Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What a story, Wes! (My adventures since Pueblo)

First and foremost, allow me to apologize for not writing for so long. There have been a number of factors but no really good reasons (as far as I know) for not updating this blog in the past couple of weeks. It's been quite a ride. Literally. And now I'll just plunge right in and start telling you about life since June 18th.

After resting for 2 days in Pueblo I expected to easily best the next several days of riding but I had not taken the increasing altitude into consideration. Climbing from Pueblo into Westcliffe on my first day back on the bike was tough. The foothills of the Rockies were noticeably harder than the Rockies themselves. I found myself huffing and puffing despite the fact that the grade wasn't quite as bad as the Appalachians or Ozarks. For a little while I was feeling nauseous and had to focus on my breathing technique to get more oxygen into my lungs. It was hot out also and that didn't help much either. After a while, though, I finally caught my first glimpse of the snow capped Rockies and knew that the tough ride had been worth it for this scenery. I ate lunch at a pizza place in Silver Cliff which is so close to Westcliffe I honestly don't know why they don't just merge the two towns together and call it Silver Westcliffe or something. There's literally no distance between the communities. After eating, I pedaled the 1-1/2 miles to a campground and RV Park. The scenery was simply spectacular as the tiny community lies right before a long span of snowy mountains rising up into the sky. I charged my phone outside of a Dollar General and then went to sleep shortly after dark.

The next day's goal was Salida, an easy 48 mile ride. It was a Saturday. The day was going great until I rolled into town. It was hot. There was a river festival going on and all the motels, campgrounds, etc. were either booked or charging outrageous rates to stay overnight. In addition, my handlebar bag was damaged. The zipper was in really bad shape and I needed to either have it fixed or replaced. I went to a local bike shop to find out what was available for cyclists in need of lodging and where I could get my bag fixed. One of the shop workers told me that if I couldn't find anything else he'd put me up for the night but it would be after 11 when he finished his other job. For the bag, they pointed out a vinyl/luggage repair place nearby so I headed over there next. They were out for lunch so I hung out at a coffee shop for a while. When I came back they told me the disheartening news that it would cost at least $40 for them to fix the bag. They recommended another establishment in town that makes bike bags and might be able to do it for cheaper. As I stepped out the door and started heading over to the other shop a friendly, hippyish looking guy on bicycle asked me how my day was going. I explained my situation to him and he really empathized with me. I noticed some signs on his bike reading "Jesus can set you free." and "Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." I told him I loved his signs! Turns out Will and his wife Theresa have been on tour for a LONG time. This is their lifestyle now. They left Sacramento, CA on foot and not knowing Jesus and they met him on the way as he supplied all of their needs and brought them into communities of faith on a fairly regular basis. They've been all over the place and crossed huge distances in the past 3 years and have declared the mission of their ride to be pointing people to Jesus and serving wherever they can serve. They'd been in Salida for the past few weeks and had gotten a place to stay right on the river. They offered to let me camp out in a disused RV adjacent to their place. Of course I jumped at the offer and we pedaled across the small town to their little patch of ground. After getting situated I headed off to the bag shop and the nearby bike shop which offered showers. I dropped the bag off with two of the friendliest people you'll ever meet. Lane and Monty own Oveja Negra Threadworks in downtown Salida and we really hit it off. The initial estimate was actually higher than the other place but when it didn't take nearly as long as they'd thought they took $5 off the other places estimate. AND get this! This is crazy! These people are so generous! They threw in an extra top bar bag that was marked $50! If you're in Salida, go to these people and buy things from them! Such a great couple! That evening I had dinner with Will and Theresa and went to bed early. The next day I would be riding over Monarch Pass on the way to Gunnison, CO. This is the continental divide; the highest elevation I would attain on this trip.

The next day's ride was great! Grandeur, snow capped mountains, some really good climbing but nothing too difficult until the last half mile of the climb. I took a gondola ride to the top of Monarch Mountain and saw the Rockies stretching out for as far as my eyes could see; a real highlight of the trip. Arriving in Gunnison I looked up the Wanderlust Hostel (a fantastic place to stay, BTW) and spent the evening discussing my route after Cedar City, Utah with a fellow boarder named Demming. Everyone at the hostel was so friendly and curious to hear about what I'd seen on my adventure so far and where I was headed in the coming weeks.

The next day I was headed for Cimarron, only 45 miles away. I headed to a local bike shop called the Double Shot Cyclery which had a couple of breakfast items and a nice selection of coffee. I ended up leaving around 12:30 or so and arriving in the tiny little town of Cimarron around 4:30. There was a campground right on the route so I stayed there that night. Not much to report from this place.

The following morning is where things get really interesting. I was intending to reach Ridgway, CO, another 45-ish miles. Right after leaving Cimarron there's a nice climb up to Cerro Summit followed by a long downhill into Montrose. The climb went fine but as I was coming down into Montrose one of my bags somehow became detached from the back of my bike. When the bike becomes *that* unbalanced it doesn't matter if you have good reflexes to balance yourself. I started wobbling all over the place and there was about 10 seconds where I knew I was going down and was essentially waiting for it to happen. I was going about 25 mph I think. The resulting fall gave me some nasty road rash on my shoulder, my elbow and on my belly. My helmet (thank God I was wearing one) sustained major damage. If I hadn't been wearing it I would not be writing this blog post right now. I was stumbling around in a daze for a minute or two trying to get my things together when a guy in a pickup truck pulled off the road. He'd been heading away from Montrose when he saw my accident so he had turned around knowing I needed help. We loaded my bicycle and gear into his truck and headed into town. Now I don't want you to think I was bleeding profusely or anything like that, I didn't need to be taken directly to an emergency room or anything. I knew I was pretty scraped up and needed to see a doctor but I wasn't on death's doorstep. We drove into town looking for a bike shop. I knew the owner of a bike shop would pluck me into the cycling network in town and I'd have access to the resources I needed there. There were 3 bike shops in Montrose but I didn't know where they were. We just drove down Main Street hoping that at least one of them would be there. There was. Papa Wheelie's Bike Shop is a one-man establishment owned by a guy named Kent Schmidt. We wheeled Fledge through the front door and after telling me where the nearest urgent care was he set to work looking to see if there was any significant damage to the bike.

I walked the 0.7 miles to the urgent care and got looked at by the doctor. They didn't have an x-ray machine so they advised me to simply keep an eye on my wrist which was rather sore. They prescribed some burn cream to apply to my road rash and some pain medication for the coming days. Returning to the bike shop, I was pleased to hear that Fledge hadn't really suffered any significant damage. I booked a room at The Briarwood Inns on Main St. This area of Colorado is horrendously expensive so I paid a lot for that room even though it was probably the cheapest in town.That evening, a gal named Sarah with connections to some close friends from my home church got in touch with me and offered to bring me along to a dinner with her and a couple of her friends. We had a great time and it was comforting being around someone with ties to Hanover.

The next morning a guy I'd gotten in touch with on Warm Showers came over to the motel and helped me load my stuff into his truck. I would just be spending a few hours there as he had no bed to offer me. I would be staying the night (and the next couple nights) with the owner of Papa Wheelie's but he didn't leave the shop until 6 pm. I had lunch with Sarah at her place and then she dropped me off at a store to pick up more bandages and I walked back to the little farm I'd found on Warm Showers. That evening my host for those few hours dropped me off at Papa Wheelie's and Kent and I drove to his home in Delta, CO which lies north of Montrose. On arriving at Kent's house I make the heartening discovery that he and his family (His wife and kids were away visiting relatives in Kansas.) were Mennonite believers! We had many good conversations over the coming couple of days and even though I was in a bit of pain it remains a highlight of my trip.

The following day I decided to take it very easy and spend time resting and relaxing. Nothing really to report. The day after, though, I was invited to dinner with Kent and his pastor's family. Had a wonderful time, enjoyed delicious food and more good conversations and left in high spirits. We swung by Walmart after dinner as I needed to buy some new clothing since a couple of shirts were not in good shape after the accident. The next morning was my planned departure so we wanted to make sure to get home so I could get a decent sleep.

The next day's ride to Ridgway was only 25 miles and there were no major hills but it was still hard with my injuries. The sunscreen was running in my eyes also. I pulled into town and headed to The Adobe Inn which was both a Mexican restaurant and a hostel for travelers. The hostel had no rooms that night so I reluctantly got a room at The Ridgway Lodge which, with a 10% discount, was still eye-gougingly expensive at about $120/night. I needed a bed, though, and this was the cheapest after The Adobe Inn.

I thought that riding to Ridgway would move my body into the "ready zone" where I was able to continue riding but when I attempted to leave town the following morning I got very lightheaded and felt like I was going to pass out before I'd even made it out of town. The path to Telluride was going to involve a significant climb over the Dallas Divide so I knew I was in trouble if I was feeling lightheaded before leaving Ridgway. I made a u-turn and headed back to the Lodge where I reluctantly shelled out another small fortune (for me) on the room I'd just vacated. I'd intended to try the Adobe Inn again but got confused when a friendly lady told me that the Lodge was the cheapest place in town. I later found out that a lot of people don't know about the lodging at Adobe Inn. So I spent the rest of the day resting in my room, drinking a good bit of water and watching TV.

The next morning I packed up again, hoping to reach Telluride after a quick doctor's appointment at the local clinic. The first appointment they could offer me, though, was for 3 pm. I headed to the Adobe Inn and reluctantly paid a (smaller but still unfairly large) fee to stay the night. I'd lost so much money in the last couple of days that, on doing the math, I realized I would not make it to San Francisco on my budget. I lamented on Facebook that Ridgway looked like the end of the line for Fledge and me and I was going to start figuring out how to get back to the east coast unless large amounts of money started coming in.

That's when large amounts of money started coming in. The first wave brought $395. The second wave brought $300. The third and final wave brought in about $250. I was overwhelmed. I recalled a sermon by Pastor Drew back home where the message was that God's design in providing is that we would stop trusting merely in the provision and start trusting in the Provider. Deeply ashamed of my doubting heart, I wept as I meditated on God's love and the constant supply of grace that was mine whether the doubt was there or not. His grace is so much greater than my sin but my sin is still so black. I'm so prone to doubting grace and thinking as an orphan that I'm in this situation alone and that any real change rests on my shoulders and not on his. Okay. Enough sermonizing for now.

The doctor told me that I needed more time to rest. My scrapes weren't healed enough to start riding long distances again and I should take 5 days or so to recuperate. I just took it easy for the rest of the day as the Cascade Bicycle shop had already closed and I couldn't find where to stay the next few days until the following morning.

Early yesterday morning I woke up and wheeled my bike over to Cascade Bicycles. The owner, Andy, shared some options with me and recommended I reserve a spot at the KOA near Ouray, CO which was only about 8 miles south of Ridgway. So that's what I did. I arrived at the campground in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day relaxing. Nothing really to report besides that.

This morning I woke up from a somewhat poor night of sleep and headed into Ouray, whose nickname is The Switzerland of America. Nestled between gorgeous mountains, some snow capped and others densely covered in trees, Ouray is a fantastic little town. I ate breakfast at a Cajun restaurant named Cavallo's right on Main Street. I had never had an omelet with crawfish and shrimp before and it wasn't my favorite thing in the world but I might try it again if offered. After that, I headed over to Ouray Public Library where I'm typing this! Kent and his family as well as his pastor and pastor's wife are bringing dinner down to my campsite later on where we will all enjoy visiting a little bit more. On Friday I'm trying to reach Telluride again followed by Dolores, CO and Blanding, UT on subsequent days. Thanks for reading!
Atop Monarch Mountain on the Great Divide!

Epic photo!








Near Sapinero, CO on my ride to Cimarron


My helmet after Cerro Summit

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Celebration in Pueblo, CO!!!

Hey, everyone! Wes here! I've been in Pueblo, CO since Tuesday afternoon. I'm taking some time off just to celebrate how far I've come. More than 7 weeks on the road have brought me through Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. I've ridden more than 2,325 miles atop Fledge and am well past the halfway point of my trek. I have a very bad tendency to downplay my personal achievements and felt that I needed to recognize the monumental accomplishment I've achieved. Tomorrow I'll be starting the Rocky Mountains and some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. I don't have many details to share since Dodge City but thought I'd take a small slot of time to share what has gone down the last few days.


After leaving Dodge I rode about 70 miles to Lakin, KS. Got another flat tire on this ride but other than that it was great to be back on the road. The only public service building I could find open in Lakin was the hospital so I inquired if I could contact the police department using their phone (Mine had no reception.) The police referred me to a place about 2 miles south of town called Beymer Park. I ate dinner at the Subway sandwich place and then pedaled off to set up camp. That evening I listened to a podcast from my church back home, did some reading and then went to sleep. The park was far enough from town that I got my first glimpse of western stars that night. Had I not been so tired I'd have spent some time drinking in the night sky but after a 70 mile day I just needed rest.


From Lakin, I set off for Lamar, CO and Mountain Daylight Time! I was in a great mood by the time I reached my destination for the day. I pulled into Lamar's Walmart Supercenter, took a nice hour long cool down period, topped off my tires with a pump in the store (or at least I thought I'd topped them off, more on this later), and pedaled off to an RV park about 3 miles west of town. The RV park was miserable. There was standing water all over the ground, hordes of mosquitoes and deer flies, grossly overpriced soda in a vending machine, and no running water next to my tent so I had to use a hose in front of the office (The water tasted like rubber). Like I said, miserable. They did, however, give me a $5 discount since I was riding for the ALS Association, although I'm of the opinion that charging me $10 was about $10 overpriced.


The following morning I set off for Fowler. Glad to put that RV park behind me, I was in a pretty decent mood. That's when *another* flat tire happened. That pump at the Walmart was apparently a piece of garbage they'd mistaken for merchandise. It read that I had put a good amount of air into my tire but I must have actually lost some as it was a pinch flat that did me in that morning (A pinch flat happens when the slightly deflated inner tube gets pinched between the tire and the rim of the wheel.). Anyway, I changed the tire out on the side of the highway and just as I was finishing a friendly lady in a big van stopped to offer Fledge and me transportation if I needed it. As the tire was already patched up I thanked her then simply continued on my way. Made it to Fowler without any further complications. Fowler was nice! I caught my very first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains about 15 minutes before reaching my destination and was pumped to get into Pueblo the following day. For dinner, the lady recommended I order an eastern Colorado specialty at the nearby grill restaurant. The dish is called a Slopper and consists of fried beef patties topped with green chilies. Good stuff! After dinner I picked up a couple things at the Dollar General and headed back to the campsite. As the sun set, I drank a cold one and quieted myself for sleep.


The 35-ish miles to Pueblo the next day seemed long and drawn out. Time seemed to pass more slowly than it had on previous rides. After what felt like 2 hours I found I'd only been riding about an hour. After passing the Pueblo City Limits sign it felt like another hour before I actually started getting into town. I stopped at the Barnes and Noble on the north side of town and drank down a Starbucks S'mores Frappuccino. I contacted a guy on the Warm Showers cycling network. He lived towards the west side of town but was working until the next morning. He gave me instructions on how to get into his house so I pedaled over there and took a nice break before heading out for dinner. Mi Ranchito Mexican Restaurant. Best. Mexican. Food. Ever! Had a cold Dos Equis and hands down some of the best food I've eaten in my life! Came back to the house and crashed on the recliner.


Yesterday morning, Eric came home, we had some inspirational conversation together, ate eggs for breakfast and took some time to relax. Eric is an inspirational person to meet! He runs an organization that gets blind and visually impaired persons on tandem bicycles. Later on, Eric, his son Garrett, and I went kayaking at San Isabel Lake in the foothills of the Rockies. On the way home we stopped at Bishop Castle, pretty much the largest building built by a single person in the world. Great day!


So here I am laying low today in Pueblo, giving my muscles one more day to recover before tackling the Rockies. The most visually striking part of my trip still lies ahead! In other news, I've made the decision to cut the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas out of my route. Money is simply too tight and it's just going to tack on too many more miles and take too much time to justify the southern dip. My slated arrival in San Francisco is still the middle of July. It's going to be hard enough dealing with the heat in Utah and Nevada as it is. So that's where we stand now. Take care, everyone! Don't forget to take a gander at the pictures below!

Bishop's Castle; This place is amazing! Constructed by one single (very eccentric) individual! Not a team, no help from friends. Alone. He built this place!

He's extremely kooky but I definitely appreciate his passion. He's extremely anti-government! 


Kayaking on San Isabel Lake in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains!




Friday, June 12, 2015

Bad Weather in Dodge City, KS

Well here I am roughly a week after my last rest day and I'm in Dodge City, KS. I wasn't planning to take a rest day until I reached Colorado but the weather is keeping me from making progress.

After leaving the Holiday Inn Express in Marshfield I headed west bound for Golden City, Missouri but after about 15 minutes of riding I saw that I was definitely heading directly into a darkly clouded horizon and reports of serious thunder and rain. I made a U-Turn and headed back to hunker down for a couple more hours indoors. When I finally got on the road it was almost 11 o'clock and Golden City was too far to reach that day. Instead, I rode for Ash Grove. It was a pleasant, pretty uneventful ride but I was glad I'd waited that couple of hours as the weather turned out to be absolutely beautiful. On arriving in Ash Grove I pulled into an empty parking lot to get my bearings and figure out where to stay the night. As I was monkeying around on my phone a friendly lady named Brenda pulled in to talk to me. She identified herself as a former mayor of Ash Grove and asked if I needed any help finding something. She told me how to get to the town hall where they could get me registered for staying the night in the park. When I told her I was planning to pick up a few things at the grocery store to cook my own dinner she insisted on giving me some money to go out to eat with and recommended a pizza place. The people at Town Hall were super friendly too and gave me a key to stay inside a small house on park grounds as more adverse weather was headed in later. I got settled in and then walked to the little pizza restaurant on the edge of town. Good food and more friendly people. Four other cyclists arrived that evening and stayed in the house with me. Headed out early next morning for Girard, Kansas.

Since my last flat tire I'd been running with only the inner tubes I had in my wheels and was praying I'd make it to Pittsburg, KS where the next bike shop was. On Saturday morning I found out the guy closes on Saturday at around 4 pm and is closed Sunday. I wasn't really panicking but I was concerned and pedaled the 70-ish miles to Pittsburg in only 5-1/2 hours. As soon as I turned onto the street where the bike shop was I got my 3rd flat tire. I was praising God that it hadn't happened 10 miles previously. Got to the shop around 1:30, left Fledge in the care of the mechanic and walked down the road to an All You Can Eat Chinese buffet. On arriving back at the shop I was disheartened to receive a bill of about $180 for two new tires (which I did need) and some spare inner tubes. Having decided not to shoot for Girard that day, the owner of the shop recommended a campground that was free to cyclists on the edge of town and directly on the route I'd be taking. I swung by the Walmart to pick up dinner fixins and then pedaled off towards my campsite.

Sunday's ride was daunting. I made the questionable decision to try and make up the distance to Girard and then ride the full distance to Eureka, KS. The grand total was slightly over 120 miles. So I rode. And I rode. And then I rode some more. The headwind was annoying but didn't keep me from making acceptable progress. There were a couple decent hills, though, and I was super, super proud of myself when I arrived in Toronto, KS having completed my very first century on Fledge. As I took a breather a guy and his daughter or granddaughter pulled up next to me in a pickup truck. "There's a convenience store and grill about 2 miles down this road. You ride up there and I'm going to buy you a Gatorade!" "You're sure they're open?" "Yep! They're open! You ride up there and I'm going to buy you a Gatorade!" So I rode a couple miles and sure enough there was the place he'd mentioned. They were relaxing inside and when I stepped in I was told to pick out what kind of Gatorade I wanted and rip it open as he'd already paid for it. Talk about friendly people! The owner let me fill up my water bottles using the water and ice in her soda fountain and told me the swimming pool was open in Eureka and would still be open when I got there. Those last 20 miles were miserable. I shifted in my seat trying to find a comfortable position but my buns refused to be comforted and just wailed in pain from time to time. I knew there was no way I could camp tonight so I pulled into a motel on the edge of town and got a room before wandering over to the Pizza Hut to enjoy a protein-rich dinner of chicken wings and the salad bar.

The next day I was shooting for another century to Buhler but when I arrived in Newton I'd had enough. 75 miles was an amazing feat after 120 the day before. I went to the fire department and they directed me to this amazing bike shop that called itself the oasis in the grass desert. It truly was an oasis! Newton Bike Shop is probably the best place I've stayed at so far on the entire tour. They offer two separate packages for cycle tourists. I picked number one which simply included the bed, an unlimited supply of beer on tap, a load of laundry and use of the kitchen all for less than $15. The other package was about $50 and included a bicycle tune-up, cleaning the drive train and a couple extra things as well as what was included in the other package. If I hadn't had my drivetrain cleaned the previous week I'd have considered doing package number two but riding for charity dictates I keep my personal costs to a minimum and a bed with some beer well suited my needs. For some added excitement I got to hear a loud, angry customer chewing out the manager of the Dollar General where I picked up some groceries. Made me miss Walmart. haha

The next day I was really sore. I mean really sore. I knew 100 miles was well out of the question for the day so I decided to take it easy and pedal to Hutchinson which was just down the road about 30 miles. On talking to the owner of the bike shop I decided to deviate from Adventure Cycling's route and just take US-50 most of the way to Pueblo, CO for the next few days. So I took 50 to Hutchinson and took in the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Museum which had a great exhibit on the story of how we reached the moon. Fascinating history! Nazi missiles were the first serious attempts at rocket science and had Hitler never come to power we may still not have reached outer space. Also, the more I learn about John F Kennedy, the more I think the guy had some serious balls! Something I hadn't realized was that when he started talking about putting a man on the moon the vast majority of United States attempts to get things *into orbit around the earth* ended in serious embarrassment and failure. Russia was kicking our butt at the space race! The idea of not only getting a rocket into space, not only getting an animal into space, not only getting a human into space, not only getting a human to orbit the moon but to get a man ON the moon must have sounded like JFK was losing his marbles! But that's what happened! Unbelievable!

The next day I was planning to ride from Hutchinson to Offerle. The longer I rode, though, the more I thought Offerle wasn't a good plan. From what I'd seen on Google Maps there wasn't much there. Tiny little town without any grocery store or restaurant. So I decided to stop after 84 miles in Kinsley. Not a large town by any stretch of the imagination but they had a grocery store, a campground, a couple restaurants and a little hospital. So I picked up a couple things just to refresh myself at the grocery store and then rode to the campground where I cooked up a little sack of backpacker's food I'd bought a few days ago. As I was finishing my dinner a young man walked in and we chatted for a while about the insanity that I was doing of riding my bicycle across the country. Kinsley was a nice little place to hang out.

Early yesterday morning I hit the road trying to get to Garden City. There was a brutal headwind out, though, and I was riding about 7 MPH despite the fact that it was completely flat terrain. About halfway to Dodge City I decided my original goal was no longer tenable and that I'd go for Dodge instead. Of course after I made that decision the wind got a lot more reasonable and I felt like I could make it significantly past Dodge. But I'd heard the reports of bad weather by this point and felt that Dodge would be my best bet to stay safe. It has a population of about 20 thousand, several churches, a police station and other things that make me feel a bit safer in the face of heavy winds, rain and lightning. Plus there were things to see and do if the weather wasn't so bad that I had to stay indoors. The weather looks poor for the next few days so I'm just going to hunker down here until Monday or Tuesday. There's a shelter in town called The Manna House which the police recommended to me if I need to get in out of the storm. It's a homeless shelter but I'm sure they'll understand my situation and give me some kind of help. Right now, it's just cloudy outside and it looks like I may not get hit as hard as I was thinking. Still, it's best to be safe and be able to take cover in the event that things take a turn for the worse. One thing's for sure, the first chance I get to get out of Dodge I'm taking it and riding as far as my legs will carry me! With a couple days for my muscles to heal that might be a good long way!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Rest Day in Marshfield, MO

When taking a rest day today crossed my mind my initial thought was "Your last rest day was much too recent to take another one!" I can't believe it's been 9 days since my last break! It feels like 4 or 5 days ago! Honestly, the days have seriously started to bleed into each other. My routine is so similar every morning. When I'm camping I always hit the road by 8 am regardless of how far I'm riding. My endurance energy levels have taken a dramatic upturn too. The thought of a 50 mile ride often sounds too short and I find myself setting goals of 65-75 miles instead. Instead of a piddling 7 mph my speed has increased to about 10 mph and I'm able to cover the same amount of ground in a noticeably shorter time. Of course that has as much to do with the terrain as it does my leg strength. Looking back, I truly believe that the Appalachians were the hardest part of the ride. The Ozarks may be almost as bad but I find that, generally speaking, the roads are not as curved. I remember riding the ascent out of Hayter's Gap, VA. The road twisted and turned as I ascended. You'd see a seriously high grade ahead of you for about 300 feet and think "The road can't keep ascending at this grade much past that bend." But you'd get to the top, turn the corner, and find that the ascent continues another 300-ish feet. Often, there would be between 5 and 6 of those curves. By the time you hit number 4 your legs would be seriously feeling the burn and when you hit numbers 5 and 6 you'd often use some choice words to express your surprise at the length of the ascent. In the Ozarks, you see almost all of the ascents at once and can prepare yourself mentally for the full stretch.

Anyway, on to the details! On the ride to Sebree I bumped into 2 other touring cyclists named Monica and Rachel (and I am literally just now realizing how funny it is that they were named thusly!). They were sitting atop a hay bale just for the fun of it. Chatted for a couple of minutes and then departed leaving them behind. After arriving in Sebree, KY I stopped at a local church which had set up a hostel for cyclists in the basement of their building. Showers, mattresses, a full kitchen, etc. Another cyclist named Devin was there. The pastor, a friendly guy named Bob, informed me that all the cyclists were welcome to dine with him and his wife, Violet, following the Wednesday evening program at the church. I went to a small prayer group that evening. All we did was pray over a printed sheet of all the prayer needs in the congregation and over myself and the other cyclists with me for safety and for the Lord to use my ride in the fight against ALS. After that, Monica and Rachel arrived, having been spotted by Pastor Bob and talked into staying the night at the hostel. Dinner was fantastic! After eating, Violet brought out hordes of cycling memorabilia starting all the way from the 70s when they'd first started hosting cyclists. It was inspiring to hear all the stories of people they'd met headed across the country on bicycle and made me feel not quite so small or crazy.

The following morning I finally exited Kentucky! Taking that ferry across the Ohio River was a memorable event. I met a cyclist named Steven and his wife, Mary. Steven was riding unloaded along the route while his wife navigated more major roads in their RV. They'd started with a larger group but gradually all of them had quit and gone separate ways. Mary had never driven an RV before and with the obscurity of most of the small towns we pass through she was having an adventure of her own trying to figure out how to get such a large vehicle to the destination. About 3 hours into the ride we stopped at a small café in Clay, KY. 3 other touring bicycles were outside so we jumped at the chance to meet more cyclists! Turns out it was Megan (whom I'd been in contact with for several months about this trip), her friend Kristen and Devin! I camped out on Steven and Mary's campsite that night in Cave-in-Rock, IL at the Cave-in-Rock State Park. Having learned about my cause, they paid for my dinner in the quaint little diner that night and got me some dessert too! After dinner we went down to the eponymous cave right on the river front. It was a sight to behold! Robbers had used it as their headquarters back in the 1800s. They would pretend to offer help to weary travelers and proceed to fleece them of many of their possessions. The cave was their hangout and where they stored their loot.

The following night was spent in Ferne Clyffe State Park just down the road a piece from Goreville, IL. Steven and Mary were taking a different route after that day so we wished each other well and parted ways. They generously donated $50 to my cause on our parting. I swung by the grocery store to pick up some dinner to cook and on the way to my campsite I bumped into Devin who told me that Megan had had a semi-serious accident on a gravel road and was taken to a doctor's office. They were trying to find a cheaper way to transport her to a hospital than an ambulance. She wasn't in critical condition or anything, just a little bit cut up and unable to ride for a little while. They ended up renting a car and transporting her to a hospital in Indiana. Real bummer. She won't be able to ride for a little while but is planning to resume the trip after recovering.

I think I'd forgotten to mention the elderly couple from the Netherlands whom I had bumped into in White Mills. They were nearby when I had my accident with the dogs and we all stayed the night in Fordsville. Well I bumped into them again in Ferne Clyffe. They'd had to order a replacement part for one of their bicycles and were stuck there for about 4 days while they waited for it to be shipped to a local gas station in Goreville. Ferne Clyffe is a nice little park. If you ever get a chance to camp there, take it! The site comes with showers but they are a pretty long walk from the primitive sites so be prepared to walk about 1-1/4 miles. I got incredibly frustrated and spent almost an hour and a half walking around the blasted area trying to find where the showers were. I was about to give up when the couple from the Netherlands came along and they were headed to the showers themselves and offered to show me where they were.

The next morning I was debating whether to try for Chester, IL or Murphysboro (which was considerably closer). There was a Walmart in Carbondale that had asked me to stop by and say hello to them and a bike shop that I wanted to stop at before hitting the Ozarks so I opted to shoot for Murphysboro instead. Had a fantastic lunch at Moe's Southwest Grill with the manager of the Walmart and one of her assistant managers. Then I headed off to find the bike shop. The shop was across the street from an Amtrak train station and as the mechanic was looking over Fledge, a train pulled in. The last bit of the trip had been hard, lonely and less than ideal in terms of weather. When the train pulled in, a large part of me wanted to simply leave everything in the bike shop, jump on that train and then find out what transfers I needed to make to get back to Baltimore, MD. I didn't, though. That night in Murphysboro, it started to pour. I found myself in a Taco Bell/KFC franchise feeling cold, wet, alone and very discouraged. When I posted about all this on Facebook the supportive comments started flowing in and customers in the restaurant probably looked at me funny as I got all sniffly and teary-eyed reading the kind, gracious, supportive words of my friends. I pulled up my Warm Showers app and found, miraculously, that there was a lady in Murphysboro who was willing to host traveling cyclists. I had no running water apart from a spigot next to her house but I had a warm, dry place to stay the night and charge my phone up.

The following day I set a new record for myself! 83.5 miles from Murphysboro, IL to Farmington, MO! Bumped into Devin at the tail end of the ride. I made my way to a cycling hostel called Al's Place. Fantastic hostel! $20 donation requested but it's so worth it! A bed, a shower, laundry facilities-- essentially a cycle tourist's dream! Nice homey atmosphere! I grabbed the second to last bed as a group from Adventure Cycling was staying the night there also. After getting settled I enjoyed a large meal at a local Chinese restaurant and had a nice chat with the delivery guy. Great sleep that night!

By this point the weather had been cool and cloudy/rainy for 4 days. Cloudy is a great condition for riding in mountains but it has serious emotional side-effects as well. I'd been fighting gloominess for a while. I reached Centerville around 4:30 and set up camp near a couple of other cycle tourists from Switzerland. We were in the town park which has no bathrooms or showers. The gracious owners of the only restaurant in town let me bide my time after eating and I dove into Lord of the Rings for a few hours and went to bed shortly after dark.

While I was staying in Centerville the Adventure Cycling group had stayed a few miles east of me in Lesterville. They caught up with me during the ride from Centerville to Summersville, though, when I got my second flat tire. One of my inner tubes was unusable so I ended up having to use both spare tubes to get back on the road. They helped me get ready to roll again and I rode a good distance with them before they stopped in Eminence. I kept plowing ahead to Summersville and arrived there in the mid-afternoon. Found out about a friendly motel owner who lets cyclists take a shower in one of her rooms for $5. I jumped at that chance and then set up camp in yet another town park. Met another cycle tourist named Lydia at the tiny little library in town. She had left Colorado Springs and was headed for Florida. I grabbed my dinner at the tiny little grocery store in town and ate it back at my campsite. A word of advice: NEVER eat canned, room temperature asparagus. Nasty! Yech!

The following morning, I was planning to hang out at the library in town before taking off to Bendavis, MO but when I found out the library wasn't going to open until 11 am I decided to make a mad dash for Marshfield. Long ride! Longer than I was thinking! 86.8 miles according to Google maps! A new personal record! I was thinking it was about 77 miles but ended up tacking almost another 10 on top of that! Arrived in Marshfield around 6:30, set up camp at some fairgrounds and then decided to reward myself with a nice dinner at Pizza Hut. Afterwards, I hit the hay as soon as I got back to camp.

Woke first thing this morning and headed over to the Holiday Inn Express in which Rising Sun Snacks rented a room for me. Now to spend some time napping and watching TV!

From the shores of Illinois, looking back at Kentucky!

I've made it out of Kentucky!

The beach leading up to the cave

A sheer rock face bordering the cave

Nice and big inside!

Perhaps Steven is standing right where the robbers once stood!


The bridge from Illinois into Missouri!

Fledge and I are about to embark on Missouri soil!

Chester, IL-- the last small town before entering Missouri-- is where Popeye was created!

The mighty Mississip! Lewis and Clark camped out near here with the Corps of Discovery!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Long Awaited Detailed Update

Hi, friends and supporters! Thank you lovely people for keeping up with my blog. Again, I apologize that it's been so long since I updated with details. Seeing as it's been so long I may have trouble digging up details from each day of the trip. But I'm sure you all would get bored with too many details so that works out. The last post was from Meadowview, VA so I'll try to pick up from there.

A few hours after posting in Meadowview another cyclist pulled in to camp out at the same church pavilion as me. His name is George and he's in his mid to late 50s. We had some good conversation and it was great having company. He took off before me the next day by about 45 minutes. We were both facing Hayter's Gap, a particularly daunting mountain pass, the next day. It was sure slow going but we both managed to traverse the mountains successfully. I ended the day in Haysi, VA but George pushed on to Breaks Interstate Park about a mile from the Kentucky border.

That afternoon, I pulled into the small town of Haysi (pronounced Haze Eye) and found a state cop. He told me where I could set up my tent for the night and I moseyed on down to the river bank he'd pointed out. There was no cell phone reception but a couple of local restaurants had WiFi so i made use of that whilst eating dinner that evening. Other things were brewing, though. I was now officially out of clean clothes. I was trying to figure out how to get a couple pairs of clean undergarments so I swung by the Dollar General and picked up 2 plastic containers, some bottled water, some dish soap and some baking soda. It did not go well. This was a low point for me. Cleanliness is important to my mental state and only being able to clean 1 pair of bike shorts didn't help very much. This night there was just a breaking point. I felt homeless and destitute. All I wanted was to curl up on my couch, watch some TV and be indoors. Of course I couldn't. That night was miserable.

The next day, things didnt improve much. It was raining most of the morning. When it wasn't raining it was unbelievably humid. Coming down from a mountain pass, my brakes weren't working very well and I got into a scuffle with the side of a mountain. Skinned my leg up and tore a strap on my bicycle bag. Not a fun time. Thank God, George was around. He managed to fix my pannier up so I could still hang it on my cargo rack. About 90 minutes later, I got my first flat tire on the front wheel **right in the middle of an intense climb**. At this point I felt that staying at a bed and breakfast was no longer a luxury. After a miserable night, a fall, and a flat tire I needed a bed or I'd just start losing my marbles. Unfortunately, the next B&B was in Hindman, KY, a fair hike from Pippa Passes where I'd intended to finish my day. Even still, I don't know how I did it. That day I covered about 75 miles *in the mountains* with an injured knee for half of that ride. Met 4 other cyclists that evening. James and Daniel are traveling together. James is from the UK and Daniel is from Kentucky. And Janice and Katherine are together also. James and Daniel are both younger guys in their mid to late 20s and Katherine and Janice are both in their early 50s. Had a good night's sleep at the Quiltmaker Inn.

The following day was from Hindman, KY to Booneville, KY. Finished the teeth of the Appalachians that day and got into more manageable hills. Nothing really to report from that day's ride. Stayed the night at another church pavilion (this one with showers and a bathroom) in Booneville. Had a dinner of cheddar dogs and veggies.

Rode a long ways with Daniel and James from Booneville to Berea. Berea is a small college town in the foothills of Appalachia. They're a completely dry town. Not a legal drop of bourbon to drink. I would have stayed a rest day here if I wasn't bound and determined to see my old college roommate Timothy.

Booked it for Harrodsburg, KY the following day. An easy 45 mile ride followed by camping out in a community park. Tim arrived right around dinner time and we went to an old tavern on the other side of town. Enjoyed a nice dinner followed by some shuffleboard. The next day I took it easy and simply walked to the Harrodsburg Walmart. Upon returning, the pavilion where I camped out was flooded with middle schoolers! Apparently, it was a final celebration for this group called The Mighty Marvels. We talked a bit, got some pictures and then said farewell as it was the end of their picnic when I returned. A while later, another group started assembling but the rain and clouds were looking a bit daunting so they retreated elsewhere to celebrate.

Honestly, I'm tired to typing details. So I'm just going to jump right ahead to the latest developments. Two days ago, I was headed from White Mills, KY to Fordsville. I was heading downhill at a pretty good clip (about 25 mph) when a couple of dogs ran right out into the road. I lost control of the bike and took a nasty spill on the side of the road. The dogs left me alone when the owners came out but I was already pretty scratched up. Skinned part of my back and smacked my wrist pretty hard on the road.

The following day, instead of heading to Dixon, KY I moved north to Owensboro to see a doctor. Got checked out and now have a clean bill of health. Just some bruises and sprains. Nothing too serious. I'll be getting into Illinois in a couple more days and Missouri shortly afterwards! So that's where I am now! Thanks for following!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Apologies

Sorry for not updating my blog recently! Working through the Appalachians took a lot of mental and physical energy out of me. I'm riding through central Kentucky now and am in search of a computer where I can fill you all in on some details. It's just too much of a pain to hammer out a detailed report on my smartphone. So stay tuned and I promise to post soon!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Loneliness

Well, it's been a few days since Blacksburg and I've been alone for most of that time. Wednesday night I set up camp in a town park in Wytheville Virginia and skedaddled the next morning after swinging by a Walmart. Thursday night I set up camp at a self-serve campsite in the national forest. With no cell phone reception or WiFi, I felt pretty cut off from civilization. The loneliness really started to sink in that night as I tried to start a campfire. I began thinking about how lonely it must be to have ALS. These poor souls cannot talk, hug or otherwise interact with anyone around them apart from smiles or tears. the last two days have made me so hungry for human interaction any chance that I get. and that's just two days. Imagine being unable to interact with anybody ever. The days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months, and the months turn into years. I think it would be enough to drive a person insane. We were made for community and when that community is muted or taken away from us we become a little less human. Anyway, those have been my thoughts for the last couple of days. Tonight, I'm staying in the small town of Meadowview, VA. The trip has become a lot more fluid in the past few days. I feel like a nomad, scoping out where I want to go the next day and riding without any plan for where to spend the night. The longer I go, the more I realize how little is in my control. All I know for sure is that I'm moving West day by day by day.