Monday, September 6, 2010
I was very fortunate to go to Maui and while there, I rode one of the best climbs on the planet...10,023' in 35 miles. I rented a Litespeed titanium bicycle from West Maui Cycling (www.gocyclingmaui.com) and joined 7 other riders to ascend the Haleakala Crater, a dormant volcano. This ride starts at sea level and the ascent begins immediately. My legs felt strong and the tempo was just right (photo 1) for settling in and conversing while climbing. Shop owner, Donnie Arnault (photo 2 on right), advised going slower than you normally would, because above 9000', you will wish you had. I took his recommendation seriously knowing he does this ride 50 TIMES a year. The temp at the start was 75 and humid, very Hawaiian! At the first stop 1-1/2 hours in and 3250', I could tell the quads had been working, but I gotta tell you, I was so jazzed to be riding up this fabled climb with an ex-pro racer. If you are into this sport, I don't need to explain the euphoria you feel riding a new road with spectacular scenery filling your senses. As we continued to the top, I caught glimpses of Maui's beautiful beaches below, hangglider's and paraglider's overhead, low-growing trees forming a canopy above and the open grasslands over 4500'. Donnie gave me pointers on racing tactics while I bragged about my family. The second rest stop (photo 3) came at 3 hours and 6500' where the temp was around 50. GoCyclingMaui gave me arm and knee warmers, a light jacket, food, water and endurolytes to get me to the top and back...commercial tours are not allowed above this elevation. For the next hour plus, a strong climber from Westlake Village, CA and I ascended together until I begin feeling light-headed at 8500'. I didn't want to sacrifice the summit to ego and fail to make it entirely, so I turned him loose and away he went. Greg has done this before and I was slowing him down. At around 9500', I knew I was going to make it, but the last 300' were a 10-12% gradient and it was tough! In my lowest gear and standing I could barely tick the pedals over, but I am no quitter. Keep going, KEEP GOING...I'm there! 10,023' above sea level (photo 4). WOW!
The summit offers amazing views of the crater, cinder cones, other islands, beautiful colors of water and I could go on. The best thing to do is come see for yourself. And ride a bike if you can.
As it pertains to mileage, I am only halfway. But descending this volcano has to be the best cycling experience possible. For 35 miles, you are going downhill! And if you want to rip along at 50mph, go ahead. The pavement is great, you can clearly see cars ascending the road because of the switchbacks and the hairpin 15mph turns are gravel free, offering a smooth line to carry your speed through the apex. Very few cars were in our way...I mean slowing us down. I love blowing by cars given the opportunity. As we got lower, the temp climbed and I was peeling off the arm warmers, gloves and jacket while going 30. In about an hour, Greg and I were at sea level again. 70 miles and I was stoked! Yeah, it was tough, but so rewarding. Do you ever look at a mountain (or volcano) and wonder if you can make it to the top? Stop wondering and GO FIND OUT!
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Even three weeks after completing our goal, I am daily remembering something about our journey. It may be hearing something in the news about a town we went through, seeing a small airplane or hearing a stream nearby. But, every memory is a good one. Somehow the cold days, the exhaustion or the noisy traffic are long forgotten and are replaced with the sense of freedom that only cycling brings me. What I don't understand is this: Why do people live as though they will never die and die as though they never lived?
If I could pick three days to ride over out of our 18 stages, they would be the section from Hermiston to Spray, Spray to John Day and John Day to Riley. You will not find more secluded and beautiful roads to explore. From forests and 4500' summits to unique geology and clear streams to entertain your senses, this is bicycling at its best. The towns are interspersed at convenient intervals and the drivers go out of there way to give a wide berth...unlike Medford.
The thought I keep ruminating on is how day after day I just rode my bicycle, in the moment (I have been living 'in the moment' even when it wasn't cool). On the last day, perhaps 10 miles from the border, I began to realize, "I really am going to do this". After arriving at the finish, it sank in that this is over. Wow! 18 days, 1577.3 miles, 7 days of 100 miles or more and 3 of 97 miles, so let's just round it to 10 centuries. For weeks I just pedaled not understanding how I was chipping away at a larger goal...and that's how life is. We go through seasons of prosperity or drought, but we just keep chipping away at it, one day at a time. I am so glad that GOD is a part of my life's journey.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
Before leaving for THE RIDE, I was inspired by the life of Patrick Tillman. I read "Where Men Win Glory", by one of my favorite authors Jon Krakauer and a book written by Mary Tillman, Pat's mother. While I disagree with their political analysis of world events at that time, Krakauer's depiction of Tillman's life was inspiring. Pat knew how to squeeze the most out of his short life and had a strong commitment to our country, so much so that he abandoned the NFL to serve in the Army Rangers. He wanted to be treated the same as every other soldier, even though he had amassed impressive credentials before enlisting. He died a tragic death from 'friendly fire'...he is a hero in my eyes.
This morning I rode up to the Veterans Cemetery, as I do every Memorial Day, to visit my father-in-law. He served in the Air Force during WWII and like so many of his generation, married in the 1940's, started a family and built a life. His youngest daughter is my wonderful wife. Elmer, thank you for serving this blessed nation. You were an honorable man.
I urge you to read about the founding of this great nation, turn off your TV and educate yourself about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist writings. You will then begin to understand freedom, the price it cost and how much of it has eroded. Today especially, I want to thank the soldiers who died in defense of our country. Thank you.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
After finishing at the border, we dropped Tim off in San Diego and Rich drove south to visit his cousin in Oceanside. My family plus Ron went to downtown L.A. to watch stage 7, the individual time trial, at the Tour Of California. This was a great way to wrap up our personal tour of California...and Washington and Oregon. The yellow jersey wearer, Michael Rogers, was the eventual winner. Afterward, we drove away from the mayhem that is Southern California and camped in a rest stop parking lot near Bakersfield. We arrived in Medford Sunday night and were glad to be home.
For three weeks I didn't watch TV or listen to the radio. I didn't hear Obama is fixing everything or that he is ruining everything (not so easy to fix that pesky oil spill in the Gulf, is it? Too much bureaucracy). I talked to perfect strangers and saw people, good hard-working people, who live their lives without caring what goes on in Washington D.C. and it was refreshing. I think a man or woman is more successful the less they look to self-serving politicians. I plan on ignoring them as much as possible (of course I will still vote).
This RIDE was everything I expected and more. I knew it would be difficult due to weather and the daily expectation of riding 100 miles. I had one friend who told me it was impossible to take the route we planned in May...but we did. There was not one day where I didn't want to try. There was not one day I wanted to throw my bicycle in the garbage. And even now I wish I could have kept riding to Florida or Maine. Before I started, I wondered if I could actually do this and I learned that I could.
This experience revealed and reinforced some important things for me. It was very cleansing to see the creation roll by at 15-20mph. You hear the snow melt roaring by in a stream. You feel and hear the wind. Your own muscles propel you down the road. You smell the airborne scents from the forests to the ocean. This is how I know I'm alive! The simplicity of it all was therapeutic. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat...even that Monday we were sandblasted or the Wednesday in the snow. What's your dream? What are you waiting for? You are never too old to try....
Monday, May 24, 2010
Leaving Newport Beach, the four of us are all smiles knowing we have one final day. Heading south on the Pacific Coast Highway we admire the most beautiful scenes of our trip. The lanes are marked for cyclists, the pavement is good, the beach towns are unique (unlike the Costco/ Starbucks/ etc. model you see all over here), the ocean views and the affluence all made for this finale to be satisfying. We met up with Edgar & Pat, friends of Ron, in Dana Point and while riding through San Onofre State Park, Ron made a U-turn right in front of a BMW...one second later, he would have a bumper tattoo or worse. Praying each day before leaving paid off.
Our route took us through Camp Pendleton where you see signs such as 'TANK CROSSING' or 'ARTILLERY RANGE 127'. A large group of soldiers were training as we rolled by. Leaving this area, the ride continues through the beach towns of Oceanside, Carlsbad, Leucadia, Encinitas and more. This is the BEST place to ride, the best. So much so, a cousin of Rich's flew down from Vancouver BC with three friends to ride in and around San Diego for a week. Their trip overlapped with ours and we hung out briefly in Cardiff-By-The-Sea to share stories and refuel. Griffin and I played in the ocean and the water felt great. If I were you, I'd make plans to go to Encinitas...nice size, great shops and restaurants, and excellent beaches.
Well, Ron reminded us we had to get back to work, so we said goodbye to everyone and the four of us rode through Torrey Pines and LaJolla. Just beautiful! It is now afternoon and traffic is picking up. This poor guy in a white Ferrari had to weave around potholes, but we rolled up behind him at a stoplight to admire the V-12 and hear the music when the light turned green...couldn't keep up with him though. Nearing San Diego, my bladder was about to burst and I spotted a guy moving. Yeah, I asked him if I could use his bathroom. He said, "Anything for a fellow cyclist"; boy was I lucky. At Mission Beach, I chatted with Thomas, a homeless guy, and he rides 20 miles a day. Coming into San Diego, our fortunes changed and things got tense...narrow expressways, cyclists and Friday @ 4:00 is not a good combination. We picked our way south and in the barrio, learned we couldn't proceed on our intended route. But, we got great assistance and directions from the locals...I'd like to thank them. The last 15 miles were difficult for me but at one point, I began to realize I was seeing Mexico. With a tear in my eye, I could see the border fence and U.S. Border Patrol vehicles (they see you long before you see them). The four of us rode 107 miles today and finished the journey together. 1577.3 miles total. WOW!!!!!!!!!
I will post more photos and wrap this blog up in the days to come. So check back in the next few days....
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Ron, Tim & I left Fontana around 8 under sunny skies with less smog than the night before. Riding in this L.A./ Orange County basin is not as horrid as I expected. We safely navigated through four cities on boulevards, some with bike lanes, and saw industrial complexes, cow pastures and everything in between. About 30 miles later, we connected to a bike path in Corona that follows the Santa Ana 'river' which is really an aqueduct for storm runoff. Coming into the city of Orange, I could see the 'A' in front of Angel stadium. Ron took us down memory lane for a lunchstop at Poncho's Burrito's and it was delicious...someday I'm going back. He guided us through the town and this is another place to visit when in the area...but do it on foot.
In the first photo, I am exhausted and Tim looks perky...but I recovered in a matter of seconds. The bike path along the river is an excellent way to travel in this area; no lights, no traffic and it's long (40 miles). It runs out at Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, in the posh town of Newport Beach. Just beautiful! And yes, the residents have more than their fair share of snobbery, but let's face it, you can find that anywhere. I loved the setting, the homes, the shops, the cars (Ferrari dealer nearby) and more. Coming back here too. 67 miles on the day. We are on track to finish Friday.
At 1:15 A.M. a mystery man slunk into the trailer...Rich is BACK!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Today was interesting. Ron, Tim & I left California City around 7:30 and headed toward Mojave. Yesterday and today have been the first days I have really perspired in the 16 days of THE RIDE. The temp was perhaps 88 and I understand it could easily be 100, so we got through the desert quite well sans the windy day on Monday. Passing through Mojave, a train was heading East like us and going 25. Ron revved it up and we actually passed it and continued pulling away. We're working on posting it on YouTube and I'll provide a link for you. Ron thinks it's the coolest thing ever and my wife wonders if anyone will care. You decide. But I think it was so motivating to start a long day with some serious speed.
Our first break was in Lancaster at Starbucks (sorry Lance) where Tim temporarily withdrew. Ron & I found a nice bike path in Palmdale that got us off a busy highway and I photo'd a lone fishing boat in the weeds. I don't know the significance of it, but it's my blog and you're reading it. It wasn't long and we were heading east up a gentle grade with a strong tailwind and we were cruising 18-20mph climbing to 4300' where we actually got to ride the descent that Friday's stage of the Tour of California will be ripping down. I finally busted 50 on this trip...51.7mph (not my fastest since I've been riding) and I'll bet the pro racers will exceed 65. I wish could be there to see that. Tim joined us at the 15 & 138 to descend into Fontana and we quickly realized we were on historic Route 66! The road surface was sure historic.
Because we couldn't ride on the freeway, we meandered to the city on backroads and I don't know what Ron said to the llama, but he was spitting mad. Tim accumulated 71 miles and Ron & I racked up 124.I knew it was going to be like this... the air tastes dirty.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
After the debacle of yesterday, we decided to get an earlier start to beat the winds. At 7:00, Ron & I left under calm, sunny conditions and promptly cranked it up to 22mph. As per Dr. Ron Laverty's instructions, Tim left ahead of us to begin physical therapy on his knee. It took us around 12 miles to reel him in and he put in 25 successful miles at a brisk pace, furthering his hope to ride as much of these last 3 stages as possible.
At the 52 mile break, we had an average speed of just over 20mph, even with a slighly increasing headwind. There isn't much to report about the terrain, because it is mile after mile of desert. We were awestruck by the geologic formations in Red Rock Canyon (photo 3), but then it was quickly back to flat desert. I began to fade after 85 miles, but when I took this picture of Ron, he looks as spry as ever. If you ever want to bicycle across the country, here is a tip. Hire this guy...he is like a sherpa for mountaineers. He loves riding, he works hard and he encourages you along the way that you can make it.
We are camping in a forgotten RV park by the California City Airport. Average speed for the day was 17.9mph with a crosswind for a total of 106 miles and I am tired. But we are dropping into the L.A. gnarliness tomorrow and on track to finish Friday night. I think I might be able to do this...after yesterday, I wasn't so sure.
Monday, May 17, 2010
What a crazy ride today! We left around 9:00 wearing just a jersey and shorts with a 15mph headwind and within 10 miles, I was frustrated with our progress(or lack thereof). I watched our average speed steadily drop from 15mph to 11.8 over the course of almost five hours of riding and once again, Ron must have rode at the front 90% of the time, but 'drafting' in these conditions is nearly futile. By the time we rolled into camp, the winds were 30mph with gusts over 45. It was not the worst day I've had cycling, but it was the toughest 55 miles Ron & I have ever ridden for sure.
Now I do NOT advocate this, but we took our iPods after the first break because of the howling winds. Even with the volume maxed out, I could still hear that awful sound over The Who. I started singing the lyrics I knew and it probably sounded horrible, but it made the ride more tolerable.
Leaving Independence, Ron & I found out what sandblasting feels like. Grinding along at 8mph in a 39x25 gear, we could see a cloud of grit and dust coming right at us and within seconds I couldn't breathe or see Ron so I stopped until it passed. He asked if we should turn around rather than put ourselves in peril, but I was more determined than ever to just go 15 more miles to Lone Pine. The construction zone turned out to be a huge benefit in that we had a whole partitioned lane to ourselves. Man, that sand in the face still hurts as I'm writing this.
A big thank you is in order to Russ & Rene Rickert. We are camping in Boulders RV park and it is everything you said it would be. The hot tub repaired some of my aching body. Jim Wright and company, can you pray for us over the next 2 days through the desrt? I am not sure I can take another day of these winds.