An absolutely glorious day. It started with an exit from the worst motel of the trip, the Dover Inn and with breakfast at the only gourmet restaurant (in fact, the only restaurant) in Dover, McDonalds, the Golden Arches. You’ll see a picture I took last evening of a rainbow that foretold of a great day today. So, off we go on what I consider the finest biking day of this tour and one of my best biking days ever. Cool start, sunny skies, good roads, minimal traffic, good climbing (4,340 ft), and whatever wind there was being a tailwind. I rode by myself because I like to and because I could savor the glorious day without stress and in silence. And then I arrived at the Hermitage Hotel, a 5 star hotel in my mind, early, room was ready, and I’m one happy guy. We have had such horrible weather over the 5 weeks so far that today was extra special. So cool. But I need to remind you that there are no easy days. It’s still hard work riding 90 miles at a good pace but that feeling of having covered the distance and be tired but thrilled to have finished within my comfort zone is special.
I wanted to take a few minutes and tell you about the “social” nature of this XC trip, especially after conversations with Cayce and my sister, Bunny. They both had the impression that our group of 15 is a tight group that spend much time together and that we are forming lifelong relationships! In fact, that’s not the case. This trip, as I’ve said before, is not fun, it’s not a vacation, it’s not a romantic adventure. It’s an epic challenge that requires that every one of us focus on our individual health and daily recovery. I can only speak for myself but I like and get along with every single person and I respect and admire every person. But we don’t really “socialize.” Our time together at meals is functional and personally, I arrive early for meals, order as fast as I can, and as soon as I finish my meal, I’m gone – either on the bike or to my room and to bed. There’s no sightseeing or casual interchange. This trip is an individual focus on recovery every day and riding incredible distances every day. It might be easier to understand if you think about the contrast of week long bike trips that you might take with Trek Travel or Backroads. On those trips, you bike every day for a week, but there’s nothing taxing about the riding and much of the focus is on outstanding accommodations, great food, wine, and cultural experiences. You spend considerable time with other people on the trip and you do form “bonds.” There is nothing in common between these week long trips and our XC 6 week trip.
Okay, let me introduce you to more people via pictures. The couple below are Christian and Jacqueline from Germany. Christian is 46 and Jacqueline younger. Christian is a very strong rider and Jacqueline picks and chooses which daily rides to participate in. The other picture is of Jim and he is in his 50′s and he recently sold his fund management firm and he’s at a transition in his career. Jim is one of the top 3 riders in our group.
Okay, so it’s 2:52 pm on Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in my plastic lawn chair in front of my room at the Dover Inn and my view is of the Piggly Wiggly and the Papa Rock Bait & Tackle Shop across the street. That, along with Fred’s Pharmacy, makes up the entire downtown. I just took a picture so I’ll see if it transfers to my iPad. The Dover Inn, by the way, is not up to the high standards of the Holiday Inn Express or the Hampton Inn but the shower had hot water and there is a bed and free wifi!
So we left Union City quite early this morning (7:15, 20 minutes before sunrise) to try and get in to Dover before the thunderstorms and tornados that were forecast. It was raining for the first couple of hours but a light rain and the air temperature was warm enough (50′s) so it was tolerable. But by 10 or 10:30, it stopped raining but remained overcast and the wind picked up considerably but dare I say it – no, I can’t say it loud – oh, what the hell – it was a tailwind. So, all in all it was a good day and we got in early and everybody appreciated that. The funny story of the day is that we are given route directions that fit in a plastic sleeve on the handlebars. Of course, you need to turn the page at least 4 times (1/2 a page shows at a time) and the first half page only got us 9 miles. So when I stopped to turn the page, the sheet was soaking wet and it basically shredded when it attempted to take the sheet out and turn it. So I had to follow other riders for a while until there was a van stop and I asked Rustin, one of the guides, for a new instruction page. He gave me his in exchange for my wet one. Being so smart, I thought I’d keep the new instructions in a pocket of my jersey under my rain jacket and use it later when I separated from other riders (I prefer to ride alone, as you know by new). Anyway, when I was day to use the new instruction sheet, I was reminded that I sweat under the rain jacket and so the 2nd sheet was similarly useless. So Dr Tom came to the rescue as he had instructions carefully protected in a zip lock bag. (There’s a photo of him below. – he’s 61 and a pediatric surgeon and head of the Surgery Department at Stanford University – a very smart and cool guy) So I rode most of the day with Dr. Tom and with Dave & Chrissie (also a photo of them – Dr. Dave is 62 and has a medical practice in England and Chrissie – early 50′s- manages their practice and they are riding for charity, too). It was really fun (unusual experience for me).
One other fun story. About 15 miles out there is a sign that tells you to go left for Dover or right for Paris. A tough decision.
Tomorrow we ride 90 miles into Nashville and the weather forecast looks promising. Then a glorious rest day (the last) in Nashville. I’m looking forward to taking Keely Ulur, a friend of Morgan’s who is in a Master’s in Nursing program at Vanderbilt, and a few of her friends, out to dinner.
Life is good and I miss all of you.
Okay, it’s late again because I didn’t get in until 4 pm and then there was laundry, massage, talk with Cayce, shower, dinner, and back to the room to prepare for tomorrow, then this blog, and to bed as soon as I can. Phew! The exciting life of a cross country biker!
Today was, in comparison to what we’ve had, a good day. 110 miles, mostly flat, some serious head winds in the afternoon, but warm. It started out with dense fog which limited visibility and my glasses fogged up (which is a problem because I need my prescription Oakleys to see my Garmin and read the route instructions) but I managed. What was really cool about the day was that we went through 3 states – Missouri, of course, then Kentucky for 7.7 miles, and then into Tennessee. Additionally, we took a ferry to cross the Mississippi River. very cool. We also saw endless fields of cotton. S, I have some pictures from today (that’s how good this day was – there were things to see and time to stop and take pictures. You’ll see the cotton fields, me on the ferry, and a photo of the Tennessee State line wherein I included my finger to add texture to the photo.
Funny line of the day! At dinner, people at my table, who shall go nameless so as to not embarrass them, suggested that I always seemed to be in a hurry and was I always like that? Can you imagine? Me, in a hurry? Clearly, they’re not seeing the thoughtful, mellow, cautious me! Hmmmm.
Okay, off to bed. Getting closer to Charleston.
We have been experiencing bad weather conditions on this trip, and today was no exception. Riding 114.4 miles with 5,377 ft of climbing is difficult enough but imagine waking up to thunderstorms and lightning and so not being allowed to start until the lightning subsided. That was the good part. So then we start out in the rain and the cold and regardless of how much “rain” gear you’re wearing, you’re soaking wet within minutes and then you’re just cold to the bone. Then imagine riding on very busy roads with no shoulder and trucks and other vehicles, impatient already because of their driving conditions, not being happy being held up by cyclists. Oh, and remember that it is dangerous riding in the rain for all of those reasons but also because the roads are slick, the painted lines extremely slick, and visibility is limited. Oh, and you need to ride 114 miles and you just can’t ride very quickly because of all these conditions and it takes you forever for each mile.
Sound like fun? Yes, I know, we need to just suck it up and stop whining. 10 hours later, I did! The rain did stop by the lunch stop at 53 miles and so conditions improved. One enterprising group (Dave & Chrissie from England and Christian from Germany) actually found a laundromat in a small town and basically disrobed and dried their gear before proceeding. Brilliant!
And the dogs! So, so many dogs coming out of their country yards and, by all appearances, wanting to tear you apart. I think there’s dog texting that alerts these vicious beasts to an approaching target. I wonder whether there’s a similar disdain for men in tight pants in dogs as in their pick-up driving owners?
How’s that for a cheery and positive blog? Tomorrow has to be better!!! And we’re 114 miles closer to being done. As an aside, Dana, the rider that broke her arm on this XC Tour 2 years ago, joined us tonight with her friend Sarah to complete her XC ride. Nice to have them with us.
Another big ride tomorrow when we cross the Mississippi and end up in Tennessee! Hey, this old dude is still rolling and happy to be doing so!
I’m doing this blog late because my schedule has been compressed. Got in fairly early around 3:30 but showered, had a massage, then we were shuttled to dinner at a fabulous restaurant where food was excellent but service slow. So it’s 8:11, past my bedtime but I wanted to get this blog in.
Today was a difficult day, with 102 miles but some 7,500 ft of climbing over endless rollers. It started out dismally with rain showers which made it quite dangerous as the roads were busy and there were no shoulders. But I broke away from the main group early, the rain subsided, although it remained cool and overcast, and I charged off wanting to get as much of the ride in before the rains returned. Success in that regard. Rollers are a unique condition and I have to say one of my favorite types of ride because of the slingshot effect of the rollers. On the other hand, if it rains, you can imagine the danger of slipping at 40 mph downhill or on the banked turns. Turned out the rain threatened all day, but didn’t return. The countryside of the Mark Twain Forest is incredibly beautiful and miles go by quickly. What I wanted to tell you about are “dogs!” Country dogs are plentiful and they are bored and mean. Most are chained or on long leash lines or enclosed in fenced areas. Some are free to roam and attack cyclists and they are really pissed that you get to wander by their home and leave their forlorn existence. There’s nothing romantic or sweet about country dogs. I can’t even total the number of times I’ve been chased. I’m not a fan of country dogs! When I get home, I’m going to kiss “Ein” and thank him for being such a sweet and mellow dog.
The weird thing about having just completed a century with considerable climbing is that I get to do it again tomorrow (114 miles & 5,377 ft of climbing) and then the next day (110 miles and more climbing) and so on. What’s even weirder is that I now think that’s normal! Weird is right.
Okay, enough for now. I need my recovery sleep. (Malone told me yesterday that the only problem I’m going to have in Barcelona is staying up beyond 8 pm.)
Brett’s family has set up a site to communicate info re Brett’s recovery:
Sorry, I’m using an iPad so I don’t know how to create a link. You’ll have to copy and paste.
Firstly and most importantly, I have no new update on Brett. His condition is critical, as you knew, and as soon as I get any update, I will let you know. His family must be desperately sad, yet hopeful! All of us are in a similar state but cannot imagine the degree to which Brett’s family is suffering.
This rest day is rejuvenating. It is a sunny, brisk, windy, day here in Branson, Missouri. Wow! I was just interrupted from typing this blog by a phone call from Malone who is in Barcelona. He wanted an update on Brett and to be sure I was riding safe and to check on how I was doing. I am so happy to have spoken with him.
So, where was I? This is Day 27 which means I have been riding for 24 days (this is the 3rd rest day) and we’ve covered 2,141 miles. Difficult miles, primarily because we have had mostly horrible weather conditions, from extreme heat in the desert to frigid cold in the mountains to unrelenting head winds on the Plains and I’ll never, ever, forget the hail and frigid rain at 10,500 ft on the way to Taos and being unprepared in terms of clothing and gear. On the positive side, I’ve had no physical pains or sprains or soreness and I came into the ride properly trained and have gotten incrementally stronger each day. An average of 8 hours a day on the bike becomes “normal” and I’ve ridden most of the miles alone, by choice, and I can just put my head down and pump the pistons all day long, other than stops for “relief’ and water and food.
The sadness I’ve seen are boarded up towns, deserted homes, unmaintained roads and a lack of commerce through much of America. On the flip side, towns like Durango and Taos are thriving.
So, 13 days to go, 12 days of riding, 1,074 miles, much climbing, and no easy days left except for the victory ride into Charleston on the 23rd, where Cayce will be waiting for me! Tomorrow’s ride is typical – 102.5 miles with 7,300 ft of climbing via endless rollers in Missouri. I hope the weather and winds improve but whatever is thrown at us, we’ll conquer.
As an aside, I also updated the numbers on the web site today and you should be able to see the results soon. Summary is we’re up to 135 individual donors and over $60,000 pledged or donated. I’m humbled by your support. Thank you all!
Okay, I’ll report on today and on Brett’s condition. Tomorrow, I’ll provide a summary of the first 4 weeks and a forecast of the remaining 2 weeks.
Most importantly, here’s what I’ve been told regarding Brett’s condition. The result of Brett’s crash was a multiple skull fracture and a broken collar bone. The surgery was to remove a section of his skull to ease the hematoma (swelling of the brain). Brett is currently in a coma and is considered in critical condition. I’m told the doctors in Joplin want him to remain there for at least a week before an airlift to San Francisco is considered. Brett’s wife is with him and his two sons are about to be there. I can say no more. I have no basis or training to offer a prognosis and his crash is as baffling to me as it is to you. As I learn anything more, I’ll pass it along. I’m heartbroken that this has happened to Brett and his family. We all know how fragile our existence is and we all know loved ones who have suffered tragedy. We can’t put a bubble around our loved ones or ourselves. We also cannot control our destiny; we know that. Out biking group is moving forward but our mood and attitude is somber.
To today’s ride. 90 miles of an incredibly beautiful part of America with clear and SUNY skies until later in the afternoon. 5,147 ft of climbing as a result of endless rollers and we had some strong head winds and cross winds. I was in to the hotel early and rode strong and hard.
And let me start introducing you to some of the people on the ride. The picture below is of Bruce whom I rode with for some of the ride today. Bruce is 55 and is a Catholic priest with 3 small parishes in Kentucky. T train for this ride, he rode 11,500 miles in the past year. As you’d guess, a terrific person and cyclist.
Okay, more tomorrow.
Brett is out of surgery and in “stable” condition. Dr. Tom says to not put too much reliance on that status. That’s all I know and I thought you’d all like to know.
Off to Branson shortly and a much needed rest day. Report later.
This is going to be a short blog because we had a rider go down today and that’s all I want to report. Brett, a 59 year old from San Francisco, and one of our strongest riders, was riding side-by-side with another rider and as I understand it, lost control of his bike and he went down face first. We have two doctors in our group, as I’ve shared with you before, and they were a few miles behind Brett and came upon him unconscious on the road with his riding partner doing his best to care for Brett. Anyway, Dr. Tom attended to Brett and when the ambulance and EMT’s arrived, he directed them to get a helicopter. And that’s what happened. Brett was taken to a hospital in Joplin, MO where he is in critical condition and went to surgery. Brett’s wife is flying to Joplin tonight. I don’t know any more and I won’t speculate.
Two years ago, the last time Trek Travel did the XC trip, a rider, Dana, went down and broke her wrist and arm and couldn’t finish. She’s joining our trip in Poplar Bluffs (just after Branson) to finish her XC ride.
This trip, friends, is not fun; it is not a vacation; it’s not a romantic adventure. It’s a grueling physical, mental, and spiritual, challenge. Most, if not all, of us will make it to Charleston. Brett will be there, too, either in person or in our hearts.
Thanks for following my journey. We’re finally out of Oklahoma, as you can see from the picture..