About Lea's Foundation

In 1998, Lea Michele Economos, a young woman who died of leukemia at the age of 28, made a dying wish to her parents that others would not face the hardships she encountered by finding a cure for this disease. Her family started this charity to carry on that wish. Today, Lea’s Foundation takes an active role in finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and myeloma and to better the lives of people living with these diseases. At the UCONN Health Center, the Lea’s Foundation Center for Hematologic Disorders sponsors research in this field. A new program covers the cost of bone-marrow testing to help recruit life-saving transplants for patients. Also, annual scholarships are given to children with leukemia who are planning to attend nursery school. For more information on other projects carried out by Lea’s Foundation, please visit their website at www.LeasFoundation.org.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Day 48: A Quick Reflection

Sharon, CT--> Farmington, CT (46 mi.)

Today's ride was short, sweet, and casual. Although the particular flavor of Connecticut hills wasn't particularly enjoyable (long, winding climbs), it was a beautiful day and the anticipation sweetened the otherwise bitter taste of the climbing.

I wish I could say I thought some good, wise thoughts on that day, but I was mostly excited for the start of a more than one day break from riding my bike. Since then, I did think of one thing I'd like to share:

The major difficulty of this trip, I think, is the lack of control. The student lifestyle, though not without its own challenges, does permit a great deal of freedom. It's nice to choose when to go to bed, where and what to eat, who to see, and what to do with your free time. This trip precluded some of that freedom: we had to find beds, had limited food options, only saw each other, and could only lay down in our free time. When there was a significant headwind and still 17 miles to go uphill, we could never decide, "hey, this isn't so much fun, let's do something else." Though this may sound spoiled and entitled (complaining about a cross country bicycling trip) I really want to say quite the opposite. The difficulty of this trip, which I felt deeply, is completely incomparable to the suffering of those with blood-related and other cancers/diseases because it has a clear end. We have made it; we are finished. Not only are we finished, but we knew all along that--provided we could stay upright on our bikes and run into the east coast--we could complete the journey. This concrete sense of termination, to say nothing of the happy boost of accomplishment, has lent me an appreciation for the ultimate cause of our journey. We have done a small thing for people who do not have the same expectation of an appropriate end. We have suffered a little bit, only to realize that there are many others who suffer far worse. And that, I think, is a very human and a very significant thing to realize. I'm grateful to carry that with me after this trip and we hope that we have managed to share it in some way through this blog and through our conversation. Thank you for reading.

All the best,

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Knives, Bats, New Tats: A Reflection

This trip was a once in a lifetime experience and I will carry it with me for the rest of my life. Every day brought new challenges and unique adventures. 

I am so grateful to have shared this experience with Nate and Melina who were supportive and amazing friends throughout the seven weeks that we were together all of the time. I'd like to thank them for putting up with my shenanigans and malarkey at pretty much all times.  

I'd also like to thank everyone who supported us throughout the journey including friends, family, and those we met on the road. Your encouragement and support made this trip possible. 

I'd like to think that this trip has changed me for the better. I put a lot of thought into how I would permanently mark my body in honor of this trip and below is the final product.

That's my calf.

Day 46: Group Ride

Bloomsburg, PA--> Matamoras, PA (111 mi.)

Today was another great day for me because my parents came up from Maryland to join our last leg of this adventure. I had only found out a few days before that they had planned to come up, so to finally have the day come, especially when I had looked forward to it so much, was a joy.

I had passed along the route for the day to my parents, so I wasn't sure if I would see them at our lunch stop or along the road somewhere. It was hilarious, but not surprising to me, to suddenly see our family car on my left and my Mom, standing through the sunroof, suddenly yelling and cheering us on. They pulled over and we had a quick reunion before we had to finish the last couple of miles to lunch, which seemed absolutely endless.

My Dad brought my bike from home and--without the training he had hoped to have before joining us--put out a pretty impressive effort by riding with us for a chunk of the afternoon. It was so much fun to ride with him again and to share the journey. I just wanted to keep talking and telling him little anecdotes, but I had to remind myself that it's always helpful to look at the road when bicycling.

My parents helped us out with a room at the Scottish Inn, which you can see off of 84 (future Nate tells me it's awfully strange to drive past a place you've cycled through). It was a nice room and after getting some pizzas, we settled in for some quality Olympic viewing.


Day 45: Buggies and Beards

State College, PA to Bloomsburg, PA - 89 mi

What!? A day less than 100 miles!? Yes - and it was good. After a delicious breakfast at the Waffle Shop in State College we headed out into the rolling hills of Amish country. Along the way signs for freshly baked goods tempted us but we were able to resist the call of the whoopie pie. We did see a few horse-drawn tractors (or whatever), but didn't see as many buggies as I expected. I was thrilled to see at least one epic Amish beard, though.

We knocked out over 50 miles to lunch in Lewisburg, PA, which his home to Bucknell University an grabbed lunch at a local coffee house and cafe where we met a delightful couple driving a Prius who were beside themselves with excitement about our journey. They desperately wanted to help us in some way but didn't have any cash, so they supplied us with an essential nutrient: coffee.

After refueling we demolished the remaining 40-ish miles to Bloomsburg where the Patriot Inn graciously donated a room. They also had laundry service, which was pretty sweet because it meant that someone else got to deal with our nasty clothing. So naturally I was stoked.

Day 44: Friends and Family

Liganer--> State College, PA (108 mi.)

Today was another day where the presence of other people managed to dilute the pain of riding over a hundred miles in some consistently hilly country. My grandparents, who live part time in a farm house in PA, planned to meet us after the morning ride and buy us lunch. My grandfather is a big reason this trip is meaningful to me because he has multiple myeloma (and has been doing very well, fortunately) so I was thrilled he could come up and see what the day to day of our trip looks like.

As it so often happens, our time plans got twisted again by various mishaps, including a broken chain. Luckily, one of the guys at Bike Surgeon gave us a spare link and we were able to turn a pretty bad problem into a slight delay. When we finally got to the pre-determined lunch area, we were all very happy to sit down and eat (a free meal!).

Seeing people from the Great Outside (otherwise recognizable through their choice of sitting on more comfortable places than a small bicycle seat) is refreshing for me; my grandparents got to chat with local people about the trip we were on and their sense of pride and excitement helped me to shift my perspective from a routine day to a deep feeling of appreciation.

My grandfather, after lunch, volunteered to carry our bags around for the day in his truck. We still ended up in State College very late at night, but having no bags for the afternoon was a huge relief.

One of my college buddies grew up in State College and was nice enough to contact his parents so that we could stay with them tonight. The Millers were great hosts: good food, good conversation, and a good place to sleep. I think we all wish we could have spent more time in the State College area.

Happy in Happy Valley,

Day 43: Did You Know That PA Is Not Flat?

St. Clairsville, OH to Ligonier, PA - 107 mi

This was the most difficult day to this point. We were hit with climbs from the very first mile and they did not relent all day.

From St. Clairsville, we headed into West Virginia for about 11 miles, most of which was uphill due to a slight detour in Wheeling that took us up a mountain. Although our legs were already thrashed we pushed on to the PA border before taking a much needed break on the side of the road. The excitement of finally being in the East was squashed by the foothills of the Allegheny mountains. These hills were absolutely vicious and made the grades out West look like child's play.

To my delight, we stopped for lunch at a Waffle Shop in Washington, PA. It was already 12:30PM and we had only made it 42 miles so spirits were not as high as they might have been. Fortunately the massive portions at Waffle House including a waffle with peanut butter chips, two eggs, hash browns, toast, and meat filled our bellies and provided a nice energy kick.

We got back on the road at about 1:30 and a daunting 65 miles stood between us and a good night's rest in Ligonier. Somehow we were all able to dig deep and push through the gnarly grades of the Alleghenies and finally made it to the quaint little town of Ligonier at about 8:30 PM. Starving, we headed to a local tavern where we demolished some delicious food and kicked back a couple of well-earned brews.

Day 42: Lightweight

Reynoldsburg, OH--> St. Claresville, OH (117 mi.)

When we set off this morning, we saw two riders in the distance. This isn't particularly unusual for us, but it adds an element of excitement that other people are using bicycles to get around. As we got closer, they looked more and more like a couple (one guy, one girl) out for a morning training ride. The amount of time we've spent on our bikes has given us some well-deserved pride about our endurance so I at least expected to catch them at some point in the day. Surprisingly, they persisted in the distance and we never closed on them.

Yet when we stopped at a gas station after a morning bit of riding, we found two bikes propped on the outside. We allowed our bikes to graze next to theirs on the wall and walked in to meet our morning leaders. They were, actually, a brother and sister duo in their mid-forties who were touring across country as well. Their bikes belied this goal in that they were (very) nice racing bikes with almost no additional baggage. Unlike us, they had thrown in the towel after the romanticism of camping led to discomfort and instead planned a few days ahead, locking down motels wherever there destination was. Internally, I applauded their strong decision and envied their light loads. So it wasn't just a random training pair out, but rather well-seasoned riders who had been on the road for even longer than us. A recommendation for those of you considering touring: the lighter the better and if you can pull off the "credit card" touring, do so and enjoy your freedom. We traded stories about the difficult winds earlier in our trip and then went our separate ways. Later in the day we would meet another cyclist, a girl who was eventually traveling to NYU for PhD work. Our meeting took place in Quakerville and, yes, the picture that just formed in your head is correct. It was a difficult day of riding in the hills of Ohio, but meeting some fellow travelers always makes things a little more tolerable for the perspective it lends.

Day 40: Homeward Bound

Bloomington, IN to Richmond, IN - 125 mi

With rejuvenated legs and our sites set on home we set out for the first of many long days. Overall, the ride wasn't too bad and we cruised across the remainder of Indiana to Richmond where we received an amazing dinner from Olive Garden. We then headed down the road to crash at the Quality Inn.

UCHC Homecoming!

Check out UConn Today's article!

Day 39: Bloomington is Kind of Awesome

Bloomington, IN (0 miles) As my parents pointed out, Bloomington is a poetic town to cycle
through because of the 1979 movie Breaking Away, an underdog cycling
story where townies beat out the Indiana University cycling team.

It seemed to have book stores, coffee shops, ethnic and natural food
restaurants, green spaces and bike shops in just the right proportion
to appeal to. . . well, me. Oh! And boutique shops selling very cute
dresses. In a defiant act of rebellion against the drab and functional
civilian clothes I had packed in my panniers, I purchased a pink,
frilly dress that I would lug to CT for a wedding in September. I
spent most of the rest of the day reading in cafes to soak up the
pleasant atmosphere.

Day 38: We Crushed Central Time

Flora, IL to Bloomington, IN (131 miles)

Sean made the excellent suggestion that rather than take a rest day in
Bedford, we might as well go up to Bloomington, a city reputed by its
resident state University.

Besides a few flukey flats, the beginning of the day was relatively
smooth going. We stopped at a Subway in Lawrenceville for some fuel,
and made our way across the Wabash River into Vincennes, IN and
EASTERN TIME! The second half of the day brought on a downpour and
several more hills; we stopped 10 miles outside of town to eat a
spectacular and cheap diner breakfast and to escape the heavier rain.

For me, nothing beats the feeling of cranking into town for a rest
day. I know I've worked hard for a week and I'm about to give my body
and mind a well-deserved break from the harsh routine. In Bloomington,
we stayed at the Hampton Inn on Nate's dad's points (thank you Mr.
Windon!). We chose the Upland Brewing Company for a fabulous, inspired
dinner and fresh, hoppy draughts to celebrate what I felt was the end
of iceberg lettuce salads, boiled ham steaks and the unhappy triad of
beer options: Bud Heavy, Miller Lite, Coors Light.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 37: The Bike Surgeons

St. Louis, MO to Flora, IL - 104 miles

We headed out of St. Louis and crossed the Mississippi River into East St. Louis - known to many as the "murder capital" of the US. With this knowledge, I was not so comfortable riding through this part of town, but it was mostly just empty and we were soon into the suburbs in Illinois.

We made a planned breakfast stop at an IHOP about 16 miles outside of the city where we enjoyed a real breakfast. I was having what I like to call "flat tire issues" over the past couple of days where I would get a flat about once every 10 miles and this morning was no exception. We found a bike shop nearby that opened at 10AM and decided to hit it up so that I could get to the bottom of the problem.

The Arch!
Melina and Nate Crossing the Mississippi
The Bike Surgeon is an awesome shop in Illinois and took amazing care of us. I was at the door at 10AM and they brought be right back to the mechanic's station to begin working on my bike. One of the mechanics, Sam, knew exactly what I needed and grabbed a new "bomb proof" tire for my rear wheel. We hung out at the shop for quite some time and chatted with the staff who were totally stoked on our trip and on cycling in general (as you might gather). They were so nice and willing to help us out with anything that we needed. They even gave each of us a shop jersey! Thanks to everyone at the Bike Surgeon!
The Shop

The rest of the day was mostly flat and uneventful. We were able to cruise at a pretty good clip and got into Flora before dark despite getting off to a late start.
Melina and Nate approaching Flora, IL

Day 36: Dog Days

Owensville--> St. Louis

St. Louis will be permanently pronounced St. Looey in my head because that's how Melina fondly referred to the city. We worried that the resident St. Louiseans would be offended at her pronounciation, but to the best of my knowledge she did not say it out loud within the city limits. Which is unfortunate because it's a much more endearing way of calling the city.

Along the way to the city, we stopped at a bike shop where Sean got a chance to get his rear wheel trued (straightened) and I bought a spare tire that future Nate tells me was quite a useful purchase. The shop owner was also in the business of rescuing Australian shepherds (Luke & Carolyn--Linus would have loved it!) so there were a few carousing in the shop. We all felt better given the chance to wander around a bike shop, talk to some friendly folks who helped us out, and pet some beautiful dogs.

We had to leave to re-enter the heat--it's been consistently over 100 for a very long stretch of days now. I think we've adapted to some extent, but those first few minutes in the heat after being in AC are always hard. As we neared St. Louis (see, I know you pronounced it in your head differently) we hit some more urbanized areas, which gave us overwhelming visual stimulus after the fairly regular and rural terrain we have been seeing. Person! Car! Places to buy things besides gas! I had some caffeine before so I felt like I was in a video game, which was fun but the potholes still were pretty painful.

Sean's Dad pulled through for us again by lining up a Marriott. We had favorable impressions of St. Louis as we biked through in the evening and some beer and food at Schlafly Brewery only re-affirmed that. Originally we were considering a rest day here to explore some more, but with the promise of cooler weather tomorrow we decided to push onward and eastward.

At the Mississippi,

Day 35: Sag Wagon

Camdenton--> Owensville

Late last night I got a text from my Dad and, after a few exchanges, I found out that because of some clever travel planning, I'd be seeing him the next morning. It was absolutely great news to hear.

We woke up the next morning and I shared with Melina and Sean that we would be getting a sag wagon the next day (a term used to indicate a vehicle traveling in support of cyclists with food, spare parts, etc.). After some hiccups over gravel roads, we finally got to a paved road that I could pin our location on to have my Dad drive over. At our usual resting place, the Gas Stations of America, we met and he took all of our bike bags.

Throughout the day we met sporadically as my Dad brought some Gatorades to us at the top of a particularly steep climb and at a diner for lunch. For me, it was a huge encouragement to see my Dad and get at least a feeling of home back.
Without our panniers we made good time and reached Owensville, which set up our destination of St. Louis tomorrow.
 We ended the day with a room donation from the Motor Inn and one of the best dinners/food in general we've had on the trip at a cafe in town.

Closer to home,

Day 34: Flats on Flats on Flats

Lamar--> Camdenton

Now that we're in Missouri, we've ventured into the Ozark mountains. We've been warned by various sources that they are quite a bit more work then one would think. That's always a hard warning to heed: should we think they're going to be really hard and then be relieved? think that they'll be easy to prove people wrong? To me, the warning can feel like telling someone to not sneeze too hard.

If that seems a little too psychologically invested in a recommendation, chalk it up to being on a bike and thinking about hills all day. For me, I found the Ozarks refreshing because they remind me a lot of riding at home: tons of undulations, no real rest, lots of shifting. I would liken the rollercoaster hills to driving a manual versus automatic transmission. It certainly gives you something more to pay attention to that can distract from a not as exciting landscape. But, if you're in traffic all day, it's miserable either way.

As the title suggests, the beast of Flat Tires reared its ugly head today. Previously, Melina had had two flats on consecutive days a while back. Since then, I had been daydreaming about making it across the country with no flats, or at least with my original tires and (patched) tubes. Today wrecked that dream as Sean and I both had at least two flats. It's not a terrible inconvenience, but it's a pain to be worrying about the possibility of a flat all day. It seems like there is a staple factory located along this road, or some careless kids in the backseat coming home from back to school shopping, or a phantom cyclist irritated at our quick pace. Or something.

After surmounting a huge climb into Camdentown (I think Melina said in frustration that "there better be a summit sign at the end of this"), we got into town. Dave's Hideaway, via Cliff, donated a room and gave us the lowdown on the local food.

Ozark sounds like a Seussian mountain range,

Day 33: Walmart vs. Harry Truman

Fredonia--> Lamar, MO

Lamar touts itself as the birthplace of Harry Truman and while I'm sure they get tourists interested in that historical connection, we found the Walmart to be a more compelling reason to appreciate Lamar. After a long day of riding in the heat, we bookended our evening with visits to that most American of stores. First, we got our ritual chocolate milk (supposedly it's a good recovery drink--regardless, it's delicious) along with fruit. We scooted to the nearby Blue Top Inn, which gave us a discounted rate on a room (and they had a pool, which is always really nice). The motel was interesting because several doors bore titles on them. I suppose folks (maybe truckers) visited so frequently that they earned this distinct honor. I wish there was a reward or honor for staying in motels the most consecutive nights so we could prove our Road Warrior status, but we clean up pretty nice so it's hard to tell. Looking more ragged should be our new team goal.

The second trip to Walmart revolved around assembling another epic salad. I defer to Melina's and Sean's proficiency in that arena, so it generally gives me a good time to wander around grocery stores looking at shiny objects. They're kind enough to let me eat the salad later in the evening, too.

Foodies at Walmart; Jumbo Shrimp,

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Days 31 & 32: Hospital Vacation!

Eureka, KS to Fredonia, KS - 45 miles (I made it 36 before requiring transport)

Let's just say I didn't have the best night in Eureka. After tossing and turning all night with nausea and vomiting, I woke up still feeling quite ill. Melina was kind enough to run to the gas station to pick up some Pepto, which provided absolutely no relief. I really didn't want to lose mileage, so I figured that I wold push through the discomfort and that it would pass before long. I was wrong. Unable to eat and barely able to drink Powerade, I pushed through 3 hours of misery before I began to feel disoriented and laid down next to a corn field in the middle of nowhere. Melina and Nate were as always super supportive and helped out however they could, including flagging down a nice gentleman passing by in a truck who agreed to drive me to the nearby Fredonia Regional Hospital.

I was received and brought to a room as soon as I walked into the Emergency Department. The staff were amazing and I was seen by the doctor within a few minutes. She decided that I was suffering from dehydration (no surprise, considering the fluid that I had lost from illness) and began "resuscitation" with IV fluids. Unfortunately, I was not feeling much better after a couple of hours and had to be admitted for observation. Melina and Nate were so patient and I am so grateful to have such a supportive team - they were with me in the hospital more than I could expect and made sure that I was comfortable.

On my release the next morning, the doctor made it clear that I was not to ride anywhere that day. I wasn't one for listening, but Melina and Nate were wiser and we got the motel to donate a second night.

Day 30:

Nickerson, KS to Eureka, KS - 125 miles

I awoke at 4AM in my top bunk to the delightful smell of coffee and French toast  and made my way out to the kitchen where I found June and Jim awake and waiting for us. It was so nice to have a homemade breakfast before getting on the road for another long day. Thank you to June and Jim for your hospitality!

We got on the road before sunrise and settled into a pleasant pace over the flat-to-mildly rolling terrain. About 50 miles into the day, we stopped for "second breakfast" in the nice town of Newton, KS, which seemed like an oasis of civilization in a desert of corn fields and towns with fewer than 1000 residents. We ate at a small cafe where the owner expressed her love for cyclists and insisted on interviewing us and taking a picture to put on the wall.

The saddles called and we were back on the road for a long 70+ miles through the blistering heat of Kansas. The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful and we coasted into Eureka, KS at around 5PM. The folks at the Blue Stem Lodge were kind enough to donate a room. We were thrilled because they had a pool where we took a very refreshing dip before going to dinner.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 28 & 29

And we're back! Sorry for the delay everyone--we truly appreciate having you all read our blog and it's frustrating at times not to be able to update as often as we'd like. There's a string of posts here and hopefully some more coming soon. I write this from Bloomington, Indiana and we're about to begin our last push toward home. Keep us in your thoughts as we finish off the trip. We look forward to seeing you all soon.

All the best,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 29: Kindness in Kansas

Today's second breakfast took place at a Subway in Larned (they have avocado now, have you been watching TV lately?). There, we tried our absolute best to find a place to stay 60 miles down the road. After finding scant motels, I decided to call the Nickerson First United Methodist Church in search of well-known hospitable folks. This is something I am sure would never work in the northeast, but after having been in Kansas a few days, I had the impression that the local economy depends very much on knowing everyone in town, and being superhuman-ly kind. The lady I spoke with gave me the name and number of "June". Turns out, June and her husband Jim had hosted something like 80 exchange students and 800 cyclists over the years. She is a retired teacher, and he is the town mayor. Really. They let us shower, gave us beds to sleep in, and insisted on waking up at our ungodly hour and cooking us pancakes. I was overwhelmed by the gentle, comfortable generosity of our hosts. June was facile with the vivid life details of all her past guests. We will certainly pass their info along to next year's riders so they can have the privilege of a warm home to stay in as well.

Day 28: We get a little wiser

Tribune, KS to Ness City, KS

Memories of the afternoon heat and wind motivated us to get up at 4 AM and hit the road before 6. Riding in the morning quickly became the best thing EVER, as the air was cool and slightly damp. We had long stretches of the road completely to ourselves, and witnessed the sun rise innocent and quiet, as if it weren't planning to try its best to dessicate us later in the day. Morning rides also provide an excuse for Second Breakfast, which we enjoyed at a true small-town diner (the kind with a bowling alley inside) in Scott City. We arrived in Ness City around 2 PM, ate a Mexican meal in at the Derrick Inn, which gave us a discounted room. Dessert took place at Frigid Creme. Sean won best cyclone combo: Snickers with cheesecake ice cream. Mmm.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 27: Rest Day Best Day

We decided to extend our stay in Tribune, population 660, because it just has so much to offer in the way of automotive shops and abandoned buildings. It was either that or our legs are a wee bit tired after yesterday. When we walked into the breakfast place this morning, one woman exclaimed, "oooh look at these young teenagers!". The library where I'm typing this is a legitimately impressive structure, all things considered. Well done there, Tribune.


Day 26: I Fought the Wind and the Wind Won

Fowler, CO to Tribune, KS (138 miles): To say we woke up in Fowler might be misleading because it would wrongly imply that we slept. I'm not sure how anyone can possibly do so with a whistle-blowing train passing through town every few hours, but I have great respect the resilience of the locals. We broke fast at Tamarac Diner and got on the road shortly before 9 AM. The riding was smooth and relatively flat for the first few hours, where we were able to keep our speed around 20 MPH. Eastern Colorado may just as well be Kansas for its barren monotony: dry flat ground, blue expanse of sky in all directions. I tried to pass the time by making Nate play the People Game with me (I'm thinking of a person . . . it's a man . . . we both know him . . . ask me yes/no questions), but I think I might be the only remaining person from my generation that thoroughly enjoys said game. Blame it on the GameBoys.

Ten miles shy of our lunch stop, Eads, an invisible force coming from the South decided to wake up and try its darnedest to keep us from progressing. Winds reminiscent of Nevada were so strong Sean and I regressed to venting our frustration in the form of a few primal screams. Throughout the rest of the day, the wind may have induced every stage of the Kubler-Ross grief model. Denial . . .Anger . . . Bargaining. . . Depression. . . Acceptance (I may or may not be exaggerating).

Eads was adorable. We found a lunch place and then hung out in the gas station, the veritable social center of town. Three toothless old men sitting at the table next to us, and a couple sitting behind us were soaking up the apparent entertainment value we provided so much that they started answering each other's questions; the old men asked where we were headed that night, and the couple answered, "Tribune!". After consuming vast quantities of Powerade, we resumed our battle against the wind and heat to cross into Kansas! We reached the Trail's End Motel close to 9 PM. The owner gave us a room at half the regular rate, and pointed us across the street to a gas station as the only place in town to get food so late. I'm not sure I'll ever eat a gas station burrito again in my life, but I can't imagine anything beating the ones we bought and smothered in salsa. I chased it with a "milksnake", to borrow Nate's term. We walked back to our room and deliriously laughed way too hard at Tosh.O.

Day 25: Mountain Biking

Colorado Springs, CO to Fowler, CO - 80 miles

We were zombies in the morning and got a late start at about 2pm. We had a plan to get back on the ACA map by - much to our chagrin - going through Pueblo. To get there we had to take a road paralleling a major highway. This road, of course, turned out to be dirt. Frustrated, dirty and tired we cranked over rough dirt and sand past seemingly endless plains for 15 miles before being graced with the luxury of pavement which brought us to the Eastern part of Pueblo. We stopped at Subway for dinner and received sandwich donations. From Pueblo, we pedaled on towards nothing (there were no more mountains) and arrived at an RV park/campsite in the tiny town of Fowler, CO.

To sum up our sleep that night: it was hot, there were trains, there was a carnival. My sleeping pad is also broken. I love camping.

Somehow still awake,


Day 24: Dividing the Continent (see what I did there?)

Sargents, CO to Colorado Springs, CO - 134 miles

After a sleepless night due to fluctuating temperatures and plastic mattresses in the cabin, we awoke to a gourmet microwave breakfast. We had eggs, cheese, hot sauce and white bread. The eggs were cooked to a tender consistency by the microwave and the cheese was elegantly melted on top to produce the perfect breakfast sandwich before climbing Monarch Pass and descending to the Atlantic side of the continental divide.

With our tummies full, we began the 10 mile climb up the 3000' vertical gain up to just over 11,300'. It was a pretty slow grind, but the grade was consistent, and we made it up relatively quickly and snapped some pics.

The descent was quite a relief and we covered the next 50 miles to Cotapaxi in no time. We took a relatively quick break and pushed the next 30 miles to Canon City for lunch. Those 30 miles were not so easy and included a nice "surprise mountain" as well as more headwinds. In Canon City we discussed how great it was that we only had 45 miles to go before reaching Colorado Springs.

The next 25 miles were by far the worst of the day due to significantly more climbing than we anticipated. Apparently "flat" in Colorado doesn't mean the same thing as it does on the East coast. The hills ultimately relented and we cruised into Colorado Springs to meet up with my good friends the Pickards who made the trip from Denver to take us out to a much-needed dinner. It was great to catch up with them and we would like to thank them so much for a great evening after an incredibly tough day!

Holding it down,


Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 23: Boo boo & Teepee

Cimarron--> Sargents (80 mi)

Today's goal was to get to the base of Monarch Pass to set up a big day to Colorado Springs--these days have less of a feeling of accomplishment, particularly when you can see the ominous start of the 11,000 ft. pass out of the window. Also discoloring the day was the first spill of the trip, which I was honored to take. To sketch briefly, we had the equivalent of a fender bender and I was the caboose. All things considered, it wasn't a bad fall and we remain appreciative of our good fortune and healthy bodies.

Midway through the day we stopped at Gunnison and had a moment of rest at a coffee shop, The Bean. They had some great smoothies and it allowed us a chance to become human beings for a little while at least. For those of you concerned with the coffee obsession of our group, I attribute it to two things: 1) consistently drinking weak diner coffee in the morning as we fuel up for the day and 2) when we're on the bikes all day, we don't really feel like human beings (simple thought process, pain, etc.) and coffee can restore that sense of humanity, both physically and psychologically, very quickly.

We had the option to sleep in a teepee tonight--as some of  you may know, this is an opportunity I would take very seriously. Unfortunately, when we looked inside it was slightly flooded, which made it perhaps the best mosquito nesting ground I've ever seen (it was in dire need of Clark Mosquito Company, Ken). So instead of a teepee, we "slept" on plastic mattresses, which I believe are the manifestation of everything I do not believe in.

In teepees we trust,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 22: "The Dude abides...It's good knowin' he's out there"

Telluride--> Cimarron (~75 mi)

Telluride has a fond place in our hearts for many reasons--a luxurious hotel at the base of a gondola, a pile of coffee shops, a Patagonia store, tremendous mountains--but for me it starts with a cowboy we met at a gas station right before town. His name is Mark and you can feel free to picture him as the cowboy from The Big Lebowski, only with a gentler face. He started chatting with us and he struck me as a wise person: he appended the belief that people can change the world for the better after the standard lament that the world isn't as it should be. When I said "have a good day" at the end of our conversation, he said, without hesitation, "I'm in the process." Refreshing stuff when you're used to overhearing some of the standard diner conversations that we hear.

Mark got in contact with us later that day through the hotel. It's clear to us now that he runs the town: essentially, he lined up three straight free meals for us at the best places to eat in Telluride. Today started with the last meal (hard to say if it was the best--tough competition) at Maggie's, a great coffee shop. If you go there, be sure to get the breakfast burrito. We owe Mark for making our stay at Telluride great and sending us off with a great breakfast in our bellies. When I spoke with him on the phone, he said that he always tried to help people that were doing good things--I told him that he had given us a great model that we would try to follow.

The biking day is not nearly as compelling of a story: second flat tire for Melina (by way of a needle puncturing the tire), half off a burger place in Ridgwood, and some planning for the rest of Colorado. The wheels on the bike go round and round.

Thankful for good people,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day 20: Gnar Pow Pow, Bro

Dolores, CO to Telluride, CO -  68 miles and Rest Day in Telluride

View from the top of Lizard Head Pass
Nicholas was kind enough to make us waffles, eggs, and bacon in the morning and we were soon on our way to a rest day in Telluride, Colorado. The fabled Lizard Head pass stood between us and the quaint resort town. Nicholas warned us about the "mile and three-quarter 14% grade" which was sure to drain our white balls of energy. He did not know that we are experienced climbers who have taken down many-a-summit from the Sierra Nevada Range all the way through Utah and we found that the pass was not too bad.

This is not bicycling :(
When we were finally able to coast a bit, road construction killed our buzz and we were forced to hop into the back of a pickup truck for about 1.5 miles. I was upset because we missed the rest of the descent and what looked to be a pretty fun roller. Upon leaving the truck, we were met with a couple miles of downhill followed by a climb that rivaled the steepest portion of Lizard Head. We were stoked regardless and rolled into Telluride early in the afternoon.

The Camel's Garden Inn, http://www.camelsgarden.com/ , was kind enough to donate a beautiful room for both nights in Telluride! This place is great and definitely has some of the best continental breakfast coffee that I've run into so far. And I love coffee. A lot.

So now we're straight chillin in Telluride which is a great little town with breathtaking views and a free gondola to take us up the mountain.

Always Stoked,


Day 19: Na-na Na-na Boo Boo

Blanding, UT to Dolores, CO - 84 miles

After a restful night at the Four Corners Inn in the aptly named Blanding, UT, we headed for the Colorado border. Of course we expected nothing less than a 1000'+ climb first thing in the morning to bring us through Monticello, the last "big" town before entering the next state. We didn't stop there, but it seemed nice, and it led into a nice descent. 18 miles of rolling hills later, the Colorado border presented itself with a rustic sign announcing our arrival. Unfortunately Melina had a flat about 10 miles before the border, but was able to fix it without too much difficulty.

We stopped in the tiny town of Dove Creek for lunch. The only place to eat was a pretty nasty-looking "deli", although it was more like the most disgusting fast food one could imagine. So we bought bread, turkey, and some other supplies from the grocery store and ate to our hearts content without amassing too much plaque in our coronary arteries.

After the much-needed rest in Dove Creek, we hopped back onto our bikes to cruise the remaining 36 miles of rolling hills to Dolores. The scenery wasn't too great - mostly farmlands - but it was nice to be able to zone out and just ride. Once in Dolores, we were attracted almost magnetically to the Lizardhead Bicycle shop where we met the owner, Nicholas who was a retired professional triathlete. The shop had only been open for about a month and resembled a barren warehouse with bicycle parts strewn across the ancient hardwood floors. The shop's owner immediately began a soliloquy about his experiences in bicycling and just about everything else in life. In-between anecdotes, Nicholas offered to host us at his home for the night, which we were grateful to accept.

With lodging lined up, we headed to the nearby Dolores River Brewery where we received amazing beer and food on the house - thanks DRB! Eventually we found ourselves back at the bike shop waiting for Nicholas to finish a repair. Seeing as every working man deserves a beer at the end of the day we accompanied him back to DRB and then to his house where we settled in with his 8 cats and 3 dogs for the night.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 18: Hite Recreation Area

Torrey--> Hite Recreation Area (100 mi.)

When we decided to stay in Torrey, we committed to a 100 mile day. The level of civilization necesitates some of these distances because there simply isn't anything in between. That's as nicely as I can say that and with nothing else nice to say about that, I will follow the adage and move on.
The descents during this trip across the country make it all seem like a really smart idea: you get to coast with no effort while looking at some spectacular views (the climbs are, in many ways, the inverse). Those with an itch to move quickly get to satisfy that as well. The descents today were amazing because we got to see the ever changing red canyon walls in the morning light. The shapes and curves constantly vary so that it doesn't get tiring or boring to look to the side all day. Because we were descending and getting closer to where water lives, we also passed through some more greenery and what seemed to be a couple of orchards. Beautiful stuff.

Our destination was, generally, the Hite Recreation Area, which is where the Colorado River feeds into Lake Powell. It was the biggest body of water we had seen and I was pretty excited to cross the Colorado because it felt like a milestone of sorts. Those big American rivers have something special about them.

After some excruciating surprise hills, we finally made it to the campground. We found some friends we had seen on the road earlier, a group of four folks our age who had quit their jobs to bike across the country. (There's also a couple on a tandem, the concept of which confuses me to no end--why would you do that to yourself/somebody else? It seems like a contraption deliberately made to produce frustration between two people.) They're some of the easiest people to talk to so far, perhaps because of the age similarity, perhaps because they're just some cool normal people. The lake area was beautiful with the sun setting and I think it was my favorite place to sit and think thus far.

And finally, a few pictures! You can blame libraries across the Western side of the United States for not having SD video card input things, or you can blame me for not having a smart phone. Enjoy them, nonetheless.

Where the Colorado runs,

Day 17: Pro-crastinators

Escalante--> Torrey (66 mi.)

We woke up to light rain at Escalante Outfitters. Not an ominous sign on its own, but with a big climb (my Dad says o' dark thirty for that wake up time in the morning that's simply too early to put a number on--I need a similar phrase for these climbs because 4,000 ft. doesn't mean much to me) the rain didn't seem friendly. Before we could start the climb we wove down some tortuous switchbacks to the Escalante River; we braked early and often with our parents' voices in our ears.

Near Escalante River, we followed a hint from some other cyclists we had met (if you haven't noticed the theme: talking to other cyclists always revolves around food. Always.) and stopped at an isolated and inconspicuous coffee shop (Kiva Koffeehouse) off the side of the road. It was inconspicuous because there were only campgrounds in the twenty mile vicinity and, more interestingly, because of its architecture. It was a single story rotunda, with a clear circular skylight in the center of the roof. The support beams on the perimeter were rough hewn (and giant) ponderosas that framed huge glass windowpanes. The view was of the red rock canyon and greenery surrounding the Escalante River. It was an astonishingly beautiful building that matched the quality of the view. And the coffee/food was good too!

Sean and Melina managed to drag me from my admiration and we went on for the day. The rain faded out by the time we hit Boulder for lunch, which was a neat little farming community. We chatted with some local folks, ate another creative gas station lunch, and finished off the climb.

Torrey, a small town after the climb, elicited another of our favorite conversations: should we stay or should we go (wondering, of course, if we go there will be trouble, or if we stay it'll double). With a slight miscalculation making the intended destination a bit more than we anticipated, we spread out our searchers in the area and fortunately got a room donated to us by the local Best Western. They're the Best.

Why do today what you can do tomorrow,

Day 16: Panguitch to Escalante (81 miles)

The day started out with a friendly little 16 mile detour (flat, thank goodness). We recalculated our course and entered Bryce Canyon National Park, which lent us a nice bike route for a little while. We didn't venture off course to see the Canyon, but the views were pretty enough from our saddles. 

Escalante proved to be a very hip little town with one particular hip epicenter, Escalante Outfitters, that tickled all of our outdoor-gear-loving spots. The cafe served perfect fresh sandwiches and calzones, and Steve behind the counter let us stay in a cabin out back for free. We met two recent retirees staying there as well that were biking trans-America as a bucket list fulfillment. They gave us their blog address (I'll add it later). Check it out for more/better pictures; they've been traveling the same route!

Day 15: False Start

Feeling as rested as possible, we took a deep breath and started the 5000 foot ascent toward Cedar Breaks. Looking back, I guess it took a lot of effort to ignore the multiple signs warning us that the road was closed, but we decided to continue the climb in silent denial. After 4 miles, we ran into a ranger that confirmed that yes, we would have to wait until 3 PM. It turned out to be a lucky situation, however, since the Rt 14 had been closed for avalanche repair from 7 AM- 7 PM since November, and the work was just ending. We begrudgingly coasted back down to Cedar and hung out in a coffee shop before trying again.

Cedar Breaks was unreal! We all agreed it was the prettiest viewpoint since the Sierras. We saw a panorama of bright red buttes juxtaposed against a cloudless blue sky. The elevation was over 10,000, so we had a chilly descent into Panguitch, another town seemingly maintained by vacationers eager to see the surrounding sites (about half of whom are German, oddly enough). We were generously granted a room by the Panguitch Inn.
Notes for Coast to Coast 2013: unlike those in Nevada, descents in Utah are peppered with "surprise" mountains. Enjoy the 25 MPH plus stretches while they last, but be prepared to grind upward a few more thankless times before the bottom. Also, don't eat at the Cowboy Cafe in Panguitch, but DO go for the homemade ice cream next door!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day 14: Rest Day

Cedar City--> Cedar City

We started the day with a short walk to the local bike shop. Apparently, Angela, the wonderful person that she is, called ahead to the shop, Cedar Cycles, and told them about us. They were primed for the repair and what could have been a serious problem turned into a minor hiccup. I think looking back on this incident we'll realize even more how lucky we were: after a week with no bike shop and no real civilization, we had a problem right outside of the biggest town we've gone through with two bike shops. Pretty sobering.

We spent the rest of the morning in a coffee shop where we got to pretend we were real people by reading books, calling friends, and drinking coffee (all while not wearing spandex). There's a Shakespeare festival in town so we walked over to Southern Utah University and checked out the stage, which was fun to see. Aside from those activities, we spent the day nursing our various skin injuries, enjoying the hot tub at the hotel, and generally rested. A nearby restaurant (Cafe Rio) had some tremendous salad/burritos that proved sufficient even for our appetities. From here we're hoping for a good night of sleep and then a big climb (+4,000 ft.) to start the day tomorrow.

Ever thankful,

Day 13: Good people all around

Milford--> Cedar City (53 mi.)

More wind. Endless wind. With the promise of two nights at the Marriott in Cedar City courtesy of Sean's Dad, an existence that didn't require ineffectually impersonating a camel, and real live civilization, we were all anxious to get to Cedar City. We climbed the pass of the day at a good pace and excitedly pushed toward a descent that should have carried us coasting right into Cedar City. The wind turned the downhill cruise into an uphill struggle and the relatively short day turned endless. Right when we were despairing, we got another surprise from our good friend, Dave. He had completed his trip to Delta, joined up with his wife (happy anniversary!) and driven over to our path, all to offer us some cold lemonades on the rough and windy road. What a guy! Though we were approaching town, he could not have arrived at a better time. It was energizing to see the compassion of another person turn into something so tangible as a smile and a cold drink. Thanks so much, Dave, for your support and your conversation.

We left Dave and his wife to wind our way ever closer to Cedar City. About six miles from the hotel, we had our first semi-disaster of the trip when a rogue strap from Sean's pannier got caught up in his rear derailleur. He was pedaling so hard that the pressure actually caused part of the derailleur to explode, which was impressive, but still very unfortunate. We were all upset at the time knowing how flukey the problem was and worried about the impact of a replacement on our trip. While we were scratching our heads on the side of the road, a sweet woman named Angela pulled over in an awesome old, white F-150. She explained that her husband was a cyclist so she wanted to check if we were okay. She offered to take us back to her house where her husband could look at the bike or take us anywhere we needed. We were overwhelmed by how helpful she was and eventually decided to load up and get to the hotel. She drove us there though it was certainly out of her way and we became ever more appreciative of these generous people that make our trip possible.

All the best,

Day 12: Owls and Dogs and Horse/Cow, Oh My

Border Inn--> Milford (85 mi.)

We detoured off of route 50, ostensibly the loneliest road, to complete our trip through Nevada only to come across a road that may have been lonelier. Some of you may wonder what sophisticated things we think about while on our bikes all day. I will give you a peek into the window of my wind-addled mind.

Throughout Nevada and now into Utah, I'm consistently wondering whether we can accurately call dead animals on the side of the road, "roadkill." To me, that requires 1) a living animal to cross a road and 2) a motor vehicle to strike said animal. The problem I'm seeing is that I'm not seeing animals or vehicles on these roads--but there is still roadkill. Today we think we saw a horse or a cow. Other days we've seen our share of North American rodents (the best mascot name in history, in my opinion). I'm theorizing that the odds of a car and an animal being on the road at the same time are so rare that these animals actually die of boredom. A fact that neither contributes nor detracts from this theory is the appearance of an owl at around 10:00 AM this morning. It must have been terribly confused, but we were excited to see it.

We ended in Milford today, where we had previously lined up a room at the Oak Tree Inn, which was donated to our trip. It was a great little spot at the front of town. The only problem was that it was at the front of town and the back of town held the food, specifically Subway, and it was downhill. And as I learned at an early age from listening to oldies radio stations growing up, "What goes up, must come down / Spinning wheel[s], round and round." So, after filling up with Subway sandwiches, we unintentionally compressed our bursting stomachs by bending down to grab the handlebars while trudging back uphill.

A quick sidestory: we were biking to Subway and Melina started yelling because a dog was chasing her. Sean and I both looked back, concerned both for her and ourselves. I saw the dog first, which I swear to you was an adorable little white fluff and supportively advised, "It's a little dog! Just run it over!" I blame it on the heat.

Round and round,

Day 11: Inn Between

Ely--> Border Inn (65 mi.)

As some of you surely noticed on our GPS tracker, today it appears as though we struck the border of Utah and promptly collapsed on the ground. It's not an incorrect summary. I won't bore you with the usual story: wind makes me sangry (Sean's coinage: sad + angry)...there isn't water in the desert...mountains are cool, but not if they're dry and you have to climb them repeatedly all to end up at the same exact elevation you started at...

Infinitely more interesting than the play-by-play of our cycling is our destination, the Border Inn. Not only is it located on the border, but it's a perfect symbiotic (see? I know Science, too) relationship between the states of Nevada and Utah. On the Nevada side: casino and liquor. On the Utah side: cheap gas prices and the hotel. The switch between Mountain Time and Pacific Time, which occurs on the border, made the exchanges even more fun--it took us a few minutes to figure out where our cell phones were set to, what time to wake up, what time the breakfast place openede, and what time we would actually be on the road in Utah. I excuse myself from the mathematical discussions in hopes of a later wake up time.

Such a peculiar location yielded a few unique specimens. Among them was a man who we had heard about back in Middlegate. He started bicycling in Europe and headed East, traveling as much of the world by bike as possible. While we think ourselves to be somewhat adventurous, we all agreed there is a line and that trip is far, far past it. We saw him in the gas station at the border--he was a little haggard and seemed like he did not want to talk, so we obliged his demeanor. In better news, we saw our merry friend Dave on the road again. He had planted a few signs along the road that we had missed, but we were happy to see him again and have another good conversation. He's cutting his usual long trip down to a premature ending in Delta, but we remain impressed all the same.

Very punny,

Day 10: Hospitality in the Desert

Eureka--> Ely  (~70 mi.)

Upon hearing about a diner operated by local Mennonites just outside of Eureka's "city limits," Melina and I followed our Mennonite-sense--honed during our undergraduate years--and found the Pony Express. While we waited impatiently for our brekky to appear we looked at the prices for elk, hog, and cow on a white board just above an array of jams and salsas the family produced. Our food arrived and it was delicious--I even supplemented mine with a fresh, caramel-glazed donut.

We had a misleadingly difficult climb out of Eureka to start the day. The maps we use have an elevation chart for general guidance, but they must have misplaced Eureka a couple hundred feet southward of where it should reside. Further complicating the day was the inevitable wind. It simply cannot be anticipated or tolerated. It's hard for me to even type this as I grit my teeth recalling the wind's persistence in our ears. At many points during the day we expressed our desire, in so many words, for a room (or even a bubble) with no detectable wind. As we were playing scenes of Bubble Boy in our heads and starting to lean into the challenge of the last climb of the day, our heroes from yesterday surprised us. We knew that the brothers (Ed and Sam) were going to cut their trip short, but we weren't sure if we'd see them again. We certainly didn't anticipate their wonderful gift of cold Gatorades in the middle of the desert right before our hardest climb of the day. It was emotionally and physically refreshing to chat with them and it lifted us enough to pull through for the rest of the day. Many thanks to them for their friendship and kindness on the road.

Even with the brothers' boost, we crawled into Ely fairly late in the evening. The Main Motel graciously donated for a second year to Coast to Coast for a Cure and the local dinner spot, Racks, which came highly recommended, also donated a meal. The combination of those two excellent donations, along with the events earlier in the day, put us in a good place in the strange little town of Ely.

In the Pony Express we Trust,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 9: A Bad Man is Hard to Find (71 miles; Austin to Eureka)

We stumbled bleary-eyed into the International Cafe (not so aptly named, since it seemed only interested in Nevada) across the street for brekki at around 6:15 AM, all admitting we could have used 4-10 more hours of shut-eye. We hit the road by 7:45 and began the morning with three steep climbs. At the start of the second, we passed two sixty-something men on very fancy equipment. (I can only say "fancy" because I've chosen to remain blind to the many conversations the boys have about bicycles, rendering my understanding of what makes a bike particularly "sick" next to nothing. During these conversations, I am generally playing a mental Pandora radio station set to "I Will Survive", and thanking my thighs for doing, for the most part, the silly things I ask them to.)

We rested at the top of the second summit, and one of the men caught up with us. He explained that his brother is a "throat-breather" and they were off to a slow start, but planned on reaching Eureka (71 miles from Austin) and staying at the Best Western. Due to the fires to the east, the hotels would all be booked up but if we needed anything we were welcome to knock on the door of their suite. His brother came chugging up the last of the hill and, through his tracheostomy tube, explained that he had had throat cancer a year ago. Since the surgeons thought they got it all, he decided he would continue having fun; the brothers were planning to do all of Highway 50. The story was both humbling and inspiring, and the men donated to LEA's when they found out our cause.

We hunkered down to the meat of what Nate had mistakenly predicted would be an "easy" day. Though the heat could've been worse, we experienced the toughest wind yet. I now understand what the guys last year meant by feeling like you're pedaling uphill when the grade is downhill. Nevada hasn't ceased to yield an incredible countryside. It seems like someone picked up the Cascades, dusted off all the snow, shrunk them down and plopped them all over the flat expanse of desert. My faith in my eyes to be able to tell longitudinal distance has been proven insufficient again and again; a hill could be 3, 10 or 20 miles away. The monotony broke for me today when I spotted a coyote about 10 feet off the road, staring at my as I descended. I had the sudden urge to pedal faster as if it were going to chase me and bite my bike tires the way my dog would, but it didn't seem interested in me, as my several backward glances proved. Nevada really is beautiful, rugged country.

It was midday when we caught up with our third character, a seventy-year old guy wearing a baby blue tee, khaki shorts and New Balance sneakers cycling like he stole something. The amount of time this guy dropped knowledge on Mark Twain, geography, his personal history and any topic in between directly correlated with the amount of time we remained in earshot. The boys and I gladly soaked up his quirky bank of facts. One bit of "lore" was that when it grew too hot in the desert, one could dismount and crawl inside one of the corrugated pipes lying under the road to enjoy the cool draft coming through from the other side, being sure to first check for noxious desert creatures inside. He said he had been doing just this a few years ago when a Mercedes stopped, and two women got out because they thought he was dead. Also of note, he carried very little water because it made him more thirsty. For the whole day he had packed one gas station apple streusel, and one bottle of Gatorade.

We're in Eureka (Eureka!) for the night, population 650. We're planning on staying in the local park and trying to shower in the Best Western, if we can catch up with the two brothers.



Day 8: The Loneliest Part of the Loneliest Road in America

Fallon, NV to Austin, NV - 112 miles

We had been admonished about this ride by cyclists from years past and went into the day with fear. We began the ride at 5:45AM in order to avoid as much of the desert heat and wind as possible (in Nevada the wind apparently picks up after about 1:00PM). The first 20-or-so miles were very flat, which allowed for a comfortable start to the day. The scenery was similar to what we had experienced the day before - dry mountains surrounding dry flats. So without any distractions, the miles melted away.

The first climb rose a few hundred feet and was a relatively shallow grade. After reaching the summit, we cruised through the next few miles without any problems. At about mile 50, we reached Middlegate, which is essentially the only water or food stop between Fallon and Austin. It was a really cool old building with some very interesting characters lurking inside. The first gentleman that we talked to was (we assumed) one of the owners. He was quite talkative, and expressed a genuine interest in the many cyclists that pass through the area. He was particularly taken by a group of "40 women from 18-60" who came by a while back. Nate surmised that this was more women than he had ever seen. I tend to agree with this sentiment. We also encountered some "genuine hippies" who were about our age or maybe a little bit older and were hitch-hiking across the country. Unfortunately they had been stuck at Middlegate for the past couple of weeks. I'd have to imagine that it must be hard to hitch-hike now, given the countless signs forbidding it and the many urban legends. Finally, we met a German dude who was cycling from Kentucky to San Francisco while smoking cigarettes. I'd say that's quite a feat.

We took off from Middlegate and settled into a groove such that the next 20 miles flew by. We passed the same scenery that we'd seen the previous 50 miles and felt pretty good. This good feeling lasted until the next climb up New Pass summit - an 800 foot climb that seemed to be never ending. It took us through some really cool canyons between mountains, but I was far too angry at the constant grade to enjoy the view. We stopped for lunch and lounged by the side of the road to try to regain some strength before conquering the last 26ish miles to Austin. Those miles proved to be the most difficult of the day not simply because we had already ridden over 80, but also because there were two more big climbs. The final climb was particularly difficult, as it took us directly into the town of Austin. I collapsed in the parking lot of the Mountain Motel and wanted to kiss the ground. Nate and I immediately went on a quest for chocolate milk, only to come up empty handed. We ended up getting our fix with dinner at a local restaurant where we also stuffed ourselves with as much as we could possibly eat. The day was tough, but definitely not horrible and the food at the end made it all better.


Day 7: Chillin at the Holiday Inn (in Fallon, NV)

65 miles

As usual we woke up and took our time eating a nice breakfast and gambling a 7AM in the casino. Unfortunately we all came away from Carson City with far less money than when we arrived (*this is not actually true*). We hopped on the road and headed out to Route 50, which is also known as "The Loneliest Road in America". This road would take us from the outskirts of Carson City through the rest of Nevada. Needless to say we were all happy that there wouldn't be any time wasted while stopping to look at a map.

None of the us had a great idea of the terrain, but knew that it would be relatively flat. Little did we know just how smooth the day would be; after a steady climb out of Carson City, the rest of the ride was essentially flat or downhill.This was our first real view of the Nevada desert. It was beautiful but barren. "Dry" mountains with no trees surrounded us and unfortunately each mile was largely reminiscent of the last. Fortunately we cruised. The miles flew by as we passed countless casinos with the word "Nugget" stuck somewhere in the name.

We arrived in Fallon at lunch time and immediately set off to find food. It took a little time, but the owner of a local steakhouse was kind enough to donate three items from the "Lunch Specials" menu. The Fallon Holiday Inn Express was kind enough to donate a room, so we checked in and chilled by the pool. We received an amazing dinner from a local Mexican food restaurant called The Water Hole and went to sleep early to prepare for the long haul from Fallon to Austin the next day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 6: State Capitols, continued

Carson City, unbeknownst to me at the time of arrival, is the capital of Nevada. Did you know this?

We huddled up last night after some deliberation and decided to take today as a rest day before several very difficult days through Nevada and stay in Carson City. From previous groups, we've heard that Route 50 is, in fact, appropriately named the loneliest highway and the wind can be crippling. It's taken some careful planning, but we've arranged our route and potential lodgings for the nights this upcoming week.

That planning was aided by the folks at the front desk of the Best Western, which generously donated a room! We'd been wondering whether previous groups were pulling our legs about getting rooms donated for these first few days so the confirmation of corporate hospitality is exciting, especially after a morning of getting turned down by motels. Lining up the room by lunch enabled a day full of chatting at Starbucks, laundry, and a much needed salad dinner. Keep us in your thoughts as we brave the wind of Nevada the next few days!

All the best,

Day 5: Bikers v. Cyclists

Today, we embraced the challenge of topping the Sierra Nevadas. It was either that, or we got tremendously bored of going uphill and very slowly. We cranked from Cooks Station to Kirkwood, a hefty climb, in about three hours, which set us up perfectly for a big day. Our legs comprehended the climbs in altitude a bit more viscerally than our minds that registered the changes in altitude by signs that noted the difference in thousands. Sean led the charge up with perfect, infatiguable form while Melina followed with ever increasing endurance. I brought up the rear, wondering why it was so difficult to bike in a straight line.

In Kirkwood we stopped in the local inn/restaurant where we ate alongside the tens (seemed like hundreds) of motorcyclists that passed us during the day. I consider myself a fairly tolerant person, but the sound of motorcycles buzzing past us and the presumptive swagger of riding in a posse...upset all of us. Why can't we two-wheeled folks be friends? Sean theorizes that it's because we're burning tons of calories climbing mountains and they are lowering their collective right feet. Makes sense.

Our bellies, full of pulled pork sandwiches, were counterbalanced by a delicious tailwind that pushed us up to Carson's Pass (8,574 ft. ). Strangely, the climb to Kirkwood seemed even harder than the final push. We celebrated our accomplishment at the top with photos and general good vibes (and maybe an occasional verbal jab at the motorcycles passing by). Riding that emotional and physical momentum, we started coasting down the backside (or hindway as my ancestors would likely say) of the Sierra Nevadas. I think we had forgotten that bikes could be ridden without burning legs so that was a pleasant (re)discovery. We ate up the miles so easily going downhill that we decided to make a great day into a huge mileage gain and go from Cooks Station to Carson City (82 miles).

We also crossed our first state line! Western Nevada is an interesting place: lots of really cool houses and kind of a retirement community meets wealthy suburbs meets resort combination. Genoa had a charming park with great grass--we rested under some trees for a while before making a wind-challenged push into Carson City.

Shade is a magical thing,