Day 35 – Atlantic Ocean

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Yes, the adventure is over, about 2800 miles. Thanks for all your prayers and supportive texts and phone calls. Thanks be to God for allowing my body to heal and granting me strength to ride.

Thanks to my hosts Mike and Peggy for putting me up at the ‘Quest hostel’ – Luc knows what I’m talking about – and for a wonderful meal.

Today’s ride was overcast and barely got into the low 70s. Winds ( headwinds of course ) picked up in the afternoon but didn’t seem too bad. The winds at the beach were the strongest I felt since Texas.

This was a tough ride from a mental aspect, the miles seemed to add up ever so slowly. Maybe it was the conflict between wanting to finish and get back home and recalling all the ride segments leading up to this which would be the last segment.

US 90 showed its gentler side and provided no challenge other than trying to figure out what town I was currently in ( no map today ). I did see 3 correctional institutions along the road today – perhaps 1 in each county. City traffic was challenging as it is in any big city during high traffic periods.

Navigating through the city was aided by a phone call to Mike last night, the map app on my phone,  and Mike’s phone call near the end of the ride and personally leading me to the beach in his velomobile.

I’m not one who is superstitious, but I intentionally have not talked about flat tires in my posts. I think the more you talk about them, the more they occur. The final tally of flat tires on this trip was: 0.  The Schwalbe marathon plus may be a heavy tire, but it performed well in conjunction with doing my best to avoid debris.

Day 34 – Fog and the big City

This could be the title for a children’s book. These were my challenges for the day. The first 2 hours visibility ranged from a quarter to a tenth of a mile. US 90 had a decent shoulder so the challenge was to see the road signs as I was no longer following the map and the garmin 800 had no course programmed. The big city was Tallahassee, the road signs were few and far between, but I just stayed on the widest road. After passing Florida State University, I checked the smartphone and it indicated I was on the right road.

Speaking of US 90, it has a split personality, most of the day it was actually hilly. Long 5% grades, some 8% right by Chattahoochee! 3000 ft of climbing over 130 miles. The nicer side of 90 was the last 20 miles – fairly level so I could maintain a good steady pace.

At Chattahoochee, I stopped for some juice and was interviewed by a local newspaper reporter (retired reporter?) For longer than I wanted. I think it was for Jackson county.

I also stopped and talked to 3 college age men who started in Austin in April. They were fixing a flat but did not need help.

I had an impromptu race with a 4 wheeler. They rode onto the shoulder, saw me and shifted to the grass, race was on, I won going uphill. My knees still hurt, I must not be so competitive in the future.

I made it to Madison FL only to find that town no longer had lodging. My next town was 30 miles away but due to the time change it was already 6pm and that was too far with waning light. The mapping function on my phone showed that 6 miles off route to the south by the freeway was where the lodging had gone. The check in guy told me about a shortcut that will get me back on track in a few less miles than backtracking.

I found a picture on Carol’s blog to replace my picture that was never stored

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Final day tomorrow, looks like the weather will hold out.

Day 33 – Why is my right leg getting wet?

The rain  was off and on all day, the first batch occurred at 8:30 and only lasted about 20 minutes. What was strange is that my right leg was getting wet. When I looked at the front crank I saw water coming out of the chain tube as I pedaled. I think water had gotten into the chain trough under the seat either from a gap in the cover or somehow from the rear wheel. Pedaling emptied the water vie the chain. It only happened during that first shower and not the longer subsequent rain.

Just prior to the rain, I caught up with the ACA southern tier group of 12 that left San Diego on March 11. There had been 13 but they lost a rider due to some incident in a tunnel outside of Phoenix ( broken wrist). I remember that tunnel as being a pedal for your life going uphill with my hazard flashers on hoping the cars would use the second of 2 lanes to pass me. They were only going as far as Marianna FL, which is also where I stopped due to thunder and increased severity of storms ahead of me.

Another change of plans. Instead of the scenic route to St. Augustine, I will be taking a straight shot to Jacksonville on US 90. I might reach the 3rd coast Wednesday afternoon. The first coast was the Pacific, the second coast was the Gulf coast that I left on Sunday.

Another fine establishment tonight ( better than camping in the wet), with a surprise in the fridge

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Those are Michelob Ultras, one of them I think helped in the replanning. The thing on the top is my camelback with leftover Gatorade.

Day 32 – Humid ride

I know, it’s Florida what should I expect.

I entered Florida at 8:08, which means I spent less than a day riding in Alabama including the ferry ride and the overnight stay. The ride started out foggy then within a mile I got wet – with a sprinkler that over rotated to the street. Aside from being soaked with sweat by the time I rode 10 miles, that was it – none of the predicted rain set up. The chance of rain exists through the rest of this adventure.

I caught up with the sisters I met yesterday at the state line where I took this picture. Oops it happened again, apparently if I turn off my phone too soon after taking a picture, it never gets written to the file system.

I met another group of 5 southern tier riders that started March 7. We talked a bit and they were surprised I fit all that gear in the velomobile. They were mainly camping through the entire trip. One of the group joined in Austin, TX.

Surprising amount of climbing today of 1800 ft, Pensacola has a few bluffs on US 90. The area where I am tonight is at 200 ft.

I need to pray to be a little more tolerant of the curious. I wish they would just take a picture and not box me in a narrow bike line as they pace me. Stopping to the right of that bike lane ahead of me and then opening the car door to extend across that lane as I am traveling down hill with traffic on my left is also not quite right.

Working on some route changes to turn the next 5 days into 4. It just might be possible.

I can tell I am in the south, east of the Mississippi

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Day 31 – The Velomobile can Float!

As long as it’s on a ferry.

I got up at 5 to break camp and be on the road around 6:30. I wanted to make sure I made the 12:30 ferry not knowing if lines backed up on a weekend as they were only running one ferry. I made a call at the point in the route that would have allowed me to take the longer land route and today’s message said it was running.

With 3 miles to go in 3 minutes, it was clear I would not make the 11:00 ferry but I was 3rd in line for the 12:30. Even though I asked around, it turns out I did not have to be in line at all since I was a cyclist – no signage to that effect.

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I did get to talk to lots of folks and eat and use the restroom etc until the ferry arrived. It was a nice rest break. They put the walk ons and bicycles on last.

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I left Mississippi at 8:18 am today and will leave Alabama tomorrow maybe before I get wet. Seems to be very likely that I will get wet tomorrow.

After leaving the dock, I met two sisters going coast to coast on the southern tier. Diane and Carol (I may not have the 2nd name correct) from Nebraska and Nevada have been riding since February 27. They have seen several groups including the ACA and Bubba’s group. They have camped less than I have and we both shared thoughts of why not ship that stuff home – but none of us have.

 

 

Day 30 – 5 states down, 3 to go

Louisiana took less time than Texas ( thank goodness ), tomorrow I leave Mississippi and enter Alabama, Sunday I enter the last state of this journey, Florida. I also get to take a 45 minute ferry ride tomorrow – I’m excited.

Another nice day, a little less climbing at 1800 ft. I did encounter more dogs again, the big one seemed confused as he kept pace with me going uphill trying to figure out what to bite. While the route passed many homes it seemed to avoid towns leaving me feel a bit isolated.

I’m staying at an interesting place that let’s cyclists camp on an elevated roofed octagon platform. Here’s the view from 10 feet up.

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If you look closely ( click/tap the picture to enlarge ), you can see the camping cot beneath the yellow thermarest mattress.

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Rumor has it an adventure cycling group was at this campsite 2 days ago and Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers were here 9 days ago. Maybe I’ll see more cyclists yet.

Day 29 – Pleasant Pedaling

Sunny, low humidity, temps in the 70s, trees, no dogs chasing me, 2500 ft of gentle climbing with rolling roads, good road surface, light traffic – very nice day.

My wonderful wife pulled off a miracle and shipped my old rear shock to me in less than 24 hours so it arrived during my rest day.

Bike maintenance went fine. Front tires rotated and the original rear shock was installed. The risse air/oil shock was leaking oil. The ride is smoother again. Will have to see about repairing the fancy shock when I get back. Examined all the tires again and they are looking fine.

Yesterday was a good day to take a break. The front turned out to be stronger than predicted. T storm watch for everyone with T storm and tornado warnings as well. Twice as much rain as predicted and local flooding.

I needed to replan st25 which became st25a. I will be camping tomorrow and had planned to camp Saturday, but the campgrounds in Gulf Shores are full. I had to scramble to find some lodging. Hopefully I make the ferry crossing or I might be sleeping in the velomobile 🙂

 

Day 28 – Mississippi Crossing

The route map cautioned cyclists to not use LA hwy 1 until they needed to due to traffic and shoulders. The route had me going a little longer on lighter used roads. The roads were lightly used because they were not in the greatest shape. I would rather climb a 4% grade than dodge potholes and bounce around wondering if I was abusing the velomobile. So slow going today riding just on the other side of the levee which is posted as no trespassing. ( the Mississippi river was on the other side and I could not see it )

Then there was LA hwy 1, about 5 miles had a very narrow 3 ft shoulder with debris and that’s the only place I could ride. A steep drop off to the right and fast traffic to the left that I needed to constantly monitor. Oh well, it can only get better.

The Audubon bridge that I crossed the Mississippi river on was only completed 2 years ago and has the 2nd longest cable-stayed span in the western hemisphere. Very nice!

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More dogs, only one got close and made eye contact – horn worked again.

I stopped for bananas at a grocery store and got the same question after what is it – how much did it cost followed by aren’t you afraid someone’s gonna steal it. Only in LA is the focus so much on $$, makes me wonder why they focus on that. Am I paranoid? No, I think I need to answer the $ question with how much will you give me?

Wednesday will be a rest and maintenance day. I need to sleep in, do laundry, rotate  the front tires to even out the camber angle wear, and hopefully replace the rear shock if the overnight shipment works as promised. I don’t feel I have any shock damping since it froze in Richards, TX. I have a concern that the air part of the shock may fail next which would leave me stranded with potential wheel damage.

Day 27 – Crowds & Questions

Seems like a lot more pictures were taken by passing motorists, when they finally decided to pass. Whenever I stopped for food, more folks than usual gathered and made it hard to gracefully leave. I guess LA is full of inquiring minds. Good for them, just wish they didn’t always ask how much those things cost. One young twenty something lady ( we’ll call her ‘tattoo’ ) wanted to sit inside and have her picture taken. I said fine just remember that an old guy has been sitting in there for 7 or 8 hours a day for the last 4 weeks sweating profusely on that seat. ‘Tattoo’ changed her mind.

Stopped again, this time the officer said he had complaints that people had to pass me. Because this section of road had a shoulder that was usually full of logging debris or grass or was broken up, I rode on the side of the road. I did move to the shoulder if a car approached from the rear and either an oncoming car or a yellow line prevented the car from passing. No angry honks. The officer observed my behavior before stopping me and agreed the shoulder was crappy and said I should continue to be careful.

Finally got on a less traveled road and observed crawfish farming. I didn’t know what those little floaty things were all in a row, until I saw the guy in the boat picking them up and seeing they were traps. They re-flood rice fields after harvest to farm crawfish.

Another bountiful day of dogs, none very persistent. I did try to give one dog a run for his money, he tried to keep up until he tripped over his own feet and ended up in the tall grass. Then there was the little dachshund, I wanted to slow up to help his self esteem. I guess I am easily amused.

The knees feel better. Yay!

I reached a milestone, over 2000 miles done, less than 925 to go. That’s 2/3 complete, only 3 digits need to be used to describe remaining miles. Tomorrow I cross the Mississippi.

Day 26 – Adios Lone Star

15 days in Texas, it is a big state! The first day I was in Texas a person told me that Texas was a country in itself. I thought he was just talking about size, but I think that many Texans remember that Texas was an independent republic before being annexed by the US. I rarely see the state flag of my home state being displayed with the US flag. In Texas I saw the Texas state flag almost as much as the US flag. Often they are displayed with equal prominence in size and height. I believe the Texas state flag is the same as the third flag of the republic of Texas. I should have paid more attention in history class.

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Nice weather today, starting in the 50s to upper 70s and light wind.

I almost made it to LA by noon, but met 2 cyclists going the other way. John and Joann from Maryland are on a mainly East to West trip at least until AZ when they head North. They started today from DeRidder which is where I planned to go and where I am now. They told me of some issues where I planned to stay, so I chose an alternate place to sleep. I told them about the cabin in Richards should they have that as one of there destinations.

Oh and when I say LA, I’m just to lazy to spell out

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I was still chased by a few dogs, but they just didn’t compare to yesterday. These dogs stopped way too soon and I never heard the sound of dog nails on pavement.

My rear shock has been acting up a bit ever since it got below freezing so I’m keeping an eye on it. I have moved my packing around to put less pressure around the rear wheel and things seemed quieter today.

I may need to give my knees a rest by Wednesday, we’ll see if they recover on their own.

 

Day 25 – Who let the dogs out?

Not once in 24 days of riding over 1700 miles have any dogs given chase. Sure, some have been excited but they were behind fences. Today I was chased no less than 6 separate times by usually 2 to 3 dogs at a time. Since the first 2 times were no issue, I decided to bark back the 3rd time – won’t do that again. They just ran faster and farther, finally I beeped the horn and that confused them. The  5th time I was silent but the big boxer like dog got within feet. More horn beeping combined with riding toward the dog finally ended the chase. The last time was too funny, being chased by 3 large chihuahua types – what would they do if they actually caught me? Maybe east TX lets their dogs play on Saturday.

I did get to ride through what I recall as the Sam Houston national forest. Strange to see 2 separate areas where there was significant smoke across the road from smoldering fires. This is a picture of the Lake Cagle recreation area in that forest.

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If I complained about the cold yesterday, I had a surprise this morning as a thin layer of ice covered the velomobile. The temperature warmed up to the 50s by 10 and 70s by 1.

The last 20 miles were flatter and straighter than any road so far.

I started on map 5 of 7 and should finally leave TX by noon on the 21st. I’m starting segment 22 and will see how long it takes before I lose sync with these preplanned route segments.

Day 24 – Texas Chili

I mean chilly. The temperature stayed around 50 for most of the morning ( I have a temperature display on my bike computer ). I know what you’re saying, ‘we have snow coming down, stop your whining’. You’re right but I was getting used to the 90s, at least I wasn’t wet with sweat or rain. Some gusty wind remained from yesterday’s storm, but overall a nice day.

This is what a typical east TX front yard looks like and I’m seeing a lot more homes and farms now

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These 3 came from the house area to see if I was edible.

The terrain was more rolling with elevations between 200 and 400 ft.

I would be tent camping except it’s supposed to get near freezing and I am spoiled. I’m at a unique place near Richards called ‘the Checkpoint’. The owners are a husband and wife who came from Germany. This is a working farm/ranch with campsites and cabins catering to motorcyclists and cyclists.

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I’m in a cabin that has a room on either end and a common kitchen in the middle with a big porch. Did I mention they have wireless too?

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There’s also a pool with some unique rules, since I’m the only guest tonight that last one won’t be used.

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The wife mentioned that the big guided adventure cycling group came through 2 weeks ago – doesn’t look like I’ll catch them.

 

Day 23 – Wet & Wild

I knew a front was moving in and my plans were to change the route and ride st20a to Navasota. The morning weather prognosticators said the storm was falling apart and only light scattered showers were expected. I left at 8 expecting the upper 60s and humidity to last all day.

So far so good, 6 miles in light rain and the Walmart camping foam removable top was keeping things dry and warm – a good improvement from last August’s ride to Oshkosh. Then I lost a lane to construction – no problem as I could ride in the closed off lane by myself.

Then the front blew in, temps dropped 20 degrees to 50 with strong cross winds that drove the rain into my t shirt soaking it in no time. Brrrrrr. No problem as I put on the rain jacket that the chain damaged a few weeks ago.

Then the law stopped me. As soon as he knew I was human powered and that was the reason for my speed or lack thereof – he wanted to leave to get out of the rain. Usually we talk for a while. He did express concerns for my safety after the construction ended and the shoulder disappeared. I’ve been stopped twice now on this journey for lack of speed – I guess we do slow down as we get older. It was only a year ago that Waukesha stopped me for being too fast – ahh the good old days.

Leaving highway 21 for 290, the cross wind was more of a tail wind but no shoulder with 2 lanes in each direction. It was a constant rear view vigil to make sure cars and trucks were moving over so I did not become buzzard fodder. I noticed the big rigs were throwing up so much water, that I was becoming less visible. I see a McDonalds sign in Giddings and decide to wait there for a while.

The wind was so bad it took several minutes to orient the velomobile so nothing would blow off or get too wet. When I got up to get my order I felt as if I suffered from incontinence observing the huge puddle I left behind. The rain picked up and the radar showed about 2 more hours of green.

I did not have a burning bush encounter, but felt that perhaps God was telling me to stop and ride safely tomorrow instead of risking 24 more miles on 290. My prayers for a safe journey today had been granted. So my shortest ride of 30 miles as I warm up and dry off in Giddings, TX.

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I am close to a well reviewed BBQ place, so that’s where I ate. The reviews were correct.

I did see a drive through concept that I had not observed before. When you need that drink, why must you stop the car, turn it off and walk inside?

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Day 22 – This could be WI

Rolling land, freshly planted corn, oil wells slowly pumping crude – well except for the pumps it could be WI in June.

Only 1000 ft of climbing in 60 miles, lightly traveled roads except for the first 11 miles until I reached Kyle. I had been warned about the traffic both by my hosts and an addendum to the southern tier maps. I decided to leave a little later to give the traffic a chance to clear and that improved the ride compared to yesterday’s ride on the first stretch of this road.

Kyle, still my favorite son-in-law:

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I saw more horse farms today along with cattle. Haven’t seen other cyclists for a while now. The roads no longer have signs warning of flooding every mile, however I did see this new verbiage:IMAG0163

I might actually be out of Texas this weekend. Of the 7 maps to get me across the country, I should finish the 4th one on Friday. The remaining 3 maps have no elevation profiles! (Because they feel the elevation is pretty much irrelevant)

Day 21 – spot takes a break

Before I explain the gap in the tracking data…

Great big thanks to Steve and Suzanne for hosting me about 7 miles east of Wimberley. I felt like royalty as they cooked an excellent meal and made a wonderful drink for me. If you’re in the San Antonio area look up Steve’s sanantoniobiketours. I bet if you’re nice he’ll show you a velomobile or 2. Steve also has a Quest velomobile similar to mine, but not quite as beat up (honey how about a carbon Quest when I get home?)IMAG0161

While the ride did include 3500 ft of climbing and 95 miles of hot and humid, it did not seem to bad as the climbs were not that long – a lot of up and down but sometimes the downhills were long enough to go all the way up the next hill.

After I had ridden 40 miles and was taking a stretching break on the top of a hill, I noticed there were no lights on spot (the tracking device). Since the device and the lithium batteries were 2 years old I expected this to happen sooner. After installing a new set of batteries, it should be good for the remainder of the trip. I still have another set just of batteries just in case. To clarify, I did not get a lift, spot was just tired.

There is a storm front and some wind moving in to the area. The predicted severity may be overrated but I’ll be doing a short day tomorrow and maybe Thursday as well. I don’t mind the rain, but thunder and my reduced visibility to other drivers is what I want to avoid.

 

 

Day 20 – Granny gets a workout

For those not familiar with the term ‘granny gear’, it’s when you use the smallest gear in front and the largest gear in the rear. That was my combination of necessity as I scaled four 400 to 500 ft climbs each lasting less than a mile – that translates to at least an 8% grade. While I did not get out and push, the last one required 3 or 4 stops. Looking at the ridewithgps data, I was only expecting 2 ridiculous climbs. The ‘twisted sisters’ of the Texas hill country did not disappoint. I thought I had a better picture but this is it

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During those climbs, I did get to return the waves from many motorcycle riders, seems that if there were 2 on a bike, the 2nd person had a camera taking a picture. Aside from the occasional pickup, it was all bikes plus one phalanx of Ferraris that I saw twice, once coming down as I was going up and then going up as I was going up on another climb. One Ferrari’s occupants even waved enthusiastically and gave me some happy horn beeps!

Surprisingly, going down gave me more issues than going up as the turns encouraged me to use the brakes lest I wish to go through the guardrail. By the end of the day, the brakes were squeaking to the point of embarrassment. ( taking a rest day Monday to re-hydrate and look at the brake pads which requires front wheel removal to open up the drums).

This was the first day with fairly high humidity and morning cloud cover, within the first hour of climbing I was drenched. I nearly depleted all my water reserves and that’s another reason for the rest day.

I met an interesting fellow at the top of my last 2400 ft summit. He was sitting by his motorhome on a lawn chair looking off into the distance when he saw me and ran to get his camera. He could have been Gary Busey’s uncle with his eyes and hair. He’s ridden his motorcycle all over and been to WI to a town called Butternut.

I rode the last 15 miles along the Guadalupe river, very scenic and recreational. Not something I had expected to see, need to take more pictures but it was getting to be a long day.

Today was the last day I will be over 2000 ft, after Tuesday l will not be over 1000 ft for the rest of this journey. I’m also now at the halfway point which makes me hopeful for completing this in a reasonable amount of time.

P.S. couldn’t sleep, so I looked at the brake pads and they have plenty of material, so a little cleaning and if that doesn’t stop the noise I won’t be concerned.

Day 19 – Greenery, Trees, River

A nice change from the previous days and days. The landscape became more gradual and rolling. The closer I got to Camp Wood, the more I saw trees around houses and greenish lawns.

Almost like home except I don’t get to wish my understanding wife a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! In person.

Feeling not well rested after yesterday’s marathon ride in the heat and wind. Stopped at 80 miles to rest for tomorrow’s occasional 8-10% grades. Then maybe the hard parts are almost over? I seem to be thinking those thoughts too often only to be proved wrong. Tomorrow’s route is around the 3 sisters or twisted sisters of the Texas hill country – search for it and try and figure out why the route goes here and let me know 🙂

Tomorrow I finish the rest of st16 and do about 60 miles of st17 depending on how things go.

Pleasant weather today, upper 70s and overcast with a tolerable wind.

I did manage to patch the camelbak with the kit that came with my inflatable pillow. So far it’s holding.

Day 18 – Hills and Headwinds

So while it looked mainly downhill on the route st15, the reality is that there was 3000 ft of climbing according to the garmin. Really not a bad ride until the winds kicked in after noon.

A little less than 10 hours of riding to cover 118 miles. It was the headwinds.

Although they seemed to affect me less than the Father-Daughter riding couple that I first met in Alpine. I caught up with them after I had done 80 miles and they had done 40 as they started later due to the chilly morning temps that started in the 40s but rose to near 90 in the afternoon. They were struggling with the winds and only averaging about 7mph. We talked some more as we rode up a hill at 4mph and then I rode ahead.

There is also a unicyclist that is riding across the country. I saw his support van and talked a little with the van driver but did not see him yet.

I was interviewed by an Australian driving a car around the world in 300 days. His name is Brendan Edgerton, no website on his business card and his Facebook doesn’t mention his adventure.

The next few days will be interesting to see if these routes are tougher than they appear as today’s ride was.

Today was another laundry day, don’t want those border patrol dogs to go crazy if they sniff around the velomobile again.

Day 17 – 55 miles of nothing

Or should I say 35 miles of nothing followed by Marathon, TX, followed by 55 miles of nothing and then Sanderson. ‘Nothing’ means no stores and no gas stations that are still open. Kind of sad to see all those towns and buildings abandoned.

And then there was the wind that started in the afternoon. The winds make the downhills worse as the wind gusts tend to push the velomobile around.

Sanderson was also full of businesses that had closed. I finally found a grocery that was in a converted house 6 blocks off the main drag after asking around.

Sanderson is the official cactus capital of the world. They also shut down 10 miles of highway 90 in late April for a road race. Http://www.bborr.com

I met a cyclist going from NC to CA. I wished him good luck on the hills to come.

Day 16 – I’ll never be this high again!

That would be the altitude of 5120 ft. Yup it’s all down hill from here, well lot’s of up, then down, then up, etc. Tomorrow’s ride drops below 3000 ft for the final time.

Today’s ride was more challenging than expected. I don’t know if it was coming off a rest day, or a 100+ mile ride, the coldest temps since I started or the 35 miles of rough Texas chip seal – probably all of the above. I rode with a long sleeve shirt and the partial cover for extra cold and wind protection.

Not much to see, a few horses here and there, secret USAF stealth bomber (or was it a teathered aerostat radar system)

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I was most impressed by the waffle maker this morning, what state am I in?

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A few problems today, one of the shamwows worked its way into the chain – had to cut out the greasy spots. ( I use the sham wow to catch the perspiration dripping from the elbows )  I have been pedaling without one of the 4 screws that hold the cleat to the right shoe. Found a real hardware store in Alpine TX and now have 2 spares. Lastly, one of the 100 oz camel backs ripped near the hose, will need to use Gatorade bottles for water now.

At the hardware store in Alpine I met another cyclist couple who started a day before me on their cross country tour. They rode in the dust and wind yesterday. At least one of them seems much younger than me. They were still going to ride 26 more miles today and camp. They figured we may see each other again.

Day 15 – Racing the Wind

Don’t forget about the day 14 post as this one become prominent.

The wind warnings still said noon so I got an early start about an hour before sunrise. Used the lights of course. Only encountered a dozen cars before sunrise. I also decided to use more of the freeway as it cut a few miles off the route. Texas also has their share of tire debris on the shoulder.

The route used a lot of the freeway or frontage roads. The smooth freeway pavement is nice, debris not – the frontage road is rough but clean and no cars.

Scenery changed to barren brown hills, probably good for sudden dust storms. I did not notice any wind issues until the last 30 minutes. By then I was going downhill into Van Horn on the freeway and the side gusts made it entertaining to keep the velomobile on the shoulder.

I’m in the central time zone!

The wind advisory is now extended to Tuesday morning. I have been riding for 8 straight days so I will take Tuesday off ( legs need some rest ). I’ll see if I can find a metric screw for my shoe cleat at the hardware store – if not there’s a bike shop in Alpine and I should be there Wednesday. I’ll also take this time to do some bike maintenance and track down some noises.

I will post a new route st13a that will take me to Alpine.

The couple from last night has also chosen this hotel from the 4 or so in town.

1/3 done yay!

Day 14 – Oh No Connectivity!

The ride was relatively short as the weather folks were saying gusts to 60 starting around 3. I decided that 130 miles could not be done before then so I chose Fort Hancock as a destination and possible rest day. Only one place to stay, so I stayed at the best place in town! ( actually the worst place so far, would not go in the shower )

I stopped here for the photo op, pretty desolate former manufacturing area.

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The detour to Rosa’s also had me riding a few yards from the El Paso wall with Mexico. You could say I was within spitting distance ( although I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed on federal property )

I met an older couple ( OK maybe just a few years older than me ), cycling to the same destination. They caught up with me, passed and then slowed down so I caught up and we talked a little. They are doing a segment of this route from El Paso to Austin ) and are from Seattle. The wind seemed to become a little steadier between a head wind and cross wind and I said I’d ride on ahead. The wind acted a little like a sail and soon I could no longer see them behind me. They arrived after I finished checking in with their sag wagon driver. Must be nice to not carry all your stuff with you.

This couple also told me about a route modification that takes me from Van Horn to Alpine without the extreme hill climbing. Also told me about the best restaurant in town ( only one in town ). But it was good, so eat at Angie’s when you’re in Fort Hancock – don’t forget to order the homemade pie! I had apple, but cherry and pecan are also available.

The last of the pecan groves could be seen about 30 miles from El Paso. A few horse farms and then pretty much nothing.

Back to the weather, so the prognosticators changed the wind warning to start at noon Monday – thank goodness a chance for a rest day closer to civilization.

Day 13 – ‘Down in the west Texas town of El Paso’

A Marty Robbins classic – tomorrow a drive by Rosa’s Cantina. No falling in love and no gunfights though.( just Google a few keywords and watch on YouTube). A tune my Dad and I both liked – at least he bought the album – I wonder where it is now?

Just one of the tunes that goes through my head while I ride – at least when the other voices are quiet enough for me to listen.

A pleasant ride, pavement generally good, temps in the 70s with a few clouds. No big climbs again – I could get spoiled. I did deviate from the st10a route by taking the freeway for 11 miles as the smaller roads were not paved. Landscape changed from barren with no traffic to irrigated agriculture between Las Cruces and El Paso with cars and other bicycles! Thousands of pecan trees. How do I know since the leaves are just starting to grow? It was the sign that said ‘do not pick the pecans’

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I see that the Rio Grande is fairly easy to cross these days.

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I was talking to a Texan today about the upcoming weeks and said that Texas will be a challenging state, to which he said ‘Texas is a COUNTRY all by it self’

There are high wind warnings here the next few days starting at 3 Sunday afternoon and going through Tuesday. I’ll be making the next 2 days a little shorter, finishing up st11 and starting st12 tomorrow, and completing st12 the following day – weather permitting. High wind warnings can also breed dust storms.

My internet connectivity might also be an issue the next few days. If I get a T-Mobile data connection that’s not roaming, then I can do updates by tethering the tablet. The spot tracker will not be affected.

Day 12 – Detour to Deming

I got up at 5 thinking I was missing something, so I went to the motel PC (the android tablet does not do ridewithgps very well) to look at route alternatives. It looked like there was an alternative way to get to Las Cruces that avoided a nasty summit. The major unknown being whether the roads between Deming and Las Cruces were all paved or whether I10 can be used by cyclists. So I generated a new route, loaded it on the garmin and cancelled the U-Haul sag plan.

I started a little later again and after a few miles of downs followed by ups to 6000+ ft, the road tuned into a freshly paved gentle downhill for 30+ miles. Straight as an arrow (an arrow shot by that hunger games actress), 30+ mph without pedaling!  The road did level off and I was able to maintain the mid 20s with some pedaling effort. I would have been disappointed had I driven instead of ridden today. The altitude decreased to about 4300ft on today’s ride.

At the only rest stop on the route, I met a DOT worker who said that he has seen cyclists on I 10 and we talked a little about tomorrow’s route. And pictures were taken of course.

The land flattened out but no real agriculture. This could be related to the signs warning of sudden sand storms with 0 visibility and advising not to stop in the driving lane.

I will get much closer to both Texas and Mexico if all goes well tomorrow.

And today’s ride puts me at about 25% done.

Day 11 – The Divide

Feeling better and did a later start due to the time change and waiting till the sun was a little higher and warmer. Rode with the rain top on the velo for warmth as a long sleeve top gets too warm when riding.

Much gentler grades and nice roads today. One would think that crossing the continental divide would mean it’s all downhill. One would be wrong as just 2 miles down the road the peak was 150 ft higher.

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And a picture of some short lived wild flowers in NM

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So while today went well riding, I’m still not right with this altitude or hydration, so change of plans. I have a new route st10a (a two day route)  that will take me to Deming and then Las Cruces where I rejoin with st11. Hopefully the roads are paved between Deming and Las Cruces or I10 is open for bikes.

Day 10 – Pushing is harder than Pedaling

Yes this post is late, had no phone or internet on Wednesday. I should not have had that shredded beef chimichanga the night before. Didn’t feel quite right and didn’t drink enough. Maybe that and the altitude started to do me in.

The day started good enough with moderate grades through very quiet roads. There’s a lone horse out there

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The last 6 miles to the pass at 6300 ft were difficult for me, I even decided to push for maybe a half mile. That took my breath away and made me light headed. I pedaled on very slowly, here’s a look down the mountain. My last picture of AZ.

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After the peak, I entered two national forests, the last being the Gila – lots of trees. The solar charger could not get enough sun to charge the GPS for a few miles. I entered NM at exactly 3/4 pm (mountain standard to mountain daylight savings time zone change).

The last 14 miles to Buckhorn were a nice gentle downhill, didn’t need to use the brakes. Got to camp after over 10 hours. Still enough light to set up camp and cook freeze dried beef stew. I was the only camper there, someone started playing the guitar and doing Alan Jackson songs – pretty good but too tired to get up. I was glad I brought some warm clothes as it got to the 30s.

 

Day 9 – Gila river valley

It’s amazing that one can pedal through areas that seem desolate and then you reach a valley that’s green through irrigation. The actual river being outlined by a line of trees in the distance. I never thought AZ had this kind of agriculture.

It was a little windy today so the downhills needed to be treated with respect as the crosswinds seem to come out of nowhere. Fairly cool in the morning, so I started to get goosebumps on the downhills and looked forward to the next climb so I could warm up. It probably only got to 80 during the ride based on the temperature displayed on the bank in Stafford.

I didn’t think there would be a problem finding a room in Safford, but the mining industry here uses contractors and puts them up in the reasonably priced rooms in town. Won’t be an issue tomorrow as I called ahead to the campground in NM – the only game in Buckhorn. If I make it up the hills.

Looking ahead the Wednesday and Friday ride will be tough, maybe the last vertically challenging routes between here and the Atlantic. I hope.

I’m at 3000 and will be climbing to 6000 tomorrow with 6000 ft of climbing. Lots of ups and downs to get there. Thursdays ride is short to get me to Silver City and make the higher climb Friday achievable – or I find someone with a pickup truck that’s not too busy… I see mountains with snow on them now.

Yesterdays front derailleur fix worked fine today. Got to use the middle ring on the flats and gentle climbs on the last 25 miles of the route.

Favorite comment today from a youngster riding in a pickup truck – ‘you’re in a yellow banana’

Day 8 – Lost 18 speeds

I’m sure I packed them, they were there a couple days ago. At nearly 60 I seem to misplace things more often.

I had experienced a problem getting into the lowest front gear a few days ago, but it cleared up. Today, I could not shift the front derailleur at all, just when the grade switched to 6%. The problem was somewhat obvious after inspection, the derailleur clamps to an circular disk with an offset hole on an aluminum rod and it was slipping. Rather than deal with this on the incline, I forced it to the small gear and left it there until I could fix right tonight.

If your keeping track, I finished st6 and started about 5 miles of st7. Plan is  to complete st7 Tuesday, st8 Wednesday and split st9 into Thursday and Friday. These hills are proving that my planning was too ambitious for my conditioning and weight of the velo, gear and water.

From Apache Junction to the western side of the first pass at 2900 ft., the landscape seemed greener, the wildflowers predominantly yellow with some red and blue were getting into full bloom. A nice change of pace from the stones. The temps were cooler in the low 80s.

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This was also a nice sign to see, although there was still 200 some feet to go.

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The route guide alluded to some issue with the road conditions between Superior and Globe, I think it was referring to the shoulders that were there, then they weren’t, then that nasty rumble strip. At least there was a passing lane going up, now to convince AZ drivers to use it.

Day 7 – Stop n Go

Did a later start today, glad to be off Hwy 60. Figured this would be an easy day but I definitely need a break as I felt I was just plodding along.

The streets in the Phoenix area seemed to be designed for the occasional heavy rain. Crossing many intersections, one encounters a depressed concrete gutter and a definite crown on the road you’re crossing. So after accelerating to make a light, I hit one of those gutters faster than I wanted to even after braking hard. A good thump on the front suspension but the shock towers held up.

So a lot of stop and go taking a toll on the knees when I found myself in the wrong gear. A few times I had to get out to negotiate the bike ramps that enabled safer cycling routes. And surprise, still 1000 ft of climbing to get across town from sun city to apache junction. Nice bike/recreation trails by the canals, here’s a picture that doesn’t show the bike trail on the left side very well. Most canals have a trail on both sides.IMAG0144

I was able to reset driver expectations by taking more of the right lane. If I rode far to the right, I got no respect, but taking more of the lane forced the drivers to use one of the other two lightly traveled lanes available to them. I never had to do this in WI. I think I understand what a FL velomobiler has to deal with and why he needs to ride this way as well.

Lots of gawkers and positive comments from motorists and lots of picture taking. My favorite comment today was from a passenger in a pick up truck, I hope he was just impressed with my speed when he said ‘nice legs’. And my pasty white legs are hard to see.

I will not be riding tomorrow, I’ll post if something interesting comes up.

 

 

 

Day 6 – Downhill to Phoenix

42 miles of gentle climbing followed by a nice downhill into the Phoenix area. As I got closer to Phoenix the bike lane/shoulder got littered with more tire debris just like the freeway yesterday.

Oh and I got pulled over by a trooper yesterday because he wasn’t sure what  I was and I was going so slow! Yeah I knew that but the grade was 4-5% and that’s the excuse I’m sticking with.

Back to Phoenix area traffic, I get the impression that no one rides a bike here as the traffic is not friendly, no on moves over to give a little space. Only a block left on Hwy 60 before hopefully quieter streets on a short ride to Apache Junction. Then maybe a rest day?

Day 5 – Sacrifice

I’ll get the ride in a little bit, but first just a reflection on sacrifice as I ride during this important time in the Christian year. Through Christ’s sacrifice we are saved from eternal damnation. All we need to do is believe and be baptized. This is indeed a great gift.

I want to acknowledge how grateful I am that my family is picking up the activities I did around the house while I ride.

Arizona freeways sure have a lot of trash in the breakdown lane. I’m glad I was going uphill and could take the time to dodge them.

Stopped at a neat roadside stand in Brenda. Had a swiss mushroom burger as some of the snowbirds flocked in to ask questions. Really nice people. One was originally from WI and went to CSU in the 60s. She gave one of the last grapefruit she had picked in the park I’m staying at tonight. Two other couples were from MN.

The roads were pretty good except a 10 mile stretch before I reached Hope. The sign as I kept riding told me ‘you’re now beyond hope’ – oh so true.

I should not listen to directions from sweet old ladies on the phone – I rode a few extra miles to reach the campground. Here’s the campsite photo. I was serenaded with several coyote howl offs during the night.

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Day 4 – Hay – Sand – Hay

A real change from the morning smelling freshly mowed hay in cool temps in the 50s to dune buggys playing in the dunes near Glamis with temps in the low 90s to freshly mowed hay in Ripley.

Haven’t seen any other cyclists yet. Today’s ride was rather lonely with the occasional big rigs and pick up trucks. Strange that half the big rigs gave me plenty space on this 2 lane road, yet some seemed to take pride in not crossing the center line. The force of the wind from one truck flipped the flevo roof open – no permanent damage.

Most of the roads today were chip seal. Seems to sap the speed. Downhills today were great – rollers with speeds between 20 and 40. Almost stiffened up from not pedaling. From Ripley to Blythe was smooth asphalt almost hypnotic pedaling with nothing but the sound of a quiet chain and the occasional heart arrhythmia (just kidding if your reading this Dr.)

When the route guide says little or no services for 60 miles, they’re not kidding. Must be something to do with that bombing range I passed.

So back to the hay, I remember being on the wagon behind the baler and stacking the bales on the wagon. In Ripley, they had a machine that scooped the bales off the field, arranged them neatly in a horizontal plane, then lifted that plane vertically and pushed that vertical stack into the other vertical stacks already done. (Maybe it’s an engineer thing as I found it interesting)

My route tomorrow no longer has a campground at my planned destination, so we’ll see if I do more or less. I may not be connected either so the day 5 post may be delayed. (I’m betting on ****)

 

Day 3 – brake and shake

Nice weather again, cool in the mountain and 90 in Imperial Valley.

One would think that given a 6% downhill grade for 7+ miles on a wonderfully smooth I8 would be a velonaut’s dream. Factor in curves every quarter mile and very gusty winds, I needed to be very careful and hope the brakes did not fade and the flevoroof didn’t blow off. At least it was downhill!

The road from Ocotillo to Plaster city was a washboard, finally smoothed out to Seeley and could maintain a decent speed for me. Before that I couldn’t read the GPS or a map without stopping.

Speaking of GPS, it seems that I have a limited internal memory and the 4gbyte data card is filled up with US road maps. I have lost about 5 of my routes. So, found a library in town and removed the FL routes for now and will re add them at a library down the road after deleting routes that I have completed.

Amazing how the landscape changed from near desert to an agricultural area in such a short time. Great to see God’s handiwork at a relaxed pace.

And now a picture of your tax dollars at work – the wall.

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Day 2 – climbing ,climbing,climbing

No cramping today. Hydrated more yesterday, kept up the hydration with Gatorade and water. Also did GU every 1.5 hours. Oh and was in the granny gear a bunch – but I figure the velo, gear and water bring the weight to 130 lbs. Better to maintain a slow speed, than no speed. Lots of steady 5% grades followed by some insane double digit grades. I did not get out and push though. 3 separate climbs from the low 3000 ft level to a little over 4000 ft. Downhills were too long and twisty to not modulate the brakes.

Met Steve and his friends prior to getting on I-8. We talked about the usual velo stuff, he shared some fresh CA strawberries with me. They also offered to put the velo in the back of one of their pickups to get me over the hills, but I declined.

Pretty scenic, blue sky, light wind, mid 80’s. Scenery getting less green. Lots of border patrol activity after Pine Valley. Saw the main station with what seemed like one to two hundred border patrol SUVs. Drove through one checkpoint with portable speed bumps and tire spikes.

Hope to do all of the st2 route tomorrow.

My Route Links

There are 33 links here each starting with ‘st’ for Southern Tier followed by a number. st1 is my first day, st2 is the second day etc. Of course this is subject to change as I might not do an entire segment due to weather, equipment etc. or I might wind up combining them – who knows.

st1   st2   st3   st4   st5   st6   st7   st8   st9   st10  st10a

st11 st12 st13 st13a st14 st15 st16 st17 st18 st19 st20 st20a

st21 st22 st23 st24 st25 st25a st26 st27 st28 st29 st30

st31 st32 st33

Day 1 – Reality sets in

So the real post for day 1 is a little different from the test post.

I made it as far as Alpine, CA. That’s about half the distance and half the planned altitude gain.

Turns out my legs weren’t quite up to 5-9% grades. I had plenty of water and Gatorade, but my legs kept cramping. Rest and extra hydration which worked for me in the past, had no effect today and I realized I could not complete the route and decided to rest and prep for tomorrow. Great weather, probably around 75, sunny.

The Quest is working great – no drivetrain noises due to my packing.

The drive out here in rental Town and Country minivan was uneventful except for that 1 hour delay where they closed the freeway for avalanche control. I got bored and turned on the SPOT and that’s why there is a single footprint outside of Vail. The 20 miles after Vail were also fairly icey. I think these vans are shorter as I needed to put the back wheel on the front passenger seat.

Thanks to my sister who helped me drive out to San Diego. It was a little strange having the non-driver sit behind the driver but we managed.