So this is it. I'm really done. I may stick around for a while to help with recruitment for next year's team, attend a meeting or two, and ride ATALAS with them in the spring, but for the most part, this last journal entry and our celebratory tribute dinner tonight mark the end to this chapter of my life.
The last few days in Alaska weren't as easy as I had expected. For some reason, I thought once we were in Alaska it would be smooth sailing until Anchorage, after all, it was time to celebrate. Unfortunatly the terrain and weather didn't get the memo that Texas 4000 was almost done and would enjoy a few easy rides to finish the trip.
The Yukon may be one of the last frontiers, but its roads were not intended to be explored on road bikes.
Meeting the Rockies on our drive day into Whitehorse was both strange and exciting. I had almost forgotten about these nineteen cyclists we had parted ways with all those years ago in Lampases, Texas. But as soon as we jumped out of our van at their rest stop and everyone was clobbered in a smelly group hug, I suddenly felt like our team was whole again without ever having realized anything was missing.
I can't believe there are only ten days left of this incredible ride. Leaving from the Tower seems like ten years ago and like yesterday. Becoming acclimated to Texas 4000 has not only lowered my hygiene and sleep standards, it has altered my perspective.
There's almost nothing better than a tailwind on a bike. It makes hills seem flat, it makes you speed along with hardly any effort, the result you get from so little work feels almost like cheating.
I was in a sour mood leaving Vancouver. The rain had not stopped and the wet, grey city outside did not look nearly as inviting as our warm, dry accomodations in the Business Objects gym. As we were preparing to leave, I put on my rain jacket and pulled my sunglasses out of the back pocket--both pieces of them. My fall the previous day had broken the arm off. Arrgh. All that work fishing them out of the toilet for nothing. I tried attaching the arm with vulcanizing fluid from our patch kits, which didn't work, so I ended up using electrical tape to losely hold the arm in place.
Getting out of a busy city like Seattle was as difficult as getting in. Coming into Seattle was a great ride, mostly due to one factor: tailwind. We haven’t seen much of it this trip; once in Clovis, NM, and another time in California, both instances made for fast days. In light of the tailwind, most of the team pushed themselves hard, climbing some hills at 25 miles an hour. It was a challenge to stay with the group, but it was a rush to go so fast in a pelaton, if only for the last few legs. In Bremerton, a city close to Seattle, we were scheduled to take a ferry across the Puget Sound, a bay that divides the two cities. We stopped at a coffee shop to wait for the ferry. I made some calls and fell asleep with my head on the table for an hour. Most of the hour long ferry ride was spent napping as well. Once we were in the city, the ride became tricky, and after getting lost a few times, we made it to our hosts.
We arrived in Florence relativly early, so after we set up our stuff in the church we were staying at, we piled in the van to go exploring.
California, California, Here we coooooome!
After our awesome stop at the beach yesterday, I decided that, even though there were plenty of spots to stop and admire the ocean, I would keep riding. Besides, I had found a good rythym on my bike and didn't feel like interrupting it. So when most of the team stopped at a public beach, I rode on, only to stop several miles later at a restroom.
After two much needed days off, we had to leave our awesome hosts at the Marin Rowing Association.
Our drive days were scheduled before the trip began, so it was my unlucky fate to drive into San Francisco. I didn't really mind that I would miss cycling into the city and across the Golden Gate Bridge--I could always cycle around the city on my day off--I was worried about driving.
The team camped a few miles outside of Yosemite in a site called Sweetwater (strangely enough). When we arrived on our bikes after an awesome 80 mile ride through the park,the drivers had found a campsite we could use only a few hours before we arrived (we had no hosts that night). The campgrounds were empty except for us, and shortly after we arrived an old Ford Bronco pulled up to where we were laying sprawled out in the road, still in our uniforms, enjoying the shade of the trees.
Today we tackled Tioga Pass, a winding, twelve mile hill that serves as the entrance to Yosemite National Park.
The team collectively decided to skip Mammoth Lakes after looking at a map and noticing it is twenty miles south of Benton, which would add forty unnecessary miles to our trip. I'm glad we opted to skip it, even though I've heard Mammoth Lakes is gorgeous, I'd rather not head south when my ultimate destination is north. After some logistical planning (making sure being a day ahead of schedule would be all right with hosts and telling our Mammoth Lakes hosts we wouldn't be coming) we headed for Lee Vining, a little town just outside of Yosemite National Park. Since we cut so much mileage out, it was a short day of about 50 miles, a nice rest for our legs.
That better day I had been hoping for didn't come today.
Another long day with plenty of climbing.
I dedicated this ride to my Modie and Juju, who are both cancer survivors.
Today's ride was refreshing after so many days of headwind. Cowboy Ted, the Tourism Director for Kane County, not only fed us dinner last night and got the team a campsite but also escourted us into Zion National Park and treated us to buffalo burgers at a nearyby restaruant.
Admittedly, Arizona has been much kinder to us than New Mexico. The wind hasn't hit us nearly as hard.
Needless to say, I was discouraged after my tough ride to Cuba and was not looking forward to getting back on the bike to ride the 100 or so miles to Farmington. We left a little earlier, which helped with the wind, but we still battled a head wind for most of the day, putting us at a sluggish pace.
New Mexico should not be called "The Land of Enchantment."
Adios Texas. Hello New Mexico.
I dedicated today's ride to my grandfather, Lafayette Newland, a prostate cancer survivor.
I can't believe I'm actually on the ride. Eight months of planning made it seem like it would never arrive, and here it is. As I sit here in the warmth of the setting sun, watching my teammates clean their bikes, I'm consciencously savouring the moment. If the last few months were any indication, this trip may seem like it is dragging on, but before I know it I bet I'll be standing in Anchorage, wondering where the time went.
Today was difficult. We cycled from Lampasas to Coleman, 120 miles and around nine to ten hours on the bike. In my opinion, no amount of training can prepare you for cycling all day every day. My body is just begining to adjust to this unusual schedual, and it reminds me everytime I move what I have put it through. I began the day fatigued from the day before. By midday it was hot, and at mile 60 I was so discouraged. I was exhausted, the heat was making the tar on the road bubble and pop under my tires, and I wasn't even halfway through the day.
I have almost no hair on my head. It is a weird feeling. The night before we left Austin, I was surrounded by a group of friends as my hair was buzzed off. I have always had long hair and never realized how cold air feels on exposed scalp.
Besides raising 4,000 dollars and riding a mandatory 1,000 training miles, every rider must complete a century, a 100 mile ride, before we leave on June 2. Mine was two days ago. Although I had done a good amount of training already, I was so full of nervous energy the night before that I cleaned my entire kitchen with bleach and vacuumed the whole apartment, something I rarely do. The next morning I ate 2 servings of oatmeal, stuffed a few Clif Bars in my jersey, put on my wind jacket and my long-finger gloves because it was freezing outside, and headed to a parking lot on campus. We were told to meet at 7:30am and ended up leaving around 9:00am. By the time we left, the sun was up and it was considerably warmer. I gave my jacket and long fingered gloves to Robby, who had come to see us off.
I want to take this opportunity to thank a very special person in my life, Robby Landauer, a 2006 Sierra rider who is an incredible endurance athlete and the best cycling buddy I could have asked for. I went on most of my early training rides with him, and if it weren't for him I probably would have waited a month instead of a few days to ride my bike.
Why they call them "clipless pedals", I'll never know. You clip into them. If anyone can explain this phenomenon, feel free to shoot me an email. For those of you who aren't bike savvy like me (please note the sarcasm) clipless pedals look like the metal prongs of electric mixers (much smaller, of course) and clip into the bottom of a cleat much like the binding of a snowboard clips into the bottom of the boot. This gives you the advantage using your legs in a circle instead of just pushing down. To clip out, you twist your foot a few degrees and you're free. Simple, right?
At the end of January, I borrowed a friend's Tahoe (I drive a Mazda Miata, you're lucky if you fit two people and a pack of gum in it) and headed once again to Bicycle Sport Shop to pick up my bike. I was pumped driving down Lamar, my excitement was palpable. I was rocking out to The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Erykah Badu, singing the lyrics as loud as my lungs would allow. I had to keep myself from skipping as I walked into the store, but I'm sure I was grinning like an idiot when a helpful employee asked if I needed help and I told her I was there to pick up a bike for Texas 4000. When they brought it out in all its shiny red glory, all I could think was, "It's beautiful! THAT is what's going with me to Alaska."
Not surprisingly, a lot has happened since my last entry (apologies to my parents and grandparents, the only people that I know regularly check for new blogs). I've gotten my bike, which is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen; ridden with clipless pedals, which was one of the most nerve-wracking things I've ever done; ridden to corpus, the first of many cycling adventures; and ridden a century, the first of many long days on a bike. This next entry turned out to be so long I've decided to split it up, so read on...
"Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end." —Scott Adams
I am a clumsy person.