Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Fast America South Adventure - from the beginning

The plan: ride 2900 miles across America in 27 days

To read the blog from beginning to end, start here.

At the bottom of each post is a link to the next day's post, so you can read it in chronological order.

I hope you enjoy the blog as much as I did creating it.


P.S. Most of the photos in this blog were taken by the crew from America by Bicycle. If you see me in the pic or it is a great photo, that is a clue that they took it. If not so great, then it may have been taken by me on my cell phone. Enjoy!

Day 27 Friday, May 13th, Vidalia to Savannah, Georgia, I rode the entire 106 route miles, 1277' up, 1539' down

Another one of the many gorgeous weather days to ride - sunshine, and now a bit cooler near the coast. Well, perhaps it was simply cooler because we started about 6:30 because the plan was we needed to all gather at mile 102 at the Tybee Island Post Office to ride the last 2 miles down to the beach as a group.

As you can see from the route profile, we had very little up an down today - finally - and the wind was not a factor for most of the ride. The first SAG stop at mile 27.7 came quickly, and the lunch SAG at mile 67.5 was no problem. We all were feeling good and the end was in sight.

At about mile 83, a rapid series of turns through Savannah (or its suburbs) began, .3 miles this way, .2 miles that way, .1 mile another way. then a quick right, then an immediate left. The cue sheet said (CAUTION) but while trying to figure out exactly where to go (and not being able to turn my head to see due to my fused C1-3 vertebrae in my neck), as I was turning left, the passenger side rear view mirror of a van trying to pass me hit me on my left upper arm. The van fortunately was not moving fast and it immediately stopped, with me with my momentum continuing forward and hitting the mirror a second time with my arm and helmet. I was able to stop and catch myself on my left foot with my bike hitting the pavement, but otherwise unhurt. Once I saw that I was OK and my bike was not damaged, I got right back on and continued. 

I soon got on Hwy. 80 going out to Tybee Island. It was a four lane road with no shoulder, so I hugged the white line while a LOT of traffic buzzed by me at 65 miles per hour. Not my cup of tea! However, the discomfort was lessened a bit by a nice tail wind, so I finished the last 10 miles at about 21-22 mph and feeling great.

I arrived at the Tybee Island Post Office exactly 7 hours after departing Vidalia. 102 miles in 7 hours of total elapsed time? Hmm, that is as good as I did the Tour de Tonka last summer, and that was just a one day ride, not the 10th day in a row. It may have been more riding time, however, as today I did not spend much time at the two SAG stops, a store stop for chocolate milk and a few more quick stops at ummm ------ impromptu "comfort stations". 

The guys were all there at the Post Office before me, and lots of "at a boy's" and other congratulatory comments were much appreciated. The group has been awesome the entire way, and it did not change at the end.

At the Post Office where we gathered for the final 2 miles together.

At 2:30, Mike led us the final 2 miles to the beach, where we carried our bikes down through the sand to the water, where some of the riders dipped their wheels in the water in the "Traditional Wheel Dipping Ceremony".

At the Tybee Beach in Savannah, Georgia - Coast to Coast completed!

Our final 2 miles to the beach.

After the beach ceremony, we rode back to the Post Office, loaded the bikes onto and the riders into the vans for the ride to the motel in downtown Savannah. 

It was a busy time unloading the vans, boxing the bike and getting ready for the banquet at 7:00. At the banquet Mike played a slideshow of some of the photos he had taken on the trip, and we had a chance to relive the past 27 days while we ate. Then we each had a chance to say whatever we chose to say to the group. I again thanked the group for their encouragement and support along the way. After the banquet, I caught a cab to my offsite motel (much less expensive) from which I took another cab the next day to the airport for my flight(s) home to Minnesota, arriving in Minneapolis at 7:00 p.m.

For our ride leader's take of today's events and photos, go here .

Final Reflections on the last 27 days:

I rode the first 7 day leg a total of 565 miles, with days of 83, 84, 115, 40, 64, 100 and 79. The second 8 day leg a total of 648 miles with days of 82, 91, 96, 48, storm day, 120, 105 and 106. The last and third 10 day leg a total of 1014 miles with days of 124, 104, 71 (the phone call day), 121, 100, 100, 101, 86, 101 and 106. The grand total of the planned 2,900 route miles I rode then adds up to 2,127 ridden, not the entire route as I had dreamed.

So, my original goal was not achieved. Also, the joy of riding with others was pretty much shot, with my being slower than the others resulting in my riding at least 2000 of those miles by myself with no other rider in sight. Those aspects of the ride were thus disappointing.

However, it was all a grand adventure! To ride 2127 miles in 27 days, to feel and experience the improvement in my riding over the 27 days with a good last 10 days of riding, to ride across many states from one ocean to another, to enjoy absolutely awesome weather (not a drop of rain all the way, except for the storm day we did not ride), to share this experience with an awesome group of supportive riders, and to be supported by an exceptional crew from America By Bicycle was all very rewarding, and in that regard, a great success.

To all of the followers and supporters along the way - THANK YOU! I also thank the riders and crew. And, I must thank my wife, Linda, for allowing me to pursue these kinds of challenges and being excited for me. But as you can gather from these pages, this was in many ways my mom's story, as I applied many of the things she taught me as a youth, without which none of this would have been possible.

For our ride leader's final thoughts on the trip, go here.
For the photos from the third leg, go here.

--- THE END ---

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Day 26: Thursday, May 12 - Perry, GA to Vidalia, GA I rode the route's 101 miles for the day, 2772' up, 2899' down

Yup, another hill. (Photo credit; Mike Munk, America by Bicycle)

Today's ride went without a hitch. There were a few more hills than expected, but nothing that was too bothersome. Maybe I am just getting jaded. The wind was not a factor, but it did get over 90 degrees in the afternoon, so it was hot. Repeated soaking of the skull cap and my jersey helped keep it tolerable.

I started out about 7:30 and finished before 3:00, so less than seven and a half hour total elapsed time. No record setting pace, but not too shabby. When I did the 102 miles in 6 hours and 5 minutes of riding time on the Tour de Tonka last summer for an average speed of 16.5 mph, it took a total of just seven hours, just for comparison. Of course, that was a one day ride in almost ideal conditions (except for the heat and hills in the afternoon), and not a day after multiple long rides day after day like today.

Our SAG stops at mile 36 and 62 were reasonably spaced today, unlike some days in which they were about 50 miles apart. Geez, I remember the first time I rode 50 miles in 2013 for the Make a Wish Foundation with my friends from RydeOn Saline, there were rest stops every 10 miles. Here, we are expected to have a bar or two in our jersey pockets and/or stop at the infrequent stores to make it to the next SAG. It has really not been a problem, just interesting to see the contrast with shorter, larger events.

Nope, the hills weren't done with us yet!

What Vidalia, Georgia is known for.
Tomorrow is our last day; Day 27: Friday, May 13 - Vidalia, GA to Savannah, GA 104 miles for the day, 900' of climbing, with the last 50 mile profile looking like there may be speed bumps in the road. 

We will leave at 6;30 and need to be at the Post Office 102 miles down the road to go as a group to the beach for the traditional wheel dipping and pouring of the water from the Pacific into the Atlantic. Then, it will be a two mile ride to the motel, packing up the bikes for shipping home, cleaning up, followed by a banquet at 7;00. Then, a cab ride to my offsite motel from which I will depart Saturday morning for the airport for the flight home.

With such a busy time, I will not be writing a blog tomorrow night, but will do so upon my return home.

Thanks all for following me and reading my posts. It means a lot to me.

Next page

For our ride leader's take on today's ride with photos, go here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Day 25: Wednesday, May 11 - Columbus, GA to Perry, GA. I rode 86 of the 96 route miles for the day, 3376' up, 3221' down

Beautiful Bike Trail

We had an awesome start of the day, following the Chattahoochee Riverwalk bike path along a river which led to Fort Benning. The path 
meandered through the trees along a river mostly flat with a few small rises, and we followed it at a leisurely pace, about 7 of us in the lead group. That stretch was been the most fun for me so far on this trip.

After about 19 miles, we were off the trail and onto the roads, and the gentleness disappeared. We hit roller after roller after roller, with the length and the height of them such that most ended up the last one-third or perhaps two-thirds in the granny gear. Our first SAG was at mile 40, and the big rollers lessened from there on. I was feeling OK, so the big rollers were not exhausting me, but they just are not fun when they are that large. The only consolation was that with only 3376' of climbing for the day, the rest of the route had to be less hilly.

Near the top of one hill at mile 64 my rear wheel did not feel right, so I stopped at a small intersection to inspect it. Darn, my first flat since very early on the trip. As I started to remove the wheel, a guy in a pick up truck turned around and asked me if I needed a lift somewhere. I asked him which direction he was going, and he said, "It doesn't matter. Which way do you need to go?". Well, the lunch SAG was at mile 74 and when I told him that, he told me to put the bike in the back and he would take me there. Wow! Southern hospitality. So, that is how I got bumped 10 miles up the road.

At lunch, Mike took a look at my tire and told me that that tire was toast, with it worn through in one spot. Luckily, we all had to bring an extra tire with us, which he installed after retrieving it from the support van. The rim strip tape had also moved, so it was lucky I did not try to fix it on the road, or it would have simply been a waste of time. It would also not have been much fun sitting in the dirt on the side of the road in the blazing sun either "fixing" the tire. 

At any rate, by the time Mike was done with the bike, I had eaten and was ready to roll. I was glad to get moving, as it was getting REALLY hot sitting there in the sun. I wet my skull cap and soaked my jersey before heading out, benefiting from the evaporative cooling as I rode. The terrain was favorable, traveling through Mennonite farming country, on very quiet roads, although a bit rough. It was clear sailing all the way to the motel at mile 96. By that time, it was 91 degrees, so no wonder it felt hot.
We only have two more days of riding, with tomorrow as follows: Day 26: Thursday, May 12 - Perry, GA to Vidalia, GA 101 miles for the day, 2,776 so far, 3,200' of climbing. Piece of cake, especially after an 86 mile rest day like today.

Next page

For the ride leader's take on today's ride with photos, go here

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Day 24: Tuesday, May 10 - Prattville, AL to Columbus, GA 113 miles for the day, 4,075' up, 4,147' down

We are finally "in the land of cotton, Old times there are not forgotten" (Just not planted yet.)

Today was looked forward to as the first of four pretty easy days. Unfortunately, the 3100' of climbing turned out to be 4,075', with some pretty steep "granny gear" hills.

I started out just taking it easy. It was warm at the start, no wind jacket or skull cap needed. The first 19 miles or so went pretty easily. Then we began to hit hills of the size and frequency that we were not expecting. There was one particularly long and steep, and I was soon sweating bullets, with sweat running into my eyes. My legs really felt these hills. The miles were definitely not "just flowing by" as they had been on some other days. 

I began to think that THIS was going to have to be the day that I treat as a training day and forget my intent to ride the entire 113 miles. After another hill at about mile 44, I had decided that was what needed to happen. Mike in the van did not appear until mile 51 and I immediately held my hand on top of my head (the signal that I wanted some assistance). Mike gave me a bump up to mile 63, under the rationale that it was only 10 more miles to the lunch SAG at mile 74, and it remained a possibility to still ride a century if I changed my mind.

At lunch, I told Judy to watch out for me as she moved up the van and trailer as I may wish to be picked up to be brought straight to the motel. After I started out after lunch, the first 4 - 5 miles did not go well. On a slight hill, I was riding 7 miles per hour, then on another one, 6 miles per hour. It was time to throw in the towel. Then I thought of those of you following me in the blog, and did not want to disappoint you by giving up. Then I hit another hill and thought "This is it, time to get bumped up in the van."

Then I recalled picking strawberries as a young kid with my mom at Wisti's. Mom had taught me perseverance, again by her example. In fact, we were indoctrinated into the FACT that the Finnish had sisu, or stick-to-it-ism. When I was 12, we picked strawberries for the Wistis. Another farmer offered the crew 7 cents per quart picked, versus the 6 the Wistis were paying. But mom had committed to the Wistis and she would not abandon them. So we picked. Mom and I were the only ones who stayed with the Wistis. Mr. and Mrs. Wisti picked with us, as we tried to salvage as much of the crop as we could (and their finances). One day, it got really hot with the sun beating down. I was ready to quit. I was very tired (and picking strawberries is not the most thrilling thing for a 12 year old boy to be doing in the first place). Mom said, “Just keep plugging along” and I did. That day, I ended up picking 106 quarts, the most I ever picked, well beyond the usual 50-60 quarts. Admittedly, it was a long day, with good picking, but it taught me how much could be accomplished if you just stick to it. I still remember being able to buy that new baseball glove that I wanted with some of my summer’s $45 earnings. Yea, I got that much because the Wistis gave us a half penny bonus per quart for sticking with them! Her admonition of "just keep plugging along" stuck with me. Lesson learned: if you just persevere, you can accomplish much.

I am a strong believer in "want power" vs. "willpower". Willpower is easily lost, but if you want something badly enough, it can be a huge motivator. My desire to ride all the way across the country - my original dream - was long gone. My desire to get better as a rider could easily be satisfied if I rode 50-60 miles today, so was not a big motivator to continue today. But, my desire to receive your approval as a blog reader was still strong. I did not want to disappoint "my team". So, when Judy went past me at mile 78, I made a snap decision - I would try to finish the day so I stuck my hand out horizontally (the signal that I did not need any assistance). I was then committed, with 34 miles to go. I just plugged along until I reached a store at mile 94, an objective I had in my mind for many miles. There I rewarded myself with some chocolate milk.

When you are struggling, you need to keep setting short term or intermediate goals, so you get a feeling of accomplishment when you reach them. This is motivating, and the treat at mile 94 was also helpful, not only physically due to the calorie content, but also psychologically.

Thank goodness, much of the up and down was not too severe in that stretch, and I regained my energy. The last eight miles or so were not so forgiving, but with not many more miles to go, I was able to continue. It was now over 85 degrees, so the heat was an issue, lessened by wetting my skull cap with water every so often so the evaporative cooling would cool my head. The winds again really were not much of a factor today.

Bottom line: I was able to ride 101 of the 113 route miles for the day. Another century down, which feels good when I almost gave up with less than 50.

See, when I said very early on in my training, you as member of my team are important, as "I could not be doing this without you."

Tomorrow should finally be an easy day: Day 25: Wednesday, May 11 - Columbus, GA to Perry, GA 96 miles for the day, 3,150' of climbing, with none of that supposed to be steep.

Only three more days to go!

Next page

For the ride leader's take on yesterday's and today's rides with photos, go here.