not joking when I say that this ride made me reconsider if I was even strong enough to reach Washington D.C.  At the end of the day, though, I realized that I wouldn't have felt half as good if the ride was simple, as it always goes. My legs will mend (eventually), but I still remember how happy I was to see the exit for our camp site. Some generous Big Ride alumni cooked us a great meal, of which we all ate too much, and like a light, the riders were out.
Today was almost just as difficult,  but we had a pretty gruelling 15 .ile stretch of pure, slow uphill. The 77 miles were well worth the struggle,  though. Every mile gave a new look at the Cascades behind us, and rolling hills spotted with sleepy ranches provided at perfect backdrop.  The beauty calmed the ache in my legs, if only just a little bit. The end of the ride was 10 miles of straight downhill into the Colorado river basin. As. A previous rider said about Vantage to Odessa, "this is the day you get in shape." Wish us luck!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 0: Seattle, WA

It has finally arrived! For 8 months, this momentous occasion has been looming on my every thought. The bike prep, tuning, fixing, planning, fundraising,  training, all of this is over. My teammates and I can finally say, "we are ready". Or are we ready? A few bumps have already been experienced by a few of my teammates.  One rider has had the misfortune of losing her camping gear in the void that is the U.S. postal system.  Yet another must must have her sister drive her bike, arriving late, from Seattle to our first stop in Easton. Finally,  in a more strange situation,  one rider has been running from shop to shop buying all new gear in Seattle due to a rv fire burning her old gear on the drive here (Her bike was spared, thankfully! ). All in all, maybe everyone here, including me, may not be prepared.  But there is no mistaking that we are ready.
Today at our rider orientation you could tell that the room was full of jitters.  I myself couldn't keep my feet from fluttering or my throat from constantly drying up . Somehow being reintroduced to a host of bike safety and sustainability methods made me more unsure of myself than I had begun.
I am happy to say, however,  that the shakiness didn't last for long. Once dinner began, I quickly was introduced to a room of people that already felt like a team. I can already say that the people here are pretty awesome.  Everyone here brings their experience (or bushy tailed lack thereof, in my case) and their reasons for taking this challenge on. Some are here for the adventure and some because they truly want to make a difference. One bright high school teammate is even here as his senior project. Everyone, though, is here to create new, long-lasting friendships.  This is the aspect I appreciate the most about the Big Ride.

Apart from meeting the new crew, Seattle has been pretty amazing.  I arrived here Saturday afternoon and was picked up from the airport, given keys to my dorm room, and dropped off at the bike shop where my bike had been delivered.  After our reuniting,  I spent the rest of the day walking around and getting a feel for the city. We are housed in dorms at Seattle Pacific University,  which is very near to a hip little neighborhood called Fremont.  As I was walking along, I noticed a  few things
1. There are more Thai restaurants here than pretty much any other establishment you can think of. Yum.
2. A close second would be coffee shops. People in Seattle love their coffee (its also the home of the first Starbucks)
3. There are dogs EVERYWHERE.  Our director Laura says there are more dogs here than children.  That's not to say that there are no babies here, because there are. All the time. Pups and babes all around, someone is trying to kill me with cute.
4. People here are always on bikes. It seems to my eye to be a terrifying city to bike in, but there are tons of cyclists cruising by nonetheless.
5. The beauty and quirkiness of Seattle is just great. Neighborhoods are built on unthinkable hills with cute bungalows stacked one atop the next. Coffeeshops are built inside old houses with decks jutting over a waterway. All of these pieces are set with the background of a distant,but not uunattainable mountain range and the Pacific as an ever-constant friend.
Im in heaven. I would be lying if I said that I didnt want to move here permanently.

Tomorrow we ride off into the unknown.  It all begins bright and early tomorrow,  6 am,after a short send off ceremony.  To my friends and family at home- I can't wait to tell you about everything,  everyone , and everywhere.  See you in a few months :-)

Bon voyage!