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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Reporting on: Saturday, May 30, 2009
Riding Route: From Dodge City to Great Bend, KS
Temperature: 60 - 90 degrees/Winds: 15 mph tailwinds
Elevation Climb: 800 feet
Miles Ridden Tiday: 86
This was day 22 of our ride - and it was another very good one with favorable weather conditions. Remember a few days ago when I asked you to pray to the wind gods to be on our side? Well, many of you must have put in some good thoughts, because today we had 15 mph winds pushing us. We barely had to pedal at all! (When we had the headwinds I was averaging 10 mph - but today I/we averaged over 20 mph). It certainly made the 86 miles whiz by!
We passed miles and miles more of the amber waves of grain! At mile 60 wepassed Highway 50 - the same highway that passes just a mile or so from our home in California. In Kinsley, KA we stopped at the halfway point between San Francisco and New York City (picture above). This is also an area where the Santa Fe RR passes through - and as you can see from the picture I'm just testing the weight of that engine. Nope, I couldn't budge it!
The highlight of our history lesson today was stopping at the Pawnee Rock Historical Marker. Rising up out of the plains, Pawnee Rock (pictured above) was a landmark for explorers and a popular campsite for travelers crossing the prairie. The large rock formation later became a popular stop on the Santa Fe Trail for the white settlers heading west in search of adventure and fortune. The Rock was considered the mid-point of the long road between Independence, MO and Santa Fe. Water, provided by the nearby Arkansas River, and fresh meat, obtained by plentiful game, was vital to the survival of the wagon trains. It's said that this is where the Indians came to hunt buffalo before the white man came. They could get up on the rock outcroppings and look down over hundreds of thousands of buffalo. But between 1872 and 1878 it's estimated that that white man killed over 3 Million buffalo - and it dessimated the food supply for the Indians - driving them out of the region. We all know this sad story.
You might wonder what I think about on the long rides. Of course my mind is all over the place, but recently I've done a survey on how cars and trucks react to bike riders on the road. When we have big berms to ride on it's not a problem, but when we only have a 2 foot berm things can get tight. My survey took into account only vehicles traveling the same direction as us:
25% move all the way over into the opposite lane (when possible)
50% go right down the center line
15% move toward to center line, but not all the way
5% don't move at all
3% move in towards us - to crowd us as much as possible
2% get as close as they can and then blow their horns - which can really startle us!
Well, that's it for now! We're off to McPherson, KS tomorrow!
(Do you know you can double click on the photos to get a close up view?)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Reporting on: Friday, May 28, 2009
Riding Route: 2 days riding from Guyman, OK to Liberal, KS and Liberal to Dodge City, KS
Temperature: 50 - 90 degrees/Winds: 10 mph
Elevation Climb: minimal
Miles Ridden: 39 miles the first day, 83 miles today
I have to admit that the entire trip is becomming blurred! It's tough sleeping in a different town and motel every night! Today we are in our fourth state in 4 days! I used to think a 40 mile ride was a great accomplishment - but man has 7 months made a huge difference in my outlook.
Yesterday we rode from Guymon to Liberal, Kansas. It was an easy ride. We left in 65 degree weather and it rose to 90 by 3 p.m. Our first stop after leaving Guymon was a small town called Hooker! Yep, that's really the name of a town - and you can imagine the fun we had with it! Several of us stopped and bought tee shirts - and some of the slogans were...uh-h-h well, you know! (You can see me in the picture above "propositioning" no avail!). Liberal is the home of Dorothy's original house of OZ - and Highway 54 is officially designated as the Yellow Brick Road. There is also a wonderful air museum in the town. My first question when hearing that we were going to be staying in "Liberal" was "Is there a "Conservative", KS?" Did I need to get El Rushbo on the band wagon? Although some of you may think of its name as a political statement, Liberal really got its name from a spirit of hospitality and generosity. In the 1880's water was a rare commodity in Southwest Kansas. S.S Rogers homesteaded this area and always offered free water to every traveler. He was considered very generous and "liberal" with this valuable resource.
Today we rode from Liberal to Dodge City...83 miles in sunny weather and gentle winds. Our first SAG stop at Mile 38 was in Meade, KS. This is home to the famous Dalton Gang hideout... which we took time to visit (pictured above). Most of you will remember that the Dalton Gang was an infamous outlaw group in the American Old West during 1890-1892...and they specialized in bank and train robberies. There were 15 children in the Dalton family - and several of them started out on the side of the law...being deputy marshalls. But that changed - and they became the enemy of the law! Their last robbery attempt occurred the morning of October 5, 1892 when five members of the Gang (Grat Dalton, Emmett Dalton, Bob Dalton, Bill Power and Dick Broadwell) rode into the small town of Coffeyville, Kansas. Their objective was to achieve financial security and make outlaw history by simultaneously robbing two banks in daylight. From the beginning, their audacious plan went astray. The hitching post where they intended to tie their horses had been torn down due to road repairs. This forced the gang to hitch their horses in a near-by alley - a fateful decision. To disguise their identity, (Coffeyville was the Dalton's hometown) two of the Daltons wore false beards and wigs. Despite this, the gang was recognized as they crossed the town's wide plaza where they split up and entered the two banks. Suspicious townspeople watched through the banks' wide front windows as the robbers pulled their guns. Someone on the street shouted, "The bank is being robbed!" and the citizens quickly armed themselves - taking up firing positions around the banks. The firefight lasted less than fifteen minutes. A brief moment in time in which four townspeople lost their lives, four members of the Dalton Gang were gunned down and a small Kansas town became part of history.
Onward to Dodge City: At mile 60 we turned due north on Route 283 where there was minimal traffic. I couldn't help think about the words to "America the Beautiful" (O beautiful for spacious skies",for amber waves of grain; for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea). We've been riding under spacious skies, through the waves of grain, we've seen the purple mountains majesty and we're riding from sea to shining sea!
Dodge City's history began with the establishment of Fort Dodge in 1865. Its purpose was to protect wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail and to serve as a supply base for troops involved in the Indian Wars to the south. Dodge City was founded in 1872 and quickly became the world's largest shipping point for Longhorn cattle. It was the wildest of the early frontier towns, but law and order was soon established with the help of men such as Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, and Bill Tilghman. We visited the Boot Hill Museum (pictured above with Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp) and watched re-enactments of shootouts and events of it's early history. It's a great town to visit with your family if you have any interest in early western history!
Carol will be visiting me in Abilene in 3 days! Hurray!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reporting on: Wednesday, May 26, 2009
Riding Route: From Dalhart, TX to Guyman, OK via Route 90
Temperature: 43-75 degrees/Winds: 10-30 mph
Elevation Climb: 500 Feet
Miles Ridden Today: 76
It was 43 degrees when we began our ride today...sunny with light winds. Not a bad start! By noon it was 75 degrees and we were meeting 30 mph head winds...reminiscent of yesterday! In Texas, Route 90 is only two lanes with very little berm riding area. The minute we crossed over into Oklahoma it became a 4 lane road, wide berms and a grassy median strip between the lanes. I want to thank my friend Faye Norton for paying lots of taxes so we could enjoy the good roads!
When we left Dalhart, TX this morning we were immediately in a big wheat producing area. The land was irrigated, the green fields were refreshing - and we couldn't keep count of the number of silos we saw. All day the roads were FLAT. (I only used three gears the entire day). Definitely easier terrain today than yesterday! Yes, the wind was still tough, but having a divided road made a huge difference! (We passed miles of wind farms today also - very appropriate for this area)!
I sprinkled my good luck sand (the riders call it "fairy dust") at the base of the "Welcome to Oklahoma" sign. Margaret and Mac, two of our support people , are in the above picture with me. Margaret's from Florida - and Mac's from England. Both of them have done this ride...and now are back as volunteer support people. We couldn't do it without them!
Four of us arrived in Guymon about 2:30 and stopped at the "Burger Barn" for lunch (pictured above). The owner, Albert, was genuinely interested in our adventure. He took our picture and said it would be up on his wall next time we stopped by! Guymon is best known for it's Pioneer Days Rodeo which has been celebrating our pioneer spirit every May since the 1930s. The Rodeo is the 5th Largest Outdoor Rodeo and the 10th Largest Rodeo in Prize Money in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The city's largest employer, a pork processing plant, processes 16,000 hogs daily, and its 2,300 employees make up about 20% of the entire city's population. You can thank them when you have your bacon tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reporting on: Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Riding Route: Tucumcari, NM to Dalhart, TX via Route 54
Temp: 50's to 70's - Winds: 10-30 mph
Elevation Climb: 3300 feet
Miles Ridden Today: another century! - Second one in a row!

In life's experiences, some days are great, others are okay and some are just bad! I began my day by breaking off a valve stem in my tire - and Jim (a retired Chem prof) announcing that we were to have strong winds from the northeast ALL day! If you look at the map you'll see that we were riding NE ALL day! Yep! Jim was right! The winds hit us dead-on in the face every mile we rode today.

We made it to the first SAG stop at mile 29. The ride had been hard, but bearable! When we left the SAG stop winds were a minimum of 30 mph. It was the hardest headwind most of us had ever experienced. To put it in perspective: on a normal riding day I will average 17 mph - not killing myself. Today I averaged 10.5 mph overall for the day. I hit 7-8 mph going uphill - pedaling as hard as I could...and I had to pedal just as hard going downhill...and maybe hit 14 mph! I was in the "fast" group riding today. I'm glad I was, because the slower group hit LOTS of rain - and we had none! If you believe in a "wind God" - then say a prayer for us tonight that the winds let up! All in all the scenery was boring today! No ranches, people, gas stations, stores. Nothing! I have to tell you I'm tired of the high desert and scrub brush - and think even the cows are bored with the area! (At mile 54 we crossed from NM into Texas - our third state line crossing. Yes, we sprinkled our Manhattan Beach sand at the sign post - but I'm not sure the omen for a great ride in Texas was with us)!

Only a few more comments on the ride today. We experienced lots of traffic, but it was the wind in my ears that drove me nuts! The trucks coming from the opposite direction created 5 X the noise and draft. It must have been the angle of the wind! And, I have to admit I had my first flat tire today... at mile 85. I had one tube with me and it exploded because it got "pinched" in the tire! Needless to say I spent the last 15 miles in the van. I had mixed emotions - because I wanted to finish the ride. But on the other hand - I felt a bit of relief at the break.

As we headed in to Dalhart (population about 7,000) we passed HUGE feeding lot areas owned by the XIT ranch. It's a shipping point for agriculture and cattle and has the world's largest amateur rodeo in late summer. Up to 400,000 cattle are in the feed lots here. Can you imagine the smell? The XIT Ranch was more than 3 million acres at one point. Things are big in Texas! It's also in the center of the "Dust Bowl", an area that was (and still is) adversely affected by long periods of draught and dust storms during the Great Depression of the 1930's.

We passed into another time zone today: Central Standard Time. At 6:30 this evening we were having dinner - and George, a physician from Springfield, MO arrived in his biking cloths. He had finally finished the ride for the day! We saluted him and voted him hero of the week! Go George!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Reporting on: Monday, May 25, 2009 (Memorial Day)
Riding Route: Las Vegas NM to Tucumcari, NM
Temperature: 48-87 degrees/ Winds: Headwinds @ 10mph
Elevation Climb: 4200 feet
Miles Ridden Today: 109
Today was both a good day & a tough day! Let me tell you the good part first. It was a perfect day for cycling! I think this is how I imagined riding across this great country of ours would be: great scenery, mountains that were snow capped, cattle in the fields beside us, huge gates into ranch entrances, a two lane road with barely any traffic! Sounds idillic, huh? It was! However, it was a l-o-n-g 109 miles with more up and down than any of us had anticipated. Our day ended at about the 4000 foot elevation mark - which is 2500 feet lower than yesterday. I rode most of the day by myself. I like the peace and quiet and the time to reflect.
Right after our first SAG stop (mile 27) we encountered a huge downhill run (picture above). I opted to take an 8 mile "bump" in the van. It turned out to be wisdom at it's best! (Yes, with age comes wisdom)! It was an 8% downhill grade with switchbacks, guard rails and cattle guards. I told you I didn't like going downhill! Champ topped out at 42 mph - and our hotshot rider, Peter, who loves the downhills hit a top speed of 52 mph. Heck, I'd still be on the road if I had decided to ride it!
At mile 66 we had the hardest "short climb" of the trip. (The climbing up doesn't bother me)! All cyclists call it "the wall". It's less than a mile of 9% grade - straight up hill! The temperature had risen to 86 degrees - and the arm coolers felt good! We reached our first 1000 mile distance today - as you can see in the picture above. Hurray! At mile 80 I was ready to be at the hotel. I was tired, my back and neck were stiff - and I can tell you that I don't think my butt will ever get use to sitting in the saddle that long. All of us were tired when we hit the hotel about 4:15.
Now to the tough part of my story. Yesterday as we were leaving the hotel in Santa Fe we saw an EMT truck pull into the hotel parking lot. No one thought much of it until last evening when we learned that one of our riders, Charlie Semprebon (age 66) from Vermont, had passed away in his sleep on Saturday night. I can't tell you how it affected all of us. Charlie was a great guy - and a real team member. Tracy and the team put together a tribute to Charlie: This morning all of us rode five miles out of town where we gathered. Then we did a two mile ride, single file - with a van in the front - and a van in the rear. We left an open spot for Charlie. It was emotional and overwhelming as we rode in silence - each saying a prayer in our own way. I can tell you it's mighty hard to ride with tears streaming down your face. A very poignant thing happened as we began our ride. A group of wild mustangs joined us - running along the fence...and they stayed with us for almost the entire two miles. We figured Charlies spirit was in there among them. Bless you Charlie.
Tonight we're in Tucumcari. The town's claim to fame is that many of the scenes from the TV show "Rawhide" (1959 to 1966) starring one of my favorite actors, Clint Eastwood, were shot in this area. Yep, Clint is now 79 years young. He should be on this trip with us!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reporting on: May 24, 2009

Riding Route: Santa Fe to Las Vegas

Temp:44 to 70 degrees - Cloudy/Winds: not much wind!

Elevation Climb:4800 feet

Miles Ridden Today: 72

We had a GREAT ride today! We left this morning in cloudy 44 degree weather - with a 40% chance of rain in the forecast. (However, no rain plagued us)! We immediately started climbing - and all day it was "up and down" the mountains...anywhere from a 4%-8% grade. I know that doesn't sound like much, but it was a challenge to some of us! The terrain was beautiful. We were on Route 66 for all but 5 miles of riding on Highway 25. Tracy told us this is the last of highway riding! We're done with the heavy traffic areas! All of us let out a huge shout at that news! I need to tell you that each day I get up I still have butterflies in my stomach - just not knowing what is ahead...but 4-5 miles into the ride it's forgotten and I'm zoned into the challenge of the day!

This area of Route 66 was officially designated part of The Santa Fe Trail in 1987 by the National Park Service. It extends for nearly 1,200 miles across five states...beginning in Missouri and obviously ending in Santa Fe. It's history began in 1821 when it became America’s first great international commercial "highway" (between the US and Mexico). With the outbreak of the U.S.-Mexican War in 1846, it became a military highway of invasion until U.S. forces brought an end to Mexican control of the region. Following that time and for nearly sixty years it remained one of the nation’s great routes of adventure and western expansion.

Today was the highest point of our ride: 7570 feet. We peaked at Glorieta Pass in northern NM in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. In 1862 a decisive battle in the New Mexico Campaign of the American Civil War took place in this pass. The victory by the Union Army (mostly of the Colorado Militia) prevented the breakout of the Confederate Army forces onto the High Plains...which halted the intended Confederate advance northward along the base of the Rocky Mountains. (Sorry to pepper you with so many facts...but you know I'm a history buff)!

Okay, you looked at the pictures above. A few days ago I challenged you to guess which animal I'd have my picture taken with next. Did any of you guess a buffalo? Poor guy didn't survive long enough for me to ride him! Lets see, how many animals is that so far? The second picture is of me with Amber Lynn Vacero, who is Miss Teen for Las Vegas. She and her parents were at the hotel serving hot dogs and hamburgers to raise money for her to participate in the Miss New Mexico Pageant. All of us supported her - even if we didn't eat!

Tonight we're in Las Vegas. That's Las Vegas, New Mexico! No gambling here! As we rode into town we passed through "Old Town"...and it certainly has the "old west" look! It is famous because it was home to many notorious characters of the Old West. A few names you'll recognize are dentist Doc Holliday and his girlfriend Big Nose Kate (yes, for real!), Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and the Durango Kid. The word on the street is that there was no town with a more disreputable gang of desperadoes and outlaws! I hope I survive the night here!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reporting on: Saturday, May 23, 2009

Riding Route: From Albuquerque to Santa Fe

Elevation Climb: 5300 feet

Weather: Terrible!

Miles Ridden Yesterday: 66

Today we have a day off - and we really need it after the cold and windy climb to Santa Fe yesterday! We left the hotel about 7:30am in balmy, but cloudy and windy, 70 degree weather. About a half hour out the rain really started coming down and the winds kicked up to about 35 mph. We had our first SAG stop at mile 36. All of us were freezing cold by then...the temperature had dropped to about 50 degrees and we were wet and shivering. Several of us were ready to jump in the van. Margret, one of our drivers, started the van and turned the heater on. My fingers were totally numb and I sat holding them by the heater for 20 minutes before the feeling came back. Not a good thing! Margret gave each of us 2 pairs of plastic food serving gloves to wear under our bike gloves and we were ready to go again. It did the trick!

We headed on up the mountain and had lunch at the Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid. When you "belly up to the bar" at the Mine Shaft you will be served from the longest stand-up bar in New Mexico! We passed on the bar – but had a cup of hot soup…which was appreciated more than any drink would have been! Back out on the road the wind changed direction and the rain was directly in our faces. It was miserable! The slow climb on into Santa Fe was tough. There were several riders who ended up riding the remainder of the way in the van - but yours truly completed the ride all the way! Another challenge met! The first thing I did after checking into the hotel was put on my swim suit on and head for the hot tub! Ah-h-h to thaw out! The remainder of the day was cloudy and stormy.

Just a few words on the Turquoise Trail. It’s a 65 mile National Scenic Byway that begins in the town of Tijeras about 16 miles east of Albuquerque. Madrid and neighboring Cerrillos to the north (both designated ghost towns) have long been known for the turquoise nestled in the surrounding hills. The beautiful blue-green stone was first mined by the Pueblo people as early as 900 A.D. It was continuously mined by the Indians for centuries. The area was later discovered by Spaniards who also searched the area for silver and gold. In the early 1800’s, American prospectors moved into the area and in the 1880’s large coal mine companies began operations.

Last night we had dinner at “The Cowgirl Hall of Fame” restaurant. One of our riders knew the owner – who put on quite a feast for us. Kim and Nick, our daughter and son-in-law lived here until recently – and have given us a list of several things to do. First trek today is a visit to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum…and then into town.

The forecast for the next three days is thunderstorms, wind and rain. We have 9 straight days of riding ahead of us before our next “day off”. That will be in Abilene, KS – where Carol is going to meet me. Her sister, Wendy, lives in St. George, KS – so I’ll get to see family along the way. A home cooked meal sounds good to me!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reporting on: Thursday, May 21, 2009

Riding Route: From Grants NM to Albuquerque

Temp: 50-60 degrees - Winds:10 mph

Elevation Climb: 2700 feet

Miles Ridden Today: 75 (well, sort of)!

We were up at 5:30 am and walked about 1/3 mile to Denny's to have a Grand Slam breakfast! You can't believe how much I'm eating! Rain was in the forecast for the entire day and the hotel employees gave us shower caps to put over our helmets as we left in low 50 degree weather. Great idea, huh? It poured for the first hour! The roads were slippery, it was hard to see (especially for those of us with glasses) and our hands were c-o-l-d!

We completed about 30 miles on Route 66 - passing a few lost and forgotten towns! Traffic was minimal and it was an easy ride - especially when the rain eventually let up! (In fact it stopped after about an hour and we didn't feel another drop the rest of the day)! The picture above is typical of many of the buildings we have passed in the past several days. This is Budville! It was named for H.N. “Bud” Rice. The town began when Bud and his wife Flossie opened an automobile service, trading post, and tour operation in 1928. It was a full fledged business for the many travelers of Route 66 for many decades The store was held up by desperadoes in 1967 and unfortunately Bud was murdered. Flossie continued to run the family business for another 12 years before it closed for good. Now I can guarantee you "This Bud's NOT for you"!

After our first SAG stop we got back on Interstate 40 - BUT - there was road construction - and NO bikes were allowed! So we packed into the vans (6-8 at a time with the bikes on top) and were shuttled about 16 miles through the construction zone. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow! Tracy - our tour captain, did a great job! We then had 19 more miles on I40 and I have to tell you it just wore me out! We had a 2 foot riding area because the rest of the berm was like a washboard. You know - with the ruts in it to wake you up if you're dozing off! There seemed to be an inordinate amount of noise and smell from the big rigs - and they were traveling a 65+ mph about 2 feet from us...creating a draft that was a challenge to not get sucked into! Also, my legs just didn't have the same "juice" today!

The last 5 miles of the day were straight uphill - and as we crested the top we looked down into a huge valley...home of the largest city in New Mexico, Albuquerque! We rode through town and across the Rio Grande River! This is the second longest river in North America. It's second only in length to the Mississippi/Missouri River. We arrived at the hotel about 2:00.

We are losing 6 members of our riding team here. Many of our riders are still working full time - and 2 weeks was all the time they could take off! It's sad to see them leave us and I imagine it will change the dynamics our our group. Tonight a dozen+ of us went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in "Old Town" to bid them farewell! We have a couple of people joining our group here - and we're looking forward to getting to know them.

Tomorrow will be a challenging ride up to Santa Fe, NM. I'll be reporting on our route up the Turquoise Trail!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reporting on: Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Riding Route: From Gallup, NM to Grants, NM

Temperature: 75 degrees/Winds: up to 45 mph

Elevation Climb: 1800 feet

Miles Ridden Today: 67

Well, I have to admit that today was one of the more unusual days of my ride so far. We began an hour later than usual because we only had 67 miles to ride today...and it was relatively level terrain! It was a beautiful sunny morning! As I was leaving town a guy in a pickup truck turned right in front of me. I mean RIGHT in front of me. He claimed he never saw me! I was going about 15 mph and I'll tell you it was the closest I've ever come to being creamed, wiped out, gone! When we both finally stopped there was less than 12 inches between us. I'm glad I'm here to report to you tonight!

Route 66 was our road of the day again! In my effort to give you a few tidbits about the area we're in each day here are a few facts: The song "Route 66" was composed in 1946 by American songwriter Bobby Troupe. It was recorded that same year by one of my favorite singers...Nat King Cole. Us "oldsters" will remember that version! But many of you will remember it being performed by other artists...including Perry Como, Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones. The song's lyrics follow the path of U.S Route 66, which ran from Chicago, IL to Los Angeles, CA. The highway got it's number designation in 1926. The two lane, fully paved road was completed by 1938 - just prior to WWII - and helped this country facilitate the single greatest wartime manpower mobilization in our history. Later, in President Eisenhower's second term he pushed Congress for passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. This bill financed the cost of the national interstate and "defense highway" system. However, by 1970, nearly all segments of original Route 66 were replaced/bypassed by Interstate 40 - a "modern" four-lane highway. Well, I can tell you that all of us got "our kicks - on Route 66" today!

The only time we had to be back on Interstate 40 today was for a short 19 mile stretch - which proved to be the worst road section we've had on our trip since beginning in Manhattan Beach. The shoulder was full of debris & gravel - deep gravel! It was like trying to ride a dirt bike in the sands of the Sahara! UGH! We couldn't ride on the road because there was so much traffic.

We had a SAG stop ( to new readers SAG = Support and Gear) at the Continental Divide at an elevation of 7275 feet. Peter, if you're reading this blog to your children tonight let them know that the Continental Divide is the line that divides the flow of water between the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean... and runs from northwestern Canada along the crest of the Rocky Mountains to New Mexico. Show them the pictures above!

We (Champ, Tom and I rode together all day) had soft rain in the early afternoon and watched as a "very visual weather front" began moving in on us. About 10 minutes later the winds came up...and as it hit us we endured about 15-20 minutes of 35-40 mph winds. We were literally doing everything possible to stay on our bikes. Then the winds diminished to a mere 25 mph tailwind and pushed us down the final hill into Grants, NM. No pedaling necessary for 20+ miles!

Most of the day was a beautiful ride with rolling hills and mountains in the distance. Tomorrow thunderstorms are again forecast. We can handle the rain - but sure hope the winds aren't as bad as they were today.

My last thought tonight regards the Rod Denhart Memorial Scholarship Fund...the cause I'm riding for. To date DPHA has posted just shy of $20,000 in the account. My goal is $25,000 - so we still have a way to go. I have a picture of Rod tucked in my shirt every day as I ride - and his spirit surely is helping me along on this endeavor. If you would like to donate you can go to the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware's site. I thank each of you with sincere and heartfelt thanks! Each and every dollar helps us achieve this goal.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reporting on: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Riding Route: from Holbrook, AZ to Gallup, NM

Temp: 80's/Wind: 10-15 mph

Elevation Climb: 3300 feet

Miles Ridden Today: 86 miles

Another GREAT day of riding! We crossed our second state line (picture above). Not only did we change states - we changed time zones! One of the traditions we do at each crossing is to stop at the sign and leave a little Manhattan Beach, CA sand by the posts for good luck! So far it's working!

We headed out on Highway 40 today leaving Holbrook and the dry/barren eastern AZ lands behind us. We passed the entrance to the Petrified National Forest and headed into New Mexico and the Painted Desert area. Almost immediately we began to see beautiful rock formations. This area is an amazingly scenic and colorful expanse of undulating mounds and unusual eroded rocks covering 4000 acres hidden away in this high desert (picture above). It stretches from the Petrified Forest to the Grand Canyon. It's amazing!
In my spare time my mind was I'll share some calculations with you. So far we've ridden 708 miles! I think I've averaged 15 mph and am accomplishing 72 revolutions per minute. All that equates to 205,000 pedaled strokes! I must have too much spare time on my hands, huh?
I want to let you know how the ole' body is holding up: Basically I'm doing great. The problem most of us are having is that our fingers go numb from leaning on the handle bars. It's easy to lose strength in the hands if we're not constantly moving them. My neck gets sore from keeping my head tilted while keeping my eyes on the white line and watching out for debris. Last, but certainly not least, my lower back and "butt" hurt unless I keep moving around on the seat. All of us are experiencing that feeling! I have to tell my geriatric friends that overall I'm representing you well!
They had predicted afternoon thunderstorms again today - so I headed out with the "A" team this morning and stayed on the move all day. My stops were short & we kept on the move. It paid off - because we arrived at the hotel about 1:30 - well ahead of the rain. To my great surprise my good friends from Sacramento, Tom Hessler and Jacque Conway, met me at the hotel and we had dinner together. I'm sure there was a look of disbelief on my face when I saw them! A real double take!
Above is a picture of me taken with Karen Netherton - who along with me is a member of the Sacramento Wheelmen Riding Club. We met several times before the ride and did a century ride together in the buttes of northern California a couple of weeks before we began this journey. She's a free spirit - and having a great time!
Tomorrow I plan to crank it out again - because the afternoon thunderstorms are a real possibility again. They seems to go with this territory!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Reporting on: Monday, May 18, 2009

Riding Route: From Flagstaff, AZ to Holbrook, AZ
Temp: Varied/Winds: Varied

Elevation Climb: 3100 Ft

Miles Ridden Today: 96

Today we followed Rt 40 (Historic Rt 66) out of Flagstaff and did a long descent (well, some ups and downs along the way) into Holbrook, AZ. It was 44 degrees when we started our ride at 7 am - and by noon the temperature had risen to 98 degrees. That type of extreme makes it tough to know how to dress in the morning! Arm warmers to arm coolers! The 4 lane road was really good for about 80% of the ride. Then it all fell apart! Lots of debris, (okay, it might be exaggerated just a little, but we really had to keep our eyes on the road at all times)! cracks in the pavement etc. I helped 5 team members change flat tires today...may that be good tire karma for me! Champ (my roommate) had two more flats to make a total of five flat tires since leaving Manhattan Beach! I'm knocking on wood when I tell you I haven't had my first one! We had a good tailwind for about 60 miles which allowed us to average 20+ mph. That was the good news! At mile 70 we had a SAG stop - (at Jack Rabbit Trading Post) and when we looked south we saw HUGE thunder clouds coming our way. Champ and I decided to eat & drink fast and try to get to Holbrook before we were drenched. A few minutes later we had 25-30 mph winds coming from the side and a light rain began coming down. It was all we could do to keep our bikes upright and not be blown into the traffic! The last part of the trip we averaged 9 mph...a far cry from the 20 mph earlier in the day. A real test! But we made it!

We stopped in Winslow today - which some of you will remember because of Jackson Browne's song "Take it Easy" which was made famous by the popular rock group, "The Eagles." In that iconic song there is a line attributed to a hitchhiker who is standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona who sings "…when a girl, my lord, in a flat bed Ford slows down to take a look at me…". (If you know that one - we have some idea of your age)! The city has built a park featuring a six-foot tall bronze sculpture that depicts this fictional character. Yep, in the picture above is Champ and me... "standing on the corner in Winslow, AZ"!

As I said: At mile 70 we had a SAG stop at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post. (Yes, that's me sitting on the famous Jack Rabbit!) You've probably heard of it - but not many of you have been there. Their signs along the road are famous! A little history on our route today: In 1939 John Steinbeck proclaimed Route 66 as the "Mother Road in his classic novel "The Grapes of Wrath". When the movie was made a year later, it immortalized Route 66 in the American mind. Soon after, more than 200,000 people migrated to California to escape the Dust Bowl of the Midwest, symbolizing the highway as the “road to opportunity.” Now that's probably more than you wanted to know, huh?

Just a couple of things to share with you: All in all I felt very strong riding today! My bike worked perfectly after the repair...and my new shoes felt like slippers on my feet! It was amazing going from Flagstaff, where the pines were thick and the air was cool (reminded me of Lake Tahoe, CA - without the lake) to Holbrook, where it is high desert with lots of scrub brush! While we had 3100 feet of elevation climb today, we actually ended up dropping 2000 feet from Flagstaff (almost 7000 feet) to Holbrook (5000 feet). More tomorrow...on our "ride" to "Gallup" (pun intended)! By the way, all the dehydrated bikers are rehydrated and back on the road!

What animal am I going to come across next?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reporting on: Sunday, May 17, 2009
Riding Route: Yesterday from Cottonwood to Flagstaff/ Today a our first rest day!
Temperature and Winds: Easy going on both!
Elevation Climb Yesterday: 4700 feet
Miles Ridden Yesterday: 46
A day missed, and a day of riding missed! Yesterday (Saturday) morning I had my bike checked because of some gearing problems I was having at the end of the day on Friday. It turned out to be a problem with my chain - and Rick, our SAG wagon mechanic, said not to worry that he'd put a new chain on the bike for me. It turned out that I have an unusual size chain - and he didn't have one! Not good news to a boy who wants to ride! It was going to be a tough climb from Cottonwood to Flagstaff - through Sedona and up Oak Creek Canyon. I needed my "granny gear" (the lowest gear on the bike) to do it successfully. He said there was no way I could make the climb without it! So, they loaded me (and my bike) in the van and once the team started they took me to Flagstaff where I spent the day finding a bike shop that had the right size chain. In checking my bike they also found out that I had a bent sprocket - which was repaired and by 4:00 in the afternoon I was ready to go again! Of course the team was already arriving in Flagstaff - so I missed the entire day of riding! A very unhappy boy indeed! Everyone said it was a tough ride - no berm at all... and lots of cars and motorhomes which created a very hard riding situation. Everyone made it safely though and we celebrated with cold beer at our happy hour before dinner! The picture of me kissing the pigs was taken in Sedona. Champ said I must really be missing Carol to defer to such drastic measures!
Today (Sunday) was our first "Rest Day"! Early this morning I did a ten mile test ride with the new chain. I did some hills - and no problems occurred! I'm optimistic that tomorrow will be a great day! My good friend, Mark, and his wife Melissa, invited me to ride back to Sedona and have lunch with them there. (Melissa is following Mark for two weeks on the journey. He leaves us in Albuquerque). It is a beautiful ride between the two towns - and those of you who have done it know what I mean! In the afternoon I had a little time at the pool - and then a short nap! (Yes, I'm keeping lots of Neosporin on my lips because they are so burned. I'm surprised the pigs had any interest in me)! Tonight we had dinner at The Olive Garden! Great pasta!
I'm glad to know the hardest part of the trip is behind least that's what we're told! Tomorrow we're headed to Holbrook, AZ - a 96 mile ride on Rt. 66! Our elevation climb will be 6600 feet - a big day - but cooler weather (supposed to be a high of 90 degrees with a chance of thunderstorms). I'll let you know how the day goes!
Thanks to everyone for their continued support! One week down - and six more to go!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reporting on: May 15, 2009
Riding from: Prescott, AZ to Cottonwood, AZ
Temperature: 85 degrees most of the day/Winds: Mild - and appreciated
Elevation Climb: 4500 feet - over the Mingus Mountains
Miles ridden today: A lowly 43
Today we had a leisurely start at 9:00 am. (one of the few "late" starts we'll have). The first 26 miles were ALL uphill. We had an abundance of switchbacks. I loved the uphill climb! (6-7 mph going up). Again - lots of ponderosa pines - and we saw a herd of antelope! BUT, remember I told you yesterday that I didn't like going downhill? Well once I made it to the top, I have to admit that I got into the SAG wagon for the three mile downhill ride. My roommate, Champ, did just the opposite! He did this exact ride last fall (as a test) and decided to take the van up - but rode the hill down! He couldn't believe how tough it was to slow down enough to make the curves! We had a SAG stop in Jerome - and then headed on to Cottonwood - where I arrived at 3:15. My lips are extremely sunburned. Our leader told us that every time we take a drink of water, we should be reapplying more zinc oxide on them! That's a tough thing to do when you're riding! Also, my clip-in shoes are bothering my feet! I think it's from walking in them too much. They are made for riding - not walking!
The last 3 days have been filled with lots of "false flats" and "false summits". That means it looks like it's flat, but we're still going up a 3% grade. You're panting - and think you've made it to the top, but you haven't! UGH!
I wanted to tell you a little about our typical schedule each day:
5:30 - Alarm goes off
6:00-6:45 - We have a BIG breakfast - with lots of carbs
7:00 - Our duffel bags need to be at the truck (2 bags, 15 lbs each)
7:15 - Sign out and start the day's ride!
About mile 25-35 (depending on the day) we have our first SAG stop. We fill our camelbacks & water bottles with a combo of water & gatoraid. There are power bars, power gels, orange slices, bananas, muffins, trail mix, peanuts and more! We eat/drink at the stop and take some with us!
There are unofficial SAG stops at stores, gas stations etc. if anyone needs to replenish drinks and eats...or hit the "john"! (That's another story)!
Lunch is on our own!
Between miles 60-80 we have a second SAG stop.
Depending on how fast a person rides, we arrive at the hotel between 3 and 5 pm.
5:45 - We have our Route Rap (15-20 minutes) and go over the ride for the next day. Most of us try to shower and shave before this daily event.
6:00-7:00 - Dinner - Most of the time this is done as a group!
Tonight we're having dinner at The Sizzler!
All for now - more tomorrow!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reporting on Thursday, May 14, 2009
Riding Route:Highway 89 from Wickenburg to Prescott, AZ
Temp: in the 80's/Winds 10-15 mph
Elevation Climb: 7600 feet!
Miles Ridden Today: 59

History and fact from Hank's Almanac: Cross-Country Car Ride! On July 26th, 1903, a doctor named Horatio Nelson Jackson became the first person to have driven a car across the entire United States. Jackson and his companions (who included a jaunty, goggle-wearing bulldog named Bud) drove from San Francisco to New York City in less than two months--quite a feat at the time! (We're riding our bikes in less time than Horatio made it in the car)!

Our first serious mountain pass...Yarnell! 7600 feet of climbing! A real test! It was a great day! I rode much of the time by myself. I knew as I was climbing the main 26 mile uphill grade that all the training I had done was paying off. It was amazing to look down on the valley and the desert below...knowing that I had peddled every inch to the top of the mountain. At the end of the ride there was a real downhill slope. I don't like going downhill! The fastest I'll go is 30+ mph. Some of the other riders whizzed past me! Safety, safety, safety I keep telling myself! It was a wonderful experience going from the dryness of the desert to the cooler air and the ponderosa pines of the mountains. Hurray! Our destination was Prescott, AZ - and as you can see from the picture above I ended up on historic "Gurley Street"! I left at 7:15 a.m. and arrived at the hotel at 2:15.
Tonight I did my laundry and then jumped in the jacuzzi! Ah-h - pain relief! Another biker ended up in the hospital with hydration problems. We have to remember to drink liquids! More tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reporting on: May 13, 2009
Riding Route: Interstate 10 from Blythe, CA to Wickenburg, AZ
Temp: 104 degrees/Winds from the South
Elevation Climb: 4000 ft.
Miles Ridden Today: 115
This will be a short report tonight! We had a great day - and were thankful for the mild weather we had. This was the longest ride I've ever done - and on top of the 100 miles yesterday it wore the old boy out! We had 2 long climbs today - one 7 miles and another 11 miles. So far I've had no flat tires - very lucky. My roommate, Champ, has had three! I rode a good part of the day with Jack - who came here from Israel just for this ride. And you thought I was crazy!
We reached our first state crossing! We're in Wickenburg, AZ tonight. The highlight of the day was just getting here!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reporting on: May 12, 2009

Riding Route: Interstate 10 from Indio, CA to Blythe, CA (on the AZ border)

Temperature: Up to 110 degrees/Winds up to 20 mph

Elevation Climb: 3200 feet

Miles ridden today: 100.4 (our first "century" ride)

Whew! What a day! We did 100 miles of Mojave Desert - and I felt every mile of it! It was 70 degrees when we started at 7:15 - 80 degrees by 8:00, 90 degrees by 10:00 and it continued on up! We did over 80 miles on Interstate 10 - with the other 20 miles on parallel roads. I've gotten use to the trucks and cars - they're not the problem. It's the debris on the berm that creates the problems for us: glass, tires, garbage, etc. We must keep our eyes on the road at all times! Two of our riders were taken to the hospital because of dehydration problems. They'll get IV's and be back on the road hopefully tomorrow or the next day.

We started our day at 7:15 a.m. Most of us would like to begin earlier, but our tour leaders won't allow it because it's the time of day that the glare is bad in the truckers eyes. The sun needs to be a little higher to make it safe. The picture above was taken at mile 80...and I still had 20 miles to go! I arrived at the hotel a few minutes after 3:00.

My good friend Steve Bates (of Bates and Bates) was supposed to ride with me yesterday and today. Our tour company wouldn't allow it at the last minute! He was ready and had trained for it. But there were so many problems crossing the desert last year that they decided not to let any guests participate in this part of the ride. I miss you Steve - but you can be thankful that you got a pass on this one!

There is a great spirit of camaraderie forming. The team is pulling together and each person is part of the supporting network. Each of us takes time to make sure the next person is doing okay as the day goes on. Our SAG team is wonderful! We stop mid-morning and mid-afternoon - and they have fruit, drinks, nutrition bars etc. for us. It was a day of gatoraid and electrolyte pills! I drank over 210 oz. of gatoraid from my camelback today - and kept tap water in my bottles to pour over my body. It was a full-on sunscreen day!

Just a note on the "elevation climb" statistic. It refers to the amount of elevation we accomplish each day. We go up and down hills - but this is the "up" climb we do. It refers to the hills. For instance, today we started out with a climb from -15 ft sea level to 1000 feet above sea level. It was an 11 mile ride up hill at a 7% grade. A good morning workout!

More tomorrow.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Picture taken on Sunday, May 10, 2009
Arriving at the hotel in Riverside, CA after my first day of riding! Hurray, I made it!

Reporting on: Monday, May 11, 2009
Riding Interstate 10 from Riverside, CA to Indio, CA
Temperature: 102 degrees/Winds up to 30 mph
Elevation Climb for the Day: 3300 feet
Miles Ridden: 84

Today we crossed the San Andres Fault line, went through Palm Springs, saw the windmill "farms" and hit the lowest point on our tour. Indio (where we are tonight) is 14' below sea level!

We left the hotel in Riverside at 7:00 a.m. I rode with the "fast" group and arrived at the hotel in Indio about 2:15...and mighty glad to be here! We had 2 major "hill climbs" today which consisted of our 3300 foot climb...not a problem! Let me tell you...there is a lot of sand out here. One refreshing thing was that we could see snow in the surrounding mountains! Probably the most interest thing of the day was that about 20 miles outside of Palm Springs the wind came up. And I mean up! Thank goodness it was at our back - and for quite awhile I didn't need to pedal the bike at all - and was going about 30 mph. There was a lot of road construction along the way...but we were lucky that their were some parallel roads along side of Interstate 10 that we were able to travel on.

All in all it was a great day! I do have to tell you that about 20 miles before Indio I stopped at a Del Taco (yea, really!) and went into the restroom and doused myself with water. That means my hat (I wear it under my helmet for sun protection), my arm "coolers" (yes, I started out with arm "warmers" the first day when it was only 60 degrees in Manhattan Beach -two totally different pieces of clothing!) and the rest of my body! I rested for about 15 minutes and was refreshed and ready to go.

Tomorrow is another long day in the desert. That means long sleeves (my arm coolers), a visor under my helmet (for head, neck & eye protection), water in and on the body at all times (got to keep the core temp down) and of course LOTS of sunscreen. I also need to drink more than 20 oz. of fluid every hour! They recommend every time we take a drink of water from our camelbacks that we reapply the sunscreen on our lips! UGH! Does than mean I have to stop often - NO! It will all evaporate out of my body! I hope I 'm able remember that 60 degree morning we left Manhattan Beach!

First Day Under My Belt! (uh-h-h Helmet)

Sunday, May 10th

It's here! I'm excited & I'm nervous! The day has finally arrived and it's time to unchain my bike and get on the road. Getting the padlock off was the hardest part of the process! My mind is now open to all the possibilities that lay ahead! It's going to be an incredible journey!
Our group was ready to leave the hotel at 7:00 a.m. We had an escort as we rode our bikes about 5 miles to the Manhattan Beach Pier in Southern California. I was thrilled to see Betsy Denhart, Debbie Cusolito & my good friend Reed Fry and his children, Christopher and Jamie, there. Thank you so much!
By 7:45 a.m. we had dipped our rear tires in the Pacific Ocean - and were off on our ride. The first hill up from the beach was a tough one! Thank goodness it only lasted two blocks! My roommate, Champ, and I rode together most of the day. (Champ is a retired high school history teacher from Washington, IL - so I know we'll share some good talk). It was a challenge getting out of Los Angeles...through traffic, stop lights, stop signs and hoards of people! We went out with the "fast" group who were averaging more than 20 miles per hour. At the first SAG stop we decided to step back a pace - and at the end of the day had averaged 17-18 mph. Not bad for us more mature guys! The temperature rose from 60 degrees in Manhattan Beach to 96 degrees when we checked into our hotel in Riverside. I even had a few minutes by the pool! Whoa! Every evening before dinner we have a "route rap" where the ride the following day is discussed. Tomorrow is going to be a tough one: we begin our ride across the desert. The temperature is supposed to be 104 degrees - and with 10-20 mph winds. That's mild compared to past years - so we're happy! I'll let you know how it goes!
I'd like to mention that the pledges you have donated toward the support of the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Scholarship Fund is closing in on $20,000. I promise to do my best to live up to your expectations of my ride - and earn every dollar that you have sent in or pledged. To my family, friends and industry partners: "I can't thank you enough. Your support in terms of encouragement and dollars has been incredible"! I will keep you posted on the progress of dollars raised.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Wow, the day has finally arrived. We left Sacramento at 7:30 A.M. on Thursday morning. I was totally surprised by being met with all my neighbors being in front of the garage when the door was opened! Thank you Nancy and Gene for your efforts and the coffee and donuts that everyone enjoyed! What a wonderful sendoff - with well wishes from everyone! My special hat from Terri and Jesse truly set the stage for the all the things I need to remember! Thanks to everyone for their support. It's greatly appreciated!

Sunday morning we leave the hotel at 7:00 a.m. and head to Manhattan Beach Pier where we dip our rear tire in the Pacific Ocean. We have a group photo and then we're off to Riverside - our first stop on the trek. It's a 78 mile day. We had a 3 hour orientation meeting. I met the other 26 riders followed by dinner and getting acquainted. I've set the alarm for 5:00 a.m. for the first day activities!

  1. More later...